Resolute Robby

Molly with the letter RToday’s short film for the letter R is a cute student short called Robby that clocks in at an easy-watching four and a half minutes.  The most impressive thing about it is that the animator made a worm (a worm!) absolutely adorable.  Worms are nasty, slimy things, yet this lil’ guy is so charming. I think it’s the giant, googly eyes – they make anything cute.  

If you have a few minutes to spare, give it a watch:

So what’s my main takeaway from this short?  That I want a magical purse like Robby’s backpack!  My current purse has some pretty impressive clown-car like abilities, spewing forth all manner of cosmetics and personal care items, but a girl never knows when she’s going to need a backhoe . . . or a stick of dynamite.

Like last week’s film, this one deals with the importance of determination and striving toward your goal.  Robby has equipped himself with the tools he needs to dig, similar to writers learning different “rules” and techniques and styles to stuff our writing packs with helpful tools.  Robby has a compass to help guide him, just like we need to map out a plan of what we want to accomplish with our writing.  

I even think the progression of Robby’s tools mirrors a writer’s approach to revising a first draft.  First we start by shoveling some shit around (or maybe that’s just me!).  Next we kind of pick at it until we realize that ain’t getting it done.  Then we bring out the big guns like drills, backhoes, and dynamite to blow whole chapters away and make massive changes.  Then we’re ready for the detailed edits, the kind done with a delicate tool like a plastic spoon.  Then finally, after lots of hard work, we reach our goal – the cherished completed manuscript aka top of the apple..  

And the very end reminds us that no matter how hard we try, sometimes life is going to gobble us up.  Oh, wait, that’s a sad, pessimistic ending.  How about instead, it’s a metaphor for an agent/editor loving our manuscript and gobbling it up in one sitting?  Yeah, that’s much better.

What did you think about Robby?  Does his trip through the apple work as a metaphor for revising?  How Resplendent is Molly with her letter R?

 

Quantum Quality

Lily with the letter QOh boy!  With it being Television Thursday and the dreaded letter Q, of course today’s post is about the sci-fi dramedy Quantum Leap.  Although I don’t know if dramedy was an actual term when it aired in the early 90’s, it’s an apt way to describe this show’s perfect mix of laughs and serious issues.  If you’re unfamiliar with Quantum Leap, the show’s opening does a perfect job of explaining the premise:

Scott Bakula was perfectly cast as time-jumping Sam Beckett.  He was slightly bumbling, always earnest, and had a warmth and charm that allowed him to slip into people’s lives in order to right the wrongs.  And Dean Stockwell as the Exposition Fairy, uh, I mean Al, was such a quirky, fun character who delivered his weekly info dumps in an entertaining way.  

Besides Al’s antics, a lot of the humor came from Sam leaping into a new body each episode, since it never happened while that person was asleep, but at the most inconvenient time for Sam to be trying to figure out who the heck he was now inhabiting.  At the end of each episode, after Sam and Al had solved the problem in his current body’s life, he would leap into another body and deliver the infamous, “Oh boy!” line.

Because of the humorous setups, it would be easy to blow Quantum Leap off as a silly little show, but there was plenty of drama since Sam only jumped into the lives of people who were in trouble in some way.  And since the time jumping only occurred within the span of Sam’s life (1953 forward), there was a lot of sociological and political unrest to drive the stories.  For example, there were plenty of giggles seeing Scott Bakula wobbling around in a dress and heels the first time he jumped into a woman, but the episode addressed the emotional impact of sexual harassment.  

Since I’m such a sap, I often teared up at the ends of episodes as Sam finally fixed the people’s lives.  It was always such a heartwarming moment, but kind of heartbreaking, too, since Sam never got to stick around and savor the happiness of the people he’d helped.  As soon as he fixed the problem, he immediately leaped into the next problem.  But as bad as that was for Sam, it was great for the audience.  If you’ve never watched Quantum Leap, you should check it out on Netflix.

Did you watch Sam Beckett leap through time?  How would you like to jump into people’s lives to fix them?  How Quaint is Lily with her Q?

A Poopy Problem

Freya with the letter PFor the most part, it seems my Willy-nilly Wednesdays have turned into an excuse to talk about the Rish family dogs.  So why change that today?  I bet you’re now thinking that P stands for pooch.  Well, you’d have the first three letters right.  Because today I have to confess a secret.  A dark secret that brings me shame.  You see, my sweet Freya, my beloved four-legged child… is a poo eater.  That’s right, she eats poop.  Doodoo.  Kaka.  Whatever you want to call it, she loves the stuff.  

It’s especially distressing because in the long line of smart dogs my family has owned, she’s definitely the smartest (yes, I know all parents/dog owners think this). Besides all the standard commands, she does a bunch of fun tricks like ‘take a bow’ and ‘say your prayers’ although the truly impressive part is how fast she learns them.  She also does things like breaking into locked food cupboards even though she lacks opposable thumbs.  So why, oh why, can’t I stop this spectacularly disgusting habit?  

It started when she was ‘a teen’, and I immediately ran to my best friend Google to find out why my precious baby would do something so nasty and how to stop it.  I discovered the official term is coprophagia (OMG, there’s an actual word for it *gags a little*) and that there are a variety of reasons for it both medical and behavioral.  I took her to the vet, and he ruled out any medical issues and offered a few behavioral things to try.  None of them worked.  So now I have to live with the fact that my dog thinks doodie is a delicacy.  We actually call them her chocolate cigars because she carries them around for a while with the ends sticking out of her mouth before she chows down.

Freya's patented poop faceBecause she is so smart and because I start screaming like a banshee every time I see her pick up a log, she knows she’s not supposed to do it.  So now she’s like a junkie after her fix.  She skulks around the yard, looking for a pile that didn’t get picked up; and when she finds one, she glances around to make sure no one’s watching, snags the treasured turd, and races away with an expression we call her patented poop face. My sister snapped this picture of the expression mid-snack.  It would be kind of adorable if you didn’t know she was dining on dookie.  

But like any mom, I love my baby no matter what . . . I just don’t let her kiss my face after she’s been outside.  

Have any of your dogs ever enjoyed partaking in chocolate cigars?  Did any methods work for you in breaking the foul habit?  How Playful (or Poopy-faced) does Freya look with her letter P?

Odorous Opinion

Bailey with the letter OThe writing tip for this week involves olfactory imagery, which is imagery dealing with scent. Smells, feelings, and memories are closely entangled because the area of the brain that processes smells is the same area that deals with emotions and memories.  This makes olfactory imagery a powerful tool for writers, since we can use it as a shortcut to connect with readers’ emotions.  

We all have scents that trigger certain memories.  Two examples for me are the smell of OFF bug spray, which always reminds me of a camping trip I took to Canada while in the Girl Scouts; and the smell of vinegar, which reminds me of dyeing Easter eggs at my grandmother’s house.  Each reader will have their own specific scent memories, but there are also some that seem mostly universal such as freshly cut grass, baking cakes, and sunscreen.  The most powerful scents are those that trigger emotions and memories from childhood, so those are the ones to really tap into when describing a scene.

We’ve all heard the writing advice to employ all five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) when describing things, since it adds life to your writing by helping the reader fully experience the world you’ve created.  I’ve even heard the suggestion to assign a different color highlighter to each sense and go through your manuscript marking each as it appears so you can visually see where the holes are for the various senses.  This strategy appeals to the OCD organizer part of me, but I also think it runs the risk of being ‘productive’ procrastination.  Most writers rely on sight and hearing to describe things, so it’s probably safe to assume you need to add more smell, taste and touch to your writing.  Even worse, seeing those gaps in bold colors might tempt you to fill them in ways that are forced rather than organic, something like:

Tina and her new foster child sat in the Waffle House not saying a word as the rain drummed a staccato beat on the roof.  The glare from the fluorescent lights highlighted the bruises on his cheek.  The comforting smell of butter and pancakes worked their magic, and he started telling her about the last fight with his dad.  Her fingers itched to hold his hands in support, but she knew that would frighten him, so ran them along the smooth, cold surface of the plastic booth.  Her stomach was growling so she leaned forward to lick a spot of sweet maple syrup off the table.

Of course this is an extreme example, but trying to fit in every sense in every scene can end up being a distraction to the actual story.  And you can also end up having your characters do really strange things to cover a sense, especially taste.

So while it is important to use all five senses in your writing, especially smell because of its powerful association with feelings and memories, make sure you use a balanced hand when doing so.  Don’t ruin the meal by dumping in a container of spices when a dash would do.  

What scents trigger memories for you?  Do you do anything specific to make sure you cover all five senses in your writing?  How Outstanding is Bailey with her letter O

Nine is Divine

Chloe with the letter NIt’s Movie Monday, and even though it has nothing to do with the letter N, I wanted to start off by mentioning my movie High Heels and Hoodoo had its first sneak peek screening on Saturday.  Since it was the first time actual strangers saw it, my brother and I were very nervous, but the screening went incredibly well.  The audience reaction was great, and lots of people came up to us later to tell us how much they liked it.  So we can now release the breath we’ve been holding since we finished the edit.  Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive!

And now back to our regularly scheduled N post.  Today’s Netflix find is the movie The Nines.  Here’s the official description:

Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy and Hope Davis appear in multiple roles in writer-director John August's independent thriller, which combines three intertwining stories that creatively converge in unexpected ways. A popular TV actor is under house arrest in "The Prisoner"; a TV producer struggles to launch a new series in "Reality Television"; and a video-game designer seeks help for his stranded family in "Knowing."
 
I’ve been a huge Ryan Reynolds fan since his goofball days in Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, and I think Melissa McCarthy is hilarious, so when this popped up as a recommendation, I eagerly pressed the play button.  It’s tough to explain The Nines without spoilers, and since I think very few folks have seen this movie, I don’t want to spoil anything.  But even if I were to incorporate spoilers, it would still be tough to explain this movie.  That probably doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement, but I really liked it.  
 
The NinesRyan and Melissa both do excellent jobs in very dramatic roles – much different from the silly characters they often play.  Along with Hope Davis, they play different characters in each of the three vignettes.  It’s confusing, yet intriguing, as pieces from each of the stories bleed into the others until it reaches a completely unexpected conclusion.  
 
I’ve seen on the interwebs that people seem to really love or really hate this movie – there’s not much middle ground.  I can see the point of those who dislike it, thinking it’s pretentious, philosophical drivel, since I tend to think the same thing about these types of navel-gazing movies.  However, this one really struck a chord and stuck with me long after I’d watched it.  It makes you think because there are a lot of pieces to put together, but it also makes you THINK.  You know, that pondering your place in the universe type of thinking.  Plus, Ryan Reynolds shows off his abs, so what’s not to love?
 
Have you seen The Nines?  What did you think?  What movies has Netflix recommended that you enjoyed but never would have picked on your own?  How Nifty is Chloe with her letter N?

Temporarily Tweet Tales Sunday Week 14

15 Minute Tweet TalesIt’s another week of temporarily posting my 15 Minute Tweet Tales on Sunday rather than the usual Tuesday because of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  And for anyone who read my pathetic attempt at an M post yesterday, I wanted to let you know my movie screening went really well!  We got a great reaction from the crowd – we’ll have a post about it over at the movie blog early in the week.

And now the tweet tales:
 
4/9 – To expedite a proposal from her boyfriend, she poked a hole in the condom. He’d always hated kids and left when she started to show.
 
4/10 – Mankind was awed by the bolides streaking across the night sky. The Martian teens giggled as they took turns lighting up their farts.
 
4/11 – Her apodictic nature drove him crazy & he rejoiced in proving her wrong, so they remained married even though she predicted divorce.
 
4/12 – Cupcake places blossomed around town, so she baked umami flavors to stand out. But only dogs denied chocolate enjoyed the meaty taste.
 
4/13 – It was Jason’s tendentious belief that machetes made the ideal weapon, but Freddy argued his metal nails helped him slay with style.
 
4/14 – His claims that he loved her were moot when the bruises on her body showed he had at least enough control to hide where he hit her.
 
4/15 – The dispatcher said, “Be on the qui vive for a hippo w/ a French accent.” He thought she’d gone mad ‘til 1 trotted by wearing a beret.
 
I decided to honor Friday the 13th with a nod to some horror film icons, and even though the word-a-day calendar didn’t help me out with a spooky word, it was fun trying to make 'tendentious' fit in with the theme.
 
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.  Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales?
 

Movie Madness on My Mind

Molly with the letter MIt’s Short Story Saturday, and since the letter is M that means the genre is Mystery for a story stuffed full of M words.  But first off, I have to apologize for this weak effort.  I thought about just posting a giant “M.I.A” for today’s post along with the picture of Molly and her M.  You see, today is the sneak peek screening of my new movie (extra points for my distraction being an M word?), and I’ve been in high anxiety mode preparing for it.  And since my ol’ friend procrastination was firmly in control during March, I didn’t get any posts written ahead of time.  However, I decided I could muster up a micro-mystery instead of completely missing the boat, so here it is in all its “glory.”

A Mangled Mystery

Mary Madison met a magnetic man at the museum.  He was charming, moneyed, smart, and had the most melodic voice.  They fell madly in love and were married within the month.
 
Then Mary went missing.
 
Had he moved her to a marvelous mansion in the Mediterranean?  Or was it murder most foul?
 
Therein lies the mystery. 
 
Yeah, I’m more than a little embarrassed  I posted that, but I didn’t want to skip a day.  I hope to be back on track on Monday.  Wish me luck with the movie screening!
 
So what happened to poor Mary?  Was this the most pathetic attempt at a mystery you've ever read?  How Magnificent is Molly with her letter M?

A Lady Learns a Lesson

Lily with the letter LToday’s short film for the letter L is The Last Knit, and it not only lacks dialog, it doesn’t have much of a score either.  It uses effective sound design and basic animation to tell a deceptively simple story.  This is another one where I think much of what people take from it will be informed by their own lives.  It’s about six and a half minutes, so if you have some time, give it a watch:

For me, this is partly a film about the dangers that occur when any activity turns into an obsession or addiction.  I’m the type of person who has to do everything perfectly when I do it.  For example, I hardly ever clean because I can’t just straighten up the magazines and whip around the feather duster.  I have to haul out the toothbrushes and cotton swabs to scour every crevice and buy colored folders and filing cabinets to organize the magazines by date and usefulness of the articles.  It’s just easier and less stressful to let things stay messy.  So I can really relate to this woman who turns a simple thing like knitting into a dangerous obsession.

I also think it is a metaphor for writing (or any artistic endeavor).  If we are serious about our writing, we have to be extremely focused, just like the woman.  And when things get tough, we have to be creative about finding ways to persevere like she does with using her hair when the yarn runs out.  I also think it’s a good illustration of how we have to put some of ourselves into our work.  

However, as important as it is to be focused and believe in our dreams, we have to be careful about finding the right balance so we don’t fall off the cliff’s edge where determination turns into something destructive.  Our writing is vital to us, but so are other things in our lives.  And it’s important to put parts of ourselves in our writing, but not so much that our very souls are crushed when someone says something less than glowing about it.  

And as the lady learns at the end, we also have to know when to cut our losses.  We hear those stories about bestsellers like A Wrinkle In Time, Gone With the Wind, and Carrie being rejected multiple times, and they give us hope.  Encourage us not to give up.  And this is a very good thing.  But sometimes it’s just not in the cards for a particular book.  If you’ve learned as much as you can about the craft of writing and rewritten it many times to make it the best book it can be and you still can’t find the right home for it, then it might be the right thing to put it in a drawer and start a new project.  This doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your dream, it just means that wasn’t the right book to get you there.  

So while being hopeful, dreaming big, and staying focused on our craft, we also need to make sure we have our eyes open wide enough to see the edge of the cliff before we tumble over into the abyss.  

What did you think about The Last Knit?  I’ve seen lots of different interpretations about it on the web, so what did it say to you?  How Lovely is Lily with her letter L

KITT is Kool!

In talking about television on Thursdays, I originally planned to talk about current shows I’m watching.  Since I watch a lot (too much!) of TV, I figured I’d be able to handle most letters.  Wrong!  There’s a Q on the horizon for Thursday.  So I decided to open it up to all shows I have previously watched.  Which means that since today is K, I get to talk about my most favoritest show from childhood – Knight Rider!!!

Just watch the intro for the show to experience the awesomeness:

That theme song still gets my blood pumping.  And on random days, from out of nowhere, the voiceover will pop into my head, and even after all these years, I can still quote it.

Almost thirty years after the show aired, we finally have talking cars.  They’re even pretty smart, since mine knows how to get places, which is better than I can do given my terrible sense of direction.  But while mine can get pretty uppity when I make a wrong turn (seriously, she says ‘recalculating’ in the most frustrated, condescending voice), she will never match the magnificent snarkiness of KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand).  

Freya with the letter K

I loved KITT.  I wanted KITT.  Almost as much as I loved and wanted David Hasselhoff.  Although that was before puberty set in, so it was a (mostly) innocent love.  I even had a Knight Rider sleeping bag, while all my friends had Strawberry Shortcake and Smurfs and teased me for having a boy’s sleeping bag.  I didn’t care, and I even still have that sleeping bag stuffed in a closet somewhere.  
 
I’ll admit it’s been a long time since I’ve seen an episode.  I did watch that gawdawful remake they did a few years ago.  One episode was more than enough, but I forced myself to keep watching out of loyalty to KITT.  I was so relieved when they finally canceled that travesty, so I didn’t have to be the one to let down KITT.  But now I’m a little worried about rewatching the originals because I bet there’s no way it lives up to my glorified childhood memories, and it will be cheesy and disappointing.  I’d rather remember Michael Knight in all his handsome, young loner glory, championing the cause of the innocents with an occasional turbo boost from his best friend KITT.
 
Did you watch the original Knight Rider?  How about the remake?  How Kissable is Freya with her letter K?

Jeans and Genes

Lily with the letter JOn this Willy-nilly Wednesday, I’m talking about jeans.  And not just any ol’ jeans.... On my most recent birthday, I opened a present from my brother and sister to discover a pair of pajama jeans.  I didn’t know what to think.  In fact, my heart kind of sank: I’d become the type of person my siblings thought should own a pair of pajama jeans - that couldn’t be a good thing.  I’d seen the infomercials, I’d heard comedians make fun of them, and they seemed like the ultimate symbol of, “Hey, I’ve given up and don’t give a crap anymore.”

After I quit work to write full time, I tried not to let myself become a pajama-wearing hermit.  Even though I’d prefer to stay in my PJs all day, I change into actual clothes every morning.  Now I’ll admit I put on equally comfy items like yoga pants or jogging clothes, but I do maintain the distinction between sleeping clothes and being awake clothes.  And when I leave the house, even for a quick trip to pick up some milk, I fancy myself up by putting on a pair of jeans and smearing on some lipstick. So even though I’m not wearing the professional outfits and full makeup I used to wear, I’ve tried not to descend into complete lazy-slob mode.  That’s why when I opened that box to find the pajama jeans, I worried I’d let myself go more than I thought.  

But I’m not gonna lie – those things are awesome!  They are so comfortable, and unless you’re up close, you really can’t tell they’re not real jeans.  So now when I’m out in the yard and see my neighbors, I don’t feel that twinge of embarrassment I did with my other comfy pants.  The best part?  They make my butt look AMAZING! Seriously.  My butt has always been a problem area.  In my teens and twenties, it was so nonexistent it was practically concave.  As I've put on extra pounds in my thirties, it skipped over juicy and went straight to flabby.  However, the pajama jeans make my butt look round and firm - I guess it’s both the cut and the stretchy material.  I haven’t been brave enough to wear them out and about yet, but if I can’t find a regular pair of jeans that makes my hind end look that great, then you might spot me prancing around town in a pair of pajama jeans.  

And while we’re on the subject of jeans, it’s time to reveal the Rish family dog genes.  Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest!  It’s been fun seeing all the guesses.  They were in line with the breeds we guessed before we got the results, especially so many picks of Labrador for Bailey and Freya.  In fact, we figured they were both Husky/Lab mixes, so similar to other designer mutts being crossbred, we called them our Huskadors  – but it turns out not a drop of Lab between them.  The results show just how sneaky genes can be!

Although they use drawings rather than actual photos, I’ve pulled the official breed pictures from the American Kennel Club site.

Here’s the key for the breed ratio (the letter in parenthesis after the breed):
S = Significant – at least 50% of the dog’s DNA matches this breed
I  = Intermediate – at least 25% of the dog’s DNA matches this breed
M = Minor – at least 12.5% of the dog’s DNA matches this breed
 

1. Bailey 

Bailey
German Shepherd Dog Siberian Husky Icelandic Sheepdog
German Shepherd Dog (I) + Siberian Husky (I) + Icelandic Sheepdog (I)
 
 
2. Chloe 
Chloe
American Staffordshire Terrier Skye Terrier Great Dane
American Staffordshire Terrier (S) + Skye Terrier (M) + Great Dane (M)
 
 
3. Freya
Freya
=
Siberian Husky Poodle Chow Chow
Siberian Husky (S) + Miniature Poodle (M) + Chow Chow (M)
 
 
4. Lily  
Lily
=
Golden Retriever
Golden Retriever (S)
 
 
5. Molly 
Molly
=
Basset Hound Chow Chow
Basset Hound (I) + Chow Chow (I)
 
Some pretty crazy results!  Like Chloe, whose coat is so thin she’s practically bald, having Skye Terrier in her.  And Freya, who weighs 90 pounds, having miniature poodle in her.  But there were some results that made a lot of sense.  My parents adopted Lily from a Golden Retriever rescue group who said they thought she was purebred even though they didn’t have papers for her and that looks likely.  And although we weren’t previously familiar with the Icelandic Sheepdog, it goes a long way toward explaining Bailey’s coat and color and tail (which you can’t see in the picture).
 
And now for the moment y'all have been waiting for – the reveal of the winner! Turns out it was a tie!  So I’ll send both winners a DVD copy of Saying Goodbye. And the winners are…
 
 
Congrats, ladies!  I’ll be sending you an email.
 
Have you ever worn pajama jeans or do you think they are a crime against fashion?  Was the reveal of the dog breeds surprising or can you see some of the genes shining through?  How Jovial is Lily with her letter J?