Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mad Scientist

The creative perspective of a storyteller is useful in parenting, I've found.

I was making soup and left the Pea with an episode of Curious George on the iPad and a strawberry yogurt which she feeds to herself reliably with minimal mess. I checked on her repeatedly and her actions were constructive and on point.

Then I cleaned up the kitchen, peeped in on her and found my SP painting her entire left leg from ankle to diaper elaborately with strawberry yogurt.

In her defense, I never told her explicitly NOT to paint herself with yogurt. She didn't get any yogurt on any surface except her actual leg. By definition, she was being fairly tidy about the whole business.

Instead of shrieking NO WE DON'T DO THAT, as was my initial instinct, i asked her to stop, took the spoon and handed her baby wipes to clean off her own leg.

 I'm thinking perhaps this is the influence of the Amazing Spiderman comics that DH reads to her. She's seen all those crafty villains and has decided to become a mad scientist herself. She was, when I interrupted, testing the emollient properties of yogurt in a clinical trial (note the unpainted left leg as control group). She may have been developing a new beauty product or skin treatment. She may have been trying to replicate Rhino's hide..she loves Rhino. So I may have damaged her results in my ignorance of the hypothesis.

At this impressionable age it might have been best in retrospect to either limit her exposure to comics or yogurt. She runs around making pshew pshew sounds pretending to shoot webs at people and poodles. Now she's misapplying her dairy products. Can a life of crime be far behind?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Rules for Writers: Lessons I Learned While Editing

I don't revise or edit anyone's work for money. There are two reasons for this:

1. It's easier to write something new than to clean up someone else's mess.
2.  No one ever offered me money to edit before.

So I took the job and here's what I took from it. These are lessons I will use in my own writing which could always use improvement:

1.  No character should ever feed off the entrails of another living character. Or, really, a dead character's entrails either because NO ENTRAILS EVER. No one says 'entrails' or thinks about tremor describes them much less going nom-nom on them. Ewwww.

2. One shall not use apostrophe-s to make a plural because that is not a thing.

3.  One should use a comma before addressing a character by name, even if it is a dumbass nickname like calling the vampire 'dark one' as in 'you summoned me here COMMA dark one'

4.  Overwrought phrasing such as 'the predator is now the prey' or 'you shall live but a cursed half-life from this moment' must be deleted immediately. I know. Vampires make one feel all formal and fancy and the dialogue can go downhill fast. I've been there, but you have to restrain yourself.

5.  Descriptions of any sort of bodily functions in one's pants ought to be avoided. Double yuck.

6.  If a vampire kills a rapist, then regards the victim with a serious thought of 'hey, i could rape her and then drink her blood' he is NOT leading man material. There is seriously no way to make him a romantic lead after that. Maybe I'd break rule one, though, and let someone feast on his entrails. His entrails actually deserve it.

7.  Any attempts to make vampire feeding akin to sexytimes ought to refrain from reference to 'dense adipose tissue' making it difficult to bite someone.

8.  Describing any and all unpleasant characters as fat (i.e. 'fat bastard' etc) and referencing their obesity as making one wish to vomit is distasteful and prejudiced. The fact that said characters are all rapists and pedophiles might make one think that those traits are more repellent than BMI.

9.  Inexplicable extra characters, all weak females, can be cut.

10. Rewriting a wimpy weak helpless heroine as robust, capable and flinty is a hell of a lot of fun.

11.  Getting paid to rework it is even better.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sweet Pea at Nearly Three

Yesterday, SP was playing with her baby dolls, a favorite pastime, and I overheard the following:

Doll 1:   Come pyay wiv me mama
Doll 2:  No. I watch the television.
Doll 1:  Mama I need-lo
Doll 2:  Do you want to sit wiv me?
Doll 1:  Yes I do
Doll 2:   I watch-a bacha-YAret
Doll 1:  Noooo

I think my desire to watch the bachelorette finale on monday made a negative impression on my daughter. I felt truly horrible that she was enacting a scenario where she was rejected in favor of the television. Then I reminded myself that she was upstairs playing with DH during most of it and sitting in my lap having milk and playing during the rest of the episode and that it is the only show I watch. I literally do not watch television at all except for my lingering Bachelor/Bachelorette addiction and that's on like twice a year. So I decided to quit beating myself up that she is like scarred for life because I watched an entire episode (most weeks I manage twenty or thirty minutes of it).

Currently she is singing along to Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood (greatest show ever, better even than the Bachelorette) and having a "s'movie" with is a yogurt smoothie. 

We just discussed her birthday. She wants a barbie that swims (the scuba barbie with plastic coral reef that I have paid 35 ridiculous dollars for this shiny plastic crap already so it's good to know she still wants it) and a bert and ernie cake. This works for me as I can bake a cake and put her existing ernie figure on top of it (bert, the sneaky bastard, is missing but I have till September to find him). 

I've picked out a couple of books I want for her to give as ideas to relatives who don't know what to get. I always like to build her library and we read and reread a ton. This is probably why she uses words like "earlier" and "supposedly" with accuracy at age not-quite-three. Acquaintances, including her adored sitter, remark with amusement "She talks so big!" and I consider that a compliment owing entirely to the reading aloud. 

Today is the last day of the library summer reading program. Due to the necessity of multiple rereads we only got  in 140 separate titles since June 2 when my goal was 200. I'm still happy about it and she discovered a love for Scaredy Squirrel and Olivia. DH got in on the action this year and there are titles on her list like "Avengers VIII: And Thus By My Hand Shall Perish a Villain" which tickles me because not only is she totally into his comics, but I know the power a father's positive influence can have. So YAY for dh.

Here's a happy SP pic of her sitting on an amazon box wearing his shoes:

Friday, July 25, 2014

In Other News

Freelance work has been progressing at a frantic pace at Casa Diva so the blog has been neglected.

Here are various and sundry updates:

  • Potty training is still not a thing. Bound by both caprice and stubbornness, SP may be wearing Poise pads on her senior trip due to her adamant refusal to participate in any activity related to such basic self-care practices.
  • The workout trend of which I was so proud had been sidelined by a kidney stone scenario. The running had already been replaced by use of the elliptical due to the overwhelming burn of the meth-making smell outdoors thanks to certain individuals living in unfortunate proximity.
  • Preparation for school to resume is in that awkward stage in which I cling to the waning moments of summer by my fingernails (see: where SP gets stubbornness trait).
  • The novella that is part of my freelance work is extremely fun but has now ventured into a degree of content that makes me glad I'm ghosting this one. 
  • Smurfs are big here right now, as is Come to Me, the Googoo Dolls song SP knows the words to almost entirely.
  • Her current favorite words are "earlier" and "upsetting". She uses them correctly and..a lot. 
  • I got a rejection email yesterday for a query I sent back in the winter. The agent hadn't had time to read her slush pile and "took a previsory pass" on mine which I think means that she was too busy even to read the query for the hopelessly flawed item I submitted.
  • I'm interested in reviving my fantasy novel from a few years back and bludgeoning it into some sort of coherent readability. 
  • I think Andi the Bachelorette will pick Josh who looks enough like her to be a sibling, ew!
  • I really need to get back to work on that vampire thing now

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mortally Wounded: A Mortal Instruments Review

I wouldn't be this furious if I hadn't love the series as a whole. I just finished the sixth and final book in Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments. I started them last year on the recommendation of the always-clever Ainsley Brooks and anticipated the ending with such excitement that I undertook the rereading of the entire series two weeks ago, prior to reading the finale. I was that determined to have the characters and events fresh in my mind so I could truly appreciate (read: eviscerate) book six.

Populated by what Diva terms 'critters'…warlocks, demons, vampires, fairies, and werewolves, this isn't my usual cup of tea but I was hooked. By turns clever and violent, heart rending and convoluted, the series is heavily rooted in demonology and well researched. I looked in to this after book one when I thought she was just super creative with all these demons etc, only to find that Clare had done her homework thoroughly instead.
If you're a newbie or just rented the godawful movie, let me catch you up with a capsule review of the whole series.

Book 1 (City of Bones):  Meet Clary. Clary has red hair and likes to draw. Dude, Clary had no idea she was a Shadowhunter born to fight demons. She finds out from a hot guy, Jace. Clary likes Jace. THey fight demons. Clary's bff Simon gets turned into a rat. Clary finds out her dad is a psycho who is summoning the demons. Oh no! We must stop him! Intro of Magnus Bane, High Warlock of Brooklyn and Simon, my two favorite characters. Either of these fellas could stand up against the best of the best in modern fiction. They keep me reading.

Book 2 (City of Ashes):  Clary is sad because her hot boyfriend turned out to be her brother. She tries to date bff Simon (now de-ratified) but pines for her bro. Simon gets turned into a vampire. Clary and Jace's dad kidnaps everybody, they fight demons, Clary finds out she has a special gift with runes which are basically shadow hunter magic tattoos. She destroys a ship but her dad escapes.

Book 3 (City of Glass):  Clary goes to Alicante, the ancestral home of Shadowhunters, by having a tantrum that Jace left her behind to keep her safe. She endangers basically everyone in the world by being a total brat. She meets a hot guy named Sebastian. He is evil and also is her brother who crazy dad injected with demon blood to make him powerful and really nasty. Bad news is, crazy dad tortured all kinds of creatures including an angel in heinous, difficult to read about experiments. Good news is, Jace isn't really her brother. Jace kills Sebastian. Dad kills Jace. Angel kills Dad. Clary saves Jace.

Book 4 (City of….I don't remember. Let's just call it City of Horny Teens):  Jace is happy Clary isn't his sister but he has moody angst about something. Some stuff about demon babies and a cult of Lilith. A lot of crazy shit happens on a roof and Sebastian is resurrected.

Book 5 (City of Let's Party In the Demon Apartment):  Sebastian controls Jace's mind thru an evil binding rune. Clary travels around with them in an inter dimensional penthouse that lets them float undetected among European capitals for rich people style sightseeing and some demon slaying funsies as they aid Sebastian in his wicked plot. Despite the seeing absurdity of the plot line, this is probably my favorite book besides book 1 because Simon, the D&D playing band geek turned Daylighter vampire has a breathtakingly noble, loyal selfless scene in which he summons an angel to help him stop Sebastian without harming Jace. Now Clary obviously effs everything up at the eleventh hour but that's standard for that character.

Now on to book six: CIty of Heavenly Fire.

**Post interrupted for many hours because overtired Sweet Pea had a bad case of the mommy-i-need-oo's.

In book six, Clary has angsty angst because she can't make out with Jace because there is now Heavenly Fire inside him which sounds suspiciously like a euphemism for an STD, imho. He can't control the HF so he has to be sad and lonely or something and the HF is the only way to stop Evil Reanimated Sebastian from killing all the Shadowhunters with his demon horde. They know Sebastian will come for Clary because she is his sister and he has a creepo incestuous obsession that may or may not be a manifestation of pitiful existential loneliness despite his demon blood or may just be sleazy and rotten. I think you know my vote.

Then it got all Scooby Doo on me and the teens chase the villain into his lair which is actually a dimension within Hell itself. This seems wise and like it will work out well, no?

Now let's spend fully 30% of the final book introducing new characters and subplots to tie in to the new series, 'kay? She intro'd about eleven characters in the useless prologue most of whom stick around and grow pointless story lines designed to entice us to read her new books. Also there are some annoying asides meant to refer mysteriously back to her prequel steampunk series The Infernal Devices which I couldn't even make it through the first book, so there.

They abandon the Mystery Machine and Shaggy and Scoob wander off in search of snacks…wait. No. The Shadowhunter and Simon spend loads of time wandering through the bitter wasteland of Edom. Simon provides the insight, pathos and humor as we gear up for the showdown. Clary and Jace provide the humidity and Alec provides the pouting.

Spoilery things happen which I won't refer to specifically. The vanquishing of the villain himself (no surprise there…good will win out) is bittersweet in a way that impressed me and was also saddening. Then, she lost me.

Because if you have made it through hundreds of pages loving a character and the author hasn't managed to ruin him with needless angst or silliness, let's just throw his ass under the bus, shall we?

My final review is thus:

F-you, Jace and Clary.
F-you, Alec Lightwood.
F-you, new characters.
F-you a little bit, Magnus Bane.
I was so passionate about these books that I yearned to locate and kidney punch every person responsible for bringing us the finale.
I brought the drama to the party today.

PS Thank you and smooshies to everyone who helped out the fish sticks (next year's class)! We will have a more enriching and special year because of your kindness. The Amazon wish list will be taken down tomorrow, and I'll start ordering the stuff we still need and setting up my classroom. Pictures will be posted as we go! XOXO Diva