History of Violence

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I'm probably the last person to see History of Violence starring Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello. Checked out the DVD and watched it last night. I thought there were several flaws in the story line as presented in the movie, but that just may be me. For instance, if known "bad men" kidnapped my son and my husband did whatever was necessary to get the son back and make sure those men didn't come after the family again, I don't think I'd immediately begin spewing venom and hatred at that man because he had lied to me about his true identity and personality - because he too was one of those "bad men."

The movie makers take pains to present a couple in love after 17 years of marriage. Seventeen years in which he was a great husband and father and a pillar of the community. When he reacted with violence to save the people in his diner, he did so because he recognized the men who had come in. He once had been just like them. Instinctual knowledge and instinctive survival skills may be buried, but they're still there.

Oddly enough, I found myself thinking about the movie hours after I'd watched it. Maybe because it had one of those ambiguous endings. Was Tom evil, and evil never dies? Or was he redeemed by his own efforts to leave his evil self behind when he created a new identity? Was it pure evil that sent him to Philly to find closure with his brother, a mob boss? Or was it the certain and sure knowledge that if he didn't go, his brother and his goons would come looking for him, placing his family in peril again?

Maybe I'm over thinking what was supposed to be an action thriller about an apparent common man with uncommon survival skills. Maybe the movie makers or the writers of the book wanted to make people obsess about the subject.

Guess I'll have to read the book History of Violence by Vince Locke with art by John Wagner to find out.

Sometimes movies do spur book sales. Probably only in us over-thinkers though.

Writing Adventure

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On my web site, I have a small item called Written Wisdom on most of the pages. This gives me a good reason to keep collecting quotations from some of the world's greatest people. I was selecting some quotations for the website update next month and found one I particularly liked and wanted to share today.

From Winston Churchill: "Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill this monster and fling him to the public."

Wow! That is so true. Got to go. My tyrant is calling.

Sling Words out.

Things I don't get #100

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Okay, there are many things I just don't understand. In fact, there are so many, and I tend to rant about them, so I've decided to start numbering them for you, dear blog reader, so they don't all blur together.

I don't recall the number of rants in the past so I've decided to assign a completely arbitrary number of 100 to today's rant. Then I'll number from this one on, probably to infinity.

Here's what I don't get: how an author can plagiarize another author, get away with it, and retain her publisher's support. This has become so commonplace that I can think of several examples to cite.

Today's culprit is 19-year-old Harvard sophomore Kaavya Viswanathan, author of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. Her publisher Little, Brown has no plans to withdraw the novel.

Yes, our judicial system is based on the tenet innocent until proven guilty, but Viswanathan acknowledged that she "borrowed material accidentally from author Megan McCafferty's book." A further explanation says that she internalized McCafferty's Jessica books like Sloppy Firsts.

She admitted it when confronted with her criminal act. And, yes, that's what it is, folks! It's a criminal act. It's theft! Somehow during the last few years, this black-and-white fact has faded to a sickly shade of gray.

Excuse me, but how do you accidentally borrow material? What would happen if I visited my local bank and accidentally borrowed a few grand from the vault when they're not looking?

Stealing is stealing. I don't care if it's cash, cars, or words. If you take someone else's words and claim them as your own, then you are stealing - you're not borrowing because borrowing connotes using for a while and then returning. You're stealing. It's wrong. Don't do it.

Shall we add this name to James Frey, Clifford Irving, Janet Dailey, and all the other members of the Anonymous Scurilous Scamming Writers Intellectual Pilferers Elite?

Travels with my camera

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Hey! I'm home. And am I tired! I'll post a few pictures snapped during the looonnnnggg drive back to Texas.

I followed this truck for endless miles on a two-lane road in Louisiana. Couldn't pass because every time there was a straight stretch of road, there was oncoming traffic. I'm spoiled by Texas roads where it's generally 70 on all highways outside towns. Louisiana's top posted speed for non-interstate roads is 55. The old double nickel wouldn't be so bad if the traffic in front of me drove 55. Trouble is, this truck's top speed seemed to be 40.

That truck went so slow that I could have jumped out and run along side the road to take a picture of the driver. Well, almost.

Driving slow leaves plenty of time to muse about writing and brainstorm different story lines. I've often recorded these ideas with a small voice-activated cassette recorder. Prior to cell phones becoming commonplace, I often felt a little silly driving alone and yakking away. I'm sure there were times people thought I was a bit daft because I appeared to be talking to myself. Of course, now if you see someone walking down the street and talking aloud, you take it for granted that they're not schizoid. They're just on a cell phone.

Ah, yes, as that sage Steve Martin once sang: "for the times, they are a shong-ing."

Sling Words out and glad to be home.

Taking off

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Hi! I'm writing this as I'm loading up the car to go on a road trip. Back in a week. I may try to post while I'm gone, but I have a rather full itinerary and probably won't get a chance.

Catch me in a week.

Sling Words out.

When lilacs last in the courtyard bloom'd

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True, today is Trivial Thursday, but I think this blog entry rises above the trivial. If you'll follow the link to a wonderful essay, I promise to be trivial and superficial next Thursday.

Todd R. Nelson has written a beautiful defense of why poetry is important. The piece appears in today's Bangor Daily News. Reading it made me want to pull one of my books of poetry from my library shelf and curl up with a cup of hot tea and a volume of emotion set to words, music, and rhythm for that's what poetry is as Mr. Nelson so eloquently writes.

I'd like to share my comment to him with you because, don't laugh, I once fancied myself a poet. Of course, I was in high school at the time so I didn't know enough to know how terribly difficult it is to write poetry. I didn't let that stop me. I filled scores of pages with my attempts.

Here's what I said to Mr. Nelson:

"To take Faulkner's analysis to its logical conclusion: I'm a novelist which means I'm a failed poet. I love words and the music and rhythm of poetry. I appreciate and admire your beautifully written defense of "why do we have to read poetry." This is not only a sound defense but also a profound truth.

I went to school during the era of forced memorization of just about everything deemed important in history and literature. There have been dark moments in my life when the lines from Henley's Invictus, among other memorized pieces, played through my mind. Somehow, some way, they helped me endure bloody, yet unbowed.

Young people are missing such a beautiful part of life. Keep trying to change their minds."

Reading Mr. Nelson's essay today made me realize how long it's been since I've read poetry. I confess to a complete and total lack of knowledge about any poetry written in the last twenty years. I think it's time I corrected that.

Happy anniversary, Sling Words

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Hard to believe but today is the 1st Anniversary of entering the blogging world. In early 2004, I wrote a feature article on blogging for a Romance Writers of America chapter newsletter. The article was reprinted in several writing groups' newsletters in the U. S. and abroad.

One of the points I made in the article was that blogging required a commitment to produce content regularly. The idea of writing daily for an audience and getting instant feedback held great appeal, but I wasn't ready to make that commitment.

However, I was hooked. I found myself collecting long lists of blogs that I enjoyed visiting on a daily basis. As time passed, I put about a dozen of these on my tabbed browser (Mozilla Firefox - if you haven't changed from IE, you're missing out.). Rarely does a day pass, if I'm home, that I don't stop in and visit these blogs. They're like saying hello to the neighbors each day.

Finally, I decided to take the plunge in December 2004. I thought I was ready. I thought I had the time to compose thoughtful articles about the art and craft of writing, the business of writing, or just a discourse on the writer's life.

Wrong. Of course, Christmas season is never a good time to embark on a new pursuit. So I gave myself permission to wait. Remember the old song: "ain't it funny how time slips away?" Suddenly, it was April. Finally, Sling Words had its premiere.

My goal is to post daily, but I don't. I admire those like my friend Bill Crider who has been ever faithful with his Pop Culture Magazine and others like him who rarely miss a day. When I grow up, I want to be just like them. Until then, I'll keep the goal of posting daily, but I won't beat myself up if I don't.

Tonight, I think I'll crack open my "book sale" champagne that lives in its special bin in the refrigerator and toast myself.

Sling Words out to go dust off the champagne glasses.

Rejection refusal

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Ever get a rejection letter? Then you’ll enjoy this. It’s my variation on the supposed letter that makes the email circuit every spring. You know the one I mean? It's supposed to be a letter from the college grad to a prospective employer who refused him a position.

The first time I read the college version, I, of course, immediately thought of the rampant editorial refusal writers face. The next time you get a rejection from an editor or an agent, don’t sit there and take it. Reject it! At least, remember this and let the humor take away the sting.

* * * *

Dear Editor:

Thank you for your rejection letter of March 5. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that it does not meet my needs at this time. Therefore, I am unable to accept your rejection of my manuscript proposal.

This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising group of editors rejecting me, it is impossible to comment on each rejection letter or to accept all refusals.

Despite your previous experience in rejecting authors and your wonderfully ambiguous form letter, I find that your rejection simply does not meet my needs at this time. Therefore, I am forwarding the full manuscript to you immediately for prompt publication.

Best of luck in rejecting future manuscripts from other authors.

Very truly yours,
Ima Starving Author

Plot is a four letter word....

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.... but not the profane kind.

I've been plotting a new book so let's talk about plots - Master Plots. Depending on which expert you read, there are only 2 or 16 or 20 or 36 different plots ever devised. Actually Rudyard Kipling believed there were 69 master plots. The number varies because many "experts" in stating the higher number of plots are areally just calling differing patterns of basic plots as separate plots.

Believe me, you aren't going to create a new one. Every story ever told can be boiled down to a basic plots.

Here's a list from MASTER PLOTS by Ronald B. Tobias with some examples. I didn't find a site that sells the book new. My copy is old, but I enjoy rereading it.

Adopt your own list from Tobias's book or Polti's book of 36 Dramatic Plots or whatever floats your boat.

1. THE QUEST, search for a person, place, or thing either tangible or intangible. Don Quixote, Grapes of Wrath, The Wizard of Oz. The object of the search must be everything to the protagonist not just an excuse for the action. It's a character plot - a plot of the mind.

2. ADVENTURE, resembles the quest but is an action plot - a plot of the body. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, any Clive Cussler book.

3. PURSUIT, literary version of hide and seek. Jaws, Romancing the Stone, Moby Dick. The Fugitive

4. RESCUE, a physical plot in which the hero tries to regain that which is lost. The Princess Bride, The Magnificent Seven

5. ESCAPE, a physical plot, protagonist physically wants to escape confinement. The Great Escape

6. REVENGE, retaliation by the protagonist against the antagonist for real or imagined injury. Hamlet, The Outlaw Josey Wales
7. RIDDLE, most pure mysteries which seek to solve a riddle. Any Agatha Christie

8. RIVALRY. a struggle for power or two people having the same goal. Mutiny on the Bounty, The Odd Couple, Moby Dick

9. UNDERDOG, similar to rivalry but the match up is between unequals. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Cinderella

10. TEMPTATION, to be induced or persuaded to do something that is either unwise, wrong, or immoral. Fatal Attraction or maybe Lolita

11. METAMORPHOSIS, most of the master plots are grounded in reality but this is magical and is sbout change which covers a lot of territory. Dracula, Beauty and the Beast

12. TRANSFORMATION, this is grounded in reality, astudy of humanity is the study of change. We are always becoming. This deals with process of change the protagonist undergoes through life. The Last Picture Show, Catch 22, Jekyll and Hyde, Ordinary People, My Fair Lady

13. MATURATION, growing up. Huckleberry Finn, Great Expectations

14. LOVE, boy meets girl, overcomes obstacles, and wins love. Much Ado About Nothing, Jane Eyre

15. FORBIDDEN LOVE, the love involves some social tabu. There are still some tabus in modern society.Romeo and Juliet, The Scarlet Letter.

16. SACRIFICE, characters sacrifice themselves because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. High Noon, Casablanca

17. DISCOVERY, dedicated to the pursuit of learning about oneself. Portrait of a Lady

18. WRETCHED EXCESS, pushes the limits of acceptable behavior either by choice or accident about people who inhabit the fringes of society. Apocalypse Now, Wall Street, Clean and Sober

19. ASCENSION, the rise from humble beginnings to greatness.

20. DESCENSION, the fall prominence to rock bottom. Some stories contain both ascension and descension like The Godfather, All the King's Men, The Elephant Man, Dark Victory, Citizen Kane, Death of a Salesman

Knowing where your story fits can give it depth as well as help you describe it succinctly to editors, agents, and readers.

Heist

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I'm stunned by the low ratings reported for the new caper series HEIST. I haven't seen anything this good in a long time.

Sharp writing, great characterizations, layered plot, clever, and witty.

I'm afraid NBC will cancel it before the story plays out, and I'll never know whether they succeed in their ambitious heist plans and whether Mickey, played by Dougray Scott, gets his revenge on the man who double crossed him, shot him, left him for dead, stole his wife, and adopted his daughter.

Give it a try. It's a fabulous show.

Sling Words out.

Slinging words

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Oh, my gosh! I've been so busy writing that I have neglected the blog world. I should be back to blogging in a few days.

Sling Words out.