Inside the Writer’s Studio

No, I’m not going to bring this guy into the discussion:

For fun today, I thought I’d show you what my office looks like.  First, here’s my actual desk. It’s a child’s desk I bought at a thrift shop in Iowa City. It’s a little too small, but I’m also too attached to it to get another one.

And then there are my bookshelves. My husband Nico had to build me custom shelves because my research library was reaching ridiculous proportions and needed to be contained.

And because I’m a total and unrepentant dork/nerd when it comes to my research materials, the shelves are labeled, too, for easy reference.

Not shown in these pictures is Nico’s desk, his bookshelves, a giant beanbag, cats everywhere, and exercise equipment. It’s a little full in here.

So, in case you were wondering just where “the magic happened,” to employ that overused Cribs phrase, here it is!

And now that I’ve shared my workspace with you, I actually have to, you know, use it. For work.

 

On Film Soundtracks

A film’s soundtrack can be one of the most important elements in a movie, highlighting certain moments and bringing up the emotional intensity of others. Some soundtracks contribute huge amounts of power to their films. Last of the Mohicans springs immediately to mind, as do the scores of Ennio Morricone for the films of Sergio Leone.

But you know what else is a powerful element in film?

Silence.

No one seems to use it anymore.  Most films I see are wall-to-wall music, nonstop barrages of sound that refuse to give the viewer any latitude when it comes to how or what they’re supposed to feel. And the soundtracks themselves are about as subtle as this:

I saw The Hobbit a few weeks ago, and I cannot remember a single moment of all 169 minutes that wasn’t crammed with music, all of it demanding that I feel certain things. Charmed. Amused. Frightened. Excited. Mystical. Jolly.

I can interpret images. I can even have my own feelings about those images without being told what those feelings have to be.

One of my writing teachers once said that you can’t go around with every copy of your story or book and tell readers, “No, what I really meant to say was…”  That means you’ve failed as a writer.  The meaning should be on the page. It’s the same thing with a film score. If you have to sit an orchestra next to me and have them explain, “What you should think and feel in this scene is…” then you’ve failed as a filmmaker.

Also, this is a purely personal preference, but if I never hear an ethereal chorus (child or adult) in a film again, I will be one happy filmgoer.

Time is irrelevant—Happy New Year!

Many more clever minds that mine have researched and written about how time is a construct that doesn’t have actual meaning, though we attempt to assign meaning to it through things like clocks, calendars, birthdays, and Downton Abbey episodes.

Theoretically, tomorrow is no different from today. As the clock moves from 11:59 to 12:00 tonight, nothing has actually changed, only what we perceive as the movement forward from 2012 to 2013. Nevertheless, I will be happy to see the backside of 2012 and embrace the illusion of the new year. Candidly, I can say that 2012 has been one of the most challenging years of my life—and I can say with some confidence that I’m not alone in this assessment. Many of my friends have reported their own troubles and struggles, which is oddly comforting to know that we’re all battling through this together, all of us searching and striving to find beauty and strength from the most arduous circumstances.

Tomorrow, those challenges won’t disappear. They’ll carry over into 2013, and I’ll continue to face them as best I can, especially with the support of friends and family. That includes my internet friends and adoptive family, who’ve provided so much laughter and encouragement, even in the midst of some very dark hours.

I’m grateful, too, for my readers, who give my days and weeks so much meaning (even if scientists say those days and weeks don’t really exist).  Knowing that you read my stories and enjoy them makes the tough moments less tough.

Time is irrelevant, but I will embrace that irrelevancy to wish everyone a peaceful, prosperous, creative, and wondrous New Year!

All the best,
Zoë

 

And now it’s time to Treat Yo Self

Did you get a Kindle or Nook for the holidays? Or do you already have one of these e-readers? Now that the holidays are winding down, it’s the perfect time to, in the words of Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford, Treat Yo Self.

LADY X’S COWBOY is only $.99 now through the end of January for Kindle and Nook!  Let yourself unwind after the holiday whirlwind with the story of a Colorado cowboy in London and a most unconventional lady.

TREAT YO SELF!

The Post That Had To Be Written

There’s been a lot of talk on the interwebs and sundry media about calling out “fake fangirls.” You know, those tarted-up floozies who stalk different cons and post pictures of themselves in their incredibly detailed, accurate, elaborate, lovingly-crafted costumes just so they can bathe in male attention and taunt the true fans with their luscious, unobtainable selves. It’s about time someone heroically stood up to women who have the temerity to enjoy a fandom, or worse, participate in a fandom in a way that’s different from the true fan‘s participation. I mean, good god, ladies, how dare you dress in the scanty outfit of a superhero exactly the way in which the superhero’s scanty costume is drawn? And if you’re going to dress up that way, you’d better expect, nay, hope that a fanboy makes inappropriate comments or physically harasses you. That’s what you wanted, right? Not to enjoy a fandom, or cosplay, or take on the persona of a character you like and admire. AMIRITE?

Now it’s time for me to take a stand against another fandom threat. We’ve been silent for too long, but no longer. It’s time to call out

FAKE AUSTEN FANS

Ugh. The very mention of them makes my skin crawl. You know the type. The ones who coo and squee about how “bangable” Mr. Darcy is. The ones who show up whenever Masterpiece Theater airs another adaptation of Emma and salivate over Mr. Knightley or think Emma’s “totally clueless.”  They wear Austen-inspired shirts like this:

And drink their venti soy lattes out of this:

And don’t get me started on those men who show up at Jane Austen-themed dances, parading around in these provocative ensembles:

Dude, have you even read Mansfield Park?

Okay, maybe some of these fake Austen fans may have read a book of hers or two. Pride & Prejudice, or, for extra credit, Persuasion (the latter probably because they drooled all over Adam Carter, I mean, Rupert Penry-Jones, as Captain Wentworth).

But none of these Austen fans are true fans, like me. I’ve read all six published novels, and, yeah, I didn’t read any of her Juvenilia, that only means I’m interested in her polished, mature, professional work, not her youthful or unfinished scribblings. I don’t need some brooding, cravat-wearing British actor to make me care about Austen. Most of the fake fans think Austen is romantic. WRONG. It’s social satire, and if you interpret it differently, then you need to loosen your stays and get some blood flow to your head. There’s only one way to like Austen, and that’s my way.  So all you fake fans, y’all better step off the Austen carriage and find yourself some other 19th century British female author to contaminate with your wildly inappropriate enjoyment, like, say, George Eliot.

P.S. Just so we’re clear, this blog post is satiric. I SAID GOOD DAY.

 

Things In Alanis Morissette’s Ironic That Are and Are Not Ironic

Debatably Ironic:

  • An old man turning ninety-eight winning the lottery and dying the next day
  • A death row pardon two minutes too late
  • Mr. Play It Safe being afraid to fly, packing his suitcase, kissing his kids goodbye, waiting his whole damn life to take that flight, and as the plane crashes down he thinks, “Well, isn’t this nice…”

Not Ironic:

  • A black fly in your Chardonnay
  • Rain on your wedding day
  • A free ride when you’ve already paid
  • The good advice you just didn’t take
  • A traffic jam when you’re already late
  • A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
  • Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
  • Meeting the man of your dreams then meeting his beautiful wife

Aand We’re Back

Whew! I finally turned in the completed manuscript for the next Nemesis, Unlimited book to my editor.  Which means I’m supposed to be taking the week off. What are the odds that’s going to happen?

I made myself a long to-do list, and I’m slowly ticking things off. I think I don’t really understand the notion of “taking a break.”

I have other projects waiting to be written, but for my own sanity’s sake (and Nico’s sake, too), I’m trying not to write anything other than blogs and tweets for the next week or so.  We’ll see how that goes.

One benefit to the time off is that I get to finally do all my holiday baking. I look forward to this time of year because it means I get to indulge my baking habit. Since Nico and I work at home, if I bake anything, we’re the ones who wind up eating it all—which is delicious, but not healthy. Now I get to make cookies and cakes for friends and family. And while the goodies never turn out as perfect as stuff made by, say, this woman:

Nico reminds me that my baked goods are made with love, and that’s all that really matters.

So, if someone gave you a whole week off—what would you do? Be practical and “responsible,” or go wild?

Please stand by

Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’m on deadline, so you probably won’t be seeing much blogging here for a few weeks. In the meantime, you can always find me microblogging on Twitter and Tumblr, so be sure to check in with me there!  (Click on the buttons on the upper right.)

In the meantime, I learned that there’s a German word for the weight you gain from emotional eating: Kummerspeck. Literally translated, it means “grief bacon,” which I love and will probably be my band name sometime in the future. That inspired me to coin my own German word: Romanspeck, which is the weight you gain when you’re on a book deadline. Oy.

Things Advertising Taught Me

I posted this some time back on Tumblr, but now that I have an official!blog, I thought it deserved a home here.  So, here it is:

Things Advertising Taught Me

  • Women love to clean; they love it so much, they wear nice clothes when scrubbing the toilet and they dance with their mops.
  • Only women know how to clean or use cleaning products.
  • The moment a man says his wedding vows, he becomes an infantilized moron with no judgment skills and incapable of the most basic decision making. Fortunately, their wives are also their mothers.
  • Eating fast food bacon chili cheeseburgers not only doesn’t make you fat, it makes you sexy and masculine.
  • Eating chocolate gives women orgasms.
  • If no chocolate is available, yogurt is an acceptable substitute.
  • Everyone lives in houses.
  • People give each other cars with oversized bows for Christmas.
  • Relationships exist only between men and women, and people of the same race.
  • Opening a bottle of beer ensures that a host of attractive people will start dancing in your proximity.
  • Girls do not play with trucks, cars, or construction equipment.
  • I want smoother, younger-looking skin.
  • It’s acceptable dinner conversation to discuss the fact that one’s appetizer and two entrees only cost $20.
  • Blue liquid comes out of vaginas.
  • Blue liquid also comes out of babies.
  • Most driving consists of country roads or Highway 1 in Big Sur.
  • Birth control pills are used for clearing your skin or regulating periods, not for actual prevention of pregnancy.
  • Cooks at chain restaurants wear toques and lovingly prepare your food on butcher-block tables.
  • When a man shaves, he only has .1% body fat.

Feel free to add what you’ve learned from advertising in the comments.

“Slutoween”

It’s been a trend over the last few years (a decade? more?) that Halloween has become a holiday targeted at adults as much as children.  Which means that adults now have a huge selection of ready-made costumes available for them at their local party store or pop-up Halloween shop.  And I don’t think it’s escaped anybody’s notice that the costumes for women have grown sexier and sexier every year.  It’s harder to find a “non-sexy” costume than one that shows some leg or cleavage or just about everything on a woman’s body.

   

It’s actually absurd, the lengths (or shorts) costume manufacturers will go to make something “sexy.”

Since women’s Halloween costumes have grown more and more sexual, Halloween had been dubbed by many as “Slutoween.”  And I just can’t get on board with that.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that women’s Halloween costumes have become extremely revealing, and the designers will find any profession, any object, any popular culture figure and find a way to make them “sexy.”  It’s verging on absurd.  But what I will not do, what I refuse to do, is ridicule or shame the women who decide to wear them.  We’ve developed a culture of “slut shaming,” where we heap insults and derogatory remarks on women who are sexual, enjoy their sexuality, or even just like to dress in sexy clothing, whether or not it’s Halloween.

It’s a woman’s absolute prerogative to dress however she wants, whenever she wants.  If Halloween is the time that she can feel free enough to wear sexy clothes, then, by God, that is her right.  Just as it’s her right to not be pawed, hooted at, or assaulted for wearing said costume.  I know that in the past, I’ve tweeted and posted images of sexy costumes and ridiculed them.  But what I wasn’t ridiculing were the women who opt to wear these costumes.  I simply find the “sexification” process to be absurd, so that beloved childhood characters or inanimate pieces of food become suddenly “sexy.”

So no, I don’t believe in “Slutoween.”  Let women wear the costumes they want to wear.  It’s their choice, and now of all times, we need to respect women’s choices.

However…

I do have a problem with the sexualization of Halloween costumes for teenage girls.  To wit:

What concerns me about these costumes is that teen girls are feeling pressured to act or dress sexy before they themselves feel comfortable doing so.  The teen years can be confusing and uncomfortable, especially when it comes to figuring out your place within the gendered roles of our society.  It’s not wrong for a teenage girl to have sexual feelings or even act on them, but it’s not right if they feel pressured to behave a certain way before they are ready to.  Again—it’s a matter of choice.

What I really, truly cannot stand in Halloween costumes are costumes that utilize racial and cultural stereotypes.  That is offensive to me.

There’s simply no excuse for this kind of insensitivity.  Some might say, “Come on, it’s all in fun! I’m not racist! I don’t mean any harm by it!”  But every time a cultural or racial stereotype is perpetuated, it’s hurtful and cruel, and ignores centuries of oppression, marginalization, violence and prejudice.  I will never take issue with a woman who wants to dress sexily for Halloween, but I will always be offended if someone opts to wear a costume that mocks or stereotypes another race or culture.  That is inappropriate.

So this Halloween, wear what you want to wear, but remember to be sensitive toward others.  I wish everyone a safe, happy and fun Halloween!  Save me some candy!