Archive for December, 2010


Just a Quickie

on December 29, 2010 in Misc 4 Comments »

I’M BACK!

Sorry I haven’t written squat for this blog for so long.  Between traveling over the holidays (always gosh-darn fun, especially the airports – heavy on sarcasm here) and being busy with family and Christmas, I didn’t even have much time to go into other folks’ blogs and enjoy reading them.

Then on top of it all my Internet connection went down right before I left town, PLUS my computer at work died spectacularly about a week earlier, so until a new one could be rustled up for me I had to limp along on an ancient one that had been set aside for recycling.  I SWEAR that I left comments on some of your blogs while using that machine; but at least a couple times those comments disappeared.  Sure, maybe I failed to click on something, but my own philosophy is that when in doubt, blame the machine.

And as for action hero stuff…

Just got a quickie for you today, which is how to kick an attacker in the knee.

I’d always assumed that if someone comes at me and presents his knee as a handy target, I should kick it right in the middle.  Turns out I was wrong. The best way is to kick it at a forty-five degree angle.  This will not only disable an attacker (at least temporarily), the angle can inflict the most damage to the joint.

And on that cheerful note, here’s wishing you all a happy New Year.   I PROMISE to write lots of new stuff this weekend and thus send out the old year and greet the new with style.

Jungle Woman

on December 17, 2010 in Misc 8 Comments »

So since I’m too busy with writing and work and the upcoming holidays to actually go out and DO Layla stuff, I figure maybe I could take a short break and tell you about my earliest FEMALE action hero inspiration.

And by early I mean I was five or six years old.   The inspiring shows were reruns at least a decade older than I was – embarrassingly hokey, silly half hour episodes shot on the cheap and in grainy black and white, but since our funky old family RCA TV was a black and white job, color didn’t matter.  All that mattered was the THRILLING opening shots that showed a map of Africa and then Kenya, with drums pounding in the background while the camera cuts to the opening shot of…

SHEENA,QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE!

Please stop laughing.  I took Sheena very, very seriously.

Anyway, there was Sheena in all her glory, with her mass of long blond hair, a sexy one-shouldered skimpy leopard skin that breezily covered her hourglass figure, arm bands, bracelet, big hoop earrings, necklace, and snazzy belt.  For someone living in the jungle, Sheena was impressively accessorized.

Far more important, Sheena was armed with a spear and a hollowed-out rhino horn that she sometimes blew into.  Somehow that little thing made a HUGE noise that all the animals for miles around would respond to, much like Tarzan’s yodel.  She battled bad guys who carried guns, but in the end she always won, sometimes with the help of her white hunter boyfriend named – I kid you not – Bob.  But more often she was assisted by her sidekick chimp.  Named Chimp.

I wanted to be Sheena so bad it hurt.

I mean, Sheena was never bossed around by two older sisters.  She didn’t have grown-ups telling her what to do.  She wasn’t an insignificant speck in a kindergarten classroom.  Sure, she was a woman and not a little girl like me.  But Sheena was WAY too cool to be like other women on TV shows, who in those days seemed to be all housewives or girlfriends or secretaries.

Instead, Sheena had POWER, FREEDOM, EXCITING ADVENTURES, plus loyal friends, animals that did her bidding, and the keen ability to survive any danger thrown at her.  After all, Sheena was QUEEN over all she saw, which to me looked like half the African continent but in fact was just some scrawny forest in California. 

On the downside the show’s budget didn’t seem to cover the cost of a decent jungle home, but I figured if I could be Sheena while living in Tarzan’s huge tree house, I’d be set.  I’d be in childhood heaven.

So there you have it.  The first and surely tackiest action hero to leave a lasting imprint on my young gullible soul was Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.  And to this day I still think there’s something really cool about her.

If nothing had gone wrong with my Layla plan, the first phase of it would’ve ended back around late July.

I mean, it’s embarrassingly obvious that I’m running late on this plan, isn’t it?  Just look on the right hand side of this page, and what do you see?  “This blog is the record of my one year plan to become like Layla Daltry.”

ONE YEAR, people!

And that year started in late July of 2009, when I enrolled in a crazy-ass, tough-as-nails parkour course to start getting my body into serious shape. Then I stepped up my efforts in fencing, started to teach myself lock picking, TRIED to study French and Arabic (NOT ENOUGH TIME for them, damn it!), and did paragliding and skydiving and lots of other stuff.

These are details I plan to examine and grade myself on at the literal end of this year and the start of 2011. And yes, I’ve got some spiffy, cool ideas for my second-year plan of Becoming Layla.  Stuff that entails less learning and much more DOING.  Or as my sister says, I have to seriously up my game to make my blog interesting. (This is the excuse she uses for never bothering to read my blog, but am I bitter?  Certainly not.)

Anyway, there are two reasons why I’ve been stretching out the first year of my plan. 

Reason #1: As you may recall, all my physical workouts and training had to be put on hold for two to three months because last spring I was seriously injured by a moron in an Aikido class.  Injured as in a partially collapsed lung and fractured ribs.  And reason #2:  I’m so busy with the final rewrite and copy editing of The Compass Master that I haven’t been doing enough Layla activities to give the end of my one-year plan a bang-up, exciting finish. (shame on me).

So there you have it.  Come January 1 I’ll be seriously upping my Layla game plan.  What exactly I’ll be doing in the coming year I’m not too sure, which makes me open to suggestions.  Some of you had great ideas this last year that I never followed through on.  I apologize and promise to act out all the way this next year. 

1. acting out – a (usually irritating) impulsive and uncontrollable outburst by a problem child or a neurotic adult.

2. acting out – (psychiatry) the display of previously inhibited emotions (often in actions rather than words) considered to be healthy and therapeutic.

Glamming Up

on December 10, 2010 in Misc 4 Comments »

I’ve decided to glam up Layla.

I know what you’re thinking. “Isn’t it late in the game to be changing your lead character? Like, uh… Didn’t you claim to be almost FINISHED with the FINAL REWRITE of The Compass Master?

So sue me.  Besides, by glamming up I mean making her warmer, deeper, more fascinating — changes that won’t take much work or alter the plot.  It’s something that has to be done.

Remember how I told you that reader Robert Read (such a cool name) did a great job critiquing my manuscript?  Well, he also reported that Layla was “admirable” but that he liked several secondary characters more. Of course I felt stung, but deep down I knew what he was getting at. A couple of friends who’ve also read TCM praised Layla as a character, but I realized in retrospect that neither of them talked about really LOVING her.

And that’s what we want for the lead characters, isn’t it?  For them to be so deserving of our love and attention that we’ll follow them through thick and thin, or if they’re sometimes unlikable or infuriating they’re still so fascinating (take a bow, Scarlet O’Hara), you can’t tear yourself away from them.

Fellow blogger Ketutar (Ketutar writing) wrote the other day about not finishing Jonathan Franzen’s ballyhooed novel The Corrections because, among other reasons, she didn’t like the characters.  I know just what she means.  I once wasted my time trudging through a John Updike novel in which – I kid you not – ALL of the characters with the sole exception of the toddler were so unlikable that I wanted them to drop dead.

Of course Layla is already pretty likable. And the painful irony is, for more than a year I’ve chronicled my unfolding plan to become like her (I’ll report on the results in an upcoming post).  Yet all this time it seems that I’ve been keeping some distance from Layla even as I created her.  You see, I can really, really hide large parts of myself from people.  Sometimes I’ve got protective armor around me as tough as steel.  This shouldn’t affect my writing, but with Layla I’ve projected parts of me into her, which means that on some subconscious level I’ve also thrown my armor around her.

So you know what this means.  I gotta tear off that armor and let Layla out in all her realness and depth and wildness and whatever.  And you know what else?  I think I’m gonna enjoy this.

Wow.  Who knew that writing could be like on-the-cheap therapy?

Ever have days when you feel like your brain is so overloaded it’s going to explode?

Physically, I’ve been doing better the last couple weeks. I’ve gotten in enough quickie workouts at the office gym to build my stamina back up. Then this last Saturday and Sunday when I pushed myself I did just fine. My body is happier now. I even feel kinda hot – physically, at least.

Mentally I’m close to being a basket case.

If you’re a writer, you know what I mean.  It’ s not just everyday work and family and To Do Lists and frickin’ holiday stuff that’s piling up in our heads.  We writers start with that mess and then throw on our novels and stories and plots and characters and themes and so much other fictional flotsam and jetsam that our poor gray matter is ready to blow a neuronal fuse.

This is why I’m so spacey, I tell people.  ‘Cause I’m a writer.

Non-writers really don’t understand how tough it is for us when we’re in the final stages of rewriting a novel.  We’re so close to that glorious moment when we can type (yet again) THE END, and this time really mean it, that it’s hard to concentrate on anything else.  Because once we get to that real, absolute END we can finally have some peace.  No more characters talking in our heads.  No more distractions over plot twists.  No more calculating how much time we can squeeze out of our busy schedules to get some writing done.  Because it’s DONE!

And so, if in the next few weeks I come across to you as mentally not quite with it, please be patient.  I’m merely suffering through the dreaded final stages of Writer’s Syndrome.