Sunday, August 28, 2011

Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler


Welcome to the second half of Season 6! And wow did Steven Moffat and Co. kick things off with an absolutely gonzo adventure in 1930s Berlin. When Moffat's name shows up in the credits as writer, you know to expect a few things: (a) several imaginative, unrelated ideas tossed into a blender with results that are both brilliant and uneven, (b) nonlinear storytelling, (c) a whole bunch of running around and yelling, and (d) a healthy dose of what-the-(blank)-is-going-on. "Let's Kill Hitler" delivers on all those points.

Spoilers ahead.

Stop now if you don't want to know.

Still here?

OK, let's go.

We open with Amy and Rory making crop circles to get the Doctor's attention because, after an entire summer of no "Who," they're as antsy as we are to find out what happens next. The Doctor gets the message. Also showing up for the party like she's been there all along (which takes a page from Nikki and Paolo on "Lost") is Mels, a sassy troublemaker childhood friend of Amy's and Rory's. She hijacks everyone along with the TARDIS and lands them in 1938 Berlin because, as she says, "What the hell. Let's kill Hitler."

Hitler doesn't do much but get punched by Rory, shoot Mels and get thrown into a cupboard, again by Rory (who is Super Action Man for much of this episode). Then the story takes an abrupt turn when Mels, who is really Melody Pond, regenerates into ... River Song. Except she doesn't know she's River. She has been brainwashed by the Silents her whole life with one purpose: to kill the Doctor. So she kisses him with poison lipstick and leaves him to die a slow death while she cavorts around Berlin.

So we've seen the death of River Song and the birth of Melody Pond. Now here is the beginning of River Song. Alex Kingston puts in a fantastic performance. This is, I hope, finally the start of the love affair between her and the Doctor. The tables are turning, in that the Doctor knows things about their time together that young River does not. But in a bit of Moffat-ness, their timelines are now hopelessly muddled. It's always been assumed they were moving in opposite directions, but now the Doctor has seen River's beginning and end but is missing most of the stuff in the middle. No wonder they need the diaries. So will the audience, before long. But I suspect this season will end with Amy and Rory checking out of the TARDIS and River moving in.

Speaking of Amy and Rory, I thought they got the short shaft this week. They've been waiting all summer for the Doctor to find their Melody so that the happy Pond family could settle down in domestic bliss. Or something like that. But when Mels regenerates into River, that scenario became impossible. Actually, the scenario became impossible from the moment Melody wormed her way into Amy's and Rory's lives during their childhood, before she was even born. What is past cannot be changed, including everything that happened to Melody before she crossed paths with her parents. What that time did not include was them rescuing her. Yet, in all the running and chasing all over Berlin, this fact does not seem to dawn on the Ponds. At no point does Amy or Rory stop and say, "We can never get our little girl back." That was a gaping hole in the episode, in my opinion.

I have probably said enough now and I haven't even gotten into the craziness of the humanoid, shape-changing spaceship full of miniaturized people. Or the explanation of who the Silents are and what they want. I really did love this episode, despite its holes. But I'm hoping that next week, the writers might work in a few moments in which the action slows down enough that we the audience can process what the heck is going on.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sale! To Digital Science Fiction

The other day on his blog, Tobias Buckell wrote about the difference between goals and milestones. Goals are things, as a writer, that you can control: how much and how often you write, for instance. Milestones are things you cannot control, such as selling a story. You can write the best story you can, research markets and submit, but you can't control whether the editor will accept it.

That's why, when I post my annual goals, they are always things I can control: word count, number of stories I want to complete, number of submissions I want to make.

Still, the milestones are worth celebrating, and I have one to celebrate today: my first pro-rate sale.

"Catch a Fallen Star," which also was a semi-finalist story in the second quarter this year in the Writers of the Future contest, is slated for publication in the sixth anthology of Digital Science Fiction in April 2012. This a relatively new but exciting market that is targeting the growing popularity of electronic publishing. The two anthologies released so far have both topped Amazon's rankings for science-fiction anthologies. I am thrilled that my story has found such a great home.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hello, Irene

As I'm writing this, Hurricane Irene is beginning its weekend assault on the East Coast. You'd think someone who lives in Colorado wouldn't care so much about a hurricane beyond general interest in national news. However, my husband and I own a rental house in Erwin, N.C., which is along the Interstate 95 corridor and at risk of getting hammered. We have gone through a couple other category 2 storms in recent years without damage. My hope is for a similar result this time. I also have friends, family and former work colleagues whom I hope will stay safe.

Writing progress: Not much because my laptop is in the shop. I did play around with a different opening to my work-in-progress in the old-fashion way, with pen and paper. I'm not sure whether I'm satisfied with what I have yet.

And, last but not least, Doctor Who returns tomorrow night with "Let's Kill Hitler," and I will resume with my posts on each new episode this Sunday.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Computer problems

My laptop has been dying a slow death for a few weeks now. First, it was small issues like programs that suddenly stopped working correctly. Then, larger issues such as a Windows failure over the weekend that caused the computer to go into recovery mode for several hours. Last night, it failed to boot at all. Today, I took it to a repair shop and was told that it needs a new hard drive.

So I am now without my laptop for a few days while it gets fixed. (I am currently blogging from work.) I was able to backup most my files (stories, music, photos) onto my flash drive, so nothing important will be lost. In the end, this will be nothing more than a mildly expensive annoyance. It could have been much worse.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cliche-busting

In writing: I spent the morning eliminating as many cliches as I could find in my work-in-progress. Cliches slip in without my even noticing, which means my first drafts are often rife with them. There's always a fresher, more specific way to write something. Some of the ones I caught this morning:
  • Her mind was racing
  • Bit back a reply
  • His eyes glazed over
  • Take the fall
  • Swallow her pride
  • Circled like vultures

In real life: The kids start back to school this week. One of my sons had his first day of second grade today. He came bounding out of his classroom this afternoon with a huge smile, so I guess things went well. Tomorrow is the first day for my 10th-grader and preschooler. For me, the school year means more uninterrupted time for writing and running. On the downside, I will see my kids a lot less over the next few months because they get out of school about the same time I leave for work.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hugo redux

I watched most of the Hugo Awards ceremony last night on my computer and from the comfort of my living room. It was a long ceremony that could have cut in some places (did we really need to see the full-length trailers for every nominated movie?) and could have gone a little longer in others (I could have listened to Robert Silverberg not announce the novella winner all night).

You can find the list of winners here, along with an unhealthy dose of negativism in the comments section. Some of the winners aren't the ones I would have voted for, either, folks, but that doesn't mean they're not deserving. You can also check out the breakdown of the voting here.

What I'm reading: Gardner Dozois' The Year's Best Science Fiction anthology for 2010. There are a few Hugo nominees in there, a Hugo winner I haven't read ("Emperor of Mars" by Allen M. Steele) and loads of juicy science fiction that I'm eager to dig into.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

If I were a Hugo voter

The winners of the 2011 Hugo Awards will be announced tonight at WorldCon. I didn't vote because I didn't buy a membership this year. However, if I had voted, this is what my picks would have been. (We'll see how well they match up with the winners a few hours from now):

  • Novel: Blackout/All Clear, by Connie Willis
  • Novella: “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” by Rachel Swirsky
  • Novelette: no vote (I've read only one of the nominees and did not like how it ended, so ...)
  • Short story: “Ponies” by Kij Johnson (this is a tough choice, though, because I quite enjoyed Carrie Vaughn's "Amaryllis.")

In the only two other categories in which I could make an informed choice:
  • Dramatic presentation, long form: Inception, written and directed by Christopher Nolan
  • Dramatic presentation, short form: Doctor Who: “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang,” written by Steven Moffat; directed by Toby Haynes

Monday, August 15, 2011

Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler prequel

Doctor Who returns Aug. 27 with "Let's Kill Hitler." BBC today released a short prequel to that episode, which is just a little bit heartbreaking. Watch it here:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Story recommendation

A week before the winners of the Hugo awards are announced at WorldCon, I finally got around to reading novella nominee "The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen's Window" by Rachel Swirsky, and damn. This novella is the best I've read in awhile, about a lady whose ghostly existence spans millennia. It has already won the Nebula. If I were the gambling type, which I'm not, I would put my money on it for the Hugo, too.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bad reaction to a wasp sting

Why is it that medical issues always come up on weekends when the only option is going to an overpriced and crowded urgent-care clinic? The wasp sting from three days ago has swollen to the size of my palm, is red and hard to the touch, and itches like crazy. I'm not in emergency phase. Right now I'm getting by on Benadryl and hydrocortisone cream, and I hope to hold out until Monday when I can go see my regular doctor. I've also had no appetite the past two days, and I'm wondering if that's related. I am mildly allergic to mosquito bites and bee stings, but I've never been stung by a wasp before. It is proving to be unpleasant.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Writing update

Writing progress: The first draft of the work-in-progress is done, coming in just shy of 6,000 words. This might be my fourth quarter entry to Writers of the Future. The decision depends on the general reaction of my first readers and whether I can write something better in the next six weeks. My plan is to have two quality stories ready to go, so I have options. But the next item on my to-do list is revising my semi-finalist story from quarter 2, based off a spot-on critique from judge K.D. Wentworth. I have my fingers crossed that I can turn this one into my first pro sale.

In real life: My husband and I are gearing up for back-to-school shopping. I can't believe it's that time of the year already; the summer went by too fast. The garden is producing more vegetables and strawberries than we can eat, so we're foisting them off on the extended family. There's also a wasp nest near the strawberry patch, and yes I got stung yesterday when picking fruit.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Back from Grand Junction

My cousin's wedding was an expensive affair at a winery. Guests took a stab at the cost, and the average response was around $20,000, which is about five times more than the budget that my husband and I had for our wedding. The barbecue dinner the night before (which featured an entire pig, including the head) was at the Colorado National Monument, which is one of the most spectacular places I've ever been. The rock formations are astounding. I took photos, but only a couple came out. Here's the best one:



Writing progress: I am one short scene away from finishing the WIP, which is why I'm now going to cut this post short and commence with the writing.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Chicken soup for the writer

I've never heard of C.J. Redwine before today, when I followed a link to her blog and read about her journey to selling her first book. I could not have stumbled across this post at a better time.

She says she watched others make big sales for two years and, although she was happy for them, she was down on herself for not being able to do the same. This hit home for me because some people around me have made some great sales recently, and although I am ecstatically happy for them, I've held a couple of pity parties for myself. Yeah, there, I admit it. So, here's what C.J. had to say that made me feel a little bit better:
It was that I felt like I was missing something crucial. Overlooking some important ingredient that would transform me from the girl who couldn't sell a book to one who finally had a contract. Guess what? There IS a secret ingredient. It's called sweat. Perseverance. Sheer undiluted stubbornness.

... There are no little people. There are only different places along the path. ... Please don't look at the good news in my life (or in other's) and devalue your own talent, your chances, or your experiences. There are no inner sanctums out of your reach. There isn't a finite number of contracts. You aren't one step closer to missing your chance. If you want to take anything away from my own experience, take this: I'm just a girl who kept writing.

Awesome. And congrats to C.J. Redwine.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sorry for the blog silence ...

It occurs to me that I haven't posted anything for a week, and I won't be posting over the weekend because I will out of town for a cousin's wedding. So I better do it now.

Writing progress: WIP hit a roadblock a few days ago. I puttered around with it and realized nothing was working, so I tried a little trick that sometimes helps. I crafted a one sentence "cover blurb" for the story that summed up the external and internal conflicts and what the story is "about." That has helped me regain some focus, and I'm tweaking what's already written to better fit my vision of what the story should be. The hope is when I work my way back to the climax (which is where I stalled out), the writing will come more easily.

Other stuff: I finally got around to watching the new version of "True Grit," after the Netflix disc sat on the shelf for a couple of weeks. My dad is a fan of the John Wayne version and made me sit through it when I was a kid. I don't remember much about it except that I enjoyed the new version better. Hailee Steinfeld's performance blew me away.

And I'm starting to get antsy for the return of Doctor Who on Aug. 27. The new trailer is here.