A Slice of Orange


Pop Culture Review: Heroes

May 9, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

by Sara Black

I’ve got to be honest, I thought the first episode of Heroes was Boring. Yeah, with a capital B. However, after a few months of hearing it was Really Very Good and I should Give It A Try, I decided that maybe I’d been too quick to judge. I caught up on twenty episodes in two weeks.

Heroes could have stood to lose a majority of it’s first chapter, but things improved from then on. The basic concept is heavily drawn from super hero comic books: As explained in the opening of each episode, a bunch of ordinary seeming people turn out to have extraordinary abilities like stopping time, flying, and turning homicidal. These people may be the only ones who can save the world, unfortunately it seems, from themselves.

From a pop culture standpoint it’s interesting to see such a melding of mediums. The episodes are structured similarly to comic books, each one being a chapter in the story with a shorter arc that eventually adds up into the larger arc. There is even a graphic novel available online which promises to deepen the readers understanding.

What keeps me watching is not the comic book premise (trust me, I gave up on X-men a while ago) but the characters. We get to watch as each hero gets a piece of the puzzle but struggles to see their part in the big picture. The main arc, we learn early on, involves the destruction of a large part of New York and the deaths of thousands. Even the audience isn’t certain what part each hero will play in what may be a domino effect of disaster. The anticipation is killing me.

It could be considered torture to interest you in a series only two episodes away from the season finale, but all the episodes can be downloaded from the iTunes store or viewed online at NBCs website.

Sara Black has a degree in Cinema/Television from USC. She watches far too much television, eats way too much sushi and is always writing a romance novel. For someone who religiously stays out of the mainstream, she knows an awful lot about Pop Culture. This is the third in a series of posts on the subject.

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Go There

May 8, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

When I was first writing “Till Death Do Us Part”, I didn’t realize that Dori had a past love. But when Pete called her name in that scene in chapter three, my heart jolted just like Dori’s. When I saw where we were going, I jumped out of my chair and paced my office. I finally turned off the computer thinking, there’s no way I can go there.

But many months later after I’d finished the story, approved the galleys and then went on to a new story, Ryan and I were watching Inside the Actor’s Studio with Clint Eastwood. In the role of Harry Calahan, Eastwood once had to jump off a bridge onto the top of a moving school bus. When James Lipton asked if he had been afraid, Eastwood replied, “No. When you’re really in the character, you can do anything.”

I realized that writing is like acting. It only becomes real when we become the character. And man, that can be scary as hell!

Even though I still run away from the computer when the story gets too real, I know that I’ll be back. Just like an actor who spontaneously discovers a new bit of dialogue or action, we writers must jump off the bridge with our characters. What I’ve come to realize is that if we don’t go there, then neither will our readers.

So when the story and the character get under your skin and it feels icky and scary and awfully itchy, just keep yourself there because that’s when the good stuff is about to happen.

Mary Castillo’s new book, Names I Call My Sister hits bookstores today. She is the author of In Between Men and Hot Tamara. Her website is www.marycastillo.com.

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It’s Worth It

May 7, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

A Fork in the Road

By Kitty Bucholtz

I turned 39 last month. For the first time. If all goes well, it’ll be for the last time. I heard your 40s are when you finally have the experience and guts to stand up and say, “This is who I am. Like it or leave it.”

I’m not sure if I’m going to do that before I turn 40 though.

I got some notes back from my agent last week and I realized that while I’ve been writing professionally for ten years this year, there are still some words that I misunderstand. Like hot. When she told me the new genre I’m writing in is hot, I was all excited because it just happened that what I want to write is popular right now.

Oh, it is. But that’s not what she meant. She meant that genre has more detailed, uh, love scenes. And from what I’ve skimmed in other books in the genre, love isn’t always a prerequisite for the action.

Oh dear. So now I have to decide how far I’m willing to go. Suddenly I feel 16 again and I’m looking at my cute boyfriend. Will mom find out? What will God think? Just how far is too far? Will I have to wait until everyone whose opinion is important to me dies? (In which case, there’s still God.) And by then, will I even remember how to do it?!

But that’s not really what I’m asking myself. I’m asking myself how far I’m willing to go to be one of the popular girls. One of the thin, blonde, pretty ones with strawberry lip gloss and a bit of mascara that they put on in the girls’ restroom so their mother wouldn’t know. Do I want to do what it takes to have lots of friends (readers)? Or will I prefer to stand off to the side, a wallflower among wallflowers, holding my values to my chest like a badge of honor, secretly wishing I could do what needs to be done to publish my stories?

I’ll tell you the truth, I’m thinking about “doing it” once to see what it’s like, to see what all the hype is about. Maybe I won’t feel I’ve crossed a line. Maybe the money will be worth it. Maybe none of my more conservative friends will think any less of me. Maybe I’ll think I’m cool. But if I decide later it wasn’t worth it, it’ll be too late.

I remember what it was like to want to be more popular, to give away my virginity and later wish I had it back. I’m older and wiser now…and I still don’t know what advice to give myself. Except that there’s nothing better than being able to look yourself in the mirror and say, “I respect myself and what I do,” and “I’m doing all I can to be a successful businesswoman and I’m proud of myself.”

A few days ago, I said to my husband, “You know, now’s the time for me to quit and become a stay-at-home mom if that’s what we want.” It was both a “last chance” moment for us to decide for sure if we wanted to be parents, and – more so – an opportunity for me to quit without answering the question – how far am I willing to go to get published?

It’s a hell of a moment…this moment. It’s “a fork stuck in the road” as the Green Day song goes. Robert Frost said the road less traveled made all the difference. Does that mean he had to have a day job?

I don’t know what I’m going to say to my agent. I don’t want to be pious or popular. I want to be me. And I know that I was created with a unique ability to create. I can’t help but think therein lies the answer. Can I be creative enough to write what the market requires in a way that doesn’t compromise my integrity?

Ask me my age next spring. If I say I’m 39 (again), it means I haven’t quite found the guts yet to stand up and be myself regardless of the cost. But I promise you this: I’ll try with all my heart to work to be that person this year. A person who counts the cost and makes a decision and doesn’t wallow in excuses. A person like that could be a good friend in life, regardless of the level of their financial success.

There will be a price to be paid to become that kind of person, that kind of writer, but I say – it’s worth it.

Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

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Things That Make Me Go Mmmruh

May 6, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

Rrrrrr! vs. Mmmruh

by Geralyn Ruane

It wasn’t my day. Or my week, month or year, apparently. Ants were taking over my kitchen; my cat was so sick I had to spend most nights at the emergency animal hospital; I’d lost my voice so I couldn’t teach and make rent; I got my summons to do jury duty; and to top it all off, I owed taxes when I’d been counting on a refund.

So, head pounding, nose running, sweats not at all fashionable, I went to Trader Joe’s to buy myself some junk food (it’s healthier if it comes from Trader Joe’s, right?) And as I was walking to the one open checkout stand, I nearly ran into this guy heading for the very same open lane. This GORGEOUS guy. He looked like an older, more roguish version of the character Peter Petrelli from Heroes. Seriously. We stopped and looked at each other in total acknowledgement that we were both racing for the same open register. Then he stepped back, smiled, and said, “Go ahead.”

Mmmmmruh! Is that the opening to a romance novel, or what?

The moment passed, but I’ve got to say, it’s these random drops of mmmruh – absorbing them into my life and incorporating them into my writing – that keeps me bouncing around in this maelstrom we call life. Endless war, random shootings, rampant indoctrinated prevarication, escalating gas prices, a widening gap in the ozone, an insane media circus. How can a warm spring evening that reminds me of home or a student telling me she’ll miss me compete with all that? How on earth does the creative spirit prevail?

Attitude, plain and simple. We just have to allow ourselves to drink in those moments of mmmruh, savor them, remember them, and make them matter.

Geralyn Ruane’s favorite Hardy Boy is whichever one Parker Stevenson played, and these days she writes romance, chick lit and women’s fiction. Last year her short story “Jane Austen Meets the New York Giants” was published in the New York Times Bestselling anthology The Right Words at the Right Time Volume 2.

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May 4, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as
Website A, B, C’s

by Gina Black

So you want to have a website, or maybe you think you should have a website, but the whole thing is so confusing you’ve done absolutely n-o-t-h-i-n-g.

Don’t despair. It’s not that complicated. Really. Let me help get you started by sharing my version of website A, B, C’s.

A is for address. Just like every business, if you’re going to have a website, your customers (or readers) need to be able to find it. Remember: Location, location, location. To a writer that means you want your name in the address (or domain name). If your website is set up properly they will be able to Google you anyway, but make it as easy as possible by buying yourname.com. But what if (like in my case) the .com that goes with your name is already taken? Then go for .net or put a hyphen in your name (gina-black.com wasn’t taken so I grabbed it), or do whatever you can think of to get it as close to yourname.com as possible. Are you going to write under a pseudonym? Then buy that too, while you’re at it. If possible, get both the .com and .net. One caveat: when you purchase your domain name your information (name, address, email, phone contact) goes on public record. If you don’t want that you can pay for a private registration (with some companies), or get a P.O. Box, which is a good thing for any author to have anyway.

But, you say, you don’t want to set up the website now. Not a problem, says I. You can buy the domain name at any time and hold onto it until you are ready to . . .

B is for build your website. In order to do that, you need a place to put it. In cyberspace, the equivalent of “land” is space on a server. Your server can be located anywhere in the world. Mine happens to be in England (just because I felt like it). There are loads of companies that would love to sell you space on their computers for your website.

C is for content (which is made out of code–called HTML, but I’m not going into that today). What kind of a cyber-home do you want? For this I can only offer you the simple advice that your website should reflect your voice and the kind of stories you tell. Some authors include lots of personal information, some don’t even have an author photo, some include blogs, and discussion forums, some have just a page or two to advertise their books and provide links to booksellers. Spend a day or two touring the various cyber-neighborhoods, make notes about what you like and bookmark the sites you love. If you aren’t a graphic designer, or don’t want to figure out how to build it yourself you can hire someone to make it for you, but it will be easier for you and them if you can tell them what you want, including colors, tone, and style. If you hire someone they might want to sell you a whole package of domain name, server space, and web design with monthly updates. The more you understand, the easier it will be to find someone who can give you what you want for what you can afford. Or, you could try it yourself!

So now that you know what you need, where do you start? I don’t want this to turn into a commercial, and it really is good to do your own research, so, I’ve included some links to Google searches:

Domain name registration
Website hosts (servers)

Web designers (for authors)

Remember, no endorsements here, just a place to start. Especially with web designers, you might wish to find one through a referral from someone who has a site you particularly like.

Gina collects domain names like some people do shoes. In her closet, she now has allyouneedisyarn.com, marciasgallery.com, gbtrynin.com (in case she ever writes that mystery), theresablack.com (her YA alter-ego), and ten others, including ginablack.net.

And yes, her computer screen really has burned itself into her glasses.

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