Archive for the ‘Neurotic Griping’ Category

Yah, about Bernice and her religion…

I’m still close enough to my product (vis-à-vis my books) that I actually pay attention to what reviewers write in their comments. I’ve gotten a thick skin over the obvious things: the explicit sex scenes, the complaints about the curse words, the ick factor with some of the murders, even the editing. But I was thrown for a loop recently when someone pointed out that Bernice’s morals were in contradiction to her going to church.

This is not an apology, by the way. This is an explanation.

From my experience these past few decades of attending church, I’ve made some interesting observations concerning people’s reasons for attending.

I’ve made note of those steadfast followers who attend very regularly, but they never look happy about it. It’s like church is simply a way to reenforce their own self-righteousness. They are the “right kind of people” because they go to church faithfully every Sunday. It gives them carte blanche to pass judgement on others who don’t follow their strict moral code. I even recall as a child, watching these same people put money in the offering plate, and when they went to leave, look up at the ceiling like they were telling God: “There ya go….You’re welcome.”

I’ve also made note of the churchgoers who look rather desperate in their pew. These are the parishioners who are experiencing pain, and they are going to church to find hope. They are looking for solace in the words, for some sign that if they just hold on, just keep trusting that their faith will carry them through, that life will straighten itself out. That feels like a good reason to go to church to me, but I don’t always see these folks stay consistent in their attendance after the crisis has passed.

Then there are the “traditionalists.” Going to church is a custom, and it is usually done in conjunction with other social gatherings: weddings, funerals, baptisms, and the holidays: Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, etc.

Now, how does this translates to the characters in my books?

Well, Darlene is the self-righteous one. She goes to church like her parents went to church. Bernice went to church while she was on the farm to placate Darlene, and to see other people from time to time. Bernice’s feelings about God and organized religion in general have not really been touched on in the books. Neither have Agent Wyatt’s. Cameron comes from a Baptist background, but it’s obvious in his behavior that he doesn’t live by a strict moral code either.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, people attend worship services for reasons that have virtually nothing to do with their level of faith. If you choose to be outraged by that, so be it. I tend to believe a person’s behavior toward others should be the measure of their moral stature, not their personal vices. The last time I checked, we’re all sinners.

Humanizing the Monster

When I first started writing this series, my goal was very simple. Start with a title that sets up a crime scene and create a whole plot from that. And it worked quite well for the first book. But that was the first book. It reads like a first book. It’s pretty simple, plot wise, and like it or not, I don’t tend to keep things simple.

And that’s probably why I’m not all that crazy about first person perspective.  It’s only one point of view explaining an entire story. That feels stilted and boring to me. My brain likes to crawl into the nooks and crannies of all my character’s psyches from time to time.

I’ve also noticed that my writing is becoming more expansive, subject wise. I blame it on getting back into screenwriting again. I took a few years off when the books occupied a good chunk of my time. I got back into it again last year.

It’s probably a “David versus Goliath” complex and could in all likelihood be just another step on my road to developing as a writer. I explore really big problems from the microcosm of how those problems affect a few people personally. Last year’s screenplay dealt with Alzheimer’s. This year’s is corporate control of energy. Book 4 dabbled in illegal pot farms and money laundering. Book 5 involves human trafficking.

It’s impossible for me not to feel a personal involvement or indirect responsibility when researching these subjects, either as a citizen of one of the most consumptive countries in the world, or more personally, just living out my daily life.

I’ve been raised by my stout Midwestern brethren to tend toward martyrdom, and I’m sure my writing reflects that. Since there is a sense of powerlessness concerning these things in my real life, I try to control them in an alternate universe, hopefully leaving my audience feeling entertained and maybe a little enlightened in the process.

It’s my way of humanizing the monster.

It must be the weather

I tried watching the Oscars tonight. I just couldn’t get into it. I don’t know what it was, but I was pretty much annoyed with the whole affair. Yes, the clothes were beautiful, and everyone looked properly airbrushed and coiffed. There was nothing amiss with anyone’s behavior. It just felt…insipid.

That’s what came to me when I complained to my husband about it. Insipid means “lacking flavor, bland.” Huh, that’s what everyone says about my people, and yet that’s what I was thinking about the Oscars? How dare I?

But there it is. And it annoyed me. The speeches annoyed me. The fact that the only scene out of a two hour movie featuring Barkhad Abdi, the Somali actor from Minnesota, was the same scene we’re all already sick of, annoyed me. The fact that Twelve Years A Slave was going to win Best Picture no matter what, and we all know why, and we can’t say why because admitting absolutely anything besides, “it was deserving of an Oscar completely on the merits that it was a splendidly made film” would make us bad, bad people, annoyed me. The fact that the nominees who were not actors, directors, or producers were corralled like cattle into a side balcony for their award announcement (and we saw it as viewers), annoyed me.

I liked Cate Blanchett’s earrings. They were opals. I like opals.

Maybe it has nothing to do with my expectations for the Oscars, because to be honest, they were low anyway. Maybe it has more to do with the fact that we’re moving into fifty days this winter where the temperature didn’t get above zero Fahrenheit, and everything outside is starting to resemble a pile of overcooked, dessicated rice. Perhaps all the satin and spray tan feels garish and out of place as I observe it from my pale world of big sweaters and flannel pajamas.

Could it be that I’m just projecting the soul sucking monotony of this never-ending winter onto a silly awards show? Oh probably. Right now, Southern California, with it’s warm air and clean roads, feels like a different planet, and the perfectly primped ambassadors of Hollywood, sitting in the first four rows of the Oscars, look like aliens.

As a writer of a mystery series and an aspiring TV writer, I appreciate a good story, and I admire and respect the teams of people that bring those stories to life.  As a validation junkie, I totally get the hype around awards. However, I’d rather spend two hours of my time enjoying those stories for myself, rather than bothering to witness who wins the awards for them.

Maybe if I’m ever privileged enough to be corralled into that side balcony, all dolled up for my chance to ramble on for 42 seconds in front of millions of people, I’ll change my mind. You think Cate will lend me her earrings?