Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Check out the first chapter of Freaky Days

Freaky Days Chapter One

“Stop molesting that tiger.”
I rolled my eyes and glanced at the large tent’s floor, fixing my best friend, Luke Bishop, with a dark look. “I am not molesting the tiger. Get your head out of the gutter.”
“You’re stroking him like he’s going to make you purr,” Luke countered, hopping onto the brightly lit stage where I stood and swaggering to my side. That’s what he does best: swagger. He knows it, and I know it, too. “You can’t slip your toe into the animal dating pool and think no one is going to notice, Poet. It’s the kind of scandal this place was made for.”
I pursed my lips, the desire to laugh warring with the urge to yank huge hunks of Luke’s blond hair out of his head. He thinks he’s cute, so he says the most outrageous things and then sits back to enjoy how people react. Most of the time he’s pleased, because he’s too handsome – and ridiculously charming when he wants to be – for people to stay angry with him for long. I’m not most people, though.
My name is Poet Parker and I’m a fortune teller. No, you read that right. I tell fortunes for a living for Mystic Caravan Circus, one of the few traveling circuses still in operation in the United States. I’m also one of the group’s business managers, although I prefer telling paying customers their futures to adding up line items on a spreadsheet. Unfortunately, my job isn’t one that lends itself to a lot of multitasking.
“Why would I date a tiger? We both know I’m more partial to dogs than cats,” I shot back, causing Luke to chuckle and the tiger to growl. I shifted my attention to the magnificent animal, which just happened to be wearing a pair of shorts. What? This is the circus, after all. “Suck it up, Seth. We both know you’re not my type.”
Seth tilted his head to the side, giving all appearances that he was a normal tiger hanging out with some humans for the afternoon, and then reared up on his hind legs and shifted into the handsome man I knew lurked beneath the fur. His drawstring shorts rode low on his hips and his chiseled chest was bare so everyone could appreciate the epitome of perfection that was his body. He ran a hand through his dark hair to push it into place – my overzealous petting from a few moments before caused it to stand on end – and winked. “I think we both know I could change your mind if I really wanted to,” he said. “I’m everyone’s type.”
I smirked. I couldn’t help myself. He had killer dimples – and his eight-pack abs weren’t bad either – and yet he still wasn’t my type. “I think you do fine when you stalk the circus grounds at night looking for your next tasty morsel,” I replied. “You’re a one-night man; two if you’re particularly interested or the woman in question has really big boobs, but you’re not a lifer.”
“Is that what you’re looking for?” Seth asked, reaching for the shirt hanging over the prop stool to our right. “I could be a lifer if you gave me the chance, Poet.”
“Don’t listen to him,” Luke scoffed, making a face. “Just like everyone else in this outfit, he wants to get in your pants … or skirt, as the day may have it. When the reality sets in about what a ballbuster you are, things are going to change and he’s going to run for the hills. Then where will we be without our tiger?”
Seth good-naturedly cuffed Luke on the back of the head. “I think Poet could tame my wild ways.”
“I think Poet would get you hot and bothered, and then make you wish you’d never been born when she starts that infernal nagging she does,” Luke countered.
I punched him in the stomach, catching him off guard.
“Oomph! I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, Poet,” Luke said, rubbing his stomach ruefully. “You like things a specific way – your way – and that has benefitted the circus for the past three years. I applaud your work ethic.”
“Thank you,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest. “I like to think I’m a hard worker.”
“You’re also a ballbuster,” Luke said, swiftly jumping out of the way when I lashed out again. “I guess it’s good you’re the love of my life or I would think you’re trying to hurt me.”
Luke’s blue eyes were full of mirth. I knew he wouldn’t trade our friendship for anything – including a regular delivery of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – but his words still grated. “Just because I want things done a specific way – the right way, not my way, mind you – that doesn’t mean I’m a ballbuster. I’m a very nice woman and a wonderful boss.”
“You’re the best boss ever,” Seth said, winking at me as he slung an arm over my shoulders. “You’re the queen of bosses.”
“He’s only saying that because you sign his paycheck,” Luke interjected.
I sighed. I love the Mystic Caravan Circus – and all the crazies who travel with it – but the immature behavior is enough to give me pause on bad days. This was apparently gearing up to be a bad day. “I think we can all agree that I’m the most lovable person here and leave it at that,” I said, pasting a smile on my face. “If you don’t think I’m the most lovable person here, Luke, then you can make your own breakfast tomorrow.”
Luke frowned. He was many things: a shape-shifting wolf, a talented ringmaster and an occasional tightrope walker when the mood struck. He was also a menace in the kitchen. He gave up fixing anything but cold cereal years ago in favor of my delectable omelets. I was hitting below the belt. “You already know you’re my favorite person in the world,” he said. “I’ve been in love with you since I met you nine years ago. I think you’re the most lovable person in the world.”
“Thank you.”
“You’re still going to fix me breakfast every morning, right?”
I sighed. Luke was incorrigible. He also was my best source for laughter and the one person I knew would always be there in a crisis. “I will continue to make you breakfast as long as you continue to grovel.”
“Sold.” Luke brightened considerably. “Are you ready to do your final walk-through before tonight’s show?”
As business manager, it was my job to make sure everything was in place before the big show hit the big top before performances. As part of my duties I walked through the entire circus before an evening show to make sure things were how they should be – and no matter what Luke says, making sure things are how they’re supposed to be is not the same as molding the circus into my personal playground. Now – thanks to Luke and Seth – I was behind. I shook myself out of my reverie.
“You’re right,” I said. “I need to get moving. I still have the boardwalk to check and Max wants to see me before the gates open.”
Luke furrowed his brow. “Max? You’re not in trouble, are you?”
Maxwell Anderson was the real boss of Mystic Caravan Circus. He started the group thirty-five years ago and it’s still going strong, so he must have done something right when he launched this little endeavor. While he’d ceded the day-to-day operations to me, he remains the driving force behind all of the important decisions. When the hard choices have to be made, Max is the man who makes them – after listening to my opinion, of course.
“No,” I replied, shaking my head. “He said he had something he wanted to talk to me about, though. I’m not sure what it is. He didn’t sound upset, so don’t worry.”
Because Mystic Caravan is one of the few operations left in the circus game, most of the employees live under an ominous cloud, worrying that someday Max would fold the tent, leaving them without work. When you’re dealing with circus performers, you’re dealing with talented individuals. You’re also dealing with people who perform in niches. Those niches aren’t universally available in the “real world.” You might be able to convince a human resources rep to give you a shot on the loading dock if you’re the “World’s Strongest Man,” but good luck if you’ve spent twenty-five years as “Derek, the Dog-Faced Boy.”
“I didn’t say I was worried,” Luke scoffed.
“Okay.” I threw up my hands in surrender. “I need to get going. Are you coming with me or are you going to stay here and worry?” As well as he knew me, I like to think I know Luke better. Once he got wind that Max wanted to meet with me, there was no way he would let me conduct my rounds alone.
“I’ll come with you,” Luke said, causing me to bite my lip to keep from smiling. “I don’t want you to be lonely.”
“You’re a good friend, Luke.”
Luke slipped his arm around my shoulders and led me out of the tent. “I’m the best friend in the world. You should never forget that.”
“I’m thinking of having T-shirts made up,” I teased.
“Make sure they’re made from organic cotton,” Luke said. “You know I don’t like it when my clothing scratches me. It makes me angry, and no one likes me when I’m angry.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”

IT TOOK me almost an hour to complete my rounds and when I had to stop in the midway to break up a fight between Gilly Schilling and Cal West – it seems the proprietress of the ring toss game and the owner of the Bushel Basket Toss were having a lover’s spat that spilled over for public consumption – I found myself in a time crunch. Max was expecting me and I was already five minutes late. He was not a fan of tardiness.
Luke struggled to keep up with me as I scampered across the open circus landscape. This was our last night in St. Louis, and while I wouldn’t miss Missouri’s summer humidity, I was a fan of the parcel we’d been camped on for the past week. I was going to miss the open field where we erected the carnival and the way the woods bordered the eastern boundary behind our trailers. Still, you don’t join the circus if you want to put down roots. The circus is for roamers, and I have a wandering heart.
Max was in his trailer when I entered. Luke was irritated at being left outside, but he wasn’t invited to this little pow wow. I thought it was going to be just Max and me, some new planned promotion about to be dumped in my lap. There was another man sitting on the couch when I entered, though, and he took my breath away.
Luke likes to joke about me dating in the animal pool, and the truth is I often prefer animals to people. I have limited tolerance for bull, and when you deal with the public as much as I do that’s a very dangerous proposition
The man on the couch jumped to his feet as I entered. His black hair was shorn close, highlighting the steep ridges of his cheekbones. His blue eyes were clear and friendly when they landed on me and I could tell me was taking stock of me as well.
I’m of Romani descent, although those lines are so faded they border on lost now. My hair is long and dark, almost to my waist, and my eyes are a bright teal – most of the time. I’ll explain more about that later, though.
As a fortune teller, I’m expected to play a part. On days when I’m not performing I prefer dressing down in cargo pants and tank tops, slipping into my comfortable flip flops and tennis shoes rather than tottering about in high heels. On performance days, though, I wear ankle-length skirts and billowing white tunics, sashes cinched at my waist and scarves tying back my ebony hair so I can see someone’s future without constantly pushing flyaway strands from my face. I embody the cliché – and I’m fine with it if the customers buy the role. Who I pretend to be during a performance is not who I am. That’s a line I straddle comfortably. It is those who can’t who wash out. You can tell straightaway when someone belongs with a circus troupe. The man I was staring at now didn’t look as if he belonged within a thousand feet of a circus. He looked as if he should be smiling back at me from the pages of a hipster catalog or sipping lattes with a willowy blonde as they pushed a tiny dog around in a stroller. What? I have attitude and I make snap judgments about people. It comes from sizing up those who plunk down twenty-five dollars to have their fortunes told.
“You’re late,” Max said, lifting a challenging eyebrow as I struggled to catch my breath.
“Five minutes,” I protested, making a face. “Cal and Gilly were fighting and I had to put an end to it before we start letting people in. I can’t make them fight on your schedule.”
Max rolled his eyes. “What were they fighting about now?”
“Gilly says Cal has been hitting on Raven and she’s sick of it.”
“What does Cal say?”
“He says he has a lazy eye and he can’t always control which way it looks,” I replied. “He doesn’t deny it might occasionally leer in Raven’s direction, but he says it’s involuntary.”
Max snorted. “Well, that’s just … typical.” He climbed out of his chair and moved to the center of the trailer. “I’m going to forgive you this time.”
I don’t know who he thought he was kidding. He forgives me every time. My parents are long dead – a car accident claimed them two weeks before my sixteenth birthday – and Max is the closest thing I have to a parent. He often looked at me as the daughter he never had – or wanted – but he puts up with my antics. “Thank you,” I said, opting to refrain from an argument in front of the stranger.
“I called you here because I want to introduce you to our new head of security,” Max said, smiling congenially as his gaze bounced between the stranger and me. “Poet Parker, I would like you to meet Kade Denton. When it comes to security decisions, he’s technically your new boss.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” I said, extending my hand. “I … wait, what did you just say?”

Friday, January 30, 2015

A massive apology

Here's the deal, I'm … transitioning.
I'm moving to being a writer full time. I'm almost there.
I'm not giving up the blog -- or my passions.
I will start updating next week -- and I won't be pulling any punches. I apologize for the lapse.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

THE WALKING DEAD: Is someone going to die Sunday night?

After a rock-solid start to the fifth season, The Walking Dead has stalled.

What’s the difference? Well, for starters, the cast was together for the early episodes and separated for the later ones.

After a breathtaking season premiere which saw Carol almost single-handedly taking out the whole of Terminus, and which culminated with Rick and Carl reuniting with Judith, things sped along in the next two episodes as the remaining Terminus inhabitants hunted Rick and Co.

After taking them down in bloody (and justified) fashion, things tumbled when the cast was split again.

Listen, I get why they’re doing it. It’s to save money. The show runners figured they got away with it for the second half of last season – but the difference is, that they could get away with it as a plot device last season.

It’s a lot harder to explain now.

For example, am I really supposed to believe that Maggie would willingly wander off with Glen without looking for Beth even though she knows her sister isn’t dead? Really? Beth is Maggie’s only living blood relative left. There is no way she wouldn’t at least spend a few days looking for her sister.

And, while Carol and Daryl sped off into the night to search for Beth, Abraham’s insistence on fleeing right when the group was grappling with stuff seems so … lame.

Now, I’m glad the truth about Eugene is out and – God help me, I still like the guy – but it’s time for Abraham’s group to back track and join with their friends. Is the group too big? Yes. It’s going to have to be cut, but Rosita and Tara have had fodder written all over them since they were introduced, and try as I might, I’ve never really warmed up to Sasha (or Tyrese, for that matter).

There’s been a lot of talk about a big death happening on Sunday’s episode. And, whenever The Talking Dead (the companion chat show for The Walking Dead) touts a surprise guest, that usually means someone is going to die. They did it the week before Gareth died – and lo-and-behold, the actor who played Gareth showed up on the couch the next week.

That’s not always the case, though.

They did it before last year’s spring finale and Andrew Lincoln was the surprise guest – and we all know Rick didn’t die.

We’ll have to see. However, since we haven’t had a big, core death since Hershel, I’m guessing one of our beloved heroes is going to go – and the odds seem to point directly in Carol or Beth’s direction.

Personally, I have grown to love Carol and will be sad if she’s killed off – but she “fits” the signs that have been showing up, for some reason. The episode that followed her and Daryl before she got hit by the car seemed to be a love letter to her – and whenever an episode like that runs, the person featured in it often dies (just ask Hershel).

I am hard-pressed to believe they’re going to kill Beth off before reuniting her with Maggie. The Walking Dead is cruel – but I don’t know if they’re that cruel. They seemed to have gone through a lot of effort to build Beth up over the second half of last season and the beginning half of this season.

I am not ruling Beth out. I’m just leaning toward Carol – which very well could crush me. I would sacrifice the bulk of our group to keep Carol (Daryl and Rick notwithstanding) – but there’s just “something” in the air.

I don’t think that anyone can argue that we’re going to get a death Sunday. It’s not the “if” but the “who” in question. It would be much too easy for viewers to watch Rosita, Tara or Sasha die – which means it’s probably going to be someone we care about – which means a member of the core group.

Either way, I’ll have the marathon on all day Sunday to revisit the season in anticipation of the big finale – and then I’m sure I’ll be glued to the television for The Walking Dead and The Talking Dead Sunday night (so no one dare call me!).

All I hope is that separating the cast so early in the season means they won’t have to in the second half of the season – because the show tends to lag for me when that happens.

So, what do you think? Who is going to die Sunday night?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

GENERAL HOSPITAL: The cast pruning has officially begun

It seems that General Hospital is finally getting around to trimming the cast.

Unfortunately, I’m starting to suspect it’s so they can afford Billy Miller (Jason), and not because the writers realize the folly of balancing too many characters.

First up, Marc Anthony Samuel (Felix) announced that he has been dropped to recurring. That’s not an outright ouster, but it’s pretty close. Samuel expressed his ambition to move on to other things – so I doubt we’ll be seeing much of Felix.

I’m guessing – and this is just a guess – that Sabrina will be following in upcoming weeks. The character has been written into a corner, and she has no ties to anyone on the canvas. There’s really no reason to keep her.

I am hoping that GH moves Lucas and Brad into a realistic relationship (instead of the cliché threesome), although I still think it would have made more sense to move Milo into their orbit. I am worried that both of them will be gone, too. While I can take or leave Brad, Lucas is a legacy character. He’s Carly and Sam’s brother and Lulu and Maxie’s cousin. He’s important to the canvas.

In addition to Samuel, Kelly Thiebaud (Britt) has voluntarily dropped to recurring. If you believe the
gossip, she’s only staying recurring to finish up Britt’s storyline. While I had high hopes for Britt and Nikolas in the beginning – those were dashed pretty quickly when the writing for her character went from weak to dismal after the baby Rocco reveal. I can’t help but think Thiebaud is better off getting away from the soap.

Since Thiebaud is involved with Bryan Craig (Morgan) in real life, I’m betting he opts to leave when his contract is up next year. While I like Craig’s Morgan, I think he’s one of the few actors who has a chance to hit it big outside of daytime, so it’s only a matter of time before he flees Port Charles.
GH head writer Ron Carlivati has also written several big characters into corners they might not be able to emerge from. Who?

1. Nina Clay: If Michelle Stafford only signed a six-month contract, the disastrous writing for Nina makes sense. She was always intended to be a villain. If that wasn’t the case, the writing for Nina is so atrocious that Stafford must be mortified. There’s no rooting value in the character, and there’s no redeeming her. Once the baby storyline is wrapped up, Nina will either be locked up with Heather Webber or killed.

2. Ava Jerome: I love Maura West, but the second she killed Connie in cold blood, Ava’s die was cast. The best thing to do with the character is to reunite her with her baby and have her flee. I don’t want Kiki or Morgan saddled with a kid – and Sonny has enough kids to field his own ball team.

3. Franco: As much as I applauded his outing of Carly and Sonny – and the truth behind AJ’s murder – there still isn’t any rooting value in the character. Roger Howarth is a tremendous talent – and now a regular on the CW’s The Flash. Maybe it’s time to let him go with dignity. Bringing someone of Howarth’s caliber in as a character as dumb as Franco was just … well … insulting, to both fans and Howarth.

4. Sonny Corinthos: Maurice Benard may be a popular actor, but who can root for Sonny? He killed AJ in cold blood. He lied to his son. He tried to kill Ava. Seriously, how does Sonny think it’s okay to kill Ava for killing Connie but take no personal responsibility for murdering AJ? Sonny and Carly do not work as a couple. In fact, they’re the couple who helped sink Port Charles. Besides that, Laura Wright and Benard have absolutely no chemistry. Send Sonny out of town, give him a happily ever after with Brenda in a non-extradition country, and call it a day.

And, finally, when it comes to cutting dead weight – can someone explain to me why Olivia is still around? I’m sure Lisa Locicero is a wonderful person, but Olivia is completely unnecessary. The cast has to be trimmed, and while it looks like the pruning has started, there’s still a long way to go.

GH's greatest strength lies in its veterans and core families. Let's not lose that.

What do you think? Who should go? Who should stay?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

GENERAL HOSPITAL: How would I write things in Port Charles? Very differently

I think it’s time to bring back my monthly ‘If I were writing General Hospital’ column.

There’s no denying that watching the show has become a chore (like a break-me-off-a-switch-
someone-is-going-to-get-a-whooping chore). It’s just painful.

The ratings are starting to show a progressive slide, too.

When Ron Carlivati first took over head writing duties on GH, he raised ratings. How did he do it? It was a combination of things. The biggest being the return of our beloved vets. Fans wanted to see Anna, Felicia, Frisco, and Robert. The vet returns, in conjunction with the One Life to Live transplants was enough to inflate ratings.

That’s not the case anymore.

RC has gone off on some wild tangents, and completely alienated fans. Yes, appealing to new fans is important to keep the genre alive, but you have to do it without turning off longtime fans. All RC is doing right now is turning off dedicated fans.

So, let’s play the game. How would I write GH if I was in charge?

* Once Sonny’s culpability in AJ’s murder is revealed, Sonny goes after Franco. There’s a shootout on the docks, and Franco is wounded and killed (I love Roger Howarth, but Franco is a dud of a character). Sabrina witnesses the shooting and goes to the police. In an attempt to avoid jail time, Sonny has to flee the country. He reunites with Brenda and they move to some non-extradition country. As long as Sabrina is alive, Sonny cannot return. As long as Sonny is out there, Sabrina’s life is in danger. She has to go into Witness Protection and is (thankfully) off of our screens.

* When “Jake’s” memories return, it’s Jason Quartermaine, not Jason Morgan that awakens. Jason
Quartermaine reunites with Monica and wants to make amends for his past deeds. He also wants to cut ties with certain factions – including Carly. While he’ll always be there for Morgan and Michael – Jason Q is not pro-mob. Since it has become obvious that Liz and “Jake” are going to fall in love before Jason regains his memory, I would like Jason Q to move away from both Liz and Sam when he comes around. Everyone knows that Jason Q wouldn’t touch Sam with a 10-foot pole, and I’ve never believed the Liz and Jason “love” story. Let’s give Monica some time with her son, and fans the chance to get used to the new Jason.

* When Robin returns to town, I want her to smack the crap out of Patrick. This is not a stupid man. So, why, given all that he knows about the Cassidines and Jerry Jacks, isn’t he suspicious about Robin voluntarily abandoning her family? Jerry Jacks was one of the individuals responsible for kidnapping her in the first place – and he just shows up again? Really? I want Robin to take a step back from Patrick. He’s proven to be fickle (and apparently stupid) when it fits his needs. How about the romance I’ve always wanted to see? How about Nikolas and Robin get a chance? Put Sam in a triangle with Patrick and Silas and see who comes out standing – and no “back-from-the-dead” women to conveniently muck things up.

* It’s time to kill Ava off in a murder-mystery. I love Maura West beyond reason, but Ava cannot be redeemed. She shot Connie in cold blood. She tried to kill AJ in cold blood. She watched Sonny murder AJ, all the while knowing that he was innocent. She slept with her daughter’s husband. She tried to poison her daughter’s boyfriend. She framed Carlos and sent him to jail for her misdeeds. How, exactly, can anyone root for this woman? She’s not even fun to hate because there’s nothing to like about her. There are plenty of people who want her dead.

* Have Nina revealed as Ava’s killer. I’m sorry. I know Michelle Stafford has fans. I cannot watch her, though. All Nina needs is a mustache to twirl and some rope so she can tie Kiki to the train tracks. The Nina character was completely unnecessary from the beginning – and then to make her obviously crazy and evil without giving fans enough time to even try to like her? Who thought of that braniac idea? Nina is another character without rooting value because she’s just unlikeable. Reveal her as Ava’s killer and send her to prison. She’s a huge time suck – and she has no redeeming qualities. She’s not even funny evil like Heather and Dr. Obrecht.

* Bring Robert back and let him and Anna clean up the mob. This show is called General Hospital.The mob should have never been the focal point. The focus on Sonny, Carly, and Jason is what put GH in constant danger of cancellation in the first place. Anna’s reunion with Duke has fallen flat (is he even still in town?) and Robert and Anna are the team to beat when it comes to bringing down the bad guys. Let them round up the usual suspects – including Julian – and be done with them.

* Give Alexis and Ned an actual romance. These two sparkle together – and you can tell the actor and actress like each other. Alexis’ constant need for a “bad boy” often makes me dislike the character. Ned and Alexis were always fun. Put Alexis back in the ELQ orbit and let her spar with Tracy, and let Robert and Anna roust Julian Jerome.

* Oust Kiki and Rosalie. Neither are acceptable love interests for Michael and Morgan. Bring in
Scott, Lucy, and Kevin’s kids and let the old crash into the new. Those are pairings with history that give the adults something to do.

* Put Milo in the gay storyline. I’m still not sure what the writers were thinking by trying to put
Epiphany and Milo together. There’s no chemistry (even if you could get past the obvious problem with the relationship). The story isn’t believable because the characters have nothing in common. I’ve often thought Milo was underutilized. What not make him realize he’s gay and pair him up with Lucas for an actual love story? Go ahead and keep Brad in the mix, but send Felix out of town with his BFF and call it a day. As it is being written now, the all-male love triangle is tacky and full of clichés.

* Have Bobbie run the Brownstone. This gives Bobbie something to do, and all those shiftless 20-somethings somewhere to live. Morgan, Michael, Dante, Lulu, Britt, Lucas, Brad, Milo, Nathan, Maxie and TJ all need a home. Lulu and Dante’s one-room apartment is too small for them – let alone a baby. Putting everyone under one roof allows for fun and mayhem.

* Bring Jacks back for Carly. He's the only love interest that's ever worked for her. This Franco thing has been a complete dud -- and trying to wedge Carly and Sonny back together has disaster (and ratings upheaval) written all over it. Laura Wright and Maurice Benard have no sexual chemistry. Roger Howarth and Wright do have chemistry -- but Franco is a horrible character. And, say whatever you want about Carly, she would not date the man who kidnapped her child and had her son raped. She's a horrible person. She wouldn't do that, though.

* Send Luke and Laura off into the sunset. The fact that Tracy can’t tell the difference between Fluke and Luke is telling. As much as I like Luke and Tracy – and I do – Luke and Laura pretty much have to end up together. Have her come to town to visit Lulu and realize right away that Fluke isn’t Luke. Have her stay for the adventure storyline, and then have her and Luke ride off into the sunset. If Geary doesn’t want to work a full year anymore, then let him retire. All of Luke’s comings and goings (and, yes, I know this time he had to have surgery and do not fault him for that – I’m talking about all of the other times) wear on the story and the viewers.

What do you think? How would you write GH if you could?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why jumping on the bandwagon for books, movies, and television is a mixed bag

I’m usually in front of most bandwagons. When I fall behind, though, it generally takes me forever to catch up.

I guess that’s why I didn’t read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl until this past weekend. And, before you ask, it’s not so I can go and see the movie. I will eventually see the movie – but probably not until it’s out on Blu-Ray or On Demand.

Anyway, back to the book. I kept hearing how well it was written and how amazing the “twist” was, and I figured it sounded interesting. So, I finally sat down and read it.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the fact that it was overwritten. I mean way overwritten. I don’t think everything has to be written in simplistic sentences – and I love the Terry Brooks and Stephen King prose forms – but the inner-monologues (especially when it comes to Nick) just go on and on – repeating things until I thought: I just can’t hear this one more time.

And I get why we’re not supposed to warm up to Nick at first. He’s a suspect in his wife’s disappearance. There’s supposed to be something “odd” about him. When I finally did get to the twist, it wasn’t a big surprise. I was expecting more actually – which is why word-of-mouth phenomenon can backfire on readers and viewers.

And, while I don’t want to get into a debate about the ending because I don’t want to ruin it for people, since I found the vast majority of people in this book to be unlikeable, I will say I was fine with the ending.

While I didn’t dislike Gone Girl, I certainly didn’t think it was amazing either. It did get me thinking about the nature of a bandwagon, however.

Sometimes, when you come to the party late, you find you love what you’ve been missing. That happened to me with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games. I didn’t start watching Buffy until late in the second season (and then never missed an episode). I didn’t start reading Harry Potter until the fourth book hit shelves. And all three of The Hunger Games books were out – and on top of best sellers lists for years – before I finally took the plunge.

Oh, and I came to the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo sensation late – and I absolutely loved all three of those books.

On the flip side, when I caved to the Twilight pressure I wanted to smack someone I hated the books (and especially Bella) so much. When I sampled Divergent, I wanted to smack someone again (talk about a terrible ending – The Village meets The Truman Show anyone?) and this time I wanted to smack them with the Sears Tower in Chicago. And, when I finally check out the television show Grimm I wanted to laugh (and not in a good way) because I found it to be so poorly done.

Everyone has different tastes. I know that. Sometimes the buildup helps a show or book, and
sometimes it hurts.

I have a feeling it hurt where Gone Girl is concerned. It is an interesting twist. I think the writing was decent – although obviously padded – and I have real trouble believing anyone writes in their journal with the amount of detail Amy used in the book (even a rampant narcissist and sociopath).

I just don’t think it was the be all and end all of modern fiction like some people are suggesting. It was merely “interesting” to me. It was a decent character study.

I will, however, check out the movie down the line.

What do you think? What bandwagon have you jumped on that you wish you could jump off?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Why American Horror Story: Freak Show is already wearing on me

I go back and forth on American Horror Story.

I was really excited for the first season, and I thought the quality associated with the show for the first handful of episodes in that season was stellar.

Unfortunately, just like everything else he’s ever produced, Ryan Murphy took it a step too far. He always takes it a step too far – which is the problem I consistently have with each American Horror Story season.

AHS: Asylum started out phenomenally – creating a gritty world that you wanted to know more about. The Nazi doctor angle was inspired, and the social commentary affixed to being able to lock a woman up for being a lesbian in those days was poignant.

That was all painted on a backdrop of dueling serial killers working in the past and present day.

Then Murphy insisted on including an Anne Frank angle – and then reinforcing a strong season with
alien abductions and magical hybrid baby births. Ugh.

I was a big fan of the Coven arc – mostly because I loved the New Orleans setting and I thought Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett were fantastic additions to the AHS universe. As a whole, I do think the Coven arc held together the best – but it still wasn’t perfect.

Which brings us to AHS: Freak Show, which debuted Wednesday night.

The whole point of AHS was to create a horror anthology. Sure, because Murphy is in charge, those horror anthologies often go off course. I’d rather see genuine fear than forced sexual innuendo that is meant to titillate instead of terrify the viewer.

For example? Evan Peters went a little too far for me in his rubber rapist outfit in the first season. Now, in the first episode of Freak Show, we see he has “magic hands.” That whole scene was just about pushing the envelope – not about character development – which is why it failed.

Then you have a sociopath who wants to buy conjoined twins for god knows what reason – although
I’m betting it’s sexual and nefarious – and a killer clown. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think the people the clown killed deserved to die. I mean, who takes a look at a creepy clown like that and doesn’t think something odd is up? And why did that girl in the field trip? That was just so ... lame.

And then there's the whole time traveling music thing. Jessica Lange is singing a David Bowie song (loved the blue eye shadow, though) in the 1950s? How does that work?

I get the alienation associated with these freak shows -- and I think the arc could be fantastic -- but immediately going for multiple murders with a freaky clown, conjoined twins, and a lobster-clawed man seems like a contrived and insulting way to go.

Right from the get go this season, it seems as if AHS has gone too far for me – and that’s usually something that only happens on the back half of a season. I’ll still check it out – but I’m not exactly thrilled with how this arc is going already.

What do you think? Are you a fan of Freak Show?