I know I’ve been totally slacking on blogging this Fall, but that’s because I’ve been writing books. Lots of books. But I’ve had some thoughts for a couple of posts about characters that I love. At first, I thought I’d do one post, but ultimately decided that each of these characters deserves a post of her own.
The first character that I want to share my love for is Felicity Smoak. She is the tech geek girl in Arrow. There are many, many reasons to love Arrow. When we first meet Felicity, she works in the IT department of Queen Consolidated. Oliver Queen is Arrow’s true identity. When Arrow gets his hands on a computer that suffered an accident with bullets, he has no idea how to recover the information on the hard drive.
Enter Felicity Smoak.
He takes the computer to her and spins some elaborate lie and she of course breaks into it and finds all the information he needs. Felicity is brilliant and knows her shit. She often talks over Oliver’s head and then has to “dumb it down.” I love that she does that. And she even tries to do it sweetly so he doesn’t feel dumb. She doesn’t buy into Oliver’s lies about the computer, but since he’s technically her boss, she doesn’t push it.
As season 1 progresses, Oliver returns to Felicity multiple times for help. Eventually, she’s brought in to the inner circle and learns his secret identity. Her relationship with Oliver (and his friend, Diggle) grows and they become a team. Felicity starts taking on a bigger role in crime fighting. She’s still the ultimate hacker-tech geek who gives Arrow lots of cool toys. But she stays real. Whenever she’s outside her tech cave, she’s nervous. She’s not stupid when she goes undercover. She does it out of necessity, but she’s scared (as she should be). And she does it with snark
The other thing that I absolutely adore about Felicity is her verbal glitches. When she gets nervous, which is pretty much any social situation, she says things that come out all wrong, and often come across as rude. And sometimes she has unintentional double entendres, and then has to back pedal. It’s cute.
For example, while undercover, she has an earpiece so Oliver can communicate with her. She says, “It feels really good having you inside me. And by inside me I mean your voice, and by me I mean my ear.”
Another time, again to Oliver, she says, “The last time the vigilante paid your mom a visit, you got shot, and I got to play doctor with you. Ahh! My brain thinks the worst way to say things.”
In season 2, Oliver wants to pull Felicity out of IT at Queen Consolidated and bring upstairs to work as his secretary. this is her response:
“Did you know I went to MIT? Guess what I majored in? Hint – not the secretarial arts.”
Oliver responds – “Felicity! We all need to have secret identities now. If I’m going to be Oliver Queen CEO, then I can’t very well travel down 18 floors every time you and I need to discuss how we spend our nights.”
Felicity – “And I love spending the night with you. 3, 2, 1. I worked very hard to get where I am, and it wasn’t so I can fetch you coffee.”
There’s nothing to not like about this woman. She’s smart. She’s strong. And she isn’t afraid to stand her ground. (Although she does play secretary – but, again, with quite a bit of snark.)
She has a crush on Oliver and I know many viewers want to see them together. I’m not sure where this season is heading, but it’ll be a lot of fun to watch.
A few months ago, I wrote a post comparing Copper to Ripper Street. Of the two, I prefer Copper because I found the characters more engaging (read that as more fucked up). I’m a couple of episodes behind on the new season, but one thing that I’ve noticed is that the characters have cleaned up some. One of the things that I noted about both Copper and Ripper Street was the gritty and real feel to them. People were dirty and had bad teeth. While I enjoyed that because it lent itself to reality, I tend to avoid that kind of reality in books (again, which is why I don’t read historicals).
But this new season of Copper feels like the producers (or whoever calls the shots) realized that they had real star potential on the show. That the characters would be more attractive if they cleaned them up. I won’t argue that there is a certain appeal of seeing Corky all clean shaven with his hair combed, but it’s like they want us to believe that if the outside is clean and pretty, the inside is no longer fucked up. Corky was a hot mess last season. He was searching for his daughter’s murderer and his missing wife. He was always a bit scruffy because he had a lot going on and it was all more important than looking pretty.
At the end of the season, Corky got all of his answers. Things were not resolved nicely, but he had answers. He’s tried to put his life back together with his wife in this season (which hasn’t really worked out – there’s only so much love and forgiveness). But having those answers should not have cured all of his issues. And that is my biggest problem. It feels like all of a sudden Corky is really supposed to be HERO material, whereas last season maybe he was a little too screwed up for that.
And it’s not just Corky. Francis Maguire, who was a former cop and Corky’s friend, was arrested for murder at the end of the first season. Some things happen at the beginning of season 2, and he’s released. In my opinion, he was nothing special to look at last season. He had much of his own baggage to get over, too. This season, after being released from jail, he’s all clean up and prettified. He’s still sleazy, but he’s trying not to look the part.
My question is, why? Why do the TV people want to change the characters like that? I’m going to keep watching because part of me is hoping for a reversal and the characters will once again show how screwed up they are, but I don’t know.
Here are photos from season 1 — Corky and Francis:
And here they are in season 2 –
Do you think a character’s outward appearance has a direct link to their personality?
Although I’ve been horrible at blogging here over the last few months, my love for TV never fades. A few months ago, I was folding sheets and towels on a Friday night (exciting life I lead – I know you’re jealous). None of my regular shows were on and I was caught up on my DVR, which almost never happens, so I channel-surfed.
I saw a premier for a show called Banshee. Now, I watch Lost Girl and Being Human on SyFy, so I thought this was going to be a supernatural kind of show. Boy, was I wrong. I had missed the first ten or fifteen minutes, but it looked entertaining enough to pass the time.
The hero of the show is a master thief who just got out of prison after doing a fifteen year stint for stealing $10 million in diamonds. He’s in Banshee, PA looking for his old girlfriend who got away with the diamonds. He allowed himself to get caught so that she could get away. He’s enjoying a drink at a bar. The new sheriff, who hasn’t even started his job yet, and was brought in from out of town to fight corruption in this small town, is having a meal at the bar. Two thugs walk in, all hell breaks loose, and our hero has killed the bad guys, but unfortunately, they killed the sheriff first. The bartender tells our hero to leave and that he’ll get rid of everything so no one goes to prison (the bartender/owner is also an ex-con).
The hero finds his ex, Ana (who now goes by Carrie). She’s moved on with her life. She’s married and has two kids. She tells him the diamonds are gone and she has no money. She tried to fence the diamonds while he was in prison, but they were stolen from her. She tells him to leave, go start a new life.
He leaves her knowing he has nothing, no money, no diamonds, and no girl that he loves. He returns to the bar to help the owner dispose of bodies. While they are burying them, the sheriff’s phone rings. The hero answers it and pretends to be Lucas Hood, new sheriff. From that moment on, our hero has a name, but it’s not his.
I have a small confession to make. Months before I saw this pilot, I canceled our subscription to Cinemax. We just didn’t watch it enough to warrant paying for it. They suckered me in with a free weekend. I saw this one episode and added the network back to my package. Sad isn’t it? Like I don’t have enough to watch?
Anyway, there’s so much to love about this show. Lucas is not a true hero. He is a thief. He doesn’t even want to change because he loves the adrenaline rush. He’s assumed the identity of a dead man and he knows nothing about being a sheriff. As the series goes on, we see him make some shady deals for his own benefit. It’s all understandable, which makes you like him that much more, but he’s not heroic. Lucas is a good guy, and I think that’s why he makes such a good anti-hero. He’s not always upright and decent.
The show itself offers a fabulous array of characters. Banshee PA is home to an Amish community and the Banshee’s crime lord (for lack of a better term) is an ex-communicated Amish guy. I’m not sure if ex-communicated is the right word — he’s was thrown out of the Amish community, or he left and isn’t allowed return, but he still has strong ties there. There’s also a Native American component, where the tribe is trying to build a casino. The tag line for the show is “Small Town. Big Secrets.” And it’s so true.
Cinemax is replaying the entire season right now, and it’s hard for me not to pull up a chair and watch (I already have too many shows on the DVR and a book to write).
And here’s Antony Starr who plays Lucas Hood:
What was the last show that hooked you by surprise?
I’ve probably said a million times on this blog that I’m a character person. Character is what brings me back to a story over and over. Character is what makes me want to watch certain TV shows, even if it’s something outside my normal genres. Character is where I start each of my stories.
This is not to say that plot isn’t important, because it is. But for me, plot is just the car that drives the characters.
This post came about because last week I took my son to see the movie Now You See Me. It’s a caper movie. A group of 4 magicians/illusionists are brought together by some mysterious guy to get revenge. At the start of the movie, as viewers, we have no idea that it’s all about revenge.
Let me just say that the movie was fabulous. The entire plot was so well-crafted. It wasn’t one of those caper movies where the audience knows what’s going to happen and we’re along for the ride because we’re cheering for the characters. This was like being in the audience of the magic show. We had to look for clues the same way the cops and Interpol and the magic debunker had to. It wasn’t until the very end when you look back that you see how brilliant it was.
And that is why I could never write a mystery. Mystery writers are plotters. They have to know where they’re going so they can leave clues for the readers. I almost never know where I’m going when I write. I know what my characters need, but I don’t necessarily know how I’m going to get there. I rely on my characters to figure it out.
The only thing that I wish there was more of in Now You See Me was character. We were given this crew of 4 really interesting people, each of whom brought a unique skill set to the party, but we never really get to know them. We’re given pieces of their backstories, enough that we kind of want them to get away with everything they’re doing. But we never know who they are. And as a character person, I always want to know my characters.
If you like caper movies (like Oceans 11), I would recommend this movie. It’s a lot fun. Not an earth-shattering, remember forever kind of movie, but a darn good way for me to spend and afternoon with my kid.
What movie are you most looking forward to this summer?
Most people know that I watch a lot of TV. Having a DVR has only increased the number of shows I consume because I never watch commercials anymore. One of the downsides to watching more TV, though, is that I’m not as discriminating when it comes to what I’ll watch. If something sounds vaguely interesting, I’ll give it a try (assuming it’s not up against other things already being recorded in that time slot). I’ve found many, many new and wonderful shows because of this, but sometimes it’s frustrating because a show gets canceled and there’s nothing worse than being left without knowing how things wrap up or what the motivation behind things are.
I don’t feel quite the same about books in a series. I love reading series, but for the most part, each book is a stand alone. Whatever problem or issue the protagonists face in that book is resolved at the end. I enjoy reading series for the same reason I love TV. I like the comfort associated with characters and a world I love. But since each book can stand alone, I don’t think it would bother me if a writer suddenly stopped a series. For example, if J.D. Robb stopped the In Death series, sure I’d miss Dallas and Roarke, but I know that they have their HEA. When Charlaine Harris finishes up the Sookie Stackhouse series, it’s fine because we’ve accepted that Sookie will always be involved with Supes. We don’t care if she chooses Bill or Eric or whatever guy jumps in. She’s more or less accepted her life and we have too.
But many TV shows start with a premise that unravels as the season goes on, and if the show gets cut, I feel disappointed. Two shows that I started watching for the 2012-2013 season both got cancellation notices early in the fall, however, they were allowed to finish out the season. Both of them left me feeling very satisfied.
The first was Mob Doctor. I first mentioned Mob Doctor here. It was a Chicago-based show where a doctor owed the mob because she needed to get her screw up of a younger brother out of trouble. Each week, Grace would rush out of the hospital (which no one really commented on EVER-until the last episode) and go fix whatever problem the mobsters had for her. The show was not without its problems, but I’m always a sucker for a Chicago show. Anyway, in the last episode, the writers managed to wrap things up quite nicely. In fact, they did it so well, it makes me wonder if they did the last show like that simply because they knew they were canceled. If it had been picked up for a second season, I’m not sure where they could’ve gone with it.
The second show was Last Resort. I first blogged about Last Resort here. When I heard about this one being canceled, I actually stopped watching it. It continued to record each week, but I was hesitant to tune in, afraid that the whole conspiracy would be left unexplained. The premise, if you’re unaware, is that a Navy submarine was given orders to bomb Pakistan. The commanding officer not only questioned the order, but then refused to do it. The crew was labeled traitors and a stand off began. The whole time I watched it, I knew there were bigger things going on. This was not a simple case of one guy going crazy. Last week, I tuned in to catch up. My husband and I did a marathon to watch all the episodes. I have to say that I was really happy with this one too. There were no easy answers and there were still a few lingering questions (Why would the president want to start a war?), but the ending tied everything up in a way that made sense for all of the characters involved.
I wish all shows that face cancellation would learn from these two. What series (TV or book) are you most bummed about ending? Were you satisfied with the last installment?
Even though I’ve been swamped playing catch up, I always find time to read. Reading is almost always the last thing I do each day. I love being able to forget the to-do things on my list and being lost in the loves of characters. I sometimes talk about books here on my blog, but since I’m not a book reviewer, I only talk about books I really like. I also don’t offer in-depth criticism. There are plenty of people who do that much better than I, so I’m just going to talk about why I like these books.
First up, Until There Was You by Jessica Scott. This is Jessica’s second book and I hadn’t read her first. I read lots of great things about the book and I follow Jessica on Twitter and I like her as a person. I avoided her first book, though, because she writes about military men and women. Now, I’ve talked many times about my love for military men and men in uniform. When it comes to fictional characters, though, I like to read about guys who are out of the military and already adjusted to “normal” life, or those super secret Special Ops guys who let nothing affect them. Jessica writes about soldiers who are still very active duty. I didn’t read her first book because I was afraid that the reality of what soldiers have to live with would ruin the fantasy or escape for me (totally selfish, I know). Anyway, at the end of September, Jessica gave away Until There Was You on Twitter and I was lucky enough to snag a copy. Then I figured since she was kind enough to give it to me, the least I could do would be to review it.
Here’s the blurb:
A by-the-book captain with a West Point background, Captain Evan Loehr refuses to mix business with pleasure—except for an unguarded instance years ago when he succumbed to the deep sensuality of redheaded beauty Claire Montoya. From that moment on, though, Evan has been at odds with her, through two deployments to Iraq and back again. But when he is asked to train a team prepping for combat alongside Claire, battle-worn Evan is in for the fight of his life.
Strong, gutsy, and loyal, Captain Claire Montoya has worked hard to earn the rank on her chest. In Evan, Claire sees a rigid officer who puts the rules before everything else—including his people. When the mission forces them together, Claire soon discovers that there is more to Evan than meets the eye. He’s more than the rank on his chest; he’s a man with dark secrets and deep longings. For all their differences, Evan and Claire share two crucial passions: their country and each other.
Bottom line, it’s a great book. Jessica creates real, believable characters that will yank at your heart. It is hard for me to read about soldiers planning to deploy. It does affect them, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story. It definitely added a new layer, which made me like the characters even more.
Although I really enjoyed the book, I had some issues, none of which had to do with the story or Jessica’s writing (her writing is fabulous). Part of my problem is that this is a category length novel, and I almost always feel they are too short. I want more of the characters. That leads into my second issue: I’m not sure I buy the HEA for Evan and Claire. Both of these people are damaged and they fit together perfectly, and I believe the happy for now. If the book was longer, I would probably believe the HEA. This is a contemporary romance but it’s not light and fluffy; it’s leans more toward angst.
After reading an angsty book, I always need something lighter to balance out my emotions. I looked through my Kindle for my next read and remembered that I had Shannon Stacey‘s new Kowalski book waiting for me. I love Shannon Stacey’s writing and adore the Kowalskis. All He Ever Needed is the latest book and it’s a fun read. Mitch Kowalski returns home to help his younger brother who has a broken leg. Mitch is the kind of guy with a long reputation in the small town. It seems as though every female has very fond memories of the bad boy. Paige is planting her roots and building a life in the small town. They both try to ignore their attraction and when that doesn’t work, they agree to a casual fling until Mitch leaves. We all know how that works out, don’t we?
When you choose books, do you prefer angst or light? Are you like me and need to find a balance?
I said on Tuesday that I’d be scarce for the next couple of weeks because I’m on deadline, but I had a really, really productive day yesterday. I got my page proofs for More Than This in the mail back to Kensington and I got through the first 100 pages of revisions for book 2. Surprisingly, I still like the story. Anyway, by the time 9 o’clock rolled around last night, I was pretty spent so I went to my DVR. I had the first 2 episodes of Arrow recorded because I’m a sucker for a good superhero story, but also because my son said he wanted to watch. I was going to wait to watch it with him, I really was, but then my Twitter pal Kiersten Krum had live-Tweeted some of it and I had to watch.
I was amazed at how quickly the story sucked me in. The backstory is woven in neatly as flashbacks so you don’t get overwhelmed, but you have enough to understand what’s going on. Basically, Oliver Queen was on a boat with his dad and they crashed. Oliver was the sole survivor, who lived on an island for 5 years before being rescued. Now he’s back, and using the information his father gave him, he’s cleaning up his city, and righting his father’s wrongs.
Oliver comes from a rich family, and before the crash, he was a spoiled, irresponsible socialite. His money gives him the means to go after the bad guys and his old reputation helps keep him a seemingly unproductive member of society.
What draws me in most, as usual, is the characterization. I loved the first episode so much that I went straight into the second one. I loved watching Oliver try to balance who he was with who he is without giving anything away. He struggles with making up for his past and wanting to be someone new but he can’t afford to let anyone see because he is literally surrounded by enemies. It seems like every relationship is twisted, making Oliver the ultimate in wounded heroes.
There are a lot of fun, light moments too, as you can imagine with someone who’s been away from civilization for 5 years. Sly comments — Oliver asks, “What’s Twilight?” and his best friend answers, “You’re better off not knowing.” I laughed quite a few times in the 2 episodes. Plus, Oliver is so damn sexy. He moves like a gymnast while fighting the bad guys. His body is all muscles and scars.
I can’t wait to watch more of Oliver as Arrow. He’s complex and intriguing and so very yummy to watch.
I’m too lazy to come up with a real title for my blog post today. I’m trying to get ready for Shorty’s slumber party this weekend. So while I type away, my girls are downstairs cleaning. Yeah, you read that right, they’re cleaning. Voluntarily even. I’m also in the middle of copy edits for MORE THAN THIS. 50 more pages to go. Then one more quick read-through before I send it back to my editor. As exciting as it is to get copy edits, it’s pulled me away from my other writing, which is frustrating. If only I could squeak a few more hours out of the day….
As I’ve mentioned, RWA Nationals were last week, so I have a few round-up posts for those of us who couldn’t attend.
Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches talks about Stephanie Laurens’ key note address and makes some great points. She also includes great lines she overheard during the conference.
And finally, this is absolutely freaking hilarious. If you’ve never read The Bloggess, you need to. She will make you smile on any given day. Today, she has a post on The End of Nathan Fillion. I love Nathan Fillion, so I had to read it. The post itself is a wrap-up of a previous ongoing joke. You NEED to click on the previous posts to understand this. BE WARNED– you will lose lots of time, but it’s worth the laugh.
If you could have any celebrity pose with twine, who would it be? (this question only makes sense if you read The Bloggess post)
I’m going to start off by saying that I’ve never been much of a news watcher. In fact, I pretty much avoided watching the news altogether. The news is depressing. Plus, when you’re watching the local 10 o’clock news, so many times you wonder how something can qualify as news (Katie and Tom, anyone?)
Anyway, that all changed a few years ago when I started looking for a work-from-home job. I was hired by an education company as a writer, and the position evolved into an editorial one. My current job is to read the news, choose headlines and assign them to my writers. My writers then create on-line assignments for students based on the article I’ve sent. My job requires that I read the news everyday Sunday through Thursday. I have to look at how different sources handle the same material and choose the one I think will work best for students.
When commercials for summer TV shows started airing, I saw something for The Newsroom, but I hadn’t given it much thought. As I said, I have to read the news most days, did I really want to watch how the news was broadcast? But then I started hearing the buzz about Newsroom and the fact that Aaron Sorkin, who did The West Wing, was behind it. I decided to set my DVR and check it out.
I’ve watched the first 3 episodes and let me tell you, I knew after the first one that this would be a must-see show. The premier opened with a cable news anchor lashing out and telling an audience why America isn’t the best country in the world (low test scores, starving kids, unemployment, lack of health care, etc). He didn’t say anything we don’t know, but it was some pretty refreshing honesty. It’s the trademark lack of real honesty that keeps me from all things politics. Anyway, Will, the anchor, takes a break and when he returns, he finds that most of his staff is leaving his show and his boss has hired Will’s ex-girlfriend to be the executive producer.
So, immediately we have some personal drama of the romance kind, and Mac (the ex) wants to push the show to be real and honest. The first episode they covered the BP oil spill (it takes place in spring 2010). This drew me in because I remember covering that for my day job and its interesting to see how they made it unfold. The second episode covered Arizona’s immigration law, which I’ve been covering for the day job from then straight through until now.
Besides my own personal connection to the headlines they choose (and I’m sure there will be so much more), the show itself offers some great characters and they’re all smart. You heard that right, even the pretty young girl who was promoted from nobody to assistant producer simply because she didn’t quit is smart. They’re not perfect and they fuck up, but it is a cast of characters who are truly intelligent. What’s not to love there?
And finally, of course, since this is Aaron Sorkin, the dialogue is phenomenal. If you’re a fan of The West Wing, you’ll be a fan of The Newsroom as well.
When looking for clips for the show, I’ve come across a lot of criticism of it. Many have said that it’s a disappointment and Sorkin has flopped. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really expect it to be true-to-life. It is HBO after all. I think most days in the newsroom are probably pretty boring, so they’ve livened it up. Sure, part of why the characters seem so smart is that Sorkin knows how the stories will play out. He’s using news from 2 years ago. Part of my hesitation to watch in the first place was that I thought it would be boring. Who wants to watch a bunch of people staring at a computer screen and scribbling notes for the anchor? That would be about as exciting as watching stock trades on the floor of the Mercantile Exchange.
Instead, we get this (not really safe for work):
I prefer the made up version. Have you tried The Newsroom? What do you think?
image from http://napkindad.com/blog/2012/05/31/procrastination-positive-journey-to-blog-world-6/
It’s summer time and as I’ve said before, the kids are home most of the time, which makes writing harder. My writing has always slowed down over the summer, but right now, I’ve been feeling a little stuck on my WIP. It always happens at about the halfway point for me in any book. The mucky middle. Then my brain opens to new characters and ideas and I’m tempted to go off and write about them. But I won’t let myself.
The new characters and ideas are the reason I don’t consider this writer’s block. To me, writer’s block is when there are no words. I have words, I just don’t really know what I need to move the story. Where I usually get about a thousand words an hour, right now, I’m lucky if I get half that.
So I procrastinate. Sometimes procrastination takes the form of housework. When I have a sticky plot point I clean out a closet. Unfortunately, it’s not a plot point. I don’t don’t know quite where I’m going (which is what happens when you’re allergic to outlining). Instead, I allow myself to get sucked into more reading. In the last two weeks I’ve read a bunch. Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor series is a favorite of mine. I read the first and third books awhile ago, but somehow missed the middle book, The Sweetest Thing. It was on sale a couple of weeks ago, so it got bumped up on my TBR list. I finished it and I’m now on Lucky in Love.
I also read Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. SEP is such a fabulous author and hilarious to boot when you meet her in person. Although I loved the book, I felt a little cheated because while it’s written in 3rd person, we only get the heroine’s POV (and other characters’ POV) until the very end of the book where we get the hero’s POV. I would’ve liked to have had Ted’s POV throughout, but I think that if SEP did that, it might’ve felt a little like the conflict was “A big misunderstanding,” which it wasn’t, but it might’ve had that feel. Still well worth the time.
I read Shannon Stacey’s new novella, Slow Summer Kisses. I’m not much of a novella reader, but I love Shannon’s contemporaries and this delivered. I can’t wait until the new Kowlaski books come out.
The upside of letting my writing slide for a little while is that I can let my mind wander a bit. I started thinking about what I’d like to write next and started thinking about who those characters are. But the big bonus for me this time is that I went back to thinking about a book I finished last year and never went back to revise because I got sidetracked with writing and revising other things. I didn’t do the revision on that book because I know it’s full of holes and I’m not sure what to do with them, but the bigger problem is that my hero is cardboard. I never took the time to get to know him and figure him out. I’ve written like that before, but usually, by the time I get to the halfway mark, I know my characters. I’ve learned that giving myself time to discover my characters makes writing much easier. Part of discovery is creating collages and developing a playlist. These are things that intimidated me before, but once I tried it, I was amazed. I keep it simple, but it’s like unlocking a box of your characters’ secrets.
Anyway, my lull in writing has allowed my brain to reopen to the possibilities for Zac and Macy. I’ve got the beginnings of how to fix that messed up manuscript. I don’t think I’ll actually do any real rewriting yet because I’m always afraid I’ll end up with a pile of incomplete manuscripts. I feel the need to plow through to at least get that first draft done. But now I have direction, and it feels good.
How do you procrastinate when things aren’t going the way you want?