Saturday, July 26, 2014

Time Consuming Blessings

Greetings Pups,

Since I've gotten very serious about writing this blog and doing it on a somewhat regular basis, I've tried to not go more than four days without posting something, whether it's very detailed or not. I'm not always perfect with that, but I think I've done okay. As of late, however, I haven't been doing it as frequently, and I haven't been doing a lot things that require a ton of time to prepare. That might be continuing for a while. The good news is that I have a pretty decent excuse.

This year has been kind of up and down and crazy for me. If there have been any constants, they have been my faith and my writing. I decided to dedicate this year to working on getting a few books out and published, some new stuff and some revised versions of manuscripts I've had for quite a while. Now, as someone who quickly gets through and thrives on the creative process but is slow with and not such a fan of the technical things, this can take up a lot of my time. I've always said that writing is easy, editing is hard. And...yeah. So is typing for me, by the way. Therefore, since I've been working on that so much, my little blog here is not and may not be getting as much attention as it deserves. But don't think I am complaining about anything. I'm very glad that my days can be filled with work that I love.

Every day, every breath, every act I am able to perform is a blessing. And I have always considered my gift and passion for writing to be the absolute greatest blessing in my life. This blessing can been very time consuming, and it can take away from other things that I think I need to fill my days. Sometimes, I look at all the work I have to do where my writing is concerned, or even better, I get overwhelmed with ideas that I can't get down on paper fast enough, and it all seems like too much. I suppose I could complain about it, but, really, how could I?

I think sometimes we forget that the blessings we are given in life are just that. Probably because they usually require work. Faith without works is dead, as we all know. But when I find my fingers aching over the letters on the keyboard or as they hold a pen as I write, I just say "Thank You". I mean, honestly, what else is there to say?

So, as I spend more time on my book writing duties, I may be here with you, my valued readers, a bit more sporadically, and I apologize. But I will definitely try to put stuff on here as much as I can. I hope what I write here manages to entertain you or even make your days a bit better.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fan Fiction: YAY!!!.... or Nay

Greetings Pups,

So, fan fiction. It's a thing, apparently. And these days, it seems to be a very popular thing. I have to admit, I'm not a person who is into it, but I hear so much about it that I thought I'd talk about it, the pros, the cons, the whatevers. Yeah, there are a lot of "whatevers". And my knowledge of this phenomenon is rather limited, but I'll do my best with what I know.

For those of you who are unaware, fan fiction is the practice of taking characters or settings or whatnot from the works of other writers, from books or TV or film or anything, and making up your own stories using them. Apparently, some form of this has been going on since the 1700's, before people bothered to pay attention or enforce copyright laws, which meant that you could publish away without consequence. But, when it comes to the modern age of fan fiction, it seemed to really kick off in the 1960's, by way of Sci-fi fans writing their own versions based on their favorite stories, one specifically being Star Trek. So not much has changed on that front. Whilst fans of sci-fi may have really got this thing going, it has expanded extensively to all genres, for better or worse.

Now there are a lot of technical things I could discuss when it comes to fan fiction. There are the tropes and the genres and the rating and the terminology (see "fan ficcy"), but that's not why I'm doing this. I am wanting to talk about whether or not this activity is harmful or helpful to writers and the writing community. Hence my title, should we be cheering about this or ordering it to stop?

Like I said, I'm not into the fan fiction. I don't write it, though I may have inadvertently done so as a child. And whilst I may have read an entry here or there, just to check it out, I don't read it on a regular basis. Mostly because it can get a little...weird. I've been trying to approach this with my writer eyes, attempting to see what effect this has on the craft of writing, and whether or not I should be offended or worried about it. Granted, nothing I've published has ever gotten popular enough to be mimicked, so where do more successful authors stand on the subject?

Well, reactions from these famous authors range from flattery to downright anger and offense. J.K. Rowling seems to enjoy the fact that her characters and stories have inspired others to write, and Stephenie Meyer has even put links to Twilight fan fiction on her website. Thanks a lot, Stephenie! That's probably now why we have to deal with Fifty Shades of Grey, which, like most fan fiction, is apparently not as well-written as its source material. If you can believe that. Now, other authors do not think so highly of it. Anne Rice constantly asks that fiction based on her work be removed from fan fiction websites. George R.R. Martin is against it because he feels that it infringes on copyright, but also that it could be quite damaging to aspiring writers. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller oppose it because they don't want others interpreting their characters. They feel as though they had put in the work to create them and to build the worlds surrounding them and no one else should be allowed to mess with what they've made. Frankly, everyone here has a valid point, and I understand why they are against it. And no one should criticize them for feeling that way.

So, as a writer, how do I feel about it? Well, copyright issues and legalities aside, I think it can go either way when it comes to how it affects the writers who are participating in it. I don't think that fan fiction is inherently wrong or damaging. It's all in how you approach it. If you're someone who does not consider themselves an actual writer or an aspiring writer and you're just doing it for fun and a laugh, I say go ahead. Have your fun, do your bizarre and random character pairings, and go for it. However, if you are a writer or an aspiring one, you have to be a bit more careful, I think. You can't get so caught up in interpreting the works of others that you abandon your own creations or the ones that may come to you. I'm not saying that has actually happened, but it could. Now, I have heard that writers of fan fiction often help each other by way of reviews on the websites, to give input or criticisms about more technical things like structure and dialogue, and that's not a bad thing. It's good to have an objective eye check out your writing, because we aren't always honest with ourselves. But the way I see it is that, for anyone who wants to be a writer, it should be approached as one approaches the running of a marathon. Doing fan fiction can be a warm-up, a very early stage warm-up, but your own work is the actual marathon. You just can't let the worlds of other distract you from building your own.

In conclusion, I think that fan fiction writing is no different from any other kind of writing. It can be harmful or helpful, flattering or offensive, good or bad. I suppose I feel that, as long as people are writing and being even a little creative, it can't be that bad of a thing.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Be Here Now / Oasis - Album Review

Greetings Pups,

As everyone knows, I am a huge admirer of a little band called The Beatles. And, having been around in the nineties, that means that, when it comes to another little band called Oasis, I either love them or hate them. Because...maybe...derivative...a little. Well, good news for them, I come down on the side of love. I've been enjoying the music of the Gallagher brothers and their group for quite a long time, and I know I haven't been the only one. I, like most people in the U.S., got into them when their album (What's the Story)Morning Glory? was released, spawning hits like "Wonderwall" and "Champagne Supernova". We can all agree that it was fantastic, so I'm going to go a step further and talk about what came right after that one. That would be the 1997 album, Be Here Now.

Let's not sugarcoat this at all. After the massive success of Morning Glory, there were extremely high hopes for the follow-up album. From a sales standpoint, Be Here Now wasn't exactly a failure. It was the fastest selling album in the U.K. at that point, it hit #1 in many countries, #2 in the U.S., and it went on to sell about 4 million copies, if my info is correct. The problem is that, after the first week or so, sales dropped because everyone realized that this was not a repeat of the previous album from Oasis. By that, they meant it was nowhere near as good, and those people spread the word fast. Okay, do I think this album is utterly amazing? Not exactly. Do I think it's terrible? Again, no. Do I think it is as good as its predecessor? Yeah, we're going to check 'no' on that one. But Morning Glory was a tough act to follow. I don't really think anything they did would have lived up to it. Also, they may have been high whilst they were making it...allegedly. No wonder so many of the songs are abnormally long. Having said that, let's talk about the goods and the bads of this thing.

First, the not so great news. Out of the dozen songs on the album, and that includes a reprise, I'd say only about half of them are songs I really like. The title track is kind of meh, as is "Fade In Out", but I can listen to them. Even though, I am not a huge fan of Johnny Depp, and he played slide guitar on the latter of those tracks. No, I'm not kidding. Whilst I tend to skip over songs like "My Big Mouth", "Magic Pie" and "It's Gettin' Better(Man!!)", there is a vast improvement in "The Girl in the Dirty Shirt" and especially "I Hope, I Think, I Know".

And now on to the actually great news. Yes, this album may have weak points, as all tend to do, but it also has some songs I really, really enjoy, starting with the opening track "D'You Know What I Mean?". Despite the fact that it's not a fast song with a driving beat, the way other openers often go, it does have that feeling of a beginning point that will send you on to the rest of what's to come. Then, there's "Stand By Me", which apparently Noel wrote during a bout with food poisoning. Hey, whatever works, as long as a good song comes out of it. "Don't Go Away" is probably the, for lack of a better word, softest song in this collection, considering that it's about not wanting to lose someone that you love. In this case, Noel wrote it when his mother was hospitalized. So, it's a love song, just not one that people may have expected. Also, Liam said he was pretty emotional during the recording, but he ended up being proud of his performance. That's good. And then we get "All Around the World" with all its glorious epicness. This thing is LOOOONG! I mean, pretty much everything on this album is long, as I mentioned, but this thing clocks in at over nine minutes. And this is the song that got the reprise, so if you add that on, it's almost TWELVE minutes! And you know what? I love it! Yeah, it's so big and it has so much going on. I suppose it's because I'm a fan of songs that have a ton of interesting things to listen to. Speaking of interesting, a lot of people remember this because of the video. It was directed by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton and had a Yellow Submarine vibe to it. Shocking, I know. But it was great, too. I can still watch it today and be fascinated.

So, I know I'm not exactly giving this a glowing review, not as a whole anyway. It does have a lot of problems, but when it's good, it's very good. And when they tried to be productive, it worked. Trouble is, I don't how hard they actually tried. Be Here Now just is what it is. Still, I do love Oasis. They have given us a ton of great stuff, and whatever crazy shenanigans he may have been involved in, I would say that Noel Gallagher is rather a brilliant musician and songwriter. And, thus, I end on a positive note.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Friday, July 11, 2014

20 Feet From Stardom - Documentary Review

Greetings Pups,

So the last documentary I reviewed was called Muscle Shoals, and it was about a bunch of people who helped shape the music industry but who go greatly unappreciated by the public at large. Today, I will be reviewing 20 Feet From Stardom, which is kind of about the same thing. Relax, though. It tells this story from a different angle and, spoilers, it's also very good.

If you happen to be one of the few people who actually watched the Oscars this past February(I was, because award show nights are some of the most entertaining nights on Twitter!), you may have seen the best part of the ceremony, where 20 Feet From Stardom won for Best Documentary. Why was it the best part? Two words - Darlene Love. Just go You Tube it. It'll be worth it. Anyway, before that night, I don't think I had even heard of this film, or if I had, it was merely in passing. That's odd for me. I love documentaries, and I love documentaries about music. So I can't believe this one slipped by me. Still, as soon as I heard of it, I added it to my Netflix queue and got down to business.

20 Feet From Stardom tells the many, many tales of the many, many background singers who have been used in the industry for decades. You know that expression about people being seen and not heard? Well, these people have been heard and not known. You won't be long into this documentary before you realize just what a shame that is. Mostly because, in some cases, the background singers are better than those in front, in the spotlight. I suppose it proves that talent is only one part of becoming successful. It's a big part, I'd like to believe, but it's not the only part.

We get a lot of great interviews in this from those singers in the back, but we also get to hear from the big name, famous artists with whom they've worked. That's good because they are the ones who seem to be the most in awe of the talent of these singers. They love them and respect them in a way that a lot of the world either doesn't or hasn't been given the chance to do so. That is why I enjoyed this movie so much. This movie is that chance being given to the world to meet these people who have done so much to build the music world.

Now, some of the singers do speak about how difficult it can be, working so closely to the spotlight but never actually getting to be in the center of it. Hence, the title. And yet, none of them seem ungrateful for the opportunities that they have been given. Sure, a lot of them would love to be as famous as the people behind whom they are singing, but, at the same time, they seem happy to be doing what they love for a living. And they love it any way it comes. If for no other reason, this is why these people should be honored and appreciated for what they do.

So, I am recommending this very highly, even if you aren't a huge music fan. But, if you are, I am recommending it even more highly. 20 Feet From Stardom was a fantastic way to let amazingly talented singers finally, FINALLY, get the recognition they deserve. As someone who notices the ones in the back, I'm pretty happy that this film exists.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Happy 20th Anniversary, Forrest Gump!

Greetings Pups,

So, according to IMDB, which never gets anything wrong ever, today is the day that Forrest Gump was released twenty years ago. And even if that exact date is incorrect, I know for certain it was released in the summer of '94, so either way, close enough. We're doing this. As it happens, Forrest Gump is one of my all-time favorite movies, so I thought why not give it a little recognition on this special occasion.

I think that most people can agree that Forrest Gump is a film that has held up incredibly well in the years since we all first saw it. For the most part. Okay, it's obvious that, whilst we were all impressed with the CGI back in 1994, it has kind of lost it's 'wow' factor. Aside from the stuff with Lt. Dan's legs, which still looks quite believable, I am not as inclined to be convinced that Tom Hanks had conversations with long gone presidents and rock stars. But for its time, I can give it credit.

And I have also heard a lot of people say that they think a ton of the dialogue is sappy, even, dare I say it, fluffy. I suppose, in some cases, I agree. Yes, it had many, many memorable lines, but I almost felt like the writer just came up with a ton of those type of lines and then randomly stuck them into the script. Not that it didn't work out well, though. But, despite that, I think we all know that the "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get" line is total bull crap. I mean, hello! Boxes of chocolate always come with those little flavor/filling maps. I'm sure others have pointed this out, but I digress. And I certainly see what they were grabbing for there.

So what has held up about this movie? Well, I don't think anyone can deny that the acting was superb. Everyone did a fine job with this. Obviously, we got some greatness out of Tom Hanks, the man playing our titular character. I love when actors commit %100, and he certainly did here. Then, we got some good Sally Field as his loving mother, Mrs. Gump and Mykelti Williamson as greatest best friend of all time, Bubba. And, yes, I do think of him every time I eat shrimp. What about it? And then, there was Robin Wright(Penn, at the time) as Forrest's...Jenny. Yeah, I don't really know what to call her. And I may as well be honest and admit that I really am not a big fan of this character. Many people I know feel the same way. She came across as kind of not so nice a lot of the time. Of course, I try not to judge, considering what she went through as a child. I like to suppose she did love Forrest, but she just didn't know how to.

But even in amongst all of that awesomeness, let's not pretend that we don't know what the best thing about this movie is - Lieutenant Dan, played by my favorite actor in the whole, wide world, Gary Sinise. Yeah, I may have mentioned that a couple of times before. You know, to this day and as many times as I've seen this film, I am still so impressed by his performance. We all know it's not the easiest thing to play a character who is kind of a jerk but make him incredibly likable. And who doesn't like Lieutenant Dan? Only wrong people, I'm sure of it. So, I guess I don't need to say that he is my favorite character.

Okay, I'm going to wrap this thing up. I know this wasn't some detailed analysis. Just a few of my own personal thoughts. I really do love Forrest Gump, even if I nitpicked a little. Sure, maybe we don't see some of the technical things the way we once did, and maybe the effects look a tad dated, but I think that can be said of a lot of films. What's important is that, even twenty years later, the heart of it is still there. Any time you see it, you'll feel something. To me, that's what makes a great movie. If you have to stop and watch it every time you come across it during a channel surfing session, even if you only watch for a few minutes, that's a classic.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer