Sunday, July 29, 2007

Saving Grace

I decided to take the night off and watch what I'd TIVO'd over the past week. A brand new series, Saving Grace,(TNT Network) was first on the list. I've always been a fan of Holly Hunter's grit and spunk that she brings to her characters. This was no exception. Grace is a hard drinkin', hard lovin', hard livin' cop who, deep down, has a heart that yearns to be still and pure. She's soured on life and is fairly certain that redemption doesn't lurk in her living room. All that changes with an angel who's reminiscent to John Travolta’s archangel character in Michael.

It’s a good show, and I was willing to become a fan of this summer replacement except for the fact that Holly and the TNT network felt it perfectly okay to include vivid sex scenes and graphic language on a public access television station. What’s going on here? Is television so eager to shock and titillate that they’re willing to forgo what’s sitting directly in front of them – like great writing? This show has real promise, in my opinion, so why do they need to sell out for the cheap stuff? The mantra that sex sells gives way to a downward spiral to quality and cheapens everything we see and touch. If “the people” want this, fine. But put it where it belongs; on subscription TV like HBO and Cinemax.

As a writer, I prescribe to the ideal of creating scenes that elude to situations rather than shock. It’s a sad day when the merits of a book or movie are judged on whether we saw a couple getting it on and the grittiness of the language. It’s a natural predilection to want to push the envelope – to see what we can get away with. From all appearances, it would seem that we can get away with a great deal. But has anyone stopped long enough to ask whether we should? Is Saving Grace a better, stronger series because we get to see Holly Hunter in the buff banging it up with some guy against a wall? I still have an imagination and am very happy to put it to use.

It takes talent, and, apparently, guts these days to produce something that doesn’t go for pure shock value. Executive producer, Holly Hunter, and TNT took the easy and predictable way out, and seized a piece of our humanity along with it.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Where Faith and Reality Collide

I was reminded of a story I’d heard years ago…

A man was dying of cancer and opted for prayer instead of traditional medical treatments. He ended up dying an ugly, painful death.

When he got to heaven, he asked God one question. “I was a good man, prayed every day, and was faithful to your Word. Why didn’t you answer my prayers?”

God smiled and said, “I did, my son. I sent you doctors with the medical knowledge to help you. It is you who failed to accept my help.”

This poignant story shows the differences between faith and blind faith. The opening chapter in my book highlights the devastating consequences of blind faith through the death a young patient. It’s the source of my main character’s bitterness toward all alternative medicine. Given this tragic experience, I’m sympathetic.

As big a proponent as I am of alternative modalities of healing such as Reiki, biofeedback hypnosis, meditation, etc., in no way am I a believer in its exclusivity. I believe alternatives and allopathic medicine play very nicely together in helping a patient through every phase of their illness, and, yes, even their death. Blind faith presumes that we can control our outcomes if only we believe hard enough or are pious enough. I do agree that the power of our minds can do amazing things, but it can’t cheat death – especially if one stops their medical treatment.

Thanks, bongi.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

It’s Just a Phase

Ah, it’s a New Moon today. This explains much. I’m convinced that it has the same crazy-making properties as a full moon. I can always tell by the responses I receive from author rejection notices that occur during my day job.

What’s that? you ask, responses on manuscript rejections?

Yes, yes, you thought there aren’t supposed to be responses to rejections, and you’d be partially right. From time to time I receive very nice, classy little things thanking me for my time, etc. But then there are the other ones that defy explanation – like today.

Saturdays are my day to review manuscript submissions. The office is quiet because everyone is out having a life. I was gratified to have waded through my large pile of email and hard copy submissions, loving a few, rejecting most. Since I no longer give crits to submissions due to occasional author backlash, I felt reasonably shielded from those who felt the need to vent their spleen over a rejection.

Until today.

I received not one, but two, nastygrams from writers who took issue with the fact that I’d rejected them. It’s disconcerting that a writer is willing to reveal that level of negativity about themselves, as if their anonymity serves as a buffer against exposure. I often reflect upon what their lives must be like to release their bilge out across the internet like a leaky discharge to a complete stranger who, for whatever reason, rejected their work.

It doesn’t matter so much what they say, because it all boils down to one thing; they can’t handle rejection and must have the last word. Normally, in my world, the last word is, “Thank you for reviewing my submission.” But these types have to attack in order to feel good about themselves and pretend that my rejection didn’t hurt. I understand hurt, but the nature of publishing, and life, for that matter, doesn’t guarantee a pain-free existence.

These writers make me think about people, in general, who can’t handle rejection or hearing the word, “No.” I’m never cruel, and my rejection notices always wish them the best of luck, but still they lash out in sometimes the most rude fashions. Has the internet, with it faceless neural net of bytes and pings, altered our definition of humanity? Are we now freer to be rude and insulting because there’s no face on the other end? Just once I’d love to see half these writers talk like this to my face. Would their bravado fail them? I wonder.

I guess I’ll turn my computer off for today and go stare at the moon that isn’t there and hope those who are adversely affected by its phases do no further damage.

Who needs scientific wizardry? Just ask me about the rejection responses.

Fill In the Caption

For some reason this photo has always cracked me up, and I've wanted a great caption to go with it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Socialized Medicine – the Great Savior

Name two places where you’d rather have your teeth pulled with a rusty set of pliers than step inside their establishment. My hot buttons are the DMV and the Post Office. Nowhere can I be guaranteed less efficiency and a disproportionate serving of malaise and disinterest at premium prices.

Conversely, if I go to a supermarket and dislike their service or prices, I can go across the street. I can do this because I live in a (relatively) free market where competition and choice control quality and pricing.

Monopolies offer zero incentive to offer efficient services at competitive prices because all choice has been eliminated. And this is what socialized medicine does. And they want to dip into your pocket to make it happen.

Who do you want controlling your healthcare?

  • During the heat wave in France when 13,000 people died, the hospitals were overwhelmed and stopped answering their phones. Ambulance drivers told victims they were on their own and had to take care of themselves.
  • The Canadians don’t want us to emulate them because they’ll have nowhere to go for their own medical care.
  • And speaking of our friends to the north, I have a Canadian friend who suffered a serious heart attack while visiting us. His insurance company refused to allow the hospital to treat him (he needed an immediate angioplasty). Our docs were only allowed to stabilize him and slap him on a plane bound for Canada. I was furious and asked the caring Canadian insurance agent what he’d do if my friend died en route. Ah, c’est la vie. Life is cheap in Canada, and so is their insurance program.

Michael Moore, you are welcome to pack your little bags and your lovely little ideas and move to France or Canada where you can live the dream. As for me, I want my choice of supermarkets.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Why, yes, of course I'm important...

One of our books, The War of the Rosens by Janice Eidus is being reviewed by the NY Times. Our company, Behler Publications, is still in the Little Spud category, so this is pretty cool news. Sure, we’ve received reviews from the big trade magazines, but it’s not on a consistent level. Yet.

But the NY Times? Talk about surreal.

Our office is at home. We’re lucky, we have a big house with a huge office that overlooks our neighborhood. With our editors and marketing people spread out all over, it makes good sense. It's also great fun when I’m in a snoopy mood. I can tell you if my neighbor has busted her diet and when Junior from across the street really came home.

So it was no big deal when the mobile pet groomer arrived at our house the other day. I was busy plugging her extension cord into our garage wall while she was off trying to corral my dog. The business line rang - it was the assistant to the editor of the NY Times. The NY Freaking Times! She was falling all over herself asking who to contact about getting an ARC of the book because her editor wanted to read it. Meanwhile, in the background, you can hear the groomer chasing my dog down: "Mae West, come here, sweetie, ready for your groommie?" along with the requisite kissey sounds.

I nearly laughed up a lung at the dichotomy. I cleared my throat and gave the editor's assistant a very professional, "I can help you with that."

Gawd, if they only knew what unglamorous lives we lead.