Friday, September 18, 2009

Turning Out The Light

Those who know me well know that, for a long time, two of my primary vices have been really good dark chocolate and the daytime drama, Guiding Light.

As an all-knowing teenager and an oh-so-wise twenty-something, I looked wa-a-ay down my nose at soaps, and swore I would never get involved with one. Then, in 1978, on route to another program, I stumbled upon the last five minutes of GL. Hmm, thought I--intriguing. I stopped by the next day--and the next, and the next. Gradually, the tv got turned on a little earlier and a little earlier. By the end of two weeks, I had to admit that I was hooked. And so began my 31-year through-the-tube relationship with the citizens of Springfield--a relationship that came to an end today, as the longest-running drama in broadcasting history (72 years, between radio and television) finished today's episode with "The End" written across the screen.

Why am I discussing a soap opera in this blog which is supposed to be about writing? Because I learned a lot about writing from Guiding Light. I learned about story, about pacing, character development, and how to end a chapter with a good hook. Unfortunately, in the past couple of years, much of the show's writing gave some lessons in how not to write, as long-time characters acted out of character, history and backstory were often ignored, and plot threads--sometimes complete story lines--did U-turns or were dropped altogether, leaving characters (and viewers) hanging. This past week, though, the writing redeemed itself. Characters were true, emotion was real, nods to show history were made, and--at least for me--the ending was satisfying, especially since the final shot was of Reva and Josh, the show's longtime on-again-off-again couple, together. (Yeah, I'm a sentimental softie...)

So. Thank you to Guiding Light writers from whom I learned. And thank you, too, to the actors who brought those words, those stories, alive--Kim Zimmer, Robert Newman, Grant Aleksander, Tina Sloan, Ron Raines,and all the others, past and present, who made Springfield the place to be for so many years. I'll miss you.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Doing The Blogger Grovel

I knew this would happen. I got going great guns with this blog. Then came a week's vacation, followed by a week-long virus, followed by doing a lot of groundwork for a new novel. Then the dog ate my homework. And I had to visit my relatives. And I fell asleep--couldn'tr find my pen--left my blog in the back of the cab. You get the picture.

So. As the lyrics to the old song say, I'm going to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.

For tonight, here are a few of the books I've read recently:

Shiver (Maggie Stiefvater) I don't usually gravitate towards werewolf stories, but this tale of Grace and yellow-eyed Sam grabbed me and didn't let go. YA

The Boy On The Lion Throne: The Childhood of the 14th Dalai Lama (Elizabeth Cody Kimmel) I've always admired this man--even more now that I know what his young years were like. Fascinating, dramatic, couldn't put it down. YA

Jumping Off Swings (Jo Knowles) One incident, one girl's decision, five points of view. These characters stayed with me long after I finished reading. YA

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap Of Faith (Deborah Heiligman) He was a scientist, she was deeply religious. A well-researched, engaging portrait of Darwin's work and the effect his marriage and family life had on it. YA

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (Katherine Howe) Two stories going on in this historical thriller: that of Deliverance Dane, accused of being a witch in 17th century Salem, and that of Connie Goodwin, a grad student in 1991, solving the mystery of a book written by Deliverance. I've read reviews that point out flaws in this book, but--quite honestly--I got too caught up in the story to notice them. Adult