Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Gloves Come Off


Remember in my last post where I said my hatchback was leaking, which was a point of discontent with me because I had paid (according to the invoice I received after my $1800 oil change) $47.50 to have the leak fixed?

Well, I worked through my frustration and outright anger at Asswipe Scott, who had told me my window was repaired and wouldn't leak anymore because things do happen and all things considered, it was a relatively minor thing, so it was with mild irritation and not extreme bitchery that I called Asswipe Scott on Monday morning to report my still leaking hatchback.

"I'd like to schedule another appointment," I said. "To have the problem actually fixed this time."

So Asswipe Scott made an appointment for me. For Wednesday morning. He didn't seem overly thrilled but, as I was even less thrilled, I didn't care.

A little later on in the morning, just as I was pulling into the Wal-Mart parking lot, I received a call from Megan. Megan works at PAPE SUBARU and it is, as far as I can tell, her job to call clients who have had a recent service at the dealership to make sure they were satisfied with their visit. Megan, obviously, hadn't spoken to Asswipe Scott. I told Megan how, no, I wasn't particularly impressed by my visit but I had spoken with Asswipe Scott earlier that day and had an appointment scheduled for later in the week to fix the problem they had failed to fix the week before.

Megan looked over my service records and noted the repair cost $47.50.

"It shouldn't be a problem," she said. "As far as payment goes."

"I'm sorry," I interrupted. "Surely you're not suggesting I pay another $47.50 to have fixed a problem I already paid $47.50 to have fixed."

"Uh," Megan said, sounding a little unsure. "No?"

"Because I already paid $47.50 to have the leak repaired and Asswipe Scott assured me that the leak was repaired and since there was a puddle in the back of my car this weekend, the leak has evidently not been repaired."

"Right," Megan said.

"And I am not interested in shelling out another $47.50 for a problem that should have already been fixed. I mean, it's been three days since Asswipe Scott told me the leak was fixed. Days. Not weeks, not months, not years. Days."

"Uh huh," Megan said. "Well, it shouldn't be a problem."

"Shouldn't or won't be a problem?" I asked. "Because there's a big difference and if I have to drive two hours to get down there and then fight with Asswipe Scott over whether or not I owe him more money, I will be even less happy than I am at this moment."

Megan was quiet then. I can only imagine she was imagining me less happy than I was at that moment.

"If there's a problem, you can ask for me," she said finally. "I'll be upstairs. Or you can talk to the Service Manager. Or you can talk to him now."

"I'll talk to him now," I said.

"Let me see if he's available," Megan said. "Hold on."

She put me on hold. Then I imagined she was telling Service Manager Idiot Kris he really didn't want to talk to me but eventually I was transferred to Idiot Kris.

"Did Megan tell you why I asked to speak to you?" I asked.

"Yes," Idiot Kris said. "I'm just looking over your service records now."

"I'm not paying another $47.50," I said. "How about your guys actually fix the problem this time and we call it even?"

"Yeah," Idiot Kris said. "Here's the thing-"

"Oh, there's a thing," I said. "I love it when there's a thing."

It's possible I was being minutely sarcastic.

"The window needs to be resealed."


Idiot Kris was quiet for a moment. I can only imagine he was thinking how much easier and/or quicker the conversation would progress if I stopped being minutely sarcastic at every given opportunity.

"That's a repair we don't do here," Idiot Kris said. "You have to take the window off and reseal it and we don't do that here. You'd have to go to Portland Glass or something."

Now I was quiet.

"You don't do that there?" I asked.


"Well, that's interesting because right on my invoice it states how the glass was resealed."

"I know," Idiot Kris said. "That's a mistake."

"You think?" I asked. "So tell me, Idiot Kris, are you in the habit of charging your clients for repairs you do not do? I mean, do you actually repair left head gaskets because I was told you did and was charged for that repair but then again, I was also told you fixed the leak in my hatchback only to find out how you don't do that there."

"I can refund that charge."

"You do that," I said. "And while you're at it, why don't you cancel my appointment for Wednesday?"

"I can do that too," Idiot Kris said.

"See that you do," I said.

And then hung up.

So what's the deal, PAPE SUBARU, you bunch of incompetent immoral bastards? Is it a woman thing? Did you think that because I have ovaries you could pull a fast one on me or something? Were you just hoping it wouldn't rain long enough for me to forget that you told me my hatchback wouldn't leak anymore?


Needless to say, I am over the Subaru experience. I know there are people out there who have had fantastic experiences with their own Subarus but I AM NOT ONE OF THEM. I am a Toyota girl, through and through.

Just as soon as I get rid of my Piece of Shit Outback. Shit...it's what makes a Subaru a Subaru.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The $1800 Oil Change

Once upon a time, a little over six years ago, Joe and I decided to get a German Shepherd puppy. Anyway, we also decided to trade in our Toyota Corolla for something larger with which we could drive around our German Shepherd.

Turned out to be the right idea since we ended up with a mutant German Shepherd, but we just chose the wrong kind of car.

We picked a Subaru Outback.

Big mistake.

Turns out what makes a Subaru a Subaru is its innate ability to really, really suck big time.

The troubles started before we even bought the car which, in hindsight, should've been our first clue to run screaming to the Toyota dealership. And yet.

We went to the local Subaru dealership and met with Baby Faced Brandon. Baby Faced Brandon spent a lot of time with us, going over the various features and answering whatever random questions popped into my head. He told us how our German Shepherd puppy would fit nicely into the back. A woman he knew with an Outback had a Newfoundland who fit nicely into the back. All I have to say about that is that either the Newfoundland was a midget Newfie or Baby Faced Brandon didn't know what a Newfie was because no way in hell would a Newfie fit nicely into the back of that car. My own German Shepherd puppy stopped fitting nicely into the back when he was about three months old.

But anyway, I digress.

So we spent the afternoon looking at models and numbers and whatever else you're supposed to look at. We thanked Baby Faced Brandon afterward and went home and looked at other dealers and their offers because that's what people do when they shop for cars. The next day, Baby Faced Brandon's associate, Slick (obviously not his real name.) called to touch base with us. Unfortunately for Slick, I was in the midst of a seven week battle with Bark Mrown (not quite his real name) the Contractor From Hell. Unfortunately for Slick, I still had my fight face on when I answered the phone.

Slick explained how Baby Faced Brandon had asked him to call and touch base with us because Baby Faced Brandon was busy delivering a car to some other customer. So I told Slick how we were in the browsing phrase, shopping around to make sure we got the best price we could.

"But Baby Faced Brandon spent all that time with you yesterday," Slick said.

"Well, that's Baby Faced Brandon's job, isn't it?" I replied. "He's supposed to spend time with perspective customers and if either you or he thought we wouldn't be looking around to make sure we weren't getting ripped off, then you were being kind of stupid, weren't you? And I'll tell you something else, Slick, I don't appreciate you calling me up and trying to guilt me into something."

"I wasn't trying to guilt you-"

"The hell you weren't!" I said. "I don't care how much time Baby Faced Brandon spent with us, you're not going to make me feel guilty about it."

"I'm sorry if I made you feel guilty-"

"You didn't make me feel guilty," I said then. "You have, however, managed to piss me off quite nicely so why don't you run and tell that to Baby Faced Brandon when he reappears."

And then I hung up. I called Joe at work shortly afterward to report on the latest developments. I could just imagine Joe banging his head against the desk because he was currently living in a land where he was fully expecting a phone call from the local police department asking him to come on down to the station where I had been taken upon my arrest following my assault on either a contractor or a car salesman. He asked me to please stop browbeating the locals because he didn't want to have to move out of town. I, of course, took that very well.

Anyway, shortly after that, I received a call from Desperate Dan, the local dealership's manager. He tripped over himself a lot trying to apologize to me. He then offered me an Outback with the exact (somewhat unrealistic) specifications I had posed to Baby Faced Brandon, with the addition of a dog gate and a remote start, all for a very reasonable price. So we took the deal.

Big mistake.

Fast forward a few weeks (Yes, weeks)when my brand new Outback started experiencing steering problems. Now, I know next to nothing about cars but I do know that a brand new car should not have steering problems. So I called the dealership's service center. I did this because they had a great reputation for being really super nice to the locals. They were supposed to get us right in. They were supposed to get us right now. What they were NOT supposed to do was blow us off because of a rust recall and yet, that was exactly what they did.

Stern Stan was the guy I spoke to. Stern Stan said he was sorry but he just couldn't help me. I asked him what the hell I was supposed to do with my brand new undriveable Subaru and where the hell was the great service us locals were supposed to receive from his establishment? Things went downhill from there and ended with Stern Stan demanding an apology before he hung up on me.

Needless to say, that was the last time I spoke to Stern Stan.

Joe dealt with them after that. He called Baby Faced Brandon who came out and brought us a loner while he took our car to the shop himself. They said they didn't know what was wrong with it but the power steering fluid was a little low, so they topped it off, but as far as they knew, there wasn't anything wrong with the car.

Now, I know next to nothing about cars but I do know that a brand new car, a car that has only been driven for a handful of weeks, should not be a little low on power steering fluid.

So I guess that's why I wasn't surprised when the same damn problem reappeared a little later.

This time, I called the dealership a two hours' drive from us. I told Chris (his real name...I like this guy.) the problem and he made an appointment for me right away. My favorite part of the call was when Chris asked for my address. After I said my town, he got very quiet.

"You know there's a dealer just, like, down the road from you, right?" Chris asked.

"Yes, I know," I said. "And yet, I'm calling you."

"All right then," Chris said.

Well, turns out the car had a power steering fluid leak. They had to order a replacement part but they ordered it and eventually it was replaced.

A little while after that, there was a problem with my remote start. It did this thing where it wouldn't start when it was cold outside which kind of defeated the purpose of having a remote start. So I called my buddy Chris.

"You'll have to contact whoever installed the remote start," Chris said. "We don't recommend installing them in Subarus actually. Who put it in?"

"Subaru," I said. "Subaru actually put this one in. You might want to let headquarters know you don't recommend installing them in Subarus. They might find that interesting."

After that, I think we were problem free for a little while. A couple of years ago, we had to have the breaks replaced but I don't think anything else major went on the car. That brings us to the present.

I made an appointment last week at a new dealership because the one which employed my buddy, Chris, was bought out and whatever so now there was Service Man Scott who was polite and all but was not my buddy Chris.

The appointment was for a routine oil change. I also asked them to look at the hatchback latch as it was not working properly as well as the hatchback door seal as it leaked every time it rained. Ruined a big bunch of tracking equipment I had back there.

I dropped the car off the night before and was woken up the next morning by a phone call from Service Man Scott.

"How are you this morning?" Scott asked.

"Depends on why you're calling," I said.

"Well, we took care of the window and the latch for you this morning, so it won't leak or stick anymore," Scott said. (Super Fun Side Note: The window still leaks so I guess when he said it wouldn't leak anymore, he didn't actually mean it wouldn't leak anymore.)

"Okay," I said.

"But we always do a safety check on every car that comes in and found some things that'll need attention sooner rather than later."

"But of course you did," I said, getting out a notebook with which to take notes.

"The left head gasket is leaking oil," Scott began.

I kind of stopped listening then. Again, I know next to nothing about cars but I do know that a head gasket problem is going to be expensive. Scott went on to describe two other expensive problems. I wrote down the phrases 'swiveling thingy' and 'turn motion thingy'. I wrote down the $1800 quote Scott gave me. I then wrote down Scott's name and number and told him I'd have Joe call him.

Joe said several uncomplimentary things about Subaru when I told him. But he called Scott and together, they came to the decision to just make the repairs. The car wouldn't be ready until the next day, Scott told me when I again spoke to him.

"You get a free rental car!" Scott said.

"You mean free with my $1800 purchase," I said.

Scott got very quite then.

"I'll be there this afternoon," I said.

My free rental car was a Subaru. It was a Subaru Impreza Sport which, since my mutant German Shepherd barely fits into my Outback, was a completely useless car for my needs. Yet the rental man seemed to think I would enjoy it.

"Your car will be the blue Impreza over there," he said, gesturing toward it as though it was a fabulous parting gift on a game show.

"You mean behind the clown car?" was what I wanted to say but instead I said, "It's so...little."

The little blue clown car did come with a moon roof which, as soon as it stopped raining long enough, I did pop open. That was nice. What was not nice was the twenty minutes I spent wandering around the stupid supermarket parking lot looking for the little blue clown car because I couldn't remember what the damn thing looked liked and the three key fobs on the damn key ring they'd given me weren't doing a damn thing. Car identification button, my ass!

So I drove the little blue clown car back to the dealership the next afternoon to swap it for my car. I walked in and dropped the three key fobs on the service desk. Scott was there. He remembered me.

"You're all set," he said. "Got everything fixed."

"I assumed as much when I called you and you said the car was ready," I said.

"Right," Scott said.

He then walked me through the four paged bill. I must say I've been happier. Much, much happier.

"How did you like your Subaru?" he asked after I'd signed the credit card slip.

"It's a claustrophobic clown car," I said. "Which is not me saying it's a car for claustrophobic clowns but rather a clown car which makes me feel claustrophobic."

Scott's face fell.

"I'm sorry," I said. "Was there a particular reason why you thought I might be impressed by a Subaru right now?"

"Uh," Scott said.

Scott looked so forlorn that I begrudgingly added, "I liked the moon roof. My new car will have one."

I declined to mention that my new car will be a Toyota.

"Well, that's good then," Scott said. "So are you going back to the Mount Washington Valley?"

"It is where I live."

"Long drive."


"Well, you'll be all set for a while," Scott said.

"For $1800, I certainly hope so," I said. And then left.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Story of an Hour

The day began as any other day. The Gator Girl sat poised on the floor, bedside, waiting for any sign of movement to take as an invitation to jump up on the bed and cuddle between her parents. The Big Brave German Shepherd laid dejected on his bed on the floor, lamenting the hard truth that he was just too damn big to get on the bed without the aid of a crane.

Slowly, The Man got out of bed. The Gator Girl followed him. He walked slowly around the room, dragging his feet in his search for clothing. The Gator Girl did not drag her feet. The Gator Girl has never dragged her feet in all her life. She pranced.

Taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap filled the air. The sound roused the Big Brave German Shepherd who immediately came in search of his mother. The Woman was not amused. The Woman had been up late trying to close out a draft of her synopsis project and had been hoping for a modicum more of sleep and so The Woman laid in bed, her eyes firmly closed, in order to give the illusion of sleep. She had learned long ago to fake it until she could make it.

The man, having finally gathered his clothing, left the bedroom now in search of a shower. With his absence, the Gator Girl sprung back on the bed and nestled close to The Woman. The Big Brave German Shepherd laid back down as well, with a thud that shook the bed. Still, The Woman did not move.

She didn't even move when the bedroom door opened once more and The Man returned.

"Hey," the man said.

The Woman chose to ignore him. The Gator Girl,who has never ignored anything in her whole entire life, leapt off the bed with joy. The Big Brave German Shepherd didn't move.

"Hey," the man said again.

The Woman reluctantly turned her head to look at The Man.

"There's a mouse hanging on the shower curtain," The Man said.

The Woman had to think about this. She understood all the words individually but, placed together in a sentence in the way The Man had done, they seemed lack all comprehension.

"There's a what where?" she asked.

"There's a mouse hanging on the shower curtain," The Man said.

The Woman thought some more. Mouse. Hanging. Shower curtain. Huh.

"The cats are freaking out," The Man continued.

Mouse. Hanging. Shower curtain. Cats.

"You mean a real one?" The Woman asked, slowly coming out of the illusion of sleep.

"Yes, I mean a real one," The Man responded, his tone minutely questioning The Woman's intelligence. "Look, you can see it from here."

And with that, The Man opened wider the bedroom door. Both The Gator Girl and The Big Brave German Shepherd were prancing now, alight with the possibility of breakfast. The Man did not let them pass. The Woman lifted her head from her pillow and squinted into the bathroom.

The Woman was not wearing her glasses and was still slightly groggy from sleep, or the lack thereof, but, after a moment of squinting and focusing, she saw a dark shape at the top of the shower curtain. After a little more squinting and a little more focusing, she could see that it was, indeed, a mouse hanging off her shower curtain.

The Woman said a not nice word. The Woman actually said several not nice words.

The Woman sat up slightly and took in the sight. The mouse was clinging for his dear little life at the top of her shower curtain. The cats were sitting on the floor, tails swishing and eyes riveted to their prey.

The Woman said more not nice words.

"What do we do?" The Man asked.

"What the hell do you mean 'we'?" The Woman said.

The Woman normally liked to think of herself as one of those hairy legged bra burning feminist types who needed a man like a fish needed a bicycle but the truth remained that she shaved her legs year round, never had burned a bra and certainly was not about to deal with a big fat squirmy mouse and his little wormy tail.

No, The Woman was going to go find herself a bubble and move into it post hasty.

"How am I going to take a shower?" The Man asked.

"Yeah," The Woman said.

She sat up fully now, accepting the fact that any hope of further sleep had dissipated upon the first uttering of the sentence 'There's a mouse hanging on the shower curtain'.

"If only we had two and a half bathrooms in this house," The Woman continued. "Oh wait. We do."

"Yeah, but," The Man protested. "My shampoo's in there."

"I don't even know why you're worried about that," The Woman said. "You can't leave me with that thing in there."

"I kill the spiders," The Man said. "It's only fair that you kill the mice."

The Woman said several more not nice words.

"What if we got one of the buckets from the basement," The Man said.

"Again with the 'we'," The Woman said.

"And like knocked the mouse into it," The Man said. "Could he climb out?"

The Woman didn't respond. No, The Woman busy imaging the absolute horror of either standing there holding a bucket with which to catch a big fat squirmy mouse and his little wormy tail or knocking a big fat squirmy mouse and his little wormy tail into a bucket.

"I hate nature," The Woman said.

The Woman actually liked nature. The woman actually loved nature. She enjoyed spending time in The Great Outdoors. She did not, however, enjoy it when The Great Outdoors was hanging from the shower curtain in her bathroom.

"How am I going to get my shampoo?" The Man asked again.

"There's shampoo in the other bathroom," The Woman said. "Just use that."

"Right," The Man said. "Good idea. Hey, are you going out today?"

"How else am I going to buy a bubble in which to live?

"Because I'm thinking we're going to need some mouse traps or poison or something."

"Very astute of you," The Woman said. "Can you, like, close the bathroom door for a moment so I can get the dogs downstairs without their intervening with the standoff?"

"Can you imagine the Gator Girl with a mouse?" The Man asked.

"Yes," The Woman said. "Yes I can. Which is why, in the absence of any mouse removal solutions that don't involve me holding a bucket, I want you to close the bathroom door."

"The mouse can fit under a door."

"What is wrong with you?" The Woman asked. It was possible she had screeched but she would never admit it. "Just close the damn door!"

The Man closed the damn door and The Woman took the dogs downstairs. She prepared their breakfast. While she did so, the Gator Girl promptly puked. Twice. Because the morning hadn't been awesome enough.

Meanwhile, The Man took his shower and was still pondering solutions. They had pretty much decided on letting the cats (one of which was so fat that some time spent chasing a rodent would be beneficial) deal with the mouse but The Man was trying to expedite the process.

"How long do you think he can hold on?" The Man asked.

"Don't know," The Woman said. "Don't know how long he's already been there."

"Well, he's going to get hungry at some point," The Man said.

"Well, I think when faced with hunger or the two cats waiting to satisfy their own, I think the mouse might choose hunger."

"Right," The Man said. "Hey, do you think I should put a ladder in there? Could they climb a ladder?"

The cats, in fact, could climb a ladder. The Woman found that one out one night when The Man had used the ladder to access the attic and while it was set up, one of the cats had used it also to access the attic. The ladder was then taken away, subsequently leaving the poor cat stranded and crying for help. The Woman said as much to The Man but The Man did not appear to be listening.

The Woman took the Gator Girl outside. She then took the Big Brave German Shepherd outside. While she did so, The Man was busy fetching the step ladder and setting up in the bathroom for the cats' use. The Fat Cat didn't seem to get it and the Scaredy Cat just wasn't interested. The Man tried to teach the Fat Cat to use the ladder. The Woman would've sold her soul just then for a video camera.

"Hey," The Man said. "I've got to brush my teeth. Can you watch my back and make sure the mouse doesn't jump on it?"

The Woman, again, didn't respond. Instead, she left the cats to watch The Man's back. She went back outside to clear up after the dogs. She paused when she heard the dogs freaking out and then decided she really didn't want to know. When she returned to the house, The Man was standing at the top of the stairs.

"Did you hear me scream?" The Man asked.

No. The Woman had not heard that. The Woman asked what happened.

"I put Fat Cat on the ladder," The Man said. "On the second step so it wouldn't be as easy to get down, and she realized she was closer to the mouse and then when she was going up to get him, he fell."

Oh joy.

"So he ran under the vanity," The Man continued.

Oh joy.

"And Fat Cat went after him and was battering him around some and he came out from under the vanity and Fat Cat swatted him around some more and now he's in the heater."

In the heater. Oh joy.

"And now Fat Cat has her head stuck under the heater. You should come see it. It's funny."

The Woman did go to see it. The Fat Cat indeed had her head wedged under the heater, her tail still swishing madly. The Scaredy Cat was no where to be found.

"He's got no where to go now," The Man said.

Satisfied at a job well done, The Man removed the ladder and went to work. The Woman went to check her email and possibly write a blog entry about her morning. In the middle of an email, she head a thud and the pitter patter of mammals on the move. She looked at the ceiling. The noise stopped. The woman finished her email and went to investigate. And by investigate, The Woman meant she was only going to stand at the top of the stairs and peek around the corner.

The bathroom was empty. There was no sign of Fat Cat nor her prey. The standoff had ended, leaving The Woman with an unsettled feeling that the big fat squirmy mouse had somehow managed to slip past Fat Cat and was now running around once again in her walls with his little mouse feet and little wormy tail.

"I hate nature," The Woman said again as she slowly made her way back down.

The End

*The title of this story was borrowed from the title of a short story written by the incomparable Kate Chopin. If you've never read it, you can click here to do so. You can skip the "reading response" question at the end. Unless, of course, you're so inclined.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Nobody's Perfect

I was watching a movie today, Appaloosa, released in 2008 and based on the 2005 novel by Robert B. Parker. It's the story of the Old West, about a couple of guns-for-hire, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch and how they come to the town of Appaloosa to help the townsfolk deal with the town bully Randall Bragg. Bragg is played by Jeremy Irons. I have to mention this because I love Jeremy Irons but I did not love him in this role. Though, when my novel is inevitably made into a major blockbusting motion picture, I want him to play Omur. Maybe he and Tim Curry (I also adore Tim Curry.) can share or something. Or, even better, I'll write a new character, Omur's brother, who shows up on the scene with a big chip on his shoulder because Omur was always evil's favorite or something. It'll be fantastic!

Anyway, I digress.

So Vigil is set up in the beginning to be this bigger than life character, quick on the draw (literally and figuratively) and so freaking cool and calm about everything that he's this man of which one should be in awe. He's supposed to be like Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia or some other literary hero who is supposed to be above reproach, seemingly perfect in every way. But here's the thing: Virgil Cole isn't that guy.

He screws up. He makes mistakes. He's a flawed hero. And I love him for it.

I spent a lot of the movie (and the book when I read that) wanting to slap Virgil in the face because he was, at times, being a big idiot. But people are like that sometimes. People are like that a lot of the time which is why I really prefer the flawed hero.

Flawed heroes are real. Flawed heroes are interesting.

This is why, and I've said this a lot, I adored what J.K. Rowling did in the Harry Potter series. She took the character, Albus Dumbledore, and made him fallible. There's a scene at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where Harry and Dumbledore are talking (well, Dumbledore's talking, Harry's mostly breaking Dumbledore's office.) and Dumbledore says (and I'm paraphrasing here) "I screwed up."

It's perfect. It's fantastic. She could've easily made him into this untouchable paradigm of perfection but by making his halo slightly tarnished, she made him into something so much more. Instead of being some guy you just want to kick in the balls because he is just this walking, talking reminder of your own inadequacies, he's a guy with whom you can sympathize.

That's why I like to write flawed characters. I write characters who do stupid things because that's what they think is the right thing to do at that time. Then afterward, they might be called on their stupidity, or have to face the consequences of their stupidity, but isn't that what happens to all of us?

Another reason why I've been pondering the whole flawed character thing is that I received some feedback on my book from my brand new fan, E (that makes like four whole fans now...woo hoo!). Well, I'm hoping she stays a fan. I have to say that because she's about half way through the book and told me how much she's enjoying it but (and again, I'm paraphrasing) she's irritated with my male lead (Dana) for being dickish. I responded with, "yeah, he does that" because there are parts where Dana is a big jerk but I was left thinking, "Well, if she think he's being a dick now, then she really won't be happy with him by the end" as my male lead's judgment goes from bad to worse (thus the whole hoping she's still a fan by the end of the book thing).

It's like what Virgil says to Everett, "Feelings get you killed."

They, at the very least, make you stupid.

Or, as Buffy the Vampire Slayer once said, "Love makes you do the wacky."

And how.

It's not the first time someone's commented on the stupidity of my characters (Hmmm...when I write it like that, it really doesn't sound good, does it?). Someone else targeted James, one of the secondary male leads. I like James. He's moody and sarcastic, marriage phobic (Holy crap...he's the male version of me!) and in over his head. He gets recruited into this rebellion, dragged into it really more out of a sense of obligation to his buddy, Dickish Dana, than anything else. And because Effigy is a swords and sorcery novel, there are battles and because James is a twenty year old farmer whose battle experience to this point has been limited to the occasional bar fight, there's a learning curve. He makes some questionable choices in his first battle which led to the question (paraphrased, mais oui?) "Wasn't x,y and z a stupid thing to do?"

Sure, there were smarter choices available to my characters (the heroines, by the way, have their share of stupid moments. I don't discriminate...I'm an equal opportunity flaw giver.). There are generally smarter choices available. Think about any of the Bond villians. Goldfinger would've been a much different movie had our title villain just put a bullet through a captured Bond's head instead of tying our favorite British secret agent to a table with a slow moving phallic laser heading right for his crotch and then leaving him (alone) with the classic parting line "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die." The whole bullet to the brain thing would've been much smarter and a hell of a lot more effective but what has become a top grossing film franchise would've been over pretty damn quick.

The point is, just because it wasn't the smartest thing to do, doesn't mean that's not what they did. I don't know if that makes sense to anyone who isn't me. When I was writing James's battle scene, I saw very clearly what he did and wrote it that way. Maybe something else would've been smarter, but that's not what he did. Simple as that.

Maybe Gandalf the Grey should've smoked less of the Shire's finest. Maybe Rebecca Bloomwood should've cut up her credit cards a long time before the start of her book. Maybe Roland Deschain shouldn't have dropped Jake. Or maybe Spenser should've stayed home instead of going after Susan Silverman when she was away on her west coast adventure. What if Romeo hadn't decided to drink a dram of poison or if Hamlet had decided it was all right to kill Claudius while the man was at prayer? And don't even get me started on the idiocy that is Edward Cullen and Jacob Black (and Bella Swan too...told you, I don't discriminate.).

Or, if you're tired of literature (the term used rather loosely in some instances) references, what if Buffy killed Angel when she had the chance in season two? Or if House never popped any pills or did anything rash and/or experimental? What if Barney had selected the ten immediate slaps instead of the five never know when they're coming (unless, of course, Marshall has made a special countdown website) slaps?

Anyway, that's the idea. We all have our "It seemed like a good idea at the time" moments and characters (at least the very best ones) are no exception. They are, after all, human. I hear to err is human, to forgive divine. Plus, the more they screw up, the better their road to redemption will be and those, I find, always make for one hell of a story.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Truth About Jane Austen

Joe accused me this past weekend of being a Jane Austen fan.

This, as I'm sure you can imagine (especially if you were around for my last Jane Austen related freak out), went over like a lead balloon.

He said it because every time he looks up lately, I'm doing something that involves Jane Austen. I recently read Pride and Prejudice. I'm currently reading Sense and Sensibility. I have a tendency to stop on the Oxygen network every time the Kiera Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice is being aired (and they have a tendency to air that movie a lot.). And, in an effort to help me make it through Sense and Sensibility, I recently watched Emma Thompson film version.

But, despite all this, I am not a Jane Austen fan.

This said, I should probably explain why I routinely stop on the Pride and Prejudice movie. I like the movie. I generally like the film adaptations of Jane Austen novels (well, I wasn't so wild on the Sense and Sensibility movie but I think that's more the story's fault, not Emma Thompson, Kate Winset, Alan Rickman (because that man can do no wrong) and Hugh Grant's fault.). Instead of two weeks, it's two hours. You get the same delightful story telling and social commentary everyone seems to think is in a Jane Austen novel without having to slosh your way through two hundred pages of dinner invitations and weather conversations.

My mother and I have spent many an afternoon (probably too many afternoons) debating our dream Pride and Prejudice cast (yes, seriously.). We disagree on Elizabeth Bennett. Mom prefers Jennifer Ehle from the A&E miniseries version while I prefer Kiera Knightly. We do, however, wholeheartedly agree that Colin Firth was born to play Mr. Darcy. No offense to Matthew MacFaddyn. He was great, but Colin Firth was better.

So yeah, I like the movies (mostly). I have a thing for good looking guys with English accents. So sue me.

But I don't like the novels. Not one bit.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure Jane Austen herself was a perfectly pleasant person (if overly obsessed with tea and marriage). It's just that her writing isn't really my style. I met Lisa Gardner once. Nice woman, extremely nice, but I routinely (not to her face, of course...) mock parts of her books. Same with Janet Evanovich.

Even Stephen King. Ran into him at the grocery store once. I smiled and said, "excuse me," to him as I was trying to get to the bags of baby carrots in front of which he was standing. I was also cursing myself for not having a copy of my manuscript to "accidentally" slip into his shopping cart. Just for clarification, I don't really mock parts of Stephen King's books (and not because I'm scared to...well, usually not because I'm scared to.). But, they're not always my taste. I read the Dark Tower series and a couple of others that relate to the Dark Tower Series but, for the most part, I don't particularly care for his books. I still like him though. For which, I am sure, he's grateful.

The point is, I guess, I don't have to like someone's work to like them. And this would include Miss Jane Austen.

I admire her success. I admire her ability to write novels and to publish novels. I've only managed the first part of that (and the jury's still out on that, I think.). She self published Sense and Sensibility in 1811. I admire this too. Every day that goes by without a completed synopsis, I ponder the synopsis-free ways of self-publication. So yeah, I admire what she accomplished with her life.

But I'm not much of a chick-lit fan. And that's what Jane Austen is. She does it with more propriety and less sex than today's chick-lit, but the essential story is the same. A girl is without a man. Then she meets someone. Handsome, dashing, wealthy, English... everything she's ever dreamed of. Sometimes they have a cute meet. Something so adorable you just want to die. Sometimes, however, they meet in a way that makes the girl think the man is an ass, or makes the man think the girl to be anything but the somewhat strong and quasi-independent woman she kind of is (See Bridget Jones...he's wearing a ridiculous reindeer sweater badmouthing her manners and her smoking). But then the most unlikely of circumstances happen, repeatedly throwing the two who are the two together (little BtVS reference for you) and love eventually triumphs over all. The man sees past the girl's faults (whether it be nicotine addiction or lack of fortune) and the two live happily ever after.

The heroines:

Pride and Prejudice's Elizabeth Bennett = Mansfield Park's Fanny Price = Sense and Sensibility's Elinor Dashwood.

The heroes:

Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy = Mansfield Park's Edmund Bertram = Sense and Sensibility's Edward Ferras.

And let us not forget the rogues:

Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Wickham = Mansfield Park's Henry Crawford = Sense and Sensibility's Mr. Willoughby.

The modern day equivalents (using Bridget Jones's Diary):

Heroine: Bridget Jones

Hero: Mark Darcy

Rogue: Daniel Cleaver

So yeah. Chick-lit's fine and all. I'm not saying I've never read it because I have and if you read my monthly book reports, you'll know that I have. I read a lot of Elizabeth Chadwick who is a historical romance writer and while her heroine and hero rarely have cute meets, they still follow the same pattern as other chick-lit. Here's the list from my most read Chadwick novel, The Love Knot:

Heroine: Catrin

Hero: Oliver

Rogue: Lewis/Louis

Catrin and Oliver meet and fall in love but are untimely separated by the return of Lewis/Louis, Catrin's husband (who was thought to be dead...awkward!). Eventually, Catrin realizes that Lewis/Louis is a prick and leaves him to go back to Oliver. And, as soon as they survive the Stephen/Mathilda civil war thing, they live happily ever after.

I mock large parts of that book too. Elizabeth Chadwick, for me, is what Danielle Steel or Nora Roberts is to others. And I know there are some people out there who love Jane Austen. They find her to be delightful and quaint and comforting and whatever.

But I'm not one of them.

I liked Jane Eyre. I mostly liked Wuthering Heights. I like the Brontë sisters. Well, I haven't read anything by Anne, but I'm sure she was delightful too.

I just don't care for Jane Austen. Or, at the very least, her books.

I do have to admit I am looking forward to reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Jane is listed as a co-writer, along with Seth Grahame-Smith. So, I guess there's always hope I might end up a quasi Austen fan in the end.

Or not.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Well, I Guess That's That.

So, you remember how last week I was like "Oh, woe is me. My iPod is full and I can't decide what to take out"? Turns out, I didn't need to worry about it because today I plugged it into the computer so I could listen to it while I worked and WHAM. iTunes is telling me that my iPod is suddenly unreadable which means I have to reset the settings or whatever and all of my data will be erased.

Frakking Technology, how I hate thee.