Saturday, December 1, 2012

Of Fickle Muses and NaNoWriMo

I've always been a genius at coming up with logical-sounding excuses. This is a decent skill to have when one is an attorney by trade and a serial procrastinator as a side endeavor. However, these past few months, I’d been focusing my talents on laying out all the excuses for why I have made no effort to flex my creative muscles and write something new.

"I work. And when I come home, I'm tired. And on the weekends, I have errands and I don't really feel like doing anything. And I dunno, maybe I'm just out of stories. I don't feel moved to write anything, so whatever I did write would just be 'blah blah' awfulness."

And everyone always nodded and agreed with me that these were good reasons. I was acquitted of the charge of being creatively lazy by a jury of my peers, so I felt justified in continuing to let my keyboard keys go cold. 

Honestly, what impresses people the most is my professional set up.
That and the free lemonade with purchase of a will.

Original image found here.

Except... I used to love it. When I was younger, it wasn't something I tried to talk my way out of like a kid trying to fake sick on a school day. It was what I did for fun. It was what I stayed home from school for! Honestly, I had felt that way until not that long ago. And then the excuses started falling out of my mouth and I started calling in sick to writing.

It is true that taking a day off can have fabulous results.
However, I suspect "Ferris Bueller's Three Years of Hooky"
 would have lacked the same hilarity.

Original image found here.

When NaNoWriMo rolled around this year, it was something I'd heard of and always wanted to try. And I admitted to myself that I hated that writing had stopped being such a big part of my life and had just become a dream I had when I had more time to care about such things. Something had to be done. Maybe NaNo was that something. A jumpstart for the dead battery of my writing life.

However, I was highly skeptical about the whole concept. I had always been a firm believer in writing in those fevered moments of inspiration where you can't type fast enough to keep up with the words spilling out of your brain. I didn't feel like such moments could be forced, and that what happened when you just wrote to keep writing was that your misguided stumbling landed you into a corner and you ended up deeding another story to the graveyard file. I’ve always needed to see where I was going clearly. I need those flashes where it's like someone lit a match in the dark room of my mind and suddenly, I could see everything the way it was meant to be.

On a good muse day, I can write ALL OF THE WORDS.

Original image found here.

But I also had to admit that this hadn't happened in a long, long, long time. And that a lot of my stories had gone cold when the initial fevered sweat of inspiration ran out and never came back. I just ended up discarding them and started anew when the next lightning bolt struck. The result was that I had actually finished few things, edited even fewer properly, and ended up with only one finished, publishable novel out of the dozens hibernating on my computer or in the Tupperware drawer of old manuscripts under my bed. Over two decades of letting my muse call the shots was availing me naught.

So I rolled the dice. On November 1st, I opened up a blank document and started typing. And typed more every night of November, no matter how little I had to say. I typed until 2 am on a work night and went in the next day dragging ass. I typed over holiday visits with my family on nights when I was so run down from darting from one gathering to the next that all I wanted to do was sleep. I wrote through my favorite TV shows (thank God for DVR, though) and through social events I could have attended and through nights when I was so exhausted I didn't even know how to spell anymore. Sometimes, I didn't even have much to show for it. Sometimes, was leaked onto my page was utter drek that got smacked down by the strikethrough button faster than you can say, "purple prose." And sometimes, I didn't even make my word count, no matter how hard I tried.

The NaNoWriMo word count at work.

Original image found  here

But over the course of sweating over my keyboard day in and day out, no matter what, it was like someone was turning lights on inside me until I was lit up like a Christmas tree. I went through the days, those hours between bouts of writing, feeling so tired that I didn't know my own name and so filled with joy that names and other such minutia seemed unimportant.

I'm not going to lie and say it's easy, or that it will always work out that way for anyone else who's struggling with being in a writing rut. It's been a hard knock life throughout the month of November, and I've had my share of complaints. (See my Tweet feed for details.) But I learned a few lessons that I like to hope will stick with me. At least until next year’s NaNo.

I learned that having to sit down and bang out 1667 words a night whether I was feeling blessed by the muses or not gave me panic attacks and sometimes resulted in directionless drivel.

I also learned that sometimes, the mere exercise of forcing my fingers to the keys resulted in my typing some unexpected detail that gave birth to an entire plot sequence, unlocking the new several scenes like a quest item in a video game.

I also level up with every 10,000 words. True story.

Original image found here.

I learned that, just like walking a little farther every day had given me ever-increasing endurance such that my leg muscles can now carry me over any distance, the more I exercised my plot brain, the more easily it brimmed over with new ideas. In fact, at this point, I can't shut the damn thing off. I've had to start carrying my notebook again and occasionally texting myself notes or voice recording snippets on my cell.

I learned that there were others just like me with key-shaped imprints on their foreheads from banging their heads on their laptops in moments of NaNo-induced woe. But we cheered each other on, and urged each other to finish. And I realized that even in NaNoless times, that same support was available to keep me plugging away when I was being tormented by blank pages or go-nowhere subplots.

I also learned, all over again, that I love writing. Love it like I love a warm summer day at the beach with the sea breeze tousling my hair and the sand tickling my toes. Like I love reading a good book while draped in an arm chair at a bookstore sipping some chocolaty caffeinated pseudo-milkshake. I loved writing as the best part of who I am and what I do, something that makes me feel like, even if there’s a million people out there doing exactly what I’m doing, I still have something special to contribute to the world. And I realized that no matter how busy I get, giving that up would be absolute madness.

This about sums it up.

Original image found here.

I was also forced to recognize the truth I had known all along: novels aren't just written by millionaire playboys and starlets with ghost writers. I suppose that happens on occasion, but more often than not, novelists start out as people with day jobs and bills and spouses and children and responsibilities. They had to beg, borrow, and steal all the time they put into their dream, just like I did. But in the end, the most amazing thing happened: their stories got told.

Just like my story is getting told now. My novel isn't over yet. Being in the epic vein, it’s still got a few K to go before all the loose ends tie together and I can sit back and contemplate the joys of the editing process. But it's a lot closer than it was before because I made time for that to happen, and I put the effort in whether I was feeling like it or not. And now I know what I have to do to make it the rest of the way there. 

No more excuses.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Dixon Fairy

Legend has it, if you're a good little fangirl and you eat all your squirrel sushi and send lots of lovey tweets and/or care packages to Norman and Michael, the Dixon Fairy will come and leave sexy Dixon pictures under your pillow...


BACKSTORY: The Dixon Fairy is the product of a conversation with a fellow Vixen who had a hard time tracking down a copy of the Entertainment Weekly with the Dixon brothers on the cover. It just so happened that I had an extra, so I mailed it to her. Somehow or another, this turned into daydreams of a motorcycle-riding redneck fairy with a bottle of Jack Daniels and a bag full of treats.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Gleeful Days Are Here Again

The last season of Glee did not fill me with the emotion that the title promised. It was hard to put my finger on exactly what wasn't working for me. The best I can figure is that after two stellar seasons that smartly balanced the chuckles and the drama, able to sing out with feel-good bubbliness in one moment and lament as melodiously as Billie Holiday the next, the third season started to feel like it was playing to the audience too much. The laughs felt forced, the plotlines lacked conviction, and the twists were painfully predictable. (Yes, we knew they would win at nationals before the seniors graduated and that Finchel wouldn't continue on with our boy keeping house for his happy starlet. Cause Glee may not always nail it, but the writers are not brain dead.)

They did throw in a Christmas wookie, though. If that's not a ratings saver, I don't know what is.

Original image found here.

After the airing of "The New Rachel" last night, this season smells vaguely of redemption (perhaps with an undercurrent of teen spirit). It's not flawless, mind. There's a little been-there-done-that to some of the plotlines we've seen so far, such as the group losing sight of their policy of acceptance for all due to competitiveness and a yearning for popularity. Not only has this idea surfaced before, but in this episode, it wrapped up almost faster than one could recognize it. It might have been intriguing to see the Dark Side of the Glee club for a change (in fact, I'd pay good money to see a little Darth Britney), but it would have ultimately felt wrong to see our sweet and scrappy underdogs going all "Mean Girls." So discarding this notion was probably smart. 

The Glee Club: Give us your tired, your nerdy, your out-and-proud gay men yearning to be free.

Original image found here.

And Puckerman the sequel worries me. Don't tell me he's going to start out as a bad seed and learn the value of friendship through membership in the glee club, because I can already see that coming from a mile away. Then, all that will separate Jake Puckerman from his brother, Noah, will be the impregnation of a cheerleader and a subsequent lust for larger ladies. As for our singing Pollyanna, Marley, the offspring of the much-derided lunch lady, she concerns me as well. She's somewhat charming in an overwrought Oliver Twist kind of way right now, but she's going to need to develop some complexity to avoid being as two-dimensional as a Disney princess.

Want to hear a new level of wardrobe fail? Our musical pauper is 
depicted as wearing a thrift store sweater that her mom sewed a 
J. Crew label in to make her cheap-o duds look cool. When I moused 
over this image on the original siteit gave me the option to shop the look. 
Turns out, this is a $168 Marc Jacobs sweaterReally, wardrobe person?
 REALLY?! There goes authenticity.

However, what thrilled me to no end was how well Glee incorporated our recent grads. I smelled doom when most of characters who made life at McKinley High seem worthwhile moved on, leaving behind newbies and a few folks who made stellar supporting characters, but were questionable as leads. What reassured me and has me engrossed anew was the integration of plotlines for our favorite new New Yorker, Rachel Berry, and the man who brings style to lurking at the high school after graduation, Kurt Hummel. Those two, alone, make the whole show worthwhile. But it also gives me hope that they'll find a way to incorporate Puckerman (the elder) and Finn into the current plot, especially with Carbon Copy Jake now skulking around the high school. This will be absolutely necessary until Glee can deliver lead characters on par with Rachel, Finn, and Kurt and develop them enough to make us love them.

Concerned that the leftover gleesters can't carry the show? 
Never fear, Fancy Man is here! Look upon his cravat, ye mighty, and despair.

Original image found here.

And Kate Hudson. Kate Kate Kate. I had not been tracking the spoilers, darling, so it was a lovely surprise to see your unfairly gorgeous mug here. Kate Hudson as Rachel's dance teacher is the most delicious of bitches. She sets her sight on "Ms. David Schwimmer," as she keeps referring to Rachel, and seems determined to grind her under the heel of her tap shoes before the first semester is through. And yet, she's not so bad, as we see in her brief but supportive interaction with a TA who just landed his first Broadway role as a flying monkey in Wicked. Their conversation shows that this Grinch's heart may be two sizes too small, but it does exist, only perhaps it's a bit broken over her own lack of Broadway success. Her singing and dancing was divine, her performance quite capable, but this is a role that could also end up like a stock character from a thousand other stories. The broken, has-been alcoholic who scorns others out of pain is very well-traveled territory. I like where they're going with this so far, but Glee will need to watch its step to keep this character from becoming too cliche.

She's obviously a cold-hearted snake. Look into her eyes.

Original image.

With the dramatic reunion between Rachel and Kurt at the end of the episode, Glee leaves us with the hope of good things to come. Certainly, as discussed, there are some false notes and missteps, but the general theme remains one worth singing along to.

Are these musical puns doing it for you? Cause this last one will have you doing a...

Original image found here.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Quick and Dirty Update

If you saw the words "quick and dirty" in the title and you came here hoping for 50 Shades of Nerd...

She was a fragile geek with a passion for punctuation.
He was a handsome devil who put his commas where he pleased.
Bosoms heaved.
Conjugation ensued.

Original image found here.

...then prepare to be disappointed. It's not that kind of "quick and dirty" blog. Sheesh. People these days.

And nerdgirls everywhere heaved a heartfelt sigh, having gotten all amped up for the 
cos-play sex scenes and naughty calculus.

Original image found here.

Ahem. The upshot of this blog is that I feel that I've been derelict in my duties here, having absented myself to the "real world"  to prepare for Dragon*Con next weekend, so I wanted to pop in for a minute or two and just give up two brief updates on the world of TV. Specifically, I wanted to tell you, past the lump in my throat, and with a gleaming tear in my eye: "I was wrong." *swallow* *glittering tear slides down cheek*

In my TV reviews, I can occasionally judge too harshly and too quickly. On two shows in particular, I am preparing to eat crow. Lots and lots of nummy crow. 

1) The Grimm Reversal

"That Lady in Black is one baaaaad mother"
"Shut your mouth!"
"I'm just talkin' bout Nick's mom!"

Original image found here.

Not so very long ago, in a blog entry not so far away, I lamented the failure of "Grimm" to choose a conceptual direction and stick with it, and to depict our hero as anything but a normie with some books. These things are still true. However, even with these flaws, these first episodes of season 2 hit me like a tidal wave of awesome. To kick off the show's sophomore year, the woman in black's secret is revealed: she's Nick's mom, not quite dead yet after all. And oh, by the way, she's a lean, mean, ass-kicking machine that makes you pity the PTA who didn't vote her way back in her more traditional mommying days. The dialogue has improved, the pace has picked up, and the ongoing plot-lines are beginning to stretch cohesively from one episode to the next. Aside from the end, which saw Nick fighting a sabertoothed Thundercat (not exactly the most awe-inspiring bad guy we've ever seen), this new season looks sharper, slicker, and full of promise. I can't even begin to go into episode 2, because the plot twists and further badassery will blow your mind.

Quick, Liono, use the Eye of Thundera to stop him!

Original image found here.

So insofar as I indicated in the past that "Grimm" was a lame duck, I must humbly admit my folly. All the promise I saw in the very first episode that made my hopes for this show shoot so high is back again, tantalizing me with the notion that "Grimm" may yet live up to its potential. So stay tuned in and let's see if greatness happens, shall we?

2) Fanged Flip-flop

"Why can't you just threaten my boyfriends with a shotgun like 
a normal dad?"

Original image found here.

The other mea culpa I must deliver isn't 100% certain yet, but there's definitely a possibility that season 5 of "True Blood" is going to go down swinging after all. If you'll recall, I wrote a somewhat lengthy dissertation about what a hot mess "True Blood" was becoming and what needed to be fixed to keep it from derailing completely. Then, this past Sunday, "Sunset" aired, our second to last ep of the season. While some of the problems I mentioned remain unsolved, this show has also suddenly picked up the pace, reengaged, and started running, full-throttle, towards season five's finish line full steam ahead.  Evil Bill still bothers me. However, Evil Bill's delegating to Jessica the task of turning Jason Stackhouse into her vampire progeny to punish her for her attempt to trick him was just delightful. Plus, in the ensuing action, as Jessica tries to razzle-dazzle her way past her guards and save Jason from becoming a permanent member of the night shift,  their charming interaction ended with a line from Jessica that had me nearly weeping bloody tears, myself. Then Jessica went to hide out at Fangtasia, having defied Pops for the love of a hottie in uniform. (Who hasn't?) This reunited the baby vamp club, Tara and Jess, and had them gossiping on their coffins and bonding into BFFs as I'd hoped they might in my giddiest dreams. Pam, of course, was resplendent in the ebbs and flows of bitchdom, one minute snapping at her fledglings, another laying some grudging wisdom on them, and then, in the ultimate show that underneath that fashionable leather bustier beats a heart of gold, she sacrificed herself to the Authority to keep them from taking Tara in for Sheriff Criss Angel's death. And lastly, the fairies also saw a spike in the level of awesome in their plotline, with a Fae Elder introduced who really digs pop music on multiple cosmic levels. This plot-line ended with a showdown brewing between Russell Edgington and a whole nightclub of burlesque fairies waiting to put on a strip laser-light show of doom in defense of their right to be bloodsucker-free. Suddenly, things aren't looking so bad here, after all. 

Now you're just some Elder that we used to know...

Original image found here.

I'm still tired of seeing Lilith's rack and wondering why a goddess can't seem to find a decent bikini waxer. And I'm  not wholly sold on Nora, although her insane love for Eric is somewhat entertaining. But I actually think that season 5 may yet leave me a contented Trubie, nonetheless. 

"Hey, I have a plot, here, too!"
Ssshhhh, Alcide. Go back to digging shirtless while
glistening with manly sweat. There's no need for plot here...

Original image found here.

So, there you go. When I'm wrong, I (almost, and with only a few qualifications) say I'm wrong. And I was (kind of) wrong about both shows. I look forward to seeing what "Grimm" has in store for us, and if "True Blood" is ready to really bring down the house in its finale. And if, perhaps, I've judged them harshly, it's only because I care so very much. Like a teacher with two precocious, if wayward pupils, I am pleased as punch to see them both succeeding, and look forward to cheering them on as they excel. 

But if they start to suck again... *twitches fingers over keyboard* ... I'll be waiting! 


Original image found here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Of Men and Peanut Butter

Sometime before I moved from Fort Lauderdale, I started working on yet another novel. In my lifetime, I've started dozens, and I've finished four. The first one was abysmal, good for little more than an object to prop under a broken table leg to keep it steady. The second and third showed promise, with a few shining ideas and interesting characters, but everything good about them had gotten hopelessly entangled in overwrought descriptions and far too many subplots for comfort. These, I would need to come back years later, when I had far more strength of will to rebuild and restructure than I do now. The fourth and last novel was actually pretty sound on all fronts, but because I'd been staring at it for 10 years of my life, I needed a second opinion. I'm in the process of obtaining such a second opinion from 10 other people in the form of 10 friendly neighborhood beta readers. But in the meantime, I didn't know how to live my life without telling stories.

This newest tale came bubbling out of my brain one evening when I had absolutely no time to entertain it. But I couldn't help myself. It's like it was spilling out of my ears and running across my floor to soak into my carpet, and if I didn't try to collect it on the page, I'd lose it forever. So despite having to get up and go to work early the next morning with absolutely no time to indulge in random acts of writing, I sat down at my computer and let my fingers go dancing and kerplunking across my keyboard. A whole world began to form. I filled it with people I suddenly cared about quite fiercely, and words that alternately amused and upset me. As it came together, I realized that it was a story I was excited to tell, because it felt unexpected and unique. Even if I wasn't the first person to think of all of the elements I was employing, I felt like maybe I was the first one to combine them together this way, and that felt utterly thrilling. For many nights after that one, I worked on the novel like a woman possessed, just burning with ideas. Then, sometime after I made the move up-state to Tallahassee, I sputtered to a halt and could write no more.

It didn't make sense for me to flail ineffectually upon reaching this portion of the story. This is the part I'd been waiting for. Every moment, every plot twist, every line of dialogue had just been a step I had to take to lead me here, finally, to the introduction of this character I'd become almost smitten with in the course of dreaming him up. And now that I finally led my heroine into his part of the world, I didn't know how to introduce him, or what to say about him when I did.

I stopped writing on the novel for a while and worked on other things. From time to time, I'd come back and sit down in front of the computer, calling up the Word document where my new character was waiting just off-set for his cue. Ultimately, I'd end up going back and re-reading what came before, monkeying with some descriptions and giving some unnecessary adverbs the quick and brutal death they deserved. But I made not a letter's worth of progress towards my guy coming onto the scene. Something about this character had rendered me speechless.

I ended up getting to the point where thinking about trying to conjure him up made me feel vaguely nauseated. My head pulsated with the memory of how much I'd wanted him to come into being, and my stomach ached with the guilt of having abandoned all efforts to make it happen. The only thing I can really compare it to, strangely enough, is that feeling I used to get in high school when, after having idealized some poor, unsuspecting heartthrob past the point of being a plausible human being, I could no longer bear the notion of trying to approach him and interact with him like he was just an average guy who ate, slept, farted, and changed his clothes. I can't tell you now if that's because I no longer knew how to see the boy through all the myths I'd created around him or if I just didn't want to anymore, but I suppose that's irrelevant to the matter at hand. All that mattered was that my fictional character was as unattainable as the guy with the blazingly azure eyes in my Physics class who had scant knowledge of my existence.

Long after I had gone through all of the stages of grief over this failing and finally arrived at acceptance, I hit upon the answer. At the time, I was reading American Gods in my bathtub, draped over the rim with a highlighter cap in my mouth while I marked through the most intriguing bits in bright gold. Every now and then, I traded the highlighter for a pen, marking down observations in the margins that were alternatively keenly analytical and just plain silly.

Around page 50, I got hung up on how Shadow's character had been revealed. I flipped back through the pages, admiring how every detail spoke volumes about this man, whereas a lengthy exposition trying to concisely describe his existence upfront would have lacked the same effectiveness. He wasn't explained, he just was. I really felt like Neil Gaiman knew this character. Thought his thoughts. Knew what he smelled like, how he cut his hair, and what his favorite TV show was when he was a kid. Sensed him in a way that was far more telling than a recitation of objective historical facts could be. And because Neil Gaiman knew his character so intimately, I felt like I did. This was someone whose fate I was keenly invested in, a mere 50 pages into the book. I was worried about him, upset for him, and admired him by turns. Even having read his story once before, I was caught up in his life all over again and fretting like I had no clue what was to come. And it occurred to me that this was the kind of character I wanted to write. This was the only way I could write the man I'd dreamed up for my own book and feel like I'd done justice to the idea of him nestled inside my head.

The answer was so obvious that I would've never thought of it without help, because that's how these things work. I needed to know my character like Neil Gaiman knew Shadow Moon. Shadow hadn't been scattered, willy-nilly, across a page in the hopes that he would make sense to someone someday. The details that made him believable had been spread out through the chapters with the deliberate care of a man spreading peanut butter across the crunchy surface of his toast. No globs and splatters. He'd been revealed to us slowly and carefully: the words that resonated in his mind, the memories that made him happy, his mannerisms when he was concerned, his precise handwriting and his cautious reactions to things that might make another man exclaim and react impulsively. Whether Gaiman plotted him out in advance or his clever brain just happens to work that way, he wove an intricate and subtle image through the pages of the book that made Shadow seem so real that I had to keep reading about him long after my bathwater went tepid and my fingers and toes had became hideously pruny.

So before I sit down again and start stabbing at keys on my laptop, trying to force my character into existence prematurely, I'm going to take him to lunch. Not literally, mind. I'm not that crazy. Yet. One day this week, I'm going to take my moleskin somewhere peaceful during my lunch break and I'm going to write about him until I know him well enough to make him live in my story instead of just existing as a prop for the main character to interact with. Chances are, I won't actually write anything that will make its way into the finished product, but whatever scene or story or details that feel authentic to me when I consider who and what he is. It could be that I'll pen out his family history, or about how he copes with an upsetting event in his life, or how he interacted with other children when he was a boy. It might be something that can be woven into the novel, it might not be, but the bottom line is, it just has to be something that makes him real to me. Because ideas are a fine thing, but people are much more interesting. And whereas some characters just spring into existence, fully-formed, as if they've just been waiting for you to notice them, sometimes the really special ones take a little more care.

Hopefully, if I show my character that I care, he'll take that cautious step into the scene I've set up for him. And my fingers will once again find their rhythm on the keys.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Let Your Pun Monkey Be Your Guide

Somehow or another, my buddy, Sabrina, a.k.a. @sabrinalibrary, and I ended up having this ongoing joke about the Typo Demon who ruins one's texts and Tweets and such and the pun monkeys who dance enthusiastically when one tells amusing but slightly terrible jokes. That joke inspired the following drawing, as I mulled over the warring influences battling for preeminence in my Tweets.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Trouble with True Blood

It goes without saying that this  blog entry is going to contain spoilers. I'll say it anyway just to avoid making an ass out of you and me about whether or not you realize that. So if you're not caught up on season 5 of "True Blood," all the way up to the episode entitled, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," then TURN BACK BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!!!!!!!! Otherwise, carry on.

Do not meddle in the blogs of nerdgirls, for they are unsubtle and quick to spoil you.

Original image found here.



With three episodes left in this season of "True Blood," I'm noticing that the word on the Tweet is that my Trubies aren't quite pleased with how this season has turned out so far. This is a sentiment I tend to share. Don't get me wrong, it's still one of the better shows on TV, but it lacks a certain... bite. So after giving it some serious thought, I'm going to review the strengths and weaknesses of season 5, and what I think it's going to take in these last episodes to end on a high note. 

Let's start with what went wrong, because that's always more fun.


I'm sorry, did we accidentally stumble into a meeting of the vampire PTA?

Original image found here.

This season finally unmasked the previously mysterious, faceless vampire entity, the Authority. And much like  a newly sober individual staring into the face of their drunken Halloween hook-up from the night before, one can't help but scream, "Aaaahhh, put the mask back on, put the mask back on!" It turns out that the intimidating, powerful political force which has been causing even the unflappable bad boy, Eric Northman, twinges of well-coiffed fear is apparently made up of a vampire Detective Stabler, Barb from "Cougar Town," and a little kid who puts me in mind of MacCauly Culkin, circa "Home Alone." There are others, but that line-up right there is enough to knock them off their spooky pedestal. 

Now, you put Vampire Cartman in charge and that's a show I'd watch all damn day.

Original image found here.

The biggest disappointment here was Christopher Meloni as the head of the Authority. Christopher Meloni is fantastic on "Law and Order: SVU." It's like he was genetically engineered to play the part of burly, brooding, down-to-earth Detective Elliot Stabler. But the very traits that work fantastically for an Irish Catholic cop with an aggressive streak seem anathema to all things vampire. This man has the face, body, and demeanor of the quintessential human beefcake. He's the quarterback of the football team, the fireman saving a baby from a burning building, or the blue collar working stiff shuffling home from the construction site. He doesn't have an ounce of spooky slink in that hulking frame, and that blocky head of his has no business wielding a set of fangs. You can dress the man up in as many pricey suits as you like, but he has none of the supernatural finesse we've come to expect in our more impressive vampires.

"Don't hate me because I'm beautiful. Hate me because I'm an insufferably dull vampire politician."

Original image found here

But the epic fail that is the Vampire Authority is not all Meloni's fault. Sure, his political proselytizing is like a tranquilizer dart to the soul, but this whole plot reeked of lame from the moment it first began. The political in-fighting among the vampires was about as interesting as a Smurf quarrel over who's the bluest. It turns out that when you mix two polarizing topics like religion and politics into a show involving werewolves and vampires with too much of a heavy hand, it becomes more an exercise in torment than taboo. The plots, the factions, the twists... it's too difficult to take seriously when it's all coming from a nefarious organization that's more of a ragtag vampire GOP rather than the Illuminati-type organization wielding subtle yet pervasive world-wide influence that I'd been picturing up to this point. And without imposing ringleaders who can really bring home the import of the rival messages of the mainstreamers and the sanguinistas, it all just ends up being background chatter you have to sit through until you get to see Alcide shirtless again. What would they do without Joe Manganiello's six-pack to keep us from turning the channel?

Let's all just take a moment to enjoy the irony of Reverend Newlin's lost "reflections."

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It's not completely without hope. We know religious fanatics can be terribly good fun- our friend Reverend Steve Newlin circa season two provides an excellent illustration of that point. But then, the old glory days of the Fellowship of the Sun also serve to illustrate that True Blood's strength doesn't necessarily lie in drama, but rather in its quirky sense of humor and parody. Whereas Newlin was a riff on all the hypocritical hugs-and-Hellfire preachers that have gone strutting across your TV screen asking you to donate now to their worthy cause, the sanguinista movement is this very serious, weighty cause for which folks like Nora, Eric's "sister," are prepared to meet the true death. And that's just a whole lot less entertaining. Especially when Nora's just annoying enough that one rather hopes she gets that martyrdom she's been so looking forward to before she can babble zealotry at us again. True, the sanguinista movement doesn't have to take a comic approach to accomplish its goals, but it needs to find an approach that is at least as compelling. Make me laugh, make me frightened, make me concerned, but please, please, stop making me bored.

"I believe things about stuff between bouts of screwing a guy I call my 'brother.' What's not to love?"

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The members of the Authority are not completely devoid of potential. Salome showed some early signs of being a promising character, what with her "I wasn't bad, I was just misunderstood back when I asked for a man's head on a platter" story. Putting a vampire twist on history and legend has been an excellent approach for shows like "True Blood," and this is an intriguing example of this principle. But nothing she's done since has been as compelling. She appears to have been involved in the liberation of Russell Edgington, which is, I guess, something one could do if one was bored and willing to dig up asphalt. However, what she's actually trying to accomplish remains a bit fuzzy around the edges. So she wants to promote the word of Lilith and torpedo all the mainstreaming "let's all be kind to humans" propaganda. This seems like a dubious goal, as the mainstreamers seem to have the better idea, promoting harmony with their food source and feasting freely if illicitly under the table on willing victims. By comparison, freaking out humanity and possibly stirring up some kind of inter-species war seems like a pretty strange plan. 

Plus, Salome's weird religious machinations would also be a lot more intriguing if she took some kind of action that did justice to this cunning puppetmaster persona they've been trying to give her. Thus far, she's just kind of slinked and purred and slept around. I know girls just wanna have fun, but girls who seem to want to fill the world with vampire religion need to do a little more, and do it more cleverly. I haven't given up hope for her yet, but she's going to need to accomplish something by a device other than toplessness and sex if she's going to be a villain you can actually take seriously. And maybe, just maybe, she might need to explain why the hell we need a high body count and a public show of aggression to  feed upon humankind when being surreptitous seems just as effective.

Salome: about as subtle as a naked chick lounging seductively on a bed can be.

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Bad-boy Bill also needs to go. Bill makes for a convincing doe-eyed lover, a brooding Boy Scout, and a  fetching father figure for Jessica. But he is not much of a bad guy. We're too familiar with Bill as our moral compass to get comfortable with the notion that he'd throw it all away in some kind of weird, Lilith's blood-induced existential crisis. Ruthless is simply not a good color on him, at least not for continuous wear. I like to see little flashes of inhumanity in Bill, because it drives home why he and Sookie can never work; however much he may want to be human, he most certainly is not, no matter how hard he tries to fight his vampire instincts. But making him a permanent fixture on the Dark Side is kind of like making Harry Potter a Death Eater. It's just uncomfortable, unlikely, and uncalled for. 

You know, Bill, when most people get rejected by an ex, they eat ice cream and watch sappy movies. 
They don't eat young mothers and bomb factories.

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And Lilith. Oh, Lilith. I don't really know what you're about, but I'm tired of seeing your rack. Be more menacing. Be a compelling villain. Or at least be in a kimono, for the love of Bob. But be something other than a nude hallucination that makes fierce vamps into weird bloodthirtsy acid-freaks.

Boy, are those vampires gonna be mad when they find out she's just a 
stripper covered in strawberry sauce...

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THE VERDICT AT THIS POINT: Vampire Stabler is gone, may he rest in gooey pieces, but Bad-boy Bill and Nutty Nora remain. At this stage, Bill's new Vader-face needs to be serving some kind of "take 'em down from the inside" purpose that we just haven't seen yet so that our former romantic hero isn't getting dirtied up for no reason. Nora needs to take a trip to the beach around midday and poof out of our lives. And Salome needs to learn to hatch cunning plots with her brains and not her pelvic area. Last of all, Bloody Boobs McGee (a.k.a. "Lilith") needs to become interesting or go the way of myspace and gracefully fade from our awareness.


"So I had the craziest dream about you, me, and Eric..." *awkward laughter* 
"That's, um, not something you might consider, is it?"

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When the show began, it was driven by and hooked its audience with the desperate yet impossible love between Sookie and Bill. In some ways, they were beautifully suited to one another- she's tired of knowing what's on everybody's mind and his can't be read- and we clasped out hands through all their trials and tribulations and hoped those two crazy kids would work things out. Then, failing that, Amnesiac Eric entered the picture. Rendered temporarily into a doe-eyed waif where we're used to seeing a sneering badass, he stole our Sookie's plucky little heart and our hearts along with it. Now that Eric's back to borderline villainous normality and Bill has rendered himself persona non grata at Casa Sook, we're left romantically starved with no comparable substitute in sight. It's like gorging on hotcakes for four seasons and then being handed a bowl of salad. Um, WTF? Where's my sweet, carby goodness?

"Mmm, that's some good romance. Nom nom nom."

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For a (really) hot minute, it seemed like Alcide could've been a contender. Not only does he look ripped from the cover of a romance novel in all his shaggy-haired, rippling muscled-glory, but his valiant, noble, good-guy character is just what the doctor ordered in a romantic lead after wanna-be do-gooders with unfortunate violent tendencies and cold-eyed creeps who are only sweet when they're cursed and concussed. When he and Sookie ended one episode in a passionate embrace and began the next heading upstairs to the bedroom, all of our hearts went pitter-patter and as we clasped our hands to our heaving bosoms and mentally pasted our faces over Sookie's, smelling fresh romance a-brewing. And then, Sookie pukes on his shoes and Alcide suddenly forgets he was ever attracted to her. In some ways, who can blame him? Still, a little vomit on the shoes isn't exactly an insurmountable obstacle. Yet, it seems like within minutes of him confessing that bedding Sookie is all he's been wanting to do for a long, long time, he's gone back to his old pack and found himself a nice trashy werewolf girl. Because we all know how well that's worked out for him in the past. 

Alcide Herveaux: Turn-ons include plucky mind-readers and 
drug addicts in shorty-shorts. Turn-offs: vomit.

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This leaves us with an unfilled void, romantically speaking. If the intent of the show was to build up and then put obstacles between Sookie and her new impossible love, Alcide, there's an element of fail here. The fondness and sexual tension wasn't built up enough to drive home a sense of passionate yearning between these two before he went AWOL again. At this point, their one near-tryst just feels like a drunken hook-up gone bad. We have some mild sparkage and the faintest inkling that these two might gel, but not enough to sustain us while Alcide pole-vaults into a distant wolfy subplot and leaves Sookie with no one to pine for. 

Well, Sook, it looks like you won't be needing this this season...

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Bereft of a love interest, Sookie does what any girl would do: she bitches about having lightning hands and occasionally hangs out with Claude and the Claudettes, trying to Scooby Doo her way through the mystery of her parents' murder. When she goes too far off the deep end- such as when she tries to drain her fae battery of juice so that she can just be a normal girl- luckily she has Jason to come and talk some sense into her. And the wrongness of this plotline is truly and completely driven home by the latter half of that sentence. Jason has to talk sense into her. I know. I'm scared, too.

The doctor is in. And yes, he's shirtless.

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THE VERDICT: There's really no help for this season now on the romance front. If Alcide abruptly flakes out on his new wolf lady because he suddenly remembers he was in love with Sookie, we're not gonna really want him to have her, now are we? And Bill and Eric have their own bromance to work through right now and absolutely no time for Sookie's nonsense. Hoyt and Jess are broken up and things are a little weird between Jess and Jason after that whole "he shot me in the head" thing. So it looks like everybody in Bon Temps  is going to be ending this season feeling kinda lonely.But maybe, just maybe, they'll set us up a glimmer of hope for next season... Given that Sookie has a knack for pulling Bill back from the edge, maybe she can end up in jeopardy and make Bill realize that he wants to be an OK guy again, perhaps? Then we're killing two sucky plot birds with one sexy stone. And in season six, we can look forward to feasting on the hotcakes of love once more.


Now you've done it, Terry. You've pissed off a Balrog. Well done, jackass.

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Terry. Terry, Terry, Terry, Terry. So you shot a Middle Eastern woman a few years back and ended up riddled with guilt and a curse of death-by-ifrit. Buy some flame-retardant clothing, holster a fire extinguisher, and go back to being quietly weird and occasionally charming in the background. Now is not your time to shine. This plot and everything it embraces comes off as hokey and uninteresting. The only good thing about it is that it appears to be over. And all the villagers rejoice, especially now that your trigger-happy buddies aren't around anymore to shoot them for it.

No need for a verdict on this one. There was no upside, because this just wasn't the kind of plot that really does sweet, kinda screwed-up Terry justice. Let's just find a better way to use him in the future, mm'kay?


Lest it be said that I've cast off my Merlotte's shirt and lost my faith in the show like some kind of fair-weather Trubie, I do feel compelled to point out that what went well this season went very well, and with more of the same, we can still end season five with a smile on our faces. In particular, the shining stars this season have been the nontraditional relationships blossoming in the background. Because where our leading ladies and gentlemen haven't really brought us any chemistry to write home about, some of the folks around the fringes are knocking it out of the park.  Let's review them, shall we?


Say, it's Vampire Barbie and her friend, Skipper! Victim Ken sold separately.

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From the moment Sookie and Lafayette looked at Pam over Tara's limp, bloodied body with their eyes filled with Puss-in-Boots-caliber soulful pleading, I felt my spidey senses tingling. Not because I sensed danger that merited donning spandex, but because I strongly suspected I was about to see something genius. Pam, all on her own, has been in rare form this season, drolly drawling, "Color me impressed, you guys know how to party" upon discovering the most recent massacre in Sookie's kitchen of death. When asked to be Tara's maker, she continued to verbally rock my world by explaining that, seeing as Tara lost half her head to a gunshot wound, "who's to say she won't come out of the grave all f**ktarded?" Then, as Sookie questioned her commitment to her unwanted role as maker based upon Pam's reluctance to spoon with Tara's corpse while they went underground for the night, Pam snapped back, "I am wearing a Wal-Mart sweatsuit for y'all. If that's not a demonstration of team spirit, I don't know what is." 

This prompted a momentary thought of, "Pam, will you marry me? I'm straight, alive, and not fictional, but I still feel like we can make this work..."

Given her background, this is still probably not the creepiest cuddlefest Pam's ever had.
Except maybe for the flowery sweats. That is just... unsettling...

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Since they came out of the ground and Tara got over her initial "feral" stage, Pam and Tara have firmly established themselves as the perfect vampire odd couple. Pam is the sassy, queen bitch Obi-wan to Tara's pouty and annoying Anakin Skywalker, only I have a lot more hope for Tara growing a spine and ending the "why is everybody so mean to me" routine than I ever had for the Anakin of the prequels. Meanwhile, we're also getting a deeper insight into Pam's background and motivation. She's not just spiked heels, a Southern drawl, and feisty badassery. She has feelings, too. And because her internal struggle over her relationship with Eric and its effect on her feelings about being Tara's maker are so well-written and wonderfully acted, we actually care that Pam has feelings. Enjoy it even. If this is any indication of what this maker-makee bond is going to bring out in each character, then this, alone, may justify having to sit through the Authority blah blah blah. 


"You really get me. I'm so gonna follow you on Twitter."

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Being a vampire not only improved Tara's sense of pluck, it also gave her a more intriguing social circle. Our exhibit A is her bond with Pam, but equally as fascinating is the newbie commiseration between Tara and Jess during "Let's Boot and Rally." They were like the Baby Vamp Club, which is kind of like the Babysitters Club with more violence and slightly less giggling. And hopefully without babies because... awwww. Their mutual reflection over how badass life as a vamp can be may have been tragically cut short by a flash of "bitch, don't be eating my ex-boyfriend" fury, but for a moment there, it was sheer magic. And who knows? Given their mutual delight in blood-drinking and flexing their supernatural muscles, maybe all they need to do to move past this little misunderstanding is to go out for a bite. Seeing Jess as a mentor of sorts has its appeal, and it's good to see Tara acknowledge that with great fangs comes great good fun. So please, "True Blood," don't let this be the end of this duo!


*singing* "Hoooow much is that werewolf in the window? WOOF WOOF!
 The one with the cranky ol' gran."

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Initially, I hated seeing Russell back. He served a purpose in the third season and was a sensational villain, but by the time he got sentenced to an asphalt nap by Bill and Eric, I was well and truly glad to be rid of him. His banter with the newly out n' undead Reverend Newlin, however, has breathed new life into his smarmy villain routine. Indeed, his courting gift of a werewolf puppy to his would-be squeeze took some of the annoying sting out of the scene in the last episode in which we witness packmaster J.D.'s sudden yet inevitable betrayal of Martha and his pack. (Cause nobody saw that coming, Martha, so who can blame you for backing this slack-jawed yokel over Alcide? Grrr... Bygones. Bygones.) Steve Newlin as a gay vampire is the bees knees, just oozing delightful, sunshine-and-rainbows-style evil, and Russell's more experienced, dangerous slink is just the right complement. One simply can't wait to see what these two marvelous monsters get up to next.


There's no "I" in "True Blood," but nonetheless, certain members of the "True Blood" team have risen to the forefront as individual standouts this season. There's probably no need to further discuss my regard for the wondrous Pam or my reverence for the Reverend Newlin, but lest I seem to have overlooked some of the other all-stars, I'm just going to give them a quick nod here.

Putting the "huh?" in "hunky" since 2008.

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I may have poked a little fun at our boy, Jason, earlier in the blog, but this has been a stellar season for the talented Mr. Stackhouse. Not only have his quotes rivaled Pam's for the status of "most likely to be put on a T-shirt", but his dawning self-awareness has given him more depth and relatability. Having been on a faltering journey of self-discovery since the beginning of season two, experimenting with religion, heroism, and being the caretaker for a pack of werepanthers, Mr. Stackhouse seems to be drawing closer to his destination. His growth along the way has been both convincing and endearing. At this point, Jason no longer does all of the foolish things Jason is naturally inclined to do without at least a thoughtful pause to wonder if it's the right thing or why he might be doing it. And his child-like valiance in the face of danger, even if occasionally misdirected or poorly executed, has made him one of the most likable characters on the show. He's come a long way from being a pretty but shallow slut-puppy who keeps stumbling into trouble. Now, even when he's engaging in dubious behavior, such as dalliances with his BFF's sexy ex, he does it with such helpless passion and soulful regret that you just can't be mad at him. Add in the fact that he's wearing that cop uniform like he's doing it a favor, and this is Jason's world and all the other characters are just living in it.


How does Lafayette stay so spunky? He starts his day with some sass in his glass!

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Lafayette has always been the droll voice of reason in a forest of crazy bitches. With his unmatched sense of style, mesmerizing self-confidence, and advanced level of swag, if you're watching the show and not loving him, then you're doing something wrong. 

In the middle of the season, Lafayette hit a weird patch with this whole dances with demons plot-line. However, now that he's stopped involuntarily turning into a blue Thundercat, he's back to being a whole heap of trouble and a mess of fun. His scenes with Holly and Arlene and then subsequently during the seance to contact Terry's deceased tormentor were absolutely genius, and more proof that Lafayette's sense of practicality and humor are firmly back in place. You understand, watching these episodes, how he's managed to survive so long living among so many weirdos. Lafayette looks after number one with all the grace and panache of a handsome stray, but keeps just enough compassion that it never gets to the point of unlikable selfishness. I hope to see him continue his trend of hilarity and confidence and end this season in style.


All in all, "True Blood" has had its misses this season, and there's definitely room for improvement in the plot that was placed on center stage. However, this has just given some of our supporting characters an opportunity to steal the show. Nonetheless, I'd dearly like to see our main characters get their shit together. Bill needs to peel off his villainous mustache and reclaim the role of moral compass from Eric. Eric needs to happily hand over that crown and go back to being the cold, badass Viking with just the faintest hint of a sweet, gooey center. And Sookie's whining is getting very, very old. Bad things happen to her a lot, I get it. It sucks to be a supe sometimes, I'm sure. But at some point, you either suck it up or you feed yourself to Russell and let everybody go on with their lives. Besides, it's not all bad. Every hot guy in Bon Temps loves him some Sookie, and having super powers seems like a bit of an advantage when your world is crawling with weres and vamps. In essence, more than anything, I'd like to see "True Blood" get back to its roots, giving our heroine more pluck and less waaa and reintroducing a strong romantic plot. When you combine that with the sheer awesomeness already coming from Pam, Jason, Lafayette, Steve Newlin and Russell, even if the Authority keeps weeble-wobbling in the background, the show will still be dynamite.