Constantine, Hellblazer and the Strange Relationship of the Written Word through Different Mediums

Constantine-no-smoking

Yeah, I could have said that a lot better, but you know, moving on…

As a kid I read a lot of Archie comics (don’t judge me!), quite a bit of Wonder Woman (I know I had a hard cover omnibus thing), some Supergirl (I’m thinking I picked that up at the teeny rabbit warren hole in the wall second hand bookshop I went to with my Dad every Saturday morning before Drama – that’s Drama as in acting, not Drama as in Joan Collins throwing a fit in exquisite feather outfits and diamonds. Lots and lots of diamonds), and a little Batgirl to spice it up.

But when I got out of my ‘comic’ phase as my mother called it (concerned I’d only ever read comics from then on in and my brain would turn to mush, mush I say!) I didn’t really read them anymore.

It wasn’t I didn’t want to, but while I enjoy a good Batman or Superman or X-man film, they aren’t the people I personally prefer to play with. So to speak. Archie, I like. Maybe it’s nostalgia (probably that!) but there happened to be a cast of characters and love triangles, and angst (okay, this is not really going anywhere. I write romance, okay? Of course little me liked Archie comics. Although, if I were Betty, I’d have dumped Archie and gone for the really hot guy that was totally into her in this one edition. Hell yes. Oh…I’m digressing again…) that kept me going. And I was reading books at the time, it’s just I read a lot. Also, I can get a bit obsessive if I like something. Which is good.

So it’s only in the past few years I’ve returned to the fold. Buffy and Angel. Neil Gaiman’s epic Sandman series of graphic novels. And then Hellblazer (and am reading Preacher).

I’ve enjoyed all the graphic novels I’ve read for varying reasons, but it all comes down to enjoyment, then wordplay, then quality of writing, then story. They are all closely linked.

Now, I find the world of the graphic novel/comic (choose your poisoned moniker there…) exceedingly interesting. Because it’s a hybrid between film and novel, except nothing moves, so you get snapshots. Golden moments in action (if the artist is good), almost like a silent film in reverse. If the silent film was on paper (oh, just go with it!). And things that move the story along. And make it shine.

But Hellblazer really interested me, not only because of the dark themes of the story told, and the cynicism of John, and how he’s willing to twist things, sacrifice people to meet the ends of the big game he’s made to play, but because of the devoted and, on some levels, rabid fanbase (hey, I’m an old school Doctor Who fan, so I do understand rabid. I’ve seen it.).

NBC made a series of it, watered it down quite a bit (according to many of the rabid..sorry, Hellblazers, but there’s really nothing wrong with being rabid as it often gets you things happening, just use it for the greater good, the way I use my evilness…fans commenting online), but what came out was something good, and that something simply got better. Even over a truncated season of 13 episodes, instead of the usual 22 (or is it 23?), they managed to give us something great, something we haven’t seen in a long time. And something that built and built. And when they used material from the comics…oh my.

I’m not one for these kind of things, but it delivered the ‘squee’ (note to self: never say that again.) time and again, and it was also a damn load of fun. Humour, darkness, easter eggs for fans – rabid and regular, and enjoyment for those who don’t know the books. And they’ve been building the darker, harder edge the entire time, too.

The thing is, when something is translated from book (even graphic novel, the little hybrid that could) to screen, things are lost in translation. They have to be. All the gorgeous, dense, almost poetic inner musings of John Constantine’s thoughts are lost, mostly, to the screen, because it’s visual, not internal. But when we read, we lust for the internal musings of the mind. When we watch something, well, not so much. Unless it’s Shakespeare.

On the whole, Modern audiences don’t want their characters to stop in the midst of something for a deep and meaningful soliloquy. Which is a shame, but there you go. So…things must shift and change. Dance a jig to fit into what the medium’s audience expects and still deliver something satisfying and, at times, surprising.

The change of mediums also demands the essence of the original remain, and here, they did right.

Matt Ryan looks the part of Constantine, and he brings much pathos to the role, along with all the under the surface stuff us sad writerly-types crave. Yes, I think he delivers all the stuff (as much as an actor can) that’s in the books but they can’t put in the show, without him sounding utterly stilted and ridiculous, or making the show basically continuously narrated by Constantine.

It’s that stuff, the way the words are chosen that make it into the adaptation, the way the actor interprets it and sells all the unsaid stuff, and the way it’s shot.

I think the show did that well. There are many that don’t get it. To negotiate the territory changes that come with a change in mediums.

So, here’s hoping for at least a season two. Something this fun and good deserves it. #saveconstantine.

Finalist in the Great Expectations Contest 2015 NTRWA

Finalist_Medallion_GreatExpectations_v1_2015

Yep, I’ve gone all Texas on y’all.

Okay, I’ll stop now.

So at the urging of one of my friends who’s a gifted writer (and egged on by another who’s ALSO a gifted writer) I entered my mansucript, The Trouble with Freddie (contemporary romance set in Melbourne with a lot of humour and a quirky heroine who’s lots of fun to write—and hopefully read) in the Great Expectations contest held by the North Texas Romance Writers of America chapter.

I did some super-speedy editing, bundled off the first 5,000 words and thought no more about it until the first friend IMd me with Congratulations fellow finalist! Checked my email and phone…there was the email letting me know from the contest coordinators, and a missed call from them, too.

The news has settled in, and I’ve smooshed together a synopsis (which won’t be judged, thank goodness, but it can stand as one for future submissions…well, when I say it can stand as one, I mean the basis of one) for Freddie and Mac’s story, made a few tweaks to the manuscript and now it’s off and about to be in the hands of an editor from Harlequin.

My life hasn’t changed in the wake of this news, but no matter what happens with the final round, it’s still nice to be able to state I’m a finalist on future cover letters.

So, many thanks to the judges who put time and effort and skill into reading it, judging it and marking it and offering advice. Much appreciated.

What We Do in the Shadows

Look, let’s get this out of the way up front: I’m not really obsessed with Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords. I just happen to like lots of things he’s in. Although he can be quite dishy.

Anyway, whilst on procrastination 4972445, I watched a very informative New Zealand documentary on vampire flatmates.

The film, What We Do in the Shadows, is very funny.

Done documentary style (and I believe  much of it was ad-libbed), follows the lives of four vampires, Deacon, the young wild vamp of the group, Viago, Vladislav and the 8,000 year old Petyr.

Things become more complicated when Petyr accidentally makes a new vampire, Nick, who joins their household. But Nick brings along his pre-deceased friend, Stu, who, though they all want to eat him (he’s so red!), they don’t because they really like him.

There are also zombies who make a brief appearance, and a pack of werewolves (we’re werewolves, not swearwolves).

Written by and starring Jemaine Clements and Taika Waititi, it’s definitely a film worth seeing. As I said, it’s very funny. Also very witty, and very sweet.

Yes, I said it. There’s a sweetness to it all. And, as a romance writer (or a writer) it’s a lovely little showcase of How It’s Done.

The film should really be fluff, but if it manages to get me to feel upset over the death of a character who never utters a word, then it’s doing its job. And, when the small love story thread running through it hits all the right spots, then I say wow. Go watch it.

(I was going to go all spoiler on you, but I’m not. Go see it when it comes out, or rent it on video. I mean, DVD. I mean watch it on Netflix or whatever the latest newfangled thing is to watch things on nowadays.)

late night rampages laced with regret

(for S&K)

Tonight, in the midst of real life romance story drama no one would believe if I wrote it (not me, not me. I just have the cat. He’s handsome, he’s shiny, but it’s not like that, people), I had a small epiphany (oh, great, and now Flight of the Conchords lyrics have invaded my brain. Thanks Jemaine. Thanks Bret. Thanks brain).

The small epiphany was about likes and dislikes and judgements on others.

Quality is one thing, but enjoyment and personal taste another.  This came about because the drama had to do with Father Ted, pizza, dodgy statistics work, and vodka.

Oh, vodka, why are you always involved?

I’m not going to go into the drama, but it got me thinking (apart from damn, how can I spin this loving, fiery and devoted relationship between two amazing, strong and vibrant people into the foundations of a plot/relationship between not-yet born characters…) about what we like and what we don’t like in books and how we judge others.

We like what we like. Whether it’s romance novels, Archie comics (don’t judge me!), crime, autobiographies or the like. Hey, you’re reading. So many people don’t do that, anymore.

And while there are shows such as Breaking Bad, True Detective, QI, pretty much anything Charlie Brooker (Charlie is how I lured my friend out of her rampage…and this is my late night rampage I’m talking about…and my regret in not thinking things through before posting…damn.. But, also, I’m not ashamed to pimp Charlie out. Sorry Charlie. Sorry, Keanu…), Buffy, Doctor Who, The Librarians* (Come Said the Boy…), and…I could go on…and you could absolutely disagree with me… TV is a medium where you don’t use your imagination that much. I love a lot of it, but I’m very glad I spent eight years without a television, because it got me back in line with what I loved.

Books. Imagination. What if. Life.

I have a lot more to say. But we’ll have to save it for later. I think something is about to come on TV…

*The Librarians the Australian comedy. It’s wonderful. Find it.

666

Screenshot 2015-02-08 23.47.40

Just a short update.

My last post was exactly 666 words long.

These things amuse me. Even if it’s not really the ‘number of the beast’. Hey, it’s not my fault if some clever people a long time ago added it all up wrong. I sympathise. Maths is most definitely not my strong suit either.

But according to the wondrous Stephen Fry and the equally wondrous (entertaining and educational!) show QI (and also listverse.com and lots of scholars), 666 is most definitely wrong. It’s apparently 616. This entertains me even more.

When you buy my books, know they are both entertaining and educational. Well, maybe not educational. Well… Oh shut up. 666 is still funny for a random word count. Even if 616 is better.

I’m editing now. Shh.

Dodgy accents and inky fingers

Screenshot 2015-02-08 23.59.25

I probably should learn not to sit in my room, editing and reading the sentences (those ready for the surgeon’s knife – think the Farrah Fawcett scene in Logan’s Run, all slashy lasers. What? You haven’t seen that? Go. Go now, and watch this film. Read the book. Return. I’ll be here) about to be altered or deleted in dodgy accents. I think the last one was Scots (the accent, not the manuscript).

I live with people. They probably don’t understand. I think I’m highly entertaining (to me, myself, and I) but to others…? Not so much.

I digress. I do this whole reading it out loud as I go along because A)I’m bored, B)I’m probably a bit of a weirdo, and C)it…entertains me… Oh dear…

Editing is rather boring. Especially when you’re nipping and tucking like you’re a reality TV star hamming it up for the next episode. But it’s a very necessary evil.

I’ve been sheltered by having a small coven (they’re not really witches, but come on, coven is an excellent word!) of talented writers to work with when I create my books. A competition I judged recently brought back memories of past competitions.

No dodgy accents would work with some I’ve judged eons ago. Not even a good Father Ted one (Father Ted? You know that, right? I’m serious, if you don’t, do something about it. Educate yourself. Your brain and your funny will thank me. I take cash donations, ridiculously hot men with a large bank account and gorgeous properties on different continents, and Keanu Reeves. Hi, Keanu…). I’m most certainly not saying any entries I’ve ever judged were crap or without promise. There’s promise. I just wonder if some people don’t think anymore when they send something in.

It’s not about getting all the words right, and removing all your excessive ‘was’, ‘had’ and ‘that’ from your work. It’s about understanding your story. And finding people you trust to help you get it there.

And editing. Editing, editing, editing.

Did I mention, editing?

If you can look at your work and not just tweak a sentence, but know how to shape your story and make it the best it can be, by giving it a makeover with turning all those tired tells into show, and passives into active, and trusting your audience to read between the lines and see what’s there rather than bang them over the head with it all like the whole thing is a bad scene from a bad episode of Pebbles and BamBam (I think that was a Flintstones spin-off…right? I remember it. But maybe I just have issues…) where BamBam hits you over the head with the obvious caveman rock-tool (Caveman Rock Tool should totally be a band!), then you’re half way there.

And, if they’re talented with dodgy accents, all the better, I say. I’m talking about the talented supporters and not the soon-to be world famous band mentioned above, people!

Anyway, reading stuff out loud to see if it fits is good. Dodgy accents are sometimes better (okay, more entertaining for you and your cat friend…erm, and by that I mean me and my cat friend) to help you through it all when you’re so sick of your story you want to turn it into Bonfire Friday (is that even a thing?). But edit. Always edit and look at it as objectively as you can. And seek advice. In my case, that would probably be professional, but you can’t have everything.

Also…why is one hand covered in ink from my pen I shoved in my hair? I like to print and old-school edit. I bought a box of pens. I love these pens. But, I’m lying if I say I’m not flummoxed by the fact my hand is covered in blobs of ink… I’m sure I only touched the pen five whole times in the past two hours…

It’s another mystery of our universe.

I’ll get back to editing. Bye.