by Camela Thompson
The previews for Crimson Peak more than intrigued me, but I didn't allow myself to get excited. After reading the first two books in The Strain series and a few online transcripts from interviews, del Toro struck me as a misogynist. Sure, you could point at Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy II, but it wasn't enough to make up for the flimsy female characters in The Strain. The television show was trending better, something I attributed to a more diverse team of writers, but they stepped way over the line when Dutch was captured and tortured in "Dead End." Without revealing spoilers, it was a gratuitous maneuver that had no point other than shock value.
My friends assured me that del Toro had a solid history of strong female characters. I could match them point for point. But that trailer spoke to me. The gothic flare, the creepy vibe, and the actors. If nothing else would get me in that theater, Charlie Hunnam (aka Jax Teller), Tom Hiddleston (aka Loki), Mia Wasikowska (aka Alice), and Jim Beaver (aka Bobby Singer) were enough incentive. And just look at the set:
I loved it. So much I watched it twice. In a single weekend.
What I loved.
The casting was tremendous. Every actor carried their part with an effortless air. Tom Hiddleston has a naturally sinister look to him, which was perfect to cast suspicion in the (slightly) wrong direction. He's also capable of expressions of innocence sufficient to cast doubt. Enough that I didn't despise his character, which would have been so easy given the twisted upbringing and subsequent complacency in his sister's reign.
The tension between Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain was delicious. From their first interaction, I seized on the House of Usher vibe. I wasn't at all surprised by the torrid relationship between the siblings, but I was thrilled by Chastain's ability to move from cold void to explosive fury.
It's no secret I have a thing for Charlie Hunnam. Not only is he solidly attractive, but the man can act. His ability to tap into some well of emotion both concerns and awes me. The best aspect of his part in this movie? He doesn't save the girl. Edith is allowed to persevere and pull from a place of mental and physical strength to face her tormentor. Even better? He values and respects her. That's what I call the total package.
Not only did we have a strong female protagonist who was **gasp** valued for her stubborn streak and intellect by the men who loved her. We also see a female antagonist. Which was awesome!! Lucille Sharpe was both physically strong and mentally cunning. It's frequent that women get cast into the role of passive poisoner. Lucille's physical violence rivaled any man. In fact, she held her own against them more than once.
The sets were gorgeous. The physics involved in Allerdale Hall are impossible, but the building is as gorgeous as it is ghastly. The red seeping through the floor and running down the walls was too appropriate to fault. Even the bedroom for ten-year-old Edith impresses. The wallpaper bleeds into the shadowed lines of her mother. The shadows. The cinematography was jaw-dropping.
My very favorite part of the movie involved Edith's writing. She was encouraged to focus more on romance, which was in line with her feminine mind. My husband turned to me and said, "Some things never change." She even considered typing her story to hide her handwriting. That reminds me of considering a pen name....
del Toro. You won me over. This was one kickass movie that celebrated each character as a person.
What didn't work so well.
How did Dr. McMichael get to England so quickly?
The dog was a nice nod to a prior "wife" and the cruelty displayed to it does establish character, but I'm so tired of the dog getting killed off. I could devote an entire post to my rage around this topic.
How exactly did Edith run around on a broken leg? Unless Dr McMichael embellished her injury or it was knocked out of joint (even then, I'm not sure the adrenalin would push her past the pain), this was very odd.
Edith was agonizingly dense about Crimson Peak. Sir Thomas was mining red clay for pigeon's sake. (Note from Camela's husband: "I didn't have an issue with her not recognizing she was already at Crimson Peak since there was not a peak, mountain top, hill, or any elevation gain to speak of at all. It did start off slow, though.")
There were some other minor issues, but I even thought the gore was well executed and appropriate. Overall I would give this movie a solid A.
Have you seen it? What did you think?
by Camela Thompson
Any writer will tell you how hard it is to be published traditionally. In fact, other writers relish telling the horrors of their literary adventures. Go to any crowded writer's conference and make an off-handed comment about pitching, querying, or general discouragement in the vein of getting published and several people will be more than happy to commiserate with you. Publishing becomes this mystical thing that may only be obtained under the most superstitious and rare of circumstances. Because it's so difficult, once the goal is achieved there's a belief that every subsequent action will seem easy by comparison. If it's so hard to get there, the rest will be a breeze. Right? RIGHT?
Not so much.
Getting over the hurdle of being published is an accomplishment that should be celebrated. It's a rush I will never forget. But as I look back, I realize I had unrealistic expectations of what it meant. I'd quit the day job, crank out three wonderful books a year, and tolerate speaking engagements with Ellen. She'd laugh at my wit. We'd become best friends and bond over our love of animals and quirky humor. Then Tina Fey and Amy Pohler would join the party and we'd create the most gut busting tribute to feminism ever.
While I still think we'd all get along famously, it looks like a pipe dream at this stage in the game. Plus, typing it out made it sound really creepy.
For the benefit of others dreaming of their fast track to the best seller list and all that comes with it, here are some of my own myths that have been busted after publishing.
I Can Quit the Day Job
False. My best advice to anyone who wants to be a professional novelist: Find a day job you love.
The median income for a traditionally published author is around $4,000. It takes a while to gain that much traction. After the costs of ordering my boxes of books, paying for online advertising, taking classes, and other writerly activities, I haven't seen a royalty check in my first year. Most of my sales are online, and while the volume isn't bad, the royalties are small. I've considered trying to ghost write or query articles, but it isn't for me. I make more money as an analyst and can afford to hire people to help me with things like marketing and cleaning, giving me more time to write.
It's beyond rare to hit the jackpot with the first published book. It happens, but most of us begin our publishing journey with a book that goes largely unnoticed. Then we spend the next several years promoting the crap out of it while trying to write new masterpieces. These things are even harder to do when you have a job you hate. You'll need to work. Either find something that will give you flexibility to work on your writing, edits, and marketing, or find something you love. It doesn't matter if you love the product, enjoy the people, or like working for a cause - what matters is that you go home with energy instead of feeling drained.
Writing Becomes Easier
False. Writing is an artistic action that requires the participant to be willing to make mistakes. If you spend your time typing and deleting because the words aren't good enough, you'll never finish a book. I've found this to be especially true with a series. Not only do I worry about creating a story that is good enough, I worry about spending enough time on characters that my readers enjoy. I worry about making readers hate a character I love. I worry about my excessive usage of the words his, her, it, and was. All of these things crank through my head as I stare at the page, and it slows the words down.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I think it will get better. Eventually. Sometimes I manage to shut off the critic and the words fly. Too often, I spend an hour moving around sentences that could be spent getting the rough motions of a scene on the page. I know my writing quirks. It slows me down. But I'm becoming a better writer. Subsequent drafts are better.
I Can Lock Myself Away to Write
False. Writing in a vacuum is a bad thing. It's so crucial to get feedback on a story to see if it works for other people. Beyond that, having a system of support is critical. Whether it's celebrating over beer and bacon or strategizing over Google Hangouts or an impromptu pitch workshop in my living room, interacting with other writers keeps me going.
The Marketing is Done for Me
False. (This made me laugh hard enough to worry the dog.)
Marketing should begin before you ever get a book out the door. Want to be published? Make a website and start learning about social media now. Start with one platform at a time, but start early. By the time your book is out the door, you should know which social media platforms your demographic uses the most and be able to use them. I should be posting to Facebook and Instagram a couple times per day. Twitter is more frequent. I blog once a week and post a podcast weekly. All of those things take a lot of time (about an hour and a half per day).
Those are just online interactions. The in person stuff involves approaching bookstores to carry books and inquiring at venues for readings. Then there's mobilizing readers to review my books, request them in bookstores and libraries, and help expand my reader base organically.
How to Get Ahead
Listen to podcasts like The Self Publishing Podcast, Nerdist Writer's Panel, Writer 2.0, and Helping Writers Become Authors. Check out Nick Stevenson and his books on promotion. Follow your favorite authors on social media and take notes on what you do and don't like. Whether you're traditionally published, hybrid published, or self-published, we can all learn a lot from other authors who are successful. Even the famous authors have to put in their time interacting with the public.
Just because getting published is hard doesn't mean it's not worth it. The best things in life are worth fighting for, and following your passion is no exception.
Are there things you wish you knew before publishing? Are there things you're glad you didn't know? Are there things you need help with as a writer or published author?
by Camela Thompson
If I could only use one word to describe my life right now, it would be: Inconsistent. I'm still learning to juggle this new job, social media, and writing. And maybe a social life. But there are things that remain consistent. I am still a major geek. As things grow hectic, I throw myself into my favorite movies, television, and books. Even my jokes get geekier. Star Wars, Firefly, and anything vampire or zombie have a way of sneaking into conversations. If only there were some kind of outlet for such concentrated geekiness...
Doesn't everyone wear equestrian themed headgear while playing Skyrim?
Oh wait. There is!
This coming weekend (October 10 and 11) is Geek Girl Con. Last year I attended as a spectator and was impressed by the amount of networking opportunities in technology (specifically the video game industry). I almost transformed into a puddle of joy when I found Supernatural themed jewelry. When I saw all of the posters, artwork, t-shirts, and books, I cackled and sent my husband a text message to warn him about our next credit card bill.
This year I get to attend as a panelist. I'll be joined by Stacy Thompson Schuck, Patricia D. Eddy, and Janine A. Southard to discuss Women's Issues in Publishing. If you're fortunate enough to look at the title of our panel with confusion, I envy you. This is clearly a sign of not experiencing these issues first hand. Unfortunately, we found a wealth of statistics, first hand accounts, and studies that support the fact that women do face different issues in publishing than their male counterparts. It should be a good session, and I'm interested to see what kind of feedback and questions we get.
I'm also looking forward to the book signing.
You don't need to be a woman to enjoy Geek Girl Con. There are plenty of broad topic panels, a lot of cosplay, and a vast area for tabletop game play. They even have an introvert room. When I hit max human interaction capacity, that's where you'll find me (it was my favorite room last year). If you're in the Seattle area the weekend of the 10th and enjoy life as a geek, join us!
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.