Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It’s all Elephants!

Quickly – don’t think of Purple Elephants! 
Are you doing it? Are you not thinking of Purple Elephants? 
How about now? 
Now? 
NOW?!?
Hmmm, still thinking about it, huh? Yeah, that’s been my life recently. Just one great big ball of anxious, jittery Purple Elephant fanaticism … as long as you replace the word ‘Purple” with ‘YA’ and ‘Elephant’ with ‘Editor’. Ah, yes - now it makes sense, right?

Uh, yeah. Now this makes sense ...
As I mentioned at the end of my last post, my latest YA novel has just gone on submission to publishers across North America and the UK. Which is great, obviously. And also terrifying! Up until now, this story I love so much has lived happy and safe in a little space in my head where I could reassure it and cuddle it and tell it what a wonderful International Smash Hit Number 1 Best Seller it was going to grow into one day.
I could do that, because back then this story hasn’t really been seen by anyone except my agent and a few readers (well, my husband and my Dad - but of course they liked it). 
"Princess, I promise to be utterly impartial to all your 'achievements'."
And now it’s off in the hands of absolute strangers. Strangers who don’t know it like I do, who didn’t see it grow from an odd half-idea that struck me while I was writing my poor, Lifeballed trilogy to a fully-grown novel with a characters I adore, a plot I’m really proud of and relationships I still get a bit teary about*!

Nope, these editors are under no obligation to love my messed up little head-world. And, even if they do, that’s no guarantee they’ll share it with the rest of the world (Nathan Bransford’s written a great post on why)! And even if they do share it, there’s no guarantee anyone will read it and even if they do read it, there’s no guarantee they’re – AAAAAHHH!!So. Many. If. They. Do-s!
Makeitstopmakeitstopmakeitstop!
It’s usually about this point in the obsessing that my husband closes down gmail on my computer, pries the phone from my hand, sits me down on the sofa with a glass of wine and tells me – very calmly and quietly and absolutely correctly – that I need to try not to think about it right now. And I smile and nod and tell him he’s right, and we stick on more Portlandia and I drink my wine. And as he puts his arm around me and tells me he’s proud of me no matter what, I try to ignore the fact he seems to have turned into a Giant, Purple, YA Editing Elephant. Just like the Elephants onscreen, and the Elephants in the room and …
Yeah, I may have a bit of a problem. I guess I should just let it go.

0.33 on-wards is surprisingly cathartic

*Seriously, I’m probably about five free seconds from trying to make my own fanvid. It’s a little creepy.

So - clearly I blog and rant when I need to distract myself from the crazy. How do you take your mind off things? Let me know below! 

Love, Aislinn 
xxx



Thursday, July 10, 2014

When Life Gives You Dodgeball Lessons (or, now You Know What I Did Last Summer/Winter/Spring/Autumn … and the one before that, too)


Yo, blogosphere - I'm back!
Yes, I know, it’s been a long time since I posted anything. Like, so long I don’t even know if people still say ‘blogosphere’ (probably not, because if there’s a chance to date myself online, I will. And not in a quirky, comedy-of-eHarmony-errors kind of way, either). But I have my reasons. For one thing, real life can throw a curve-ball harder than … okay, I know nothing about sports but you can fill in that gap however you want. And the last couple of years have pelted me like a school bully at a Dodgeball tournament. I’m not going into it all here, mind you, but let’s just say all that ducking, diving and, yes, occasional bruising has kept me pretty distracted.
As has watching this GIF. Seriously, it's hypnotic!  
If that sounds a bit self-indulgent or moany, it’s not meant to. Because the last couple of years has also introduced me to my favorite distraction of all: the girl I shall refer to only as Little Baby Badass. Seriously, if there’s one thing that makes everything better it’s that little giggly grinner with my husband’s eyes, my chin and a personality and determination all of her very own. Yes, she can be incredibly high-maintenance (like if the Energizer Bunny knocked back six red-bulls and then strapped on a jet-pack), yes, she spent the first ten months of her life being wide awake, like, always. And yes, sometimes it’s all I can do to lay on the sofa and watch Veronica Mars on Netflix once she’s finally fallen asleep*. But dang it, she really does make every single thing in the world better – even the stuff that’s already great! I swear, chocolate never tastes so good as when Baby Badass is trying to shove her hand into my mouth so she swipe some for herself (and yes, that has totally happened).
You holdin' out on me, Ma? I will find the candy!
Sometimes, though, when the house is quiet and when I can keep my eyes open, I can get to my second favorite distraction** - writing! Oh, yes. I’m still doing that, I’ve been doing that even when I haven’t had a chance to put virtual pen to virtual paper for months at a time because, as most writers and a few very understanding non-writers know, writing happens far more in your head than it ever does in a notepad or on a computer screen. It happens when you’re in the shower, or making dinner, or trying spend some quality time with your husband because you’ve been writing every evening that week and - wait, wait … oh my God, YES! That’s how I get my characters from A to B without invoking a Monty Python-esque*** giant hand to move them. I’m sorry honey, I know you were saying something but … no, my eyes aren’t glazing over, I’m total into … what were you talking about?

Yes, writing is rather an all-consuming addiction and I’ve spent most of my (very limited) free time in the last few years feeding it, so I haven’t had time to blog or tweet or do any of the fun things I was doing back when I’d just finished my awesome trilogy and was waiting to become world famous on the back of it. Where’s that trilogy now? Oh, it got Lifeballed. It got lifeballed good and hard, and I still get a little teary about that because I loved my little protagonist and her friends! But, as I’ve learned a few times over the last couple of years, when life balls up your plans, it's time to show life you’ve got b***s . So I did – by picking myself up and moving on to a whole new protagonist, with a new set of friends and a very different bunch of problems. And I love them too!  And yes, I know they could get Lifeballed just as hard as my last gang of headbuddies, but right now they’re out there, making their way into the hands of editors at publishers all around North America and the UK – and I can’t wait to see where that takes them.

Um, yeah. Sure, I - I guess that's one possibility. Right?
So heads-up, Blogo…relam? Thinkiverse? Weba - um – whatever. You guys! You, reading this. Yeah. Heads up. ‘Cos I’m back, and I’m feeling bloggy. So stay tuned for more literary Lifeballs, and whatever else I feel like rambling about.
Love, 
Aislinn xxx

* Side note: How awesome is Veronica Mars? How did I miss this the first time around? And most importantly … am I dating myself again? I am, right? I don’t care, I just wanna wrap Season 2 Logan in a blankie and feed him cocoa!
** My husband does not count as a distraction. He’s my partner in crime, and the one who has helped facilitate 
Distraction 2 for years, and Distraction 1 for an entire little lifetime!
*** Dating myself or … oh sod it, yes! Yes I’m old, alright? But Python are timeless so if you need to google before you get that reference – you’re welcome.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Countdown to Supernatually!!



I've added a widget counting down to the release of Kiersten White's sure-to-be-awesome new Paranormal Adventure novel, Supernaturally, at the end of my sidebarDon't worry, I haven't sold out! I'm not getting paid to advertise the book, nor am I doing it as a personal favour - heck, I don't even know Kiersten. But I do know I picked up her first novel, Paranormalcy, almost reluctantly and wound up falling in love with the book's hilarious, kickass narrator and awesome YA voice. Anyone who knows me, or feels like they're starting to know me in this oddly close little cyber-world of ours, will know exactly the sort of quirky, independent heroine I love. And monster-hunter Evie (part Buffy Summers, part Legally Blonde's Elle Woods and part Disney's Little Mermaid) ticks all the boxes: she's badass, girly and desperately just wants to be like everyone else! 

Paranormalcy was practically shoved upon me by an online buddy who thought I needed a break and figured I'd like Kiersten White 'cos she wrote a bit like me (a massive compliment, by the way - thank you CrazyWriterFriend!). Supernaturally, on the other hand,  is a book I'm practically itching to get my hands on, I'm dying to see what happens next and am counting down the days til I can pick up where the characters left off. So that's my current literary obsession - but what's yours? Have you ever had a book pushed on you that you wound up falling in love with? Is there anything that just seem to tick all your boxes? What books (published or as-yet-unpublished) are you itching to read, and why? Let me know!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Oh, Brother!

I didn't think I'd do another 'list' post so soon after my Mother's Day one but it's Awesome Big Brother's birthday today, so this seemed like a good time to dedicate a post to him (he's also getting Amazon vouchers, I'm not that cheap). I've been think a lot about my favourite sibling pairings in the last year and a half - my new Horror/Adventure series definitely hinges on the relationship between my main character, Emily, and her awesome big brother Jack - and I've made no secret of the fact that the way Em looks up to Jack isn't entirely uninspired by actual events.

Awesome Big Brother's pretty much directly responsible most of my quirkier tastes and nerdy pop-culture obsessions. He's the who one pulled 9-year-old me away from The Famous Five so we could watch Predator, and loaned me his Terry Pratchett books when I couldn't get into The Babysitter's Club. He also helped me redirect my pre-teen crushes away from the predictable pretty-boys pin-ups and towards funny,sarcastic guys with geek appeal (like the one I wound up marrying). So it's fair to say I owe him a lot.
                                                                               Groovy                                                                        Not Groovy
But the thing is I don't say it, not usually. Because that's not how guys work. They don't gush or bare their souls or have late-night wine fuelled secret swapping sessions. To put it in writing terms, guys don't Tell - but they do Show. Whether it's going out of their way to find or build a shared interest, just happening to call when you're feeling down, or sending on funny links and videos "just because", when it comes to brothers it's the little things they do that tell you the big things they don't usually say. Which is sweet in real-life but, depending on what they're not telling,  it can be kind of challenge to capture on the page. Especially when fictional Awesome Big Brother's actions are seen through the eyes of Adoring Little Sister.

How do you show, for example, "I'm worried you'll be frightened if you know how scared I am" or "Crap, crap crap, what the hell do I do now?" when all your main character sees is "Relax, it's cool. I've got this"? Well, you don't. But you can show the things she does notice - a little extra stress, a smile that seems just a bit too forced, a sudden case of unrelenting overprotectivitis. Just enough for the reader to realise there's something up even your main character's a little too awestruck/self-involved/in denial to see it for herself. And if your main character's holding back to save face in front of big bro, even better. Show them enough of her duality and your reader will figure out fast enough everyone's saying anything but what they mean (this doesn't just apply to brothers, by the way. It's good for almost any case of desperately-trying-to-hold-it-together syndrome). There's plenty of great sibling relationships in pop culture, but the five pairs I've listed below mean something to me in terms my characters - even if none of them come close to quite matching up to my Awesome Big Brother. Enjoy!

(5) Fred & George Weasley - The Harry Potter Books/Movies (James & Oliver Phelps)
Only in the Wizarding World could two OWL-level teenagers drop out of school and establish themselves as successful entrepreneurs before the start of next academic year. But then Fred and George Weasley aren't your average drop-outs. The wise-cracking, trouble-making duo already had a smash-hit mail-order joke business under their belts by the time they quit Hogwarts in a blaze of home-made fireworks and havoc-causing spells (as a political protest against hellish new headmistress Dolores Umbridge). Their joke shop Weasley's Wizard Wheezes was just the next stop on their way to world domination, or at least global mischief management.
"Of course they can tell us apart, I'm the good looking one!"
But despite solemnly swearing to be up to no good, this kind-hearted double-trouble act have never been ones to shy away from a fight against the Dark Forces - just don't expect them to stop swapping jokes as they step up for hazardous battles and life-threatening Potter-protection schemes. They've even laughed off physical mutilation because, well, at least now their Mom can tell them apart. The Weasley's might be a huge close-knit family, but even through that Fred and George share a special bond. They walk, talk and think in sync, finish each other's sentences and watch each other's backs. You get the impression they don't really need anyone else as long as they've got each other - and that as long as they do, the rest of the world had better watch out!

(4) Dexter & Debra Morgan - Jeff Lindsay's Dexter books, HBO's DEXTER (Michael C. Hall & Jennifer Carpenter)
Sociopathic blood-splatter expert/serial-killer of serial killers Dexter (AKA The Bay Habour Butcher) might play the amiable family man but, at least in Season One, he was pretty sure of his complete lack of human emotions. So when he told the viewer if he could have feelings for anyone, he'd have them for insecure, foul-mouthed foster-sister Debra (who just happens to be a cop), you knew it was something special. Over the years, they've suffered through bereavements, some serious co-worker drama and Very Bad Break-ups and they've dealt with it (nearly) all  together - with the help of some beers, steaks and an occasionally mind-bogglingly creative list of expletives from Deb.  
"Jeez Dex, who died?"
"Can't remember, it's been a busy week."
What's interesting about the Morgans is that, despite the fact Dex is hiding the world's pretty much the world's most GIANT secret Deb (not only is he the mass-murdering vigilante she's been tracking for the last few years but their Dad, Harry, trained him into the role to help clean up the streets!) their relationship doesn't play out that differently to a lot of other brothers and sisters. Deb emotes, Dex holds back, they hang out, drink and crack some jokes. If anything they seem closer than most - and I'd love to be able to show you anything like that but I can't because it's impossible to find a video of Deb behaving normally that wouldn't come off like morse code if it was censored. So here's her behaving abnormally, as Dexter has a nightmare about the one thing he's really scared of - his little sister finding out the truth about her 'monsterous' big brother.   
(3) Simon & River Tam - Firefly, Serenity (Sean Maher & Summer Glau)
Okay, let's overlook the fact that apparently the same parents who give their son a nice sensible name like Simon decided RIVER was a perfectly non-weird name for a girl, and cut straight to the cute - uptight incredi-smart Doctor Simon would do anything, and I do mean anything, for his troubled little sister. After risking his life break her out of the goverment facility where she was being experimented on, Simon had to store River in stasis and con his way onto a ship full of space-bandits in an effort to outrun the evil Alliance. 
Don't cry River. Just 'cos you're kinda nuts and the government's after you and the cutest guy
on the ship is your brother. .. okay, maybe you can cry a bit.
Since then, he's lied, stolen and killed to protect her - he even punched badass ship's captain Mal in the face for risking her life in a heist. And he forced himself to sacrifice true love with the ship's comely engineer Kaylee because, well, who's got time for romance when you have a mentally unstable, occasionally violent sister to look after. In her coherent moments, River's sweet, innocent and smart - aware of the trouble she's causing for Simon and miserable that she can't control herself. Naturally, by the end of  the Firefly/Serenity story there's some pretty awesome pay-off for the Tams' suffering, but that's not really the point. Simon's never cared about pay-off, all he really cares about is taking care of  River and, it turns out, all she wants to be able take care of him right back.
(2) Fievel & Tanya Mousekewitz - An Amercian Tail (Philip Glasser & Amy Green)
Of course everyone's favourite tear-jerking rodent tots make the cut! An American Tail might be a cute little adventure story about one mouse's search for his family (or it could be Stephen Speilberg's attempt to explore a difficult time in American History through the eyes of an innocent young imigrant) but it's also one of the sweetest brother/sister love-stories ever. What I love is about Fievel and Tanya is that they don't have a perfect relationship. They argue, they irritate each other, they fight like - well, I was gonna say cat and dog but... mouse and slightly bigger mouse? And yet there isn't anything they wouldn't do for each other. Not having their sibling there to fight with is unbearable for both of them! 
"Okay, fine! I missed you. Now can we get off the freaking pigeon?"
Fievel's the lucky one. He knows his family are out there somewhere, he just has to track them down and his  innocence and optimism give him the strength to keep searching other New York strays tell him to give up. But Tanya's older and, after seeing her parents grieve, a little less innocent. She's not running on optimism, just pure, stubborn love. Fievel can't be dead. That would break her heart, so he has to be alive and she's going to keep believing that until someone can prove otherwise. Little brother Fievel might get more screen time, but the story is a definite two-hander. The pair even get their own adorable, heart-wrenching love song. It's the voice-crack at 0:21 that really gets me, but I also just adore the fact that a song that can be so cheesy a 'romance' between adults can still make me tear up when it's about a brother and sister who miss each other.
video
(1) Sam & Dean Winchester - Supernatural (Jared Padalecki & Jensen Ackles)
If monster-hunting, apocalypse-averting, fast-quipping brothers Sam and Dean were any closer they'd be in danger of becoming the Weasley twins. Their tendency to finish each other's sentences, mirror each-other's movements and fight like they're the US synchronized monster-slaying team makes them a pretty fearsome double act. And their tendency to show their brotherly devotion by welling up, risking their lives or calling each other 'bitch' and 'jerk' when what they mean is - y'know, the 'L' word (no, not 'lesbians')- makes them a firm favourite with the fan-fiction generation. But maybe that's what you get when you've spent pretty much five of the last six years on a stuck in the the Impala together on what's essentially one never-ending cross-country road-trip. These two would go to hell and back for each other - heck, they literally have!  
"This is our freak-frightening smolder."
But while not-so-little brother Sam's had his fair share of problems really hideous problem, somehow Awesome Big Brother(tm) Dean always seems to wind up with the really fuzzy end of the lollipop. Not that I'm saying demon-blood addiction, satanic possession and the sudden embarrassing realisation you've left your soul in your other pants for the last year are exactly a walk in the park, but at least Sam's always got someone there to help. Whereas when Dean's dealing with - say - a blood-addled little brother, an emotionless robo-bro or an Evil Alterna-Sam who won't stop punching him in the face, well, he's pretty much going it alone. Not that he'd think of quitting him. As long as Sam's there, Dean's by his side. He wouldn't trade his little brother for all the home-bake apple-pie and fresh-raked leaves in the world. 
With the exception of surrogate Dad Bobby Singer and the occasional morally dubious angel/demon sidekick (I'm looking at you, Cass and Ruby) Sam and Dean are really the only people in each other's lives, and that's okay with them. Just, you know, no chick-flick moments, dude.
Honourable Mentions
(1) Luke Skywalker & Leia Organa (Mark Hamill & Carrie Fisher) -  Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi   Badass twins who took on their Dad to bring help down the Empire. They probably would've made the main list if it wasn't for that kiss in A New Hope - and Leia's 'I've always known' in Jedi. Always, Leia? ALWAYS?  Bad space-princess!
(2) Antigone & Polynices - Antigone   Okay, he's dead by the time the play opens, but that just makes his little sister's devotion more affecting. Polynices might've killed their brother and led an army against the city (to be fair, he had his reasons) but Antigone still puts her life on the line make sure he get the burial nobody else will give him.
(3) Troy Barnes & Abed Nadir (Donald Glover & Danny Pudi) -  Community   Another close contender for the main list except, well, they're not actually brothers, are they? At first glance, the dumb, handsome jock and quirky, Data-esque nerd shouldn't even be friends but their shared love of bad movies, video games, rapping in bad Spanish and hosting fake chat-shows makes them kindred spirits, and the closest thing to a brother either guy could ever need.
(4) Bart & Lisa Simpson (Nancy Cartwright & Yeardley Smith) - The Simpsons  Whether they're giving eachother dead-arms in the back of a car, investigating a possible homicide at the Flanders's or trying to outsmart Side Show Bob again, Bart and Lisa are another great example of that unconditional-love/occasional hate dynamic. They just didn't have as a cute song as Fievel and Tanya.

Dishonourable Mentions
(1) Hawk & Voltan (John Terry & Jack Palance) - Hawk the Slayer    Hawk's the handsome young hero out to avenge their father's death, Voltan's the ugly, patricidal supervillian he must destroy - but I can't help feeling their Pops kinda had it coming. I mean, come on! VOLTAN? HAWK? With names like that,  Mr & Mrs The Slayer clearly had a game plan, and I'm pretty sure this was it. 
(2) Dexter Morgan & Brian Moser (Michael C. Hall & Christian Camargo) - Jeff Lindsay's Darkly Dreaming Dexter, HBO's Dexter    Poor Brian, all he really wanted was his brother back. Oh, and to kill people. Lots and Lots of people. You'd think Dex would be down with that, but there's still Harry's darned 'code' to worry about. And Deb, of course. He should probably worry about her.... 
(3) Lindsay & Michael Bluth (Portia De Rossi & Jason Bateman) - Arrested Development 
They were never exactly close, and all the Bluths are messed up, but you'd think as twins they'd have some connection, right? Any shot these two had at a 'normal' relation went out the window in the very last episode, but maybe that's just as well. I mean, if the family were well-balanced there'd be no point in a reunion movie!


So, those are my picks - what about yours? Did I miss anyone? Did I get it wrong? Who's your favourite/least favourite sibling pairings from pop-culture, literature, TV or film?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rebecca Black vs Glee (or, the importance of being beta'd)

Okay, bear with me for a second. 
Watch as much of this  as you can without wanting to claw your eyeballs out or stab yourself in the ears. 

Okay, done? You gonna be okay? Good. Now watch this:


It's better right? Almost ... bearable, even? 
And why wouldn't it be? The Glee kids had a whole team behind them figuring out how to edit, tweak and rework the song into something more palatable, whereas I'm pretty sure the $5,000 Rebecca Black's folks paid the studio didn't cover much  'fixing' beyond a blanket auto-tune. Don't get me wrong, I'm not Rebecca-hater. I don't think it's fun to pick on a child because she stumbled upon fame via a present. She seems fine, she can even sing - it's the production, mixing and everything else about the song that sucks. And that's my point. If Glee's Friday doesn't make you want to set yourself on fire or rip your ears off to make it stop, it's not due to any fundamental differences. It's the same basic song, Glee's version is just much more polished, and well thought-out. You could say it's the 'final' draft compared to Ms Black's 'rough' one. 

And that's where beta readers come in. For those of you who don't know, betas are a writer's first round-readers - the family and friends you trust to look at the story you've spent the last few months or even years pouring your heart and soul into and give you their genuine, honest opinion on it. Anyone who's ever written anything (school essay, poem, three-part paranormal adventure series ...) knows how nerve-wrecking that can be. And if you're a writer writer - someone who does this for a living, or wants to some day -  it can be downright painful. What if they don't like it? What if they think it's rubbish? What if they thing you're rubbish? Oh GOD (*puts head between legs to prevent hyperventalation*) just let them love it!! 

'It's good, right? Right? RIGHT!?!"
But the thing is they mightn't love it, and even if they do there's probably still things they'll think you can fix. In fact, if you've chosen your betas well, there's probably lots they've noticed - and that's a good thing, because beta readers have one huge advantage when it comes to reading our stories. Distance. They don't love our characters like we do. They haven't spent months living out the story in their heads like we have, so they're not as blind to the things we overlook - like the hilarious scene that completely slows the plot, the gaping plot holes that made sense to us or the beautiful, flowery sentences that read like pretentious drivel. 

Our characters and stories matter to us, they mean something, they're real to us. And when our beta readers tell us they didn't quite feel the same way, it can be tempting to jam your hands over your ears, scream "LALALA" and disappear back into your little head world because that's the only place they understand you. But don't (also, don't punch your beta in the face - or anywhere else - defriend them on Facebook or hold a fake funeral in their honour because they're dead to you now). 

Also inappropriate - this.
Of course, it's all subjective - that's why it's important to have a few betas. If something's coming up again and again they probably have a point. If you get conflicting feedback, though, just try to think about what feels right for you. After all, not everyone's going to see your story the same way, so it's important to remember it IS yours. You know it best so if a suggest really doesn't sit right, don't do it. That said, even if the criticism they offer doesn't always make sense to you straight away, don't dismiss it offhand. Sometimes it takes stepping back from your story and characters and really thinking about the advice before it starts to make sense. Sometimes it takes swallowing your pride. And sometimes it takes making huge sacrifices. 

When one of my betas suggested  I get my story started faster by cutting a scene I considered vital (and brilliant, naturally!) I'll be honest, I thought he was nuts. I loved that scene, everyone else loved that scene, and I had NO idea how else to set up the relationship between my two main characters. However, two months and a meeting with my agent later (when she suggested more action) I realised Dad was right. The scene was great by itself, but it was holding up the story. And the solution was not only to rip out it out but also cut the intro I loved - the one I'd worked so hard on - and replace it with something completely different. It hurt. It made me want to cry a little but you know what? It works! I still miss my intro, but I have to admit no-one else would and at the end of the day that's what matters. 

Constructive criticism can feel like a slap in the face (or worse, a slap in your characters' faces) and it can knock your confidence for ten if you let it. But, remember, much as we dream of our readers coming back and telling us 'it's perfect, don't change a word!' those that do are only stroking our egos long enough for us to get them bruised by agents or publishers. Because nobody's perfect. No matter how good you are, there's always room to improve. And, while it's great to hear what people love about our stories (and important, you've gotta know what you're doing right so you don't start doing it wrong) it's the cuts and tweaks and sometimes painful chapter surgery you really need to hear about. And if you can suck it up and actually listen to their advice, your betas' outsiders perspectives can help to take your masterpiece from not-quite-there to good, from good to great and from great to WOWZERS!! 


And sometimes, you're both right.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

MOMMY DEAREST

Well, it's Mother's Day. At least this side of the water (North America), Irish Mother's day was a couple of months ago. But I'm still a little teary-eyed because, on days like this, I really miss my Mom. Don't get me wrong, I know I'm lucky - she's just a Skype-call away and that's great. It's just not hugging distance, is it? And that gets me sometimes because - excuse me while I state the absolute flippin' obvious here - I love my Mom. There, I said it. 

Our parents (and by that I mean folks who raise us) are the most important people in our lives. The way we relate to them shapes our relationships with everyone around us and I know I'm lucky because I've always had a good relationship with mine. They're amazing, they're always encouraged me and the only time my Mom ever really tried to push my to change my mind on anything, it was the day before I started my PR job when - in a moment of desperation - she blurted out: "Are you sure you wouldn't rather be a street performer"! She always knew I wouldn't be happy with a desk-job, but that was the only time she really came close to objecting. Most of the time, they just smiled and nodded politely, waiting patiently for the day I'd realise - no, actually, I'm a writer. The day job is just for funding.  So, in honour of my Mom and the two other gorgeous Moms in my family (my big sister Roisin and sister-in-law Jenni), here's a run-down of my five favourite Mothers from literature, TV and the movies. Enjoy!

5) Grendel's Mom Beowulf 
And no, I'm not talking about the slinky Angelina Jolie version here, I mean the old-school growling, slobbering brute who took out half of Hrothgar's court in a blind furious rage.  Sure, she's an evil, deformed abomination-unto-the-Lord and all that (literally! According to the poem, she's the spawn of Old Testament fratricidal maniac Cain) but look at it from her point of view. Your only son heads out to play only to return bleeding to death with his arm pulled off? You wouldn't get just a little bit riled yourself? 
"I ... I loved you in Tomb Raider?"

My problem with the Angelina Jolie version is that she just seems to want kidit didn't have to be that kid. So when Grendel dies, she's just looking for a replacement. It works in the context of the film, but it kind of undermines her grief. To me, Grendel's mom is scariest not because she's a bigger, stronger monster than her son ever was but because, without her son, she's got nothing to lose. All she wants is revenge and, as everyone knows, there's nothing more dangerous than a pissed-off Mom. Which brings us to ...

4) Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton/Lena Hedey) Terminator 2/The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Naturally. Sarah's transformation from jumpy diner waitress in Terminator to all-out action hero in Terminator 2 got a whole generation of teenage boy hot under the collar, and pretty much defined the term 'Mama Grizzly' (even if it was nearly two decades before Ms Palin & co decided to coin it). Sarah's dedication to protecting her son is made all the more poignant by the fact that, as the start of T2, it's led to her losing him. On the other hand, once Sarah realises her son is in danger now, it also leads to one of the most badass escape scenes 13-year old me had ever witnessed, so it's not all terrible. Plus. watching the pair reconnect and mend their fractured relationship as the movie progresses is almost as rewarding as seeing them figure out how to take down Skynet, again. 
Sarah (Linda Hamilton) and John (Edward Furlong) in Terminator 2
Sarah's absence was felt so strongly in Terminator 3 (the character'd died of cancer appearantly), that fans actually welcomed spin-off TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles which literally rewrote history by propelling John and Sarah a few years into the future after the events of T2, so the events of T3 never happened - giving fans a see more of the pairs strained but unconditionally loving relationship, as well as more sexy time-traveller and killer robots of course. 
"Mom, you look ... different." "You too, honey. Just go with it."
The series was relatively short-lived (two seasons) but enough to give us a sometimes heart-wrenching look at into Sarah's very genuine fears for her son's future, and a chance to see just what kind of tough-love parenting to takes to raise the future saviour of mankind.

3) Molly Weasley (Julie Walters) The Harry Potter books/movies
Oh sure, she looks sweet and kind - and she is. Her strong, supportive character helps raised kids who grow up to be everything from dragon trainers, curse-breakers and  government officals. Even the drop-outs become successful entrepreneurs - and the ones still in school help lead the resistence against the evil death-eaters. But just try crossing this cuddly mom-of-seven (and surrogate mom to Harry "the chosen one Potter") and see what happens. 
"It's all fun and games ....
... until somebody threatens the kids, b*tch!"

Hermione got a taste of Molly's matriarchal passive aggressiveness in Goblet of Fire when tabloid journalist Rita Skeeter duped the whole wizarding world into believing the little witch had broken Harry's heart by dumping him for Viktor Krumm (Molly responded by sending a her significantly smaller Easter egg than everyone else got). Poor Ron's been on the receiving end of a couple of his Mom's Howlers (angry, shouting letters) in his time - but in serious badass terms, the best is definitely yet to come. Potter fans everywhere are going to be on the edge of their seats waiting for Molly to get her Ellen Ripley on in the final showdown this July, with Rowling treating Mama Awesome to one of the most kickass moments in the entire series. Here's hoping they keep the one-liner but 'til then, check out this funny little fan-tribute to everyone's favourite magical Mom.

2) Andy's Mom (Laurie Metcalf) Toy Story 1, 2 & 3
Ms. Davis, aka Andy's Mom, is a single mom raising two kids. That deserves some kudos right there but the really interesting thing is this it's never mentioned. Andy does his kid thing, the toys do their toy thing and everything's fine. It's not until you stop to think about it that you realise there's no Dad in the picture. So where is he?

"Okay, kids - I'll just be here in the background if you need me"

Well, we don't know. But we do know there's big move on the cards, and a baby sister young enough to need to be carried most of the time. So, whatever happened it's a fair bet it was pretty recent. And the good news? Andy's fine! He must be, because if he wasn't Woody & Co. would know all about it. Kids act out when they're going through a tough time, and even if he's not the kind to go all Sid the Destroyer on his toys his issues would work their games. The toys would at least know enough to be worried about him, and they're not. Which means whatever tough time the Davis family is going through, Andy's Mom is dealing with it well enough to get the kids through it pretty painlessly. 

Of course, it's possible to argue there was no Mr Davis or any messy break-up. Maybe Ms Davis was never married, maybe the move is just a coincidence, maybe Andy and Molly have different Dad's, maybe they're both adopted. Who knows? The point is, Ms Davis doing such a stand-up job raising the kids herself it doesn't really matter. She's happy, the kids are happy and, despite the occasional flurry of abandonment issues, the toys are happy. The Toy Story trilogy has a reputation for reducing even the most hard-hearted cynic to tears, mostly because it's a reminder that sometimes life's going to ask us to let go of the things we love most. And whether that's Jessie getting over Emily in Toy Story 2 or Andy's Mom accepting her little boy's all grown-up in Toy Story 3 it's something that strikes a chord in all of us. Here, get your eyes wet: 



1) Marge Simpson (Julie Kavner) The Simpsons
This list isn't intended as a countdown - it's not meant to be in order. Still, there was only ever going to be one Mom at the Number One spot, wasn't there? Poor hard-working, long-suffering Marger has spent the last 22 YEARS cleaning up the messes of her three little kids, and one big one. And that's no small task either - over the last two decades she's had to deal with: a homicidal ex-clown with a grudge against her son;  a precocious, slightly pretentious eco-warrior daughter who keeps pitting herself against the big guns; a son who's worked for the mob, a burlesque house AND as illegal booze-runner; a baby who may or may not have murderous tendencies, and .... oh, about 440 other little family dramas. And somehow when she finally takes a day off social services decide she's an unfot mother and give the kids to stupid, sexy Flanders!
"Whatever you do, kids - DON'T. LOOK. DOWN"
I mean, sure she's had her slip-ups - there's her gambling problem, occasional near-dalliances with attractive French bowling instructers, the time she got breast implants and ... OH DEAR LORD, WHAT THE HELL?!?
Ay, caramba!
Yes, you're seeing this right. that's her November 2009 PLAYBOY cover, which is actually something of a collectors item since it was a limited edition, only sold in newspaper stands. She didn't bare all ('cos, you know, that would be wrong) but the fact these images seem tending to stir up something between:
and

in the guys I've surveyed tells me that Marge has a very solid, albeit slightly messed up place in the hearts of all of us. And, at the end of the day, no matter how the rest of the world sees her, to Bart, Lisa and Maggie, she'll always be the woman who'll go to any lengths to make them happy. No matter how it embarrassing that might be.


Honourable Mentions
Sally Jackson,  (Catherine Keener) The Percy Jackson series: Hot enough to pull a sea-god, selfless enough to marry an abusive jerk so his stench would help hide her demi-god son. Now THAT'S love.
Bambi's Mom, Bambi (obviously): Took a bullet for her son, traumatised generations of kids everywhere
Rosemary Prendegast (Patricia Clarkson) Easy A: A little too open with her kids (maybe?) but confessions of a colourful past help daughter Olive realise High School mistakes don't have to define you for the rest of your life.
And some Dishourable Mentions
Margaret White (Piper Laurie) Stephen King's Carrie: A hypocritical religious nut who drives her naive, over-protected  daughter to the brink of insanity - which lets the school bullies can push her off.
Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter) Arrested Development: So. Many. Reasons - but let's just say adopting a kid just to teach her smothered man-child son a lesson isn't going to win any mother of the year awards. And neither's doing it to piss off a business rival.
Medea, Medea: Um, if you don't know, I'm not going to tell you. But it's bad. VERY bad.


So, those are my picks - what about yours? Did I miss anyone? Did I get it wrong? Who's your favourite/least favourite Mom from pop-culture, literature, TV or film?