Archive for December, 2013

Some time ago, I wrote about my reaction to Entertainment Weekly’s Top 100 Books, focusing on genre titles. Today I write about just one genre title, “Miracle on 34th Street,” because the Huffington Post just posited “Ten Reasons by the ‘Miracle on 34th Street Remake is Better Than the Original.” Needless to say, the article is utterly wrong.

I’m not going to discuss each of their ten points, because more than half of the reasons given in favor of the remake have no parallel in the original (e.g., the use of TV stars when there was no TV to speak of in 1947, not that using TV stars is any mark of quality. In fact, the author seems way too enamored of TV for my taste.). But if we concentrate on the remaining four…

Elizabeth Perkins Puts Christmas Displays To Shame With Her Glow And Beauty.” Ms. Perkins is a lovely woman. But the original featured Maureen O’Hara. Elizabeth Perkins does not compare to Maureen O’Hara. No woman compares to Maureen O’Hara (except for Myrna Loy).

It Stars Your Favorite Child Actor Of The ’90s,” i.e., Mara Wilson. Again, with no disrespect to Ms. Wilson (I loved “Mrs. Doubtfire,” too, and we share the same birthday), the original featured Natalie Wood. Hello? Ms. Wood was one of the great actresses of the 20th century, and and while Mara Wilson may have been somebody’s favorite child actor of the 90s, she hasn’t exactly been burning up the screen since.

“Reindeer Are Brought Into The Courtroom As Evidence That Santa Exists.” Really? The “Post Office Department of the United States” wasn’t good enough? Maybe if you wanted to be more contemporary you should have brought in a FedEx guy. Sorry, using the reindeer was cliched and lame.

“Nothing Says “Merry Christmas” Like A Good Ugly Cry.” They replaced the war orphan in the original with a hearing-impaired girl. Fair enough. It’s not like we still have war orphans, right? This way your feel-good fable about peace on Earth doesn’t have to deal with the lack of peace on Earth. Good call.

(At least there was no asserting that the new version was better because it was in color.)

I saw the 1947 “Miracle” a few days ago, up close and personal on the big screen. The acting, particularly from Ms. Wood, is impeccable. The climax had the audience in tears. Some movies should not be remade; they don’t need it.


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Writing is a lousy job. It must be, or we’d spend more time at it.You ask any writer, and s/he will tell you that there are a hundred things that must be done at this moment which take precedence over writing. Go on, ask. I’ll wait.

Well, that took longer than I expected. You must have asked for a list. I bet when it hit about thirty you said, “Thanks,” and ended the conversation in a hurry. That’s what you get for not believing me. Oh, wait, you think that was an anomaly? You think I can’t come up with reasons not to write? Au contraire, mon frere…!

1. My desktop needs to be rearranged. I keep a clean desktop, but still…should my latest have its own alias? What about all the stories that are out on submission, whose status I might need to update at any moment?

2. My submission list needs monitoring. Rejections (and occasionally acceptances) come at all hours, even on weekends, so I need to check every e-mail that arrives. Then there are the submissions sites, like The Submission Grinder, which track not only my subs but a lot of other people’s. Is anyone getting answers from that anthology? How long has my story been out? Has it ben lost? Should I query? Surely a completed, submitted story is more urgent than one I haven’t even finished. (This counts as marketing.)

3. My social media profile needs updating. You need to stay on top of Twitter, or you’ll never post a pithy response to Neil Gaiman’s latest post and piggyback on his millions of followers, to say nothing of Facebook. (This counts as promotion.)

4. I need to read all those P.G. Wodehouse novels I’ve collected. Seriously, I have a series of stories based on Bertie Wooster and written in Wodehouse style. If I don’t read all those books, how can I maintain a consistent voice? (This counts as research.)

5. I need to watch all those Jeeves & Wooster DVDs. Again, I need to hear those voices. I may look like I’m just watching TV, but I’m really working. (This also counts as research.)

6. Take a nap. Am I sleeping? No, I’m outlining my next book! Don’t bother me. (This counts as pre-writing preparation.)

7. Write a blog entry. Blog entries are quick, they connect with fans, and they serve to hone my skills by presenting ideas in a short time. (These count as marketing and writing, so I’m writing right now. Win!)

That’s only a few, and I could go on, but you’re falling asleep, and I don’t want to distract you if you’re outlining your next novel.

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It’s a truism, of course, that writers drink. And as a class, though this is less well-known, they are often depressed. What’s even less well-known, however, perhaps I would even say a secret, is why they drink, why they are so often depressed.

The sordid truth is it’s because writers are lousy parents.

“What?” you exclaim. “That’s crazy. My mother’s cousin’s ex-brother-in-law’s mailman became a writer. He drank when he wrote, he was depressed when he was rejected, but he was terrific father.”

Well, yeah, that’s true if you want to talk about a writer’s offspring. I’m talking about a writer’s children.

Writers spend weeks, months, often years raising each little literary Writer Junior. His name might be “Short Story,” or “Graphic Novel.” If the writer was feeling expansive at the conception, it might be “Great American Novel.” But no matter how long he spends on raising Junior, with all the passion and love he can bestow, invariably, when he sends his child off into the big world, he never wants to see that kid again. It’s not just that he wants little “Novelette” to make it on her own, he boots her out the door with orders not to come back. All he wants is a letter saying that “Novelette” has found a job with Asimov’s.

Unfortunately, little Novelette does come back, more often than not, in fact. And what does she find when she returns home? That Dad has already raised another in her place. Now he’s stuck with two kids he needs to find a home for. So he sends them both away with orders never to return–and of course, they both do, but Dad has yet another bundle of joy on the way, and so it goes.

Occasionally, of course, Novelette or one of her siblings will stay away, to live in a faraway town called The New Yorker. Then Dad will laugh and dance and tell everyone how successful his “little effort” has become. But what about all the others, all the children who haven’t found jobs, who may never find jobs? He has to keep sending them away, until he decides there are no more towns, no more markets, and he shuts them away in a trunk or a box, there to sit for years, if not forever.

You think this is easy? You think a father wants to do that to his children? Hell, no. But he has to. It’s part of raising a writing career that sometimes you have to be a lousy parent.

But there’s hope, too, the hope that someday he’ll be hugely successful, so successful that even the most hopeless of his children, the runt of the litter, will be wanted. On that day the writer will open his trunk and pull out his neglected but never-forgotten offspring and happily send them to live on their own.

Because while writers may be lousy parents, they do their best.

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