Thursday, December 9, 2010

That Old Epiphany Thing

I don't have a lot of experience with writing contests. Generally, I avoid them because, well, the book, it ain't done (yet. Always yet.). This is kind of a sticking point since by entering a contest, I run the beautiful risk of having some ask for a full submission when I am yet without a full to submit. But really, at the crux of it all is the same fear that lies at the base of all my inertia – what if it really is total crap? At least by not entering, I could live in cotton-lined ignorance.

Last year, at the very last minute I entered the NJRW Put Your Heart in a Book contest, staying up till 4 in the morning on a schoo – er, work night to chop what I wanted to submit down into 25 pages plus a 5 page synopsis. Let no one tell you otherwise, those synopses are killers. I did not final, I did not want to final, but I did get some great comments and one excellent and one good score. Best of all, people liked it.

Since then, I've kept my eye out for contests that might be beneficial for me, always weighing entry costs against the benefits of final judges and exposure even though running the contest gauntlet is not yet at the top of my writing goals. Nonetheless, I entered the Beacon Unpublished Contest back in October. It had things that suited me namely, no synopsis or query letter required, 30 pages submission limit, and very good industry insiders as final judges.

My scores arrived over Thanksgiving weekend, and while I didn't finish (what is UP with these judges?) I did get what I consider to be really good scores. Judge #1 gave me 40 out of 45 points while Judge #2 came up with 38 out of 45. Better than points, ("it's an honor just to be nominated") were the fantastic comments and constructive criticism they both gave me such as:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Television Tuesdays: Human Target

I'm a big fan of the FOX action show, Human Target, so I was delighted when it was renewed for a second season. It sports one reformed assassin, one not so reformed, and a bitter former cop. Brought to life by Mark Valley, Chi McBride, and Jackie Earle Haley, from the start, this was a great, fun, exciting way to spend an hour every Wednesday night. Ever since the great Keen Eddie, I've been waiting for Mark Valley to get another chance at his own show and this immediately seemed to the perfect fit.

Imagine how I feel now to have to admit my disappointment with this new season.

The premise is this: reformed assassin Christopher Chance takes the impossible jobs protecting/helping people who are on their last hope for survival. If it sounds a bit like the intro to The A Team television show – "If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them..." – that's no mistake. Human Target invokes the very best of that era with strong characters and relationships – and ample chances to blow stuff up. Assisting our hero in his weekly endeavors at redemption is the former cop Winston (Chi McBride, late of Pushing Daisies, which I adored but I hear tell that he felt differently) and the morally ambivalent but fiercely loyal Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley), who you do not want to ever meet in a dark alley. Week to week, they take cases, they save lives, they banter, all while pieces of their respective pasts are slowly, tantalizingly, revealed.

In the season one finale, the origins of Christopher Chance finally came out. "It's the name that strikes fear into a man." If you're having Dread Pirate Roberts déjà vu, you're not alone. In riveting flashback, no less than the iconic Lee Majors explained how Christopher Chance was a name passed down from one reformed human weapon to another. That finale was a masterpiece of infodump done right including how our Christopher Chance assumed the mantle of that name. It ended with Winston kidnapped by really bad guys, and Chance having to team up with his former mentor (Armand Assante, gleefully chewing every piece of furniture in sight) in order to rescue his friend from certain death.

Ooh baby.

Notorious for its lack of faith in new shows, FOX dumped the highly touted Lone Star after only 2 episodes and brought the season debut of Human Weapon forward from January to fill its spot. Cool, thought I. Less wait time before I can finally see the conclusion of that great cliffhanger.

Alas, whilst on hiatus (no, I don't know why I'm suddenly talking like a Victorian suffragette), Human Target had a production shake up that culminated with a new showrunner.

And man, can you see the difference.

Immediately noticeable is the absence of the evocative, "victorious" (according to my closed captions), theme song from Bear McCreary, who contributed so much gorgeous music to BSG. In its place, a pale imitation tries and fails to live up to its predecessor. Then the resolution (and I use the word lightly) of that great finale cliffhanger was wrapped up in the freaking cold open of the first episode. This was a huge waste of Timothy Omundson, who played a seriously creepy antagonist who could have been mined for several more back story episodes and instead was killed right off the bat. But the biggest change that is really beginning to bug me is this:

They added women.