An interview with me

Filed under: All About Moi, Books and Magazines, Publishing

My friend Michele Montgomery is going to interview me on her Facebook page tomorrow. In case you have any burning questions for me about You Know Who I Am or about me or any stuff you think I might be able to help you with (why I recently watched the first seven seasons of the TV show Supernatural, really great caramel brownie recipes, or whatever grabs your fancy. 

The most important account on Twitter is obviously AvoidComments, in case that’s your question.

Posted by Diane on February 28th, 2013

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You Know Who I Am

Filed under: All About Moi, Books and Magazines, Publishing

So, I published a novel.

I can give you the same blurb I published at Amazon but instead here’s the short version: Drusilla Thorne has to figure out who murdered her husband before the police figure out who she is. 

Drusilla’s a favorite character of mine — I wrote my thesis script at USC about her. My main problem with amateur sleuths is always they’re always such wholesome people. How on Earth do these nice, trustworthy people keep getting involved with murder? I decided to make things easier on myself* by making her not such a wholesome person. You Know Who I Am is what one** might term an ironic title. 

At the moment the book is only at Amazon. I decided to do Kindle Select — meaning the book is exclusively available on Amazon for the next 90 days — in order to let me figure this whole e-publishing thing out for myself. I mean, I have tons of theoretical knowledge. Trust me, there’s nothing I’ve ever done in my life that I haven’t analyzed to death before doing it.

But you know the difference between theory and practice, right? In theory, there is no difference.

In the past 24 hours, I discovered that I screwed up the Copyright page and had to reupload. Scrivener*** has made publishing the book in various formats completely trivial and I still screwed up the Copyright page. 

And…now I’d better get around to finishing**** Book 2, so I can get this damn series going.

——————————

* Ha, I tell you. Ha.

** That one being me, natch.

*** If you’re a writer, stop screwing around and buy this software immediately. Sheesh. 

**** By which I mean, writing. 

Posted by Diane on February 15th, 2013

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On to 2013!

Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s been a pretty cool year. I’ve learned a lot of things, changed a few things I’m doing, laughed a lot.

May 2013 be as fabulous as 2012 has been!

Posted by Diane on December 31st, 2012

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This about sums it up

Filed under: All About Moi, Those Darned Links!

From Wendy McNaughton

All the best things in life

I would have titled it “Today.”

I found this on the absolutely necessary I Love Charts site.

Posted by Diane on November 30th, 2012

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Argo: the review

Filed under: Movies

The opening of Argo recaps modern history between Iran and America: we wanted their oil, we crapped on their politics in order to be sure we’d get that oil, and in 1979 the people had finally had enough and kicked our puppet dictator, the Shah, out. When Jimmy Carter allowed the Shah to come to the US for medical treatment, furious Iranians took out their anger on the American Embassy, and we got the endless hostage standoff. 

Argo is the story of the six Americans from the embassy who managed to flee during the takeover and hide out in the Canadian ambassador’s residence. The Iranians are very close to figuring out they don’t have all the Embassy employees they should have. If the Iranians find out the Canadians have the Americans, there’s going to be hell to pay. The Canadian government is going to close down their diplomatic mission anyhow, because the chaos is spreading and pretty soon all North Americans are going to be in the line of fire. The American government can’t do anything overt without inflaming the situation further, so the guys at State come up with plans to get the six Americans out. Such as, they can bicycle their way across Iran.

The experts over at the CIA — such as director and star Ben Affleck — tell the State Department those plans are DOA, and if they go through with it, the Americans are DOA too. At which point the challenge comes: “You have a better idea?” 

Hollywood loves having itself portrayed as the good guy, so I expect that this movie has a good shot at being Best Picture next year. I haven’t seen Lincoln and I know perfectly well Big Epic About War And Race is always a lock, but Small Action Pic About Middle East Turmoil is pretty damn relevant too. 

There are absolutely no surprises in this movie: there’s a Big Problem, there’s a Big Plan, nobody believes in the Big Plan except the little guys, there are hitches in the plan, but since we know to a T what the plan is we in the audience know how well it’s succeeding.

This movie works so damn well because of 3 things: 

  1. If you remember your history of the time, or you’ve heard any of the publicity about this movie, you know how it’s going to turn out. Since we have no public schools dedicated to memory of the six Americans, you can probably guess how it turns out too. Act 3 is still wildly suspenseful. Seriously, damn good job there, Director Affleck. 
  2. The direction of the action scenes is really good. You know what’s going on at all times and who’s doing what to whom. Seriously, if the whole writer-director-actor thing doesn’t work out for him, someone re-hire Matt Damon as Bourne and have Affleck direct the next one. 
  3. While there are no big surprises in the storytelling, there are some definite fun little ones: historic (John Chambers: special effects guru and CIA helper-ally-facilitator!), character-based (I’ll leave that one to be the fun little twist it turns out to be, but it involves one of the six Americans), and irony-laden (the “feel-good” ending for one of the Iranian characters). 

There’s no extraneous character stuff. There’s no derring-do at the CIA (talk about your office job). Argo is reminiscent of the political thrillers of the 70s in more than just art direction (which is awesome, and have I mentioned recently how much the 70s sucked?), and it’s a nice change of pace from the bloated, moronic “political” thrillers that we usually get.

Posted by Diane on November 15th, 2012

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The brain systems interrupt

Filed under: All About Moi, In which I give advice

The best thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is: not only can you not trust what anyone else thinks, you sure as hell can’t trust what you think. 

Except for that bit of wisdom. That, you can trust. 

Yesterday, I went running. I think I’ve gone running three times this week. My running schedule has been sporadic since summer (read: if I run more than once a week, it’s an awesome running week), but I know I have to keep it up, because I learned something very, very important about running. It keeps my mood even. Running has worked better than any psychoactive drug for keeping me cheerful and upbeat. 

I went running with Rob at Rancho, and we had a pretty good run and I felt great about it, both physically and in terms of endorphins earned.

Today, I used Freedom and turned off my computer for four hours. I got so much done in terms of applying butt to chair and getting stuff done that I realized I really have to make an Applescript that simply runs Freedom at 9am every weekday and turns off the Internet for four hours. I love it when I have a really productive writing day. 

So, to recap: I ran yesterday, and I had a great writing day today. Anyone want to guess how I’m feeling right now?

That’s right: like crap. I have the voices in my head telling me…well, telling me all those things that your voices probably tell you. It can be summed up as “Everything you have ever done is wrong, and you’re a bad dancer to boot.” The kind of voice cacophony where it becomes hard to breathe. 

The first thing I have to do is remember: You can’t trust your own thoughts. They’re just thoughts. Just because you’re having them doesn’t make them any more or less true than any other thoughts. There are days when I think I’m a damn snappy dancer, I’ll tell you that. (Those days are rare, because in point of fact I’m not a good dancer, and I’m okay with that, frankly. No part of my ego is dependent on my ability to feel the rhythms.) 

The second thing I have to do is what I call a systems interrupt for my brain. I think various branches of psychology or pop psychology call this process by different things. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the mystery schools called it some variant on a spell or incantation. Which seems fair, because this technique works wonders. 

Okay, so you’re having one of these bad days, where all you can do is focus on every single thing you’ve ever done wrong (or failed to do at all). What you say inside your head is:

Thanks for saying that, brain. Now shut the fuck up.

Say it out loud if you have. Say it a lot. Say it until the voice in your head shuts the fuck up. Say it every time the voice pipes up. 

This process works. The first time I heard about it, I thought, Well, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I swear to you, since I started doing this a few years ago, since I began immediately talking back every time the voice said anything, bad days have gotten a whole hell of a lot rarer. (Which is why a day like today is really such a bummer — I’ve forgotten how to deal with them.) 

You have to take control of your own thoughts. They’re not particularly true just because you’re having them, and they can be discarded. 

And make sure you’re getting a decent amount of aerobic exercise. At least walk a few times a week. There really is something to the whole endorphin theory of emotional management.

Posted by Diane on October 12th, 2012

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Looper: the review

Filed under: Movies

Basically, I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt. If he’s in a movie, I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy it more than I might otherwise. Brick, The Lookout, 500 Days of Summer (a movie that depended on you liking him, if Zooey Deschanel is not your cup of tea), 50/50, Inception.

Also, Bruce Willis: he’s smug, he’s annoying, and he’s been known to sleepwalk through a movie. But he’s still a movie star: his sleepwalking tends to be much more interesting than most actors doing their full-out acting. 

Plus: a science-fiction story with time travel! Who wouldn’t love this? 

In the future, time travel has been invented and then made illegal, which means only the Mob is using it. (Of…course.) They send people they want dead back 30 years in time to 2044, where Loopers kill the marks and then dispose of a body in a time period where no one would be looking for the body. Eventually one of the marks sent back will be the 30-years-older version of the Looper, at which point you collect a big payday and realize you now have 30 years to live.

Caveat #1: do not think about this premise too hard. You do have to allow them the premise, though, because that’s the whole foundation of the movie.

Caveat #2: there’s another element to this movie that I think waters down the premise a little. However, since the movie depends on both caveats being true, it’s not like they could change this. 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a young guy who kills marks and then gets high all day. The dystopia of 2044 is pretty bleak, and you can imagine that you might spend all your time getting high if that’s where you had to live. His future self, Bruce Willis, gets sent back in time, and Joe doesn’t kill him. Chaos ensues. 

Gordon-Levitt does an amazing interpretation of a young Bruce Willis. He’s not doing a full-on Bruce Willis imitation; there’s just a few things sprinkled here and there. I completely believed Gordon-Levitt would grow up to be Willis. He’s good. The other actors in the movie–like Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano–are also good, even in small roles. There’s one newcomer, Pierce Gagnon, who I thought was scary-remarkable.

It’s a good thing they got such good actors, because the characters are actually the weakest part of the movie. Every character has a good actor and some tics. Believe me: if a character has one tic, you are going to see it fourteen more times. I would have preferred a little more depth to any of the goings-on.

And be warned: This movie is ridiculously violent. I guess that goes along with the setup. Wow, did I close my eyes several times. 

On the way home, Darin and I discussed the plot some and why we weren’t more thrilled about the movie (which is very good, but not the 10 we’d both been expecting). And I think it is because of the time travel elements that you shouldn’t think about too hard. Because the second you do think about them, the punch of the ending (I sure hadn’t known what to expect) fades away. 

On the other hand, right now it’s a few days after we saw it and I can still tell you the whole story. I bet I’d miss few if any plot points. Which is a sign of a really tight story, and boy howdy, do we not see enough of those these days. 

Posted by Diane on October 5th, 2012

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Being Human (UK)

Filed under: TV

As I’ve mentioned before, we no longer have a cable/satellite TV setup. We either watch older series on Netflix Streaming or we buy current series off of iTunes. (And the price for internet connection + TV shows roughly works out to the price for a monthly cable bill with HBO, and this way we don’t have TV flooding in our house unchecked.) 

So we are always looking for new shows to watch together. if something sounds half interesting, we download a show or two, check it out, and then buy the series. 

One that we started watching is Being Human, the UK version. 

Being Human S3

Being Human story of a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost (and eventually, the werewolf’s girlfriend) who all live together and the problems and/or hilarity this causes. Annie, the ghost, is too damn “nice” for her own good. Mitchell, the vampire, is at war with his own baser, bloodier urges. And George, the werewolf, is a regular guy who finds himself with a completely unwanted and brutal power. (Reportedly the original inspiration for this story was the writer wanted to have a sex addict, an agoraphobe, and a person with anger management issues living together. I’m not sure I believe this. It’s a great story, though.)

The actors were all pretty good without having that too-beautiful-for-you thing that American TV actors always have. We’d seen the guy playing George the werewolf, Russell Tovey, in a couple of other things and already really liked him — he has the likable everyman thing nailed down. And I adore Lenora Crichlow’s hair. In general, the show’s story lines were always interesting…although UK TV dramas can be deeply frustrating in a few ways. Possibly because they have to fill 57 minutes instead of 42. One thing you have to admit for Hollywood, they have cracked the damn formula for how to make satisfying TV and movies. British shows can be wildly uneven in their drama, coming up with interesting situations and characters, only to let them drop, or not really use them, or weaken them at the last moment.

(Or even worse, moments that are completely not earned by what’s come before.  The end of the first series of Being Human made me crazy for exactly this reason: the ghost, Annie, has been completely victimized by another character. She has been a complete doormat. And at the end of the season, she whispers something in the bully’s ear that creates utter and complete terror. Um, no. Sorry, that’s not fair. You have to tell us what she said. And I think the writers know there’s nothing she could have said, and so they cheated by having her whisper something.)

Despite going back and forth on how much we liked the show overall, we bought and watched the first three series. 

And then came the surprise at the end of the third series. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean.

Followed by the related surprise at the beginning of the fourth series. 

I’m being oblique for a reason (in case you haven’t seen it). Let’s just say that most shows would simply close up shop at this point. 

But they didn’t. Instead, they added a few new interesting characters. Including this guy:

Damien Molony

His name is Damien Molony, and if there is any justice in the world, you will be hearing his name a LOT in the future. 

This is a show about a ghost, a werewolf, and a vampire living together, right? I love SF/F shows but I accept that there’s a basic line of ridiculous in them. I am amazed at how the actors in these shows can deliver most of the lines without cracking up.

In episode two (I think) of the fourth series Molony, as the vampire Hal, said something that made no sense. If you read it in a book, you’d probably snicker about how completely ridiculous it was. But seconds later in our living room the conversation went something like this:

                   DARIN
         Who is this guy?

                  DIANE
         I have no idea. He’s amazing.

                  DARIN
         How did he do that?

                  DIANE
         According to IMDb, this is like this guy’s first job.

(According to this interview, it really is his first job.)

It’s actually a little unfair, when one of the actors in a show is so much better than everything else going on around him, but I swear to God, this one guy made Being Human go from “Well, okay, let’s watch this” to “I must see the next episode NOW.” I think it’s the only time I’ve been annoyed that there are so few episodes in a season of a British show. 

 And despite how the fourth series ended — let’s just say there was a setup in the overarching plot for the season that a US show would find a loophole in and then resolve very, very differently — I cannot wait for the fifth series. 

The fourth series isn’t on Netflix Streaming yet, but the first three are, so you can catch up on them while waiting for the fourth to be posted.

 

Posted by Diane on August 29th, 2012

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Plus ça change

Filed under: Books and Magazines, Things I Like

I stumbled across this oh-so-familiar quote today, and thought: Yup, still true.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Posted by Diane on August 22nd, 2012

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Seeing the hypnotherapist

Filed under: All About Moi, Hypnosis

For decades — since I was 10 years old — I either bitten or picked at my nails. I’ve rarely had nails that had any white area to them at all. And when I say rarely I mean probably all told less than a year’s worth of having decent nails. For most of college and some time after I used to bite the cuticles until they bled. (Thank God I managed to kick that habit.) Periodically I would leave my nails and cuticles alone, even to the point of having “nice” nails, but the second anything happened, like a crack or a chip or boredom or a scary movie… Boom! Nail death. 

In January, while we were on a trip, I looked at my nails and discovered they were fairly long. Well, fairly long for me. I thought, Oh hey, they’re looking really good! And you know what happened next, right? Of course you do. Within a day, I had bitten or picked every single one off. And I kept destroying my nails periodically, just like always.

A couple of months ago the frustration built to the point where I’d try anything. I sent out a plaintive plea for friends, neighbors, whoever: had anyone in this area seen a hypnotherapist they could recommend? 

Several friends replied to my query with things like, “Get a manicure!” Trust me, I’ve had hundreds of manicures. I also own 100+ bottles of nail polish, which has led me to keep my nails polished and looking good…and then something happens and I destroy them. 

I’ve also tried that yucky-nail-liquid stuff, but a)you get used the taste (yeah, you do) and b)I pick at my nails even more than I bite them. 

~ § ~

I’ve been interested in hypnosis for a long time: I probably have 5 or 6 books on the subject. There are lots of common misunderstandings about hypnosis. The obvious one is that you can be made to do anything the hypnotist wants (um, no) and that you’re asleep (no) and that it’s all nonsense and nothing really happens.

Something happens. Something definitely happens.

I can’t tell you what, though. I am what hypnotherapists call a somnambulist – apparently I go deep almost every time when I am hypnotized. This is common for writers, who are used to being lost in their imaginations. If I listen to a “relaxation” tape, I hear the beginning of the tape, and then I hear the voice calling numbers bringing me out of the trance. I remember absolutely nothing in between. 

I’ve seen seen hypnotherapists before. I saw one in LA when I was trying to lose weight after Simon was born — I can’t remember his name for the life of me, but he was an older gentleman in Sherman Oaks (he had great-grandchildren) who could put me out just by talking to me. Seriously. There are people out there who can do that. It was fun seeing him, but I don’t think he helped with my weight problem any. I probably saw him twice, and then I got caught up in the move and didn’t follow through.

I met another one here in Los Gatos, and while I found the sessions very relaxing, I don’t think I changed my life as a result. But I don’t think I had a specific enough goal in mind. 

This time I had a very, very, very specific problem. One that I would know right away if the therapy were working or not. And desperate people will do desperate things. 

~ § ~

I looked on Yelp and found lots of NLP people near me. I know, I’m probably unfairly biased, but NLP was a huge thing in this area in the late 80s and the way it sank its tentacles into everyone I knew made me crazy. Probably because every single person I knew who took an NLP class and raved about how it changed their life either was a complete asshole or was the same fuck-up they’d been before taking the NLP class. So no to the NLP practitioners.

I checked for hypnotherapists and found a couple in Saratoga. I think I called a couple and left messages. The first one who called me was Julie Herman, in Saratoga. “Hypnosis can definitely help you with that problem,” she said. Four session minimum. 

Okay, I said. 

The first session we just talked. We talked about when the problem started (when I was 10 years old and had just moved to San Francisco and started in a new school…hey, it’s not like I don’t know where these tics come from). 

In the week between the first and second sessions, Sophia and I went for manicures. Sophia tends to have very long nails — I have to trim them to keep her from scratching herself or other people accidentally. (This has never been a problem for me.)

At the second session, I was still in the “nice” phase of the manicure. At this session, Julie put me into a light hypnotic trance. We went back to when I was 10 and had just moved to San Francisco and she asked me about a few things. It was a very traumatic year for a lot of reasons, and as I talked about it I started crying. Or rather, my eyes started producing tears, but my face didn’t scrunch up, I didn’t sob, I didn’t do anything. I continued to talk, and water started appearing. It’s one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced.

(Next time you cry, even if it’s just from cutting onions, notice how many muscles on your face have to move to let that happen. Now imagine the muscles of your face are absolutely not helping out in any way whatsoever.)

When I came in for the third session, I showed Julie my nails. The polish had begun to flake and peel, and I’d scratched at one nail a bit. Julie said, “Diane, everyone picks at peeling nail polish! The second that happens, get nail polish remover and get the polish off!” 

I said, “I didn’t take it off specifically to show you that this is all I’ve done to them. Generally the second I start picking at my nails, it’s mere seconds until I’ve peeled off all the nail polish and destroyed my nails to boot. I know this looks terrible, but this is actually progress for me.”

The third session was also a light trance, because I needed to respond to some questions she asked me.

The fourth session we did a heavier trance, so I lay down. I remember almost nothing about that session, other than the fact that the induction involved my watching the numbers on an old-fashioned elevator with one of those arms that would move from number to number.

Since the first time I had seen Julie, I hadn’t bitten or picked at my nails once. I did keep playing with them though — running my thumb over the edges, obsessively checking underneath for cleanliness, etc. I asked Julie about this and she said that was normal: I was in the process of adjusting to my new behavior and was in the “consciously competent” phase. After a while, I would graduate to “unconsciously competent” — I would be able to maintain my nails without thinking about them all the time.

I hoped she was right. Because it was time to go on vacation.

~ § ~

I packed nail polishes and emery boards. I packed cotton swabs. By the way, it turns out the TSA didn’t steal my nail polish remover; I had left it underneath the sink and forgotten to pack it. <cue scary music> But it turns out Canada has nail polish remover (Who knew, am I right? Turns out they have electricity too!), so that was cool. Things actually seemed like they were going to be fine. 

Then my nail cracked. A big crack.

And I thought, “That’s it. I’m going to lose all of my progress now.” 

But I decided to give saving the nail my best shot. First I picked off as much of the cracked nail as I had to (the crack was such that it was in danger of snagging on things), and then I rubbed on the edge to make it blunter and less rough. Hours later (because I’d forgotten my emery boards, natch) I filed the nail down.

Without destroying any of the other nails. 

I considered that this process was actually going to work. 

~ § ~

It’s been two months since I first visited Julie. And as I noted on my Twitter feed earlier tonight, my nails are so long I’m having trouble taking my contacts out. Scrrrraaaaaape on the eyeball. Yeah. I can still use an iPhone (I hear that long nails can be a problem with them). I did have an unfortunate incident the other day of using my nails to dig into skin, but it was my own skin. And wow, does that hurt. Jesus, these things are deadly.

I’ve started making lists for other issues I might be able to use hypnotherapy for, the kinds of things that get tangible real-world results (so I can see whether or not it’s working). 

The first one might have to be a hypnosis session convincing me it’s okay to keep my nails just a wee bit shorter.

Posted by Diane on July 27th, 2012

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