Kill Me Deadly 48-hr Film and Short Story

I recently participated in Houston’s 48 hour film festival where you got 48 hours to write, produce, and edit a film.  The genre that we were given was Film de Femme (a category geared toward strong female characters).  I also created a little short story to go along with it that gives a little explanation by way of what happens in the hour before the film opens.  I’ve posted the story on Tumblr as a fan canon experiment, so if you are interested in participating, check it out!

Kill Me Deadly

5:59 am

“Six months.” I shook my head with a small sigh as I looked at the address on the yellow sticky note.  I jerked the handle of my car door, opening it and sliding in before placing the note on my dash. As I started the car and pulled away from the strip mall’s back lot, I wondered at the inefficiency of the agency.  Just as quickly as the irritation strummed my nerves I forced myself to take a few deep breaths as I made my way to Raymond Bienevedes’ house.  Six months.  The agency had spent six months looking for something I found in six minutes.  What a waste of resources, but I guess that is why they call me.  I’m always the last choice, but often the most necessary one.  Within ten minutes I pull into the neighborhood.  It’s a nice little piece of suburbia with old trees shading the patched up streets, and every house looks completely different in style.  Some resembled English Tudors while others were firmly stuck in the abrupt angles of 70s architecture. It was the perfect place for a drug lord to hide.  No one would expect him to be in a sleepy neighborhood a block from an elementary school and a church.  But I guess even drug lords need to send their kids to school and have somewhere to confess their sins.

The interesting aspect about this neighborhood was that the houses didn’t have driveways.  All of the garages open up into intersecting alleyways.  I smirked at my good fortune as I pulled up along Bienevedes’ back fence.  Eduardo told me to expect to find at least five men guarding Raymond, and that his kids were at their mother’s house.  I checked the clip of my Khar 9mm one more time, and loaded a bullet in the chamber.  No matter how many times I do this, the slick sound of metal sliding against metal always made my heart jump.  Sometimes I blamed it on adrenaline, or justified it with an excuse of nerves.  I never wanted to give credence to the voice in my head that told the truth of what I really felt.  With a thick swallow, I bit the inside of my cheek to clear the fog in my brain and I grabbed two more clips, shoving them in the pockets of my jacket.  Eduardo was known to be wrong on body numbers. 

The moment I stepped out of the car, the humming sounds of lawn mowers and hedgers filled the early morning air.  It was already nearly 6:20, but I was thankful for the extra distraction the noisy machines would provide.  As I approached the back of the house, I noticed a fenced in greenhouse area supported by brick columns.  I felt another smile lift my cheeks, as adrenaline rushed through my veins.  This was going to be too easy.  In less than a minute I climbed the column and made my way across the top of the fence until it met the roof.  From there I approached the first window I found.  The blinds were open on the inside, and fortunately the sun hadn’t reached that side of the house yet, so it was quite easy to see the empty little girl’s room inside.  After I peeled away the screen, I managed with the aid of my keys to open the window.  I shook my head.  Wow, even crooks are dumb enough to not lock their windows.  I carefully climbed through the frame into the room and a few more steps had me at the door.  Fortunately it was cracked and I could see down the empty upstairs hall.  Once into the hall I found the open door of another empty child’s room.  A boy.  I breathed an inward sigh of relief.  Eduardo had not failed me on that front.  He knew how I felt about kids.  Unfortunately a few more steps down the hall had me at the halfway open doors of the game room.  There were five men, alright, sprawled out on the floor asleep.  Some even had bottles still clenched tightly in their fists.  They must have had quite the party from the looks of it.  A glimpse over the open railings of the balcony looking into the house’s great room and I realize Eduardo had only told half the truth.  Sure there were only five men, in one room!  There were at least another ten down below me.  I peered around the corner of the game room once more, clenching my fists open and closed.  I needed to assess my options and quickly.  My gun was all but useless to me at this moment because one shot would alert the others and give Beneviedes a chance to escape.  I could sneak by the men in the game room, but I didn’t know the stairs of this old house and one wrong step could wake everyone up and make me a very easy target.  As I flipped through the various scenarios in my mind I also took stock of the men sleeping before me.  From what I could see, only 3 of them had guns on their person, but who knows what else.  The man lying on the floor closest to me twitched and snorted in his sleep and as he rolled over onto his stomach I saw the handles of two blades sticking out of a hilt in his waist band.  That was it!  With cautious steps I crept toward him until I was standing above him, one foot on either side of his large frame.  In one quick motion I yanked the blades from his hilt, and with one sliced his jugular and with the other sliced into the neck of the man who lay next to him.  They instantly began to choke, grabbing for their throats as their mouths flapped open and closed like fish.  I grabbed the bottoms of their shirts stuffing them into their mouths.

 It was too late.  The sound of their choking instantly woke up the others around them and with a cry a gunshot rang out and a bullet zinged past my ear before becoming embedded into the door behind me.  The next ten minutes were utter chaos as I took out the rest of the men in the room with the blades.  I knew I needed to conserve the bullets in their guns and mine for the men downstairs.  As the last man fell I head the footsteps of the others as they reached the top of the stairs, while more had spilled into the room below and were sending a rain of bullets through the railings of the balcony.  Using the body of the widest man as a barricade I borrowed the guns of the others and picked off the ones who came up the stairs.  Once their bodies caused a bottleneck at the top of the stairs I rolled my barricade closer to the balcony and took out the rest of the men below me, thankful that they were all horrible shots in their hung over haze.

Unfortunately, as I finished off the last few men I heard Raymond and two others escape out the front door.  One sounded like a woman.  Gritting my teeth at the messiness of the mission I jumped over the balcony railing, thankful for the pile of bodies below that broke my fall on the tiles.  The first exit I came to led out to the backyard and I knew the gate open up near my car.  I also knew enough about Raymond Beneviedes to know exactly where he was going and exactly which route he was going to take to get there.  I slammed open the backyard gate just in time to see one of Raymond’s “under the radar” cars speed by.  Just like the herded animal he was, he was going straight to the comfort of his pen.  I just had to make sure I guided him there.

6:59 am

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Criticism VS Constructive Criticism

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Ok, so I have waited a good six months to write this post because I not only wanted to distance myself from the situation but also the person that inspired this rant.  Today I want to talk about the difference between criticism and constructive criticism because, as an artist in more than one field, it is something I deal with on a continual basis.  Sometimes it is from other readers, critique partners, editors, agents, publishers, or even other writers.

If you are going to put yourself out there in an artistic manner, criticism is going to be a part of your life–obviously.  However, my issue with the whole idea of criticism revolves around one specific experience I have had as a writer and a few others afterwards.

About six months ago a writer friend expressed that they no longer wanted to be my friend, because after reading my book and after having several writing based conversations they felt as though I was too sensitive of an individual to take their criticism or advice.  They also felt as though I was going in a different direction with my writing than they wanted to be associated with.  Ok, that’s their prerogative.  However, what bothered me about this and several other cases of criticism that I have had during the course of my writing career is the accusation of being too sensitive.

I am a very sensitive person, this is true, however I–and most people–will take criticism personally. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, I can take–no problem.  Why?  Because there is a HUGE difference between the two that I think those who dish it out don’t understand or take into consideration.  So, when their criticism is met with hurt feelings then they get annoyed and answers like my friend’s are produced.

Criticism is nothing more than another person’s opinion.  It is often tangled up with their feelings, motives, and pet peeves.  This is why I really don’t pay much attention to it when it is given for other works of art. Reviews are nothing more than someone’s often nit picky opinion.  You can’t please everyone, so there is no point in trying.  However, because it is personal to them, it is also personal to me.  Therefore I am going to react accordingly. Wouldn’t you?

Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of that.  It is helpful, insightful, and designed to help you and your work improve.  It doesn’t need to be sugar coated in order for it to be effective, it just needs to be valid.

A good example is a friend of mine who offered to edit one of my books.  She was worried about whether or not I could handle criticism (I’ve had lots of people ask the same question, in general).  I replied, “Yes, as long as its constructive.  I don’t need you to sugar coat or coddle me, but I do need valid examples.”  She did exactly that.  Sure, there were moments when some of the suggestions she had were more of a personal nature to her preferences and I took those with a grain of salt.  However, all of her advice and guidance was backed up with examples on not only why something wasn’t working (from a technical perspective) to how I could fix it.

See, that is the difference folks.  If you are going to criticize someone’s work, be prepared to back it up with a solution.  The friend who helped me with the edits is someone whose knowledge I value and respect.  I’m 100% creative and 100% crap at the technical stuff when it comes to writing.  I know where I need help and I knew that she was basically giving me the cure for the cancer of my faults that was killing my story.

Soooo…ok…rant over.

Also, in case you are wondering why I used the picture of the oh-so-handsome and talented Richard Armitage for this post, the reasons are two fold.  One, that look he is giving is the same one I want to give those who criticize me in a personal manner or call me too sensitive.  Two, he always brings a smile to my face.  🙂

Carly, where have you been?

ULM-Ad-for-webWhy, at Upscale Living Magazine! Now, my ramblings have a purpose!

Of course, I am still working on my books, and I am still reading—a lot. However, I can’t talk about anything I’m reading because its stuff that is unpublished. 😦

There is one book, however, that I’m dying to get and will possibly do so today. It’s called The Anglo Files by Sarah Lyall.  I read a portion of it in the store the other week and fell in love with it instantly. Anyone who knows me, will tell you that I feel as though I was born in the wrong country. This book, is a nonfiction story about a woman who marries a Brit and discusses the hilarious experiences she has as an American wading through the cultural differences of a country that is further removed from us than we think. Also, the fact that she was a journalist for The Times, who wrote about the publishing industry makes her story even more interesting.

I truly can’t wait to get it in my hands and devour it. 🙂

Late Fandom Bloomer

There are so many fandoms out there that it can be hard to decide which ones to join.  Being passionate about a book or television series takes a lot of energy, time, and sometimes money. It is also a lot like picking your favorite sports team, albeit slightly easier in the fact that very few of us were alive when the teams out there now first got started.  Still, our reasons for joining the fan base can be similar. Are we fans because everyone else is or are we part of an elite that sees the genius behind the story before everyone else does and it explodes upon the stratosphere that legends are made of. Fans of Firefly know what I’m talking about, right?

I’m not going to lie, when it comes to joining the bandwagon on certain fandoms, I take my time.  The main reason is because I have always been rebellious to what is popular or trendy. If everybody has one, wants one, thinks its “cool,” I automatically don’t want one (seriously I finally bought my first smart phone last January—and yes it is an Apple, but other than an iPod Nano, its the only Apple product I own.) So, when everyone starts raving about a book series or television show, I usually like to sit on the sidelines and watch the chaos unfold. (Unless, of course, I catch the debut along with everyone else, which is slightly easier with television shows—but that is also another story.)

My logic behind this is because, once the hubbub about the product dies down—it will someday—then I like to finally check it out and see if it was really worth all of the excitement. Sometimes things stay legendary and last while others go down in infamy for being preposterous. Harry Potter, is a great example something that will never fade.  I think that fandom will endure for generations, which is why, this past year I proudly jumped on that train.  Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray, for example—erm, not so much.  I waited as long as possible on Twilight, but my mom bought the series, devoured it, and shipped them to me with a “You must read now!” command. I did, and I’m not going to lie, I enjoyed them.  I wasn’t paying attention to the editing issues that everyone bemoans or the few inconsistent word choices.  I paid attention to the fact that I was able to relate to the main character in regards to her childhood—a lot, actually—and I could feel the emotional connection of first love again. (All the people who complain about how the book is just on how you get/keep a boyfriend, really weren’t paying attention to the story, but that’s another debate for another time.) Say what you want about the writing, but if the story was that horrible it wouldn’t have made the money it did. I guess that is why Fifty Shades did so well.  However, I refuse to read that one, because I am deep enough in the writing world now, to know better—-let’s just leave it at that!

Television shows are the same way, I am just now getting introduced to Firefly and Dr. Who, because they have become iconic.  I watched one episode of Game of Thrones (and I’ve been encouraged to power through more—its worth it, promise—they say). I’ve also watched a few episodes of True Blood.  The problem, or maybe the blessing, is that there are so many fandoms to choose from that there is never enough time to dive into all, and if I’m not hooked by the first book or first few episodes, I can try the next one out.

So, am I the only crazy one who waits to see if a fandom is going to be iconic or a laughing stock before I join?

All photos from http://www.barnesandnoble.com

Rejection Fuel.

Rejection is one of the unsavory bits of being creative and putting your work out there for the world to see. I am in the process of querying for a book I wrote and am involved in a writing competition, so I have been seeing a lot of it lately.  Its never a nice feeling, being rejected. It makes me want to act out irrationally, and seems to bring my most immature side to the forefront, and…well…lets face it, she often is not shoved too far back to begin with.  I even have days where I want to throw my hands up and say, “Forget it, I don’t feel like writing today.” Mind you, I only say, “today,” because I’m not so beaten down that I’m ready to say the big “n” word yet. In all of the artistic mediums that I have dabbled in my entire life, writing is probably the only thing I feel confident in. It may sound strange, or unusual, but I like my ideas, I like my writing, and when I’m done at the end of the day, I often look back at it with a smile, and a “hell yeah…that looks good!”

So, when I get a rejection I often want to stick my tongue out at those people, and laugh at the absurdity of their ignorance in the face of my fine art. Then I go eat a piece of humble pie and remind myself, it wasn’t meant to be anyhow.

When I run into the moments of rejection that really bring me down, (i.e. it was someone I really wanted to hear a “yes” from) I try to think about Claude Monet and the Impressionist painters. There is an excellent series done by the BBC on those painters, and even though it follow’s Monet’s story the closest, you really get a sense for what those men went through.  Most of us could not ever afford one of their original paintings today, but for the majority of their lives these men were rejected, laughed at, and ridiculed for their style of painting. A style that is worth millions and hangs in museums, art galleries, and homes of the very very rich around the world today.

Monet spent the majority of his life painting, working on his craft, and putting his heart and soul out there with his art, despite criticism and rejection. He didn’t even really begin to see the fruits of his labors financially until he was in his 50s.  For me, that is inspiration.  My work will never be as masterful and grand as Mr. Monet’s or the other Impressionist painters we know today, but if he could endure under rejection, allowing it to be the fuel to fire his passion, well then….so can I.

On a side note, the series The Impressionists was where I first saw the actor Richard Armitage and his performance blew me away. He is another fantastic artist who has been quite inspiring.

Costume Lessons Learned

As a kid I was not allowed to celebrate the “devil’s holiday” that is Halloween, but as an adult I can do what I want and celebrate “the day to dress up as someone else for fun and get a sugar high” that is Halloween.

I only just started over the past three years to wear costumes because I had an actual party to go to. Two years ago I was a flapper girl and I learned from that costume to always check an itty bitty dress for a side zipper before you struggle into it (feeling like a stuffed sausage in the process), and don’t be surprised if your “fake bob” that you pinned up with your long hair falls down half way through the night. (Damn fine hair!)

Last year I went as a pre-games Katniss.  I had no issues with that costume, because it was easy and comfortable. However, I did learn that if you just bought a new DSLR, don’t let your husband take your picture.  I took everyone else’s picture that night using the “auto” feature because I had not had time to learn how to use it properly (and…what do ya know? They turned out perfect!).   McGuyver decided to play with the settings while taking my picture so only one came out good (and I was sitting down).  Honestly the only reason it came out good was because I was showing an ample amount of cleavage and the man was focused!

Laaaaaast night’s costume was a study in torture.  The majority of the costume was borrowed from a friend, including the corset. I’ve never worn a real corset with strings, and “oh my gawd!” I should not have told my husband to lace me up as tight as he could.  I couldn’t breath for the first half hour and my ribs ached the entire 6 hours I wore it.  (I learned to really value being able to breathe easily!)

I also made sure I got a good picture, because hey….if you are going to suffer for a costume it better be documented! I also realized that I take better pictures with heavy make-up, which is not something I’m thrilled with.  Most pictures in artificial lights wash me out terribly, but apparently if I put on enough make up to make a drag queen proud I don’t look half bad.

So, there you go, friends.  Lessons learned! I’m just glad that they were not of the wardrobe malfunction variety!

Emmy Curves

It’s really sad when out of all the Emmy pics from tonight I can only pick out 4 for my personal “best dressed” list.  I know my opinion counts for little in this matter, but honestly what is up with the lackluster vibe of the fashion and faces at the Emmys tonight?  Was no one happy to be there?  It was as if everyone was either expecting to lose or were told “not to smile” (maybe they are practicing their next drivers license photos?).  It seemed like hardly anyone was smiling. (At least in all of the photos from Yahoo news.)

However, what is not sad is that 2 of my 4 pics are some of the curviest girls in the industry. I absolutely love Sophia Vegara and Christina Hendricks’ curves.  Those girls are incredibly stunning!  I think being able to fill out your dress in all the right places is spectacular.

Christina is wearing Christian Siriano, which if memory serves me is one of her favorite designers.  I love that he used delicate layers of lace to soften the best curves this girl has to offer from her shoulders to her hips. I also love the contrast of the satin ribbon across her waist and the tulle mixed in with the fabric of her train. Lastly, I love the emerald colored jewelry she chose to pair with the outfit.  Most people would have gone with either diamonds, onyx, or ruby, but I like that she did the emerald.  It was a nice surprise.

Sophia Vegara is wearing Vera Wang and although she almost blends in with the carpet at her feet the sexy lace number hugging her curves more than makes up for it.  Not only is this mermaid style one of the best for her body, (and she must know it because she often wears it) but I love how Wang gave the dress an interesting feature with the corset/peplum style belt around the waist. Even though I liked Christina’s emerald jewelry I wouldn’t have gone there with this dress.  I would have done sapphire instead.

If I was going to wear red on the red carpet I would have definitely gone with a red like Kaley Cuoco’s.  The beautiful merlot color doesn’t clash or blend with the carpet and the unique design courtesy of Vera Wang definitely makes the dress stand out.  I’m not sure if both Cuoco’s dress and Vegara’s is from the same line, I highly doubt it, however the unique differences of the two dresses prove to me what a talented designer Wang is.  One is all sensual elegance, the other is artfully rebellious.  I think both fit the women they are worn by very well.  I love the corseted top of Cuoco’s dress that mixes sheer with full coverage, the garter style waist, and the deconstructed dress hiding in plain view of the sheer skirt.  Everything about this dress is perfect, and—above all—it fits Kaley’s body.  That is the one thing I don’t understand about the women who walk down the red carpet. These women spend so much money on preparing to walk down the red carpet.  They work out, diet, detox, spend a day in the spa, primp, buy an expensive dress and shoes and their dress doesn’t even fit their bodies properly. What gives?

As for Sophia Coppola, yes she is skinnier, but she isn’t a scary toothpick.  I think she did something very interesting with her dress, by picking something that actually added curves to her body through creative layering.   Like a lot of the dresses of the night hers is just one shade, and where others failed at using a monochromatic color to highlight interesting structure in an artful way, hers succeeded.  I couldn’t find out who designed her dress, but once again I applaud the young lady for choosing something exquisite and beautiful that fit her body.  I just wouldn’t have gone with matching shoes. A pop of color—coral maybe—would have been much more interesting.

Photos for Vegara, Hendricks, and Coppola are courtesy of http://tv.yahoo.com

Cuoco’s photo is from style.com