Supernatural Review: Episode 8×17 “Goodbye Stranger”

Review of Episode 8×17: “Goodbye Stranger”
by castiello

Take 10,000 dead fake-Deans. Add two unicorns, an angel/demon romance, a bunch of crypts owned by Lucifer, and a healthy side of Crowley, and what do you get? A squirm-around-on-the-couch, yell-at-the-screen, pretty darn good episode of Supernatural. This ep had great forward motion, answering questions, resolving some hanging storyline threads, and bringing several issues out into the open:

Sam’s Illness: Honestly, when Dean found that bloody tissue, I was more relieved than anything. Finally, Dean has all the facts – or at least as many facts as it is possible to have at this point. Apparently, Sam is damaged on the subatomic level. He is damaged in ways that Castiel can’t heal, and it may or may not be fatal. You’d think this info would make me want to cry into a couch cushion, but hearing all of that actually made me feel better, not worse. I like knowing what we’re up against, and I trust Castiel’s diagnosis, even though he was still under Naomi’s control at the time. Cass is a healer who can sense everything from a person’s coronary health to whether or not they have a mild bladder infection, and as far as we know, he had no reason to lie about Sam’s condition. At the end of the episode, when Dean said he couldn’t take any more lies from anyone, Sam seemed to hear him and really take the message to heart. I feel confident that Sam will be honest about his health going forward. The lies hurt Dean more than the truth about Sam’s suffering, and I think Sam finally gets that.

Naomi’s Mind-Control: Finally, finally, Castiel has broken free! He remembers Naomi’s torture and even was able to tell Dean what happened. Of course, before that could happen, we all had to suffer a little bit of torture ourselves, watching Castiel beat Dean’s face into bloody mulch. The fact that Cass had to practice killing Dean thousands of times to even come close to killing the real thing says so much about the bond these two share. The scope of that opening scene, the cinematic scale of seeing all those dead Deans, was brilliantly handled by the FX team and truly proved that a picture is worth a thousand words. As I writer, I shouldn’t really say that, but dang if it wasn’t true in this ep! That was a bigger, better effect than the shot of Dean hanging by meat-hooks in hell at the end of Season Three.

And of course, hearing the real Dean begging and pleading for Cass to stop, hearing that fear in Dean’s voice when Cass reached out to heal him…brutal, gut-wrenching stuff. That whole scene was a beautiful and very deliberate parallel to Sam/Lucifer pounding Dean into raw pulp in the cemetery in Lawrence. Not quite as powerful, since Sam and Dean have a stronger bond (and since this wasn’t literally the end of the world), but a touching moment nonetheless. In the end, the power of Castiel’s love for Dean was deeper and stronger than the power of Naomi’s mind control, and I never doubted that it would be. This show may be the very definition of dark, but ultimately, light will always triumph.

Meg’s Whereabouts: At long last, Castiel got to rescue his demon love, and we got to see our favorite bad-turned-kinda-good black-eyed b**ch in action. I can’t tell you how much I missed this girl: Sam: “You let dozens of innocent people get killed because you were ‘buying time’?” Meg: “Hi, I’m Meg. I’m a demon.” ROFL! How can you not love her? It was cool to see her used as a resource to find Lucifer’s crypts – sometimes it’s easy to forget just how deep her history is. Being Azazel’s daughter and an important Lucifer-loyalist, Meg has all kinds of insider knowledge and it was neat that the show finally explored that a little bit.

Another neat thing: She still has the hots for Cass! And he still has the hots for her! Their scenes together were oddly touching. Their relationship has gone through so many different stages, from sane to crazy to almost-sane again. They are the ultimate odd couple, and there is absolutely no reason why a romance between these two characters should work, but maybe that’s why it does. Love is insane, and I ship Meg/Castiel. And even though I knew no happy ending could ever be possible for them, I was disappointed to have their time together end so abruptly. Knowing how much Meg meant to Cass, I felt sure that Sam and Dean would try to save her, but instead they just drove away…and I was left a little bit bereft. Meg’s death felt kinda wasted. I know she was buying time so Sam and Dean could escape, but still. If they’re going to kill off a character that important, who’s been on the show since Season One, they should do it with more fanfare. Cass should have been there, at the very least.

The Angel Tablet: Finally, Sam and Dean know about the angel tablet. It’s always scary when there are threats floating around that they don’t even know about, so this was another big relief. And now that Cass has the tablet, I know he will keep it away from demons, bad angels, and yes, even Dean. I don’t blame Castiel for wanting to keep the tablet from his human friends – considering that those same friends brought on the apocalypse just a few years ago. I don’t think it’s necessary for Sam and Dean to read the tablet or possess it. Now that Naomi’s mind-control is broken, I trust Castiel to keep the tablet safe on his own.

Randomness: I’ve always liked the fast cuts between Castiel’s scenes with Naomi in heaven and his scenes with Sam, Dean, etc, back on Earth. This episode was full of these cuts, giving it a fast-paced feel that only added to the urgency of the situation. Also liked: Sam and Meg’s long overdue conversation about when she possessed him back in Season Two. Interesting stuff, and funny, too. Love interests on this show shall henceforth be referred to as unicorns. 🙂

Questions: What exactly does “subatomic damage” mean? Are we even sure it is damage? Maybe Sam is just changing – like, physically transforming into something else. Like, a more powerful being that will be capable of closing the hell-gate, once his transformation is complete. (Hey, don’t look at me that way – I’m just throwing out ideas!) Another question: Why does Naomi want Dean dead? She spent loads of time training Cass to kill Dean, but killing Dean was not necessary in order to secure the tablet – Castiel could simply have knocked Dean unconscious and taken the tablet. Cass clearly had the upper hand, strength-wise. So, what’s Naomi’s motive for wanting Dean dead, and what’s her motive for obtaining the angel tablet? Originally, I assumed she just wanted to keep it away from demons, which is quite understandable, but in this ep it sounded like the angels could actually use the tablet to become more powerful…eeek!

Final Question: Is Meg really dead? Like for sure???

Final Thoughts: Just a great episode that kept things moving. Supernatural has always been a show about giving payoffs and rewarding viewers with real results and storyline resolution, rather than stringing people along for eight seasons with no answers. We got a lot of answers and resolution in this ep, even as more questions were raised, and I am left feeling super-excited for tonight’s episode. 🙂

The Cool Thing Rule

When it comes to writing, we all seem to have different ideas about what makes a good, productive session. One author I read about has to write a minimum of five pages per day in order to feel like she’s reached her goal. Another writer measures his success by word count – nothing less than a 4,000-word session will do. Other authors choose to focus more on the time put in than the amount of product churned out – as long as they spend a solid hour writing every day, then they feel like they’ve accomplished something.

As for me, I’m not nearly so strict. I’ve never set a word- or page-count goal, nor do I make myself write for a specific duration of time. If I’ve set aside two hours to write, and I happen to reach a natural stopping point after only an hour-and-a-half, then I’m punching out for the day. I’m not going to force myself to start a new scene or a new chapter just because I still have time left on the clock. Same goes for page count – on my best days, I can spew out about two-and-a-half pages, single-spaced. On my worst days, though, when I’ve been wrestling with a difficult scene or some stubborn dialogue, I might reach my limit after only a few paragraphs. If I try to push any further, the writing quality begins to drop. My creative thinking skills plummet off the edge of the Grand Canyon, my brain starts waving the white flag, and I know it’s time to close the laptop.

But if there’s no set word count, no predetermined number of pages, and no specific time window, how do I know that I’ve met my writing goal for the day? The answer: The Cool Thing Rule. Years ago, I was watching the special features on one of my Smallville DVDs (go ahead, you can say it: geeeeeeeek), and the guy in charge of the show’s computer-generated effects said something interesting. He said that as the FX team prepared to shoot each episode, they would always try to come up with at least one effect that made them say, “Wow, it would be really cool if we could pull that off…”

I apply this same concept to my writing. I may not be required to write a certain number of pages each session, but I do have to write at least one Cool Thing. This Cool Thing might be a particularly poetic description, a funny line of dialogue, a unique and quirky simile, or something else entirely, but it has to be Really Cool. And there is no cheating when it comes to this rule – the Cool Thing can’t be something I came up with the night before, or earlier that day when I was out mucking horse stalls. The Cool Thing must be something that sprouts up organically during the day’s writing session, completely unexpected and unplanned. Something that gives my heart a little caffeine-jolt of excitement as the words flow across the screen. Something I can look back on, when I’m done writing, and think, Yeah, I made progress. I wrote something Cool today.

So, that’s how I measure a good, productive writing session – not in words or in hours, but in Cool Things.

How about you?

 

Mentalist Review: Episode 5×17 “Red, White and Blue”

Review of Episode 5×17: “Red, White and Blue”
by castiello

Overall: There are some episodes that make you proud to be a fan. Episodes that take your breath away with a whirlwind of great writing, excellent directing, and stellar performances. Episodes that you actually want to show to other people – people who don’t ordinarily watch The Mentalist – just to give them a taste of the phenomenal series they are missing. This episode fell into that category. “Red, White and Blue” was a shining example of network television at its finest.

Jane: How much do I love it when Jane is kind to vulnerable people? How much do I love it when he uses his impressive skills for something that is purely good, rather than deceptive and morally questionable? Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much! He was awesome in this episode. Just plain awesome. Every moment he spent with Pete, from helping the young soldier remember Lucy’s murder to teaching him how to create his own memory palace, was sweet and wonderful. I ate it up like a pigeon in a parking lot, chowing on a dropped hot dog bun. Even Jane’s apology sounded unusually sincere. And sincerity, from Jane, is a rare and beautiful thing. My absolute favorite Jane moment in this episode, though, was when he said a simple and heartfelt thank you to all the soldiers who were suffering from traumatic brain injuries. His voice was so soft and rough with true emotion. Simon outdid himself. That big puddle on the floor over there used to be my heart.

Lisbon: Okay somebody needs to make an “Army of Two” banner or wallpaper featuring Jane and Lisbon, because that scene was just too funny. The way they kept on singing the song together made me laugh. And of course, it took all of two seconds for Jane and Lisbon to prove that their team deserved the case. No surprises there. I liked that Lisbon contributed to the sleuthing, so it wasn’t just Jane showing off. Still, I did wonder why Jane couldn’t read the music himself – doesn’t he play the string bass?

Lisbon’s sensitivity and respect toward Pete was a highlight of this episode, just like Jane’s was. You could see it in the gentle way she told Rigsby, “You might have to remind him who you are and what you’re doing…” And when Lisbon tried half-heartedly to insist that Pete was still a suspect in Lucy’s murder, I love how all it took was a look from Jane to make her say, “Okay, fine, he’s not a suspect!” Another great Lisbon moment: she was the one who figured out that it didn’t fit Lucy’s character to file an anonymous complaint. The plot was well-developed enough that I came to this realization right in tandem with Lisbon, feeling like I was investigating the case alongside her.

Cho: Fantastic B-plot, perfectly suited to his character. It was so nice to see him doing something other than talking to Rigsby about Van Pelt. I love great partner moments at least as much as the next person, but Cho was overdue for a solo storyline, and the one he got in this episode was better than I could have hoped for. You could just feel the contempt he had for the irresponsible unit leader. Allowing unit members to get harassed? Not carefully investigating a sexual harassment claim? When soldiers are relying on each other in life-or-death situations, this crap can’t be going on in the background, and Cho knows it. He urged the unit leader to reinvestigate Rose’s claim, essentially telling the guy to “Be someone your unit can respect. Be someone I can respect.” Cho’s salute at the end of the episode said more than words ever could.

Rigsby: Not too much for him to do in this episode, although I did like his line about finding dates in prison. Rigsby’s disgust for the murderer in this episode matched the audience’s. As the doctor went on and on, complaining about his alimony payments and then emotionlessly describing Lucy’s death, you couldn’t help but hate him. Lucy had done so much good, from protecting a fellow soldier who’d been sexually harassed to devoting herself to aiding veterans with brain trauma. The world needed someone like her. To see her robbed of her life by someone so self-involved and generally worthless as the doctor made me a little sick, and I could see that emotion on Rigsby’s face as well. What a waste.

Randomness: Great red herring, showing that one soldier with the box cutter – I thought for sure he was guilty of the murder. The casting and writing in general were superb. I got to know and care about the guest characters, which isn’t something that happens in every episode. Normally when I write reviews, I either have to look up the names of the minor characters, or I simply write, “guy with the leather jacket,” “the victim’s sister,” “the killer,” etc. But in this case, I found that I remembered their names on my own. Pete, Rose and Lucy became as real to me as Lisbon, Jane, Risgby and Cho. My only (very minor) complaints for this episode were: A.) No mention of Van Pelt, and B.) No mention of the events in the previous episode. And honestly, I’m not even sure those are true complaints, because although part of me wanted some continuity, some way to place this episode in the order of the season, another part of me thought it was absolute perfection as an isolated, completely stand-alone story.

Final Thoughts: I’ve said before that I live for the episodes centered on Jane, Lisbon and Co, and am generally not that interested in the stand-alone, “crime of the week” eps. This episode, however, was the rare exception to that rule. Once in a while, when the writing and the directing and the performances all align, we get something incredible, like “The Red Mile” or “Ruby Slippers.” Episodes where I cried for characters I’d only just met, because their stories moved me so deeply. “Red, White and Blue” is another one to add to that list. One of the best eps of the season, and one of the best stand-alones of the whole series.

Finding Markets: Don’t Give Up

This year, I’m trying to get serious about submissions. (Really, I am.) And on this quest to send out more stories to more publishers, I’ve made a discovery: you can’t just rely on one market database – you need to use every tool at your disposal.

A while back, someone was kind enough to give me a year’s subscription to WritersMarket.com (http://www.writersmarket.com/Default.aspx). So, back in January, I fired up my membership for the first time, and eagerly began looking at potential publishers for one of my fantasy stories. Almost immediately, I found a couple of good reasons to freak out: Reason A.) I could only find about four markets – total – that seemed like they might be good matches for my story. Reason B.) Several of the fantasy markets that I had seen on Duotrope (http://duotrope.com/) last year did not show up in the WritersMarket.com listing at all.

So, not only was I bumming about having very few viable options for my poor story, but I was also incredibly nervous about those missing markets. If there were markets left out in the fantasy category, couldn’t there be markets left out in the horror, YA, and inspirational categories as well? After starting my search so hopefully, I felt like I’d been kicked in the bum. It’s hard to get energized about submitting when the chances of getting published seem so darn bleak. I mean, four markets? Total? Was signing up for WritersMarket.com an epic mistake?

The answer: No. Not at all. What I didn’t know a few months ago is that I shouldn’t have been limiting myself to that one database. No database, not even one as enormous as WritersMarket.com, could possibly list every single publisher, agent, magazine, contest and writing organization known to man. There are markets on Duotrope that aren’t on WritersMarket.com. There are markets on WriterMarket.com that aren’t on Duotrope. And there are many markets you can find with a simple Google or Bing search that aren’t listed on either WritersMarket.com or Duotrope.

The reality of the situation: WritersMarket.com gave me several good leads for my story, and I’m pursuing them. But I’m not stopping there, and neither should you. The truth is, writers need all the help they can get to find homes for their stories, articles and books – so why limit yourself? If you’re serious about getting published, attack the challenge with everything in your arsenal. And to that end, here are a few more weapons to add to your cache:

FFC’s Flash Fiction Markets:

http://www.everydayfiction.com/flashfictionblog/flashmarkets/

A free market listing specializing in flash fiction. Updated weekly, this listing is organized by word count, and features symbols that indicate whether or not the market pays, and what genres of writing it accepts. Also really handy: Many of the listings have an “Interview with the Editor” section, which can really give you a great feel for what types of stories the magazine is looking for.

Poets and Writers Magazine’s Tools for Writers:

http://www.pw.org/toolsforwriters

A free database featuring literary magazines and journals, contests, grants, MFA programs, literary agents and more. (They also have weekly writing prompts, if you’re looking for inspiration!)

Hope these are helpful! Keep writing, and keep looking for homes for your stories!

-Gretchen

 

Mentalist Review: Episode 5×16 “There Will be Blood”

Review of Episode 5×16: “There Will be Blood”
by castiello

Overall: Raw and gruesome, just like any good Red John episode should be. There was torture, there was murder, there were answers given and even more questions raised. Loyalties were tested. Friendships were tested. Emotions ran high in this exciting and action-packed installment of the Red John Saga.

Jane: For the most part, he made me proud. He’s been doing that a lot lately. In this episode he was truly, visibly upset that Lorelei had killed someone. He felt responsible for her actions, since he was the one who set her free. As Lorelei pointed out, Jane is not as cold-hearted as he would like everyone to believe. This gives me hope for his future. Buckets and buckets full of hope.

Some other things that give me hope: Jane was honest with Lisbon about meeting with Lorelei. Jane said “thank you” to Lisbon for covering his butt (even though he most certainly didn’t deserve it). Jane called Rigsby immediately after figuring out who the Red John minion was. Jane also called Lisbon right away to let her know Rigsby was in trouble, and checked on Rigsby before entering the suspect’s house. As badly as Jane wanted to get inside that house, he put the needs and safety of others above his own personal vendetta. The softer side of our favorite consultant is in full view this season, and I could not be more ecstatic. I know he’ll always be an egomaniac, and I would never want that part of him to change, but his capacity for kindness and empathy gives him balance. Without it, he’s just an annoyingly brilliant detective with a great smile.

Considering how nice Jane was in this episode, it was pretty awful to see him get betrayed like that. It hurt when Lorelei wouldn’t give up Red John. If killing Red John was her goal, why not tell Jane the name and they could hunt him together? It was foolish, going after Red John alone, and Jane told her as much. Of course Red John was watching Lorelei’s every move. He’s always twenty steps ahead. She never even had a chance.

And then, on top of the betrayal, Lorelei shot Jane’s one remaining lead. Watching Jane perform CPR on that guy, hearing Jane’s voice break as he said he couldn’t find a pulse, seeing him yelling and screaming when the paramedics took the guy away…brutal stuff. I can’t even blame Jane for being that paranoid, because he has a right to be. Red John has minions everywhere. Ten bucks says Jane never sees that guy again.

Despite all the hopeful signs regarding Jane’s character, there was one unsettling note. One line that gave me a little shudder – the last line of the episode. After seeing Lorelei’s bloody corpse, complete with the trademark smiley face on the wall, Jane said something to the effect of “She had it coming.” And then he just walked away. Any way you look at that last scene, it’s pretty cold – especially as he had admitted to having some unspecified feelings for Lorelei earlier in the episode. Some interpretations of Jane’s line are more disturbing than others, though. He may have simply meant “Lorelei had it coming because she was torturing and killing people herself.” What goes around comes around, right? Karmic justice and all that. I think Lorelei even said the same thing after she killed Julia in the beginning of the episode: “She had it coming. She helped murder my sister.” Or, maybe Jane simply meant that Lorelei was a fool for taking on Red John alone. She wouldn’t heed Jane’s warning, and ended up dead because of it. She had it coming. But what if Jane actually meant “After stringing me along and betraying me, after denying me what she promised and then shooting my only lead, she deserved what she got”? That one gives me the most chills. I don’t think Lorelei deserved to die just for betraying Jane (if the situation were reversed, don’t tell me Jane wouldn’t have done the same thing), but maybe Jane does think this. And as warm as he was for the whole rest of the episode, he was stone-friggin-cold at the end…

Lisbon: All I can say is, I really hope there was nothing extremely flammable in the vicinity during her scenes with Jane, because I saw some serious sparks. When these two really dig deep, when they peel things right down to the nerve, it’s absolutely electric. Lisbon gave Jane an ultimatum: if you’re going to continue operating outside of the law, you’re going to have to leave the team. Jane countered with the truth: I will do whatever it takes to catch Red John, and you have known this from Day One.

In the end, Lisbon sided with Jane, covering up his meeting with Lorelei and lying about the circumstances of Lorelei’s escape. I honestly can’t blame Lisbon for hiding the truth from the likes of Bertram and Kirkland. Considering all of the inside jobs Red John has pulled off, Lisbon would be a fool to trust her slippery, politics-oriented boss. She would be a complete idiot to trust Kirkland, some guy she barely knows who won’t even explain what he’s doing on the case. Lisbon is smart to put her trust in her team, and her team alone.

I did feel bad about Jane making her an accessory to murder, though. Not just bad – like, really crappy. I believe his claim that he didn’t think Lorelei would kill anyone, but still. It’s a nasty position he’s put Lisbon in, having to choose between her love of the law and her loyalty to her friend. She was in this same exact position with Bosco years ago, and loyalty won back then, too. In this case, I don’t really think Lisbon had enough evidence to turn Jane in, even if she wanted to. But she certainly could have changed the focus of the investigation, and eventually some evidence of Jane’s involvement would have turned up.

At least Jane had the decency to say “thank you.” I get why Lisbon didn’t want to accept his thanks, though – it made her feel dirty. She knows what she did was wrong, even if she had good reasons (Jane is a friend, the person Lorelei killed was a freakish murderer, and Kirkland can be trusted about as far as you can throw a piano). Lisbon is the last person who’d ever want to dress up a crime as a good deed. She was disgusted with herself, and it showed.

As angry as she was, though, we got to see at least as much of Lisbon’s gentle side as we did Jane’s. The tenderness in her voice when she wanted to take over CPR, and that devastated expression on her face as she came up to the attic to tell Jane about Lorelei. Some phenomenal acting on that last bit, especially – I mean, Lisbon didn’t even have to say anything, because I already knew. And the whole scene gave me some major X-Files déjà vu: remember the scene where Scully comes to tell Mulder that Diana Fowley’s been murdered? Same emotion. You could just see it written all over Scully’s face.

Rigsby/Cho: In a dark and twisty episode, at least these guys got some light moments, talking about what “computer stuff” Van Pelt might be up to. And even after Rigsby got hurt, there was still a bit of comedy: Cho “You all right?” Rigs: “Not really…” Cho (to Lisbon): “He’ll be fine.” Of course, Rigsby did not look the least bit “fine” at that moment, but I think the fact that he was talking and saying he wasn’t fine made Cho believe that his partner was okay. With some people, guys especially, they’ll say they’re okay when they’re at death’s door, but moan over a paper cut. If Rigsby was seriously injured, he likely would’ve been more stoic about it.

Bertram: Bertram, you slippery, sly dog, secretly reporting to Kirkland like that. Bertram is one of those characters that I’ll never be able to trust. He’ll always have an ulterior, self-serving motive. Now, whether that motive is to boost his career by catching Red John or boost his career by serving Red John, we may never know. But if I had to leave my life in the hands of Bertram or some random dude on the street, Street Dude’s got it.

Kirkland: Oooh, he’s creeping it up again. I like it! He engaged me whenever he was onscreen, and even seemed to have a weirder look and vibe to him than in his previous appearances. He used to have facial hair…didn’t he? The clean-shaven look is doing wonders for his “ick” factor. I still don’t know if he’s Red John, but at least in this episode I felt like he would do the character some justice.

Lorelei: I’ll miss her. Yeah, I know, I’m one of about two fans who actually liked this character, but I’ll miss her, nonetheless. I’m glad we got to see so many sides of her in this episode – we saw someone who’s a ruthless murderer, someone who is comfortable torturing others, someone who does actually care about Jane’s feelings (to an extent), someone who does care about innocent lives (she wouldn’t shoot the children in the way of her target, and only wounded the cop), someone who deeply loved her sister, and, in the end, someone who is as self-serving as Jane himself. Though most of the fandom is probably still singing “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead,” I will take a moment to mourn this character who was complex, well-cast (hey, she was cute enough that I still liked her, even when she was zapping people with a stun-gun), and made every episode in which she appeared a topsy-turvy, unpredictable ride.

Randomness: Speaking of unpredictable, whoever cast this ep did a great job. By including at least two “big name” actors in the group of board members, the casting director made it that much harder for the audience to guess who the Red John minion would turn out to be. My money was actually on Emmanuelle Vaugier. She was definitely dialing up the weird, just to throw people off :). Also, Jane’s line about “I only tell you what I’m doing about thirty percent of the time” was priceless. And so true. One of the most interesting things in this whole episode, for me, was the location where Lorelei’s body was found. Was that carnival/funhouse stuff lying around that storage facility? Carnival, as in how Jane grew up? Hmmm…

Final thoughts: Intensity. Unpredictability. High emotion, high stakes, high risk. When our characters are faced with a tough situation, we get to see who’s really trustworthy…and who’s not. Who’s willing to bend the law, and who isn’t. We get to see who puts friendship first, and who puts revenge above all else. In “There Will Be Blood,” we got to see a lot – and I liked what I saw. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Mentalist Fan Fiction and Fan Art Awards: Call for Nominations

Paint It Red, my favorite Mentalist Fan Forum, is holding its second annual “Paint It Red Awards”! This is an incredibly exciting time of year for me, as these awards are the biggest and best chance I have to really give back to the fandom and show the authors and artists how much I enjoy and appreciate their work.

But it’s more than just an opportunity to give some well-deserved kudos. These awards can – and do – make a real difference in the lives of the people who get nominated. Most fan fiction authors and fan artists are folks with stressful day-jobs, hectic pick-the-kids-up-by-5:30-or-else schedules, and barely any time to breathe, much less create. They are folks who stay up past midnight, just to finish the last few paragraphs of the next chapter…and not because they have to meet a publisher’s deadline. No, they are doing it for that one fan who said to them, “Please post again soon – I can’t wait to find out what happens next!” or that one reviewer who commented, “Great job. Your work is really beautiful.” They are doing it for love of character, love of plot, and for the pure enjoyment of their fellow fans.

When you nominate a story or a piece of artwork for a Paint It Red Award, you are telling that author or artist that their efforts matter. That those lost hours of sleep were not in vain. That even though they will never make a single cent of profit from what they created, their story or their banner or their icon was worth something to you.

If you have ever read a piece of great Mentalist fan fiction, or enjoyed a really awesome piece of Mentalist fan art, please consider making a nomination in the 2013 Paint It Red Awards:

http://z13.invisionfree.com/Paint_It_Red/index.php?showtopic=1127

It’s easy, it’s free, and – believe me – it’s worth it. 🙂

Writer’s Digest Writing Competition: Be an Early Bird!

I don’t know whether it’s the possibility of awesome prizes, the pressure of a looming deadline, or simply the rush of competition, but nothing lights a fire under my inkwells like a good writing contest. If you feel the same way, you might want to check out the 82nd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. The top prizes are cool (money, exposure to agents/publishers, writing-related discounts, etc.), the entry fees are reasonable, and there are ten different categories to choose from: memoir/personal essay, genre short story, mainstream/literary short story, magazine feature article, rhyming poetry, non-rhyming poetry, stage play, television/movie script, children’s/young adult fiction, and inspirational writing.

Intrigued? Click here for more details on this reputable and long-running contest:

http://www.writersdigest.com/competitions/writers-digest-annual-competition

If you decide you might like to enter, the best advice I can offer is to enter something that’s absolutely your best work (duh), and to enter it EARLY. I don’t have a huge amount of contest experience under my belt, but I’ve spoken to a fair share of writers who do (including the winner of the EBONY Writing Contest), and they all strongly emphasize one thing: the earlier you enter, the better. The fees are lower if you enter your manuscript by the early bird deadline (May 6, 2013), and – more importantly – the readers are in a better mood. Now, I’m sure every single reader in every single contest is trying his or her best to view each story objectively, but they are only human, and the fact is you’re just not gonna be as enthusiastic about reading manuscript #9,976 as you were about reading manuscript #4. By #9,976, the excitement has died, your eyes are starting to blur, and Times New Roman font has become strangely nauseating.

So, make sure your manuscript is #4. Or, better yet, #1. Get up early and catch that worm! Give yourself the best possible chance to wow the judges in this fun and wide-ranging contest…And who knows, maybe that worm will turn out to be a trip to NYC to meet your future agent!

Best of luck!

-Gretchen