MaryJanice Davidson's Blog

January 21, 2017

January 14, 2016

Well, this week sucked. I wasn't even used to the idea of David Bowie being gone when I found out Alan Rickman died. Figured the best way to deal was to have my characters deal. Enjoy, or cry, or both. Yeah...definitely both.  

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"David Bowie and Alan Rickman in the same week?" I threw my phone at the wall, expecting a satisfying racket. My aim was off, so it punched through the kitchen window instead. "This. Week. SUCKS." 
"My condolences, darling." Sinclair tore himself away from the WSJ long enough to give me a sympathetic glance. "I know it grieves you when celebrities you've never met pass away."
"You're a soulless monster," I informed the love of my life. "You don't have to know someone to feel sad when they're gone."
"What's wrong?" Tina came into the kitchen at a near-run. "Are you all right? Is someone hurt? Your phone is on the lawn."
"A singer and an actor died. The queen grieves."
"Oh. My sympathies. Ah..." Tina's eyes went narrow as she thought. "Their art lives on?"
"You two suck at this. I need--"
The swinging door swung in so hard, whoever shoved it had to leap back to avoid a broken nose, then jump into the kitchen on the forward swing. "Betsy! Ziggy Stardust and Hans Gruber are dead!"
"I know." Marc nearly knocked me down as he rushed me for a hug. "I know, it's awful. They're not, though, not really. David's dancing in the streets and Alan's sitting on a beach, earning twenty percent."
A sniffle against my shoulder was his only response. "D'you want to binge watch Harry Potter?" I asked, patting him. "And Labyrinth and Zoolander and The Prestige? And drink mourning smoothies?"
"Okay then." I glared at the puzzled vampires. "We're taking the week off. If you need us, we'll be admiring Snape's Prince Valiant haircut while blasting Let's Dance and drinking mourning smoothies, which are totally different from morning smoothies."
"As you like, my own."
"Majesty," Tina said with a small bow in my direction--ugh. She knew bows made me itch.
"I can't believe they're gone," Marc sniffled, following me down the hall.
"I know. C'mon. Let's go be sad for a couple of days."
"Just a couple?"
"Let's take stock after forty-eight hours. Okay?"
Marc reached for my hand, gripped it. "Okay."
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Published on January 14, 2016 12:38 • 118 views

August 11, 2015

Went up north for a friend's wedding, which was lovely, and stayed at the Sheraton Duluth, which wasn't. My most controversial column yet for USA Today! But for reasons that are, at best, laughable. The general consensus of the negative comments is that my standards (carpets that don't smell like mold; lobbies free of vermin) are too high. Trying (and failing) not to read overt sexism into it ("Why complain?" "Seriously?"). See for yourself here.

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Published on August 11, 2015 18:31 • 19 views

June 25, 2015

My freezer tried to kill me. So how was your weekend? The madness is here.
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Published on June 25, 2015 12:07 • 15 views

June 12, 2015

My yearly anti-Marching Band rant. Actually it's an anti-notary rant. Well, mostly it's just a rant. The madness starts here.

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Published on June 12, 2015 11:31 • 21 views

June 1, 2015

Two more of my columns for USA. Avoid at all costs if snark bugs you. Click if you like Magic the Gathering or Dungeons and Dragons. Unless snark about those topics bugs you. Then nix the click.

* * *

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Published on June 01, 2015 15:45 • 16 views

April 16, 2015

Complaining about my terrific life on Facebook wasn't enough anymore. It was good for a quick thrill, like a mojito or a hastily gobbled bag of Tootsie Rolls, but I wanted more. I was addicted to bitching and needed another forum. (Besides my 65+ book back list, FB, Twitter, e-mails, and this blog. Yes, I'm aware the first step in tackling my problem is admitting my problem. Hush up.) 

I brought my "problem" to the attention of USA Today, who graciously allowed me a bi-weekly column where I compare the awesomeness of being an international best-selling author to the awesomeness of being a wife and mother. (One of those jobs is sexy and impressive. The other is more important, but taken seriously by almost no one except SAHMs.) 

So behold! The first of many ruminations to come. My editor had only one request: "Try to keep the language family-friendly," to which I replied with great dignity, "You go straight to hell, beeyatch!" (Really inappropriate, right? I should have known better. No one says beeyatch anymore.) This column is obscenity-free, though at one point I describe sneezing blood all over my windshield. Never say I didn't warn you.

The horror is here.

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Published on April 16, 2015 11:35 • 123 views

January 22, 2015

Ryan Murphy, co-creator of FX's American Horror Story, is not a subtle man. And that's never been a problem for me, because I'm not a subtle man, either. I loved Nip/Tuck and I thought AHS: Murder House was a revelation and his work introduced me to the glory that is Lily Rabe and until the season finale of AHS: Freak Show I thought I'd be happy watching Jessica Lange recite grocery lists and now I know that's not so, and it's Ryan Murphy's fault. 

As with my reviews of Splice and Lucy, I'm doing this to save people from pissing away almost a full day of their lives by watching season 4, episodes 1 to 12. (Yes, I only hate-review.) You're doing the math and telling yourself, that's only half a day, you shrill idiot. But Ryan Murphy, like Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy) is allowed to write episodes that are longer than an hour, because story, dammit! Which makes the story failure that much more annoying. This was bad, you guys. Not hate-watch bad, which is sometimes good. Bad-bad. 

Many many spoilers to follow.

Okay, so: premise. The glorious Jessica Lange plays Elsa Mars, who is German for some reason, a fading glamour gal with dreams of stardom (und eh respy Churman eccent). She runs a freak show in Jupiter, Florida, in 1952 (remember the year; it will be relevant to my noisome whining later). Elsa's convinced being discovered is just around the corner, and surrounds herself with society's cast-offs (conjoined twins, a young man with syndactyly, a bearded lady, a man with phocomelia, an exquisitely pretty Indian with achondroplasis, etc.), uses them to put on a freak show with her non-freak self as the headliner, and impatiently waits to be a star, baby!

Alas, freak shows in 1952 Jupiter, Florida are a dying breed. Elsa has to use sex to keep them from being evicted from the sad field they've camped in, while Jimmy Chance (who has syndactyly, a "lobster boy") claw-diddles local bored housewives to orgasm when they're not buying Tupperware (That'll be relevant and grotesque later, too. Not the claw-diddling. The Tupperware.). Jimmy's sweet and thoughtful and protective of his family of freaks, and he loves his mother and tries hard to be a good son. But the non-freak townspeople are super mean to him (when he's not claw-diddling them to orgasm). It's like they can't even see the wonderful person he is inside! It's like Jupiter, Florida, is the real freak show, you guys!

(That may come up again.)

We've got Kathy Bates as the bearded lady who's freakishness isn't the beard but the terrible Baltimore accent she/Ryan/the writers thought the character needed. Who-ley moo-ley, that accent. At first I figured Kathy Bates finally found an accent she couldn't do. "Ehohh, we gotta git hewm ta be w' th' feaulks." What are you doing, Kathy Bates? Don't talk with your mouth full. 

I've since found out it's a totally legit accent and Bates is apparently nailing it. Vox put it best, calling it a "jagged Appalachian tootle that has upstaged veteran scenery chewers like Angela Bassett and Jessica Lange". To my surprise, there are people in the real world who talk like that (Vox was a revelation). But I still don't like it, so that probably makes this blog a hate crime. I'm sorry, City of Baltimore. Your land is beautiful, but your weird goat vowels (that's a thing! that's what they're called!) bug my flat, nasal Midwestern vowels. 

Like Elsa being German, there's really no reason Ethel has to be from Baltimore and speak in goat vowels. Kathy can nail a southern accent, a Maine accent, a New Orleans accent, and many other accents, so why not have her do a recognizable one that doesn't distract viewers from stuff they should be paying attention to? The random weirdness needlessly distracts from weirdness that actually means something. 

There's Angela Bassett, who killed it in AHS: Coven last season, but who, despite being a hermaphrodite with three boobs, had little to do as Desiree Dupree but a tired "Chile, you mess with me, you gon' get hurt!" All Beautiful Sassy Black Women Are Beautiful And Sassy routine. 

There's Bette and Dot Tatler, conjoined twins who, in the pilot, killed their mother to be free (she was deeply ashamed of them and never let them leave the house, more I think because Dot was a bitch and Bette was a simp than that she saw them as freaks). They're played by Sarah Paulson in some truly remarkable CGI effects, and can read each other's thoughts. And are virgins. And within two minutes of meeting them, Elsa established how they masturbate (one of them does, the other closes her eyes and pretends she doesn't feel anything). Because that was important, apparently, even though it never came up again.
We've also got Paul the Illustrated Seal, a tattooed man with phocomelia, Amazon Eve whose freak power is being tall and strong (and who beats the living snot out of strongman Michael Chiklis in one of my favorite scenes), and Ma Petite who is a grown woman in a baby's body (another one of my favorite characters, so I was pissed when she was killed and stuffed into a jar). 
And Pepper, a "pinhead" who was in AHS: Asylum (Ryan Murphy says all the AHS seasons take place in the same universe). We get her back story; she'd been taken away from the freak show when her husband died, and brought home to her normal sister. Elsa genuinely thought she was doing the right thing for Pepper, except her sister was a boozing bitch with a loathsome husband. Her sister gave birth to a "freak baby" she and her loathsome husband both loathed, because they're loathsome. But Pepper loved and took scrupulous care of her nephew, until the loathsome father drowned it and cut off its ears, and her terrible sister had her committed to AHS: Asylum. Because her sister and brother-in-law were the real freaks, you guys. Kind sweet loving Pepper wasn't a freak at all. It's just, she looked different! So people judged her! And they shouldn't have judged her because she looked different! Because inside, she was a really good person! But her sister wasn't! Nor her brother-in-law! They seemed normal but they were the real freak show,  you guys!
(I'm sorry about the exclamation points, but that's what watching this season was like. That's how subtle Ryan Murphy isn't.) 
Oh, and there's a clown serial killer, Twisty, also on the loose, serial killing. Fun! He's a freak, too, but even though his murders have all of Jupiter, FL, on edge, no one thinks twice about how a strange clown wanders around town in a blood-spattered costume he never washes, with a filthy mask over his mouth (hiding the ruin left from a botched suicide attempt by shotgun). The only thing people want to do when they cross paths is hire him for parties. Because he's dressed as a (blood-spattered) clown, people don't see the murderous freak he is inside. Because Jupiter, Fl, is the real freak show, you guys. 

Basically, these freaks--some of them lovely people, some of them brutal thugs (I'm looking at you, strongman played by Michael Chiklis channeling Vic Mackie if Vic was a closeted gay)--are just trying to get along in a world that judges the bejeezus out of them. One of them is wrongfully accused of murder and is murdered himself by cops. Cops who were supposed to uphold the law but lynched the freak instead. Those cops are the real freak show, you guys!

Also: singing and dancing. Gah, the musical numbers. Disclosure: my mom loves musicals, made me watch lots of them, I hate-hate-hate them. Whenever a group of people simultaneously break out in song and dance, I'm punted right out of the story. "Wow, that's a lot of drama to digest, now that their father is dead and the war's started, I wonder how they'll--why is everyone dancing now?" 

Random musical numbers are bad enough, but in 1952 Elsa Mars sings Life on Mars (David Bowie, 1971) and Gods and Monsters (Lana Del Rey, 2013) and conjoined twins Dot and Bette sing Criminal (Fiona Apple, 1997) and Jimmy sings Come as You Are (Nirvana, 1992) because Ryan Murphy likes to mix it up, you guys! It's an anachronism because those songs weren't around in 1952 and yet the freaks sing them. Isn't that weird and cool? Bet you didn't expect that to happen, didja? It's so out there, man! And it's definitely not jarring every time it happens. 

Non-freaks include Denis O'Hare playing Stanley "Monster Dick", a con artist with, yep, a monster dick. But we never see it (thank you, TV censors, you had my back on that one), so he's treated as a normal. (Memorable line as he whips out his l'il monster to show Michael Chiklis: "You should see it when it's angry." Then he starts masturbating. Furiously.) He's a closeted gay who wants to kill as many freaks as he can to sell them to a museum. The freaks trust him because he's a smooth talker. He doesn't seem like a monster but he totally is. HE'S THE REAL FREAK SHOW, YOU GUYS. He also tricks Elsa into thinking he's a Hollywood agent who will get her TV gigs, and Elsa thinks any good Hollywood agent helps their clients cover up multiple murders, because writing. 

Emma Roberts play his partner and fake fortune teller Maggie Esmerelda. She's almost as loathsome as Stanley, and finds the freaks repulsive (which doesn't stop her from banging Jimmy later and falling in love with him because writing). She's totally on board with the kill 'em and sell 'em plan. And you know what? Maggie Esmerelda is so beautiful on the outside, but look how mean and bitchy she is on the inside! She's a con artist and she wants to help Stanley kill freaks! You know what I think? I think Maggie is THE REAL FREAK SHOW, YOU GUYS. 

We've also got Gloria and Dandy Mott, both rich, beautiful society types. Gloria's a brittle enabler and Dandy is a preening sociopath. He drinks cognac out of a baby bottle and thinks of himself as a god. His mom twitters about, fluttering her hands at Dandy's latest atrocity (she actually raised her voice when he killed their housekeeper) when not chain-smoking. (That's it. That's all the writers gave Frances Conroy to do for characterization. Smoking and hand-fluttering.) I didn't much mind when Dandy killed her, and by then I was numb to the Ryan Murphy OH MY GOD THAT WAS SO SHOCKING YOU DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING DID YOU treatment when Dandy took a relaxing bath in her blood. 

Dandy was great to watch for one reason only: you knew he was getting his comeuppance, and you couldn't wait. He was so vile, so nasty, so entitled and douchey and smug and snappy, it was inevitable. Except: his comeuppance didn't come until the very last episode, and it was after he'd killed a ton of people, all of them good guys. So it wasn't satisfying at all, because after all the havoc he wreaked, the dead couldn't come back (unlike AHS: Coven), he never had to explain himself, and when he realized it was over for him he was scared for maybe five minutes. The three freaks he didn't murder were all, okay, let's drown him! There. He's drowned. Now we have our vengeance. The end. 

Dandy, like many of the characters, was a caricature instead of a real person. Oh, and he was handsome and had a great body. And he could be charming, which is why he got away with so many murders (including every attendee at a Tupperware party…plastic containers and a dozen women bobbing, dead, in bloody pool water). People trusted him because he was good-looking and had a nice smile. But you know what? Even though he was handsome on the outside, he was a monster on the inside. DANDY WAS THE REAL FREAK SHOW, YOU GUYS.

Over the course of the season, Elsa keeps chasing stardom, freaks and normals get killed in a variety of terrible ways, everyone is chasing their happy ending and hardly anyone gets it, and the town at first shuns them, then despises them, then welcomes them, and then the town sort of ceases being an issue. For no actual reason except the end of the season was nigh. Which was a good thing, because THE TOWN WAS THE REAL FREAK SHOW, YOU GUYS. Or society, I guess. I dunno. I'd stopped caring by then.

Oh, almost forgot…Doogie Howser/Neil Patrick Harris showed up as a severely crazy (even for this group) ventriloquist/veteran/nutjob who came back from the war with a steel plate in his head and, as a character described it "bees in your brain". His beloved dummy, Marjorie, he saw as a real woman (played by AHS veteran Jamie Brewer, who killed it in both AHS: Coven and AHS: Murder House). Like every ventriloquist dummy ever (except the one in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because Joss Whedon does this stuff way better than Ryan Murphy), she's evil and wants murder, murder all the time. Doogie was so crazy, he couldn't hide the crazy, so all the characters knew he was crazy, which didn't stop any of them from interacting with him. Elsa even sold him the freak show! (Before he killed his dummy and turned himself in. Yes, you read that right.) Doogie & The Dummy were interesting characters who, unfathomably, Ryan Murphy introduced in the third-to-last episode of the season. So we've spent most of the season struggling to care about the core cast, and he throws in new characters and their back stories at the end. Baffling and, frankly, a waste of Neil and Jamie. 

Also almost forgot: Elsa was a freak, too! She unwittingly starred in what was supposed to be a snuff film wherein her co-stars took off both her legs with a chainsaw ("I had beautiful legs," she laments, because what happened to her was sad and terrible and Ryan Murphy can't just show us, he makes Elsa tell us, too.). Sorry, a dirty chainsaw. Because watching Elsa's legs get roughly, rapidly, messily shorn off with a clean chainsaw wasn't brutal enough. Nope. "Dirtier, dammit! Bring more grease!" 

The show explores several themes, but Ryan Murphy thinks we're stupid, so he tells us exactly what he's doing. The freaks are mostly nice, but the townspeople are mostly hateful (episode title: Monsters Among Us). The strong man, Dell, is a self-hating gay who beats people up if they so much as imply he's not straight, which leads to death and blackmail and his strength getting him into trouble and only sometimes getting him out (episode: Test of Strength). Gloria tricked her psycho son into seeing a therapist (between bouts of chain-smoking), so he killed her and bathed in her blood (Blood Bath), then killed everyone at a Tupperware Party, dumped their corpses in a pool, and bathed again (Tupperware Party Massacre). The normals as well as the freaks are, for a variety of reasons, mostly orphans (Orphans), and almost everyone was murdered, and the few who weren't got (mostly) happy endings when the freak show disbanded along with the end of Elsa's (eventual) Hollywood career (Curtain Call). 

It's not all awful. Sarah Paulson and CGI wizardry made it seem like "she" was "they"; I sometimes forgot that Sarah Paulson only has one head in real life. And some of the writing was clever and cool ("The screams of a man who's been nut shot are so specific."). But that makes it worse for me. He's got this wonderful cast, these wonderful effects, writers who can turn a phrase, a studio that will let him dive into gold coins like Scrooge McDuck, and then he pisses on all of it with SOCIETY'S THE REAL FREAK SHOW, YOU GUYS. 

There were some genuinely creepy, unsettling scenes but, as with the great cast and amazing effects, that just made it worse. The scene where Dandy kills a random gay hustler was horrifying and I watched it twice. Dandy's mother fascinated me and I re-watched all her scenes, too, because Francis Conroy is that good. Elsa's constant machinations were great, and her genuine agony when she realized Ma Petite was dead was heart-breaking. Jessica Lange isn't just a good actor, she's good at playing a bad actor (Elsa's faux agony over Ethel's death in the same episode being a flawless example). But those moments only highlighted the show's flaws. 

I've never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. I've had to ask many people many times to explain various concepts to me (self-fulfilling prophecies, the economy, i over e except after c, why you shouldn't eat bread with blue stuff growing on it). But I'm not an idiot, either. (Mostly. Anymore.) And I really wish Ryan Murphy hadn't treated me like one. 

Sorry, Ryan. It's over between us. Joss Whedon? I'm still your girl. 
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Published on January 22, 2015 19:05 • 17 views

November 21, 2014

I'll be at the Rochester Public Library tomorrow (Saturday, November 22) from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. for their 3rd Annual Celebration of Authors. There will be a crap ton of us, including Mitch Anthony, Amanda Hocking, Abbie Williams, Richard Noll, Ann M. Noser, John and Lori Betcher, and Bill Willingham. You'll be able to find us (or hide from us) in the library auditorium.

There will also be presentations at 1:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. (with P.S. Duffy and Rachel Schieffelein) on traditional and e-book publishing. So whether you're doing early holiday shopping, feel like meeting random writers, want to score free stuff, or are interested in getting published, there will be something for you. Details can be found here and here. Admission is free!

And in less than a week (November 25), the hardcover version of DEAD BUT NOT FORGOTTEN will be out! It's a collection of short stories set in Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries world (TV viewers know it as "you know, those books they based TRUE BLOOD on"), edited by the lady herself. My story, WIDOWER'S WALK, is about Eric and what happened to him after the events of DEAD EVER AFTER. It was great good fun to play in Charlaine's sandbox; the book is also available in audio version here, and an e-book version is also coming out. Check it, readers! And hope to see you in Rochester tomorrow.

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Published on November 21, 2014 09:38 • 140 views

October 16, 2014

I've rhapsodized about several things on this blog, like my job and Benedict Cumberbatch and Cocoa Puffs. Rarely do all three coincide (guess what I'm eating while I write this?). But when my UK publisher saw I dedicated UNDEAD AND UNWARY to a man I've never met, they asked me to explain myself to the world. With pictures, if I liked.

If I liked? Wait, so just write up a quick 500 words (I turned in 900) on the deliciousness of Benedict SherKhan Cumbersomething who is, hopefully as I write this, clanking around a movie set in full armor playing Richard III because I lead a stupidly wonderful life? (I'm a Tudorphile, but my second favorite royal family are the Yorks.) Okay, the movie won't be out for two years, but I've got boxes and boxes of Cocoa Puffs to sustain me until then and writing, too, I guess, and maybe loving my family? Anyway, they asked me to write up a lustful account of his yumminess and look at tons of pictures of him, too, and pick the most drool-worthy and stick them into my rhapsodizing and this is supposed to be work? 

So, to recap: my job is the best thing ever, and so is Benedict CumberRichard III, and everything goes down easier with Cocoa Puffs. And, I dunno, milk too, probably.

(If you've got zero interest in my prose--and who could blame you?--there are pictures!) Here's why I'm into Benedict Yummybatch

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Published on October 16, 2014 10:41 • 415 views