Saturday, January 1, 2011

My New Year's resolutions

I've never believed in making resolutions for the new year, but for no good reason, I've decided to do so this year.

In 2011, I resolve... talk less and listen more--and better. stop pushing people around me to go on the paths I want. I will offer, but they will choose, and that has to be enough for me. write more and more intensely. lose at least 25 pounds--far, far less than I need to lose, but at least a start.

It's a short list, but it's already probably more than I can manage, so I'll stick with it.

I hope 2011 brings you joy and prosperity and love and magic.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

This Disney film interpretation of a video game was last night's late show and, wow, is it a stinker. Cheesy special effects, bad acting, and worse writing combined to make this movie bad in pretty much every conceivable way, yet all too rarely did it make the leap from bad to amusingly bad.

None of us had ever played the video game, but Kyle had just finished reading a book that discussed the game and its conclusion, in which the player must choose to save the girl or save the world. In this Disney-fied version, Jake Gyllenhaal, who spends the entire film looking slightly amused and half stoned, gets to do both. Thus, the movie manages to have even less moral complexity than the video game.

As Kyle and I were discussing the film afterward, we agreed that it was as if someone had gotten a big pile of money, rounded up a cast, a director, a production team, a special effects company, a caterer, an insurer, and on and on--and then said, "Hey, where's the writer? Did you get the writer? I didn't."

At the risk of stereotypically taking the side of writing, more and more movies seem to have pushed story and dialog aside in favor of pretty much every other aspect of the film, and they suffer a great deal for this choice.

Of course, as a writer, I would think that.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

True Grit

A group of us ventured forth last night to check out this new offering from the Coen brothers, and I have to say that it blew me away. With much of the Coen brothers' strengths and few of their weaknesses, it was a delight from beginning to end. I absolutely loved it.

The shots were, as you'd expect, wonderful. With all the skill you'd expect from them, they captured the beauty of the wilderness and the dirtiness of the settlements, the harshness of the elements, and, of course, the action. Their love affair with language was also delightfully evident, with each character's admittedly stylized dialog true to him or her and a joy to hear.

Though I'm a big fan of theirs, I have to say that some of the films from Joel and Ethan Coen feel a bit hollow, as if they'd sacrificed heart for technique. Not here, though; this film wears its heart on its sleeve and earns that right, so that by the end you care for the lead characters.

The actors playing those roles--Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Hailee Steinfeld--deliver wonderful performances. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see both Bridges and Steinfeld notch some award nominations in the coming few months.

By the end, it's clear that the Coen brothers are creating myths, moving from the story to something larger, and then in the wonderful few closing scenes showing the fates of those myths.

I may well have thought more of the movie than anyone else in our group, but all of us at least liked it, and I adored it. Do not miss this one.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl

When Kyle is visiting, as he is now, we have a tradition of watching a late movie, typically a bad film of the humorously entertaining variety. Tonight, he, Scott, and I braved the late hours to screen this Japanese gore-fest.

All I can say is, "Wow!"

It's not a good movie, of course, nor were we expecting it to be. It is, however, one of the most over-the-top Japanese flicks I've seen in quite some time--and considering how many I've watched, that's saying something.

At its core is a love triangle that initially appears to be the struggle of two teenage girls for a boy's heart but that ultimately, of course, ends up being a battle between the title characters for control of the boy. The conflict is particularly silly because neither girl seems to really care about him; he's just a trophy over which they're fighting.

Of course, in a movie like Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, speaking of characters and motivations is an inherently silly exercise. Such normal narrative factors are far and away the least relevant parts of the story.

Far more interesting to the director, and to us, are the battles between the various forms of Franken-teens and the vampire girl; the rantings and experiments of the demented vice principal, who's also the father of the Frankengirl-to-be; the janitor who is also the vampire girl's Igor slave; and the amazing mech visuals, most of which appear during a battle on the Japanese Eiffel Tower.

If you can stand astounding amounts of blood-spurting, skin-tearing gore, and if you're a fan of Japanese extreme cinema, don't miss this one. If your stomach is at all weak, however, give it a very wide pass.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Better Off Ted

We recently finished watching the first season of this short-lived show, and I am amazed at how good it was. I cannot recommend it too highly. The writing is witty and quick and will leave you laughing out loud frequently; the pause and rewind buttons are musts for viewings of this show. As soon as the second season is available on DVD, I'll be picking it up.

What most amazes me, though, is how poorly the show fared when it was on the air. So far, every single person to whom I've recommended it or who has watched it has found it marvelous. When it was on TV, however, its ratings were as abysmal as its critical rankings were high. Its subject--life in a big, uncaring corporation--is certainly accessible and relevant to a huge audience. The tone was wry and the events frequently fantastic, but everything about Better Off Ted made it clear that this was a comic fantasy. The actors were uniformly wonderful, each over the top in all the right ways for her or his character. Everything about it screamed "winner," but it was a ratings disaster and died before they'd even broadcast all of the second-season episodes they'd filmed.

I would have bet money on this one to be a sure thing, so it's proof once again that I am not someone you should trust to predict popular taste.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Why don't you...

I receive a lot of questions that begin with these three words, so I thought I'd try to answer the most frequent ones here. One day, when we get around to adding an FAQ to the site, we'll probably include a lot of these. In the meantime, in case you've been wondering, here, in no particular order, are some of the most common queries and my answers to them.

...write more books?

Time. I have a very demanding day job, a family, a complex extended family, and, oh yeah, I like to eat and go to movies and do other fun stuff. I'm writing as much as I can currently manage.

...write your books faster?

This is, of course, just the other side of the coin of the first question, and its answer is the same: time. To write faster, I'd need more time per day. So far, to my great frustration I'm still stuck with the same old 24 hours I've always had; you'd think they'd have fixed that by now.

...tell us what's coming in the rest of the Jon & Lobo novels?

That is, of course, the job of the novels, so I'll have to let them do it.

More seriously, until I write a book, I don't know everything about it, so anything I could tell you now would be incomplete. Plus, what I say in advance would color your perceptions of the book, and I want you to be able to come to each one fresh, so that each stands on its own merits.

And, of course, I don't want to tell you. So there. Call me a big meanie; see if I care. a Jon & Lobo movie?

I don't know how to do movies. Sure, if someone were to offer me a couple hundred million dollars of budget, I might try to learn, but more likely I'd try to skim a bit and then get a real director and a real producer and all those sorts of folks involved. Of course, the real issue here is that no one has approached me seriously (there have been a few insubstantial nibbles, but none went anywhere) about doing such a film. I'd love to see it, particularly if James Cameron would direct it and Will Smith would star in it.

...get on Facebook?

Remember that whole "time" thing? Each activity I add to my day takes time that used to go to something else. I fear that Facebook would suck down writing time, and I can't let that happen.

...get on Twitter and start tweeting?

See the FaceBook answer above. Plus, I have to wonder if I would have anything worth saying in the course of most days.

...come to my city for a reading and signing?

Because no one has paid my expenses to come. I attend some conventions for fun, and some pay my expenses. You can find the current 2011 list (six cons as of now) on my Appearances page.

Also, truthfully, I'm just not a popular enough writer to justify my publisher paying to send me on a book tour. If I were topping the New York Times bestseller list, I expect she'd eagerly pony up the money to do so, but I'm not; I'm not even close.

...tell us how much money you've raised for Falling Whistles from the Children No More program?

Because I don't know how much it is. I won't know until I learn how the hardback sold, which won't happen until I receive my May, 2011 royalty statement. I gave them my entire advance, and I expect to add to that, but it'll be a while before I know the total. Plus, I'll then have to decide whether I want to share all the info, whether doing so would upset Publisher Toni, and all that.

In the meantime, if you want to help with this cause, buy the book or donate directly to them.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Who loves the rare snow
that blankets us now?

Holden, certainly, as he rushes into it.
(As always, click on any image to enlarge it. Photos courtesy of Sarah.)

Trees, of course, because it makes them so ethereally beautiful.

Scott, for whom it provides both fun and sustenance, and his buddy the snowman, who could not exist without it.

Driveways, which so rarely get to dress up.

Sarah, as she stands under the magic arch and wonders where it will take her.

Rana, as she flies down the driveway into it.

And trampolines, of course, which love the way it makes them feel.


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