Friday, October 31, 2008

Max Payne Hits the Target

Just saw Max Payne last night and I was very impressed. It hit all the dramatic points that a good story should have. First off, the cinematography was incredible. What they did with light and shadow created a gritty, tense, moody feeling every time it was needed. For the most part the film is devoid of color, there was always rain or slowly swirling snow in the exterior shots. Top it off with some Matrix-esque super slo-mo and 'visions of Hell' special effects and you have a movie that is a thrill to watch. Second, the script moved the character through all the right events. Entering the special world, meeting the mentor, tests and trials, the inmost cave, the supreme ordeal with death and rebirth, and the return with the elixir. Bad guys become good guys and good guys become bad guys. Great gunfights. Mark Wahlberg.

On the negative side, the movie's pace was a little slow and they borrowed heavily from other movies with images that we've seen before but that didn't stop me from enjoying it. Thumbs up.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cosmopolitan Magazine Sucks Like A Bucket of Ticks

I've never been one to study that particular publication before but last night we were all over at a friend's house and they had a few issues laying on the end table. Just looking at the titles of articles splashed across the cover is enough to tell you how awful that rag is. Flipping through and actually reading some of them confirms it for all time. This thing is nothing but sex in its most casual and crass forms. If I ever see Daughter Number One with that piece of trash she'll be grounded until she's 36. Wife Number One and Only shares my disgust, which is comforting because it's about the only thing we've agreed on lately. (We have both a McCain and Obama bumper sticker on the minivan. Oy.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Center Collapses

OK, forget all that stuff I said about "River of Bones" and the middle I'd discovered. I couldn't get it to come out the way I wanted so I followed some of my old advice and just skipped it. I pretended it all happened the way I kinda thought it should and went straight to my ending. After powering through 1800 words I arrived at the end pretty much exactly the way I envisioned. The good part is that it's finished. The challenge is that now I have to begin the rewrite and see what I can dredge up to link beginning with end. And that's why, my friends, writing is difficult work.

Monday, October 20, 2008

CSFF October Tour

This month we have an excellent book in Beyond the Reflection's Edge by Bryan Davis. This book is encouraging for fantasy fiction writers like myself. While not in the sword and sorcery sub-genre it does deal with the gritty side of life and has clear evil displayed as something to be defeated. That's my kind of story. I happen to think that fantasy heroes are made stronger when they have greater evil to fight. It's all about raising the stakes and you need a strong antagonistic force to do that properly. I've done my bit to support Bryan Davis in the past and I hope that he continues to shine.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Capturing Dialogue

The previous posts illuminate one of the challenges of capturing dialogue. (They also point out how irritated I am with John McCain because he's not really a conservative, but that's not relevant right now.) Dialogue is ripe with inflection and tone and intensity and emphasis. As you change those details while speaking, you can completely change the meaning of the same group of words. The trick as writers is to figure out how to convey the sound and pace of the spoken word with nothing but the written word to work with. I wanted to go on a conservative rant for a while but realized that the way these things were said was what had the real impact. There's always neat things like italics and exclamation points and they have their place but I would rather describe the way the character is speaking to make the dialogue come alive. But for this exercise, what I decided to do was a faux transcript. I think it effectively portrayed how the words were being spoken and gives us another way to look at dialogue.

And it was also a couple of quick lessons on freedom and market forces, which is never a bad thing.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What John McCain Should Have Said III

SCHIEFFER: So what do you make of Senator Obama's tax plan?

MCCAIN: Well, Bob, he's throwing a lot of numbers around and I'm not sure [shrugs] where he gets them. He says 95% of working people would get a tax cut. I'm not sure how you do that when there aren't 95% of the working people in this country that even pay any federal income taxes. Only 60% of workers pay income taxes. He's going to cut taxes that aren't paid? Puzzling. [leans forward with clever grin] I suppose he's talking about this $1000 check that he's going to give away. My friends, if you haven't paid the thousand dollars to begin with then it's not really your money that's coming back to you is it? No, it's someone else's. Senator Obama is trying to redefine welfare as a tax cut. And as for raising taxes on [hold up fingers for quote marks] 'the rich,' why would you want to do that? Why--

OBAMA: Because they can afford it.

MCCAIN: [looks askance across the table] would you... Please, is that the only reason? This is why I say that his plan is just Marxist ideology wrapped up in a pretty speech. If you want more revenue in the Treasury then you cut taxes for all taxpayers. That brings in more revenue. It's happened every time, under Kennedy, under Reagan, and under Bush. If you want more revenue then you cut taxes. [points across table] But what he won't tell you is that it's not about revenue. It's about class warfare and getting votes by telling some people that he's going to stick it to another group of people. And in the final analysis, there was another Democrat presidential candidate who promised a middle class tax cut. Then he got elected and suddenly it was a different story. Not only was there no cut, he raised their taxes. So Senator Obama can say he's going to cut taxes until he's blue in the face but frankly, I don't believe him. But I will gladly yield the balance of my time to the distinguished gentleman so he can explain how he's going to cut the taxes of people who don't pay them.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What John McCain Should Have Said II

SCHIEFFER: So what do you make of what Senator Obama said to 'Joe the Plumber' the other day about spreading the wealth.

MCCAIN: Frankly, Bob, I was astounded. I think it displays a fundamental lack of understanding about how our free market system works in America. 'Joe the Plumber' wants to be a small business owner and small business owners already spread the wealth [begin ticking off points on fingertips] by bidding jobs correctly, hiring the right people, getting them to the right place at the right time with the right equipment. That's how a free market works. When you do all those things correctly you are rewarded. If you do them incorrectly you are punished. You see my friends, it is not the job of government to spread the wealth. People like Senator Obama won't phrase it this way but what they're doing is taking money from one set of Americans and giving it to another. This is not a free market, this is Marxist ideology. There is no system of risk and reward and incentive. And I believe that [smiles encouragingly and taps tabletop with pointed finger] is what is vitally necessary to a growing, thriving economy where everyone can benefit. We shouldn't confiscate the results of hard work, of successful work, and redistribute it through the inefficient arms of government. [Looks across table] And I will gladly yield the balance of my time to the distinguished gentleman so he can explain what he hopes to gain by increasing the tax burden on the top producers in this country.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What John McCain Should Have Said

SCHIEFFER: So what do you make of this ACORN situation with investigations of voter fraud?

MCCAIN: Bob, this is extremely troubling. [Looks down at table pensively] And quite frankly it makes me very angry. American freedom is like a tree and its trunk is our sacred right to vote. [Looks at camera with steely eyed determination, taps pointed finger on tabletop to emphasize every syllable of the next four words] I shed my blood. I shed my blood to nourish that tree and to see ACORN take an axe to it is unconscionable. Senator Obama worked with them, he worked for them, he was a lawyer who defended them, he gave over 800,000 dollars to support them, they endorsed him for President, and he recently told them they would have a seat at the table in his administration to help shape policy for America. In a McCain administration they'll have a seat all right, [intensifies voice] right next to a public defender. I'm going to tear into them. And if I find proven voter fraud then people are going to jail. And you know what? I'll gladly walk down there and slam the cell door shut myself. [takes deep breath] Now I will gladly yield the balance of my time to the distinguished gentleman so that he can explain all this.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Can't Get Enough Chuck Norris

1) If you have five dollars and Chuck Norris has five dollars, Chuck Norris has more money than you.

2) There is no 'Ctrl' button on Chuck Norris's computer. Chuck Norris is always the one in control.

3) Apple pays Chuck Norris 99 cents every time he listens to a song.

4) Chuck Norris is suing Myspace for taking the name of what he calls everything around you.

5) Chuck Norris destroyed the periodic table, because he only recognizes the element of surprise.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Some Words Live to Die

I wrote another 500 words for 'River of Bones' and I think all of them will not survive. I've got my idea for the middle and how to tie it into the end but getting there is a little tricky. This morning's writing was all about the getting from point A to point B and not much else. It's all transitional and only has a few things that really build the story. Looking back over them, it felt more like a free writing exercise to see if anything useful came out of it. However, with Son Number One in the room flipping through Sunday morning infomercials and finally settling on an I Love Lucy rerun I've had a tough time concentrating. Now two hours have passed and he's started playing some of the quirky indie rock that he spends all his money on. I wish he would have done that earlier when I was not tired of typing. Much more inspirational.

Anyhow, even though this morning's effort will probably not see print it is all part of the process and might trigger something down the road when then words tremble at the might of my delete button. Death doth wonderfully concentrate the mind, said the Bard, and paragraphs facing extinction may scream something worthwhile in those last few seconds before the lethal injection takes hold.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Motiv8 Fantasy Fiction Tour

I've highlighted some of these authors before and now they are teaming up on a tour promoting Christian fantasy fiction. Visit their blog to be a part of it. I just wish I'd been paying attention earlier. I could have gotten Son Number Two's copy of Isle of Swords signed when they came through Seattle.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Ugly Babies

Once, long ago, I watched an instructor at Marine Corps Basic Communication Officer Course look down at our class and tell us that sometimes when we plan things they just don't go right. When that happens we need to be able to call an ugly baby an ugly baby. He then looked right at the student responsible for leading the planning of our latest debacle and said, "And that, Lieutenant, was an ugly baby." What he didn't know was that this lieutenant was passing around pictures of his newborn just a day before. Later, during some break, that lieutenant started complaining about the instructor and disgustedly couldn't believe that he would call his baby 'ugly.' Several of us standing around looked at each other with upturned eyebrows. Apparently our fellow student wasn't bright enough to figure out what the instructor was talking about. Which, come to think of it, was why he'd planned such a botched up comm system. But that's not relevant right now. The point I'm trying to make is about the last few stories I've evaluated for Rage of the Behemoth. There were a few that just weren't very good. (One was absolutely excellent and had that sock-you-in-the-gut 'Wow!' feeling that I'd been looking for.) I'd thought when I started this that there would be some good writing lessons to pull out of it. There have been those but the majority of what is submitted just lacks greatness. I suppose they really aren't ugly babies so you can just forget that clever anecdote I began with, but the point remains that there is just an enormous wave of mediocrity that has to be slogged through in order to find the gems. So the slogging will continue even though we are closing in on the end of days as the available slots are filling up. The best in heart stopping, bone crunching fantasy fiction is coming your way.