Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Me. For over two and a half friggin' hours. I, like a lot of people, left the theatre thinking, "What the heck did I just see?" It's not that it was a bad movie, in fact it was very good, it's just that it was a bit confusing. Right when you thought you knew where the thing was going, it would veer off and spend fifteen minutes exploring some other plot line. Thinking back on it, the movie was really a twenty hour mini-series crammed into a time frame that would allow two showings a night.

The characters are fascinating, the violence is brutal, the special effects are seamlessly integrated into the story, and there are plenty of cultural references for those of us who came of age during the 80's. (Like when the bad guy is explaining his motivations, the elevator music in the background is "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears.) Of particular interest to me was the episodic storytelling style which relates to the stories I'm writing. Each new event that occurs in the movie has some kind of tie-in to previous events and leads to some new event, all while remaining separate. That's the thing I'm trying to capture while still driving towards a crescendo. Watchmen does this very well both on the macro and micro level. In short, if you like this sort of thing then this is the sort of thing you will like.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pavement Drawings

I just discovered these drawings by Julian Beever. They are absolutely mind blowing.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The End of the Day by John T. Bien

Another story I'd like to highlight from Abandoned Towers #2 is The End of the Day by John Bien. This is an 'angel of death walks the battlefield' fantasy story about a pair of mercenaries and the aftermath of "the bickering of Kings" which ended up with thousands dead. The angel is very well handled and gives the story a spooky, twilight world feel. I enjoyed it and I think you will too.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Fall of Rome by Bruce Durham

As expected, Bruce tells a captivating story with an alternate history of ancient Rome. It is one of the high points in Abandoned Towers #2. The characters are very well drawn, very Roman, and very distinct in their viewpoints of the battle they've just finished. Set about 700 years before my own Roman tale, this one details a fascinating 'what if?' scenario that will make any student of history smile and think, "Yeah, that would've been cool."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Flight of the Flight of the Conchords

While flying from here to there and back again, I saw a 'short programming feature' on the overhead screens while trying to ignore the overhead screens and read Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson. The guy on the screen seemed to be singing something and was kind of goofy looking with thick rimmed glasses and an unkempt mop of hair. I kept thinking, "I know this guy from somewhere, but I can't remember where." Later on (yesterday) I realized that he was with Flight of the Conchords and they had a couple of hilarious songs on YouTube. My very good Canadian friend, Jackie, had pointed me towards them a year or so ago. I've posted my favorite piece from them, "Jenny", below. "Business Time" is also very good and the rest of their stuff, mostly PG-13, will not disappoint. If you think your sense of humor mirrors mine (scary) and you have a spare 7:20, click on the video.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Back in the Saddle

OK, I'm back in wonderful, rainy Seattle. (Although even I was a little miffed at going from swimming in the ocean at sunrise to freezing my butt off in the baggage claim of SeaTac airport because I wasn't thinking and packed my jacket in my checked bag.) It's good to be here. After the time away from the family over the last couple of months it's nice to finally settle in to 2009.

'The Granite Strand' is now up to 5600 words. There was some deleting and rewriting as the story coalesced in my mind but that is normal. A scene that was written in haste and didn't really do anything has now been rewritten with a purpose and some action. It was a fun scene because the intrepid hero, Rath, wound up on the wrong end of a whuppin'. No lasting harm but it was kind of amusing and helped build up the characters.

I also realized that I had a couple of stories sitting around that should be out on submissions so I've put some concentration towards that as well. All in all, a good last week or so.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

There's Something Special About Hawai'i

...to which most of you would say, "No kidding." But it's not just the line fed to you by the tourist industry. It's not just the beaches and water and gorgeous scenery. It's not just the Loco Moco plate lunch at the Rainbow Drive-In. (But that's close.)

No, it is much more elusive than that. When you're here there just seems to be less to worry about. It's in the air or something. It's the casual way people talk and move. And when you're sitting on a beach, newly risen sun over your left shoulder, and you're fat, dumb, and happy with a Loco Moco in your belly, well, you'll feel it too.

America without Hawai'i is sort of like a sundae with no cherry. Sure it tastes good, gives you high cholesterol, and it's better than all the other desserts out there. But it's just not right.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow

I'm in Korea with limited internet access but I do have to get in a plug for this month's CSFF Tour. The book to check out is Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow by Christopher and Allan Miller. It's a YA fantasy 'gateway to another world' story that's got some great reviews.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Military Intelligence

This one was priceless. In the never ending quest for the perfect Power Point presentation (side note: Dilbert comics are spot on when it comes to Power Point) the U.S. Army has now taken to providing the commander with the "Bottom Line Up Front" for their important slides. Instead of starting with the explanation, the briefer starts with the impact and then explains how it came about. This is something I'm not opposed to. However, because the Army is like they are, they need to present everything as an acronym. So today when I sat in the back of the room and watched a Power Point slideshow given to a Major General I saw the following: (sort of, it was a classified slide)

BLUF: Beginning the XYZ option will save Unit ABC three days of deployment time.

I turned to the officer sitting next to me and asked, "Hey, has anyone noticed that when we give the C.O. the Bottom Line Up Front we're really just bluffing?"

Sunday, March 08, 2009

New Link- Jordan Lapp

I've added Jordan Lapp's blog, Without Really Trying, to my blogroll on the right. Pay attention to what he does and says; life will be better for you because of it.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Sunset at the End of Empire

My story is now available as part of Abandoned Towers #2! The adventures of Apollo Valerius Delphinius and his not-quite-perfectly-legal tactics are in black and white for all to see. And buy. You should probably buy two copies; one to cut up and laminate and the other to store in a hermetically sealed vault so fifty years from now you can sell it for a fortune.

(This post would have happened sooner but for the last two days I've been traveling to Hawai'i and Korea again.)

The Born Queen Reviewed

I finished this book a while ago but have been letting it digest before writing the review. Ever since I read The Briar King I've been a huge fan of The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series and have eagerly awaited and thoroughly loved the first three books. I was confident that when the fourth book came along I would be able to proclaim this series the best epic fantasy series of all time. Unfortunately, I can't do that. It is a good book but does not continue the greatness that was leading up to it.

The Born Queen suffers from two major problems. First, while it is a well known writing axiom that characters are supposed to change by the end of a story no one ever talks about what happens when the characters change into something you don't like. Two of the major characters, who happened to be two of my favorites, complete significant transformations by about halfway in. Yes it was interesting to see the fruition of their long arcs but they simply turned into people I didn't care for and had a hard time rooting for.

Second, the book finally reveals what the whole story is about. There are three sources of power in the world that rise and fall with the centuries and it's that time again. One is religious and spiritual in nature, one is magical and represents human advancement (not always a good thing), and another the world of nature and is embodied by the Briar King. This is all very cool. But I lost track of which was which and why they were important. I think this comes from the authors attempts to create a rich and varied cultural background where everything has two or three descriptions depending on which group of people are talking about it. This has worked marvelously before but becomes just too jumbled by the fourth book.

So The Born Queen did not live up to my incredibly high expectations. Overall the series is very good and has some of the best writing I've ever seen. The world created here is very rich and full. And as this book moves through its paces there are a few spooky and creepy scenes that alone make it worth reading but in the end this series will have to settle for second place.