Musings on writing, lessons learned by an aspiring professional, book reviews, movie reviews, an occasional t.v. show review, and unashamed opinion.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


If you're like me, you hate sports movies.  They're the same predictable storyline every time.  Underdog team/person faces unbeatable opponent.  Underdog beats unbeatable opponent.  Yadda yadda.  Sports movies just plain stink.

Okay, not all of them.  Rudy is a great movie.  I think I like it so much because the climatic moment isn't when Rudy scores the winning touchdown, but when he gets to play for a minute or two and sacks the quarterback.  The dude got to live his dream by dressing for a game and getting some play time.  It was more about Rudy's hard work and dedication than taking home a trophy.

Hate Remember the Titans.  Hate Hoosiers.  Hate Miracle.  Hate Rocky V.  I loved Warrior, though.

  Look at those dudes.  They're freakin ripped!

Warrior is about two brothers who enter a UFC tournament, for a winner takes all cash prize of 5 million.  The movie follows usual sport movie cliches.  There are some training montages, there are plenty of doubts whether the protagonists will win.... yadda yadda yadda.  But beneath the typical storyline are some great, well-rounded characters, who make you care about their lives outside of the fighting ring.

One brother is an ex-soldier, recently returned from Iraq.  He is struggling with his post-war world, and has a lot of anger to deal with.  The other brother has a family, and teaches high school physics.  His paycheck isn't enough to provide for his family in modern day America.  Both have competed in martial arts in the past--one was a champion, the other a mid-lister professional.  Neither has communicated with the other for years, and both have major issues with their alcoholic father.

The plot isn't surprising, but I won't give anything away.  The mixed martial arts fighting scenes are edge-of-your-seat-exciting, and the acting is top notch.  Everything about this film is premium movie making.  But you'll want to watch it for the relationship between the brothers and dad.  Their struggle to become a family again is the heart of Warrior.  The themes of the film are what make it stand out.

A lot of film critics compare it to The Fighter, saying Warrior is a simpler version of the same story.  I disagree.  The Fighter won all sorts of awards, but it lacked soul.  The Fighter went for gritty realism, and is one of the hardest R's I've ever seen for language.  Warrior packs twice the punch and keeps the rating an adult PG-13.  In my opinion (the only one that counts) Warrior is by far the better of the two, and is one of the best movies of the last five years.

Don't miss seeing this one.  It's on dvd now, so stop by a redbox and pick it up.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Maybe, like me, you'll be tearing up by the time the credits roll.  Maybe Warrior will be one of the films you remember for a long time.  It was that kind of movie for me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Father Christmas

Christmas is almost upon us and I've been meaning to post my favorite Father Christmas clips from Finland.  Here they are, for your viewing pleasure.

Be warned, you will see brief male nudity in the first video... but watching the second without watching the first one beforehand may result in a bit of confusion.  Trust me, it isn't a big deal.  I wouldn't post anything that I would consider offensive.  I hope you laugh your guts out.  Enjoy.

And now, clip number two:

Happy Christmas everyone.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Things you should watch

I haven't posted much lately.  Baby girl is taking up lots of time.  I've been getting a lot of Netflix in, though, and there are several things you should watch if you never have, and rewatch if it's been a long time.

Malcolm in the Middle.  I passed on this one when it came out years ago.  I might have been too young to catch all of the humor.  Then again, it aired in 2000, so I was 16.  Maybe I just didn't care.  Either way, I missed it.  This show is hilarious.  I can't stop laughing about it.  Watch it!

My Name is Earl.  Great show.  Made by the people who did Raising Hope.  It's about a guy who believes karma has been out to get him because he's been such a jerk to everyone.  He writes a list of all the bad things he's done in his life, and sets out to correct his past.  It's funny, it's white trashy, and it's got some heart to go with the punch lines.  If you've never seen this show, it is worth many hours of your time.

Secretariat.  Yes I'm saying watch a Disney movie.  Crazy, I know.  Usually I avoid them like dirty underwear.  But this story of the fastest race horse in history is decently made.  Diane Lane does a good job  with the limited material she is given.  The story is predictable, but enjoyable.  Plus John Malkovich plays the horse trainer.  Any movie with Malkovich in it is worth seeing.  (Okay, I can think of several to avoid, but shut up).

Ondine.  This is a little film starring Colin Farrel, who plays an Irish fisherman who finds a woman in his nets.  The woman (played by a beautiful unknown actress from Poland) just might by a selkie--a seal person.  Some things that just might be magic happen to Farrel's character, and he falls in love with the mystery woman from the sea.  It was an enjoyable film.  Not one I'd usually pick, but when you're scrolling through Netflix with a crying baby in your arms, you're just looking for something to make some noise.  It just so happened to turn out to be a good movie.

That's all for now.  I've got some links I need to post to some hilarious Christmas videos, but that will have to wait for later.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


This concludes your NaNoWriMo session.  Please try again next year.

I didn't make my goal.  But guess what.  I'm a dad now.  Pretty good reason to miss writing for a couple of weeks.

Not going to post any pics of my baby here, sorry.  But--just so you know--she's beautiful.  And healthy.  And the best thing that has ever happened to me.

That's all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day 16, and The Death Cure

I was having trouble making progress on Gunlord, and so rather than just not write, I've been spending the last few days on other projects.  I finished a chapter and started another in my mid-grade time-travel adventure.  I submitted a chapter from it to the writing group last week.  I felt encouraged to pursue it when the reaction I got was, "Cyborg chimpanzee?  Cool!"  The story is all worked out in my head, so now all I've got to do is put it to paper... and figure out how to end something in 60,000 words or less.  Those mid-grade novels don't let you take up too many pages.  Also, what has been keeping me up the last couple of nights, (because my freak'n brain won't just go to sleep with all the awesome thoughts swimming around up there) is a new project that seemed to come out of nowhere.  I've had some characters worked out for a while, just waiting for the right story to pop them in to, and the workings of that right story have all the sudden decided now, when I should be finishing Gunlord, was a good time to knock me on the head and get my attention.  So my NaNoWriMo is getting spread out over a few stories.

The good thing, though, (and I have to keep reminding myself that it is a good thing, despite part of me wishing I wouldn't have had this creative bubble burst until Gunlord was finished) is that I'm writing.  I'm excited to write.  I want to write.  I have to write.  I can't stop thinking about writing.  This is such a welcome change from the last few months.

For those of you wondering, (all two of you) Gunlord is NOT getting shelved.  I'm way too invested in that story, and I know it kicks ass.  So yes, it will be finished.  I plan on writing the first three chapters or so for this new project, and then shelving it until Gunlord is done.  I don't outline, and so I have to hurry and get the bones of this new story down before it goes away.  Gunlord's ending has been in my head since I began writing it.  All that is needed is the time to get it typed.  Of course, that's the hard part, right?

Seven gods, I wish I was cashing checks for good ideas.  I seem to be bursting at the seems with them right now.

And now for the book review.  Death Cure, here we come!

This is my favorite cover of the series.  I don't know why, other than I really like snowy mountains.  Can't get enough of them in Skyrim right now.  Anyway, I have finished the final book in James Dashner's trilogy and all I can say is I'm tired.  Very, very tired.  I'm glad it's over.

The Death Cure (TDC) was quite a bit better than its predecessor.  If you haven't read my reviews of The Maze Runner, and The Scorch Trials, take a look at them in my backlog.  You'll see I was more than upset at the way the second book turned out.  Even though I think TDC was an improvement over TST, I wasn't satisfied with how it all panned out.

I read on Dashner's blog a few days before TDC released that he had been waiting years to tell readers this part of the story.  My response: really?  Why?  You've been waiting to tell people for years about a handful of teenagers that run around, making the dumbest decisions at every turn?  You've been waiting to not keep promises you made in the first book you wrote in the series?  Seems kinda, I don't know... weird, if you ask me.

I'm not as passionate in my disappointment in TDC as I was with TST.  Mostly because I wasn't expecting much going in to the third book.  But also because I liked several things about the final book.  I was surprised when Thomas became a little more active, rather than reactive.  That was a nice change.  Also, (SPOILERS) I liked that he didn't want his memories back.  It seemed true to his character.  And (MAJOR SPOILERS) I liked that Thomas and Teresa didn't have a reconciliation at the end.  Thomas never fully trusted her again until she got crushed under a building saving him.  I was with Thomas hating her all along after what she did to him at the end of book two.  I guessed she'd die early on, but it didn't bother me so much that it was predictable.

My favorite character of the series: Newt.  He seemed the most... in pain.  I felt sorry for him.  Orson Scott Card says the character in the most pain should be the POV in any given story, but I don't know if that would have worked out so well in this one, given what happens with him and Thomas.

The main reason I'm not jumping for joy over TDC is that it was just boring.  And the build up of Thomas taking on Wicked never pans out.  Sure, he fights a bit toward the end of the book, but I was expecting much more from all the build up.  This is where I think Dashner didn't fulfill his promises.  Thomas never took Wicked out, the terrorist group, Right Arm, did.

I could go on for a while longer, but I don't really care to.  TDC was a better book than TST, but it was a bit anticlimactic for me.  Longer series tend to end with a let down, (Harry Potter) but I was hoping Dashner would go out with a bang.  More like a punctured tire.

Oh well.  I think that if some decent writers got a hold of this they could make an enjoyable movie out of it.  I think I heard The Maze Runner had been optioned.  Here's hoping the script writers take out all of the fake swearing.  

The Death Cure gets 1.5 stars out of 5

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More on the state of modern speculative fiction

If you're interested, author Bryan Thomas Schmidt did a guest blog at adventuresinscifipublishing.  He discusses the need for positive messages in speculative fiction.  I weighed in on the discussion on the website.  You can check it out here.

Schmidt's post is along the lines of what I blogged about a few weeks back, when I was talking about the state of modern fantasy.  Check it out.  Share your ideas and thoughts at adventure's site.

That's all.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day 9, and The Alloy of Law

Day 9, whew.  It went well.  I made my word count early this morning.  It was surprising.  It always makes the day go easier when I get all the writing done before going to work.  Then I don't have to feel all guilty for sleeping in or whatever.  That's all to report on the writing.

The real reason for the post was to review The Alloy of Law, by Brandon Sanderson.

I picked this shot of the cover because it focuses on some things I want to talk about before I give the review.  1. Look at the goggles around the neck of the main character, hanging there like he needs to take them along with him in case, I don't know, he needs to ride some kind of steampunky contraption.  Wouldn't that make sense?  Course it would.  Only problem is he never does this.  In fact, the only time the protagonist dons the goggles is when messing with some metallurgy.   No steampunk, sorry.  I only bring this up because this was kind of marketed as a steampunk, western-fantasy.  And, isn't it silly that goggles on a person dressed in certain clothing communicates steampunk?  It's not like you steamy guys and gals own the rights to goggles, sheesh.  2. If you look real close, behind the lettering, there is something that appears to be a steampunky contraption.  The only thing that could resemble that in the book is a crane on a barge, and it's in the story for like two seconds.  Funny that it ended up on the cover.  3. And last, the sidekick, standing all badass behind the dude in front, is holding what looks to be a shotgun or rifle.  Only problem there is that the sidekick wants nothing to do with guns, and won't touch them.  Isn't it interesting how a publisher tries to sell books?

Having said all that, the cover is awesome.  And it got me excited about the book months ago.  So I guess it did its job.  I just wish it wouldn't have made things up in order to sell the book.  Okay, on to the review (I wouldn't feel like myself if I couldn't rant about something for a bit).

The Alloy of Law, hence forth known as: TAoL, was my favorite of the Mistborn books.  I liked it a lot.  It hit all the right buttons, and was the perfect length for Brandon's style of writing.  (I always feel his books are way too long, despite being excellent).  For me, this wasn't my favorite of his works, but it comes in a respectable second.  (The Way of Kings still wins).

The story starts with a lawman named, get ready for this, Waxillium.  It isn't so bad when it gets shortened to just Wax, but Brandon didn't use nicknames nearly as much as he usually does this time around.  This made me sad, but oh well.  Anyway, Wax gets called back to the city to take up his dead uncle's position as Lord Ladrian.  He gives up his cowboy ways and begins to acclimatize to life in high places.  Until his old deputy, Wayne, shows up and enlists his help in solving a crime.  Lots of cool action scenes ensue, (ah yeah, Mistborn gun fights are very cool) and Wax and Wayne find themselves uncovering a conspiracy.  Can't say much else without giving things away.

The villain is one cool dude.  The girl is rather annoying, filling the academic role that Brandon loves to give to a character in every book he writes, and the banter between Wax and Wayne is fun.  It gets over the top sometimes, but usually stays within the bounds of humorous, rather than idiotic (Wayne is actually the funniest when he's away from Wax, doing his own things.  He makes a great character, and has a past that makes him rather interesting).

One thing I had a problem with: Wax is a twinborn, meaning that he can use Allomancy and Feruchemy.  I know that if you haven't read the Mistborn books you have no idea what these two terms mean, but I don't want to get in to explaining two magic systems right now.  If you want to know more, read the books.  Anyway, being a twinborn is supposed to be a rare thing in the world.  Problem is, the sidekick and the Villain have this rare gift as well.  Makes it seem a little less rare when three of the main characters can use two magics.  Just saying.  Mixing the two systems, however, make for some awesome action scenes.  It's really cool how Wax and Wayne use their powers together to co-op their foes into corpses.  (Oh, and if you care, Wayne and the girl are able to burn two metals that aren't featured in the trilogy.  Kind of fun to see new stuff in the world).

If you liked the Mistborn books, or any of Brandon's other novels, you'll like TAoL.  I only hope that it doesn't take too long for the sequel, because the ending, although satisfying, leaves much unanswered.  (It is okay to do this when done right!  I'm glaring at you, Scorch Trials!)  I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Michael Kramer, who does the Wheel of Time series, Mistborn, and The Way of Kings.  His narration is excellent as always.  Go and get this book!

The Alloy of Law gets 4 out of 5 stars.

One last thing.  Well, two, really.  Like you were ready to stop reading... There are NO Mistborns in this book.  You heard me.  It's a Mistborn book without Mistborns.  They don't exist in the world anymore.  Something to do with the end of the trilogy.  I thought that was interesting.  And last, (it really was last... this little tid-bit happened in the epilogue)  a character from the trilogy shows up in a little cameo.  Which character, you ask?  Ha!  You think I'm gonna spoil that?  All I got to say is it made me smile, and maybe pump my fist in the air... maybe.

*Reaches arm up, closes fist... stops.  Tells himself to grow up*

That's all.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day 8, and The Scorch Trials

So NaNoWriMo is freaking hard.  Write 50,000 words in a month, work a full-time job, and get ready for your first baby?  Seriously?  Yeah, it isn't going as well as I hoped.  However, I am still plugging away, and my writing schedule has gotten back to what it was a few months ago, so it has been a good thing for me right now.

I'm still so pumped about Gunlord.  A western fantasy just seems like such a brilliant idea to me!  And it's nice that Brandon Sanderson has had a similar thought and written The Alloy of Law (just out today).  I'm glad, though, that Sanderson isn't playing up the western part so much, as it is a huge part of Gunlord, and I don't want to be thought of as ripping off anyone.  For the record, I started Gunlord last January, before Sanderson ever announced Alloy.  The writing group will back up my claims, right, guys... yeah?  If anything, I stole the idea from Stephen King, except that his Dark Tower series isn't very western either, only has a gunslinger protagonist.  That series got way too weird for me!  I quit after book three, then read the summaries for the rest of the series.  Boy, am I glad I didn't bother with the rest of that story!  (After reading about how it ended, I decided it was officially the stupidest ending to a series in the history of stupid endings).

Anyway, getting off topic.  I doubt I'll get 50,000 words this month, but the good news is that it's shaping up to be my most productive month in a long while.  That's a good thing, I'd say.

And now to The Scorch Trials, sequel to The Maze Runner:

I'm gonna say it up front: I didn't like this book.  I'll give you my reasons why, without spoiling anything, so have no fear, you may read on!

I read and reviewed The Maze Runner a few months back (the review was one of my first posts).  I had some issues with that book, but overall thought it was a fun read.  The Scorch Trials, (TST) however, really upset me when I shut down my ipod yesterday after the last sentence... it left me totally unfulfilled.  I felt cheated, lied to, and shoved through a meat grinder.  Funny, since this is probably how the protagonist, Thomas, was feeling right then, too.

Just because the POV character is feeling like this, doesn't mean the reader should be as well.

My main issues with TST were the plot and twists.  And lack of interesting characters.  But I can live with the last, since I still enjoyed TMR despite its flat characters.  I bet the age group TST is written for won't have any of the problems I had with the book, but good YA should still work for adults, so I'm holding TST to higher standards.

Everything felt so forced.  Everything happened because the plot demanded that it be so.  Every chapter ended with a cliff hanger, because the plot demanded that readers feel tension.  Each new twist felt so contrived that I screamed in frustration several times.  And Dashner (the author) gives you tension and twists with one hand, only to take them away with the other.  All of the suffering Thomas went through was absolutely pointless.  Not one of his experiences served to do anything, other than to move the plot forward--which, honestly, isn't even clear about what it is.  Oh sure, there are questions.  But are there any new answers?  Nope.  Not a one.  I know nothing more about Thomas's situation after TST than I did after TMR.  (Yes, there was some kind of disaster and disease in the world, but that doesn't count as answers, since knowing this only gives me twenty more questions).

Anyway, I didn't feel like Dashner gave readers a beginning, middle, and end in this book.  It all felt like middle.  That might sound dumb, since it's the middle book in a trilogy, but each book in a series ought to have its own story structure that fulfills promises to the reader.  TST failed at this.

I really like James Dashner.  I've met him, and heard him speak at a few different events.  He's a great guy, and is quite the motivational speaker.  I have no hate for the dude.  But The Scorch Trials just didn't do it for me.

The Scorch Trials gets 2 out of 5 stars.

I'll finish the trilogy, because there are some things I want answered.  Hopefully the Death Cure won't disappoint.  I'll have that one finished sometime next week.  As of right now, I'm halfway through The Alloy of Law, by Brandon Sanderson, and will post my review of it when I'm finished.

That's all.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day 2, and two vivd dreams

I know, I know, November just started.  It's not like I've progressed very far in my 50,000 word goal for the month.  But I had to note that so far, after two days, things are going great.  I've more or less reached my writing goals both days, (first day I went over, today I went just under) and something surprising happened.  Gunlord snuck up on the 80,000 word mark.  Ain't that grand?

I've been saying I had 70,000 words for so long, that it's pretty damn awesome to now think of it as plus another 10k.  And I think I just wrote the best chapter of the book so far.  It's a completely new POV, (I'll probably add her in as a prologue POV) she's a total beast, but gets some mega sympathy points.  It'll be fun to share this one with the writing group when it comes to submitting it in a couple months.  (Still have 3 chapters ahead of it to submit).

If the novel reaches the lowest estimate of finished word count, I'm half way there.  If it takes to the highest estimate to finish, only a hundred-thousand more to go!  (ugh... I've got to write faster!)

That's all.  Time to get some sleep, so I can wake up extra early and plunk out some more words.

*Cue chime music and air whooshing sound effects.*

Okay, it's the next morning now.  I had two weird dreams and I didn't want to do a whole new post for them, so I'll stick them in here.

Dream 1: George R R Martin and I, and one other dude who I have no clue was, went to the Hoover dam and walked around.  In the middle of the river below the dam, there happened to be a huge rock formation, kind of like Bryce Canyon, that you could go hike on.  George didn't want to go down there, though, so we just walked around the top of the damn.  Then we (me and GRRM) split off from the random dude and got in George's crappy blue Honda CRV to drive back to Vegas.  On the way, I tried on GRRM's thick nerd glasses, and continued to tell him my life story of wanting to become a writer.

I told him about David Farland's Writer's Death Camp I attended last November, sure that he'd be impressed that I had been to a seminar put on by a New York Time's Bestseller.  Also, I told him about the hike My wife and I, and another Death Camp attendee, went on with Dave and his family in Zion's.

The closer we got to Vegas, the more the landscape looked like Idaho in winter.  And then we nearly hit a horse and sleigh.  (GRRM isn't a very good driver in the snow).  I told him how much I loved Hunter's Run, even though A Song of Ice and Fire is my favorite of his work.  (I didn't want to fawn over the series everyone had read, so I picked one of his less-popular novels :-) ).  And then we arrived at the Con we were going to, and GRRM hurriedly excused himself from my presence.

Dream 2:  I'm on this bus going who knows where, and besides me and one other guy, the bus is full of women.  My friends Jo and Jane are there, and I have no idea who the rest of the gals are.  The other dude with me starts out as one person, then changes into another halfway through the dream.

The other dude starts off as my dentist.  Now I know it is very weird to dream of your dentist, but mine happens to be a family friend, so I know him a bit better than most probably know theirs.  (We've helped each other build cribs... his for his granddaughter, mind for my baby girl).  Anyway, so we're on this bus and he has to give me a check up, so I sit down on the examination table (of course there is one, though why it's on a bus I have no clue) and begin to have my teeth cleaned.

Then, without warning, my dentist changes into my chiropractor.  Again, I know my (I use my loosely... I've only been to get adjusted by him once, but I'll go back to him in the future) chiropractor a bit better than normal, because his wife runs a wedding supplies business out of a building my dad rents to them.  I proceed to have my back adjusted in this bus full of women.

End of dreams.  I'm just wondering now what in hell my subconscious is trying to tell me.  Any dream interpreters out there?

*crosses fingers in hope of GRRM dream meaning that he will have greater success than the master of fantasy himself... thinks the passing of the nerd glasses points to this unarguably*

*bangs head against wall beside his computer because the second dream is just weird*

Monday, October 31, 2011


November is here... tomorrow, anyway. For those aspiring authors out there, it's national novel writing month. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's a stupid gimmick to get writers to write 50,000 words in 30 days, or a novel. I don't know of any novels other than mid-grade books that are complete at 50,000 words, but spitting out 90,000+ is a bit ridiculous. Anyway, I haven't ever participated. I'm going to this year.

I have 5 weeks before my baby girl is born... If the wife doesn't pop her out early. (fingers crossed). That means 5 weeks or less of the concept of free time in my life having any meaning, other than a whispered myth. Gunlord is not even near being finished.

I have 70,000 words written. Thought I was almost done with book one. However, now I am making the novel a standalone, and have roughly 80,000-100,000 words to go. NaNoWriMo gives me a reason, although lame and gimmicky, to get a hell of a lot of work done. So November is going to be my "write your ass off because your writing time is going to be drastically reduced in the near future month." Wish me luck.

My normal speed is about 20,000 words a month, so I've got a bit of a challenge ahead of me. Sorry XBox, for the neglect I'm about to force upon you. :(

Monday, October 24, 2011


Coldplay's new album is out today.  I love it.  It's amazing how consistently excellent they are.  My wife and I are eagerly waiting for their US tour dates to be released so that we can plan a trip.  (Hopefully any concerts near us are several months in the future, so that our baby is old enough to leave for a night).  We saw them in Vegas three years ago:

Coolest concert ever.  I still get chills thinking about that night.  Anyway, take a listen to the new songs.  My favorite so far are (and this will likely change the more I listen) Paradise, Hurts Like Heaven, and Us Against the World.  I really like Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall, too, but the first three rank higher.

There are few bands that uplift me like Coldplay.  I'm gonna get back to listening...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Raising Hope, and The Walking Dead

If you haven't seen Raising Hope on Fox, you're missing out.  It's one of the funniest sitcoms in a long while.  It is so funny that even when my rib has popped out of joint--and it really, really hurts to breathe, cough, sneeze, or move--that I can't help but laugh until tears come to my eyes.  It's charming, witty--in a white trash sort of way--and very well written.  And I can't get the theme song out of my head.  Check it out... the first season is available for streaming on Netflix right now.

I don't know if I love it so much because it's about a new dad, raising a little girl, (which I will be doing in another month) or if white trash comedy just speaks to my soul.  The creators behind it did My Name is Earl a few years back, so they're pros at the genre.  Hope is so much better than Earl, however, because Hope can crack a joke one minute, and then have a heartfelt family moment the next.  Earl was just dumb fun.  The premise behind the show is that Jimmy met a girl, knocked her up, and found out she was a serial killer.  She gets the electric chair, and Jimmy gets the baby.  The opening sequence and theme song hilariously remind you of the back story every episode.  (Okay, not every episode.  They shorten it up sometimes.  But often enough).

Throughout the first season the focus slowly moves away from the baby.  You might think the show producers are cheating by doing this, but honestly, how interesting can a show about a baby be?  The best parts of the story involve the grandparents, (Virginia and Bert, in their late thirties) and the dad (Jimmy, in his early twenties).  The family has had four consecutive generations of teen pregnancies, so they're all full of dumb advice to offer, and  Maw maw, Hope's great-great grandma, is still kicking, though most of the cogs in her mind have stopped working.

In one episode, Jimmy runs into his nearly-naked dad in the middle of the night, hiding in the bathroom from Maw maw... who thinks Bert is her dead husband.  Bert sheepishly asks Jimmy, "Do you think this kind of stuff happens in other peoples' houses in the middle of the night, and they're just too embarrassed to talk about it?"  Jimmy naively responds with, "I hope so."  Jimmy tells his dad to put hot sauce on his neck for when Maw maw starts kissing.

The show's message is refreshingly simple and positive.  It doesn't go into any serious, cram-it-down-your-throat political correctness, teen homosexuality discussions, like other Fox shows that I no longer watch.  The characters are straight, dumb, goofy, truthful, and happy, and only trying to make the best of their lives.  If Raising Hope doesn't make you laugh your butt off, and possibly cause you to have a few "ahhhh" moments, I don't know what show on t.v. will.

The next show you should all be watching is The Walking Dead, on AMC.  If you're like me and don't have cable, you'll have to watch it somewhere other than at home, but the first season is streaming on Netflix right now too, so if you missed out last year, you can get caught up with the first six episodes.

This show isn't for the faint of heart.  The zombies depicted are the creepiest I've ever seen.  I've dreamed about flesh eating dead people nearly every night I've watched the show.  It's a lot of fun!  I keep telling people that I'm praying for the zombie apocalypse to arrive.  I've even stocked up on my ammo.  Yeah, it would suck to get eaten and everything, but come on... it would be so cool to plug a bunch of disgusting freaks day after day!  Can I get an amen?

The show is one of those that has more questions than answers.  So far, you have no idea how the zombie virus appeared.  All you know is most of Atlanta has turned into walking meat bags.  There is the perfect amount of horror, action, and drama.  The jokes, if any, are few and far between.  Don't watch to get your laughs.  (The good news is Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland exist for those of you who like to giggle at people-munching monsters).

The main character is a sheriff's deputy from a small town within driving distance of Atlanta.  In the beginning he is in the hospital for a gun wound, and wakes up to find that the end of the world arrived while he was sleeping.  The first episode is one of the greatest pieces of dramatic television I've seen.  Sadly, the story fizzles out toward the end of season one, but this year's season premiere made some interesting promises, that I hope they follow through on.

Is it just me, or does this zombie look like Kevin Bacon?
The Walking Dead is for a mature audience, but it doesn't do nudity and F-bombs like other cable shows.  I'm pretty sure AMC doesn't ever have extreme content in their shows, although they do walk the line in the gore department.  But you can't have a zombie flick without blood, says I.

So get out the popcorn, and put the kiddies to bed.  Nothing like a terrifying zombie drama to get in the mood for... brains?

That's all

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Joe Abercrombie, and the gritty fantasy trend

I finished listening to The Heroes the other day, the latest from rising fantasy star, Joe Abercrombie.  I'm still chewing over what to think about it.  I've read every one of his books--there's only five, so it isn't some huge accomplishment--and I certainly feel that Heroes is the weakest to date, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book.  I did.  Let me tell you why I'm still trying to sort out exactly what I think about it, though.

To do that, I'll have to talk a bit about his previous four novels.  I thought about reviewing each of them here individually, but it's been more than half a year since I've read some of them, so I'll just give my general impressions of each.

I really like how Joe is writing his stories.  He started off with a trilogy, known as The First Law series.  The books, in order, are: The Blade Itself, Before they are hanged, and Last Argument of Kings.  And then he did two "standalones" Best Served Cold, and The Heroes (they take place in the same world as the First Law trio).  I've read through all of them in a six month period, so am still quite familiar with each.  Anyway, back to a review (sort of).  I loved the trilogy.  I finally found books as good as--or as close to as good as to make no difference to me--the first three books in George R.R. Martin's massive epic, A Song of Ice and Fire.  Abercrombie's characters in the First Law series have such distinct voices, interesting pasts, and human flaws, that I think they are among my favorite to read about.  Abercrombie's humor is dark, yet poignant; charming, yet frightening.  He has such an understanding of the gray areas of morality that I find myself more than a little uncomfortable at imagining myself doing similar things as his characters, if placed in similar situations.  If you haven't read any Abercrombie, start with The First Law series, and treat yourself to some amazing dark fantasy.  You deserve it.

Abercrombie's first standalone, Best Served Cold, went too far down the dark road for my taste.  It is a revenge tale all too comfortable with the idea of killing people to feel better.  It is set five or so years after the end of Last Argument of Kings.  Some of the minor characters in the trilogy are now the major ones in this book.  I think it's cool when authors do this, though David Farland/Wolverton advises against it.  Dave has said that an author will likely lose readers if he/she writes books in the same world with different viewpoint characters.  (He did the very same thing in the later Runelord books and claims the drop in sales was noticeable).  Abercrombie, however, is only gaining in popularity, so I hope that he is able to continue to pull it off the way he is doing it.  I prefer shorter series (I blogged about this a few weeks back) but enjoy returning to familiar worlds.

In the beginning of Best Served Cold, there is a character who is trying to be "a better man."  (SPOILER ALERT) I thought he gave up too easily on his goals.  The main character, a woman who is trying to kill seven men responsible for her brother's death, seems too unchanged by the murders she commits throughout the story.  My personal favorite revenge story is The Count of Monte Cristo (the book, not the awful Hollywood trash made into a movie ten years ago).  Edmund really struggled with the man he was becoming in that book, and in the end, decided revenge wasn't what he wanted after all.  Now I'm not saying every character who sets out for vengeance should make this decision in the end, but I wish Abercrombie would have shown his characters struggle a bit more.  Okay, a lot more.  But that's just me.  I was just expecting different outcomes from the story.  Not because he promised me a different outcome, though.  He does a wonderful job at fulfilling every promise he makes to the reader in Best Served Cold.

On to The Heroes.  It took me a couple of months to get to this one.  I read Best Served Cold the week after I finished The First Law trilogy, thinking it would be more of the same Abercrombie, but was so put off by it that I didn't want to dive in to another one of Joe's books for a while.  I read (listened to, really.  I don't read much these days) ten or so books between BSC and Heroes, giving myself several months off of Abercrombie.  (Aspiring writers, keep this in mind.  Don't write a book that will turn readers off to your future stories!)  I always knew I'd get to Heroes, however, because Abercrombie kicks ass.  I just had to distance myself from BSC for a while.  I'm happy to say that Heroes is nowhere near as dark as BSC, but it wasn't as memorable, either.  The one good thing I can say (there's several good things, but I won't get into all of them right now) about BSC is that I reacted very strongly to its characters (just in a negative way).  Only the best of writers can make me do this.  Anyway, I'm getting off track.  Heroes doesn't have any characters that are memorable.  Oh sure, I remember all of them today.  But that' s because I just finished the book last Friday.  A month from now I'm betting I'll have forgotten half of them.  By next year, probably all of them.  I really wish there had been someone to latch on to in Heroes, but there just wasn't.

Because of this, I had a hard time getting into the story.  Heroes is about a three day battle, and is more medieval military fiction than fantasy.  This didn't bother me at all, since I love Bernard Cornwell's novels, which are almost always focused around one big battle.  Some reviewers on Amazon complained about the lack of reason behind the battle in Heroes, but this didn't bother me either.  Sometimes war is pointless.  It happens because one guy says he's got bigger balls, and another guy disagrees.  Sometimes it happens because one guy looked at another guy's sister the wrong way.  War sucks, no matter how it starts.  I do feel that individuals in war will have a clearer sense of their own goals, though, than the POV's in Heroes.  Several of them seem to just wander aimlessly through fight after fight.  Others don't seem to have important enough goals to earn the place of viewpoint.  Also, none of the POV's in Heroes had the wit or charm that Abercrombie's characters have had in the past.  This made me sad.

So, yes, Heroes is the weakest of Abercrombie's work.  That isn't to say that it was boring, though.  I still enjoyed the listen.  And I'll still eagerly buy his next.  Everyone writing fantasy today should read Abercrombie.

The Heroes gets 3 out of 5 stars.

Okay.  Abercrombie was only half the reason for this post.  I wanted to bring up some things that I've noticed about fantasy literature, post George R.R. Martin.  Hopefully, we can have a discussion on this--which means you have to leave comments!

During the last decade there has been a slew of gritty, amoral fantasy.  (I am in no way saying it didn't exist before then, only that I wasn't aware of it until reading GRRM about 8 years ago).  Authors that I would consider to fall under this category are: George R.R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, Ari Marmell, Daniel Polansky, and many others.  These I've listed I have read, and so can reference their work.  George, Joe, and Scott are quite popular, Ari and Daniel less so.  (I'd never heard of either until recently).  My question, that I hope to have some answers on, is do you think that this trend--gritty, violent, gray fantasy--is healthy?  R rated fantasy, if you want a movie rating comparison.

Personally, I like the darker tales best.  As long as they have a good ending.  What constitutes a good ending differs from reader to reader, of course.  But in my opinion, it has to include one very important thing: someone, whether protagonist, antagonist, or villain, has to become better by the end of the story.  Better meaning good, or on the path to being good, or they've redeemed some past deed in some way.  Who decides what is good or not?  I do... for the books that I read.  For example, (possible spoilers if you haven't read the third book in GRRM's series... or any of them for that matter.  Skip the next paragraph if you wish to avoid them). Jaime Lannister.

Jaime begins A Song of Ice and Fire as one of the vilest, despicable characters I've ever read.  He is in an incestuous relationship with his sister--who happens to be married to the king--he throws a child off the top of a tower, causing the child to be paralyzed from the waist down, he murdered the king he was sworn to guard 16 years in the past... the list goes on and on.  He is seen as a villain in the first couple of books.  Well, he gets captured in a battle, gets thrown in a dungeon, and eats a few slices of humble pie.  In the third book, A Storm of Swords, he (BIG SPOILER) gets his sword hand cut off and can no longer act as a knight.  At this point, he starts turning into, if not an honorable character, a sympathetic one.  By the end of book 3, I was liking him more than any other character in the series... because he was on the path to becoming good--by trying to regain some of his spoiled honor.  He was still a cocky jerk, but was starting to realize he didn't like being the cocky jerk.  So for me, he had started on the road to redemption.

Scott Lynch's Gentlemen Bastard sequence (only two have been written, with five more planned) is another dark fantasy that I love (no spoilers).  The first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, is about a group of thieves out to screw the rich in their city.  Their underground world is gritty, full of violence and filthy language.  However, the main characters themselves are extremely likable because of their loyalty to each other, and their highly entertaining heists.  I didn't have to get to the ending to like the characters in this book.  I feel that this series so far is a lot more black and white than others mentioned, but the heroes are still thieves, so the grayness is still in evidence.

Okay, I've listed some books that I like.  Now back to my question.  Is it healthy for fantasy to become more edgy.  In my opinion, yes.  It is.  I have to admit, I find it hard to defend this opinion with my background.  Being a member of the LDS church, I am expected to stay away from certain types of entertainment.  Nowhere is it stated in church doctrine that we can't watch R rated movies, or read certain types of literature (except pornographic... that is a no, and has been stated as such many times).  Members of the church have been cautioned to "leave the obscene unseen."  Because of this, the majority of church members are uncomfortable with, and avoid altogether, anything with adult themes of violence, sex, drugs, language, etc.  I have no problem with this.  I think it's great that people have personal standards that they stick to.  It doesn't stop me from suggesting certain movies or books, though, because I do have a different view on the subject than most.

For me,  a story is much more powerful if it begins in a dark place.  And this is easily done in film and literature by showing certain content.  I don't think it is the only way, or even the best, but it is effective.  For me, if the story has the good ending I've already talked about, the payoff--emotionally, spiritually--is so much more powerful if a character has had to get through hell in order to succeed.  This is why I love George R.R. Martin's books so much.  His characters suffer through so much, that when they accomplish something good, it makes me want to pump my fist in the air for them.  It literally lifts me.  Another example is the Kite Runner. (the book, not the movie).  The light at the end of the tunnel in that story was when a suicidal kid smiles because the main character says a line to him, I paraphrase: "for you, a thousand times over."  If you've read the book, you know what I'm talking about.  That line has such a punch, and that novel was so dark... you can't help but feel positive about the story as a whole.  I do not believe the ending of Kite Runner would have been anywhere near as emotional and uplifting if the tale hadn't been as gritty and dark as it was.

The one big problem I have with The Wheel of Time series is that it isn't dark enough.  It never quite grows up with its characters.  In my mind, it will forever be a YA epic.  That doesn't tarnish it in the least.  I love Robert Jordan's world.  The WoT is what got me into fantasy.  But I can't ever get as excited about reading it as I was in high school, because my taste has changed so much in the last ten years.

Again, it is hard for me to defend why I think the gritty fantasies are healthy.  There's no question that some of them go too far, and I've felt dirtied by reading them.  But I made the choice years ago that it was worth some of those stinkers in order to find the truly beautiful stories.  I don't know if I made the right choice, but I do know that I've read and seen a hundred stories worth reading and seeing.

So, what do you think?  Does fantasy need to take a step back from realistic world and character descriptions--gritty violence, language, and other dark themes, or is it healthy for the genre to grow into adulthood, where there is room for all types of storytelling?

That's all.  

(The covers I posted for Best Served Cold and The Heroes are the new paperback covers coming out from Orbit sometime in the future.  I love them!  Wish Pyr would put new covers on the trilogy).

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Steve Jobs is dead.  If you're learning about this for the first time here, what the crap is wrong with you?  It's a sad day for tech-junkies, and apparently, a really happy one for apple haters.  You people, who stand up and clap at a man's death, are sick.  

Here's a link to an article that made me want to post on Steve's passing.  It's about a group of Baptists protesting Steve's funeral.  In their words: "He (Jobs) had a huge platform; gave God no glory and taught sin."   Now I'm no Steve Job's expert, but I can't think of  any instance where he took the time to teach me sin.  And isn't it a bit un-christian to murmur about a guy that just died from a horrible disease?  Where's the compassion, people?  And who can say whether he gave God glory or not?  No one but God knows the heart of a man.  Since when did one have to shout from a tower top that God is great?  Why can't these people just worry over their own lives?

Rush Limbaugh gave a great dialogue on Jobs today.  Whether you agree with Rush's politics or not, I highly recommend giving it a read.  And whether you were an "Apple Fan Boy," or hater, you can't deny the impact Jobs had on our modern world.

I listen to music and books on an iPod.  I buy all of my music through iTunes (and recently started buying t.v. seasons and movies).  I talk to family and friends on my iPhone.  And, I create worlds and give life to characters on my iMac.  Am I going to miss Steve Jobs?  Probably not.  I didn't know the man.  And I'm sure Apple will get along with out him.  However, I thank him for his contribution to humanity--his influence has directly affected my life, and hope that, as I do for everyone, that he finds peace in death.

The funniest, or saddest--depending on your view--part of the Baptist protesters is that they tweeted about their intentions via an iPhone.  It's idiots like these that give the rest of Christianity a bad name.  Thanks, ya shitheads.       

Friday, September 30, 2011

Word Count

So I rearranged my work schedule a while back so that I'd have Fridays off.  The plan was to focus all of Friday on writing.  Before I did this, I was writing almost every morning before I went to work, getting up at 5:30-6:00 and writing until 8:30.  I found that writing every morning, with a word count goal of 1,000 words, I was getting a lot done.  I felt I was fairly productive, working a full-time job and all.  Flash forward to now, when I have an entire day to devote to writing, and you get what I've turned into: lazy.

I'm lucky if I reach a thousand words each Friday.  This is bad.  REALLY bad.  Since the beginning of August, I've probably only written 6,000 new words in Gunlord (including the 2,000 or so that went into my lost chapter) and another 2,000 on a different project.  I used to be able to claim 8,000 or more words every two weeks.  I'm quite upset with myself over the whole thing.  Problem is, I really like having Fridays off work, so I can't go back to my old schedule.  And I'm really not a morning person, although I forced myself to be one for a year or so.  So what the crap am I going to do?

I originally planned Gunlord as a trilogy.  In my head.  There was none of that outlining garbage going on.  So I was shooting for 100,000 words per book.  Pretty easy goal.  Plus, I liked the idea of an epic fantasy with each book only being around 300-350 pages, instead of the normal 700 pages.  100,000 words meant a couple of months of steady work--about 4.5 since I've never written every single day.  I was on my way to hit that goal as of the end of July, having 70,000 words already in the bag.  And then I hit a wall in the story.  And then I shifted my work schedule.  And then I didn't get much writing done.  And then Gears of War 3 came out.

I've been on a steady, downward trend for too damn long.  (But it is so bloody fun to blow people apart in video games).

I've made some promising steps this past week.  I actually wrote a few days before work, despite hating my brain for waking me up early.  And I've been at the library today for more hours than any other week, plugging away at chapter eighteen.  (My brain needs a rest so I thought I had time for a bit of bloggorama).  And the best part is that I've unstuck myself in the story.  Gunlord's beginning was just getting finished at 70,000, which is way too late in a 100,000 word novel.  But there wasn't much that could be cut out to shorten it up.  Well, I've changed focus from a trilogy to a standalone now.  So instead of a series, there's gonna be one, badass, gunsling'n-epic and it'll be done.  I'm leaving the door open on final word count, but it will for sure fall between 160,000-190,000 words.  (The joys of gardening).  I'd really like to have it finished by the time my baby girl is here in December.  No way in hell that's going to happen.

C'est la vie.

That's all.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Long-running fantasy series

I was reading on Pat Rothfuss's blog, and he posted a link to an article that made for an interesting read.  You can read the article here. It is about the pros and cons of long fantasy series.

I used to love the massive epics.  I couldn't get enough of them.  When I read The Wheel of Time for the first time just after high school, I would actually have dreams about the characters, and, quite unintentionally, voice some of their fondest sayings in my speech.  It was weird.  But I loved it.  The immersion that you get in a ten book (back when I started the series... it's up to thirteen now, with a prequel and one more to conclude everything) is simply amazing.  However, during the last ten years I've become "involved" with another series--one that is SO much better than TWOT.  You know which one I'm talking about, right?  It's the fantasy series that has become trendy to read over the past year.  George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.  (I'm a bit bitter it's become as popular as it has... even though Martin deserves all the success in the world for it.  It's just that it was special being one who had read it before everyone knew about it).

Since becoming involved  with Martin's world, (first in the series is A Game of Thrones) I have read the first three books nearly a dozen times.  The fourth, a meager three.  The fifth has only had one go, and it'll be a long time before I give it another read--probably not until book six is finished.  My feelings for the latest volume are mixed.  If you asked me the day after I finished it, I hated it, and wanted to set fire to Martin's house.  A couple of moths later, I still wish it would have been different, but I can appreciate it for what it is.  Because when it comes down to it, GRRM is still the best fantasy writer alive.  (No, NYT he is not better than Tolkien.  Shame on you for even suggesting it).

I have digressed.  Let me get back to the point.  I can't read these big series anymore because of the emotional attachment I get to the world and characters.  I was literally depressed for several days after I finished A Dance with Dragons.  It was ridiculous... ask my wife, she'll tell you, but I couldn't help feeling I had been jerked around in some way by someone.  I had waited six years for Martin's new book.  SIX FREAKIN YEARS.  That's a long time to wait for a volume that wouldn't even finish the series.  I can't ever do that again.  I had built up Dance so much in my own mind, that no matter how well it was crafted, I was bound to be disappointed.  Because of that, I can't do long series anymore.  It isn't worth the grief and insanity.  I'll stick to trilogies--preferably finished ones--from now on.

With the exception of a few I'm already in the middle of.  It's not like I'm not going to buy the next Ice and Fire book Martin writes.  Of course I am!  The Way of Kings too, damn you Sanderson.  But no others!  I am done!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

God of Thunder

I'm getting really tired of superhero movies (X Men: First Class, I hate you).  Especially origins superhero movies.  The comics dudes seem to reuse the same troupes every time.  (I say this from a movie-watcher perspective.  I have never read any of the comics).  So I tread carefully when another marvel movie hits theaters.  It shouldn't come as any surprise, then, that when Thor came out I just shook my head and didn't have any desire to see it.  My sister and her husband invited us, though, and so Rhonda and I went.  (This was back in April or May when Thor came out).  I walked out of the theater afterward and am glad I took the time for this one.  I just finished watching it for the second time at home and felt it deserved a blog post.

The reason, or reasons, I think Thor is so much better than most superhero movies isn't complicated.  (Let's be clear that I think Batman Begins, and Iron Man 1 are probably better than Thor.  The Dark Knight towers so far over other superhero movies that I doubt any will ever be able to touch it, including the next Batman flick.  And yes, I know, BB and IM were both origins stories, but they kicked ass).  Thor, thank the gods, is not an origins tale!  Yes!  The protagonist already begins the story with his powers!  It's a redemption story, about a god who learns how to put others first.  It's simple, but powerful... which, in my awesome, never-wrong opinion, makes for the greatest of fiction.  I'll let the irony of that last sentence live forever in the digital heavens.

Other reasons that I loved Thor so much include: my love of Norse mythology, magic that follows its own rules (more or less), and last, but certainly not least, Natalie Portman.  Yeah, she's a terrible actor, but WOW.  I've had a crush on her since I was like fourteen.  My wife loves when I bring this up.

Most of you have already seen Thor.  If you haven't, do.  Unless you hate fantasy.  I could see not liking it if you don't like speculative fiction.  You'd be missing out, though.  Redemption is among the most human of stories, no matter your beliefs or way of life.  Everyone makes mistakes, and it is in overcoming them that we become noble, charitable, and wise.  Chris Hemsworth does a wonderful job at portraying a being who begins as an arrogant, self-centered, warmonger, to become an honorable, self-sacrificing leader, unwilling to commit genocide against his life-long enemies.  And on top of that, he's frickin ripped, so ladies, let your jaws drop to the floor.  He's nearly as hot as me.

I'd like to add that I'm a bit disappointed that Thor's only getting one movie before mashing together with a bunch of other characters for next year's Avengers.  Again, I have low expectations for this coming film... despite it being directed by Joss Whedon (genius behind one of my all-time favorite t.v. series, Firefly.  Cliched, I know.  All sci-fi/fantasy lovers love Firefly.  But hey, it's amazing).   Hopefully Thor will get more movies of his own in the future... and hopefully the studio won't dump Natalie and go for a cheaper love interest.  If this happens... death, and destruction, and tears.  Lots of tears.

Watch Thor.  If you don't, Odin will never welcome you into the halls of Valhalla.  (This is assuming we all die in battle, weapons in hand).

That's all.          

p.s. Does anyone know why my text is always jacked up when I post a blog?  When I write it, it's always formatted correctly, but as soon as I publish, random lines become indented.  It bothers me.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Going Postal

I'm nearly done with Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett, and I've got to say: everyone should read this book... or another one of Pratchett's, anyway.  GP is the funniest things since Japanese game shows, and you're missing out if you haven't tried Pratchett yet.  I've never been a fan of "funny fantasy," but I'm thinking now is as good a time as any to start.

Here are some quotes from the book that had me rolling... well, I would have been rolling, that is--if I hadn't been listening to the book at work.

1. ...hell, once he'd ridden without pants too, but luckily, all the tar and feathers helped him stick to the horse.

2. It was no good... old habits died too hard.  They were bred in the bone.  Something warm and feathery fluttered up in front of you, and of course, you snapped at it... They were so tasty, you couldn't stop at one.  And, five minutes later, you remembered why you should have.  These were feral, urban birds, that lived on what they could find on the streets... They were bobbing, cooing, plague pits.  You might as well eat a dog turd burger, and wash it down with a jumbo cup of septic tank.

3. "...I'll just kill him and join you for the pudding."
"You can't do that," hissed Moist.
"Oh, why not?"
"You're using the wrong knife.  That's for the fish.  You'll get into trouble."
She glared at him, but her hand relaxed, and something like a smile appeared on her face.  "They don't have a knife for stabbing rich, murdering bastards?" she said.
"They bring it to the table when you order one," said Moist..."

(I added the punctuation and emphasis that I thought would read most naturally from the narrator's voice.  Sorry if there's errors: I haven't actually read the book).

So now you see why Going Postal is freakin hilarious.  If you didn't laugh at any of those lines, you're STUPID.  I would have written down more quotes, but, like I said, I was listening to this at work, and I didn't really think it honest to take the time as often as I would have liked.

The gist of the story is this: Moist von Lipwig is slated to die.  He has been caught pulling a con, and is hanged for his crimes.  He isn't killed, though, only forced into the government position of Postmaster.  He tries to get out of the job a few times, but a golem by the name of Mr. Pump (named this because he worked at a water pump for like a thousand years) is set to guard him and make sure he does the job.  Lipwig eventually settles into the job and starts doing things that people claim is fulfilling some prophecy.  Like a true conman, Lipwig never really gives up his past life, and invents the postage stamp in order to make some cash.  He comes up with all sorts of ways to make collectible postage that people will pay big money for.  I won't give the whole plot away, since it is always fun to see where a story will go.

Going Postal gets 4 out of 5 stars.

Now I have to decide which Pratchett to try out next.  Any suggestions?  All of you need to get off your hiny and try some Pratchett.

That's all.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Well hell, that just ruins the day

Have you ever done something so stupid you just want to throw yourself out of a second-story Provo library window? I have. Just did, in fact. And the pavement below ain't looking so bad.

I've been stuck on a certain chapter for a month now. This is what happens when you don't outline. What can I say? Outlining for me is like curb-stomping my own teeth (don't know how I'd accomplish that... shutup, I get to choose the similes around here). I abhor outlining; that's just how it is.  There's a problem with this, though. When I'm an idiot and save over something I didn't mean to, I lose whatever I saved over. It's gone, bye, bye.

I managed to unstick myself in this chapter. It took a week and two Fridays of writing, but I did it. I was finally able to move on.  (I can't write the next chapter until the one I'm on is finished... probably another downside to not outlining).  So I pulled out my flash drive to back up the day's work... I have two windows open--my flash drive, and the folder on my computer with my chapters in it--and I start dragging files over. It wasn't until five minutes later that I realized I did my dragging in the wrong direction. I pulled the file off of my flash drive and replaced the one on my computer.

 "Ah, shit," I said to myself (cussing in the Provo library).
"Oh well.  Sucks, but I'll just rewrite what I wrote today."  It's still fresh in my mind so I'll cruise through it and be done.
I opened up the file to start rewriting...
"Ah, double shit!  Shit!  I didn't back up the changes I made last week!  Now two days of writing are gone!"  (This is where I started looking out the window).  "Son of a bitch!"

And now I lost an entire chapter.  I could get most of what I wrote today down, but last week... that was so long ago.  I can't remember the crap I came up with last week!  So it's gone.  And I'm really pissed.  The lost chapter was nearly 4,000 words, and I typically write 1,000 words an hour.  So that's four bloody hours to rewrite chapter seventeen.  Might as well give up now, and jump out of the damn window.

I was so excited (an hour ago) that Gunlord was back on track.  I've got to hurry and finish, after all... since I told a few editors at Worldcon last month that the book was completed...

I think I'll start on my next project now.  Goodbye, Gunlord.  The last 9 months sure have been fun.

*cries like a baby, kicks out windowpane, dives head-first to meet the sidewalk*  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why I love movies

I watched a movie yesterday.  I do that sometimes.  Okay, I do it a lot.  But guess what?  It totally got my creative juices going.  The movie was The Expendables, and holy crap, I've got to find more time to write!
Quick review of the flick: The Expendables is about a mercenary group called, of course, the Expendables, headed by a freakin ripped Sylvester Stallone.  (Also including Jet Li, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, and a bunch of wrestler dudes I don't know).  They get this job offer to take out a small army trafficking drugs in the Caribbean, and the boss (Stallone) goes to scout out the island where the drug op is.  To make a long story short (spoiler warning) They chose not to take the job.  However, there is a girl that serves as their contact on the island, and they decided they need the rescue her.  That's it.  About the simplest plot they could have come up with.

So I thought the movie was okay.  Probably won't ever watch it again.  But that isn't the good part.  The good part is how I thought of a gazillion ways to make the story better--like adding magic, among other things.  Also, it got me thinking a lot about mercenary tales, and how it is really hard to have a merc with morals.  I mean, these dudes spend their time killing people for money... what kind of soul does a person like that have?

This was one thing that bugged me about the film, though they did have a nice little scene with Mickey Rourke, where he is remembering a time where he could have saved a life and chose not to.  He regretted it, felt that he damned his soul by letting a woman commit suicide.  Anyway, it was a nice scene, and I believed he felt remorse, but I wasn't buying Stallone's character for a second.  I just don't think someone like him (at least not from the glimpse of him we see in the movie) would feel anything at the loss of life.  Course, I don't really know, having never shot at people for cash.  And I don't have bulging muscles like him, so maybe I'm too disconnected from his way of life to judge.  Hmm...

My point: despite The Expendables' light plot, the movie really got me thinking.  This is why I can justify watching a movie (sometimes) rather than writing.  Now I have a story in mind of mercenaries using magic.  Not original, but I can make it my own with great characters and plot.  My one problem is that I honestly believe a merc is a bad dude.  So I'll have to go the anti-hero route and have a group of guys that are bad, but still fun to be around.  (Funny mercs have already been done with Schlock, so can't do that).  And I'll have to write it under a pen name so as not to offend anyone I know!

And that is why I love movies.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Debt, and Sherlock

I love good movies and tv shows, who doesn't?  But it is really hard to find quality storytelling on the big and little screen these days.  Let me tell you about a few that are worth your time.

On Friday I was supposed to be writing.  I changed my work schedule so that I'd have Fridays off, and be able to spend the entire day working on Gunlord.  Well, after a few hours of work, I really wanted to see a movie.  It's been a while since I've seen anything good--I'd go to a movie every week if there was something worth seeing.  Anyway, I had just seen the trailer for The Debt and thought it looked interesting, so took some time to check it out.  It was a pretty good flick.

The Debt deals with a small group of Mossad (Israeli CIA) agents sent to East Germany in 1966.  Their mission: to kidnap a Nazi surgeon infamous for mutilating and killing Jews during WWII.  The story is told in a non-linear format, weaving two time periods (1966 and 1997) into one plot.  You'll see some scenes in 1997 in the beginning that won't make sense until the end, but the annoyance is worth the twist in the third act.  There are several tense scenes where the agents are one mistake away from death, and I felt the pacing of these moments were dead on. 

I love period spy stories.  It just doesn't seem as impressive when a modern spy gets the job done with a gazillion gadgets that basically do all the work.  I love watching or reading about how creative and inventive spies had to be before modern tech.  Whether the things they do in the movies are real or not doesn't matter.  It's just cool to see them take on the world without the internet, cell phones, google earth, laser watches, computers, xbox, or facebook.  How in hell did they do it?

The obvious comparison to make with The Debt would be Spielberg's Munich, another story about Mossad agents from a few years ago.  They are very different films, though, despite dealing with similar subject manner.  Munich was a very dark, preachy film about the dangers of government-sanctioned assassination.  I really liked the actors invovled, but felt dirty after watching it.  (Not because of the story itself, but because of the things Spielberg had to include in it to make it a "serious" film).  The Debt is about agents not sent to kill, but to capture and bring back a war criminal for trial.  It walks the line of a dark tale, but never really crosses it in my opinion.  The characters are too moral in comparison with those from Munich.  (Their morals are compromised a bit, but not so much).

The Debt is R for violence and language, though the violence is very minor.  The language isn't too bad either.  A lot cleaner than a George R.R. Martin book.  I'd give it 3 stars.  3 and a half if it ended differently.  Won't spoil that here, though.

Okay, so there's a good movie worth seeing.  Next, an amazing tv show that everyone needs to watch!  What could this be?  Well, it was in the blog title, so I'm thinking there isn't a whole lot of suspense built up here.  Oh well.  So the show you all need to see is Sherlock, and if you haven't heard of it, you can thank me later.

I've only seen the first three episodes of the first season, because that is all Netflix is streaming through my xbox.  I have no idea why they don't have the full season, which is only 6 episodes long, but I can deal with it, because I'm absolutely buying this show on dvd.

Sherlock is a BBC production so the quality expectation is already high.  I love how the British do television.  They do mostly short seasons, and not many of them.  This ensures that the writing and story telling will be exceptional, because they have a limited amount of time to get the whole picture in.  Shows like The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad work the same on AMC.  (I highly recommend both of those shows too).

Back to Sherlock.  They chose to set this Sherlock in modern London, which sets it apart nicely from the film franchise Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr. are involved in (loved that too).  They aren't afraid to borrow from the Downey version, however.  The soundtrack sounds similar to the movie version's, and some of the quirks that the Downey Sherlock does (like pluck a violin while thinking) are in there as well.  (I've never read any of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, so if Sir Doyle put that in there I am unaware).

The realtionship between Sherlock and Watson is hilarious to watch.  The actors that play them are perfect for the roles.  Sherlock is an admitted sociopath, and Watson a practical, sympathetic ex army doctor.  They meet because a mutual friend introduces them when Watson needs a place to stay.  That's not really important to anything, but I thought I'd throw it in there because I have all these thoughts about the show rolling around in my head and am finding it hard to get any of it down in a sensible manner.  The best I can say is, it is one of the best shows I have ever seen on tv.  So far, each episode has had a case that needs solving, like Law and Order.  You find as the stories thickens that Moriarty is connected to each case.

I can't describe the greatness of Sherlock.  You'd think I could, being a writer and all... maybe I'm just being lazy.  GO AND WATCH THIS SHOW, NOW!  That's good enough to get the point across.  Oh, and Sherlock is suitable for most.  There hasn't been any sex/violence/language worse than PG, but there are a few corpses every episode that are a bit... damaged. 

That's all. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Sample

Figured I'd post a sample of something I wrote nearly two years ago.  Nobody, save my writing group, seems to know what I do.  Probably because I don't talk much about it, or let people read stuff.  It isn't because I'm afraid of letting people read, I just haven't wanted to show anything until it was finished.  Well, this one most likely won't ever be finished, because of a large list of problems.  I really liked it, though.  The character in this bit is one of my favorites I've ever created.  I might have to put him into a different story some day.

If the story seems familiar, it's supposed to.  The idea behind this one was an alternate Europe at the beginning of the third crusade.  Tollard is based on Richard I, King of England.  More famously known as Richard the Lionheart, or Coeur de Lion for the purist.  It was a lot of fun to write.

I've been obsessively interested in Richard and the third crusade for many years.  He was one of the greatest military minds of the middle ages.  Also, a national hero of England... which is funny, since he spent only 6 months of his 10 year reign in England, (the rest of his time as king on the continent) and never spoke a word of english.  At that time most English nobility spoke french.

Hollywood and modern historians love to demonize Richard.  This really pisses me off.  (I had a hard time with the new Robin Hood movie because of the way they portrayed him).  I hate, I hate, I hate when people judge the past on modern principles.  Yeah Richard was a bit of a brute.  But so was every one else in the medieval world.  But if you take the time to read about the period, and understand what drove men back then to do what they did, you might see some of the nobility and heroism in the figures that lived through some of the bleakest times the earth has seen.  I view Richard as a great man.  Not perfect by any standard, but a giant compared to many of his age.

This is why I wanted to write a story based on him.  Also, because his nemisis--Saladin--the Sultan of Egypt and Syria, is one of history's most admirable leaders.  In many ways, Saladin was the better man.  I could talk about these dudes all night.  Too bad there isn't a good movie about them that you can watch to get the jist of what I'm saying.  Oh well.  There's a lot of good books about them... many of them on my shelf.

Anway, here's the bit of my story.  Understand it has seen very little editing, and might read rough in a few places.  Give me a break, I wasn't going to polish it unless I finished the damn thing!  I never had a title for it--a fact that still bothers me.  And for those who might be interested: I wrote nearly 130,000 words before quitting.  I figure it would have taken to 160,000 to finish the story.  (Those of you that don't know, that's a good sized book.  About 550 pages).  Oh, and one last note, I'm posting this under a Creative Commons non-commercial, non-derivative work license.  If you want to know what this means, leave a comment that you're curious and I'll let you know.  The short of it is: If you steal this and try and claim it as yours, repost it with changes you have added, or in any way try to make money off of this, I will find you, break your knees, and rob you of all your riches.  Or at the very least, sue you and deny you as my friend.


YOU ARE NOT MY SON,” the king said to Tollard.  “A demon impregnated your mother!  And I should cut off your head and feed it to my dogs!  How I wish your brother still lived!”
            Tollard only smiled.  He scratched at his well-kept beard—that turned from red to gold, depending on the light—and stared at Father.  They were nearing the end of their tedious parley, inside the cramped pavilion east of Morton, and Father had said the same many times already.  Tollard had a feeling that it wouldn’t be the last insult he'd receive today.  He had defeated Father’s army and so understood why the old man was so furious.  He tried not to chuckle as the king scowled at him; he didn't want to provoke the decrepit fart into one of his epic tantrums.  King Herral had been humiliated enough already.  “You will release Mother immediately,” Tollard said.  “I want her on a ship sailing for L’Rorche, before the new moon.” 
            “Yes, yes,” Father growled, “I have already sworn to let the bitch go.”
            Tollard bit his tongue and clenched his fists.  If the bastard insults her one more time I will cut off his royal prick and shove it down his throat!  The half-grin on Father’s face made it plain that he knew Tollard wanted to burst into violence.  That would be foolish, though. Because ten armed knights surrounded the king and Tollard sat unarmed.  He had his own armed men behind him—each loyal and brave—but he’d be dead before they could stop Father’s men from driving their swords through his heart.  Angennet family meetings were always enjoyable.
            “I want that Callet fop out of my land before Lenorel is allowed to set foot on a ship!  I won’t tolerate a foreign king and his army in my—”
            “Impossible,” Tollard said, unmoved by Father’s look.  “Moving an army takes time; you know that.  Guy will be out of L’Melles within a fortnight, no sooner.”  Guy could move faster if he wanted to, but he and Tollard had discussed the issue when they had learned Father desired peace.  King Herral was as sly as a minx, known for backing out of promises a day or two after making them.  Tollard couldn’t afford him changing his mind if Guy left Merran quickly.          
            I nearly lost our little summer war, though Father doesn’t seem to be aware of the fact.  I am perfectly happy to let him remain ignorant.  “Guy,” he said, “will begin his retreat when word of our treaty reaches him, but you will put Mother on a ship as soon as you are back in Angelan.” 
Father ground his teeth like a millstone crushing wheat; he often did so when angry.  The sound of it could drive a man mad.  As a boy, Tollard dreaded that awful noise, for it had usually been made at him. 
            “If you betray our agreement,” Father said, spittle spraying from his mouth like sea foam, “I will hunt Lenorel down and hang her from Rochard’s walls!  I want the Lanjen out of Merran!”
            Tollard and Guy had made quick work of Father’s forces when the fighting began, after the last of the spring storms.  The king’s legendary military genius hadn’t been able to stop them from advancing ever northward.  After they had captured L’Melles—the city where Father had been born—the old man seemed to have lost his appetite for battle.  Tollard had been confident that he would ride into Cassendy, capture its ducal capital of Rochard, and laugh from the city’s ramparts while Father sent men to beg him to accept terms of surrender. 
            Damn, Marchelle l’Gouis, Tollard thought.  If he hadn’t blocked Rochard’s approaches... Marchelle will die when I get a hold of him.  Tollard didn’t let men who tried killing him live. 
            He wished, as so often he had during the past months, that the famous knight served him instead of Father.
            “Are you listening to me?” Father bellowed.  “If you betray me, boy, your mother will hang!”
            Now isn’t the time to let your mind wander, pay attention!  “I heard you, Father.  I'll not betray our agreement.  Guy won’t either; I’ll make sure of it.”  Tollard watched as the king’s breathing returned to normal, and the blood drained from his face.  Father was  holding his temper admirably. 
            “This parley is over.  “We have nothing more to talk about,” Father said.  He rose from where he sat at the gilded table and turned to leave.
Tollard felt his own face turn hot as blood flowed to his cheeks.  The man’s arrogance is endless!  What does he think this whole parley is about?  Father knew Tollard would insist on being declared his heir again; the entire purpose of the summer war had been to regain that lost right.  Tollard’s older brother lay in his grave, and so law bound Father to make Tollard the heir.  He already ruled as Duke of Aquias and Count of Tiers, and by God he would be King of Angelan as well!  Even if it meant he had to send Father to the blackest pits of hell. “Wait!  We haven’t discussed my rights.”   
Father spun on him and tried pulling at his dagger, forgetting that like Tollard, he was unarmed.
“You dare demand that of me?  After all the problems you have caused me?  After waging war against me? Why would I let you rule my realm when I am gone?”
            Tollard felt like chewing at the edges of the embroidered carpet that covered the pavilion’s floor.  He was beginning to understand Father’s need to rage uncontrollably.  Did he think  I would forget to bring up my inheritance?  Who would rule Angelan if Father didn’t acknowledge him?  Geoffard?  Joul?  Father and Tollard both knew that the two youngest Angennet sons would be disastrous.  Geoffard had gained fame for being devoid of morals, and Joul courted timidity like a spider hiding in dark cellars. 
            Tollard prepared to yell it all to Father when one of the king’s young pages pushed his way into the dimly-lit pavilion, interrupting their bickering.
            “Pardon, Sire,” the boy said, as quiet as an ugly maid.  “There is a rider with urgent news from the East.”  The sinking sun spilled in through the pavilion’s entrance behind the page, outlining the boy in its fiery glory.
            Father looked to Tollard with open suspicion on his face.  Tollard only stared back, impatient.  “Show him in,” the king commanded, voice as cold as death.  The boy fled the pavilion as though the iciness of the king’s tone could burn him.  Father continued to glare at Tollard as he lounged is his chair across from him.
            Several minutes later, a man with long black hair and a well-kept goatee pushed through the pavilion door into the knight-filled pavilion.  The knights eyed each other as though about to join battle, while Father tried desperately to slay Tollard with his dagger-like gaze.  The man wore a clean, long, blood-red surcoat down to his ankles, a golden sunburst embroidered on its front, with a long-sleeved hauberk beneath its silken folds.  Tollard watched the man pause as he noticed the tension in the air.  A thick leather belt, wrapped twice around his waist, held an empty scabbard.  The man didn’t bother hiding his nervousness about being unarmed.  By his surcoat the man proclaimed himself to be a knight of the Order of Elraine’s Humble Soldiers, or the Knights of Elraine.  Goldhands if one wanted to be derogatory. 
And Tollard recognized the knight.  He couldn’t put a name to the face but knew he had met the man before.  His name isn’t important, Tollard told himself, yet the man’s features nagged at the back of his mind.
            Father supported the Knights of Elraine by sending funds to them and granting lands and incomes, and Tollard supposed that the man had come to beg him for more money.  “What do you want?” Father asked the knight sharply. 
            “Your Majesty,” the knight said as he bowed his head respectfully, “Your Grace,” he said to Tollard, “I bring dire news from Oltreaquiem; the Kingdom of Serlimum has fallen and its king is dead.”