Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reading Journal - Songs of Love and Death, Martin and Dozois

Lately, I have been working on revisions to Catalyst. Trimmed 8,000 words from the manuscript to date. Sounds good, doesn't it? Hahaha. At least 20,000 more to go.

Songs of Love and Death: All Original Tales of Star Crossed Love

Having just recently finished two rather heavy volumes, I turned back to the anthology for quicker reads when my mind needs a rest.

Here's a few more stories from Martin and Dozois' anthology...

Demon Lover, Cecelia Holland. Fantasy. "There's a cost for everything, but here we learn that sometimes the cost can be much too high, no matter how glittering and wonderful the prize is - or seems to be."

The style didn't resonate with me as strongly as some of the other tales; her King of Norway in the Warriors anthology was an easier read for me. Having said that, this story told much like an old fable, which made it the first of its type so far in the anthology. That alone made it worth reading.


The Wayfarer's Advice, Melinda M. Snodgrass. Science Fiction. "Here's a compelling drama set in deep space that reunites lovers long parted by rank, social status and circumstance - although, as they both soon come to realize, it may not reunite them for very long..."

I'd never read Snodgrass before - though I'd heard of her through GRRM's blog and other projects. This piece was very entertaining, quite nearly Shakespearean in scope and intent, complete with a happily tragic end. Very, very nice. And a reminder of how long it's been since I'd read any science fiction. I am a bad boy.

Blue Boots, Robin Hobb. Medieval Romance. "In the poignant story that follows, she shows us that although love can build bridges across the widest of chasms, those bridges can be swept away by a flood of troubles - but that sometimes, with luck and persistence, they can be built again."

I have come to enjoy Robin Hobb's method of storytelling, the ease of her prose which allows the reader to be inside the mind of the protagonist. Stand-alone romance tales are not my particular interest - even though this was certainly well written. But, being a man, I favored her Warriors contribution, The Triumph. That I could even finish this tale of a 17yr old kitchen maid indicates to me that I should probably add Hobb to my TBR list.

The Thing About Cassandra, Neil Gaiman. Literary. "As demonstrated by the subtle and melancholy story that follows, memory can be a very unreliable thing, even in matters of the heart. Or perhaps particularly in matters of the heart..."

Gaiman is one of those authors that you love or hate - I think he's genius, and I know I'm not alone. Even in a short story, he can turn the reader around and around again - this tale was no exception. Worth mentioning, his crazy brilliant prose; reading his material is like having a conversation with your best friend who's a little crazy, and never wrong.

It's strange, bringing someone home. It makes you see the place you live as if you've not been there before. (pg 203)
Ha, right? I'll let you chew on that one for a bit. Til the next.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Before They Are Hanged - Joe Abercrombie

Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two)

From Joe Abercrombie's website:

Superior Glokta has a problem. How do you defend a city surrounded by enemies and riddled with traitors, when your allies can by no means be trusted, and your predecessor vanished without a trace? It’s enough to make a torturer want to run – if he could even walk without a stick.
Northmen have spilled over the border of Angland and are spreading fire and death across the frozen country. Crown Prince Ladisla is poised to drive them back and win undying glory. There is only one problem – he commands the worst-armed, worst-trained, worst-led army in the world.
And Bayaz, the First of the Magi, is leading a party of bold adventurers on a perilous mission through the ruins of the past. The most hated woman in the South, the most feared man in the North, and the most selfish boy in the Union make a strange alliance, but a deadly one. They might even stand a chance of saving mankind from the Eaters. If they didn’t hate each other quite so much.
Ancient secrets will be uncovered. Bloody battles will be won and lost. Bitter enemies will be forgiven – but not before they are hanged.
Well, Joe, you did it to me again. Left me wanting more.

This time, however, I'm not mad about it. I expected it - which gave me a chance to value the story for the telling. Still a page turner.

If you read The Blade Itself, then you're going to want to read this. Some folks might say that it suffers from "middle book syndrome", that of a lot of arcs and webs woven from beginning to end.

I wouldn't say that here. What we have here is character development. We spent a lot of time with the cast in book one, and by the end of book two, we know them a bit better. Much better. If you sniff really hard, you can see some foreshadowing for bigger troubles in Last Argument of Kings [The First Law: Book Three], the next and final installment in the series.

"We're a lot different, you and me. Different in all kind of ways. I see you don't have much respect for my kind, or for me in particular, and I don't much blame you. The dead know I got my shortcomings, and I ain't entirely ignorant of 'em. You may think you're a clever man, and I'm a stupid one, and I daresay you're right. There's sure to be a very many things that you know more about than I do. But when it comes to fighting, I'm sorry to say, there's few men with a wider experience than me. No offence, but we both know you're not one of 'em. No one made me the leader, but this is the task that needs doing." He stepped closer still, his great paw gripping Jezal's shoulder with a fatherly firmness, halfway between reassurance and threat. "Is that a worry?"

Jezal thought about it for a moment. He was out of his depth, and the events of the past few minutes had demonstrated beyond question just how far. He looked down at the man that Ninefingers had killed only a moment before, and the cleft in the back of his head yawned wide. Perhaps for the moment, it would be best if he simply did as he was told.

"No worry," he said.
- pg 173

It's hard to discuss the story without spoiling. Joe is true to his characters. He peels away the layers and sticks to their core truths, the hints of which were only evident in The Blade Itself. And ends the same way. There are surprises along the way, and they're either reasonable or cruel, depending on how sadistic you are.

Seems to me that Abercrombie's voice and writing style improves heavily in the second book. His descriptions are lush and stirring, capturing and foretelling moments through the physical manifestations of the scene's setting. Even more notable is that the prose matches the character's perspective as POV's shift throughout the story - something that I've only ever seen G.R.R.M. pull off well - Abercrombie nails it.

Within the shifting perspectives and ideas of a huge cast of characters, we see just how dark Joe can go - and I suspect he will go darker yet. Love and loss and sacrifice. Blood and death and murder and rape. The events that shape a character, change them. The reader suffers - or rejoices - right along with the characters throughout. Even when the outcome is most likely to be grim or unexpected, the reader still gets to experience that, connect with the character. In short, despite much of the tale leading up to even more dramatic events, yet to be revealed, this is damn good storytelling.

I do wonder if this series is too grim and bloody for the average fantasy reader. Yes, there's humor interspersed within, and intrigue, and clever complications, and even ... sex. Mostly though, a growing black cloud grows over the entire arc and all the characters as they work their way into ... running out of excuses to not confront their issues straight on, as they will have to in the next book.

Truly, I have to give Abercrombie credit where it's due. He beats the hell out of his characters, and shows them no mercy... no mercy at all. This series isn't for the faint of heart... which is why I'm liking it so damn much.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Writing Tip Posts, Week of May 25, 2011

In the midst of the long Memorial Day Weekend here in the States. Hopefully you're getting some writing done with an extra day off.

Short list of writing tip posts that I found interesting this past week.


Feel free to share any helpful writing tip posts in the comments. Otherwise, I hope some of these were useful to you. Have a great holiday weekend!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Reconciliation of Efforts

This blog doesn't get a lot of traffic. Truly, that's alright... it's expected with a new blog. You've got to build up readership.

Interestingly enough, I've never had any blog on blogspot that got a lot of traffic - although the last one is still averaging 50 hits a day for some reason. (I'm thinking it's the pictures.)

Anyway, this blog is what it is. As much for my own amusement, my own efforts towards becoming published and having a platform by which to express myself in terms of writing, speculative fiction and other geeky goodness.

I have written recently of my foray into reading "dark" fantasy. While "Catalyst" is not nearly as dark as I can get (I'd label it epic high fantasy), it's a direction that I intend to go in the series. It is the whole reason I built Zherlios, from the ground up, to facilitate my notion of the perfect fantasy world for me to play in. I read other authors' dark fantasy just to see where I fit into the literary scheme.

Meanwhile, I have still have urges to express. Dark, provocative thoughts, ideas, explorations. Ideas that float around in my mind. In the past, in other locations, when I have gone this route, those efforts have been well received.

In my mind, it does not belong here. So, I have ignored my own desires, and plugged along with this more "professional" public effort.

Do I want to soil my platform? Do I make myself unpublishable, because I am, perhaps to some, a wicked man? At first, I thought this might be the case - it is why I removed my book reviews.

Every author has their own interests. We've seen authors on their public blogs discussing medication, depression, anxiety, football, religion, rape, politics - we've seen authors on other blogs arguing over the quality of others' reviews.

They're still publishing.

I would prefer not to shock you. This is a nice, friendly place - with the exception of the occasional adult language when I quote from a book. Most of the time, I'm a nice guy. Maybe even a little boring.

I don't want to hold myself back. Writing is all about the honing and perfection of the craft, and it's an effort without end. Even when I am published, I know for a fact that I will be able to get better. I am reading authors lately who are much more skilled than I am - which just pushes this notion, that I must needs work harder, even further.

For these reasons, I have started another blog, a new playground for me to explore the more provocative aspects of my writing process. To dabble in flash, in prose, in poetry and scenes of a more adult and/or dark nature.

If such things are of interest to you, then please - stop on by. Otherwise, business as usual here.

Have a great holiday weekend!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch

Well... damn. That was good.
The Lies of Locke Lamora

You may or may not have seen my last post wherein I said I was going to give this a look the other night... I was then unable to put it down.

The cover blurb, from George R. R. Martin, reads, "Fresh, original and engrossing... gorgeously realized."  

Yes, just so, Mr. Martin.

The back cover sums up my thoughts rather nicely. (This is to say, since I no longer do 'book reviews', that I don't think it's a crime to tell you when a story kicks ass.)

In this stunning debut, Scott Lynch delivers the thrilling tale of an audacious criminal and his tightly knit band of tricksters. Set in a fantastic city pulsing with the lives of decadent nobles and daring thieves, here is a story of adventure, loyalty, and survival that is one part "Robin Hood," one part Ocean's Eleven, and entirely enthralling...
That Robin Hood stuff isn't clear from the start, but the Ocean's Eleven feel? Amazingly, yes.

I have always wondered about political intrigue in the ancient days. There was no technology. No phone taps, no google searches. Right? Duh. It was all groundwork, based on information that could be obtained while on the go, through a network of spies that you'd have to trust to be loyal. Every written piece of correspondence would have to be accounted for, otherwise it'd be a potential liability.

Dunno about you, but I got busted for passing notes in school ALOT. (Kids these days can just send a text. So lame.)

Locke LaMora pulls off his misdirections and such without cheating, i.e., using magic. Good ole fashioned ground work, trust, and lots of luck. Best fantasy representation of a con-artist that I have ever read.

Lynch's writing style/voice is excellent. Punchy, witty prose, lots of descriptive worldbuilding, and believable dialogue. Easy to read, easy to enjoy.

However, he does one thing some of you may not agree with. Instead of inserting background exposition into the 'present day' chapters, into the dialogue ("Well, as everyone knows Bob...") he does Interlude chapters.

Most of the time I would never advise this. Flashback chapters? Ugh. Because they take you right out of the action of what's happening in the story.

Lynch, however, masters this. It works because he starts off the tale with Locke LaMora as a small child, so the reader becomes interested in the child character; it's essentially reading two stories at once. Moreso, every flashback gives not only weight to the next chapter, but perspective. It makes the 'present' action that much more powerful. Sure, it's manipulative, but in my opinion, he nails it most of the time.

Towards the end of the story, I was reaching a point where the action was non-stop, and my response to the interlude was "Aww, really? I don't care! What happens next?" - suitably, those chapters were shorter. Clever man, Scott Lynch.

Lemme show ya... here's the end of a flashback and the beginning of the next chapter, where the child protagonist speaks to his mentor.

"It's the oldest rule of their guild, a rule without exceptions: kill a Bondsmage and the whole guild drops whatever it's doing to come after you. They seek you out by any means they need to use. They kill your friends, your family, your associates. They burn your home. They destroy everything you've ever built. Before they finally let you die, they make sure you know that your line has been wiped from the earth, root and branch."
"So nobody is allowed to oppose them at all?"
"Oh, you can oppose them, all right. You can try to fight back, for what it's worth when one of them is against you. But if you go as far as killing one, well, it's just not worth it. Suicide would be preferable; at least then they won't kill everyone you ever loved or befriended."
"Yes." Chains shook his head. "Sorcery's impressive enough, but it's their fucking attitude that makes them such a pain. And that's why, when you find yourself face to face with one, you bow and scrape and mind your 'sirs' and 'madams.'"


"Nice bird, asshole," said Locke.
The Bondsmage stared coldly at him, nonplussed.
(pp 288 - 289)

That example is a bit direct, but the other usages of the Interlude chapters are equally functional in adding perspective and gravity to whatever action is happening to the protagonist in the 'present' story.

Lies is book one in The Gentleman Bastards sequence, of which Red Seas Under Red Skies is next (and absolutely on my 'must have' list). That noted, Lies doesn't end on a cliffhanger; all the notable threads are handled within the story. It's simply that the concluding action leaves new ripples in its wake.

Scott Lynch website: http://www.scottlynch.us/index.html

Reading journal, for the weekend... Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two) and continuing with Songs of Love and Death: All Original Tales of Star Crossed Love.

What are you reading over the holiday weekend?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reading Journal - Songs of Love and Death, Martin and Dozois

Songs of Love and Death: All Original Tales of Star Crossed Love
I started reading Songs of Love and Death: All Original Tales of Star Crossed Love the other night. For those who do not know, it is a short story anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. I suspect the theme is obvious?

I'm not very far into it, to be honest, but I wanted to use this as an opportunity to mention the other anthology released last year by Martin and Dozois, Warriors.

I've never been much into short stories - reading them or writing them. When I have written shorts, they've been scenes only, with the purpose of delivering an emotional response.

But, as a writer, I'm all too familiar with the value of the short story as a way to break into the 'scene', as it were. That's the advice everyone gives.

WarriorsMoreso, I spent much of last year and the year before reading book review blogs, and I heard of all these wonderful authors that I was unfamiliar with. The problem being, in my mind, is that I'm terribly picky about who I read - and - they can't ALL be that good, can they?

Or maybe they can. I don't know.

Anyway, I figured getting Warriors was safe, because at least Martin had a short story based on the characters in The Hedge Knight in there, and I'd never read any of those. (What kind of ASoIaF fan am I?! Hedge Knight is the quintessential prequel to A Game of Thrones, dontcha know?)

Warriors didn't disappoint. I learned something important about anthologies. They don't all have to be super awesome. The whole "something for everyone". What was more important, however, was that I got to read stories from some authors whose career I've been following one way or the other.

And their writing may have either not been what I was expecting or was even better than I thought it would be. And that's good.

Songs then becomes this natural choice. Thematically, to go from unusual or interesting warriors to lovers, from conflict to romance (in theory), shows the author's abilities in that regard.

Plus, I have this idea for Zherlios, a character arc which is an ode to Shakespeare - and I am paranoid that it's already been written. (Haha?)(I'm kidding, of course it's been written, by Shakespeare. I'm taking a theme and making it my own. It's an homage to ole Will.)

Seriously though, if it's already been done quite this way, I'd rather find out now.

Four stories, so far.

Love Hurts, Jim Butcher. I like Jim Butcher, having devoured his Codex Alera over the past couple of years. I've got notes that I copied from his LiveJournal on writing advice taped to my desk. I've never yet read any of his Dresden Files material, so this was a fun introduction to the character and the world in which he lives.

The Marrying Maid, Jo Beverley. Was unfamiliar with the author until I read this. She did an excellent job of blending mythological elements into her Victorian era tale. While not generally the genre I read in, the story was well paced and enjoyable.

Rooftops, Carrie Vaughn. After reading her story here and also in Warriors, Carrie Vaughn makes it to my "must read" list (once I wander back to urban fantasy). Her style, characterization, prose is - for lack of a better phrase - compelling. Her story in Warriors still comes to my mind on occasion, and I read that months ago.

Hurt Me, M.L.N. Hanover (pseudonym for Daniel Abraham). Here's an author that I've been waiting to read - he's been very productive in recent years and frankly, anyone that GRRM works with can't stink, right? I tease. Objectively speaking, this story could only have one possible outcome. But, once you're reading it, that answer is not there. It's this incredible twist of fate, a balance that's all too perfect and bizarre. Hanover brushes the very edge of sadomasochism (as if the title didn't warn of that) with superb skill, such that the most conservative reader is likely to be only mildly shaken. In short (ha?), I was impressed.

Aside, the Speculative Scotsman did a more in-depth analysis of the story.
Thirteen more stories left... looking very forward to the tales from Neil Gaiman and Jacqueline Carey, as well as the authors I do not know overly well.

The Lies of Locke LamoraBut! These days, I have to keep fantasy on the stack, so while I'm slowly indulging Songs, tonight I'm going to start reading a book by an author I have not yet read. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Excellent reviews on Librarything, but that's not why I picked it.

Dark Fantasy, boys and girls. After reading Joe Abercrombie, I want to diversify my experience while I try to understand what people think "dark" fantasy really is.

What are you reading these days?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thoughts on Borgias, Thrones

Since my last television post was a bit rant-o-rrific, I'll keep this brief. If there's any specifics you'd like to discuss, we can do so in the comments.

The Borgias, Finale - Showtime.

First and foremost, all those promotional clips featuring soldiers and bloodshed were pretty darn misleading. Annoyingly so.

Here it comes! The big battle!!

Oh wait. Next episode. No, wait. Next season. No, really. We promise?


However, let's be positive! Loved the finale. Holliday Grainger continues to amaze and astound with her acting range (the girl can scream, wow!). We see the more subtle and conniving Pope defeat the French through intellect and cunning. Jeremy Irons is much more suited to this.
Cesare' gives us a glimmer of the risk taker he was in the beginning of the season. And Juan, forever useless, shows up to stand around while the French army is camped outside of Rome.

I was wondering where they were going to go with the story, seeing as the promo videos seemed to indicate WAR (you naughty liars), but the resolution was not only convincing, but necessary.

A few more thoughts, but ... eh. Truly, why are "seasons" so bloody short?

A Game of Thrones - HBO

For those who are new to the series, it should be obvious anyway: It's ALL running downhill, at breakneck speed, from here.

Ned Stark, Robert Baratheon - this is solid, perfect, wonderful. Ned's added assertion? Yes, let's see "Winter is Coming" Stark! The man who rules the north, as Hand of the King.

Oh, Cersei, and her badge of honor? Without her brother (who has skipped town)? Enter Tywin Lannister. Lions and Wolves are just beginning to ... it's not looking good for mending fences. Fantastic scenes, there.

The story will push forward now. Episode 7, some of you have seen on HBOGO. NOT the one to watch for. It's Episode 8, the one directed by Martin himself (as I understand).

I am noticing one sad little trend. Where are the Direwolves?

The scene with Bran, Robb, Theon and (new character) Osha played by Natalia Tena? Great! Excellent! Why would Bran leave the company of his brother? To go search for Summer, his wolf. Who would summarily chew up and eat one of the wildings.

The lack of direwolves is going to be an issue for story continuity. The direwolves are pivotal in this series, they are reflections of the Starks. Especially for Bran, because of his physical condition.
Troubled indeed, dear Arya.

Everything else is fine. Fun. Exciting. The way I've imagined it in all my readings. Not sure of the scene between Theon and Ros, but it was a small thing. And nudity to facilitate exposition.

Tyrion's fight for freedom. Bronn, his new accomplice. Mord! Some variation from the book, (turtle stew, ha ha), but not enough to matter. What's relevant here is the new, tentative alliance between Tyrion and Bronn. In terms of character development - what do you think Tyrion will do, with his newly found freedom? Keep an eye on the little man.

In all of this so far, I suspect that Catelyn is not gaining friends at this point, but - without saying too much - I didn't care for her too much at this point in the book, either. Don't give up on her just yet.

The crowning moment of this episode was the beautiful uh... crowning... of Viserys Targaryen. Anyone that annoying must needs die. That is why I love GRRM.

Hat's off to you, Harry Lloyd. You absolutely sold the creepy little horror that was Viserys. There's a great interview with him here. And now, Dany is free to soar!

(Even with the blatant foreshadowing, I think the first time viewers are going to go apesh*t over Dany before the end of this season.)

Episode Six was a large improvement in maintaining the story's integrity while providing visual stimulation and the certain simplicity required for visual media. Yes, you'd get more depth and understanding if you read the books.

But, frankly, it'll be pretty hard to mess things up from here. Buckle your seatbelts, the rest of the season is going to be a helluva ride. I can't wait!

Aside, Winter is Coming does a Twitter recap each week. I was booming laughter reading some of the responses and commentary. Check it out for yourself, you won't be sorry.

Thoughts on Fox's House, MD

House. At one time, IMLTHO, the best show on network television. After last night? I'm mad. And while this is likely a rant, let me offer some ideas on how to fix Season 8.

At the end of the day, Dr. House is one of the best anti-heroes on television.* That's why I watch, have all the seasons on DVD, and force every girl I've dated in the last few years to watch with me. People say that the show has become formulaic, and I agree - it's a medical drama - and unless you're watching Discovery, medicine is secondary to the drama, it's the setting.

* Particularly since Fox cancelled Lie to Me, as Dr. Cal Lightman was another fantastic anti-hero.

Fox has renewed House for Season 8, and in many ways, that's good news. There's a chance to go out with a bang, and give the fans what we've earned.

Where's the Character Tension? Chemistry? 

The best shows on television have this inherent sexual tension between characters. So many fans cried for "HUDDY", the match up between House and Cuddy - and when it came to pass, it was a disaster. So, now television history will call it "jumping the shark".

Why was it a disaster? Because Cuddy wasn't realistic in her expectations of House. They spent an entire season exploring the "maybe" of this - and then once the relationship came to fruition, those notions never carried forward.

Marrying a foreign bride was the answer? No. Bringing back Jennifer Morrison would have been better (producers, you can still do it!).

Bring back a wicked Dr. Cameron?

Is it because I have a huge crush on Cameron? (I totally do. Sorry?) With Cameron, you had tension between House and her, between her and Cuddy, between her and Chase, between Chase and House. It was complicated! That made for tense moments, people wondering "Oh noes, what if?"

Attractive, intelligent, bisexual and dying.
So, then a new hottie is introduced, right? A bisexual Thirteen, that fans didn't seem to like. What's not to like about Olivia Wilde? Her character had depth, passion, and a complicated situation. (You can thank me for not googling a more provocative picture - Olivia Wilde is far more daring than Jennifer Morrison.)

But she's disinterested in anyone. Except Foreman. While Omar Epps is a decent actor, his character is emotionally closed off. What happens when you have two emotionally barren people hook up? Sparks? Or not. (sad face.)  Then the writers really dropped the ball in ignoring the potential chemistry between Chase and Thirteen at the end of Season 6. They brought Thirteen back, not from some interesting medical adventure regarding her Huntington's Disease (depth, motivation), but from jail because she euthanized her brother. (who? what?) Huh?

Fans grieve for the loss of "cutthroat bitch" (Amber Volakis) - why? Because there was a weird chemistry between her and House, a relationship between her and Wilson, and the weirdness between Wilson and House, as a result.

The provocative side of Masters? Nice!
I thought Amber Tamblyn, playing character Martha Masters, had some interesting potential. Zero sex appeal (and judging by this picture I found, clearly unfounded). She was a good balance to House's moral compass, until he corrupts her. Masters shows Chase the light where concerns his whoring, but a couple of episodes later, he's at it again. Zero lasting impact. Masters had the potential, too. Taub and his womanizing. Foreman and his uptightness. No one even bothered to become friends with the girl. Poor thing. She must feel so used.

What's our core conflict? We have one man who is a medical genius, can solve any problem, and each episode shows us how he does it. But the man is broken, twisted, and a grumpy bastard. Neat.

He has a team of doctors do the legwork for him, a few friends who have their own lives to live, but have chosen, for whatever reason, to tie their careers and lives to this maniac. It's a fantasy adventure!

The truths of each of the characters, their inherent issues and chemistry, begs complications. No one cares how many girls Taub gets pregnant (unless it's Cuddy), or if Chase picks up girls at bars every night (unless it's Huddy, Thirteen, or maybe one of her girlfriends). Give Foreman some personality, and some bloody ambition, as House self-destructs - Foreman should be going for House's job.

Wilson? He's the one person who knows House too well to be used only for comedy relief. (Chasing chickens? Really?)

What do you do? House is going to jail? (Again?) I don't buy the season finale. He's heartbroken over Cuddy, so he's going to almost kill her by driving his car through her home? Uh, no. He'd go in there and beat the crap out of her lover with his cane. (You can throw him in jail then.) (Aside, Wilson sprains his wrist? Why?) Have him punch Wilson in the face, too!

Ahh, Mira Sorvino. Come back from Antartica!
Bring back Stacy Warner. Bring back Ali (the teen stalker). How about Mira Sorvino from Season 4 (Frozen)? Where is Dr. Edward Vogler in all of this, as House descends into his own personal abyss?

You have a cast of people who understand House's self-destructive behavior, but not a single person who is empathetic towards it. That's the challenge in this series. Can he cure the world and still be a jerk? Who or what can make HIM better?
You can't have him do diagnosis from jail in Season 8. Is being in prison going to help him mend his ways? He'll lose his license, Huddy will fire him - there's no recovery from that ending. No REASONABLE ending. Or beginning. It's too late to undo that finale, of course, but there's still hope for Season 8, the final season of House.

Choose your own adventure, Fox.

Images: Google

Friday, May 20, 2011

TiStF | Incredible Reflexes

There's always this notion, in writing fiction, that the hero will be TOO powerful. You know, he/she always get himself out of terrible danger with a flick of the wrist.

Instinctive Reflexes.

We see some incredible things in martial arts, in competitions, so in a fight, I rather expect to see some pretty impressive feats... the hero is ready.

But, what about the person who has trained, is in top athletic shape, but is otherwise unaware? Too much, you say? Everyone can be surprised?

Perhaps that is true. I'm a believer in that.

At the same time, Truth is stranger than fiction, my friends. This is Tampa Bay Rays' third baseman Evan Langoria... check this out.

Writing Tip Posts, Week of May 20, 2011

I spend more time these days reading and revising than writing new material. I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but it's a pretty established industry observation that all most authors are insecure of their work.

I find myself torn between wanting to put the finishing touches on this WIP, and begin the next - and avoiding all the traps and errors of the unpublished novelist.

But first? An amusing video!

Now since I'm about six months behind on keeping up with blogs and posting to this one, this post will be lengthier than what I have in mind.

For those further along in the process, here is The Best Agent Blogs of 2011, some of which were new to me. Also, Rene Sears answers Questions on Slush. That's a good start.

Before we take this whole thing too seriously... take it seriously, of course... but bear in mind that blogs about writing tips number in the millions these days - it's a way to draw traffic to the blog. As noted in my reading journal, what I'm getting from my reading is that VOICE and STYLE (and TALENT) are more important than following the rules. Livia Blackburne did an excellent post on this very topic.

Okay? Good! Now let me share with you some links that have caught my eye, or that I have found useful.

Toni McGee Causey, on The Art and Soul of POV, as recommended by Janet Reid, the "query shark".

Kristen Lamb always has some great advice. I am sure you'll see links to her blog quite often. Here are 5 Common Writing Pitfalls and a very extensive look into the Anatomy of Conflict.

Over at A Dribble of Ink, John Ginsberg-Stevens does a guest post on "Mind-blowing" Genre Fiction.

Jurgen Wolff has a nice three part series on writing descriptions, beginning here.

Jennifer Hubbard offers some advice on how to end your writing session.

Rebecca Serle: 7 Things I've Learned So Far. I was impressed by how many of those things I've either told myself or needed to hear.

Ten Universal Tenets of Story7 Unmentionables Authors Should Keep in Mind, and 3 Underhanded Ways to Show instead of Tell, courtesy of The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog.

I hope you find some of these links useful. Found a good writing tip article this week? Feel free to share in the comments.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Truth is Stranger than Fiction | Stalin responsible for Roswell UFO crash?

I admit, without reservation, that I watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Frankly, I think the world needs humor and satire to go along with the ridiculous news that we have to digest.

Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base
So earlier this week, I caught his interview with Annie Jacobsen. She was doing her book tour for her recently published book, Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base.

You have to see it for yourself. This is incredible.

I can't help but wonder how this changes the face of science fiction. It's fun to imagine that aliens landed in New Mexico and were kept in a secret underground military bunker, ala the 1996 movie Independence Day. Good storytelling!

The best part of this is that - some of this is true. Sooo, there is an Area 51. And! There is a UFO hidden deep within Area 51. But the Russians built it! Really?!

Sets the imagination off, no? What if the Russians were wanting to test their secret project, launched this thing into space, and they discovered real aliens? Who then took the UFO and used it to sneak back into the earth's atmosphere, using the space ship's technology?

All of this truly begs the question... WHY would the U.S. keep this a secret? Wouldn't the government (either government, for that matter) gain more credibility by saying, "Nope. No aliens. This was Stalin trying to get one over on us, as part of a big plan to panic their enemies."

What's the purpose of the big secret? There's another story premise right there - that the government wants to use this as their own secret weapon, in order to panic enemies and/or solidify an unruly public trust behind a common enemy. Even the President is on a "need to know" basis (according to the interview), which means we could get attacked by aliens (i.e., ourselves) and yet the leader of the free world wouldn't be in on it. Or would he/she?

Truly, the possibilities are endless. (Which sci-fi author do you think will grab this and run?)

Yahoo does an interesting story on this 'buzz', with multiple links, by the way, if you'd like to do your own research.

Truth is stranger than fiction, my friends.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Reading Journal, Borgias, Thrones

Monday morning musings...

Finished The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) last night. Damn it. Super duper cliffhangers. Rawr. Grrrrr.

Moving on to positivity, here's what Mr. Abercrombie accomplishes in his breakout novel. He does write excellent fight scenes, by the way (noted in one of the back cover blurbs). He compels the reader to root for the underdog. That's a skill, a talent. There's a nice balance between action and narrative, the plot moves forward and the protagonists' lives become interwoven in an interesting way.

He breaks many of the rules that we unpublished writers read again and again in all these ever-so-helpful writing tip blogs. That, in and of itself, is a statement. If you have the talent, it will show. He does. So, instead of taking everyone's advice and having your unique style and voice get washed out in a vanilla coated style compendium of zero risk storytelling - just do what you're gonna do.

This is the lesson I'm finding, again and again, every time I pick up a genre novel. At the end of the day, you cannot argue with success.

Having said that, I get really frustrated with reading 500 pages and not having any resolutions. I won't be doing that. That's not likely to stop me from picking up Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two). Dang it. :-p


Ah, the Borgias. They're going down! I think they rather dragged out last night's episode, considering next week is the season finale... hmm. They're going to leave me on a cliffhanger, too, aren't they?

Damn it.

What can I say after last night's episode? I like Holliday Grainger all the more these days.

And, I told you so, Juan Borgia's an idiot. "Hey, let's just wait for the cannons to fire!" Actually what he said was, "Who gives the order to charge?"

Which, really, says more than any commentary I could add at this point.



Last night captured the essence of the relationship between Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon superbly well. And while *I* don't think Maisie Williams looks much like a boy at all, considering the parallel historical time period, I think it's clever that the viewer gets that perspective: she's dirty and not in a dress = boy with long hair.

I think it's a little funny that "sex scene" = "exposition and backstory time". It's almost insulting! (Truly, a good whore is going to piss off her client? Even if she's trying to be cheeky, repeat business insures her income.) I guess it's a reasonable time to chit chat, but the scene with Cersei and Robert was much better.

Ser Loras and Ser Renly. Varys and Illyrio. I weep. Television forces the giant HERE IT IS spotlight, where a novel allows and encourages the reader to take the clues, the hints and draw their own conclusions. Read the book.

I can appreciate that we didn't see Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen in this episode, though the timing for Dany is a bit off. Crossing the Dothraki Sea should've taken a whole episode. The action should have clung to her more tightly once they arrived at Vaes Dothrak (which they did in the last episode, as I recall.)

But the Wall? No, the viewer can assume that the four new friends are bonding, being beaten up by Aliser Thorne and teaching Ser Piggy how to fight - the next episode will be a good time to let them take their vows. Their lack of presence in this most recent episode works.

Aside! Apparently some viewers were upset by the demise of direwolf Lady in episode 2. GRRM has addressed that on his Not A Blog, in a manner which I must fully endorse. Spoiler alert: There's going to be a lot more death before the end of the season.


Not to get overly meta, but lately I have seen a number of stories where the perceived ruler is fat and decadent. Is this a trope? Or is this a statement towards modern governments - those we choose become bloated, indulgent and selfish, and the countries are actually run by appointed bureaucrats, who are completely out of touch with (and unaccountable to) the common folks?

I do not like the trope. Medieval times were too harsh. A man (or woman) who could not hold their kingdom would lose it. Having said that, it certainly makes sense as a plot point - because at least the reader can appreciate why the ridiculous ruler is going to see war (there is always war).

What's next for me to read? I'm deciding between Dune, Songs of Love and Death: All Original Tales of Star Crossed Love, and Kushiel's Scion (Kushiel's Legacy).

In other (personal and irrelevant) news, this weekend marked the first time in two weeks that I was able to eat and not feel pain. The Crohn's has gone back into remission. Huzzah! Now to be a little indulgent myself and regain the weight I've lost... and edit the beast, dang it. ;-)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Reading Journal - Joe Abercrombie, The Blade Itself

I got called in early to work today, so this will be a brief post. I'm no longer doing "reviews", per se (at least that is my mood this year, ha), but I've seen a few blogs doing reading journals. Let's try that. One doesn't need to reinvent the wheel.

The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) is, from what I understand, Abercrombie's debut novel.

It's pretty good. I see a lot of references to Abercrombie in my reading - they say that if you want gritty, dirty, crude fantasy fiction, he's the man to read.

Yes, that is so. Along the lines of GRRM, which I've also seen mentioned.

I'm about halfway through The Blade Itself, and what the strength and draw of this novel is, to me, is the characterizations.

Because these are some despicable characters. Crude, arrogant, ugly, distinctly unlikable. And YET, Abercrombie makes them all entirely sympathetic.

Now I went into this knowing it's the first book in a trilogy, which is to say, the protagonists' motives aren't entirely clear. Seems they'd be happy just to make it through one of their miserable days without dying or suffering or being called to task.

As the story progresses, they get motivated or involved in what's going on - and about a third of the way through the story, you begin to see moments of why these characters were chosen, and how their paths are very likely to cross later.

So, yes, I'm enjoying it.

As far as my writing goes, this has inspired rather an opposite effect on me. While reading this, it occurred to me to make my antagonist more sympathetic. My protagonists are fine (they need some work in the revisions of course); but I've really enjoyed how Abercrombie has made his roguish unlikables - likable. I've been putting it off in my own WIP primarily for the purpose of length - at 140k words, it's too lengthy for a debut novel. Adding more chapters is not helpful.

But perhaps a few chapters here and there... yes, indeed.

Anyway, so off to work for me. It's a good time for things to swirl around and solidify in my head. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thoughts on Showtime's The Borgias

It took me awhile to begin to enjoy Showtime's previous project, The Tudors, but after reading Sara Poole's Poison: A Novel of the Renaissance, my interest was piqued in their project, The Borgias. The only other reason I'm watching it is because it's gritty historical fiction. I like sex, blood, and political intrigue. Anything less is essentially watching the nightly news.

As yesterday, this is no essay or review - just some random thoughts I've had while watching the series. A writing exercise - I've not been blogging, and I feel rusty.

In many ways, the smaller cast makes it easier to follow than fan favorite Thrones. Casting seems pretty solid. I've had some hesitation with Jeremy Irons, an amazing actor - he just doesn't convince me as a sex-starved power monger. I still closely associate him with his role as the stoic in Kingdom of Heaven. His demeanor is too cool and calculating for me to embrace that he's just a horny old goat. Otherwise? Of course he does well.

I think it is safe to assume that if I'm not watching something on the History Channel, or Discovery, or NatGeo, that there's going to be some degrees of interpretation in the interest of making the story more interesting. In other words, I approach this less as a history lesson, and more as an entertaining retelling. I did the same with the Tudors, and if you haven't caught any of the series yet - I suggest you do the same.

Sex. Seriously, there's a lot of sex. Almost too much, almost to the point of "really?" This goes a long way towards portraying the corruption and decadence of the Borgia clan - and so be it.

The story line moves adequately - you have to swallow the info dumps inherent in the pilot - comparatively, all pilots seem to kinda stink for that reason - and by the third episode, it is easy to gather the relationships and the motivations.

Lucrezia Borgia, played by Holliday Grainger, does an excellent job at portraying a young girl, full of youth and mischief and naivete, plagued with the worries of what she's experienced... and yet, growing, evolving and clearly a Borgia.

Cesare' Borgia, played by Francois Arnaud... now this is a more complicated characterization. In the beginning of the series, he seemed tougher than he seems by episode 7. I suppose that the harshness of the way that he follows his father's orders in order that Rodrigo may become pope - softens once Cesare' is made a cardinal.

The least convincing characterization, to me, is Juan Borgia. He seems the most ill qualified for any sort of responsibility, much moreso leading the papal armies. He's not even loyal to his own little brother. Though, to be honest, I'm not sure if it's the acting, writing or directing that has him all over the place.

Overall? If you like this sort of thing, even if you only remotely enjoyed The Tudors, you'll enjoy this. There's really no major flaws in anything. The sets and costumes are beautiful. The characters are interesting, and true to themselves, for the most part.

Perhaps it is not as complicated or intriguing as Sopranos or Thrones, but that arguably works in its favor. What's missing is the sympathy for the protagonists, as well (and maybe even accurately) as they seem to be portrayed. They get themselves into bad positions and I don't really feel bad for them.

At this point, I'll continue to watch, and while I know that the outcome will be tragic, I'm still hoping to be surprised somehow. In this, Sara Poole's novel (mentioned above) is superior to the television production.

Some links:

Borgias Fan Website
Sara Poole's Blog
The Borgias on Showtime

Monday, May 9, 2011

Thoughts on HBO's Game of Thrones

My last post seemed redundant the moment I carried over a bunch of old posts from the previous blog. Then, April showered! Maladies, computer problems, and a busy enough social schedule.

But I felt a lack of continuity in my blog here, because - as SOOOO many others - I had been contributing (in my ever so small way) to the growing hype of HBO's A Game of Thrones.

Truly, I can't even talk about my own WIP without mentioning the great desire that I have for HBO to knock this out of the park, ala the next Sopranos or Rome - as GoT purports to be a little of both, in the more fantastical setting of Westeros. I've read the entire series a number of times (four, at least), but I do believe I can discuss this without revealing any spoilers.

I am loathe to "review" the series. As much as I enjoy critical analysis, and apply the same measure to my own works - I'm afraid that an overly critical analysis would overshadow my general joy and happiness towards the project. In short, take what I write herein not as judgemental, but as observation with the intent to highlight the strength of the source material. Ultimately, I am still excited - and very much enjoying - HBO's project.

So, as far as Thrones - READ THE BOOKS. No medium is going to capture the depth and subtlety of Martin's writings. It is too hard to get emotionally invested into the characters when the subtext is limited to what you can insinuate from a 45 second conversation.

I was disappointed a little in the pilot, in that we do not get to hear the children speak, that Jon Snow appears to be so youthful and angsted (and that Catelyn Stark is such a bitch to him), that we don't even know who Theon Greyjoy is until 4 episodes in, and the most tragic deviation of all - Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen.

I think the viewer is losing out on the value of Dany's ascension into a Khaleesi, a Queen, by the deviations in the story. Drogo is gentle with her and smitten. And Dany commands Viserys to walk, not Rakharo. Little things. These are the subtleties that make her decisions at the end of the book that much more powerful - and credible.

And well, you should know that I like my canines - apparently, we could not find an albino pointy earred dog to behave. The relationship with Tarly and Snow, in the book, gains depth and understanding when Samwell is NOT scared of Ghost, and Ghost accepts the fat boy as a friend.

But! Truly, I pick and nag out of love, not because I'm a critical bastard, some angry, sad man who himself is not published because his big fat WIP requires tremendous editing. Overall, the series IS telling the story in a different medium, and as noted elsewhere, it is much like a love letter to A Song of Ice and Fire, as much as a portrayal.

Those nuances noted, casting for Thrones is spectacular. (And it seems impossible to find a casting ensemble picture without infecting your computer with a virus!) I was already quite in lust with Daenerys (played by Emilia Clarke), and from page to screen, I have fallen all over again.

I was never particularly pleased with Cersei on the pages, but Lena Headey brings out the sexual power of Lady Lannister, which somehow makes it easier to accept that she's a bitch. Jaime Lannister? As noted elsewhere, the depth they have given him is commendable. He's charming and clever and cruel. That this is made clear from the beginning is quite the exceptional highlight of an allowable, if not encouraged, deviation.

I knew from the beginning that Mark Addy would pull off Robert Baratheon, and he continues to do so. Peter Dinklage, as Tyrion - brilliant as possible, as everyone on the internet had well predicted. Old Nan? Awesome, perfect and a pleasant surprise. Viserys? Creepy and spastic - bingo! Bran? Stubborn and youthful, with a convincing range of emotion for such a young actor. Nicely done.

Perhaps we haven't seen just enough menace from the Hound, and perhaps Littlefinger is a bit stiffer than I recall him being in the books. Robb Stark is appearing flaky, but I think that's due to lack of screen time; he's just not making sense. And while I am pleased that Sean Bean is playing Ned Stark - the television portrayal has the Stark patriarch as a tad brutish, whereas in the books, my impression was that he was a stoically somber man.

On the other hand? Ser Jorah Mormont, by Iain Glen - fantastic! I'm more convinced by him on screen than I was in the books. Maisie Williams, as Arya Stark - the absolute screen stealer.

The water dancing scene at the end of episode three? It was so good, it made me cry, I kid you not. Arya becomes an increasingly notable POV as the story progresses, and so far young Miss Williams is quite possibly the best casting on the show.

Some deviations are necessary, no doubt. As HBO has given a greenlight to Season Two, the producers are really going to have to consider how to carry the story forward with working animals versus CGI. Especially Ghost, damn it - the bastard boy is defined in his books by his freakishly silent wolf.

I wonder how they will reconcile the motivations of the characters, and their actions (Joffrey doesn't like Sansa, what?!), as the story gets even more complex.

All in all, my own selfish motivations aside, I am beyond pleased at the reports that ratings are solid and/or increasing.

For the best commentary on Thrones, I refer you to Winter is Coming or even Adam at The Wertzone. I won't be trying to keep up with those blogs in terms of news and updates.

As an aside, and a post for another time, it is well worth considering what the success of Game of Thrones means for the fantasy genre. If HBO can capture Martin's characterizations and complexity in a world of winters, wargs and wildlings - will it give credibility to a literary genre that is oft neglected or considered immature? Can sex, incest, political intrigue and the cruel nature of war make adult viewers consider that not all fantasy fiction is wands and long-bearded wizards and moreso - understand and appreciate that good and evil is not always black and white, but rather, deep shades of grey? By the Muses, I truly hope so.

However, another discussion that caught my eye and perhaps will catch yours, was a question brought up by the Speculative Scotsman. Martin is notoriously NOT prolific as a writer, and will the series become his deal with the devil, disallowing him time to write what HE wants to write, becoming slave to his success?

Oh, to have such troubles! ;-)

Until the next.