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    Monday, January 26th, 2015
    3:22 pm
    Winter isn't coming
    I have a nostalgic recollection of what it's like to be in the midst of a blizzard. As a kid, I used to love to go outside and play in the snow. There's a particular kind of quiet in a snowfield. Sound is dulled and amplified at the same time. I love the sound snow makes when you step into it or ski across it. However, I don't envy people having to deal with the 12-36" of the stuff that's due to come down over the next couple of days, or the complications it will cause with travel, both local and long-range.

    As for what it's like here—I sat outside on the back deck while I was writing yesterday afternoon so, quite nice thank you very much.

    The novella I'm working on is set in a New England winter, so maybe this storm will provide fodder and inspiration. It's coming along very well. I crossed the 10,000 word mark this weekend, which isn't bad for a week's work. It's the most I've written in such a short period in ages. As I mentioned before, I'm doing this longhand, also something I haven't done in ages. I wasn't looking forward to transcribing it when I was finished, though. However, my wife mentioned some free dictation software for the iPad (Dragon Dictation). Between yesterday afternoon and this morning, I dictated all of the work to present and got it converted into Word. It didn't take long to fall into a rhythm, saying things like "new line," "begin quote,"  "dash," "new paragraph" as I was reading along. There are a lot of mistakes and misunderstandings to be corrected, but it's a big step forward without having to do all that typing. I also validated my estimated word count. I was a touch high, assuming 250 words per page when after 44 pages the real average is 236. I'm hoping to be done with the first draft by the end of February, if not sooner. Every morning I wake up knowing what comes next, which is always good.

    I finished the second season of The Fall last weekend. This is the British crime drama starring Gillian Anderson as an English police superintendent in Belfast to perform a review on a murder case that has had little traction in a month. She soon discovers they're dealing with a serial offender (Jamie Dornan), who is one sick puppy. The two seasons are really one long season with an interminable break between them. Season 1 ends on a cliffhanger and the story picks up straight away in Season 2 in the same place. It's a slow, deliberately paced series that doesn't gloss over the processing of crime scenes or the minutia of interrogations. Anderson's character is quite interesting, strong, forceful, unflappable, and Dornan's is twisted, controlling, and ingratiating. Though Anderson and Dornan are almost never together in scenes, the show is mostly a cat-and-mouse chess match between them, with some other good characters thrown in, including a saucy fifteen-year-old babysitter who is emotionally seduced by Dornan's character. I hope there's a third season.
    Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
    1:38 pm
    Winter, Spring, Summer and ...
    I have finally embarked on a long writing project, a novella that is part of something I'm doing with Brian Keene. I thought I had the germ of the idea a few months ago, but I got sidetracked with other things and a new, fresh idea came along. I started yesterday and have about 3000 words as of today. I say "about" because I can only estimate. Thus far, I've been writing longhand in a spiral-bound journal and I'm guessing about 250 words per page. I'm not quite sure why I'm going about it this way, but it is working, so I'm not going to second guess the process. I don't have any idea where this story came from or where it's going, exactly, but I keep thinking about it even when I'm not writing, so that's encouraging.

    My latest essay at Stephen King Revisited is up: Graveyard Shift looks at the historical context of King's first short story collection, Night Shift. Rich Chizmar's thoughts about the collection also went up today. Speaking of CD, I received my contributor copies of issue #72 of the magazine on the weekend. In addition to my regular column, I have the featured review of Revival, which I am now listening to on audio and appreciating it even more the second time around.

    I'm not a huge football fan. I could fill a book with the rules I don't understand. I couldn't even name all of the positions or what their responsibilities are, but I do enjoy watching a game from time to time, especially during the playoffs when there's so much at stake. I particularly enjoy the offbeat plays, like the faked punt or the one where the entire team shifted position to turn an unlikely player into an eligible receiver who then lumbered down the field unmolested to catch a touchdown pass (this might have been in a college game). The two games on Sunday couldn't have been more different. Green Bay dominated and lost, and New England dominated and won. I couldn't believe the turn-about by Seattle so late in the game after looking incredibly drab and listless for 58 minutes.

    I just finished re-watching the five episodes of the first series of The Fall, starring Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan. Anderson does a passable (to my ears) British accent in her part as a Detective Superintendent sent by Scotland Yard to Belfast to conduct a 28-day review of a stagnating homicide investigation. She links up a couple of other crimes and comes to the conclusion there's a serial killer at work, played with creepy delight by Dornan. Anderson's character makes others uncomfortable because she is cold, calculating and because she is sexually aggressive. If she were a man, no one would blink at her having a one-night stand with someone she met only briefly, but because she's a woman, her colleagues and superiors are outraged. It's an interesting mirror on contemporary sexual politics. Season 2, consisting of six episodes, is now up on Netflix.
    Friday, January 16th, 2015
    12:59 pm
    Babylon and on

    It’s hard to define exactly what Babylon (Sundance six-part series) is. It’s not a comedy, exactly, and it’s only occasionally a parody or a lampoon. At least half the time it’s dead serious. The main character is a female American PR wonk who’s hired to run the publicity and communications branch of Scotland Yard. She reports directly to the commissioner, who is a smart but difficult-to-read man whose vocabulary has introduced me to a gamut of British insults. Liv’s second-in-command thought he was getting the job, so he’s out to sabotage her at every turn. On the other side of the coin, there are the cops in the streets, some of whom are very good at their jobs and some of whom are utter buffoons. There’s also an armed response cop with PTSD, and a videographer who is capturing the best and the worst of the cops. I suspect its depiction of both the daily lives of average coppers and the high-level attempts to spin everything is more accurate than most crime dramas. But there’s also a high snark level. We’re three episodes in, and I’m enjoying it.

    I finished the first season of Californication while on the exercise machine this morning. For the definition of cognitive dissonance, try alternating episodes of that show with The X-files. I totally did not expect what happened in the final minutes of the twelfth episode. It will be very interesting to see where they go from here. I happen to think that Hank Moody would be a cool guy to hang out with at Necon.

    I also finished season four of Homeland this week. The final episode was a bit tepid after everything else that happened, but it was a very dramatic and interesting season. There were moments when I almost couldn’t watch any more because what was happening—or about to happen—was so intense. I also get very antsy when Carrie goes off her meds.

    One episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show left to go. The aspect that gave the show such an edge early on—the fact that it would reset at the start of the next season so anyone could die—has become a liability. Deaths don’t really have that much impact any more, especially as they come fast and furious and often without a great deal of motivation. This season seems to have gone on forever. About four episodes too long, in my estimation. Not that anyone asked.

    But, hey, Justified is back next week, so there’s that. And I see that the second season of the excellent (and short) British crime drama The Fall, with Gillian Anderson, is now out on Netflix.

    Originally published at Bev Vincent. You can comment here or there.

    Tuesday, January 13th, 2015
    1:54 pm
    If I lived closer to Houston proper, I'd probably be at Murder By the Book at least once a week. MBTB is a fantastic bookstore that specializes in crime fiction and murder mysteries. They bring in authors for signing events on a regular basis; in fact, there's hardly a day goes by when they don't have someone there. Big name authors, too.

    But it's a 45-minute drive and the weekday events start at 6:30, which means going into the city during rush hour, which isn't my favorite thing to do. But I make exceptions from time to time, and when I heard that Amber Benson, who I met at NECON last year, would be here to promote her fine novel, The Witches of Echo Park, I made the trip. This was the last stop of her whirlwind tour and she was a bit punchy by the time 6:30 roll around, but it was good to catch up with her. She read the book's opening chapter, and then did a Q&A with the audience.

    Someone asked if she was part of a critique group, and I was fascinated by her answer. She works with a group of creative people dubbed the Shamers. They all work together in the same place at the same time, each doing his or her own thing. But if someone notices that someone else is spending too much time on Twitter, they call that person out. On the flip side, if someone hits a wall, he or she asks advice from those assembled. So, not a critique group, per se, but a support group and a peer pressure group, shaming each other into working. I like that idea.

    I turned in the short story I've been working on for the past couple of weeks to Tesseracts Nineteen, a couple of weeks ahead of deadline. The theme for the anthology is superheroes and I kind of played fast and loose with that concept, so they'll either love it for being so creative or hate it for completely missing the mark, I figure. I quite like the way it turned out. It took me a while to capture the tone that I discovered halfway through the first draft. Irreverent, in a way.

    As one window opens, a door closes, or so they don't say: after submitting this one, I got a rejection letter from another market. Ah, well. So it goes.

    Now it's on to the novella, which will be the longest piece of fiction I've written in quite some time. I feel like I'm about to enter a cavern with a candlestick and a handful of matches.
    Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
    2:39 pm
    My first post of 2015. Happy New Year one and all. Turbulent events abroad, so maybe not so happy for everyone, alas. It would be hard to pick a day when that wasn't true, though.

    Our first strong blast of winter is due to arrive in a few hours. I don't think it's going to be quite as cold as they were anticipating a couple of days ago, but it will drop into the upper twenties at least. From tonight until sometime Sunday we won't see temperatures above the thirties. Brrr.

    My new toy from the holidays is an iPhone 6. We upgraded from iPhone 4 (not even 4S), so it's quite a big change. The thumbprint login is fascinating. The process of encoding the print was more complicated than I imagined. You have to roll the surface of your thumb around as the ridges fill in, and then do the same thing with the edges of your thumb, too. But it's quite sensitive. It works no matter which way your thumb is pointing or which part of it makes contact. The phone is bigger than what I'm used to, and until I got my hardcase for it, I handled it very gingerly. Not sure I like the Otterbox for this one, though. I've ordered a different case to compare. The Otterbox has a built-in screen that seems to reduce the touch sensitivity.

    Over the holidays, I did little writing but lots of reading. I finished The Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson, who is going to be at Murder By the Book next week, as well as A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. I've written reviews of both, but I'm holding off on posting the review of the latter until closer to publication, which is in June, but suffice to say, I really liked it. It's The Exorcist for the 2010s. I'm currently reading The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons, which is Henry James meets Sherlock Holmes, quite literally. I'm about a quarter of the way through. The book has an interesting quasi-metafictional aspect to it. Is Sherlock Holmes real or an imposter? Who is the author of his stories, John Watson or Conan Doyle? Intriguing and mind-twisting. (For a list of everything I read in 2014, see this link.)

    So I'm back to writing. I have three goals for 2015, in addition to the regular work I do (which includes the semi-regular posts to Stephen King Revisited and the semi-irregular posts to News from the Dead Zone). I'm going to finish the story I'm currently working on before the end of the month. Then I'm going to write the novella that is part of a project I'm doing with Brian Keene. And then I'm going to get onto that novel I've been trying to re-start for lo these many months. I'm going to do my best not to get seduced by other projects unless they have paychecks attached to them up front. Try, at least, though shiny things do fascinate, don't they?

    I'm very pleased to see that Eve Myles from Torchwood will be joining the second season of Broadchurch, as well as Charlotte Rampling, who was so good in the final season of Dexter. I almost wish I'd never watched Gracepoint as now I have to cleanse my mind of the visual representations of those characters and remember who was who on the (much superior) original version.

    Less pleased to learn that USA has canceled Covert Affairs. It wasn't a show that generated a lot of buzz, but it lasted five seasons and was always interesting. I suspect that it depicted spycraft more accurately than most spy movies. And, thanks to an ad during last night's NCIS, I was alerted tot he fact that The Mentalist is moving from Sundays to Wednesdays starting, oh, what? Tonight. My normally on-the-ball DVR didn't get the memo.

    Speaking of NCIS, whoa, what a brutal episode. It started off whimsically enough, with not one but two of Gibbs' ex-wives showing up at a crime scene. Jeri Ryan appeared as the near-mystical and never-before seen ex-wife #2, back to pay amends now that she's hit bottom and in recovery. However, one of Gibbs' nemeses was reproducing crime scenes from his past, right down to the head-shot that took out Kate many years ago, but this time the recipient of the lethal bullet wasn't an NCIS operative but an ex.

    Now that Homeland has finished its fourth season, it's time to binge my way through it. I'm four episodes in and so far it's not bad. I thought the plot with the young man who survived the wedding bombing would go in a different direction at first—I thought he'd be radicalized by events. It's bad enough that Carrie and her group have to combat the hostiles, but she also has to be on the lookout for her own allies who want to stab her in the back. The guy who was promised the job of bureau chief, for example.

    I'm back on the elliptical trainer in the mornings before I start writing after a hiatus. Despite the amount we seemed to consume during the holidays, I didn't really put on any new weight, so that's good. I've discovered that Californication is the perfect program to watch then. Each episode is roughly 30 minutes. What a quirky show.
    Monday, December 29th, 2014
    11:59 am
    How the (Dominic) West Was Won

    We’ve been mostly staying indoors, cooking, eating and watching movies and videos for the past several days. Yesterday was a good one to stay in—it rained solidly all day long. No complaints; we can always use more rain around here.

    We watched a film called Pride the other night. It’s based on the true story of a small Gay & Lesbian group from London that decided to show their support for the striking coal miners in 1984. One of their group was Welsh (Andrew Scott, who played Moriarty on Sherlock), so they picked at random a Welsh town. Naturally, the rural coal miners don’t know what to make of this busload of flamboyant supporters, and there is conflict about accepting their support, even though they’re raising both awareness and a significant amount of money. A small faction of the townspeople rise to the challenge. It’s a delightful film, reminiscent of Billy Elliot. One of the standout performances is from Dominic West (The Affair, The Wire) who plays a bleached-blond gay man who misses the disco days and takes an opportunity to strut his stuff at a hall filled with miners. It’s an amazing departure from his usual serious roles. The older women in the community are hilarious, and the finale jerks tears and heartstrings.

    My wife has never seen The Wire, so I bought the boxed set and we’ve been binge-ing our way through it since Friday. Almost to the end of the first season. I’m getting a lot more out of it watching it this way. Making connections that I’d missed earlier. I’m delighted to discover that my wife, a very hard sell on most TV, is loving the show. I was amused to note that the actor who plays Major Rawls, the guy who wants McNulty’s badge for making him look bad before the Deputy of Operations, is the same one who plays Noah’s father-in-law on The Affair. So that’s twice, at least, where John Doman plays antagonist to Dominic West.

    We also binged our way through the latest season of Downton Abbey, which breaks little new ground, but continues to amuse us, mostly because of Maggie Smith, whose dry wit and sarcasm enlivens the show. Poor Bates and Anna: I hope they resolve that storyline soon and allow them some modicum of happiness. And I also think it’s time they allow Barrows to redeem himself and find a happy course in life, though we thought it amusing that Lady Mary used his darker tendencies to wage war against a rude butler.

    I watched the Christmas Doctor Who yesterday. At times it seemed to border on ludicrous, but once the truth of everything became apparent, I appreciated it more. I liked the guy who played Santa, and the battle of wits between him and the Doctor. I’m in the pro-Clara camp: I think she’s delightful. The “Aliens” humor was funny, and the character of Shona was worth the price of admission alone. Her dance through the hospital ward was hilarious, and her accent a delight.

    Originally published at Bev Vincent. You can comment here or there.

    Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014
    3:15 pm
    Serial killer

    Over the course of the past week or so, I’ve listened to all 12 segments in the Serial podcast from the creators of This American Life. They range between half an hour to a full hour in length and, over the course of three months, reveal the outcome of a year-long investigation by Sarah Koenig and her team into a fifteen-year-old Baltimore murder case. A high school student was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend on very little physical evidence.

    She had full access to the convict, serving a life sentence, via telephone (I don’t think she ever met him face-to-face), but the victim’s family refused to cooperate, so the picture is a little one-sided. The defense attorney has since died. The first trial ended in a mistrial. Stories changed. New evidence appeared. Koenig and her team are dogged in the pursuit of information without apparent agenda: they aren’t trying to get the convicted killer off, but they agree that there probably wasn’t enough evidence to find him guilty. It’s quite fascinating, the way a cold case is investigated journalistically. Was there a pay phone at the Best Buy, as a friend of the convict claims? It seems like a minor point, but it’s part of a house of cards that could come toppling down if there isn’t.

    After listening to it all, I can’t say I’m convinced of his guilt or innocence, but there were two damning details. First, someone confessed to helping the convicted killer dispose of the body. He knew where her car was (which supports this claim), and he knew a lot of other “facts” of the case. Now, it’s possible that this guy was the killer and he used his friend as a patsy. The other detail was the fact that the man convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend did not attempt to call her or page her once after she disappeared, even though they had remained close following the break-up. A few weeks elapsed between the last time anyone saw her and the discovery of her body (an event that has its own mysterious aspects to it), but he never once tried to find out where she was by simply calling her. To me, that says he knew she was already dead, so why bother. He hemmed and hawed and offered a weak explanation for this behavior to Koenig, but I didn’t buy it. He had an aggressive way of bulldozing through certain details, and he’s had fifteen years to learn how to deal with his situation. That failure to call, like the dog who didn’t bark in the night, speaks volumes to me. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but there you have it.

    There’s also the matter of his being unable to account for much of his time on the day in question. The girl’s new boyfriend, when called by the police to see if he knew where she was, made a point of figuring out all the details of his movement on that day because he knew he’d be a suspect if she were dead. The convicted killer did not, and he was very wishy-washy about the day. He claims he lent his car and his cell phone to the friend who would ultimately blame him for the crime, and it all seems a little dodgy.

    If you’re interested in true crime reportage, give it a whirl. I quite enjoyed it.

    Originally published at Bev Vincent. You can comment here or there.

    Monday, December 22nd, 2014
    4:33 pm
    In Xanadu did Kubla(i) Khan

    I’m sure there are movies that have a greater disparity between the critics’ score and the audience score, but I haven’t heard of one. Netflix’ Marco Polo, a 10-part drama about the explorer’s first years in Mongolia as a “guest” of the great Kublai Khan, scores a mere 27% among critics, based on 26 reviews, and a whopping 93% average from nearly 400 viewers.

    We binged our way through the 10 hours this past weekend and we really enjoyed it—my wife liked it even more than I did, and she’s a very hard sell when it comes to television. Though Polo is the title character, the show is really more about Khan, who wants to be emperor of the world. He’s not a bad man, though, for the most part. The name summons thoughts of Attila the Hun (at least in my mind), but he was a very open, accepting and thoughtful leader. He rarely acted on impulse, but thought through all of the consequences of his actions. He accepted all religions, his court was filled with foreigners whose opinions he valued, and he invited scrutiny of his decisions, both before they were implemented and after. He gave his most trusted men the opportunity to say “I told you so” when things went wrong. How accurate is this to reality? Who knows what a man who lived over 700 years ago was like, but Marco Polo liked him and his court enough to stick around for nearly two decades.

    Polo himself is mostly a viewpoint character. True, his life is put on the line a few times, and he isn’t exactly a passive participant in things, but Khan is in the driver’s seat and everything revolves around him. There are spies and intrigue, the obligatory blind kung-fu master (and praying mantises rather than grasshoppers), plenty of naked women, some great sword fights and an assault on a walled city reminiscent of Lord of the Rings. No expense was spared in this production and I have no idea why the critics hated it so. One thought it was so tedious that it was binge-proof, but that wasn’t our experience at all. B.D. Wong was especially good as Khan, with Joan Chen as his empress-wife. The villain is the Chancellor of the Song dynasty, a man who has risen from poverty to a position of great power whose status is threatened when the emperor dies, leaving behind only a 5-year-old heir. From a historical perspective, we found it fascinating, because this is a part of history that we knew little about. At one point, Khan was the ruler of 1/5 of the populated world in the late 13th century.

    Despite critical panning, the show has been renewed for a second season. Yay!

    If The Affair hadn’t been renewed for a second season, I would be seriously pissed right now. What were they thinking? Were they so confident in the show that they knew it would be picked up? I can’t think of any other reason why they’d end the tenth hour the way they did. Holy moly.

    One of the show’s most intriguing aspects, beyond awesome performances by the four leads, is the he said/she said disparity. Some of it is trivial, but some things are blazingly different. The biggest so far is the difference between Noah’s memory of what happened at the end of the trip to pick up their daughter and Allison’s version of that story. Totally, totally different. The characters were dressed differently and just about everything that happened was different. Both dramatic, but not even in the same ballpark. Fascinating, for sure. It’s going to be a long wait until next season.

    Originally published at Bev Vincent. You can comment here or there.

    Wednesday, December 17th, 2014
    3:02 pm
    A byte out of the apple
    I am very pleased by Obama's decision to normalize relations with Cuba. The embargo is as old as I am, and I think time tells us that it hasn't worked. It impoverished the target nation, but it did virtually nothing to alter its political course. A one-nation embargo, in particular, doesn't work very well. Growing up in Canada, Cuba was a popular tourist destination. I look forward to a day in the very near future when I can travel there on my US passport. I hear it's nice. Like many Caribbean nations, there is an ugly underbelly juxtaposed against the part the tourists see, but I think an influx of cash and the possibility that the American tourist industry will be able to invest in Cuban destinations will have more good sides than bad.

    I finished and turned in my latest writing project, which hasn't been announced yet, but it's good fun. I've done this a couple of times before, and it's always different.

    Last night we watched Codebreaker on Netflix, the 2011 documentary about Alan Turing, the father of modern computing. Turing is the subject of a couple of recent movies, including The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. His is a tragic story of a man whose contribution to the war effort saved countless lives and may have shortened the war since cracking the Enigma code allowed D-Day to happen when it did. And yet his personal life made him an outcast -- he was chemically castrated as part of a plea bargain that kept him out of jail. The movie is a combination of documentary that features people who knew him from the Bletchley Park days, as well as friends and relatives, and dramatic re-enactment of his sessions with a psychotherapist wherein he struggles over what he can reveal, since much of his life is covered by the Official Secrets Act. One thing I didn't know: the documentary claims that the Apple logo comes from the fact that Turing committed suicide by taking a bite out of a poisoned apple, the remains of which was found next to his body. (The logo designer considers this origin story an urban legend, however. Turing did eat a cyanide-laced apple, but there's no indication Apple was inspired by this incident.)
    Monday, December 15th, 2014
    4:23 pm
    The Wild Trail

    We saw a couple of good movies this weekend. First was Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon. It’s about a young woman who went a little nuts after her single mother dies of cancer who decides to purge herself and get life back on track by walking the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from the Mexican border the full length of California and into Oregon, at least. It’s based on a memoir, so there’s a lot of truth in it, but some movie simplifications, too. (For example, in the real life the character has two siblings, but only one in the film.) I was reminded a bit of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, where he tried to do the Appalachian Trail, though with less angst and hardship. A woman by herself has some unique potential dangers to face. The support cast is excellent, too, including the guy who played Dan Dority on Deadwood, the guy who played Skinny Pete on Breaking Bad and the guy who played the minister on Gracepoint. And a fox, who plays her spirit guide, I guess. But the movie rests mostly on Witherspoon’s shoulders, and she pulls it off.

    Last night we watched Nebraska on Netflix. It’s about an old geezer (Bruce Dern) who thinks he’s won a million dollars in a Publisher’s Clearinghouse-type sweepstakes and is bound and determined he’s going to Lincoln, Nebraska (from Billings, Montana) to pick up his windfall because he won’t trust the post office with all that money. And if no one will take him, dammit, he’s going to walk. So his son agrees to take him, even though everyone knows there’s no money. Bob Odenkirk (Saul from Breaking Bad) plays the other son, and Stacy Keach shows up as an old “friend” of Dern’s. The trip takes them back to Dern’s hometown. Once the story gets out that he’s a millionaire in the making, all manner of people from his past crawl out of the woodwork with hands out. It’s a poignant story and funny as hell, too, especially the scene where the two brothers decide to reclaim an air compressor that was loaned out decades ago. I don’t identify with the dysfunctional family in the least, but I understood them. It’s a road movie, and the two main characters learn a lot about each other along the way (although it’s the son whose eyes are opened the most.)

    I started reading The Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson this weekend. I had the pleasure of meeting Ms Benson at Necon last summer. When I heard she was a guest of honor, I expected her to be somewhat standoffish, a real celebrity amongst us regular folks, but she turned out to be very accessible and friendly. Had a good talk with her about foreign crime TV shows in the courtyard one night. I’m really enjoying this novel, which is set in the real world, where there are witches. A lot of the material she uses reminds me of a novel I wrote a few years ago where a character gets involved in Wicca and Tarot as a way of coping with a loss. The cover makes it look like a YA novel, but it isn’t.

    Only one more episode left of The Affair, which stars Ruth Wilson (Luther) and Dominic West (The Wire, The Hour). I swear this show gets under my nerves more than many horror films. My mother used to hate scenes in shows like Matlock or Murder She Wrote where the good guy is creeping around in the bad guy’s house, searching an office by flashlight, because she was sure the good guy would get caught. This show is something like that, except it’s a couple of philanderers who aren’t exactly all that discreet. It’s also a mystery series, because there’s a murder, and the identity of the victim is kept secret for a long time, let alone the identity of the killer. It has an interesting he said/she said structure that is revealing in the way that it reflects how Noah and Allison remember certain events. What was said, what they wore, what they did. There’s a lot to wrap up in one more hour.

    Originally published at Bev Vincent. You can comment here or there.

    Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
    1:41 pm
    I've had a fairly productive writing period these past few weeks. Can't remember the last time when I've had so many firm commitments, along with the usual on-spec writing. I turned in a four-story mini-collection of reprints that will appear sometime in 2015. Also my X-files story to Jonathan Maberry. Then, finally, a story for the Book 38 horror anthology.

    About the latter: I was invited to pick from a list of the world's most abandoned and haunted places and submit a 2500-story. I chose the Willard Asylum in upstate NY and wrote a story featuring a brother-sister duo who've featured in a few of my previous tales. After my research, including watching a few videos taken by urban explorers, it took a while to get the story in sequence, even though I always had a fairly good idea of how it was going to go. I pulled it apart and put it back together again several times, but I finally got there in the end, and I turned that story in over the weekend. 2500 words is quite brief, but I find the exercise in winnowing a 3200 word first draft down to the cut-off refreshing. Everything must go! My writing becomes much more direct and entire sentences and paragraphs that don't contribute to the story get lopped.

    Book 38 launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign this week. As these things go, there are a number of rewards if you help fund the project, which already has a commitment from a publisher, as I understand it, and will be released be released in trade paperback and eBook format on May 1st, 2015. Among the other authors in the anthology are the following names, some of which you'll probably recognize: Craig Spector, Rich Chizmar, Tim Waggoner, John Urbancik, Gary McMahon, Charles Day, and a host of others.

    I've done a bunch of book review recently. Can't remember when I last posted a list:

    I have one more to do this week, then it's on to the next project, which is a continuation of a story that was begun by someone else and will be completed by two others. I also got a couple of stories back into circulation over the weekend, something I've been lax about of late. I think I have about 10 out there in the submission-sphere at the moment.

    Tonight is the end for Sons of Anarchy. Always a sad moment when a series ends after so many years, and I've been following it since near the beginning. It's had an interesting arc. At first, the fascination was with Jax because he appeared to be a good man trying to do the right thing in a culture that made that kind of behavior difficult. He despised some of the things his step-father did and tried to get a compass bearing on what his father wanted for the motorcycle club. He failed, and in doing so he turned into everything he hated about Clay Morrow. Worse, though, he was betrayed by his mother, who has sent him on a collision course with Mayhem. She's never been a terribly good influence, but her rash act at the end of the previous season, and the lies she and Juice told to cover that up, sent SAMCRO and Jax on a mission of vengeance for all the wrong reasons against all the wrong people. It's not Shakespearean so much as Greek mythological. Patricides, matricides and just about every other "icide" you can imagine.

    Season 5 (or 5a, if you insist) of Haven came to an end last week, too. They shot 26 episodes back to back (to back...), but are splitting the output into two batches of 13. Apparently there are contractual benefits to calling it a single season. For example, the actors can't renegotiate a better deal in the middle! It's been a wild ride, with a significant expansion of the mythology, and just when it seemed like there might be a calm moment for the troubled community, Duke let loose an epidemic of new Troubles and Vince & Dave stumbled onto something in the woods. William Shatner will be on four episodes in 2015. My theory is that he will play Mara's father.

    Looks like CBS got the use of a prison set and decided to make the most of it on Sunday night. First, The Mentalist had its "Orange is the New Lisbon" episode (my name for it, not theirs), and then the CSI team investigated a body found in a prison laundry. And then an interesting development at the end of Castle. Looks like Rick will have to strike out on his own in 2015, at least from an investigative point of view.
    Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
    10:41 am
    Tan Friday
    We don't do Black Friday. And for Cyber Monday, the only things I bought were eBooks for myself! Instead of engaging in hand-to-hand combat with other shoppers over flat screen TVs at Costco, this is what we did (see photo). For the whole weekend, in fact. We went down to Surfside Beach, about 90 miles from where we live, on Wednesday evening and stayed there until late on Sunday.

    The previous two weekends were abysmal. Temperatures in the forties, grey and rainy. However, luck was with us. All four days were in the seventies, with partly cloudy skies. It got a little cool when the sun went down, but that wasn't a problem: our rental property had a good heating system (once we got the vents cleared of dust that set off the smoke detector the first time we turned the heat on). It was a non-traditional Thanksgiving, in most ways. We did have family visitors one afternoon, but other than that it was as off the grid as you can get. We did some reading, soaked up the rays (I'm a little pink, thank you for asking), playing games, cooking meals and relaxing. We only left the place once, and that was to get more wine!

    While we were away, I heard about PD James's death. It was fun hearing Ian Rankin tell some brief tales about her on Twitter. I've been reading her books for decades, and always enjoyed them. She and I were nominated in the same category for an Edgar Award a few years ago. I was sure I was doomed, being up against her, but I went to the banquet in part hoping to get the chance to meet her. Alas, she didn't make the trip over to NY for the ceremony. And neither of us won the award.

    One of the books I read last week was 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman by Adam Plantinga. Crime writers like George Pelecanos and Lee Child had commented on it favorably and the cover blurb is by Joseph Wambaugh. Plantinga is a 13-year veteran of two different police departments, now a sergeant. The book is 400 anecdotes and observations, bundled into rough groupings (What Cops Know About Juveniles, What Cops Know About Hookers and Johns...) that give readers some insight into a cop's life. I imagine most cops could put together something similar, except Plantinga can write really well. The anecdote format doesn't give him a lot of opportunity to show off his writing chops, but it shines through. It's droll, witty, amusing, sardonic, resigned, introspective and sharp. I enjoyed the heck out of it, and read many of the passages to my wife after they made me chuckle. If you're writing about cops, this is a great reference book.

    One of the things I worked on while on vacation last week was the short story I'm writing for Jonathan Maberry's series of X-Files anthologies. The first, X-Files: Trust No One, comes out in March, with stories from Brian Keene, Tim Lebbon, and others. My story, "Phase Shift," is slated for the second book in the series. It's a lot of fun playing in someone else's sandbox. I got to do it before, with Doctor Who: Destination Prague. For research and prep work, I binged through the first two seasons. My story is set in the midst of the second season. I wanted to familiarize myself primarily with the technology. Did they use cell phones (yes, but big suckers with retracting antennas), email (yes, but on Windows 3.1 computers), or the Internet in general (yes). Video conferences cost $150 an hour, by Mulder's estimate. Only 20 years ago, but my how things have changed.

    I can't remember when I first encountered Rocky Wood, or even when I first met him face to face. I do recall, however, a series of "last meetings." The first was at the World Horror Convention in Austin in 2011. Rocky had been diagnosed with ALS the previous year, but he was still in pretty good shape. However, he thought that his doctors wouldn't allow him to travel outside the country by the end of that year. We said goodbye, thinking we'd never see each other again. Happily, that proved not to be the case, and he got to go on a series of adventures and trips after that, and continue his work on books and as president of the HWA. I saw him again in 2012 at the world premiere of Ghost Brothers of Darkland County in Atlanta, and then at World Horror in New Orleans last year. His most recent publication was the 2014 update to Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished, just out from Overlook Connection Press. In fact, I received my copy from Dave Hinchberger on Sunday evening, just hours before Rocky succumbed to complications from ALS. To the outside world, at least, he never seemed to let the disease slow him down. He had a plan early on to raise money for the devices he would need as it progressed, and he kept on going. It was an honor to know him.
    Friday, November 21st, 2014
    2:02 pm
    Stormy weather

    It’s been a crazy week, weatherwise. Down below freezing in the early days, then back up to almost 80° and now we’re facing a fairly severe storm tomorrow afternoon that threatens to bring hail and, perhaps, tornadoes. Of course, this is nothing like getting 6-8 feet of snow over the course of a couple of days, but still. Good weather to “hunker down,” stay indoors and work.

    Because I have no shortage of work to do. I honestly can’t remember when I’ve had so many things on the go at the same time, all of them destined for publication. I have a story due at the end of December that’s finished in first draft. I have to trim a thousand words from it, so there’s that. Another is due in mid-December. I’ve been working on that one for a couple of weeks, but I think I finally have a handle on its structure. This morning, I wrote nearly a thousand words at the beginning that launches it much better than before. I put my next Stephen King Revisited essay on the dashboard for when Rich is ready to tackle The Shining. I have a couple of other projects in the works that I can’t even talk about that much.

    So I’m taking all of next week off from the day job to make sure I’m on top of these obligations. By the end of November, I’d like to have most of these well in hand so I can focus on the project Brian Keene and I are doing together during December. Time just keeps on slipping by so fast, though. It seems like just a few days ago we were handing out treats, but that was 3 weeks ago.

    Very interesting to hear that William Shatner will be appearing on four episodes of Haven this season. I’m looking. Forward. To that.

    Originally published at Bev Vincent. You can comment here or there.

    Monday, November 17th, 2014
    2:48 pm
    A Capitol Weekend
    My second contribution to Stephen King Revisited went live today: Second Coming, my historical essay about 'Salem's Lot.

    We had a getaway weekend in Austin. The weather wasn't great, so we didn't get out and about all that much, but we stayed downtown and had a fine dinner at the original Eddie V's.

    We've seen a batch of movies over the past week or so, too. First, we saw A Walk Among the Tombstones, starring Liam Neeson and based upon the Matt Scudder novel by Lawrence Block. It's a decent adaptation, though of course Scudder has been amped up a little. Not quite into superhero mode, but a cut above the ordinary human being Scudder is in the books. It was an interesting choice to step into the series so late in the game. In the early books, Scudder is still drinking. Eventually he quits and attends AA meetings regularly. This movie introduces his Irregular companion, TJ, though he came into the book series sooner, and ignores Scudder's companion Elaine and his long-time underworld friend, Mick Ballou. Some decently threatening antagonists.

    Then we saw Rudderless, which is one of those films that you should not read about very much before you see it. It stars Billy Crudup as a man who lost his son and later reconnects with him when his ex-wife delivers a box of demo CDs of songs the son had written and recorded on his computer. He teaches himself a song or two and decides to present them at an open mike night, where he encounters another young man (Anton Yelchin from Hearts in Atlantis) who shoe-horns his way into Crudup's life, convincing him to form a band with him and a couple of friends. This is William H. Macy's directorial debut, and it also stars Macy's wife (Felicity Huffman) and Laurence Fishburne, with Selena Gomez in a small part that could have been played by just about anyone. We were surprised by the reaction some reviewers had to the film. It delivers a hell of a wallop 3/4 of the way through that changes everything. It definitely provides food for thought, but I won't say anything more about it than that.

    We saw White Girl in a Blizzard, the story of a teenage girl whose bored and restless mother (played by Eva Green) vanishes one day. Christopher Meloni plays the father. The story jumps around in time, with the daughter (Shailene Woodley) coming of age and going off to college, only to have the past stirred up for her again each time she comes home to visit. She gets involved with the investigating officer (Thomas Jane) and gets naked a lot. I'm not quite sure what the movie was really supposed to be about. The ending comes as no big surprise (well, maybe a small surprise that shakes up expectations) and then it just sort of dribbles off into nothing. It has a bit of that Gone Girl vibe, but only a smidgen.

    Finally we saw Magic in the Moonlight in which Colin Firth plays a pompous magician who also debunks shysters and frauds in the roaring twenties. A friend challenges him to find out how a supposed psychic played by Emma Stone is doing what she's doing, so he travels to the Côte d'Azur to spend some time observing her communicate with the dead. It's a Woody Allen film, perhaps one of the few of his that I've enjoyed, although it did have its slow moments. It's amusing that Firth's character is totally baffled by Stone's shenanigans and even comes to believe that his worldview is totally wrong. The solution to the mystery is fun, but the ending is pretty much a foregone conclusion from the moment Firth and Stone's characters meet up. An amusing distraction for a rainy afternoon.
    Tuesday, November 11th, 2014
    3:22 pm
    The truth is out there
    One of the rules I've learned in the writing biz is that he who hesitates might miss out on opportunities. I heard last week about an editor who had a couple of open slots in a themed anthology. He was looking for proposals. Rather than dithering around, I contacted him within hours of the announcement. I found out this weekend that my proposal was accepted. So now all I have to do is write the story. It's interesting in that I know better how it ends than how it starts. That never happens.

    Winter is coming, or so they say. Current forecasts have us below freezing for 6-8 hours on Friday morning. So long as there's no precipitation, that shouldn't be a problem. But if it rains...

    The accompanying photo is of the Sai Wan cemetery in Hong Kong where Commonwealth soldiers who died there during WWII are buried, along with a memorial wall (the building at the top) for all those whose remains were never identified. One of my uncles falls into that latter category. My grandmother had several sons involved in that war. One landed on the beaches of Normandy, one spent the war afloat and a few of them went to Hong Kong, two of them ending up as POWs in Japan. My father tried to enlist, but he was too young and his faked ID apparently didn't fool anyone.

    Yesterday was my 19th wedding anniversary. We had a nice dinner with our daughter and her boyfriend. The day before, my wife and I went to the "downtown" section of our suburb and saw two movies and had lunch on a patio (probably won't be doing that this weekend). First we saw The Judge with Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall, plus Vera Farmiga and Vincent D'Onofrio. A decent family drama about an insufferable lawyer long on the outs with his father who returns home for his mother's funeral and ends up having to defend his father. There is a lot of family and local history to unravel. The movie's a tad on the long side, but we liked it. Then we saw Interstellar, which is even longer. It wears its 2001 influence on its sleeve, without that earlier film's obsession with itself. It has some Doctor Who wishy-washy timey-wimey stuff near the end, but it's a decent thriller with some fascinating set pieces and a moderately strong emotional core. Some of the science is as solid as a film can get and some of it will wrap your head in knots trying to rationalize it. Fun, and definitely one for the big screen.

    Friday, October 31st, 2014
    1:26 pm
    The Incredible Journey
    I'm always fascinated by how my concept of a story I'm working on can change and morph over time. The one I finished yesterday is case in point. I agreed to write this story for a themed anthology. I chose a location. For a while, I thought I was going to write it in tweets. The max word length was 2500, so I imagined 20 or so tweets to tell the story. Sort of a "found tweetage" idea. I honestly thought that's what it was going to be, but I never wrote a single tweet.

    Instead, I picked two characters who've taken me on adventures before. A brother and sister who've so far been to Centralia, PA and Cheshire, OH in published stories. (A third story is on hold with another anthology.) These two have an interesting family story that establishes the baseline for these adventures. Some day, when I get enough of them, I might put them together into a collection. Anyway, the first draft is about 20% over the limit, so I'm going to have to do some slicing and dicing.

    Several weeks ago, Rich Chizmar and Brian Freeman approached me to see if I was interested in being part of a project that launched today. The idea behind Stephen King Revisited is that Rich will read all of King's books in publication order (including collections, Bachman books and non-fiction) and blog about the experience. In fact, the blogging part was King's idea after Rich told him what he was going to do. They asked me if I would write an accompanying essays that puts each book in its historical context. Rich estimates that he'll read two to three books per month, which means we're going to be at this for at least the next two years! My first essay, How Carrie Happened, went up today, along with Rich's introduction to the project. His blog about Carrie should be up in a few days, with 'Salem's Lot to follow by Thanksgiving. I've been working ahead: I have my first five essays ready to go. Check it out. Sign up for email updates. Comment on the blogs. It's going to be an interesting journey.

    I'm enjoying American Horror Story much more than I thought I would. The teasers didn't do much for me but the story, so far, is decent. Glad to see Elementary back, too. The murder method in the first episode was a tad preposterous, but it was mostly something to hang the interpersonal drama off.

    The episode of Haven that airs tonight is the one being filmed when my daughter and I visited the set in June. The scene we saw takes place in a house (a real house, not a set), and I suspect it's from late in the episode. A couple of major characters are handcuffed together. The scene also features Chris Masterson, Lara Jean Chorostecki, and Kris Lemche. It was raining really hard outside during filming. A gully washer. I'll be curious to see if any of that external sound is audible.
    Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
    2:35 pm
    This kid
    I finished the first draft of a short story I've been wrestling with for a couple of weeks. It came in long, so some of it's got to go, but I'm happy to have it down. I've known for quite a while how it was going to end, but for some reason it just took me a while to get there. Plus I was working on other things—one of which you'll find out more about in a couple of days. Part of an ongoing project that sounds cool.

    I wonder if we got a hint about what will happen with Jax on Sons of Anarchy. He's always been obsessed by his father and now there's an indication that John Teller might have run his motorcycle into a transport deliberately, supposedly to save his MC and his family. Does the same fate lie ahead for Jax? Even his strongest supporters are starting to wonder if he's in control. And was I the only one who thought for a moment, when Gemma found the dead birds in her bed, that Abel was responsible? That kid is getting ready to explode and it's hard to know exactly what's going to happen when he does. Is he the one who is going to be Gemma's downfall? Because Gemma deserves a downfall: everything bad that's happened this season has been a result of her deadly impulsive actions. It was fun to see her squirm for a while when she was summoned to the cabin, sure that she was about to be executed.

    The amazing child actress, Millie Bobby Brown, who played Madison on Intruders (and then something other than Madison) was a guest star on NCIS this week. She started out as the child of the victim and then turned into so much more at the end. The kid has a future. Ever since we saw her on Intruders, I've suggested she could play the lead in a feature adaptation of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

    I finished the first season of Case Histories, the BBC Scotland adaptation of Kate Atkinson's novels. It's in six parts, with each pair adapting one of her Jackson Brodie novels. They've tweaked things a little, moving Brodie front and center in places where he wasn't quite and relocating everything to Edinburgh (the first book was set in Cambridge), but they maintained the sense of random and coincidence that makes her novels so appealing and charming. I'm glad they resisted the urge to tie things together neatly. Amanda Abbington (Watson's wife on Sherlock and Martin Freeman's real wife) is the DC who has a love/hate relationship with Brodie. The little girl who plays his daughter is a precocious cutie, and there's an engaging teen-aged nanny in the third part, a Welsh actress who has this Billy Idol twist to her upper lip from time to time. It was good enough for me to get the second season. They'll run out of novels in this one, so some of the stories must be original. Edinburgh looks very nice on this series.
    Monday, October 27th, 2014
    2:14 pm
    First World Problems

    When my daughter and I visited the Haven set, we saw a couple of other actors that we weren’t allowed to talk about because their appearances hadn’t been announced yet. The first was Chris Masterson from Malcolm in the Middle, brother of Danny Masterson from That 70’s Show who was the cameraman on “Shot in the Dark,” the Darkside Seekers episode of Haven last season.

    The other was Lara Jean Chorostecki, the Canadian actress who plays Freddy Lounds on Hannibal. While we got to talk to Emily Rose and Lucas Bryant for a while, and I got to hang out with Kris Lemche in the morgue, we didn’t get much of a chance to interact with these two as they were in the middle of filming an intense scene. I did get to say hi to Lara Jean when she wandered back to “video village” between takes, but she was concentrating on her work. Still, it was neat seeing her in person. Like they often say: she is somewhat smaller in person than she appears on screen.

    We voted in the mid-term elections this on Saturday morning. These are my first mid-terms since becoming a US citizen. Quite a lengthy ballot, with federal, state and local items. We got to vote for the Justice of the Peace who officiated at our wedding back in ’95, though she was running unopposed. A guy named Sam Houston was on the ballot: how could anyone in Texas not vote for him?

    I like to try new recipes from time to time. This weekend I made my first blackened dish. I found a good concoction of spices and made blackened salmon. It was really quite good. As a side benefit, I also confirmed after 19 years living in our house that the smoke detector really does work. Next time I think I’ll do my blackening in the back yard. With advance warning to the fire department.

    We watched a movie called The Last Weekend on Saturday. It’s one of those “everyone comes home for the weekend and exposes their dysfunctions” films. Patricia Clarkson plays the mother and Chris Mulkey the father and Tahoe plays Tahoe. They have two adult sons, one of whom writes for a TV series and the other who just got fired by making a typo that cost his company $30 million. You get the sense that there’s something bad going on in the background. Are mom and dad going broke? Does one of them have a fatal disease they’re trying to tell people about? As it turns out, the big family “crisis” is that they’ve decided to sell one of their two vacation homes. Quelle domage! It almost seems like the writer is poking fun at this sub-genre of movies. It’s the Labor Day weekend, after all, not exactly a holiday known for family reunions. But if he’s taking the piss, he’s not doing a terribly good job of it. The characters are self-absorbed and unlikable, starting with Clarkson’s character, who is snarky to the max. There are some moderately interesting subplots, but it all seems too much like first world problems. Not recommended.

    Originally published at Bev Vincent. You can comment here or there.

    Friday, October 17th, 2014
    12:23 pm
    Haven Redux
    Back in June, when my daughter and I visited the set of Syfy's Haven, we got to meet a couple of guest stars for that episode but weren't allowed to say anything about them. Today, one of them has been named in an article: Kris Lemche, who was in the Season 4 episode "Shot in the Dark" as Seth Byrne, the host of the guerrilla program Darkside Seekers (i.e. Ghost Hunters), is back in an episode that will air on Halloween in the US.

    Lemche is a really funny guy. We enjoyed watching him do his bit in the scene that was filming that afternoon. However, the unit publicist asked if I would sit for an EPK interview after lunch and warned me that Kris was going to "crash" the interview. And he did: he dropped in on me while the camera was rolling (we were set up in the morgue!) and sort of hijacked the interview for a while. He's fast and funny and smart, so I had to have my wits about me to keep up with him. I wasn't sure how well I did, but my daughter later said I was funny, too. I'm not sure if any of that footage will show up somewhere, but I hope it does. It's all sort of a blur, now.

    I was pleased to meet the other guest star that day, albeit very briefly during a break between takes, but I can't say who it was yet. The actor is a regular on a popular TV series, though.

    Last weekend we saw A Winter's Tale. The trailer and cast intrigued us, though we knew nothing about it. It's based on a Mark Helprin novel, adapted and directed by Akiva Goldsman, who I interviewed a while back for The Dark Tower Companion. It has Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Will Smith, William Hurt and Colin Farrell.  I've never been terribly impressed by Farrell, but he was quite good in this, which gives me more hope for S2 of True Detectives. The story is a fable/fairy tale with time travel and the devil and a winged horse. It has some cheesy moments, but we liked it well enough. Better than the 13% Rotten Tomatoes score might indicate.

    I posted a brief review of Big Driver at News From the Dead Zone, which premieres on Lifetime tomorrow evening. Some of the reviews I've seen have been disparaging, but if you liked the novella I think you'll be pleased. It's a gritty and brutal revenge story and Maria Bello has a strong performance. Joan Jett, well, she tries hard.

    I really liked Foxes' jazzy rendition of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" in last week's Doctor Who. The story wasn't bad, either, although Clara's turnabout at the end seemed unmotivated. I don't mind that she's sticking around, it just seemed abrupt. I liked the influence of Murder on the Orient Express, where everyone on the train was there for a reason, too, although the external shots of the train were a bit campy. Why wouldn't it go in a straight line in space?

    Good finale to Intruders, leaving a door open for renewal. It's a strange story, but ultimately it mostly came together at the end. The little girl was the main star, in my opinion. She really sold it.

    More bodies on Sons of Anarchy. SAMCRO is running out of places to bury them. I can't wait to see what happens with Juice and Gemma. Surely Juice will use what he knows to save his life.

    I got a big kick out of what happened on Survivor this week. Dude decides to throw the immunity challenge without having a clue how to organize a coalition. Worse, he managed to mostly annoy people so he ended up being the one voted off. Perfect.

    I'm watching Hinterland on Netflix as I work out in the morning. A Welsh cop drama, four 90-minute episodes. The usual setup of the new cop with a dark history being dropped into an existing department. Small town crimes that are generally rooted in the past. Lovely scenery, decent stories, and lots of Welsh. It was even filmed in Welsh at the same time the English version was made. When I'm finished, I'll probably go back to Hemlock Grove. I hear the second season is worthwhile.
    Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
    1:29 pm
    Burgundy — it’s not just a color

    This is the nicest time of year in southeast Texas. It’s cool enough that most of the pesky critters have gone away. I can open my upstairs office window in the daytime and not be overwhelmed by heat or humidity. My wife and I have been taking lots of local bike rides. It’s nice.

    Last night we watched A Year in Burgundy, which sounds like it might be a follow-up to A Year in Provence, but it isn’t. It’s about that unique wine district in France and documents the 2011 season, from spring through winter, to show how different wineries and families create their hallmark wines. We aren’t exactly wine experts, but we’ve grown to appreciate wines more since our trip to Sonoma a few years ago, so we found it quite fascinating. Though there are subtle differences in the way the vines are treated, the real difference happens after the harvest. Those secrets the vintners guard jealously. We grow with the doors open and ferment with them closed, one man said, which reminded me of King talking about writing with the doors open and revising with them closed. Only two kinds of grapes are grown in Burgundy: all whites are Chardonnay and all reds are Pinot Noir. French laws forbid them from irrigating their fields, so they are very much at the mercy of the elements. It’s amazing the damage hail can do to a crop. Timing the harvest is as much an art as a science. It’s quite a process.

    I’m about halfway through the second season of Bron/Broen, the Danish/Swedish series that has been adapted over here as The Bridge. I vastly prefer the Scandinavian version. The main characters are quirkier and more interesting. I feel that in the American version they’ve forgotten how idiosyncratic Sonya is. In Bron, Saga is full-on weird. Completely socially inept. It’s fascinating to see how different the actress is from her character. And her “partner,” Martin, is few people’s idea of a leading man. Overweight, grizzled, balding, grey, woebegone. But he and Saga make an interesting team. The second season is about eco-terrorists.

    I liked the most recent Doctor Who. It was a tense thriller with plenty of thrills and chills. The idea that the Doctor would step aside and let humanity decide its own fate was interesting, even if Clara decided to override humanity’s decision at the last second. I wonder, though, if the “leak” that Jenna Coleman would be leaving at Christmas is a red-herring. They certainly seem to be building towards that with her increasing frustration with the Doctor, but I wonder. This Doctor is much more disconnected from humanity than the recent batch. It’s almost like there was some kind of short circuit during that regeneration.

    We’re caught up with Intruders, too. That little girl continues to impress. She’d make a great lead in The Girl Who Loves Tom Gordon, if anyone were to decide to make that movie.

    Haven is moving to Friday nights in the US. At 6 p.m. Central. What a strange, strange time for a TV show to air. Canada still gets it on Thursdays, but a week after the Syfy appearance.

    I’m sort of tickled to hear that Twin Peaks will be back, albeit not until 2016. My first thought was that I had to tell a friend of mine the news, because I knew he’d be jazzed about it, too. Then I remembered that he was no longer with us. Funny how things like that happen.

    Originally published at Bev Vincent. You can comment here or there.

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