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|Monday, May 20th, 2013|
|We boldly went
Note: There will be spoilers herein for Doctor Who and Star Trek, all below the horizontal lines.
Didn’t get a lot of writing done this weekend. We took Saturday off. Had a business meeting in the morning that lasted longer than expected, then went to the Baker Street Pub for lunch. I’ve been there before but it’s often too smoke-filled for us. There was an Iron Man Triathlon being held in the community so the crowds were all elsewhere, presumably the smokers, too. This is the first time I’ve ever used their restrooms and was delighted to discover that you had to push in on a bookcase to access them. Very clever.
Then we went to see the new Star Trek movie (more below). We didn’t see it in 3D or on an IMAX screen, although I expect the latter would have been spectacular. We have this thing where we comment on our interest in upcoming films based on their trailers. A couple of the ones before Into Darkness were in the “might be fun after a bottle of wine” category, but most of them were “there isn’t enough booze in the world” material. The one that intrigued us the most was called Last Vegas, starring Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas and Kevin Kline. It looked silly but fun. The AARP version of The Hangover, perhaps.
I’ve had this weird glitch with my home internet for a couple of weeks. There’s one single URL that I can’t open. I can’t even ping the site, though it works if I switch from Wi-Fi to 3G. The problem exists on several different devices and a number of browsers, so I know it’s not related to caching. I decided yesterday morning to contact tech support to see if we could diagnose the source. I was happy that the person I got on the online chat was able to keep up with me without working from a script. However, it got to a point where he didn’t have the requisite authorization to further troubleshoot the problem, so he escalated me to another support tech. The new guy asked me to wait while he read through the chat log. Fine, I said. A minute later the chat disconnected and I realized that I was offline. I waited for a few minutes, thinking he might have reset our gateway (I wasn’t going to be happy that he did that without warning, but still). After a few minutes, nothing happened. So I had to get out my smartphone and look up a phone number for tech support and call someone. She was able to confirm that, yes, someone had disabled our internet service. Hmmph. I wasn’t impressed, but she was able to plug us back in forthwith. The original minor glitch still exists, but I’m in no hurry to mess with it any time soon. I have a workaround.
I spent an hour and a half yesterday afternoon doing a Skype interview about The Dark Tower Companion for The Lilja and Lou Podcast. The episode should be available in a couple of weeks.
This week’s episode takes the cake as one of the strangest of Mad Men yet. Mad Men on speed. Reminds me of an old Cracked! magazine sketch from my youth called “Pro Golfers on ‘Ludes.” These ad men were manic, churning out a ream of ideas, all of them garbage.
River was in it, so River shall speak: SPOILERS!
So, the name of the Doctor was uttered in the season finale of Doctor Who, but not within our hearing. It was River Song, or some echo or remnant of her, who uttered the password. A lot happened in this episode, but most of it seemed oddly detached an unemotional. Jenny dies for a while and there’s a passionate goodbye to the wife, but I think I came away feeling a little more stunned than captivated.
First off there was the “conference call.” Neat concept, but I dislike it when some totally new ability appears out of nowhere just because it’s cool and advances the plot. You might as well have the Enterprise acting like a submarine all of a sudden. (Oh, wait…) It seems to me that this entire season has been a long commercial for the 50th Anniversary special in November, with this episode being the punch line. Clara, we discover, has been the constant companion. With the Doctor from the beginning, in all his incarnations, and throughout all of time and space, though not exactly “our” Clara, but one that is splintered in to infinity-cubed versions of herself, none of which know about the others.
The blank-faced “snowmen” were cool villains but without a whole lot of bite. I really did not care for the final moment when it turned into an “introducing X as the Y.” There’s nothing more guaranteed to pull a person out of a story than to stamp text on the screen in huge letters that identify an actor by name and his fictional guise. Surely that could have been handled better. As for what it all means, I’m thinking…The Valeyard?
I really did enjoy the new Star Trek, plot holes and all. I especially enjoy the reboot aspect, the way they are taking elements from the classic series and movies and turning them on their heads. This is parallel universe stuff, but the universes aren’t so very far apart. Right next door, it seems at times.
The cold open was fun. You have to violate the Prime Directive from time to time, especially to save a friend. Spock didn’t seem to object to the idea that they alter this planet’s timeline by rescuing it, but he was quite adamant that other parts of the directive remain in play. So, issue 1: the teleporter was “invented” for Star Trek because they couldn’t afford to show the Enterprise landing every week on the TV show’s limited budget. Therefore, the Enterprise can’t land. Except now it can not only land, it can go underwater. Interesting. At the end of the cold open, I had Wang Chung’s song “Start Praying to a New God” running through my head.
The movie had lots of action, of course, and a decent amount of character and character interplay. Some of it was poorly timed. Was that really the right moment for Uhura and Spock to work out their relationship problems? It led to a funny moment, but still. The Marcus family values issues weren’t as important or potent as they should have been.
Good to see Peter Weller after his ill-fated end in Dexter, playing the heroic Admiral…well, maybe not so admirable after all. I find it hard to believe that one guy with a skeleton crew could construct the Enterprise-cubed without anyone else in Starfleet knowing. There were also some confusing inconsistencies in the powers that Benedict Cumberbatch’s character (what was his name again?) possessed. Some people could fell him with a single phaser shot while others could shoot him all day long with little effect. Scotty’s valiant moral stand that cost him his job proved to be of little importance when Kirk changes his mind about a major issue a few minutes later. Oops. At least it put him in a position to lead the one-man cavalry.
It might have been more interesting if Cumberbatch’s character was redeemed at the end, for he had an argument to make and he might have garnered some sympathy. The question, then, is if he is genetically evil, what happens to Kirk now? And will the next film be the revenge of the genetically modified Tribbles?
My wife thought the dramatic moments were somewhat overwrought, but she hadn’t seen the film’s source material. I appreciated the way that was handled, even more so after watching the “Spock” Audi commercial! I came up with the solution to the problem before anyone else, especially before Dr. McCoy, who squandered the cure in his lab. There’s still a lot of life in the old franchise, it seems.
Originally published at Bev Vincent. You can comment here or there.
|Friday, May 17th, 2013|
|To Boldly Go
My new Storytellers Unplugged essay was posted today. It’s called Bartleby and Me and it talks about my early forays into the world of the word processing and workspace management program Scrivener. Alas, I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to work on the novel, but I will—in June.
One of the things that I volunteered to do recently has finally been revealed on the product page, so I can now disclose that wrote the Afterword for PS Publishing’s 30th Anniversary Edition of Pet Sematary. The Foreword is by Ramsey Campbell. I’m thrilled to be part of it.
Hope to get to see the new Star Trek film this weekend. Have been scrupulously avoiding spoilers. It was fun to see some of the cast, along with Damon Lindelof, talking to the ISS team recently.
The season finale of Elementary was very good. When I saw the preview last week, I thought that it made a certain kind of sense for the season to end with Sherlock having a relapse, but the writers had even more in store for us than that. There was his reunion with Irene Adler and all of that backstory, plus the big reveal about the true identity of Moriarty and the ensuing showdowns. Watson proved her mettle yet again and was rewarded richly in the final scenes. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: the early previews for this series left me rolling my eyes, but it has proved to be a rewarding show.
I’ve never been a big fan of Black Sabbath or Ozzy Osbourne’s music in general, though I have grown to appreciate the lengths to which he’s gone to create a somewhat comedic persona of late. So seeing Sabbath perform on the season finale of CSI was of little interest, but there was a funny exchange shortly thereafter. A reporter is interviewing Ozzy in the lounge. After they wrap it up, the reporter says, “You were my first interview. The Ultimate Centre, 1986.” Ozzy looks pensive and says, “I don’t remember.” The reporter asks, “The concert or me?” Ozzy grins: “I don’t remember 1986.”
Powerful cliffhanger and tease for NCIS. It’s always fun to see Mike Franks, even if he’s long dead, and bringing back the JAG guy was a good touch, since that was the show from which NCIS was spun off. Having Gibbs sighting Tobias with his sniper rifle was a big WTF moment. Grey’s Anatomy managed to have a turbulent finale, too, with some relationships hopelessly broken, some new ones being forged, a birth and what looks like seriously bad news for one of the originals. Always happy to see good things happen to Alex. If there were a prize for the biggest rehabilitation of a character, it would go to him. I figured out pretty quickly what was going on in Criminal Minds this week. That was one twisted dude. Good to see Eames back on Law & Order: SVU. Criminal Intent was always my favorite version of that franchise. I rarely pass up a chance to watch it in reruns.
Originally published at Bev Vincent. You can comment here or there.
|Tuesday, May 14th, 2013|
I got a rejection e-mail last night. They still sting a little, and I felt good about this particular submission. Then a few minutes later I received the contract and proofs for my story “Road Rage,” which will appear in Chilling Tales: In Words, Alas, Drown I, edited by Michael Kelly. So that took away some of the sting. It was fun to read the story again after a long interval. It’s one that I’ve substantially renovated a couple of times from the mid-point on, so I honestly wasn’t sure what was going to happen because I couldn’t remember which ending I settled on.
This weekend I wrote my Storytellers Unplugged essay for this coming Friday and posted two new book reviews, for The Last Whisper in the Dark by Tom Piccirilli and Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub.
Then I polished off a 600-word short story for NPR’s current “Three Minute Fiction” contest. I enjoy writing these brief stories inspired by a simple prompt; in this case: Write a story in which a character finds an object that he or she has no intention of returning. I let that roll around in my mind for a couple of weeks until an image came to me one morning last week. I started with that scene—the moment of discovery—and started writing. I didn’t know much about the character, but these little details kept occurring to me that pushed me in a general direction.
For a while, I thought I’d bitten off more than I could chew. The story looked like it was going to go way over the 3-minute reading length. Then I stepped back for a while and figured out a way to rein it in. It still ended up at about 750 words in the first draft. However, that didn’t worry me much. I’d been flailing around in the dark, especially in the first half of the story, so I was easily able to lop off about 200 words in one quick rough cut. Then it was a matter of going through and strengthening the story. Now that I knew the character’s context, I could slip in little details about who he was and how he lived. By the time I turned it in on Sunday afternoon, I was very happy with the results.
I got the green light today to write an essay for an as-yet unannounced project that is part of an ongoing series. My pitch for the essay was a little off the cuff, so now I have to figure out how I’m going to tackle the subject. I also have another essay outstanding for another collection and one more short story to finish this month. The poor novel keeps getting pushed off. Now I’m bound and determined: I’m going to start it on my next birthday. That seems like a reasonable goal.
I knew that if Cochran made it to the final three, he had this year’s Survivor in the bag. He played a heckuva game. The story of Erik’s removal from the game for medical reasons was underplayed (apparently he had a major infection in his leg that went untreated for a while). The final tribal was pretty brutal, but I got a kick out of Sherri telling Erik to go sit down, that she didn’t need his vote and she didn’t want his advice. Poor guy, he did as he was told after sputtering a little. Brenda’s confrontation with Dawn was ugly. I could see where she was coming from, but still. I was surprised, though, that Cochran got every vote. Is it true that he wasn’t voted for once otherwise during the entire season?
Apparently Brandon Hantz was banned from the reunion show. There’s speculation that the non-jury players weren’t seated on the stage to disguise this fact. I usually wish that the reunion show was twice as long because it can be fun, but they sure wasted a lot of time with non-team-members this season. Boston Rob, I could see, because of Philip, but the un-PC guy from the first season was pointless, and the little girl didn’t add a lot to the show, either.
A surprising and satisfying end to the season of Castle last night. The scene on the swings was well done. It’s an important setting in their relationship. There was a nice bit of misdirection in having Castle shake his head before he spoke, which seemed to indicate something bad coming. As much as I like the rest of the cast, it might be interesting to relocate the story to DC, for a while at least. Not sure they’d be able to justify having Castle involved with federal cases the same way, but he could be Beckett’s sounding board.
So, we finally got to see Ted’s future wife on How I Met Your Mother. Interesting. Now I suspect they’ll dispense with her altogether for half of the final season.
For a while, I thought that Don was trying to push his latest fling back to her husband after hearing their fight, but apparently not. The tug of war between him and Ted (round 1 with the scotch goes to Don, round 2 in the airplane goes to Ted) should prove interesting. I loved the scene where Roger got to fire Burt Peterson. Again. The game of musical chairs in the board room, too, with Pete taking umbrage at not having a chair but Ted being only too happy to give up his seat to one of the women and perching at the back of the room.
Caught up on the two most recent episodes of Doctor Who this weekend. “The Crimson Horror” was not bad, especially with Diana Rigg in the cast. It might have been nice to see her character rehabilitated rather than killed, though. Strax never fails to make me giggle, and the guy who kept fainting was a good sight gag. I wonder what the record is for the length of time before the Doctor shows up in an episode. I thought this was going to have something to do with Frankenstein’s monster from the way he was lurching around once discovered. Was the episode sponsored by Tom-Tom? If not, that was a random bit of anachrony. There were parts of “Nightmare in Silver” that I liked a fair amount. The cybermen turning into “fast zombies” was one. No more lurching about. I guessed the secret of the little guy early on. I liked the exasperated attitude of the teenagers. Even space is bo-ring after a while. The transition between the two episodes, where Clara’s two charges are invited aboard, was missing, though, so that was abrupt and strange. Apparently a fair amount was cut from Gaiman’s script and maybe even from what was shot, so there were some disjointed moments and transitions. I didn’t hate it as much as some people, but it wasn’t as manic and brilliant as the previous Gaiman story.
Originally published at Bev Vincent. You can comment here or there.
|Monday, May 6th, 2013|
My wife and I can do the work of ten men, apparently. She asked for a quote for a spring yard cleanup from a local lawn service and was quoted nearly $2000. The guy wanted to send five men for two full days. We decided to do it ourselves and accomplished it in four hours. That’s one person-day compared to ten. Of course, every muscle in my body is aching today, but it was worth it!
I’m going to be a special guest at the Dollar Baby Film Festival that is part of Comicpalooza on May 25 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. About 20 of these short films will be screened, many of which I’ve never seen. We can’t screen Gotham Cafe any more because the rights to some of the music have lapsed, but I’ll be on a panel and otherwise kicking around the convention. I’ve never been to a Comicpalooza before, nor to any other “palooza” that comes to mind. In fact, I’ve never been in the George R. Brown Convention Center before, so it will be a weekend of firsts. I’m hoping that I’ll get to meet some of the big name guests attending, including Bernie Wrightson, Patrick Stewart and a bunch of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine cast. I didn’t know that Peter Davison, the fifth Doctor, was supposed to be there, so I can’t be disappointed that he had to cancel, but since he’s my favorite Doctor and the one I wrote about in Doctor Who: Destination Prague, I do regret the missed opportunity. Ooh, look—the guy who played the albino in Banshee is going to be there, too!
I would have been at least mildly miffed if I’d been one of the Amazing Race contestants who was led to believe they’d be getting a photo taken with Obama, to go through all that subterfuge with the faux Secret Service agents, only to be led to a photomat and be edited into a picture. The Republican contestant was relieved, however. It was a good race, but I think the hockey brothers blew the others out of the water at the end. It’s always hard to judge, but it was twilight at least by the time the third team showed up at the mat. The team that came in second shouldn’t feel bad. They won a few legs and go home with brand new cars to boot.
Originally published at Bev Vincent. You can comment here or there.
|Friday, May 3rd, 2013|
|A bunch of psychopaths helping each other out
The promised chill in the air arrived yesterday afternoon. It made it up to the mid-sixties this afternoon, but it's back down to the forties tonight. The Houston Chronicle has a sidebar title that says, "Just seems wrong: It's warmer in Toronto than Houston." We have an outdoor workday planned for tomorrow, so I don't mind at all that the day is going to start off cool. Should keep the mosquitoes subdued, too.
I've finally gotten around to fulfilling my self-made promise to start working on a novel again. I have one complete chapter from a couple of years ago that I workshopped with a group of fellow writers at a session in San Antonio that generated positive feedback and lots of notes, but I haven't looked at it since. However, I haven't stopped thinking about it, either, and recently took a research trip to the setting and recorded an hour of video for reference.
I've decided to use Scrivener this time out, and after reviewing the tutorials I'm quite excited about the prospect. Scrivener allows you to write in scenes that you can manipulate like index cards, which is cool. However, it also allows you to attach all of your research into a single workspace instead of in random printouts or documents. I can link in my video, for example, and pull it up without leaving the program. If I find websites that have research info, I can just pop the URL into the research folder and there it persists. You can build out character profiles and notes and attach photographs of inspirations from the web or elsewhere. They don't have to be orderly cards, either. You can create one of those haphazard corkboards that you often see on conspiracy shows where pictures and notes overlap. Simply importing the existing chapter this morning and assembling the workspace has me feeling very enthusiastic about getting down to work again.
I don't think I've seen anyone as bemused to be evicted on Survivor
in a long time as Andrea was this week. She was blindsided, but she took it well. Seeing as how she was trying to orchestrate her own blindside, it seemed particularly fitting. The only truly strategic player left in the game is Cochrane, but he's got a big target on his forehead. If he makes it to the end, he wins. If he doesn't, though, it becomes anyone's game and it means that the final two or three is going to be made up of people whose strategy was mostly to not have a strategy, and it seems odd that that will be rewarded. Erik has been playing well, but he doesn't have a plan. Brenda is the only one of the remaining group other than Cochrane who I've actually heard discussing strategy, but even her not so much. Unless Eddie can start winning some immunity challenges, he's doomed, too, I think.
I thought they were going to cast F. Murray Abraham as Moriarty on Elementary
but he turned out to be merely another minion. I almost skipped the show based on the teaser trailers but I'm really enjoying it. I'm also thinking about checking out a new show starting in a few weeks called Motive
. It's a Canadian show that uses a similar format to Columbo. It stars Kristin Lehman from The Killing
and Lauren Holly from NCIS
is fascinating, too. They've made some interesting casting choices: Laurence Fishburn as Crawford, for example. They turned Freddy Lounds into Freddie, a woman. Raul Esparza, the district attorney from Law & Order: SVU
, is the smarmy and smug Dr. Chilton. This week, we got a look at the cell that Hannibal will ultimately occupy—the current resident is a delightful Eddie Izzard—and met a proto-Clarice played by Anna Chlumsky who was just a tad too smart for her own good. The show certainly doesn't flinch when it comes to the violence, and I'm starting to enjoy Dr. Lecter's little dinners, where he feeds the catch of the week to the protagonists. Gina Torres had an impressive episode or two, too, helping to ground the show in human interest.
|Wednesday, May 1st, 2013|
|Dead or home by morning
David Squyres from Talk Stephen King posted a very nice and very thorough review
of The Dark Tower Companion
. My favorite line says, "Bev Vincent is able to speak with authority on the subject without talking down to the readers. In fact, he is so fluent in Mid-World, one gets the feeling he has gone through a doorway and visited. Really, you have the sense that he’s been there."
I wrote a review of Tom Piccirilli's forthcoming The Last Whisper in the Dark
, which is a follow-up to The Last Kind Words
. Noir as the night is long.
I thought it was hilarious that Carlton Cuse live-tweeted the most recent episode of Bates Motel
from his mother's place. Brilliant.
I'm not sure I agree with the decision to reschedule TV shows because they feature content that resonates with current events. They did it with Haven
shortly after a school shooting, and then again with Hannibal
after the Boston bombings. For one thing, I don't think easily traumatized people will be watching Hannibal
. I appreciate that they want to be sensitive, but it seems excessive. Yes, there was a bomb on Castle
, but it didn't go off. In case anyone thought it might, they reversed the order of two episodes, so we saw the one after the bomb episode last week and there was Beckett, intact. As standing-on-a-bomb episodes go, this was a decent one. It was a clip show, which isn't my favorite thing in the world, but it had a sense of humor, so that helped. Plus a bomb.
They certainly didn't waste any time resolving the car wreck cliffhanger on NCIS
. None whatsoever. There's still a chance, though, that Ziva might not survive the incident professionally. Will they turn that into another cliffhanger? Two more episodes and we'll know. There's also a reasonable possibility that Bodnar wasn't responsible for killing her father and Vance's wife.
I finally found time to watch the final two episodes of Banshee
, a new series on Cinemax. The series is absolutely ludicrous in concept, and way over the top in content, but it's fun. A guy who was in prison for many years for stealing a bunch of diamonds from a very bad man is finally released and instantly 1) has stand-up sex with a bartender in a pub's stockroom and 2) becomes a target of the aforementioned bad guy. He reconnects with his computer hacker friend, a transvestite with a black belt and a bitchy attitude. He figures out where his former lover/crime partner is living and goes to Banshee, Pennsylvania. Through a very odd, incredible and amazing set of circumstances, he ends up becoming the sheriff of Banshee after the new guy in town is killed in a bar-room shootout. In the first of many memorable scenes of over-the-top violence, the guy is shot through the palm of his hand by a large caliber bullet.
The big man around town is an exiled Amish businessman. He's violent and ruthless and has a fetish for women dressed in Amish garb. Of course he and the new sheriff lock horns and of course they have to work together at times. The Amish angle is interesting, though.
The fight scenes are pulpy and over the top. Hood (the name assumed by the unnamed protagonist) or someone else is beaten to a pulp at least once each episode, but the injuries never slow anyone down. A number of people suffer what seem to lethal stab and puncture wounds, but ditto. The fights are highly dramatized and choreographed and go on for several long minutes. Fingers are chopped off. A leg is blown off by a shotgun. A rocket-launcher gets misdirected and takes out two guys at close proximity. It's like a live-action comic book. The sex is explicit and frequent.
There are only 10 episodes in the first season, but it has a coherent (if highly improbable) story arc and just enough loose ends to lead into a second season, which started filming recently. If you do check it out (and it is
fun), stay through the credits. There's a short snippet at the end of each episode.
|Monday, April 29th, 2013|
|Rainy days and hackers
I finished revising my latest short story and turned it in to the prospective market. I have a book review to finish and another short story to contemplate. Then it's on to the novel.
We had some rain on Saturday. It started in the mid-afternoon and went well into the evening. I'm not sure of our total accumulation around here, but I'm guessing somewhere on the order of ¾" to an inch. Nowhere near as much as they received in downtown Houston, a mere 30 miles away, where parts of town got 6-10" in as many hours. There were pictures of main highways through the city that looked like bayous, with cars buried in water up to the windshield wipers. People always think they can make it through deep water and learn to their consternation that they can't. Over 150 people had to be rescued from high water. At least one acquaintance posted that he had to spend the night in a hotel because he couldn't get home from work. There was also enough hail in some places around the Med Center to make it look like a significant snowfall accumulation. We're expecting another cold front at the end of the week that could set record lows in the lower 40s. It's supposed to be something like 80° today. It's been a wacky spring.
My website was disabled for a while this morning because hackers were trying to break in. They've been attempting to do so on a regular basis, but there was a concerted effort overnight. I awoke to over 200 alert messages from the Guardian that protects my message board. Unfortunately, that made my hosting service think I was sending out spam, so they turned me off until I was able to explain the situation to them. There are also attempts made on WordPress, which hosts this blog, but I have that locked down fairly well, too. I wish I knew what they hope to accomplish. Most of the offending traffic comes from China, it appears.
Down to the final four on The Amazing Race
. The scenes in the haggis shop were amusing. I liked the way the country singers flirted with "Robbie Burns," who did his best to stay in character when he wasn't reciting his tribute to the nasty stuff. I've never sampled the "delicacy" myself, but I think my parents did back in the day. I was surprised that the leading teams chose to U-turn the fourth and fifth place contestants instead of the team that was in third, who are serious contenders.
Sorry to see Malcolm go from Survivor
. I wonder if he got bogged down by thinking that the clue to the hidden immunity idol referred to the well. "Near the water" to me would imply somewhere on the beach rather than the well. Maybe someone else will scare one up this week, when there are two tribals. Cochrane is really stepping up his game this time around. I wouldn't be surprised to see him make it to the end. Winning an eating contest is one thing, but to win an endurance test is another. Of course, he had the advantage he won at the auction and he used it perfectly. Don't tire yourself out needlessly. Use it at the first moment that you can and save the energy drain.
I like the JJ Laroche character on The Mentalist
. I still wonder whether it would have been better to leave the tupperware container's contents a complete mystery. In the end, they didn't exactly resolve the matter, but they let us think we know what's in it anyway.
I'm not a huge fan of "let's reset the timeline" solutions to time travel stories. Seems to me like a "hail mary" solution once you've written yourself into a corner. That's what happened on Doctor Wh
o this week. The whole thing seemed a bit of a jumbled mess. One thing I find interesting is the way they record Clara's breathing. It's like one of her character traits—a lot of short breaths. They've done that from the very beginning and I'm not sure if it's supposed to mean something or not. You don't hear all the other characters breathing that way.
Curious to see what the resolution of the cliffhanger on NCIS
will be. I could see the car crash coming a mile away. There's something about the way they set up those scenes that projects it. Last season, there were several actors who hadn't renewed their contracts who were potential victims of a bomb blast. This season there's just one actor who's contract is up for renewal. I wonder if that's just a publicity stunt by the producers to heighten the suspense. I suppose it's possible they might allow a character to die. They've done it a few times in the past.
We watched a few more episodes of Inspector Lewis this weekend. We particularly enjoy the series because we've both spent time in Oxford, though the city has changed a lot in the 30 years since we were there.
|Monday, April 22nd, 2013|
This morning I wrote about 800 words on a work in progress. I hope to finish the first draft of this story tomorrow morning and then revise it for the rest of the week. It's got to be less than 2500 words, so that shouldn't be too tough. Then I'll get it out the door.
Yesterday, I went on a submitting frenzy. I've been neglecting my short stories for most of the year and I have a few stories that have been out there for a long time without any response. Two of them I sent queries about. The others I consider to be tacitly rejected and added them to the list that needed new potential homes. I wiped off my dry erase board, which is where I visually keep track of current submissions (in addition to a database program called Sonar that keeps a full history of all submissions that prevents me from sending a story to the same market more than once) and started from scratch. By the end of the afternoon, I had twelve stories back in circulation.
One of them was a story that was accepted this time last year. However, I hadn't heard from the editor for a while and never received a contract. I looked around and found that it was being reported dead in various places so I pinged the editor and he responded, simply, "dead market." Would have been nice if he'd notified me at the time rather than leave the story tied up for months and months. Not that I would likely have had the time to do anything with it back then, but still.
We're watching the old Inspector Lewis
episodes, starting from season one. Lots of causal mentions of old Morse. Interesting, too, that the first three episodes all have very strong literary allusions. One of them had Hamlet
parallels and the most recent Julius Caesar
. Lewis is a great character, straight as an arrow. He has evolved from being the plodding sidekick sergeant into the plodding inspector whose tenacity and rectitude drives him to solve crimes.
This novel I'm reading, Naoko
by Keigo Higashino, is fascinating. He's handling what could have been an icky situation as gracefully as possible and exploring a really odd set of circumstances. At the same time, the main character is also poking around into the history of the bus driver responsible for the accident that put him in this unusual situation, certain that there's an untold story there. That's the real "mystery" part of this book. Whether or not it will prove to be speculative fiction in the end remains to be seen.
Haven't had a chance to see Doctor Who
yet, but I'm hearing that it was a good one. Some furor over the possibility that the last episode this season will reveal his real name. Names have power, and some of the better ones were hidden until near the end. Morse, for example, or MacGuyver. Maybe each incarnation of the Doctor has a different name?
I noticed the clue that the murder victim had been shot in the foot on The Mentalist
, but I didn't make all the right connections to figure out whodunit. In fact, even Patrick got this one wrong, though he was in the right ballpark. I thought the stuff between Van Pelt and Rigsby would be lame and awkward (the scene during the stakeout started off that way) but once they got on the radio call-in show, they got it all out there. Good for them.The Amazing Race
was in familiar territory again this week. I was in Dresden and Berlin in 1986, but they were somewhat different places back then. Dresden was deep in East Germany and the Berlin Wall was still in place. The day I went to Dresden, I was with a bunch of British scientists who mused that their fathers had flown over the city once, a little over forty years earlier. This was said in front of the ruins of a church that had been bombed during WWII. Berlin struck me as a very strange city, a bastion of the west completely surrounded by the repressive eastern bloc. It was like the people were partying in the face of apocalypse. I crossed through Checkpoint Charlie back then, an experience I won't ever get to repeat. I used Berlin as the setting for a recent story, so it was fun to see how it looks now as the racers went around it in circles trying to find their next location. The house of horrors was an interesting addition to their challenges. Trance music blaring.
|Friday, April 19th, 2013|
|Once upon a time
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was an anthology called The Appalachian Undead
that contained my story "Sitting Up With the Dead." For a variety of reasons
, that book was forced out of print by the publisher. Like any good dead thing, it has risen once more as Mountain Dead
. It contains most of the stories in the previous anthology, along with four new ones. The cover uses the same, fine illustration by Cortney Skinner, and once again you will find my story "Sitting Up With the Dead" within. According to Apex, it should be available in June.
I rarely put down a book without finishing it. However, I almost did that with The Casual Vacancy
by J.K. Rowling. I was almost halfway through it in December when I put it aside to read something that I needed to review. I didn't pick it back up. It sat on the coffee table, its bright yellow-trimmed red cover screaming at me. I finally decided it was time to tackle it again last week. At first I was afraid that I'd be lost and have to go back to the beginning, but that proved to not be the case. Finally finished it yesterday. Would I recommend it to anyone? Not likely. I haven't read any of the Harry Potter books, so I don't have anything to compare it against, but it's a dreadful novel. The characters are all reprehensible and many of them are stock images who are primarily defined by their most conspicuous flaws. The death of a town councilman is the story's motivator. Everyone else in town has an opinion about who should be his replacement and what should be the stands he takes on a couple of issues. Problem was, I didn't care who got elected. I could never figure out who I was supposed to be championing, and I couldn't see what the major crisis would be in the book's climax. Just didn't care. Didn't like any
of the characters. However, I finished it and can put it up on a shelf somewhere so I never have to have its loud cover chastising me again.
Books seldom take me by surprise as early on as did Naoko
by Keigo Higashino. I've read two of his recent crime novels and tracked down a copy of this earlier work. I didn't read the back cover copy. I assumed it would be a straight crime novel, especially since the cover says it won Japan's top mystery prize. A man learns that his wife and daughter were on a bus that plummeted into a ravine and they were grievously injured. He rushes to the hospital. His young daughter is in a coma and not expected to survive. His wife was badly injured. Her face is covered with bandages. Then she dies and is buried. Aha, I think. It's not really his wife. The guy is going to think his wife is dead but she really isn't. Mistaken identity or, perhaps, a deliberate act of subterfuge on her part. An opportunity to escape the marriage. After all, the book is named for her character. However, that's not what it's about at all, and the revelation just a chapter or so later took me very much by surprise. I'm curious to see how it will turn out.
So the master spy got burned on Survivor
this week. It's funny that Michael, the previous evictee, in his Ponderosa video, singled out Phillip as the one person he didn't want to see eliminated next because he didn't want to have to deal with him without someone else there as a buffer. That tribal council will go down in history as one of the most entertaining. I was glad to see that Eddie and Malcolm actually did get votes after Malcolm produced not one but two immunity idols and declared the three amigos safe and that they would be voting for Phillip. And thus began the scrambling. For a moment I thought Malcolm wasn't going to use his idol, which he might
have gotten away with, but he would have looked pretty silly if he'd been eliminated. Probst seemed to be enjoying himself, trying to keep up with all the mini-dramas going on at once, using his imaginary clicker to try to pause and capture what was happening. Question is, can the three amigos leverage this into a shift in the balance of power? Without Phillip around to tell people how to vote, they might be able to swing things their way. It won't take much.
|Wednesday, April 17th, 2013|
My April Storytellers Unplugged essay went live this morning: Saying No
. It's almost just for me, as a reminder of this "promise" I'm making to myself, so I can go back to it in future weeks and months and say: see, that's what you're supposed to be doing. We'll see how it works out.
I sent a copy of The Dark Tower Companion
to Ron Howard this morning and no, I didn't send it to Mayberry RFD. That would be silly, because Opie wasn't on that show, except for the first episode, I think. Deep down, I have a hope that the Dark Tower movie will move into production and he and Akiva Goldsman will think this is such a great book that they'll decide to use it as a reference for their work and they'll invite me out to meetings and I'll get to visit the set. Pipe dreams!
I liked the bigfoot episode of Castle
this week. Better than the bigfoot stuff, though, was the trap Castle set to catch whoever was stealing food from his fridge. Seeing Alexis turn into a Smurf and then storm out of the apartment was a great gag.
We watched the pilot episode of Inspector Lewis
last night. It dates back to 2005, which we were shocked to realize is almost 10 years ago now. The computer tech looked a little out of date, but at least they all had cell phones. A good twisty, turny mystery and a couple of nice nods to Morse, including a music scholarship set up in his (first) name. We've seen a few of the more recent episodes, but this is the first time we've dipped into the box set of early seasons I bought last fall.Dexter
is back at the end of June for its (unconfirmed) last season, and now we learn that Breaking Bad
will be back on August 11 for its final mini-season. But first: Survivor
, with the wildest tribal council ever, according to Cochran. That's saying something.
|Monday, April 15th, 2013|
|One for you, nineteen for me
I think it's safe to say that we are finally into spring. It's supposed to be almost 90° today and in the eighties most of the week. Oh, wait, what's that? Down into the forties again on Thursday and Friday evening? Hmmm. At least I was able to keep my office window open when I was working upstairs this weekend.
I posted my review of Walter Mosley's forthcoming Easy Rawlins novel, Little Green
, this weekend. I also wrote my Storytellers Unplugged essay for Wednesday and got a start on a review of Tom Piccirilli's forthcoming crime novel, The Last Whisper in the Dark
. Got back to work at a short story that I let dangle for a while. I hope to get that one finished by the end of the week. All these loose ends I'm trying to tidy up so I can focus on a novel for the rest of the year, as much as possible.
We watched Hyde Park on the Hudson
this weekend. The decision to cast Bill Murray as FDR was inspired, but I was a little let down by the film. I expected it to focus mainly on the visit by King George and Elizabeth (and a good chunk of the movie was taken up by that), but the events after they went back to England sort of soured things. The movie shouldn't be taken as a historical film. There is, apparently, scant evidence that FDR and Daisy had an intimate relationship, so all the stuff at the end is pure speculation. Murray is fine, and FDR's interactions with the young, stammering King were the best part. At times it seemed like an American version of Downton Abbey
, with the servants and staff playing the fool.
I wasn't unhappy to see last night's losing team get ousted on The Amazing Race
. As much as I dislike the YouTube team in general, when they thought they were about to be eliminated they were mutually supportive, whereas the husband in the eliminated team was mean throughout the episode. In the exit interview he said that the race didn't ruin their marriage, but the wife was conspicuously silent and blank-faced. It was good to see Switzerland again, though their time in Zurich was all too brief. I lived over there in the late 80s and took a trip to Grindwald and the Jungfrau one weekend, though we never got as high up as the teams did. Never got to carry cheese down the side of a mountain, either.
So, do we think Kirkland of Homeland Security on The Mentalist
is Red John, a minion of Red John, or someone as obsessed with Red John as Patrick is? All three seem possible at this point. And Grace's new boyfriend: another Red John minion? Surely not. It was fun seeing Patrick play the magician again, especially messing with the guy whose talents as a magician "sucked eggs." The old your-girlfriend-is-really-your-sister gag has been done before, but it worked okay here, I think.
This week's Doctor Who
was a mixed bag. It felt like a mash-up of The Hunt for Red October
and any number of horror films, most notably Alien
. The first five minutes or so were loud but muffled, almost incomprehensible. There's no denying that the episode was suspenseful—my wife kept at me to fast forward through the commercials, even the Doctor Who Insider
segments. The revelation of the true nature of the Ice Warrior reminded me a little too much of a Dalek. It was also terribly convenient for the TARDIS to take a powder at that particular moment. The Ultravox and Duran Duran references were funny. What exactly did the Doctor do? Besides losing his screwdriver, he made an impassioned plea for reason. That was pretty much it.
|Wednesday, April 10th, 2013|
Just because it's spring doesn't mean winter is over yet. Today the temperature has dropped over 25° from what it was this morning as a cold front sweeps through. We might also get ½" of rain or more in the process. By tomorrow morning it's supposed to be in the mid-forties. Imagine that. I might have to turn the heat back on.
I got a very cool acceptance letter this morning, but I can't talk about it for another couple of months. That sorta sucks, but I'm really excited about this one. I haven't had a story acceptance for a while, mostly because I don't have many stories out there at the moment. I've been busy doing other stuff and I've let my submissions slide. I'll rectify that this month, I hope.
I started reviewing the page proofs for another project that I can't talk about yet. Should get that done tomorrow. I keep promising myself I'm going to get back to that novel any day now, but something else always seems to come up. I have, in fact, turned down at least one request to do something lately, so maybe there's a chance.
I did get back to The Casual Vacancy
again, finally. I started it last year and put it aside and other books kept coming along and insisting that they be read first. Seriously. That happens. I'm about halfway through and I was able to pick up and go on without feeling lost, so that's a good thing. I'm trying to figure out what the book reminds me of. It's not The Stepford Wives
or Peyton Place
, and not Our Town
, but something in that neighborhood.
I was able to watch a few TV shows from the DVR on my iPad while I was in Tokyo through the magic of modern technology. I saw The Amazing Race
. The rest had to wait until my return. Survivor
was a real surprise. I think Cochrane's got it going on this season. The way he handled that food challenge was astonishing. Given that I was slightly outside my comfort zone with respect to food at the time, I sympathized a bit. Too bad the episode was titled "Blindside," as that gave away some of the surprise, but it was still fun to see Corrine get taken out that way.
The first thing I watched after I got back was the Justified
finale, which was just fine and dandy. I was surprised by how quickly they resolved the Winona-in-jeopardy situation, but it was a rockin' scene with Winona getting in a good shot in the process. Both Raylan and Winona had the chance to reiterate their love for each other, though in neither case did the circumstances allow them to explore that. Raylan's not exactly sure what to make of Boyd's love for Ava, either, but Boyd gets a few good shots in at Raylan, too. Except for his one scene with Ava, I liked Nicky Augustine, but I guess he had to go, and he was eliminated in a way that kept Raylan from raising Art's hackles and without him breaking any laws, technically. He was suspended, after all. The body swap was an idea destined to go bad from the git go. Bringing it back to the bar was the first bad decision, but Ava flitting off to dispose of it herself? What a mess. Hard to figure how Boyd's going to keep his promise to her. He's a sad man right now. Sure, he's got Wynn Duffy offering him the moon and the stars, but the dream house is going to be empty for quite some time. I figure the Clover Hill gang is going to feel some of Boyd's rage, along with the new candidate for sheriff. Seeing Arlo's grave at the end was a nice touch.
I can't say I was as happy with the season finale of The Walking Dead
. There was all this build-up for a big confrontation between the governor's group and the prison folks, and it hardly happened at all. At first I thought Rick and crew had lit out for the territories before the bad guys got there, but, no, it was all an ambush that did very little, in the final analysis. The governor is apparently bulletproof—shots never even get close to him. His meltdown felt wrong, unmotivated. I was hoping that one of his surviving men would frag him, to be honest. Carl's sociopathic tendencies are showing. I regret the loss of Winston, who was one of the most interesting characters on the show, and I'll miss Audrey. I had a soft spot for her because I got to eat lunch next to Laurie Holden in the commissary on the set of The Mist
a few years back. It's hard to imagine how dynamic next season is going to be with all those new people in the prison, mostly young and elderly. Saddling them with a baby was bad enough.
In the world of creepy kids, the one on Law & Order: SVU
last week is near the top of the list. He was chilling. Dead eyes. Yeeesh.
I'm not a big fan of the Doctor's long-winded tirades on Doctor Who
. Mostly I find them tedious and overblown, especially when they're delivered toward a creature who probably can't even hear them. And shame on him for making Clara give up her ring rather than his sonic screwdriver. I loved the little girl who played the Queen of Years—she was great. I'm also liking Clara a lot as a companion. The 21st century episodes have been less about the Doctor (except when he's alone) than about the companions' reactions to being with him. The older series didn't have that sense of wonder and delight in the companions. After all, they're being offered these wonderful adventures. It's been that way since Rose forward, and I like it. It's only by sharing in that delight that the Doctor himself gets to live.Mad Men
is back, jumping ahead several months to the end of 1967, although it feels like it's later. The two hour launch was existential as Don contemplated his lot in life, as per usual. Watching his doorman die right in front of him (even though he was subsequently resuscitated) knocked him off axis. Though the other people in his ad agency claimed that they didn't see the suicide interpretation in the ad he came up with after his trip to Hawaii, it seemed pretty plain to me. I liked the notion that he accidentally swapped lighters with the Army guy who asked him to give away his fiance. That's not the first time Don's done a swap with someone in the military. I have a sinking suspicion he's going to be told that the guy didn't make it back from Vietnam.
I have no idea what to make of the Betty story as she slummed around in a flophouse trying to find a 15-year-old runaway. Things are looking up for Peggy, though I wonder when she and Don will cross paths again and under what circumstances. Tell you what, though. They could have an extra 15-30 seconds each week by giving up the "next week on Mad Men
" segment because they're nothing more than a string of out-of-context lines chosen to deliberately reveal nothing whatsoever. Also, you'd think that the companies advertising during Mad Men
would feel pressured to bring their A game to the spots they run, but apparently not. Some of them are wretched.
|Tuesday, April 9th, 2013|
|Cherry blossom special
I thought I had beaten the jet lag. I got back from Tokyo on Friday afternoon, went to bed at the usual time that night and slept soundly. Saturday night was fine, too. But the last two nights I've awakened at about 1 a.m. and had a hard time getting back to sleep. Yesterday morning I slept in later. Today I didn't, hoping I'll be sufficiently tired to sleep through the night tonight.
It's a funny thing, shifting time zones. When I got into Tokyo on Monday afternoon (having left Houston on Sunday morning), I was sleepy. I kept nodding off during the 2-hour bus ride to Akishima. But I wasn't tired later that night and all four nights I was there I woke up at about 3 a.m. for an hour.
Tuesday and Wednesday were rainy. Bicycle riders carried umbrellas like lances, making traveling down some of the narrow streets challenging. Thursday it was nice, and I had the afternoon off so I went to nearby Showa Kinen park. The cherry trees were in blossom. The park also has a Japanese garden that features a bunch of bonsai trees like the one pictured here. They look like full-sized trees, just miniaturized. Some of them were 80 years old and others might have been 150. Their trunks are thick and gnarled. If you're on Facebook and want to see a few more pictures, go here
To ward off hay fever, a lot of Japanese were medical face masks. I'd say that at least 30% of the people on any given train were wearing one. Made me think of writing a caper story where the culprits get away by wearing face masks and blending in with the crowd. I had some good meals (curry, sashimi, yakitori, things I didn't recognize, things that had eyes
). French pastries for breakfast, except one day when I had a bacon and egg breakfast sandwich that had lettuce on it. That seemed odd, but it worked. I also had one smelt as an appetizer one night. We used to eat those by the plate when I was younger.
The Dark Tower Companion was published last Tuesday. So far the reviews have been really good. You can read them here
. I was also featured in an interview in The Big Thrill
, the monthly newsletter of the ITW.
Since I've been back, I've been mostly busy catching up, both at home and at work. I wrote an essay for an Italian publication this weekend. For the next couple of days I have to review page proofs for another project that hasn't been announced yet. I have one more essay to write, a Storytellers Unplugged blog entry for next week, and three book reviews to do. Then I should be clear to tackle that novel. I hope.
I thought I'd have a lot of time to read while traveling, but I didn't. The book I was reading when I left (Save Yourself
by Kelly Braffet) I only finished this morning. I did see a lot of movies and TV shows. I didn't watch any Japanese TV because I didn't have a clue what any of it was about. I did see about 10 minutes of an episode of Bewitched
the morning I left. The dubbing was really well done. I could almost convince myself that Samantha and Darrin were speaking Japanese.
On the trip back I watched the first five episodes of the second season of a show called Episodes
, which stars Matt LeBlanc (Joey from Friends
) as himself. I didn't see the first season, so it took a bit of catching up, but the gist is that these two TV producers from the UK have come over to the US to create some shows, one of which stars LeBlanc. It's set in LA but filmed in England. It has its moments. I'm curious to see how the season wraps up, anyway. I also saw one episode of Louis CK's show, which has been recommended to me, but it was only okay.
I watched two movies going over and two more coming back.
- Cloud Atlas. This one was intriguing. Six vignettes intercut, set over a huge time span, from the mid-nineteenth century to a couple of hundred years in the future. Many of the same actors (including Tom Hanks and Halle Berry) appear in each segment. The implication is supposed to be that we have future lives that give us a chance to vindicate our past actions. I almost understand it—almost. But it's a fascinating movie. I really liked the 1973 story, which felt like a TV crime show from that era.
- Silver Linings Playbook. If Jennifer Lawrence can remain grounded, she has a great future in front of her. She's such a natural actress. Bradley Cooper is intense as the untreated bipolar who goes on these long-winded rants. When he and Chris Tucker go off on each other in the car at the beginning, I found myself thinking, "This is exactly what the internet is like. Everyone talking on top of everyone else and nobody listening." Robert DeNiro is Cooper's OCD father. A nice film.
- Jack Reacher. I've never read the Lee Child books, so I can't judge this as an adaptation, but it's a serviceable thriller. I was a little disappointed by Rosamund Pike, who has been very good in other films. In this one, I found her far less than credible much of the time. At least they resisted the temptation to turn her into an action hero or a love interest. Robert Duvall is great, as always. There are some moments at the end that I didn't care for—Reacher doing something patently stupid purely for the sake of creating drama.
- The Girl. This is the flip-side of Hitch, the story of Tippy Hedren and The Birds (and, later, Marnie). Toby Jones, who I met on the set of The Mist, plays Hitch as a much darker, more twisted and manipulative Hitchcock. Based on other things I've read, this seems like the truer representation of the man than Anthony Hopkins' rendition.
|Wednesday, March 27th, 2013|
|The triumph of principles
Next Tuesday is launch day for The Dark Tower Companion
(although you can preorder it in trade paperback, Kindle and Nook formats now, not to mention the Cemetery Dance limited edition). Last weekend I was interviewed by Blu Gilliand for October Country
and that piece appeared today. He also reviewed that book—that will run tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I'm getting ready for a business trip to Tokyo that has me leaving on Easter Sunday morning. The flight is nonstop, but I don't arrive until Monday afternoon, thanks to the time shift. I come back on Friday, leaving Tokyo at 4 p.m. and arriving home at 2 p.m. on the same day. Weird stuff. I'm trying to get a couple of things finished up before I leave. I started a book review for CD this morning and should have it done by Friday. I have two other essays that I need to write, but I might leave those for the flights, as I'll have plenty of time to kill. Unless I spend the whole time watching in-flight movies.
I'm sure the introduction of Norman's half brother provides any number of opportunities for the writers on Bates Motel
, but by the end of the episode I was hoping Norman had managed to make that hammer connect. He upsets the status quo for the Bates family, but also for the viewer, I think. I'm sticking with the show for now—it has its moments—but I'm less sold on it than I was after the first episode. I already dropped Red Widow
from my DVR. I just didn't care.
Does everyone on NCIS
have father issues? I noted that fact the other night when I saw the rerun episode starring Lily Tomlin as McGee's grandmother. It was revealed that McGee hadn't spoken to his father in seven years. Last night's episode brought them face to face and it was ugly and uncomfortable for a while. Gibbs has managed to mend fences with his father, but they had a long hiatus. Tony's father is a grifter and a con and a mooch. Ziva's father was angry with her for leaving Israel to work with the Americans, and now he's dead. All we know about Abby's father is that he's dead. Has Ducky ever talked about his father?
I'm not sure there's ever been a more sympathetic hang-dog character than Ellen May on Justified
. She's such a sad sack. Her scene in the motel room with Limehouse showed just how much she has given up her fate to others. No wonder she is so fond of Shelby—he came back for her and did her a kindness. In this penultimate episode of the season, Theo's crew is still trying to find a way to leverage Shelby out of testifying against him, but their options are getting limited. However, he has ears everywhere, including presumably inside law enforcement because he already knows that Shelby wants to make sure Ellen May is safe before talking.
Boyd has a whole list of problems: Theo Tonin, Ellen May and Johnny are at the top (or, as Art described the reasons why Raylan was suspended, the good stuff he underlined). Boyd, being a gentleman, puts Ellen May at the top of the list because it affects Ava and if she's not happy, he's not happy. He hooks back up with Nicky Augustine, who needs some inside help because Johnny can't get through to Limehouse. Other than his bad moment in the bar last week with Ava, he's a pretty cool guy. The only one who didn't think he needed a gun when the two gangs met up. Sarcastic and cold, offering up Johnny with him standing right there in front of him. "It's 'everybody wins' day here at Johnny's bar—everybody except Johnny." When Boyd went at him with his $64 vocabulary he says, "I'm going to need Google Translate on my phone if I'm going to keep talking to you."
Limehouse is a character, too. He tries to get Rachel all riled up but he hears Ellen May and takes her situation to heart. At first I thought he was lying that he'd let her go, but no, he did. And then he got in Ava's face, digging at her conscience. So long as he's minded his own business in the holler, everything has been happy for the people of Noble's. Once he got involved in everyone else's messes, things have gone sour for him. "Are you going to have peace of mind when this is all over?" Fortunately Ava took that message to heart, too, when she finally caught up with Ellen May. Even after hearing her disclose some of the information about the guy Ava shot to Cassie, Ava couldn't pull the trigger. "I understand," Boyd says and without a blink calls up Colt, who's standing right there.
We always knew there'd be a showdown between Colt and Tim, and that it would end the way it did. Colt decided to quit smoking today and he tried his shot and failed. Interesting that Tim took a souvenir. The scene with Kush was funny, too. Boyd warned Augustine that he was "touched." Augustine asks if he should be scared. "Not if you're secure in your political views," Boyd says. Augustine quickly sizes up the situation, but Kush gets the drop on them until Boyd shoots him in the foot.
So, Winona shows back up again in time to...what? What exactly did Picker do beyond assembling a chair? Is the chair a threat or is it just the fact that Augustine is targeting Raylan's wife? Only one episode to go, but I won't get to see it until the weekend after I get back from Japan.
|Monday, March 25th, 2013|
|Zero Dark Olympus
The weather is whacked. On Saturday afternoon I went for a post-prandial stroll along the artificial riverwalk with my daughter. Yesterday afternoon I was out mowing the lawn. By last night it was down near freezing again. Whacked, I say.
I got a lot of work done this weekend. Satisfying work. Things crossed off the master to-do list. On Saturday, I concentrated on responding to interview questions for something that will be published this week in conjunction with another review of The Dark Tower Companion
, which comes out a week from tomorrow. Through a strange piece of unfortunate timing, I'll be in Tokyo on publication day.
Yesterday I wrote and revised (and revised, and revised) a 2500-word afterword. That's the first one of those I've ever done. My contribution to the work in question hasn't been announced yet, so I can't reveal more details until the editor does. He read the essay this morning and deemed it "absolutely superb," so I guess I found the right note for the piece.
I watched Zero Dark Thirty
on Friday night. I had a rough idea of what it was going to be about, and of course everyone knows how it turns out, but it's a film worth seeing anyway. The first 30 minutes are terribly grim. Pretty much wall-to-wall torture. You can see how people end up saying absolutely anything to make it stop. They aren't necessarily lying, especially when they don't know the answer to the question. In those circumstances, they almost have to lie because no one believes they don't know anything. The final 30-45 minutes are the raid on the compound in Pakistan. I have no idea how true to life the staging was, but in my mind it was a fairly straight forward operation and this shows how complicated it was for the men on the ground. How many doors they had to breech and the general chaos and uncertainty involved. The middle section is mostly Jessica Chastain's character trying to get people to listen to her theory (every day she'd rub out a number on a glass wall and replace it with a new one: the number of days since she developed what she believes is solid intelligence about bin Laden's location) and the way her team amasses enough credible evidence to convince others. She's a powerful actress. When her character stands up to her superiors, you expect them to run off and hide in a corner.
On Saturday, my daughter and I saw Olympus Has Fallen
. I think I saw a trailer for it a few months back, but I couldn't have told you much about it beforehand, other than that I was fairly sure it had Morgan Freeman in it. I'd skimmed Ebert's review to see if he liked it or not, without reading any of the details. So it was a blank slate experience. Think of Independence Day
without aliens crossed with Die Hard
(with Gerard Butler in the place of Bruce Willis) and you'll have a good idea of what it's like. It's an intense action film. My daughter (who's 26) watched a lot of it through her fingers. The ammunition budget must have been nuts. Thousands and thousands of rounds. And the ground battles are brutal. There are more shots to the head (and knives to the brain) than in many zombie films. The movie was a good bookend to Zero Dark Thirty
as it showed a less-than-successful incursion by helicopter forces. There aren't many opportunities to take a breather until it's all over. If you were disappointed with the latest Die Hard
, check this one out.
I was interested to see Botswana on last night's Amazing Race
. We've read all the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels, which are set there, and have even "been" to Maun in a couple of them. I dream some day of going on a safari, and Botswana looks like a good destination. The tribesmen were so funny. I wonder how serious they were about being afraid of that lion. They made for the top of the tree in a hurry without seeming to care what happened to the contestants (or the camera operators). Reading the translations of their conversations in the back of the SUVs was entertaining, too.
I wonder what the tribal shakeup will do for the Fans vs. Favorites version of Survivor
. It looks like the Favorites have an opportunity to pick off the Fans one by one, regardless of which tribe wins immunity on any given day, since they have the majority numbers in both. Is that something they'd want to do? Does it make sense to end up at the merge having to compete against mostly somewhat experienced players? It'll be interesting to see how that develops.
Constable Bob was the hero of last week's Justified
. Not only did he take a major pummeling and kept his mouth shut (well, not exactly shut, but he kept his secrets), he came up with the perfect way to get Drew (aka Drewbacca) out of Harlan. As Raylan said, people underestimate Bob at their peril. The episode was basically a Western (they're circling the wagons), and it was chock full of great little moments. Art frustrated that no one smokes ("this is Kentucky not Sausalito") and then the miscue over who would throw the Molotov cocktail. Shelby's story about meeting Arlo in Vietnam, high on LSD and trying to find the culprit in a Louis L'Amour novel. Colt's young Gerard Derpardieu line to Tim after Tim phoned him up during the standoff. I was liking Nicky Augustine until his verbal assault on Ava, but she got the upper hand with her brandy attack. Johnny's machinations have been exposed though, so that doesn't bode well for him. The showdown at the high school put Boyd and Raylan back into their alma mater ("a flawed redoubt"). I wonder if Boyd appreciates that Raylan saved his life again during the confrontation at the door to the principal's office. Who would have guessed that Art was a Guns N' Roses fan? Only two episodes to go.
|Friday, March 22nd, 2013|
|Rick and AJ
Nearly 10 years ago, I was invited to be a guest of honor at a mini-conference in Maine called Palavercon. I didn't have high hopes for the event, but I agreed to go. My first book was just out, so I thought I'd arrange a signing at a Portland bookstore since I was going to be in the area. I don't remember how I got the word out (this was pre-Twitter and pre-Facebook), but I must have let some people know about the event.
The "con" was pretty much a bust and the attendees were either too hung over or otherwise occupied, so none of them got their acts together in time to make the longer-than-expected commute into Portland from Neptune or Jupiter or Pluto or wherever we were staying. The bookstore people were kind and set me up with a podium and far too many chairs, but otherwise left me to my own devices. It looked like I was going to be talking to myself for the allocated hour. A couple who used to live near us in Texas showed up for a while, but they didn't stay long. And then in came Rick Hautala and Holly Newstein, along with Glenn and Sheila Chadbourne. They became my audience, and I couldn't have had a better one if the room had been full. We had a wonderful visit that afternoon.
That's the kind of guy Rick was. Friendly and supportive. I knew him primarily through Necon. Some of my favorite moments at the convention involved finding Rick sitting by himself in the quad or the courtyard, usually smoking a cigar, often with a beer at his side, invariably with a book in his hands. We'd sit and chat about everything under the sun, catching up with each other since our last chance to visit. He was outspoken and funny, a fine writer who had careers both under his own name and as A.J. Matthews. He played softball with us, and I had some great times playing minigolf with him and Holly. An even better time with him bowling a couple of years ago when it was too hot in Rhode Island for us pale writers to stand outside on a golf course for an hour or two. We had an absolute blast that morning. I treasure the memory.
I was devastated to hear the news yesterday that he had passed away from a heart attack. I had just returned from a business trip to Austin and that was the first thing that I saw when I went online. I'm pretty sure I swore out loud when I processed the information. It was quickly confirmed by multiple sources and I was struck by the outpouring of grief and appreciation. So many people considered him a friend, as do I. I can't imagine what his family is going through at the moment. It was so sudden.
Last year, the Horror Writers Association awarded Rick with its Lifetime Achievement Award and there can be no doubt that it was both deserved and timely.
|Tuesday, March 19th, 2013|
|Norman? Is that you?
Last week was Spring Break here. We spent the weekend at our favorite getaway, Surfside Beach on the gulf coast. It's a little under a hundred miles from us but a world away. We thought the beach might be busy, but it wasn't, and on Sunday it was nearly empty. We don't go to sit on the beach, because that leads to sunburns, but we enjoy leaving the balcony window open and listening to the surf crashing in, a constant sound that overwhelms just about everything. It's always relaxing. The weather was fine: sunny days and cool evenings. Can't beat that with a stick.
While we were away, my latest blog entry at Storytellers Unplugged went live. It's called The Strangest Time
, in which I talk about the weird period immediately before publication day. It gets weirder: Turns out I'm going to be in Tokyo on the day The Dark Tower Companion
is published (April 2). Not exactly the best planning in the world, but these things happen.
I received contributor copies of Dead Reckonings #12
yesterday. I have two pieces in this issue. The first is a dual review (Peter Straub, The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine
; Graham Joyce, Some Kind of Fairy Tale
) and the other is a dialog with Hank Wagner about two Bradbury novels, Dandelion Wine
and Something Wicked This Way Comes
. I've never done anything quite like that before, but it was fun. Hank and I go back a number of years and we see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, but we also had different perspectives on these two books.
Got caught up on a number of TV shows from over the weekend. The Walking Dead
was a wasted hour. Andrea decides to make her move but, by the end of the episode, she's worse off than when she started. Her strategy was somewhat questionable. Of course the Governor knew where she was going, so all he had to do was go in that general direction and find her. Her one good move was the trick with the door near the end, which could have paid off, and might have been even better if she'd at least tried to steal the Governor's truck. Rick, of course, thought he was seeing things again when Andrea showed up on the outskirts, only to be tackled at the eleventh hour. Kudos to Milton, though, for showing some guts. I presume he was the one who scorched the walkers, and I also presume the Governor knows. The sight of the burned walkers was one of the most graphic in the series, in my opinion. They take a licking and keep on ticking.The Amazing Race
wasn't exactly action-packed, either, starting with the father/son team's decision to drop out because of the father's injury. From that point on it was pretty much clockwork, though it was fun watching the country singers get stumped by the chess puzzle.
Last night's Castle
was a horror-fest, predicated around a couple of people who seemed to have been scared to death after watching a horrific DVD that predicted their deaths. Sound familiar? That wasn't the only horror movie trope thrown into the mix: they were all there, and duly noted by Castle, who was more than a little taken in by it all. Some good romantic moments between him and Beckett, and a cameo by Wes Craven who thought Castle was calling him in the middle of the night for advice because he'd been beaten at Texas Hold'em by Stephen King again.
I'd seen the promos for Bates Motel
at the theater a couple of times and was suitably impressed. The first episode was promising. It's beautifully shot and acted. The two leads are strong and there is the creepy undertone of the potential for a weird relationship between them. The body count was fairly low, but the suspense quotient was high, highlighted by a scene where the sheriff (Nestor Carbonell from Lost
) uses the toilet next to the corpse of the motel's former owner (played by the guy who was Dan Doherty on Deadwood
), who has been unceremoniously crammed in the shower stall (of course). The kids at Norman's school seem
cool and accepting of him so far, but is that all a facade? And then there's the strange book Norman found, which seems somehow connected to the unexpected and unexplained closing scene. I'll be back next week, for sure.
|Thursday, March 14th, 2013|
|In two years it will be 3.1415
Happy Pi(e) day. Two years from now we'll get 3/14/15 @ 9:26:53. I used to have the number memorized to about 15 places after the decimal point, but I've since allocated those memory cells to something else. Or to nothing at all.
Yesterday, Cemetery Dance announced that they will be doing the limited edition of The Dark Tower Companion
. Contractually, they can't release this until after the trade edition comes out on April 2, but it will probably be some time in the summer before they have it ready because they just got the files from my publisher to start production. The cover art is by a young man named Guillaume Pelletier
. He's from Quebec and has done quite a bit of commercial art locally, much of it in French. When CD asked me for suggestions for cover artists, I asked my daughter if he'd be interested in the gig. Why my daughter? Oh, it happens that they're dating. He came up with a handful of proposals and CD was pleased with the work, as was I. The cover is striking and quite different from the limited of The Road to the Dark Tower
We've never seen anything before like what happened on Survivor
last night. Of course, the previews had us prepared for a meltdown, but still. I think Probst was genuinely concerned that Brendan might go after Phillip. He pulled him off the mat and kept his hand on his shoulders the whole time. Apparently, he was also whispering into his mike to make sure security was on the alert and to have their psychologist standing by. Has there ever been a public polling like that before? Not that I can recall. Guy's got more issues than a magazine, as they used to say. Even if he had quit, as he threatened to do the night before, apparently he wouldn't have been sent home, which seemed to be what he wanted. At least it happened at a point when the favorites are well ahead. Of course, they may rejiggle the teams in the next week or two, which will shake things up. Reynold seems to be particularly charmed this season: his mad throwing skills were on display again last night (only Phillip's equally mad strength saved the day for the favorites), and he once again found an immunity idol without a clue. He's in a delicate position. People are going to want to keep him around for tribe strength, but as soon as there's a merge he's going to look like a huge threat to everyone.
|Wednesday, March 13th, 2013|
|The place where every fugitive wants to go
I posted my review of NOS4A2
by Joe Hill yesterday. I finished the book a couple of months ago but held off releasing my review until it was closer to publication day. Just one more review to polish off and I can cross that off my checklist.
It's spring break around here this week. Seems to be that way for TV, too, as a lot of shows are on hiatus. As Nathan Fillion tweeted recently when asked why there was no Castle
episode that week: it takes longer for us to make them than for you to watch them. Oh, well—at least there've been a couple of Angry Birds updates.
Tonight's episode of Survivor
promises to be exciting, what with Brendan going off the reservation and apparently an ad hoc Tribal Council called before? during? after? a challenge.
A boring, talky episode of The Walking Dead
this week. What did any of it accomplish? Andrea had a chance to make a break with the governor but passed it up. They showed the Governor's gun in the first act and it didn't go off in the third act. The seconds-in-command got to hang out and bond, at least. Maybe they'll all start to realize how nuts their leaders are and stage a couple of parallel coups.
So, Drew Thompson is finally in the custody of the U.S. Marshals, but there's still a challenge left for Raylan & Co. (Cue You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive
.) The episode had insufficient Raylan vs. Boyd for my liking. The show really sizzles when they're in the room together. They did have their moment, though, and Raylan got one over on Boyd when he told him he'd like to send him to visit Arlo—Boyd didn't find out what had happened to the elder Givens until nearly the end of the episode. I wonder if he thought back to that conversation.
game: take a drink every time someone says "asshole." Boyd's little speech about Raylan's path not taken would have been a two-fer. If Raylan had chosen the same path as Arlo he'd "still be able to shoot people and be an asshole. Your two favorite activities. Except you'd be a rich asshole."
Not that I recall Arlo ever being rich, and every time Boyd stacks away some cash someone relieves him of it. He thought he was making a good investment by paying $300K for Ellen May and Drew, only to turn around and sell Drew to the Detroit mob for $500K. That was before Limehouse decided to throw a spanner in the works. Leave it to Ellen May to have an idea that took her and Drew to a place that everyone knew she would use as a last resort. It was an interesting touch to have Drew see a stray dog on the side of the road, which reminded him of Ellen May, I guess.
It was an episode of strong speeches. First there was Art's in which he expressed appreciation for all that Drew Thompson accomplished over the years. "That's some bad ass shit," he said. Rachel got to poke some holes in Raylan's aloof veneer and Johnny got to lament to Raylan about his sorry lot in life vis-a-vis Boyd. He didn't get a lot of sympathy. "That the shit that happens when you choose to live the life of a small-time asshole." (Drink!) Finally, Limehouse related his dream of flying a jumbo jet filled with people from the "holler."
There were some unexpected developments. Force to choose between Ellen May and Drew, Boyd was in favor of the former because she posed a greater risk to Ava. (Awwww.) But then he turns around and gives Drew to Colt to deliver. I guess that makes sense, as it keeps Boyd at arm's length if things go south, but Colt's track record hasn't been all that great and if Ellen May could give him the slip, what about clever old Drew? Not that things would have turned out any differently if Boyd had taken him.
My favorite little moment was Rachel responding to Raylan's description of the women's underwear they found in Drew's house that gave him the clue that Ellen May was with him. They weren't a lady's panties, he said. They were a whore's panties. "By the way, I have that same pair of panties..." Is she still flirting with him? After all, she'd just told him that he was "easy on the eyes." And Raylan seemed to want her to start singing show tunes.
Another funny moment: Wynn Duffy and his friend react to the summons to Harlan. "Have you got a passport?" Wynn asks. "You need a passport to get into Harlan?" I also liked it when Boyd asked the conspiracy nut if he had another battery for his drill before blowing dust off the terminals.
Finally, it seems like Mexico is missing out on a prime ad campaign. They should be marketing to fugitives. It's the place to go when you're on the run from the law. If the U.S. Marshals went on a sweep up the coast, I'm sure they'd clear their "most wanted" list in no time.
|Monday, March 11th, 2013|
There's always one clock that you forget to reset. It's in an out-of-the-way location and it completely slips your mind. And yet, that's the one that you notice and believe the next day. The one that makes you wonder why on earth the morning is going by so slowly. Then you realize your mistake and you leap forward an hour once again.
I really did not want to get up at 5 a.m. today for my writing session, but I did anyway. I'm on a mission to clear off my desk. I have two more book reviews to write (one of them is all but finished), a short story to finish and a Storytellers Unplugged essay to write. Then I have to reread a novel and write something about it. Then I'm going to spend a day or two cleaning up my short story submissions. I have a bunch that have been out far too long. A couple of them have probably been rejected by default, but I want to check up on a couple of others and then get all the ones that are lying fallow out to new potential homes.
Once all that's done (before the end of the month), I'm going to start working on a novel again. I've been putting that off for far too long. It's time.
I posted my review of The Burn Palace
by Stephen Dobyns yesterday. It's a really cool book that keeps you guessing all the way through. The omniscient point of view reminded me at times of the opening of Black House
. I was never sure how supernatural the story was going to be. I've only read one other of Dobyns' novels, but I think I'll check some more out when I have the time.
The folks at The Tomb of Dark Delights posted a new review of the revised and updated edition
of The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Boo
k this weekend. In part: "Stephen King fans will love this entertaining and completely updated collection of minutiae about the author and his work. Opening this book is like opening a bag of Cheetos—you just can’t stop once you get started."
More than one person has been evicted from Survivor
with an immunity idol in his pocket, but no team has ever gone home from The Amazing Race
with an Express Pass in their back pack before. I can't help but appreciate the irony that the team they gave the second pass to won the leg, and one of the contestants is in a cast. John seemed very que sera sera
about it all. Jessica, not so much. They were also the team that went to some random address and started building something and it wasn't even part of the race. No wonder the old guy there looked so perplexed.
We watched Anna Karenina
this weekend. It's only about the fourteenth time someone has made a film out of this novel. Playwright Tom Stoppard scripted this one, and it might be tempting to assume that he was responsible for the theatrical staging, but apparently that was the director's idea. It's a little disorienting at times. Characters walk through the set, changing outfits on the fly. Flats move into and out of frame as the scenes transition. It's all quite stylish and fascinating, but the story is so complex that adding an extra layer of complexity doesn't serve it well. This film concentrates on the love story, jettisoning some of the politics and other subplots of the novel, but it's a difficult story. There was a waiter at a local restaurant that I go to after work sometimes who saw that I was reading and engaged me in conversation. He was a young Hispanic guy with a pony tail and he proclaimed that he had just finished reading a book. I admit my prejudice when I assumed that it might be Twilight
or something of that ilk but, no, it was Anna Karenina
. He wasn't sure whether he liked it or not yet—he was still working that out. I have to say that I wasn't terribly fond of this story. Keira Knightley was just fine, but her character is a difficult one to like.