Friday, February 29, 2008

Why do bad books happen?

JT Ellison ponders the question today on Murderati, and I commented:

I think when we get down to it, only a few people need to approve of a book in order to get it published: the author, the agent, and the editor. Many more people can disapprove of the book; the author has no say in that, and it doesn't change the fact the book was published. I've been dissatisfied with my share of books by name authors, but these get published because they will sell; that's the bottom line after all.

As for unforeseen events adversely affecting the finished product, I would think it happens more often to movies than to books: more people necessarily involved in the creative process, budget concerns, time constraints, etc.

Leap Day

It's that time again: everyone's favorite cosmic make-up day. Not sure yet what I'll do with the time. Last Leap Day, Sci-Fi Channel appropriately ran a Quantum Leap marathon.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 'Justice League' Movie Reborn

As much as I like superheroes, I have a feeling this movie will be a low character-development free-for-all akin to a budget animated battle.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

WGA Ratifies Contract

Variety's Dave McNary reports:

In the final act of the WGA strike, scribes have given a 93.6% endorsement to the new three-year deal.

A total of 4,060 votes were cast in Los Angeles and New York. The term of the agreement is retroactive to Feb. 13 - the day the writers stopped striking -- through May 1, 2011.

Justice League: The New Frontier Movie

After reading Darwyn Cooke's comic, I felt as if I'd watched a movie, and though the animated adaptation had to cut a lot, it manages to duplicate the epic feel. The voice acting is similarly nuanced and works on all counts. I hope future DCU DVD features are as distinctive as Superman Doomsday and The New Frontier.

Monday, February 25, 2008

No More Moneypenny?

The Hints & Allegations section of the Winter 2008 Mystery Scene brings word that Q and Moneypenny will no longer appear in the James Bond films. Also, Bond will apparently get married in November's Quantum of Solace. 'Women's Murder Club' Back on the Beat

ER and Law & Order veteran Robert Nathan has taken over showrunner duties on Women's Murder Club, and ABC has ordered three more episodes. goes on to explain that though the show consistently won its timeslot in total viewers, it fared worse than Friday Night Lights and Moonlight in the key 18-49 demographic. Ouch.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A little less conversation

It's one of those times when I'm writing and reading but haven't made enough progress to comment on either. So instead, I'll quote Robert B. Parker from a Telegraph interview Dave White brought to my attention:

"Dialogue is easy and it chews up a lot of pages," he says. "Describing a room is hard and it slows everything down and it doesn't chew up many pages."

Somehow this brings to mind high school students playing with the margins to pad their term papers. It's essentially what Putnam has done with Parker's books for years.

The same interview mentions, "Inexplicably, his work never caught fire in the UK..."

Why might this be, I wonder.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

When a poem comes along...

Editor Nan Purnell has accepted my recipe poem "Whipped Boyfriend" to be posted soon on La Lune Bleue Planete. Can 'MacGyver' Escape This One?

In tonight's 100th episode, Discovery Channel's Mythbusters, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, attempt to re-create some of MacGyver's more creative escapes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Knight Rider (2008)

As pessimistic as I am about remakes and updates, I was drawn to Sunday night's Knight Rider movie/backdoor pilot. There's something about a self-driving, talking car that appeals even as far as technology has come since 1982.

The new Knight Rider is not a retelling of the old story. High-tech mercenaries come after Charles Graiman (Bruce Davison) who built the Knight Industries 2000 (William Daniels's familiar character) for Wilton Knight. Sensing Graiman's death, the Knight Industries 3000 (voiced by Val Kilmer) proceeds on a pre-programmed mission to insure the safety of Graiman's scientist daughter Sarah (Deanna Russo) and enlist the help of Mike Traceur (Justin Bruening), former Army Ranger and Sarah's old flame. Their road trip story of reconnection drove the movie for me.

Would it work as a series? I wouldn't mind the chance to find out.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Play it again, Sam (Spade)

I wasn't going to chime in on critic David J. Montgomery's blog post picking out P.I. fiction clichés, but Paul Guyot reminded me of it, and I had a look.

I did comment and reprint my thoughts here yesterday, but I realize my comment fell into the trap of using "cliché" negatively. While it's taken on a negative connotation, the word itself simply means "familiar, expected," and for the most part creative writers want to skirt the expected.

I've edited my comment below, substituting "negative" and "expected" where I had "cliché":

...I don't think we can take anything out of context and call it negative.

The dilemma in any genre is that a new book has to seem new and yet be familiar enough to be recognized as part of the genre. To me, a convention becomes negative when the author lets convention dictate character. Writers may want to pay homage to their favorites, but characters have to distinguish themselves pretty quickly or die. Spenser was much like Marlowe in his debut, but began to distinguish himself by the second book.

The simplest way a character stands out is by approaching conventional situations in new ways that indicate his/her unique personality. For example, Jim Rockford differed from PIs before him in that he always tried to steer clear of trouble, not invite it.

I think if a writer is really committed to showing a P.I.'s personality, it's easy to avoid the expected. After all, does any person really want to be or act just like another?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Look, up in the sky...

Orlando Magic All-Star Dwight Howard pulled up his jersey to reveal a Superman costume for one of his dunks on the way to defeating last year's dunk champion Gerald Green.

You can't beat it for showmanship, but am I the only one who thinks the dunk itself was a stretch? If you watch this ESPN clip, it looks like he doesn't reach the hoop and throws (doesn't stuff) it through.

Meanwhile, Gerald put a cupcake with a lit candle in it on the rim, and blew out the candle at the peak of his jump. That's good, but as ESPN's Neil Everett said, "I want him to eat the cupcake while he's in midair."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love Hurts: A Valentine's Blog Event

On January 17, Patti Abbott invited readers of her blog to write stories 750 words or less on the theme of love and crime.

My contribution, "Connect the Dots" can now be purchased as part of my ebook Call Me Cupid: Six Screwball Stories of Love (February 2012). Reader comments on the story remain here to pique your interest.

Others Tackle The Topic

Patricia Abbott, "Tongues"

Stephen Allan, "The Many Forms of Love"

Patrick Shawn Bagley, "Leaving Rachel"

Cormac Brown, "Warmer"

Aldo Calcagno, "Love on the Rocks"

Clair Dickson, "Cupid's Bullet"

Sophie Littlefield, "Rival Passions"

Todd Mason, "Afterward"

John McAuley, "Since I've Been Loving You"

Christa M. Miller, "Beautiful Trouble"

Graham Powell, "The Last Time"

Bryon Quertermous, "Stand Up on Blow Pops"

r2, "Doctor, Doctor"

Sandra Seamans, "Bye, Bye Love"

WellesFan, "A Day Late"

Gotta love Indy

You may know I'm not one to get psyched for a movie seeing its poster or watching its trailer. There are certain movies I know I'm going to watch (Superman Returns, Casino Royale, etc.) so I try to see as little of them as possible outside a theater.

For Indiana Jones, I made an exception, and if you know some of my background, you can watch the trailer and guess my favorite pair of lines.

Short Sports Takes


JASON KIDD TRADED TO DALLAS: Good riddance (if the trade indeed happens...)

ROGER CLEMENS VS. BRIAN MCNAMEE: Specious, pointless, and sad.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Out of the Club reports Women's Murder Club has dropped co-creators Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain and exec producer R. Scott Gemmill, which could signal a quick end for the ratings hit. Go figure.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Back to Bakula

I just watched Scott Bakula's great turn on Boston Legal as Jack Ross, a law school flame of Candice Bergen's Shirley Schmidt. As much a showman as Alan Shore, Ross was also perhaps the most honorable character ever on the show.

Strike is Lifted

From the WGAE website:


Members of the Writers Guilds, East and West voted overwhelmingly to have the WGAE Council and WGAW Board lift the restraining order (the strike) and return to work. The restraining order was lifted immediately upon the results of the vote and all WGA members will be returning to work effective immediately.

WGA members, working under the MBA contract, must still vote to ratify the contract. The ratification vote will take place by mail and in membership meetings on February 25, 2008.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Another Life

My flash fiction piece "Another Life" is live at Shred of Evidence. Thanks again to editor Megan Powell.

New Moon

Nan Purnell, late of Lunatic Chameleon, has started a new site for poetry, flash fiction, commentary, and art: La Lune Bleue Planete. The basic topic is the human condition, and currently Nan is looking for recipe poems.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


John, Deshant, and I met at the 34th Street Loews this afternoon to watch Rambo. The plot was simple: a group of Christian missionaries hires a reluctant Rambo to ferry them from Thailand to Burma. When the missionaries are captured by a genocidal regime, Rambo is asked to ferry in a rescue team. The catch: the leader of the rescue team doesn't want Rambo's help. If you've seen any of the previous three Rambo movies, you know what happens from there.

Rambo, directed and co-written by Stallone, is nicely light on morality. Rambo doesn't crave battle like the mercenaries do. When he intervenes, it's for the right reasons, but he ends up killing scores of enemy soldiers in the process, horrifying the one missionary he cares for (played by Julie Benz).

The combat scenes, what everyone is really watching for, are well filmed and viscerally satisfying.

Best Preview: A British children's movie called Son of Rambow.

Saturday, February 09, 2008 KITT Gets a New Voice: Val Kilmer

General Motors did not want Will Arnett voicing KITT, a Ford Mustang, after he'd done commercial work for GMC Trucks. My interest ticks up slightly with Kilmer in the role.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Smallville: "Siren"

With the writers strike and recent Bizarro/clone storyline, I'd almost given up on Smallville. Then came last night's episode, introducing Dinah Lance (a.k.a. Black Canary) as a do-gooder radio host at odds with "terrorist" Oliver Queen. In the aftermath of an attack, Lois finally learns Oliver is Green Arrow.

Oliver wants to give their relationship a chance, but Lois selflessly lets him off the hook. Later she vents her feelings to Clark:

Can you imagine what it would be like to look into somebody's eyes and know that their destiny is so much greater than yours that you will never compete, you will always be left behind?

That would be hard for anyone, but--

No, I can't be left behind one more time. You know, where Ollie's life is going, there's not room for me in it. And I know he'd never admit that, so I had to. I just, I can't face another heartbreak down the road.

In this scene, you can see Clark's concern going out to Lois. To me, the greatest aspect of the Superman mythos is Clark's love for Lois. He feels a duty to be Superman, but he also yearns, and in some tellings manages, to be there for Lois. It's this compassion that allows Lois to grow to love him.

The episode ends with Lana and Clark promising to work on trusting each other. "I don't want this to be over," Clark says.

Oh, come on! But the show is called Smallville after all.

Neat exchange:

I spoke to Lois. I'm sorry about what happened. Maybe she'll get used to the whole dual-identity thing someday.

Yeah, like when? When the earth cracks open and time ticks backwards? I don't think so.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sometimes it's that simple.

So it turns out my video card wasn't fried. My monitor was stressed out from all the testing I did trying to configure my updated Linux kernel to my card. My brother unplugged the monitor from its power source to reboot it, and when he plugged back in, all was well. I got a slightly faster, not terribly expensive video card out of the deal.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Do not attempt to adjust your set.

I managed to fry my video card after a Linux update today. My brother says I should turn off the computer when not using it while waiting for the new card, which should arrive Thursday. I'll probably keep it off until then, catch up on my reading and practice my penmanship. Totally unexpected, but a good way to start Lent.

Bob Knight Resigns

Basketball icon Bob Knight resigned from Texas Tech, citing fatigue in ending his 42-year coaching career. Though his temper can be questioned, his passion and instincts for the game and willingness to teach cannot.

You Don't Say

Lori G. Armstrong, author of the Julie Collins P.I. series, blogged:

I stumbled across a review the other day where the reviewer lamented the preponderance of dialogue in a book. Then the reviewer went on to say that writing a dialogue heavy book made it a simplistic book, an easy read, a lazy effort, an uncomplicated plotline because everyone knows it's the character's inner monologue and descriptions of setting and scene which truly makes a book -- and the characters -- come alive through description, not action...

I think dialogue is incredibly hard to write -- and very hard to write well. Trying to make it read like a conversation, not an info dump, not loading it with tons of dialogue tags which add weight but no meaning, making it a scene that leads to action or carries action. Or using it as an external reveal for the character speaking to make his or her thoughts a public, rather than a private realization, to the reader and the other characters in the scene is difficult to pull off not just once, but throughout the whole of the book...

Do you think the whole 'showing versus telling' school of thought means description, not action, not verbal interplay?

I commented that, to me, dialogue reveals as much character as action does. Unless they are excellent, I tend to skim descriptive passages as a book goes on, but I always pay attention to what characters say. Good dialogue is more showing than straight telling; it has subtext where internal monologue and omniscient narration do not.

I agree with Lori about balance. Tags shouldn't be over- or underused. Dialogue shouldn't repeat information revealed in internal monologue, and internal monologue shouldn't disrupt the flow of dialogue.

Here's an example of disruption:

"I'm leaving you," she said.

What did she mean? "Come again?" I said.

"Are you really surprised?"

I guessed not. "No..."

Lori asked about writers in any genre who write good dialogue. Robert B. Parker used to be good, but I think he's gotten used to the way his stock characters talk and doesn't have a good sense of how people talk today. While it's true that characters' dialogue has to flow more smoothly than real talk does, dialogue should have the ring of real talk, as if you might say it if you were in the character's situation.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Congratulations to the New England Patriots

...on their stellar 18-1 season. And to the New York Giants for winning Super Bowl XLII 17-14. I actually saw the first half and final six minutes of the fourth period, including Eli Manning's improbable out-of-the-pile throw for a first down leading to the game-winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress.

Quite Contrary

As usual I'm home typing with the TV off on Super Bowl Sunday. Regular readers of my blog know I'm a fan of most sports, football included. I'm not a fan of massive group-think, watching the Super Bowl for the commercials, the halftime show, or because everyone else is doing it.

An English Teacher Rediscovers Her 6th Grade Report on Polynesia my latest poem published in The Journal of Asinine Poetry.

Back in Bullets

Mouth Full of Bullets editor BJ Bourg has accepted my poems "Four Minutes" and "July 7, 2007". The former will be in the March 2008 online edition of MFOB, and the latter will be in the June 2008 print edition.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Naughty, naughty

The Hiss Quarterly's 4th Annual NC-17 Issue - Naughty Bits - is now live. Read my contributions here and here, accompanied by some great photos and artwork. Thanks again to Sydney Nash, Shanna Karella, and Lalo Fox.

Started sweet & turned to ash

The entry title is taken from the last lines of my poem "Root", just published at Contemporary Rhyme, and incidentally sums up my feelings about a January that flipped me off on its way out.