Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordcount Wednesday

Project Disappointed Viper is going slowly right now, folks. As of right now, it's at 5,719 words. I hope to do better, but I know, I say that in every Wordcount Wednesday post.

On a more exciting note, I got the Advance Reader Copies for Failstate via UPS today. So tonight, I stuffed press releases and info sheets into them and then stuffed them all into padded envelopes to go off to various media outlets. I have no idea if I'll get reviewed in any of them, but here's hoping!

Aren't they pretty?

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Muppets

Thanks to the good folks at 365 Twin Cities, I got to attend a sneak preview of The Muppets tonight. I've been looking forward to this movie for a while now; the trailers that they've been releasing have been absolutely genius, such as the Green Lantern parody or the Dragon Tattoo parody. I hoped that the same silly genius would carry over to the movie itself. Truth be told, I'm not sure what I think of what I saw tonight. It was okay.

My problem, I think, came from the first part of the movie. Kermit the Frog said it best this past weekend on SNL when Jason Segel hosted: "When people go to a Muppet movie, they say, 'Gee, I can't wait to see the human!'" Except what Kermit said sarcastically, I think the writers took seriously. Let me put it this way: recently I watched The Muppet Movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan with my son. Both of those movies started with Kermit. Not this movie. Instead, it started with Walter and his human brother, Gary (played by Jason Segel). Kermit and company didn't show up until much further in.

In some ways, I get it. It made sense, given the overall plot: Walter, Gary, and Gary's long-time girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams) go to LA ostensibly for Gary and Mary's "we've-been-dating-for-10-years" anniversary. But once there, Walter learns that a rich oil baron is going to destroy the old Muppet studios (including the iconic theater) to drill for oil. Horrified, Walter convinces his brother and his girlfriend to round up the old Muppet gang, starting with Kermit, so they can save the studio.

But even with that decent premise, the film lurched in the early going. I blame the humans, personally. We don't go to a Muppet movie for human-related drama. Instead, we go to see anthropomorphic animals made out of felt have relationship drama. And boy, do they pack in some rather . . . well, I don't want to say "adult themes." Let's just say there was some stuff put in there that was meant for the adults. I can honestly say I don't think I've seen anything quite so heavy in previous Muppet movies. And the ending . . . well, wow.

There were some bright spots. Some of the cameos were genius (one in particular). And there were some great "breaking the fourth wall" moments, plus nods to previous movies.

I don't know. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I went into this movie. I'm pretty sure that this wasn't it. Not totally. But I hope this doesn't sink the Muppets, because if there's one thing that I realized as I was watching this: I missed them.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Wordcount Wednesday

Last week, I started the pre-writing process for a new novel. Personally, I use Randall Ingerman's Snowflake Method. I have for the past couple of novels I've written and it works well for me. I don't use the whole thing. Usually about 2/3s of the way through, I hit what I call "critical mass" where I have to start writing.

I hit that point Monday on with my new project. I still don't want to say anything about it, so we'll have to call it . . . shoot, I don't know. Blue Harvest? Rory's First Kiss? Incident on 57th Street? Okay, I've got it. My project will henceforth be known as Project Disappointed Viper. Why? Because that's what the random codename generator gave me.

Anyway, Project Disappointed Viper is currently weighing in at 1,086 words. A meager start, but I know it'll grow. I'm pretty excited about this one.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The People vs. George Lucas

My goodness, that was an interesting hour and a half. I just got done watching the documentary film, The People vs. George Lucas. And I have to say, it gave me some food for thought, both as a fan and as a writer.

Basically this movie details the love/hate relationship that fans have with George Lucas and a certain galaxy far, far away, mostly focusing on the late '90s re-edits and the prequels. There are interviews with fans, famous personalities (I see you there, Neil Gaiman!), and a few "Star Wars insiders." While they cover a lot of territory, from fan films to the way many Star Wars fans' love has been twisted into hate, there were some interesting focal points. For example, who shot first, Han or Greedo? What do you think of Jar-Jar Binks? And who does Star Wars belong to at this point, George Lucas or the fans?

Like I said, this was a thought-provoking movie to watch. True confession time: I've been a Star Wars geek for most of my life. I've read the Extended Universe novels, played the videogames, bought all the soundtracks. One of the things I was looking forward to most about being a parent was seeing my son's reaction to the classic moment in Empire Strikes Back where we get a peek at the Skywalker family tree. And yes, I have been disappointed by the prequels. It took me a while to see how bad Episode I really is, and I've even gotten into arguments with my youth about which trilogy is better. I suspect that in the future, there's going to be a Jar-Jar line. A lot of what the fans said in this movie resonated with me, such as their pleas for Lucas to release a version of the original trilogy in its unenhanced form. You know, one in which HAN SHOT FIRST.

But at the same time, I also found myself wondering how I would react if I were in Lucas's flannel. Suppose one of my creations takes off and becomes a cultural institution that . . . What's so funny? Why are you laughing?

Okay, fine, I'll wait until you're done.

Seriously, though, if Star Wars is George Lucas's creation, if he is the owner of it still (and thanks to U.S. Copyright Law, he will be for a long, long time), then technically, he does have the right to go back and touch things up as he sees fit.

I know. I feel icky just for writing that.

But it's still the truth, as much as we may disagree. It's his story, his universe, and we're invited to come along if we want. Yes, I have an idea of how I would have told the prequel stories, but that's not my story to tell.

I guess what's really interesting about this movie is the sheer amount of rancor (pun possibly intended) that Star Wars can create amongst its fans. The fact that people are willing to invest so much vitriol and ire for a movie trilogy is a testament to what a cultural touchstone it's become.

And the one thing that made me smile was the ending of this movie. A lot of the vocal critics admitted that the reason why they do what they do is because Lucas inspired them. Whether we agree with what Lucas did in recent years or not, he shaped a lot of our childhoods. And I, for one, am still grateful.

So thank you, George. Now, if it isn't too much of a bother, can you please release the original trilogy?

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Falling Back

True confession time: Daylight Savings Time ending is one of my favorite holidays of the year. An extra hour of sleep, y'all! But do we really understand all the intricacies of DST? Here's a handy video that helps explain it all and, quite possibly, will make you question whether springing forward and falling back is such a great idea.

Friday, November 04, 2011

It's a miracle I survived my childhood . . .

. . . with as little psychological trauma as I have, seeing as this was considered educational TV:

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Orcs Must Die!

Every now and then, I'll spot a game on Steam that catches my attention for some reason or another. When I saw the title of Orcs Must Die!, I had a feeling that this was my kind of game, so I downloaded the demo and sure enough, I liked what I saw well enough that I pre-ordered the full. Just last night, I finished the first play-through, but I'm definitely not done with this fun and funny game.

The basic premise is this: the player is an apprentice warmage, one charged with protecting magical rifts from wave after wave of invading orcs, kobolds, ogres, and so on. You have a few special magical talismans that shoot fire or ice or electricity. You also are given a wide variety of traps and helpers to defend the rift(s). There are arrows that shoot out of the wall, giant springboards that can toss the orcs through the air, or swinging pendulums that . . . well, the less said about those the better.

This is basically a tower defense game with wall and floor traps. There isn't much of a plot, but what little is there is funny and engaging.

Like I said, I finished the game, switching from the medium difficulty to the easiest. Now I'm going back to try to get perfect scores on each of the levels. Doing so gives me "skulls," which I can spend to make the traps more deadly. And then there's the "nightmare" mode. I'm actually kind of looking forward to that one.

So if you have a few bucks sitting around, this one is definitely a keeper. Have fun (stopping them from) storming the castle!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Wordcount Wednesday

Stick a fork in Hive. It's done.

Well, not really. True, earlier this week, I finished the first draft of this monster project. The final wordcount for the first go-round? 85,504 words, which isn't all that bad, considering I set my goal at 80k when I started this . . . geez, when did I start this one? Hang on a sec.

Back in February, apparently. That actually isn't as bad as I thought it'd be.

In some ways, this has been a weird journey. Rather than pouring onto the page, this one was created in fits and starts. I seem to have taken Lent off, then took a two or three month hiatus after our second son joined our family (writers can claim paternity leave, right?).

But back to the wordcount. I'm actually impressed that I brought this one in so close to target. Granted, that total is going to fluctuate. The introduction I wrote back in February is getting axed. One of the main characters is going to be introduced earlier in the book, which means I have to add some extra stuff somewhere. And the ending, while bringing everything to a close, totally stinks. I mean, no symmetry, weak resolution, it's just "blah."

Funny thing is, I seem to recall I said the same thing about a certain other manuscript I finished about a year and a half ago. And look how that one wound up. So while I'm a little daunted at the prospect of wading back into Hive, I know I can make it better.

So what's next for me? Well, Hive goes up on a shelf for now. I've learned this the hard way: I need emotional and intellectual distance from my writing projects to do a better job editing when the time comes. In the meantime, I might take a crack at a short story that's been rattling around in the ol' brain pan for close to a year now. I mean, I've had this Post-It note:

 . . . stuck to my desk for who knows how long, waiting for the day when I could finally use this information in said short story. Maybe now's the time to do so.

I've also begun the "pre-writing" a new novel. Won't say anything more about it for now. Yes, it's kind of secret. Maybe I'll be able to explain more about it in the future. Probably. Most likely. For now, though, consider it Project X. Only without Matthew Broderick. Or Helen Hunt. Or the monkeys.

You know what, let's just forget that part, okay?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Bye, Ron!

Here's something fun: J. K. Rowling once considered killing one of her main characters halfway through the Harry Potter series. The last book turned into a total Joss fest, but this would have shifted things pretty radically, right?