Sunday, March 30, 2014

Not Even as a Joke:

Those dead, soulless eyes that need half a jar of liner and kohl to make them “pop.” That flat, featureless, hatchet face. (She’ll be the stuff of witchy nightmares by age 40, if not earlier.) Finally — and this is the part that really puts me over the edge — that mouth of hers that hangs open idiotically when her face is at rest. The only thing between this sad parody of feminine pulchritude and Complete Catastrophic Aesthetic Failure is a huge banner tattoo across her chest. (And I can imagine the other mouth-breathers out there going, “Oooooh! She’d look so hawt with ink!”) 

Fortunately, Kristen Stewart as Wonder Woman isn’t happening, but the thought is so appalling, it makes for a hilarious troll post. Anything to blow up the pageviews, right? Yeah, I’m desperate. 

Incidentally, I love how Lynda Carter is throwing the horns R.J. Dio/Russian style to ward off the Evil lurking behind those dead, soulless eyes.

Okay, I’ll get back to work, now.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Rockin' Roy's Drive-By Reviews: Pacific Rim

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: I don’t do starred reviews. I either like a movie, or I don’t. I liked Pacific Rim. There. See how easy that was?

Once again, I am grateful to the good people of the Pikes Peak Library District for making last year’s blockbusters available so I can see what everyone was excited about until the next shiny thing came along. It’s one of those precious and rare Good Things in this benighted empire in decline ca. AD 2014.

Pacific Rim is director Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to the Japanese kaiju (lit. “Great Beast,” monster) movies that you either loved or didnt when you saw them on weekend afternoon television in the 1970s and 1980s. I can only imagine what younger people make of this. My inner 11-year-old was beside himself, but he’s weird.

As described in the trailer, Pacific Rim is set in the near future in which an undersea rift in the Pacific Ocean has opened to spew other-dimensional giant monsters that surface to terrorize and destroy cities along the Pacific Rim. Nations got together and started building what kaiju fans call “mechs,” giant mechanical battle machines that look like either the monster they’re fighting or, as is the case here, a more humanoid Transformer-type bot. Interestingly, they’re not called “mechs” here but jaegers (pr. YAY-gurr), which, as the opening card tells us, is German for “hunter.” This makes no sense because they don’t do any hunting. The techs at HQ know where the monsters are. 

Also, partway through, the nations of Earth decide the mechs, I mean jaegers, arent cost effective and decide to build a giant wall around the Pacific. (Yes, you read that correctly.) So the folks running the jaeger program have gone rogue. Or something. What it amounts to is they only have so many jaegers left to use because they dont have the funding to build more. There is another way they could have introduced the Declining Resources issue to add tension to the plot.

No matter. What matters is it takes two people to operate the left and right “brains” of these jaegers, hence the obligatory I Lost My Partner drama, which is amped up here by the need for such partners to be very compatible, or they won’t make a very good jaeger brain.

Like a lot of films these days, Pacific Rims narrative falls apart fast under reflection; it’s best to savor the residual excitement of all that crash-bang monster fighting you’re left with when the movie’s over, and forget the rest. Although not nearly as preposterous as much that goes on in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot, there is an antagonist whose antagonism makes no sense (and who takes his beating by the hero early on), and a general world-threat that’s supposed to be extinction-level threatening, but we never get to really see how. As near as I could tell, if you didn’t live anywhere near the Pacific Ocean, you didn’t have a problem.

I was impressed by the writing inasmuch as I expected the cliché  of “I won’t partner with a woman!” when the cute Japanese actress showed up. I got the impression the writers were trying hard to avoid overused tropes. But building up to a threat which doesn’t seem all that threatening, going on about a never-before-seen “Category 5” kaiju that we don’t see a lot of (at a point where mystery should be out the window; it’s the Final Boss, for God’s sake!)—I’m reminded I don’t see enough monsters for what’s supposed to be going on here. Also, while I understand the geographical necessity for an underwater battle (they have to take it to that undersea monster-spawner hole sometime), visually, it was hard to see what was going on.

Still, I had a good time. Pacific Rim works great if you like big monsters, big smashy-crashy, clang-bangy action, and CGI urban renewal projects. If not, then you know what to do.

State of the Apocalypse, Stardate Three Twenty-Seven Fourteen

WARNING: Potential SPOILERS as I’m posting photos of the galleys of my latest novel. Don’t look too closely; it should be all right....

It’s been over a month for this, since before the end of February. Over a month’s worth of climbing half-blind into bed with the curtains closed against the emergent dawn, thinking, “Okay, we didn’t make it tonight. But we’ve gotten so far. I’ll bet we finish this tomorrow while the sun is still up.

It’s been like a really hateful, art-house-ugly version of Groundhog Day here. Every day the same. Every day I think I’m almost done.

All right, then. Enough. What I’ve been doing all this time hasn’t been working so I’ve got to change it up. I wrote eight pages in one night—a new personal best—and had to throw out six. And I still wasn’t close to winding it up. I’d finished the final Boss Fight. I’m right there in the final chapter, winding up. But I’ve had a breakthrough in the last 48 hours or so.

My Big Idea was to print every one last of these 282 pages...

...expand the venue from my office to my wife’s drafting table...

...split the galleys into their three individual acts....

One major problem I’m having is evident in this photo. Act III, beginning with Chapter 21 on the right, is almost as long as Act II in the middle. Act II should be nearly twice as long as Acts I and III.

  ...then bust out the ruler, the reading glasses, the Sharpies, the sticky-notes. 

Get squinty with it. If nothing else, our smart quotes will be oriented correctly.

It’s not all that terribly backwards, now that I think about it. If those last chapters seem to have gone off the rails it’s because I’ve been writing this thing for so long I’ve forgotten most of  what I’ve written.

I’ve seen this happen in other zombie novels—and in at least one of the more popular and acclaimed series, at that—in which a character shows up that screams “I’m gonna be trouble down the road! Watch!” and you never see that character or plot thread again. 

I hesitate to get too judgmental about this because it’s so easy to do. I’ve done this on multiple occasions over the course of my first three books. On the other hand (and I know you’ve felt this way, too), if these people simply took time out to read their own stuff once in a while they’d catch things like this.

Instead of waiting until I finish the entire book before proofing I’m taking on reading the narrative from page 1 to the end, one line at a time. I’ve already caught two such instances of Random Characters Who Promise To Be Trouble But Never Appear Again To Carry Out Their Threat.
It’s a lot like tightening boot laces, pulling up the slack one loop at a time. Except I have a lot of loops, and I’m cutting the excess string as I go, so it’s a really stupid metaphor. Never mind.

Progress is being made. Grace Among the Dead starts in deepest darkness, gets darker, and then some really weird stuff happens. It’s chock-full of zombie fighting action, lovingly depicted. My general rule is I can cut anything but a zombie fight. If I write anything more, it’s going to be a zombie fight. Zombies are my cowbell.

That’s right. This ain’t no Talking Dead TV show. Derek Grace swings his panga along the edges of the encroaching hordes while my heroine and fictional love of my life, Agnes Joan McIntire, is more like Red Sonja with PTSD and mad driving skills than that flaky Lori chick.

Violence, darkness, and loss. Romance and redemption. So many zombies, methane bombs, alpha eaters, and Original Flavor. 

Stay tuned, while I train myself how to do this all over again. I have a feeling letting the blog slide was a creative mistake. That part of the brain atrophied and took the rest with it.

Yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

This is the area behind my desk (photographed at an angle from the side of said desk) where, when a particularly fine song comes on my shuffle, I’ll jam along. Then I’ll write whatever flashes of insight come to me on the wipe board at upper right. Yes, I am using the music stand as a hat rack.

A close-up on the wipe board. The sticky notes are reminders of character details I need to insert and technical matters I need to research. The numbers at bottom are the page numbers for the chapters in Act III, which, at 102 pages, is in need of a serious trim.

If you’ve gotten this far, I have to plug my first book, the first in the Dead Silencer trilogy, Bleeding Kansas, starring the antihero zombie fans (at least some of the ones who write reviews) love to hate, Derek Samuel Grace. 

This is right at the start of the Dark Resurrection and everyone is being an asshole, so bear with our man as he begins his Antihero’s Journey. I will reward your patience with gunfire, explosions, spontaneous dismemberments in anger, and Rebecca, Queen of Hell. Then there’s this thing that happens with a fire truck and some duct tape. 

It’s dead, it’s all messed up, like these things are supposed to be. 

Monday, March 03, 2014

Sweatin' My First Four-Star Review

I sneak over to Bleeding Kansas’ Amazon page and I’m horrified to see some color bled out of the fifth star:

Dear God, no! My first bad review!

Well, not really:

Actually, a four-star review is a healthy thing. A lot of e-books out there have a dozen or so five-star reviews and after a while you realize these are all people from the author’s writers group. Which no self-respecting author should have anything to do with, but that’s a rant for another day.

The main thing is Amazon Customer liked what he or she saw. I just need a million more people like this and all of my troubles will be over.

As of this writing there are still a few hours left in the Kindle sale. Meanwhile, you can have the head-exploding cover in your hands for all of $10.76. I’m talking the recently released paperback edition! Man, it’s a beaut:

Grace Among the Dead is thisclose to being finished. I’m shooting for a daylight finish, just to see what that’s like, as opposed to jumping up and down and screaming for joy at 4:30 in the flippin’ a.m. 

Wish me luck.