Saturday, December 31, 2005
With these pictures of the new Superman, Brandon Routh, being filtered into the press from the set of SUPERMAN RETURNS, the Christopher Reeve version takes on additional significance for me. I can't help being ultra-aware of the boldy colored 70s costume as opposed to this "newer" darker one with the smaller "S" on the chest. BTW, I like the look a lot, so I'm not even going to get into how many fans are bemoaning the smaller "S." No, instead I want to gush about how great the 70s SUPERMAN is.
First there's the whole epic feel of the story. Even though Supes is an alien, I never doubted for an instant that he wasn't a person, through and through; I give credit to the forty-minute prologue for that. Even though I was getting anxious to GET ON WITH IT, PLEASE, I did appreciate the build-up of his character...the politics of Krypton, the sacrifice of Jor-El as he lets his son go, the meteorite crash, the Kents, Supes in high school, the creation of the Fortress of Solitude.... We see how Superman became Clark Kent, we don't just jump into the action. I love the time the writers and director took to establish this man who flies around wearing tights--something that very well could've been a freakshow curiosity--as a man who could teach a lot of humans about being human.
Second, how excellent was it when Superman really got rolling? His initial string of heroic acts is painted with humor and awe, and I get an adrenaline rush from just watching it. What makes that humor work, IMHO, is that most of it (except for Ned Beatty's Otis) revolves around characterization and Superman "in" jokes (like the telephone booth--AWESOME). When our man of steel comes running out of those revolving doors after that first costume change and that Mac Daddy guy's like, "Hey, whoo-whoo, buddy, that's some dandy suit you're sporting!" and Superman is all serious when he holds up a finger then answers, "Excuse me" like he's going to come back and pop a brewski with the guy later, that's one of my favorite movie moments. I'm serious. I crack up just thinking about that scene. Then, after Superman rescues Lois Lane ("Don't worry, I've got you." "You've got me? Who's got you???" AWESOME.), we follow Supes around as he decides to do a little Metropolis housecleaning. This is really geeky, but something cool happened while I was watching these scenes. We take the fact that Superman can fly for granted--it's no longer a wonderous thing because we've been exposed to so many superheroes and, nowadays, we're probably getting pretty close to allowing men to fly anyway. But while I was watching him wing around the sky, it hit me: DUDE CAN FLY. I'd forgotten how amazing that was.
Also, the John Williams score? So, so terrific. I don't have to say much about it because listening to the music says it all. (And they're incorporating some of the themes into the new Supes movie, so...there you go.)
The best thing about this movie, though, is the introduction of Christopher Reeve. I read somewhere that the powers that be were thinking of casting Robert Redford. Now, count me in as a Redford fan, but can you imagine? It's better than Nic Cage, but...come on. Reeve was absolute perfection. Everything from his I-can-talk-you-into-anything smile to his talent for differentiating Clark from Supes. OMG. We lucked out when he was cast in the part. We really did. He couldn't have done better with each character: Clark parts his hair on the right, has a high-pitched voice, and seems a bit of a pansy, but with just a grin, Reeve was able to show part-his-hair-on-the-left Superman beneath the glasses. He acted with an assurance that never, ever made you doubt that a man who goes around espousing "truth, justice, and the American way" was genuine and not merely priming himself to run for political office one day.
Yes, the opening credits are endless and it takes approximately FOREVER for us to get to the Daily Planet and Lois Lane where the real story "takes off" but, again, I love that the director, Richard Donner, was allowed to show Superman's origins. Also, some parts of the movie haven't aged well: the bell-bottom-and-platform-shoe wardrobes, the romantic Lois and Supes flying scene that's ultimately marred by her cheesy internal dialogue (You know, where Lois starts thinking "Can you read my mind" and gushes out the lyrics to the love theme? Ugh. The thing is, part of me kind of likes when it happens and I hate myself for that.). But, bottom line: this is such a great movie. That's why Bryan Singer has consulted with Richard Donner for SUPERMAN RETURNS; that's why Singer also choose to use Marlon Brando's voiceover for this first trailer--a brilliant decision. Because this is how to do a movie about the most widely beloved comic book hero ever.
I'm really looking forward to next year's return to the franchise because, with a director who pays such homage to something that worked so well the first time, I've got a lot of faith.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
INNUENDO is going to have a quick turnaround time as far as publishing goes. Evidently, my book was moved up a month because there was a glitch with someone else's deadline. I'm used to my books hitting the shelves about one full year after I turn them in, but that won't be the case with this Blaze. This will be a six month turnaround! Wow. Today and tomorrow, I'm doing a couple of minor revisions so we can get this book into production, which means it'll first be line edited (where a copy editor and an author's regular editor look for continuity, depth, and technical issues). At that point, the author goes over that line edit, addressing any questions the editors had and making any needed adjustments. Then the book is edited again and the author receives an AA (Author Alteration) readout. Here, we're allowed to make pretty minor corrections to whip it into final shape. After the manuscript is looked over again, it's waiting time. And then...the moment of excitement: the actual release date.
So there it is--INNUENDO will be coming to a bookshelf near you sooner than any of us expected!
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
****This contains a few minor spoilers—read at your own risk!****
Punishment, reprisal. When is it just? And at what point does the violence end?
MUNICH, the new movie from Steven Spielberg, delves into these questions as well as many others. On the surface, this is a story about the aftermath of the Munich Olympics (1972), where eleven Israeli athletes were slaughtered by a group of PLO kidnappers. Following the tragedy, a team of men are hired by the top ranks of the Israeli government (incuding Golda Meir) to bring justice to the individuals who were allegedly responsible. One of these team members is named Avner, a former Mossad (secret police) worker, a husband and soon-to-be father. What follows is not so much a visual essay about politics as much as a haunting reflection of what happens when you look into the abyss and it looks back into you.
You really have to pay attention to the details of MUNICH; plot-wise, it’s a spy story complete with double crossings and political agendas. But what makes this movie especially interesting are all the moral questions that the characters crash into head-on. Is vengeance really theirs to take? What good does it do? And are they even exterminating the right men or are they merely “cleaning house” for a shadow agency? You never really know for certain, because this “justice league” isn’t composed of superheroes or ultra-savvy spies. These players—no matter which side they’re on—are shown to be all-too human. As a matter of fact, during the first assassination attempt, Avner can’t even get a grip on his gun. It’s a startling moment that not only ratchets up the tension, it says volumes about this patriot who’s been recruited into a job that is better completed without the burden of a conscience.
Eric Bana, who plays Avner, is at the heart of this film. You might recognize him as THE HULK, as one of the Delta operators from BLACK HAWK DOWN, or as the family man Hector from TROY. If you’ve seen CHOPPER, you know this actor possesses a lot of range that hasn’t been tapped in the mainstream market yet, and MUNICH goes to show you how talented he really is. Bana is perfectly natural in all his roles—after his movies are over, I always realize that he’s such an organic part of the film that it never feels like he’s ACTING. At one point in MUNICH, Avner, who is quickly spiraling into isolation and the loss of his very soul, is talking on the phone with his wife and daughter. When he hears his baby’s voice, his reaction is so heartbreaking that I actually heard a moan of pained sympathy from the audience. I even felt his agony. Add to that a cast of great supporting characters and you won’t be able to get through this movie without relating to their dilemma.
One more thing: this is in no way a movie that will uplift you. It’s sobering, extremely violent, and has an uncomfortable amount of relevancy to today’s world. Just remember to look near the top left of the screen during the long ending shot. (The people I saw the movie with didn’t catch a quiet image that Spielberg inserts into the frame as his own challenge to the audience. I’m not going to tell you what’s there, but it’s a shattering visual that forces you to contemplate our own climate.)
MUNICH is definitely a film that encourages debate and conversation. I highly recommend it, but be ready to be wrung out afterward.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
All the best to you.
Friday, December 23, 2005
My mom and I talk about this all the time, but we'd love the holidays to go back to LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE simplicity. Remember, at the beginning of the year, when ABC aired that LITTLE HOUSE miniseries? This was one based on the actual book, not the NBC ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK takeoff. The miniseries had scary moments and reflected a real pioneering spirit that was pocked with the reality of what this new America was doing to the west that was already in existence. One of the most touching moments in the series was when the Ingalls celebrated Christmas. "Santa" was not able to make it across a swollen river, so it looked as if the girls wouldn't have much for presents. But what they did get they cherished. Simple things, like sugar cookies and a wooden animal that Pa Ingalls had carved with loving care.
Wouldn't it be cool to appreciate gifts that much again? To not expect a whole truckload of presents under the tree but to, instead, adore one gift that was chosen and constructed with heartfelt effort?
Not to say I don't love what I receive, but it's just a thought, a frame of mind that sounds so appealing during the rush that the holidays have become.
All the same, in the spirit of simple wishes, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday filled with cheer and affection!
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Since I had a fellow STAR WARS fan (and friend) from out of town visit me the other day, I finally seized the excuse to sit down and watch the STAR WARS III: REVENGE OF THE SITH DVD. Neither of us had seen the extras, so it was a good opportunity to escape the holiday crowds and enjoy a night at the (home) movies.
Aside from the film itself, my favorite part of the DVD was the deleted scenes. After all, who, out of the legions of SW fans, didn’t want to see Yoda landing on Dagobah? It was such a short clip, but it was sweet, although I understand the reason it wasn’t included in the final cut (Lucas wanted to stick with the ending thread of showing where the twins ended up instead of where all the characters in general ended up.). I can also hang with Lucas’ decision to leave out an action sequence near the beginning of the film in which a Jedi (Shaak Ti) is slain; however, I feel that the interaction between Obi-Wan and Anakin in this scene gave far more insight to their battle bonds than any other. We see both Jedi using hand-to-face signals in a cocky—and almost flippant—way of communicating with each other. Here, they truly do seem to have that brotherhood the entire plot depends on.
There was a grouping of three scenes that I really wish had been left in SITH, though, because these short bursts of illumination would’ve done so much for Padme’s character. In the final cut, it seems as if the formerly take-action senator has turned into a lady in waiting, wandering around her apartment and waiting for Anakin to show up. But in these deleted scenes, we see her meeting with fellow senators (including Bail Organa [Jimmy Smits], who could’ve used more quality screen time, too). This is the all-important start of the rebellion, with Mon Monthma in a cameo, and it rounds out Padme’s character so much more. It just goes to show you how desperate Lucas must’ve been to trim the film because, for a lot of people I know, Padme’s character was a disappointment in this movie. This subplot would’ve gone a long way in developing her.
Still, in the end, this is a proper send off to the prequels. The ending five minutes pack a huge punch—especially when Anakin gets locked into the body of Darth Vader for the rest of his existence. It’s a viscerally tragic image that preys upon any sense of claustrophobia I have. To me, that moment is akin to being buried in a one-way-mirrored grave where no one seems to realize you’re halfway dead beneath the ground. It’s one of my favorite SW scenes, among many, and I’d watch a million “Hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo”s to get to it.
Monday, December 19, 2005
I love this recipe. They’re a cross between a pastry and a cookie, and I tend to wolf them down if not properly supervised. Enjoy, and happy holidays!
Magic Cookie Bars
½ cup butter or margarine
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 6oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 lg. bag of shredded coconut
1 cup chopped nuts
Preheat over to 350 degrees (325 if you’re using a glass pan). Melt butter in 9x13 pan. Sprinkle crumbs over butter. Pour sweet milk evenly over crumbs. Top evenly with remaining ingredients. Press down gently. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool before cutting.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Now that I've taken a bit o'time off from writing that last Blaze (which will be called INNUENDO, with a release date of August, 2006), it's time to start on the next book!
Even though 'tis the season, with all the shopping and celebrating yet to be done, I'm going to be working on chapters for THE PLAYBOY TAKES A WIFE, a Silhouette Special Edition. This one takes place in Mexico and New York City, and I'm intrigued with the hero, who is a "daredevil playboy," according to the tabloids. He's recently realized how superficial he is, and he's determined to change his reputation; this is both for the good of his family's company and their own reputation as well as his own peace of mind. The heroine is a "do-gooder" who is working at a Mexican orphanage. In short, he persuades her into a marriage of convenience, although she doesn't know about the "convenient" part.....
In other news, my first Berkley manuscript for the Vampire Underground has been accepted! This means I won't have to do a big revision, and I'm so happy I could do a Snoopy Dance. Very good news. My editor and I are discussing cover concepts, and we should have a release date and title for that story just after the first of the year.
Just so you know, my next blog will be featuring a recipe for a yummy familyholiday favorite....
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Until this point, I'd been unsuccessful in my endeavors to see him. I'd been thwarted by bad timing and cancellations (see previous blog). But that night, as I headed to my seat--which was only about twenty feet away from the stage--I kept my optimism at a peak.
And, damn, was it worth the patience!
If you've never seen Chris Isaak and his band, I urge you to go whenever you have the opportunity. Sure, he's a babe, with his Elvis hair and sexy smile. But forget that. If you're a fan of music at all, this man will entertain you. It was obvious that he's a pure musician--he just loves to play. He and the band didn't only perform his songs, they sat up there and jammed. Johnny Cash, Cheap Trick, Christmas tunes...they were all covered, but Chris Isaak made every note his own. And he absolutely knows how to own a stage: his charm and relaxed rapport with the audience made the concert fly by. Also, there was no lip synching here, thank goodness--there's a lot of talent to back up his recording career.
For years, Chris Isaak has been on the cusp of hitting the big time. With his rockabilly/surf/Orbison/hip TWIN PEAKS vibe, he stirs up the familiar and manages to make his sound original. It looked like he was finally going to be welcomed into the mainstream when "Wicked Game" became a hit, but it didn't quite happen. Then came "Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing," which was used on the EYES WIDE SHUT soundtrack. Still...denied. Then he got his own show on the Showtime network, and...nope. Part of me would love for him to "make it," but I like his music the way it is, and I fear what going "mainstream" would do to him. Yeah, I'm being a selfish fangirl, but you know as well as I do how this industry can eat up the best of performers and spit them back out as a "new and improved" package. I never want to see that happen.
Ultimately, I'm just happy I finally witnessed my Holy Grail of performers. (Excuse me for a second while I giggle like a thirteen-year-old. Oh. My. God. I was twenty feet away from Chris Isaak!)
And, needless to say, when he comes around again, I am so going to be there.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Among other things (a facelift for their already amazing newsletter as well as an upcoming podcast program), they have started to post informative blogs. You're going to find lots of tidbits about craft and business if you bookmark OCC's site. I hope my own blog, which was posted yesterday, will shed some light on "branding" and the choice I've made to write for multiple lines and genres. You can read it by clicking here:
Once there, you can check out the rest of the contents, which will include writing classes that are being offered by members of the chapter.
I'll see you soon, when my next blog will cover THE CHRIS ISAAK CONCERT...!
Sunday, December 11, 2005
You all know I love scary movies, so I need to tell you about a film I just saw that’s one of the most horrifying ever. It’s not super bloody (except in one part) and it doesn’t feature any scream queens. It’s actually a “documentary with a point of view” called SUPER SIZE ME.
You’ve probably heard of it because of the splash it made at the Sundance Film Festival, as well as the pressure it put on McDonald’s to introduce some healthier angles to their product lines. This is what the film revolves around: Morgan Spurlock, the young, healthy, lanky creator, wondered if those lawsuits against McDonald’s that were initiated a few years ago had any credence. Remember the ones I’m talking about? Basically, the corporation was sued by two “obese” girls who maintained that Mickey D’s fast food had contributed significantly to their weight gains. The filmmaker decided to record an experiment to see how a 30-day all-McDiet would affect his own health. What follows really rattled me.
Spurlock makes effective use of statistics, interviews, and his affability to show us how fast food has messed with society at large: even as we witness how his body changes on this diet (and how the doctors he has enlisted to monitor him freak out about what he’s doing to himself), we also see what kind of power food companies wield over us.
Sci-Fi writers have always written about future societies that are controlled by drugs, and this movie left me wondering if processed food is the pretty green pill we’ve all been warned about. While SUPER SIZE ME really makes you think about some hard questions that deal with our world as well as our own responsibilities in it, it’s also surprisingly entertaining without being preachy. I pretty much coerced my parents into watching this because I think it’s time well spent. I recommend it to you all, too.
Friday, December 09, 2005
This is cool! My comrade in TWICE BITTEN vampire shenigigans, Erica Orloff, is guest blogging today! And, as you can see at the end of her entry, I made an appearance on her site, too, today--and it's a blog that won't be published on my site. (Oooo--an extra!) So as I encourage you to go to www.ericaorloff.com as well, please welcome, Erica, my fellow vamp writer!
Hi All! Thanks to Crystal for letting me guest blog.
As you may know by now, Crystal and I are back-to-back authors in TWICE BITTEN. We each have a vampire story. Though I write for Red Dress Ink and Mira and Bombshell, and write as Liza Conrad for YAs, this was my first foray into vampires. I loved it. (So much so, I have the teen vampire book HIGH SCHOOL BITES coming out in January from NAL/Penguin!)
And I have to say not only did I love it, but the number of fans I heard from the first time URBAN LEGEND was released was disproportionately high. Vampire fans are a dedicated group! I thought about the allure of the vampire. Why are we so drawn to him? Or her?
There are, of course, many scholarly discourses on the vampire and what he represents in Freudian and psychological (and erotic) terms. For me, though, I think it goes back to those first scares as a kid. My dad let me watch the Creature Feature on WPIX in NYC when I was little. Somehow, the rather bloodless vampires and gore-less monsters were a “safe” way to get good and terrified. I remember watching “Dracula Created Woman” and my little sister got so scared that night she was screaming bloody murder (and somehow I got in trouble for letting her watch it!).
Well, from then on, a vampire fan was born. When I got the opportunity to write my own vampire book, what I also loved was the fantasy element. I spun a few things about vampires around, and made up some rules of my own. I got to venture into a world not only that I made up—as in all my novels—but one that wasn’t real. That had its own sense of order imposed by the undead.
So, all you vampire fans . . . .Don’t forget to visit my site: http://www.ericaorloff.com/. There you can read Crystal’s guest blog and enter to win our contest!
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
This is really exciting. I just joined a paranormal writer's blogging group called http://outoftheblogosphere.blogspot.com/. It features many vampire/futuristic/fantasy/time travel authors that you know and love. It's really cool because, in the future, we'll "tour" together, meaning that you'll be introduced to these authors and their work via this blog.
Why don't you take a gander at the site? I've just posted two entries; they're very basic introductions--nothing you haven't read here before--but there are plenty of other blogs from members such as Gena Showalter, Angela Knight, and Liz Maverick.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Ever since college, I've tried to see this man--a crooner with rockabilly sensibilities--live. But something always happens to thwart me. Either it's something else I need to be out of town for or it's something else that *he* needs to be out of town for. An example: I had tickets to see Bonnie Raitt, and Chris Isaak was opening for her. Cool, I thought. No clashing committments, no barriers, I'm finally going to see the man. But no. Dude cancelled, because he had a little part in FIRE WALK WITH ME, that prequel to TWIN PEAKS. I was bummed. What--a movie is more important than entertaining me? What's with that?
So here I go this weekend, hoping it'll all fall into place. I'll let you know what happens....
Saturday, December 03, 2005
ROME (HBO) - It's done, and rumor has it that either it's not coming back at all or we'll have to wait until 2007 for the next season. 2007!!! What is this, THE SOPRANOS? But you know what? I'm this program's minion, so I'll totally be back to watch. What a finale. I couldn't get my mind off of it for days. Caesar's assassination--whoa. I haven't seen better acting than what happened during this sequence, unless it was during the rest of the show, especially when Lucius Vorenus's wife committed suicide. Talk about feeling a sucker punch for the characters. Just...wow. I'm really happy that my two guys--Lucius and Titus--lived (I mentioned in a previous blog that I feared for them.), but sometimes living is worse than death, and that's the case with Lucius. Poor guy.
CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (HBO) - The finale is tomorrow night. Larry totally bugs, but I like to squirm anyway as he gets himself into trouble with his big mouth.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (ABC) - According to the TV message boards I like to visit, there's a lot of discontent with this season of DH. I have to agree that it isn't as interesting as last year, and that some of the characters have strayed from what we once loved about them(er...Bree, why didn't you get some spine with George earlier like you would have in seaon 1?) . I don't know--maybe it's also because there's not a really compelling mystery that's stringing this season together, like Mary Alice's suicide. I'm not that curious about Caleb Applewhite. All I do know is that if I miss an episode, I'm not terribly sad.
GREY'S ANATOMY (ABC) - Can we please get George some action? The guy deserves it, you all, especially since every other person at the hospital is making the beast with two backs. Still, I really like how this series can be really funny one moment (Sandra Oh, you are awesome.), and make my throat burn the next (the man who woke up from a coma only to find that his family had moved on without him? Oh. My. Gosh. I can't even talk about it.).
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (Fox) - Okay, here's where I get on my lil' ole soapbox. Fox, you stink. Not only because you've messed with PRISON BREAK's schedule so that it'll probably die a slow death when it comes back in March (and this is just the epitome of your scheduling ineptitude), but because you don't know how to market one of the funniest shows ever. In case you all didn't know, AD is in purgatory--Fox has cut its orders for episodes this year, but the last I heard, they also hadn't exactly committed to cancelling this show. I ask another network--especially HBO--please, please, please pick up this hilarious comedy.
KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL (Fox) - The last time this was on the air was...hmm...oh, yeah: back when men used their enemies' heads for soccer balls (BTW, thank you, SURVIVOR, for that bit of trivia. It was a touch of TMI that I didn't need to...okay, yeah, I enjoyed hearing it. I'm a freak.). I think I remember kind of liking this series, and I know Michael Vartan will be guest starring, so I'll be tuning in again. Who can resist even one second of an ALIAS hot-guy reunion? Not me. Couple that with food, and I'm so there.
PRISON BREAK (Fox) - See mini-rant above (in ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT's blurb). March? I have to wait until March to see how the guys overcome this latest setback??? Fox, you are my personal enemy now. PRISON BREAK was doing pretty well, and you take away its momentum? Brilliant. I can accept a cliffhanger that I have to mull over during the summer, but this was needless. I only hope the ratings come back stronger than ever for the sake of the show. Anyway, the characters have grown on me (even T-Bag, for heaven's sake) and my adoration for Hottie (Wentworth Miller, you can ring my bell.) knows no bounds. I love that he's, like, Phantom of the Prison, crawling around in all the air vents and secret passages--especially when he saved the doctor that one time. All he needed was a half-mask to complete the illusion.
OMG, I am getting a hottie flash. Bring him back. NOW!
AMAZING RACE (CBS) - I was optimistic about this season back during the first TV report card, but now? Ugh. For so many reasons. But my fuse was blown during the last episode when for the second time in a row there was a "production error" that drained a team's car battery and sent them to last place. I'm sorry, but that's complete BS. And a show that has that much disregard for logic and an audience's patience doesn't deserve my loyalty. We'll see if I continue to watch next season. Right now I'm so disgusted that I don't know if I want to come back.
MY NAME IS EARL (NBC) - Still totally funny! Do you ever get the feeling, though, that most of Earl's bad karma stems from Joy? He's spending a lot of time making things up to her. Not that I'm complaining. She's a side-splitter, that Joy! It should be interesting when this show moves to Thursdays in January. NBC is campaigning to get Thursday nights back.
THE OFFICE (NBC) - Love, love, love, love, love. Yes, the last episode wasn't as funny as most, and that's the one I forced my Thanksgiving company to sit down and watch in an effort to win this show a couple more viewers. But even a less-ROFLOL episode is way more clever than a whole seaon of YES, DEAR. Talk about having characters grow on you--the humor on this show is so engrained in the personalities of the office workers that it feels as if you know these people. What's interesting is that they play merciless tricks on each other to entertain themselves (Jim? Pam? Yes, I'm talking about you two, and I adore you for it.)...yet, in spite of all the aggressive trick-playing, you never get a sense of anyone being mean spirited. That's a tough thing to accomplish in comedy. THE OFFICE...so damned good.
NIP/TUCK (FX) - Ay-yee! The Carver is back! Leave Kimber alone, you psycho! We all know that this is a show that "pushes the envelope," but the last episode outdid anything I've ever seen before on TV. Holy paper bag. I have a theory of who The Carver might be, but my dumb idea would mean that the production "cheated" by misleading us with false points-of-view and flashbacks. Don't read the rest of this if you don't want any speculation: I'm thinking that The Carver is not one person, but two--our "heroes." It just goes along with the whole theme of the guys never being able to separate themselves from each other. It's a totally whacko theory that makes no sense, but then again, this is NIP/TUCK.
THE APPRENTICE: MARTHA STEWART (NBC) - Not a whole lot to say except that I'm still watching every Wednesday. I loved when Jim, the villain, talked Marcela, the sweet heroine, back into the game, and I wonder if the editors are setting it up so that this move bites Jim in the butt. Wouldn't that be awesome?
LOST (ABC) - Still addicted. And I get a lot of flack for this, but I find Ana-Lucia to be a fascinating addition. A lot of people absolutely hate her, but I see her as introducing a lot of conflict to the camp. She's also going to have the hugest redemption arc of any character, unless she turns to the "dark side." Interestingly enough, the writers haven't shown us A-L before the first phase of her obvious Post Traumatic Stress Disorder kicked in, so it's tough to like her. But she's intriguing because of her failings: she's buried under layers of machismo that cover her fear, and she has no idea how to cope in society. Due to her PTSD plus the conditions that the tail-end passengers have had to endure from the get-go (They were instantly attacked by the Others and have been fending them off without a break.), she's become the worst of what the island has to offer. I feel like she's a tragic figure with a heart of darkness, so even though I wouldn't want to be within ten feet of her in real life, I'm completely enthralled watching how she functions from a long distance. And the last few minutes of the last episode? "Dad?"
VERONICA MARS (UPN) - Here's another show that just keeps getting better and better. VM is actually as puzzling in its cryptic bread crumbs as LOST is, but in a more sedate way. Like BLUE VELVET, every episode is a dark glimpse under the manicured grass of that lovely lawn you see in front of a beautiful, seemingly perfect house. And things are getting downright creepy in 09er-ville. A little girl in a white nightgown who's being punished by being kept in a closet? A supposed good girl who was the supposed victim of a bus-crash, in a coma and pregnant? What the...? And what's with Duncan? Wouldn't it be great it he really was creepy and evil and there was no convenient excuse for the way he's been acting?
ALIAS (ABC) - As I moaned about in a previous blog, this has been cancelled. Whaa. But Sark is coming back, and that's all I care about right now. It'll be gross seeing him with Rachel, a new character I haven't really gotten behind, but I'll just pretend like one half of my screen is all blond bad boy and the other half is ether (and with Rachel, that's not really hard to do--rimshot, please).
SURVIVOR (CBS) - Now I'm finally getting interested! Can I ask when Stephanie became irritating? She was so great last season, but now...bleh. I really like Rafe and Danni, so my hopes are with them. Unfortunately, Gary Hogeboom got booted just when he started being a real fireball and calling everyone out at Tribal Council. I think two of my favorite SURVIVOR moments came within minutes of each other and were provided by Gary: the comment about all the starstruck players getting Steph's autograph after the show and then when he absolutely, completely mortified Judd about lying re: the immunity idol. Awesome.
EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS (UPN) - Always funny with good continuity about character details (Dad and his cheapness, Mom and her "I don't have to take this--my husband's got two jobs.).
THE APPRENTICE (NBC) - Dear, Alla: where did you bite the dust? I thought you were so great before the last episode, when you just imploded into one mass of nattering overkill. Was your evil disguised under a cape of unbelievable effectiveness this whole time? Go, Randal.
REUNION (Fox) - Pretty fun stuff here. Every episode has a neat little twist in the mystery of who killed Sam. Speculation: At this point, I'm wondering if she's even truly dead. The Thanksgiving episode was really good because it showed that disfunctional feasts aren't limited to family gatherings.
MASTERS OF HORROR (Showtime) - At first, I was impressed with that albino-DELIVERANCE-WWF killer who gets the tables turned on him by a supposedly meek woman. But the rest of these episodes have been, "meh." I'm stunned that some of these masters (the best directors in the horror biz) aren't paying attention to the title of their series: Masters of Horror. Being scared out of your gourd isn't always about blood and guts and carnage--it's about dread. I know I've said that often in my blogs and Crystal Says... reviews, but tapping into primal fear isn't really such a mystery. Yes, it's hard to do, but you'd think Masters of a genre would have a handle on this. Kind of disappointing, but since a different director is in charge of every episode, I'll stick with it.
And that's it, for now. Until TV report card III, have a good time slogging though all the holiday specials and waiting for PRISON BREAK to come back....
Thursday, December 01, 2005
As a bonus, I saw my first extended preview of THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. Now, you all realize by now that I *love* horror movies; I can watch just about anything. But I'm going to confess something: I'm afraid to see this film. It's true!!! I don't want to cry like a baby when Aslan...well, you know what happens if you've read the book and if you haven't, I sure ain't going to tell you. Can I suck it up and watch it? I don't know, but I *really* want to!
Last, I highly recommend that you go to any number of web sites to see a preview of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 2: DEAD MAN'S CHEST. (Try www.aintitcoolnews.com if you don't find it anywhere else.) I'm so excited about it, and my dreamy elf has a line that had me busting out laughing.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Isn't it beautiful? This is called the Wild Rose Necklace from Sunspot Designs, which is a Goth custom made jewelry boutique. This is going to be just one of the items in the prize package that Erica Orloff (www.ericaorloff.com) and I will be offering in just a couple of days when our web sites are refreshed. We thought that a gorgeous, blood-red necklace would be perfect when it came to promoting a book called TWICE BITTEN (which features rereleases of Erica's URBAN LEGEND and my THE HUNTRESS Bombshells).
So remember to come back to www.crystal-green.com to see what else we have in store!
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Did any of you guys watch that program Bravo had on last Halloween about the top 100 scariest movie moments? My Netflix list expanded because of it; THE TENANT was one of the films I thought seemed really cool. Another one was BLACK CHRISTMAS, which has a cult following. It was made in the early seventies and stars Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder as sorority sisters who have to deal with a killer who has set his sights on their campus house over the holidays. This movie came before HALLOWEEN or FRIDAY THE 13th and is said to be the “original slasher movie” (even though PSYCHO makes an argument for that, among other films).
I actually remember watching BLACK CHRISTMAS when I was younger, and Bravo’s special brought it all back to me. I know the film scared me, but not in a roller-coaster way. Basically, I didn’t remember a lot of the plot, but I recalled strong feelings of alienation and discombobulation, which is a far more effective horror than most movies provide.
So, here I was, really excited about watching it when it arrived in the mail. In the dark of night, I popped the disc into the player. “Hmm,” I thought to myself, perusing the menu. “It might be fun to see the trailer.” Don’t ask me why—I never look at those sorts of chaff extras on the DVDs. Boring. But I did this time.
And…five minutes later, I popped the movie right back out and decided to view it with my Thanksgiving company after the kids went to bed. Why? Because this killer in the movie makes really weird, freaky, hell-inspired phone calls and that got to me. You know when you experience something visceral and you can’t explain it? That’s what happened here. Seriously. When I finally watched the whole thing, it wasn’t so much the gory deaths or the oppressive atmosphere that made me anxious: It was those dang phone calls.Thus, I’m recommending BLACK CHRISTMAS because it passed my own personal horror test. You might hate it. But if you’re anything like me—a person who got wiggy about the Blair Witch and was afraid that she was lurking just outside her window for three weeks after viewing the film—you’ll lock the doors extra tight and never answer the phone after twilight again.
Friday, November 25, 2005
Okay, I know I've been bitching about ALIAS lately, but that didn't mean that I truly wanted it cancelled! How are they going to tie up all the loose ends by May? There are still so many questions about what Jack is up to, if Sloan is truly good or evil, and what Irina Derevko is all about. And I'm not even going to start with the Rambaldi threads. Are we going to get answers?
I hear that some very cool things are in store for the rest of the season, and I'm hoping with every little fan girl beat of my heart that this is true. Vaughn just has to come back, right? And my favorite blond bad boy is going to be making an appearance very soon--hopefully it'll last for longer than one episode. Hear that writers? I WANT MY SARK BACK, LIKE, TWO SECONDS AGO!!!
Oh, ALIAS, I really will miss you.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
In anticipation of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share one of my absolute favorite desserts. It’s called Pumpkin Pie Cake, and my mom has been making it since I was a tyke. It’s one of those goodies that I would always sneak little tastes from throughout the day until someone else came into the kitchen for a piece, and then they’d yell, “Why is there, like, one square inch of Pumpkin Pie Cake left?”
Enjoy, and have a wonderful day tomorrow (and all days).
Pumpkin Pie Cake
Bake in 9 x 13 pan
1 box Yellow Cake Mix (set aside 1 cup of mix for later)
Add 1 stick melted butter
>Add 1 egg
Mix together and press into bottom of pan
1 large can of pumpkin
>½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
2/3 cup milk
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Mix together well, pour and spread over bottom crust layer
½ cup white sugar
>½ cup walnuts, crushed
½ stick butter
Cut together to form crumbs, then sprinkle over top of pumpkin mixture
Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes
Monday, November 21, 2005
Work through them.
I've got my family here for Thanksgiving, and I'd planned to finish my Blaze rough draft in time to have some fun with them. Alas, that is not happening. This lovely cold that is dogging me right now is the bane of my present existence (but there's no way I'm going to rest until these chapters are cleaned up--catch 22), so I'm trying something new for a cure: natural stuff. First, I'm drinking this herbal tea and using Throat Rescue, which totally manhandled my sore throat by the end of the first five hours. Great stuff, and I think the tea is working. I also started a new vitamin regimen as well as a diet suppliment since I'm the Queen of Junk Food and I need to change this terrible habit (Yes, I'll stop eating Suzie Qs and Tostidos any time now. How does the beginning of next week sound?). At any rate, I'm wondering if this cold would've been a lot worse if I hadn't been taking this new stuff. Everyone in my family just got over THE FLU, so I'm hoping I've staved that off.
Here's to hoping everyone who's reading (and, natch, writing) this will be healthy enough to enjoy turkey in a couple of days!
Saturday, November 19, 2005
It figures. Here I was, writing away yesterday morning on the next to last chapter of my Blaze, when I realized that something wasn’t really working for me. As I sat there, I started to panic. I’d messed up.
You see, it came to my attention that I needed to add a confrontation between the hero and heroine before a couple of scenes I’d already written. This not only means that I’ll have to rewrite the scene that was taking its place (I’m pushing the page count as it is, so there’ll be no unnecessary pages here.), but I’ll have to rewrite the scenes I’ve already done. Not a happy day for me, but this is a hazard of the occupation. Sometimes you write something that doesn’t work in the big picture. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does…
At least I realized it before I turned the MS in, I suppose. But, really, that’s not making me any happier right now.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
THE TENANT does much of the same thing. I won't reveal plot points, but here are the basics: In Paris, a Polish man (a foreigner, keep in mind) moves into an apartment that has recently been vacated, not because the former tenant moved to a sunnier, more picturesque location than this barely-not-a-slum property, but because she jumped out of the window. As the movie unravels, we see this shy, unassuming man discovering things about the former tenant, and he starts wondering if he's being haunted, being ganged up on by the other tenants, or even if he's losing his mind.
This is a slower movie, but it creeps along on a layer of details and quirky characterization. And, wouldn't you know it, it also got to me because of a terrible fear I have of...(SEMI SPOILER: DON'T READ ON UNLESS YOU WANT SOME POSSIBLE TMI) well, let's just say the main character has something in common with Norman Bates and that doctor from a certain Brian DePalma movie with Michael Caine....
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
*Titus and Lucius, the Dumb and Dumber of the centurian set: these are two guys who absolutely grow on you. They started out pretty much despising each other, but now they'd lay down their livesfor each other. I hear the finale is going to be very sad, and I'm so afraid something is going to happen to one of these guys. And here's the thing--ROME pulls no punches; I don't trust them to keep this pair safe (see the next point).
* the squick factor: okay, I don't actually "love" this but I'm kinda fascinated by it. ROME is bloody, brutal, and graphic (and I'm not just talking about in a violent way). One of the biggest OH NO THEY DIDN'T moments came during an incestuous seduction that was engineered by one of the show's great bad girls. A huge I-can't-look-away-from-this-car-accident moment. And that gladiator scene in the most recent episode? Ugh, bleh, blah, but I couldn't stop watching that one, either.
*the build up: not only have we seen the rise of Caesar, but we've also seen the methodical, venomous chess games that personally consume many characters, particularly Atia and Servilia. You wouldn't want to tick either of these women off. ROME has done a great job of creating characters you root for one second and hate the next. This is the case with these two women: they're highly amusing, but they're disgusting. Same with Roman politics.
*the anticipation leading up to Caesar's assassination: it's happening in the finale next week, and I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it. Not only is this a major moment in history, it's going to throw a lot of the show's characters into complete destruction.
I can't wait for season two and, daggonit, season one isn't even done. Boy, I'm in for a long haul.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
No--Anne Rice has switched gears in her career, and everyone is chatting about it.
Basically every single person who's in touch with books or media in general knows about Rice. Her Vampire Chronicles are huge bestsellers; they redefined the vamp genre and created an army of fans who paid respects to Rice's Garden District home, attended her Mardi Gras parties, and worshipped at the altar of Lestat. Personally, I loved the first few books, as well as the first couple of Mayfair Witches novels; the fictional worlds Rice created seem so real--built upon layers and layers of physical details and philosophical musings--that you can't hardly blame people for believing in their existence. (I refer to only one "existence" because the vamps and the witches came together in a fictional realm at one point.) Personally, I've seen Rice's house during walking tours, and a few years ago, I even visited the brick ex-orphanage that she bought to house her massive collection of dolls (I'm told that the building was sold and turned into condos. Figures.) . So I do count myself as an admirer of hers.
But, lately, there seems to be a huge disconnect between Rice and some of her fans. And you can guess why. She's decided to stop writing about "the dark side" and concentrate on a subject that's actually closer to her other writing than many of the unitiated would think: She's now writing about Jesus Christ, starting with a novel that takes place when he was a child.
I'm not that surprised. As Rice's career spun itself out over the years, her work became very self-exploratory and philosophical, weaving questions of faith and religion into the lives of her "monsters." It was obvious that the subjects were weighing heavily on her mind. Thus, the transition she's made into exploring the life of Jesus isn't a complete turnaround. It'll be interesting to see what she's come up with, I think; Rice is a stickler for research, so the book should have the same "lived in" feel of her others.
At any rate, I wish her luck and peace. I takes a lot of bravery to deviate from an ultra-successful career and to venture into such lightning-rod territory. All the best, Ms. Rice.
Friday, November 11, 2005
I told you in a previous post that the first movie I watched for Blaze inspiration (for PLAYMATES) was WILD ORCHID. This time, for this WIP (work in progress), it was DELTA OF VENUS, which was also directed by Zalman King. He was the driving force behind RED SHOE DIARIES, as well, so the man knows what he's doing.
The plot of DELTA concerns "Elena," an American writer who's come to live in pre-WWII Paris in order to be inspired (I can relate.). While there, she embarks upon a "journey to find her sexuality." While this movie had a good sense of the time period's eroticism, it wasn't as hot as I'd hoped. Don't know why. There was lots of action, but I just wasn't drawn in all the way. However, while I was daydreaming during part of the film (Yes, this does happen when I finally get too bored to care yet too unwilling to give up watching the story--see previous SAW II blog), I did think of a pretty good love scene that I used in today's writing.
So thank you, DELTA OF VENUS. You did your duty.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
If you haven't picked anything up by Brite, I highly recommend you do so. But be warned, the stories aren't for everyone.
Monday, November 07, 2005
As I write this new Blaze, I realized that there’s a little subject I can address here: Love Scene Flambé or “how I got the guts to write my first saucy love scene.”
Now, before I give you my recipe for that, let me first distinguish something. There are many different types of love scenes. Specifically, the ones I write for Special Edition frequently do have a bit of spice to them, but the line doesn’t welcome graphic descriptions, so certain words and intense descriptions aren’t included. The books are very much based on the search for family and community, and the focus isn’t on carnality or the games hip, urbane, and at times cynical singles play with each other in the world of dating. Special Edition romances usually grow in more traditional steps, though I’ve read (and even wrote) variations on this theme. Then there are the Blaze books; their hallmark is the exploration of a more explicit relationship. Oftentimes, there’s sex in the first few chapters because, basically, Blazes start with a sexual connection and then grow into love (whereas, with Special Edition, it’s often the opposite: a strong emotional connection that usually develops sexually).
For me, Blaze love scenes can be a real challenge to write because they’re so intense. It’s tough to make the reader care about the hero and heroine having sex when they don’t hardly even relate to each other on a mental and heartfelt level…yet. Also, speaking in generalities, and I’ll be blunt about this, to write a love scene, you should be just as into it as you’d expect the reader to be. If you’re not feeling it as you create it, it’ll need some work. Stressful.
Based on all that, writing a tryst—especially a hot one—can be daunting. When I created my first Blaze, PLAYMATES (February, 2004), I’d, up until that point, only written the Special Edition version of sex—sweet and full of emotion. However, my PLAYMATES characters weren’t going to arrive there until further on in the story, way after they’d had some naughty/nice athletics in the bedroom (even though an actual bed wasn’t involved until way later). In fact, the characters were so experienced and wary of relationships that they were going to start out with the pyrotechnics and work their way up to a simple, life-changing kiss. (Come to think of it, that happened in my second Blaze, too [BORN TO BE BAD, April, 2005], but in the latter, it was really emphasized. One of the book’s themes actually concentrated on the power of a kiss; the subplot supported this.) Needless to say, when it came time for the first PLAYMATES love scene (in chapter three, whoo!), I was daunted indeed. I didn’t even know if I could type any “c words” (not the %*&t one—you can’t go there with Blaze, and I wouldn’t want to anyway) without freaking out about my family and friends reading the copy. I needed to get over this, and quick.
I did. And this was my recipe for doing it:
1/2 glass of Amaretto over ice
1 viewing of WILD ORCHID, the best bad movie ever made; separate into parts:
o a few minutes of the Lambada where almost everyone is wearing a mask
o a pinch of the scene where that American businessman propositions the heroine because he thinks she’s a prostitute and Mickey Rourke pretty much dares her to go for it AND SHE DOES!
o a dose of the ending with all that sweaty stuff
Mix together Amaretto and WILD ORCHID, stirring until you’re brave enough to hit the keyboard and you don’t care what the heck you’re typing as long as it’s working. (You can edit what's not working out later—it’s getting the scene down in the first place that’s the hardest.)
Serves all the readers who are kind enough to read your books
If WILD ORCHID isn’t appealing, try your own thing: 9 ½ WEEKS, RED SHOE DIARIES, THE BIG EASY, or maybe you can read your favorite love scene from a book (even though that’s tough because the prose might affect your own). And the Amaretto is optional, even though it’s really good.
Back to writing.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Here's what I had written as little hints:
Noir vampire mystery...
Hot nights in San Francisco...
Playboy falls for good girl...
Back to those vampires...
And more vampires...
A surprise story full of steam...
And here's what I meant:
Noir vampire mystery...
Since I was finishing the first Vampire Underground book at the time, that's what I was referrring to.
Hot nights in San Francisco...
This is the Blaze that I'm working on now (see previous blog entry for story details). The working title is SKIN DEEP, but I'm predicting that'll be changed.
Playboy falls for good girl...
After SKIN DEEP, I'll be diving into my next Special Edition. The working title is THE PLAYBOY TAKES A WIFE, and it takes place in Mexico and New York. It's a marriage of convenience tale featuring a corporate shark who needs a wife for public relations reasons. Of course, that wife is going to change his life and teach him a thing or two about women and affection. I'm not positive about a release date, though I'm going to include Christmas in the story...possibly a December, 2006 release? Just speculation. I'll let you know for sure when I hear a firm date, but that could be a few months down the road.
Back to those vampires...
After that, I'll be working on my second Berkley Vampire Underground story. My deadline is April 15, 2006.
And more vampires...
At this point, my next official deadline will be October 15, 2006 (for the third Vampire Underground book). I'm giving myself extra time to write it because it'll be the trilogy finale and it's going to be quite complex--even moreso than the first two. That blows my mind, so I felt a six-month stretch between deadlines would be wise. Besides, I'll have the chance to work on any proposals that'll need to be completed.
A surprise story full of steam...
The "surprise" refers to a "blind book" for which Blaze has put me under contract. A "blind book" means that they've reserved my time (with a deadline of December 15, 2006) even though they don't know what my story will be about.
So that's my schedule for the next year +. Feels good to be busy!
Thursday, November 03, 2005
I like my vampires dark and intense, and BITE is interesting in that it showcases some very original premises that are well worth appreciating. Yet, ultimately, this book seems to be more about extending these authors' series work and not creating self-contained short stories. For instance, Hamtilton gives us a glimpse of her awesome Anita Blake character and her nemesis/lover Jean-Claude; and Harris continues her Sookie Stackhouse character. And I actually haven't read the other authors before, so I'm not sure if their stories were based on established characters or not.
At any rate, if you like to catch up with old favorites, you'll like this. If you enjoy vampire romance, you'll eat this up. If you want some clever twists on vampire life, this is your chance to grab some of it.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
For those of you who are unfamiliar with "Blaze," I'm talking about a book line that publishes "hot" romances from Harlequin. The promise of these novels is that you'll get a steamy read, and most of the time the stories feature the sort of characters you might find in SEX AND THE CITY--hip, savvy, and experienced (though this doesn't apply to all of the stories--these are just the ones I gravitate toward). The tones range from sassy/fun to dark/erotic. As a reader, myself, I really enjoy Blaze books, so it makes sense that I also like to write them.
I've talked briefly to you about this current project before: it's the one that's centered in a San Francisco office building, where single female employees who're looking for a decent date meet in the lounge to draw business cards for the names and phone numbers of possible blind dates--like a LOVE CONNECTION lottery. The miniseries, which I'm writing with Nancy Warren and Alison Kent, is named For A Good Time Call.... In my story, the heroine, Tamara, draws the card of a guy named Kyle; his card is in the lottery because another member of the "Sisters of the Booty Call" (which is what this group of women calls themselves) met him at a bar, got his card, wrote her impressions of him on the back--including the reason she wasn't interested in him, even though she thinks he'd be a great date for a friend--and deposited it in the communal vase the Sisters use for the drawing. (So, basically, these women have thought up their own dating service with guys who come recommended.) BUT, when it comes time for Kyle to meet Tamara at their designated date spot, a series of circumstances allows Kyle's cousin, Murphy, to take his place--as Kyle. Sounds strange, I know--part of the challenge of this book is to oil the machinations of this "masquerade" plot so that they work. And so far so good. I think.
Anyhow, today, I'm supposed to be researching my San Francisco setting. I think it's an amazing city, but I'm sad because the location was changed from New Orleans to SF due to the devastation of Katrina. As I've mentioned before, New Orleans is not only one of my favorite places on Earth, it's an additional character to me when I write about it, and losing it is like having to leave a friend behind as I embark on a trip to someplace else.
At any rate, here I go on this new manuscript....
Sunday, October 30, 2005
A while ago, I'd visited New Orleans. As you probably know, there're many, many tours that canvas the city--vampire and ghost walking tours, bus tours that visit cemeteries and drive through the neighborhoods, plantation tours, even tours on those scooter things across the river at Old Algiers Point. My mom and I wanted to try something different, so we signed up for a Grayline tour that was like no other. It was a "ghost hunting" experience. We didn't know where we were going or what exactly what we were going to do, but Mom and I gamely rode on a minibus along the river with about fifteen other people and were let off in an old neighborhood in the darkness (with a security guard--don't worry). There, in front of a house that was a little worse for the wear, we met a psychic--our leader. As dogs barked in the night, we listened to her explain that we would be given some tools of the trade, separated into groups, and then let loose in this domain to explore any paranormal activity. She wouldn't tell us the history of the house--the knowledge would cloud our judgement and she wanted us to go in without any preconceptions of what we might find--but this was definitely a documented site of paranormal activity.
With that, Mom and I met our partners, a couple from a town near Baton Rouge, and we received our instruments. First, there were the divining rods. With these, we could "ask the spirits questions" and get answers from the movement of the rods. (It had to be yes or no questions. For instance, if you'd sense a presence, you'd "call out" to invite the spirit to interact with you, then ask something like, "Are you a female? If the answer is yes, please move the rods to your right.") Second, we received a thermo-anemometer, a temperature gauge, which allowed us to determine any changes in heat and coldness. Then there was the magnetometer, which recorded shifts in the electromagnetic field. One person per instrument with one person who would record our findings on a clipboard with a chart; we would switch responsibilities throughout the night. We were ready.
As we wandered the eerie halls and rooms, one of our partners, the wife, was "a bit psychic," so we ended up getting some stories from her as we questioned with the divining rods. But as she came up with murderous scenarios, I wondered something: Why were all the spirits we encountered the victims of violent death? Not everyone dies due to murder. Now, I'm a skeptic who's open to possibilities, but the fact that we were only talking to spirits who died in "interesting" ways was a little suspect. I thought that maybe our partners were getting carried away and imagining too much. Heck, it was pretty easy, because this place had become more and more unsettling as we searched the tattered walls with our flashlights. In the stillness, the husband in our group suggested that this once might've been a mortuary. We found a presence in an old bathtub, then in a tiny back room with a toilet and wires sticking out of the wall, then in an upstairs room that overlooked a housing project across the street. The bathtub spirit was a female who'd been murdered by her husband. The presence in the tiny back room seemed to be a child but then we talked to his/her mom to find out that the baby had never made it out of the womb alive due to a violent incident. Upstairs was the stomping ground of another murder victim.
In the end, the leader told us that the house had been through many changes: it was a bar, a possible brothel, as well as a boarding house. Many people had passed through. But the weirdest information came when she told us about previous documented contacts with the spirits inside. One was a woman who'd fallen down the stairs and broken her neck. This had happened near that tiny back room with the toilet. She'd been pregnant, and the baby hadn't lived, either.
Friday, October 28, 2005
That's why I took a break from all the TV Halloween Horror flick marathons (of which there are woefully few) and went to see SAW II a couple of hours ago. First, let me get this out of the way: which one is better--the original SAW or this sequel? IMHO, it's the original, even though the initial SAW is notorious for having its share of problems (just look at any review on www.rottentomatoes.com). And it's hard to say I "liked" either one of these movies. I'm just looking at them from a point of effectiveness--did they scare me or not? Well, let me tell you what kind of movie scares me: something that messes with my mind until I wake up in a cold sweat. Something that drags a feeling of dread through its plot and over my nerves so slowly that I have to watch most of the movie through my fingers. Something that makes me anxious about seeing the face of the killer--a horror almost as awful as looking evil itself in the eye. Movies that do this for me: DON'T LOOK NOW (the build up...that ending), JAWS (talk about hearing your own heart beating in your ears as the clang of a bell and the lap of soft waves marks every second to a victim's death), PSYCHO (the lunatic, wide-eyed glee of Norman Bates as he charges through the cellar door, knife raised and music shrieking), and SESSION 9 (you can feel the awfulness in every echo off the abandoned asylum's walls in this movie, and the worst part comes with the utlimate human tragedy). Truthfully, neither SAW movie even comes close to my favorites, but I did think the first movie had a truly terrifying set up and tenor. I mean, my God, remember that dungeon/bathroom/whatever-the-devil-it-was where the victims were being held prisoner? I walked out of that movie feeling grimy and disgusting. And the end was a corker--a hell of a twist. This movie could head up a genre called Grislygrunge. I think the term (not unlike "Splatterpunk") speaks for itself and clearly tells you what you're in for with the SAW franchise. (And, just for tangent's sake, let me tell you that I'm really looking forward to HOSTEL, another grungy horror movie that was previewed before SAW. Also, FEAST. Bring 'em!)
But I'm talking about SAW II now. There's actually not a whole lot to say. I wasn't scared, yet I was pretty grossed out--and I think that was the intention. SAW II doesn't disappoint if you're there to see inventive killing. Also, there was some taut action going on with the cat-and-mouse games between Jigsaw (the serial killer) and the cop he's tangling with. Still, I started daydreaming about an hour into the film, which is never a good sign, even though the end shook me out of thoughts of grocery lists and things-to-do-when-I-get-home pretty thorougly. Yeah, the finale was all right, but not even close to the first SAW's concluding slap on the butt. Do I recommend this? I guess so, but only because it's Halloween and it's really the only movie out that fills the terror niche for this weekend. Any other time, I'd say stay home.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
1. Veronica is smart. If you like a show with snappy dialogue and a character who never disrespects the audience by acting ridiculous or alienating them with whininess, you'll like this one. See, Veronica is a complete original: she's a good student, but a rebel. She's upbeat, but fairly cynical. She's got the best lines since Buffy, too. And she's not so brainy that she's superior; Veronica has got her share of soap-opera-worthy problems with boyfriends--except that her issues include murder and deception of the most criminal degree.
2. The mysteries are well paced. You know how some shows drag their "hooks" out forever and, somewhere along the way, you realize that you've lost all enthusiasm for the answers to all the clues that have been parceled out? VERONICA MARS doesn't fall into that X-FILES or TWIN PEAKS trap. Last year, with the big mystery of "who killed Lilly Kane," the viewership was rewarded with an actual solution during a bang-up season finale. And along the way, the show manages to feature mysteries that are wrapped up in one episode, short-term mysteries about character (witness this year's subplot about Wallace's mom and what looks to be a former relationship that's bound to destroy good ol' Papa Mars' budding romance with her), and that season-long "hook" mystery (who's behind the bus crash and why did a murder victim wash up on shore with the name "Veronica Mars" on his palm?). So we have many items to keep us hooked and satisfied.
3. The continuity is excellent. This is important for me as a viewer. There're many shows that seem to forget a character's history, if not the details of what happened in the previous episodes. (Yes, ALIAS comes to mind, even though I enjoyed the first few seasons enough to excuse plot holes and glaring character inconsistancies. Nowadays? Not so much.) With VERONICA MARS, the writers really seem to care about keeping their mythologies and character aspects straight; they respect the audience enough to constantly hearken back to tiny revelations and in jokes based on characterization. (That word keeps coming up a lot, I see--characterization. It's what holds this show together.)
4. The characters are fascinating. Again, with the "c" word. When's the last time you longed for a smart-ass, silver-spooned bad boy or a gang banger to light up your TV screen? In this show, the actors take the great dialogue and characters that they're given and run with them--surprisingly, even the people you'd normally despise are the ones you want to see over and over again. And the humor comes from the appreciation that the audience has for the characters; there's no slapstick or forced jokes because these players are so real that you get them, just like a best friend who delivers esoteric quips that wouldn't make sense unless you knew their history.
Basically, I urge you to give this show a try. It's on tonight!!! Better yet, why not rent the first season's DVD and treat yourself to a VERONICA marathon? Come on now!
Monday, October 24, 2005
Why do we insist on going back to places we've left? I guess because there's a bittersweetness to seeing them--recalling the best of times while knowing we'll never recreate the happiness. We dredge up things we've outgrown--and sometimes with good reason--but we also realize how every stitch that holds our days together matters in our growth. Maybe we're trying to see if those stitches unravel by tugging at them, and we feel good when they hold. Who knows. All I can say is that it's nice to see where my life began--it gives good perspective.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
I don’t normally listen to audiotapes of books, but I just tried an abridged version of Joe Eszterhas’s autobiography HOLLYWOOD ANIMAL. Like a dolt, I'd misread the book's description on Amazon when I ordered this and I didn't realize it was the cut version of the story. Big mistake.
As you can guess, I picked up this story for more Tinseltown research for my Vampire Underground novels. Eszterhas is best known for his screenplays: the most famous being BASIC INSTINCT, SHOWGIRLS, and JAGGED EDGE. He’s also known as the writer who was the first to be paid in the astounding range of $3 million for a script (BASIC INSTINCT). As far as screenwriters go, he’s a superstar with diva appetites, mainly for women and booze. I expected his story to be seedy and rife with gossip, but it met my expectations in only the slightest way. Yes, there were a couple of juicy anecdotes, but as I soon as I finished the tapes, I did some Internet research on this man and discovered that my abridged cassettes cut a lot out of his life. Good stuff, too. Dang it. It’s terrible to admit, but I really did want the sleaze and rumor-ridden slime that Joe Eszterhas was sure to impart. However, the writer surprised me with his flashbacks about growing up as the son of an immigrant from Hungry. These sections are sometimes shocking, sometimes poignant, and a good counterbalance to the present. Still, I felt as if my abridged version was cut to the point of whitewashing, even though I understand that the actual 700+ page novel itself is far more candid. I think I’ll read it…someday when I’ve gotten through all the other thousand books in my To Be Read piles.
No more abridged versions for me.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Angel Baker is a Certified Retribution Specialist, which basically means that victims can hire her to retrieve their tormentors and seek justice from that point on. It's a wonderful premise, and Beard populates her stories with colorful and original characters as well as taut mysteries. In this story, Angel has been framed for murder, and the suspects range from her is-he-or-isn't-he-a-good-guy love interest to a deadly mob boss. My favorite part of these books is the setting though; Beard obviously has a lot of fun with details (like compubots, who are programmed to resemble old movie heroes, as well as genuinely funny takes on the ramifications of our cultural excesses). She doesn't miss a chance to shade her world with logical and interesting grace notes.
I hope there'll be another Angel Baker novel--there're a lot of places this charactrer can go. With any luck, Angel will be another Eve Dallas, with a neverending series of stories. Definitely recommended!
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Elizabeth's comments, published with her blessing, are an account of what went on during this year's Festival. As you'll see, it's a lot of business *and* pleasure. So without further ado, here you go:
We started off the evening before the conference began with a truly lovely & lavish cocktail party at the Le Monacelle hotel, which people might remember from last year. It was in a gorgeous room just off one of the hotel’s terraces -- abuting the wall of the cathedral -- where tables were set out. It was a great way for the conference participants to get to know each other in a relaxed setting before the whirlwind of the conference itself. It was also a way for writers to get to meet the editors on a friendly and relaxed basis.
We met in the same beautiful building as last year, the Palazzo Lanfranchi, which is a working museum. Our meeting room was large and stunningly beautiful, up on the second floor, the Hall of Arches, and the panelists spoke beneath an 18th century fresco, as you can see from some of the photos.
The first morning session started with an opening talk by Dorothy Zinn, anthropologist, on food anthropology. It was fascinating and a tie-in with our Food & Wine Writing for Fiction Writers Course, run by Evan Kleiman, LA chef.
We had truly excellent panels – editors panels, panels on book distribution and promotion, agents panel and a translation panel. For working writers, the most immediately useful panels were the editors panel and the agents panel.
I think the editors said partly what editors all over say – write me that big blockbuster novel -- which at times is depressing if you’re not aiming for the big blockbuster, but a smaller, saleable novel. It seems to fit general overall trends of squeezing out mid-list authors, unless they are publishing houses like Harlequin and Moments-Verlag who specialize in category romance. One important big trend was mentioned by all the editors – historical novels are very popular and their popularity is increasing (our focus this year was historical novels and we had Sarah Dunant giving a Master Class in historical fiction that raised goosebumps it was so good. Good enough to swim across the Atlantic to hear!). Everyone said that about historicals. They weren’t necessarily talking bout historical romance, of course, but rather the ‘big’ historical novel, well-researched, well-crafted, giving insights into a special historical time and place. Think of The Birth of Venus itself, The Red Tent, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Isabel Allende’s latest, Zorro, etc. So maybe if you’re thinking of writing that breakout novel, you might want to pick a fascinating and unusual historical backdrop.
Speaking of breakout novels – I met Donald Maas last year in London and he expressed a willingness to come to next year’s WFF III. I know he’s very expensive so do you think there would be a lot of interest next year in having Donald run his famous workshop? I’ve heard so much about it, Writing the Breakout Novel, that it’s incredibly fantastic. He would also be available for panels and appointments, of course.
It was really interesting listening to the Italian editors. We were lucky enough to have about 70% of the major Italian publishing companies present and thanks to Maria paola probably next year we’ll cover all of the major publishers in Italy. The editors are all acquiring editors, too. We had simultaneous interpretation for all the sessions which really helped communication. The Italian market is of great importance to writers writing in English since a huge chunk of what’s available in Italian bookstores is translated from the English. One big publishing house, Sonzogno, translates about 90% of their list, mainly from English. It’s a big big market.
The agent panel was incredibly interesting, too, with a focus on foreign rights and how to protect your interests. It was fascinating seeing the utter difference in mentality between writers & agents – they are two entirely different animals. The writers asked a lot of questions and got answers I don’t actually think they can get anywhere else. Luigi Bonomi proved to be an incredible resource for us – friendly, open and amazingly knowledgeable. He was a senior editor for 8 years at Penguin and for another 8 years at Harlequin, then 8 years at a huge UK agency and has just now opened his own agency and he had great war stories and above all, since ours is such an intimate conference, he was available at all times for anyone who wanted to talk. He was more than willing to give great advice, and I think has taken on two writers as clients and had recommendations for everyone who approached him.
That’s another fabulous success story – this year the WFF became a true writer’s conference in that all the editors & agents were acquiring. It was a real UPHILL BATTLE convincing Italians that writers conferences are useful. At times it felt like butting my head against the wall. However, at the conference itself, the Italians took to the concept like a duck to water, as if they’d been to writers’ conferences all their lives. I think two English language writers sold rights to their books to Italian publishers and I think a couple of Italians sold their manuscripts as well. And they were giving good advice, too. Another thing -- Since so much of Italian publishing is in translation (and since I’m a translator myself and know how tight the market is) I insisted very strongly that translators be able to contact editors, as well (Italian publishing very badly needs new translation voices) and I think a couple of smart young translators, who otherwise would never be able to break into the closed shop of Italian publishing, got the opportunity to sit for a test. That creaking sound you heard was Italian publishing, opening up. ALL the editors are coming next year – they were incredibly enthusiastic – and we’ll probably have several more.
The public events were fantastic. We organized Happy Hour with the Writers (which of course became Happy Hour and a Half with the Writers) in a lovely square just outside the auditorium, where the evening panels were. We offered rosè wine and munchies to everyone who wanted to come along and it was just amazing – this square filled with writers & readers chatting and having a really good time. You can see that in Isolde’s photos. Happy Hour was when the journalists came and had access to all the writers and was an extremely convivial setting for interviews, both press, radio & TV. The evening panels were well attended- the auditorium seats about 300 (or 350?) and it was always between half-full and three quarters full. The panels were very interesting, serious enough to be true cultural events, fun enough to be entertaining. The public loved them, as did the writers.
At the literary prize presentation on Saturday, we gave our wonderful 'La Baccante' gold necklace (see website) to Inge Feltrinelli, an amazing woman, a German, who started her career as one of the most famous photojournalists of her time - interviewing and befriending the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Simone de Beauvoir, Picasso, etc. - and after the death of her husband, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, she took Feltrinelli's publishing house and over the last thirty years she's turned it into an international publishing giant.
And we had an AMAZING concert - just incredible music - by Giuliana De donno, playing a Celtic harp and something called a Paraguayan harp, and a percussionist playing traditional celtic & Latin American music. Beautiful stuff.
And lastly – the gala dinner. Ahh, how to describe the gala dinner? A magical candle-lit room under a candle-lit bower, actors pouring your wine reciting poetry… divine.
I don’t know how we’re going to top that one next year, but we’ll think of something!!
Next year is an emphasis on mystery, crime & thrillers. We’ve arranged a series of Briefings for mystery/thriller writers to give you the background knowledge you need. We’ll have the US ConsulGeneral from the Embassy in Rome, a really smart lady named Barbara Cummins, talking about how the diplomatic corps works, a woman who worked very very closely with the CIA in the State Department (but who isn’t bound by confidentiality rules) talking bout how the CIA works, America’s top skip tracer/bounty hunter talking about how to disappear abroad and how to trace someone who has disappeared abroad, the FBI Legat from Rome, a general of the carabinieri and the Italian secret service talking about combating international organized crime, a couple of forensic scientists, an agent from Interpol and more, much more.
Do check the website, with updates, a beautiful poem written specially for us by Sarah Tucker and you can click and see interviews with the authors:
See you next year!!!
I'm incredibly jealous that I didn't get to go this year, so one of my goals for next year is to return.