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Retrofitting Character

Last weekend, I think it was, I was channel surfing, and came upon Adam Sandler's THE LONGEST YARD about a third of the way in. Now, one of my favorite football games in film ever was the one in the original version of THE LONGEST YARD, so we decided to watch the rest of it. It was nicely done, with a lot of subtle acting -- who knew Chris Rock could be tamed? -- and sweet bits of character development. Really was impressed by the film -- but I told Newell I wished he could see the original, because it was one of my favorite movies.

Well, a few nights later, Burt Reynolds' version was on. And...uh...it didn't hold up to my memories of it at all. Of course, one problem was that it was on CMT, and they censored the most memorable line in the movie -- and if you have seen it uncut, you probably know the one I mean. It was my favorite line, so it was a bit of a let down... Of course, to be fair, I did not see the beginning of the remake, so I don't know what all the set up was...but boy, the '74 version looked dated.

But the most important difference was the characterizations. There were none in the '74 version. Okay, that's not strictly fair. The characters were flat, with little dimension, and what there was seemed stereotypical -- but that was the style chosen for a movie that was more about plot than character in a day when the style was fairly normal. However, my treasured memories of the film were rather blown away by the reality after all these years.

In the '05 remake, though the names of the characters were the same in many cases, with a lot of the same dialog, the subtle differences gave them life. And created some of the more interesting scenes too. For example, seeing the Con "Cheerleaders" only at the game in the original wasn't nearly as dynamic as seeing the boys who wanted to cheer begging for the chance and working on the details throughout the film.

Newell was personally very impressed with how much better Burt Reynolds was as an actor in the relatively minor role of Nate Scarborough than he was as the lead in the original. But again, that was his style in the '70s. In the new film, he was giving a character and not a star turn.

The reason that I am even writing this entry is because I was so blown away to see that you could indeed retrofit character into an old project. It's the thing that has me most excited about my revision of THE BLOOD THAT BINDS into THE LUCKLESS PRINCE. Flat characters without a lot of motivation in a more plot driven novel have been fleshed out with scenes allowing the introductions of more subtle development. Some characters that were almost walk-ons in the original now have importance to the overall arc. And a large handful of entirely new characters offer more depth to the novel as a whole.

I am really looking forward to folding in the final comments from the beta-readers and starting it out on the rounds. Hopefully by the end of the year. Though I am a bit tremulous about finding an agent...I have so many things in so many genres...can one person handle them all? Agent advice gratefully accepted!

Short and Sweet

I didn't write anything for about a year except poetry. To me, poetry isn't writing, it's breathing. But when the block cracked, it smashed into little pieces. I got the revision of my first novel done...but more importantly, I rediscovered how to write a short story. I'm so happy about that. Short pieces are much quicker to turn around. Since mid-August, I have gotten three short stories out into the submission loop, and a fourth posted on my Facebook fanpage as a free read. I have an invitation to submit to an anthology with another piece. Life is good. I like having multiple pieces out on the road...now, if only some of them start finding homes... ;)

My Magical World Journal adventure

So, if you have seen me at a con in the last year or so, you might have seen my autograph book. It looks like this:

My Magical World Journal

I love it. Everyone loves it. I've gotten the best comments, sketches, and signatures because of it.

Well, it filled up, as these things will, and for the last month or so, I have been looking for more. Amazon has a "used" copy for sale for $999. That was ridiculous. So I looked online. I found a store that had some. I was ecstatic! So I sent a money order for 5 copies. And waited. And waited. Called last week. They said they'd get back to me...

Called today. The woman was very apologetic for not getting back to me -- new phone system -- but she had bad news. The company had discontinued the whole line, and a check was in the mail for my purchase price. *Sigh*

So I started looking for another source. There were FOREIGN editions available. So I called the company. No, they haven't discontinued the line at all. They just don't have any American/English interest, so they only print foreign language versions. Greek, Czech, Hungarian, I believe are the three that the lovely woman I spoke to mentioned.

I've got one of each on hold for me, because they happened to have them there in the office. I'm putting a money order in the mail tomorrow.

But for curiosity's sake, I asked about an English print run. They have a minimum order of 5,000 copies, which runs about $13-14k. That's actually a pretty good deal. If I had financing,  I could easily sell them I bet. Anyone want to bankroll an order? ;)

I can't believe there is no English market. Everyone who sees the book loves it. Maybe all they needed was a better marketing campaign.

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RieViews -- New Blood

I knew it was too good to last....missed posting yesterday, but here's the review I promised of Gail Dayton's NEW BLOOD from Tor.

I first heard Gail read from this book at last year's ApolloCon, so I had been on the lookout for it. When I saw it this year I snapped it up at once.

This is fantasy at its best, grabbing you and pulling you into a world lush and detailed. It is an alternate history, set in the 1860's in Europe. But it is a world filled with magic -- alchemy, wizardry, conjury...and the long-lost sorcery. All magicians in this new world are male. At least until Jax Grayson, blood servant bound to the long-dead Yvaine -- last blood sorceress -- finds her successor in Amanusa Whitcomb.

Amanusa has been living a quiet life in the wilds of Transylvania, tending to the healing of a band of outlaws through no choice of her own, afraid to work even her simple charms for fear of the Inquisition. Jax offers her a vision of a new world...with magic beyond her wildest dreams.

There is a hint of steampunk to the world; a dash of adventure; a wealth of fantasy; and a wonderful romance that most can only dream of. And a Crow. I'm always partial to a story with a Crow. :)

I know I am gushing, but it is truly a marvelous book. The characters are multi-dimensional and well-rounded. The plot carries you along like a flowing stream. The settings are vividly drawn and detailed. There is a lot of blood in places, but not gratuitous or gory.

I don't want to get too detailed -- every reader should have the opportunity to experience the story first hand -- but I will say that I found twists and turns and surprises all through the story. I would think I had something figured out completely, and I would be wrong.

I have only one problem with this book. I finished it.

I am hoping that there is a sequel, and very soon. I will be watching for it.

Reality Bites

It's been a very slow year for me profit-wise. Although I have been working my butt off writing, that writing hasn't shown a return yet, and the old stuff is...well, old. Without finding a new bunch of people to tap, most of the sales I am going to make have already been made. So...it's coming down to the mat. Looks like I will probably have to cut back to the bone on next year's (and probably the year after's) conventions unless I can luck into some way to pay for them.

This is one of those situations with no good end. If you go to the conventions, you have to a) pay your own expenses or b) get them paid for you. A. is fine if you have disposable income -- and the return is well worth it, in my opinion...but if you DON'T have that cash to spare, then it is rare that you make it back as an individual writer. (Or often even as a small publisher.) B. is great -- but paid gigs are rare until you have a reputation built up that makes you a viable Guest of Honor or Toastmaster or some other titular guest, and it is even rarer that a small press only writer has that kind of chops.

NOT going to the conventions means you aren't meeting your fans, or editors and publishers who might be looking for just what you have to offer. It takes your name off the stage and puts it on the back burner. They may remember you when you crawl out of "retirement", but it is going to require a lot of re-building to get back to where you were.

Sometimes, however, there is just no choice. If the funds don't exist, the funds don't exist, and all the wishing in the world is not likely to make it so...

...so if you don't see me on the usual circuit for awhile, don't forget about me. I'm plotting a way back...  And who knows--maybe a miracle will happen along the way, and by February, when my season of cons starts, everything will be coming up Roses...

(don't take me off the rosters yet, guys...)
Yeah, it is a minor problem, and not something to obsess about...but the length of today's television series seasons drives me insane! You are just beginning to get invested in a show, to like the characters, and to care what happens to them and BAM! the season is over.

The series seasons of my youth were generally 26 episodes. They would run from late August or early September to around March, and then there would be reruns for the summer. If you didn't catch an episode first run, and missed the repeat, you might never see it.

Then the season went to thirteen episodes. There would be a season of one show in the spring and summer, and another in the fall and winter.

Nowdays, there are "seasons" that run six to eight episodes, start at staggered times, and finish whenever the networks feel like it. You barely get interested in the current season, and it is over. On the other hand, an episode will be repeated at least twice a night, and then off and on throughout the week following on the non-traditional networks like USA, TNT, "SyFy" and so on. They claim to be running two seasons a year, but often it is still thirteen episodes split into two groups of episodes run half in the summer and half in the winter.

It is almost enough to make one give up on TV entirely...but unfortunately, the series so affected are often really good in their own right, so you WANT to see more.

Now, this rant does have a caveat. I almost never watch the mainstream networks. The only exception I made last year was for "Castle" -- though that season still fit this pattern.

I wait for things like "Bones", "House", and "NCIS" to hit USA or TNT. Maybe if I watched the shows on their "real" networks, I'd feel differently. Can anyone expound?
I didn't want to have to type it again, so here is the con report I posted on Facebook:

Friday afternoon started out with a stint behind the registration table helping to get the badges ready. (I was so early the participant packets weren't even ready, so I needed something to do.)

As soon as the dealer's room opened to dealers, I went in to see if I could find some kind soul to crib the corner of a table from, and there had been a cancellation which made a whole table available for snapping up. Of course, this cut down on my time wandering around the rest of the con, but on the other hand, I sold more books in one weekend than I have in ages, so it was worth it. :) Plus, I got to sit and chat with Gloria Oliver most of the weekend, as her table was right beside mine.

My first panel was "How Did You Think of That?" and it was very well attended for a Friday afternoon panel. We had a lot of interaction and questions from the audience. And Josh Rountree mentioned a plot bunny that resulted in my first new short story in months.

After the panel, back to dealers room. When that closed down, it was off to Opening Ceremonies. Scott Cupp's Toastmaster speech was very nice. Enjoyed all the guests' speeches, as a matter of fact.

The traditional "Meet the Pros" mixer was a lot of fun. It gets easier every year to mingle and chat. I think that Facebook has been a factor there--it's hard to be shy when you have been sending someone fish or fighting in their Mafia. :) Had many lovely conversations. The highlight of the event was when Michael Moorcock dropped in and presented Howard Waldrop with the Jack Trevor prize.

Saturday morning in to the dealers' room. The highlight of the day was when a gentleman came by and picked up one of my poetry books and started skimming through it. He wound up buying it saying he hadn't bought any poetry in thirty years, but he thought the poems in the book were excellent and worth rereading. It's hard to get appreciation for poetry. I was over the moon for the rest of the weekend. :)

Didn't sign anything at my signing, but still had a lot of fun chatting with Matthew Bey.

Our panel on "Humor in SF/F" that night was really great. Rhonda Eudaly wore her vorpal bunny slippers as moderator. We discussed why A. Lee Martinez hates to be called a humor writer, and I promised not to embarrass him by talking about how great his books are when he is around...but he's not here, and they are!

Made a quick round of the parties with Gloria and her daughter Drew. Really glad to see that AggieCon is enthusiastically planning next year's convention. Hope to get back there after two years absence.

Sunday panel was "Creating a History", and despite a lack of caffeine, it was a really fun panel. Other panelists were Sharon Shinn, Ann Aguirre, Patrice Sarath, and Taylor Anderson. It was interesting to see that most of the panelists advocated the create details as needed school of thought. Made me feel much better about it, because that is the style I tend to follow. :)

Couple of sales at the table -- total of seven books...and two copies of my Yarddog chapbook over at Edge Books. Doesn't sound like a lot when you compare it to some people, but for me AWESOME sales. ;)

Reading at 2:00 was attended by my friends Todd and Sam -- with a couple of latecomers drifting in. I tried my new short story out on the guys before the gentleman with the young child got back, and it went over with exactly the reaction I wanted -- so I feel pretty good about submitting it to Strange Horizons... Also read part of a chapter from my newly finished rewrite. Very pleased with it in general.

Stayed to hear Nancy Jane Moore read part of a short story...which I have forgotten the name of, but really enjoyed.

Back to close up the dealers' table, and home with a bag full of books to read. All in all, a great con!

Ah, the male perspective....

I am really excited by the strength of the work I have been doing lately, but I could not be doing it as well without the input of my writing partner and my husband. I've always written male protagonists...I don't know why. I've always thought that I did a pretty good job of it. But the questions and insights that I have been getting from Jim and Newell are blowing me away. I am being chided for neglecting details that I never even thought of before. I think that it will have a lasting effect on my work from here on out. I am actually learning a new way of thinking. It is awesome! And really expanding my vision...

Smokin' Little Movie

Last night, sorta by accident, I wound up watching SMOKIN' ACES. I had heard of it before, but never been interested enough to go out and look for it to rent or anything. By midway through the film, I was so hooked that I told Newell to go on to bed without me, it wasn't quite over.

Now, first of all, I like the genre of GRINDHOUSE meets PULP FICTION. If you don't like gore, shoot-em-ups, and strong language, this isn't your film. If, however, you DO like those things, this is a wonderful little film. It revolves around a washed-up Vegas comic -- Buddy "Aces" Isreal -- who has intel on the Mob and is working on a deal with the Feds.  This sets a team of FBI guys on his tail to get him and bring him in. Then there is the fact that he skipped bail, and that accounts for the bounty hunters... And then there are the several teams of assassins trying to collect on a mob hit reward. By the middle of the film, it just become fascinating to see who is going to survive till the end of the movie.

Jeremy Piven -- someone who I have always felt doesn't get enough credit for his amazing versatility -- turns in one of his most nuanced performances yet (in my opinion) as Buddy Isreal.

Ryan Reynolds actually impressed me as one of the FBI agents -- I usually don't see him as anything more than a likeable, good-looking dude who doesn't really have to do a lot. In this film, he shows some nice subtleties.

Chris Pine sure didn't look like clean-cut Captain Kirk in this film. It showed he has a lot more range than I would have guessed.

In the tradition of a Tarentino film, there are recognizable faces all through this film (Ray Liotta; Ben Affleck; Alicia Keyes...tons more.)

The dialog is snappy and better than many in this genre -- the action looks like John Woo on steroids -- and there are enough blood and bullets to keep Hong Kong happy for a decade. And yet the plot is anything but simplistic, having twists and turns till the very end.

If you couldn't tell -- I loved this movie, and highly recommend it to fellow devotees of the genre. :)

As promised...

....trying to do better about posting. :)

Settled down last night to sleep, and suddenly the room exploded with thundering feet and needle-claws diving over our heads. I don't know what she was chasing -- but I think it had wings -- but Elf was in deep disgrace this morning. Ah, wildlife!

Making it a little hard to get moving this morning, but I am working on Chapter 5 of my rewrite today, and too excited to let it get me down for long. I really am pumped up by the way that this work is going. I sometimes wonder if it is worth it to be rewriting an old work, but I have learned SO much since it was published that I really feel it is almost a new book. And I am learning a lot about world-building that I should have learned before it was submitted the first time. ;)

I am also getting excited about the project I plan to take to my writers group after this one. It is another piece that has been kicking around for decades, and I know there are people who wonder if it will ever see the light of day...

The pump is primed. Ready to go to work now. See y'all later!

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