Friday, February 26, 2010

"Space" Books

John Anealio over at Sci Fi Songs has been doing a series “What is your favorite ‘space’ song?”

"Space Odyssey" has turned up more than once.

But it got me to thinking - how many sci-fi books are out there with 'space' in the title?

The answer? A LOT! See some of the books below:

Space Viking by H. Beam Piper
Pegasus in Space by Anne McCaffrey and Sharon Williams
Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength)
Legends of the Space Marines by Christian Dunn
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
Hellsreach (Space Marines) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
The Hunt for Voldorius (Space Marines) by Andy Hoare
Space Wolf: The Second Omnibus (Space Wolves) by William King and Lee Lightner
Space Cadet by Robert A. Heinlein
Space Wars by Michael J. Coumatos, William B. Scott, and William J. Birnes
Implied Spaces (Singularity) by Walter Jon Williams
Space Wolf Omnibus: Spacewolf / Ragnar's Claw / Grey Hunter (Warhammer 40,000) by William King
The Currents of Space by Isaac Asimov
Manifold: Space by Stephen Baxter
The Skylark of Space by E. E. Smith and Lee Hawkins Garby
The New Space Opera by Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan
Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
Three Books of Known Space by Larry Niven
The Crack in Space: A Novel by Philip K. Dick
Alliance Space by C. J. Cherryh
The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. Van Vogt
The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Never Ending Sacrifice by Una McCormack
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Fearful Symmetry by Olivia Woods
and many, many others!

The Space Merchants was the oldest, written in the 50's, and a few aren't even out yet. But that was just the beginning of the 'space' books.

Wow! If I was on a quest to read 'space' books, I'd be woefully behind. I've read six. How many have you read?

Do I dare search for how many contain the word 'star?' Do I really want to know?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Manuscript - Did I Do Enough?

After working so long on my manuscript, it feels as if there's a void. After a rush to make changes requested by my publisher, I'm in that waiting phase while the editor goes over it with a fine tooth comb. Unfortunately, that gives me time to think.

Did I do enough?

I keep thinking back to the action scenes. Did I make them tense enough? Did I balance the description well enough that the scenes flow without a halt in the action?

I'm not an overly descriptive writer, so while the action scenes might be okay, I wonder about my characters. Was I too skimpy on visual descriptions? Did I make each one unique?

It's tough not to pull up the manuscript on my computer and stare at it. I'm sure I'd want to change some things. Pointless to do that right now.

The contract is for one book, but what if they want a sequel? Crap, I hadn't thought beyond the ending! I'm not crazy about movie sequels, so I didn't plan for a book sequel. And at this point, I have no idea where the story would go, either.

Damn, I bet I'm over-thinking all of this, aren't I?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review - Serenity Vol 2, Better Days

I'm a big fan of Firefly - it was one of the best damn shows on TV. Serenity wrapped things up for us, but I'll always crave more.

Serenity Vol. 2 - Better Days satisfies that urge.

The story is exactly like an episode of Firefly and takes place between the end of the series and the movie. It was an enjoyable read, hitting all the right notes.

The artwork is pretty good, but not great. A couple shots feature Photoshopped faces, which is actually taken from the back cover. But a few of the other faces don't look like the characters. Overall it worked though.

My only real complaint is the price. This graphic novel was so short, it should've been a comic book instead - and thus at least half the price.

It's also listed as young adult. Um, sure...

But for those of us who miss Firefly, this graphic novel does the trick!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Review - Shutter Island... and an Award

My film of choice this weekend was Shutter Island.

Think Stanley Kubrick meets Alfred Hitchcock and you'll have Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island.

Now, I've not read the book, so I can only judge from the movie iteself. But I liked the slow pace and overall mood of the film. There was something odd in the tone, but in a good way, and it kept one uneasy throughout the movie. It was NOT scary or jolting by any means, despite the misleading trailers. (Besides, Scorsese doesn't make that kind of film.) I enjoyed the puzzle, although it was a little frustrating in parts. I was a step ahead of the plot for most of the duration, although I didn't always know exactly what it all meant. I appreciated the ending. Knew it wouldn't be a happy one!

DiCaprio and Ruffalo were great in the film. Both did a fine job of acting. I did feel von Sydow was a little underused in his role, though. He's only in the film maybe 6-7 minutes? Overall, the casting was very good.

If you like a good, slow-paced mystery, then I recommend Shutter Island!

And the award...

I received the You Are My Sunshine Award from Spunk On A Stick. The purpose of it is to acknowledge those that have a blog and spend endless hours ensuring that other bloggers get feedback on their blogs by leaving comments, adding themselves as a follower or dropping by just to let you know there are people out there. Thanks, Spunky!

Hey, you know what? If you visit and comment here, I definitely appreciate you! So rather than name names, this is for all my awesome bloggy friends!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Olympics - Odds & Ends

Olympics - are you watching?

I'm watching. It's been a rough week at work and I've hardly touched my guitar in the past three days - but I have been watching the Olympics.

Everybody's heard about Apolo Ohno and Shaun White. And Lindsay Vonn, although her story is pretty incredible. (Bummer she fell on Thursday.)

Here's some odds and ends you may have missed...

Wednesday night, the Olympics beat American Idol for viewers. For the first time in over six years, something beat Idol. 30 million watched Vonn, Davis, and White win Gold while only 18 million watched Idol kick off a few more singers.

The snowboarder for Japan, Kazuhiro Kokubo, received public verbal flogging for his attire at the Olympics. He arrived wearing his uniform a little 'liberal' shall we say. Add his dreadlocks to the mix and Kokubo was officially declared a shame to his country. His father apologized. He apologized. It's pathetic! He's a snowboarder!!!! And a kid. Sometimes I think they are just a little too uptight in Japan...

I've also noticed they've cut down the human interest stories in favor of more sports. I'm all for that!

One of the 'curlers' was five months pregnant. As Jimmy Kimmel said, any sport where you can compete pregnant is NOT a sport...

USA hockey team is kicking butt and taking names. Showdown with Canada will be awesome.

And finally... men's skating. Okay, I'm just not gonna go there!!! Except that Evan Lysacek's win Thursday night was the first time since 1988 that a Russian hasn't won the event. Guess we were due...

What's your take on the Olympics so far? Any favorite moments?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Character Motivation

One thing that's crucial to a good story is the main character's motivation. It's pretty much what drives the story.

And it's one thing to drop a character into a situation. I can think of dozens of books that feature a reluctant hero. But what motivates that character to stay the course?

Perhaps a character is given choices. His ultimate desire and motivation should determine his path. Perhaps he selects the wrong road to travel? Maybe he even gets sidetracked and forgets his original motivation.

What if there is no choice? What if our character has only one path? I often think that's similar to real life. We have a goal, a motivation, but our ideal route of choice isn't always the one provided. Or the journey just isn't how we'd envisioned it.

Motivation has a variety of forms and sources. Interior or exterior. Emotional or logical. Past events or future dreams. A combination of those forces and occurrences can fuel our character's motivations.

Character motivation is probably the one thing I considered the most when writing my book. Events of the past, most notably those outside of their control, motivated my main characters. Throughout the story, I kept referring back to their motivation - was it apparent in every scene? Did their actions and behaviors line up with that drive? For me, it was like a gut check to make sure I was still on track.

How strongly do you follow through on your character's motivations?
Do you like highly motivated characters in your books?

Just Alex pondering on writing...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Prinkipria - Tales of the Fantastic

Came across this site and upcoming ezine, which focuses on sci-fi and fantasy.

Prinkipria's site is still under construction and the ezine will not release until March. But one can still explore and get a feel for what they are creating. It will cover books, movies & TV, games, technology... my kind of stuff! So will be watching this site come March.

Some other great sites I follow if you need a good sci-fi book fix-

Sci-Fi Guy is run by Doug Knipe and he'll keep you up to date on the latest releases and reviews.

Only the Best Sci-fi/Fantasy three writers here - Alec, Michael, and Bryce - and they do an awesome roundup of information.

And Dezmond at Hollywood Spy is my go-to guy for the latest in movie news!

Also, for book bloggers, John has some fantastic tips at Grasping for the Wind


Monday, February 15, 2010

At the Movies - The Wolfman

The Wolfman

Staring Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving.

A 'retelling' of sorts of the original legend of the wolfman, complete with throwback werewolf appearance. (i.e. - Lon Chaney Jr.)

This movie was odd and off-kilter in just about every aspect. While the wolfman looked old-fashioned, the blood & guts was definitely modern. The story seemed forced and several (okay most) plot points were glossed over so the viewers wouldn't have time to dwell and realize it made no sense. Or didn't really connect. I'd provide details, but I don't feel like recounting the entire movie! And while the film is only 1:30 long, while watching it, the movie felt much longer...

Emily Blunt tries and Hugo Weaving is good. But Del Toro is horribly mis-cast as the wolfman. He is also indifferent to the point that we don't care either! And there is nothing frightening about this werewolf - the throwback appearance assures us of that.

If you really want a good werewolf tale, rent any of the Underworld movies or American Werewolf in London. Even Silver Bullet is far better!

However, there was one very interesting preview - Repo Men. This sci-fi thriller stars Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, and Liev Schreiber, and it comes out on March 19th. Forget the Emilio Estevez movie - this one is about artificial organs not cars. Unless the critics grind it into the ground, I will be checking this one out next month!

Friday, February 12, 2010

From VCR to Blu-ray DVD

A little technology history lesson today!
I have three DVD players (if I count the one on my Playstation) and the one hooked up to the big screen became a little too fussy. It no longer liked the NetFlix discs - and you don't mess with my NetFlix! It needed to go anyway - it was a DIVX! (Remember that awful idea?)
So a new Samsung Blu-ray DVD came home with me on Thursday. It plays DVDs, CDs, and streams Pandora, YouTube, and NetFlix. Perfect!
What surprised me was the price - it was only $140.00. Wow! And how much were the first VCRs? I did a little research...
The first VCRs on the market came out in 1972. The Cartrivision system featured prerecorded tapes for sale and rental - the black ones were for sale and red ones for rental. The red ones could not be rewound except by a dealer, so they were viewable only once - sounds like the defunct DIVX, doesn't it? The whole system cost $1600.00
In 1976, the fist Betamax hit the market in the USA. Sony's unit sold for $1295.00.
1977 - the first VHS VCR hits the USA market! RCA promoted their new creation extensively, as it could record four hours as opposed to Beta's two hours. The unit cost $1000. Eventually this format won over the Betamax.
In 1979, the VideoDisc, or LaserDisc, becomes available. The Magnavox unit sold for $749.00.
1997 was the year that the DVD player went nationwide! Sony's model sold for $970.00 and by the end of the year, almost 350,000 units were sold. The following year, the ill-fated DIVX pay-per-view DVD came out - and lasted less than one year. (Damn, I had that stupid DIVX unit for almost twelve years?!)
In in the year 2000, technical research sparked what would become the rivalry between Blu-ray and HD DVD. Both forms were announced in 2002 and by 2008, Blu-ray emerged triumphant. Blu-ray players began around $800 in 2006.
And now, barely four years later, I own a $140.00 Blu-ray DVD player!
Don't you just love technology?
Everyone have a great weekend - I'm gonna go watch some movies!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Timothy Zahn and My Writing Style

Timothy Zahn has written many sci-fi books, most notably his Star Wars series. The first set was The Thrawn Trilogy, released from 1992-1994.

One thing I noticed when reading these books - his writing is rapid fire. Most of his paragraphs are only a few sentences in length. He doesn't waste a lot of time with descriptions, but gets right into the action and exchange of dialogue.

Sometimes I enjoy a deep, descriptive, thoughtful book. But often, I want something I can jump right into and be captivated within the first few pages. Maybe I'm just a simple guy, but sometimes I don't want my reading material to be overly deep or feel like work. If comparing these styles of writing to movies, sometimes I enjoy a 2001: A Space Odyssey, but most of the time, I want an Aliens.

How does my reading preference affect my writing style? Well, I'm not as action-orientated as Zahn (and certainly not as good!) but I've tried to keep the storyline moving at a good pace. There's some great action sequences, but even in the slower, more dramatic moments, I've kept my feet moving so to speak. I don't go into major details as far as descriptions, either. I like using my imagination and don't need four paragraphs telling me what a character looks like. Hopefully I'm on the mark that other readers enjoy using their imagination as well.

So for my writer/author friends out there, how is the pacing in your work? Are you slow, crafting and atmosphere-building or are you rapid-fire? And has another author influenced the pacing in your book?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Two Awards and Books to Come

Tuesday is usually my book day, but I'm moving that to Thursday when I discuss influences on my writing. So join me then when I talk about sci-fi author, Timothy Zahn.

Today, I gotta take care of two blog awards. Two in one day! Yeah, I can't believe it either.

Over the Top Award

This is a cool award. The rules are that I must mention Cassandra’s name and blog - Cassandra Jade in the Realm. Also I must answer a string of questions with one-word only answers and pass the award to five other bloggers.

Your Cell Phone? iPhone
Your Favorite Food? Thai
Your Hobby? Guitar
Your TV? Big
What Are You Wearing? Sweats
Your Life? Cool
Your Music? Loud
Where Did You Grow Up? Everywhere
Your Car? Sporty

Short list - it's harder than it sound!

I pass this one on to:
Hannah at Musings of a Palindrome
Sarah at Falen Formulates Fiction
Galen at Imagineering Fiction

Creative Writer Award

This was from Helen at Straight From Hel

The rules are fairly simple. Recipients must -
1. Thank the person who gave this to you.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you.
4. Tell us up to six outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth. (I'll do two lies and one truth.)
5. Allow your readers to guess which one or more are true.
6. Nominate seven "Creative Writers" who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies.
7. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate. (Gonna do three.)
8. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them. (Okay if I forget this, sorry!)

1. I burned down a shed in our back yard when I was ten.

2. I drank three day old Oriental hot sauce when I was three.

3. I played hockey in college.

Passing this on to:
Michele at Southern City Mysteries
Marvin at The Old Silly
Stephen at Breakthrough Blogs

Thanks guys!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Bowl, Commercials, and Zombieland

The Super Bowl-

In one of the most exciting Super Bowls in recent years, the Saints beat the Colts 31-17. The Colts started off in high Colts fashion, and it appeared the Saints would be no match. They remained calm and collected though, and simply wouldn't give up. The gutsy onside kick at the start of the second half really changed the tempo of the game. Payton's interception with only three minutes to go sealed the Colts' fate.

There were only seven penalties the entire game and Brees tied the record for most completed passes in a Super Bowl - 32.

I was pulling for the Saints! Ever since Brees' arrival, they've been a damned good team. Brees always flew just below the radar, but now he'll finally get some dap! Overall, a satisfying game.

The Commercials-

Not so satisfying! Very few commercials stood out from the crowd this year. Home Away with Chevy Chase was funny, as was the Doritos bit with the boy telling his mother's date to stay away from her and his Doritos. There were a few laughs, but rather a flat year for commercials.

And what was with all the men in their underwear? We didn't want to see that!!!


Picked this up on DVD this past week. This is without a doubt the funniest movie of 2009. Woody Harrelson is in top form in his role as a man who has found his calling in life - killing zombies.
The zombies aren't actually undead - they are diseased. Driven mad with rage. And they are out to kill anyone in their path.
Yes, it's a gore fest. But it's more than that. It's four people coming together as a family in a time of crisis. And what keeps either aspect from being the 'heavy' in this film is the rapid-fire comedy. (Always remember the Double-Tap!) Add some heavy metal music and an amusement park, and this is one fun ride.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Movie & TV Spot

TV Spot - Fringe

If you haven’t picked up this show yet, you are missing something awesome. Think X-Files, only missing the melodrama. This show excels at moving the plot forward on a weekly basis rather than leaving us hanging. Last night was one of the best episodes so far. Things became really bizarre as the alternate reality merged with our reality. Looking forward to next week!

Movie Review - The Burrowers

Summary from IMDB:

It is 1879 in the Dakota Territories. A handful of brave pioneers maintain isolated settlements in the badlands beyond civilization. Irish Immigrant Fergus Coffey is near to winning the hand of his beloved Maryanne when she is suddenly taken from him, her family brutally abducted in a nighttime attack on their homestead. Suspicion falls immediately on hostile Indians. Experienced Indian fighters Will Parcher and John Clay form a posse and set out to rescue the kidnapped settlers, taking along a naïve teenager hoping to prove himself a man, an ex-slave looking to find his place in the world and their ranch-hand, Coffey. But as men vanish in the night and horrific evidence accumulates with the dead and dying, the group discovers that their prey is far more terrifying than anything human, and their prospects are far more terrible than death.

This one surprised me! It’s a great, slow burn rather than a fast-paced movie. It built up atmosphere and dread with every step. The acting was very good (biggest name is Clancy Brown) and the cinematography was superb. I really enjoyed the overall tone and pacing of the film. It’s a great western with an X-Files-like horror story added into the mix.

If you’re into movies that build atmosphere as opposed to cheap scares and buckets of red sauce, then this is the movie for you!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Writing Tips from Expert Marvin Wilson!

Today I am happy to host my first guest - writer, author, & editor, Marvin Wilson!

Stop Butting In

Having a strong and unique voice is considered a good quality in an author. It is one of those intangibles that keeps readers coming back for more. But novice authors often have a rookie habit of "butting in" to the story to interject their own thoughts and/or information. It can be a jarring disruption to the story line. Here is an example:

John walked past the flowering shrubs, enjoying the smell. Forsythias are what he was smelling; they are indigenous to Southeast Michigan. He spotted Mary standing next to the water fountain, walked up to her and said, “Hi, Mary.”

Mary’s face lit up as she said, “Oh, hi, John, long time.”


See how the second sentence is just stuck in there? It stops the story's forward motion while the author tosses in a fact. It is better to deliver information by letting the characters do the talking - like this:

John walked past the flowering shrubs, enjoying the familiar smell. He spotted Mary standing next to the water fountain, walked up to her, and said, “Hi, Mary.”

Mary’s face lit up as she said, “Oh, hi, John, long time. Mmm, what is that lovely scent in the air?”

"Forsythias. They grow all over this part of the state."


Here's another example, one right out of a manuscript I recently edited-

Mark, the Attorney General Prosecutor, took his turn to speak. He assured the judge that the Texas Department of Public Safety, a division of the Texas Rangers, was part of the investigation. He also said his office was coordinating with the Rangers, and that pre-coordination had been made with the adjoining county to prosecute the case. This is what the Texas Local Code provides for if the case is against the District Attorney. He stated for the record that if Byar County failed to respond to the charges, the Attorney General Office was prepared to assume prosecution responsibilities.


The bold red sentence, and that's how it stuck out to me when I first read it, is this author spouting off his knowledge of Texan judicial procedure. Nice that he's doing his research, but no need to stop the story dead. The fix is easy. Read it rewritten like this:

Mark, the Attorney General prosecutor, took his turn to speak. He assured the judge that the Texas Department of Public Safety, a division of the Texas Rangers, was part of the investigation. He also said his office was coordinating with the Rangers, and that pre-coordination had been made with the adjoining county to prosecute the case. He cited the Texas Local Code which provides for such relocation if the case is against the local District Attorney. He stated for the record that if Byar County failed to respond to the charges, the Attorney General Office was prepared to assume prosecution responsibilities.


Now the information is seamlessly woven into the story, with the author nicely "butting out." With this minor adjustment, his character is able to deliver the information within the performance of the scene.

# # #

Marvin D. Wilson is the author of three published books, I Romanced the Stone (Memoirs of a Recovering Hippie), Owen Fiddler, and Between the Storm and the Rainbow . The novel, Owen Fiddler, received the prestigious AVATAR award for excellence in spiritual books. Wilson has had articles published in multiple Ezines, and has been interviewed on hundreds of blogs, radio and TV shows, both over the internet and on the airwaves. He is a prolific blogger, posting daily on his internationally popular blog at The Old Silly’s Free Spirit Blog .

Wilson is a family man, married for thirty-four years, with three adult children and six grandchildren. He has been around the block of life several times, through the ups and downs, and has survived in good enough spirits to desire to write about life, to write about living life on purpose. Wilson is a self-described “non-religious, dogma-free, Maverick spiritualist Christian.” He writes books that deliver spiritual and inspirational messages in an engaging, thought provoking, often times humorous, more than often irreverent, sometimes sexy and even ribald way, through the spinning of an entertaining tale. Marvin D Wilson is an editor with All Things That Matter Press and does freelance editing as well.

Contact Marvin:
Twitter: Paize_Fiddler
Facebook: Marvin Wilson
Blog: The Old Silly’s Free Spirit Blog

Thanks again, Marvin Buddy!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oscars and Guest Blogger Tomorrow

Please stop by tomorrow when author & editor Marvin Wilson at The Old Silly offers expert writing advice!

And I am making my first guest appearance tomorrow at Southern City Mysteries

I've also begun keeping track of Avatar's world wide grosses - check the sidebar every day for the new total. Feel free to participate in the poll as well. How much money will it make?

Oscar nominations were announced on Tuesday.

Avatar and The Hurt Locker both received nine nominations.

Inglorious Basterds received eight - thought that was a hoot!

And Star Trek and District Nine each received four.

Not sure how I feel about Up being nominated for both Best Animated and Best Picture...

Anyone care to place bets now...?

For a full list of the nominees, go to Oscar Nominees

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Review - The Terror

The Terror
by Dan Simmons

Mass Market Paperback 992 pages
Little, Brown & Company
ISBN-13: 9780316008075

The men on board HMS Terror have every expectation of finding the Northwest Passage. When the expedition's leader, Sir John Franklin, meets a terrible death, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and leads his surviving crewmen on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. But as another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the Terror on the ice stalks them southward, Crozier and his men begin to fear there is no escape. A haunting, gripping story based on actual historical events, The Terror will chill you to your core.

My Review:

Simmons does a great with his descriptions, creating a sense of isolation and hopelessness. These men are stuck and many will die. The creature is an interesting psychological twist - is it real or all in their minds?

I admire that The Terror has the pacing of a book set in the 19th century. The tone and mood are perfect for the time. However, reading this book was tiring and taxing. Because of its length, it's like a marathon - one that some people are bound to give up on before finishing the race. And while character development is important, I felt there were too many flashbacks.

The Terror is fascinating, yet dull; intriguing, yet frustrating.

That said, I would be willing to try another of his books.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Movie Review and Discussion

This weekend, I finally had an opportunity to watch “9.” And let’s just say I am glad I didn’t go to the theater to see this film.

It had some great visuals and a very original story. Almost too original and unique. Rag doll #9 awakens and discovers our world in ruins. He is in possession of a talisman, and after encountering #2, loses it to a mechanical creature. He eventually awakens a huge, metallic beast and must find a way to stop it.

The movie is very dark and bleak. Many comment that it wasn’t enough for a full length movie, but I felt it could have been longer. A little more character development would’ve made me care more about the rag dolls. One thing I’ve noticed in good science fiction movies and books is characters that are relatable and almost (if not totally) human. When a writer goes for something too different, too alien, then readers and viewers can’t identify with the creatures. I felt rather disconnected from the rag dolls due to the weirdness of the whole movie.

Produced by Timur Bekmambetov, who directed Nightwatch and DayWatch (both of which I liked, although found a little odd) this movie’s Russian roots are quite apparent. They must have a thing for dismembered doll heads, too.

Based on a short story, I found “9” to be a one time only watch and a bit disappointing. If you loved “9,” or have something to share, please let me know! I have one friend who is a die-hard fan of this movie, although I doubt I will tell her I didn’t like it…