Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sonnet Films

One of the displays at Norwescon was for Sonnet Realm Films, a local (Seattle area) independent film company.  They were founded by Adam Sonnet and Elle Viane Sonnet.  They are both friendly and enjoy talking about their projects (Elle is not as intimidating as she looks in the picture).

Elle Viane Sonnet strikes a pose

I last saw the Sonnets when they were working on Star Trek: Phoenix, a professional level fan series.  Look at my previous entry on my old blog about that project.

Sonnet Realm Films is a group to keep your eye on if you're interested in independent film.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Athena and Perseus

Below is an excerpt from one of my Athena novels.  Athena is testing the young man Perseus, to see if he can go up against the monstrous Medusa.

      She allowed him to drink some water, then challenged him to some training.  She held both hands level in front of her, palms downward.  “Hold your hands the same way, right above mine.” 
      He complied, cautious.  Then she whipped her left hand around and up, slapping the back of his right hand. 
      “Ouch!”  He drew both hands back. 
      “Test of speed.”  She held both hands out again.  “Now you try.  Hold your hands beneath mine.  I’ll try to reduce my speed to be more like a mortal’s.” 
      Perseus complied, unafraid.  He tried to whip his hand around, but Athena easily drew her hand away in time. 
      She smiled.  “You need to do better than that, to best a daughter of Zeus.”  And to best the Medusa.  “My turn.  Stare into my eyes.” 
      “How am I to tell when your hands move?” 
      “Learn to see it in my eyes.” 
      They went through a few more rounds, with Athena winning each one.  A lesser man would have gotten red in the face and stomped off, or pleaded to adjust the separation of their hands to make things “fair.”  Perseus focused more and more of his attention on the exercise, till the air turned brittle between them. 
       Athena saw the right side of his face harden.  She drew her left hand back. 
      “I made you do that.”  Perseus’ voice had the air of a man used to throwing his opponents off.  “Comes from observing my eyes.” 
      “You cannot make me do anything.”  Athena put her hand back out, rock still. 
      Perseus slapped it. 
      “Ouch!”  Athena cried out, not from pain, but astonishment.  “You . . . you did that on purpose.  You threw me off!” 
      “That’s what happens when you try to best a son of Zeus.”  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kristin Nelson

Kristin Nelson, super-agent in Denver, flew all the way out to Seattle for Norwescon to represent her client, Sara Creasy.  Creasy's novel Song of Scarabaeus had been nominated for the Philip K. Dick award, so Kristin attended to read a passage from the novel and accept the award, if the author won.

Kristin Nelson and yours truly

Song of Scarabaeus did not win, but that was quite the gesture on Kristin Nelson's part.  Her blog, Pub Rants (which means public rants, not bar rants), gives the most practical advice out there -- everything from e-publishing rights to clauses on derivative works.  I highly recommend any beginning or prospective writer to check it regularly.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

New Way to Show Off Books

Normally at a convention like Norwescon, authors display their books on the table in front of them as they speak at panel sessions.  This year I saw an author do it differently.

Shannon Butcher displaying her books

She set her e-tablet to cycle through her book covers, changing the display every few seconds.  A publisher who sat down next to her saw what she was doing, and said, "Wow, I can't be outdone."  He set his iPad to show one of his author's books.  Since he didn't have it set up to cycle, he would pick it up every few minutes, swipe it, then a book by another author would show.  This is obviously going to be the new way to display books, instead of lugging big rectangular blocks of paper around.

In the future, the books will probably display on any smart phone or tablet in the room, if the device owners okay the display.  Or, what will happen when you walk into a mall or department store?  Remember The Minority Report, when Tom Cruise's character walks into a store, and advertisements instantly display in mid-air in front of him.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rhiannon Held

One of the panelists at Norwescon today was Rhiannon Held:

She's a professional archaeologist, so we can look forward to a fantasy story with real research when Tor publishes her novel Silver in 2012.  Check out her blog and Facebook pages.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Norwescon / Nightmare

I'm going to Norwescon this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  This is the biggest science fiction/fantasy convention in the Pacific Northwest.  If you recognize me, say hello.

But I'll have to go to bed early, because I had a bad dream last night.  I was sleeping on my right side in some strange room on a narrow bed with just a rough blanket.  I heard a woman's voice outside, getting louder, and I somehow knew she was part of a couple.  The only window was high and small with just starlight and the night lights of the city showing, and it would take a lot of chutzpah for her to look through.  Nevertheless, I covered my face with a smaller pillow, so if she did look in, I wouldn't look very interesting, and the couple would keep walking.  A moment passed, and I could feel her looking down at me through the window.

Then I heard pounding on the stone wall that held the window, and I knew she was doing it to spook me, so I would show myself.  Then I suddenly felt her tap me on my left side.  She had fooled me -- somehow she had gotten inside while the pounding distracted me, and had reached beneath the blanket.  I felt her finger against my skin.

I also woke up at that moment, realizing all the preceding had been a dream, but the hand was real.  I gave a loud growl and jumped out of my bed to the left, ready to fight the intruder.  I looked around in the light filtering through my curtain.  No one was there.  Also, I sleep with my bedroom door closed, and it was impossible for anyone to have opened the door, run out, and closed it again without my hearing something or at least seeing the trailing leg of the fleeing person.

So I decided the hand beneath the blanket was part of the dream.  Observing my empty bedroom is the only way I reached this conclusion -- the finger against my skin felt so real.  Looking back on it, that must have been part of my pajamas bunched up against my left side.  That must have been it, right?

The Vampire by Philip Burne-Jones

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Virgin Unknown -- Start of Chapter 3

Below is the start of chapter 3 of my historical fantasy, Virgin Unknown,  a retelling of Euripides' Iphigenia in Tauris.  It's set in ancient Greece.  

            Iphi bent over and looked in the mirror that was fixed to the wall, inspecting the work on her lips.  Years ago it would cheer her to look in this polished bronze -- the one bright spot inside the temple -- though afterwards her legs would tremble as she wondered what it was about her that made her father willing to come at her with an axe.  But now she could idly look at her tinted reflection and speculate on what some tall women thought as they tried to make themselves attractive to men. 
            Such thoughts did not concern her. 
            She straightened and turned to Melinta.  “You smeared some outside my upper lip.” 
            “Sorry, mistress.”  The words sounded anxious, and the girl grimaced.  She was holding up the shaped piece of horn that had some of the damp red powder on it -- the fruity smell of the berries long since gone.  Normally Iphi would be doing this herself while sitting in a chair, but she had thought up the idea of having these young hands touch more on her lips if she had to speak or sing too long during a ceremony.  It would take practice, though, to trust her to do it while blood was flowing on the altar. 
            “Daub off the excess, without taking off the red from the lips themselves.”  Iphi tried to speak normally, not wanting to distort her lips while giving instruction.  She bent over again and held still while the fine linen cloth dabbed at her.  “Now try again.  A ritual ceremony will not require you to rush; simply make every movement with great deliberation, and it will look natural.” 
            Melinta frowned in concentration, but the touch of the horn on the lips only felt marginally less awkward.  Iphi also frowned when she looked in the mirror again.  “I thought your hands would be more nimble than mine, but look at this.”  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Vicious half-truth #2: Make the Dialog Realistic

Dialog!  It has to be realistic.  Develop a keen ear -- whether you’re visiting a bookstore, a barbershop, or an opera house.  Listen to how people talk in real life, then put those words, cadences, and exclamations into your characters’ mouths.  Even if your writing isn’t the most polished, you’ll enjoy it if people come up to you and say, “The way your characters sound, I hear people talk like that all the time!”  Or there’s the even more personal, “I love your main character -- he sounds just like my baby brother!” 

But don’t get too realistic. 

Why not?  Because your readers will think you’re illiterate. 

Listen to how you and your friends talk sometime.  You’ll be surprised how often you say things like, “Um,” “Uh,” “Y’know,” or even less recognizable sounds.  Or watch people being interviewed on TV, and you’ll hear them sounding just as dumb.  When I recorded myself doing some public speaking, I was surprised how often I started a paragraph with the word “Now.”  I wasn’t using it as a time word.  I had trained myself to never say “Um” or “Uh,” so I subconsciously took a real word and used it in a nonsensical way.  Does anyone want to read dialog that realistic? 

But an essential piece of realism is truncated dialog.  In real life people say things like:  “So, you’re going . . . ?”  “Uh, yeah, but I got that thing.”  “Right.  So, about seven?”  With just a little more detail, that dialog would make sense and also sound realistic to the reader.

I heard an outstanding example on a TV show, where a character could have said, “Oh yeah?  That’s the pot calling the kettle black.”  Instead, she said, “Oh yeah?  Pot, kettle.”  It was completely understandable. 

Or there was the British pilot in the WWII movie Saints and Soldiers who contemplated leaving a French home during a snowstorm.  He knew he would probably freeze to death, but he had important information on a German advance that would blindside the Allies.  He muttered to himself something like, “It’s better than sitting here all warm and . . . .”  Then he went outside. 

In my vampire parody, a sister is reaming her brother for not believing in vampires because he hasn’t seen them himself. 

Olivia:  Have you ever seen your own brain?

Jeremy:  What I’m saying is --

Olivia:  And so I think that’s proof you don’t have one. 

Notice how she cuts through the logical steps and gets right to the insult. 

So strive for a level of realism that makes the reader think your dialog is 100% realistic.  Never actually achieve that level, or your readers will go back to watching dumb people on TV.  

Monday, April 4, 2011

Source Code

photo by Caroline Bonarde Ucci
If I'm cute enough, will you go back in time for me?  
I had a terrible morning on Saturday.  I was finishing up my taxes, which are more complicated than the average person’s.  Since I try to write and sell science fiction and fantasy, a number of books, DVDs, and movies about science, science fiction, fantasy, and folklore that I pay money for is deductible.  Ditto for the conventions and conferences I go to.  (I even saved a receipt from buying a drink on an airline on the way to a convention.) 

So in the afternoon, I went to a mall and hoped to either 1) do some writing, 2) see a movie, or 3) do some reading.  After lunch, I made good progress on a vampire parody I’m writing.  Then I decided to see Source Code.  

Colter Stevens awakes to find himself on a train, with no idea of how he got there.  When the train blows up, killing everyone aboard, he suddenly finds himself in a capsule, where he is reminded of his mission:  A terrorist planted a bomb on the train.  An experimental program allows him to go back into the last eight minutes of the life of one of the victims before the explosion.  He must keep going back into those last minutes until he discovers who the terrorist is.

That plot would be tense enough, but Source Code is so much more.  This movie is thoroughly science fiction, with concepts beyond the premise of entering the last minutes of a person’s life.  But it also goes deeply into the emotional core of Colter Stevens, showing us a deep internal struggle that tears at him even more than his concern for the mission. 

It’s also a romance.  He keeps returning to the seat opposite of Christina, who knows the man whose body he’s inhabiting on the train.  Although she’s unaware he keeps cycling through these last eight minutes before a bomb goes off, he gets to know her and appreciate her kindness.  Can Colter Stevens go off mission and find some way to save her? 

I advise against reading other reviews, because some of those critics are either too geeky or just don’t get the movie, and they delight in revealing too much.  Suffice it to say that Source Code accomplishes the immensely ticklish task of fusing together science fiction and romance.  Couples will enjoy it. 

Oh, and after the movie, I read for a while in the mall.  So to my surprise, I accomplished all three things to cheer me up after my taxes.   

Friday, April 1, 2011

Realm Lovejoy's Blog

Artist and writer Realm Lovejoy was kind enough to put one my posts on her site as a guest blog.  See her blog at The Blog Realm.


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