Friday, December 26, 2014

I Saw the Doctor Who Christmas Special

Yes, I saw it, but I won’t reveal what was in it. Instead, I’ll post an eerie dream I had back in 2009. Does it resemble the Doctor Who Special? You’ll have to watch it to find out.

I strongly encourage writers to write down their dreams. That way, you’ll have nifty accounts like this.



            I was sitting in a Bible study, possibly in a pew or in a row of chairs. I was at the end of my row, and to my left a friend of mine was at the end of his row, and his wife was beyond him. The friend and I were both reading texts while someone was up front, pointing at things on an overhead projection screen.
            It might have been at this point that my alarm went off, waking me. I reached up and shut it off. I looked out my window from my bed. The blinds were partway up, and I could see it was snowing out, which the news last night had predicted was a possibility. The snowflakes were a good size, and they were being blown from right to left by the wind, so it was snowing horizontally.
            I woke up from that dream and saw the snowflakes were actually very fine. They were coming down vertically, but the slightest draft would blow them from left to right for a moment.
            I woke up from that dream and saw that the window was now right next to my bed, without any blinds. I could see in the dim light someone was climbing up the building. Part of him was showing through the right edge of the pane, which was near my head. He was making knocking or hammering sounds as he climbed, and I could also see the head of a dog through the left part of the window -- which shouldn’t have been possible, since I live on the second floor. The dog was staring at me or the climber, but it wasn’t barking.
            Grabbing the edge of the sliding window that was near my head, I opened it. I grasped the edge of some of the climber’s clothing and yelled, “Hey! What are you up to?” He didn’t pay any attention to me, though my grabbing him stopped his climbing any further. He was dressed like an elf. Not an elf out of Tolkien, but one of Santa’s elves -- colorful, simple clothing, and with a cap. His nose was prominent and red. He simply looked off into the distance to my left.
            I realized my room was very dark. What I thought had been the edge of the sliding window was actually the edge of a room divider I had been grabbing in my sleep.
            I woke up from that dream and saw my window was the usual distance away, and the drapes and blinds were closed. Some dim light was coming in, which is usual for this time in the morning. I haven’t looked outside to see if it is snowing yet.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Movie The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

This won’t be a full review. I’ll content myself in noting some major differences with the book, and a couple of standout scenes.

Among the main characters are Galadriel, Legolas, and Tauriel. None of these characters appear in the book The Hobbit. Tauriel is not even in The Lord of the Rings; she was made up for these movies.

This was a leftover concept from the movie version of The Lord of the Rings. An early concept was to take Arwen—the elf-maiden Aragorn was in love with—and make her a warrior and part of the fellowship of the ring. The fan backlash made them abandon that. So they snuck in Tauriel for The Hobbit.



As for standout scenes, considering the title of the movie, you shouldn’t be surprised if there’s . . . a battle? When Thorin Oakenshield and company charge into battle, it was an incredible moment in cinema. And it was great fun when Bard the bowman has only one arrow left to go up against the dragon Smaug the Golden.

I’ll let people say for themselves whether they like the movie. Just brace yourself if you see the movie first and then read the book, because the differences are huge.

And Jana, if you’re reading this, Beorn got ripped off again. Are they prejudiced against bears?

Nothing against Evangeline Lilly, who looked great as Tauriel
photo by Luigi Novi

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Review: Memory Zero

“There was a touch of reluctance in her voice, and he had to wonder whether it was simply a matter of knowing what was on the disks and not wanting him to see it or that she didn’t want to pry into Kazdan’s affairs more than necessary. But that didn’t make any sense—not if she wanted answers.”

(For teaser sentences on other books, see MizB’s Should be Reading.)

Memory Zero by Keri Arthur starts in an unusual way. Sam, a rather normal detective in a world that acknowledges the existence of vampires and other non-human creatures, has to kill her partner Kazdan when he attacks her. While trying to clear her name, she finds unknown assailants trying to assassinate her. What’s interesting is though Sam is supposed to be a normal human, she develops abilities no human should have. This first becomes indisputable when she flees an assassination attempt by jumping out of a two-story building and landing on her back on pavement with no ill effects.

Gabriel is an experienced member of the Spook Squad who ends up protecting Sam and investigating her at the same time. She resents him, thinking he sees her as a lab rat, but he goes out of his way to save her out of more than one deadly situation. Gabriel has his own unique abilities, which he shows when he casually takes to flight.



Memory Zero goes along at a good clip, with surprising twists and turns. It takes a while to get used to this combination of fantasy and science fiction, with vampires and powerful handheld lasers existing in the same universe. Sam and Gabriel end up unraveling conspiracies with implications far beyond a special police squad, leading to the tumultuous climactic scenes that seem more science fictional than fantasy.

A weak point is that Sam escapes more than once from some prison or locked room, just because no one bothered to keep a camera pointed at her. The futuristic nature of the story just makes this glaring.


For me, a relief is that there were no sex scenes and no romance in Memory Zero. I like urban fantasy without the girl falling for the bad boy, or wondering if two characters are going to get into a clench right at the halfway point. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Non-Christmas Christmas Songs

The subject came up recently of non-Christmas Christmas songs—that is, songs we sing this time of year that have nothing to do with Christmas. I think Jingle Bells was mentioned, although it turns out this was originally a Thanksgiving song.

My favorite is Good King Wenceslas. Many are surprised at this since it is found in hymals, so it is thought to be a Christmas hymn. It is actually a Saint Stephen’s Day hymn. After all, the first two lines are “Good King Wenceslas look’d out / On the feast of Stephen.”


public domain

Saint Stephen’s Day is December 26, so this hymn is mixed in with the Christmas hymns.

Another fellow, Saint Nicholas, has his day on December 6. His reputation as a giver of gifts also was mixed in with Christmas, but that is another story.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Playlist

A lot of writers will start a blog entry with something like: What’s on my Playlist. They will then state a piece of music they were listening to while writing. The problem is I don’t listen to pop music that much . If I listen to music while writing, it will probably be a soundtrack from a movie.

If I do get published and become popular, the production company of the movie or the screenwriter might then accuse me of getting plot elements or characters from their movie. No, I haven’t heard of this happening, but considering the lack of originality in Hollywood, I wouldn’t be surprised.

photo by Richard Yaussi

So for now, I’ll simply list the composer whose music I was listening to. This past weekend, it was music by Hans Zimmer as I revised one of my Athena stories.

The passage below wasn’t what I revised, but a previous blog entry showed it to be popular.

#

“A family.” Athena was disgusted. “They killed a family.”
Perseus gestured at the other figures. “Athena, all these are facing away from the Gorgons.”
“As if fleeing.” She thought deeply. “They do not turn to stone instantly. This man was carrying the child as they fled. The Gorgons do something to them to start the process of hardening, then the victims try to get away.”
“‘Start the process.’ You mean something different from just their ugliness?”
“No matter what, use the reflection in the shield to look at them. I’m not sure what is happening. My thoughts on this are incomplete.”
“My mother once told me of a man who was bitten by a snake, and he became stiff, as if made of wood—”  
“Did you go deaf?” Athena was angry about the dead family, angry about secrets held by her fellow immortals, and angry about her inability to control this young man. “Do not ponder your way into doing something unsafe. I didn’t pluck you off the island of Samos so you could think your way into trouble, instead of listening to wisdom!”
“You didn’t choose a man who was deaf, or unable to think. I can do both.” His cheeks tightened with his own anger. “Why can’t I listen to your wisdom as you talk out loud, and we both begin to draw the same conclusion?”
“Because we’re approaching danger, that’s why.”
“Oh, is that why I brought this weapon? I thought we were approaching some paved fountain in the desert with little children skipping around.”

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