Monday, June 30, 2008

I'm back, unscathed, from vacation. We had a lovely time, mostly not doing anything, which for me was a huge deal. I didn't realize how really hard it is for me to shut everything down.  It took me a couple of days to really figure out the whole relaxation thing. My brain didn't really want to shut down. The first evening, I kept wanting to turn on the television. And then I was going nuts not knowing what was going on in the news. And then it started to be pretty awesome, and there were long stretches of whole minutes at a time where I could just gaze out on the lake and do nothing at all.




This was on one of the hiking trails. Texas has just about every kind of terrain--deserts, mountains, forests, coastal plains and beaches--but the Hill Country in the central state is what most people picture as characteristically Texan. Limestone hills, red dirt, lots of cactus, mesquite and live oak. It was very dry when we were there, but in the spring when the wildflowers bloom, it's beautiful.



This was the view from our porch. You can see a little bit of the lake here. Lake Buchanon is actually quite large. The dam that created it is some kind of unique structure, built in the 30's, and the last of it's kind. I wish I'd gotten a picture that showed more of the lake, which is actually in a valley, with some gorgeous vistas. But I didn't.



This is slightly blurry because this guy was so close to Mr. RCM that he couldn't focus the camera properly. (Well, he probably could have, but it was my camera and therefore unfamiliar, and Mr. RCM doesn't believe in reading the manual for anything.) I include it because few non-Texan have seen an armadillo that isn't squashed on the side of the road.  Few Texans, for that matter.


This guy kept peering up over the side of our porch. Obviously not afraid of humans.





Here is Lizzie, in my spot. Lizzie and I spent most of our time here, except when we retreated to the air conditioning. Lizzie is not an outdoor dog. It was kind of funny that she showed much more interest in the kids that were there than any other dogs or animals. Lizzie clearly thinks she is a person, and all other dogs come in the same category as Rocky the raccoon up there: interesting, but Not Her Kind.


One last vista, this time of the lake, again, not really doing justice to it's setting.


These are just a few of the pictures.  If you want to see more (actually, the Hill Country is quite beautiful, even in summer) you can go to my web gallery.  There aren't a ton, but there are some nice ones. (And more of Lizzie, of course.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Stan Winston (and how he contributed to my weirdness)

Aw. Movie creature maker Stan Winston died last Sunday. Since it's no secret that I love just about any movie with a sci-fi fantasy creature in it, Winston had a big effect on my psyche. He might be most famous for creating the Alien Queen in Aliens (Maggie Quinn's favorite movie, FYI), the Predators, and cyborgs of Terminator. Seriously, he worked on like 50% of my favorite movie list.

Here's a quote I really like, and I think why he was so awesome (four Oscars!) and had such an impact on the movies he worked on.

(From this article on arstechnica.com)
"I don't do special effects. I create characters, and I use the tools of special effects necessary to do it," Winston told the BBC. When speaking to the Orange County Register, he claimed, "Special effects, by themselves, don't mean diddley-squat in a movie. If the characters I created can't perform, can't act and aren't interesting, it just isn't going to work. It doesn't matter how good the technique is if you have not created interesting characters."

Which would explain why the characters he creates become such icons that they start franchises of their own, independent of the human stars. It's actually something that writers can take away. It doesn't matter how much action, gore, sex, angst, etc. you have in your book, if the characters aren't interesting, it's all just special effects.

LA Times has a short slide show of just 10 of his most famous creatures. The io9 blog has a nice entry with more photos, including a gallery of the scary monsters, which include the scariest of all horrible scary monsters, which is the Thing, from The Thing, which precipitated my coming completely unglued at a move watching party once. Like UNGLUED from the SCARY and I had to spend the rest of the movie in my friend's bedroom with the radio turned up so I couldn't hear the noises, and I'm sure people thought I'd disappeared with someone else and was having a much better time than I actually was, checking under the bed every five minutes for monsters.

Now, as I was reading about Stan Winston, I realize that our relationship goes back much further than Aliens, or even Predator, or my love of all things dinosaur, including his work on Jurassic Park, etc. It turns out he won an Emmy for working on this one movie that scarred me from early childhood. (And I'm not talking about The Wiz.) It was called Gargoyles and it concerned this anthropologist who discovers demon like creatures living in a cave in New Mexico. I saw this as a really little kid (thanks to my mother's love for 70's sci-fi and the UHF channels) and had all kinds of nightmares. I wasn't a kid who needed help thinking up things that could be lurking in the dark/desert/closet/etc. All of which were places I was convinced these things were going to come from and get me.

Anyway. Apparently it's got some kind of cult film status, because you can find lots of YouTube clips, like this one. Truly, this is 70's sci-fi television at it's finest.

So. Favorite Stan Winston movie. Here's the list. Sound off. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dessert-er-ific

I've discovered that if I write my posts in firefox, I can edit in rich text, which means it makes links and formats texts and stuff without me having to remember the code. That is so awesome. Way to come into the 21st century, Rosemary.

So, back in May I posted about my anniversary present, and how I really wanted a trifle bowl, but what I got was a pink Kitchenaid stand mixer, that I love.  I also (finally!) got a trifle bowl, and ridiculously, I'm posting my efforts to show you guys why I NEEDED this thing.

Ta Da!
Lemon-berry Trifle a la Rose
(Okay, the picture is so so, but I took it with my iPhone, because my camera was out of batteries. And I'm kind of bugged by that one raspberry sticking up. But it tasted amazing!)

Friday, June 13, 2008

For those of you new to this blog, you should know that I have a nemesis that shows up outside my window every Friday afternoon from March to October.  

The Leaf Blower of Doom. 

The LBoD is the weekly harbinger of the swarm that will appear in the neighborhood all weekend, adding a constant undercurrent of noise and air pollution to all days of rest.  Truly these things were designed by the devil to infringe on the Sabbath. 

So, I'm reading this book called The Green Book, The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet, by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen.  What I really like about it is that it gives you very concrete, simple things you can do that, if the whole nation did them, would add up to tremendous savings in resources. 

And they're not hard things to do.  For instance: 

Take a shorter shower.  Every two minutes you cut short your shower can conserve more than ten gallons (!!) of water.  (I've started doing my soaping and showering with the water off. You get in, get wet, then wash everything, then turn the water back on to rinse.)

Unplug your stuff when you're not using it.  I had no idea that appliances (like printers, computers, cell phone chargers) still use electricity even when they're turned off. I'm the worst about leaving my chargers plugged into the wall 24/7. And I never turn my computer off, I just put it to sleep.  Bad Rose. 

Switch to recycled TP.  If every household replaced just one 12-roll pack of regular toilet paper with recycled kind, it would save almost 5 million trees (!!) and enough paper waste (the stuff that's left over after they make the TP) to fill 17 thousand garbage trucks.  (I've been buying recycled TP for about 4 years now. It's gotten better over time. It's still not Charmin, but it's not bad, and it's a small sacrifice for a big difference!)

And finally, to my neighbors with the Leaf Blower.  Pick up a damned broom.  I was shocked to find out that running a leaf blower for 30 minutes is the pollution output equivalent to running your car in your driveway for 3 hours.  Yikes!  It would take 10 minutes to sweep the average sidewalk, and most American suburbanites could darn well use the exercise. 

This post was brought to you by the letters L, B, and D.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Page to Screen...

I had the weirdest dream last night. I was riding in a van--not a luxury van, either, but something very like the vinyl-bench seats of the pistachio green army van in which I spent an interminable 12 hours driving through West Texas on the way to Fort Bliss--and I was sitting next to Alexis Bledel. Totally random. We were talking about books and I told her about the Maggie Quinn books, and she said she really wanted to read them because she heard that one of the characters (D&D Lisa) kind of looks like her. Which was weird, because nobody knows that but me. She asked if the characters was a good guy or a bad guy, and I said, she’s not so much good or bad as she is complicated.

So she was like, send me the books, and I’m like, sure, and I'm totally, freakishly calm about it. And then I woke up.

This may come from the fact that movies from books have been on my mind, as they are making a movie of one of our DFWWW workshop member’s books. (Ginnie Bivona is just an awesome, interesting lady. She just got back from visiting the set, and how cool is that.)

Also, I just watched The Seeker, which is the movie they made from one of my favorite books, The Dark Is Rising. They changed 99% of the things that make that book so awesome: the essential Englishness of the story and the characters, the Celtic mythology on which the tales are based, the awesome shades of grey that make the secondary characters so interesting. I did enjoy seeing Christopher Eccleston chewing scenery as the Dark Rider, and there were a couple of visuals that were neat to see realized on the screen. (Specifically this image, from the cover of the book. It was the one thing they really got right. Which isn’t saying much.)

Generally I’m pretty easy going about book to movie changes, because there are things that work on the page better than on the screen. However, when you change the essential nature of characters, major plot points, and elements of the entire fantasy premise, it ceases to become an adaptation and becomes something new that borrows a couple of elements from the original. Like I, Robot (the one with Will Smith), it’s something you might have enjoyed if they didn’t try to sell it to you as something you loved.

That’s Hollywood for you. Are we crazy for wanting that for our books?

That said, sometimes I enjoy a movie more than a book. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was that way. It was missing some of my favorite book things (like Weasley is Our King), but it was also missing the interminable angst in Harry’s head. I suspect I’m going to like the Twilight movie better than the books, for similar reasons.

What about you guys? Ever see a movie adaptation you liked better than the source material?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

If wishes were horses...

Total laziness today. On the message boards over at Random Buzz, I asked the posters if they could magically grant themselves something, what would it be. Several people said "happiness," which I thought was very cool. It sort of covers all the bases, if no matter what's going on in your life, you could be happy. I think if you're upbeat, it makes it easier to either endure or fix things than if you just want to crawl in a hole and die. (Been there.)

Anyway. I'm much more shallow. Here's my answer, and my new question, because I'm curious what you guys have to say, too.

Now, I could wish for a lot of things. Like the ability to make words go from my head to the computer screen without my having to type them. How lazy is that!

But something that would be WAY cool is the ability to teleport anywhere, instantly. I would love to travel all over the world, especially to places that are difficult or maybe even dangerous to go to. I think that seeing other places, and how other people live is one of the most enlightening things you can do, but travel is a luxury that many people can't afford, especially nowadays.

That's the great thing about books, though. You can go anywhere, even places that don't exist.

So here's your new question: If you could visit or live inside a book, what book would it be?

Monday, June 2, 2008

June Resolutions

Hey! If you’re a teen (or know one), I’m a guest author type person on the Random Buzz message boards. This is Random House’s message board for teen readers. There are discussions on all kinds of book-related topics, so check it out, and stop by my author’s corner and say ‘hi.’

A new month, new resolutions. May was backward month with almost everything around here. To whit:
  1. Book weight. Other people have baby weight, I have book weight. This is a by-product of my writing style, wherein the last two weeks before a book is due, I spend every waking hour (and some non-waking ones) on the couch in my study, eating whatever keeps me going, drinking a ton of coffee (which is not bad) and Cokes and Mocha Latte Frappacino things. (i.e., carb and caffeine delivery system) If I could just mainline sugar and caffeine intravenously it would save me a lot of trouble.

    For some reason, every book it gets harder to lose. (My mother was nice enough to point out that this is because I’m OLDER with every book. Thanks, Mom, for the warm fuzzies.) Anyway, I rejoined the Y, and I’ve gone off white food (white bread, white rice, white pasta, white sugar, etc.) again. That worked really well for me last time, but I can’t think about it too much or I start craving pancakes and sushi. (Though not together.)
  2. The dog. For some reason, Lizzie has backslid on her housetraining. Now, I have to admit the other night, after I watched a movie that scared the bejeezus out of me (which I’m not going to tell you what it was, because then you’ll know how really LAME I am), I told Lizzie that if she went on the rug I did not care, because I was NOT taking her outside until the sun came back up. Of course, having permission must have taken the fun out of leaving me a present, because we made it through the night without incident of any sort (dog or ghost related).

    Part of the problem is that she spends her outside time hunting for earthworms (She’s obsessed with eating earthworms. At least I don’t have to worry about her not getting enough protein.) and eventually I get fed up and bring her back inside. So then I watch her like a hawk to see if she goes to the door, but eventually I have, you know, things to DO. And Lizzie WILL go to the door, but only for a nanosecond, and so if you’re not looking at her that moment… I need to teach her to ring a bell, so I’ll actually hear her. At least mother’s sausage dog scratches at the door so I know to let her out.
  3. Let’s just say car repair and vet bills and leave it at that. Is there a Murphy’s Law that says if you indulge yourself on something fun, your car or other necessity will break down the moment you’ve taken luxury purchase out of the box and can no longer return it?

So June’s resolutions are: Stay on Diet. Work out Thrice Weekly. Go back to the Crate with Miss Dizzy Lizzie. Stop buying stuff.

Any summer resolutions for you guys? Weight loss? Tan? Page count?