Monday, June 28, 2010

Movie Monday: Blade Runner

A lot of my favorite movies are from the 80's. Not just favorite movies, but movies that formed my cultural vocabulary. Ghostbusters, Terminator, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, Aliens, Highlander, The Princess Bride, Ladyhawke...

Even movies I wasn't old enough to see in the theater (without sneaking in or having my date buy my ticket, which of course I would never do) made a big impression, because those were the movies we watched on video in college. I could quote Aliens and Predator verbatim. And I believe I have mentioned on other blogs how Kyle Reese spoiled me for all other men.

The cheese factor was high in the eighties, but so was the awesome. Sci Fi movies wouldn't be what they are today without a couple in particular. Alien, which actually came out in 1979, and Blade Runner.

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In Blade Runner, future Earth is sort of a pit. LA is made up of canyons between 40 story buildings, people crowded in, living under a constant twilight and fall of acid rain. Harrison Ford plays Dekker, a "blade runner" who's job it is to hunt down and "retire" (i.e., kill) replicants--androids were were built as slave labor on the off world colonies. They aren't allowed on Earth. Four replicants have rebelled and come to Earth looking to have a word with their creator. And that's not going to go well for anyone.

While on the trail of the rogue androids, Dekker meets Rachel, an experimental replicant, who has had memories implanted so she doesn't even realize she's no human. Dekker falls in love with her, which is important, but rather less interesting than everything else going on in the movie.

This is detective noir tied up with a dystopian sci-fi ribbon. (I love how they use LA architecture like the Bradbury Building to ground the movie in the noir tradition.) Or maybe I have that backwards. But the point is, I didn't appreciate this movie until I (a) I saw the director's Final Cut, and (b) I was a grown up and saw pasted the dated hair and electronic score and brooding hero to the bigger themes of man (and robot's) search for God, what happens when Man becomes God, and, wow, who are we really.

[When Blade Runner first came out Harrison Ford (who, according to Wikipedia so it must be true, clashed with the studio and the director) said this movie was about a man falling in love with a toaster. Which it's not, but funny, because Battlestar Galactic is so much the grandchild of this movie.]

This movie is definitely worth watching if you like sci-fi-- In fact, it should be required watching as Sci-Fi movie history. But to enjoy it, here's some things to keep in mind:

1) There's some gross R rated violence, fairly tame by 21st century standards, but kind of gruesome. Also some sexual references, again, not much compared to today's movies (and TV) but sort of creepy. Not for the kids.

2) Rent the "Final Cut" version, which is the movie director Ridley Scott wanted to make. (Proof how seemingly small changes in the editor room make a completely different movie.)

3) Get ready for some crazy ugly hairdos on the women. (Why does this always date a movie, whether it's set in the past or the future? Aliens, on of my all time favorite movies, could have been made yesterday if not for Sigorney Weaver's hair... Okay, and her mom jeans.)

4) The electronic Vangelis score (which is a cult classic, apparently) makes this feel thoroughly 80's, in a way that movies like Alien(s), Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Princess Bride don't.

Oh, and according to this movie, in 9 years, we will have flying cars, so I'm really excited about that. The constant acid rain? Much more likely, but not nearly so exciting.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book News!

It's true! I sold two more books to Random House Delacorte.

The deal is so new, I don't even know what the books are going to be about yet. (Okay, that's a lie. Of course I know. Or at least I know what they COULD be about, because I know what I pitched to my editor.)

What do YOU think I pitched to her?  Check out the poll on the sidebar, and cast your vote.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: "Splendorous" new cover!

Check out this snippet of the new cover of The Splendor Falls.

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The paperback comes out on 1/11/01, and is available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Books A Million, and other online retailers. (Tell your friends!)

This cover is SO gorgeous, you may want your own copy!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

When words go wrong (iLesson)

Sometimes perfectly good words get completely out control when they're in the wrong company.

My Wednesday night critique group is a read and critique style: writers get (up to) 15 minutes to read their work aloud, which is then viciously torn apart commented upon by the group. This method has pros and cons, but it definitely makes you realize the value of reading your prose out loud, even if it's only to yourself.

The writer's brain often fills in gaps and smoothes things over so we read what we meant to write and not what we actually, you know, wrote. But the ear hasn't heard the words as often as the eye has read them, so we catch things that sound weird or wrong (or even silly).

Last night, we had two instances of unintended hilarity in critique group. Rather than embarrass anyone I know, I'm going to use an example from a published work that came out so long ago, I don't remember the title, or the author, just the instance.

So, it was a historical romance, and for reasons I don't remember, the hero and heroine accidentally ended up in bed together, and there was mistaken identity or whatever, but they're... um, doing what heros and heroine's DO in such situations, and when the hero gets to the, er, moment of truth, this happens:

"Oh my God. You're a virgin," he ejaculated.

Um. I can't help but think if the author (or editor! or copyeditor!) had read that aloud, I would not have gotten a C in Algebra when my hysterical laughter outed me for reading romance novels in class.

So, silly example aside, reading your work aloud can save you some mocking on the internet when you put words together that sound dirtier than you meant them.

Here are the other ways that reading aloud can help your writing:

1) If you stumble over an awkward phrase or clunky word combination, chances are your reader will, too. Even though we read without moving our lips (well, most of us) we still 'hear' the flow of the words in our heads.

2) Your prose shouldn't sound like the refrain of a pop tune. The rhythm and structure of your sentences should vary, so you get a run of sentences with a sing song cadence.

3) If your dialogue sounds like it's being spoken by a robot, a space alien, or a Victorian maiden (and it's not actually being spoken by any of the above), you have a problem. There is no better way to discover if your dialogue sounds like words people would actual say than to actually say them aloud, and see how they flow.

4) Word and phrase echos will jump out at you. I love reading aloud and discovering I used the word "thing" five times in two paragraphs (or that my heroine's sister laughs 'musically' three times in one scene).

5) If a sentence or paragraph seems too long and/or word, it probably is.

6) If the prose seems choppy, jumping around without smooth transitions, it probably is.

7) Words that sound innocent in your head, may not sound that way out loud.

I don't read everything aloud, but when I have a scene I'm not sure about, or the dialogue doesn't 'feel' right, or it seems to be dragging, or missing something, I'll close my office door and have a reading circle with just myself.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Teaser Tuesday


In my ongoing quest to blog more often, here's a snippet of what I'm working on right now. (Evil laugh)

I thrust my fingers into the dirt and pulled out two handfuls, dropping them to the side of the hole Lila had made. Quickly I widened it, uncovering a curve of bone, that became a dome, that became something unmistakable.

“Here.” Mark handed me a stiff-bristled brush, like I’d seen Caitlin using on the bones in the excavation by the bulldozer. “Use this.”

“Thanks.” I shifted to lie on my stomach. Mark took a mirror position, pulling the dirt away when it kept falling back in the hole, as if the earth didn’t want to give up what we’d found.

A sweep of the brush revealed the forehead--the frontal bone, I corrected, AP Biology coming in handy sooner than I’d thought. Then the nasal bone, the brow ridges, the cheekbones and maxilla. Even if I hadn’t remember the names, their shapes were iconic, the stuff of nightmare and mortality.

I gently smoothed the dirt from the eye sockets with my thumbs and wondered what was the last thing this man had seen. The relentless wave of a flood? The snake that had bit him? Did he stare his own death in the face before the end?

Or was that the end of him at all? 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Movie Monday: State of Play

So, I didn't watch State of Play for the longest time, because I thought it was (Body of Lies. Okay, look, they came out the same year, they're both vaguely political, both have Russell Crowe, both have prepositions in the title. But every time I tuned into Body of Lies, someone was getting tortured. So... no.

(I had difficult watching Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down as well. It was really well made, but even worse with the War Is Hell and There Is No Easy Solution Here because it was a true event. One of those movies that I appreciated but can't say I enjoyed.)

So anyway, we're talking about State of Play.

The movie is based on a BBC mini-series. It's a political murder mystery/thriller, and even having to compress six hours of plot into two, it was satisfyingly twisty and engrossing. Three murders happen in Washington, which don't appear to be linked at first, but of course they are, because it's Washington. There's political wrangling, and an Evil Corporation, and an adulterous congressman... Its the type of movie where you know the ingredients, but the fun is figuring out how they're going to fit together.

It's a newspaper mystery, where you suspend a certain amount of disbelief and go with the possibility that two reporters could uncover this Deep Dark Scandal that's been lurking underneath the lobbyists and politicos for however long... And of course they can, because one of them is veteran Washington reporter Russell Crowe, and one is cub reporter/blogger, Rachel McAdams. (Who I've only ever seen in Sherlock Holmes. I like her better here.)

Brad Pitt was originally cast as MacAffery, who is played by Crowe here, and John Simms (The Master) in the BBC version. I can't imagine how different--and very likely less interesting--the character would have been with a prettier actor*. Here I could see him as an entrenched reporter, someone who could solve this type of mystery with his brain and connections and his friendship with congressman Ben Affleck was much more interesting with the contrast between their characters: one smooth-faced and trim, nattily dressed and well coifed, and the other... not.
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Goes to show how much a character can make a movie work. Everything may have been tied up a little neatly at the end (likely due to the plot compression), but this was a puzzler that I really enjoyed watching unfold. Definitely worth catching on cable, or renting on a Saturday night.

*I don't mean less handsome actor. Just being clear here. Also, I love how rumpled and scruffy Crowe looks here. I mean, he looks like someone who makes a living sitting on his rump in front of a computer, and obviously, this is very hot to someone who makes a living sitting on her rump in front of a computer.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A day in the life... (iLesson)

These are all the things that have happened since I sat down to write this post at 8:23 a.m.

08:35        The Fed-Ex van arrives. Dogs go crazy.

08:40        The package contains my edits on Texas Gothic. I go crazy.

09:00        Cease hyperventilating, resolve to finish iLesson and Genreality post for tomorrow before further freak out.

10:13        Business phone call.

10:45        Leaf-blower-of-doom arrives. Dogs go crazy. I go crazy.

11:10        Two dogs need to go out.

11:15        Family phone call.

11:20        Two more dogs need to go out.

11:21        One dog doesn't finish business outside, so finishes inside. Wipe up floor.

11:30        I break a (full) glass. Sweep floor, mop, sweep again, vacuum, mop one final time for slivers.

12:00        Cannot remember Hemingway quote for iLesson. Google "Hemingway on writing." Spend an hour reading amusing but irrelevant quotations and anecdotes.

12:05        Explained to Mom that "⌘C" is useless without "⌘V". (Sorry Mom. But that was kind of funny.)

12:30        Lunchtime. Mom makes her lunch. Dogs go crazy.

1:05 pm        Consider running away to Key West to live with bottle of scotch and house full of polydactyl cats.

1:14. Have abandoned original post, and thanks to reader suggestion, gone in a different direction.

People say to me (a lot) "I wish I could just stay at home and write without the distractions of a full time job." To which I say, there is no such thing as a world without distractions. And these are just the things I can't control. I didn't mention the temptation distractions, like Supernatural on TNT every morning or the sale at the mall or "just one game" of Rock Band.

I say with embarrassment that I spent my time much more productively when I had a "day job" and could only write at night. I wrote more in those stolen two or three hours than I sometimes do now all day. I guarded my writing time preciously, knowing I only had that much, and no more.

Even now, I sometimes don't even bother trying to produce new prose during they day, but stay up late to write when dogs, moms, and lawn services have gone to bed. I know writers who get up at 4 am to write before their kids wake up for school.

Whatever works.

Make the most of your time, however much time you have. Don't be afraid to guard that time, and stress the importance of it to your family... and to yourself!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Today's iLesson....

Today's iLesson is... cut yourself some slack when you need to! I know you'll miss my words of wisdom, but iLessons will be back next Thursday... when I'm back from Alabama!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Texas Gothic

I’m off by a day.

Long weekends always through me off. Yesterday I thought it was Sunday, today was Monday when I woke up. It’s a good thing I figured things out mid day or I would miss my plane. (I’m headed to Birmingham (Alabama) tomorrow.)

ANYway, last week I posted book news, which is that the paperback of The Splendor Falls comes out on January 11, 2011, and that I have a new book, titled Texas Gothic, coming out in early summer.

Then I asked y’all what you thought a book with that title would be about, which was a big mistake, because your ideas were so good, I’m totally stealing them intimidated that the actual plot won’t measure up. That’s what I get for having creative readers.

All the comments were so great, anyone who submitted one gets a prize. (You just have to wait until I get back from Alabama next week, provided I don’t wig out (again) on the plane and end up detained by Homeland Security.)  Just email me at rosemary at readrosemary dot com and I’ll send you a neato keen button… either Maggie Quinn or Splendor Falls. (Or both, if you ask nicely. But only one each.)

What’s the book really about?

Amy Goodnight is the only normal one in a family of psychics, ghost whisperers, kitchen witches and mad scientists. She’s looking forward to escaping her family’s reputation in college, but first she has to spend the summer farm-sitting for her Aunt Hyacinth.  Unfortunately, she can’t escape the freaky, as magic, ghosts, dead bodies, ancient secrets and modern feuds keep her hopping. (And one handsome cowboy just keeps her hopping mad.)

If you like the Maggie Quinn books, you’ll definitely like Amy and her sister Phin, and if you enjoy The Splendor Falls, this has a lot of the spooky romance from that book, plus the adventure of the Girl vs. Evil series. Something for everyone.

*Spoiler*

Except vampires.

Talk to you next from Beautiful Birmingham!

(Dear Homeland Security. Just kidding about wigging out. Really. I'll be fine.)