Sunday, 15 April 2012

Pre-Avengers Movies - who needs a plot when you have abs! :)

Well, I spent the whole of yesterday being indoctrinated with pre-Avengers' movies. I'd only seen one of them before, because, well, I'm not that much of a superhero gal (except maybe Tobey Maguire as Spider-man) and the only 'comics/graphic novels' I read are Neil Gaiman's Morpheus ones.  Having said all that, though, it wasn't a bad day all in all.

BEWARE - Spoliers follow!

We started with Iron Man, the only movie I had seen before and it's a pre-pre-Avengers' movie and, unlike the others, actually had a rather good plot and some good writing.
Robert Downey Jr has been coming back into his own in recent years, what with Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man and I like this movie, a lot. Tony Stark, play boy, relatively conscienceless weapons trader, gets a boot up the arse when kidnapped by an evil organisation and forced to make his missile for them. Okay, a bit unrealistic, since making a small hamster cage in that cave would have been a challenge, let alone a missile, or an arc reactor, but, hey, it's a superhero movie, if I expected realism, I wouldn't be watching.
Tony's journey is actually the most convincing bit of this movie.He doesn't suddenly change character, he's still a bit of an arse, but he has found a new mission in life.
I also like Obadiah Stane, he's all the way nuts, ruthless and just plain nasty, so of course, when he gets his comeuppance, everyone is cheering! :)

Okay, so I'd see that movie, so no surprises. Then we moved onto The Incredible Hulk (Edward Norton and Liv Tyler).
This movie summarised the preceding movie 'Hulk' in about two minutes under the titles, which, IMO, was best. However, then we get to the main movie and well, I think the first two minutes were more interesting. This movie was search, chase, search chase, chase, basically. Not much more plot than that and only a dorky Edward Norton to keep us going.
Okay, to be fair, the fight scenes were rather spectacular, but most of the cast were so internal, it was more fun to watch paint dry.  Okay, Bruce, so you're a tortured scientist, I get that, and you have to stay calm, I get that too, but I'd like to have seen a little more!
Even General Ross, our bad guy for most of the movie had about as much emotion as a hunk of wood. And Tim Roth, well, I prefer him in lie to me, he just did not make it for me as the hard-arse Russian/Brit marine. He was too pointless for me to care about his descent into the monster soldier.

I think I've trashed that movie enough :). Next, we threw on Iron Man 2. This should just have been called Tony's Meltdown.  There is no other plot really. There are some good one-liners, Tony has his usual snark on, and some of the action sequences are brilliant - the suit in a briefcase is priceless. However, compared to Iron Man, it is a pale also-ran. And having given Tony the benefit of the doubt about the whole cave thing in number 1, him developing a whole new power source for his suit in a week stretched my disbelief to whole new proportions. Still, the movie was worth the watch, once.

Next came Thor. Note, my picture is not of Thor himself, it's of Loki because, frankly, he's the best thing about this movie. :) He's a villain with depth, broken, with big daddy issues who does what the God of Mischief is supposed to do, he stirs it up. (Disclaimer here, my sis had been bending my ear about Tom Hiddleston and how great Loki is for months, and I resisted, I really did, but I have to admit, she's right.) Be warned, though, this is no masterpiece of a movie. The events on Asgard, well, they're relatively interesting (and Shakespearian), with Loki's machinations and Thor being a complete lunk-head, but when Thor gets dumped on Earth, hmm, we're back to the ol' paint drying thing. There should have been more of a subplot on Earth, just trying to get Mjolnir (his hammer) back from SHIELD is just, well, tedious.
I am rather enamoured with the relationship between Loki and Thor, it has possibilities, but, please, no more running around deserts!

And finally, we got to Captain America (we were following the timeline, apparently). Well, this had a bit more plot. I liked the start where Steve is trying to enlist and Bucky is just adorable.
However, I thought there was about as much chemistry between The Red Skull and Cap as there is in a vacuum. Individually, they were great: naiive, but heroic Cap, wanting to do his best for the best; Red Skull, Hug Weaving, dark, mad and ruthless. But put them together and the ending was a bit of a damp squib. It didn't feel like the writers had invested in their bad guy, he was just a precursor for The Avengers movie.
Still, Chris Evans did a good job as Cap and the CGI of him as a 9-stone weakling is very effective.

So, what is my assessment all in all: would I go out of my way to watch these movies again, well, no, but if someone put them on, I wouldn't walk out of the room in disgust. :)

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Ups and Downs of Editing - Chisel and Sandpaper

Well, my new novel has a title:
Death in the Family (Heritage is Deadly #1)

It should soon have a cover as well, I've been discussing it with my cover artist (who just happens to be my twin sister, which is really useful when discussing what the cover needs to convey, because we understand how each other think, but can get a bit tricky when rejecting designs :P - still arguments never last long!). We just had a discussion while walking round the supermarket and in the car afterwards which, if anyone listened in, they would have thought we were mad. Y'know I gave you the run-down of what happens to the white shirt? Well, I forgot to say, in that last scene, Tom's shifted...Oh, okay. So, what exactly do they (your vampires) look like when they're shifted?...Fangs, glowing eyes...What type of glowing eyes?...Iris only...Enhanced colour type of thing?...Yes...And, of course, pale...Yes, pale skin...He's not winning any suntan contests. And so it went on...:)

Anyway, that leaves making sure my vampires aren't forgetting each other's names, walking through walls or reeding when they should be reading, in other words, editing :). I read and reread my own work before it goes to my editors, but I never, ever catch everything, not even just on the proof reading front and I have an editor who is very useful for pace and continuity - he spots stuff that makes me go, 'oh yeah, I did put a fence there, didn't I', and stuff like that. He also just pointed out to me that I completely deflated a fast-paced scene by putting in an aside. It's a nice little aside, gives some insight into the character involved, the kind of thing we writers like to throw in, but it blows the action completely! As he put it, you were going from A to B, but you went via C, D and E first. So, that little bit is being ripped out, one 'darling' down, several dozen to go, no doubt! :)
Some of my editors and beta readers are red pen and paper kinda folks, and others are into electronic formats, which makes compiling the changes a varied task. One format that we've started using recently is Kindle notes. Reading the book in the ebook format actually shows up some formatting errors that are missed on big, wide, word processor formats and I can also then scan through the notes one by one. Pity they aren't as easy to incorporate as if someone just edited the MS Word doc, but my continuity editor definitely finds it easier to read in that format.

I actually enjoy editing. It is a different type of fun to writing the story itself. You just have to accept that when you've written 80,000 words, not every one of them is going to be perfect first time. Yes, it can be painful when you've put blood, sweat and tears into a scene and your editor tells you to dump it, but it can also be like applying fine sandpaper to your almost finished statue. A little rub here, a polish there and out from the rough comes a little gem.

Anyway, here's hoping that me and my editors can knock the burrs off this book. :)

My GoodReads Review for The Stein and Candle Detective Agency Vol1 by Michael Panush - excellent and fun read

The Stein & Candle Detective Agency: American Nightmares (The Stein & Candle Detective Agency #1)The Stein & Candle Detective Agency: American Nightmares by Michael Panush
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Expecting literary genius from this book is like expecting Olivier to turn up in Hammer Horror and who wants Olivier ruining a good Hammer movie?

The title gives it away, it's detective pulp fiction, but with a supernatural twist and it is a rip-roaring romp through that genre :). Mort Candle and Weatherby Stein, I bet you can guess a lot about these two with just their names, and that's the point, what you read is what you get. No horrendously devious plot twists, not too much angst (just enough to give our boys some depth) and short, pacey stories that are plain fun to read.

There are seven short stories in this book in all with vampires, zombies, mobsters, circus freaks et al. My favourite is the car race with the devil!

I'm a sidekick gal myself, I always root for the sidekick and that's Weatherby, priggish, prickly and damaged and all that by 14, he brings out the mothering instinct in me. I'd love to read a story where they go back to Castle Stein. See, I must love it, I'm wanting more and I want it now - can't find a volume 2 though *pout*!

I even warmed to Mort in the end: he's our narrator and a hard-ass ex-marine: Sam Spade for the zombie generation.

The only reason I didn't give this 5 stars is that I like my pulp just a teensie little bit better edited, some sentences I had to work out what they were meant to say. Still, didn't stop me reading the book! And the short stories make it easy to pick up and put down at will. In fact, these stories would even make a good old-fashioned TV series, episodic with just enough arc to carry the viewer from week to week, but also a viewer could pick it up at any point in the series.

View all my reviews

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Do you have post story slumps?

I think I do.
Anyone who read my previous blog entry will know that I just finished the first draft of my next novel. A novel I am really excited about. It's been 20 years in the making and at last I have produced a version of it that I am happy with, And when I finished it, I was all bouncy and chirpy and excited and I did my first round of edits really quickly. Then I reread it myself, twice, and found a bunch of tweaks and mistakes to correct.

Then I finally had to put it down. :(

At first, after that, I thought, great, let the imagination go, come up with plot number 2 for the same series, and, believe me, I'm trying, but I can't help feeling a little bit down about book 1. It's like a child has left home and even though they'll come back for visits, they're for all intents and purposes, gone. Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to getting it out there in the public domain and the work for that is different and maybe not quite so much fun as writing it, but still challenging and interesting.

However, now I have to climb a new mountain to get to my next creative place and at the moment I'm in the bottom of a valley. It's a little dark and lonely here, I miss just being able to sit down and have my characters instantly there in my head. I have to get over the foot hills of an idea, before I can do that. I've been trying to find a path into them for a couple of days now, and, having said that, I think I've stretched the metaphor far enough! ;)

Having come up empty, I think it might be a chance to go off and work on other projects. It's not as if I don't have enough of them tucked into my little brain. I am loath to walk away from this one, I have become very attached to all my characters and their trials and tribulations, but a period of separation is called for to allow the ol' creative juices to bumble along without any pressure from my impatient psyche.

So, onwards, to another mountain (there I go again with the geographical metaphors!) and let's see if I can't jump into another universe. Come on muse, we've got some trekking to do!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Dilly Daydream

I've just finished the first (and second) draft of my next novel. It's now with some content checkers and so I'm faced with the lull after all that activity as I wait for them to get back to me. I want to start working on book 2 of the series, but my muse seems to be on strike.  I have a whole bunch of background ideas that will be going into the book, follow ups on things from the first story, extending some of the minor characters, incidental scenes that add to my major characters, stuff like that, but I have no idea of a major plot, not an inkling.

Problem is, the first book is based on a set of stories I first wrote when I was in my teens, which I have overhauled to make them 1/ readable and 2/ less American (I don't have anything against the US, but I am a Brit and I was into a lot of US TV shows as a teen, still am actually, but I've visited the States, I have a lot of US friends and as a writer, I decided that I couldn't do a good enough job in that setting, I don't know my subject well enough). Anyway, the overhaul meant that stories 2, 3 and 4 from that set do not work any more, well, not immediately after the first story, anyway, maybe  a few years down the line perhaps. AND I think I'm being distracted by the old stories.
So, I am going to rely on my first fall back when I have no plot: daydreaming. Trying to ignore the old stories, I am going to sit back in the lovely sunshine we have this bank holiday weekend and I am going to just have a good old think. Run some ideas through my head, play with some concepts and see where it gets me. I find this a lot freer on my brain than sitting in front of keyboard waiting for inspiration.  I might even go out for a drive, because it is amazing how much inspiration I get behind the wheel.

When I've got a few things in my head, then I'll hit the mind map and try and capture them, so I can analyse them more thoroughly and work out how they fit in the scheme of this series.

Monday, 2 April 2012

My GoodReads Review of The Wood & Copper Inn by Guadalupe Neri - disappointing and repetitive

The Wood & Copper Inn and other Short Stories of the SupernaturalThe Wood & Copper Inn and other Short Stories of the Supernatural by Guadalupe Neri
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was looking forward to this book, I love spooky stories, the old fashioned Victorian kind, no gore, just suspense and spine-tingling.

Well, I gave this book a three-story chance to try and find the spine-tingling, but I'm sad to say I never found it.

I even downloaded the preview first, just to check, since I have never read anything from this writer before and the first story started well, great description of our protagonist and the Wood & Copper Inn, absolutely fabulous start *IF* the story had been based in the inn, but, after buying the book, I find out, no, the long and drawn-out interview with the mysterious old man in the inn is just preamble, the only point to it being that the traveller is warned to take the longer, southern pass through the mountains, 'cause there's bad things in them thar hills this time of year. Okay, I forgave the overly long preamble in favour of something spine-tingling happening in the rest of the story. I did not get it, I just got many, many pages of moralising conversation that went over and over the same ideas again and again and I ended up flicking through to see if there would be anything interesting at the end. Answer was, no.

Okay, I thought, one story that's not for me, some people may like that style, let's try the next one. Um, well, again, big build up, strange old lady, spooky house, odd home-help in the form of a big body guard and ancient old assistant - great, looking forward to this one. BUT, no, I got Little Big Man without the Cowboys and Indians. This would have been fine, have the lady tell her spooky story, derivative, but okay, but what's the twist, what is going to happen at the end to give me as a reader a payoff? The answer, nothing! In this one, also, I noted that the author seems to think that nouns and adjectives come in pairs and those pairs should remain throughout the story, e.g. 'iron poker', there was no other poker in the story, made of another metal, or otherwise, so why, every time it is referred to, do I need to know it is made of iron? 'Dark red-painted house' as well, I think calling it 'the house' after describing it would have been okay.

I laboured on to the third story and that is why this book got two stars - it had a point, a mildly interesting point, not original, but at least partially satisfying. I decided to leave the book on a positive note at that point.

View all my reviews