April 18, 2014
I’m still nose deep in cleaning and working, so this is another random post. I’m contemplating some posts next week on some of the oddities I’ve uncovered — like a stack of Wired magazines from the mid-90′s. I’m desperate to go through them and see how some of their projections/predictions about the internet and tech and life in general have played out some 20 years later.
I discovered: the mass market pb of Low Midnight is available for preorder on Amazon, with a revised release date of December 30, 2014. Still a long way off, I know, but we’re inching closer. My tagline: Cormac. Amelia. 100 years of trouble.
While I’m off working, I leave you with this, one of my favorite segments of South Park of all time:
April 16, 2014
I’m definitely a pack rat, but I try to be careful, keeping things in boxes and on shelves, all clean and neat. What this means is I have a lot of boxes, and a lot of things packed away, and it’s hard finding time to go through them all to see if I really need that stuff. So the stuff accumulates, and it’s easy to ignore it because it’s in boxes. I make sure that things that really are trash go into the trash — I read accounts of real clinical hoarders with a vague anxiety that without vigilance, that could be me. This means I’m happy when trash day comes around, because I take out the trash and it’s a battle won in the war against entropy.
One of my projects for this year is going through a bunch of those boxes, many of which are full of manuscripts, schoolwork, magazines, and so on, from my college days on forward. I’m taking it in bits and pieces, and trying to be calm about it. There are people who say, “If you haven’t looked in that box in ten years, you obviously don’t need it and should just throw the whole thing out,” but I don’t hold with that at all. I should be allowed to keep some things. And really, you never know. (Pack rat’s mantra, right there.) With all the random costuming and crafting I do, I really have gone into my closet or various boxes and pulled out odds and ends that I haven’t used in ten years and found a use for them. So I’m going through these boxes and finding things like my acceptance letter to grad school, my acceptance letter to Odyssey, marked-up manuscripts of my trunk novels, and I’m really glad those didn’t get thrown out. Even though some militant organizers would say I probably should. I’m trying to land in happy medium territory, here.
All this is complicated by being a writer. I write things down, and I save them. I have folders full of magazine articles and pictures I saved because they might give me story ideas. All these notes and folders and manuscripts are evidence of my progress — they’re concrete representations of my work. This is all complicated further by a conversation I had a couple of years ago with a library archivist who said I, as a professional working writer, need to save everything and bequeath it to a collection because it might be important to researchers later. I remember looking at her with suppressed horror thinking, But I’m trying to get rid of things… Again, I’m compromising. I’ve invested in bankers boxes and my real, actual writing work goes in there, now, where it can by easily stored and accessed. I’m trying to split the difference, tossing things like schoolwork and twenty year old magazines, saving my idea notebooks and marked up manuscripts. I’m not torturing myself — if I’m not sure about something, I save it, at least for now.
What’s interesting to me is what the passage of time has done to my packrat tendencies. In my twenties, when I was an undergrad and all the way through grad school, I saved absolutely everything — ticket stubs from castle tours in England, programs from plays I went to in college, flyers for events I organized. It’s astonishing what I saved, because I thought it was important, because I thought I might need it. Twenty years on, it’s very clear I really didn’t need all that stuff, and I clearly didn’t use it in all that time. So now, I have a much better idea of what I really need to save, and what I really will use. I don’t save everything anymore, and that’s a bit encouraging.
April 14, 2014
Almost forgot to post today. I confess, I had rough week last week. For no particular reason, just one of those mood swing things. I started writing three different novels because I couldn’t decide what to work on, but I wanted to work on something. I’m looking at it as priming the pump to see what catches fire. It was a mixed metaphors kind of week.
You know what? I blame the weather. Springtime in the Rockies. 70 on Saturday and snowing on Sunday. It’s enough to give anyone a headache.
I’ve also been thinking about GI Joe (because when am I not?) and the idea that because the entire thing is based on a ridiculous premise, it makes possible any number of ridiculous storylines because the audience has already bought in to the bedrock ridiculousness. And how that whole structure fell apart with that bizarre Cobra-la storyline. Not because it was patently absurd, but because it screwed with the fundamental premise of the show. The audience had already accepted that Cobra is a terrorist organization determined to rule the world, and GI Joe is the elite special missions force, etc. etc. Then the movie and Cobra-la comes along, and it basically said, “Oh wait, Cobra Commander is actually a snake-dude from this prehistoric snake people civilization, and they’re going to take over the world with spores.” It changed the rules of the universe that the stories had existed in up until then, and the audience was left scratching their heads.
Anyway, it seems to me to be a good lesson in making bargains with your audience, and how far you can expect your audience to follow you.
And I really need to go through and label all my GI Joe posts. This is getting out of hand.
April 11, 2014
Remember that yarn I got a few weeks ago?
This is what I turned it into:
A bit blurry (I need to learn to take better pictures), and there’s my foot for scale. I’m really proud of this. I think it’ll go great with my Regency gown, and it’s so incredibly soft. Hmmmm, purrrrr…..
April 9, 2014
You want to see a new cover? Of course you do:
Here’s Cormac! Art by Craig White, who’s done all the Kitty covers and I’m really glad he’s doing this one, too. Low Midnight will be out in January 2015. Yes, I know it’s a long wait. There’ll be some sneak previews throughout the rest of the year, so stay tuned.
Something I feel needs to be said: Cormac and Kitty do not hook up in this book. The cover kind of makes it look like they might, but they do not. At this point, it will never happen, because in order for that to happen I’d pretty much have to destroy all the work I’ve done building up the existing characters and relationships. That just doesn’t sound appealing.
A word about the mustache: In the editorial letter for Kitty and The Midnight Hour, my editor at the time said “Lose Cormac’s mustache, it’s sleazy.” And my first thought was, “But my Dad has a mustache.” I know a dozen guys with mustaches who aren’t sleazy. Thinking about it some more, I realized — this is a West thing. This is a frontier thing, and my New York/East Coast editor didn’t get it. Mustaches mean something different out here than they do there, and are viewed differently. She was thinking porn star. I was thinking cowboy. So I put my foot down, explained what was going on, and kept the mustache.
I had more input on this cover than on just about any other cover on any of my books, and it was all about Cormac. I got a string of emails asking for descriptions from the books, what he ought to look like, what he should be doing, etc. I think it’s a little of that regional thing creeping in again: my publisher, and its art and marketing departments, are based in New York, and I’m trying to get across this character who is rooted in his region and culture in the Rocky Mountain West. There was also the challenge of making clear this is part of the series while introducing a new main character. In the end the mustache as I imagined it (think Sam Elliott) was just a little too regional to land on the cover of a book that’s going to go everywhere.
So, here it is! Low Midnight, which is about Cormac, Amelia, and a mystery with more layers than an onion…
April 7, 2014
“Having Captain America around you all the time. He just–the guy just brings out the absolute best in people. You…want to be good when he’s around.”
– Hawkeye #1, Matt Fraction
This is from the new run of Hawkeye that started a year or so ago, and I love it because it sums up so much of what’s great about Captain America. (Mind you, I’ve taken this quote terribly out of context — in the next panel Clint reminds the bad guy he’s threatening to beat up that Captain America isn’t around right now and he’s therefore not entirely at his best. But still.)
The first Captain America movie was about Steve Rogers and his story arc. This movie is about Steve’s impact on the people around him. How even Natasha Romanoff, presented as one of the most morally compromised characters in the Marvel universe, wants to be a better person around Steve. And she succeeds. The overall story is political/spy thriller, and terrible things happen, and our beloved world is falling apart. The characters who come together to try to make it right do so because Steve is asking them to. He’s the glue, the moral center, in a story about what is good, and what is right. I love ensemble stories, everything from G.I. Joe to Aliens. This is a good one.
I think Chris Evans deserves a ton of credit for selling these movies and this version of Captain America. He plays it so straight, and my heart just melts. An inch more earnest and the character would come off as cheesy. An inch less earnest he would come off as sarcastic. This…he just gets it.
I also love that the Marvel films, particularly the Avengers sequence, are confident enough to play with details. This is a very rich universe — not just in depth and information, but in emotion. Make sure you notice the necklace Natasha is wearing. I love that Steve gets a friend in Sam who’s a modern war vet — maybe the first person in his new life he’s been able to really relate to. More Falcon, please! I got a Peggy scene. *SOB*
But what may be the movie’s greatest triumph is making me excited to see the next Agents of SHIELD episode, to see how the hell they carry on from here.
April 4, 2014
I decided I had to see this because all the press surrounding it was so damn hilarious. I mean, this whole narrative about how the studio was upset because they thought they were getting a film they could market to conservative Christians and then it turns out the movie wasn’t, you know, at all Biblical, and I’m thinking, OF COURSE NOT, YOU IDIOTS, NOT WITH DARREN ARANOFSKY DIRECTING!!!! This is the man who directed Pi, The Fountain, and Black Swan, for crying out loud. This is a director known for cerebral, visually complex literary films. What on God’s green Earth (no pun intended) made them think they were going to get a film evangelical audiences would flock to? Then it started getting really decent reviews from the critical side of things, and I got even more curious.
So. First off, there was no disclaimer assuring audiences that this isn’t a strict interpretation of the Bible, at least not on the version I saw. Really, though, the thing was surprisingly faithful to the source material, in the way that most book-to-movie transitions are faithful. I absolutely loved the first half of the movie, because it slotted cleanly into the category of Sword and Sorcery, with wizards and warlords and deep magic and pleading to long-vanished gods who may or may not be listening. It reminded me, of all things, of the original Conan the Barbarian, and I mean that in the best possible way. This is a genre we don’t see taken seriously very often in the movies, and this was a solid, gorgeous vision of different kind of Hyborian Age. I believed the world, the despair and desperation. I was there, I was sold.
And then it all fell apart. They did that thing where they add a whole second movie on to the first one.
We got to the Deluge, and the aftermath, and I started checking my watch. And checking. And checking. I thought, “Oh, here’s the start of the third act…. oh no, I guess this is the start of the third act…. No, maybe this is the start of the third act… Or, maybe this movie has six acts. Or maybe seven. Oh dear…”
There’s actually a compelling storyline here where Noah has just gone completely stark raving crazy, which is understandable. But it’s not very interesting, because he’s being crazy and threatening to kill babies, and everyone else is running around screaming and crying and not doing anything else, for like five hours (time dilation — it was only one but it felt like five). What the story should have done is given all the other characters a spine. So that the story then isn’t Noah Goes Crazy and Everybody Runs Around Crying. The story is, Noah’s family points out that he isn’t the only one who gets to say what’s a miracle and what’s not. Because that’s what killed the storyline for me: the whole movie up to that point, miracles abound. But this last miracle? No, Noah isn’t buying it. Made no damn sense. My version? Would have taken fifteen minutes and everyone would be happy.
Anyway. The last half went on too damn long, especially when the audience was already looking for the end of the movie when it all started. Pacing, people. And I fear it needs to be said that there wasn’t a single person of color in the entire film, not even in the swarming crowd mob scenes.
Oh, and what I think happened: evangelicals weren’t upset that this movie wasn’t accurate to the Bible. They were upset that there’s a beautiful surreal cinematic depiction of the formation of the universe and evolution in all its glory spread across billions of years. It’s one of the really great things I loved about this movie, which has fallen firmly in my personal category of “I’d love to take a hatchet to this when the DVD comes out.”