Monday, January 14, 2019

Crazy Rich Asians Tells an Old Story Anew


Last night we rented Crazy Rich Asians based on the book by Kevin Kwan. I had heard a lot of good things about the film, but I was disappointed. I had seen the story before. 

Then I remembered an old Kurt Vonnegut lecture on the shape of stories. I had posted the short video a few years prior and followed his advice in Crossing the Animas. Evidently, I was not the only one. Kwan adapted one of his story lines and transferred it to Singapore. Vonnegut said writers were free to use his model and claimed that any who did would make a million dollars. Kwan cashed in. Me, not so much. However, if you liked Crazy Rich Asians, take a gander at Crossing the Animas. (Soon available in audio in a fine reading by Paul Manelis.)





Watch Vonnegut's talk. It's funny as hell, yet still packed with good advice for storytellers.




Saturday, January 12, 2019

My son's commercial for Walmart

My son designs my book covers. I tell him I'm getting his pricey art college tuition back one cover at a time. Anyway, his day job is advertising and I especially liked this WalMart ad that first ran on the Golden Globe Awards.


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Selfish San Francisco

Water Source for San Francisco

San Francisco supports denying water to the Central Valley so a tiny fish called the Delta Smelt has a pristine habitat. Except San Francisco gets its drinking water from the other side of the Central Valley. If the O'Shaughnessy Dam below Yosemite was demolished, the Sierra runoff would flow naturally into the Central Valley.

To further explain the source of San Francisco water, here is an excerpt from Deluge.
“The TV.” She pointed to a television mounted high on the wall. The sound had been muted, but the agitation of the newscasters was obvious. The chyron read, “O’Shaughnessy Dam collapse harms San Francisco.”  In smaller letters below, it read “Water and power at risk.
Smith grabbed the bottles and said “Come on. Let’s get back.”
When they entered the flat downstairs, Wilson and Ashley were chuckling like a couple of teenagers. Baldwin had the impression that if they hadn’t returned when they did, they might have found the flat locked, with a man’s tie hanging from the door handle.
Smith immediately went to the remote and turned on the television.
The newscaster was saying, “San Francisco receives eighty-five percent of its water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which sits behind the O’Shaughnessy Dam. A dam that no longer exists. This dam also produced over seven hundred million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year for the city. The mayor has declared an emergency, and water as of this moment is severely rationed. It appears that for the first time in a century, San Francisco will be forced to pump and filter its water. The question on the minds of nearly three million people in the Bay Area is, how long it will take to replace the water supply for the city? Our sources said months. The irony, of course, is that after over a week of nonstop rain, how can the city be out of fresh water … and potentially short of electricity?”
“Oh, crap,” Smith said. “The Restore Hetch Hetchy activists got their wish. They’ve hated that dam since John Muir fought its construction early in the last century. Now we’ll see how Sierra Club members with a 94123 zip code like rustic living.”
“Don’t fool yourself,” Wilson said. “The rich always live comfortably. It’s the peons who’ll suffer. If need be, the rich will have Perrier home-delivered in quantities large enough to shower whenever they want.”
Ashley pointed at the faucet. “This water comes from the Sierras? That’s hard to believe. Why? The Delta always has water.”
“It’s pure mountain water,” Wilson said. “We’re one of the few major cities in the world that doesn’t filter its tap water. It’s uncontaminated … and delivery is gravity fed. The city moves it from the mountains to that tap without fossil fuels.” She stroked the faucet spout. “Our pristine mountain water is a matter of civic pride.”
“As well as the pee on the sidewalks,” Smith said. “Gravity fed, pure, and one hundred percent organic.”
“Guys, quit squabbling,” Baldwin said, pointing at the television. “The Don Pedro Dam just below Hetch Hetchy also failed. Modesto and outlying areas are in the flood path. People are dying, and you’re worried about showering.”

disaster story, disaster movie, screenwriting
Storms, politics, and gangs pummel California but that isn't the scary part.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to All ... Everyone Have a Great 2019




Christmas is great. Lots of family, friends, and good cheer. And for dessert, we leave for San Diego on the 27th for more family and friends and hopefully, lots of surfing. (I'll let you know if I can still catch waves.) We stay in California for the winter and won't return until we see a no-snow forecast for thirty days. 

I always get more writing done in San Diego because I have less distractions. I surf in the morning and have the rest of the day free. I need to focus on No Peace, A Steve Dancy Tale. I'm excited about the story which takes place a couple years after Crossing the Animas ended with Steve and Virginia getting married. It's been a happy two years for the Dancys, but as the title implies, tranquility is coming to an end. Boy, that's an understatement. 


book series
Honest westerns filled with dishonest characters.

Anyway, if you've read all six books in the series, consider Deluge to fill the time until No Peace hits the bookshelves. 
Storms, politics, and gangs pummel California ... but that isn't the scary part.
A Santa Barbara police chief and a history professor risk everything to salvage their state from near-total destruction. While others run in terror or rush into danger to exploit the tragedy, Greg Evarts and Patricia Baldwin fight for the only action that can save California and avoid a national economic collapse.
Will anyone listen?




I mentioned in my last post that my twelve year-old granddaughter wrote a great short story that received a 100% in her writing class. I published it with Amazon and she will get paperback copies as a surprise Christmas gift. Here Lies Revenge is now available in print and Kindle versions. Man, I wish I had started that early.

 A scary story that will make you think twice before offending the odd girl in school


Sunday, December 9, 2018

It's Christmas. Top Dozen Tips for Book Gift Giving




A book is always a great gift … especially if you take the time to match the recipient’s taste in fiction or nonfiction. Suddenly, your thoughtfulness becomes part of the gift. Whether your relatives or friends are interested in the Civil War, literature, romance novels, westerns, paranormal fiction, railroads, guns, cooking, collecting old comic books, antique automobiles, or anything else, there's always a book that will bring a smile to their face.

I'm giving my granddaughter a unique gift this year. She's twelve and wrote a short story as a class assignment. The six thousand word story received a 100% from her teacher. My gift is that I published it on Amazon as a 5X8 paperback and a Kindle book. She'll be surprised to find the paperback in her stocking on Christmas morning. Cool, huh?

The episode reminded me that the most popular post on this blog is my Top 10 Tips on book gift giving. I decided it needed updating ... so here are my twelve tips.

Top Dozen Tips for Book Gift Giving
  1. There are books about every hobby and interest in the world. Picking the right book shows you care.
  2. Write a personal message on the flyleaf that won't get tossed out like last year's Christmas card.
  3. Write surprise messages in the margin of random pages.
  4. Search out an author signing for your recipient’s favorite author, or give a collector’s version of the recipient’s favorite book.
  5. If you need professional help or want something unique, shop at an independent or specialty bookstore.
  6. If you subscribe to Amazon Prime then shipping is free, or mail books early to take advantage of media class at the Post Office.
  7. Give a book as a piece of art, like a fine print book, unique coffee table book, favorite book as a child, or collectible cover art.
  8. Make a highly personal photo book with ShutterFly or Apple Photos.
  9. Give a bookseller gift card for e-book and audio book enthusiasts.
  10. College students will appreciate a gift card for their campus bookstore. For fun, you can put it inside a trash novel.
  11. Tuck crisp currency into the flyleaf as a bookmark.
  12. If your friend or relative already owns piles of books, give a unique set of book ends to hold them in their proper place.
One final tip that comes close to re-gifting—find an Amazon print book that includes a “Match Book” deal. Gift the printed version and download the e-book for yourself.

Children's books are also great gifts. We search for autographed storybooks for our grandkids. Bookstores always have children book signings around the holidays, and this is one area where we join the crowd. The icing on the cake is that we get to read from one of these books when we visit.

Books are a great entertainment value. They provide hour upon hour of personal pleasure, and then they can be passed on to another person. What could be better?

You might even gift one of these.


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Road Trip From Seattle to Omaha




My sister lives in Long Beach, California and my brother in Kailua, Hawaii. I live mostly in Omaha, Nebraska, but spend winters in San Diego, California. We managed to get together at least once a year, usually in San Diego and Long Beach. This year, my brother-in-law talked us into a road trip. I'm glad he did.

Since he and my sister would be in Washington visiting his family, my brother and I decided to fly to Seattle and do a road trip to Omaha. After seeing our itinerary, my wife decided to join us, making five in one car. In those kind of close quarters, you need to get along.



Great trip. (If you're into family movies, here's a video recorded for posterity.) We traveled through Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska. Actually, my wife and I traveled through those states, but we chose to remain at home while the remainder of our crew drove back to California.

This is a big and beautiful country. If you haven't leisurely traveled the northwest, put it on your bucket list.



Monday, October 29, 2018

Sisters Brothers—The Movie



Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly

This weekend I saw Sisters Brothers. I write westerns, so I’m critical of Hollywood ventures into the genre. They often mess it up by leaning toward the politically correct or destroying the story with CGI. This time they got it right. The Sisters Brothers is a good western film worthy of the fine novel by Patrick deWitt. That’s saying a lot. Except for Lonesome Dove, most directors view a book as a loose guide, rather than a roadmap. (hint, hint)

Great Cover
The Sisters Brothers is a character study ... and a study of not particularly admirable characters. The appeal is in the dialogue and humor. Thankfully, there are few special effects to take the viewer away from the story. I might be tempted to think Hollywood has learned a lesson, but I suspect this is a one-off because the novel’s author is Canadian and the film’s director French. Leave it to foreigners to revitalize an American genre. Jacques Audiard keeps the film within the spirit of the novel and directs a true western without relying on grandiose landscapes, unhistorical duels, or CGI. He does include a lot of killing, however. After all, the Sisters Brother are assassins.

The film is rated 85% at Rotten Tomatoes. 

Here is the New York Times review.

Owen Gleiberman, Variety’s Chief Film Critic seemed more interested in virtue signaling than critiquing the movie, but here is his review as well. I find Gleiberman’s review interesting because it displays many of the biases which keep Hollywood from making more good Westerns.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

ebooks vs. print—Who Won


This weekend, I ran across this cartoon. At one time, everyone predicted the electronic books would supplant the printed variety. I think we can see the future and it's here. Every book format appears to have found its natural level in the order of things and percentage changes from this point will probably be in single digits.

I suspect my experience is representative of the industry. All of my books are available in print and electronic formats. Most of them are also available in audio and library bound large print. Although my books sell in every format, there are differences in the distribution of sales. 

My westerns sell overwhelmingly in the ebook format and are trending toward the subscription model. Voracious genre readers are perfect customers for books available inexpensively for a monthly fee. The mass-paperback industry has been pretty much devastated by ebooks. Audio books are also popular with genre readers.

Readers of my history books and historical novels prefer printed books. Large print books are popular with libraries.

It should have been obvious from the beginning that the perfect ebook market was mass paperbacks. A cheap, portable, and disposable reading format. But pronostators love to take a trendline and extend it to the stratosphere.

In truth, I don't care which format my readers prefer, only that they keep reading.