Friday, April 6, 2018

The weather outside is frightful: Part Deux

Yesterday, the gardener showed up for Spring Cleanup. This morning, I woke to this.

Since the same person does my snow removal, I guess he show up today to clear my driveway.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Weather Outside is Frightful


Every year, I leave my home in Omaha after Christmas to spend the winter in San Diego. I return each Easter to spend the holiday with family. What’s an egg hunt without grandkids, nieces, and nephews? This schedule has worked out great in past years. I avoid the worst of winter in the Midwest, visit my west coast friends and relatives, bask in the sun, get a little surfing in at Pacific Beach, and return for glorious springtime on the plains. Only not this year. This year, they predict snow three times this week. There’s not a leaf in sight. The prominent color is brown. And polite Midwesterners are a bit grumpy.

I even built a fire the first night to ward off the chill. With the thermostats set at fifty in our absence, the couch cushions made us wrap in blankets. Yeah, “But the fire is so delightful.”

Deluge is still at the editors, but I expect it back soon, which will keep me busy. I also have three more essays to write for this year’s Constituting America’s 90-Day study. Lots of indoor work. Unfortunately, I have a couple problems that need attention in the garage, which is more like an icebox. Oh well, whenever I get lethargic writing, I can get my blood moving again by doing garage chores. 

Or … maybe I’ll check for discount airfares back to San Diego.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Mark Twain's 10 Writing Tips published a list of writing tips from Mark Twain. Now, Twain never actually published a list, but his letters provided plenty of tips that just needed to be gathered up in one place. 

1. "Write without pay until somebody offers to pay."
2. "Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream."
3. "Great books are weighed and measured by their style and matter, and not the trimmings and shadings of their grammar."
4. "The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction."
5. "If I had more time, it would have been shorter."
6. "The more you explain it, the less I understand it."
7. "Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very.' Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."
8. "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."
9. "Use plain, simple language, short words, and brief sentences... don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in."
10. "As to the adjective: When in doubt, strike it out.”

Good advice, but I believe scrutinizing Twain’s castigation of James Fennimore Cooper provides even more guidence. Among other things, Twain wrote “Cooper's art has some defects. In one place in "Deerslayer," and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.” 

If the criticisms of Cooper were rewritten as positive statements, they would make a great guide to great writing. Which I took the liberty of doing here. You may also want to check out my catalog of writing advice from the masters. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Leadville Laurel comments on my book Leadville

"Author/Blogger James D. Best found me on the web and sent me his novel Leadville: A Steve Dancy Tale (2nd in a series) to review! I haven't yet posted my review on my website, but I can tell you that even if I weren't living in Leadville, I'd still love this Wild West mystery adventure! Best's writing style is a romp, and he nails the dialogue. Two thumbs up!"

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Friday, February 9, 2018

Blade Runner vs. Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 1982

Blade Runner 2049

IMDB users rate Blade Runner 2049 at 8.2 out of 10. Pretty heady rating for IMDB. I’m aware that anyone who preferred the original gets dissed as an ol’ fogey. I fall into the old category, but don’t admit to the fogey part. Nevertheless, I will go on record as preferring the original. (Both films scored 8.2)

My reasons are from a different perspective than most. Admittedly, film is an art form and presentation certainly plays into the craft. From a visual perspective, I might even give Blade Runner 2049 the edge. It paints a dystopia world with deft precision. Where it falls behind the original is the crux of good storytelling. Bad guys gotta be bad.

In the original movie, Rutger Hauer portrayed Roy Batty with relentless malevolence, yet managed, in the end, to elicit compassion for his character. Batty was a worthy rival, who transitions into a sympathetic victim. A fine piece of acting, that.

Luv vs. Roy

On the other hand, Sylvia Hoeks plays Luv like a high school mean girl, and the script resorts to clich├ęs to portray her evilness. For example, when Luv stomps on K's mobile projector to kill Joi, it reminded me of a B-movie where the antagonist kicks a dog to convey dastardliness.

And then when Luv finally dies, we think, oh good, it’s over. When Batty dies, we weep.

I’m prejudice, of course. I believe the art in storytelling requires an antagonist that presents a heavy challenge to the protagonist. Heroes need villains to be heroic. We want the protagonist to win, but he or she keeps losing until just before the curtain falls. The tension comes from uncertainty. Even though we’ve seen story upon story, each time we are transported to another place and time where the villain might actually win. Sometimes, we get a reveal at the end that turns the protagonist’s victory poignant. A neat trick, when done right, and the original Blade Runner pulled this off with panache.

And that’s why I prefer the Blade Runner 1982.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Back from a vacation of surfing and writing

I took a break from social media for about four months. Fatigue, I guess. I wanted to write, enjoy my family, and surf.  The writing and family went great. The surfing so, so. I still get rides, and occasionally good rides, but embarrassments are less occasional.  I’m with Hobson in the movie Arthur. On his death bed, Arthur asks, “Do you want anything?” and Hobson replies, “I want to be younger.” My birthday is coming up, but asking for youth as a birthday gift seems contradictory.

John Gielgud as Hobson in Arthur

The first draft of Deluge is complete at long last. Actually, the second draft, but who's counting? This is a disaster story and since I had never lived through a disaster, I had to do a lot of research. It was a fun book to write, and I'm confident you'll enjoy it. Unfortunately, it will be many months before it makes it through the remaining steps to publication. 

In the meantime, Crossing the Animas is now available from Center Point Publishing in a hard cover, large print edition. Libraries are the primary market for this format, but it would make a dandy gift for some of us older guys who like our print large and our stories larger.

Now in large print, library binding

The Steve Dancy Tales
Honest westerns filled with dishonest characters

I'll return sooner next time. Have a great 2018!