Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Nine Movies

My friend Sare does a lot of blog memes such as Sunday Stealing.  She's doing something in October which has her stating a certain number of things (such as "10 people I couldn't live without"; I was #10).  Yesterday she did nine movies.  Which inspired me to do nine movies.  I've avoided repeating any of her movies:

The Lord of the Rings. Technically three movies, but didn't want to use up all my choices. These moves are damn near perfect. The production values, the music, the settings, the acting, the direction, the special effects. Yes, those 6,000 horses are CGI but you don't care because the horses are the forces of good and you want good to win. Occasionally the writers strayed from Tolkien and that's when the movies are at their worst but their worst is better then most movies' best. Just amazing movies.

Star Wars. Okay, technically I'm talking about Star War IV: A New Hope, but when it was released and I first saw it, it was called "Star Wars" and that's it. It was an amazing break-through movie for the times. The special effects were like nothing seen before and here was a science fiction movie that wasn't a glum, depressing, or disturbing movie (viz Silent Running). This changed movies forever as Hollywood learned they could make money making fun movies. It also led to the revitalization of "Star Trek" which led to . . .

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Made cheap and fast (parts of its special effects are clipped right out of Star Trek: The Motion Picture) the writing saves this movie. The clever dialogue between Kirk and Bones and Spock and of course, the nemesis, Khan. Also the only Star Trek movie where they actually fire phasers! Not deep entertainment, but fun.

Talk to Her. A film made in Spain (subtitled) with complex relationships and perhaps a rapist as an unlikely hero (it's never answered, never resolved). Two women are in comas and each one has a man who is in love with them. Something that has to be seen to understand.  For some reason for days I couldn't stop thinking about this movie.

The Empire Strikes Back. A lot of times a director will make a great movie on a shoestring budget, have a hit, then have all the money he needs to make that "movie I've always wanted to make" and ends up making some self-indulgent drivel (viz: Heaven's Gate). George Lucas managed to avoid this trap in making Empire (he waited until the Star Wars prequels). Just a great, fun movie. The asteroid sequence is amazing for pre-CGI special effects and this was when Lucas knew to leave the audience wanting more, not less. (Or he couldn't afford to run the sequence into the ground like he did so often in the prequels.)

Forrest Gump. There's something about this story that profoundly affects me. Maybe I've known too many Jennys in my life. First time I saw it I cried. Bawled. Could not stop. Luckily I was home.

House of Flying Daggers. Basically the director's excuse to film beautiful sequences with almost no plot. But you don't care because they are breathtakingly beautiful.  Made in China with subtitles.

Twelve O'clock High. One of the first post-World War II movies to show the horror of combat (albeit, very subtly). Story of a "bad luck" bomber squadron that gets turned around by a hard-nosed commander. Not very sentimental nor maudlin, more of a "war is hell and if you don't run your unit right, it's even worse hell." Lessons can be applied to business and life. Worst part of the movie is the sequence with actual battle footage.

Toy Story 2. In the first Toy Story, Pixar made an amazing film. Not only a technological achievement but a touching, humorous, amazingly written warm story. In Toy Story 2, they took everything they'd learned up until then and made an even better movie. Bigger in scope and wider in narrative, has moments you want to cry and moments you want to cheer and moments that are so funny you have to stop the Blu-Ray and giggle for five minutes.

What are your favorite movies?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Yesterday and today I'm working on a freelance project.  Freelance is fun, challenging, and helps pay the bills.  And I get to meet some interesting people.  Right now I have three freelance assignments.  One I'm finishing up and two, well, the subjects aren't returning my calls.  That is the part I hate about freelancing is when I can't get the people I'm supposed to interview to return my calls.  I try to be polite and professional but I've called one guy twice and the other three times and so far, no luck.  Today after lunch I'm going to try again.

I remember one assignment (about a farmer with a race car) that I could not get a hold of the guy and the deadline was looming.  Finally on a Friday I got a hold of him and made arrangements to meet and interview him at the racetrack Saturday.  Turned out to be one of my better stories.  But it was very stressful when I couldn't get in touch.  One guy I couldn't talk to because he was out of town until the day the assignment was due.  And he was an hour drive away.  I got home and started typing, getting the story emailed off about nine that night.

What's stressful about your job?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Another Football Post

I managed to last this long before I had to gloat about last night's win over Oregon State by the University of Washington Huskies. 

My friend, Sare, calls this sport "stupidball" but the rest of the world calls it "football" (not to be confused with "fĂștbol" which is played in backward nations where they don't recognize the freedom of using one's hands and a South American village is burned to the ground with every goal). 

A week ago I was waxing rhapsodical about how the Dawgs were probably going to have a 8-4 record after having a very tough beginning-of-a-season schedule.  I thought they could beat all the unranked teams but would probably lose to Oregon State who is having their best year since something like 1929.  I mean look at what the Huskies faced up until now (the rankings are the teams rankings when they played the Huskies):

LSU (3) (blowout loss)
Stanford (8) (win)
Oregon (2) (blowout loss)
Oregon State (7) (win)

But then we lost to (unranked) Arizona.  Badly.  Oh, man, was that a blowout.  At that point I thought we'd be lucky to end the season 6-6 we looked so bad.

Then we played Oregon State last night.  And the defense rocked (the offense, not so much).  And we won making our record 4-4 and 2-3 in conference.  Looking at the remaining schedule we could, if the offense will work just a little bit better, win the last four games (California, no push-over, Utah, Colorado, and Washington State).  Which would still means an 8-4 record (6-3 in conference).  Which ain't bad.  Unfortunately, it's not an improvement on last year's 8-4 record.  But at least we aren't going backwards.

But, boy, was that win nice last night.

CORRECTION: Last year we were 7-5 in regular season, not 8-4 so 8-4 this year would be a (slight) improvement.

Another Blog Interview

Find out how I got my first paid writing gig at Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews Blog.  Also read a character interview with the star of Book of Death, Peter Branton.

Sunday Six: Ball Bearings

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Three of Book of Death:
"What is this?" Vaughan asked.
"A ball bearing," Karamessines stated without mirth.
"And why do I care?" Vaughan queried, handing the ball bearing to me.  It was heavier than I thought it would be.
Helms looked at us seriously.  "You'd be amazed how much national security rides on ball bearings."


Thursday, October 25, 2012


Anyone who knows me knows I like to drive.  And when I drive I prefer to drive fast.  I just got back from a little excursion that probably burned $20 worth of gas on basically entertainment.  I know of a back road near here that is very little traveled, mostly straight, and has nothing built up around it.  Perfect for exceeding the speed limit.

I've always liked driving.  I'm old enough I drove when the National Maximum Speed Limit was 55.  When they raised it to 65 (circa 1986) in rural areas it was wonderful.  When they eliminated it, it was amazing.  I even got to drive in Montana when they didn't have a speed limit (lasted about two years, I think).  Here in Washington State rural interstates are at 70 but really, there are places it could be 80 easily.

Driving can be a chore such as in traffic, around town, or stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle.  It can be a challenge that I admit I enjoy when the weather gets bad.  But mostly I enjoy it and the faster the better.  This is why I don't welcome driverless cars.  And they are coming sooner than I ever thought.  It may be a boon to safety and reduce congestion, but it will eliminate the fun, too.  If I couldn't drive I would miss it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Buried Treasure of a Movie

For some reason I put October Sky on my Netflix queue ages ago.  It finally peculated to the top this week and I watched it last night.  I often say "so many books, so little time."  The same could be said of movies (although my opinion is there's a lot fewer movies worth watching than books worth reading).  I don't know how I let this 1999 movie slip by me for so long.  It's a gem of a film.  It does play to one typical Hollywood trope: the overbearing father who wants to quash his offspring's dreams.  But in this movie (perhaps because it was based on a true story) the father comes off more sympathetic and believable.  He just wants what's best for his son, but he's basing his beliefs on outmoded thinking.  In fact, the contrast couldn't be more stark between the father (coal miner, underground, looking to the past) and the son (dreaming about rockets and space, looking up, thinking about the future).

It's a very good, uplifting film that extols the virtues of "book learning" and looking beyond the horizon.  It's set in a coal-mining town in West Virginia where every man pretty much works for the mining company and every man's son is expected to do the same.  As the school principle states, a "few lucky ones" might escape on football scholarships.

If you haven't seen this film, gather the family around the flatscreen and show it to them.  Very good movie.

Another Blog Interview

Read an in-depth interview with me at My World Blog.  Find out who my favorite character is that I've written and what I like to read when I'm not writing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


In Washington State we have all vote-by-mail elections.  They send you a ballot, you fill it out, and send it back by midnight election day (I think).  I like this because it's easy, convenient, and I can have the ballot there while I'm googling about people I'm not sure about.  Actually, this year, there was only one of those, a non-partisan judge position.

But I don't like vote-by-mail because I like the idea of the community coming together to vote.  You meet your neighbors,you put some effort into voting, and I always took my kids to inculcate them in the responsibilities of being a citizen.  But since vote-by-mail it's sorta "hey, kids, I'm voting" and they glance up from the X-Box (actually, they are all of voting age now; scary thought).   Plus it seems vote-by-mail has too many ways to game the system (one woman registered her dog to vote).

Unfortunately, I live in a very blue state so my vote for president doesn't really matter, much.  But it still feels important to vote and there's a lot of "down ballot" votes, too (Senator, Congressman, etc.).  Just wish I didn't have to wait two weeks to find out who won.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Just checked the weather forcast and they are talking snow possible for tomorrow and Wednesday.  Maybe I waited to long too put the snow tires on.  On the bright side, it's supposed to be above freezing so probably won't stick around.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: The Club

Today's Six Sentence Sunday from Chapter Two of Book of Death:

The music assaulted me like a barrage of noise.  The band on the stage was amazingly loud for a trio of scraggly-haired men.  I was sure the place was in violation of the fire code judging from the number of bodies writhing on the dance floor.  It was dark and the only lighting was flashing and changing multi-colored lights that battered the eyes.  Even so, I could see there were a few men without shirts dancing in the throng of flesh in the center of the room.  There may have been some topless women, too, but with most of the hair both male and female reaching the back, it was difficult to be sure.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Go Dawgs!

As of this moment, the University of Washington Huskies are 3-3 (1-2 in conference).  They have played the #3 team in the nation at the time (LSU; lost), the number 8 team (Stanford; won), the number 2 team (Oregon; lost), and the number 11 team (USC; lost).  So being 3-3 with that schedule is nothing to be (too) ashamed of.

Tonight they play unranked but not doing too badly Arizona.  And I'm hoping they win (of course).  Then the week after they play Oregon State who are currently ranked 8.  But after that the Huskies' schedule gets much much easier (Cal, Utah, Colorado, Wazzu).  If they win tonight I think they can easily pull off a 8-4 record (assuming they lose to OSU).  If they lose tonight they still should be 7-5 but that's worse than last year.

The problem is, they went 8 and 4 last season so 8-4 this year would not be an improvement (unless they win their bowl game and go 9-4).  Yes, this year they've been plagued with injuries (and it shows every time Keith Price has to scramble out of the way of a sack).  But eventually fans are going to get tired of saying "maybe next year."  To me the perfect Husky season (other than a 13-0 national championship) would be a winning record, winning their bowl game, and beat Oregon, USC, and WSU.  Is that too much to ask?  So far this year it looks like we'll at least do two of those.  (Sorry, Sare, for the stupidball post.)

UPDATE: we lost … badly.

Another Great Review for Book of Death

Another great review for Book of Death at Worlds of Escapism.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Planet Just Around the Corner

Scientists have found an Earth-sized planet not too far away, as astronomical things go.  Colonization potential?  Probably not since it is too close to its star and surface temps are a bit balmy at 2,200 degrees.   The planet circles Alpha Centari B which is about four light years away, or about 25 trillion miles.

But not all is lost because this planet might mean there are more planets circling the star and some might be capable of supporting life, even human colonists (or Kzin invaders).

Problem is getting there.  If you could send a spaceship at the speed of the Voyager probes, now the furthest away human-made things, which is around 35,800 mph according to Google, it would take . . . about 689 million hours (in round numbers).  That's about 79,000 years.  To get there.  So obviously we'd have to figure out something faster.  And forget sending humans (80,000 years of "are we there, yet?").

But it is interesting.  Let's just hope the Kzin aren't there waiting for us.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Not your Grandparents' Snow White

Last night I watched on Blu-ray Snow White and the Huntsman.  (It took me until this movie to figure that Thor was Captain Kirk's father?)  I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.  It was a big production stylistically shot (according to the Internet Movie Database it had a $170 million budget).  Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart were both lovely in it (although Charlize had the cooler costumes) and there was enough action, adventure, and fun to keep even me interested.  They didn't over-use CGI effects as is so common in movies these days.  There were a lot of CGI effects but they were part of the story, not the story itself.

I did think the writers/directors needed to study medieval war tactics a bit more for accuracy sake.  And I was trying to decided if explosions pre-dating gunpowder were an anachronism or were magical.  I gave it three stars on Netflix but it was closer to 3.5 (not an option on Netflix).  I enjoyed it, I just didn't really enjoy it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Me on Horror

Read about why I don't read horror at Noracast. Also an excerpt from Book of Death.  Check it out!

Sunday Six: The Sniper

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter One of Book of Death:

I thought somebody dropped a dish.  I heard a tinkle of broken glass, but it was followed by what sounded like a distant gun shot.  Anica made a yelping noise and I looked at her.  Blood was flowing down the front of her dress, staining the tasteful blue to dark red.  It seemed to take me ages, but in reality was probably less than a second, to realize she'd been shot and the bullet had come from the woods across the lake and had broken through the window.
I dove over and knocked Anica to the floor as the window shattered, letting in frigid air and the sound of more gunfire.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Second Draft Done!

Been working on this secret book project for about six months now (maybe longer, time flies when you're an old fart).  Tonight I finished the second draft at 51,572 words.  The ending may be a bit abrupt.  Not sure.  Anyway, now to con someone into proofreading it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Online Ads Stalking Me

Maybe I should switch to Firefox and use the "ad block" add-on (actually, I do, but I use IE9 for "casual" web surfing).  But I love when ads on websites try to say your location and get it wrong.  For some reason a lot of ads think I'm in Virginia (I'm in Washington State) such as the ad to the left.  Then some think I'm in Bellingham, Washington (on the other side of the state).  My ISP was headquartered in Bellingham before it was bought out by a bigger company (in Virginia?).  And sometimes they say I'm in a small town near here where I believe the fiber optic connects to the main Internet backbone (can you tell I know almost nothing about this).  And some get both the town and city right, I just don't believe all those beautiful, lonely women live here.  Sorry.


If I'm not home or off interviewing someone, I'm usually at Starbucks. I may be addicted!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Exotic Food

A while back I posted a pic (testing the mobile app for Blogger) of Mexican food.  Then this weekend I went out for Korean food in Spokane (see picture at left).  I really like Korean food and this place (actually, in Airway Heights) has good stuff.  I was a little insulted when they handed us the "English Only" menus (I read a little Korean).

I like exotic food, just not too exotic. When I was in Peru they had guinea pig on the menu.  But I like Chinese, Mexican, Korean, Japanese (sushi and sashimi), and Thai.  I guess that's not all that exotic but it beats McDonald's.

So what kind of foreign food do you like?

Masquerade Giveaway

My publisher, World Castle Publishing, is having an eBook giveway one per week in October.  To enter, use the Raffle Copter below.  Prizes are free eBooks published by World  Castle. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Not exactly what I would call a relaxing weekend.  Years ago I promised my son when he was 18 he could go the the high performance driving school (driving on a racetrack) that I let his older brother go to and that I attended many, many times.

I decided not to drive this time so I ended up sitting outside in the sunshine (not something fair-skinned redheads should do a lot) while my son drove on (and twice off) the track.  Because of his second departure from the track today, the car is filthy inside and out.  I said we looked like a couple of rednecks who drove their Camaro off the farm.

So I'm tired.  Just thought I'd let you know.  But boy, I heard the roar of the engines, smelled the hot brakes, felt the ground-thumping of massive power being applied, and I so wanted to be out on that track.

So now I'm tired, and sunscreen is getting into my eyes, and I just want to rest.  How was your weekend?

Sunday Six: Vlad

Today's Sunday Six from the Prologue of Book of Death:

Vlad stood and walked down the few steps of the dais, cackling with laughter.  The two warriors beside him followed, drawing their swords which hissed as metal escaped scabbard.  The young girl chose that moment to flee from the room, her skirts swooshing and her long dark hair swaying as she nearly ran.
"You don't know the power of what I am doing," Vlad said in a soft yet somehow terrifying voice.  "Bring on your armies and your adept ones.  I'll defeat them all."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sunshine Award!

I have apparently been nominated by my good friend Sare for a Sunshine Award.  And this apparently confers upon me some responsibilities (gee, thanks, Sare).  One is to put the picture to the left on this blog.  Another is to answer the questions below.  The complete list of rules is here:

As with all awards, the Sunshine Award comes with a few rules:

♥ Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog
♥ Answer 10 questions about yourself
♥ Nominate 10-12 other fabulous bloggers
♥ Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated
♥ Share the love and link the person who nominated you.

The problem is, I don't know 10-12 "fabulous" bloggers.  Most the blogs I read are political.

But I will answer the 10 questions (you know, it doesn't say which 10 questions, but I assume it's supposed to be the same ones Sare answered):

Favorite color:  Lately I've been partial to hot pink.  Not sure why.
Favorite animal: I've always liked bald eagles.
Favorite number: 165 (the fastest in miles per hour I've driven a motor vehicle).
Favorite non-alcoholic drink:  Diet Sunkist
Prefer Facebook or Twitter? I use both to promote my books but also with Facebook I keep up with family and friends.  It's sort of like do you prefer PowerPoint or Excel?  They do different functions.  One fun thing about Twitter is I've seen in tweets news before it breaks elsewhere such as the Washington D.C. earthquake and that Santorum was suspending his campaign.
My passion: writing, politics, driving (fast).
Prefer getting or giving presents: gimme gimme gimme
Favorite pattern: Whatever short little schoolgirl skirts are made of.
Favorite day of the week: Usually Thursday because I have nothing to do that I have to do those days.
Favorite flower: No idea.

Okay, so I won't nominate any blogs (sorry) if you haven't been reading Sare's blog, you should.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

First Draft Done

I just finished writing a 50,577 word first draft of a novel I've been working on for a while.  It took me longer to write than I thought it would because I couldn't figure out the ending.  This is a hussssh secret project that if I publish it will be under a pen name.

Now to wait a day or two and go back and proofread/rewrite.  That always seems to make my manuscripts longer.