Friday, May 31, 2013

Movie Reviews: Jack Reacher and Gangster Squad

Last night I watched Gangster Squad on Blu-ray.  On Tuesday I watched Jack Reacher (it's a two-movie week per my method of keeping Netflix from "throttling" me).

Both movies were crime dramas but they were vastly different films.

Jack Reacher is set in modern times.  It has twists and turns and is well made and well written (I understand it's based on a book).  It stars Tom Cruise who also produced.  The biggest problem I had was Tom Cruise being an amazing hand-to-hand fighter.  He's a small guy and doesn't come off as being that tough.  He suits his Mission Impossible role better (smart guy, tough enough when needed).  But in this film his character fights off five guys at one point.  I was starting to get a little unhappy with the plot as it was starting to look like "evil corporation" but instead it was evil guy doing his bad stuff through a corporation.  Yes, there's a difference. And Reacher's backstory as explained in the movie is a bit incredible. On Netflix I gave it three stars.  I would have given it 3.5 but there's no option for that.  I understand there's more books so there may be more movies.

(And I like Tom Cruise and have ever since Risky Business.  I don't know why people give him so much crap and say he's gay. I don't care if he's gay but I doubt he got all those beautiful women to marry him being gay.)

Despite its low Rotten Tomatoes score, I also got Gangster Squad.  Mostly because it looked fun (and I like Emma Stone).  And I love 1940s women's fashions and Stone looked amazing in this movie.  But the focus of the movie was action.  It's set in Los Angeles in 1949 when the chief of police had a cop set up a squad to go after a mobster.  Lots of gunfights, actions, explosions, a bit of gratuitous blood (it was rated R, Jack Reacher, the better movie, was rated PG-13).

The problem with Gangster Squad was some stilted dialogue, implausible events, and almost no character development.  It was like eye candy (or watching Emma Stone in that red dress), fun but not ultimately satisfying.  I gave it three starts on Netflix but I would have given it 2.5 but that's not an option.

At the beginning of Gangster Squad it says "Inspired by true events" and then according to the "goofs" section of the Internet Movie Database page on the movie, it pretty much got nothing right except the names and dates.  By that standard I could say Hammer of Thor is "inspired by true events" because World War II actually happened.

And I decided Ryan Gosling could play Michael Vaughan, the hero of Agent of Artifice, in the movie version.  If there ever is a movie version.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Radio Interview

Today at 7:30 P.M. EDT (4:30 P.M. PDT) I will be interviewed on Bab's Book Bistro on Blog Talk Radio.  I'm going to be talking about writing and my books and whatever else comes up.  So tune in and call in if you have a question.  It's going to be fun!

Monday, May 27, 2013


Well, I have discovered what is to me, a new internet scam.  Take a look at this screen capture:
So one would think, "Hey, this topblogstories site must like my posts a lot."  And you're curious which posts they linked to so you click the link . . . and it sends you someplace else. I've seen on Google that it sends you to porn sites.  I clicked the link and saw it was forwarding to something I didn't want to see (judging from the URL) so I closed the browser fast.

What really annoys me is this is distorting my pageviews so I don't really know how many I've had.  I'm hoping these folks go away (I know, big mistake to click the link).  So I'm warning you, if you see this in your "Traffic Sources" do not click it!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Six: Home

Today's Sunday Six is the last six sentences in Rock Killer:

Mr. Kijoto, for the first time in many years, moved to greet someone first.

Then Alex had to talk to each SRI officer, followed by the black man.  Alex finally reached Mitchel and the two men pounded each other on the back like the old friends they were.

Then, Alex turned to his wife.  Ignoring Mitchel, Banda, Kijoto and the other SRI officers, the other employees, and the press who blatantly beamed the live pictures around the world, husband and wife wrapped themselves together into their own, safe universe.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I've never had "beta readers" before. These are folks, usually other writers, who read your manuscript and make suggestions to improve it.  I was a little nervous because I had no experience with this.  I did think that if I didn't like their advice I could blow it off but still, it was a bit nerve-wracking as this was the first time anyone would have seen my work outside my circle of family and friends who proofread for me.  This is for my "work in progress" Gods of Strife, the fourth book in the Adept Series.

I got the first beta back yesterday.  And I have to say, it was a good experience. The woman pointed out a few typos and misspellings.  But she also had constructive criticism of some poor sentence construction and confusing things.

I didn't take all her advice.  If the other two betas say similar things, I'll look into it.  But some stuff I thought was a little like "if you'd read it more carefully, you'd understand what I'm trying to say here."  And she said she was still worried a character was safe after my main character had practically said, "Oh, yes, he's safe now (and in bed with a woman)."  If the other two betas have similar concerns, I'll look it over.

So over all, I'm finding beta reads to be useful.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Six: On the Way Home

Today's Sunday Six comes from Chapter Nineteen of Rock Killer:

Alex Chun sat in the employee lounge, sipping water.  He hoped he'd keep that down.  His space sickness was unusually acute.  He tried to distract himself by looking out the window at the Mediterranean 400 kilometers below.  He could see Italy, the Adriatic, and the Greek islands, where Odysseus had labored to return home for–what was it, ten years?  How many of his crew did he lose on that trip? Alex wondered.

Friday, May 17, 2013


On Monday (the 20th) I'll be giving away a free signed copy of one of my novels to one lucky person. Sign up at my website:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Flash Fiction

Here's a story I wrote a while back. More of a vignette. Different from my usual science fiction and fantasy writing. This is first draft, never been revised (I can see right now I use the word "bar" way too often):

    I slipped in the door, out of the rain, and into a gloom more pervasive than the darkness outside.  A layer of blue smoke hung from the low ceiling.  A T.V. over the bar that no one was watching was showing a prize fight.  Men were hunkered down over the bar, as if trying to keep it from moving.  I saw one woman in a booth, old but trying to look young, talking to a man who was staring into his drink.  But the place was far from crowded and there were plenty of seats at the bar.
    I shuffled slowly to the bar, finding an empty vinyl-covered stool, and sat down and looked for the bartender, pushing my hat back on my head.  There was a man next to me in a grey overcoat, the collar pulled up around His neck.  I glanced at him as he held a drink in both his hands and dismissed him just as quickly.
    "What'll be, mac?" the bartender finally asked looking at me with small eyes in a pudgy face.  The cauliflower ear made me assume he used to be a boxer.
    "Rye, on the rocks," I said, sliding a buck across the wood of the bar.  He took it and with a practiced move brought back both my change and my drink.
    I took a sip and let the alcohol warm me as it burned down my throat.
    I was on my third sip, starting to feel the warmth spread to my extremities, when the man next to me said something.
    Almost automatically I said, "Pardon?"
    The man turned at looked at me with strong grey eyes.  He was older than me and in his eyes I saw a depth of pain and sorrow.  He looked at me for a long moment, as if debating if I was worthy of his consideration.
    "I was committing suicide," he said again, so low I could barely hear him.
    I was about to brush him off when I noticed the flash of sky blue and white stars under his coat.  Since the war everyone in the country recognizes the ribbon of a Medal of Honor.
    "I'm sorry?" I asked, not knowing what else to say.
    He followed my eyes and knew I'd seen the ribbon.  I didn't know why he was wearing his medal.
    "Ceremony today at city hall, honoring vets," he said to my unspoken question.  "V-E Day."  I felt foolish not knowing that.  It hadn't been that long since the war.
    I nodded and looked at him.  "You said something about suicide?"  I'm not sure why I asked.  Something in his eyes held me transfixed.
    "Yes," he said simply.  "They were all down."
    "My squad.  Everyone of them but me was hit.  Some were dead already."
    He looked away from me then, and I knew he was seeing not the bar, not cigarette smoke, but the war.
    "We were supposed to clear out this section of this town in France.  Clear out all the Germans.  We came to the bottom of a hill and the Nazis were dug in up the hillside looking down on us.  I ordered my squad to deploy along a wall as I assessed the tactical situation.  As they were moving a mortar struck and took out my fire team . . . the whole team."
    His voice cracked at that.  Men had died under his command.
    "The maneuver team was stunned and didn't move for what seemed ages but must have been just moments.  But it was long enough, the Germans shot every one of them."
    I could see the pain in his eyes then.  He looked away for a moment as if to hide it.  I just waiting, my drink suddenly unimportant to me now.
    "I didn't want to live," he said.  "So I charged up the hill with my tommy gun, attacking the German positions.  I went through three magazines and was shot twice, but I took out all the Germans."
    He paused, looked at me again.
    "They said I saved the lives of my squad members who were wounded.  They said I was brave."  He scoffed.  "I was trying to die."

Monday, May 13, 2013


In my current WIP (Work in Progress for those of you that don't speak writerese), which is titled Gods of Strife, my character flies to London in the then-new Concorde supersonic airliner.  I did a lot of internet research about the Concorde but there is a British Airways Concorde parked at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.  I'd hate myself if I didn't make the effort to go there and see it.  Now this was a three-hour drive.  Admission to the museum was $16 (with a AAA discount) for myself and my oldest son.  And, of course, we had to buy food in the Seattle area.  So all in all, probably at least $150 spent and most of a day gone to do this research.  I walked through the plane once and looked at it from the outside (and was able to compare it to a 747 parked nearby).

For all that, I ended up adding 92 words of description (out of an 87,000 word book).  And a lot I learned in the visit didn't make it into the book because I didn't want to spend a bunch of words on description my character probably wouldn't notice.  Plus my reader may not be as fascinated with airplanes as I am.

Here is the complete description of the Concorde from Gods of Strife:

Before we went down the jet way I looked at the aircraft. It seemed small and very skinny, with triangular wings and a very pointed nose. But the nose drooped as if someone had loosened some bolts. I assumed it was supposed to be that way as no one else was concerned. It didn't look like any commercial airplane I'd ever seen. It looked like a larger version of one of those fighter jets Graham pointed out in Tehran except for the white paint and that droopy nose. It was nearly as long as the 747 parked at the next gate but looked lithe and delicate compared to the hulk of the jumbo jet. The windows from the outside appeared to be miniscule.

The interior was very cramped and one had to duck going in the door. Perhaps it was only because of how slender the fuselage was but looking down the aisle the plane seemed very long. Although there were only two black leather seats per side they looked rather narrow, almost like tourist-class seats on a regular airplane. But they were almost as far apart, front to back, as in first class, giving plenty of leg room. I was surprised how comfortable they were when I sat down.

While you could stand up in the very narrow aisle, there was limited headroom over the seats, especially the one by the window which was only about the size of a paperback book.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Busy Busy

Been busy this week so far.  If you follow my Twitter (@SEvanTownsend) you probably know.

Monday I had to prepare a speech for Toastmasters that I procrastinated until the last minute.  Speech was well received anyway.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I had two (!) interviews for freelance writing assignments.  That pretty much took up the whole day because I had to drive 40 miles to see the one guy and he was quite loquacious.  Was easy to get 1,000 words out of his story.

And today I was a pillar of the community.  First a meeting at 7:00 A.M. (yes, it bites), then a meeting at 11:30 where I had volunteered to lead the meeting.  When that was done, I needed to write the first drafts of the two stories that I'd done interviews for yesterday.  It's best to do them when the interviews are fresh in the mind.  I would written them yesterday but got back from the second interview at 4:00 and was bushed.  Decided to tackle them today when I was more rested.

One (the loquacious guy) is a bit long and the other is a bit short.  Oh, well, it averages out.  I'll let them fester overnight and re-read and proof/edit in the morning.  After I go to Starbucks.

How's your week so far?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday Six: The Rescue

Today's Sunday Six comes from Chapter Eighteen of Rock Killer:

Thorne put the sharp end against the woman's thigh just above where the beam pinched the leg down to nothing.  Thorne braced himself and Alex put his mass against Thorne's back while trying to jamb his legs between two metal beams.  Alex hoped Thorne wouldn't move and the plate would.
Jubair used a miner's rope to tie a tourniquet.  He pulled it tighter and tighter; so tight that Alex thought he was going to breach the suit.

"Now," Jubair said unexpectedly.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Big Mistake or am I Missing Something

Watched the classic film-noir movie the other night, Gilda, with Rita Hayworth in her best-known role.  Very good movie and very well done.  You had to actually watch the movie because the undercurrents were not in the dialogue but in the glance, the smile, and the way the director lit and framed a scene.  Very good movie and Glenn Ford was excellent in it, too.

But there was something that just didn't seem right.  Early in the movie World War II ends (well, Germany surrenders, for some reason the movie ignores Japan).  About that time Gilda shows up as the wife of Glenn Ford's boss.  Interesting things go on, some back and forth between Gilda and Ford's character, etc., and suddenly it's Carnival.

Here's my problem: 1) Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945. 2) Carnival is the three days before Ash Wednesday. 3) in 1945 Easter was on April 1st. 4) Lent is 44 days long (if you include Sundays) so that would put Ash Wednesday on February 14th and Carnival on February 11, 12, and 13.  In other words, Carnival ended 84 days before Germany surrendered.

Now, I suppose the Carnival depicted in the film could have been 1946's celebration.  That year Easter was on April 21st. So Ash Wednesday would have been March 6th and Carnival March 3,4, and 5.  In other words 301 days after Germany surrendered.  If 301 days passed between Germany's capitulation and the Carnival depicted in the film, they skipped a lot of time.  And it didn't seem that way, the plot moves pretty quickly.

So big error (or didn't care) by the film makers or I just didn't figure something out.

And yes, I can be obsessive sometimes.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

An Iterative Process

According to something I read by Robert Heinlein, he would type up his manuscript (on a typewriter, that is, no spell check, no autocorrect, etc.) then go through it and see what to cut out, then send it off to the publisher.  That just amazes me (especially the no spell checker part).

The way I write is completely different.  I write my first draft.  Then I go back and re-write and edit it.  And I do that again, and again.  And my manuscripts always get longer as I realize I need to add more description or detail.  With my latest project I had my wife read it out loud to me, which was a great way to hear things that needed to be changed. 

Even then I'm never quite satisfied.  The other day I was reading a passage from Hammer of Thor and I came across a sentence I thought I could have written better.

So to me, writing is an iterative process.  For example, in my work in progress, Gods of Strife (the fourth novel in the Adept Series), I described a female character as:

I'd often heard the cliché "face of an angel" but in this case it appeared literally true.

And I didn't like that much.  It felt as if I were saying to my readers "Yes, I know this is a cliché but I'm going to use it anyway."  But at the time I couldn't come up with something better but that was always a nagging sensation in the back of my brain.

Monday I was driving on a 100 mile journey and I started thinking about that passage (interstate, cruise control set, not much traffic).  And I came up with an idea to improve it.  So I changed it to:

Her features were china-doll delicate, as if she would shatter if touched without care.  Fair skin almost the color of freshly-fallen snow seemed flawless, without a mark or freckle.

I was sort of plagiarizing myself out of something I wrote in 2005 that never got published:

The Japanese waitress asks me something and I'm suddenly aware of how painfully and delicately beautiful she is.  It's almost as if I touched her she would crumble.

(The local writers' group says I use too many -ly words.)

But there were too many ifs in that first sentence.  But "as if" couldn't be changed because a) to do so would make it grammatically incorrect and "delicate like she would shatter" just doesn't sound as good to my ear.  So the second "if" had to go.

I was lying in bed last night and I, for some reason, was thinking about this passage when it hit me how to change it.  So now that first sentence reads:

Her features were china-doll delicate, as if she would shatter when first touched without care.

And I like that much better than my cliché that I originally wrote.