Friday, May 29, 2009

Facebook, Alaska, two new book ratings

Okay, I tried facebook. It can be darn addicting. It's fun to connect with people that you have lost contact with, but it can end up taking a lot more of your time than you plan. I'll try to keep control of myself, though.

We're excited to be heading to Alaska tonight for a couple of weeks. It's been almost four years since I've been there; the longest streak in my life. I miss it a lot and there is a danger that I might not return to Utah.

I have ratings for two more books added to my website. The first one is, Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary. This is book four of the series, and I have enjoyed the series quite a bit. This book, though, didn't seem to keep me as excited as the 2nd and 3rd. I don't know why, it could have been something I ate. There are some cool character developments, though, that young adults should enjoy. I recommend it.

The other book is Time of the Twins by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis. I got to meet Tracy Hickman in February and realized that I hadn't read any of his Dragonlance books. I decided to give them a try. The original series was okay, but I had a hard time getting through this one. I couldn't relate to any of the characters very well. But it could be just me, I noticed it is well-loved on Amazon.

Monday, May 25, 2009


I went to the Conduit sci-fi/fantasy thing in Salt Lake on Friday and Saturday. These things are great resources for writers, where we get to rub shoulders with some of the best writers in the area. Some of the people there this year were Brandon Sanderson, L.E. Modesitt, Dave Wolverton, and Howard Tayler. I was on a panel on Friday about when to use and not use grammar rules. I, of course, am not an expert on grammar by any means. My main suggestion was to ignore grammar during the first draft, otherwise, it can make us lose our creative train of thought.

Tonight, I'll be playing a big band gig at the Apollo, a dance hall in American Fork. I'll be playing first tenor with the Moonlight Serenaders.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

David Copperfield

On Saturday, I took my wife and oldest daughter to see David Copperfield (the magician, not the book) at Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City. It was a birthday present for my daughter, since she loves magic. It was a lot more fun to see than I thought. I've seen some of those tricks on t.v., but seeing it live is a whole new experience. You know the illusions are not being created with the camera since it's all right there in front of you.

It got me thinking, why do we like magic shows? For me, I'm looking to see if the magician screws up and reveals the trick. And then, the other part is to see if I can figure out how he did it. It's the ultimate mystery.

As far as writing goes, I have started a third draft of my second book. So far I'm three chapters into it. I'll be on a panel on Friday at Conduit in Salt Lake talking about grammar; like I know anything about that. Personally, I think grammar is over-rated.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Angels and Demons movie

I saw Angels and Demons (or is that Angles and Deacons?) this morning and it will be the subject of my second movie review. I would have to classify this movie as 'okay'. It wasn't wonderful and it wasn't bad. The biggest problem is that it didn't really engage my emotions. That could be because I just read the book, so I had a good idea what was happening. I've been analyzing and trying to figure out why it didn't move me very much, and I think a big reason was because the antagonist didn't seem to have strong motives for their actions. In the book, it was clear, though, and I thought the ending pleasantly surprising. The movie, though, lost it somewhere. Probably because, for the sake of time, they cut too much out.

A lot of the cuts in the plot and characters made sense for time and simplicity, and for the most part, I think they did well at streamlining. It's just that they needed something to make the antagonist's actions make more sense, even if it was something not in the book. Towards the end of the movie, I got a little excited when I thought they might end it with a different surprise ending, but they didn't. The betrayal at the end just didn't have any teeth.

Of course, one of my main concerns about movies is content. Angels and Demons got a Kids in Mind rating of 1.7.3. I have no idea where they got the '1' rating for sex, since the worst thing that happened was that the protagonists held hands. The '3' language rating was probably deserved, though I don't remember much. Of course, we hear so many of the 'd' and 'h' words all the time, it's easy to block them out. The worst aspect were the gory scenes, so the '7' is well deserved. This was not a movie for the squeamish. One trick that worked for me was to almost close my eyes so that the screen was blurry. That way, I could see enough of what was going on without the vivid detail (call me a wimp). Overall, though, I think the movie was a kinder, gentler version of the book which had a lot of language issues and was more gruesome.

Bottom line: See it if you don't mind gory deaths and are mildly in need of entertainment. Otherwise, wait until it's on DVD where it can be watched with a Clearplay filter.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Improving writing

I thought I should go over what I'm doing to improve my writing chops. Even though I'm getting a book published, I still feel behind the curve as a writer. I recently finished reading 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias. I feel plotting is one of my major weaknesses, so I'm trying to learn how to be better at it. A few months ago, I also read a book called Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. Now, as I read through books, I take notes on the main scenes and plot elements so that I can study them.

Right now, I'm reading Revision and Self-Editing also by James Scott Bell. He has an entertaining way of discussing these rather boring topics. So much so, that I find myself wanting to read the editing book more than Fablehaven 4.

I also just finished a short story today. It's a sequel to my story "Sacked" that was published in the UVU speculative fiction journal Warp and Weave (Spring 2009 edition). I hadn't planned on writing a sequel, but an idea hit me so I ran with it. I don't know what I'll do with it yet, though. I mainly wanted to write something to get my muse working again. I've been so focused on music the last couple of weeks, that my writing had stopped. Tomorrow, I plan to get back to work on book 2.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

20 years

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of being a newly-wed. And they have been twenty great years with my best friend in the whole universe. So, tonight, we're going out to dinner.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Star Trek movie

Having a blog gives me an opportunity to live a dream: to be a movie critic. So, this morning, I checked out the matinee of the new Star Trek movie.

My initial response is: it made me mad. I can't go into too much detail without giving away the plot, so I'll wait until later to do that. Now, it didn't make me mad because of the different actors and changed set or anything like that. Just suffice it to say, now none of the old t.v. series exist. There's now no original series, Next Generation, Voyager or Deep Space Nine. They will now not happen. Okay, we could say that they are all existing fine in some alternate universe, but I'm tired of that line. It's been over-used. It just looks like the producers want a new sand box to play in because they didn't like the restrictions placed on the old one.

As for the movie itself, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a fun action romp. After watching the trailers, I was afraid it would turn into Star Trek: 90210. It had some great one-liners that payed homage to the original series and their characters. And, of course, the effects were great. My one complaint about them is the 'documentary style' camera work for the combat scenes. I prefer a good, solid camera angle. It doesn't make it more realistic to me to have a shaky camera look.

As far as the actors, I felt they nailed McCoy and Spock. I'm not sold on Kirk. I enjoyed the Chekov character, though he seemed a little too Wesley Crusher-like. The other characters were portrayed okay, though I'm not wild about the new Uhura personality. I liked the more spiritual type character that Nichelle Nichols portrayed.

One of my big concerns about movies is all the extra garbage they put into them. Overall, the language and violence didn't bother me, and there wasn't that much sex, other than that one stupid scene that had no importance to the plot, but was only put there to so that they could have a spicey blurb that they could insert into the trailers. That irked me about Iron Man, too.

This is something that I don't understand about Hollywood. In any other market, you want to create a product that can be as universal to as many people as possible. When they keep putting all this offensive material into movies, it just turns me off. I almost didn't go to this movie because of the Kids-in-mind rating of 5-6-4. I'm not going to let my kids go (so they are missing out on those sales) mainly because of that one stupid bedroom scene. I believe if movies would just cut out the '13' stuff and make it PG, their sales would be a lot better. Don't they want to make more money?

So, my final recommendation: wait for the DVD and watch it with a Clearplay filter, then it could be a fun film. And then try not to get annoyed when the Star Trek you know and love no longer exists.