Thursday, October 30, 2008

How to avoid Nano prep work

So, just two days left until nano insanity begins and last night, after struggling with determining my new novel's world's naming conventions, I gave up and watched Foreign Correspondent instead.

You know I don't think it would be very hard at all to develop a crush on Joel McCrea. This is the second film I've seen him in recently (the other was Sullivan's Travels), and in both he's so unpresuming, laid-back, and earnest, just an all around nice guy. And he's pretty darn cute besides. After Nano, I'll have to see what else he's got out there.

This movie was quite fun and entertaining. Nothing truly unexpected or twisty, just a good, solid spy yarn. Built some excellent tension and creepy suspense in places, and it has that spectacular plane crash. Dude, they don't make plane crashes look that good nowadays. Not just the crash itself, but the sinking aftermath. Yikes! I was pleased George Sanders got to play a good guy for once, just as suave and cool as always, but on the right side of the law. It was also nice to have someone as tall as Joel McCrea around so he didn't tower over everyone. And Ian Wolfe... was he ever young? LOL! He looks perpetually old. From this film to Star Trek twenty-eight years later, he doesn't seem to change hardly at all. He's even more unchanging than Walter Brennan!

Oh, and for the record, between Alistair MacLean's "Puppet on a Chain" and this movie's creepy windmills, I am never visiting Holland. I'm sure there's nothing scary about the real Holland, but the fictional versions are always so damned freaky.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why, there must be less than a week left before NaNo...

...because I've changed my project. The YA novel is out. The new idea I came up with a couple months ago for the Think Sideways course is in. It doesn't have a title, nor do the two lead characters (any of the characters for that matter) even have names. But I know what happens in the first few chapters, I know a couple of the important plot points, I know enough of the setting, I have one ending in mind (which I already know will most likely change as I get into it), and I've still got four whole days to figure out the rest. Woo! I mean... oh yeah, four days. Dandy. Nothing like coming down to the wire.

Why? Because the one major similarity between the YA novel and both DTD and POW was driving me crazy. I don't need or want another book exploring those same things. I want something completely different. Well, the Think Sideways novel is radically different, so it earned itself a chance to step up to the plate. Oddly, I'd forgotten all about it until last night. Then it sort of raised its hand, tentatively, and asked "what about me?"

So, those characters better step forward and name themselves, right away please. Writing "the traitor" and "the serving girl" just doesn't cut it. Hahhahahah! Cheesy fake title alert!! "The Traitor and the Serving Girl." Groan. Oh, I just love snatching at ideas at the very last minute.

This is positively my last NaNo.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

East Side, West Side (1949)

Entertaining little melodrama about love and adultry that veered nicely into noir with an unexpected murder... and then about-faced before it could go anywhere truly fun. Rats. That murder posed such delicious possibilities too. Instead, it's used merely as a device to resolve the characters' romantic problems. Pfffft. I hate it when movies remove obstacles the easy way. Despite that, it was still a pretty good film and I enjoyed it a lot.

This film's elevated quite a bit by its cast. Barbara Stanwyck and Ava Gardner, who could swap their character roles with ease (and I have to admit I spent a fair bit of time imagining them playing the opposite character, just because). James Mason, who is dark and broody and unfaithful. Van Heflin, who is all grins and smarts and integrity. Sigh. And the ever-lovely Cyd Charisse, who you particularly gotta love when she refers to the other women in the movie as "dames." Hee. Actually, thinking about it, she's got most of the sassy, snappy lines. She says it like it is, and she cracked me up.

And this film has some really fun scenes, such as when James Mason, seeking to reconcile with his wife, Barbara Stanwyck, goes to her mother (Gale Sondergaard!) for assistance, and she most viciously and delightfully cuts him down to size, never losing her wickedly charming smile. Never mess with Gale Sondergaard! (She and Judith Anderson both quite intimidate me.) And then there's Van Heflin's reaction after a six-foot tall blonde tries to beat him up in his car. Priceless!

Most disappointing moment was finding out the policeman in charge was one Lt. Jacoby -- but not played by Hershel Bernardi. Of course not. This isn't Peter Gunn, but darn it all, I wanted my Lt. Jacoby.

New look

So, I finally upgraded the blogger template and started playing with it. What do you think?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gearing up for year five...

...or, in other words, yes, I am insane.

I committed to NaNo 2008.

Went through all the open projects, and unless it changes at the eleventh hour (which wouldn't be the first time), I'm aiming to do the long-delayed fantasy YA novel, current title: "The Barristal Riders." I was figuring my brain wouldn't get excited about it, as my brain has rejected everything without a noir aspect (and the men to go with it) for three years now, but I sat down with paper and pen and got down the main characters and a map with most of the main locations named. I know where the story ends, I know where it starts. I understand pieces of the subplots and the character arcs that go with them. My characters sure did choose some most interesting names, but I know better than to argue with them. One important character even cast himself with a "who else should be in this role but me?" big grin, without giving me a chance to even look around the wings. Well, I haven't worked with this one before, um, er... that's not true. I have! It was just awhile ago. How could I forget that? Duh! And he was very easy and professional to work with too. Okay, maybe I won't mock him. And besides... he's right. He is perfect for this novel, and you know me... when I have the right men to write for, the novels write themselves.

Rule #1. Always trust your muse(s) and your subconscious. They know what they're doing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

flash fiction

So, I just read that my entry "Life Sentence" to Concept Sci-fi's 150-word competition made the short list and now goes on to judging by Walter Jon Williams. I'm excited cuz I haven't been writing short stories at all for awhile now, so it's neat to see this little bit of fiction go somewhere, particularly as it was written directly using techniques learned in the Think Sideways course.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Let's sink it!"

In Who Was That Lady (1960), Janet Leigh plans to divorce Tony Curtis after catching him kissing a student, so Tony turns to pal Dean Martin (who's a tv writer) to come up with a plausible excuse for his indiscretion and so save his marriage. Big mistake. Dean convinces him to tell her that he's an FBI agent, and he was kissing the student in the line of duty. They get a fake ID and a gun, and Janet falls for it. So much so that Dean decides they can use this excuse for further "approved" dalliances. Tony is a pushover and lets Dean overrule his objections. Much craziness with the real FBI and foreign agents ensues.

It's is a very lightweight, but amusing film. Runs a little too long, needs some of the slow romantic stuff cut out, but the ending where Tony and Dean try to sink the "submarine" is soooooo worth it. That scene is priceless. You can practically skip the rest and just jump to the end. Though then you'd miss James Whitmore and he's awesome. Man, he plays the best straight man in this movie as a real FBI man. His reactions to the situations totally cracked me up. Dean Martin and Tony Curtis make a great pair. Too bad they didn't do more together!

(The DVD also had another Dean Martin movie, How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life which I made the mistake of watching. A confused muddle. Starts as a mistaken identity movie, switches into a battle of the sexes movie, never succeeds at either, sends many mixed messages, and Dean didn't even sing the title song. Hmph. However Eli Wallach was pretty darned funny and had the best moments in the movie, and dude! Stella Stevens looks so much like Barbara Eden it's uncanny. Or Barbara Eden looks like Stella Stevens.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

To nano or not to nano

Oh, it's that pesky time of year again... I've completed nano successfully the last four years, how can I not make it five? Particularly as Tillane is doing it, and as we started this madness together, I don't think I'll be able to watch him cross the finish line while I sit idly twiddling my thumbs. (Competition can be a very healthy thing!)

But if I do it, which project do I pick? Do I re-do POW from scratch? Do I do 50k of C! fanfic? Do I start on that YA novel that was supposed to be my nano novel 3 years ago until DTD shoved it into a corner? Or start the trilogy that I've also been debating doing for four years of nano? Or something brand spanking new?

Whatever I do, this year I'm determined to be organized. As much as I love what I got last year on POW, as much fun as I had writing it, it ultimately doesn't work because I didn't know when I started where the story needed to go. The last thing I need this year is 50K I'm promptly going to throw out and re-write. I need something like DTD that worked the first time. So, I have half a month to get those ducks rowed.

But which novel to pick??

Friday, October 10, 2008

Work Space and classic movies

(from Asleep in NY)

I'm fortunate to work from home, so this means there are lots of movie related things around me. Starting with my work computer desktop picture, which is still my favorite picture of Aldo Ray.

On the wall to my right are several movie posters, but my favorite (hung in my line of sight, of course) is my "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" poster. (There's also a picture of the Nautilus at sunset to my left) "20,000" is still, after all these years, my favorite movie of all time. Behind me is a three-shelf bookcase, with the bottom shelf all movie-related books.

And directly to the right of my desk is the all-important CD/DVD rack, with all my soundtracks and movies. Over it are two of my autographed pictures, one of Dana Andrews, one of Coleen Gray and Tyrone Power. The rest of the house is filled with other movie pictures, but the ones shown here are the true work space-related ones.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Golden Boy (1939)

Awwwwww, WH is a baby in this one! I thought he looked young in Arizona and Texas, even though this is only a year or two before, he just looks unbelievably young!

I really enjoyed this movie. Of course I'm a sucker for anything with a music theme, and this one gave it to me nicely, with its story of a young man who wants success and money now, and trades studying to be a concert violinst for prizefighting. WH is convincing as both. When he finds the violin his father bought him as a present and his eyes light up and he starts playing... gotta be my favorite scene. All his family come in to listen, his sister (who is a total crack up -- love her) accompanying him on the piano. This is exactly the emotions about music I grew up with, and it made me tear up. It's funny, cuz I was just talking with a friend about how classic movies seem to nail what music means emotionally to people who really love it, and I haven't yet found that in a modern film. Maybe because it's simply too sappy or too melodramatic and immersive for today's audiences, but you know what? That's how it feels. Well, at least for me!

Once WH's character Joe got involved with the very scary gangster, I was actually afraid worse things were going to happen to the characters than actually did. He made a few threats that had me really worried. I was actually relieved that none of that happened.

The rest of the cast fit perfectly, and I like the way the movie dovetailed their various subplots. Sure it works out in the end, but there's some nice escalations and stakes-raising... perfect examples of how to twist a bad situation and make it worse. Barbara Stanwyck (I soooo want to steal one of her dresses from the movie!) is lovely and sassy and pushy and repetant. I admire her more and more. And I loved Lee J. Cobb as his father. He reminds me of some of my Italian relatives.

DVD had some nice extras too. A cartoon, short feature, news reel stuff, and a Barbara Stanwyck Western show that was fun (though way too predictable).

And I'm making a pot of the family spaghetti sauce for dinner tonight, to go with the Italian theme. Yum.