Friday, November 28, 2008

2008 nano wrap up

And that's nano #5 done, gone, and behind me. FOREVER! The boys can relax, and I can get out of Normandy for awhile and get back to the Old West. Though, ironically enough, I got the most words in today (figures), and I'm ready to keep going right now. Which is, of course, the idea... now that I'm nicely in the daily habit of writing, I must not lose it again. Must not, I tell you! Overcoming entropy is the hardest part.

So, wrapping up... I actually had far better discipline this year despite everything than during any previous year. I wrote every day (even if I did have to throw the word count out for two days) except for one. However, it took me half the month before I was actually, you know, writing, instead of merely interrupting my time-wasting sessions with a few words every few minutes. Writing shorts was both easier and harder than novel. Easier because when I got stuck on one, I could just jump to another. Harder because there's no room to ramble and explore, and so I had to stay better focused. But as long as I visualized the next day's scenes before I went to bed, I usually didn't have a problem picking up again. What surprised me most were the three unexpected stories that came out of nowhere and mostly wrote themselves. They sort of broke loose and went crazy. And even better -- all three of those are now completed too!


Least daily words: 0
Most daily words: 6,034 (today)
Daily average: 1,800

Stories Completed:
Crossroads (5,700 words)
In Little Stars (3,000 nano words, 18K total)
Untitled Christmas story (4,000)
Teeth of a Dragon (12,000)

Still in progress:
Blood of the Air (17,000 nano words, 18K total to date)
Murder's Melody (6,700 nano words, 14.5K to date)
Misc fanfic bits and bobs (2,000)

Music listened to most:
The Bridge at Remagen (Bernstein)
Raggedy Man (Goldsmith)
The Stripper (Goldsmith)
Studs Lonigan (Goldsmith)
Main Title from Ride the High Country (Bassman) -- and no, I'm still not tired of it

Pandemic 2 games played until humanity was overcome:

Netflix movies watched:
8 (gulp! Bad me! And that's not counting repeat viewings on a couple of those. Ahem)

Hot tea consumed:
Too many mugfuls to count

Monday, November 24, 2008

And that's 40,000 behind me

Finally! I am fully back in the writing habit. I'd forgotten how wonderful it is to wake up in the morning unable to wait to turn on the computer so I can get to it, to have scenes swirling in my head just waiting to be thrown on paper.

So far this nano, I have completed first drafts of:

1. "In Little Stars"
2. "Crossroads"
3. an Unnamed Christmas Challenge Story

Tonight, I should wrap up "Teeth of a Dragon," which is a Halloween Challenge story, which only leaves the much longer work "Blood of the Air" still in progress. I actually will complete Nano before I complete it though, I realized, because at 18,000 words, I'm only 2/3rds through it. If that. I may only be halfway through it, as there's still a lot ahead.

And then, there's "Murder's Melody" which I should have done first, but of course, pushed aside, waaaay aside. Bad bad me. I did get a few thousand on it intermittently, but nowhere near what's needed to complete it. I guess I'll have to buckle down on that one in December. Grrrrr.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

Ahhhh, habit. Writing habits are a good thing, and I'm finally settling back into mine. It's a really good feeling, particularly after a night like tonight, where I whipped right through 1800 words in an hour. It was quite nice to realize I wasn't stopping every paragraph to check my word count (oooh, look ma, another 101 words... how exciting!), I just immersed and went. I did the math and I need 2000 words a day between now and Nov 30 to complete Nano. Definitely can't afford any slackage. And short stories, I've found, are a far more difficult thing to tackle in a Nano sprint than a novel. On a novel, you can just blithely plow ahead no matter what, and there's room to roam. That doesn't work so well with shorts. At least not with my shorts.

Speaking of shorts, Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" has always been one of my favorites. I had this very treasured book growing up called A World of Events that had all sorts of fiction and non-fiction in it. I read "The Most Dangerous Game" over and over until I had sections memorized. Probably one of those early influences that led me to believe that the scariest villain will always be another human being. Here's a photo from that book (of course, I still have it!). I always loved this particular picture. I always thought Zaroff looked like Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in this drawing (click pic to make big). And Ivan always scared the pants off me, as I'm sure he supposed to. And yes, this book was a teacher's edition and has all sorts of interesting annotations in the margins.

So, since I did so well on writing tonight, I had time to watch the 1932 version of The Most Dangerous Game and not feel guilty. The movie changes a few things, naturally, from the short. Mostly in adding a woman to the mix. It is Hollywood, after all. Gotta have a woman around for the hero to protect. Fortunately she's played by Fay Wray and is a nice mixture of spunky, brave, and understandably a bit freaked. And despite her, the movie rather eerily captured exactly the feelings and atmosphere reading the story gave me. Weird. I didn't expect that at all. The jungle sets (same ones used in King Kong), the foggy swamp, they all looked like I used to imagine when I was a little girl. Being chased by a bloodthirsty pack of hounds... eiiii! Now there's something that always makes me cringe and hide on the couch. (Too much of The Hound of the Baskerville when I was young, I think!)

I expected the movie to be corny, and it wasn't at all, exact opposite, in fact. It was tense and the violence and a couple of the deaths quite gruesome. Some of the dialogue was even straight out of the short story. They shortened the timeline from the story's three days to 24 hours, and that suits the movie quite well. Injects a lot more tension into it, as there's no time for the hunted to rest. This Zaroff's also quite mad, where I never quite got that impression from the story version. That makes him quite creepy in the movie. Him and his forehead scar, and his post-kill cigarette, and mad buggy eyes. AHHHH! I have to admit, if I were Fay Wray in this movie, I'd rather take my chances in the jungle too than be anywhere near Zaroff. Particularly as going into the jungle means going with Joel McCrea, and I'd go with him anywhere.

Ah yes, Joel McCrea. The real reason this movie got bumped up to the top of my Netflix queue right now. Thirty years younger here than in Ride the High Country, still learning how to act, but he's still a wonderful combo of earnest and athletic and naturally relaxed. And he's already got that intense way of looking at his female co-stars, like time just stopped for him when they entered his view and nothing else in the world matters but them. Something about the way he's so laidback the rest of the time just makes it that much more arresting. He does this in every film I've seen so far where he's the romantic lead, and it's one of the absolute sexiest things I've ever seen from any male actor, and, out here in the audience, it melts me every time.

The Most Dangerous Game only has an hour running time, so I'll probably watch it again before I return the DVD. I've always wanted to see the Richard Widmark movie variant of this story, Run for the Sun, but somehow I don't think it will be nearly as satisfying as this one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Hah! I made the halfway mark in Nano. Minor miracle considering all the fits and starts, but it's taken this long to get back into the daily habit of writing. I'm finally actually sitting down and writing, instead of checking out internet sites I've already visited sixteen times that day alone. I've also set my movie watching and reviewing aside for now, like a good girl, until I can finish out the month.

I've now finished drafts of two stories, "In Little Stars" and "Crossroads." I'm about halfway done with "Blood of the Air" and the one everyone really wants me to finish, "Murder's Melody"... well, I've gotten a couple thousand words on it, but other than that, it languishes. Naturally. I don't want to write that one. But BotA is not going to last me another 25K, so I'll have to get to it eventually before November ends.

(Joel McCrea in Buffalo Bill, sprawled and scribbling a letter...
my reward movie, and another writing picture for my collection!)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quantum of Solace (2008)

Be warned. The following is both spoilerific and quite the rant. Because I am furious. If I ever meet the director of Quantum of Solace, I will slap him for messing up this movie so thoroughly I will never sit through it again.

See, I love James Bond. Seeing James Bond movies (or rather, being sent to bed after the teaser and before the credits) is one of my earliest memories. It's part of my consciousness, part of my life's blood. Yeah, I may be a girl, but I never wanted to be a Bond girl (with the exception of Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi) in Thunderball, because she is made of more awesome, as the kids these days are fond of saying, than all the other Bond girls put together). No, I wanted to be a spy like Bond himself. I grew up with Sean Connery, put up with Roger Moore, cheered on Timothy Dalton, even liked George Lazenby, politely loathed Pierce Brosnan, and fell completely head-over-heels in love with Daniel Craig. Casino Royale was so damned good it actually pushed Sean Connery aside and gave me a new favorite Bond. Who'd have thought that'd ever happen?

I have invested many many hours in Bond's company, watching those films, waiting for marathons on tv growing up, etc. I have spent lots of good money on repeat viewings in the theater, soundtracks, DVDs, books, posters, and pictures, and never regretted a single penny. So, yeah, I'm a big fan and I take Bond movies personally.

Take away the director, and Quantum of Solace would be an okay movie. Not great, but still good. It's flawed -- the new characters are undeveloped and just a bit cliche, plot is sloppy and unfocused, bad guy lacks a truly interesting agenda, but Bond and M and Felix help offset that. I probably would have seen it again, probably would have bought it when it came out on DVD. But no... someone gave control of the camera over to this jackass who made every action scene (and 98% of the rest of the movie) nothing but extreme close-ups and non-stop moving camera so much that I couldn't tell what the hell was happening. I actually gave up trying to figure out who was who and what they were doing in a couple scenes. It was giving me a headache, and I no longer cared. I know dancing camera work is en vogue right now, but do these people ever try and watch the movies they make? I mean, for real?? Mr. Forster, sir, the exciting part of a car chase is you know, people in one car chasing people in another car. With guns. And traffic. All that danger, excitement, and how's our hero going to get out of it in one piece. And it's a funny thing, but we kind of need to SEE the goddamned chase it to appreciate it. I know, I normally am not a swearing type of girl. This is how furious I am at how this director made this movie hell to sit through. It only has an hour and forty-five minute running time too. Where Casino Royale zipped by so fast I couldn't believe it was over (and it's about forty minutes longer), this sucker felt about three-hours long. At least. If I owned a watch, I would have been checking it constantly. I came *this* close to actually getting up and walking out. Only Daniel Craig kept me in my seat. I still love him and still think he's the best Bond, but please, please please, somebody get a director like Martin Campbell back for the next one. Someone who will actually back off, frame his shots, stop jerking the camera around and cutting the scene every two seconds, stop being all weirdly artsy at the wrong times, and let us see what's going on. Thank you.

Oh, and the next time you use opera? Don't add a weird extra bit and chop up the music so stupidly. Yeah, you do have people out here in the audience who happen to know opera quite well. (But I should add that despite that, watching the action/fight part of that scene with Tosca playing in the background was sheer heaven on the big screen and my favorite part of the movie.)

Speaking of music, I will add that I thought David Arnold's score for Casino Royale was great. It had some really nice themes, gave that film back more of a John Barry feel, and the music actually supported the film. This score? Quite the letdown. No themes were developed, it was mostly a jumble of notes... but then that pretty much sums up the movie. A big fat jumble of nothing.

I think I'm feeling old, or maybe just old-fashioned. I'm really not a hard-to-please viewer. I'll tolerate a lot of stupidity in movies. But this... nope. When I can't even figure out who's shooting at who in an action film, you've lost me. I guess there's a reason I don't go to the movies anymore, why I prefer watching DVDs of movies made before I was born.

And now, I'll go console myself with Joel McCrea and Buffalo Bill (after I get my word count... must remember -- work first, reward second).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Reason #1 not to read TCM's schedule

Dang it. I really really wish I could get just subscribe to one cable channel sometimes: Turner Classic Movies. Cuz they're having a Ralph Meeker night tonight, and as I don't have cable or satellite, I can't watch any of it. Sniff. And if I'm going to procrastinate on Nano writing, I can't think of a better way to do it.

Maybe it's a good thing, because my goal is to get 5000 words today. (The most I've done is a little over 6000 in a day, so I know 5K is doable.) I'm thoroughly distracted already by Joel McCrea right now... add a healthy dose of Meeker back into the mix (including two movies I've never seen that aren't out on DVD) and I'm doomed.

But what a pleasant doom it would be.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ahhhh, road blocks

And not the good kind.

My neck spasmed again yesterday, and that kept me from sitting at my computer last night, which kept me from writing. I'm icing it now, so hopefully that will help get me through work today. Nano has been up and down, and right when it was coming up again... this happens. I'm not sure why I even keep trying this year. Though nano has gotten me through a stuck part in ILS and now I just have a few hundred words to button that story draft up.

I've been watching more Joel McCrea movies, but that's a whole happy post all by itself.

Yesterday, I got the Indiana Jones Soundtracks Collection from Intrada. Ah yes, me happy. There's music on here I've been waiting years and years for, like the "Approaching the Stones" cue from Temple of Doom. Naturally, that was the first music in the set I listened to. I'm not the biggest John Williams fan (give me Jerry Goldsmith and Elmer Bernstein any day), but I do love the Star Wars and Indiana Jones scores with all my heart. They're part of the fabric of my existence, much like the movies themselves. I'll be kicking back and checking out the rest of the previously unreleased cues this weekend, and I can't wait.

Speaking of unreleased music, it appears Bernstein's score to Hud has never been released. Damn. I watched that film for the first time as part of a mini Paul Newman tribute, and while I did not like the movie, the score was great. Hud reminded me a bit of The Sweet Smell of Success -- I recognize both are very well-done movies, but the lead character(s) are so nasty and miserable, spending time with them is just too unpleasant to do more than once. And no, the wonderfulness of Melvyn Douglas and Martin Milner, respectively in each film, does not offset the yuckiness of the other self-serving characters.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Ride the High Country (1962)

Okay, I had to pick this Joel McCrea movie out of all the netflix movies to watch first?? Because, if there was ever a Joel McCrea movie written just for me that will make me love him for life, this is it.

Here's another film that fits in my newly-understood love of aging, worn heroes with a code faced with a changing world. Only, as opposed to The Wild Bunch, this Peckinpah movie is kinder and gentler and far less bloody and dissolute (though it has its moments). And it deals with my all-time favorite themes of friendship, betrayal, redemption, and honor.

Oh sigh. Where to even begin? At the beginning... I love George Bassman's main title theme. It's beautiful, melancholy, and coincidentally completely encapsulated my mood yesterday. That theme seemed written just for me yesterday. The rest of the score... meh. Obtrusive and annoying, but that main theme is wonderful and suits the movie to a T.

Randolph Scott's back, and I have to admit, from not knowing him as anything other than a name, I've watched a dozen or so of his films over the past year and really come to like him. He and McCrea work wonderfully together here. Both bring such class and dignity, even when one's scheming and fast-talking. It's hard to believe they never actually made any other films together.

What I didn't like... the female character played by Mariette Hartley. Now, I really do like the actress a lot, it's just that her character drives me a bit crazy and her side story interferes with screen time that I'd rather be spending with Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott. Okay, okay, that's also entirely unfair, as hers is not just a random subplot, it ties in with everything and sparks some moral dilemmas, changes of heart, and the climax, but I just personally could have done without it.

And Joel McCrea? Mmmmmm. Dig him dig him dig him. He aged well. His character hides his misgivings and fears behind a solid wall of confidence, and he can back it up, easily whupping a young whippersnapper, as well as standing his ground against superior numbers. McCrea does so many wonderful little things in this movie that help define his character. The defiant/embarrassed look he shoots Randolph Scott when he picks up his dime, the uncomfortable shoulder roll when his prospective employer eyes his frayed cuffs, how far he has to move the paper away to be able to see where to sign. He even made me cry at one point. Yep, I's in luv!

I also get to watch my beloved Sierra Mountains. Those places are so familiar to me, I can smell the air, feel the streams. There's still nowhere on earth I'd rather be then in those mountains. This was Eastern Sierra and was one of the movies on my Inyo County viewing list. And when the young guy tosses his food wrapper into the bushes, Joel McCrea snaps at him, "Pick that up. These mountains don't need your trash." Right on! Couldn't have put it better myself.

Monday, November 03, 2008

So, it's going to be one of those days

Unexpected interruptions and just now Word crashed and took all my latest words with it despite me saving every few minutes. Like I'm not having a hard enough time.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

And then again...

I've just dropped my nano word count back down to zero, as I've decided not to write "The Traitor" right now. I really wanted to write the book following the Think Sideways course techniques start to finish to see what works/doesn't work for me, and I simply decided on this project too late to get all the right prep work done in time. I know very well I can write a book without more planning than I have right now, I've done it successfully before. But I want to try something different with the next book I write. So, back into storage it goes.

I do believe (and this will delight Ms. Maggie LeMay to no end) that I'm going to follow my Fruit Salad partner's steps, and do 50K of new words on Combat! fanfiction. Why? Because I'm bloody sick to death of having these last three stories taking up brain space, and I want them gone gone GONE.

This will do it. One month. Three stories. 50K. Out of my head forever.

And then, I can focus properly on the novels. This makes me very very happy. It's a win-win proposition!

And nano has begun

1700 words on the first day, in fits and starts. Gave the book the temp title of "The Traitor" so I at least have something to call it. Today I spend most of the day babysitting my nephew, so I guess that means I'd better hop to it! Tea is brewing, music is playing (Goldsmith's Masada appears to be the kick-off score for this one).