Monday, July 21, 2003

RIP Hunter Atkinson -- March 19,1990 ~ July 21, 2003

Hunter Atkinson died today. What makes this so tragic is not only was just 13, but he was someone who wanted to live. He should have lived -- he had some of the most curable tumors around. And yet, the Wilms disease was ultimately fatal. You can read about Hunter's fight HERE.

In some way, Hunter has made a difference in people's lives. I know his story touched my life and his message to the world seemed to have been spoken to me. You see, I was nearly in an accident where my tire blew out while I was driving 75 MPH (the speed limit) on a busy highway. Somehow, I got stopped. It was scary. I was lucky. Or was I?

I don't know. RIP, Hunter. The world will be a less better place because you're not around.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

T3: The Rise of the Machines Review

If you haven't seen it and still want to, there are spoilers.

Ok, I expected an action flick. I got an action flick. But I'm dreadfully picky even with Ar-nuld. T1 and T2, while they weren't particularly original, had a driving plot that kept the movie going, not to mention some decent actors such as Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton. T3 had Ar-nuld and while Ar-nuld makes a fine terminator, Nick Stahl makes a poor John Connor and Claire Danes makes a lame future Mrs. John Connor. Kristen Lokke makes a good ultra-terminator, but again, the plot wasn't enough this time to carry the movie.

I've found many of the latest actors in action movies to be abysmal, so much so that I yearn for the halcyon days of Mark Hamill. My case? John Connor wasn't a particularly sympathetic character. He was whiny, not someone I expected to someday lead the resistance against the machines. I expected some intestinal fortitude someplace, but there wasn't a lot.

A few whiny points:

John is found breaking into a vet clinic and gulping down phenobarbital. Not only are the dog dosages' lethal for humans, but if he swallowed the whole thing, the audience wouldn't have had to endure the rest of the movie.

Claire Dane's character should've gotten toasted when Ar-nuld fired the RPG.

John threatens to kill himself. Problem is that the trajectory would've killed Claire Dane's character if he had fired.

Now, if I was assuming that this was 2003, Connor would've been only 18 instead of the mid-twenties actor. Claire Danes was his same age but somehow became a veterinarian without going through the 8 required years (4 bachelors and 4 vet school). Vets are normally 26 when they get out of school.

The ultra-terminator was a cross between the terminators in T1 and T2. That means she could form complex machines and still melt and return to form. Ok, if you suspend a large portion of disbelief, you can deal with it. But the fact that she's made from a "poly metal alloy" (are we being redundant here?) and can now somehow change not just her shape but molecules, leaves me a little at a loss. Why not just send three of her types of terminators into the past? Also, are they really ferrous? I guess I can accept that to a certain amount.

Now, for my major complaint. There wasn't any suspense that the first two movies had. We knew now what the ultra-terminator could do and weren't particularly surprised. The major chase scene was at the beginning, not the end. And the end fizzled showing us that we're doomed to Judgment Day. Skynet, inappropriately named, ends up being the Internet. Where have we seen THIS before?

We needed some seriously ratcheting up on suspense that never happened. I could forgive the somewhat schlock plots of T1 and T2 because we actually cared what happened to the hero/heroine. We also saw some character development, In T1, Sarah Connor went from nobody running away to someone capable of destroying a terminator. In T2, we saw Ar-nuld being the terminator to actually becoming more human-like and sympathetic. In T3, I'm not sure where the characterization is. John simply gives in but he has no choice. The choice is already made.

I think I said enough.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

The Power of Dreams

Today, I woke up from a dream about performing a particular Shotokan Karate kata named Kanku Dai. I should explain myself a bit here. I've been practicing Shotokan Karate for four years and I'm a brown belt. Katas are a predetermined series of moves that you perform to help memorize various techniques. Kanku Dai is an advanced kata and is quite long (sixty some odd steps).

I had been struggling to learn Kanku Dai. This morning before I awoke, I dreamt practicing it, including correcting common mistakes I was making. This afternoon I tried to perform it and found that I remembered the whole kata at home -- something I had not done yet! My subconscious, for whatever reason, knew Kanku Dai better than I did and worked with me to "teach" me the sequence. I was lucky to remember performing it in my dream.

This has surprised me a lot. I knew that even while we sleep, we think about certain problems, but to see it firsthand was unnerving. Sometimes I let a problem go at night and look at it in the morning when I'm fresh. Many times I've come up with a solution. Now, I wonder if I just didn't let my subconscious work on it instead of worrying about it. Pretty interesting stuff!

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Large Press versus Small Press

Ah, the age old question! Is a writer better off with going with a large press or is a small press better? It's a chicken and the egg thing, if you ask me. Many authors start in the large press; many authors go small press and build up a following. Both ways are valid and have their points. I've written primarily for large press, but I've recently had a story acquired by a small press.

On the Large Press side, you get distribution. Your book shows up in the brick and mortar bookstores where people can actually see them, thumb through them, and purchase one, and have it in their hands that very day. You can't beat that! So, instead of a few hundred sales, you have sales in the thousands or tens of thousands. (If you're really lucky -- hundreds of thousands). Large presses can usually get things done quickly if they need to. You have several hands (and eyes) touch your book before it hits production. It looks professional, usually. And while a first time author has little chance at getting some promotional dollar thrown their way, occasionally, an author will. Amazing as it sounds, occasionally you get some pr.

On the flip side, the small press doesn't have the clout the big boys have. If they're settup for distribution, it's usually Ingrams or Bakers and Taylor. But sometimes the publisher doesn't have the clout or know the inroads to big bookstores like Barnes and Noble. But all is not bad with the small publisher. The small publisher usually wants to see a book succeed. They offer the books on Amazon.com and bn.com. Given the popularity of buying books over the internet, this isn't a bad thing. If the author is willing to promote, promote, promote he or she may gather a readership or following that may translate someday into a sale into a major publisher.

Which is better? Well, if I had my druthers, I'd go with a major first. But sometimes, that's not do-able. The market you're writing in is a niche market and not mainstream enough for the big guy's tastes. Or maybe it's really tough to get in without some credits in the genre and a small publisher is looking pretty good about now.

There are plenty of reasons to consider a small publisher, but there are reasons to not. If a major publisher doesn't want your book and a smaller one does, be certain that the smaller publisher's standards are high enough. Otherwise, your publication means diddly in the eyes of your peers. In some cases, going to a small publisher may hurt your career more than help it. If you go to a small publisher, read some of their work and be sure they have a good reputation in the field. Otherwise, you may be hurting yourself.

Lastly, there's no good reason why you shouldn't think big. If you're really trying to make a living at this, you're not going to make it off a few hundred sales every six months. (Heck, it's hard to make it as a professional with the big houses!) But, there is a place for small publishers and writers who want to use them as a way of being discovered will do well to at least consider them.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Forbes Book Club and other ramblings

Forbes. That's right. Forbes has decided my writing is worthy of their bookclub. Check it out at Forbes Book Club

It was hot today and I decided to sit at my desk and write. Looking back, I think I got 10 typed pages in or so. It's amazing what one can do when one sits in a chair and starts writing. People who have writer's block constantly amaze me. I guess I just figure everything I write will need editing.

There is no magic to being prolific. You simply have to write a lot. You don't agonize over what you write -- you just write it. More on writer's block later, when I feel like talking about it.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Hunter's Fight

I am depressed. I found out today that a wonderful kid is dying. It isn't fair. Hunter Atkinson has Wilms tumors and has a tough fight ahead. He recently gave his puppy to a friend of mine, thinking he won't live long enough to train her.

You can read about Hunter here.

Please send Hunter a card and think of him in your prayers, if you pray.

Trust Yourself

I'm on a bit of a rant today because I recently found out what was wrong with a mystery I wrote some time ago. I wrote this mystery after I wrote my first novel (as an adult). It was a good little mystery and although a bit rough around the edges, I went ahead and submitted it to an agent. The agent hated it.

Now, at this stage, I should've let it sit a while and get back to it. Instead, I received some very well-intentioned help from a published friend. I edited it according to the friend's recommendations and sent it back to the agent who liked it and submitted it.

This manuscript made the rounds at the publishers. No one seemed to know what exactly they didn't like about it. I didn't know what was wrong with it. After a couple of years, another wise friend took pity on me and read the book.

"Maggie," she said. "There's description that gets in the way of the story. It pulls you out!"
This is precisely the stuff I added on recommendation.

"You lost your voice," she added. And so I did. Now, I am not angry at anyone but myself. I didn't have the faith in my own writing and took advice thinking this was right. It wasn't.

Now, you may be laughing to think that an author of 6 published books, umpteen articles, and whatnot should have enough faith in their work to not always listen to everyone. My friend says it's quite fixable and the story is good. But at the moment, it's sitting on the shelf. I have other fiction projects to do, most of them SFF now. But now, I understand the basic concept.

Trust Your Instincts. Only you can write what you write.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Musings over Fiction Writing

I've been a writer as long as I can remember. I've been a published author since 1996. I have six books in print (see my website www.shadowhelm.net) And still, I'm hopelessly excited about a short piece of fiction I wrote that will appear in the Four Bubbas of the Apocalyse anthology, published by Yard Dog Press. sometime in November.

Evidently, I'm not the only one who looks at this as a major change in my writing. One nonfiction writer I know called me her "hero" because I am now writing Science Fiction instead of nonfiction. And yet, those who have written nonfiction know damn well our writing is hard work. (Try writing a book or two -- you'll get the drift pretty quick) So, why is fiction valued more than nonfiction?

I think I have the answer. Fiction transports you to another world. While nonfiction puts you in touch with reality, there isn't a lot of fill in the blanks for one's imagination, unless you decide to read something about history. (But even then, if there are accurate historical accounts, we aren't as intrigued) Things that inspire the imagination -- that allow us to fill in the gaps -- that transport us to another world or universe -- that's what we crave. Otherwise, we're still in this world.

I think that's what puts the fiction author apart from the nonfiction author. The nonfiction author tells us about our world and how we live in it. The fiction author gives us a tantalizing view of another world, maybe like our own; maybe totally different. Maybe that's why I write fiction as well as nonfiction. I have limits in nonfiction, whereas, I don't have any limits in my fiction. I've talked to gods; I've walked with the dead; I've fought terrible battles. And I have talking dogs and cats. The worlds I've created are not necessarily places I would want to live in, but they're interesting enough to spend some time there.

And now, it looks like I'll be sharing some of my worlds with you. Look for the Four Bubbas of the Apocalypse, coming from Yard Dog Press.

Bloggers. They feel so self-indulgent. Which is precisely the reason why I'm probably putting one up. After all, I suppose people might be interested in finding out what a boring individual I really am. But even a writer probably has something to say. So, if you glean any wisdom from this, let me know. You can always reach me at margaretbonham@aol.com. Or visit my website at www.shadowhelm.net.

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