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Still Doing Other Things

Media consumption continues. Documentation continues.

Movies & TV:

Dark Tower: This could have been great. It could have been good. It settled for sadly forgettable. Too bad.

The Mummy (Tom Cruise running edition) The best I can say about it is, “Welp, it kept a lot of production crew employed and effects people busy for a while.” If I hadn’t given up and started doing laundry & dusting after half an hour, my analysis would probably be more like, “OhgedohgedcanIhavethosetwohoursbackplease?”

Black Mirror: Episode 5 was a pointless exercise in directorial control. The rest, I enjoyed. Far less overt gore in this season, for which I am grateful.

A re-watch of Peaky Blinders + the new season. I don’t know if I ever remembered to include the previous watches in a media consumption post. I watched the first one while doing a Boardwalk Empire binge and my brain, being a cluttered place, put them both in the same memory drawer. Oh, well. It’s fantastic stuff: super-tight storytelling, phenomenal acting, brilliant direction, perfect costuming & production. Violent as hell.

Something or other Planet of the Apes. The last one. Um. Ew. Watching these is like picking scabs. I can’t stop, but I hate. No magical hydroelectric dam in this one, so it has that to recommend it. It also has Woody Harrelson channeling Marlon Brando from Apocalypse Now, and I don’t know what to make of that.

Books

More Sarah Maclean aka “the Maclean I like better than the other two who also write 19th century British fantasies.” They aren’t deathless literature, but they’re jolly good.

Babylon’s Ashes. The next-to latest Expanse novel. I LOVE THIS SERIES AND ALL THE CHARACTERS IN IT. (pretty sure I say that every time I finish one of these tomes. It bears repeating.) Re-settling into the timeline took a few chapters, but I was expecting that. Setting up the plot-board on something big takes time, and the scope of this work is beyond epic. The authors’ take on colonialism’s problematic side make for a bloody conflict-soaked take on space settlement. And yet… it isn’t gritty, grimdark “we’re all gonna die” morality play.  It’s the opposite of the shiny, optimistic, idealist-populated perfect-people science fiction of my youth…and yet it is relentlessly, infinitely hopeful about the future. It’s a no-punches exploration of what it means to be human in an inhuman universe. I could go on for hours about the frail, imperfect, sometimes monstrous–and yet still heroic–protagonists. (but I won’t)

Other-other Things

That’s all for now. I’m back on a regular schedule, and progress is occurring in the writing sector, but those things will get their own updates in due time.  Gotta feed the blog something after all.

Last doing-things post of the year (mostly movies)

Hard to believe, but I’ve kept up this semi-regular documentation of media consumption for over a year now. Consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but in this case, I’m happy to be small. Any day I get to say, “I have done the thing,” is a good day.

So what have I been doodly-doing? Mostly socializing, baking, and eating holiday food. But also the usual reading & watching. This is a long post since it’s been a LONG time since the last one.

Books: Lots of fantasy fluff–errrm, that is to say historical romance fluff. Many reprints, which meant plenty of squirmy “wow, that’s not a good behavior to promote,” moments. Elizabeth Boyle (good stories, but a lot of recurring phrase tics and sketchy themes) Sarah Maclean (great dialogue, fun alterations to history, good job with consent) Julianne Maclean ( similar to Sarah Maclean ) I plan to read/re-read all of N. K. Jemison’s ouvre in January as my hibernation treat.

Television: I’m watching less and less TV. NCIS will definitely be off the schedule after this season. Ditto Lucifer. They’re both okay, but okay isn’t enough to justify my time these days. Supernatural is ending, and that’s cool. Mostly I’m watching Netflix originals & DVD sets from the ‘brar

Punisher: A punishing experience, pun intended. (Bwahahahahahaha…ahem…sorry.) I’m not a fan of gore, and this spilled over my tolerance threshold, but it avoided the origin story trap, and it didn’t stretch for a redemption arc. I have Major Issues with people giving heroes a pass on murder just because they’re killing bad guys, but this mostly dodged that trap too.

Defenders: Origin story could have been forgivable if they hadn’t taken so MANY episodes setting up the team. Also I could do with a LOT less Iron Fist. And even less “throw every supporting character from every series into this because why not?” plotting. It wasn’t bad. It should’ve been better.

Movies:  This has been a bad year for catching movies in the theater. So I’m grabbing them from the library as they hit DVD. (Have I mentioned lately how much of a library fan I am? PUBLIC LIBRARIES RULE!)  Ahem. Anyway. I watch a lot of movies in midwinter. So, grab a cuppa. This gets long.

The Great Wall. I almost liked it. Loved that a white guy was the Exotic Dispenser of Magical MacGuffins (contrary to many viewers, I didn’t see Damon as White Savior nearly so much as “barbarian dude barely tolerated the whole time.” The smart dude who engineered the victory was Chinese, as was the heroine who delivered the final blow. Never was Damon’s arc the focus of the plot.) I say “almost liked it” because OMG it was stupid. Fantasy siege battles are all fun and games except the engineering is JUST AWFUL AND COMPLICATED FOR NO REASON and war doesn’t work that way. I felt like Sigourney Weaver in GalaxyQuest for over half the movie.

Transformers Last Knight. Watching this made me wonder if the writers and producers  got lost in a props department and came up with lame excuses to use everything they ran across. Possibly they were also intoxicated at the time? King Arthur. Aliens. Transformers in all shapes and varieties. Add in massive amounts of voice-over and awkward failed attempts at “snappy” dialogue, stir with a huge cast of cardboard cutout characters and pretensions everywhere. It’s a painful, boring, overblown, disjointed mess. Not as bad as Battleship, but close. It made fine background viewing for three batches of cookie dough, but I would have been royally ticked off if I’d spent money on it.

Thor: Ragnarok.  Did I mention this one already? No, my November posts were all about food. So here’s my Thor report.  I prepped for the new movie by watching the first two back-to-back on Thor Eve, and was once again annoyed by all the oportunities missed in both films.  Thor 1 was not an origin story.  That’s the best I can say about it. Well, that and a shirtless Hemsworth. Ragnarok was worth the theater prices and made up for all the prior missed opportunities.

I adored seeing Thor as an earnest straight man constantly stumbling into comic situations. I always liked him better in the graphic novels when he was played for comic relief.  I am evidently in the minority when it comes to not missing the formal forsoothian Asgardian language and grammar.  The “main” villain didn’t impress me, as well-acted as she was, and the plot felt like they trid hard to cram two movie’s worth of plot into one, but hey. Loki & Thor banter. Dr. Strange banter. Hulk banter. ALL THE BANTER AND GIGGLES.  I like it. Another!

Star Wars Episode 8. For this one, too, I made the effort to hit a theater, and I’m glad I did.

Kong: Skull Island. Hooyah, I’m glad I didn’t spend popcorn money on this putrid mess. Not even Hiddleston & some other great actors could save it from its “Heart of Darkness meets Jules Verne plus Jurassic Park with a 70’s retro feel” premise. Too many flavors went into the smoothie blender. The result was horrible: gritty, lumpy and with a bad aftertaste. The only redeeming quality: seamless integration of the CGI. Never once did Kong or the other critters remind me they were merely imaginary.

Alien:Covenant. Um. The crew were not as fundamentally, hatefully stupid as the crew of the Prometheus, and the dual dose of Skaarsgard was scenery-chewing, over the top fabulous, but…it was still a problematic mess of people behaving so ridiculously I was rooting for them all to die much faster than they did. And the demonstrably incompetent captain’s faith being played as a beneficial trait misunderstood as a flaw by the foolish secularists bugged the shit out of me almost as much as the “superior intelligence equals emotionless also equals evil” theme.

Get Out. This one would have been too intense for me in the theater. Right at the painful edge of scary. So good. So creepy.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Does adding a subtitle subtract quality from a movie? Just asking. This might have been a decent, albeit anachronistic fantasy movie a la Knight’s Tale, (which I hated on first viewing because I was told it was historical, hah, lols NO) but the producers just had to slap King Arthur’s name on this, and it so very much is not true to the King Arthur legend, not even tangentially or as a “re-imagining of the themes.” Also WTF with putting in magical war mommoths. EPIC EYE ROLLS.

Baby Driver. I can see why it’s so well-reviewed. Fantastic cast of fine actors giving it their all, razor-sharp direction, solid writing. More happened in 20 min of this movie than in the first hour of King Arthur. I didn’t like it, I generally don’t seek out the “I’m only bad to protect other people” not-really-a-redemption-arc tropes. It just didn’t wow me. But I can see why other people adore it. (shrugs) It’s quite a brilliant film.

The Last Jedi. I enjoyed it from opening credits to final fade to black. There is much I loved. Don’t get me started on the flaws. Just don’t. My objections are all storycraft fails and/or internal consistency issues, nothing to do with changes to the mythology, vioating tropes or departures from canon. I’m on board with all those things. Also, to my surprise, porgs.  I love most the way the story is treating its own history like a spiral that keeps coming around to the same touchpoints but with changes & development each time.

The Christmas movie tally: both the Christmas Die Hards, Meet John Doe, (instead of It’s A Wonderful Life) Bell, Book & Candle, Lethal Weapon, and A Christmas Carol.

…and that’s a wrap.

Upcoming plans include getting my hair buzzed off because it’s past time, and buckling down on the new book (which I have shamefully neglected in favor of Doing All The Other Things this month) plus beginning revisions on Heartwood.  I’m try to aim at weekly or bi-weekly updates here. Shorter reports are happier reports.

I wandered off to Jen’s blog this week..

Author KM Herkes is back for round two, talking about one of her kickass female characters. If you missed Part One, check it out here. Let me tell you about Grace. Grace is the protagonist in Heartwood, my current work in progress. I want to share a bit of her biography. Fair warning, it might…

via KM Herkes–writer of kickass heroines with power. Part Two! — Jen Ponce

New Release Blues

My new superpowers book, Rough Passages, has been available for sale in paperback for several days now. Just an FYI.
 
I realize that announcement lacks the proper new-release pep, but I am fresh out of enthusiasm for touting books people go out of their way to ignore. (OMG THE EXCUSES. FRIENDS, PLS STOP WITH THE EXPLAINING WHY YOU “HAVEN’T READ THEM YET.) 
Promotion makes me feel more like Gus from the Simpsons than an author with a social media circle packed with readers waiting to discover me. 
 
So I won’t be touting the imminent ebook release or asking for reviews. It’s there. I’ve posted tons of links barely anyone clicks. It’s out. I’m done.
I have to cut the cord at some point. Showcasing things no one wants is too painful. I can’t keep clinging to hope my worlds and characters will ever appeal to anyone who hasn’t found them already.

Book Reviews, Deli Style

If you dread seeing pleas for online reviews from your author-friends, you are not alone. Me? I get performance anxiety.  Composing a Real Book Review is hard mental work and time consuming.*

Ordering lunch is easy. So I came up with a system. Think of your review as a deli meal. Yes, folks, it’s time for “Build Your Own Book Review!”

Sandwich. Sides. Drink. Make a few choices, and it writes itself.

Bread: all reviews come with stars. Choose 1-5. Don’t worry about hurting feelings. Seriously. The raw number of reviews carries far more weight with the Almighty Search Algorithms than whether they’re positive or negative. That said, 5 stars is the white bread of the review world. Just saying.

Fillings. Pick one or more from as many categories as you want.

This book is

  • ______ well worth reading
  • ______ suspenseful  & fun
  • ______ a real thriller
  • ______ warm & inspiring
  • ______ entertaining
  • ______ on my best-of list
  • ______ fun but nothing special
  • ______ totally skippable
  • ______ A bore from beginning to end

The plot

  • ______ was twisty and full of surprises
  • ______ kept me turning pages
  • ______ made me think
  • ______ was brilliant
  • ______ didn’t really move me
  • ______ confused me in places
  • ______ started well but got boring
  • ______ goes nowhere fast

The world-building/main idea

  • ______ blew my mind
  • ______ was amazing and original
  • ______ was well thought-out
  • ______ felt tired and predictable

The characters

  • ______ were flawed and human
  • ______ were relatable
  • ______ felt real
  • ______ really got to me
  • ______ acted like real heroes
  • ______ never stopped complaining
  • ______ were full of themselves
  • ______ seemed like tired stereotypes

The dialogue

  • ______ sounded real
  • ______ had lots of good jokes
  • ______ moved the story along
  • ______ was stilted and fake
  • ______ sounded like speeches
  • ______ used too many big words

Side orders: not required, but extras add a little pizazz to your review

  • My favorite character/moment/scene _____________­­­­­­­­­_______
  • The best thing about the book was _____________­­­­­­­­­_______
  • I really liked_____________­­­­­­­­­_______

Drink. A little statement to pull the whole review together.

  • Give this book a try, you won’t be disappointed.
  • Recommended for/as/to________________________
  • This is a must-read
  • If you like ______________ then you should check this out
  • Skip this one if you value your brain cells.
  • Only recommend it to your enemies.

Take a look at these popular combos:

House Special:  5 stars! This book is on my best-of the year list. The plot was twisty, the world-building blew my mind, and the characters really got to me. My favorite scene involved a teddy bear and a glue stick, and that’s all I’m saying. If you like funny books full of crazy jokes, snappy dialogue and cute animals, take a look.

The Snark: 2 stars. Skip this book. The world-building is mind-blowing, but the characters spend the whole book complaining and the plot goes nowhere fast. Recommended as an insomnia cure.

Short, Sweet & Simple: 4 stars. I liked this book. The plot kept me turning pages, and the characters felt real. Give it a try.

Now, if you you feel like this is cheating somehow because it’s easy, YOU ARE SO WRONG. Trust me on this. I recommended books for a living for nearly two decades. Sales reviews are about bearing witness. Standing up to be counted.  Very few readers go to Amazon or B&N looking for a deeply-pondered journal-style literary critique. They want to know, “Did someone else like this book? Y/N and why.”

Be kind to yourself. Give your favorite authors a huge boost. Go deli style.  And if you want to practice, I have a bunch of book listings pining away for reviews right here behind this link: author.to/kmherkes.



 

*No, really. Reviews are hard. That’s the reason Goodreads lets all members assign star ratings without writing words at all. (My books are listed there, too. Hint. Hint.)