Sunday, March 29, 2009

Geek Monthly magazine

I don't subscribe to many magazines, mostly because I don't have time to read them. I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly and The Writer. (I let my subscription to Bon Appetit lapse because their recipes were getting too esoteric even for me - I mean, really, green tea cheesecake? - and because I've already got a huge backlog of recipes I've clipped and haven't tried yet.)

But I've just added Geek Monthly to my list of subscriptions. I only just heard of it, and probably wouldn't have picked it up if it hadn't had Nathan Fillion, my imaginary boyfriend du jour, on the cover. Fine interview (and pictures!) with Mr. Fillion aside, it's a fun little magazine that covers many areas of geekiness. Some sections aren't of interest to me (such as anime and game console reviews) but there's also Blu-Ray reviews that are honest about whether you need to trade up on your DVDs, interviews with and articles about such diverse people as Wallace Shawn and Takashi Miike, and more. 

They had me at an article that singles out Ray Harryhausen's ten greatest moments ... and did not have to explain who Harryhausen is. This magazine speaks my language. Check it out at

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Books into Celluloid: Catch-22

My latest Books into Celluloid column, comparing book and movie of Catch-22, is up at BookBalloon. Here it is.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Now that's what I call writing: Anthony O'Neill

From Anthony O'Neill's fascinating thriller The Lamplighter, this little bit of heaven for book lovers.

It was beyond the limits of his wildest dreams. A cavernous library greater than anything in London, the Vatican, or historical Alexandria. Glassed cabinets, polished mahogany bookcases, and sturdy oaken shelves swept ten stories high and half a mile deep, complete with spiral staircases, ladders on greased rails, and carpeted balconies that trailed into infinity. There were reading carrels, escritoires, cozy armchairs, blazing hearths, silent clocks, drinking fountains, innumerable writing utensils, reams of blank notepaper, a row of magnifying glasses...even a pipe rack. And all of it illuminated with more lamp cabinets and gas mantels than there were stars in the firmament. He might never leave. 

He exhaled heartily, surveying both the gold-embossed spines already arranged on the shelves and the crates spilling over with folios, quartos, octavos, and priceless manuscripts waiting to be catalogued. He barely knew where to begin. But as the appointed curator he had a lifetime, and he doubted his excitement would ever wane.

Now that's what I call a library!

The Lamplighter isn't a well-known book - I found it in my search for another addition to my "Naughty, Nutty, and Slutty Victorians" shelf - but it's a suspense novel that goes beyond what you'd expect. Highly recommended.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The fine art of smiting

This is one of my favorite Far Side cartoons.

It's a bit hard to read, but the caption says "God at His computer" and he's about to press the "Smite" button and make the piano fall down on that unlucky bastard.

Why do I like this cartoon? Because writers are a lot like God at His computer. Characters, many of them perfectly nice people, are diddy-bopping along with their lives when the writer decides to hit the "Smite" button and BAM! Said character is toast.

What a lot of my friends readers don't seem to understand is that I writers don't want to smite characters.* The story makes us do it, I swear! Do you think I want to kill off the  nicest characters? It's not my fault! I blame the Muse!

This topic provoked a debate this last Saturday when I took my Constant Readers Erik and Gerry to the Blue Bayou at Disneyland (I had the mahi mahi - yum!). I held the position that a smiting only counts if the character dies during the course of the narrative. People who die before the story begins (i.e., the character whose murder drives the story in my mystery Undertow) do not count.

Erik and Gerry respectfully disagreed, saying that any character death that was relevant to the story counted, including characters who died before the narrative began or whose deaths happened in flashback. (It took them a while to arrive at this admittedly reasonable position - at one point in the debate they were trying to blame me for the death of Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol. I suspect they still haven't forgiven me for a couple of the smitings that have been in my books.)

I concede they have a point but now I have to readjust all my smite tallies for my books. Yes I keep smite tallies. In the work-in-progress I'm up to two...SO FAR! MUWAHAHAHA! MINE IS AN EVIL LAUGH!

* Not unless they really deserve it. **
** Or unless it will really vex my friends. Erik and Alyca, I'm looking at you.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I take requests

Had a bathtime conversation with my 6-year-old son this evening, in which he requested that I write a book that met the following criteria:

  • 620,000 words
  • includes giant dragonflies that turn into macaroni
  • has a giant salami monster
  • has oviraptors that fight military bomber jets (I asked if the jets went back in time to fight the oviraptors or the oviraptors went forward in time to fight the jets - he said they both time traveled and met halfway, so I guess this story takes place in the dark ages)
  • something about robots
  • has a scene when 100 people burp so loud it makes the bombs fall off the fighter jets and the oviraptors eat the bombs
  • will be illustrated
  • must include the word "patootie" at some point

It's a tall order but I may be able to come up with something.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Review: 42nd Street Forever Vol. 4: Cooled by Refrigeration

My review of the latest 42nd Street Forever trailer compilations is up. Read it here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Best book of the year so far

So as of March 1, the best book I've read this year is Joseph Heller's Catch-22

I took my time with this one, savoring it (translation: not reading it while cooking pasta). I'd read it once before, back in college, and it didn't click with me then. 

Now I get it. I'm flat amazed at the sheer amount of detail Heller was able to pack into his story, the deft characterizations, and most of all the tone. The slide from farce into outright horror is inexorable yet so subtly done that when we're finally given the full truth we're nearly as shaken as Heller's protagonist Yossarian is.  


Monday, March 2, 2009

Review: The Sentinel

My review of the 1970s big-budget shocker The Sentinel is up at Think "Love Boat" in a haunted house, only not as good.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Save the date: L. A. Times Festival of Books

The last weekend of April will be the Los Angeles Times annual Festival of Books. If you haven't been, it's held at UCLA campus and is nothing but books, books, books! Panels, performances, signings, and did I mention lots of lovely books to buy?

More information here. You better believe I'll be there with my jingle bells on.