Monday, February 22, 2010

That didn't work out the way I thought it would

Now playing on the iPod: "Going Out West" - Tom Waits

I was reading the "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" story from The Jungle Book to Young Master. I was having a great time - the whole book's a favorite of mine and the copy I was reading is the one I had when I was a kid.

Much as I did when I was young, Young Master likes snakes. Maybe he likes them a bit too much. He was inconsolable when the mongoose killed the evil cobras and now he hates all mongooses and wants a story in which snakes are the heroes. (If you know of any, please send the titles my way!) I'll have to check Just So Stories and see if there are any heroic snakes in that.

Review: Kingdom of the Spiders

Now playing on the iPod: "No Myth" - Michael Penn

My review of the "hundreds of tarantulas vs. William Shatner" epic Kingdom of the Spiders is up at

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why it's harder than ever to make a career as a writer

A recent editorial in the L. A. Times explores why it's increasingly difficult to establish a career as a writer.

Several disheartening things in that piece, but the one thing I want to take away from it is that if you truly have a love for the writing, nothing can take that away from you.

My favorite quote from the piece:

"Each time we sit down to create something, we are risking our whole selves. But when the result is the transformation of anger, disappointment, sorrow, self-pity, guilt, perverseness and wounded innocence into something deep and concrete and abiding - that is a personal and artistic triumph well worth the long and solitary trip."

That's what it's all about.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Review: The Long Last Call

My review of John Skipp's novel The Long Last Call is up at

Saturday, February 6, 2010

New to the shelves: February 2010

Now playing on the iPod - "Llorando" - Rebekah del Rio (Mulholland Drive soundtrack)

While in Solvang recently, I just had to stop by my favorite indie bookstores. I came home with:

The Beach - Alex Garland

Double Whammy - Carl Hiaasen

Hyperion - Dan Simmons

The Fire Gospel - Michel Faber

A Rose for the Crown - Anne Easter Smith

Those to-be-read shelves never get smaller, do they? Wish I knew why...

Writer's retreat 2010: Belated trip report

On the last Friday in January I zipped up to Solvang to lock myself in a hotel room and do a read-through and edits of my mainstream MS The Day After Yesterday. It was a true working weekend, and here's how it went, with lots of superfluous details:

Friday: Because Mr. Cozy needed the van and the (20-year-old) truck was being squirrelly, I rented a car for the jaunt. Said car, a Hyundai Sonata, was 100% personality free but surprisingly zippy. So after work on Friday I loaded up the car with travel case, manuscript, red pens, and a large supply of coffee, and headed up to Solvang. On the way the radio provided excellent music that boded well - a lot of things my characters would listen to. KSWD lasted me until I was a little north of Ventura (I lost the signal in the middle of "Sultans of Swing", damn the luck). After a stop in Carpinteria for food I found a XM satellite station "Classic Vinyl" that fit the bill. As I drove through Santa Barbara I waved hi to my BookBalloon friends Lauren and Lynn (I was the doofus in the gray Hyundai, bobbing my head and singing along to "Sugar Magnolia"). Arrived at the Royal Copenhagen Inn without incident. This was the second writer's retreat I've done at the Royal Copenhagen - there are inns in Solvang whose accommodations I like a little better, but this one works best for a writer's retreat. It's centrally located and I can't hear the town's clock tower (makes it easier to get lost in the work). I unpacked and went to bed.

Saturday: A stay at the Royal Copenhagen includes complimentary danish and coffee at Mortensen's Bakery across the street, so I had coffee and a blueberry danish. Yum. Then it was back to the room to work. There's something so daunting and yet so exciting about opening up the manuscript, red pen in hand, getting ready to read it all through and make corrections. The corrections are important - this time out they mostly involved trimming fat and tightening up sentences, but if 9 out of 10 pages don't have red markups, that means I'm not attending to things properly. I worked until housekeeping came by, at which point I went across the street to Valley Books. I camped out in one of their comfy chairs with a cappucino, and later bought some books from them (details in a future post). Then it was back to the room for lunch (fruit, cheese and crackers, that sort of thing) and I worked until it was nearly time for dinner. Which was at Cafe Angelica, a bistro that has the best fettucine with lobster. Yum. Then more work.

Sunday: Breakfast not at the bakery this time but at Paula's Pancake House. I did not actually have pancakes - instead I had eggs Benedict. Yum. Then I hightailed it back to the room for work. More words, more words, more markups with the red pen. It's nice when you can rediscover your own book and laugh at something, or scowl at what a bastard a particular character is. I made lunch and dinner on the light side, took only minimal breaks to come up for air, and can you believe it? Finished the read-through late that night!

Monday: Had almond croissant and coffee at Mortensen's, then packed up and checked out. I spent the morning doing a bit of looking around, said hello to my local friend Jenny. Had lunch at Paula's (bacon and eggs - damn they have good bacon), then hopped into the Hyundai and went home. Did not wave hello to Lynn and Lauren on the way down (I was distracted by the satellite radio playing "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey", a song I for which I can never forgive Paul McCartney, no matter how many one-legged women he divorces). Got home, unpacked, returned the rental.

And now, the task of entering all those markups into the Word document (trust me, it may seem outdated to do hard copy markups but those work for me). I'm on chapter 3 now, with only thirty-some more to go. Sigh.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I understand that movies take liberties when adapting books and using well-established characters.