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Spring is here, and it’s time for March Mayhem! Fifteen days… five authors… and the chance to win a fabulous swag basket with prizes from Donna Thorland,Lynne Connolly, Kat Parrish, Joanne Renaud, and me!

In addition to a shiny new paperback copy of A Question of Time and Joanne’s brand new science fiction romance Doors, Joanne is also giving away the artwork featured in the banner above, which features (from left to right) Yalira from Kat Parrish’s Bride of the Midnight King, Marcus Aurelius, Lord Malton from Lynne Connolly’s Dilemma in Yellow Silk, Anna Winters (and her kitten Scrappy) from Donna Thorland’s The Dutch Girl, Charlie from my short story Somebody Brave, and Orne St. John from Doors.

More info about these characters here!  You can find out more about March Mayhem prizes here, and you can enter to win from Joanne’s home page from now until 3/30/2016, 12 AM, EST.

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A (tiny) river runs through it

A (tiny) river runs through it

We’ve had so much rain hereabouts that Broken Glass Park (so nicknamed because the folks who drive through it like to chuck their empties out the window as they pass, so the little tree-lined gulch next to the road is strewn with shattered beer bottles) is green and actually flowing with water. Our house is green and flowing with water likewise; evidently when it was built back in the 70’s nobody bothered their heads about what would happen if it rained continuously for weeks at a time.

So I’ve been a bit distracted.

 

Howsomever, as they say, I’ve got some tabs open that I need to close, and I thought I’d share their contents with you, my faithful reader(s).

 

First, this excellent Supernatural parody video, which I cannot stop watching.

 

Then, Brad Bird talking about Tomorrowland and why he turned down the Star Wars gig.  (I’m glad he did, me, because it leaves him free for making that Incredibles sequel.  Because seriously, animation needs Brad Bird.)

 

Finally, if you went to an Art Institutes school (like I did), you might be eligible for student loan forgiveness.  Me, I am stuck with Sallie Mae–excuse me, Navient–for the long haul, as all my loans are private.  But it’s worth a look-see.

 

Now for me it’s back to contractor-calling and ditch-digging … oh, and trying to, you know, maintain a life in the interstices of “homg my house is full of water.”  Stay dry, guys!

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I would show what I've been working on, but, you know, NDAs and whatnot.

I would show what I’ve actually been working on, but, you know, NDAs and whatnot.

Work has been keeping me busy, which means less blogging, of course, but I thought I would interrupted my deadline-imposed blog exile for a couple of advertisements.

First, my nautical fantasy The Voyage to Ruin, chock-full of pirates, airships, swashbuckling, ancient sea gods, dragons, magicians, and countries named after food, is now only $2.99 at Smashwords and on Amazon. I am informed it is available on Google Play as well, but since my dashboard there won’t give me a link nor where to find one, probably easier to go to one of the other places. If I ever do get a Google link, I will share it. [ETA: A helpful and keen-eyed reader discovered the Google Books link for me.  A glass of rum with you, sir!] Two dollars and ninety-nine cents! It is an excellent price for over 100,000 words of intrigue, sorcery, fisticuffs, sea battles, and even a hint of romance. There is no kitchen sink included, only because none of the main characters ever set foot inside a kitchen, and ships lack such amenities anyway.

And second, TeePublic is holding its monthly sitewide sale. Like the gentleman who, when he had a little money, bought books, when I have a little spare time I draw Thor. Some of those Thor-related designs can be purchased on shirts at my TeePublic shop, and I would take it as a kindness if you would go and check them out. There is also a Last Unicorn design, for those who remember that movie with fondness.

Colorful shirts for your torso!

Colorful shirts for your torso!

This concludes our advertisement interruption; we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Oh, and happy Thorsday! 😀

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Maybe you’ve seen the video going around titled “What if Man of Steel was IN COLOR?” Here it is, just in case.

 

 

The video’s taking some flak for tweaking the “original” sequences from the film to make them even more desaturated, if that were possible, and I mention this only in the interests of fairness and full disclosure, because the “original” clips in the video sure match how I remember MoS looking. I haven’t checked back on the actual film, because once was enough for me, thanks.  (I did think the “honest trailer” was accurate.)

 

 

Whether or not the VideoLab folks were being quite fair to Man of Steel and Zak Snyder’s grim-n-gritty vision, the re-touched clips look bright and appealing, and make me wonder how much of the negative reaction to the film is on account of the bleak, desaturated visuals. (The rest of the negative reaction is obviously on account of the script.) That in turn got me thinking about another recent sci-fi action movie with a distinctive visual style.

 

BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMP

BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMP

 

There’s a great article on the visual vocabulary of Pacific Rim, and anybody interested in telling stories in a visual medium ought to go give it a read. (Blue language for them as worries about such things.) The writer touches briefly on the use of color, and he’s spot on: Pacific Rim is an incredibly visually intelligent film. If you have a couple of hours, you might also check out Guillermo del Toro’s commentary on the film, which is packed with one genius observation after another. Yeah, I might be fangirling a little bit.

 

But listen, color plays a huge role in how we experience the world, and thus in how we experience stories. Different colors can cause different effects in us, stimulating different centers in our brain, and a savvy storyteller will know those effects and use them to give his story even more impact. Pacific Rim starts out with a fairly straightlaced “realistic” color scheme, and gradually brings in more and more hues until it’s a rainbow-colored phantasmagoria in the Hong Kong battle, heightening reality so that the audience can forget about “serious” stuff for a while and enjoy the spectacle of a giant robot smashing the hell out of a monster from the deep.

 

Check out these colors! We have the usual action movie orange and teal, sure, but also that vivid blue, and pink, and purple, and that band of lemon in the lower third.

Check out these colors! We have the usual action movie orange and teal, sure, but also that vivid blue, and pink, and purple, and that band of lemon towards the bottom.

 

And then of course there’s this:

 

Gratuitous backlit Idris Elba

Gratuitous backlit Idris Elba

 

I can’t stop.

 

Gratuitous Hellboy--er, Hannibal Chau

Gratuitous Hellboy–er, Hannibal Chau

 

Look at him! His suit is mauve! His shop is green! How often do you see these colors in films nowadays? (And his tie picks up exactly the green of the kaiju specimins behind him. That is attention to detail, man!)

 

Color is powerful and evocative, and while I understand that the grim-n-gritty aesthetic is a thing, I also think the directors of these monochrome films are missing out. Even a pop of color in the right place, or contrasting a colorful scene with a desaturated one, can add flair and drama to your tale.  A color can symbolize a character or an emotion, or tie elements of your story together thematically without anyone having to speak a word.  Colors can enhance emotions, suggest connections that the audience might not even be consciously aware of, like the connection between Mako’s blue bangs, the blue jacket she wore as a child, and the blood of the kaiju (you did read that article, right?).  Also, did you notice that Mako and Raleigh’s colors totally start matching each other once they are co-pilots?  Because they totally do. (Okay, I’m geeking out again.)

 

Or, you know, you could just keep everything kind of grey, if that’s what you’re going for.

Man_of_Steel281080p29_SCREENCAPS_KISSTHEMGOODBYE_NET_0891

I would just like to point out that the color of the sky in this picture…

... is grey.

… is grey.


All screencaps via kissthemgoodbye.net

 

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And he spelled my name wrong ... but the poor man had been sitting at that table for about six hours total by then, so bless him for even signing it at all!

So this happened

Peter S Beagle is touring the country screening The Last Unicorn animated film from the 80s, and since the movie is a childhood favorite (and the book remains a favorite to this day), naturally I leapt at the chance to go.  I wound up at the end of the signing line after the film and Q&A, and as the friend who had accompanied me having to drive back to Oklahoma, I wound up at the end of the signing line alone.  So naturally I struck up conversations with my fellow fans.  (And a good thing! It was a three hour wait!)

The lady in front of me in line, along with her daughter, had won the grand prize in the raffle drawing, and we got to chatting about good books to read aloud to one’s kids.  This is a topic of great interest to me, as I got bored reading the usual Dr Seuss and whatnot pretty quickly, and started the Viking Prince on chapter books as soon as I thought I could get away with it.  It is highly unlikely that nice lady will ever find this post, but here, for anyone who’s interested, is an incomplete and idiosyncratic list of books that I have read or will read in the future to my son.  (He’s four, for those who might want to borrow this list for their own kiddos.)  In no particular order:

  • The Last Unicorn – Peter S Beagle
  • The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
  • The Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
  • Dominic – William Steig
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon – Grace Lin
  • Tiger Moon – Antonia Michaelis
  • The Neverending Story – Michael Ende
  • Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones
  • Bunnicula – James Howe
  • The Dark is Rising Sequence – Susan Cooper
  • The Chronicles of Prydain – Lloyd Alexander
  • The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman
  • The Halloween Tree – Ray Bradbury
  • The Thief of Always – Clive Barker
  • The Snow Queen, etc – Hans Christian Andersen (any fairy tales, really)
  • The Moon’s Revenge – Joan Aiken
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit, etc – Beatrix Potter

You can see my list is heavy on fantasy and fairy tales; your own list might tend in a different direction.  And of course you have to use your judgment as to whether or not a book is working for your kid.  The Viking Prince loved the first Bunnicula, but the sequel failed to grab him (it was a lot more dialogue-heavy, and used tropes and character types he was neither familiar with nor interested in.  Also, no vampire bunny, so that was a strike against it.  We might try the third book when he’s a bit older).  The Thief of Always might be a bit old for read-aloud to a four-year-old, but perfect for an older kid.  And don’t think that just because your kiddo is reading that you have to stop family read-aloud time; I intend to continue it for as long as I can get away with. :3

How about you guys? What are your favorite books, either from your own childhoods or discovered seeking books to read aloud to little ones?

 

 

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If you are like me, then you enjoy books.  Recently I acquired a large stack of pretty good (!!!) YA books recently, which I have been burning through as though, when I got to the end of the stack, there was still a huge stack yet to be read and I wouldn’t be wandering desolately around the house murmuring, “But what shall I read next?”  Because that is what always happens.  (Usually right before bedtime.)

If you are also like me, you probably do not have a vast quantity of disposable income for the acquisition of said books.  Libraries and used bookstores are your friends!  But if you are still like me, you probably also do not have a vast quantity of disposable time for the winnowing of the wheat from the chaff in said libraries and used bookstores (although, hey, wandering a library or a used bookstore looking at books is probably one of the best uses of one’s disposable time, isn’t it?), and wouldn’t life be simpler if someone would just come up and say to you, “Hey, here are some cheap or free books that you might enjoy, have a list”?

Enter Book Bub!* I just signed up, and though I realize I sound like I’m writing ad copy for them, really I am just passing along a tip.  One enters one’s reading preferences, and one receives a list of deals for ebooks that are either hilariously cheap (Robin McKinley’s Deerskin for $1.99!  If I didn’t already own a copy you know I would be all over that) or downright free.  Save time, save money, get lots of new books to try!  I think there is no bad here.**

And I'm pretty sure Lil Bub approves.

And I’m pretty sure Lil Bub approves.

*Site actually has nothing to do with Lil Bub, as far as I can tell.

**There may be bad here, but I just signed up, so if the website sends demon ninja robots to your house in the middle of the night, and you have to fend them off with your mother’s katana that you keep in the closet, and then team up with a mad scientist and an ancient Viking wolf-warrior to find the key to defeating the demon ninja robots’ master, well … a.) that wasn’t in the fine print, and b.) actually that sounds pretty awesome and can I come along?

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interstellar_ver7_xlgSince I still haven’t sat down to write my Interstellar review (or rather, my look at Interstellar as the culmination of Christopher Nolan’s art so far and the redemption of the one flaw of The Dark Knight Rises–stay tuned! Maybe!), I’ll just put some links here so you can go read the inimitable John C Wright, far more eloquent and logical than me, on the subject.

First, his review of the best science-fiction movie ever put on film.

Next, because he is a writer of hard sf and does his research, he refutes the science-lovers who object that the movie is not scientifically accurate enough.

Then, because he is a learned man of faith, he refutes the Christians who object that the movie is not theologically accurate enough.

And finally, he offers one last comment that struck me right in the heart and made me want to leap out of my chair–and simultaneously leap right back into it and write some ripping good science fiction stories.

A little more gratitude and a little less criticism would seem to be in order.

Are you not sick and tired of the endless nihilism that pours out of Hollywood like an explosion in a sewerage factory?

This was a tale about a hero who does not boast and loves his daughter and who just wants to do his job and go home. It is a story about a pilot who loves to fly. It is a story about a little girl who grew up but who never grew out of her sense of hope and her sense of wonder.

This is the only film I have seen all year where the father was portrayed as a man, an actual masculine man in a leadership position who worked hard and could do a hard job well, and who was, as all fathers should be, willing to sacrifice everything for his family.

Even if all the criticisms about the theology and the science in this movie were true — and, so far as I have seen, not one of them are even making a prima face case — are you not hungry for heroes, O fans of science fiction? Do you not thirst for wonders? Let my eyes feast on the majestic rings of Saturn or the dark and blazing horror of a supermassive singularity!

To which I can only say, hear hear!

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