Monthly Archives: July 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spiderman

I was a little slow getting to see The Amazing Spiderman movie; I didn’t get around to it until Monday night. It’s not that I have anything against the Spiderman franchise—in fact, I was very fond of Spiderman I and Spiderman II with Tobey Maguire. The fact that they were changing actors, and altering the character somewhat, made me a little more apathetic toward this latest installment. Plus, the fiasco that was Spiderman III also stood as an obstacle to me seeing it. So, it became a I’ll-see-it-if-I’m-in-the-right-mood movie.

 

Well, the right mood eventually came along and I saw it. And I was kind of disappointed. Although it may have been better than the Spiderman III film with Tobey Maguire, it fell far short of Spiderman I and Spiderman II. First off, I think they spent too much time on the development of the backstory; I mean, it must have been forty-five minutes or so before Peter Parker was even bitten by the spider. They went through a lot of stuff that was just echoes of what we’d already seen in Spiderman I. They changed a few things here and there, like the scenario that led up to Uncle Ben being shot, but not enough to give the film the much needed extra juice. The film was long, I think around two and a quarter hours, and a lot of that could have been cut without losing contiguity.

 

They also changed the character; they made him more in line with the original comic book character. Gone are the organic web shooters that were in “Maguire’s” wrists. They went back to the Peter Parker designed mechanical web shooters. That wasn’t a flaw, or anything, it just means they were starting over from scratch. And in that light, I think the movie came out too soon. The Tobey Maguire films are too fresh in my mind. I’m sure little kids (the real target audience) won’t mind, because many of them won’t see the previous films, but it is kind of annoying to me, if for no other reason than that I was just too familiar with the character development. There just wasn’t anything new. They also replaced Mary Jane with another one of Peter Parker’s girlfriends. Again, not really an issue, but I had it set in my head (no doubt from Spiderman I), that Peter had known MJ for quite some time. And in this movie, she never made an appearance. Again, that might have been less of an issue if I were to see this movie, say, five years from now, instead of now.

 

Anyway, I’ll give it a whole two and a half out of five stars. I thought it dragged and it just did not deliver.

Seeking Inspiration for Fantasy Literature

Twisted ancient gods, demonic plant men, or wild creatures from the darkest deeps of the earth… where do such things come from? A fantasy writer’s mind, of course; but does that do it justice? Creativity is a strange thing. The muse comes and goes. Sometimes it lies dormant for weeks… months, even years, then you get a surge and the ideas start coming. Professional writers, though, don’t have the luxury of waiting for it. No, they must get inspiration for their work on a regular basis. How is it done?

 

For myself, I seek inspiration from a number of sources. My short story, “The River’s Eye,” for example started when I was at my uncle’s house and caught sight of an interesting picture on his wall. It showed a house, a small stream, and a young woman with an umbrella by the stream. There was a certain feel to the picture; a certain ambiance. I looked at it for a while, and ideas began to percolate in my mind for a story. I could imagine the young woman looking for stones on the banks of the river. What if one of those stones had mythic powers? What if something strange lived in the water? The ideas kept coming, and before you knew it, I had the idea for the story. I started with the title, “The River’s Eye” and the story grew up around it.

 

That is one of my more common inspirations for stories: beatific scenes portrayed in paintings. But there are others, from the feeling I get from a song—something I feel can be expressed in greater detail in a story—to the very ambiance of the very real weather on a particular day. Visual arts tend to be the most effective for me: posters, paintings, even the covers of other books. I formed an idea of what the story behind the “Dragonriders of Pern” by Anne McCaffrey would be based on the cover. The actual books were completely different from my idea, but I still have that germ of a notion, that perhaps someday I will expand into a full length story. So art can feed art, and the creative muse can find inspiration almost anywhere.

 

Another powerful source of inspiration—although, again, it is primarily visual—is dreams. The subconscious is a powerful thing. Not only can dreams provide the kernel (or perhaps even the bulk) of a story, they can help to iron out wrinkles you’ve encountered in the writing process. Sometimes, a night spent in the Sandman’s domain is enough to figure out just how your character is going to escape her predicament, foil the bad guys, and save the day.

 

Last, but not least, is the process of stream of consciousness writing. Sometimes it helps to just sit down at the computer, open a document, and let your fingers take on a life of their own. I haven’t used this technique often, but it works. Sometimes I don’t even begin writing words; I’m so frustrated I pound letters like “lalskjhar, dljjdtrlckdm.” And on and on… eventually I get bored with that and start typing actual words. Perhaps, I’ll begin with just a phrase or two, but sooner or later, I’ll be pounding out concrete story ideas.

 

Anyway, those are a few of the places I get inspiration from for my fantasy writing. I’m sure there are other methods. What about you?

Drasmyr Interview (Re-Post)

This was originally posted on another blog during my blog tour, but I liked it so much, I wanted to post it here as well. So, without further preamble, I give you:

The Drasmyr Interview:

Today we have with us, Lucian val Drasmyr… warrior, general, and vampire. He’s walked the world of Athron for a thousand years, and is here visiting Earth for this once in a lifetime interview at A Toast to Dragons with esteemed guest journalist and newsman Chris Matthews (not really, but we’ll just pretend).

 

Chris Matthews: Greetings, Lucian. It’s good to see you. I’m glad you agreed to this interview. You look a little pale, but I guess that’s to be expected in your line of work. Your journey here must have been exhausting. How are you feeling today?

Lucian: A bit peckish, actually.

 

Chris Matthews: <pales> Oh, really? Uh… um… That’s a trifle unsettling. I’ll just get going with the… rest of the interview. Um… how would you describe your relationship with Clarissa? Is it romantic?

Lucian: Love is an emotion that vampires—real vampires—cannot fathom, let alone feel. Your kind would do well to put your fanciful notions of devoted, affectionate vampires back in the graves from whence they came, and restore us to our rightful place as heirs of the Damned. As for Clarissa, she served a purpose.

 

Chris Matthews:  Can you describe what it’s like to sink your teeth into a human being?

Lucian: My teeth puncture flesh. Then, I taste blood. A lot of it.

 

Chris Matthews: Can you describe the bloodlust?

Lucian: Perhaps by analogy… not drinking blood is like multiplying your libido by ten, then taking a vow of celibacy.

 

Chris Matthews: Ouch… how about religion. Interested readers want to know: do you believe in God?

Lucian: The god of your world or mine? Or are you going to be philosophical and posit a god of all worlds? It matters little to me. There may be a single God, or many lesser gods, but none have ever served me well. Since I became a vampire, more often than not, I find myself on the opposing side of whichever god is involved in the altercation. It’s a habit I have.

 

Chris Matthews: Do you have any qualms about what you do?

Lucian: No. Do you?

 

Chris Matthews:  My understanding is that you became a vampire by choice. Is that true? And if so, why did you do it?

Lucian: I was a zealot, totally devoted to the man I believed to be a god. I would have done anything he asked me to, perhaps even commit suicide if it served his cause. And, in a way, that is exactly what I did. I died to my old self and my old life, and was reborn as something greater. But there at the beginning, I was little more than a mindless minion.

 

Chris Matthews:  Do you have any regrets about your decision?

Lucian: Life is filled with decisions and regrets. I try not to dwell on my own, because I have a thousand years worth of such deliberations to burden me. It can get tiresome if you spend too much time looking behind. I try to focus on the future, because I have a lot of it to look forward to. <licks lips>

 

Chris Matthews: What separates you from other vampires?

Lucian: My patience for impertinent questions and sniveling lackeys. If the truth be known, it is my personality that distinguishes me. Although the powers of vampires vary from tale to tale, one cannot gain distinction by a clever use of innate ability. It is the vampires inner world that makes him (or her) unique. Pining, love-struck weakling or ruthless killer, it is what he uses his gifts for that determines whether or not he will establish a potent and lasting legacy.

 

Chris Matthews: Do you have any weaknesses?

Lucian: No.

 

Chris Matthews: Surely, there must be—

Lucian: No.

 

Chris Matthews: Okay, moving on. What are your goals in life?

Lucian: Some vampires seek companionship—I am not one of those. Others seek world domination—if the world offered anything of value beyond cattle, perhaps I would be one of those. But as it is, I exist to feed and accrue personal power. Politics, I can do without. Should it ever come my way, though, my greatest desire is revenge.

 

Chris Matthews:  Revenge? On who?

Lucian: On all those who have ever done me wrong. <shrugs> And on some of those who haven’t.

 

Chris Matthews: Interesting. If you could only kill Coragan of Esperia or Regecon the Archmage… who would you choose?

Lucian: Edward Cullen. Because I like to hurt sparkly things.

 

Chris Matthews: What do you do in your spare time?

Lucian: I read books. Philosophy, magical treatises, and historical texts.

 

Chris Matthews: Interesting. What is your greatest accomplishment?

Lucian: My accomplishments are too many to name, too great to be catalogued, and too far beyond the ken of your kind to bear scrutiny. I have walked the world of Athron for a thousand years; that alone is a triumph compared to the feeble existence your kind can eke out. I know more about the workings of the world and the fabric of time than the wisest of men. Don’t insult me by pretending you can grasp even a sliver of my greatness.

 

Chris Matthews: Er…if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Lucian: A tree?

 

Chris Matthews:  Yes. A tree.

Lucian: Is that some reference to wooden stakes? Is that a threat?

 

Chris Matthews: <wets self> Um. No. Readers just want to know these things.

Lucian: Then I pity your authors.

 

Chris Matthews:  Okay. Moving on… It appears you are wanted on Athron for a number of murders. Have you ever considered immigrating to the United States to escape your persecutors?

Lucian: You give my persecutors far too much credit. I don’t fear mortals. I’ve seen nations crumble to dust and demigods meet their undoing. What could a few pesky wizards and an odd warrior or two hope to bring to bear against me?

 

Chris Matthews: Do you have any advice for the modern American teen?

Lucian: Eat your vegetables. You’ll taste better.

 

Chris Matthews: How many people have you killed?

Lucian: One too few.

 

Chris Matthews: Well, that concludes our interview for today. We are glad you could make it, Mr. Drasmyr. We are curious, though, what inspired you to make the trip… it is a long way, and a most difficult journey, I imagine?

 

Lucian: The author and I came to… an arrangement. <licks lips>

Chris Matthews:  What do you mean?… Oh, God… No… Aaaahhhh!

 

Lucian: Blecch! Journalists. They all taste the same.

Adventures in Self-Publishing: The Kindle Edition

On a completely different tangent than my usual posts, I figured I would relate the following mishap I had.

 

As most of you know, I self-published my book Drasmyr through Smashwords. They distribute ebooks to Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobi, and elsewhere. They are currently working out a deal to distribute to Amazon. However, at the moment, my ebook is not available on Amazon. One of the comments on this site (I’ve looked for it, but I couldn’t find it to give proper mention) wondered why I didn’t publish with Kindle Direct. I guess my real answer is that I’ve got the business-sense of a stone. Actually, I thought there might be copyright issues if I published at both Smashwords and Amazon. Smashwords says there isn’t. I’m going to do the research on Amazon to find out if they agree. Then, I’m going to publish on Amazon.

 

Which brings me to my little incident.

 

Yesterday, I was set to work on getting my book published on Amazon. First thing to do is to get it in the right format so it uploads properly to the kindle. No problem, or so I thought. I’m looking through the information Amazon has; they’ve got everything condensed in a short book on the topic, “Building Your Ebook for the Kindle” or something like that. And it’s free. Great, I’ll just download that. For some reason or other it doesn’t want to download into my phone. Okay, fine, I’ll do it the roundabout way. I download the Kindle for the PC to my PC—much like its name implies, that is just kindle software that works on your PC. Then I download the ebook to the Kindle for the PC on my PC. So far, so good. Next, I hook up my phone to my PC via USB cable. I was thinking I could just copy it over like I had done with every book I had gotten through Smashwords. No dice. It doesn’t work. Hmmm. Let’s try the Sync function. Big Mistake. The stupid software “erased” my access to every non-Amazon book on my phone. So, basically, my phone went from storing 11 books on it, to storing 7. I lost four books. But not really. I could access them on my phone via my computer, but not via the phone. So, I copied them into the Kindle on PC. For some inexplicable reason, this actually worked. Then, I started the gruesome, and I mean gruesome, process of getting the books from my PC onto my phone.

 

Four and a half hours and five tech support conversations later, I finally did it. And I learned something in the process: web pages are a big pain in the tuckus to navigate through. There is so much information on every page of a big site like Amazon, it’s enough to drive you mad. At one point, I had like five different Amazon pages open on my computer, each one containing some tiny, but vital clue to the problem. Those web pages are not user-friendly and they are becoming less-so by the minute. First, Amazon and most other big sites hide their contact information because they want you to use their FAQ pages in lieu of human-to-human help—so you don’t waste their time with easily solvable problems. Well, my time is valuable too, you know, and I don’t like wading through page after page of FAQ support, looking for the correct question. They have search algorithms to find the question for you, but it didn’t work very well in my case. I had to contact them. So I did. Several times. The first guy tried a couple things, but they didn’t work. So, he told me to email the files to the special kindle e-mail address. Tried that. Managed to get my books uploaded to my Amazon account, but couldn’t get it from there to my phone. So, at this point, I have the books at every conceivable location except where I want them! Called back. This time, they tried to refer me back to Smashwords and said it was their problem, because that’s where I got the books from. I went to Smashwords sent them an e-mail, but their help desk was backlogged for the next 10 days. Yes, 10 days.  Anyway, eventually, after a couple more calls to Amazon’s tech support, I finally got the books downloaded to my phone. I was elated when it finally happened. Could have kissed the guy through the phone. Well, maybe not.

 

Anyway, that’s my story. At least they gave me a blog post. J There is one final point to stress, though. According to Amazon, the latest version of kindle does not allow you to copy files from your computer to your kindle app or device. That was the method that Smashwords suggested. Now, it doesn’t work. I e-mailed Smashwords to let them know, but that puts a pretty big snag in the Smashwords business model. At least for now; I assume they’ll figure something out.