Monthly Archives: October 2012

Movie Review: Werewolf: The Beast Among Us (2012)

Werewolves and vampires are popular these days (as witnessed by this blog and my book, Drasmyr). “Werewolf: The Beast Among Us” is a made-for-DVD movie about a werewolf terrorizing a small 19th-century village. A couple friends and I rented this film for a kind of pre-Halloween werewolf flick-night. It stars Guy Wilson as the main character, a young surgeon-in-training named Daniel who also has a penchant for drawing and blacksmithing (he’s a talented young lad). It also stars Stephen Rea (they guy who played the detective in “V for Vendetta and also starred in the latest “Underworld” movie), although his is a minor role.

 

In the film, Daniel and his village are desperate to stop the predations of the hideous beast. They hire a group of werewolf hunters, who will hopefully solve their problem. Soon, however, they learn that this werewolf is unlike any other: It was born a werewolf, not transformed by a bite. So, it is stronger and smarter than the rest of its brethren and it has the potential to learn how to shape-shift at will. Danielle, of course, wants to join the hunters, but he is turned down initially. Eventually, though, the leader of the hunters, Charles, accepts his help and they assign a few small tasks to Danielle—mostly procuring bait and what-have-you. Then, the hunt begins. I’ll leave the rest of the plot a mystery, so you can enjoy it yourself.

 

Overall, the film was entertaining. It was better than a lot of werewolf movies I’ve seen (not that I’ve seen too many—it just seems way too easy to make a bad werewolf movie). The special effects were okay, though not exceptional. The plot was interesting, but some of the developments seemed forced. There were gypsies in the movie, and they were only there because it was a werewolf movie. They had the one vital clue, and that was about it. And their costumes pretty much blended with the rest of the town—very non-distinctive. There was a romantic element to the film, but one which left a very large unresolved problem by the time it wrapped up. The film also used a number of elements “lifted” from other werewolf movies I’ve seen. Most particularly, it took a few elements from the remake of “The Wolfman” that came out a couple years ago.

 

Overall I’ll give this film three stars out of five. If you want to see a really good werewolf movie, I’d recommend the aforementioned remake of “The Wolfman.” Still, this movie was worth seeing. Good for Halloween.

Announcement: Facebook and Blogfest

I have two announcements that I should have announced earlier in the week, but kept forgetting about. It wasn’t entirely my fault, but I could have been more proactive. So, here they are:

Facebook Fan Page Established: Yes, I’ve finally gotten around to it. I’ve started a fan page for my book, Drasmyr, on Facebook. You can find it at: http://www.facebook.com/Drasmyr. The fan page will contain cool things related to the book; specifically, I’ll be periodically listing excerpts, a cool quote or two, and even the occasional vampire poll. I’m still learning the ropes on the Facebook Fan Page, so it may take a while before things start going smoothly, but I’m a quick learner.

Long and Short Reviews Haunting Halloween Blogfest: “A Toast to Dragons” will be participating in a Halloween Blogfest at Long and Short Reviews (you may remember them; they reviewed my book, Drasmyr, here) this year. I wrote a short short story (under 1000 words) entitled “A Woman Scorned,” which will be posted on the LASR website on 11/1 at 10 a.m. (I will post a link that day). In the meantime, from 10/29/12 – 11/2/12 dozens of authors in all genres will be blogging at Long and Short Reviews!Every post will be offering a prize… all you have to do is leave a comment on the guest blog in question. One comment will be chosen at random at every blog to win — it might be you! So don your best costume and come party with us at the Halloween Blogfest. Note: For “A Woman Scorned,” the prize will be awarded to a commenter at the guest blog at the LASR site, NOT the normal biweekly blog at “A Toast to Dragons” which is due out the same day. For more information on the Blogfest go here: http://www.longandshortreviews.com/promo.htm.

The prize “A Toast to Dragons” is offering for one lucky commenter on “A Woman Scorned” is a set of metal miniatures; specifically, a pair of vampire counts and a pair of vampire slayers from the Classic Vampire Wars line by West Wind Productions Gothic Horror.

Announcement: Upcoming Blog Blitz Tour

 Goddess Fish Promotions will be sponsoring a promotional blog tour for my book, “Drasmyr,” from November 12, 2012 to December 7, 2012.  It will be a strictly promotional tour, meaning that every visit will be limited to excerpts from my book and a book blurb. The blog tour schedule is currently under construction. As of this writing, we’ve filled fifteen slots of the twenty available. During the tour, I’ll be posting links to the blog host of the day as they occur. Also, make sure you check out the sponsor of the whole tour–Goddess Fish Promotions–it wouldn’t have been possible without them.

Also, I will be awarding one randomly chosen commenter on the tour (for those who comment on the tour sites—not atoasttodragons) with a small box of Fenryll metal miniatures, specifically, a collection of three Nosferatu vampires. They are excellent for collecting, or to use in gaming.

Blog Tour Schedule

Thanks. And hope to see you on the tour!

Fantasy Literature: Multiplying Characters

This is something of a problem that cropped up while working on my latest book. The book, entitled “The Children of Lubrochius,” is the first book in my series, “From the Ashes of Ruin.” If you’ve read “Drasmyr,” “Drasmyr” is essentially the prequel to the series (Yes, I wrote the prequel first.) Anyway, the problem is, or was, that I kept running into problems because I had too many characters. I had most of the characters from the first book, and several new ones. Obviously, I had to make some decisions. I had to separate the major characters from the minor characters and determine who would be shadowed in each section of each chapter. (By “shadowed,” I mean, which character’s point of view I tell that section by).

 

It has been called a weakness of my first book that I jumped around too much. I had sections where I shadowed Lucian, others where I shadowed Coragan, others Galladrin, Korina, Regecon, Clarissa, and still more. Although, many of those were just one or two scenes. The major characters were, of course, Coragan, Galladrin, and Regecon. The main antagonists were Lucian and Korina. It all made perfect sense to me while writing, but I can see how someone could be confused, at least, at first. Eventually, though, it all clicks into place and creates a remarkable story. And, I think, if I were to write it again, I would change very little. However, going forward, as I said, the next book adds a few more characters; so many, that if I were to continue in the same pattern, I’m sure I would lose many readers.

 

So, what did I do? I got out my writer’s chainsaw and did some hacking. J From the four major characters I added, I permitted only one to… uh… not sure how to say it: of the four, one is a major major character, and the other three are too important to be minor characters, but not important enough to get very many chapters told from their point of view. I dethroned two of my previous major major characters, putting them in roughly the same position as those previous three… this is getting confusing. Let’s just say, I juggled the characters around a bit so that I was more focused on which character would be shadowed the most, and which would not. As it stands now, I have again, three main protagonists (Coragan, Ambrisia, and Gaelan (he’s a new guy)) and the same two antagonists (Lucian and Korina). And again, there are a number of minor characters of varying level of importance.

 

What is the point of all this? Limit the number of your characters. Quite simple, really. But not. I have so much to say, and one character is insufficient. Plus, I like weaving multiple viewpoints together. It’s fun. But there is a limit as to how many you can effectively do that with. Again, this is another lesson learned the hard way: plan it out beforehand, you’ll be happier for it. Otherwise, you’ll have to rewrite scenes from one character’s point of view to another. And that is a royal pain.

 

Anyway, I think the traditional novel has but one main character. Many modern series’ though (Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” comes to mind) have many more… although perhaps in the case of WoT, Rand is the main character, but I digress. When you have multiple books through which to develop your characters, you can afford to have more than one major character. But again, keep in mind, that what is clear to you the writer, might not be so clear to the reader. Fifty main characters is definitely out of the question. Seven or so, like in WoT… it can be done, but there is a cost. There’s a reason that series is fourteen books long. And though I loved the series, I will probably never reread it.

Landmark Reached: 100 plus Blog Followers

I should do a jig and a dance. Yesterday, I got my 100th follower for my blog. Actually, today it’s up to 101. Good things are a-happening! Woo hoo! Thanks to all of you who read my blog. It’s great fun writing it, and I’m glad you all enjoy it. Again, thank you!

Old Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

Of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies to come out in the past few years, this one, The Curse of the Black Pearl, is by far the best. The next two in the series are decent, but by the time movie four comes around, it’s beginning to lose its luster. Anyway, this one was a creative imagining of the adventures of the pirate ship The Black Pearl. It is based on a ride of the same name in a Disney theme park. And I have to say, considering such humble origins, it is a remarkable tale (then again, it’s got Disney behind it). It stars Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, Orlando Bloom as the blacksmith turned pirate, William Turner, and Kiera Knightley (I think that’s her name) as the governor’s daughter, Elizabeth Swann.

 

It’s a tale of swashbuckling pirates, cursed treasure, and cursed men. William Turner and Elizabeth Swann provide the romantic element to the story. There’s a bit of a clever preamble introducing the main characters and some of the tensions before the real action begins. Then, the Black Pearl, captained by Captain Balboza, lays siege to Port Royale (I think) the town where Elizabeth and William live. In her attempt to negotiate a cease-fire with the pirates, Elizabeth is captured and taken away with the Pearl. Shortly thereafter, William Turner, dissatisfied with the rescue efforts of the military under the command of Captain Norrington (another significant character), throws his lot in with Captain Jack Sparrow and sets off to rescue Elizabeth on his own. The adventures that follow are the stuff of legend and love.

 

There’s a great deal of lighthearted fun and comedy in this movie. Captain Jack Sparrow in particular provides a great deal of humor. Overall, there’s very little to complain about. The pacing is perfect. The humor is clean. The action is exciting. And the special effects are well-done. I’ve seen the movie a dozen or so times (I own it now), and normally, after so many viewings of a movie, I can usually pick out one or two logical flaws in the flow of the story. Not this one (at least, not off the top of my head). Everything fits together and flows very well. No glaring contradictions, and no gaping holes in the story line.

 

Anyway, I’ll give “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” four and half out of five stars. It might even be worth five stars, but I’ve seen it so many times it no longer holds any surprises, so that might be what’s holding me back.

Fantasy Literature: Character Development: A Few Thoughts and Pointers

I’m of the mind that characters are one of the constants of novels. I think it would be impossible to write a novel without having at least one character. If you were to write something without a character, you might be able to pass it off as a poem, perhaps, but certainly not a novel. An essay, maybe, or a dissertation, but not a novel. Also, realistically speaking, I don’t think you’d be able to limit yourself to just one character. You’d probably need at least one more. For what is a novel, but an exploration of human relationships and character development? How could one explore such without a selection of characters to delineate?

 

Since the above is true (or at least I regard it as true), it may be worthwhile to pound out a few thoughts on how novel characters come to be. What kind of effort goes into constructing one?

 

In the first draft of my first book, Drasmyr, I wrote everything stream-of-consciousness, revising as I went along. The characters only existed in my mind. I had a relatively small number, I was much younger with a more energetic brain (I think) so I could keep such things straight. I had no need for character description sheets, or anything of the sort. Nowadays, I’ve changed my approach. It’s kind of an approach-in-progress—because I’m constantly adding new things and tweaking things in a chaotic, disorganized way—but currently, I have notebook filled with character information sheets.

 

What’s in them, you ask? Well, start with the basics. First, you need a general description of the character. Height. Weight. Eye color. Hair color. Muscular? Thin? Etc… Keeping a good physical description in one place is a very good idea (I’m actually learning this the hard way, because I wrote the rough draft of book II before I wrote the character sheets—a silly mistake, but a painful one—but I intended to reread the thing a million times before I published it anyway), that way you can refer back to it whenever you need to and you don’t have to worry about making a mistake describing the character with blue eyes in one place, and brown in another, or what have you. That’s probably one of the simplest ways to save yourself some headaches. So, whenever you are writing and you introduce a new character, do yourself a favor and make up a character information sheet (unless that character is just a walk-on), put it a neatly organized folder for easy access later on.

 

Of course, characters are much more than their physical descriptions. They have personalities with conflicts and hang-ups and what have you. Their outlook on life changes as they progress through the story. All these things must be kept straight in order to tell a good story.

 

So, in order to flesh out the character, I include a section on the character’s history (birthplace, parent’s names, etc…), their clothing preferences (although that is hardly essential), their general personalities, and the crises, evolutions, or aspects of human nature I wish to explore while developing them. If the character is a religious fanatic, I include it here and try to explain why. If they hate goblins, well, what led to that bias? Recording changes in a character is probably the most important aspect of character development, but is also the hardest to convey in a single blog post. Characters evolve and change, they learn new things, they change their minds. That’s what the “development” in character development means.

 

Of course, this is very complicated particularly when there are multiple characters (I suddenly see the wisdom in limiting a novel to one main character—that definitely makes things easier). You have to track the changes and interactions. Generally, I do this on a separate sheet, in outline form only.

 

I’ve found that the easiest approach to character information sheets is to start each character on a fresh piece of paper. If you try to use the same piece of paper for multiple characters, you’re apt to run out of room. I’ve done this. I know. If they are separable, you can alphabetize (for easy reference) and also expand upon previous notes. You don’t have to write a character’s entire background the first time you use him or her, and you can always add additional sheets as you see fit.

 

Okay, I’ve blabbed about characters for quite a bit now. Time to end the post.

Blurb Blitz Blog Tour for Drasmyr

Goddess Fish Promotions will be sponsoring a promotional blog tour for my book, “Drasmyr,” from November 12, 2012 to December 7, 2012.  It will be a strictly promotional tour, meaning that every visit will be limited to excerpts from my book and a book blurb. The blog tour schedule is currently under construction. As of this writing, we’ve filled thirteen slots of the twenty available. During the tour, I’ll be posting links to the blog host of the day as they occur. Also, make sure you check out the sponsor of the whole tour–Goddess Fish Promotions–it wouldn’t have been possible without them.

Also, I will be awarding one randomly chosen commenter on the tour (for those who comment on the tour sites—not atoasttodragons) with a small box of Fenryll metal miniatures, specifically, a collection of three Nosferatu vampires. They are excellent for collecting, or to use in gaming.

Blog Tour Schedule

Thanks. And hope to see you on the tour!

Movie Review: Frankenweenie

This past Friday I went to see the children’s movie “Frankenweenie.” “Frankenweenie” is the latest cinematic effort by Tim Burton and is kind of a mix of science fiction and fantasy. As such, it comes complete with the dark, somber ambience Burton has developed a reputation for, though, not so horribly dark and terrifying that it would frighten children. It’s a well-developed film with an engaging storyline and fun characters. Perfect for a Halloween outing.

At the center of the story is the young Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant scientist-in-training attending Junior High or so (I guess that makes him about 13 years old). He’s something of an introvert whose only true friend is his pet dog, Sparky. His parents, however, want him to be more sociable and get him involved in a baseball team. This, however, leads to tragedy: At one of Victor’s games there is a horrible accident and Sparky is killed. Victor is depressed for a long time until he gets the idea—inspired by his science class at school—to try to bring his dog back to life. He succeeds, but is unable to keep that success a secret, and the resulting chaos that breaks loose is enough to make your head spin. But it is great fun to watch, as a whole bevy of monster pets break loose and wreak havoc on the small town Victor Frankenstein calls home.

Overall, I found this movie entertaining and worth watching. It is typical Tim Burton: dark and gloomy, but like I said, not so much it’ll scar children. At least, I don’t think so. I do, however, have several complaints about the movie. The first is so minor I’m not even sure I want to complain about it. Basically, a certain young girl in the film performs divination via cat poo. If her cat poos out the first letter in your name in his litter box that means something “big” is going to happen to you. I just wonder if the only way to entertain children is to act childish ourselves. I mean, really? Cat poo? Must we? My next complaint concerns the wrap up of the film at the end (Spoiler Alert). The once-dead dog, Sparky, is killed again at the end of the movie and, with the blessings of the parents, Victor Frankenstein brings the animal back to life yet again. I know kid’s movies are supposed to have “happy endings,” but I’m not sure it is a good idea to implant in them the notion that bringing their pet back to life is the way to go. They (the film-makers) had an opportunity to let the animal go and let him rest in peace, but they brought him back again. Not sure that was a good idea. My final complaint concerns some of the kid’s science experiments in the film and this is, by far, my most significant complaint. There was a lot of manipulating of electricity throughout the film, an unsuccessful attempt to fly off a housetop, and other experiments of questionable safety being performed by young teen-agers for the movie’s audience of children. Maybe I’m being over-protective, but I don’t think that was very wise to include in the movie. Do we really want someone’s kid to think it’s a good idea to fly a kite during a lightning storm? Anyway, you can see where I’m going. I don’t know how Tim Burton could have made the movie without these things, but I’ve noticed in a lot of the children’s movies of recent years that the writers tend to forget who their primary audience is.

Still, it was a good movie and I enjoyed it. I’ll give it four stars.

Monster Mishmash: A Vampire Werewolf

This is a continuation of the train of thought started with my “Monster Mishmash: A Vampire Dragon” post. In that post, I examined what a creature that was the result of crossing a dragon and vampire would be like. So, I thought, why not continue the thought process and see what happens when you cross a vampire with a werewolf? Unfortunately, this one doesn’t work quite as well. Depending upon the tradition you start with, it might not be really that much of a change. I remember in Francis Ford Coppola’s film version of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” there were several instances where Dracula shape-changed into something, that to me, looked pretty much like a werewolf. A snarling, lust-ridden, beastie of fur, and claws. And if that’s the case, trying to make a vampire into a werewolf, might be something of a step down or just an insignificant change. The vampire can already control wolves, and assume the werewolf form: what would the werewolf aspect give him? Dracula is, also, already supernaturally strong. At most, the vampire might just lose-control of his shape-shifting faculties on the night of a full moon. And lack of control would certainly be a weakness gained. Alternatively, and perhaps more probably, he would just absorb the werewolf nature and continue on his way, relatively unchanged.

 

On the other hand, if you go with the “Underworld” series of movies, the notion of a vampire-werewolf is already central to the plot: they beat me to the punchline here. Underworld vampires are limited to human form, and not as physically strong (I don’t think) as the werewolves. In such a situation, both species benefit from the mix and you wind up with something that is “stronger than either.” There’s really not that much to add to the notion here, because the whole movie series revolves around that plot point. They have their vampire-werewolves and they have several two hour movies to develop the theme in, compared to my mere few hundred words of text. Still, I should probably say something. A vampire-werewolf in Underworld, if I recall, gains a limited shape-changing ability, and also loses the weaknesses of each respective species. He is no longer affected by silver or sunlight. So, the only way to kill him is to rip him to pieces. And if that is your plan, since he is unusually strong, you’ll have your work cut out for you.

 

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the vampire-werewolf. For myself, since I prefer my vampires like Dracula, I see only a limited benefit in the combination, if that. The vampire is already in possession of much of the werewolf’s strengths, so the combination is of limited utility.