Like Me. Really Like Me.

I was listening to a podcast about authorial brand the other day and it got me thinking about myself and my own work. I suppose there’s a throughline of themes and ideas in a lot of my fiction — actually that’s what’s sparked the new and shiny novel I’m almost about ready to start outlining — but more than that, it got me thinking about myself and this blog.

For the most part, I write about my work and writing life, but what about me? What do I think is cool? I was always a little hesitant to just throw stuff out there because what if you, dear reader, are a movie buff but then I go off the deep end gushing about a video game and you decide, nah, video games are dumb. Shame on you! Or maybe you’re a gamer who doesn’t like my taste in television shows. I don’t know. So rather than keep all that out, I realized I can only be me.

Unless, it’s a critical deep dive into a work, I don’t like writing about entertainment pieces I don’t like. I don’t mind admitting when I didn’t care for something, but I don’t like bashing on stuff because I know how long and how hard it is to make said stuff! With all this in mind, I’ve updated my About Me page with my top favorite books and movies. I’ll put them below too …

Favorite Books:

(In no particular order …)

  • Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien … (see below …)
  • Embassytown by China Mieville
  • Shogun by James Clavell
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • The Sandman comics by Neil Gaiman
  • The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson


Favorite Movies:

  1. Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, Return of the King (all extended editions of course) – Let’s be honest, they’re all really one movie right …
  2. Jurassic Park
  3. Spirited Away
  4. Ghostbusters
  5. The Last Samurai and Little Shop of Horrors (1986) – two way tie

Maybe we’re a fan of the same things. Oh come on, of course we are!

I also thought I’d update you on what I’m reading and what I’m watching.

What I’m reading:

The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross. This book is awesome. Book 2 of The Laundry Files. While the government bureaucracy is so real its painful, it still doesn’t overshadow the eldritch horror crammed into these books. Anyone looking for a modern take on Lovecraft, this series is for you. I enjoy the plots and occult techno-babble as much as the next guy, but speaking of crammed, the amount of references (Lovecraftian, historical, and real world technology) stuffed into each book is amazing. You honestly don’t need to know what any of them mean, because anything important is always explained for the plot, but for someone like myself, it’s riddled with Easter eggs so I feel like each one is some inside joke only I’m privy to. When they say write what you know, this is totally what they mean. It just goes to show you that you don’t need one thing. If you’ve got a couple of passions, smush them all together and the beautiful mess you’ve made is going to be one great, original story.

What I’m watching:

I just wrapped up watching Altered Carbon on Netflix. I’m a little late to the party on this one, but oh man was that good! I thought they did a great job with the jargon. It felt like a real place and wasn’t just replacing current words with future words. Also the setup and payoff was really well done. You know it’s good when you have multiple actors playing the same character and I don’t even bat an eye. I’m looking at you episode 7. It’s mainly flashback, so it’s not the primary actor, but the guy I’m watching still always feels like Tak to me. It’s great and so well done.

From a production design, I can marvel at the nuts and bolts too. They clearly had money to build sets and render things in CGI, but they were super careful with their locations. The places feel big, but when I stop and think about it, there really aren’t that many places the characters go to. Even when they’re outside, it’s a section of a street or a storefront of something. There are plenty of extras and things in the background, but the show doesn’t blow its budget on needless filler.

I’m definitely excited for season 2.

So there you have it. A little bit more about me and what I like. Writing up the what I’m reading and watching was pretty fun. I don’t get a chance to gush about stuff so much anymore, but I think that’s going to be changing. I’ve a feeling that feature is definitely coming back.

My Two Favorite Things

Like apparently the rest of the world, I got to see Jurassic World over the weekend. Highest weekend opening ever, what?!

I wanted to hate that movie so much. Not that I knew everyone else would like it and I needed to go against the grain, but because I love Jurassic Park so freaking much. Seriously, on my all time list, it’s #2. It’s the movie in which I literally compare every other movie ever made to. If they nailed it in ’93, why ever do movies suck now? Anyway, so here’s the shtick my wife is tired of hearing me talk about …

Jurassic Park is awesome because it’s about the wonder and the awesome (true definition) power of dinosaurs. We see that with Dr. Grant when he puts his ear on the sick triceratops just to listen to it breathe. The score by John Williams still brings me to tears every time. It’s complete and utter wish fulfillment of childhood fantasies but then it goes a step further … See, in the original movie, the dinosaurs are animals. That’s the whole point. They’re majestic and they’re awesome and they’re scary as hell, but they’re animals. So when they come in contact with man it’s all, Uh oh. We’re not equipped to deal with this. That’s what makes them scary. In the money grubbing sequels, these animals have been reduced to nothing more than monsters. That underlying respect for nature is gone and replaced with shock tactics and violence.

Now flash forward to present day and with a new one coming out, I was more than a little suspicious. But I have to say that I liked the movie. On the off chance that you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil anything but the film gets back to the debate of man’s dominion over nature versus man’s relationship with nature. Oh and Chris Pratt raptor pack motorcycle club.

Even though the film was pretty heavy handed at times – my head still hurts from the hammering – I do agree that there was an actual story there worth telling. While it’s not the original – nothing ever will be – I was still surprised and pleased at the results.

We had some friends come over that evening and I finally got to open up the Eldritch Horror game my wife got me for my birthday. Big mistake. We started around 10pm and by 1am we had to call it. After setting up, struggling with rules and completing half of the objectives, we were all too tired to continue. That said, the game is freaking awesome! It’s so complex and apparently takes around 3 hours when you know what you’re doing, so starting at 10pm was just plain silly.

Typically I can convince my wife to play these kind of games with me. Other people are usually involved so she gives into peer pressure. She feels badly that I don’t have a core group of nerdy friends anymore to play this stuff with. So like a trooper, she’ll suck it up and play once and a while. This time though, she told me I was on my own. I also always try and convince her that it’s really not that bad or honey, you’ll actually probably like it. Nuh-uh. There’s no way this game is for her. She’d have been miserable.

We’re giving it another go around Wednesday and we’ll start much earlier. I’m really excited to see if we can keep that ancient one from waking up.

I Come Offering Bananas

It’s been no secret that I’ve had a lot of factors vying for my attention recently. My wife’s too. I actually just texted her “hello” as I realized I hadn’t heard from her in hours – we lightly keep in tough throughout the day – and she responded that she’s “Having a baby shower, actually.” At work. Well, that beats my day …

Actually, I’m pretty pleased with how life is going today. That’s because I’m finally getting back into a groove with my latest novel. Nothing is more annoying than a writer talking about how s/he can’t write. This isn’t that, it’s more validation that the Jane Goodall method is a thing. I’ve mentioned it in a previous post and it’s fast becoming how I view writing.

It’s weird because throughout the day, I’m typically thinking about the part I just wrote, what the scene needs in the immediate future and where the scene will eventually end up, among other things book related that come to mind. It’s not uncommon for a snippet of dialogue or a line of description to just pop into my head involving something much, much later. I jot those down and incorporate them into my outline. Anyway, I bring this up, because lately, this thinking-prewriting method just isn’t cutting it. I’m squeezing the mental fruit, but I’m not getting any juice. It’s not writer’s block, it’s more like I don’t really know what’s happening and then I sit down and I’m a discovery writer all of a sudden. The good news is that the more I’m doing it, the more the scene is starting to form in my head again so I can return to form. It’s a strange wall of sorts for me because I’m really not much of a discovery writer. I can admit that now. High School Dan, though, he was ONLY a discovery writer. He not only laughed at outlines, he openly lashed out against them. Now? I can’t get anything done without an outline. And this novel in particular has the strongest outline I’ve ever made. I have story structure beats built right into it this time so hopefully that’ll cut a little bit off of the editing process.

I’ve also switched up the music I’ve been listening too. Well, the music has evolved is probably a better descriptor. I don’t necessarily write to a specific “soundtrack,” but since a lot of my writing is done at work or in a public place, I need to listen to music to cut out the surrounding noise. I can’t concentrate otherwise. Because of that, I also can’t listen to anything that has vocals. That’s just as distracting as someone talking into my ear. Sometimes more so.

My first two novels were written to a movie soundtrack station on Pandora – stopping of course every time anything from Jurassic Park came on – and by my third book I had discovered music on YouTube and listened to just about anything that had the word “Epic” in the title. I think I’ve cleaned most of those channels out by now and I was writing sort of a party scene at night for this fourth book and needed some ambient beats to get me in the mood. I started listening to some kind of ambient/trance stuff and it just stuck. Who knows? Maybe this has become the “soundtrack” to this one, but now when I start writing it’s not that I can’t work without these psychedelic jams, it’s that I’m bored of the previous material and for whatever reason this is doing it for me. Hey, whatever works right?

I’m starting to see the critters coming out of the trees again and boy have I missed them. I’m pretty psyched to see what they show me next.

T-Rex Wants to Hunt

My wife is away on an overnight field trip which leaves me with the run of the house. Well, me and the dog. So with the cat away, the pressure for this mouse to find the right things to “play” is almost overwhelming. It’s not that I can’t usually indulge in my nerdisms, but when it’s just me, there’s this added pressure that I must. Every minute must be accounted for to gain the maximum amount of fun. That I need to really drill down and get as much as I can out of the experience. There were plenty of things I could have done, but last night boiled down to simply two. Hearthstone and Jurassic Park.

I’m a pretty big fan of Hearthstone. It’s on the simpler side mechanics-wise as far as collectible card games go, but there’s just something about it. It’s got claws in me. Big, razor sharp ones with barbs that won’t come out without gutting me. Maybe it’s because it scratches BOTH my Magic the Gathering and World of Warcraft itches simultaneous. Maybe it’s just a fun card game. Who knows?

Anyway, I had knocked out the last of my dailies that morning and needed something to that evening. You know, getting back to the whole indulging myself thing here. So I did a couple of arena runs. Let me make something clear here before we begin. I love the arena and I also hate it. I am not good at arena play.  For those of you who don’t play Hearthstone, it’s essentially a draft so it doesn’t matter how many cards you’ve collected. The game provides them for you. The drafting part is fun. I always feel like I make good choices, but then implementing this ramshackle deck usually shows me how wrong I am. The most wins I’d ever had in the arena was 4. To put this in perspective, you can get a total of 12 before the game lavishes you in riches for “winning” the arena and kicks you out.

In the spirit of indulgence, I bought in and went for a run. I had high hopes in the beginning. Grabbed rogue which is my class of choice and thought I made a pretty solid deck. Boy was I wrong. Finished the run with only 2 wins and 3 losses.

Dismayed, but not defeated I went back in. Grabbed hunter this time and built what I think is a pretty ridiculous deck. So much so, that I shattered my old win total of 4 and by 6-0 I was undefeated. 7 wins is the magic number in that this is when the game rewards you with more gold than it cost to buy in originally and you actually come out ahead. If I could win just one more time, they’d make a movie about my experience.

Nope. Nadda. Nah-ah.

The next three games was a crushing series of defeats. After that first loss, something broke inside of me and all of a sudden my sub conscious realized that it could lose. That’s all did from then on. I swear, though, that my deck played a completely different way in the loser’s bracket than it did with the winners. For 6 games it was nothing but traps and kick ass durability-regenerating bow then I entered a complete drought of traps. A Desert if you will.

Still, it made for an eventful evening. Next up was Jurassic Park to take me right into bedtime.

Let me drive home a second point here. I really like Hearthstone, but I freaking LOVE Jurassic Park. It is one of my all time favorite movies – holding the number 2 slot on the list just in case you were wondering – but more than that, it completely holds up. That film came out in 1993 and totally nailed it. I honestly compare any move that has come out since to see if it has the same level of Jurassic Park quality. The CGI is a little dated, but it still looks great thanks to the animatronics and actual costumed stunt guys. The shortcomings of one style is more than made up with the strengths of another kind of special effect. They figured this shit out in 1993. What’s Transformers’ excuse?Featured image

Seriously, how great is that scene? The T-Rex … the rain … it’s freaking amazing! So what if the goat’s leg is weird or that I don’t understand the geography of the Rex’s paddock … I don’t care. That roar is one of the coolest things I have ever heard. Followed by a close second … “Ian! Freeze!”

I know I’m looking at things with some rose colored glasses too. I love the book, I love these characters, I love the plot, hell, I love everything I’m looking at when I watch that movie. There’s something magical in that film, that awe of nature, that was so perfectly captured. I even love the soundtrack. It gets me every time. That song. You know the one I’m talking about. I tear up every freaking time I hear that song. 20 Years later and I’m still getting chills.

Add a little scotch to savor with one of the best movies ever made on top of a personal best in Hearthstone and I gotta say that it was a pretty epic night. Eventful? Maybe not. But my inner nerd is quite indulged and happily satisfied.

Makes me wonder what I’ll be getting up to tonight?