Thursday, April 19, 2018

Maybe Tighten it Up Just a Tad?

A quick observation, this. Wendy and I stopped in our favorite local Chinese restaurant today. 'Course, we always have to read our fortunes. Mine, today, could've used some trimming.

"For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them."

Perhaps this would be better: "We learn by doing."

Anyway, it's a lesson for all of us. Tighten our writing, folks. Unless you're a fortune cookie writer who gets paid by the word.

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Little of This, a Little of That....

Yeah, I said I was going to split my blog in half -- one blog for writin' and readin' stuff, one for movies, TV, and maybe some tech stuff -- but it hasn't happened yet. It will, I've just been waiting for warmer weather. Not that that has anything to do with it, but I figured I'd just toss that out there.

So, I'm looking out my basement window into our backyard, and I see... sunshine. Is that gonna last? I mean, yesterday we had snow. On April 16th! Last week, on my birthday, we had snow! It's never snowed on my birthday, that I remember.

Okay, enough rambling. This post gets into a bit of writin' stuff. Namely, Fleming. Ian Fleming writin' stuff. I like some James Bond books when my attention span's short, and I want some good guys and bad guys in my reading material. Bond delivers mostly, and Diamonds are Forever has done an okay job so far. But only okay.

As usual, Mr. Fleming has some good turns of phrase, such as. Hold on, while I find it... ah, here it is. He's describing an overseas flight, and as the sun rises, Fleming says "...the sun came up over the rim of the world and bathed the cabin in blood." I like that, especially for a spy novel. That line stuck with me.

Ian has good command of the English language, has tight, punchy sentences during action sequences. But, Ian, you didn't have James doing much other than drinking (lots of drinking), gambling, and observing, until after two-thirds of the book was done. Finally, we've had some dangerous situations, some gunplay, James gets the crap beaten out of him, and now he and Tiffany Case are escaping (I think).

What's the takeaway? For me, it's a lesson in experimenting with the language, using short, potent sentences with great verbs, few adverbs. And to get some action going earlier.

Soon, I'll have the blog split in two.

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A Technological Horror Fable

Talking with my friend today, when we could keep the synapses operating, I was reminded of a post I was going to write about frustrations with technology. These days, our brains, as with our tech we grew up with, are a tad rusty and crusty.

Anyway, we were talking about getting rid of some of our old videotapes. He, I think, has done a better job than I (or is it 'me'?) with the culling of videotapes. I have many that I have lofty ideas about transferring to DVDs.

So, last summer, I purchased a Roxio Easy VHS to DVD (there's a '3' superscript on DVD which I can't make on this here blog, speaking of tech issues) thingy that allows me to transfer my old, dear tapes to discs. It all assumes, of course, that I have a working VCR, of which we have one remaining in the house.

I just recently got around to trying to install the software for the new beastie. I say trying because it wouldn't accept the product key on the box. So, after a trip to Staples, where I bought the thing, we found out that Roxio has been purchased by Corel. Finally, after a few emails back and forth to Corel, and photos of the receipt, the product key, and something else I can't recall (there go the brain cells I referred to earlier -- oh, just now remembered -- a screen shot of the error message), they sent an updated Corel product key, which worked. I must admit, though, that they were one of my better customer service centers I've worked with.

Ah, yes, aging technology. Not just aging, but obsolescing technology. It's becoming obsolete as we use it. I'm reminded of the Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov. Isaac talks about how we'll reach a stage in our technological advancement(?) where no one will be able to work on the stuff.

Welcome to the future, cowpokes.

Keep writing, friends.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

I Don't Need No... Procrastination

So, here I finally sit at the keyboard, just to get my fingers moving before moving on to one of my tasks for today--completing editing on a Lovecraftian story I finished many moons ago. Not sure if I even like the story or not, but it needs to be reckoned with. Part of my new writing mission, which is to:

  • Finish some of the damn writing projects I started ages ago
And also to attempt procrastinating less. In keeping with that, this here writing blog may morph a bit toward being less long-winded. Shorter posts.

I'll leave you with this little tidbit, first, before signing off. While I was busy feeding the birds, paying a bill, and generally... procrastinating, I had a word flash through my head. Chupacabra. That ever happen to you folks? I'll every so often have a random word pop in.

Anyway, on to the editing.

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I Know I Wrote it Down Somewhere

Yeah, howdy, fellow writers. Don't know if any of you have this problem or not, but over the years of writing on everything from restaurant napkins to motel stationery to various electronic devices to scattered notebooks, I've had a plethora (sorry, couldn't help pulling that word out of the hat) of story and article ideas. Many of them I've recorded. And many I haven't.

Now, however, since I've completed my first novel (wait and see mode with an agent, currently), I'm a tad bit scattered. I put a quick wrap on an odd little Lovecraftian short story recently, and before I proceed further with other writing projects, I feel a need (a compulsion, perhaps? Or, perhaps, it's procrastination) to... organize.

As my dear wife knows (without her, I wouldn't have completed my novel. She took the pieces/parts and put them in order), I don't write sequentially. Chaos theory best describes my writing method. At any rate, I'm now trying to get a handle on some of the piles of crap, both electronic and otherwise.

I've started on the 'puter, creating a Writing folder, then moving anything to do with writing in there, leaving out photos of cats, medical receipts, and other whatnots. From there, I'm attempting to separate out the Completed works from the In Progress works, and place them in their appropriate folders.

So, that's what I'm headin' off to do right now. Wish me luck.

Keep writing, friends. And don't do as I do. Try to organize your stuff as you write. Not X number of years later.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Not Just Another Courtroom Drama

In this, our fourth or fifth movie in our Classic Film class through the OLLI program, we watched perhaps the best one so far. We've watched comedies (The Twelve Chairs, The Horse's Mouth), a psychological drama (Lisa and David), and now this magnificent film, The Winslow Boy (1948). I've not seen the 1999 remake, but, well, I don't need to now.

Normally, if you told me to watch a courtroom drama, I'd head the other way. Too many flashbacks to old Perry Mason reruns. This one was different on several counts.

First off, great acting. Of course, you have actors like Robert Donat, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, and Margaret Leighton, so it's hard to go wrong with those actors.

Based on true events, the movie tells the story of Ronald "Ronnie" Winslow, a 12-year-old student at the Royal Naval College. He's been accused of stealing a classmate's five-shilling postal order, and is expelled and sent home. The rest of the movie relates the family's struggle to clear his name, and most of the scenes take place in the family's home. Only about the last third takes place in the courtroom.

There are some incredible scenes of tension and drama as the proceedings take place over a two-year-period and take their toll on Ronnie and his family.

The principles involved concern one central theme: that "No subject of the king can be condemned without a trial." And that's what happened to Ronald. Those in command at the College found him guilty with no trial. Period. End of discussion. And that didn't sit well with Ronald's father and older sister, who became his champions all the way throughout.

Sir Cedric Hardwicke played Arthur Winslow, Ronald's father. Arthur hired a lawyer, known to be the best, but also a touch arrogant. Some of the best scenes involve Catherine Winslow, Ronald's sister, and Sir Robert Morton (Robert Donat), the lawyer. They're opposite personalities and introduce some of the film's lighter moments, to break the electric tension.

One of my favorite scenes occurs when Sir Robert first comes by to interview Ronald. He tells Ronald to walk over and stand in front of him. They're now in a separate part of the room, still seen by the rest of the family, but as though they're in a completely different environment. Morton proceeds to question Ronald, gently at first, then increasingly accusational, until he and Ronald are practically shouting at one another. When it's over, Morton gathers his coat to leave. The family is certain he won't take the case. Morton informs them "Of course, I'll take the case. The boy is innocent." He was preparing Ronald for what he would face in the real courtroom.

This is one of those movies where I had difficulty making notes, as I didn't want to turn my attention away from the screen. I was drawn into the movie and the world created.

Whatever your feelings are about courtroom dramas, I urge you to watch this one. Scenes of intense tension, drama, a few truly lighter moments, interspersed within to keep things from getting too heavy.

Also watch the performance of Violet, the Winslows' maid (played brilliantly by Kathleen Harrison). She's know for her cockney characters, and she plays this role with wit and charm.

One of the lines in the film I love, spoken by Sir Robert Morton, and I'm going to horribly butcher and paraphrase here, deals with the difference between what is just and doing what is right. Basically, Sir Robert says that it's more important to do what is right.

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

You Find a Sword... You Pick it Up

And that's an example of second-person point-of-view (or POV, if you want to sound all writerly and stuff), or perspective. It's a troublesome and bothersome way of writing. Always reminds me of those early text adventure games, pre-decent computer graphics. You open the door. There's a troll. You kill the troll.

Not many folks use second-person, mainly because, well, it just doesn't let the reader enter the story.

But I'm reading an entertaining book, Hollywood Rat Race, an insider's view of the Hollywood movie industry. It's written by Ed Wood, Jr.

Yes, that Ed Wood. Mr. Ed "Plan 9" Wood. Most books written in second-person, I'll drop in a second. But there's just something, I don't know, endearing, about Ed's book. He writes as though he's addressing an audience full of wannabe actors, and he does a great job of telling what the Hollywood system was like. The ups and downs, no sugar-coating.

Here's one quick example: "Your acting teachers can teach you the fundamentals of acting but you must find the true emotion by doing."

It may not work for everyone, but it works for me. Maybe only Ed Wood can get away with it.

Keep writing, friends.