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the_gneech July 12 2014, 16:00

My tweets

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burger_eater July 12 2014, 14:41

Randomness for 7/12

1) The best one-star review ever.

2) Ingmar Bergman’s THE FLASH. Video. #lol

3) 25 Pictures Of Lesbian Sex According To Stock Photography #15, wtf?

4) A film from 1943 or 1944 with a British major demonstrating knife-fighting techniques. Dubbed into Greek but subtitled in English. Video.

5) Books with almost identical covers.

6) Baking projects that didn’t turn out like their photos.

7) Top ten pictures of pie eaters.

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.

burger_eater July 12 2014, 04:53

Shannara makes the jump to (M)TV

I’m not first with the news, but MTV has finally, after holding the rights for… well, a long time, given the greenlight to a ten episode season of the Sword of Shannara TV series.

It’s an interesting counterpoint to GOT, which is the project that everyone is going to compare it to, and why not? Martin’s success on the small screen made a path for Brooks’s work to follow, just as Tolkien did for the novels.

John Favreau was originally announced as the director of the pilot, but he’s apparently stepped back into an Executive Producer role. Now it’s going to be the guy who did the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I guess? The writer/producers (who are much more important in TV than the directors) are Miles Millar and Al Gough, the guys behind SMALLVILLE.

Also, the show’s not going to be based on THE SWORD OF SHANNARA (because Peter Jackson already made that movie, maybe?) but on second book THE ELFSTONES OF SHANNARA. Obviously, there’s an epic quest and an important magic item, but unlike LOTR, they aren’t trying to destroy something toxic. They’re trying to retrieve something good.

Which is part of the reason so many LOTR imitators felt so thin, but nevermind. Who are they going to cast as not-Aragorn? What about not-Gandalf? And I’m sure they’re not going to stick with not-Gandalf’s name, Allanon.

By the way, Mr. Brooks is local to me (Deadline calls him “the second-biggest-selling living fantasy book writer, after Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling”) and I’ve heard him interviewed on the local PBS station. He explained that it’s not pronounced “Shah-NAR-ah”. It’s actually “SHAN-uh-ruh”. That’s straight from the man’s mouth.

Still, it’s the book that launched Del Rey, my former publisher, and it was the first fantasy novel to hit the NYTimes trade bestseller list.

I’m not going to be watching it, though. I read the first book in junior high, when the buzz around it was huge. My friends loved it, but I didn’t–I don’t even remember why–I didn’t read the rest. ELFSTONES… might be original and compelling light fantasy, but I’ll never know.

Then again, I don’t watch GAME OF THRONES, either, because I don’t have cable and don’t torrent things. What’s more, I can’t exactly bring home the DVDs when my kid is always underfoot. Maybe I’ll borrow them from the library when he’s old enough to watch creepy incest with his fath–when he moves out.

One thing I’m curious about: how explicit will they be with the post-apocalyptic setting? Will there be a crumbled Seattle Space Needle? Old transformer stations? “Wands of Sniping” (I just made that up) and who knows what else? In my opinion, the more like THUNDARR, the better.

But seriously, I hope it’s super-successful (I have an epic fantasy of my own coming soonish).

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.

al_zorra July 11 2014, 20:41

Authors' Incomes Dropped an Average of 29%

 Author income's dropped since 2005:

According to a survey of almost 2,500 working writers – the first comprehensive study of author earnings in the UK since 2005 – the median income of the professional author in 2013 was just £11,000, a drop of 29% since 2005 when the figure was £12,330 (£15,450 if adjusted for inflation), and well below the £16,850 figure the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says is needed to achieve a minimum standard of living. The typical median income of all writers was even less: £4,000 in 2013, compared to £5,012 in real terms in 2005, and £8,810 in 2000. ....


Commissioned by the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society and carried out by Queen Mary, University of London, the survey also found that in 2013, just 11.5% of professional authors – those who dedicate the majority of their time to writing – earned their incomes solely from writing. This compares with 2005, when 40% of professional authors said that they did so.

This study concentrates on fiction writers, which isn't all writers by any means -- but fiction writers tend to forget that publishing isn't all about them.

But it does seem to be the future for most professional writers, at least those who aren't working in the political arena, ghostwriting Hilary Clinton's books, or doing speeches, and so on. They all do better every year and every political cycle.  (We have one of these as a personal friend, so he tells us what's what with this.)

From what I've been hearing, for many television and film writers, their incomes have been dropping too, but that one's more difficult to gauge.  But corporations being corporations, and forever at war on labor, it would follow in these days that movie and television writers are paid less.
al_zorra July 11 2014, 17:56

El Paso 1 - Thursday

 The flight from Dallas-Ft. Worth to El Paso is over  some of the most desolate arid landscape on the planet.  You see dried to the bone river bed after river bed. twisting and twining like bizarre, ancient reptiles.  It is said, or it used to be said, "The West begins at Fort Worth."  Maybe what was meant that this is where the water ended.




However the last 35 minutes of the flight, when you begin to hit the mountain landscape of the Chihuahuan Desert, is a spectacular sight.  Bluffs, cliffs, passes, an occasional peak thrusting far above the surrounding bedrock, sand and river beds, which here though dry now, still have greenery running along them, This is particularly so along the Rio Grande, which still has some water down here. 


There used to be grass on the flats and mesas in season between the mountains, canyons and cliffs. Now the flatlands are bare,




covered with creosote bushes a/k/a greasewood in English, and chaparral and gobernadora in Mexican Spanish, 



or  mesquite.


These days the Otero Mesa Grassland of the Chihuahuan Desert, straddling both Texas and New Mexico's border (which is why El Paso, TX and Las Cruces, NM, are considering themselves part of "the larger El Paso-Las Cruces metropolitan region), remains as the largest grassland left on American public land (though the cattlemen have done a damned good job of about finishing it off -- their cattle eating your grass for a nominal fee, which they don't bother much paying).


Easy walking distance from the hotel (wearing sunscreen and a broad-brimmed hat) is Mexico, over the bridge and through the pass to Ciuadad Juárez, which gives El Paso its name: the pass through the Franklin Mountains into el norte, through which, when it was all still part of the Spanish Imperium, and Mexico, traders, military and migrants traveled what was named the camino real -- the royal road to New Mexico, Colorado and California.  Los Indios were using it long before the Spanish arrived.


Historic view of the bar-lobby from ye grand olden days.


Our hotel, on the registry of historic hotels, is thus named el Camino Real, and has been around in one form or another since the Mexican-American war and the Mexican Revolution.  It's gorgeous in that nineteenth century way of opulence (like the Hotel Nacional in Havana, where the bullet holes in the walls are preserved from the days of the Cuban war of Independence -- mine and many others' favorite Havana hotel). The pool is beautiful, the breakfast is anything you want, literally from fruit to nuts to oatmeal to yogurt, to toast-eggs-bacon, to refried beans-sausage-red or green chili salsa, etc.


Our company of traveling players is made-up of superb professionals, all of whom are more than socially competent and have good personalities. Everyone already knows each other well already from previous Las Vidas Perfectas gigs.  We even have the requisite child who is experiencing all this for the first time with a child's sense of wonder and excitement, the five-year-old son of one of the producers and his performer-costumer wife.  He has his nanny too, so when E has to work she's free to do so.  The Son flew for the first time yesterday, got his photo taken with the plane's captain, got to go swimming and play monsters with one of his favorite playmates (el V).  Glory be though, he slept through almost all of both flights, waking up for bathroom visits and orange juice only.  In other words the Son is a really good kid, and, as per usual for me these days, seems far more mature in his use of language and in social interaction than kids used to be.  That includes me when five, that's for sure.


The producers are immensely pleased with the performance spaces, the tech crew, the sponsors and the way both cities are supporting the performances of Las Vidas Perfectas. They are proud to have this program in their cities, and show it in every way they can.  The producers -- who arrived some days earlier to organize matters for set-up and rehearsals in El Paso and Juarez -- told us last night that the professional theater tech crew are more professional and do things better than in NYC -- and they care more. This all bodes well.


Last night when we gave up walking around due to exhaustion and altitude, it was still 90º.  The moon was hanging over the southern tip of the Rockies, the Franklin Mountains, which cut El Paso in two (el paso del norte), and surround El Paso and Ciudad Juárez on three sides.  Huge, white and nearly at the full, July 12th's full moon is the third of 2014's five super moons.



Today, people are, working on their parts for Las Vidas Perfectas, getting haircuts, depositing their per diem checks into their accounts, resting, perhaps exploring a bit.* Tomorrow it's rehearsal, spot, sound check and so on at the historic Tricky Falls theater

I'm working on The American Slave Coast, re-reading again and making editorial comments, even though it's with TW.  Besides Las Vidas, el V's also working on Afropop Worldwide HipDeep proposals.  Hopefully, by tomorrow morning, we'll be acclimated enough to get up early while the sun's in the right part of the sky to do some photography.


*  el V got himself a dashing pair of spectators, black and white, at one of the Mexican tiendas along what used to be the main street, and now is a zócolo. And some pairs of superfine sox!

the_gneech July 11 2014, 16:00

My tweets

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marthawells July 10 2014, 16:13

Con News and Mystery Guide

ArmadilloCon is coming up on the 25-27 in Austin (Guests: Ian McDonald, Ted Chiang, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, Mario Acevedo), and it's going to be my last convention for this year. Mainly because I just can't afford the money for travel and hotels any more this year, and also because I just need the rest. It's been a hard year already, basically.

I'm going to start doing an erratic and occasional guide to TV mysteries I watch, because I've wanted to do this for a while. Most of these are available (or were available) on Netflix or www.acorn.tv

Martha's Guide to TV Mysteries Part I

Defining my terms:

snuff porn - showing murders in such loving detail you want to report the producers to the police.

women in jep - spending what feels like hours, or maybe days, watching women being stalked by the killer or held prisoner instead of watching people solve mysteries. For example, The Fall with Gillian Anderson is highly rated but the first ten minutes were such an egregious example of woman in jep I turned it off.

I try to avoid things with animal harm. To the point where if a potential murder victim has a pet animal I'll preemptively turn off the show. Some things may slip by me if it's quick and not drawn out (see snuff porn).

Miss. Fisher's Mysteries - This is set in the 20s, in Australia, a woman whose family inherited money and a title after WWI returns to Australia and ends up becoming a private detective. It's a good series, and very well acted, but it's from a long-running book series by Kerry Greenwood, and the tv version is whitewashed. In the book series, the main love interest is Lin Chung, who Phryne meets in Ruddy Gore and is her lover for the rest of the series, though he isn't in every book. (Their relationship isn't exclusive. Lin has to marry to please his family and Phryne has other lovers.) In the books, Jack Robinson is an older married man, and he and Phryne are only friends. So I watch it, but this pisses me off, and the books are better.

Copper - This one is centered around an Irish police officer and friends in 1860s New York, and it doesn't sugarcoat the violence and brutality and racism of the time period. In the first episode, Ato Essandoh, who plays a doctor, John Freeman, one of the main characters, is moving out of town because members of his wife's family were lynched in front of their house in a race riot. Characterization develops slowly but dramatically, terrible things happen to main characters, main characters do terrible things to other main characters (including murdering each other), people you think are good are gradually revealed to be something else entirely (usually murderers), trauma doesn't magically go away at the end of the episode. It's good, but we're talking a more realistic Game of Thrones level violence here, people. After a murder spree in the first episode of the second season, I had to stop watching because my nerves couldn't take it.

Wire in the Blood - is from about 2002-2008 and set during that time, in the UK, where Dr. Tony Hill is a criminal psychologist who helps DI Carol Jordan (for the first 3 seasons, then it's DI Alex Fielding) catch a wide variety of bizarre serial killers. It's pretty grim throughout, but with only a few exceptions it focuses on the detectives trying to find the killers, and doesn't spend much time in snuff porn or women in jeopardy storylines. (I think there's one real women in jep episode in a later season, but that's all I remember.) Also, the actress who plays Carol Jordan is awesome. It isn't a perfect series but I liked this one a lot, and it specializes in genuinely scary scenarios and character drama that works with the mystery plot. I would watch it again if Netflix ever puts it up again.

Waking the Dead - this is a modern-day one about a special forensics cold case team. Who yell at each other a lot, especially in the first season, and make some seriously odd decisions. It was okay and does get better later, but I didn't find the stories that gripping, though the acting was very good.

Miss Marple - there's old Miss Marple and new Miss Marple, with three different actresses playing Miss Marple, and it's all good. My favorite is probably the first three seasons of new Miss Marple (or Agatha Christie's Marple as it's called), played by Geraldine McEwan. McEwan plays a Miss Marple who is funny and fluffy and utterly without mercy. There's a line in one of the books where Miss Marple says something like "I'm going to enjoy knowing that he's going to hang," and McEwan is playing that Miss Marple.

Poirot - Poirot is awesome, new and old, played by David Suchet. I especially love the moments where we see that for all his affectations, Poirot is an implacable force.

Luther - One of my favorites. John Luther is played by Idris Elba, which is probably all I need to say. It's set in modern day London, violent and grim, especially the first season, but it has one of the most terrifying/awesome female serial killers as a recurring character. It doesn't use her very effectively in the second season, but she comes back for an episode in the third that is probably my all time favorite. Luther himself is also less tortured in the third season, where he's recovered from what happened in the first, and is using his abilities a lot more effectively, I thought.
the_gneech July 10 2014, 16:00

My tweets

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csecooney July 10 2014, 15:28

First Show

First of all, Amal and Caitlyn... At my HOUSE. In my PURPLE PARLOR.

Life all of a sudden turned into ONE HUGE DRESS UP PARTY. I love to see people wearing my hats. In fact, I sometimes have to gift hats right away to those among us who just LOOK BETTER in them!

Second of all, you know what I am NO GOOD AT DOING? Walking into a place like, say, a coffee shop (Perks and Corks) or a bar (The Malted Barley) and asking if I can leave posters or postcards for upcoming events.

I know I have to do these things. I gird myself to do them, as for war. But they sit languishing (mistyped, just now "stuffed languages") on the kitchen table. Become limp and wrinkled. Doleful. And I with them.

BUT THEN COME THE APOCALYPSE GALS and in they stroll to these establishments, BREEZY AS YOU PLEASE, and they make it all look so EASY. This whole "talking to strangers" thing. Not for me.

Give me an audience to perform for any day of the week, but oh, those HUMAN INTERACTIONS on territory OTHER THAN MINE OWN!!! Is veddy difficult.

I was so grateful they were there to HELP me. (And by help, I guess I mean, "Do it for me while I watched admiringly.")

And speaking of being grateful... You know what else they thought of that would not have EVEN OCCURRED TO ME?

Before the show, they turned to me and said, "Why don't you do the thanks at the end of the show. Since you know everyone's names."

I blinked at them. "The what?"

"The thanks? You know, when you thank the people who are putting us up for the night and are letting us use their house for a house concert?"


Yeah. I just... Um. Didn't even think about that. And worse, I WOULDN'T HAVE.

So I made up for my atrocious solipsism by thanking everyone A LOT and not only at the allotted time. But now I know better. Maybe. I hope.

The show last night went really well. Last night, I was mostly relieved that it did.

This morning, instead of relief, all I can feel is INEXPLICABLY LUCKY. How did I ever get here? How did it come to be that we get to do this? Together? This singing and this reciting and these sequins and those instruments, and how it all comes together, and how it gets better?

It's like that Greg Brown song:

"If I had known
I'd do it all over again
Some things just get better and better
And better than they already been, mmn, mmn, mmn..."

Next show tomorrow at 4.

Remind me to write a whole post just about my brother, and singing with him.

Photo on 2014-07-09 at 19.24 #4

the_gneech July 9 2014, 16:00

My tweets

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marthawells July 9 2014, 13:15

News and Links

There will definitely be an audiobook version of Stories of the Raksura Vol I by Audible.com, though we haven't heard yet if they'll cast Christopher Kipiniak, who did the other books in the series. The publisher asked for him and I'm really hoping they cast him.

A review of Strange Chemistry Books, including the Emilie books: Claire Rousseau

I'm in this Mind Meld: On re-reading older books

Catherine Lundoff on LGBT Science Fiction and Fantasy in the 1990s

Kickstarter: An Alphabet of Embers
An anthology of unclassifiables – lyrical, surreal, magical, experimental pieces that straddle the border between poetry and prose
suricattus July 9 2014, 11:40

Are you in the Doghouse yet?

Author copies! (Plus a curious Kitten)

doghouse copies

When Ginny Mallard and her sometimes-partner Teddy Tonica are asked to look into the situation of an old man about to be evicted, the part-time investigators think it’s just a matter of sorting out misunderstandings.  But this is no simple landlord-tenant spat, bringing them headfirst – and nose-deep in trouble – into the world of back-room fights and animal rights…

And this time, Ginny’s shar-pei, Georgie, and the bar cat Penny are the only ones who can get the truth out of their sole witness: a puppy named Parsifal!

DOGHOUSE will be in stores July 22nd.  But I am running out of shelf space, so I need to find good homes for some of these. Want one? Two randomly-chosen commenters will win!

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