Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Revising Shadow's Master

I'm a good way through revisions for my third book (yay). I'm hoping to have it all wrapped up in short order and send it along to the proper authorities.

As always, revisions are a bittersweet experience for me. You hope you're making the right changes, and not missing any vital problems. At the same time, you are altering the fabric of your universe with every keystroke.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Conan the Wasted Opportunity

I want to preface this by saying that I respect everyone in the creative movie-making industry. I know what it takes to create something out of nothing. And everyone’s a critic, right? But having said that . . .

The new Conan the Barbarian movie made me a very sad panda.

I’m a long-time Robert E. Howard fan. (Note: If you don’t know who R.E. Howard is, please RUN to your local library or bookstore and look him up.) In fact, the Conan series is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve read them in book form (they were originally a pulp serial) at least twenty times. So when I heard about the new movie, I was initially excited. Then I saw the first trailer, and my stomach dropped. It looked like something from 1983, but I held out hope that my eyes were deceiving me.

Well, I finally went to see the film this week. It wasn’t a complete train wreck. There were some redeeming elements.

The good:

Jason Momoa. Jason has the look, especially that dead-eyed stare he does, that makes me think he could be Conan. He’s leaner than Arnold was, but very agile and he has a panther-like way of moving that really evokes the idea of a Cimmerian.

The opening sequence: Conan as a boy. They found a miniature Jason Momoa, and he was great. Had the same look, the same stare, the same dangerous agility. Although I thought having boy-Conan kill five warriors single-handedly was a bit over the top, I liked the vibe. And Ron Perlman as Conan’s father was brilliant. If the entire movie had been this good, I would be raving.

The bad:

The story: I’ve heard this script had like a dozen writers. Well, it looked as if they all wrote their ideas on napkins, taped them to a wall, and let darts decide the storyline. For most of the movie the pacing was literally: action scene – 3-second transition shot – action scene – 3-second transitions scene – action scene. After the initial sequence, Conan grows up and falls into a predictable sword-and-sorcery plot. Just borrowing from Howard’s books, I could name a dozen better plots than the generic one they used. I hate it when Hollywood thinks it knows better than authors. If you’re going to use the name Conan, why in the hell wouldn’t you use the stories that the fans already love?

Set Design and Props: Everything looked fake, like it had been made the night before. There was no majesty to the landscape shots and piss-poor detailing on the close-ups. The weapons appeared to be made from paper mache. The armor was unconvincing. Here is where the producers should have taken a page from Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. Instead, they skimped, and it showed.

Jason Momoa. As good as he looked in the action scenes, everything else was wrong. I cringed every time he opened his mouth. He sounded more like a surfer from southern California than a barbarian warrior. It just jarred me out of the experience. I don’t really blame Jason for this, because all this was easily correctable if anyone competent had given him some direction.

Some people have defended this movie as being more like Howard’s books than the Schwarzenegger film. Perhaps in some ways, but the older movie had a sense of grandeur that this reboot just failed to capture. Take it from a sword-and-sorcery author: if you’re going to follow a predictable story, you need to polish it until it fucking glows. This movie didn’t do that. It relied on Conan fans to plunk down their money and shut off their sensibilities. And that is why it failed.

What a waste.

(P.S. – Dear Hollywood, you need a bullshit-detector to keep you from fucking up movies like this. Give me a call.)

(P.P.S. -- Dear Jason Momoa, keep your head up, kid. You've got more swagger than 90% of today's action stars. Team up with a good director and you'll shine.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

DragonCon 2011

After three days of awesomeness in Atlanta, I must declare that DragonCon is the best scifi/fantasy/costume party on the planet.

The Pyr Books booth was bigger than last year, and many of the authors spent significant time there. And rather than feeling lost in the shuffle, it felt like coming home to my second family. We had fun selling each other’s books, kidding each other, and getting sloshed together.

There are a lot of people I need to thank for the great time I had.

First off, thanks to Lou Anders, editor and art director at Pyr Books, who convinced me to come again this year. Over the past couple years, Lou has become a good friend. Hanging out with him is a special experience.

Big thanks to the Pyr staff—Jill, Rene, Lynn, and Gabrielle—for kicking ass and taking names (Money-takers!). When you work with your publishing staff in a professional setting, you expect them to be knowledgeable and helpful, but you don’t expect to get choked up saying goodbye. A year is too long to wait to see you good people again.

My fellow authors who helped to man the Pyr booth, including Sam Sykes, Andrew Mayer, Erin Hoffman, Ari Marmell, Susan and Clay Griffith, and James Enge. This is a special bunch of people. I encourage you to buy everything they write.

Joshua Bilmes at the JABberwocky Literary Agency for helping me get a professional invite to the convention. It made me feel like a minor celebrity.

The fans. For me, there are things more thrilling than to meet someone who has read (and hopefully, enjoyed) my books. You guys are the best.

Some very cool things happened to me this convention. First, we sold out of copies of my Shadow’s Son, and also Sam’s Tome of the Undergates and Andrew’s The Falling Machine.

Second, I had drinks with Brent Weeks, the best-selling author and widely-acknowledged king of fantasy assassin fiction. And when he told me that he’d read my book (and liked it!), I was floored. Then he came to the booth the next day with his lovely wife and bought a copy of Shadow’s Lure. As you might imagine, my hand was shaking a little as I signed it for him. Let it be shouted wide and far that Mr. Weeks is a Class Act of the first order.

Then I got an invite to the exclusive reading of Susan and Clay’s The Greyfriar by none other than James Marsters, who played Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not only did James give a terrific reading, he signed a copy of the sequel book, The Rift Walker, for my wife. And I almost got him to call Jenny on a cell phone, which would have blown her frigging mind, but he had to run to a dinner engagement after the signing. Oh well. It was still pretty cool to shake his hand and chat for a moment.

If that wasn’t enough, I met Laurell K. Hamilton, author of the Anita Blake series, and her husband. Got to hang out at their booth a little and swap stories. Both are very nice people, and I know Jenny will treasure the book they signed for her.

The last night of the con was a little surreal. As some of the staff and authors at Pyr got dinner, and then sat in the bar drinking, there was a feeling among us that we didn’t want this experience to end. Like it had all gone by too fast. Finally, too tired to stay awake, we stumbled back to our hotel rooms, and I prepared myself to re-enter the real world.

If you ever get the chance, go see DragonCon at least once. If you’re like me, you’ll be hooked by the costumes and celebrities, by the dealers’ rooms filled to capacity with all sorts of scifi/fantasy paraphernalia, and by the great people you’ll meet. My only regret was not being able to take my wife along. Maybe next year.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

DragonCon Schedule

Hey Sports Fans,

Here's a glimpse of my official events for DragonCon this coming weekend. Beyond these, I will often be found at the Pyr Books booth making a nuissance of myself.

Friday 10 pm -- Panel: Fightin' and Writin' (Manilla/Honk Kong/Singapore room)

Saturday 12 noon -- Book signing (709/711 Marquis Ballroom, Marriott)

Sunday 12 noon -- Book signing (709/711 Marquis Ballroom, Marriott)
Sunday 2:30 pm -- Panel: Pyr Books (Greenbriar, Hyatt)