Thursday, March 29, 2007

For the World is Flat and you'll fall off the edge

There are times in your life when something that never made any sense all of a sudden takes on the sharpest of meaning. An epiphany - a comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization ( I've had a few of these over the years -- some have been more poignant than others. (like the one I had on writing itself!) My most recent moment of startling realization came about several weeks ago while I was traveling to Virginia Beach, VA to attend Epicon.

While the plane was coming in for a landing at the airport, I saw something out the window which really got me thinking. What I saw, as we came toward the coast, was the horizon. And the more I looked at it, the more it gave the impression that it came to an end and just dropped off to nowhere, like seeing a waterfall from upriver.

(hm, I seem to be on a vision kick these last two posts...could it be a trend? Naw.) :P

Seeing such a view, I suddenly understood where all the old tales of a Flat World and the edges you would fall off from might have come from. Eyes and light can play all sorts of tricks on the beholder, giving the viewer visions of things they are left alone to interpret. So I could very well see how such a view off of a coast as I had seen in the East (and then remembered seeing something similar in the West) could have given seafarers the wrong impression of how things actually were.

To us modern folk visions like these mean nothing. We know better. But what of those who didn't know anything else, who only had their eyes with which to attempt to reason what they saw? Can you imagine the courage it would have taken for someone believing strictly in their senses to have sailed toward this seeming precipice to see just how far they could go before the end? It boggles the mind.

Going to California last year, I ran across two other illusions. The first was on the way to San Diego on the plane. Out the window, where the mountains were covered with clouds, they seemed to fade/be eaten out of existence. As if the land itself were being sucked into some unfathomable void. The second was from the ground, staring out toward the ocean. The clouds rose from the water up high to the sky, a giant wall stretching upwards and left to right all the way around. It made the world look as if it were contained in a giant bowl.

Without science, without the basic education and beliefs we're given as children, what would such sights inspire within us? Amazement, wonder, fear? Of such things tales would be made. Traditions and knowledge imparted to help those who see it cope with the unknown. Setting of boundaries to give a tenuous sense of control or understanding of the world around us. (Yeah, I think about weird stuff. What can I say?) :P

Have any visual illusions you want to share? Epiphanies of your own?

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

M.D. Benoit's Virtual Tour

From 28 March to 11 April, M. D. Benoit will be going on a virtual book tour to promote her upcoming alternate reality novel, Synergy. During that period, ten people will host her on their blog for one day. There will be discussions on the book, Synergy, its themes, characters, interviews with the author, reviews of the book, etc.

Every day, on her own blog, Life’s Weirder than Fiction, she will announce where she will be that day, as well as talk a bit about her host.

Synergy’s Virtual Book Tour will culminate with a Virtual Book Launch, on 15-16 April. M. D. can be contacted at mdbenoit (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Eye glasses - How we take the simple things for granted

I was very lucky in that for over 40 years I had no need of glasses. If anything, my vision was better than normal. I even had these really cute gold flecks in the wood brown of my eyes that gave them a neat bit of character. My vision though got a little fuzzy after 40. I totally noticed it when watching the screen at the movies, so I had it checked. That first time the doc said my vision had downgraded from beyond good to mere 20/20 - which is till awesome vision. No glasses needed just a little of the effects of aging. Cool!

A year later, I went back as I was having fuzziness again. To be honest, I expected the verdict. I had seen it happen to my mother, so figured I would follow in the family pattern - it was still a shock anyway - the vision had deteriorated again and I would need glasses. Eek! (Yeah, I know those of you who have worn glasses most of your life are just so totally laughing at me. But hey, this was a new experience for me!) :P

I found a frame, they made my lenses to spec, and I joined millions of others in having my vision assisted by glasses so I could read clearly. (Weirdly enough those gold specs I was secretly always very pleased about, disappeared. Guess that part of the eye muscle went defunct. I miss them!)

It took a while to get used to cleaning them, wearing them, putting them away, but I definitely liked my vision being clear again. And, not to brag, I thought I looked pretty spiffy in the darn things too! :P

Went back for a check up last year and wham, another surprise - they were switching me to bifocals! Talk about depressing! (Visions of ancient librarians looking over their glasses at you in disapproval went spinning through my head.) It seemed like my vision was just taking dive after dive. But I took all this a lot more calmly than the last time. At least I had vision to correct!

I was offered bifocals with or without lines. The gentleman at the lens place told me it was harder to go to unlined if you got used to lined, so I took the plunge and just went straight to unlined. Heck what did I know about what a difference it might or might not make. (Yes, I am totally clueless most of the time about most things.) Don't know if I had a hard time because it was or was not lined since I had nothing to base the experience on, but boy, for a couple of weeks I had to be careful with sidewalks and curves! I needed a warning sticker - objects are not as close as they appear! lol. But in good order I did get used to them and life proceeded as usual.

Haven't gone for my check up this year yet (2007 has been an explosively busy year so far for some reason), yet did have a little episode that has me not only writing this but being eternally grateful to whoever invented the concept of glasses in the first place. (Seems no clear credit can be given for the invention of glasses, though they seem pretty sure it was either the Chinese in the 12th century or the Italians in the 1280's. Though supposedly Emperor Nero used an emerald to assist his view during some games, so who knows.)

Anyway, Saturday night I was just signing off EQ2 (online game) and was getting up out of my chair when I heard something hit the floor. I looked for whatever it was and thought it was of a rather odd shape. When I picked it up, I realized it was actually a lens out of my glasses! A screw had come loose and flown from the frame and released the lens so it could fly and be free. I left hubby a note for when he came in (in case he made a stop by his PC), put the glasses back in their case and went to bed.

In the morning I tried to do some emails before we were supposed to leave to go to my Mom's for lunch. The lettering was blurry but legible. I didn't even attempt a book though, the small type would be beyond me and I knew it. My Mom wanted help with a puzzle, and I got a nice little headache from trying to concentrate enough to see the details on the pieces. Playing online again that evening, the words in the text boxes were blurred and I misread things a couple of times.

Went in to work late on Monday, and was pacing outside the lens store eagerly awaiting for them to open. The lady there spotted and opened up a few minutes early and had me fixed up in seconds and didn't charge me. I was just glad I could SEE!

As a writer, I am filled with imagination. This is not always a good thing. For you see, just as I had semi-panicked when I was told I needed glasses, the same types of scenarios ran through my mind when the glasses were broken and I had to do without -- the fear of having to go through life without being able to READ! Reading is a huge part of my life, whether it be for editing, enjoyment, creating, work, or other recreation - I do it almost constantly in some form or other. And thinking of not being able to do it, sent chill after chill through my body. And heck, what if I turned blind? Ah the paths my imagination can lead me to aren't always pretty. Brrrrrrr. I've imagined life for people who read back in the middle ages, when there were no glasses. Felt the misery as their sight began to fail, and that one enjoyment is stripped from them and there being not one thing they could do about it. *shiver*

So here I am, typing this out just so I can say one thing to those innovative people in ages long ago that were smart, ingenious, and imaginative enough to come up with a solution for this problem - THANK YOU!(bold) I for one am totally grateful for this one invention in our day and age we so easily take for granted. Kudos to you! (Long may we Read!)

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Stephen King’s Easter Eggs for Writers

In the world of DVD’s, an Easter Egg refers to a hidden message or feature.

Well Stephen King has been putting them in his books. And I don’t mean the trivia or little items he puts in that tie to his other books or works by other authors/singers, but rather revelations/insights of what it is to be a writer. Bits that will resonate with other authors for the truths they are, inserting a layer to the work just for those who share the craft or those who are becoming addicted to it.

Two titles scream with this easily overlooked subtext (well easily overlooked by anyone but a writer that is) and they are Misery, and King’s latest release, Lisey’s Story.

Mr. King sells millions of copies each year. The masses love him, a lot of critics hate him. I double love him, not only for his stories and the beauty of his craft, but for these extra bits of his writer’s soul he is sharing with those to whom the words also sing.

His writing secret/popularity seems to stem from the awesome real life detail he places in his books. Some of it is dirty, but all of it is real - and I am not talking about murder, violence, or abuse (though those certainly add to it), but I mean the little things - brands of cars, music, food, likes and dislikes, nicknames, pet names, snot, bowel movements or lack thereof, urinary infections, dirt under the fingernails, everyday more unpleasant things that we all have to deal with but don’t necessarily talk about in normal conversation. These details ground the reader in vivid reality so that when things take a left turn, they are oh so much more plausible. (That doesn’t even count his evil ways of giving just enough hints of things to come to keep you turning the page - we all want to see the train wreck after all - human nature at its most basic.)

Anyway, back to the Easter Eggs…

Misery saw print back in 1987. At that time in my life I was just beginning to struggle with trying to understand the craft of writing and finding my voice so I too could weave tales to entertain others. The book dealt with the darkside of fandom, of obsessions taken too far. But it was also all about writing! About the generation of ideas, of stories wanting/needing to be told. It reveals how writers aren’t always in control of what they write, or when they can write - how sometimes the writing possesses and rules them - not the other way around.

On the technical side, you get insights on the business of writing and being published. How all is not money and glory, but how there are difficulties, a darker side. How some can take something as simple as a story, something meant to entertain, and take it where it was never meant to go.
But like I said before, all of this is presented as subtext, part of the details, the grounding, but to those who have the bug, it added a whole new dimension to the work, it was revealing and wondrous. It created a connection to one who has gone the distance, and gives hope and inspiration to those who wish to follow the same road.

(On a personal note: Of all his books, I think this one is the most terrifying. Though in the movie they break parts instead of cut them off, I still haven’t been able to work up the courage to see it.)

Lisey’s Story is one of King’s most recent releases. This one too has loads of treasures for authors. I loved how he used the characters to pay homage to his wife’s support over the years and also reveal a side of the business to the reader most never think about - the writer’s spouse! And just like Lisey, many of them go with their husbands/wives to conventions and offer support, company, a myriad of other little things, yet they are virtually unknown and mostly ignored. It also points out that sometimes fans forget the author is a person and come with the same baggage, lack of confidence, and problems as anyone else. They just don’t normally see all that, since what they are shown is the professional persona all writers need to culture and maintain. Writers are people too!

Other info shared talks about where her husband got his ideas - from his experiences, his life. And that you have to work at stories, they don’t come out beautiful or perfect every time. Sometimes a path taken only leads to dead ends. (Been there! Done that!)

He also brings up the idea of a word pool even as he uses the concept of time as a pool, where a dropped pebble resonates through the whole and moments in time are not necessarily linear but can intersect. Lots of little gems. (Got me so wound up I had to do this post!)

So if you are looking to learn about writing, the business, the darkness - these books are for you. A lot of great stuff in there. And the stories themselves are awesome! Enjoy!

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Book Review -- Lisey's Story

Premise: Two years after the death of her husband, Lisey is finally getting around to cleaning out the converted barn where he spent so much of his time creating books and short stories. Yet as she begins this ardous task, Lisey runs into a couple of problems - resurfacing memories of things she thought she would never have to remember again, and a man who has taken it upon himself to threaten her on behalf of an educator wanting to get a hold of her husbands papers.
Review: I totally loved this book! Though as will be explained in a following post, a lot of it has to do with the fact that Stephen King has put in a lot of stuff in this one for others of the craft. Don't get me wrong though, despite the fact I found a subcurrent to add way more enjoyment and content for me, it is still a great read for anyone else too. He does his usual evil hints that keep you going as you get flashes of what will be coming and feeding you just enough to wet the appetite. Also loved how he structured the time element to demonstrate the concept of pool time (time being like ripples on a pond) rather than time being a liner thing. Up to one point you have 3 points in time all tied/affecting each other. Very nicely done. ***3/4!!!!!

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Movie of the Week - Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

Staring: Ioan Gruffudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Newton, Romola Garai, Ciaran Hinds, Ruffus Sewel, Jeremy Swift, Michael Gambon

Premise: William Wilberforce has reached a low point of his life after health and frustration take their toll after a fifteen year battle to abolish the slave trade in England. As some well meaning friends try to match him with a wife, Wilberforce flashes back to long term battle and how he came to be to his current point in life.

Review: This film is full of people I've seen elsewhere, which made it a total treat! The second Dumbledore from the Harry Potter films, the father from Big Fish, Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four, Caesar and his trusty slave from HBO's Rome, the protagonist from Dark City. But even without that fun, this film was very very good. Slavery as regards England is not a topic often discussed, so I was eager to see it for the information it would impart. Excellent acting by all involved. And a good showing of all the views and sides and what made the subject so very hard in those times. The addition of the song Amazing Grace and the man who created the song, make all the facts and struggles even more poignant. Excellent showing! ***3/4!!

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Movie of the Week - 300


Staring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Rodrigo Santoros, Vincent Regan, Michael Fassbender, Tom Wisdom, Andrew Pleavin, Andrew Tiernan

Premise: Persia has asked the Spartans to submit to their rule. King Leonidas has refused and killed their emissary at the insult of such a request. Now Leonidas tries to unify his people to meet the threat of Persia and the continued freedom of Sparta, only to run into stumbling blocks from traitors, greed, and others hungry for power. Having been stymied by the very laws he seeks to protect, he engineers another way of doing what he knows what must be done with the help of 300 of Sparta's greatest warriors.

Review: I'd been awaiting this film's release ever since I heard about it at Comicon in San Diego. Have always loved Frank Miller's work in the comic book field, so was definitely looking forward to this. While like Titanic, the ending is a foregone conclusion, how we got there made all the difference! It was awesome to see the shield and spear fighting style of the Spartans actually demonstrated and with such vigor. The backgrounds and feel are almost surrealistic, converting the movie into a work of art. No surprises in the plot, but you don't care as the actors ooze with talent through every line. Definitely a must see! ***3/4!!!

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Movie of the Week - Wild Hogs

Wild Hogs
Staring: Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H Macy, Ray Liotta

Premise: Four middle aged men -- the rich guy, the family guy, the plumber, and the geek -- find themselves too settled in their ways and missing the men they used to be (or had wanted to be), so they get together to go on a week's road trip to the west coast. Of course, with these four, the trip sounds a lot easier than it will actually be.

Review: These four guys work really well together. Travolta was quite funny, especially when squirming with guilt. Heh heh. Some gorgeous shots of the countryside and a nice feeling of what it is like to ride. Lots of funny or cute moments. Great relaxing film. ***1/2!!

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Movie of the Week - Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia

Staring: Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Bailee Madison, Robert Patrick

Premise: Jesse leads a very subdued life, trying to stay out of the sights of bullies or his family members, finding escape only in his drawings. When a new girl moves into town, Jesse finds himself drawn to her as her imagination sparks his own, and they create the land of Terabithia.

Review: Big kuddos to Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, and Bailee Madison! These kids were awesome! Utterly loved the very first time Jesse's imagination is fired up by Leslie. The blend of fantasy, imagination, and reality were excellent. Especially as you see how some of the real life issues Jesse is suffering to translate into the imaginary world. Awesomely done! ***3/4!!

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Marketing Madness

The first of this month's featured author's is JC Hall. Her upcoming book is called Lady of the Lake.
Publisher: Zumaya Otherworlds, SF/F Imprint of Zumaya Publications
Publishing Date
: March 2007
: Fantasy
: romance, sword-and-sorcery

"She knew only the importance of duty and honour. He understood that devotion could transcend time, space and worlds."

Unwittingly burdened with a devoted new squire, Jess Lochlen must teach him the skills he must have in order to be of any use to her. For she is on a double mission—to recover her captured infant cousin, and to determine if treachery is stalking the Rogrovian throne. Her cousins and brothers-in-arms turn out to be more hindrance than help, and she's in dire need of all the help she can get. But as her young squire's feelings turn from loyalty and devotion to love and desire, and their journey across his homeland becomes a race against time—to save not just her infant cousin but the Rogrovian King—she finds herself wondering if he's any help at all.

Just a song. Just another sad, love song, that was all, naught more. But a song that made a grown man’s color fade from his face. A song that made his lady cry. A song that spoke of love and loss, and more, of worlds where time was a factor gone astray. Where a traveling stranger went away for a hand of years and returned to find half a century gone by.

Different worlds kept different times, he supposed that was the moral behind the tale.As if there were truly worlds and worlds, as natural as lands and lands.

Land and land, world and world—she had once said, long and long ago—one is much like another.

He chewed his knuckles to the bone, thinking and thinking himself to sleep. Dreams assailed him throughout that long night, dreams of him and his lady separated, rent apart by the vagaries of time and space.

And in his dreams, he kept losing her, following and searching the heavens from afar. And in his dreams, the Argentene no longer shone, less the one significant star.

And in his dreams, his lady’s footsteps faded into the Lakes, the unhallowed lakes through which he could not follow. And in his dreams, the seasons slowly passed, till the fertile earth turned fallow.

And still, still, still he found her not.

And in his dreams, he feared he would grow old while searching his world for her. Till he threw himself in one unhallowed lake, and passaged his way to the stars.

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Feedblitz Subscription has been added!

Just recently found out about Feedblitz! Seems this is a way to get a subscription service added to your blog where people can add themselves to receive blog updates via EMAIL!

Sounded kinda spiffy, so I thought why not! So if you wish to automatically get any new postings to this blog, just add your email on the right bar and voila!

Totally convenient, I say! I need to add myself to some too. Heh

Gloria Oliver
Unveiling the Fantastic

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Book Review - Glass Houses

Glass Houses - The Morganville Vampires Book 1
by Rachel Caine

Premise: Claire Danvers is one of the youngest students at the Morganville College. Her over protective parents fear she is too young to go to the large schools out of state. Unknown by them, however, is the fact that Claire is being picked on by the bullies of the dorm. When things get out of hand, Claire decides she needs to move out before they kill her. And so she ends up at Glass House, and meets the current tenants Michael, Shane, and Eve. Through them she realizes the town has a BIG secret, and that the people targeting her have a lot of power in town.

Review: This book was a blast! Claire is a genius and in college but still all teenager. As she is thrown into the complexities of Morganville and its darker denizens, she also has to deal with growing feelings for boys, how to get around the bullies, and figure out how to stay in school! A lot of questions get answered by the end, but she still leaves us in a nasty cliffhanger! (Rachel Caine must die! Okay, maybe not, but can I choke her a little?) Fast paced and loads of fun! ***3/4!!

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Book Review - Strange Robby

Strange Robby
by Selina Rosen

Premise: A serial killer is on the loose, except he is only killing criminals. Frustrated by the system and its tendency to not punish the guilty, Spider and Tommy are reluctant to solve the case, since the "Fry Guy" is cleaning up the streets. But when the SWTF starts sniffing around the case, everything gets a lot more complicated as hints of dark secrets enter the scene.

Review: Thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters are full of life, are multifaceted, and deal with several complex issues and circumstances. Loved how the seemingly simple matter of a serial killer kept enlarging into bigger and bigger things. Fast paced, exciting, exploring relationships and different aspects of life, our goals, and how things don't always work like we think they should. Blackmail, love, trust, secret organizations, psychic powers, politics, and more! ***3/4!

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