Guest Author Daven Anderson on Vampires, Classic Cars, and Forks

Daven Anderson Vampire SyndromeMy friend and fellow paranormal writer Daven Anderson has agreed to stop by and visit on my blog today! He’s the author of The Vampire Syndrome, a fun and funky take on the vampire mythos. Daven (say it like Davenport) gamefully answers 8 somewhat random questions. Enjoy!

 

Devlin: You were motivated to write a novel by someone else’s bad writing. Whose bad writing will motivate you to write your next novel?

Daven: More like motivated by a bad ending. Stephenie Meyer herself re-wrote the ending of Breaking Dawn for the movie. I think that says it all. Vianka Van Bokkem could inspire me for a lifetime, and she has some really intriguing story lines.

Devlin: Your pitch-a Down Syndrome vampire-is one of the best ever. How did you come up with the idea?

Daven: One of my brain-storming sessions was “Imagine all your co-workers as vampires.” When I conceptualized how my special-needs co-workers would be, things got really interesting! I knew right then that I could write a story about a dignified, wise special-needs protagonist, without the maudlin, cloying sentimentality of Forrest Gump (which is still a great novel, don’t get me wrong). I emphasized this even more by creating Damien and Lilith to act as foils to Jack’s inherent goodness, to prevent the story from becoming sappy and saccharine. It’s been a while since War Of The Roses and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. The time is opportune for another pair of nihilistic, combative spouses. After all, what will happen to Edward and Bella 250 years down the road? “Blissfully into our perfect piece of forever?” Not how I see it through my War-of-the-Rose-colored glasses…
[War of the Rose-Colored glasses…Nice! Ed.]

Devlin: Describe your experiences getting your book into print. Any advice to would-be authors?

Daven: I think independent publishers such as PDMI (my publisher) are more willing to sign for a book because they believe in it. I also believe that the Big Five’s tradition of paying authors advances now handicaps them as much or more than sticking to set formulas. When their rejection letters praised the quality of my work, this means they felt they could not take a risk paying an advance on an “un-proven formula” book. Which left me wide open to be picked up by an independent publisher who isn’t shackled by these old business models. Since they do not pay advances, they can take more risks. And really, the author is also better off not taking an advance, because you’re not on the hook to pay it back. To sum up, the author needs to honestly ask themselves how “big” they think their book is going to be, and adjust their approach thereof. Even if the Big Five offer you a contract, you may still be a lot better off with an indie publisher. Another factor to keep in mind is that the Big Five are still quite dependent on shelf space allocation in Barnes & Noble, whereas an indie publisher might (naturally!) focus on indie bookstores. The indie bookstores themselves are much more likely to promote works by a new author than Barnes & Noble. B&N going belly-up would be far more devastating to the Big Five than to indie publishers.

Devlin: Explain the inherent relationship between vampires and really cool cars.

Daven: It seems quite obvious to me that vampires would choose fast cars to be able to make quick getaways from normal persons. Also, using a greater percentage of fossil fuel than hybrid owners is entirely in line with their vampiric nature. Quicker reflexes and greater resistance to injury also remove the “fear factor” of high-speed driving.

Devlin: Your Amazon author page says you wrote a better novel than Twilight. Any backlash from Twi-Hards?

Daven: No. First of all, it’s basically a matter of personal opinion if my book is “better” than Twilight. I didn’t write it with that kind of audience as the target. Any “backlash” would probably boost my sales enormously!

Devlin: What’s been the most surprising thing about becoming a published author?

Daven: How it silenced everyone at work. Every workplace of a certain size has that person who’s “going to write a novel”, but when you’ve actually done it and become published, people don’t know what to say!
Also, I have yet to fully wrap my head around the concept that I can, in fact, autograph a book.

Devlin: Where’s the best place to eat in Forks?

Daven: Outside the city, in the dense forest, when the Twi-hards are out at night looking for vampires.
“Pardon me, young ladies. It appears you’re looking for vampires. Forgive my impertinence for asking this question, but what exactly were you planning to do if you found one?”
*(screams)*

Forks isn’t a great restaurant town, but Pacific Pizza is quite decent and has a nice salad bar, so you can’t go wrong there.


Devlin: Any questions you wish I’d asked?
Daven: *Damien has a 1960 Plymouth, and so do you. Is this a Mary Sue?

Daven: Yes, a little bit. Of course, Damien is not a tan station wagon kind of guy, so he gets a black two-door coupe. Of course, a “cooler” version of the author’s car adds to the Mary Sue-ness. But part of crafting a good story is knowing when to break the rules. I added a pinch of Mary Sue for seasoning. What’s more important is that my main character is not a Mary Sue. I ran Jack through the Mary Sue Litmus Test and he scored three out of 100. Authors tend not to Mary Sue themselves into being special-needs characters. But maybe they should!

Daven’s blog
Vampire Syndrome on Facebook
Daven on Goodreads

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Free Writing Workshop with Yours Truly

If you’re of a mind to hear a lot about point of view in writing, join me this Saturday in Grand Junction for an event sponsored by RMFW and the Western Slope writers.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Sponsors
Is Your POV Slip Showing?
Presented by Chris Devlin

February 16, 2013
9:00 am to 1:00
Meeting room at: The Business Incubator Center
2591 Legacy Way, Grand Junction, CO
(Orchard Mesa) (for directions: http://www.gjincubator.org/about-us/contact-us/)

9-noon – Workshop
Noon-1:00 – business meeting and socializing
Continental breakfast provided

Is Your POV Slip Showing?
Presented by Chris Devlin

Do you get critiqued on your point of view? Confused about the difference between third person close vs. third person omniscient? Ever wonder what “wandering point of view” really means? Join writer and RMFW Contest Chair Chris Devlin for an interactive workshop on point of view. This session will cover the basics of different point of view options for your story: first person, third person omniscient, and third person close. We’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks, including the common pitfalls in creating each type, loaded with lots of published examples. We’ll also illustrate points of view in other mediums like movies and TV, and how writers can use these perspectives to sharpen up their storytelling.
Bring the first two pages of your work-in-progress for a chance at a group critique and discussion of point of view possibilities.
Chris Devlin is a writer, blogger, and social media specialist. A long-time RMFW member active in critique groups and as a contest judge, this year she’s Contest Chair. Her novel, St. Vitus Academy: The Lazarus Rock, finaled in the Pikes Peak Writing Contest in YA paranormal. She likes to study storytelling in different mediums to find the commonality among them.
Please RSVP to: vruchhoeft@bresnan.net

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Spielberg’s Lincoln: Brilliant, Yes, but a Little Shaky on the Dismount

It’s easy to take Steven Spielberg’s mad directing skills for granted. A biopic about a larger-then-life character doing great things for humanity? For Spielberg, it’s like falling off a log.

But darned if Lincoln, sure-fire hit though it is, isn’t also engrossing, illuminating and yes, brilliant. Once you sort through the thousands of actors with beards, a virtual cornucopia of HITGs, you find vivid, believable characters, intelligent talk, and even some humor.

Daniel Day-Lewis is also predictably genius at embodying the iconic Lincoln, managing to stick to the basics while still infusing him with humanity.

About the only surprise is how contemporary the film feels despite all the Civil War-era trappings. Politics one-hundred and fifty years ago was the same dance of cynicism, brinksmanship, and some people actually trying to do good as it is today.  Even knowing the outcome of the battles, Lincoln’s hard-won victories are still a relief.

My only nitpick: Spielberg should have ended the film a little sooner, a common problem with his movies. (See below.) Mild spoiler: there’s a moment just prior to the tragic end of Lincoln’s life that would’ve been a perfect place to cut to the credits.

But this is a niggle. Everyone involved delivers a satisfying and sturdy film.

Five out of Five Stars
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Spielberg’s Problem with Endings


 

 

 

Saving Private Ryan
The most powerful moment in an incredibly powerful film comes when Captain Miller, knowing he’s done for, grabs Ryan and says, “Earn this,” on his dying breath. Miller’s simple, urgent message was meant as a dark valentine to the sacrifices of the World War II generation and all those who die in war so that others might live. The story ended there, and a poetic afternote would’ve been to cut back to aged Ryan at Miller’s grave. We would’ve felt, rather than been preached, the point. Ryan’s question–“Have I earned this? Has any of us?–would’ve been subtextual, as it should’ve been. The overt, sobbing breakdown, the shoving of the powerful message in the audiences faces, was authorial intrusion at its most aggressively annoying.
Movie with ending: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Without the ending: 5 out of 5 Stars

Schindler’s List
Oskar Schindler’s third-act breakdown–on his knees in the dirt, sobbing, bemoaning that he hadn’t saved more Jews–probably never happened. It shouldn’t have happened in this otherwise excellent film. Why? Because we get it. Got it. Good. Spielberg’s skills as a filmic storyteller are breathtaking here. But he doesn’t seem to trust himself and instead sentimentalizes and trivializes Schindler’s character. Pounding the audience over the head with the powerful moral message of we all should do more to fight evil actually weakens and cheapens it. A simple, sad rub of the gold coin would have been much more reflective of the complex and compromised heroics at the core of the film.
Movie with ending: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Without the ending: 5 out of 5 Stars

A.I.
Spielberg was filming Stanley Kubrick’s script here and apparently the fourth-act startover was mostly Kubrick’s idea. Too bad. The first three quarters of the film are about the mysteries of being human and android David’s quest to become a real boy. His story seems to end and theater audiences were gathering their belongings when a voice starts narrating from the future. We learn the fate of the world, even if we weren’t really wondering. It’s a jarring and ultimately damaging foray into not knowing when to end your story. Wouldn’t it have been better to close on David trapped beneath the ocean, forever staring at the Blue Fairy, yearning to be human? What’s more human than pining for a dream you can never have?

Movie with ending: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Without the ending: 5 out of 5 Stars

Spielberg explains the ending of AI on YouTube.
Granted, it’s difficult to mess with the original intentions of your friend who died and entrusted you with his work. I maintain the story would have been stronger without the ending.


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Eight Great New Year’s Eve Movies

Holiday (1938)
Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant are gorgeous in George Cukor’s class-bashing drama. Hepburn is at her brittle, glittering best as the poor little rich girl who needs a working-class hero to take her away from it all. Awesome, climactic New Year’s Eve party right out of a Eugene O’Neill play but with better clothes.
5 out of 5 Champagne Corks

The Apartment (1960)
Holiday blues play a starring role in this dark comedy by dark comedy genius Billy Wilder. Other woman Shirley MacLaine, dissed by her married lover, gets suicidal on Christmas Eve but by New Year’s Eve has discovered the joys of available men (like Jack Lemmon.)
5 out of 5 Champagne Corks

Poseidon Adventure (1972)
Everyone’s partying so hard ringing in the new year they don’t hear the tidal wave coming in this seminal disaster flick. Take off the silly hats and start climbing the Christmas tree to salvation, if you want to see the morning after.
5 out of 5 Champagne Corks

Trading Places (1983)
This intelligent, class-conscious comedy goes a bit screwball for the New Year’s Eve train party. But any party that ends with the bad guy stuck in a gorilla suit has done its job.
5 out of 5 Champagne Corks


Radio Days (1987)
This nostalgic, semi-biographical piece from Woody Allen sounds the perfect bittersweet note that characterizes real New Year’s Eves-we are marking the passage of time after all, and how all our memories will eventually fade. That’s the great thing about movies-you can press the button and start all over again. Worth doing for this funny, touching gem.
5 out of 5 Champagne Corks

When Harry Met Sally (1989)
A big part of the harsh reality of romance is explained in the film’s witty dialogue. Says Marie to Sally after Sally’s break-up:
“But you guys were a couple, you had someone to go places with, you had a date on national holidays.”
And other than Valentine’s Day, is there a holiday that’s such a cold-eyed indicator of your relationship status than New Year’s Eve?
5 out of 5 Champagne Corks

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Bridget, fueled by her determination not to wind up an old maid and eaten by Alsatians, begins her diary after a disastrous Christmas party gaffe and ends it a year later on New Year’s Eve. Colin Firth kisses follow. What more needs to be said?
5 out of 5 Champagne Corks

 

The Holiday (2006)
Two women, one English and one kind of boring, switch houses to get away from boyfriend trouble. And end up finding better boyfriends in time for a lovely New Year’s Eve scene. A good flick if you’re in the mood for schmaltz and dialogue that goes on longer than even women really talk.
4 out of 5 Champagne Corks

Have a great New Year’s Eve, just like in the movies!

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The Life of Pi: Allegory in 3D

Yann Martel’s book club darling Life of Pi was long considered unfilmable because of the esoteric nature of the storytelling–and the starring role of a big tiger. But Taiwanese-born director Ang Lee not only took on the challenge, he did it in 3D.

The story concerns an Indian man who has quite a whopper of a seagoing tale to tell. Pi narrates his tale to a blocked writer, a framing device that unfortunately robs Pi’s plight of some of its urgency since we know he survives. The question mostly becomes “What happened to Richard Parker, the tiger?”

 

Don’t worry. I’m not giving away any details that aren’t announced right upfront. Pi tells us about the tiger and how he got his name, and about himself and his name, and his parents’ backstory and how he became polytheistic, etc. The filmic dream suffers from that bugaboo of book-to-screen adaptations; voice-over narration. I’m never sure why screen adapters do this. Film is a visual medium. Why not show us what the novel describes?

The movie also tries hard to make sure you get that it’s about Really Deep Truths. As with most stories that shout their thematic aspirations from the mountaintops, that part falls flat.

Where the film succeeds is in the lyric, gorgeous visuals and the gripping survival-at-sea sequences. Lee uses 3D the way it was meant to be used, to enhance and deepen the story rather than to flash cool stuff in our faces.

Suraj Sharma, the young actor who plays Pi as a teen, is extraordinary and his ability to play the emotional truth at the core of the fantastical events is another big reason the movie succeeds.

Was I swept up in the drama? Yes. Did Pi’s story fill me with transcendent spiritual ecstasy? Not so much. But it did reaffirm my undying faith in the power of storytelling.
4 out of 5 stars
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Previously, on Ang Lee
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
The perfect match of Lee’s careful, restful directing with the genteel, Austenian subject matter.
5 out of 5 stars

Ice Storm (1997)
Perfectly-controlled direction and form-meets-content in the story of icy 70s suburbanites trying to thaw themselves and feel alive.
4 out of 5 stars

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
The wire-fu is awesome as are Michelle Yeoh and Chow-Yun Fat. But the story gets hijacked midway through by the saucy young girl and her less-interesting adventures.
3.5 out of 5 stars

Hulk (2003)
You can’t accuse the daring man of being in a rut, but unfortunately, this superhero adaptation is airless and disjointed, one of the few movies I’ve ever turned off without watching the end.
1 out of 5 stars

Brokeback Mountain (2005)
“Masterpiece” is not hyperbole as Lee’s restraint allows the fiery love story at the center to play out in quiet, elegaic, and devastating scenes.
5 out of 5 stars

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More Sappy Holiday Movies on Basic Cable

You know it’s that special time of year again when TV ads start appearing framed by ribbons and bows of your favorite stars in Yuletide dilemmas.

Hallmark, Lifetime, Ion, and others keep up a steady stream of sap from now until past the Holidays, so try to keep up.

New this season:
Naughty or Nice
A woman uses a special book from Santa Claus to expose those behaving badly.
Not bad, as these things go. The gay best friend/confidante is actually a straight guy, in a new twist.
3 out of 5 Jingle Bells
(Full disclosure: a friend of mine, Alex Gabel, worked on this movie; that’s his on-set dressing you see. I might be a bit biased.)

It’s Christmas, Carol!
The ghost of her former boss shows a ruthless CEO her past, present and future.
Not a lot of surprises in this Scrooge knock-off. Always nice to see Carrie Fisher, though.
3 out of 5 Jingle Bells

Matchmaker Santa
Stranded during the holidays, a young baker discovers the magic of Christmas and love.
Lacey Chabert (little Claudia Salinger from Party of Five) is all growed up and being ignored by a rich boyfriend in this harmless confection. Don’t worry; Santa’s around to make sure Claudia gets attention.
3 out of 5 Jingle Bells

Holiday High School Reunion
Returning home for Christmas, a woman develops an unexpected attraction to her best friend from school.
Sort of like what would have happened if Andie and Duckie had gone back to their reunion and Andie realized what a stupid mistake she made choosing that mealy-mouthed Blane in Pretty in Pink.
4 out of 5 Jingle Bells

Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade
A woman falls for a consultant who helps her coordinate a Thanksgiving parade.
Autumn Reeser is a little too sharp-edged in this opposites attract chestnut. But the guy is totally hot, so we’re even. One nitpick: She wears vintage Jackie-O-era clothes, expositioning that she didn’t get any of her mother’s clothes when her mom died. She’s close to 30–don’t the writers realize it was the 80s when she was a child? Why isn’t she wearing legwarmers and shoulder pads?
3 out of 5 Jingle Bells


Returning Favorites
All I Want for Christmas
A genuinely unobnoxious kid. A beautiful widow just trying to keep her husband’s community center alive. A toy company trying to score PR points with a contest. It’s kind of fun and just a little warming of the cockles, heart-wise.
4 out of 5 Jingle Bells

Battle of the Bulbs
Daniel Stern and Matt Frewer make this dueling neighbors tale more entertaining than it deserves to be.
3 out of 5 Jingle Bells

Christmas Magic
A fast-living woman doesn’t heed her guardian angel when he warns her not to drive and talk on her cell phone, so she has to have an otherworldly experience with a widower to learn to pull over first. Noteworthy because the male love interest is not hot, (both admirable and distracting) and also for Kiara Glasco, who plays Little Psycho-Orphan Annie on Copper.
2.5 out of 5 Jingle Bells

A Christmas Wish
Kristy Swanson (Buffy from the movie) leaves her abusive husband with her kidlings and lands in a town that pulls together in the end to make a heartwarming finale.
3 out of 5 Jingle Bells

Lucky Christmas
Elizabeth Berkley continues to do penance for Showgirls in this slight tale of a single mom who falls for the guy who stole her lottery ticket. (It’s a long story, but Lt. Disher from Monk pulls off the redemptive thief.)
3 out of 5 Jingle Bells

Mistletoe Over Manhattan
The awesome Six from Battlestar Galactica (Tricia Helfer) plays a ridiculously hot wife who gets tips from Mrs. Claus on how to get her man back.
3.5 out of 5 Jingle Bells

When Angels Come to Town
Unremarkable other than for the late, great Peter Falk as an angel who pops up, occasionally in drag, to make the miracles happen.
3 out of 5 Jingle Bells


Last year’s 12 Sappy Movies of Christmas.

Hallmark’s complete schedule

Hm, can’t find a Falalala Lifetime schedule anywhere–where’s the tradition? Here’s Lifetime’s boring old schedule.

Ion TV’s Holiday schedule

HAPPY SAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Posted in Movies, Pop Culture, TV | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

What Should Writers Organizations Do About the Digital Revolution?

At the last writers conference I went to, I had one of those moments that happen to writers where I felt like I was in a movie and the camera pulled back so that I could observe my own life. I was standing in front of a banquet hall full of writers. We were handing out awards for our annual fiction contest as we’ve done for thirty years. The camera in my head went to a fade-out and it was a few years later. I saw a bunch of empty seats and far fewer people clapping. I wondered if the whole structure that we had carefully built was already gone and we were in the last vestiges of it.

Like most writers groups of a certain age, RMFW was started to bridge the gap between writers not in New York and the publishing industry, which in the olden days meant “New York.”

The founders created the organization to learn networking, to make their work more professional, and to connect with the industry using query letters and pitch sessions.

The fiction contest was designed to:
A) teach writers about the industry standards for commercial fiction.
B) draw agents and editors from New York to sift among the best and brightest and hopefully ask for a partial and love it and ask for a full and offer a contract.

Same with the conference. Come and get a chance to bump elbows with the “publishing industry.” Pitch to an agent. Have your work read by an editor. Find out the latest trends, taboos, hot genres.

Fast forward a few decades. The digital revolution is well underway and it’s not a matter of when traditional publishing will come undone but how it will morph into something else that encompasses the new paradigm.

I’m not one of those doomsayers who predict the end of the publishing world as we know it within a year. I’m also not gleefully dancing on the grave of legacy publishing just because they rejected me forty-two times. The industry standards of excellence in writing craft, editing, book design and marketing still hold up and should continue to give us something to aim for.

But one thing is certain. The gatekeepers are no longer all-powerful and the standards are no longer guaranteed to come out of New York. What are the writers groups to do who’ve structured their whole organization on traditional publishing? How do we embrace the revolution before it makes us irrelevant?

Some thoughts:

1. Most writer’s organization have a group within of traditionally published writers who network and support each other. Why not a group for self-published writers?

2. What about a contest for the best self-published novel of the year? The winner could be presented to the editor/agent judges along with the contest entries. New York is searching the indie-published list looking for the next breakout novel. Writers groups could help winnow down some prime choices.

3. If you final in the fiction contest, how about a place in an anthology, a sampler of the finalists in each genre such as publishers put out? (This would only be after it was clear the win didn’t result in a sale, say, four-to-six months after the award.)

4. How about announcing self-published books alongside traditionally published books in newsletters, flyers and in other promotional material? Let readers sort out which books have merit.

Joe Konrath suggests having the published writers’ groups be based on sales of books instead of the method of publication. I’m not so sure about that one, but it’s an interesting idea.

What do you think? Are there other ways writers groups can change to address the new paradigm in publishing?

Posted in Commentary, Conferences, E-Publishing, New Media, Publishing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments