Monday, December 31, 2012

Movie reviews: Mayan y2k edition

Here are all the movies we saw in 2012, and thus all the movies we will ever see. Because of the end of the world.

* * * 1/2 Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol : Okay, I already reviewed this, but let me just say that I think that each new movie in this series has had shorter co-stars than the last one. For the next one, I predict that he does it Smiths-style with Suri. But he'd better hurry, because it won't be too long before she hits puberty and rockets up past him.

* * * * Brave : I would happily pay any amount of money that Pixar can imagine to see a movie just about the two little brothers.

* * * * 1/2 Marvel's The Avengers : Whedonesque, in all the best senses of the word. The only silly thing is Hulk's big wham line, which I genuinely do not get. But his Loki-smashing was a pure joy.

* * * * The Dark Knight Rises : Here's how this is calculated: three stars for Bruce and Selina in a cafe, four stars for Gordon, two stars for a surprisingly whiny Alfred, three stars for Scarecrow as the Jacobin judge, four stars for Bane, and ten stars for Bane's voice--which deserves its own talk radio show at the very least. Who would not listen to that?

* * * 1/2 Skyfall : Every single James Bond movie since forever is about how 007 is off the reservation and on his own. So the conceit is not really new. But it had a new feel, somehow. In places, it was actually quite moving, in no small part thanks to Dame Judi Dench.

* * * 1/2 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey : Peter Jackson still owns me, and I will fork over my money to see the rest of this trilogy. But come on, did it really need to be a trilogy? I'm pretty sure the audiobook of The Hobbit is going to be shorter than the films. That's ridiculous, and it doesn't make for a better movie. In fact, for every half hour they could shave off this film, I would give it another half-star.

That's all for now, imaginary readers. And perhaps that's it for the planet earth and/or the human race. No tears, now. We had a good run.

So long, and thanks for all the fish!


Friday, April 20, 2012

It's not easy being Stan Lee

My friend Alice posted a thing on her blog called the 7-7-7 challenge. This sounded like a taste test for a new soda from Herman Cain, but in fact it is also something else.

The 7-7-7 Challenge:
Flip to page 77 or page 7 of your current work in progress.
Find line 7.
Post the 7 sentences that follow.
Tag 7 more writers.

I'm not doing the last part, because that one 7 too many. (Of course, if any of my imaginary readers want to consider themselves tagged, they may respond to this challenge in the comments. Never let it be said that I am not magnanimous.) But I will do the first bit, which means putting up a bit from my current work in progress.

This actually comes at an interesting time for me. On Monday I submitted the manuscript I've been working on for the last eight or nine months. But I didn't want to rest on my laurels. Did Stan Lee rest after he created the Hulk? No! He made up hundreds of other heroes, most of which were truly awful.

With this in mind, on Tuesday I decided I wanted to keep writing fiction while waiting to hear back about that manuscript. I will have to scale back a lot, but it's surprising what can get accomplished in 20 or 30 minutes a day if you're really consistent.

For my next project, I have chosen my previous project. In 2008, I took a class from Brandon Sanderson (with Alice!), and started a novel. I haven't finished it, although I've workshopped my way through the beginning a couple of times. So my new project is to write through to the end.

So here's 7 sentences from p. 77 of what I am still calling "Love of Money in Time of Cholera" for lack of a better title.

“Helping me out?” said Mazoon. “That’s what you call this?”
“I’ve saved your life three times today,” said Surt. He extended one finger and stuck it very nearly in Mazoon’s face. “I stopped the men on the tower from shooting you when you and your pals were running out on the rest of us.”
“Wouldn’t have hit me,” grumbled Mazoon.
“Yes, they would have,” said Surt, “if I hadn’t stood up and put an end to it.”

I think that speaks for itself. And what it says is, I am a huge nerd and the people in my books have silly names. Like 'the Hulk.'



Saturday, March 17, 2012

Immortality watch, part 2

While in Utah for a wedding (Congrats, Jason and Stephny!) I attended the 2012 Writing for Charity conference. Brandon Sanderson was one of the presenters, and as I waited to talk to him, he said, "Hey, John, what's up?" Somebody famous remembered my name! Gleeeeeeeee!

I was one of 40 people or so in his fiction writing class at BYU in the spring of 2008, which was just a tremendous learning opportunity. (One of the many mini-tragedies of the Great Laptop Theft Disaster of 2009 was the loss of my copious notes from this class.) The next time I saw him after that, I think, was in the spring of 2011, when he was in Barnes and Noble at the same time as our writing group. He came by the table and answered our questions about writing.

Anyway, in this most recent encounter, I shared my news about finishing the first draft of the novelization, and my hopes for publication. He gave me lots of encouragement, and some practical advice. What a mensch! He also asked to see the movie trailer, and pronounced it awesome.

I get to see Brandon again in May at the Superstars Writing Seminar in Las Vegas. I hope to have some word back from the publishers by then. But either way, it just feels great to be making progress on my writing career.

If all goes according to plan at the seminar, Brandon and Kevin J. Anderson, and the other big names will invite me to join the Secret Society of Famous Authors. I hear when you're inducted, you get a time turner, which is of course the only explanation for how a human could possibly produce so many pages.

I should have a Hugo and a Nebula by fall and be at the top of the New York Times bestseller list before the year is out. Then the Princess of Power and I can finally afford to get our own washer and dryer and say goodbye forever to the laundromat, the worst place in the world.

Wish me luck!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Immortality watch

Hey, check it out, I was on TV! It's all because of a student in my US Government class who is interning at Fox and liked my beginning of the semester anti-plagiarism speech. Thanks, Jackie!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012


So, I recently participated in something really quite extraordinary.

Rich Burlew, the creator of a webcomic called the Order of the Stick had a pledge drive on KickStarter. Rich was trying to raise $57,750 so he could get some of his old books back in print.

I have enjoyed this comic quite a lot over the years, and so I decided to make a small contribution myself. I think a lot of us had the same idea, because Rich raised the money he needed within 48 hours. But he didn't quit there. He kept proposing new goals, new rewards, new plans and projects. And in 30 days, his fans ended up raising $1,254,120, or more than 20 times his original goal.

It was an amazing spectacle, watching those numbers just skyrocket up every day. But more than that, it was inspirational to see Rich keep pushing ahead. (Read the 28 updates he posted to see all the things he promised to his fans-- some of which he has already delivered.)

When I saw the first mention of his pledge drive, I was about a third of the way through writing a novel. So I decided that if I finished writing before the drive was over, I would reward myself with some fun comic books.

Thanks to this goal, and thanks to Rich's herculean example, I wrote over 55,000 words during that month, finishing the first draft of the novel on February 21st, the last day of the pledge drive.

So, thanks Rich. And thanks to lots of other people for providing their own examples of determination in the face of impossible odds, like my darling wife, who for weeks has been getting up before 4 AM and putting in 12 hour days (or more) at the hospital. You're amazing, sweetheart. Thanks for supporting me, and helping me find the motivation to see this through.

And thank you, imaginary readers. Even though I can't see you, I know you're out there doing something super awesome. Maybe you even want to hit the comment button and share your victories and triumphs.



Thursday, February 16, 2012

Crown Prince

Good news, people of Eternia! As royal consort, I am pleased to announce that your queen is expecting a son.

The joyous event is anticipated to occur on July 4th, which will ever after be celebrated as a holiday among our people. The throne of Eternia will have an heir!

We are now accepting your suggestions for names for the Crown Prince. We have had some excellent early entrants on Facebook, so check out your competition there. If you suggest one that we end up using, you will be granted a title of nobility and lands in Eternia, although I should warn you that Eternia is not a real place and therefore does not, strictly speaking, exist.

But neither does Cambridge, and it's still good to be prince of that, I think.


(UPDATE : Oh, and my favorite one that I thought of just this morning: Humble Solomon Payne. Or Solomon Humble Payne. Or Humble Payne Solomon. Frankly, I'm not sure there's a bad way for those three words to be arranged.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Readers of the imaginary

I haven't done much posting this year. (My last two posts languished unpublished in the Blogspot editor for weeks.) Sorry about that, imaginary readers. You deserve better. I don't know that you'll get it, but you deserve it.

So anyhow, one of the things that's been keeping me busy is a book. I was hired last year to write a novel based on a movie. I know a guy who makes movies, and he wanted to try releasing a novelization together with his next film. We've talked to a publisher, and they seem interested, so I think this book is actually going to get made. Pretty cool, right?

I now have more than 70,000 words written, and I think I'll have the first draft wrapped up in another week or so. I'm super excited about this, but also a little nervous. I'm pretty confident in my ability to write a good sentence, a good paragraph, even a good chapter, but I've never written a whole novel before. So I am less confident that I have got the big things right, like plot and character arcs.

It's just a first draft, of course, and hopefully it will get better as I revise it over the coming months. Which is where you come in, my dear imaginary readers. I'd love to get your feedback. If you have time for a the whole book, great. If all you have time for is a chapter or two, also great. I have some that could use some polishing. So if you want to help out, or just offer a few words of encouragement, drop me a line.

As for the rest of you, don't worry, I'll keep you posted. Eventually.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Movie review: Special sand-blasted skyscraper edition

Before leaving Nephi and returning to the land of twelve dollar movie tickets, the Princess and I took in one last show: Mission: Impossible: 4: Ghost: Protocol, starring Tom Cruise and some people or whatever.

I liked this. Lots of people said this was the best Mission Impossible movie, and although I still like the first one best, this one was definitely more fun than the previous two. (Sorry, Thandie Newton. Sorry, Philip Seymour Hoffman.)

I liked that this was a little less focused on Tom Cruise, and allowed his co-stars to shine. I particularly enjoyed Simon Pegg, but that's because I particularly enjoy Simon Pegg. Teeny little Jeremy Renner was also quite good-- good enough to convince me to see him in the Bourne Anti-penultimatum.

Anyway, part of me wants to give this four stars, but they spent like ten minutes at the end sitting around a cafe chatting with Tom Cruise, which I did not care about in the least, so I'm going to give it three stars and a cup of coffee.

Suck on that, Tom Cruise.


Sunday, January 08, 2012

Restaurants of Nephi, revisited

It's been a while since Adora and I sampled Nephi's cuisine.

But during our epic double in-law Christmas tour, we were in Utah for a week and saw a new restaurant on Main Street. It's a Mexican restaurant called the Jaliscience, which looks like it must involve science somehow, but it really means the person from Jalisco.

Long story short, YOU MUST TRY THIS PLACE if you are ever in Nephi.

The Jaliscience is not just the best Mexican restaurant in Nephi, although it is. (Sorry, Mi Rancherito. We still love you.) It is not just the best restaurant in Nephi, although it is. This is the best Mexican food I've had in at least a year, during which time I have enjoyed Mexican cuisine in Texas, Arizona, California, and Boston multiple times. It's that good.

Seriously, I wish I lived in Utah so I could go there right now. If you're in Provo, drive down. This is worth the trip, even if they don't have a billboard on the highway that says so. Until I can buy them one.