Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Da Vinci Cock-Up

I don't often post opinions on books or movies, and this post will probably illustrate why, but I feel the need to let off steam.

Last night, I finally got around to watching The Da Vinci Code. I know this movie has been hyped to death, which always I try keep from negatively affecting my views, but even so I found myself mystified and deeply disappointed.

First off, the movie was supposed to be a gripping roller-coaster action movie. Sorry, but no. I'm not a big movie-goer, but I'm sure I could quickly reel off a dozen or two recent movies that blow this out the water. In fact, practically every recent adventure that comes to mind did a better job of keeping me on the edge of my seat than this one. The Da Vinci code was tolerably OK in this department, but nothing more.

Secondly, and more importantly, I felt insulted as a viewer by overt and clumsy author manipulation.

Need to build audience sympathy? Cue one character orphaned in a car crash, and the other trapped down a well as a young boy. Sympathy engaged ... check!

The trouble is that both backstories were such blatant emotional plays and neither was especially relevant to the plot. Yes, you could argue that Sophie needed to be handed to the care of her fake grandfather, but then her real grandmother pitches up near the end, so where the heck was she all these years? There are countless less intrusive ways to achieve the same ends to mentor her.

The killer for me, though, was the countless points where characters behaved in unbelievable ways just to further the plot or introduce random tension. When the air traffic controller refused to co-operate with a senior police office to track dangerous fugitives because he was "on his break", my willingness to suspend disbelief crumbled and the rest was downhill from there. The author's hand manipulating the puppet strings was visible everywhere.

On the plus side, the underlying premise of historical subterfuge and the true nature of the Holy Grail was a gem. What a pity this brilliant concept got weighed down by clumsy author intrusions.

The lessons for writing? Respect your audience's intelligence, and respect the integrity of your characters.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Snowmobiles on water

At one point in Tiamat's Nest, Charles is on the run and his friend takes them across country on a ski-doo, or snowmobile. Along the way, they use it to cross a river a hundred meters wide.

One critiquer wondered if such a thing is possible. Yes it is!

I remember first seeing this trick years ago on a Top Gear program set in Iceland, before Jeremy Clarkson started getting in trouble with the BBC, and the memory returned when I was looking for obstacles to throw in Charles's path.

I thought maybe that this would be rare anomaly, but when I researched the possibilities in earnest I discovered that the feat is very well known and has even been turned into a sport!

So I am confident that what I wrote is a manageable, if rather dangerous, stunt.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Camping in Washington state and Oregon

This is a quick call for help! Does anyone know good campgrounds in the Washington/Oregon area? We're thinking of heading that way some time this summer, but this is unknown territory for us so I'm open to recommendations.

To give you a benchmark, this post from last year gives an idea of how we like to camp. Yes, it's camping for softies :) We like places that are well-equipped, clean, and with plenty of attractions nearby both on and off site.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


After a furious burst of activity in February, Tiamat's Nest has finished its latest round of revisions and is now out to beta-readers.

No time for relaxing, though. I need to start work on ideas and drafts for cover art if I'm to get this puppy out there this summer as planned.

I've also been pottering around with iDraw. There's lots of capability there, and lots of things are very easy to accomplish that I'd have a harder time managing in Visio, but the software still shows some baffling and frustrating behavior even doing the simplest tasks. I clearly still have a lot to learn.
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