Thursday, July 13, 2006

Face Recognition Fun

Okay, if you have a lot of time on your hands I well and truly recommend this site:

I ran this photo of myself:tate, aka Lyda at sixteen








And got a 73 percent match to Namie Amuro: Namie Amuro





And... (drum roll, please)john belushi... John Belushi.


I *bleeping* love this site.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Success Stories...

..about me.

I got this note from my editor this morning:
"TALL, DARK & DEAD remains on the bookstore bestseller lists--
#22 on Bookscan's fantasy trade paperback bestseller list
#23 on B&N's romance trade paperback bestseller list"

Plus, my agent informed me yesterday that she sold British rights to Tall, Dark & Dead, Dead Sexy, and Bloody Smashing (tentative title for the as-yet-unwritten book 3 of the Garnet Lacey series) to Headline/Hodder for a modest (but not insubstantial) lower five-digit figure.

Today Britain, tomorrow... the World. (crossing-fingers.)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Underworld (2003): My Opinion

Plot summary provided by IMDb:

"A war going on for centuries between vampires and Lycans/werewolves, never seen by humans eyes, until one of the werewolves by the name of Lucian (Michael Sheen) finds out about one human that can bond with vampire blood and Lycans blood, Michael (Scott Speedman). Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is the vampire Death dealer that finds out why the Lycans are following Michael and falls in love with him. Kraven (Shane Brolly) is the leader of the vampire house after Viktor (Bill Nighy) dies and wants Selene by his side, but she is a wild cat to break."

Again, I read a lot of the viewer's comments and I have to say I'm surprised by the number of people (okay 2 out of several pages, and I only read the first few pages) complained that one of the reasons they didn't like the vampires in this film is because they had reflections in mirrors. Okay, I can respect all the of the viewers who complained about the constant night, the continuous rain, and the blue, BLUE filter cast on everything (my cousin Jonathan and I speculated that perhaps this film was supposed to take place in Helsinki in the winter, since there never seems to be daylight. Our other possibility, Seattle during the spring, since it was, in fact, constantly raining, I'm not sure there was a dry moment in the film.) But, you're mad because the vampires have reflections and cast shadows?

EVERYTHING casts a shadow. EVERYTHING has a reflection. Dead or alive. Next time your gerbil gives up its ghost (and they die, a lot. I had gerbils for several years until I realized that a two-year life span was going to kill my very sensitive and rodent-loving heart), put it in front of the mirror or out on the pavement in the noon sun. You will see that being dead makes no never mind to shadows and reflections. Okay, you're saying, but vampires are magical. Yes, I agree, but they still wear clothes. The clothes would have a reflection, unless like Superman vampires have some kind of personal ionic field of "alienness" that makes everything within inches of his flesh also invulnerable (which, frankly, makes more sense to me than the undead's clothing suddenly lacking a reflection. Turning invisible along with the Invisible Woman, that can be explained; not having a reflection, harder.)

And, WTF? I don't understand why this particular characteristic would make or break a vampire film for someone. I mean, one of the two who commented about the shadows/reflections, said that s/he was disappointed because the vampires didn't bite. That, to me, is a legitimate reason not to like a certain fictional portrayal of a vampire. For a lot of people, myself included, the bite is essential to vampirism. And, let's face it, when done right, biting is sexy. And vampires should be all about the sexy.

But, the rest of it – staking, shadows, turning, reflections, daylight tolerance, etc. – is all up for debate as far as I'm concerned. Given that Bram Stoker's Dracula walked around in the daylight, I don't see the need to follow Nesfaratu (the movie) in terms of its vampire lore. If you wanted to get into a fist fight about it, I think a person could make a pretty serious claim that Stoker's Dracula is the definitive answer on that one, which makes all the vampire movies that show daylight sizzling the fiends "wrong." And you don't see a lot of people complaining about that (myself included – I actually kind of like the night restrictions, because it makes for a puzzle to be conquered for the author of vampire stuff.)

Vampires have such a diverse and various set of "assumptions." One of the things I look forward to when watching a new vampire film or reading a new vampire book, is how the screen/writer is going to play with the usual mythos and, correspondingly, how they're going to explain their vampires and their vampire's various restrictions/strengths. I like most answers. I am less fond of "vampire as separate/parallel species," but I have enjoyed those stories, when done right. And, all it usually takes for me to consider something done right is a plausible back story.

I'm not entirely sure how vampires were explained in Underworld (because I actually missed the first half of the film), but I really enjoyed the idea of werewolves as the day-time guardians (slaves) for the vampires. The werewolves were clearly, to me, the heroes of this first film. As someone on IMDb pointed out, this film is either consciously or unconsciously about class. The werewolves are working class in appearance and dress and, as it is revealed, back story (and, therefore, in my opinion, much more likable); the vampires are aristocrats. More than that, the vampires are the former slave-owners. Slave-owners = bad.

There were two star-crossed lover stories in Underworld, which is, as Shakespeare knows, always a crowd-pleaser. First, Michael our human turned wolfpire or vampwolf (half werewolf, half vampire) and Selene the death dealer (vampire), who, OF COURSE, is later sent to destroy him. The second is Lucian's (head were) back story, in which we discover he was a slave who loved the master's daughter. To be absolutely and perfectly honest, this kind of love story always appeals to me.

The part that confused me was actually the main plot. I gathered that the werewolves were attempting to find Michael because he was the descent of the human line of the father of both the vampires and the werewolves and wanted to specifically turn him into this hybrid. (Note: I also liked this sort of Biblical, Son of Abraham, Son of Isaac thing, where both weres and vamps come from the same people, even though they now are bitter enemies.) What I missed (or couldn't figure out) was what purpose he would serve, exactly. A lot was made of the fact that he would be stronger than either weres or vampires, but I wasn’t sure to what end, since, quite clearly, he didn't want to be party to this underworld war at all. Perhaps Lucien realized his was the far more sympathetic story and figured Michael would agree to fight on their side when he heard it. But, thing is... a vampire from the other side, Kraven, was involved in this plot to find Michael and turn him.

I wondered if maybe mating vampire and werewolf was meant to be some kind of symbol of unity, embodied physically in Michael. A kind of, "look, we really can get along, even if it’s only on the cellular level. So, let's stop all this silly fighting." Except Kraven was not presented (at least in what I saw) as sympathetic in any way. If he was trying to lead his people to peace, I didn't see an evidence of that agenda in the way he acted (in the last half of the film, anyway.) Plus, his name sort of implies that he's the villian.

What I will say about Underworld is that it made me want to read the novelization of the movie so that I could see if any of my bigger questions are answered. The universe is compelling enough that I intend to put Underworld: Evolution on my rent-it Netflix list.

So is that a recommendation, Tate? I don't know. Probably not. But, if it I had the chance to see it again for free, I would. Take that for what it is.

Monday, July 10, 2006

My Take on "The Forsaken"

The IMDb database gives this for a plot summary:

"Sean (Kerr Smith) is driving cross-country to deliver a vintage Mercedes and attend his sister's wedding when he picks up a hitchhiker, Nick (Brendan Fehr), who just happens to be a vampire hunter, tracking down a group of youthful vampires that feed on unwary travelers. As the plot thickens, they run into Megan, (Isabella Miko) who has been left for dead by the vampires. As they use her as a lure for the vampires, Sean becomes attracted to her. Further complications ensue when Sean is infected with the vampire virus. He, Megan and Nick must race against time to kill the vampire leader (Jonathon Schaech) to stop Sean from becoming one of the undead."

I scanned through some of the user comments (of which there are a ton, especially given that I'd never heard of this film) while formulating my own thoughts about this movie, and I have to agree with the general assessment that this film doesn't entirely suck, but it's not especially good either.









The things I liked included the character of Nick, the vampire hunter. He was just kind of a dude, you know? In fact, I found myself pleasantly surprised when this easy-going, beer-drinking oaf ended up being the keeper of the arcane knowledge. I really liked the fact that Nick's vampire hunting skillz weren't in the realm of superheroic at all – no Buffy-esque ninja staking moves. As far as I could tell, he had The knowledge, a gun, and "the cocktail," which wasn't actually for hunting vampires at all, but for keeping their victims from turning.

Vampirism as "sexually transmitted" disease is hardly a brand new idea in vampire fiction, but this was the first time that I'd seen it combated with drugs, specifically pharmaceuticals originally formulated to help HIV patients survive longer. I couldn't decide, however, if this detracted from the film or made it cooler. Thing is, vampire as disease isn't terribly sexy. Especially after Nick informs us that "the drugs don’t work, not forever. The only way to cure the disease is..." (drum roll, please) " kill the head vampire." Okay, maybe it's supposed to be some kind of CDC metaphor for Patient Zero or whatever, but it didn't really work for me, alas, since the whole must-kill-the-big-baddie is such a cliché.

Then there was the origin story, which make no sense whatsoever. According to Nick (who never tells us exactly how he found this out) eight French knights go into some horrifically bloody battle and must make a pack with Satan to survive. They eat one of their colleagues (as some sort of Satanic bonding ritual?) and become the first immortals with a taste for blood. They wake up the next morning so ashamed of their deeds that they hide from the light of day, and, what, I guess then are shamed into flames the next time the sun hits them or one of their offspring? (Talk about a bad blush! They don't just feel like their cheeks are aflame, they really ARE on fire!)

The disease metaphor gets completely forgotten, and people like me who think far too hard during action films, are left wondering, "So, then at what point is their bite an 'infection'? Who is the first infector? Satan? If that's the case, could these HIV drugs kill Satan? Is he corporal? Does the Ultimate Bad Guy even have blood? Shouldn't the local exorcist also want some of these HIV drugs to cast out other minor demons? Or was it the first guy they ate the one who was diseased, and if so, with what? Is vampirism our own Mad Cow disease fraught with the warning, don't eat other people, it will just lead to diseases that embarrass you to death?"

And when you start thinking like that, it ruins a perfectly functional action film.

Postpartum Novel Depression….

So the book is off. I just sent the paper copy to the publisher this morning. Now I'm having that strange postpartum ennui I get right after I deliver.

Part of the problem is that I just spent several months in high-production mode. I wrote every night from eight or nine in the evening until midnight. Now I have nothing to do with that time. I've been watching a lot of TV and movies (including two vampires ones: I finally saw Underworld on cable at the in-laws and then on Saturday I watched another Sci-Fi Channel original vampire film, this one called The Forsaken.) But, the shine is already wearing off on that.

So I have writing ennui.

I could start the next Garnet Lacey novel. I've written outlines/synopses for the next two, but I have a weird superstition about that, which is that I don't like to start the next novel until the contract is at least being negotiated (preferably only after the contract is in the works.)

Alternate-me was invited to submit a short story to another anthology, this one about paranormal sleuths, which is right up my alley. I even have an idea, so that's probably what I’ll work on next. Of course, however, when I sit down to write I just sort of stare at the screen like I've forgotten how to write.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Wanderers Go Wandering Again: Mercury Goes Backwards, Jupiter Forward

...At least that's how it looks from our vantage point here on Earth!

I got a new "Astro Alert" from So here's what's in store for us all:

As Jupiter turns direct in passionate Scorpio on July 6, you are ready to take some significant steps forward in your life. But wait! Mercury also turns retrograde on July 4, so it will be essential to do a thorough review of your plans before you get too far ahead of yourself.

Whenever Mercury goes retrograde, the most important point to remember is that it will now prove tricky to make informed decisions about the future. Mercury retrograde periods are notoriously well-known for communication snafus as well as difficulty and/or lapses in decision-making. Yet with Jupiter also turning direct, no time will be better for looping back to old contacts, reviewing ideas and rethinking ways of optimizing your schedule.

So be careful what you say to old contacts, I guess.