The Year of the Archer

In March we saw Katniss Everdeen skewer a pig in front of the game makers. Her archery abilities weren’t just a throwaway  skill. The bow and arrow were the focal point of the novel. She hunted for game to support her family. Her high score in the Hunger Games made her a target. Likewise, she destroyed the careers’ food with a well placed shot.

Then there’s The Avengers. Joss Whedon skillfully built up Hawkeye’s character from nearly nothing to a character on par with the other heavies of the film. His trick? Make the archer the bad guy for most of the film. Then his skills are forefront for much of the screen time.

A month later we’ll have Pixar’s Brave, featuring a young maiden quite skilled with the bow. I can’t discern the plot yet, but her archery  abilities seem to dominate the trailers.

Then, in December, we have the original super archer: Legolas. Okay, not the actual arrow-slinging elf, but The Hobbit will feature Legolas’s dad. Rumors abound the Orlando Bloom will cameo as Legolas. Perhaps firing a few arrows.

I think archery ranges will be full this year. Prepare for plenty of bows and arrows come Halloween. Nock ’em back if you got ’em.

Tim Kane

Curse of the Slow Reader

I read slower than molasses oozes. Some of it comes from my hang up on grammar. I recall that when I first started to write, I’d make every sentence grammatically correct. No fragments. The same with reading. If there was something askew with the text, I kept reading it. Obsessed in a way. Seeking to fix the problem in my mind.

I took a speed reading class when I was younger. Interesting technique, but I’d never want to use it. It’s like eating ice cream in pill form. It sucks all the magic out of reading. Sure it works, but do you really need to read that fast?

I have gotten better (both with the grammar and the reading). Mostly it came with practice. I realized I couldn’t be an adequate writer if I didn’t read a whole heck of a lot. I started with audio books. (At the time I had a 20 minute commute). Then, as my mind adjusted to the rhythm of reading again, I tried out the paper and ink versions again.

A lot had to do with my students as well. I wanted to introduce some middle grade and young adult books to them, but I felt I should read them first to make sure they were kosher. This led to my first reading obsession: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. I inhaled that book.

My slow reading had another curse. When I joined my online critique group, I was given three sets of 50 page manuscripts and two weeks to read them. Anxious didn’t even describe me. I took those suckers to work and read them in my spare time. I just barely made the deadline. Now I’m a bit faster. I have to be. Life is hectic and if I’m going to read at all, I have to dive in. No holding back.

So if you lament you tortoise like reading habits, worry not. You’re in good company. Keep reading though. You’ll get better and you just may enjoy the ride.

Tim Kane

Creating a Book Trailer (Sort of)

I am toiling away on a book trailer for a friend of min. Honest. But it’s slow going and, being the impatient chap that I am, I wanted results. Ergo, I created a mini-trailer for myself.

I wrote a non-fiction book (more on the scholarly side) about how the vampire evolved through film and television. It’s done fairly well. My publisher, McFarland, is terrific about advertising and keeping the word out. However, I love the subject so much, I threw together a video montage of some key scenes. Specifically how vampires reacted to crosses over the years.

The process was beyond simple, I can now see how people post YouTube videos all the time. Admittedly, having iMovie makes it much easier. I located clips on YouTube and used Zamzar (a free service) to convert them into mov format. My book is a review piece, therefore some use of film footage is allowable. I shot some quick footage of my vampire relics at home for the opening and ending sequences of the video.

Finally I needed music. I stumbled on the site for Kevin MacLeod, who creates creative commons and royalty-free music. It was free with the added caveat of citing him as the creator. I have no bones about spreading the word on a talented musician. Check him out. The music is great.

Uploading was easy. Too easy. I was so excited that I put the video up with typos (I think I have them all covered now). There doesn’t seem to be a way to “replace” a video on YouTube. So I uploaded a new one and deleted the old. I’m pleased with the results. I plan a series of these videos, each focusing on an aspect of vampire lore.

Expenses:

  • Filmed images (did with iPhone camera): Free
  • Movie clips from YouTube: Free
  • Video conversion with Zamzar: Free
  • Editing with iMovie: $14.99
  • Music from Kevin MacLeod: Free
  • Total Cost: $14.99 or Free (since I already had iMovie)

Try it yourself. It’s not rocket science.

Tim Kane

The Physics of Bad Hair Days

Why is it some days your hair turns out fine and others it looks like a hurricane set up on your head? I think some scientist somewhere needs to research this phenomenon. For anyone with even a decent mop of hair, you often wake up with it swirled in bizarre ways. And those swirls are damn stubborn. Water and a comb are not enough. Typically I need to slop on some hair gel or pomade.

Which gets me thinking about Ulysses Everett McGill from O Brother, Where Art Thou. He’s a tried and true Dapper Dan Man.

I poked about on the internet. It turns out that the first pomade came about in the early 1800s when people slathered a pomade with bear fat into their hair. Now I ask you, who was the first person to decide to throw some smelly bear fat up in their do? Eventually, the fat gave way to lard (pig fat), beeswax (impossible to get out of your hair) and petroleum jelly.

Then there’s Macassar oil. I’ve never heard of this stuff, but it does explain why airplane seats look the way they do. This oil is whipped up with coconut or palm oil combined with ylang-ylang oil (from a fragrant flower). This was used in the late 1800s and the stuff dribbled down the back of your hair and onto any seat you sat in. Thus the development of the “antimacassar”. This is a small cloth (usually crocheted) that sat at the top of the chair to catch the oily grease and protect the upholstery. Wow, this has got to be one of the only inventions to mask the ill effects of another.

So the next time you’re having a bad hair day, just slip on your hair net and remember the words of one Ulysses Everett McGill: “I don’t want Fop, goddammit. I’m a Dapper Dan man.”

Tim Kane

How Far Would You Go to Write?

I had a dream the other day that I was stuck in LA traffic, late for a meeting with a film producer. And when I say traffic, I mean that the cars had virtually stopped. I drove in the shoulder and veered through off ramps just to make some time.

The trouble was, this wasn’t a dream. It was a memory.

As I began my writing career, I had aspirations of becoming a screenwriter. I dashed off three or four of my own scripts. Read Variety. Even started filming a Dracula script with my friends. It was through Variety that I found a producer/director that needed his script punched up. I won’t mention the name. The script is still active and I could get paid upon production. I’ll also develop the mutant power of telepathy and go to Vegas and make millions at poker. The chances are about the same.

This script was along the lines of the Syfy network movies. You know the ones I’m talking about. They have a colon in the title—Magma: Volcanic Disaster, Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep. Only this script wasn’t fantasy or scifi. It was a heist flick where girls took off their clothes every five pages or so for no important reason. Yet, and I have to emphasize this point, the producer wanted this to be a serious action film.

I took on the job and worked many late nights grasping for reasons to justify the main female characters disrobing. I managed to get the producer to cancel all but two of the scenes. (Maybe if I hadn’t, the film would have gotten made. Who knows.) Anywho, I live in San Diego and the producer was, well, in Hollywood. A few times a week, I’d drive up there to meet him and go over the script. It was hell. I never got paid. Not even for gas.

What can I say? I was young and hungry. The opportunity looked good. I learned plenty from the experience. I could finish a whole script under deadline. I could convince someone to ditch unwanted scenes. I could dodge cars while driving fifty in the shoulder.

How far are you willing to go for your writing?

Tim Kane