My latest short story "The Night the Lights Came On"

Friday, December 21, 2012

Movie Memories 09 | Laith Preston

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Movies, there are just so many stories I could come up with about movies that I'm not really sure where to begin.

When I think about movies, like most everyone I recall the smell of the popcorn and the quiet in the theater as the previews began, the excitement building as the hero wins through against seemingly impossible odds. However, one of my earliest memories of watching a movie is actually not seeing it on the big screen, but rather sitting on the love-seat in my parents room all nice and comfy with a blanket watching the movie unfold on television.

There are a number of movies that I first remember enjoying this way but foremost in my mind are Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Black Hole. I suppose given my love of all things Sci-Fi these two sticking out shouldn't be that much of a shock, the music, the characters... the robots... from VINCENT and poor beat up old BOB to the evil MAXIMILIAN...

I can fondly recall assembling a two barrel laser gun like they had in the movie out of Legos. Now there are a number of parts of the movie that people tend to think poorly of, but to me the film still stands well as a genre classic.

Speaking of classics, throughout my youth my parents made sure that I saw many of the classics, from The Longest Day and Lawrence of Arabia, to Evil Under the Sun and Murder on the Orient Express. They covered most everything.

One somewhat more recent one I recall enjoying watching with my folks was The Parent Trap. No not the recent one with Lindsay Lohan but the original 1961 version with Hayley Mills. When the remake was announced I was right along with my parents fearing that a treasured childhood movie would be ruined.

I was very pleased when it came out and not only had they not ruined it but they had done a reasonable job of moving the story into modern day rather than trying too hard to recapture the original.

Then they had to cast Lohan in a new Herbie movie... but that's a story for a different post.

Laith Preston is a voracious reader, aspiring writer and jack of many trades. When he is not at his day job as a web application developer, he can be found wasting way too much time on various pastimes in Des Moines, Iowa, with his wife, and three kids. You can find his aimless meanderings at his blog:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey | Movie Review

First off there are no movie spoilers in this review. If you've read the book or have seen the Lord of the Rings Trilogy then you're good. Also I didn't see the film in HFR or 3D, so I won't be speaking to that. With that out of the way let's get started.

I loved The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I liked it even more than The Lord of The Rings Trilogy, which are easily some of my favorite movies. I couldn't get enough of them and love the extended versions because I get to spend more time in that world. Also of the three films the first one, The Fellowship of the Ring, was my favorite. The reason? We get to see The Shire. Its beauty and goodness that is in a way what everyone is fighting for in the rest of the movie. I love spending time in the Shire. Knowing I would get a bit more time there in The Hobbit makes me super excited right off the bat. So that's where I'm coming from. Coming to The Hobbit I was also very excited because I liked the book way more than the Lord of The Rings trilogy of novels. I tend to read a lot more of fun adventure stories than long dark epic tales. I read and write a lot of Young Adult literature. While reading The Lord of the Rings was very rewarding, parts of it were a slog for me. Every time I have read The Hobbit I want to turn back to the beginning and read it again as soon as I get to the end of the story. I love it.

I finished my third reading of The Hobbit the night before seeing the film. It was cool to have the novel so fresh in my mind because I could spot the differences in the movie and understand what was happening on screen with a deeper level of understanding. I was happy to finish many of the dialog sentences in my mind because they were taken straight from the book. A lot of little things like characters speaking out the name of a chapter as they delve into that part of the story were fun easter eggs for readers of the book.

There are many small things they chose to change in the movie. None of them really bothered me, and in most cases I think the changes they came up with made for a more enjoyable movie to watch. Would I have changed it from the book? Probably not - but that's why I'm not a big time movie director. I was never mad about the changes. It was more of a "Hmm . . . interesting . . ." Also, even though as I have said I LOVE the book I did think a few times while reading it that certain scenes could have been much more exciting or dramatic. Some big events are glossed over with a quick paragraph in the novel and in making the movie it would render those scenes as flat and uneventful, especially to an audience of 2012, if they would have stayed totally faithful to the narrative of the novel.

In general I felt that they did an amazing job adapting one of my favorite books into a movie. One thing I was worried about going into this film was that it would borrow too heavily from The Lord of The Rings in tone. The Hobbit was written for children and is a much lighter tale. In my opinion they did a great job with this. I laughed a ton during this movie - way more than in a lot of comedies I've seen. At the same time while rereading the book I was surprised at how many scary and dangerous situations the characters find themselves in. While The Hobbit has a lighter tone, it is still a tale full of frightful scenes. Again they did a good job with this as I found myself just about holding my breath at times, cringing to see how the characters would get out of their dire situation. They struck a good balance of keeping it lighter but still having the darker scenes suspenseful. I wonder how many people who argue that they made the film too much like The Lord of The Rings would say so after reading The Hobbit again. They might be as surprised as I was at what they find in the book.

Okay so now that I've gushed over the film I will hit on the bits I didn't like. There were a few times they went too far with the action, breaking my suspension of disbelief. Some scenes that were not in the book were cool to see but didn't add much to the story. These should not have been added even though they were fun to watch. Sometimes the way the characters fought or escaped from bad guys was over the top enough for me to be pulled out of the story. It was very fun to watch and really entertaining, I'm sure even more so in 3D, but it was over the line for me. They could have made it exciting and kept us on the edge of our seats as they did so well in other places without pushing it so far as to be unbelievable. Okay, that's all you're getting out of me. If you want more on what was wrong with this movie, read other reviews. There's tons of haters out there.

Two characters really stand out to me in the movie. Bilbo is brilliant. I love him in the book, and I love him in the movie. He is a very likable character and it is fun to root for him. Martin Freeman could not have done a better job. Even in reviews I read that come down hard on the movie they feel that his performance was amazing. The scene where Bilbo gets the ring from Gollum is fantastic. As Frodo proves himself to the dwarves and wins their affections, he does so to the audience as well. He shouldn't be on this great adventure fraught with peril. He is a Baggins of bag end and belongs in his comfortable hobbit hole. But his Took side comes out and he proves to himself and everyone else that maybe he really should be on this journey and that it wouldn't be a success without him. Against all odds, this little hobbit proves to be a great addition to the company on their quest to slay Smaug the dragon.

The other character who stands out is Gandalf. I feel like I know him more from this one movie than all three of the Lord of The Rings films. He seems more well rounded as a character, more of a person than a mighty wizard protecting everyone with his great magic. One of my favorite parts of the film is when he explains to someone (I don't want to spoil anything) why he chose to bring Bilbo on the adventure. It was a very inspiring speech. It made me want to be a better man and try harder to live my life in a way that benefits others.

I could say so much more, but like I said I don't want to spoil anything. Obviously the story has been out since 1937, but I don't want to spoil the movie in the ways they chose to portray the book. So I will end by saying - yes I realize I'm a bit biased with the novel being one of my favorites and that I am a fan of Peter Jackson, but I absolutely loved the film and would easily give it five out of five stars. I can't wait to see it again and again and again.

Please feel free to leave comments on what you thought of the movie. I'm sure your opinions differ from mine. How so? Do you think the fact that I saw it in the traditional 24 frames per second helped me to enjoy my first viewing of this film? I hope to see this movie in the HFR of 48 frames per second and see if it changes the experience for me. I'm interested to see what people think of the movie who haven't read the books, so jump into the discussion in comments. As always, thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Hobbit Production Diaries

I am really excited to see the movie The Hobbit. I've been rereading the book, as you know if you saw my last post. This is my third read through. The first time was in 8th grade, and not for a school assignment, just for pleasure. Then I read it again after college, and now just before seeing the movie. I'm really enjoying it and I can't wait to see the scenes on the big screen. The last time I read it I remember after finishing it that I wanted to just start from the beginning and read it all over again. I loved it. It's always been one of my favorite novels. I'm going to see it in theaters this Saturday evening.

So in the last post I shared about the companion of posts you can check out while rereading it, and a great podcast that dives into the books and news and speculation on the upcoming movies. Now let me share some cool videos with you. You may already know about these, but Peter Jackson has been producing Production Diaries. These videos are a fun behind the scenes look at the making of the film. There are a ton of them to watch and most are at least 15 minutes long, so we're talking about quite a bit of content here. I have really been enjoying them and I appreciate seeing all the immense work that is done to make these films. Peter Jackson brings you right in like he's inviting a friend onto the set. It will make you want to see the film that much more and you too will appreciate what went into making it. I can't wait to see The Hobbit!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Are You Rereading The Hobbit Too?

If you're rereading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit as I am, I wanted to point you towards something really cool. Kate Nepveu rereads a book and then gives you an awesome post with her thoughts for each chapter of the book. Over at you can find some really cool posts about rereading different books. I first found out about them when I was looking for some good summaries of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series - because I've been in book 4 of that series for years and now I finally want to pick up that epic journey again an read to the end to see how Jordan and Brandon Sanderson finish it all off.

So you should definitely check out Tor's There and Back Again ... Again THE HOBBIT REREAD - especially if you don't want to reread the entire book but do want a fairly in depth look at it chapter by chapter to help you remember the book before you go to see the film in the theaters this month. I would say read the book and these awesome summaries.

Also check out the podcast Secrets of The Hobbit by the amazing podcaster Father Roderick. Yes, he is a Catholic Priest and apparently they make great podcasters!  He is so great and has a cool accent as he podcasts from the Netherlands. He also has a Secrets of Middle Earth podcast which is very good. Honestly this is one of the funnest podcasts I've listened to because he plays Lord of the Rings Online the game while recording the podcast, so he describes what he's looking at as he visits places like The Shire, and then goes into some of the history of the place and talks about characters and a lot of things from the books. It's incredible and I highly suggest you listen to that too. Here's the .mp3 of the first episode so you can hear what I'm talking about right now!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hugh Howey's Silo Books on Top

The world of Hugh Howey's silo books may take place under ground for the most part, but right now he is on top. I was just perusing Amazon this morning and look at what I saw:

Click To View at a Larger Size

That's right - his latest book in the Silo Series, Second Shift - Order is # 1 in High Tech Science Fiction, and # 3 in Science Fiction! If you read my review of the Wool Omnibus you'll know how amazing I thought the books were. Easily the best thing I've read in a long time, maybe ever. This just gives me more proof that I have good taste when it comes to my fiction :)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Need Some Holiday Cheer?

Are your long commutes or lines at the store turning you into a Scrooge? I have two solutions to get you into the Christmas mood.

One is my Christmas short story:
All I Want for Christmas 
is a V.R. Supercube

Audio not your thing?
Here's the free eBook
In every format you might need.

The other is the famous story by one of my favs of the classic lit authors Charles Dickens:

A Christmas Carol read by Jim Dale for free! (The Harry Potter narrator)
A Christmas Carol single read by Jeffrey Palmer from Penguin
A Christmas Carol multiple cast reading by Ohio University
A Christmas Carol in Audio & eBook format on the web, Single Read
(Fun for kids to follow along with)

And for those text lovers, here's a free eBook version of A Christmas Carol with illustrations! How cool is that? Thanks Project Gutenberg! Get the kindle version, or epub if you're use iBooks, Nook, Sony, or most other eReaders.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Huge Word Count Days Remembered

So NaNoWriMo is over. I wanted to ask all the writers in the crowd - what was your biggest day? By that I mean, what is the highest amount of words you wrote in one day? I can remember mine very well, like it happened yesterday. It was during my very first NaNoWriMo while writing my second novel four years ago. I can't remember the exact number, but I do remember one day writing over six thousand words in one sitting minus a bathroom break or two. It wasn't a Lowell, 10K in one day named after my favorite author Nathan Lowell, but it was thrilling! I was excited about it into the next day. I wanted to do it again. Pumping out the story like that, getting so much of it down felt so good. I can't wait to have the opportunity to do it again someday. I wasn't in a log cabin in the woods, but a cold unfinished room in the basement of our first house. It's the same room I finished my first novel in - a month or two before doing that first NaNoWriMo. I was writing it on my old college PC machine with the super old grey keyboard. I wrote it all in notepad because I loved the simple user interface. No squiggly lines telling me about incorrect spelling or grammar, just getting those words on the screen with no distractions. It was fantastic. So use those well practiced post NaNo fingers and write your highest word count memories in the comments below and let's all share in the glow of huge word count days as we look forwards to the upcoming holidays and sit back and rest a bit after cranking out the words in November. While I didn't get many words down this year, I clearly remember the excitement of those high word count days in years past and I'd love to hear about yours. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gearing Up

I am gearing up to write my novel. A few posts ago I explained why I wasn't getting any words on the page for NaNoWriMo because I've been studying story structure like crazy. Here I'll get down a bit more into the nuts and bolts of what I'm doing to prepare and why I might have much more time to write in the near future. I also have a short story that's nearing completion and I'll tell you what it's about. It's a sad story.

So I'm still in the process of fully planing out my story, down to the chapter, before I continue writing the first draft. I wrote three chapters, which I'm now revising to fit my new outline. I'm almost done defining all of the beats from Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet and putting them into the correct chapters on my outline. Once I have each chapter filled with a sentence or two I'm going to flesh out each chapter a bit more with one paragraph onto index cards. That is where I will attempt to make each chapter a little story of its own with a goal for the characters, a beginning, a middle, and an end, all with the purpose of moving the story forward. No more meandering chapters full of stuff that will need to be cut later. Yes, I know I will still find lots of stuff to cut in my second draft, but this time it will not be one or more chapters in a row like my last book. I'm excited to finish all this prep work and get back to writing, but it works because I don't have much time for writing right now.

My wife may be taking a job that has her working evenings. If she does, I'll get home from work and be on Daddy duty. Once I lay the kids down I would have a good hour and a half or more to focus on writing. Currently I really just can't find the time to write because I'm getting up super early for work, I get home and enjoy hanging with my amazingly wonderful family, then I have time to hang out with my wife. We usually talk and catch up on whatever TV shows we're into. I have been trying for a few years now, but I simply cannot write while watching TV - even if it's a show I hate! Even if it's a show I hate and I'm only trying to transcribe audio I recorded from my commute home! If the TV is on, my attentions are stolen away from writing. I have found that I can read comics, draw, and do a little bit of outlining while watching TV. Drawing is the only thing I can really be productive with though. It uses more of the right side of my brain and is effortless. I seriously can only write a few sentences over the course of an hour if the TV is on. When I have the rare opportunity to write in silence it is easy for me to blast out over 1,000 words in that time. So I'm trying to work on my drawing skills and eventually get back to producing some web comics. I've only done one and a half pages of one, adapting one of my novellas, but it's something I've always wanted to do. My favorite artists on YouTube who posts videos on how they draw are: Mike KoizumiMark Crilley, Sycra Yasin, and Xia Taptara. I've been learning some great stuff watching them draw and listening to their commentary as they crank out amazing work. It's pretty dang inspiring.
So right now I'm plotting and planning, drawing and studying anatomy, and gearing up to write my next and best novel to date. That's the plan anyway :) I'm also almost done with a short story I was writing for a local newspaper's short story contest. I didn't finish it in time, so instead I will be publishing it soon in eBook and audio. So there's something to look forward to, maybe. I'm really proud of the writing but it is a story about a boy going with his parents to have his pet dog put down. I might try and have the ending scene being him getting a new puppy on Christmas day so it doesn't end on such a blue note. Yeah, I think that would be a good idea. The theme of the short story contest was "The End," and somehow that story just came out. It might be me finally grieving for the loss of my childhood dog. He died quite a while ago, but it was right after both of my awesome grandpas had passed away within two months of each other so at the time my parent's dog dying, while I loved him very much, just wasn't really that big of a deal in comparison with my amazing grandfathers. I don't think I've ever written a super sad story. I've got to say it kind of takes it out of you - every time I write a bit more of the story I'm really sad while writing it. Hopefully that will come across to the reader. Thanks for stopping by, and feel free to leave a comment if you have anything to add to the discussion.