If the Shoe Fits…..

I try very hard to obey the Godwin rule.  You don’t bring up Nazis unless you are talking about actual Nazis, but the current Republican field and in particular Donald Trump is making that incredibly difficult.

His race baiting has been with us from the beginning, but when he remained silent in the face of suggestions that all Muslims in the United State should register and carry ID identifying them as Muslim, and continued to stay silent when it was pointed out that this was perilously close to what was done in Germany in the 1930’s.  Then he said in Alabama “I want surveillance on these people.”  Threatening and imprecise.  Does he mean all Muslim Americans are going to be surveilled?

At this same event in Alabama a Black Lives Matter activist was attacked, kicked, choked, called the N word and thrown out.  I understand that protestors are going to be escorted out of events, but demonstrating and protesting is a fine old American tradition.  This kind of thugish behavior was chillingly reminiscent of the gangs who supported Adolf Hitler and roamed the streets of Germany while dressed in brown shirts.

So Trump is making it very hard to avoid stumbling into Godwin territory.

Then last night Trump put up a Tweet with completely bogus crime statistics that is racist in the extreme.  Charles Johnson, a recovering conservative who pens the Little Green Footballs blog did some sleuthing and found the source of the erroneous statistics.  It’s a Neo-Nazi site.  You can read about it here.  Tweet Source.

To date Mr. Trump has not yet removed this Tweet straight from the swamp and bile of white supremacy.  Will he?  Probably not.  The man seems incapable of admitting to any mistake or error.

Mockingjay Part 1

I have really enjoyed the first two Hunger Games films.  Jennifer Lawrence proves forever lays to rest the argument that women can’t be action heroes.  Her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen is fierce and powerful.  I wanted to be ready for the final installment of the franchise so I  streamed Mockingjay Part 1 to the XBox and gave it a watch.

They should have made one really long movie rather then break it up.  I understand why they did — the financial incentives to milk this for all it was worth were always going to trump story, but there wasn’t enough material to carry a movie.  Katniss broods and proves she can’t act.  (Actually a tough thing for a good actress to do).  They blow up shit.  Or rather other people blow up shit.  It’s the capital that destroys the hospital, faceless hoards who blow up the dam and hydroelectric plant, the capital that bombs district 13.

There is an exciting rescue mission to rescue Katniss’s love, Peeta.  Except it’s not very exciting when you’re watching it on a heads up camera display.  I haven’t read past the first book, but this struck me as a bad decision based on being true to the underlying material.  Maybe in the book Katniss didn’t go to the capital to free her sweetie, but in the movie she sure as hell should have gone along.  If I’d been adapting this that’s what I would have done.  Because Katniss watching the action on a TV screen is boring and it effectively neuters her.  Yeah, yeah, I understand how they wouldn’t want to risk their symbol but she seems passive as a result.

Basically Katniss, the protagonist of this film never actually protags.  She’s taken places where she can react to things.  React to the hospital getting bombed, react to the bombing of District 13, react to Peeta being rescued, react to Peeta trying to kill her.

Her impassioned speech after the hospital is bombed is her best moment, but truly the most effective thing a named character does in this movie is when Peeta breaks training and risks more torture to warn district 13 that they are about to be attacked.  Actually when you think about it Peeta is the hero of this particular installment.

Which is a shame because while I really like that character I want to see Katniss kicking ass, shooting arrows and taking names.

Disqualifying Behavior

I am linking to this article and I urge you to watch the video.  Kill The Gays Rally.  Not because of this ranting nutball religious head case and the 17oo deluded and hateful followers who attended, but because three republican presidential candidates showed up at this event.  I know people are going to say — “Oh Melinda, why are you getting upset over these bigoted fools?  They have no power, no way to actually enforce their murderous agenda.  Let me reiterate —

Because three candidates for the republican nomination to be president of the United States attended.

Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal.  Those are the names to remember.  What does it say about the current state of the republican party that candidates for the highest office in the land feel comfortable showing up, sharing the stage and being interviewed by this man?  Bluntly I think that their attendance at this event should instantly disqualify them from any consideration for president.  Nixon was notoriously homophobic but I expect even old Tricky Dick would have had enough brains not to show up at something like this.  While Huckabee and Jindal have no chance of actually securing the nomination Ted Cruz has an actual lane to run and win.  Sit with that for a minute.

What this tells me is that there is a percentage of the American public who are perfectly happy to let their racist, sexist, homophobic freak flags fly.  That good manners and civil discourse have long ago left the building, and that these three men are either —

  1.  Viciously homophobic themselves.
  2. Want to turn American into a Christian theocracy.
  3. Cynically playing the rubes to win the nomination

Personally I’m hoping for door number 3 — it’s the least terrifying option.


Otherwise known as the-Bond-franchise-takes-a-trip-down-memory-lane-and-we-remember-that-road-was-pretty-damn-silly.  This film was a real disappointment for me.  I’d been looking forward to it for months and last night I headed over for the 9:30 showing at the Cinepolis.  Thank god I was at the sybaritic theater with the big leather reclining seats with footrests and waiters ready to bring you food and alcohol.  I should have gone with the alcohol.  I almost ordered a margarita about halfway through the film.  I wish I had.





Even in the cold light of morning I’m still trying to figure out just what the hell this movie was about.  I know the plot — big organization has its tentacles in everything and is seeking world domination, but for some reason the villain is obsessed with James and has to screw with his life by killing every woman he’s loved and sending psychopaths after Bond because…..daddy?

This had the effect of undercutting all of Bond’s victories in the previous films because if it turns out the villains weren’t actually the real villain then Bond and M and everyone at MI-6 look like morons.  There’s also the problem that if you were going to build on James being an orphan then they should have given us some hint of Oberhauser in Skyfall.  Instead the foster father just comes out of nowhere.  If these men had spent some years together in childhood then give me some sense of those years.  If I’d been writing this I would have put Oberhauser on stage early.  Have him come to James for help, make them companions, play the relationship and then reveal the jealousy and the betrayal.

There was more lazy plotting — “I went to Mexico City because M sent me a message from the grave.”  Ugh.  How about having the new M very concerned about this move to rely on technology rather than people and he sends Bond into the field?  Or as I suggested earlier make Oberhauser the catalyst.  Also, please don’t make the new spy/drone master part of Spectre.  It made everything just feel too convenient.  Also, they already played this beat in Skyfall with the clueless bureaucrats messing with the spies.  I guess they thought having C be a traitor took the curse off.  It didn’t.  I liked having M be more involved in the action and Q was just great.  Some of the action sequences were very exciting, but…….

When we finally meet Oberhauser/Blofeld complete with a white Persian cat I really started to have a huge amount of sympathy for Daniel Craig.  I wanted out of the movie theater so I can see why he wants out of the franchise.  Craig did seem to be sleepwalking through this movie.  The entire scene at the North African secret lair with the torture chair device and the villainous monologue had me checking my watch.  For me the gritty, grounded feel of the first films was what brought me back to being a huge Bond fan.  (Didn’t hurt that Craig is gorgeous and a terrific actor), but this film seemed to go back to tired tropes.  I think if you’re going to go flamboyant then it has to be embraced throughout the movie.  This film felt schizophrenic as it bounced between camp and realism.

The women.  Oy.  There are precisely 3 in the film.  The Italian widow who has maybe five lines.  Moneypenny who gets to answer the phone.  And Swan who gets to take Bond to a hotel room to discover an evidence stash and then, inexplicably, go with him to the Secret Lair even though she says she wants no part of her father’s world.  Guess the sex was just that good.  Here’s a personal note — Craig is looking his age which is fine for the idea of the weary warrior, but Léa Seydoux looked way too young for him.  It kept pulling me out of the film.

I know the moment at the end where Bond doesn’t kill Oberhauser,and throws away the gun is supposed to be a big emotional moment but it felt contrived and almost an afterthought.  If the theme was going to be “Bond decides to no longer be a killer” then that tension needed to be laid in throughout the entire film.

For me Skyfall worked so well because it had a coherent theme.  It was about making cold, calculated decisions and the consequences of those choices.  The irony (in the best way, the use of irony to highlight a story) is that the problem is solved not by M’s emotionless assessments, but by Bond making a purely emotional decision to protect this woman who has dominated his life.

I have no idea what the theme of this movie was supposed to be.  I won’t be adding this Bond film to my collection.


Crimson Peak

Oh, dear.  Where to start.  First the good.  Tom Hiddleston is so handsome and so charming and such a good actor.  He can do more with a look then many actors can manage with a half page soliloquy.  He also dances beautifully.  yes, Tom I’ll waltz with you anytime and he’s in this film a lot.

Then there’s the rest —




You have been warned.  I said to a friend this morning this movie felt like a Daphne du Maurier novel from the 1930’s.  Nothing wrong with that.  I read and enjoyed her novels back in the day, but it’s a kind of story telling that seems very naive to us today.  It’s was directed by Del Toro so it was visually gorgeous, but the story felt trite and rather empty.

I had been worried about seeing the film because I’m a big wuss and I don’t handle horror well.  There is nothing horrific here.  Del Toro tries for tension with sudden sounds, but it didn’t even get a jump out of me much less ramp up the tension.  Jessica Chastain is appropriately creepy as the overly clingy sister to the degenerate English noble played to perfection by Hiddleston.  Mia Wasikowska is appropriately fragile and innocent as the young bride brought to the brooding mansion in England, but it all felt so familiar.

The one nice change was that you ultimately discover that the ghosts — as horrific as they might look — are actually trying to help young Edith.  I did wonder why after you’re dead you don’t just come back to haunt in a form that makes you happy.  Why do you have to be a blood drenched skeleton?  Is there some rule at ghost central that you have to be a horror?

Ultimately you discover that the brother and sister were horribly abused by their parents (which you had figured out almost right away especially when you saw the hideous portrait of mommy dearest).  The older sister is the leader in this Folie à deux to try and make Hiddleston less horrific.  Probably a good choice since the actor is so appealing, but you can’t get around the fact that he married three women for money and then let his sister poison them.

Of course the big shocking revelation is that the brother and sister have been having sexy time with each other.  Another thing which was telegraphed from the first moment at the ball.  And really folks, after Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones can sibling incest really be shocking?

There is, of course, the stalwart young American lover who lost Edith to the degenerate baronet played by Charlie Hunnam doing a truly terrible American accent.  The character is also too dumb to live.  He literally walks through the snow to rescue his lady after discovering the baronets previous marriages, and the horrific death of the mother and he doesn’t bring a gun.  He fails utterly to rescue Edith and instead gets stabbed but not killed.

Edith survives a fall from a balcony that seems to leave her with nothing more then a sprained ankle which shows up intermittently as Edith engages in a knife/shovel fight with crazy sister.  It was a pleasant change that the burly hero doesn’t rescue his lady love.  Instead she rescues him, but it wasn’t enough to save this movie.

At one point I leaned over to my friend Stephen Boucher and said “If Hiddleston weren’t so pretty I’d leave because this is boring.”  So no, if you are a wimp about horror films don’t worry about this one.  It’s not scary.  It you happen to have a crush on any of the actors then go and enjoy.


I had recorded the premier episode of this show and I had high hopes.  It’s produced by Berlanti who is doing ARROW and THE FLASH, but this one didn’t work so well for me.  The young actress playing Kara is appealing though for those of us devoted Arrow watchers she seemed like a version of Felicity.  Perky, talkative, a bit insecure. I liked the changes to Jimmy… James Olsen.  I was glad they’re not spending a lot of energy on trying to keep her identity secret.  There’s a real Devil Wear’s Prada feel to Kara’s relationship with her boss played by Calista Flockhart, but in someways that nod to an existing movie summed up my overall problems with the show.  It felt like they were grabbing for familiar tropes like they were life vests.

I could see all the seams, all the tricks and tools of the writing game in the script, and they were all telegraphed.  Here is the foster sister with whom Kara was raised when she arrived on Earth.  Of course she’s jealous and we have to have that scene.  Here’s the scene of Kara’s self-doubt about her ability to be a hero even though she knows she was groomed to be a hero.  Here’s the crabby government agency dude who “doesn’t trust aliens”.  Here’s the scene where Kara and her sister have to work together to defeat the bad guy.

Bottom line this script felt like it had been written with a copies of Syd Field’s The Foundations of Screenwriting and Save the Cat at their elbow.

I’m going to give it a few more episodes to find its footing.  The other two shows are so good that I can’t believe this one will continue to fall short.

Star Trek: Renegades

Okay, so now I can talk about the work I’ll be doing for Star Trek: Renegades. As many of you probably know there has been a tradition of fans of the show making their own episodes and putting them up on-line. They range in quality, but some are produced by people in “the Industry” as we call it. Renegades is one of those.

I was approached by executive producer Sky Conway and asked if I would come on board. I said I would have to look at the pilot they had produced and also that they had to be a WGA signatory. I don’t work outside of my guild. I then went and watched Renegades and was very impressed.

I was especially attracted to the idea of showing a side of the Star Trek universe that was glossed over or ignored in a lot of the shows — the grungy underbelly. My elevator pitch for Renegades is Guardians of the Galaxy meets Star Trek. The idea of writing about crooks, criminals, and con artists, journalists — in short people who didn’t (in the famous words of Peter Quill) “have broom sticks shoved up their asses” was very appealing.

So I’m headed back to L.A. to take up my duties as the executive producer overseeing the writing. I’m writing episodes 2 and 3. Which has me jazzed because these will be featuring Admiral Chekov (the ten year old Melinda had a total squee moment because I spent about forty minutes on the phone with Walter Koenig discussing the show).

One of the things that was important to me was to approach these next 11 episodes the way Daredevil was approached on Netflix. Tell a complete story arc rather then just a series of episodes. Because productions are always a frantic effort to meet deadlines and lay track there will be some hard days, but mostly I think this is going to be fun. And I get to write scripts again which is my preferred form when it comes to writing.

One of the things that helped me make the decision was listening to Felicia Day talk at the Jean Cocteau theater.  It’s clear that you can reach a broad audience on-line, and that this is a vibrant new way to offer entertainment.  Felicia became a star because of an on-line show.  This looked like an opportunity and I decided to take it.

If you are interested in giving us your support you can go to the kickstarter and become a renegade.Star Trek Renegades

Well Worth a Read

I don’t normally link to editorials, particularly ones about politics, but this one is amazingly insightful and gives a historical context to all the crazy that currently surrounds us.

Benghazi, Joe McCarthy and the Witch Trials



Psychology and Agents of SHIELD

I love this show.  Yeah, the first 3/4 of the first season were shaky, but I liked the people enough — especially Coulson to hang in there.  I was also fascinated with Grant Ward and not just because he’s pretty (though that helped).  I just knew there was more to that guy then just being the pretty boy.  Then the whole Hydra thing hit, and yeah, I was totally there.  Now we’ve got inhumans and other planets, and wow.

What we also have is really interesting analysis of human psychology.  We’ve got May determined to be totally independent yet longing for the husband she pushed away.  We’ve got Coulson a profoundly decent man who is still wondering why he’s alive, what does it mean?  What can he, should he do with this gift?  The truly messed up relationship between Fitz and Simmons.  Total love on the one side.  Advance/retreat on the other.  Ironically Skye/Daisy has become the most grounded person in the mix.

And then there’s Ward.  Abusive family.  Psychopathic tendencies nurtured under the care of a true psychopath and sociopath.  Desperately looking for love but unable to understand what love actually is.  The last episode Ward is the head of Hydra but he calls himself “Director” as in director of SHIELD.  His people are called agents.  He’s trying to recreate SHIELD so he can recapture that feeling of belonging somewhere.  A friend of mine once suggested as a joke that the person Ward actually loves is Coulson.  I actually think there is something to that.  He clearly never loved May.  Skye was an infatuation.  Agent 33 was a weird attempt to nurture not destroy.  Maybe a sense that if he could heal her he could heal himself.  And then he killed her.  So maybe Coulson is the person over whom he obsesses.  Is it a misplaced need for a father?  Romantic feelings?  Which ever way the writing staff goes I’ll be there to watch.

And this is a show that had a shrink as a character.  You don’t see that very often.  Basically it’s a show that despite all the super powers and explosions and guns and just general cool shit it’s about the human mind and the human heart.

The Intern

I like movies.  I like to go out to the movies.  So today I went to the movies.  A lightning strike had fried my old modem so I headed out to Best Buy to buy a replacement.  The Best Buy is just a few short blocks from the movie theater here in Santa Fe so I decided to run by and see what might be playing at around 1:00 p.m.  Turned out THE INTERN starring Robert de Niro and Ann Hathaway had a 1:10 showing.  I had wanted to see this film so I went in bought a ticket and a hot dog and settled down to be entertained.

The movie didn’t disappoint.  It’s a small story, personal and character driven.  Nothing blows up and nobody gets killed, but it has a good heart and it raises real questions that face driven career women.  Believe me, I know.  I’ve faced them.  De Niro has gone from the raging bull to the kind and avuncular figure and he does it very well.  I know there’s been a big hate on against Ann Hathaway, and I don’t get why.  I’ve always liked her in all her films and she was great in this movie as well.

I know going to the movies probably doesn’t seem like work, but it is for me.  Not only because I work in television and film, but because watching a story develop can often spark something in my own work.  Earlier in the day I had been working on a scene in the space opera.  I realized as I watched this movie that I didn’t have enough heat, enough pain and enough passion in the scene.

My female protagonist is facing betrayal by her husband and I was playing her far too matter-0f-fact.  This is a gut punch and I needed to get in and face it.  I had to let experiences in my own life come out, be raw and get laid on the page.

And I did that tonight.  It wasn’t fun.  It hurt, but the scene got a lot better and a lot more real.  That’s the hard part about writing.  Sometimes you have to pick off the scab and let it bleed.  I know teachers often tell aspiring writers to “write what you know”.  By and large I think this is terrible advice.  People who write science fiction haven’t been in space or met aliens.

Today I realized what those teachers might be groping to say is that what you know is the pain and grief, joy and celebration that you’ve experienced.  Those you do know.  You just have to have the courage to put them on the page.


The Martian – Book and Film

Last night I went over to the Cocteau theater to listen to George R.R. interview Andy Weir, author of THE MARTIAN.  I had read the book several months ago and enjoyed it enormously because I’m a giant space geek.  It’s fun and funny and makes science and scientists cool.  It’s also a very short book so I finished it with in two days.

I then went off with GRRM and others to see the movie.  Which was great fun and inspiring, and apart from making cuts was a very faithful adaptation of the book.  Afterward George and I discussed the cuts.  He, of course, wished they hadn’t been made.  I thought they were perfect.  Basically George wanted more of trials and tribulations that Watney endured on his drive from the Hab and the landing site to the other crater where a return vehicle was waiting.  It consisted of more big storms, and getting tipped into a crater.  But here’s the thing.  We’d already seen one big storm, and by this point in the movie we wanted to see how launching a man into space while under a tarp was going to work out.  It was a pacing issue and the screenwriter and Ridley Scott made the right decision.

As for George’s constant whine about doing “faithful” adaptations.  Sometimes you can.  In this case it’s a short novel with a handful of characters and a very linear story.  It’s the Perils of Pauline done very, very well.  Those are easy stories to adapt — it’s one-damn-thing-after-another.  Other books don’t lend themselves to that.  Books that rely on the beauty of their prose, or vast amounts of internal dialog or have enormously complex plots and a lot of characters are far more challenging to adapt to a visual medium.  Make no mistake books and film are different mediums.  They require different story telling skills.

What I loved about the movie was watching smart people solve problems and humans being supportive of each other, agreeing that lives matter — even the life of one man.  My major quibble was with the portrayal of the head of NASA.  Even in the book I didn’t buy the idea that he would keep the information that Watney was alive from the Ares crew, and when you see Jeff Daniels portraying the bureaucrat on a fifty foot screen he becomes even more of a cliche.

There were two point that I wish had been sold a little better in the film versus the book.  I had a feeling that dimmer members of the audience might be puzzled about how Watney replenished his oxygen.  That was explained very well in the novel, but was a tossed off line in the film.  They spent a lot of time on how to make water — which was good — but the oxygen issue wasn’t as well defined.  The reason I wanted this is after a diet of gibberish from shows like V and movies like Independence where the aliens want our water or our natural resources I wanted people to understand that minerals and water aren’t hard to come by in the greater universe.  I’d really rather have these shows say that the aliens want our women (or our men).  It would actually make more sense.  (Which is not saying much).

The visuals on Mars were fantastic, but I actually enjoyed the scenes back at NASA and JPL even more.  Those scenes reminded me of that great moment in APOLLO 13 where all the techs are gathered and a guy comes in carrying an armful of junk, dumps it on the table, picks up a round tube and a square slot and says — “This has to fit into this.  Go!”

Weir addressed the elephant in the room right up front during is talk.  Yes, there couldn’t be a windstorm that powerful on Mars.  But hey guys, this is fiction and he needed a set up and this was great setup.  Why strain over that gnat when we swallow entire  747’s when we buy into stories with faster then light speed?

Bottom line — I really liked the book and the movie.  So read one and then see the other.

My Day In The Mountains

I had a plan for the day.  I had worked very hard in the morning on breaking a script I’m going to write, and had a lot of success.  Just a couple of scenes to add to act four and I think it’s cooked.  I had promised myself a day up in the Santa Fe National Forest looking at aspens.

My plan was to get there at 2:00, hike and then come back down to town and go see Crimson Peak at 4:00.  Well, that didn’t happen because a business thing kept me from reaching the mountains until 3:30.  I decided that the movie would be there tomorrow, but the aspens not might be.  And indeed a number of them had already gone to winter bare, but it was still magnificent.  Here’s what I saw when I reached Big Tesuque Trail.


I first took the trail beside the stream, but the amount of moisture had left it very muddy and it was tough going, especially since I’d forgotten my walking stick.  I have missed my aspen walk the past couple of years, and before that the stream was almost dry from the drought.  Not this time the water chuckled and murmured, there was a light breeze that set the aspens to quaking and golden leaves floated down into the water to be swept away.

I returned to the parking area and took the left hand trail which was in much better condition, but it’s a steep climb especially when you’re at 9000 feet.  here’s a sample of the trail.

As I hiked I found one last, lone holdover of summer.  Poor little flower is doomed to die.  Most likely tonight.  After exploring part of Tesuque I drove up to Aspen View.

I hiked up the road.  People were snapping photos, dogs and children were playing.  People were smiling and talking to each other whether they were acquainted or not.  Partway up I found a structure that the rangers often build out of fallen aspens.  I wanted to have a campfire and stay, but I feared it wouldn’t keep off the impending rain.

It was a good day.

Insomnia TV Watching

I had a lot on my mind last night and found sleep to be eluding me.  I was going to watch my recording of ARROW, but at one point I went channel surfing and came across McCloud an old TV show from the 1970’s.  Dennis Weaver was the star and it was a show about a marshal from Taos New Mexico who ends up doing police work in New York City.  It was a classic “fish out of water” story that Hollywood loves so much.  It also had a hero who was from New Mexico so of course I watched it.  Because I’m always drawn to some supporting character I loved the irascible Chief of Detectives played by J.D. Cannon more then the star.

So there I was sleepless in Santa Fe watching an old TV show on Me TV and during the commercials shifting back over to the Arrow episode.  The differences were… striking.  I don’t know whether they filmed McCloud on film or tape, but it looked terrible.  Washed out, grainy.  Arrow looks like a feature film by comparison.  I’m not sure who directed or edited this episode of McCloud but in half the shots where one character was standing and another sitting the head of the standing character was cut off.  The acting seemed very broad, especially from the supporting cast as if they were stage actors who had suddenly found themselves on a sound stage.  And there was the smoking.  It was jarring after so many years of not seeing smokers on television.  I felt as removed from this era and this kind of story telling as I would watching a flickering black and white low budget film from the 1930’s.  The script also seemed very — I don’t want to say unsophisticated.  Let’s use innocent.  There were no surprises as we cut away to the bad guys so we knew their nefarious goings on while our good guys followed threads that were already apparent to the viewer.

I finally wandered off to bed at 1:30 wondering if it’s just the change in technology that makes entertainment so different or if there has been a fundamental shift in audience tastes, sophistication and expectations?  I think the latter.  Television has been with us since the late 1940’s.  Audiences are very savvy now.  When I was developing shows and writing television pilots I always had executives telling me to “explain things”, and I would try to argue that it wasn’t necessary for modern audiences.  They’ve grown up with this kind of visual storytelling.  They can fill in the gaps and you exasperate them if you are spoon feeding.

I think that lesson has bene learned judging by modern television.

Still it was an interesting walk through memories even if I might have to take a nap today.

Confuse Them and Lose Them

There’s a tendency in writing for people to think that if a three ring circus is good a five ring circus must be better and a seventeen ring Circus must be awesome.   Except it’s not because a lot of stuff happening doesn’t mean it’s exciting.  In fact it’s usually means that things are confusing for your reader/viewer.  Worse it suggests that you as the creator don’t have a clue what you’re doing.  That you’re just flinging stuff at the wall and praying something sticks.  When that starts happening you’ve lost the trust of your readers/viewers and it’s very hard to get that back.

This is on my mind right now because I was looking at an outline for a script and also did a plot break with a friend for their novel.  In both cases there were backstories and plots within plots and plots that went nowhere, and a plethora of characters and frenetic action and neither of these projects worked.

They were missing the basic theme.  What is this about — and no, don’t tell me the plot — and they were both missing a through line.  Another way to say it is what is the spine of this story.  What are the moves that have to be there to make this story understandable and satisfying?  Once you have that you can hang ornaments and lights on the spine, but you always need to be asking if this particular glittering bauble or flashing light actually helping me tell my story or explicate character of is it just activity for activities sake that isn’t going anywhere.

Yes, it’s a tightrope.  Too simple and linear and your readers or viewers are going to be ahead of you, will never be surprised, and will get bored.  Too much going on and you’ll confuse them and lose them.

Next up — I’m going to write about protagonists and how they really need to “protag”.

Gotham — Must Rant

I watched the second episode of Gotham today.  I should have been working, but I’m trying to clear off the DVR.  What a mistake.  The only good thing was Sean Pertwee in a scene with Lucius Fox.  This entire episode was a lesson in what not to do starting with false jeopardy/tension.  If anybody hates SPOILERS stop now.

So Baby Batman has discovered daddy’s secret hide out, and starts to access the computer which Alfred smashes.  Then Bruce “fires” him.  One teensy, weeny, tiny problem — Alfred is Bruce’s legal guardian and the kid’s a minor.  Presumably Bruce can’t write checks to pay the bills on the mansion so Alfred tells the kid to shut up and take it until he’s 18 or 21 or whatever the will states. Also Alfred claims he just wants to protect Bruce from whatever his father discovered.  So he just leaves?

Then a scene or two later Bruce catches Alfred at the train station and they settle their differences.  Which means it wasn’t actually a problem so it’s false beat that doesn’t lead to an honest emotional reaction on the part of the viewer.  It’s just manipulative and not ever well done manipulation because Alfred accepting his fired was stone stupid.

Next we have Gordon who decides punt his brain in a spectacular fashion.  He chases after Crazy Barbara without back up and gets the shit beat out of him while the crazies kill all the cops in the precinct.  We’ve already seen these guys stage an event.  It doesn’t occur to Bruce that this is a set up?  So now our lead character has also been damaged even more then they damaged him last week.  Now he’s venal and stupid.  Makes me want to cheer for him.

Cameron Monaghan is doing his damndest as Baby Joker and he does crazy very well, but a parade of horror and villains can’t save this show.


  • August 8th 4:00 p.m.
    Book signing at Page One
  • August 12th
    7:30 p.m.
    Book signing at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego
  • August 28th-30th
  • September 4th-7th
  • September 12th 1:00 p.m.
    Autographing at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces N.M.
  • September 22nd 7:00 p.m.
    Autographing at the AZSF Reading Series, Scottsdale A.Z.
  • September 24th 7:00 P.M.
    Autographing at The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, C.A.

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