One of the chief reasons opening weekends for movies fail is poorly crafted trailers. Time and time again I am faced with trailers that show me the entire movie, thus removing my desire to see it. You see the only ten jokes, or you see a plot point—and instead of a trailer, it’s a spoiler.
A great example of how to craft a trailer is Disney's Frozen. John Lassiter and Company created A wholly independent animated piece that, as it turns out, never shows up in the film yet captures one sentiment of the film perfectly. It is a piece where a snowman loses his carrot nose. I kept waiting for that segment to arrive, and it never did! As a wink to the audience, there is a carrot/Snowman moment, but it is only that–a wink to the trailer. Genius!
As the rollout of the film drew closer humans started showing up in the trailers–and one realized there was more to the film then snowman and reindeer. But still, the trailer gave nothing away.
Now, Disney has a massive hit on its hands–because it made a terrific animated movie. But add to that it didn't spoil the movie by creating a trailer that gave us a two minute encapsulated version of it. Bravo! Brava!
I wish more studios would take a cue from this!
From the messy desk of Paul Levine...
Friends know I hate to fly. This story doesn't help. Medical personnel yank a passenger off a US Air flight in Phoenix because he has active tuberculosis. (The plane had just landed from Austin).
Dr. Schaffner said passengers on the plane should have a TB skin test done by their local health care provider. People who contract TB must take several medications for six to nine months, according to the CDC.
Hey, I hate it when the guy three rows away is coughing from a head cold. This would drive me insane in a Detective Monk sort of way.
On the subject of flying...note the clever segue...by now you know Amazon is experimenting with delivering packages to your front door by drones. The video shown on "60 Minutes" is now available on You Tube.
I like to think the drone pictured is carrying several of my books to a waiting customer. (Thirty minute delivery!)
Now, I would like to overcome my fear of flying so that I -- not my books -- can be delivered by drone. That's right. I'd like to volunteer to be the first author dropped on a reader's front lawn. Make me part of the 99 cent Daily Deal. (If the reader wants Stephen King, Lee Child, or John Grisham, they have to shell out $4.99).
When I arrive, I will attempt to entertain the buyer by spinning a tale or two. Maybe the family will invite me in for a cup of coffee and donuts.
Because Amazon is The-Company-So-Many-Love-to-Hate, the drone proposal has already drawn flak. My pal, the otherwise sane John Ramsay Miller opined: "Not content with destroying business like book stores, Bezos has more job killing in store for the middle class."
I have to disagree. Amazon is merely ramping up the delivery business. Local and chain stores will respond in kind. If Amazon can truly deliver a $12 roller skate key (that's what's shown in the video) in 30 minutes, so can a local store. (Does anyone still skate?)
Several Facebook friends have chimed in about the drone delivery proposal.
Veteran newsman Tim King predicts local TV stations will start using drones instead of helicopters to save money. Retired journalism professor Tom Berner wants to start using drones for his photography. Wise-cracker Lynn Gard Price said, "Two words. Target practice."
Progress is sometimes frightening. Buggy whip manufacturers surely did not like the advent of the mass-produced automobile. But we adapt. Companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google have changed the way we live...and the pace of our lives.
Nowadays, we take for granted activities that would have been jaw-dropping less than a generation ago. Yesterday, I received an email from OnStar
, telling me that the pressure in my car's right front tire was 31 pounds instead of the recommended 35. That's right. Not only does the company provide me with a navigation system and satellite phone -- useful when there is no cell coverage -- but once a month, it runs a diagnostic check on the car and informs me of the results. I am awed.
Now, if only I could overcome my fear of flying.
From the messy desk of Paul Levine...
Dear World Jewish Congress:
Thank you for the email marked "urgent" I received today. Yeah, the one that says "Petition Amazon to Stop the Sale of Hate Books." Allow me a moment to tell you why I regard your petition as pathetic, stupid and self-defeating. (Let me also say in passing I am not a "world Jew." I am an American Jew).
You list the names of three Holocaust-denying books you demand not be sold. You state:
"Recently, Amazon.com was exposed. It carries many titles denying the Holocaust and insulting Jews. Free speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. But that should not serve as an excuse for big corporations like Amazon.com to make money from selling hate literature."
Exposed, were they? Insulted, are we?
Well, too damn bad. This is a country built on free expression of ideas, even moronic, ill-informed or hateful ideas. The Supreme Court has told us so on many occasions. (And yes, I know you're not talking about the government banning the books, something clearly unconstitutional. But to me, your petition is just as offensive to rights of free expression).
Let me make my points succinctly:
1. You're drawing more attention to these obscure, idiotic books, which you mention by name on your website.
2. The same books are also offered by Barnes & Noble and many other booksellers, though not many are sold.
3. Do you not recognize the irony of a Jewish group advocating actions that, metaphorically speaking, amount to "book burning?"
4. Just how far do we go in banning "insulting" books? Should PETA be able to ban books on hunting? What about books that are degrading to women? Who gets to draw these lines?
5. Let the free marketplace of ideas reign. The truth will rise to the top. It always does.
On Saturday I drove to Malibu, a place I have always loved. The heroine of my mystery series, Tucker Sinclair, lives in a teardown on the Malibu beach and a scene from my WIP is set in front of a pet store in a funky little shopping center I used to visit. I once worked in Malibu in an office on a hill overlooking the coastline. I could have easily scribbled down my thoughts about the place, but I hadn’t been there in a few years and…well, it was Saturday and the sun was shining and I just felt like a drive. I figured the pet store might not still be there but that didn’t matter. In fiction you can create a pet store where one no longer exists.
The Malibu Country Mart had changed since the last time I was there. Its funky charm has become Beverly-Hills-at-the-beach chic. As predicted, the pet store was gone. I walked around for a time, inhaling the ambiance. Then I sat at a picnic table near the children’s playground, engaging my senses and taking notes. My story takes place in winter so I was able to feel the chill on my back and see how many leaves still clung to the trees. As I sat counting leaves, the perfect pet store substitution came to me, one that would serve not just as setting but also as a telling detail about my character. I doubt I would have thought of it if I hadn't made a trip to the 'Bu.
|Shopping village at Cross Creek Road|
Timid settings don't satisfy me. Years ago, I remember reading a novel set in Seattle. I lived there for thirteen years and was eager to follow the action on familiar streets and to see the city's unique culture captured on the page. To my disappointment, the descriptions seemed generic. The book could have taken place in almost any city in the U.S. As a reader, a vivid setting is important to me and I greatly admire authors who conjur a sense of place with a few choice sentences. Many novelists do this. Here are three:
The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
. I have never been to Cornwall but Pilcher’s descriptions of that place still enchant even though the book has been gathering dust on my bookshelf for many years. I still feel the warmth of the old Aga “simmering peacefully to itself,” warming the cottage. That’s partly why I love the television series Doc Martin
. The fictional setting of Port Wenn, Cornwall is, in fact, the real Port Isaac. I can imagine myself walking on a narrow trail toward a quaint cottage, perched above a craggy hillside. Later, I sit by the fireplace to banish a chill and a peck out a chapter of my latest novel on a vintage manual typewriter.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
|Port Isaac, Cornwall, setting of the hit TV show Doc Martin|
. I will never forget the nightmarish description of the approach to Manderley in the opening pages of this novel. The words set the stage for the horror to come:
"The drive wound away in front of me, twisting and turning as it had always done, but as I advanced I was aware that a change had come upon it; it was narrow and unkept, not the drive that we had known. At first I was puzzled and did not understand, and it was only when I bent m head to avoid the low swinging branch of a tree that I realized what had happened. Nature had come into her own again and, little by little, in her stealthy, insidious way had encroached upon the drive with long tenacious fingers. The wood, always a menace even in the past, had triumphed in the end. They crowded, dark and uncontrolled, to the borders of the drive. The beeches with white, naked limbs leant close to one another, their branches intermingled in a strange embrace, making a vault above my head like the archway of a church. And there were other trees as well, trees that I did not recognize, squat oaks and tortured elms that straggled cheek by jowl with the beeches, and had thrust themselves out of the quiet earth, along with monster shrubs and plants, none of which I remembered.
The drive was a ribbon now, a thread of its former self, with gravel surface gone, and choked with grass and moss. The trees had thrown out low branches, making an impediment to progress; the gnarled roots looked like skeleton claws. Scattered here and again amongst this jungle growth I would recognize shrubs that had been land-marks in our time, things of culture and of grace, hydrangeas whose blue heads had been famous. No hand had checked their progress, and they had gone native now, rearing to monster height without a bloom, black and ugly as the nameless parasites that grew beside them."
The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow
uses metaphor and setting masterfully. A once-in-a-lifetime monster wave is heading for the San Diego coast. Riding it successfully can cement a surfer’s reputation. Failure could mean a fatal wipeout in a caldron of raging water. As the tension rises in the main plot, the wave moves ever closer, triggering ominous warnings about its deadly force. Just before the climax of the main plot, the wave hits.
"It builds from far away, lifts and rises and rolls as it seems to take an eternity to crest, and then Rain smiles at him again, lies down, and starts to paddle, her arms and shoulders strong and graceful, and she moves into the wave with ease.
Boone paddles after her to catch the wave and ride it with her, all the way in to the beach, except, as he looks ahead, there is no shore, only an endless blue ocean and a wave that rolls forever.
He paddles hard, trying to catch her, desperate to catch her, but he can’t; she’s too strong, the wave is too fast, and he can make no headway. It makes no sense to him: He’s Boone Daniels; there is no wave he cannot catch, but he can’t catch this wave, and then he’s crying, in rage and frustration, until his chest aches and big salty tears pour down his face to return to the sea and he gives up and lies on his board.
Rain turns to him and smiles. Says, This isn’t your wave.
Her smile turns to sunshine and she’s gone.
Over the break."
Is setting in a novel important to you? If so, what books have you read with settings that still haunt you (in a good way)?
Dear Lord, you would have thought my world was caving in! Last week I wrote about being a bit tired, and feeling the need to step back from my writing to allow the creative well to fill full again. Admittedly, I have been pretty tired, what with one thing and another, however, within an hour of posting, my mum was on the ‘phone from England wondering if I was depressed. Other relatives who read my blog had called her to ask if Jackie was OK. Readers thought I might have given up writing forever. The genie was out of the bottle.
But how nice to think people care. That, even though I was a bit taken aback by the response – I would not have been surprised to see paramedics on my doorstep – I have people in my life who would reach out to find out if all was well. Millions don’t.
I wondered, then, how I could deflect some of this concern to those who truly need it. The aged, the sick, the children who suffer and the ones who seem to dodge under the radar of community or family, but who could do with someone reaching out to say, “Are you OK?” “Do you need a hand?” And because people are often too proud/scared/embarrassed to admit that they would love to grasp that hand outstretched, but don’t quite know how to close their fingers around the lifeline, perhaps there are ways in which we can just make an offer of some sort. It takes tact, a willingness to be turned away and therefore risk embarrassment ourselves, and indeed, sometimes a bit of bravery. But I think it’s good for everyone if we take the opportunity to connect with those less fortunate/at risk/needy when we can. It's good for all concerned. Giving is a gift in itself.
I overheard a conversation in a shop yesterday. A young man in his late teens, telling a friend how much he hated Thanksgiving. He said that his dad would always get on his case about something and his mother nagged everyone about the fact that she was stuck in the kitchen, then the relatives descended and it was havoc thereafter. I imagined him always ending up in the wobbly chair, you know, the one at the corner of the table where you have to keep one foot braced against the table leg, and the edge of the table sticks into your middle as you eat. I imagined him feeling like a little boy every Thanksgiving. Anyway, he went on with his complaint, then said, “Well, I won’t be doing it this year – I’ve volunteered to serve dinner at the homeless center, and clean up afterwards. I told my mom I’d be back after dinner.” And as I made my way down the aisle with my shopping cart, I wondered about that. I could imagine his mom being upset at his absence, but proud of him. Admittedly, his actions weren’t completely altruistic, but at least he wasn’t getting toasted at a friend’s house before turning up at home for dinner and trying to remain seated on the wobbly chair!
I’ve done that in the past – no, not been to a friend's house to drink myself silly - but I've served food at a homeless shelter at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and walked dogs at the humane society so the usual volunteers can be at home for the day. I’ve delivered food to the elderly and I’ve done a few other things. And I’ve felt guilty that I’ve not been able to keep it up throughout the year and that some years I don't get to make that sort of immediate contribution.
Perhaps the best thing is to do something for someone else every time you think it would be nice if someone did something for you, or when someone reaches out to you because they think you’re not doing so well. Remember Patty’s Veteran’s Day post a couple of weeks ago? There’s a list to get started on right there (I started knitting – a solder will be receiving a rather lurid yellow scarf at some point. That’ll scare off the Taliban!).
But here’s the essence of my post – and I know we are almost assaulted with such messages at this time of year, but I will add my voice: What would it be like if we all had it on our list of to-do’s to reach out to someone who needs a bit of help this holiday season? Wouldn’t that be the best gift to give? It's a way of demonstrating gratitude for all we have - such as the gift of people who care enough to call to see if we're OK, that sort of thing. And it's a time to remember that gratitude is allied to grace, and the world could always do with more grace.
This is where I would have uploaded a that lovely video on YouTube of people holding hands to Diana Ross singing "Reach Out And Touch Somebody's Hand ..." But I just cannot get that to work. You can find it here though: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-7qCG2_aaA
And me? Well – copyedits came in early, so I’m working hard now. And as you can see – I’ve also written a word or two.
Enjoy your weekend!
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