Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Empire of Dreams

Stayed up late last night, I did.

Empire Of Dreams was absolutely fascinating, to me, and to those with whom I watched it. I'm sure each one of us took something different away from it.

As an author, my sympathies went out to George Lucas at the point where Harrison Ford was explaining how George Lucas (with his author hat on) thought that the screen play contained everything necessary for the parts to be acted, and could not understand why the actors were making such a mean of certain scenes.

I thoroughly appreciated the story behind the carbon freezing, where Harrison was supposed to tell Leia, "I love you, too," and ended up improvising, "I know."

How cool, though, that George Lucas was his own editor. I especially liked the detail about that clip at the end of the fight with the sand person, where they needed more action but didn't have footage, so instead of having him brandish his weapon over his head just once, as filmed, they copied and spliced so he shook it in the air three times.

The insight that I appreciate most (at this moment) was the fact that the actor inside Darth Vader's helmet was pronouncing --and acting-- from one script, and Luke was reacting to another.

Now that really was the ultimate in saying one thing and meaning another... or of not being on the same page! I suppose it wasn't really much different from script management for Who Shot JR...? But it seemed deeper to this viewer.

I knew that Darth Vader's voice had been dubbed in later, but how cool it was to hear the difference in soundtrack when the original actor spoke. What a difference the "right" voice makes! Or the right howls. Wasn't it fascinating that Chewbacca originally had lines? Talking of Chewbacca, I greatly enjoyed the revelation that some of the movie makers were worried about the Wookie's lack of underwear. I'd noticed that uncivilized omission only the night before.

On Thursday night I tried to watch The Empire Strikes Back. I have it out from the library too, but it's a VCR and in almost unwatchably bad condition. Imagine my joy when it was on TV on Friday night. I was very pleased to see swordmaster Bob Anderson's name in the credits as a stunt double. (Recently I blogged about the account I'd read in By The Sword of why a genuine swordsman, not an actor, had to perform Darth Vader's fight with Luke.)

The music was something else I'd never really thought about--apart from the "declarative" Imperial theme for whenever Darth Vader stalked across the screen, like the wolf theme in Peter And The Wolf, only much more wicked.

How fascinating that the composer had recently finished the score for Jaws, where the
antagonist got the catchy, sinister theme music! What a twist for those of us accustomed to the Bond theme... the Here Comes The Hero refrain. When the movie music is really, really good, I don't notice it much, apart from the theme tunes. It's amusing what a difference a good orchestra makes to an aerial dogfight, isn't it?

I've watched a lot of The Making Of... documentaries, but I don't think I've grasped how much goes into making a great movie quite as vividly as I did last night, watching Empire Of Dreams.

What did you like best?

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving for those who celebrate it

I think someone once asked me whether the British celebrate Thanksgiving in the same way that Americans do.

My immediate, and hastily censored, reply would be something along the lines of, "That would be rather like King George III celebrating Independence Day," but upon more mature consideration, I recall that the Anglican church does celebrate the Harvest Festival.

I dimly remember altars resembling tasteful farmers' market stalls, and congregations singing, "Come ye thankful people, come. Raise the song of Harvest Home..."

I might have remembered the wrong verbs for the second line of that hymn. I don't remember eating turkey (too close to the Christmas turkey, anyway) or pumpkin pie, or watching anything particular on TV.

As for me, today, I've got the smallest butterball turkey breast I've ever seen, and will be cooking an approximately traditional feast this evening (since my husband has a business meeting mid-afternoon). So far, I haven't seen a pumpkin pie flavored yoghurt, but there are apple pie, key lime pie, and cherry cheesecake flavored yoghurts.

While my husband is out, we'll record the football game... I'm rooting for Joey Harrington because he was fired from the team he's playing against... and I shall watch a swordfight-featuring video or two, because I am researching swordmasters.

It will either be the James Mason --love his voice-- Prisoner of Zenda or the Anthony Hopkins --likewise-- Mask of Zorro!

Have a lovely day, whatever you are doing!


Thursday, November 16, 2006

I've never looked at a male movie star, sports personality, or world leader, and thought, "My hero!"

Although I may have thought, "With his looks, what a villain he would make!" I don't want to go there. Most of my characters are a blend of at least three --or more-- sources, and all are products of my imagination.

Heroines are another story. I need a model. Not a runway model, but someone I can rewind and freeze frame. Djinni-vera in FORCED MATE was based on two women, but since it took me ten years to polish that book, I had plenty of leisure to stare (covertly) at real people, great cheek bones, and the way beautiful women smile when they are nervous.

Helispeta of MATING NET was a heroine written in a hurry. I hadn't expected to be given less than six months to write the story of a royal grandmother's first sexual miscalculation. Helispeta's beautiful, tragic, deer-in-the-headlights face was borrowed from the cover of a magazine.

Then, I changed her hair and eye color, the size and shape of her lower lip.... and all her vital statistics.

I had to watch TV for months before I spotted someone with the potential to model for Martia-Djulia of INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL. I'm not talking looks as much as animation, idiosyncracies, hand movements... maybe the faces she pulls when she is kissing the hero.

Now, I'm writing Electra-Djerroldina's story. By the way, with the Dj spelling which I use as an easy heads-up to the reader that this character is a royal Djinn, the D is silent. Maybe I'm getting better. Maybe I was lucky this time. It only took me three months to find the perfect role model with a slow motion sneer to kick-start my latest heroine's character.

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cold steel and the heat of battle

The things one picks up in the course of research!

Of course, I had thought --briefly-- that Knights in Armour probably did not smell very nice, but I had not considered how long they'd spend inside a metal suit of armour (like all day long) or how hot they'd get on a sunny day.

I wonder whether warrior Kings timed their quarrels to avoid fighting in July and August?

What do Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day, Roger Moore in Moonraker, Sean Connery in Highlander, Chris O'Donnell in The Three Musketeers, Catherine Zeta Jones, Anthony Hopkins, and Antonio Banderas in The Mask of Zorro, and Liv Tyler in LOTR have in common?

I found this fascinating!

According to Richard Cohen in By The Sword, the sword fighting consultant for all those great movie swordfighting scenes was Bob Anderson. A tidbit that interested me most was that it was Bob Anderson himself in the Darth Vader costume during that steamy light saber duel with Luke in The Empire Strikes Back.

Apparently, in order to keep the steam-effect from freezing Han Solo, the stage had to be kept very hot indeed, which was especially uncomfortable for a man in a helmet and long black robes plus heavy cloak.

None of this --movie trivia-- is especially helpful to me in my research for a swordfighting hero for my next alien djinn romance, but it gives me a new respect for Hollywood, and a new perspective on the "romantic" versus the "swashbuckling" versus the "pain of it" schools of movie swordfighting.

My next title is Knight's Fork. It's not about a Retiarius! Although it is Rhett's story.

Best wishes,

Rowena Cherry

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Romances with Toilets

My title reminds me of "Dances with Wolves" but has nothing whatsoever to do with wildlife or history. I write alien romances set in advanced worlds, and occasionally I try to envisage how future societies will manage the call of Nature.

Once upon a time, the King of a large, modern, Western country
came to visit one of a major auto-maker's design facilities. Both the Gents' and Ladies' bathrooms on one floor were closed to the public and reserved for their visiting Majesties' exclusive convenience.

As I recall the tale as it was told to me, their Majesties availed themselves of the opportunity (Royalty always goes when the opportunity presents itself, or is respectfully presented), took the entire entourage in with them (the host had assumed that the entourage would wait outside, and go afterwards), and conversation continued uninterrupted by any acknowledgement whatsoever that the setting was temporarily less formal.

My source has completely forgotten ever telling me this. He says I imagined it. I never forget a good potty story (but I do have strange dreams).

Hollywood movies have scenes set at urinals all the time. The loo seems to be a good place for mobsters to hang out, have conversations, assess each other's manliness, and sometimes kill each other.

I don't recall too many sci-fi movies with scenes in similar settings.

Bathroom scenes are part of my world building. The logistics of necessity are important to my fashionista heroine when she is marooned on a previously uninhabited island in INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL. She warms up to the hero considerably when he takes the time to fashion a decent toilet seat for her.

There are bathroom fixtures I've considered that would probably never get past an editor of romances. Just like only villains in Regency romances have bad breath, no one breaks wind in a spaceship, and there is no mechanism to deal with a problem that even aliens ought to have... I would have thought.

It's simply not heroic to back up to an interior, miniature porthole.

If water might be a precious commodity in outer space, much might be done with suction and air pressure (I suppose). Also recycling. One has to think of physics, and chemistry, and gravity, and logistics.

Assuming that all romantic aliens are humanoid... now I pause to think of the alien who kept his genitals in his knee caps... and if one could eliminate waste through ones feet, that could be convenient, depending where one lived, but again, it would not be romantic.

I've never been sure about fictional bathrooms on spaceships that appear out of nowhere at the push of a button. Walls move. Space is created with no discernable impact on the size of the living area. Solid bathroom fixtures appear. How? Is the bathroom like Dr. Who's Tardis? I could accept a shower, but not a jacuzzi, I guess. But, then, I am not a plumber.

Why push a button? What about a Clap-On Crapper? What fun if the alien-romance's human heroine were to clap her hands in delight over some unrelated matter, and the toilet would shoot out of the walls, slosh and retreat, and reappear until she had the wit to stop clapping!

Can any reader point me in the direction of a well designed alien loo?

Best wishes,

RAH interview

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Of interest to hunters... scavenger hunters

Romance Junkies is running a scavenger hunt. Now.

I believe that 60 authors are participating, and that some
of the prizes are pretty good.

Have fun!