Disappointing, for the most part. Rachel Aaron's advice is basically to be a heavy planner (as opposed to a "pantser", that is, a "write by the seat o...moreDisappointing, for the most part. Rachel Aaron's advice is basically to be a heavy planner (as opposed to a "pantser", that is, a "write by the seat of your pants" style writer). If you plan out every chapter and every scene before you actually start "writing", you see, the writing goes quicker.
Stop the presses.
The rest of the book consists of writing advice that's so crushingly obvious as to be trite (Three Act Structure -- it's gonna be BIG folks!) delivered in an irritatingly glib manner. It may be an artifact of originating as a series of "chatty" blog posts, but Ms. Aaron comes off as that one person at the party who keeps telling everyone things most people learned long ago as if it were the secret to life, the universe, and everything. You know, the kind who follows up half her points with "Think about it. Pretty deep, huh?"
It's not a total loss. Some of her descriptions of how she rethought her writing process could have, from a person who actually was a bit deeper instead of just thinking she was, been a springboard for a book useful to all writers, not just newbies (not a pejorative --- everybody's a newbie at the beginning) who've never encountered someone espousing the basics before, and who really, really like outlining everything down to the last detail.
But for anyone who's been writing for more than a short while, or who has encountered more than one or two other "how to write" books, I can't recommend this one. (If you are new, give it a go, but then go off and read half a dozen others that have more substance and utility to them, like Dwight Swain's how to books, and William Martell's screenwriting books.)(less)
Good, thorough bio of Django that suffers two problems, one unavoidable.
Even with a ton of original research, Dregni cannot avoid substituting specula...moreGood, thorough bio of Django that suffers two problems, one unavoidable.
Even with a ton of original research, Dregni cannot avoid substituting speculation for facts, for the simple reason that Django was illiterate most of his life, and his family were gypsies, and not prone to keeping records or talking to outsiders. So there is, especially covering the early years, a surplassage of "He must have felt this" and "He likely did that". Irritating. But, again, completely unavoidable.
The other problem I had, however, was irritating and fixable. Dregni keeps mucking with the timeline, in confusing ways, and sometimes for no apparent reason. In a chapter covering 1936-1937, he'll pause and give you a minor player's backstory from birth, then bounce back to the "present" of the chapter, then off-handedly jump forward to say Django would do such-and-such three years later, then bounce back again. A certain amount of this is unavoidable, I suppose, but he does it so often that I got the impression of, for instance, more tours of Britain than Django actually made, because one tour, and recording sessions made on it, got referenced before, during, and after the chapter that ostensibly dealt with it, and left a distinct impression of at least two tours, if not three.
Those irritations aside, the biography is invaluable for anyone wanting to know Reinhardt's story.(less)
The first half to three-quarters is pretty amazing, as Eric Flint brings his chess-match-style story construction from previous shorter works in Weber...moreThe first half to three-quarters is pretty amazing, as Eric Flint brings his chess-match-style story construction from previous shorter works in Weber's Honorverse ("From The Highlands" and "The Fanatic") to a full-on cloak-and-dagger novel.
Unfortunately, he loses a bit of traction in the ending, at least for me. To begin with, the title becomes distressingly literal, which disappointed me. Also, after the midpoint action bit, Flint seems to get bored with the (admittedly large number of) extra characters he had been following, and moves many of them (the surviving ones, I mean) off the board with less than spectacular justification. Narrowing the focus of the story also didn't help in that something that was flowing naturally then feels like it is forced, with a ball peen hammer, into a (cockeyed) Cinderalla story, and that didn't sit well with this reader either.
It never gets bad, nor does it stop being entertaining, but the closing quarter or so feels extremely forced, whereas everything Flint had done in the Honorverse prior flowed extremely well without obvious authorial manipulation.(less)
Lee Marvin was a fascinating man, as well as a hell of an actor. This bio brings out some family history that's kind of amazing (he has a direct famil...moreLee Marvin was a fascinating man, as well as a hell of an actor. This bio brings out some family history that's kind of amazing (he has a direct family connection to Admiral Peary's expedition to the North Pole, and that's not the most interesting part of that either), but has some curious lapses.
The most obvious lapse on first read was this: The book seems to narrate Marvin's private life, then goes back to fill in what he was doing professionally on a regular basis. (There is, of course, plenty of overlap.) So we get a gloss on the breakup of Marvin's first marriage and how he hooked up with his next partner, Michele Triola. It indicates when their breakup was coming, suggests that things were less than smooth sailing, then goes into his next film projects. When it gets to Point Blank, Epstein points out a number of story points in the film that were directly analagous to Marvin's private life, including a passing mention of Triola's suicide attempt -- something that went completely unmentioned up to this point. It later becomes plural, suicide attempts, but never do we get specifics, except in terms of the film Point Blank. It's really odd that such an apparently important event (or events) does not get anchored in the reader's mind. No date is given, not even a year, no context as to what was going on before or after. It's just mentioned in a way that dissociates it from his private life.
(Triola seems to have been a borderline sociopath, so it may be that Epstein considered any recounting of those events problematic, since she had a very well-documented disdain for the truth. Perhaps he had only her accounting of what happened, and chose not to trust it. Nevertheless, the choice is disorienting in an otherwise clear narrative.)
Apart from that, and a few other less prominent shortcomings, the book does Marvin's life quite a bit of justice, covering the major personal and professional moments without getting bogged down in minutiae. I was surprised to find a lot of personal resonance in his life, given how utterly different his background was from my own. Epstein does not excuse Marvin's personal shortcomings, nor does he use them as a means of dismissing anything. He actually does a solid job of giving the reader some understanding of where they came from, and sympathy with Marvin for the demons he lived with.
All in all, a good and informative read, apart from the mentioned lapse, something anyone interested in Lee Marvin should read.(less)
A collection of interviews published on Opensource.Com leading up to the 2013 All Things Open conference, I was rather hoping for a few insights into...moreA collection of interviews published on Opensource.Com leading up to the 2013 All Things Open conference, I was rather hoping for a few insights into parts of the open source world I'm not familiar with.
Unfortunately, both the questions and the answers were about as deep as a puddle in the desert. Questions were tediously uniform (perhaps unavoidable over a large number of interviews), there seemed to be no interaction between interviewer and interviewee, with almost no follow-ups looking for more substance. And the answers given seemed more pitched to buzzwords and marketing speak than anything else, except for the folks who went on about diversity and inclusiveness in the open source community, who worked hard to sound like University diversity office press releases.(less)