Sunday, November 26, 2006

Empire of Dreams

This is a duplicate posting to the one on alien romances.

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.

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

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Hot in Armour

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

Worldbuilding: Is going to the toilet going too far?

Have you ever "seen" anyone go to the toilet in a romance?
Well? Have you?

It's a strange phenomenon. In a romance novels (I assume they are classified as romance novels), heroic characters can deploy "butt plugs" in loving detail, but the reader cannot follow them into the bathroom for anything other than a wash.

In my world view, the bathroom is a very important place, not least because it is one of the few places where most heroes and heroines are allowed to be completely private... or not, if one happens to be aboard Tarrant-Arragon's space ship, Ark Imperial, because he is one Big Brother who really does watch everything his guests do.

On the loo is a very good place to be, if one is surrounded by unscrupulous mind-readers, and a lot of FFandP characters are psis, these days.

Bathroom scenes or latrine-trench scenes are part of my world building. The logistics of necessity are important to my fashionista heroine, Princess "Marsh", when she is marooned on a previously uninhabited island in INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL. She warms up to the super-practical 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 equipped with carbon filters. Do carbon filters actually work? I'm off topic, a bit here, but I do so love the MythBusters tv series. They do such practical and interesting experiemnts!

Returning to science fiction romance, and assuming that all romantic aliens are humanoid... now my mind wanders off to think of the alien who kept his genitals in his knee caps... I wonder how many different toilet designs would make sense.

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

For those who like to scavenge and win

Romance Junkies is running a scavenger hunt. Now!

The Hunt is live on the Romance Junkies website,, accessable through their contest pages or directly at

I think 60 authors have offered prizes, which probably means that "hunters" may end up visiting 60 websites.

Have fun,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Writing Speeds

Within the past few days I've read two news bits that struck me with shock in different ways, illustrating opposite attitudes toward writing speed and productivity. An article about the death of distinguished author William Styron mentioned that he typically produced only a page or so per day and refused to let himself proceed with the work until the present paragraph or page had attained as close to perfection as he could make it. That approach is so diametrically opposed to the standard advice-to-writers (and it's the approach I've tried to break myself of). The conventional wisdom is that, since some revision is inevitable, working too hard at getting the first draft perfect in every detail is likely to be a waste of time—because some of those details will almost certainly get changed. Maybe Styron was like Isaac Asimov, such a confident and fluent writer that he hardly ever revised. At any rate, since he was a Pulitzer Prize winner, Styron must have been doing something right.

The other bit comes from an article in WORKING MOTHER magazine, "Get a Life," about mapping out a concrete plan to achieve the ideal life you dream of (including the possible hiring of a "coach" to help you construct and adhere to your life plan). One woman in the article aspired to become a writer. "Cate and her coach agreed she'd have 90 days to get a book deal—that long only because Cate wasn't giving up her day job to pursue her writing dream." She sent out queries to 61 literary agents and hired a babysitter so she could work on the book every Thursday in addition to nights after the kids went to sleep. Lo and behold, she met her deadline and has a nonfiction book forthcoming this spring. !!!!! I certainly hope nobody reads this article and thinks this path to publication is realistic or typical. Ninety days from proposal to publication offer? This Cate person achieved the authorial equivalent of winning a multi-state lottery jackpot. Somebody really should write an article for WORKING MOTHER describing what the typical career path of a freelance writer is really like. :)