Storm Front

Dresden Files book one is interesting, but not quite as fabulous as the TV show… yet.

I haven’t finished Jim Butcher’s Storm Front yet, but I have to by Monday as I’m exchanging books with a friend during our monthly Mom’s Night, and I must say that I’m a bit disappointed already. I was absolutely in love with The Dresden Files TV show and was really looking forward to that kind of magic in the books. Instead, I’ve found some unbelievable monologue that’s a bit annoying, and sounds nothing like a grown man might think.

That said, my friend tells me that I need to expect this; that the books get better with time, and that I just need to hang in there for the next and the next one after that… so I will. She has excellent taste—she’s my friend, after all; just kidding!—and I trust her judgment.

We have been swapping books for months now and she trusted me enough to stick through Fablehaven, so I’ve got to return the favor. Plus, it’s Dresden! I can only hope that one day my books will be successful and I’ll have readers assuring “newbie” fans, “Stick with her, she gets better!”

In the meantime, the story itself is good and compelling enough for me to read through anyway, so I will continue and await the next book and what it brings. If the show is anything like the book—and so far, not even the characters seem like the ones in the book, which is really no surprise; aside from the main trio in the Harry Potter films, are they ever?—I am excited to meet many of the creatures and council that were present in the series.

Bag of Bones

Stephen King’s miniseries was unfortunately as disappointing as its book was amazing.

But what else is new, right? If I had a Buffalo nickel for every film adaptation of a favorite book (or comic book, for that matter) that just pissed me off, I’d be one rich woman—or at least I’d own my own Winnebago. But this time, it was different; it was worse. It was worse because Bag of Bones is one of my all-time favorite books, and because I was anticipating it for so long.

This miniseries went through so many rumors and incarnations that I don’t even know what it was intended to be originally—a movie? A Hollywood feature film, as it deserved? Who knows. I do know that I was intensely disappointed with Pierce Bronsan as Mike Noonan, one of my favorite King heroes—perhaps one of my favorite heroes of all time. I didn’t like the casting decision when I first heard of it, and after seeing the movie I can vouch for the fact that he never did live up to the widower’s courage.

The entire cast was actually a huge disappointment, save for perhaps Anika Noni Rose as Sara Tidwell. She was pretty spectacular—just about how I imagined our movie’s ghost—and I couldn’t have asked for a better portrayal there. That said, from the kids to Mattie to pretty much every other character, I was simply disappointed. I also felt like the most stirring scenes in the movie were completely disjointed and unaffecting, which is just pitiful, since Mattie’s death is supposed to make you throw the book down and weep, not roll your eyes and wait for what’s next impatiently.

I’ve got to stop doing this to myself—I have to stop watching adaptations of my favorite novels. It’s almost as if I have to see them, being such a big fan and being so excited with the prospect of seeing my loves acted out on screen. But I will always know in the back of my mind that it won’t measure up, so why even bother? There are always exceptions—Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me—but the general rule is disappointment.

As I eagerly await the news regarding Catching Fire, American Gods, and other adaptations from favorite books, I must remember this so as not to completely be disappointed yet again. And I certainly won’t be yammering to anyone who will listen about how “they need to make a Rose Madder movie!” Dear god, no. Please don’t do that to my absolute favorite book of all time!

The Field Beyond the Outfield

Do you have a really imaginative child who doesn’t sit still well, or maybe who has imaginary creatures in his or her closet or under the bed? I do. My daughter loves to play pretend, and she always has some sort of imaginary friend on her heels, whether it’s a Miyazaki movie straight from a children’s book or a little ghostling who lives in her cash register. Recently we found a book that reminds us of her quite a bit about a boy with a very active imagination.

In the adorable picture book The Field Beyond the Outfield by Mark Teague, a young boy encounters monsters wherever he goes—particularly in his closet at home, as many children do. The monsters aren’t your traditional ones, however; they are mostly animals, bugs, and other not-so-scary creatures. That was perhaps the most disappointing thing for me; yes, it’s friendly so it won’t scare kids, but we like the kinds of monsters you’ll find in a Neil Gaiman children’s book better in our house.

Even so, it’s a really cute story because the boy’s parents decide that his imagination is so overactive that he needs to have some kind of activity to do, so they sign him up to play sports. That seems to be the universal response from parents who want to “fix” their little boys, right? The only thing is, being on the team doesn’t help the boy a bit. In fact, it only enriches his imagination further!

He imagines himself being pulled back into an outfield behind his own outfield, one in which monsters, of course, are playing ball. He then gets to play with the monsters (who ask if he knows how to play), hitting a ball pitched to him straight out of the park for his first homerun. The monsters cheer for him wildly, and he’s never been happier.

His father tells him that he’s sorry he didn’t get to play today and that he hopefully will next time, telling us that the boy didn’t really play in the game that his parents insisted he play, but the one in his imagination instead. After that, when he sees his imaginary friends and monsters in his closet, he is no longer afraid of them—and they presumably remain in his life, which is wonderful. If only his parents could respect his imagination in the first place and foster that rather than his being like everyone else!

A Whisper of Blood

I am in the middle of reading yet another collection of chilling stories collected and edited by Ellen Datlow (this time, she edited the collection alone). A Whisper of Blood: 18 Stories of Vampirism doesn’t focus on traditional vampires, however. With one exception so far, the stories largely deal with psychic vampirism and other forms of living off another being without actual blood drainage.

Whether I am just burned out on vampire stories or because this week has been a difficult one, I am not sure, but I just haven’t been enjoying this book as much as the majority of books that I’ve ready by Datlow. It seems like these stories just aren’t as gut-punching as the stories I’ve read in Datlow’s other collections—nor as scary.

That said, the stories are still enjoyable enough to read. One in particular had me at hello. Called “The Slug,” this short story by Karl Edward Wagner is something that every writer should read. It details the account of a writer who finds himself being preyed upon by another writer, who slowly absorbs all of his stories and success as the writer finds himself finally desperate enough to commit murder as he struggles in poverty. The end of the story has a nice, although predictable, twist, too.

I am not really sure the word slug works with a parasite, however—this is even addressed within the story. Still, it is something that all writers can relate to, as we all have been interrupted by that well-meaning friend who thinks, “Oh, he could use some company!” or, “She’s probably not doing anything anyway. I’ll only stop by for a few minutes.”

Those few minutes, as we all know, can KILL a piece. A sentence we once had is now lost forever, never to be committed to paper or file. My own husband could enter the room meaning to be helpful or to share some funny little tidbit he overheard, thereby ruining an entire story I’m working on. After sixteen years, he still doesn’t get this.

The author’s note itself gives a fantastic, and humorous, explanation, describing an uninvited guest as an entire day lost much better than I ever could: “The imaginative is the choice prey of the banal, and uncounted works of excellence have died stillborn thanks to junk phone calls and visits from bored associates.” The entire few paragraphs are worthy of distribution! In fact, I want to put this little note on a piece of paper and paste it to my office door for well-meaning but uninvited company to read before daring to enter! In fact, I’d like to read it into my answering machine as well.