Blogs, movies, and a witch or two

discovery-of-witches

Revised October 20, 2019

Back in April, I posted this blog about the TV adaptation of the Deborah Harkness novel, A Discovery of Witches. At the time, I had only watched several episodes. It is worth noting that having watched the remaining episodes, my opinion still stands and I look forward to the upcoming season two which follows the events of her second novel. Filmed adaptations rarely live up to expectations. That’s the nature of one art form when drawn into another. I prefer to be charitable. If it hits an eighty percent satisfaction rate, I give it a thumbs up. The sad fact is that so few even reach that mark.

Without further ado, on to the unaltered blog from April, just in time for Halloween:

APRIL 28, 2019—I just completed my sister blog for Cinema Houston shortly before beginning this one. It’s a bit disconcerting, jumping from one to the other, rather like having two separate jobs or a secret identity—Bruce Wayne and the Batman, Jekyll and Hyde, Frank Oz and Yoda, take your pick. The fact that they are distinctly different and yet similar in tone makes it all the more difficult to compartmentalize what goes into each.

In this blog, I touch on writing and creativity, words and images. Anything that comes close to a fit goes in this bin. As an artist as well as a writer, the two crafts are ideal bedmates.

Cinema Houston is, at least on the surface, a different animal. It began as an offshoot of my book on the history of Houston Movie theatres.

Since then, it’s expanded to cover the movie experience in general as well as preservation. By nature of the combined elements of the motion picture, this means it also includes the aforementioned writing and creativity, words and images (and sound. The only thing missing is fragrance, unless you count Smell-o-Vision. Yes, there really is such a thing.)

220px-Discovery_of_Witches_CoverSo rather than blather on about the written word this time, I thought I would touch on the combinations and how they work for and against one another, especially when molded into film. I’ve considered this as I have been watching the BBC America adaptation of Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches. As an enthusiast of the All Souls Trilogy of books, I was both excited and nervous when I first heard of it being adapted to the screen. After all, we’ve all been disappointed when our favorite books get the movie treatment with less than stellar results.

It is a delicate thing, removing words on a page to the reality of sight and sound. The pitfalls are many, most notable being the severe compression of hundreds of pages into the limitations of minutes. Subplots are lost, as are minute details and thoughts. Even the best of adaptations suffer from this inevitability, and it represents a challenge to the writer tasked with the screenplay. If the writer has a clear vision and respect for the source material, there is a chance that the end product doesn’t suck too much.

In the hands of a bad writer, all bets are off.

I understand that book and movie are two different beasts and must be considered as such. But the oft-spoken statement holds true most of the time: The book was better.

Regarding A Discovery of Witches, I’ve now seen the first two episodes. As tempted as I am to binge-watch them, there is a delight in anticipating the next chapter each week. So far, I have been incredibly satisfied in the casting, portrayals, and the reworking of a hefty book into a visual narrative. Yes, much of the original content has been condensed, reworked for time, but based on those three episodes, I give it a thumbs up. I say this knowing that as the series progresses, it could go south. I doubt I will get everything I want. I don’t expect to see the yoga scenes (those of you who read the book know what I’m talking about).  But I have faith.

It comes down to word allotment. Novels allow the writer the unlimited plan. Novellas less. Short stories even more. Get to poetry, and every word counts. The same with adaptations.

Every art form has its own rules, and any attempt to bring one into the other is always problematic. But that is the nature of the arts and their shared goal of conveying story and emotion. The challenge is how to convey plot, emotions, motivations, back history, the whole shebang within the confines of said medium.

Now excuse me, because another episode of A Discovery of Witches is coming on, and for the next hour, I do not want to be disturbed.

Now excuse me, because I want to get back to rereading A Discovery of Witches to see what got left out of the TV adaptation.

Check out my Cinema Houston blog at www.cinemahouston.wordpress.com

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It takes a village

WritefestOff the congested Houston I-10 freeway and down Taylor to Winter Street, there stands a series of refurbished warehouses, now home to resident artists and craftsmen. With the Mahatma rice silos towering overhead, this complex consists of Winter Street Studio, Silver Street studios, and the Silos at Sawyer Yards. Nearby are independently owned shops, restaurants, and the Holler Brewery. The area crackles with creativity, expression, individuality.

A perfect place to write.

Writefest—a weeklong series of lectures, workshops, and panels, culminated in a May weekend event staged at Winter Street Studios. The location fit, since Writespace, one of the two organizers of the event, is located at the neighboring Silver Street building. The other partner, the Houston Writers Guild, is no stranger to these events, having held writer/agent and independent writer conferences in past years.

These events are wonderful experiences for the writing community and certainly are not exclusive to this city. The Writers League of Texas will be holding its 2018 editors and agency conference at the end of June. Other cities have their own organizations, sponsoring similar events, and that does not take into the account the breakdown into the groups that center on specific genres.

There is no need to detail the activities, since they are so well covered by the hosting organizations, although the key points are in learning, the practice of the craft, and exposure to key people who make the industry work. I attended the weekend activities—not my first rodeo, nor will it be my last. If you’ve not yet been to one, you owe yourself.

My biggest takeaway from Writefest is that of community. It takes a village, so the saying goes, and while writing is a solitary practice, it is also best when shared, especially with like the minded. During the week, fellow writers conversed and communed, told of experiences and stories (real life as well as fictional), and bonded with their common interests. New friendships were formed, while existing ones found reinforcement. As I said, community. It doesn’t get better than that.

This is likewise a key in critique circles, a lifeline to any aspiring writer. I have been active in one for years, and have found it to vastly improve my skills in writing, speaking, critiquing, and basic honesty for others (something the world can use a bit more of nowadays). It’s a give and take, where everyone wins.

Words are put on the page in order to be read. This we do in the hopes that what we have to say will contribute to community—not only our own tribe but also a larger whole. And then, when all is said and done, we can withdraw to our corner and write something else.

So the circle continues.

Print in its many forms

PrintWe all have our daily rituals. Among mine are the movie and music-related sites with the newest news. For a person obsessed with silent movies, I’m always waiting to see if yet another lost film might be discovered in a hidden archive.

One of the websites I am fond of is PRINT, which touches on both the art and typography aspects of publications. I love PRINT because it can cover the latest trends in design, touch on proper (and improper) uses of fonts, and offer history lessons on a topic I might be otherwise familiar with. As a writer, it is important to remember that how the words appear can be equally important to the words themselves.

Curious? Here is its link. Check it out: www.printmag.com

 

 

Be very afraid!

Scary Human Skull, Crying Blood

Here’s to Halloween, the go-to date for all things spooky. I find it to be the perfect excuse for binge-watching horror films, from The Universal classics to the modern haunted house flick, and especially the rich Technicolor of the Hammer films.
It’s also an ideal time for reading ghostly stories late at night. This year, I’m thrilled (and chilled) to be a part of Hair Raising Tales of Horror, an anthology of scary stories edited by Melissa Algood and Chantell Renee. Within these pages are twenty-one short stories by seven writers (myself included), guaranteed to be… well, hair raising. Other contributors include Jessica Rainey, D. Marie Prokop, Patricia Flaherty Pagan, and Mark Harwell, along with Algood and Renee. To be read on a dark and stormy night.

Waves of Suspense

WavesofSuspenseThe new anthology from the Houston Writers Guild, Waves of Suspense, is now available. I am thrilled to be one of the ten authors in this collection of mysteries. The other authors include Teresa Trent, Patricia Flaherty Pagan, Mary Jo Martin, Joyce Kopp, Andrea Barbosa, Meg Lelvis, Jim Murtha, Rob Hunsaker, and AC Rogers.

The Houston Writers Guild is a nonprofit 501(c)6 organization and every book purchase promotes great samples of local authors’ work while providing the organization a revenue source for continuing to help promote literacy in the local community.

Waves of Suspense is available through Amazon as well as the Houston Writers Guild website.

It’s history book fair time again

The annual Houston History Book Fair & Symposium is nearly here. It will be held on Saturday, November 14, 2015 at the at the Historic Julia Ideson Building of the Houston Public Library, 550 McKinney Street. The event is always fascinating, due to the varied authors in attendance, selling their books, and giving presentations throughout the day.

HistoryFair2015I look forward to the event and will have a table spot for Cinema Houston.

Other authors include: Joann Russell (Afloat on a Full Sea), Paul Spellman (Love Letters From WWI), Jimmy Wynn/Bill McCurdy (Toy Cannon), Hank Moore (Houston Legends), Carlos Hamilton (A Rose Blooms in Texas), Bill Boyce (Miss Fortune’s Last Mission), Kathleen Maca (Galveston’s Broadway Cemeteries), Dr. Nicolas Kanellos (Recovering Texas Hispanic History), Steven Gonzales (El Camino Real), Cindy Freeman (Historic Houston and How to See It), Jan Johnson (Two Galveston history tour books), and Andy Hall (The Galveston-Houston Packet).

See you there.

Making a deal with your creativity

helpI recently heard an episode of Radiolab that discussed ways people make deals with themselves, be it to quit smoking or accomplish a goal. A segment with Eat. Pray. Love. author Liz Gilbert dealt with the idea of creativity as an external force and how an artist/writer/musician can negotiate with that. She speaks of the muse in the same way as Tori Amos, that being the art form as living being or as a force seeking an entrance into the material world. It makes a lot of sense. How else can you explain how great ideas are born out of nothing. Check it out here.

HWG conference 2015

Houston Writers Guild conference 2015

The 2015 Houston Writers Guild annual conference got off to a bumpy start—with the hotel lacking in electricity following a nasty storm earlier that morning. Despite the foreboding start, electricity was restored by 9:30, setting the stage for an excellent series of panels, lectures, and discussions. A highlight of the day was a keynote address by Jane Friedman on the digital age author. With an excellent visual presentation, she walked the audience through the history of the printed word, and how the rises in literacy and technological advances have changed the shape of publishing.

Other sessions I sat in on were “Formatting eBooks” by Megan LaFollett, “The Importance of an Author Platform” by Elena Meredith of PR by the Book, “Your Five Big Scenes” by Chris Rogers, “Reading Like a Writer” by Ann Weisgarber, and an illuminating panel discussion with agent Ann Collette and writers Ashley Weaver and Mark Pryor.

Be sure to visit Cinema Houston, my blog on cinema and historic preservation.