I mostly consider myself an alternative listener, but when I’m writing, I prefer electronica.
The most surreal music moment for me was being driven around in a taxi in Istanbul and hearing the background music for the opening scene for Fairly Legal, Season 2 (Episode 1, Satisfaction). I used SoundHound to find out what tune it was: Yachts (A Man Called Adam Mix) – Hôtel Costes – Etage 3 (Mixed By Stéphane Pompougnac). Tasty bossa nova. You can hear it in the background in this Fairly Legal clip.
Favorite album is sort of related in its own weird way. Ryan Johnson, actor in the above clip, shouted out an album he liked: …Like Clockwork – Queens of the Stone Age. Loved it. I generally listen to people’s music recommendations, and his taste and mine have a fair amount of overlap. I’ve liked Queens of the Stone Age for a long time, they’d just fallen off my radar.
Favorite new song is from the Air Tahiti Nui video below: Daybreak by Overwerk.
“Let me tell you ’bout the funky dolphins.” I was listening to Overwerk’s new album clips on Beatport when I started clicking into random other songs and discovered Pyramyth’s Dolphin Talk. I don’t normally like glitch hop, but this is fun and catchy and actually sounds like it’s using dolphin sounds in there.
For something more typical of my tastes (as I really like trip hop), picked up some back catalog Zero 7 and am really fond of the song In the Waiting Line. This particular song’s slower than I generally prefer and not suited for writing (too much vocal emphasis), but I like it a lot.
One of the songs of the year, for reasons that will become more obvious below, is Moscow Nights by The Red Army Choir, genuine Cold War era classic.
Movies & TV
I haven’t watched either as many movies or as much TV as in prior years. I do have five favorites, though:
Gravity – Amazing performance by Sandra Bullock, who remains one of my favorite actors.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters – Yes I know you were told it’s a terrible movie. It’s not a great movie, but it is great fun. I enjoyed the hell out of it. More than once.
Sharknado – This movie was way smarter than it had to be.
In the short film category, there are two contenders for me this year.
The University of Bath produced this film about the Leidenfrost effect called The Leidenfrost Maze.
Air Tahiti Nui’s video made by Matthieu Courtois and Ludovic Allain has enough of a narrative structure to it that I’d argue it’s Hugo BDP worthy. Inside the turbines with them running? Hardcore.
I read — a fuck of a lot of books. I don’t want to know how many, but it was hundreds. Four in particular stand out.
Lauren Gallagher’s The Princess and the Porn Star is about a rock star trying to hang on to her career with a record label that’s sending mixed messages. One of the reasons I love it so much is that it’s the most “me” book I’ve read this year. I relate to every single one of her fears, which is part of the reason I didn’t pursue rock as my career. (I will actually write that story this coming year.)
Vivi Andrews’s Naughty Karma is one of those hate-to-love books that are hard to pull off, but this one works for me. It’s the capstone book in the series, though. Rarely do I like the final book in the series as much.
Tiffany Reisz’s The Siren is an incredible book, but I was less enamored with the sequels to it. Each was really different from the others, which is fine. The problem for me is that I felt that the subplots in The Mistress (aka book 4) were not really adequately set up in books 1 through 3, so it felt kind of last minute, and one of them was frankly unbelievable. Additionally, the book 4 antagonist is nowhere near as nuanced as the other characters. But: book 1 is extremely well written. What’s really interesting about it is that the out-there sex scenes? Aren’t in the narrative present of the book.
Jay Crownover’s Rule is the book that made me finally get what the New Adult category is about. The titular character isn’t very sympathetic at the opening, but in understandable ways.
Also see my Some Self-Published Love post for more recs.
I didn’t read a lot of short stories this year (apart from ones I read as an editor). ::hangs head in shame:: I either seem to read a lot of shorts or a lot of novels in a given year. I never seem to manage a good balance.
One recommendation: “The Slow Winter” by James Mickens. Link is to my blog post about it from earlier this year.
I want to express my undying love for Jenny Trout’s 50 Shades Recap, which, at points, had me laughing so hard I hurt myself. She calls it a “sporknalysis.” Also, her books, indie published under the pseudonym Abigail Barnette, are really good if they’re your cuppa.
Made a fan site for my favorite actor, Ryan Johnson. Who was flattered. And then, adorkably, bought an iPad. (He knew I was an Apple engineer.)
Tale of a pitch session at a writer’s conference. It turned out well, at least.
You’ve been waiting for this one, I can tell.
- Visited Japan for the first time. Didn’t manage to leave the airport before I had my first culture shock meltdown.
- In related news, had my first meltdown in Tokyo station. Repeat N times.
- Almost missed my flight from Tokyo to Bangkok.
- Visited Vietnam, where my uncle served in the military only to come home broken. Surreal, but a great place. They have immense pride in their produce regions. And they should.
- Visited Federated States of Micronesia and stayed in a thatched hut in Pohnpei.
- On Pohnpei, visited Nan Madol, which is a super impressive pre-historic city.
- Had green tangerines in Kosrae. Apparently, oranges and tangerines never develop their eponymous colors in that part of the world.
- Landed on Kwajalein.
- Visited Canada to buy banned substances. Quizzed at land crossing border by Canadian immigration who (possibly justifiably) felt my visit was suspicious. My contraband? The best sugar substitute there is, banned in the US since 1969. It’s the one sugar substitute I can use.
- Visited Sri Lanka, and loved it.
- Visited the Maldives and was just amazed by them. I love small island countries, but this is a diverse country of many islands.
- Saw an octopus while snorkeling in the Maldives.
- Visited Myanmar on what could be the mistake fare of the century. Flight home, business class, from Myanmar to Seattle was €65.02.
- I will always now associate the song Gangsta’s Paradise with Yangon, Myanmar. Thank you, night club across the street from my hotel. You broke my brain.
- Had a rather awful trip to Puerto Rico. Nothing went right. Flights were awful. Car rental company accidentally charged me for someone else’s three-week rental, and my hotel stay was bad enough that my rant to Conrad got the hotel deflagged down to a Hilton.
- Rather horrified about the rioting in Istanbul, especially since it started not far from where our hotel was and a couple of days after we set sail from there.
- Charmed by Bulgaria.
- Romania was oddly depressing, but I loved seeing the Roma houses, and I loved seeing the Danube river delta.
- Didn’t expect to like the Ukraine so much. Probably liked Yalta the best.
- Except for that one tour guide that was so horrible we actually bailed mid-tour. Never done that before.
- I know you don’t want to hear it, but I’m going to say it as it was my reaction at the time: I loved seeing Sochi. It’s one of the few times where I felt like I was seeing more of the future of a city than the past. It’s also a really great spot on the map and I’d love to go back. Pity about Russia’s attitude towards QUILTBAG, so I guess it may be a while before I’d feel okay about going back.
- Visited Novorossiysk, where there was just overwhelming loss of life, and you could still feel it all around despite the beautiful day.
- Saw the Crimean war locations around Balaclava, then saw the ex-Soviet secret submarine base. Awesome and chilling.
- Visited Alaska and got taken around Anchorage by my friend Bri. Had a great time.
- On our way back, we missed the approach and flew around, eerily about three weeks before the Asiana crash, and I believe on the same runway. Surreal.
- Rick and I went to Portland, Oregon for JayCon and JayWake.
- Flew to New Zealand on my birthday. We hung out with friends and went to a con (Au Contraire).
- Then flew to Melbourne to visit another friend from the fountain pen community: Nicholas.
- Then flew to Cape Town, South Africa (via Bangkok and Johannesburg) to see one of my oldest Internet friends, and someone I helped get out of Scientology.
- Flew to London (from South Africa) solely because I wanted to see Lloyd Owen (also a Fairly Legal actor) perform in The Bodyguard. Granted, I had to get home somehow, and this was as good a route as any.
- In related news, bailed on two trips to South America this year, which meant I visited five continents instead of six. Before I switched to London, I’d planned to leave South Africa via Buenos Aires.
- I also had a paid ticket to Rio de Janeiro, a deep discount fare that had an incredibly stupid amount of flying involved: Los Angeles to Orlando to Houston to Rio to Houston to Orlando to Houston to Los Angeles. When I was accepted into Milford, I switched that ticket to get me to Milford.
- Was invited to go to, and went to, the annual SP (suppressive person) party of ex-Scientologists and critics. Got to meet Tony Ortega and Steve Hassan, among others.
- Visited Las Vegas for a friend’s party. What a house! Master bath backdrop.
- Finally got to go through the Nuclear Testing Museum in Vegas with more time than the last time we visited. (That’s where the Ground Zero Theatre image comes from.)
- Visited San Antonio finally, a city I’d been wanting to visit since I was a kid. Yes, because of the song.
- Went to Milford! It was amazing.
- Visited the Isle of Man, which was a lot different than I was expecting, somehow. Loved it, especially the broad promenade in Douglas.
- Our trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua was amazing.
- Still not king: haven’t flown on a Boeing B787 yet. Sniff.
I’ll probably be ready to release something to GitHub in early Feb. It’s something I work on in between other things.
Mostly, I’ve been spending time filling in gaps in what I know.
Last, but by no means least.
- Wrote a good chunk of four books.
- Have more ideas for new books than I’ve ever had.
- Milford! Awesome!
The most useful critique is one where the person didn’t like my story, but was articulate enough about why to make me realize it was simply a manifestation of something I’d never realized about my writing. It’s really been making me re-think a lot of my stuck-in-the-drawer work. In several cases, those pieces are easily reworkable. Most will need deeper re-thinking.
Even more interesting, it’s something no one has ever mentioned before.