Archive for the ‘Storytelling’ Tag

Remembering the Moon Landing

Do you remember where you were when the first humans landed on the moon? I was in my parents’ living room, watching CBS on a black-and-white television at oh-dark-thirty. I had just turned five earlier in the month (which tells you how old I am now if you do the math).

You might not have existed yet (I’m getting pretty old), but those were exciting times. Except…we didn’t have the video, so we really only got half the story.

The footage of the LM descending, with its foot visible through the window, makes me hold my breath every time I see it, but we didn’t see that at the time. That camera had to come back to Earth and have the film developed.

And now, knowing that (a) the onboard computer was overloading so they had to land manually, (b) the original landing area was full of boulders that would have destroyed the LM, and (c) they had 17 seconds of fuel left when they finally set down, the story is even more intense.

You’d never be able to tell how fraught the situation was from those calm voices we were hearing at the time. Even reporting how little fuel was left or the error codes on the computer, they didn’t sound like they knew they had a pretty good chance of dying, although I understand (now) Commander Armstrong’s heart was beating like a hummingbird’s.

I just need to say here, he was a very, very, very good pilot. I’m sure Aldrin and Collins were also very very good pilots (they wouldn’t have been there otherwise), but that landing is proof that Armstrong had Mad Skilz-with-a-capital-M-capital-S.

I’ve been a passenger in a small aircraft landing on some questionable surfaces (dad was a pilot and we went into Idaho wilderness areas once or twice), and, well, I’ll say it again. That footage makes me hold my breath every time I see it, and I’ve been watching it almost obsessively for the last week or two every time someone else shows it on one of the 50th anniversary shows.

First Man On The Moon, yeah, but that was opening a door and climbing down a ladder. The landing was where Neil Armstrong-the-legend was made. We simply didn’t know that until later.

There are so many story lessons in the Apollo 11 moon landing. Raising the stakes for the hero, putting him up a tree and throwing rocks at him, taking away supports to force him to solve the problem on his own. Making use of the fact that he’s a [bleep!]ing fantastic pilot. That might be why it’s so compelling 50 years later. For once, reality makes a great story.

And the story is also making use of what isn’t said. There’s a pause after the telemetry says the Eagle has touched down before the famous announcement. You know, we all know, that Armstrong and Aldrin were looking at each other thinking, “Holy [bleep!], we did it. We’re sitting on the moon!” during that silence.

Much like when Captain Sullenberger and his co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles (and I had to look up his name, which is a shame) turned to each other and said, reportedly almost in chorus, “That wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be!” after landing an Airbus 320 on the Hudson River.

Neil Gaiman tells a story of being at a function and standing in the corner next to Neil Armstrong (both introverts, so of course they were standing in the corner). Armstrong said to Gaiman (paraphrasing), “I’m not sure I belong here. These people have all created things. I just went where they sent me.” Gaiman said he reminded Armstrong that he had been sent to the moon.

If I had been there, I might have been able to remind him that he made the whole billions-of-dollars mission work with that landing. But that would be a different story.

Working on Dane and Aurora’s story

Dane Avondale and Aurora Ivanov Avondale are the wise mentors and parents in The Ocasek Opportunity. Some parts of their life together and their love story are mentioned in that novel, but I happen to know the whole story. I mean, how does a woman who has been in cryostasis for a century-plus end up killing the queen of an alien race in single combat? Over who has ownership of a human male, no less….

Yeah, it’s a great story. And while I’m letting “Kindness of Strangers” and “A Ruined Woman” percolate before editing, I’ll be getting words onto virtual paper for “The Briar Rose”–Dane and Aurora’s story that kind of rhymes with Sleeping Beauty. Kind of. And since it takes place a couple of decades before all the other stories in that universe (that start with The Valmont Contingency), when I get it out for sale, it will be free (or 99 cents at Amazon if they choose to be jerks about price matching).

Because why not?

Wish me luck; it should be a fun ride to write this.




I’m very nearsighted…like, I need my glasses to find my glasses nearsighted. As a result, I’ve never been able to wear a mask without walking into furniture, walls, people, large pets…you name it and I’ve probably smacked a shin on it without corrective eyewear. And I’m not a big enough nerd to wear glasses over a mask.

In The Valmont Contingency, both the hero and heroine use masks. While Garrick doesn’t hide his face, he does hide his name and identity while out on shakedown / privateering patrols. It’s a reasonable precaution, given the kind of people he deals with and his family’s net worth. I’ll discuss Tasha’s mask in my Release Day post on the Carina Press blog.

I’ve noticed that the characters in my stories are never just one thing, just as the people in my life are never just one thing. My supervisor (at the day job) is a software QA manager. He also plays bass guitar in a band. Spooky Man is retired on disability, but he’s also an animal seducer — doesn’t matter what species, they all seem to adore him.

In my stories, the characters often need to disguise or hide part of themselves to protect friends, family or their own future. In Blade’s Edge, Taryn needs to hide that she’s a twin, because it would cloud the line of succession in her small country.

In Open Mike at Club Bebop, the hero has a military handle he uses when in the net, but he keeps it separate from his physical identity for several reasons, including the facial reconstruction after the “friendly fire” incident that nearly killed him. And the fact that he still does clandestine cyberwork for the government.

Once upon a time, I was active in the Society for Creative Anachronism. As part of developing a persona for recreating history, members are encouraged to research and adopt a Medieval- and/or Renaissance-appropriate name. I still have friends who know me primarily by that name.

Even Val Roberts is not my legal name, but a shortened version of it, in case I need to sign hundreds of autographs at a time one day. Hey, it could happen. Technically, then, I have three identities, although I seem to be able to limit my characters to two identities.

But what about you? Do you have a mask, or an alter-ego that you don’t reveal to everyone? If you’re a superhero, don’t answer that. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for your nemesis discovering your secret.

Be careful out there. Things are not always the way they first appear.

The Date (Heineken), new butchered version

Someone cut this ad down to 15 seconds (I think; I didn’t time it but it seemed very brief) and replaced the fabulous 1960s song “Jaan Pehechaan Ho” (from the 1965 Bollywood-before-there-was-a-Bollywood film Gumnaam). Badly on both accounts; the singer’s mouth is still singing the original, but the music and words we hear are different.

I would post a link to the short-short version, but I couldn’t find one.

One has to wonder what happened; the original ad was 92 seconds long and didn’t take itself too seriously, but this…wow. A meaningful look, a magic trick deliberately shot from the wrong angle and a song that doesn’t match the vocalist’s mouth movements just doesn’t make a story.

There must be an interesting story behind the machete-edit, because it makes the editor look bad (though I’m sure he/she worked hard to make it as good as possible), it makes the ad agency that produced the original version look kind of bad, and it makes the brand look bad–or at least less good.

I read somewhere that the first ad in the series (“The Entrance”) had to fight off a complaint from another brewer in the UK who claimed it implied that drinking the beer made a person more interesting…except it never showed the dashing male character drinking the beer.

Was there a similar complaint for The Date? The couple doesn’t get their beer until the end and are never shown drinking it. An issue with the song rights? I hope not; I love both the song and the 1960s Eurasian vibe it conjures.

Maybe it was the song’s Ghostworld association–the Gumnaam scene featuring it is shown in the opening scene of the 2001 film made from the comic book.

In any case, I don’t think it was Heineken International’s intention to set off a bunch of speculation as to why the original filmlet was cut down so drastically (OMG, maybe they couldn’t afford a full 30 seconds on the obscure cable channel I was watching!). Perhaps they would have been better off not using the short-short version.

Kind of a bummer for their image, as it was pretty good beer back when I could still drink beer.

Update: I saw this ad again, but it appears to have been fixed. The singer’s mouth movements fit the song, the ad is longer, and now the Facebook contest connection is explained well enough that a non-Facebook person (I’m a Twitter person) can understand what’s going on.

Either I saw a trial run that was later fixed, or I was extremely tired and not paying attention. (My money’s on a trial run, because I was paying attention as soon as I realized the song was different.)

Best Cat Food Commercial Ever

Have you seen the new Fancy Feast commercial?

The one with the gorgeous persian kitten (not a no-nose persian, mind you, but a short-nose persian). Fluffy, white, and adorable, purchased by a man to impress a woman.

The kitten that could be a clone of the woman’s beloved childhood cat (seen in the first 5-10 seconds of the commercial).

The kitten wearing the collar with the gigantic heart-shaped tag (well, gigantic for a two-month old kitten) engraved, “Will You Marry Us?”

Yes, it was cheesy and played on cliche and stereotypes. Yes, it was emotionally manipulative. Yes, it made me bawl — not sniffle, not cry, but soak-two-tissues bawl.

In 30 seconds. With no dialog. That’s storytelling.

Best. Cat food commercial. Ever.

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