Film Icon Christopher Lee Dies

It is a rare thing when there is an actor who is known and loved across several generations. Christopher Lee’s first films were made when my parents were barely teenagers. For me growing up, he was that guy who always ended up in the old-timey horror flicks and also a Bond villain. For my kids he will be immortalized as Saruman and Count Dooku.

There are few actors who have as long or as varied of filmography as Christoper Lee. IMDB clocks in 281 credits over the course of a 60+ year career. True to the workhorse he was, he die as he was preparing to start filming for his latest movie.

To celebrate one of speculative fiction’s favorite actors, here are several photos of Christopher Lee through the years.

Hammer Horror's Dracula

Hammer Horror’s Dracula – Lee’s iconic defining role

Ultimate Bond Villain - The Man with the Golden Gun

Ultimate Bond Villain – The Man with the Golden Gun

We mustn't anger Count Dooku, he's got a lightsaber

We mustn’t anger Count Dooku, he’s got a lightsaber

Monsieur Labisse from Hugo, on of Lee's rare unevil roles

Monsieur Labisse from Hugo, on of Lee’s rare unevil roles

No list would be complete without Saruman the White

No list would be complete without Saruman the White

While he rarely ever took the spotlight, the roles he did take he made personal and memorable, and that’s the stuff that makes a man a legend.

Rest in peace – you’ve deserved it.

Why I Watch Kid’s Movies

I have a confession to make, I really like kid’s movies.  Well, not all of them, but there are those few that manage to capture the imagination and make that barrier between reality and fantasy thin for a while so that anything is possible.  These movies have one or more of the three crucial elements of a great movie, fascinating stories,  intriguing art, and/or moving music.

One of the movies I watched last summer continues to haunt me as I work on my book. That movie is Epic, produced by promising new kid on the block (well, newer) Blue Sky Studios who also made Ice Age and Rio.


Meet Ronan, General of the Leafmen army

This movie had all three of the important elements of what makes a great film.  The story was new and unique, the music stirring and powerful, but what really captured my imagination of these three was the art.  We are allowed a sneak peek into the secret world of the leafmen, the guardians of the forest, and the society that surrounds them.  The secret world within the forest is beautifully created with stunning vistas and excellent attention to unexpected details.

Strangely this movie wasn’t as well received as everyone had hoped.  It did have all the promise of a terrific film, but in the end the main characters didn’t grab the attention of the audience.  For me, the secondary characters were far more interesting.  I fell in love with the character of Ronin and his relationship with Queen Tara.

Ronin is stern and disciplined and at first he comes across as hard.  This is soon shown not to be true when he interacts with Queen Tara.  As with most who seem hard on the outside, Ronin has an incredibly soft heart and cares deeply for the Queen.  He carries with him a sense of one who must endure a great pain.  In the beginning this pain is the inability to express his true feelings toward the Queen. This emotional turmoil deepens further as the story unfolds. Throughout the film he shows this intense depth of character through his facial expressions and well-chosen words.

In this regard, he is very similar to my main character Jarand who is also a bit hard on the outside but very soft on the inside. Jarand is also emotionally wounded and suffers from memories of his past.  As the story unfolds things happen that intensify his suffering and he must perform his sworn duty to remedy the situation.

With luck I hope to create my character as well as the artists at Blue Sky made Ronin.

What are some of your favorite kids movies? What made them special?  Let me know in the comments section, I’d love to hear about it!

Novel Escapism

To be transported, to escape, to live another life… These are all reasons for diving into a good book.  As much as we can enjoy our reality, there is something so appealing in sliding inside the pages of a story and living someone else’s life, even if just for a few hours.

The kind of escapism found in a good book can’t be found anywhere else.  Some will argue that they find it in TV and movies as well, but to me it’s not the same. Watching TV or a movie engages only two senses, sight and hearing and these are provided for the watcher at the push of a button.  All that is required is to watch.  In a book however, the reader must do far more than just keep his eyes open.  He must read then interpret each idea, using his brain to figure out what it means.  He must form a mental picture using the descriptions on the page.


James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If an author were to describe a woman wearing a yellow dress, the reader would then have to fill in the blanks – usually to their preference.  If the author doesn’t include a description of her hair the reader is free to give her whatever style and color he prefers.  The reader must invest time and mental energy to creating the image.  In contrast, TV and movies simply give the image to the watcher.  Because they have invested no energy of their own, the experience isn’t as strong or as powerful.

Although a book is only words, those words have power to invoke feelings and reactions. It is the goal of the writer to make the reader feel. When a reader can’t put down a book because they have become hooked. If we as writers succeed in that, we have created something worth reading. The reader doesn’t only see what the character is doing, but they are also privy to what is going on inside that characters head, something that is difficult if not impossible to do on the screen.  When the reader gets that unique perspective of what the character is feeling and thinking, they can dig more deeply into that character’s world making the reading experience even richer.

I still like TV and movies, they still pack a powerful punch and, when done well, are excellent ways to escape for a while.  They are a wonderful source of ideas and inspiration when I’m feeling drained, and one can be finished in the course of an hour or two.  It’s the ultimate quick fix.  But – when I really want to escape, you’ll find me in a book.

How do you escape?  Share in the comments below!