I write like
Jack London

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Writers and the Dunning-Kruger Effect - Part 1

Mars isn't in retrograde, nor is it the full moon, so maybe this is just one of those incredibly bizarre weeks.

Why do I say this?

- Alter Ego was berated (again) for writing about married couples who have interesting and fun sex lives. According to this person, married people only have sex when (1) procreating or (2) the wife is satisfying her marital duties. (Um, sorry, sweetie, but there ARE married couples who love having sex with each other. I have too many readers who tell me their personal shit to think otherwise.)

- The Passive Voice posted a screed from a writer that essentially non-disabled people shouldn't write disabled characters because they aren't doing it right. (Damn, I guess I need to stop writing A Modicum of Truth right now! I can't see in the infrared range and I'm not missing a foot so I can't possible know what those conditions are like!)

- One of my books had a review where the reviewer claimed a certain type of firearm doesn't exist (it does) and another type of firearm can't hurt a person (it can, especially in point-blank proximity).

You'd think I'd get used to other people's peccadillos or lack of knowledge. Around a decade ago, one writing judge counted points off my entry, stating there was no such thing as constables in the U.S. (Um, I've received tickets by constables in the Justice Precinct in Texas to which they were duly appointed. I'm pretty the men and their guns were not figments of my imagination.)

Why do people assume their knowledge of a particular subject is superior to the writer's? Or the writer didn't do the appropriate research?

It all goes back to a bank robber.

In 1995, a bunch of Cornell scientists read about a guy named McArthur Wheel. Wheel had learned that lemon juice had been used by spies as invisible ink. He figured if he covered his face in lemon juice, then the security cameras wouldn't pick up his face, and he couldn't be blamed for the bank robberies.

Hell, Wheel even tested his theory by taking a selfie with Polaroid. (Either the film or the camera was defective because Wheel thought his idea had worked.)

Needless to say, the Pittsburgh police asked the local TV stations to run the very clear picture of the bank robber from the security cameras on the eleven o'clock news. By midnight, a tip had been called in and Wheel, to his utter amazement, was arrested.

Wheel's case triggered a series of studies at Cornell University, which resulted in the identification of a condition that is now called the Dunning-Kruger effect. However, this "effect" has been known for millennia. In fact, William Shakespeare said it best in As You Like It:

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.

So if you did your research, then you did your job as a writer. You just need to keep reminding yourself not to respond to criticisms that you know are invalid. Like the mantra, I've been repeating all week:

Don't respond to reviews! Don't respond to reviews!


For additional incentive, repeat the phrase to yourself in the same railroad car rhythm as Dr. Sheldon Cooper's "You forgot your flashdrive."

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Gems from the Past

A relatively new channel was added to our cable package recently, the Heroes and Icons Channel, H&I for short. It has a lot of action adventure shows from the '70's, '80's, and '90's. Kung Fu. Hercules. Renegade.

Last month though, H&I started running all five live-action Star Trek series on Sundays and weeknights. (It makes me sad that Roddenberry declared the animated version of the original series isn't canon because it had some damn, fine episodes.)

All five.

While we have the complete sets of TOS and TNG, we don't have the other three. In fact, we haven't seen Enterprise is its entirety because Genius Kid was walking by the time it debuted. (I missed a lot of my favorite TV shows during the Toddler Years.)

Since I hadn't seen DS9 since it ended its first run while I was pregnant. I'd forgotten how much I loved the show.

However, I'm not sure if my visceral reaction to Vedek Winn is memory or the current rise of extremist religious groups in our reality.

But an article in the AV Club last week reminded me that in many ways, DS9 was the "trekkiest of the Treks." None of the characters were perfect. They made mistakes, but they always tried to do the right thing. And they had some fun along the way.

Even more amazing were the comments after the article. Readers had a general discussion of DS9, the other Trek series, and comedy versus drama. No one was rude or insulting. It was rather refreshing compared to the plethora of trolls you find on other websites these days. A cooperative, entertaining, and thought-provoking view of the universe.

Maybe Gene Roddenberry has been right all along.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday Movie Mania - Jason Bourne

Let me start off by saying I loved the original Bourne trilogy. Absolutely LOVED it.

I also love Matt Damon. Whether he's playing a good guy (Good Will Hunting), a bad guy (Interstellar), or a crazy-ass Angel of Death (Dogma), Damon can make me believe. In fact, I had hoped he'd be chosen to play James T. Kirk when Paramount rebooted the Star Trek movie franchise.

But the latest Bourne/Damon makes the worst faux pas a film can make. It was boring as hell. As in, I nearly fell asleep while watching it in the theater.

Oh, there's lots of flash and bang and fights and car chases.

And I've seen it all before in the previous three films.

I didn't even bother to put my normal SPOILERS warning in this review because THERE'S NOTHING TO SPOIL!

If you've seen the first three movies, all this is a montage of the crappy bits. Not even Tommy Lee Jones, as the primary villain, can redeem the retread writing or the stiff acting. And, dammit, this is the man who could redeem the hot mess that was Men in Black II.

So if you're a completest, and you really need to see this, wait until it hits Netflix for Amazon Prime Video. Seriously, don't waste your money.

Overall, I have to give Jason Bourne a 3 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016

Barnes & Noble Swirling the Drain

I hate seeing a book retailer falling. I hate hearing the whistling whine a business makes as gravity takes over. I hate the smell of the trash compactor as books are stripped and crushed rather than shipping them back to the distributor.

The Barnes & Noble board fired their latest CEO. This was the guy from Sears Canada, a company that also made the same whistling whine right before it hit the ground.

Hard.

This was the same CEO who wanted to put restaurants and wine bars in Barnes & Noble. Chairman Len Riggio is taking over temporarily as CEO. When the board finds a replacement, the new CEO will be B&N's fifth CEO in four years.

*sigh*

I wish I could say I was surprised. After the late payments in May and the conflicting payment statements in June, I decided to cut my losses. I pulled the Suzan Harden books in June, and the Alter Ego books in July. I really didn't feel like giving B&N my money anymore.

Funny enough, they are still sending me coupons though I quit their frequent buyer program in 2013. In fact, I have been receiving more coupons from B&N over the last six months than I ever did in the eight years I was a frequent buyer club member. And the closest B&N to me is an hour away, which makes the multitude of coupons even sadder.

The saddest thing of all is that B&N was the closest to compete with Amazon for the e-book market, but then they gave up. They had the first color tablet on the market, but they failed to provide other media besides books. Then they locked the tablet, dropped the PC app, and made it nearly impossible to download from their store, much less find the books people wanted.

You can't save a company that's already given up.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Trad Vs. Hybrid Vs. Indie

It's been a little over five years since I jumped into the indie pool. I don't regret a minute of it. I've made some mistakes, and learned from them. I've had some successes, and learned from those too.

Five or six years ago, author Bob Mayer coined the term "hybrid" to signify a writer with one foot in the indie world and one foot in traditional publishing. He still champions that duel path. As I was reading his blog yesterday, my first thought was "I'll NEVER go traditional--"

And the realization hit me like the proverbial brick between the eyes. I was WELL AND TRULY a hybrid writer.

I'd been sending out two short stories a year to various publishers for the last five years, more for the practice of writing blurbs than actually expecting a sale. This year, both shorts were picked up by the first anthologies I submitted to. That makes a total of four sales in three years.

However, the sales have been to small publishers where I get my exclusive right backs in three to six months and they aren't asking for the whole hog. Would I submit to one of the big five house any time soon? Probably not with the way their contracts are written these days.

On the other hand, the first short I sold three years ago ended up launching a new series.

Will I keep submitting short stories? Probably, as long as the contracts aren't too onerous. In the end, the decision comes down to what I want as a career path.

Your mileage may vary.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Monday Movie Mania - Suicide Squad

This is one of those times that I totally disagree with critics and fandom. I loved this movie!

For those who know nothing about it other than the trash talk on the internet, this is DC's version of The Dirty Dozen. And if you haven't seen the Lee Marvin classic, well, I highly suggest that you educate yourself.

But like the WWII classic, the filmmakers don't have enough time to explore all the characters, which makes me a little sad. And it's pretty obvious who the redshirts are. But there's also depth to the characters the film team focuses on.


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) Margot Robbie is picture and tone perfect as Harley Quinn. While the character's style in the movie is closer to Quinn's latest incarnation of the comics, Margot definitely channels the original Harley, Arleen Sorkin. For that alone, I love Robbie.

2) In this version, Joker and Harley have a Sid & Nancy/Natural Born Killers type of relationship. It is warped, co-dependent, and viciously entertaining.

3) The ladies control the movie. The gist of the story is the Enchantress trying to escape Amanda Waller's clutches and reunite with her brother.

4) Speaking of the ladies, Viola Davis was everything I expected out of Amanda Waller. She rocked as the SS's government organizer who's every bit as nasty and deadly as the supervillians she "recruits".

5) I didn't think Will Smith would do another superhero movie after Hancock. His Deadshot isn't as hard-bitten as the comic version, but he made it work as the alpha male of the team.

6) The music chosen for each character's introduction worked, especially "You Don't Own Me" for Harley.


CONS
1) I would have liked more Killer Croc. I don't know if the character wasn't given more, or if his scenes landed on the cutting room floor. But he seemed wasted in the movie except for the climax.

2) Key scene transitions were obviously missing, but it wasn't as bad as BvS. There's already talk of an extended cut, just like was done for BvS.


I think this is one of those things where the critics have a bug up their butts when something that's normally geek culture goes mainstream. It's okay if Hollywood does it one or two times, but heaven forbid, more movies from the geek culture come out in one year. Guess what, critics? Superhero movies aren't going away. Hollywood finally has the tools to do them right. Granted, that doesn't mean they will, i.e. the last Fantastic Four flick.

Overall though, I would still give Suicide Squad a solid 7 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

TV Shows with Cool Themes

Since I noted my joy at Enterprise's theme song, I figured let's continue this month with other shows' them music.


Friday, August 12, 2016

The Russians Are Reading! The Russians Are Reading!

Or maybe they aren't.

It's been a long week, and I'm trying not to wince as I look at my total word count since Sunday, and that's including blog words. There's been lots of running around: taking people to various appointments, back-to-school errands, etc. On the other hand, that's also NOT counting the words put in on Chapter 7 of Sacrificed since I've been working on that during some wait time for the appointments. (Did I mention Sacrificed is being written on my iPhone? New experience!)

Yet, I'm getting an abnormal number of hits here and on my main website's blog. Especially from Mother Russia.

Huh?

I'd like to believe these new people are checking out my books. I really, really would. More likely Russian hackers are taking a certain American's invitation to infiltrate American computers quite literally.

'Scuse me?  But, um, if you want state secrets, these are not the servers you're looking for.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Typos and Passive-Aggressive Readers

First of all, we all make mistakes. No human can avoid it.

Second, all writers do their damnedest to produce a quality product.

Third, it doesn't matter how many people you hire or who volunteer to proof your work, invariable one little type slips by, which takes us back to the first point.

I belong to a few readers groups and forums (the other people are well aware that I am a writer), and I do read a few reviews sometimes to determine whether I want to download a particular book. There seems to be a disturbing trend for readers to grade a book they've read, and I don't mean on the writer's storytelling skills, but their grammar and spelling.

The majority of these type of readers used to be English instructors, but there are two other types I've noticed that are on the rise. One type are people who want to be writers. The other type are ones that want to sell you services.

How do you tell the various types?

The English instructors come right out and tell you who they are. For example, they have a beef because your sentences are fragments, even though your story is written in first person with a protagonist whose drugged or injured. Or a teenager must speak in perfect sentences. Or they taught with Strunk & White while you prefer the Chicago Manual of Style. But they generally feel, they must save the universe from your alleged bad writing (which consists of one "from", accidentally spelled "form").

The folks who want to be writers like to jump on indies because there's nothing holding them back any longer from writing their Great American Novel. Paradoxical, I know, but their excuse for not writing for so long was the agent and trad publisher gatekeepers. Now, there's really nothing holding them back, but they're own fear. They can't admit that fear so they lash out by complaining about other writers' style and/or typos.  These people you can tell because they usually complain about your typos in a comment that is in itself full of typos.

I've seen writers try to elicit specific information from these two types of readers, only to be met with the response, "I'm not doing your work for you!" Frankly, these are perfect examples of why you leave reviews, whether on a private blog or a retailer's site, alone.

The third folk are fairly nice about your book's need for a major edit...until you ask them specifically what they found wrong. Then they equally nicely say they will tell you...for such-and-such fee. Solicitation shouldn't be on an unaffiliated blog or retailer site, but that's my personal opinion.

Once in a while though, you'll get a reader who nicely points out a problem and tells you what that problem is. For example, one of Alter Ego's fan sent her a lovely e-mail that said Chicago is on the shore of Lake Michigan, not Detroit.

We had a pleasant discussion about typos and how writers react to criticism. This reader was quite worried I'd be upset. I was actually more embarrassed than anything, especially since I named the correct lake for Detroit everywhere else is the novel. (It's Lake St, Clair, by the way!)

I thanked the reader profusely and sent her a corrected copy of the book and an Amazon gift card.

Does that mean you should send a detailed list of problems to every writer of every book you've read?

Not necessarily. It's one thing if it's an indie published book and you think the writer will respond civilly about a typo or three. (I wouldn't send a criticism of theme, style, etc. If you didn't like it, then it simply wasn't the story for you.) But for a trad published, there's is quite literally nothing the writer can do once their book is published.

On the other hand, don't send the writer a private e-mail saying, "Hey, you f***ed up!" without being a little more specific. Otherwise, that's just troll behavior, and it doesn't help anyone in the long run.