I write like
Jack London

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Monday Movie Mania - Rogue One

Holy fucking shit! This is the movie I wanted The Force Awakens to be with characters I cared about, motivations I understood, and action that kept me on the edge my seat. It was everything I loved about the original trilogy with a far darker edge just like The Empire Strikes Back.

I'm not going to give my normal spoilers warning because if you've seen Star Wars (I refuse to call it by the episode title. Yes, I'm that old.), then you've got a pretty good idea already how it's going to end.

On the other hand, if you haven't seen any of the Star Wars movies, why are you reading this? *smile*

Quite simply, Rogue One is the Star Wars' version of The Dirty Dozen, one of my all time favorite flicks. It fills in a few holes in Star Wars, how the Rebel Alliance stole the plans to the Death Star, how Princess Leia ended up with the files, and why there was one small hole in the Death Star's defenses.

This story also shows the truly ugly side of a rebellion. The overwhelming odds. The lack of solidarity between various factors. The dark, awful things that must be done to win. This isn't a story of innocence lost, like Luke, but of people trying to find the right path in a universe of fear.

Some familiar characters are featured prominently, such as Mon Mothma and a digitized version of Grand Moff Tarkin. Jimmy Smits returns one last time as Bail Organa, and the story confirms that yes, he was on Alderaan when it was destroyed. The best part was the final battle where a ton of familiar pilots appeared such as Wedge Antilles, Biggs Darklighter, etc. who will eventually participate in the Battle of Yavin.

Overall, this was the best Star Wars sequel/prequel since Return of the Jedi came out thirty-three years ago. I give 10 out of 10 stars!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Holidays!

Other than movie reviews, Wild, Wicked & Wacky is going dark for the next couple of weeks. See you in 2017!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Consequences



This picture in the form of a magnet rests on my refrigerator door. There's two reasons for it.

Reason #1: In any career, a person must continue to learn new things. Sometimes though, the lessons become so embedded in the subconscious that you don't realize you've learned it until you use it.

Reason #2: I love the TV show Supernatural. I didn't watch it for the first four seasons because I was afraid I'd jinx it.

On a side note: Every frickin' time I fall in love with a show in it's first season, it gets canceled. Misfits of Science. Cancelled. Quark. Cancelled. Almost Human. Cancelled. Hell, I didn't watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer until the John Ritter episode late in the second season because I didn't want it to get cancelled.

Anyway, back to Supernatural. Once the producers and writers got past creator Eric Kripke's original five-season story arc of stopping the Christian apocalypse, the following season dealt with the ramifications of Sam's last episode of Season 5 decision.  Subsequent seasons create a gigantic pile of decision/consequence until the stack tumbles with the twelfth (current) season back to the variation of the original problem, stopping Lucifer.

Consequences of past decisions has been an occurring theme over the last two seasons of The Walking Dead and in the last several books of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series as well.

As I'm working on the last three books of the Bloodlines series, I already knew they dealt with the consequences of Sam's creation. But I started wondering how to work in the consequences of the other characters' decisions into the last volumes.

And when I was re-reading a section of Ravaged the other night, I realized I had already done so. Specifically, the consequences of Bebe's decision in Blood Magick and Alex's in Blood Sacrifice. I knew these two characters need to be in Ravaged, but I didn't know why until I watched the mid-season finales of both The Walking Dead and Supernatural. And in separate conversations, Logan (who made a very brief appearance in Zombie Love) and Alyson (a new to readers character) come right out and say, "Yeah, it's your fault because of what you did/failed to do, but now, we need to figure out how to clean up the mess."

Wow! Talk about an epiphany.

So, keep studying the things you like, understand why you like them, and it'll improve your writing.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday Movie Mania - Moana

Go for the Disney princess; stay for the chicken.

There's been so much controversy over the House of Mouse's latest entry in the princess adventure genre that no one is giving it much credit for the things the movie does right.

I'm not putting the following under the normal Pros column because Disney should have been doing this all along:

- The producers actually used actors of Polynesian/Oceanic descent.

- There's finally a princess story that doesn't even hint at a romance.

My only address to one particular controversy: Maui is not fucking overweight! If people can't tell the difference between exaggerated musculature (just like Disney freakin' did with Hercules) and morbid obesity, maybe the critics need to go to medical school.

To me, Maui's appearance is based on two very popular Samoan public figures, both of whom do voice characterizations in this movie: Dwayne Johnson and Troy Polamalu.


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) Moana is the princess I would have loved to see when I was a child. She's brave and curious, someone who tries to do the right thing even when it goes against her parents' wishes. Auli'i Cravalho embodies Moana perfectly, and she has a damn fine singing voice to boot.

2) The demigod Maui is one of the few consistencies across the many Pacific island cultures, so he's the perfect choice as Moana's antagonist/mentor. Yeah that's right. He works against our heroine for a chunk of the movie, not out spite, but a certain amount of denial/regret/shame for fouling things up.

3) Dwayne Johnson plays against his normal superdude stereotype. Maui has a major flaw that Johnson tries to earnestly convey.

4) Maui's tattoos as comedy relief (besides the chicken).

5) Lin-Manuel Miranda's gorgeous tunes.

6) This is a movie that you can definitely take your young children, too. No sexy stuff and no sly double entendres. This is a pretty straight forward adventure/quest story.


CONS
1) As much as I love Dwayne Johnson, I really hope he doesn't cut an album any time soon. I give him credit for trying something new.


Overall, I give Moana 10 stars out of 10!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday Movie Mania - Doctor Strange

Despite my lack of blog posting lately, DH and I have been hitting a few of the holiday new release flicks for date night. So you'll get a stream of reviews before you hit the theaters on Christmas Day (in order to avoid your families, we all know it's true). *grin*

(I'll say this now. I refuse to go see Rogue One, so don't expect a review from me on that one. I was sorely disappointed in The Force Awakens last Christmas. I'd rather re-watch the original trilogy a zillion times than feel that disappointment again.)

I never followed Doctor Strange in the comics. My casual knowledge of him is mainly from the X-men and Avengers books. But hey, it's Benedict Cumberbatch!

I don't hold Star Trek: Into Darkness against Benedict. My issue was with the movie being a remake after wiping the slate clean in the reboot and the script writing, not his acting. But his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes made me believe he could definitely pull off the Sorcerer Supreme.

Except Benedict...


* * *

SPOILERS

* * *


...doesn't quite make it through the whole movie as Doctor Strange. Once again, I thoroughly blame it on the writing


CONS
Yeah, I'm starting with the cons first.

1) The writing in regards to Strange's personality and his personal growth is uneven. The first act was pitch perfect when it came to him as the arrogant, perfectionist surgeon. His initial depression and lashing out after the car accident was also well done, but when he becomes semi-proficient at magic, he becomes...Tony Stark. I swear to Dormammu, Benedict channels Robert Downey, Jr., through the last half of the movie, and not just because of the matching facial hair.

(Yes, I know the beard thing was a joke in the comics. And it was funny...in the comics. But Stephen wasn't acting like Tony in that particular scene.)

The sarcastic attitude didn't mesh with Strange's alleged spiritual revelation earlier in the story.

2) The pacing of the story was also uneven. The first half of the movie could have been one of those tearjerker lesson movies that A-listers put out this time of year in order to grab an Oscar nomination. The second half was a MCU action flick.


PROS
1) I don't want to ruin the movie if you haven't seen it yet, but the ending was a clever little stunt that would be apropos to Captain Picard or Doctor Who. Or even Starlord. If you go in expecting an massive beatdown ala the most of the superhero flicks, you'll be disappointed. Personally, I love it when a hero uses his head instead of his fists.

(And before anyone jumps on me, yes, I am aware that all three Captain America movies end with Steve using his head, but that's only after his fists failed.)


MIXED
Before I get into the Ancient One casting controversy, let me start by saying I have absolutely love Tilda Swinton! I have since I first saw her, which was in 1992's Orlando. It's a damn shame that the controversy clouded her usual superb job.

Here's my assessment: No matter what Kevin Feige and the rest of the Doctor Strange team did in regards to the Ancient One, it would have been deemed "wrong".

If they cast a man of Asian lineage, they would have been lambasted for the racist attitude with which the character was originally designed. If they cast a white man, they still would have been lambasted for white-washing. If they had cast a male of another race than Asian or Caucasian, they would have been accused to changing the character for the sake of changing the character.

And if they put in a woman...

Oh wait, they did, and everyone lost their shit. *sigh*

This wouldn't have been the first time Swinton has played a male character (see Orlando or Constantine), but no one, including Feige and his team, was willing to give her a chance playing the Ancient One as a male.

If anyone should have been bitching about race crap, maybe it should have been about casting Mordo as a black man. (If you don't follow the comics, Mordo is a major villain in the Doctor Strange books.) Once again, I love Chiwetel Ejiofor's work, but does he have to always be cast as the black sidekick in American movies?

It's not just him though. The MCU is really big on black sidekicks. I think the Hulk is the only Avenger that doesn't a black sidekick. But hey, give 'em time...


Overall, I give Doctor Strange 7.5 stars out of 10, mainly for not having the punch it could have.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Blood Magick Is Free!

In a special one-time deal, I'm offering Blood Magick free on Amazon from now until December 10th.

Blood Magick at Amazon

In the meantime, Zombie Goddess is still $0.99 until Saturday, too.

On Sunday, they both go back to their regular price of $4.99.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Zombie Goddess Is Live!

After three-years, one-month, and four days, the latest episode of the Bloodlines saga is live! And it's only $0.99 until December 10th!

Blurb
Sam Ridgeway really thought her little family was settling into their new lives in Las Vegas.

Except her vampire fiancĂ© turns into a jealous rage-monster every time Ares, the Greek god of war, tutors her in using her new powers. The daughter of one of her baby zombies sues Sam for desecrating her mother’s memory. And to top it off, Baron Samedi kidnaps her brother Max in exchange for a certain basketball-playing necromancer’s soul.

Which, by the way, she doesn’t have.

What’s a zombie goddess going to do? Because this time, Sam’s snarkalicious attitude won’t stop Armageddon.

Amazon

NaNoWriMo Has Finished...

...and no, I didn't win. I reached 32,202 new words on Sacrificed. Which was good, but I kept losing focus because I got caught up in fixing some production problems with Zombie Goddess. Which needed to be done for the release, but now I'm a little more than a month behind on everything, i.e. my self-imposed schedule.

I'm not sure what the problem is. Is it SAD or not enough caffeine or too many people at my favorite writing spot or that the local stores have stopped carrying my favorite wine?

Is it the nastiness that seems to have infected the entire country? I've never gotten into a shouting match with another mother at a school before, but damn, I'm tired of people trying to bully me in everyday life. (She was trying to cut in line with her super-size SUV.) A few days later, a high school administrator got bitchy with me because I parked my car exactly where I was supposed to in order to pick up my kid.

Maybe it's dealing with the vagaries of teen hormones. One minute, I'm the greatest mom in the world. The next, I'm the Satan who's trying to destroy his life.

Or maybe it's simply that a project I've been working on since October of 2004 is coming to a close. Twelve years is a long time to be working on one story. And that's what the Bloodlines series is--one gigantic story.

I always get sad when something is over.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Art and Politics

I haven't posted anything in the last couple of weeks. While I could blame my efforts on getting Zombie Goddess ready for publishing and writing Sacrificed, that's not the entire truth.

I'm sure there are those who will mock me, saying I spent the time crying into my pillow because I'm a woman and the 19th Amendment will be revoked and etc. Those insults aren't the whole truth either.

The reason I didn't post is because I wasn't sure how the election outcome would affect my writing (I haven't been self-censoring, whew!) and my business (ironically it's up).

There's always going to be those who reject my work because my personal beliefs don't match theirs. I hate to inform the most recent haters, but this is nothing new. People I don't know are more vocal about their displeasure with me, but I really doubt you would have read my books before the election results.

If anything, I've seen people twist their hate, the hate deliberately flamed by the politicians this last election cycle, into self-defeating behavior. Even Kris Rusch, the most knowledgeable person blogging about writer business interests today and the most politically neutral of commentators, ran afoul of at least one reader. The topic was how a writer needs to plan for all scenarios, regardless of personal feelings.

That's being responsible on the business side. I've known too many people who've let their personal feelings get in the way of objective business decisions. You can't stop them, and I'm too old to try at this point.

But what about your art?

I hate to say this, but art has always been political. Art comments on the things we often dare not say aloud or even directly. Even something as simple as Star Trek: The Original Series was political. It often addressed the ongoing Vietnam War and the volatile race relations that were happening as it aired. And the other series of the time that played it safe by ignoring those very issues are no longer remembered, or if they are, they are considered relics of an unenlightened era.

Many people would find Alter Ego's books objectionable because they include polyamory and BDSM. Even the books under my own name would be questionable because of interreligious relationships (the Egyptian prince and Jewish-American princess in Blood Magick, which I swear, no one seems to get that's what happened in the damn book!), interracial relationships (fae and human in a future short story), differently-abled relationships (A Question of Balance) or even an older woman/younger man relationship (Blood Sacrifice).

Invariably, there are those people who are just in a pissy mood, and they decided they're going to take it out on everyone. It really doesn't matter what you do.

Over the weekend, the vice-president-elect Mike Pence attended Hamilton: An American Musical. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway show, about the U.S.'s first secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, is sold out three years in advance. (I know for sure because I tried to get tickets for 2019.)

At the close of the show Friday night, cast member Brandon Victor Dixon addressed Pence. Dixon also chided the audience for booing the vice-president elect. Yet, all the major news outlets and president-elect Trump are calling for the Hamilton cast to apologize, and they totally ignore Dixon's call for civility. I strongly suggest you watch video of the incident without the commentary and decide for yourself. The thing I find funny is Dixon plays...


...wait for it...


...VICE-PRESIDENT AARON BURR!


Yes, I have a very perverse sense of humor.

By the way, if you're totally offended by what happened at Friday night's show and you already bought your Hamilton tickets, I'd be more than happy to save your delicate sensibilities by taking them off your hands.

As a commenter on Facebook said, if the cast had said nothing, the Saturday headline would have been "Hamilton Cast Snubs V-P Elect".

For me, I just going to keep writing.

Instead of listening to Lady Gaga's new album ad nauseam for the last two weeks as I'm wont to do when she drops a new one, I've been pulling out a lot of hip-hop and rap I listened to in the '80's and early '90's. They were the protest acts of my generation, just like Bob Dylan was for the previous generation.

So to my fellow artists, keep writing what you're passionate about and kill the naysayers with kindness, the Hamilton way.

And we'll end today's ruminations with Above the Law's "Freedom of Speech":

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Vagina Heard 'Round the World

ONCOMING RANT WITH ADULT LANGUAGE: YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!

Last week, another writer I know brought up the subject of the latest election crisis on her Facebook wall. It was discussed amicably between a few women. Then a male friend of hers makes a statement: "Just asking you ladies a question, and I'm no Trump fan, but if you're one of his accusers, why wouldn't you collect your payday at the time he supposedly assaulted you instead of waiting thirty years?"

So many things wrong with that statement... *headdesk*

Certain behavior is so ingrained in America that most men can't even begin to comprehend what it's like for women being constantly analyzed for your "fuckability".

I mean it is CONSTANT from the time you are born. Sadly, many of our older female relatives are complicit in this training. We're told "don't do X/do Y so boys will like you" BY OTHER WOMEN from the moment we comprehend the English language.

By the time puberty hits, we're already brainwashed for the next Great Divide--the Madonna/Whore classification. You're a good girl if you tell boys "No." You're a bad girl if you tell boys "Yes." And if you told the boy "No" and he did it anyway, well, it was your fault, of course.

By the way, if you fall into the last two classifications, you now have no worth as a human being to men.

Oh, wait, we had no worth anyway. We're just objects to be fucked or not fucked.

So going back to the last two classifications we were talking about...

The last two classifications women are the equivalent to those blow-up dolls you can get at adult stores. You know, the anatomically correct ones? Since you have to pay for those, then the only reason women would complain about you fucking them is because you didn't pay them, right?

Which leads to the friend of a friend on Facebook who literally cannot comprehend that women might be talking these alleged assaults for some reason other than money.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that only 30% of sexual assaults are reported. Friends, both male and female, in criminal law and law enforcement have privately told me they believe far fewer sexual assaults are reported. They base this on the victims often backing out of filing charges or testifying in court.

Why do these women back out? Harrassment, by their attackers, by their attackers' friends and family, by total strangers in the community and across the country, and sometimes even their own family and friends.

Don't believe me? Read about rape of a Stuebenville High School girl. (If you can. Personally, it makes me nauseated.) Then explain to me how an unconscious person can object or agree to anything.

But who ultimately paid for the incident? She did. She was called a whore and told that she deserved it for getting drunk and passing out. Video and pictures of her rape were taken and distributed. And to top it off, the hacktivist Anonymous outed her first name. It doesn't take a whole lot from that to find out who she is.

By the way, please tell me what money this kid got out of her assault? I'd really like to know because her parents probably could use the cash for having to move the hell out that town during the housing crunch.

Not to mention her therapy.

Oh, wait, I forgot. She's a whore so her value is worthless, right? Just like the time your dogs got a hold of that blow-up doll and tore it to shreds.

But wait! If a woman says "No", she's safe, right?

WRONG!

Twenty-two years ago, I met DH. We fell in love and moved in together...

DING! DING! DING! You're a WHORE for living in SIN!

We were already engaged.

You're still a whore, though there's some chance at redemption. Assuming you actually get married.

*sigh* Anyway, seven months before our wedding, DH was diagnosed with cancer. I've been through this story before, so I'll cut to the sexual harassment. Shortly after the wedding, my supervisor told me my employment would be terminated if I didn't sleep with him.

With a really slimy smile, he said, "And I know how much you need this job with [DH] not working, and he can't possibly be doing his husbandly duties."

(For the record, if you're in a relationship with someone who wears a colostomy bag, the wearer needs to be on the bottom. Those bag clips HURT when you're stabbed by one.)

Needless to say, my "No" did not go over well. I reported him. It's a small town, so when the entire company was dragged into sexual harassment training, everyone knew who reported who and why.

Funny thing, I wasn't the one who said a word to anyone except HR. He'd already bitched to friends about my frigidity and how I only got married to cover up my lesbianism.

When DH got the job offer in Houston, I was ready to leave. But the crap didn't stop there.

Oh, no, sir-ee, it did not.

You see, after I came forward, other women did as well, and that former supervisor was given the chance to gracefully resign from the company. Because, you know, us guys have to look out for each other.

So roughly two years later, DH and his partners are doing business with another company, and guess who is working there?

Knowing everything that had happened to me, DH decides he can suck it up and deal with this asshole. Until said asshole starts lying about business-related matters.

After a couple weeks of asshole's shit, one of DH's partners asks to speak with him and asks for his side of the story about the problems. You see, DH is smarter than Asshole gave him credit for. DH kept a detailed record of every contact, who said what, and the result.

Partner: "This sounds personal."

DH: "It is. He's jealous that I've slept with Suzan and he hasn't. By the way, would you like a copy of all my contacts with him? And I'm sure Suzan would provide you with a copy of her documentation of his harassment."

Neither of us knows exactly what happened after DH's partner has a phone conversation with the CEO of the other business, but Asshole disappeared shortly afterward.

Did I get any money out of this whole escapade? No, nor do I want it. I just pray that no one else has  to go through that shit.

So why did I come forward immediately?

I'd like to say I was brave or I had principles. No, I was just pissed. P-I-S-S-E-D!

Pissed that he would try this. Pissed that I was already incredibly stressed out between law school, DH's treatment, the goddamn wedding, and my normal workload.

The same kind of pissed I felt when my mother would give me the "don't do X/do Y so boys will like you" shit fucking CONSTANTLY!

But that kid in Stuebenville wasn't given a choice.

And maybe Trump's accusers didn't feel they had a choice anymore either. Or maybe they were pissed like me. To have their alleged attacker seeking the highest office in the land? What the hell would happen if he won? I don't know why they came forward now, but I have yet to hear they actually are seeking money.

And if anyone has followed Trump's career, none of this can be a surprise. He's as addicted to the camera and attention as much as the Steubenville football players convicted of raping their classmate were. In both cases, their actions and words have been recorded for posterity.

In the end, I don't care what you think about my "fuckabilty". Just remember that if you try to back me into a corner, if you go anywhere near my pussy, you're gonna get clawed.


This is me getting shit off my chest, so this will be one of those rare times where I disable comments. I don't care who you're voting for or why. That's between you, your Deity, and your own damn social media.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Music I'm Listening to Right Now

I'm deep in NaNoWriMo so I need a little more Meghan Trainor to keep me going...


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sword and Sorceress 31 Is Out!

My latest story is available today! (Print versions will be coming soon.)

"Pig-Headed" - Sword and Sorceress 31

With the examiner from the university on his way to administer her entrance exam, Talis is stressed beyond belief. Add to that, accidentally turning her brother into a farm animal and an ogre threatening to eat her best friend, Talis's day becomes a whole lot worse.

Amazon, all countries
Barnes & Noble

Monday, October 31, 2016

Different Tone for Halloween

My regular readers know how excited I am about Samhain, the Celtic New Year. This year will take a serious turn, and what I hope is an uplifting message.

A couple of weeks ago, Moise Morancy was on the bus when he saw a man sexually assaulting a fifteen-year-old girl. No one else intervened, but Mr. Morancy did. As it seems to happen all too often, when the police arrived, the sexual predator started screaming that Mr. Morancy attacked him for no reason.

You see the predator was white and Mr. Morancy is black.

The police cuffed Mr. Morancy. But they also took statements. And listened. Mr. Morancy's actions were vindicated. He was released, and the predator arrested.

For artists, well, we deal with our emotions through our art. Mr. Morancy is no exception. He wrote "No Means No", and it's a sad, poignant, and hopeful message.

At a time when it's all too easy to do nothing, Mr. Morancy did something that made a difference in a teenage girl's life. Please support this young artist and share his story.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Freaking My Son Out

Then there's the performers I like who he detests...


Friday, October 28, 2016

Welcome to the United States of Entitlement

The epidemic has been sweeping the nation long before the current election climate. I blame the post-World War II boom. Housing and cars were more affordable. Jobs were plenty. Most white Americans wanted for little, and they thought the good times would last forever.

When the air started leaking from the economic balloon in the late Sixties, it was easier to blame blacks and women for taking jobs away from hard-working white men than to tighten their belts. When the Energy Crisis of the Seventies came, well, surely it was the fault of those damn Arabs than American dependence on cheap foreign oil. When the savings and loans collapsed and the junk bonds tanked in the Eighties, it had to be the fault of overseas banks, not American greed and the nostalgic desire to return to the flourishing post-WWII era economy. To make sure we had nicer houses and nicer cars, we racked up debt in the Nineties based over the value of our Dotcom portfolios. It wasn't our fault the tech market, which produced very little in either products or services, crashed in 2001.

Unfortunately, the Greatest Generation didn't pass on their values of thrift, hard work and sacrifice. No, their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren only heard their stories of the good times. They simply can't understand why they don't have what Grandma and Grandpa had. And they are pissed by what they perceive as not getting their share.

I see it in the everyday interactions among the younger generations.

Little things like cutting in line at a deli counter because I'M in a hurry. Nearly running over the teenagers in the crosswalk when those kids have the light and right-of-way because I'M late for an appointment. Screaming at a barista for using regular milk not soy when he/she should know MY order because I'M here every fucking day. Muttering "rag heads" under MY breath when passing the neighbors who just moved in because they don't dress exactly like I DO.

There's something inside you that thinks, "I'm better than those people. I deserve to have more than them."

As the late, great Mark Twain once said, "The world does not owe you anything. It was here first."

But that doesn't matter to Americans. Everyone else has the good life. All we want is our share.

Our share of what exactly?

Not the 1200 sq. ft. ranch that would fit our budget and allow us to save for retirement. No, we want the 3000 sq. ft. McMansion with the granite countertops and gold-plated bathroom fixtures.

Not the tech school training to become a welder, a position that in our area starts at $50/hr. No, we want a bachelor's degree in Art History and a guaranteed six-figure salary.

Not the less prestigious job that will give us more time with our kids. No, we want the position where everybody kisses our ass and the babysitters raise our children.

I wish I was making up these examples. I really do. But these come from family, friends, and in the welding case, my dental hygentist.  Seriously, her husband's company is looking welders who are willing to put in an honest eight-hour day and can pass a fucking drug test.

(By the way, you really shouldn't be playing with acetylene while you're high.)

So before you pull out your pink Hello Kitty Glock and become a statistic on the evening news because you're pissed at the world for not giving you what you think you deserve, ask yourself this: What am I doing to change my situation?

Yeah, I know. That's not what you wanted to hear.

Kind of like my niece, Amber. She assumed when we said we'd help her with college, we would fill out all the forms and hand her $40K in cash.

No, we said we'd give her a place to stay and co-sign a student loan on the condition that she worked to earn part of her tuition and she filled out her own paperwork.

She stomped out of our place over a year ago without a word. Last, I heard she'd been arrested in Toledo in June for selling pot.

Think she's an unusual case? No, she's not. I see just as many people my age acting the very same way.

Amber could have changed her situation. She chose not to.

Just like the people my age who hate their job. They haven't bothered to apply anywhere else. It's easier to bitch that they deserve better without bothering to look for it.

"What I deserve" is wishful thinking. Amber thought she deserved $40K The lady behind me at the deli counter thought she deserved to be waited on first. I see it with writers too. They deserve to make a million dollars on their first book just because they wrote it. "What I deserve" is ultimately self-defeating.

"What am I doing to change my situation" is proactive. Genius Kid wants a car. He's been applying at several businesses that will hire teens. He asked his dad for coaching before he had his first interview yesterday. He has a budget for saving his money. My friend Angie wants a writing career. She's been working on her craft and submitting manuscripts. She's bought the tools for creating her own ebooks. She's taking business classes specifically aimed at the publishing industry, too. Both GK and Angie are taking concrete steps to accomplish their goals. "What am I doing to change my situation" is a productive. Even if GK and Angie don't accomplish their specific goal at this time, they are both developing skills that can be used in other endeavors.

But you wanna know something? Angie's already met some of her goals. I have no doubt she'll accomplish the rest. Same thing with GK. When he's already figured out how to save money for the video games he wants, I have no doubt he'll have his own car in the garage this time next year.

So before you shoot the person you think is less deserving than you, take a good hard look in the mirror. What did you do today to change your situation?

As I've said before, you're more than welcome to cry on my shoulder about the unfairness of it all. But like your high school math teacher, I need to see your work first.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Rethinking Strategy

Back in May, I had some problems with Barnes & Noble. I won't get into all the dirty details, but it wasn't the first time, and I'd lost patience with the company's bullshit. So I pulled all my books.

And by all, I mean both my titles as well as Alter Ego's. I'd had enough even though it meant losing a significant percentage of income.

Then last Friday, I was updating links for my latest books before sending the master files to my formatter. Lo and behold, Barnes & Noble was carrying my first paperback, Justice: The Beginning.

O-o-k-a-a-y...

B&N is pretty adamant about not carrying self-published books, yet they have my paperback. The discovery validated my choice to create my own publishing company.

In a HUGE way.

So after a lot of thought, I decided to put my e-books back up on B&N. Slowly. As in each book will be re-uploaded AFTER B&N lists the paper version.

I'm not rushing back into anything. So far, only Justice: The Beginning has been uploaded. We'll see what happens next.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Status Report - October 2016

It's hard to believe October is almost over! So what are the project priorities?

Priority #1
I sent the master files for Zombie Goddess to my formatter Saturday morning. I'm probably not going to have it out by my arbitrary deadline, which is the third anniversary of the release of Blood Sacrifice, aka the last new release in the Bloodlines series. So I'm shooting for Halloween provided my formatter isn't backlogged.

Priority #2
Finish writing Ravaged by Halloween. This has been a difficult story to complete because it deals with a lot of uncomfortable subjects. It doesn't help that the storyline mirrors some elements of the current U.S. political climate. I can honestly say this story was outlined well before the recent bullshit. I'm hoping to have it edited in time for a Thanksgiving release.

Priority #3
Finishing Sacrificed will be my National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo, NaNo or November) project. Frankly I lost a day when I accidentally deleted Chapter Nine of this book without a backup. *facepalm* If I can stay on schedule, I hoping for a Christmas release.

Priority #4
I'll spend the holidays finishing Resurrected. It won't be out until late January/early February because both my formatter and my cover artist take time off to spend with their children--as they should!

Not a Priority, but You're Going to Hear About It Soon
I started a new project called The Four Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse. As a soccer mom myself, I said the only way I'd ever get a fucking mini-van is when the Four Horsemen arrive to announce the end of the world. Well, my heroine Danielle feels the same way. When a drunk driver totals her beloved pick-up, nearly killing her and her son, what does her hubby bring home as a replacement? Unfortunately in Danielle's case, it really does trigger Armageddon!

Starting the first chapter was my consolation the day I accidentally erased a chapter of Sacrificed because I was out of chocolate. (By the way, my huge order from Lindt arrived last Thursday.)

THE DEFINITE RELEASE!
Sword and Sorceress 31 with my story "Pig-Headed" will be out on November 2nd. In fact, Amazon is already taking pre-orders. So is Barnes & Noble. This is an independent tale and doesn't take place in any of my pre-existing worlds. All I can say is Talis, a sorceress wannabe, is having a very bad day, starting with accidentally turning her brother into a farm animal and ending with an ogre threatening to eat her best friend.

All righty, then! Time for me to get back to work!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Freaking My Son Out

Then there are the rare times when we're both singing a song at the top of our lungs with the top down on the convertible!

Until we start arguing about the actual lyrics...


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Freaking Out My Son

Then there's times I recognize one artist's voice (in this case, Kei$ha), but not the other. It makes Genius Kid feel a little superior.


Monday, October 10, 2016

I Want Fantasy For Adults!

I would like to be on a fantasy reading kick. I really would.

I'm caught up on George R.R. Martin and Jim Butcher, and only Cthulu knows when they'll finish their respective series. I'm waiting on my friend Angela Penrose's next short story. I'm trying not to finish Jonathan Moeller's Ghost in Exile series too fast, or I won't have anything to look forward to over the winter.  I've bought last year's edition of Diana Rowland's White Trash Zombie, which I'm saving for after I finish edits on Zombie Goddess or my birthday, whichever gets here first.

And therein lies the problem. I'm waiting to savor Diana and Jonathan's books because I don't have any other fantasy novels to read.

Let me amend that--I don't have any adult fantasy novels to read.

Don't get me wrong. I read some young adult. I read a lot of romance. But I'm having a hard time finding something I like in the sf/f category that isn't a young adult romance dressed in a fantasy setting.

Maybe it's part of turning fifty and being in a relationship for nearly twenty-five years. Maybe it's wanting sheer escapism in the scary atmosphere this election has created. But I want something a little more grown-up, and I'm starting to see why so many people are bitching about the rampant juvenile romance that's taken over fantasy.

It's not so much the protagonists' age as their attitudes. I want them to solve realistic problems instead of obsessing over which boy to kiss. I want adventures and excitement without the entire cast dying.

Maybe that's why I've been re-reading old favorites (please note, I'm only giving the year the first novel came out):

Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars, aka Barsoom, series (1912)

Sure, John marries the princess in the end, but the majority of the story is John simply trying to survive in an alien, hostile world.

Anne McCaffrey's Pern series (1968)

Again, there's a little bit of romance amidst a lot of political intrigue, but neither overrides the main problems of the first books-defending Pern against the Ninth Pass of the Red Star and Threadfall.

Katherine Kurtz's Deryni Series (1970)

Other than a little lust-at-first-sight, the focus on these novels is the political rivalry between Deryni and normal humans contrasted with the rivalry between the kingdoms of Gwynedd and Torenth.


And this is where the writer in me kicks in. I write the stories I'm looking for and can't find. So I need to finish the Bloodlines series so I can get back to Issura and ...

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Freaking Out My Son

As I pointed out to Genius Kid, I saw some of these artists on Craig Ferguson's show, and he's older than me!


Friday, October 7, 2016

Scaly Cannibalistic Llamas

I've been in what DH calls "In The Zone" for the last week. It means I can't put down the writing. As in, I wrote in the car on my phone while we made a coffee and gasoline run Tuesday.

Normally, "In The Zone" means one book at a time, but in this case, I'm essentially writing the last three books of the Bloodlines series at the same time. Sort of.

Resurrected has taken over my attention. While it's unusual for me to write a large chunk in the guys' point of view, it's primarily Tiffany's story. She does some bad things for the right reasons though her motives are pretty bad as well.

It all comes down to her anger and self-esteem issues, things that have been on display since Blood Magick, but don't really come to a head until the last book in the series. Ironically, some of the themes of motherhood and enforcer crystalized when I read an essay by Kameron Hurley last night.

I crossed the 20K mark on Resurrected yesterday. I have a feeling the writing will go even faster after consuming Ms. Hurley's wise words.

P.S. I've been posting my weekly word counts on the current WIPs at my main website if you're curious.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Freaking Out My Son

Nothing has been freaking out Genius Kid more than "Mo-o-o-om" knowing the artists and lyrics from his generation of music.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Practicing Self-Love in Front of the World

I was on a roll writing last night. Going to bed very late means getting up very late. But while I'm riding the wave to finish the last three Bloodlines books, blogging may be sporadic the next couple of months. That's not to say I'll be totally quiet...

Who do you write for?

It's a simple question, right? Or is it?

"I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it." - Toni Morrison, author of Beloved

I totally understand where Ms. Morrison is coming from.

Most writers can answer the first question of writing, which is "Why do you write?"

And regardless of the answer, it raises a second question I find most writers, old and new, don't ask themselves. "Who are you writing for?"

Some writers will answer, "For the readers."

Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing. But do they really understand what the readers want?

I see and hear so many writers, particularly the new ones, jump on a particular bandwagon because the subject matter/genre are what sells at the moment. Then they are shocked when their "perfect" story for a subject matter/genre doesn't sell.

I've read some of these stories. There's no passion. No spark. Nothing to set them apart from the crowd. In fact, there's times where the contempt for the subject matter shines.

Want some examples of the badness?

Let me start by saying I love Meg Cabot's writing. Absolutely love her! And I love vampire romances, which is why a friend gave me Meg's book Insatiable for Christmas of 2010. Two of my favorite things should be better than those two-pound Reese's cups Hershey puts out for holidays, right?

Ah, no. If you want to read the Amazon reviews, many readers thought the same thing I did. The characterization was piss-poor, and the heroine's constant derogatory comments about the genre did not sit well. Now, maybe Meg was trying to do a witty parody that fell flat on its face. However, I suspect a gun was held to her head by her publisher and/or her agent who told her to jump on the vampire train or else.

Want another example? Fifty Shades of Gray gives a perverted view of the BDSM lifestyle by indicating something is wrong for a person to enjoy it. BDSM has its own rules, none which were in play in this book. The heroine "saves" the hero from his "bad" choices through her "love" at the end of the series. E.L. James didn't bother to do any research, and there's a tangible contempt for anyone who likes BDSM.

But, Suzan, I hear you say, both of the books you mentioned ended up on the New York Times Best Seller List!

Yes, they did. Insatiable based on Meg's reputation. FSoG because of it's basis as Twilight fanfic and the novelty of a taboo subject.

Now, without going to Amazon.com or any other website or bookshelf, name a follow-up to either of those two books in the same genre that did just as well or better. I'll be extra generous; if you can name one book published after 2010 in the comments, I'll revise part of my opinion and give you full credit.

But the part where these books were painful to read because these two authors didn't enjoy writing them? I definitely stand by that opinion.

And I have to wonder if this is where part of the tortured writer mythos is coming from. You must drag yourself to your desk everyday, crafting a story you neither respect or find desirable to read if someone else wrote it, and only when you write the perfect story, the perfect paragraph, the perfect line, on a subject you hate will you find fulfillment.

I'm a proponent of write what you love. If I'm not having fun, it shows. In fact, I rewrote "Diplomacy in the Dark" after my beta reader pointed out, "This wasn't as good as 'Justice'."

I didn't expect them to point out craft flaws, but I did ask some pointed questions. The response came down to, "It felt like you were going through the motions."

And they were right. The first draft was too much like something George R.R. Martin would write. I was trying too hard to emulate someone else's success. And frankly, I didn't enjoy writing it.

So I started over from scratch. On the second try, I got "Now this reads for like a Justice Anthea story!" from my beta.

And while different people like different characters in the Bloodlines series, the overwhelming favorite is Sam Ridgeway. I have fun writing her, and it definitely shows to the readers.

You see, I wrote Sam for me when I was in a very bad place in my life. Complications from my first pregnancy left me unable to have any more children. My marriage was falling apart. My first business had failed due to economic circumstance truly beyond my control.

What it came down to was I needed something, anything, fun, or the depression would have consumed me. And Sam was fun.

But she was also my lifeline. My inspiration. If she could climb out of the hellhole of her death, I could find a way to deal with my own problems.

So I wrote to entertain myself first. And I continue to write for me. It doesn't mean I don't care about the readers. But if I'm not laughing and crying along with my characters, if I'm not enjoying the story, I know my readers won't either.

My unconscious resentment of writing something I don't like will show in the story.

One of the best piece of writing advice I've received was from Tobias Buckell. At a talk he gave, the subject of his work in the Halo universe came up. He said some writers will produce contracted tie-in stories just for the paycheck. Tobias's criteria was "Will I have fun doing this project?"

I think the fun quotient is important for a writer no matter who signs the paychecks.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Music in My New Car

Then there are the songs that even have my MIL tapping her toes as I take her to doctors' appointments.


Friday, September 23, 2016

The Nine Worst Provisions in Your Publishing Contract

Yes, I've been rather quiet over the past week. For all of you readers who have patiently waited for three years, I'm working hard to get the last four books in the Bloodlines finished before the end of 2016.

If you're a writer though and are seriously thinking about a trad deal, here's an excellent little handbook from David P. Vandagriff. If the name is unfamiliar, he also goes by The Passive Guy, the head honcho over at the think tank otherwise known as The Passive Voice.

David's book is not legal advice since contrary to what certain people tell you, not all contracts are the same. His tome covers the ickiest provisions of publishing contracts, provisions designed to take all your money, your hard work, and your career away from you. He also gives you tips to avoid these soul-wrenching clauses. If nothing else, the book is great conversation starter for you and your attorney.

David's book will be free over the weekend!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Music in My New Car

Then there are the selections DH and I can agree on...


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Failing to Keep Up with the Joneses

We're closing is on the last quarter of the year, and I feel like I'm slipping farther and farther. The list of tasks to get done in 2016 has quite a few things crossed off as of today, but I still have over half the list left to go.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

My old anal self would be despairing at this point for not being three quarters of the way through the to-do list by now.

But my new self? Well, she listed everything that's come out, or is about to come out, this year to an old friend over dinner last Friday. The friend, who is not a writer but is an attorney looking to change careers, was impressed because to her, writing is tedious and time-consuming.

And I realized my old self had been doing something stupid. I'd fallen into the same trap I'd warned other writers about--comparing myself to other people. Failing to keep up with other writers didn't necessarily mean I had failed.

Already, I've written more this year than I had last year or the year before. I'd definitely published more this year than I had last year or the year before. Maybe I wasn't as caught up with my business plan as I would have liked, but I wasn't sitting on my hands either.

This last week alone, I uploaded the print version of Justice: The Beginning, reviewed my portion of the galleys for Sword and Sorceress 31, organized my blurb sheets for each published story (which was a way overdue task), edited a bit more of Zombie Goddess, and wrote a bit on four different novels.

So I'm failing forward.

And that's always a good thing.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Choices

Tom Junod wrote an incredible, thoughtful, moving article for Esquire Magazine about the pictures AP photographer Richard Drew took on the morning of September 11, 2001. The most famous of the photographs, dubbed "The Falling Man", was originally published on September 12, 2001. And over the course of the last fifteen years, that picture has been censored.

Not by the government, but by the American people themselves.

Why?

Junod elaborates on the possible reasons as some of his journalist colleagues attempted to identify the man in Drew's photo series. But the common theme in the responses from families the reporters contacted is a mixture of anger and shame. Junod equated the emotions to our collective horror over the terrorism of that day.

I believe the reaction is due to another reason. It all comes down to Americans' bizarre relationship with suicide.

Suicide is often equated with mental illness. Even assisted suicide for those in the end stage of disease are looked at askance. Yet, neither of those situations remotely compare to the place those people trapped in the Twin Towers found themselves that morning.

As DH said to me on that day fifteen years ago, "How bad were things up there that jumping out a window was a better option?"

No one knows exactly how many people jumped that awful morning. Junod gives estimates based on educated guesses from viewing raw footage. 9/11, the accidental documentary by the French brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet, left in the shocked firefighters' reaction when they realized the sounds they heard were bodies. Allegedly, the documentarians edited out some of the hits because the constant thuds were too much for them.

I recorded 9/11 when it was first aired on March 10, 2002. I admit I haven't been able to watch the recording again, much less the airings of the film on the anniversaries, because of those sounds.

The NYC medical examiners office refused to classify anyone who died in the Twin Towers attacks as "a jumper". To the M.E.s, those people did not go to the Towers with the intent to commit suicide that morning.

So I can understand Junod's suggestion over the collective horror over something we witnessed and could do nothing to stop. But it doesn't explain the anger or the denial directed at those who chose to jump. And maybe that's the problem. We don't know what went through their minds that morning.

Collectively, Americans pride themselves on their can-do, never-give-up attitudes. We condemn people for giving up or not trying hard enough. And to some of the families of those who died, the idea that a loved one "gave up" is anathema to the person they knew.

But did these people really give up? Essentially, their choice to live was taken from them by nineteen members of al-Qaeda. They were reduced to suffocating, burning alive, or being crushed to death when the walls and ceilings started to collapse.

Instead, some of these people found a fourth option. An option not dictated by those who wanted to kill them.

To me, it was the bravest option. A final screw-you to the terrorists.

And frankly, it's the option I would have taken too.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Music in My New Car

The reason our library is so eclectic is our differing tastes. DH is a little more Classic Rock. I'm more New Wave/Hip-Hop/Dance.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Special Star Trek Post on a Special Anniversary

Once upon a time, a little science fiction television show called Star Trek debuted shortly before my first birthday. Of course, I didn't have the cognitive process at the time to appreciate this show, which didn't matter. The area where my parents lived at the time didn't have a TV station that carried the program.

Both situations changed three years later. Star Trek had been cancelled by NBC, but the show's new owners, holding company Gulf + Western, licensed it into syndication. Our local TV station broadcast started airing reruns at five p.m., which was when my mother would be cooking dinner.

And this is a perfect example of why parents should ALWAYS monitor their children's media consumption if they don't want their children thinking on their own.

My mother was horrified by the show on too many levels to count. To her, the worst part was my fangirl worship of Lieutenant Uhura, a black woman. I'm not sure what made a racist like my mother give in, but I managed to finagle a Sunset Malibu Christie for my 8th birthday. She was the only African-American doll available at any of our local stores at the time.

As soon as I could, I took off the doll's swimsuit and sunglasses, and created a bright red mini-dress for my "Lt. Uhura" to wear on her adventures. And did she have adventures! She and Wonder Woman (another Barbie who was re-imagined) were often sent in to rescue G.I. Joe and Steve Austin from missions gone wrong.

However, Star Trek did far more than hone my sewing skills. I was fascinated by the U.S. space program. For the first time, I saw a female astronaut, and I had hope that I could be one, despite my mother's protestations that girls could not be astronauts. (In all fairness, her statement was true in 1969.)

Despite the alleged maternal care that I didn't get too big for my britches, I studied and dreamed and finally, not only did the civilian astronaut program open, but women were accepted into the military academies. Majoring in physics seemed to be the path to my goal, except...

I failed horribly in a couple of core classes my junior year in college. My advisor, who was also the head of the physics department, was nearly in tears. How could I understand quantum mechanics and not get basic electricity and magnetism?

To make matters worse, I received the information packet for applying for the civilian program at NASA. And I discovered that my eyesight was so bad it wouldn't even qualify for NASA's laxer civilian program. You have to remember that this is the mid-'80's. Lasik was a highly experimental procedure from the godless communists of the U.S.S.R.

Oddly enough, I qualified for an internship at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the following summer, but my heart was no longer in physics. If I couldn't be an astronaut, what was the point of continuing?

As I tried to stuff the core classes for a computer science degree, Paramount, who now owned the rights to Star Trek, decided to try a new series. By that time, it had become something of a running joke in my sorority that I was a Trekkie. To my surprise, a bunch of my sisters wanted to go with me to see Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Hey, if there was a movie for non-Trekkies to see, that was the one.

Anyway, WUAB in Cleveland planned to carry the new series as well as the original Star Trek on Saturday evenings. They normally scheduled movies for Friday night prime time and decided to run the double-episode premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation as their Friday night movie, as well as showing it during it's regular Saturday night timeslot.

Anyone familiar with Greeks knows they like to party. Everyone in my sorority had plans for Friday night, and I thought, Yes! I'll have the living room TV to myself to watch the new series!

Which was a great plan until lunch on Thursday when I was badgered about going out on the next night. Two of my friends cornered my in my dorm room later, demanding to know what I was doing. I broke down and told them the truth. They decided they would stay and watch the premiere with me, then go to whatever party they'd planned to go to.

Thursday at supper, Martin, the boyfriend of one of nagging friends, charged up to me, demanding to know why I didn't tell him WUAB was airing ST:TNG a night early. Did I mention he started as a physics major as well? Oh, and he told me he was joining us to watch the premiere.

Now, Martin wasn't the typical science nerd. He was hot, athletic and popular. He told his brothers he was watching the new Star Trek show with his girlfriend, Anne-Marie. And Anne-Marie was also hot, athletic and popular. The next thing I know, my quiet Star Trek premiere night was an informal Greek mixer.

Five minutes before the show started, I stood up and announced if anyone so much as spoke during the show, I would seriously harm them.

Surprisingly, everyone remained absolutely silent.

Once I was out of school, I attended every Star Trek convention I could. I have an autograph from George Takei. Got to listen to DeForest Kelley's poetry. Saw Walter Koenig's unspoken dread over the release of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Over the years, Star Trek became my test for friends and eventually my husband. If you couldn't stand the show and couldn't keep your high-and-mighty opinion to yourself, I knew you couldn't accept me.

So of course, since I love Star Trek, my son feels he needs to rebel and hate it. Or so he claims. Where most teens try to hide their porn consumption, my son tries to hide that he loves Star Trek: Voyager. He's binged the first three seasons over the last couple of weeks.

And this week, I received this gorgeous specimen. My friend Ro knew I'd been having a rough few years. She sent me the 50th Anniversary Lt. Uhura as a surprise. And she arrived just in time for today.

Happy Birthday, Star Trek! May you continue for another fifty years!



Monday, September 5, 2016

Mondays, Labor Days, and Tornado Sirens

It's the first Monday of September, which means it's Labor Day here in the good ole' U.S. of A. It also means the monthly testing of the town's tornado sirens.

At 10 a.m.

After a firetruck had been in our complex's parking lot until after 3 a.m.

And parked right outside our window.

With the lights flashing.

No, we weren't sure what was going on, and frankly, we didn't want to.

That's the problem with living in an apartment. Sometimes you end up with skeevy neighbors.

But it's also a symptom of modern life in rural America. The folks in this town with a living-wage job either work white-collar for THE MAJOR EMPOYER or blue-collar for the handful of decent factory jobs that are left. The rest try to make do with a combination of minimum wage jobs.

And that dramatic range shows in our neighbors.

Unless they're like DH and me and they work from home. Okay, maybe not like SH and me when the neighbors are selling drugs instead of fantasy books.

*sigh*

So I will continue nodding in a friendly way to the neighbors, and not ask too many questions of them.

And write my books.

On Labor Day.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Music in My New Car

The last time DH and I bought a car was literally last century. Goddess, how things have changed! We've each been uploading our own favorites to the onboard entertainment computer. The result is a bit...eclectic.


Friday, September 2, 2016

Writers and the Dunning-Kruger Effect - Part 2

Why is there a Part 2 I hear all you cute, fuzzy new writers ask? Sure, I listened to you last week, Suzan. I know I'll run into the occasional crazy reader who thinks they know more about a subject than I do. But it doesn't really matter, does it?

Yes, it does. Because we writers can be just as guilty of the Dunning-Kruger Effect as the readers, especially when we are first starting out.

Lots of us think that because our English teacher gave us a chocolate bar for winning some essay contest in fourth grade, we can write professionally.

Oh, Goddess, how I wish that were true!

I've done several types of writing professionally over the last twenty-eight years: tech writing, legal writing, magazine article writing, and genre fiction. The rules and purposes for each are radically different. If I tried to write fiction in the same style as a technical manual, it would be as boring as hell. If I wrote a complaint the same way I write fiction, opposing counsel would demand a resubmission of the complaint, saying that I didn't state an actual issue of fact or law to be decided, and that's assuming the judge wouldn't also chew my ass out for wasting her time.

I assume all of you reading this blog knows the basics, but let's start there with a few examples just in case:

- Spelling

You'd think this would be the easiest part, but it's not. Most of us have forgotten more vocabulary and spelling words since junior high than we remember. And it's okay. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus next to you or on your browser tabs for quick look-ups.

If you're like me, and you read a lot of Canadian and U.K. books, sometimes you can flip between the different spellings for the same word, e.g "gray" versus "grey". Some readers don't give a flying flip because technically both are correct spellings. However, you will get an occasional person who throws a fit about "grey" because "'Murica!"

All I'll say is the best idea is to stay consistent in your spelling and terms. If you use "grey", make sure that an elevator is a "lift" and a cigarette is a "fag".

- Grammar

The best word of advice is to know the rules before you break them. If you're writing a magazine article, you're generally going to use more formal grammar than you would writing teen dialogue for a fiction novel.

Two of the best places to review grammar rules are Strunk and White's The Elements of Style and The Chicago Manual of Style. A few things to keep in mind:

- Elements of Style has an originally publishing date of 1920, Chicago Manual of Style 1906. While both guides have been updated, they were written for more specific purposes than prose fiction.

- English is a constantly evolving language. New words are constantly being added as new things are created, and old words are discarded as they fall from common, every day use.

- These are guides, not the Fifteen Ten Commandments carved in stone. Or if you're talking to Captain Jack Sparrow, they are merely suggestions. The truly important thing to remember--keep your meaning clear to the average reader.

That said, here's some examples of breaking the rules:

"She drove around town. She couldn't decide on a restaurant. And she ate my candy!"

I'm sure your grade school teacher beat it into your heads that you should NEVER start a sentence with a conjunction. Bullshit! This is an example of an arbitrary rule forced on English by a bitter old priest who decided that English HAD to look just like Latin. Uh, no, it doesn't.

"Who did you give my puppy to?"

There are two items here.

First, the "to" is hanging out there by itself. The dreaded dangling participle goes back to that same bitter old priest and his obsession with Latin. So feel free to let your participles dangle if your sentence makes sense.

The second issue is "who". Since it is the indirect object, the proper form should be "whom". However, just like we no longer use "thee", "thou", and "thine" as pronouns, the use of "whom" has fallen out of favor--except for a few English majors with broomsticks firmly stuck up their asses.

- Homonyms

This is one area where you do need to follow the rules because if you don't, you can totally change the meaning.

"There over the hill..."

"They're over the hill..."

Do you mean something or someone is on the other side of the hill, or are you insulting someone for their advanced age?

- Punctuation

Again, follow the rules unless it involves an Oxford comma. My personal feeling is you only need the Oxford when confusion may arise.

Good Example: "At the store, I bought carrots, celery and chicken broth."

Bad Example: "He brought his dogs, Miles and Jim."

Are Miles and Jim his dogs or are they his cats? Friends? Brothers?

- Possessive forms

Again, this one where you do your damndest to get it correct, and if you're confused, go to your preferred style guide. The real problem I see often is whether to use -'s when a proper name ends with an -s.

Example: St. James' townhouse or St. James's townhouse

Technically, both are correct. The only thing I would say is whichever form you decide on, use it consistently through your work.


There's a lot more to writing basics, but I'm trusting that you know them, or you're smart enough to brush up as you write.

Good luck!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sick Days for a Writer

I had plans for this morning. I was going to get up with DH and GK this morning. They've been getting up extra early since the new year started. GK is taking Honors Chemistry this year, which is also home room, and the entire class arrives fifteen minutes before school's official start time so the teacher can get through the bureaucratic stuff first and actually spend the rest of the period on instruction and labs. After dropping off GK, DH and I were going out for breakfast. Then I was going to tackle editing on Zombie Goddess.

Except in less than a week since school started, GK brought new pets home. Unfortunately not from biology class.

Luckily, it's just a mild summer cold. For him.

Unluckily for me, even a mild cold knocks me down with my compromised immune system. I slept nearly thirteen hours last night. I have some mild joint and muscle pain. On the plus side, I can breath. But so much for getting a couple thousand words in this morning before lunch. I'll ease my way this afternoon through editing and proofing that needs to be done.

And I'll probably collapse in front of the TV later tonight when I can't focus on the words anymore.

The rough part is that I don't get paid sick time. If DH gets this cold and takes a day off, we don't have to worry about making the rent or the car payment.

If I get really sick, like the flu from hell last April, I'm not making money. Not writing. Not editing. Nothing.

I'm grateful to have someone in my life who can pull the household load when I'm can't. There's a lot of writers who don't, and it freaks them out when something like this happens. Especially if they have a deadline with a publisher.

Yes, I'm lucky. And I know it.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Monday Movie Mania - Ghostbusters (2016)

I actually saw the new Ghostbusters about a month ago. Frankly, I put off writing a review about it, partly from disappointment, partly because Tarzan and Suicide Squad were much more fun movies.

Unfortunately, Ghostbusters highlighted all the problems with a remake, along with a ton of the sexism in our society, long before cameras started rolling on the project.


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) The writers didn't try to force-fit the personalities of the original characters into the new ones. Kristen Wiig playing the straight-woman physicist seeking tenure against Melissa McCarthy's too-passionate, non-conventional scientist in a realistic way. These two ladies worked just as well together here as they did in Bridesmaids.

2) Leslie Jones as the non-scientist, common-sensical member of the group was a delight. Her character jumped into a new world with both feet, taking command of her life instead of being dragged into it out of desperation for a pay check.

3) The writers poked fun at the token-opposite-gender, dumb-blond secretary memes, and Chris Hemsworth ran with it.

4) Kate McKinnon was my personal favorite as Dr. Holtzmann, the team's insane engineer. I was never quite sure what she'd do next.

5) The cameos of the surviving cast members of the original Ghostbusters totally rocked, especially Sigourney Weaver's turn as Holtzmann's mentor.


CONS
1) The writing was uneven. The humor was dead-on when it came to the satire of the university system or gender roles. But there was a tone-deaf attitude toward the paranormal aspects. Also, the pacing of the first half was incredibly slo-o-o-ow.

2) The editing left something to be desired as well. There were scenes essentially left hanging in the first half of the movie. With no context, they made no sense. On the other hand, the last half of the movie was tightly woven, both in writing and editing. It's almost like the two writers and two editors literally divided the movie instead of collaborating.

3) The killing of Bill Murray's character, Martin Heiss, a debunker of psychic/paranormal phenomenon a la James Randi, was unnecessary. While I understand the writers' aim to convery the seriousness of the threat to the protagonists, the incident wasn't funny and totally not in keeping with the light-hearted tone of the movie.

4) I missed Rick Moranis, the only original cast member to decline a cameo. I totally understand his reasoning (he semi-retired from acting after the death of his wife in order to raise their children), but it wasn't quite the same without him.


To me, the sad part is this could have been a kick-ass movie. It was decent for a remake. What's worse is a few male friends saw the same flaws in the movie that I did, but they feel they cannot say anything without being labeled as misogynist. Ironically, they wanted the reboot to work far more than I did. It's a damn shame that we've come to this in American society.

For the movie itself, I'd give it a 5 out of 10 stars.

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.)

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 the other night 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.