Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday Movie Mania - Birdman

This is another movie I'd wanted to see in the theater, but it was released in the midst of the sale of the Houston house and the move north. We caught it during the HBO free weekend while I was down with the flu.

I love Michael Keaton's eclectic taste in roles, and I wasn't disappointed with the Academy award-winning Birdman. But to be frank, this is not something just anyone would enjoy. There're a lot of internal jabs that will fly over the heads of non-artists, and I say this as someone whose head was flown over. *smile*

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* * *

1) Keaton's performance deserved an Oscar win, not just a nomination. His Riggan is someone who lays everything, including his sanity, on the line to prove he is an artist, not a hack.

2) Whether intentional or not, there are too many parallels between Keaton and Norton's characters and their real lives. It's difficult not to believe that director Alejandro G. Inarritu and his co-writers weren't influenced by their actors.

3) The use of an apparent continuous shot gave a sense of urgency to the story. The movie wasn't a one-shot, but the cuts were done cleverly, the film appeared seamless.

4) The ambiguous ending might piss off some people, but I love it. Afterwards, DH and I discussed possibilities, and laughed our butts off.

1) While the script was clever, I was bothered by the writing for Broadway critic Tabitha Dickinson. Despite actor Lindsay Duncan's efforts, the character came across as the stereotypical ballbuster/failed artist as critic. I understand that's how most artists (including me) feel about those who criticize our projects, but I would have preferred a little more depth in the character other than spite for spite's sake.

With the caveat that this is an artsy movie, and not the Avengers, I give Birdman 9 stars out of 10.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

To round out the month, one last look at the Guardians of the Galaxy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ellora's Cave Redux: When Publishers Don't Learn Their Lessons

The folks at Ellora's Cave are at it again. This time, their attorney sent a letter to Romance Writers of America, threatening to file a libel suit. Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader has a nice run down of the latest situation. And the comments at TDR fill in more information. You can read the full text of RWA's notice here.

Basically, it's the same ole-same ole. Actually, it's even older than the recent lawsuit against romance blogger Dear Author.

Issues between RWA and EC have been going on for nearly ten years. The first problems occurred back in 2007 when RWA changed its approved publisher rules in order to block any writer who has an e-book only release. (The president at the time was notoriously dismissive of e-books and writers who signed e-book contracts.) The issue at the time was not specifically about EC, but ANY e-book publisher. I attended the RWA National Conference that year, and sat through the annual board meeting. A lot of members were angry because EC had approved status for several years before this bullsh** happened.

The behavior of certain board members and general members wasn't pretty.

There was another major upheaval between 2011 and 2012 within RWA, again over the subject of e-books. Indie writers weren't considered to be actively seeking publication. Around this time, RWA changed the term from "approved publisher" to "qualifying markets", and EC was eliminated from the list. Also, during this period was when I first heard rumors of problems at EC, but most of the romance community was focused on the collapse of Dorchester.

So RWA has been warning its membership away from EC for some time. The only thing that's changed? RWA, acting on behalf of members who previously published with EC, is demanding payment of overdue royalties.

EC has been denying the allegations of non-payment for some time. But the funny thing is that every time EC goes to court, the case gets settled right around the time opposing counsel demands proof of payment.

The difference between suing DA and RWA? DA is a romance book review blog essentially headed up by one person. RWA represents over TEN THOUSAND romance writers.

While I quit RWA in 2012 because I didn't agree with their e-book and indie publishing policies (according to several friends, thing's have recently changed), I don't agree with trying to silence critics. If EC really wanted to settle things once and for all, prove that all writers, editors and artists have been paid in full.

It's that simple.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Monday Movie Mania - Mad Max: Fury Road

Still on the HBO free weekend movies I missed at the theater.

Mad Max, the original with Mel Gibson, was one of those cult films that everyone at my high school watched.

A generation and three films later, Mad Max creator, writer and director George Miller has actually put together a decent story for his hero.

Or at least, a story that makes sense and isn't just one big, violent car chase. Okay, it is a big, violent car chase with great character development thrown in, which is why it was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Ironically, I wasn't planning on seeing the fourth Mad Max in the theater. At least not until I started seeing a huge number of complaints on the internet about its feminist themes. It wasn't just minor complaints. It was more like "OMG! Women are taking over the world and cutting off our balls!"

Which ironically made me want to see the movie.

Unfortunately, Mad Max: Fury Road was released around the time the Crazy Niece moved in with us, so funds were tight, and I didn't have the time or money to see it while it was in theaters.

* * *  SPOILERS  * * *

1) When you have Oscar-nominated and/or -winning powerhouses leading the film, you know this isn't going to be the typical B-movie dystopia. Tom and Charlize share equal time, equal intensity, and equal respect without any sexual or sensual bullshit.

2) The five brides aren't your typical damsels in distress, though the costumer and Miller try to lead you down that path. They understand they have to chip in on the work, and they do.

3) I found to be Nicholas Hoult a fascinating actor when I first saw him in Warm Bodies. His Nux actually has the biggest character arc in the film. And whether he's young Beast in the recent X-Men movies or one of Immortan Joe's War Boys, Hoult brings a deep level of humanity to all of his characters.

1) I can honestly say this is the first Mad Max movie that there wasn't a part that I absolutely hated.

Final thoughts: I didn't realize how old I was getting until I found out that two of Joe's escaping wives were played by Zoe Kravitz, the daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet, and Riley Keough, the daughter of Lisa Marie Presley and Danny Keough.

I loved this movie so much I give it a 10 out of 10.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

How can anyone not love Baby Groot jamming to the Jackson 5?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


I didn't post this morning because I jumped on the read-back editing of A Question of Balance. I finished it, and read through the first chapter of A Modicum of Truth. I'll finish putting the front and back matter together and send them to my formatter tonight or tomorrow morning.

I'm off to Panera's in a few minutes to pound out words on Zombie Goddess. I'm currently at 55,862 words before I start tonight's session. I doubt if I finish the novel tonight, but it will be damn close.

And I should have another announcement in a week or two. Woo-hoo!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Monday Movie Mania - The Judge

During my flu from hell, HBO/Cinemax had one of their free weekends. Luckily, they were showing several movies I'd wanted to see in the theater, but for various reasons didn't get a chance to. Some I watched in real time; others we recorded since they were on at the same time as something else we wanted to see.

I'm a huge fan of Robert Downey, Jr., and Robert Duvall, and The Judge was about a lawyer with a dysfunctional relationship with his father, which was right up my alley. Unfortunately, it was released the day we closed on the house in Houston. By the time we finished dealing with renting the new apartment and unloading the moving truck, it was out of the theaters in both Texas and Ohio.

* * * SPOILERS * * *

1) Duvall's Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor was well-deserved. He played off RDJ as the estranged father so well that I think he was cheated.

2) RDJ reminded me he can play so much more than Tony Stark/Iron Man. His performance as middle son Henry reminded me of Chaplin.

3) Vincent D'Onofrio was so damn sweet as oldest brother Glen, a nice reminder than he can play things other than assholes.

4) Henry's encounter with a much younger bar waitress provides a welcome thread of humor in what could be a thoroughly depressing movie otherwise.

1) I honestly can't think of a single one.

One last thing that is neither a pro or a con: this movie pushed some personal buttons in DH and me. The type of buttons where we questioned whether we wanted to continue watching, and each of us asking the other, "Are you okay?"

Judge Palmer has Stage 4 colon cancer, and he's an alcoholic, though at the beginning of the movie, he's been sober for twenty-eight years. Just a friendly warning if you've suffered through these experiences.

Overall, I give The Judge 9 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

We watched Guardians of the Galaxy for the umpteenth time, and I still can't get over how the pop mix works so well with this movie!

Friday, May 13, 2016

My Subconscious 2: The Bitch Is Back

I've complained about my subconscious before. A little over five years ago in fact.

Well, the bitch is back, and she's taking things to a new level.

From 6th grade through law school, I'd have nightmares right before classes started. The most common one involved me panicking because I hadn't gone to one particular class all year, but I forgot to go to the admin/registrar's office to drop it. I'm desperately cramming for the class because if I didn't take the test, I'd fail all classes for the semester.

I graduated from law school in 1998. I haven't attended an official "school" for nearly twenty years. Yet, I've been having that Selket-damned recurring dream a lot over the last five months. By the way, a lot means nearly every night. Think I'm a little panicked about my writing career right now?

I don't know why I'm freaking out NOW! I'm getting things back on track. I've published two  Alter Ego short stories. One of them was accepted for republication by a small publisher. I submitted a "Suzan Harden" short story to another small publisher. A Question of Balance is almost ready to go to my formatter. Zombie Goddess is making headway again after the April flu-from-hell hiatus. And the lovely Deanna Sanchez, who was the narrator for the Far-Fetched Fables podcast of "Justice," and I are discussing her narrating "Diplomacy in the Dark."

Things are bouncing along smashingly as a U.K. friend would say.

*sigh* I hate my subconscious. She can be such a bitch sometimes.

P.S. The podcast featuring Ms. Sanchez reading my work is still available for download at Far-Fetched Fables. On iTunes, you'll want Far-Fetched Fables No. 38. Oops! FFF#38 is no longer available on iTunes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How NOT to Win Friends and Influence People

Originally, I was going to title this post, "Never EVER Piss Off Romance Readers and Writers." But this topic has far broader implications.

There are two things you really need to understand in the modern world:

1) Everything on the internet is forever.

2) When you do something incredibly stupid on the internet, everyone's going to know because of Rule #1.

Last Sunday, a cover model by the name of Paul Blake thought it would be a good idea to tell an author to go eat her last Dairy Queen Blizzard and then hang herself. Rather than apologizing for his thoughtless remark when he was called out or talk to someone more media savvy than him before he responded, Paul decided double-down on the insults.

Then triple-down.

The backlash was immediate and fierce as word spread among the romance community. Paul deleted the post that started the controversy, but too many tech-savvy writers and readers had screenshots. Many people who dealt personally and professionally with him blocked or unfriended him on Facebook.

The worst thing in this whole mess? Readers and other writers said they'd boycott any books with Paul on the cover. So the writers who had hired him before the kerfluffle were now being punished for his behavior.

Then the romance community did something incredible. Other models condemned Paul's behavior and offered to do free or reduced cost photo shoots for those writers who had Paul on their covers and wanted to replace him. Cover designers offered their service for free to replace the Paul covers. Other readers begged their associates not to punish the writers of the Paul-covered books for his ugly words and actions. Hell, a couple of authors decided to have a book signing at their local Dairy Queen, and they bought Blizzards for their fans.

The lesson in this is don't insult people in the public space that is social media. I'm not saying you have to agree with everyone, but there are ways to make your point without telling someone to commit suicide.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Monday Movie Mania - Captain America: Civil War

When you tell a story, you need to tell a complete story that makes sense within that world. I think that's what a lot of movie makers forget.

Out of all the blockbuster movies I've seen in the last six months, only two movies hit all the right notes: Deadpool and this one. Whereas, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice left out a few parts to make the whole cohesive.

Frankly, I want to go see Civil War again to pick up all the things I know I missed.

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* * *

1) While even I've been making cracks about Civil War being Avengers 2.5, this is most definitely a sequel to Captain America: Winter Soldier. And this isn't so much a Steve Rogers story as a Bucky Barnes story. While the main story is roughly analogous to the comics mini-series Civil War, the addition of the U.N. hunting down Bucky gives the story more heft than the philosophical debate of safety versus freedom the comics got bogged down in.

2) General Ross, now Secretary of Defense Ross, is finally back, his first appearance since 2008's The Incredible Hulk. It's just a pity they couldn't use him more, but this thing clocks in at two and a half hours. (Bathroom break before claiming a seat and no liquids during are a definite must!)

3) The writers did the right thing by inserting T'Challa/Black Panther's origin story here. No need to waste time when the Black Panther movie comes out. A pity Marvel doesn't have film rights to the X-Men because I would love to see Storm guest-star in in his flick.

4) The Vision/Scarlet Witch romance is being left in though it hits a major bump here. Yay!

5) The consequences were a little more realistic for Cap's team than they were in the comics.

6) I absolutely LOVE how they inserted Redwing into the movie!

7) ALL the character arcs made sense. Usually someone gets left out, but all twelve super-heroes were accounted for.

1) This is my vanity speaking, but Marisa Tomei is my age. SHE IS TOO FUCKING YOUNG TO BE PLAYING AUNT MAY!!!

This is a definite 10 out of 10 stars! So go see it!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

Then you're ready to take on the world again!

Friday, May 6, 2016

When an Entitled Nutcase Doesn't Understand How Writers Make a Living

First of all, let me say this: Most readers are super-fucking awesome!

If you're one of the super-fucking awesome readers who buys our books, borrows them from the library, and/or tells their friends how great our books are, THIS POST IS NOT AIMED AT YOU.

Because if you're a super-fucking awesome reader, you didn't do any of the shit I'm about to vomit rant over.

Last Monday, writer M.A. Kropp wrote about a writer friend who had a very weird experience with an e-mail she received from a reader. I've learned about people trying to find my books for free, but I've never had someone lecture me about how I charge too much (by the way, most retailers insist on a minimum of $0.99 for e-books) and demand I give them books for free to my face. But that's exactly what an alleged fan/entitled nutcase did to Kropp's friend.

Writing is my full-time job, folks. How would you feel if you were paid on Friday, but then your employer sucked the money out of your bank account on Monday because he felt you didn't deserve to be paid for your work and you should do it for free? And this doesn't happen once. It happens every fucking week. Would you stay with that employer?

Kropp's friend blocked the reader. And apparently, the retailer discovered the abuse of their return policy because the entitled nutcase sent another e-mail berating Kropp's friend for blocking her and forcing her to open another account.

Do accidental one-clicks or double gifting happen? Of course. That's not what Kropp or Rosalie Stanton, who discusses the issue from a part-time writer's standpoint, mean.

It's when someone buys the first book in a series on Monday and returns it on Tuesday. Because, you see, if the book wasn't to the reader's taste and they didn't finish it, we totally understand. It's when the reader buys Book 2 on Tuesday and returns it on Wednesday, buys Book 3 on Wednesday and returns it on Thursday, etc. that we know the reader is simply gaming a retailer's system RATHER THAN GOING TO THE FUCKING LIBRARY!

Yes, that's right. Libraries carry our books, even indies, and you can always put in a request to your librarian for an inter-library loan.

And guess what? It's especially easy with e-books to keep track of serial returners. Granted, retailers like Amazon will let you do returns hundreds of times before they shut down your account, but they will do it eventually.

The really sad part is that there are all sorts of book giveaways ALL THE FUCKING TIME if a reader wants free books.

- Sign up for a writer's newsletter
- Sign up for daily newsletters like BookBub, eBook Soda, Book Gorilla, or Book Barbarian.
- Check Goodreads giveaways.
- Sign up to be a reviewer at a book review blogging website
- End of the day deals at garage sales and library sales

What you don't do is send nasty e-mails to a writer berating them for trying to make a living. Especially if you want more books to read.

And if you're a super-fucking awesome reader, I hope you continue to be one!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Why I Continue Learning as I Write

Despite the coughing and fatigue still plaguing me, I managed to finish the second round of edits on A Question of Balance yesterday morning. For new readers' sakes, here's the steps I use for editing any story:

1) Read the story. Take notes on a legal pad. Look for plot holes, timeline problems. etc. Review notes and fix problems. Once satisfied, pass the story to a beta reader.

2) Fix problems the beta reader caught. Read through for typos.

3) Upload story file to tablet. Use text-to-speech to read back story for rhythm and finding additional typos. (I used to use MSReader on my old laptop until Microsoft discontinued it and Isabella crashed. I downloaded a text-to-speech program to my Samsung tablet. I could choose language and accent, so I have a British female reading my stories to me. It's pretty cool!)

Since I generally take a mental break between each round, yesterday afternoon, I picked up Dean Wesley Smith's How to Write Fiction Sales Copy that he wrote last year. As I've said before, the last book I published was Blood Sacrifice in 2013. I definitely need a refresher before I start on the blurb for A Question of Balance.

And I think that's where many writers make a major mistake. Once they've learned one aspect of the craft or the business, they stop and rely on that form for the rest of their career.

The problem is that tastes and processes change over time. Is a style of blurb I used three years ago going to work this year? I don't know, which is why I studying the subject again.

In March, I had to relearn how format files for uploading to the various retailers because requirements changed at every retailer I used. Criteria had changed due to reader requests and distributors needs and upgrades. I could not longer rely on my skills from 2011.

And with each story, I work on some aspect of craft. With A Question of Balance, I worked on historical research and male characterization. In Zombie Goddess, I'm practicing interweaving three separate storylines.

Decades ago, my great-grandfather said the only constant in the universe is change. His words definitely apply to writing and publishing.

So what new thing have you learned lately?

P.S. If you want to read Dean's book online, it starts on his blog. Or you can buy it. (I suggest the paperback so you can scribble notes in the margins, but it is definitely available by e-book, too.)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Monday Movie Mania - Purple Rain

Several theaters across the country held showings of Purple Rain after Prince's death on April 21st. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it with the lingering side effects of the flu from hell, but I managed to drag myself the last night the local theater showed the movie.

Purple Rain was originally released in July of 1984, the summer between my high school graduation and starting college. In other words, thirty-two years ago. I still have the VHS copy of the movie that I bought in the late '80's, one of the first movies I ever purchased.

I can't blame all of my reluctance to go see Purple Rain on the big screen one last time on my physical condition. It had been over sixteen years since the last time I pulled out the VHS copy and watched it. Would the film hold up after all this time? Would the three decades change my perspective? Would my writer mind take over and pick apart one of my favorite films?

The answers are yes, no, and no.

No *SPOILERS* warning here because if you haven't seen it by now, you never will, and spoilers just won't matter.

My one nit to pick still exists--I thought a lot of the dialogue sucked back in 1984, and it still does. The one person who did best with his lines was Clarence Williams III, who played The Kid's father. However, I have a new appreciation for the body language and musical communication of the cast and the editing.

The music still holds up after all this time. Morris Day and Jerome Benton's riff on Abbot and Costello's "Who's on first?" still makes me chuckle.

The only thing that looks/feels dated are the club kids clothes/make-up/hair. I'd forgotten that the guys wore just as much product as the girls, if not more so, at the time.

Overall though, I left the theater last week feeling the same way I did after seeing Purple Rain the first time--happy. That feeling was totally worth sitting through the movie again.