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Jack London

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Monday Movie Mania - Batman v. Superman

First of all, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice doesn't suck as much as people on the internet would like you believe. I say that as someone who went into the theater with very low expectations, mainly over Wonder Woman, but that's another story.

Second of all, I don't get why people are expecting a Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon or Kenneth Branagh from Zack Snyder. This is the guy who brought you Sucker Punch (which I loved) and Man of Steel (um, not so much for reasons I'll get into below).

So if you see it, go in with an open mind and don't expect a fucking Marvel movie.


* * *

SPOILERS

* * *


PROS
1) Ben Affleck has the acting chops when he chooses to use them. This is the best job he's done since 2006's Hollywoodland. (I say that because I haven't seen Argo or Gone Girl yet.)

2) I want more Alfred! Jeremy Irons brought a delicious irony to the role, as in "I haven't been able to stop the kid from wearing tights for twenty years, so I might suck it up and make sure he doesn't kill himself." As much as I love both Michael Caine and Jon Pertwee as the iconic butler, Jeremy has won top spot as the world-weary Alfred J. Pennyworth.

3) At the climax, when Gal Gadot smiles, you'll know why I give her major kudos, and why I can't wait for the Wonder Woman feature film!

4) Jason Momoa only had a cameo, but with him, Aquaman's no longer going to be the butt of Superfriends jokes anymore.

5) The writers, Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer, respected their source material. They did a terrific job of weaving the best elements of The Dark Knight Returns (the graphic mini-series by Frank Miller, not the Christopher Nolan movie which was The Dark Knight Rises), the first Justice League storyline under the revamped New 52, and a certain storyline from the 90's Superman comics that I shall not name in case you, like me, managed to avoid the spoilers because I want you to be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

For the record, Terrio and Goyer did two right things:

a) Restoring Bruce and Clark's personalities. One of my biggest pet peeves of the New 52 was Batman acting calm and caring and Superman having the anger issues.

b) Restoring Diana's relationship with Bruce (pre-52), or at least the start of it. There are some things you just don't fuck with, and sticking Clark and Diana in relationship (i.e. the comics) just because they both have super-strength and no other reason is one of them.

6) Zack Snyder learned some lessons from Man of Steel. He definitely picked up the pacing in this film. As in, I didn't almost fall asleep here.

7) Diane Lane as Martha Kent had the best reaction and line in the whole damn movie upon meeting Batman for the first time. I'm still giggling.


CONS
1) Goddess, you have no idea how much it pains me to say this because I love Jessie Eisenburg, but his Lex Luthor was the weak link in the movie. It was almost like he playing Mark Zuckerberg, if Zuckerberg was the Joker. There was very little of the comics version Lex Luthor, whether it be the scientific genius or billionaire megalomaniac, in his performance.


Over all, I was pleasantly surprised and pleased by this DC movie rendition. I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

In fact, I've been listening to Katy Perry so much on Amazon Music they called me a Power User.


Friday, March 25, 2016

How Far I Got This Week

As I posted Monday, I put together a priority task list for this week. So how did I do?

Alter Ego's paranormal erotic short story is live on Amazon. Since this is outside of her usual realm, I decided to put it, and its companion shorts when they are ready, into Kindle Unlimited just to see what happens. Eventually, I'll bundle them into an anthology.

Since Monday evening, I've been working on the Alter Ego novella. Oh, crap, let's face facts, it's now a short novel. I managed to get 426 words in that night after hitting the publish button on the other short story. I worked on it Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tuesday night was also when I had a major bout of insomnia. Instead on the short novel, I fiddled with another story in the Alter Ego idea folder. Over 3K words later, I've got a new series mapped out and the first couple of chapters written.

But, none of the insomnia session had anything to do with the short novel. Priorities, remember?

So after I awoke to the lovely screech of the tornado sirens, I buckled down and worked on the project I wanted to finished. Or I did until my brain turned to mush about five p.m. Then I started searching for potential covers for the new series and the paranormal series.

Thursday was taken by helping out MIL. Since she still can't drive because of her leg, I took her to her hair appointment. But then she insisted on buying lunch for me since I chauffeured her. By the time we finished at the restaurant, I needed to pick GK from school. Then take MIL back to her apartment, and stop at the grocery store to pick up a couple of things for dinner. By the time we got home, it was after three p.m., and I was exhausted.

So I worked on Zombie Goddess (the story's been in my head for ten years now, so I don't really have to think that much about what to write next) and doodled around on covers for Alter Ego.

Today? I've got one scene left in Alter Ego's short novel, and I really don't have a lame-ass excuse for not finishing it.

And looking back over my week, I can see where and how much I got distracted from a current project. I don't tend to get upset with myself since I'm usually working on something else business related, but I definitely need to work on my focus in completing what I started, which is Heinlein Rule #2.

Robert A. Heinlein was a very smart man.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Insomnia Sucks

I've had a problem with insomnia since puberty. There's nothing worse than lying in bed while everyone else in the house is asleep, dreaming sweet dreams.

Except over the last three years, I haven't had much of a problem. Part of it was the sheer physical exhaustion of packing up eighteen-years' worth of toys and memories in a twenty-five hundred square-foot house. Part of it was being to set my own schedule once DH and GK headed north with the first moving truck and stayed in Ohio.

(I've found I do best going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time every day helps.)

And even with all the drama since I arrived in Ohio almost eighteen months ago, I've gotten to sleep within an hour of going to bed.

But last night I tossed and turned until three-fifteen when I finally thought, Enough is enough. If I'm going to be wide awake, I'll go write so I don't wake DH.

So in the silence, I tiptoed to my office, fired up my laptop, and started writing.

I wrote until I heard noises in the parking lot. I wrote until I started having trouble concentrating. And at five-thirty a.m. I turned off the lights, started the backup on my laptop, and tiptoed back to bed.

Where I preceded to have weird-ass dreams about rednecks, abandoned puppies, and sick kittens that needed to go to the vet on Monday, but in my dream, it was Saturday night.

Or I did until eleven a.m. when the National Weather Service decided all the counties remotely bordering Lake Erie needed to test their tornado warning system. Even though our county religiously tests the damn things on the first of the month at ten a.m. every fucking month. (Sorry, but Hancock County's testing often coincides with holidays, which is why GK is ecstatic that Spring Break falls on the last week of March this year.)

The other problem this morning (well, this afternoon) is that I've been trying to quit drinking diet soda over the past two weeks. This isn't me trying to be a health nut. The artificial sweetners, as well as food preservatives and processing chemicals, have been doing some weird things to my body, and I've noticed a major difference when I stray from water and tea.

Unfortunately, I have also been consuming vast amounts of caffeine over the last three years. DH theorizes the caffeine works on me the same way uppers do on adults with ADHD. In theory, the drug should exacerbate the problem, but it relieves it. I don't know if he's right, but if he is, I'm in big trouble when it comes to sleeping.

DH has to take his mom to a doctor's appointment at the same time GK gets out of school. Otherwise, my lovely husband would pick up the kid for me. In my need to be alert and conscious, DH gave me a bottle out of his secret stash of Pepsi Max.

I'm nearly through my first glass as I type this, and I can already feel the difference in both measures.

All I do know is that I need to be coherent enough to pick up my son from school, and I need to get those dream kittens to the vet. I think one of them has pink eye.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Making Progress

The last three years have been rough. The only new thing that's been published under Suzan Harden since November of 2013 was "Diplomacy in the Dark" in Sword and Sorceress 30 (and that was November of 2015). The last new story Alter Ego published was in May of 2014. Some days, I wondered if I'd ever publish again.

I finally feel like I'm getting traction this year. Over the last week, I've

- hit the 46K mark on Zombie Goddess (Bloodlines #6)

- wrote the first 5K on Resurrected (Bloodlines #9)

- thought I'd be done with an Alter Ego novella, but it's turning itself into a short novel

- found an Alter Ego idea from four years ago, got caught up in the story again and wrote another 1K before I made myself stop

- shopped for pix and fonts for the cover of an Alter Ego short story I finished nearly two weeks ago

It sounds like I'm bouncing between the last four books of Bloodlines, and yes, I am in a way. But a lot of it has to do with linking, foreshadowing and consistency. The first draft of Book 6 should be done by the end of April.

However, I have a bad habit of typing so fast when I get caught up in a story that I leave out words, mainly articles and prepositions. By the time editing and proofing are done, I add 10-20K words. LOL

Now that things have settle down in my personal life (which is probably an invitation to Murphy to fuck me over), I need to prioritize projects based on how close they are to completion.

Today, my first task is getting the cover and formatting done for the AE short story and getting it published. Depending on how fast I get that done, and it may not be totally done today since I'm really out of practice and software has changed/upgraded, I'll finish the novella/short novel. The cover for it was finished back in 2012. That leaves the formatting.

The next step is to run through second-round edits for A Question of Balance, the first Justice novel, since that story is completed. The incredible Elaina at For the Muse Designs has already produced a lovely cover, so the last thing I need is to write the back cover blurb and to have the book formatted.

After that, I need to finish reviewing the proof paperback for Blood Magick (Bloodlines #1). I already found a couple of things that missed the mumble, mumble rounds of editing it's gone through.

Then hopefully, I'll spend Friday and Saturday hiding at Panera's to crank out some more of Zombie Goddess.

I can't do all NOW, but I can chip away at the mountain one grain at a time.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

With all the personal stress, I've been on a bit of a Katy Perry kick lately.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Time: The Epidemic

There's been a number of posts by writers lately about the lack of time. These posts come from both sides of the fence.

Trad published writers are surprised that their publishers expect to do stuff that doesn't involve writing, like social media. Or they have to have five different discussions with three different over something they stetted on the proofs on one book. (FYI for those who haven't been through the process--"Stet" means keep something the way the writer wrote it, not the way the copyeditor wants to change it.)

Indie published writers whine about how much time dealing with marketing and subcontractors takes out of their day. They don't have as much writing time because of all the extraneous minutia of running a business.

Here's my two cents:

1) Regardless of how a writer has their books published, they are a small business person.

That's right, even the trad folks ARE NOT EMPLOYEES. (Actually, they are treated worse than employees, but that's a post for another day.) That means a writer is going to put in the 60-80 a normal self-employed person in any other field does. If the writer puts in less, that's their choice, but the really successful folks, yeah, that's what they do.

If you don't believe me, go read Dean Wesley Smith's blog (there's a link under "Blogs I Follow" on your right). The man wears me out just reading his daily schedule. And yes, he talks about lack of time to finish a current wip, but he's also about to open a new store, which in digging into his days lately.

2) Writers can have unrealistic expectations about writing as a full-time job.

Some folks think writing means scribbling or typing for a couple of hours a day, then hobnobbing with all the important people. Dinner parties. Book signings with mobs of fans.

As much as I love Nathan Fillion, Castle gives a very unrealistic portrayal of a working writer's life. If the writer can't write, he, mom, and daughter don't eat. And he sure as hell can't afford an apartment in New York City the size of the one on the show. And what about healthcare? (I say this as a parent who needs to cough up the dough this summer to have the rest of GK's wisdom teeth removed before they ruin the lovely job the orthodontists have done.)

Even the great Neil Gaiman has to change dirty diapers in between writing. So it's not all glamor and fun.

3) Writers have to learn how to fit writing in between everything else.

While it would be wonderful to have a block of hours to just write, that's not realistic for most of us. In fact, I'm a little jealous of my friends who don't have kids. Or parents. Or health problems. Lately, I've been getting more writing done in the forty-five minutes between my son going to bed and my husband going to bed.

Or heading to the school pick-up line ten minutes early, just for the quiet in the car, and tap out a few lines on my phone.

I know a lot of folks preach about making writing a priority in your day, but sometimes, that just isn't realistic.


What it all comes down to is making expectations realistic. There's also the caveat of being careful what you wish for. I know of a couple of folks who got the proverbial brass ring in this merry-go-round we call the writing industry, but it didn't make all their problems magically go away. It only added new layers of loss and problems.

So think about how you, and those around you, would really handle your success. That's just as important as how y'all handle failure.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Amazon Lied and Legit Writers Are Paying the Price

In case you actually had a life over the weekend, Amazon got caught with their pants down.

And on fire.

They swore up and down that they knew how many pages a reader read on their apps and Kindles when calculating pages read for Kindle Unlimited (KU) payouts. Turns out, they can't. And a number of scammers exploited that ginormous loophole to an estimated tune of $3+ million dollars in January of 2016 alone.

So what are they doing? Adding a "CLICK HERE" button at the beginning of the book to send you to the back of the book. With Amazon's fucked up system, it looks like the entire book has been read. If you don't take the bait and try to read the book, you'll quickly find out, the story is not what you thought you borrowed or bought.

If you want to see a good example of what I'm talking about, check out A Duke's Arrangement, using Amazon's Look Inside feature. In addition to the other bullshit, the title itself is loaded with keywords which is supposed to be a no-no under Amazon's TOC.

Selena Kitt has a rundown with her experience talking to Amazon, along with graphs and numbers of how this mess has affected the author community.

David Gaughran explains what Amazon is doing to rectify the problem, except their solution punishes legit authors and doesn't really plug the hole in KU 2.0.

The worst part of the problem as I see it? Amazon is ruining their rep on these scam books in KU, but they won't do anything until readers stop signing up for it.

I get that books are no longer Amazon's prime concern (pun intended), but their number one concern has been customer service. Where does that leave writers in this wasteland of scraped junk books?

Up the proverbially creek.

And people wonder why I didn't jump on the KU bandwagon two years ago.

UPDATE: Amazon finally answered, and it's pretty much the "Fuck You!" I expected.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Music I'm Listening To - AGAIN!

After a really shitty week, I'm relaxing with some K-Pop!

(That's Klingon-Pop for you muggles.)


Friday, March 11, 2016

The World Is Mad I Tell You! Mad!

DH's dad is still in the hospital (complication from his surgery Wednesday) so this is a round-up of stuff y'all may be interested in.

First off, my self-editing post got a few comments yesterday. Just a reminder that there is no "right" way to edit. If you can proofread your own stuff, more power to you! Honestly, I proof my own short stories. However, it's the only area of where I think money can be wisely spent, just like it's overall cheaper and faster for me to hire out my formatting these days.

Ironically, Kris Rusch posted about the nightmares of dealing with trad publisher editors.

In that same blog, Kris also talked about the recent bloodbath at Penguin Random House. The layoffs included several editors.

And that led to this little bon mot my friend Angie e-mailed me this morning. Just how bad are things at PRH that la Nora jumps ship?

Are publishers in that much trouble? Yeah, they are. Data Guy's recent talk at the Digital Book World Conference shows trad publishers are sort of acknowledging that they sail in iceberg infested waters, but they still believe the icebergs pose no danger. *sigh*

On the other hand, anything that improves DG's scraping and analysis of book sales can help us indies in the long run.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Self-Editing

This morning, DH schlepped his dad up to Toledo to get Muffy shaved off. We're keeping our fingers crossed that there are no complications. NW Ohio is getting the full 80% chance of rain the weather forecasters promised. So it's a rather stressful, dreary day to start with.

And I'm sitting here, staring at my screen, and mulling over an innocent comment from last night's dinner.

I went with DH to a business function. The folks are sweet and laid back, and dinner was held at a hole-in-the-wall place that serves real Mexican food, not the over-spiced stuff most Americans think of as Mexican.

Invariably, someone at dinner asks me if I'm still writing. I take that one in stride. There's a great number of people in this town that dabble in the arts but still have their day jobs.

When I said, yes, but right now I'm concentrating on editing a couple of proof paperbacks, that took my listeners by surprise. One lady, eyes wide, asked, "You do your own editing?"

Uh, yeah.

I didn't realize how deep one of Dean Wesley Smith's writing myths reached until that moment.

The following are my thoughts, and my thoughts alone, on the subject of editing. YMMV.

1) Developmental editing

Writers don't need this. If you can't grasp story structure from reading books and watching TV and movies, writing probably isn't the profession for you. (Hint: Wanna learn classic three-act structure? Go watch Star Wars.) To me, using a developmental editor is wanting someone to validate your talent by paying them an obscene sum of money.

2) Copy editing

This has to do with the consistency of the story and the possible research involved. Writers should be able to do this themselves. For example, is your heroine's eyes blue throughout your story? Which interstate runs through Las Vegas if your using that city as a setting? Seriously, you shouldn't need someone to babysit you through the basics.

3) Line Editing

Here's where grammar, spelling and punctuation come in, and dammit, if you're a writer, you should know the basics of your craft. In comparison, it's like a carpenter knowing whether to use a hammer or a screwdriver on a nail. I don't cut myself any slack in this area. I read a lot of U.K. English books, so I have a tendency to use the U.K. spelling for words. I always have to double-check!

4) Proofreading

This is the one area where hiring someone makes sense. And that's assuming you can find someone who does quality work. Notice I said QUALITY. Quality and price do not correlate. In fact, I've had better proofers who've asked for $25 Starbucks or Amazon gift cards as payment. And honestly, if the proofer misses something that you find later, do you really want to pay them thousands of dollars?

Are there exceptions to needing extra help? Of course, there are. But a writer with dyslexia still does not need a development editor! And yes, I know a couple of very talented writers who are dyslexic.

Now, I going to Starbucks for my peppermint mocha before I tackle some editing.

Angry Sheep signing off!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Why Other Writers Might Not Be Your Best First-Reader

Writers need a great deal of ego to withstand the constant beating they receive in the writing profession. From editors, publishers, and/or agents before the writer's story is published. From critics and readers after the writer's story is published.

So writers rely on folks just like them, in the trenches of publishing, for feedback. However there are pitfalls to consider.

1) How widely read is the person?

I've run into so many would-be writers that DO NOT READ. Anything. Not novels, not newspapers, not even church pamphlets. If this person has no idea what kind of standards by which to judge your work, how can they? What criteria will they use? Have they even read a book in your genre?

My mistake: Years ago, a writer published in romance offered to read one of my novels. I told her it was urban fantasy, and she said she'd still read it. A few days later, she returned the manuscript and said, "This isn't romance. It's urban fantasy." I shook my head, found someone who liked to read urban fantasy, and went on my merry way.

2) How far along is the writer in their career?

Some folks make that first sale, and BAM! They think they're an expert in what sells--to agents, to readers, to editors. Uh, no. They know what sold to that editor or that reader at that particular time.

My mistake: I sold a short story in a particularly niche subgenre to a small press ages ago. Since the editor loved it, I wrote another almost exactly like the first story and submitted it. The editor, who had several decades of experience, wrote back and asked me to write something different because he wanted to see me grow as a writer. Ouch! Sure he hurt my fee-fees, but he was absolutely right.

3) How wrapped up is the person in being right?

Then there are the writers that have the overabundance of ego. They like being the go-to person. They like telling other writers what to write and how to write it, and if you deviate from their "rules", you are not only wrong, but you will never be published.

My lesson: Oh, the rules I've heard over the years! "Zombies don't sell." "Married people do not have sex in erotica." "Women cannot be the dominant in a relationship." UGH! I sell a lot more volume of the books that break the rules. So keep deviating from the "rules"!


Notice at no point did I say anything about education. Why? Because I have relatives who didn't graduate high school who read more than the relatives that are college professors. Today's MFA programs are, unfortunately, more geared for producing English teachers than they are writers.

Which is totally fine if you want to be a teacher.

But when it comes to them being a first reader, they can often fall in the #3 trap. Find someone who enjoys the genre of your current work and is well-versed enough to give you solid feedback. They don't have to be a writer, just someone enthusiastic about the types of stories you want to tell.

Good luck!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Friday, March 4, 2016

I Agree with Chuck - Vanity Publishing Sucks!

I have the flu, so what miniscule amount of brilliance I possess has been blurred by the sinus headache from hell as well as copious amounts of mucus being coughed and sneezed on my laptop screen.

In the meantime, I suggest reading the often-NSFW Chuck Wendig as he takes down a vanity press publisher. Even better is the comments where Steve Alten, the principal of A&M Publishers, tries to discredit Chuck's analysis with a very pathetic rant.

I don't always agree with Mr. Wendig's views on the publishing industry, but in this case, I do. "Self-publishing" means acting as the general contractor and taking responsibility for your product and your career. It does not mean handing over your kid's college tuition or your retirement savings to some shyster.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Keeping in Contact with Your Readers

You're just reading the title and I can already hear your skull popping like a corn kernel as your brain explodes.

It not a terrible thing. In fact, it's something that can be fun if you use a methodology you enjoy. But like the snail mailing lists of yore it can be highly valuable in the long run.

There's always social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, et al. Some writers love them; some don't.  And if you don't, you're not going to engage which makes the whole exercise pointless.

Also, which one you use really depends on your market. Adults hang out on Facebook. Teens and college-age young adults tend to  hang out on Instagram and Snapchat (aka fewer old people). Since I write for adults, I'm going to focus on those avenues.

Overall though, don't just hawk your books. Actually talk to your readers. About the weather. About books in general. About your favorite TV shows and movies. (Seriously, Alter Ego got a lot more hits on her turn on a recent multi-author giveaway on Facebook because she included a certain comic book character t-shirt in her grand prize bag.)

A prime example of the "BUY MY BOOK!!!" phenomenon is Twitter. I unfollowed a bunch of people because that's all I saw. The other issue I see is writers following other writers, then getting pissed when the followed writers don't follow in return. This was bad advice in 2011; it's worse advice now. Add in Twitter's tweaking of its algorithm and charging for top placement, and you have an unviable situation made even worse. It's gotten to the point my interaction on Twitter is practical non-existent.

A lot of writers swear by Pinterest. I'm not doubting their results, but I have extreme reservations about using it thanks to its original, draconian provisions that stole picture copyrights. Supposedly, this have been rectified, but that kind of heavy-handed tactic makes me leery about using them.

While DH made a fan page for "Suzan Harden" on Facebook, I rarely use it. I have more personal friends checking it out than readers.

The only social media I truly and regularly use is Alter Ego's Facebook account to interact with readers and other romance/erotica authors. Alter Ego has participated in a couple of giveaways. While neither resulted in a ton of sales, it allowed me to introduce myself to new readers, and kept Alter Ego visible during the two years of no new releases.

Then there's the good old fashioned mailing list. There's numerous ways to do this--MailChimp is one of the most popular. Alter Ego sends out a quarterly newsletter (or tries to) and attaches a free short story. There's a ton of other ways to handle mailing lists. Look at what other writers do, and choose the method that works for you.

While the ultimate goal is to sell more books, you can do so by treating your readers like real people. In doing so, you're already miles ahead of the traditional publishers.