I write like
Jack London

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Writers Block, Or Are You Lying to Yourself?

I'm neck-deep in getting the final proof-reading pass of Ravaged done and writing A Modicum of Truth. I strongly suggest you go read Bob Mayer's blog on writers' block.

Ninety-nine percent of the time that I get stuck, Subconscious is screaming at me that I'm fucking up. That's why I have more than one writing project going at a time. If I get stuck on the primary book, I switch to whatever I plan to finish next and start working on it. Within a page or two on the secondary project, Subconscious provides an answer to the primary project.

As for the other one percent, I'm being a lazy ass and would rather watch reruns of Supernatural and The Big Bang Theory.

Or Deadpool.

Again.

The point being, you're better off being honest with yourself. That's why my brand-spanking-new Wonder Woman Blu-Ray is still in its plastic until I finish proofing Ravaged and hit the 30K-mark on A Modicum of Truth.

In other words, I'll be watching it later tonight. LOL

Monday, September 18, 2017

Losing My Mind

Well, it's actually losing myself in story over the weekend and the last couple of weeks.

High school soccer season started six weeks ago, so DH has been gone most nights since he's the timekeeper for both the boys' and girls' varsity and junior varsity games. His absence has actually been a good thing as I try to wrap up pre-production on Ravaged.

My writing is amusing from an editorial point of view. I mean, how many "to"s can an author manage to leave out of a manuscript? Let me put it to you this way, my original word count for the first draft was 83K. I'm halfway through the final proofread, and the word count is closing in on 89K. *smh*

Then there's trying to get A Modicum of Truth written. As any writer will tell you, the middle of a novel is the dangerous place. It's where the story has a tendency to bog down in minutiae.

I'm trying hard not to have the heroes heads disappear under bullshit. Unfortunately, that's meant a few false starts and the ripping out pages that don't work. Don't worry. It'll get there. A fabulous idea will pop into my head.

Probably when I'm in the middle of my shower.

And I just can't hop out these days and scribble something down because I recently colored my hair blue and purple. If you've done this before, you know about color bleed over the first couple of weeks after dyeing.

But cool hair definitely makes me feel more creative!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017

Farewell, Cassini

NASA/JPL Image of Rings and Pan
I woke up shortly before eight a.m. this morning, which is highly unusual for me. Let's face it I'm very much a night owl. After my morning ablutions, I did what I always do--check the news. And I realized I'd jerked awake about the same time the Cassini probe died in Saturn's atmosphere.

The Cassini-Huygens mission lasted far longer that the folks at NASA, ESA, ASI, and JPL at Caltech originally planned or envisioned. It launched in 1997, twenty years ago or way back when I was in my second year of law school.

After using the inner planets and Jupiter to slingshot its way to Saturn, Cassini-Huygens arrived in June of 2004. In December, Huygens separated from Cassini and landed on Saturn's largest moon Titan. The pictures and data they both sent back to Earth were freaking incredible. When Cassini's original four-year mission was a success and she was still chugging around Saturn, they extended her mission twice more before she started running out of power.

The mission directors had to make a decision. There was strong evidence that life may be or could form on a few of Saturn's moons. Titan, Enceladus and Europa are likely candidates. Cassini no longer had enough power to leave orbit. If it remained, it could disrupt or contaminate any proto-life on these moons. So the directors choose to send Cassini into Saturn's atmosphere.

At 7:55 a.m. EDT, NASA lost Cassini's signal as planned.

Farewell, Cassini! Thanks for all the cool pictures and the inspiration!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Risky Business

I've lost count of the number of posts I've written on writers and fear. Because of that fear, many writers refuse to take risks and they want guarantees that they'll make money if they get into this industry. Just this weekend I had yet another conversation with a relatively new writer about taking some risks with their books.

You want to know something. I think this person will be just fine in a writing career because they're willing to take those risks.

Folks, any business where you work for yourself is risky. It's your time and your capital on the line. You succeed or fail on your merits, no one else's. There's no one you can blame if you didn't do your research.

Oh, there'll be writers who try to blame someone. The current favorite target is Amazon. But a lot of the new kids haven't bothered to learn their craft. Their dialogue is stilted and unnatural. Their alpha males are total dweebs. And their heroines are Too Stupid To Live.

Even worse, they overanalyze a current bestseller, thinking if they write a book exactly like Big Name Author, then they too will be rolling in the dough.

If a reader already read BNA's book, why would they want to read the exact same book with the serial numbers filed off?

"But, but, but..." I can hear you say. "What about Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey?"

Let me ask you this is return, what else has E.L. James written? First of all, I'm not slamming Ms. James. A lot of us started our writing life with fan fiction. And that's exactly what FSoG is--fan fiction. It was basically risk free. Has James taken a risk with her own ideas? No, because doing so does not guarantee her any money.

On the other hand, J.K. Rowling's name became synonymous with her creation, Harry Potter. She took a major risk by adopting what was a secret pseudonym in order to take on a new series in a new genre. Her alter ego Robert Galbraith did pretty damn well for a debut author. Or he did until "he" was outed as Rowling.

Rowling could have continued milking Harry Potter. In fact, she's been accused of exactly that with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, even though she only helped write the outline of the play. However, Rowling the writer has stretched her artistic muscles and delved into other characters on other genres when she could have given up and coasted.

If you want a career as a writer, ask yourself how much risk are you prepared to take on. If you aren't willing to take chances, get yourself a job and buy lottery tickets. Trust me it will be a lot easier than pounding out words for a living.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Warcraft

Once again, we used an HBO free weekend to catch up on movies we missed in the theaters last year. Warcraft is one of those movies that had a lot of potential, and...

OMG! It sucked so bad!

This one of those cases when the best cast in the world making a movie based on the most popular MMORPG ever can't save a turgid turd of a script.

Warcraft wants to be Lord of the Rings for a new generation. Except Tolkien wasn't trying to recoup millions of dollars of investment when he wrote his saga. Warcraft is trying to be too much to be everything to everyone and succeeds at nothing.

1) I don't have a problem with viewpoints from multiple characters in a story. However, in most good stories the POV characters start out together with a unifying purpose. The Starks and their duty in Game of Thrones. The gathering of the Fellowship to destroy the One Ring in LotR.

Here the POVs are convoluted. Are we supposed to care about Durotan and his dying world? Lothar, whose home is being invaded by the desperate orcs? Khadgar, who starts as a total chickshit wizard before taking over as Guardian of Azeroth? Who exactly am I supposed to be identifying with and rooting for here?

Unfortunately, the story doesn't carry the soapish fascination that Game of Thrones has where there are characters you love to hate. Which bring me to...

2) The character development is rather lazy and half-assed. All the characters are reactive, rather than proactive. If we are given a reason for a certain action, it is never really fleshed out. We don't know why Gul'dan or Medivh succumbed to the Dark Side of the Force fel, and the sad part is you don't really care either.

3) I have nothing against CGI, but you can't use it sell your movie without a fucking story behind it. This isn't a story. It's a part of a story.  It ends near the beginning of the middle, so you're left with a feeling of incompleteness. And going back to the other two points, you're not given to a reason to want to find out what happens next.

4) I wanted Dominick Cooper to shut up so fucking bad because whatever the hell accent he was using sounded awful!

I'm so fucking glad I didn't spend my valuable popcorn money on this piece of crap. In a very rare case, because I can usually find something redeeming in a movie, I give Warcraft 0 out of 10 stars.

Yeah, it WAS that bad.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Authors Helping Houston



Carrie Pulkinen put together a master page on her website called Authors Helping Houston. It's a listing of writers living or from the area hit by Hurricane Harvey last month. While the title is simple and catchy, the money is going to all the communities along the Texas coast devastated by storm.

Basically, buy a book between now and September 17th from one of these authors, and they will send all proceeds from those books to one of the charities listed on the page.

While I don't know Carrie, I know a lot of these folks personally from my time in Houston, back when we were all writer wannabes. While Tess St. John and Melissa Ohnoutka came out okay, their extended families were not so lucky. I haven't heard from Sarah Andre, but I have dog-sat for her two adorable puppies. Others like Lori Wilde, I've only heard speak at events and read her books.

There's a wide variety of tales available, so you should find something to your liking and the proceeds are going to good causes.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - The Hitman's Bodyguard

This is the typical buddy action-comedy. If you go into the theater expecting exactly that, you'll love The Hitman's Bodyguard.

If you don't, I suggest going to Wonder Woman, which just started its fourteenth week in theaters.


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson have some serious onscreen chemistry.

2) The chase sequence through the streets of Amsterdam was pretty rockin'. And there was only two totally unnecessary pyrotechnic scenes.

3) Salma Hayek matched Samuel L. Jackson curse-word for curse-word, and you really believed she'd cut your throat for grabbing her spectacular ass, which brings me to...


CONS
1) Poor Salma was totally wasted. It would have been a much better movie with her not being locked up, and running with the boys shooting things.

2) They tried to cram too many trope plots into the movie--professional rivals forced to work together/getting critical witness to court on time/assassin with a heart of gold/"bad" guy fixing "good" guy's relationship with girl, etc.

3) Wasting a wonderful villain like Gary Oldman!


Overall, The Hitman's Bodyguard was a fun, end-of-the-summer, non-thinking movie. I give it a solid 7.5 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

Yep, still on that '80's kick thanks to Sirius Radio XM offering a free week of play. '80's on 8 RULES!


Friday, September 1, 2017

Helping Fellow Writers Affected By Harvey - Part 1

Over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to plug Houstonian authors affected by Hurricane Harvey. If you're a writer whose been affected or know a writer who has, drop me a note.

The Houston Metropolitan area probably has the single largest concentration of romance writers in the world. It's the birthplace of Romance Writers of America, and it boasts three chapters all by its lonesome. I learned a hell of a lot about writing from those folks over the years I lived in Houston.

Alison Kent is one of those awesome people. While I don't know Alison personally (one of those friend-of-a-friend things where you almost feel like you do), I do know she's a hell of a writer. I couldn't let go of her books on my shelves during the Great Book Purge prior to our move to Ohio.

Her husband Walt tells the tale of their rescue by local folks on his Facebook page. It's wild and a little scary. Not to mention the fur kids panicked a bit, but none of the rescuers were harmed. However, the cats let Walt know just how displeased they were with the situation. I suggest you read his account. I remember the same type of cooperation among neighbors during Ike and Tropical Storm Allison.

Here's the link to Alison's books. Why buy a book? Because her family will get that money far sooner than federal aid, and you'll get a damn good read in return.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Home, Wet Home

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last five days, you know about the devastation Hurricane Harvey has inflicted on the Texas coast and is now inflicting on Louisiana.

We lived in Houston for a little over eighteen years. I graduated from law school there. Our son was born in a Houston hospital and considers himself a Houstonian regardless of what anyone says. It's a lovely multicultural city with lots of things to see or do no matter what your personal tastes are.

Unfortunately, it also sits on a swampy drainage area, that has roughly three inches of topsoil on an ancient clay seabed, right next to the warmest large body of water on the planet. It  also sits in the crossroads of three major weather patterns. In other words, Houston get rain, and it floods hard and fast.

Now, throw in the scattered remnants of a tropical depression, a patch of abnormally hot water in the Gulf, and two high pressure systems to keep any circulation practically stationary over that ancient seabed, and you've got the disaster of Hurricane Harvey.

It's not like folks in Houston aren't used to hurricanes and tropical storms. While we lived down in Texas, Hurricane Ike hit the city on DH's birthday in 2008. Our subdivision was without power for nine days, and we mainly encountered wind damage. Flooding came the day after Ike as a separate storm front swept through and dropped an inch or two on the already saturated soil.

In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison was closer to Harvey's damaging rains and subsequent flooding, i.e. turning the Southwest Freeway and 288 into rivers. However, Allison was much smaller and she sat on the southeast section of the metro area where the levees and reservoirs couldn't catch the water. When citizens bitched about the lack of preparation, etc., then-mayor Lee Brown said, when you get two-feet of rain in thirty-six hours, you're going to get flooding.

And he's right. There's only so much preventative work you can do before Mother Nature teaches you an entirely different lesson.

There's a lot of bitching online about why a general evacuation wasn't called. It's because Houston learned a different hard lesson in 2005. Hurricane Rita was bearing down on Houston as a Category 5 storm. Even though forecasters said she would turn east prior to making landfall, a lot of people felt the need to bug out, especially after seeing what Katrina had done to New Orleans only three weeks earlier.

In 2005, the Houston Metropolitan area was 5.2 million people. You want to know what happens when half of Houston decides to evacuate at once? Traffic was at a standstill on every freeway. I-45 was literally a parking lot from Houston to Dallas, as was U.S. 290 to Austin, and I-10 to San Antonio.

People died in those glorified parking lots. From heat exhaustion. From stress-induced heart attacks. All because emergency crews couldn't get to them. What do you think would have happened if Rita had remained on course for Houston? Those people in their fragile little cars would have been sitting ducks.

After that horrific experience, the city and county leaders put together a layered evacuation plan. The islands and coast evacuate first. Then the zones closest to the coast. And the plan worked pretty damn well during Ike.



But Ike didn't squat on the city like the proverbially toad for four days straight and dump four FEET of rain!

The Houston Metro area has grown to 6 million people over 2200 square miles since Ike hit. Can you imagine trying to evacuate 6 million people at once when flash flooding is a major risk? So the citizens did the best thing they could have. They sheltered in place until that became impossible.

Even then, a lot of the designated shelters were underwater. Take a look at that map above. Pretty much everything, and I mean EVERYTHING other than Austin and Waller counties, is under water. The reservoirs and lakes are filled to capacity. At least three dikes have had sections collapse. The Army Corps of Engineers are doing controlled water releases to keep other dams and dikes from failing

We used to live up on the northwest side. In fact, we were closer to Waller than downtown Houston. Our old house is in the fucking 500-year flood plain! From what we're hearing from old friends and neighbors, a couple of inches of water has probably ruined the lovely hardwood floor we installed in 2012. And the folks who bought our house probably didn't buy flood insurance. We sure didn't. Hell, I can count on three fingers the number of times we had standing water on our street, and one of them was the day-after-Ike storm.

Yeah, that's how bad it is.

If you feel the need to help, here's a list of legitimate places to donate:

Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund by the Greater Houston Community Foundation

Houston Flood Relief Fund (Sponsored by Texans DE JJ Watt, who is known for his philanthropic work in Houston)

American Red Cross

To the people of Houston: I'm not going to send you and Cthulu-damned thoughts and prayers. I'll send you some real help.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Keeping Up with the Joneses

HBO had another free weekend in July, mainly as an enticement for the latest season of Games of Thrones. On the other hand, we used it to catch up on some movies we missed in the theaters last summer.

Keeping Up with the Joneses was one of those movies. I admit I've had a girl-crush on Gal Gadot since her first appearance in the Fast & Furious franchise so I'd really wanted to see it. Since this movie has been out for nearly a year, you're not going to get my normal SPOILERS warning.

With this cast, especially Zach Galifianakis, I assumed that this would be a laugh riot. It was...okay.

The premise is simple and perfect. A suburban couple is stuck in a rut. When their kids are away to summer camp, a new, super-elegant, super-perfect couple move in next door, except the new couple are not what they seem.

I'm not sure if it was Michael LeSieur's writing or Greg Mottola's directing that screwed this up. The best (or worst) example of wrongness was the scene where Isla Fisher's Karen has grown suspicious of her new neighbors and stalks Gadot's Natalie into the lingerie department of a store. Gadot comes on as an overbearing butch. The actress is obviously uncomfortable, and Isla is trying to play off her. The whole thing comes off as very awkward. Why they didn't let Gadot use her natural charm in the semi-seductive scene is beyond me.

This scene is a setup for another payoff later, but the awkwardness here ruins the convincing play during the payoff scene, so I'm pretty damn sure it's not the actors.

An example of how good the cast is comes when Jon Hamm's Tim confesses his job dissatisfaction to Zach's Jeff. The tough guy slowly lowering his walls and clicks with his neighbor.

Maybe it's the writer in me seeing where a joke could be added or where another joke could have been punched up. I really wanted to love this movie, but this should have been the Spy for 2016. It wasn't, and a part of me is sorely disappointed.

Keeping Up with the Joneses is not a bad movie. It simply wasn't as good as it could have been. Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

Billy Joel tried to pack all the world events that had happened in his lifetime up to 1989 into a four minute song. He didn't have enough room.


Friday, August 25, 2017

The Barnes & Noble Pornocalypse 2017 - Part 2

No one is really sure what prompted Barnes & Noble's heavy-handed tactics this week. Several bloggers have blamed it on the release of K. Webster's The Wild earlier this month. Webster deliberately violated T&C on several retail sites, not just B&N, in a effort to drum up publicity for her book. (And no, I will not link to it.)

Others have suggested that B&N was cleaning house in an effort to make themselves more attractive to a potential buyer.

However, I have trouble believing B&N's witch hunt was based solely on one author misbehaving or a corporate suitor. I mean, Microsoft got so fed up with B&N's missteps that they choose to walk away rather than deal with the bullshit. I can't see any investor, other than the crazy investors currently buying stock, touching B&N with the proverbial ten-foot pole. Not even Amazon or Kobo.

The weirdness on Wednesday was amplified when I checked the listings for one of my favorite erotica authors, Selena Kitt. While a majority of her e-books were gone from B&N's online listings, the paperbacks remained available.

Another favorite author Sarah Robinson, who writes hot romance but not erotica, was "on review" with B&N according to her Facebook posting.

So what the hell was going on with B&N's online store?

All we know is that B&N decided the backlash from authors and readers wasn't worth it, and they have started restoring accounts. Personally, I have a problem with the fact that they started pulling accounts before posting the August 16, 2017, revisions to their T&C. As a former attorney, I highly doubt if that stunt would hold up in court if a group of indie authors would file a class action suit. But this bullshit will probably make a lot of indie authors reconsider dealing with B&N in the future. I know I'm reconsidering keeping the updated books I've reloaded on B&N over the last few months.

Then, on top of B&N's crap, Amazon started reviewing Alter Ego's books. Why? I have no idea, but their T&C from September 1, 2016, is still online. I did some checking and other erotica authors have seen their own books being rifled.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm really getting tired of erotica being the publishing world's whipping boy.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Barnes & Noble Pornocalypse 2017 - Part 1

I'm not sure what the hell is going on over at Barnes & Noble these days. Over the last few months, a shareholder has been buying shares willy-nilly and driving up the stock price in an effort to force a sale of the company.

Then things got weirder...

Yesterday, news exploded over the interwebs that indie writers were getting e-mails from B&N saying their accounts were being terminated because they *gasp* had erotica books for sale.

Except....here's the really weird part. Several of the indie writers in question, like Bobbie Holmes, haven't had erotica books for sale at Barnes & Noble for years.

Others like Ava Clair were in the process of releasing a new book when the hammer came down.


Yesterday, I had my head buried in edits while fighting the sinus headache from hell, so I didn't hear about the shit flying until very late last night. My first research instinct this morning was to check if B&N had changed their terms of service.

Lo and behold, here's what I found:


WTF! No Terms and Conditions? So, is B&N crashing? Have they lost their freaking minds? Or are they trying to clean up their slutty act for a new suitor?

Hell, I'm not sure I have a dog in this race anymore. Last year, I pulled down everything under both pseudonyms when my payments from B&N were late two months in a row with no explanation. Therefore, I haven't earned a dime through their online retail site since July of 2016.

This year, I've started re-publishing e-books for the print books B&N has decided to carry online. So far, none of them have been Alter Ego's books. Still haven't earned a dime, much less a tuppence.

Nor have I received the infamous, vague e-mail yet.

So I'm going to sit back with my iced raspberry white mocha and see what happens next in the train wreck that is Barnes & Noble.

And work on my super-sexy sword and sorcery novel. You know, the one that fades to black, LOL

Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Spider-man: Homecoming

This is the film where I'll finally forgive John Francis Daley for leaving the cast of Bones for a screenwriting career. Yep, that's right. My favorite on-screen FBI criminal profiler was one of the writers of the latest Spider-man flick.

And this one finally gets everyone's, okay, my generation's favorite web-slinger right. This is not to blame Tobey or Andrew's performances in the previous five films. I'm talking about the writing. I'm talking about the sheer joy Peter had as a teenager in being Spider-man.

I'm talking about the fact that we didn't have to live through Uncle Ben's death AGAIN!


* * *


SPOILERS!


* * *


PROS
1) Tom Holland's charm as the wall-crawler in Captain America: Civil War was not a fluke. He really is that adorable!

2) There are just the right amount of Robert Downey, Jr., in the movie. Enough to spice things up, but not enough to overwhelm Peter's story.

3) Both the writers and Michael Keaton brought a vulnerability and everyman quality to Adrian Toomes, aka the Vulture. You actually sympathize with a fellow resident of Queens, who's just trying to support his family.


CONS
1) I still have an issue with a woman my age playing Aunt May. I own it. But after thinking about it, maybe it's more than our perspective regarding aging has changed over the last fifty years. I look at pictures of me now versus pictures of my grandmothers at the same age, I look a lot younger. It's not vanity talking, but an acknowledgment that I had much better healthcare and nutrition than my grandmothers did. But deep down, I have an issue with Aunt May looking "HOT".


Re-negotiating the licensing for the Spider-man franchise is one of the smartest moves Sony's made this century. Marvel Studios have deftly folder our hero into the MCU, and made the franchise fun again.

I give Spider-man: Homecoming 10 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

It's funny how some of the songs I listened to back in high school hold up over time.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Picking a Genre

Goddess, I feel old. I've only been doing this indie publishing a little over six years, and somehow I'm an old-timer. Lately, I've been seeing writers with no trad publishing experience and only a year or two of indie experience whining about how hard this business is and why aren't they making six figures a month.

When I take a look at their catalog though, I see one novel in romance, two in urban fantasy, three erotica shorts, and a young adult novel. All under different pseudonyms.

Can anyone in the audience name the problem? Anyone? Bueller?

*headdesk*

If someone reads your romance novel AND they like it, usually they want to read more of your romance. You aren't going to sell more of that same romance novel to that same reader.

Now, maybe that reader would have read your YA, too. But they can't find your YA because you put under another, totally unrelated name. So how are you going to sell a second book to your reader if they can't find you?

This is another example of lottery thinking. Jumping from genre to genre isn't going to win you readers because not everyone reads the same genre or the same sets of genres.

If you need to write in different genres, pick something related. For example, fantasy is a pretty broad genre. By June of 2018, I'll have 13 books in one series of UF, three books in a sword and sorcery series, four books in paranormal romance series, and three books in a superhero series. All these books are under the same name. There's quite a bit of crossover in readership.

On the other hand, I have fourteen books under the Alter Ego pseudonym under the broad genre brush of erotic romance ranging from hot paranormal romance to BDSM romance to ménage. Again, there's a lot of crossover among that readership.

Since there's not a lot of cross appeal between the two broad audiences, it doesn't make to have the same pseudonym.

Notice something else? Yeah, there's a lot of books for a reader to choose from.

I'm not out writing cozy mysteries, military sci-fi, or sweet romance. I'm sticking to a category and building it.

Now, granted I've slipped over the last few years in the production department, but I'm still averaging three figures a month in income. Why? BECAUSE I HAVE A LOT OF BOOKS.

Okay, maybe not as many as say Amanda M. Lee or Kris Rusch.

But the more books you have in the same genre, the more likely it is a reader will discover one of them  and check out the rest.

One thing I haven't done is genre-jump in an effort to hit the lottery. Also, I'm sticking to genres I love to read. Why? Because the last thing I want is to hit the jackpot on a genre I hate. I don't want to be stuck writing stuff I actively dislike. Life's too short, and frankly, I don't want to earn living at something I hate. Hell, I can go back to farming if I want to make myself miserable.

When someone asks, my advice is to write what you love. Write the types of books you want to read but can't find. I guarantee you there's someone else out there, just like you, wanting to read the same stuff you wish were on the bookshelves or your e-reader. You'll make everyone a lot happier, including yourself.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hiding in Plain Writing

DH and I often laughed that [deity in which you believe] should have an instruction manual pop out of the uterus along with the baby. Of course, if Murphy is truly the one and only god, the manual would be written in Ancient Sanskrit.

We've managed to muddle through the first seventeen years, but this last year is looking to be a doozy. Why? Because we've brought him up to think for himself, to analyze situations, and to make the best decisions he can.

The events of this last weekend in Charlottesville, NC, forced DH and me to have a long, uncomfortable talk with our son. He asked smart questions, ones that not even sociology and cultural experts have the answers for. The legal questions about constitutional law I could answer. And my answers unfortunately made my son even less sure of his path going forward in life.

Today, GK starts his senior year of high school. I hate not giving him some semblance of stability on which to make his future choices. I talked about his great-great-great-grandfather who fought for the Union in the original Civil War. I told him the story of his great-great-uncle Ralph, who at 16 lied about his age to join the Army during WWII. But deep down, I know I can't make GH's decisions for him. I can't make this easier.

Normally, I self-soothe by reading, but I overslept this morning. With some (granted self-imposed) deadlines, I got to work.

Or tried to.

I was still mulling over last night's conversation. So, I went back a chapter in the current wip and started reading to catch the thread of the story again. And it hit me.

Maybe I was dealing with my emotions through my work. What had started as a simple fantasy adventure story in 2013 had turned into a world mired in a political morass. A world that ignored their external danger in favor of in-fighting. A world that wasn't just in danger of losing its moral compass, but of losing its very existence.

If thoughts can change a universe, then maybe my heroes' literary battles will change the tide of thinking in the external universe.

Nah, I'm not that conceited. But it will change my personal thought pattern, and hopefully, relay that positivity to my son.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Atomic Blonde

Even though Atomic Blonde didn't do well during its first couple of weeks in theaters, I believe it will become a sleeper hit once it's out on streaming and Blu-Ray a la Keanu Reeves' John Wick. The film did cement Charlize Theron's place as an action star, which was what she wanted when her production company picked up the rights to The Coldest City, the graphic novel on which the movie is based.

Atomic Blonde is a fun, popcorn thriller that harkens back to the off-the-wall action flicks of the '80's, in particular the Kevin Costner career-booster No Way Out.

Guess I should have said, "Spoilers!" before mentioning Kevin, huh?


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) Charlize Theron was perfect as the world-weary MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton. She faces betrayal on every side, especially from her own agency, and manipulates the betrayers in a ballet of deceit.

2) James McAvoy continues to amaze me every time I see him on screen. He has the charisma to make you like and hate him at the same time.

3) The realism of the action rocked. In a martial arts class, we had discussed hand-to-hand combat between men and women, and how to compensate for women's lesser upper body strength than men. Basically, women need to use any weapon they can and be brutal and dirty, or they're going to lose in a straight-up fight. The stunt people and actors used the very techniques we'd discussed to make Lorraine taking out the KGB agents believable.

4) When the film hit a point near the end, I thought all the cool shit was for naught and the film makers would go for the No Way Out ending. They surprised me a little by adding another plot twist in the last seconds of the story.

5) The soundtrack of my formative years!


CONS
1) Gratuitous lesbian love scene. Yeah, I know they would have done the same damn thing if Charlize's character was a man, and that's why it pissed me off. Hell, the same shit with Strawberry Fields infuriated me when I was watching Quantum of Solace. It's the fucking 21st century, people!Can't we have a spy do their job without getting some poor innocent schmuck killed?


Overall, Atomic Blonde was a fun "B" movie that I think would have done a little better at the box office during the off-season, instead of the height of the summer blockbuster period. I give a 7.5 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

I'm still on an '80's kick as I try to finish writing A Modicum of Truth this month. And Michael Jackson did epitomize that era!


Friday, August 11, 2017

Channeling Speedy Gonzales!

For those of us a certain age in the United State, Looney Tunes was a Saturday morning staple. Especially certain heroes such as Speedy Gonzales. Not only could he outrun his foes, he outsmarted them, too. When I was a kid, I wanted to run as fast as Speedy. Now that I'm a middle-aged writer, I wish I could type as fast as him.

Actually, I'm pretty much in the middle as far as writing speed goes. That's somewhere between a novel every ten years and three novels a month (yes, I do know someone that fast).

However, I need to go a little faster than usual since I made the mistake of promising that A Modicum of Truth would be out by my birthday, aka Halloween.

Oops!

As of last night, I have a little over 20K written on the second volume of the Justice series. I'll need to write 60K by the end of the month (or pretty damn close) to meet my original deadline. Is it doable? Yes. Have I done it before? No.

But I'm determined to get it done because I refuse to disappoint any more readers, including myself. So time to nibble a little cheese, and ARRIBA! ARRIBA!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Reviews and the Jealousy They're Written On

Reviews have always been fraught with spilled ink and hurt feelings. It's bad enough when any Joe/Jane Public slams your work. In fact, I try to adhere to the rule not to read reviews of your work.

But when it's someone more famous, it's harder to avoid. There have been public feuds between writers through the ages. Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer. Ernest Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Stephen King and far too many authors to list here.

In fact, Christoph Paul wrote a guide on how to start a literary feud.

While Mr. Paul suggested ripping the other writer on a podcast, the trend among indies today seems to be deliberately attempting to start a feud by leaving a horrible review on a rival in the same genre. And personally, I believe it's done out of jealousy with the justification of the First Amendment and/or a piss-poor attempt to gain attention, aka any publicity is good publicity.

Which goes back to my original advice regarding reviews on your books--ignore them.

Feuds occasionally happen over innocent misunderstandings, but you’ll have a better success rate with willful misunderstandings. - Bill Ferris

Even if you cannot ignore your reviews, DO NOT ENGAGE! Seriously, that's exactly what some of these bad reviewers want.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, you cannot disengage from the bad reviewer (like family or good friends). Because of course, they're only trying to help you be the best writer ever!

That's when I smile and say, "Thank you for your feedback! Which paragraph/sentence prompted your insight?" And then pursue that help with specifics until the friend/family member runs in the opposite direction.

Worrying about and/or dealing with someone else's jealousy is a waste of your time and resources. Focus on your writing, and ignore the idiots.

And if all else fails, sue 'em.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Sharknado 5

Yes, it's summer which means it's time for one of my guilty pleasures, SyFy's  campy Sharknado series of made-for-TV movies. Believe or not, this year's release is the fifth flick in the franchise.

Yes, the Sharknado plots are so stupid they're fabulous. I give the producers, directors, and writers credit for finding new ways to destroy world landmarks. And especially, props to actors for having fun with the story.

To me, the biggest thrills are the pop culture references and the cameos. Sharknado 5 had Nichelle Nichols, Chris Kattan, Fabio, Dolph Lungren, Olivia Newton-John, Margaret Cho, Tony Hawk, Charo, Bret Michaels, and as always, the cast of the Today show.

Once again, the movie ends on a cliffhanger, but one that will have you grinning as Lundgren does his best Doc Brown impersonation.

If you didn't see it last night and you love campy, crazy fun, you can pick it up on Amazon or On Demand.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Handy Reminder

This video seems like a good reminder of grammar rules while I edit novels over the month.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Makin' Hay While the Sun Shines

There's an alfalfa field to our apartment complex (one of the joys of small town/rural living). We aren't supposed to have any appreciable rain until today, so the farmer cut the alfalfa Tuesday, raked it on Wednesday, and baled it yesterday. You can't bale wet alfalfa. It will literally rot from the inside out, leaving you with nothing to feed the cows come winter. So the farmer has to go by the universe's schedule, not his/hers.

*sigh* There's nothing like the smell of dried alfalfa.

Why the hell am I bringing this up? Well, like the person farming the next-door field, I needed to go by the universe's schedule lately, which is the reason for no blogging the last two weeks.

We had some family things, like Genius Kid's birthday and a planned road trip to see the sister-in-law who's a professor in Indiana, and we took FIL with us. We're still dealing with a few emotional things from the aftermath of MIL's passing in June, which is why we have a big family dinner with everyone on Wednesday nights for FIL's sake.

Then there were work things. Like the page proofs for Sword and Sorceress 32 arriving. Finishing the paperback proofs of the Bloodlines series. Getting some new writing done. Realizing I'd planned to have A Modicum of Truth finished in September so it would be out before Sword and Sorceress 32. And I haven't even started editing Ravaged.

Rather than get scared and throw up my hands in despair, I realized this was do-able if I buckled down and worked. Which meant something needed to be put on the backburner.

And the blog got elected.

So if WWW goes dark for no apparent reason over the next five months, I'm hip deep in words, chocolate, and tea. But trust me, it's all good.

P.S. Sword and Sorceress 32 will be released November 2, 2017!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Friday, July 21, 2017

My First Book Signing...

...was pretty much how I expected. It was held in the basement of the local library in a small town so we didn't get a lot of foot traffic.

I sold a grand total of four books, two to one of DH's aunts. Apparently my MIL who recently passed, and a bit of a gossip hound, was too embarrassed to tell the extended family I no longer practiced law and was now a writer.

Even though it's been over ten years since I left my last legal employer. LOL

I met a few writers, some potential readers and the library staff. I gave away fifteen bookmarks with coupon codes for a free e-book copy of Blood Magick. I didn't immediately come out ahead, but have hopes that maybe some of the folks will download my first in the Bloodlines series and then buy the rest of the novels.

The best thing was the attention my covers garnered, even from people who don't like fantasy. The attraction justifies my decision to have Elaina redo the Bloodlines covers and do the Justice covers. That in itself was worth the money I put into the event.

Will I do another book signing? Maybe. I'm not sure right now. I think I need more books out before I try again.

Monday, July 17, 2017

If You Want to Reach the Bestseller List...

...I don't recommend reading this blog.

Seriously.

My goal is to create a large catalog that will provide consistent income well into my old age. Unlike a lot of other writers, I'm not looking to hit the NYT, the USAT, or any Amazon bestseller list.

Why not?

1) In a best case scenario, the lists are nothing more than a popularity contest. And they consist of what's popular at that specific moment in time. Despite marketing claims, the lists cannot and do not predict the longevity or endurance of a particular literary work.

2) Manipulation of lists make the popularity of the listed books questionable at best. The NYT is constantly changing what criteria it uses to calculate their top books, everything from banning children's books after a certain boy wizard became popular among the adult set to disregarding e-book sales because the Big 5 gave them more money in advertising and wanted to kill the fledgling market.

3) Making a list doesn't guarantee longevity of career or sales. Just in the last ten years, I've seen writers hit the lists with their first book, then quietly disappear when successive books don't make the splash that the first book did. Some writers will change their pen names and try again, but I pruned my social media contact lists/follow lists by roughly a third of writers who quietly sank beneath the waters of anonymity with nary another word.

4) I know many writers, especially indies, who are quietly making a living without hitting the lists. Hell, without any fanfare whatsoever. They get by with a small, dedicated fandom in a subgenre they love that is underserved. These are the writers with a solid sense of who they are and what they are trying to accomplish.

5) Which brings me to my own goals. There's quite a few writers who kept me going through a lot of dark times in my life. These writers crafted delightful tales that let me forget about my problems for a moment or two. They gave me a break when I desperately needed one. My goal from the beginning was to be that type of entertainer, to give someone somewhere the respite to catch their breath before they tackle the next hurdle in their lives.

So if you've been reading this blog in hopes of learning the secrets of a successful writing career, please take a step back. Figure out for yourself what you want as success. If attaining a bestseller spot (AKA getting your letters) is your ultimate goal, then more power to you. But it's not what I want, and I definitely won't be covering the how-to's for that particular goal here.

Now, let's all get back to writing...

Friday, July 14, 2017

Weird How the World Works

I don't think I've said anything here yet, but my first book signing is next week. After the whole MIL dying/getting sick hoopla, I had to scramble a little to get my ducks in a row for the event.

The last thing I was waiting on were the bookmarks I ordered. The package arrived yesterday. I gleefully ripped it open and...

...they were definitely NOT my bookmarks. Mine were black with the cover of Blood Magick on the front and a list of the Bloodlines series on the back.

The ones in my hand were beautiful pink swirls with a prayer and the name of a pastor on them.

Definitely NOT mine.

So I call the printing company. At first, the young lady who took my call thought I was complaining about my bookmarks because apparently I'd messed up the upload, and the bleed was really screwed up.

Me: "No,  no, no. That's not the problem. I didn't even get my BLACK ones. These are PINK!"

Print Company Lady: "Oh. OHHHH! First, I'm going to fix yours so they print correctly."

Me: "Wait! Will you be able to get them to me before my book signing on the 20th?"

Print Company Lady: "I'm going to send it expedited shipping. You'll have them by Tuesday, the 18th."

It took the poor gal nearly a half-hour and a fresh upload from me to get the file to where she was satisfied. While she was working, she put me on hold for a moment. When she came back on, she was giggling.

PCL: "My co-worker saw your book cover. She says it looks like something she would read. Is it on Kindle?"

Me (totally flabbergasted): "Uhhhh, yes."

After another few minutes, she had me look at the new version to make sure it was acceptable. (She did a fabulous job!) After she confirmed my order would be reprinted at no cost and sent via expedited shipping, she asked again whether my books were on Kindle. I affirmed that they were indeed.

Then I thanked her profusely for her help, and we ended the call.

Very bizarre end to the situation. I don't know if the co-worker will download Blood Magick, but hopefully I made a good impression by not acting like a shrieking harpy over the mistake.


P.S.

I will be at the Author Fair at the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library on Thursday, July 20th, from 6-8 p.m.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

TSA and Book Searches

I try very hard not to get political online, but the latest in Security Theater has me shaking my head.

TSA is now searching passengers' books and magazines in their carry-on bags.

I've had a problem with some of their policies over the last sixteen years. I have a rather large, ahem, bosom. I wear underwire bras for the extra support. Coming home from my grandfather's funeral in 2002, a TSA agent became a little too interested in checking my boobs.

I finally said, "Would you like me to take off my bra so you can check the underwires?"

She turned pink and shook her head.

"No, really. We all watched Flashdance growing up. It's not a problem." I deliberately gave her an evil grin and reach for my t-shirt sleeve.

Her skin goes from pink to beet-red. "That won't be necessary, ma'am." But she stopped feeling me up.

Then there's the over-the-top abuses like dumping a urine bag on a passenger with catheter. My heart goes out to anyone with real medical devices.

But since the last presidential election, TSA has gotten a lot more invasive. It's not just a matter of turning on your electronic devices to prove they aren't bombs. They insist on passengers turning over their social media accounts and passwords so they can examine the apps.

People have been reported for suspected terrorist activity for simply speaking their native language for wearing their native dress.

And now, the TSA (aka the government) wants to know what you read.

Here's my problem--there's no context.

I could have a copy of the Quran because I'm taking a comparative religion class. I could have one of Alter Ego's erotica books because I'm proofing it on my trip. Or maybe I have a copy of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, and some official gets a bug up their ass because both authors have been outspoken in their criticism of the current administration.

This coupled with some of the administration's other actions scare me. Inherent in the First Amendment is the right to read what you want. What happens when the TSA starts banning certain books?

Oh, when the ban comes, they'll claim it's a safety measure, but where does it stop?

I say this as someone who worked in a bookstore a couple of decades ago. Invariably once a week or so, some customer berated me or one of my co-workers for carrying X. My favorite incident was when I was ringing up a young man who was buying Mein Kampf.

The only other customer in the store besides him marched up to the cash/wrap and started chewing me out for selling the book to the young man. My response? "I'd rather have him read it and discover for himself that Hitler is crazy."

Her eyes got huge, and she sputtered a few unintelligible words before she threw down her romance books on the counter and marched out of the store.

I then had an interesting conversation with the young gentleman. He was working on his master's thesis in marketing. The subject was how modern advertising firms use the same techniques that the Nazis did in the '30's.

So how does this tie in with the TSA situation?

Fear.

Yeah, I know that seems to be the theme this week. But instead allowing your own fear to control you, this is letting other people's fear to control you. You need to educate yourself about real risks and dangers, and not let others' paranoia affect you.

Because if someone is trying to influence you through fear, it's rarely for your benefit.

Monday, July 10, 2017

How Can You Have a Lack of Ideas?

I've had a vague sci-fi idea in the back of my mind for some time now. So I asked my friend Jo, who designs both computer games and board games as well as writes superhero novels, for some recommendations on books for game theory. And he gave me a ton of reference links and material.

That led to him asking about the idea, which I really couldn't explain because I'm not sure at this point. And who knows? It might fizzle before it becomes fully formed. But if it does congeal, I'll add it to my idea folder.

But this is how my brain works. I'm wrapping up the Bloodlines series. I've started the Justice series. The first book of the 1-888-555-HERO series is almost done. I'm two-thirds of the way into another book that will become another series. Then there's the Four Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse which I was writing while sitting in the student pick-up line last year (which won't be happening this year now that GK is driving himself to high school).

And that all led to our conversation of how can a writer NOT have ideas. I mean, the list above will keep me busy for at least two years. That doesn't even begin to count my ideas under Alter Ego. Nor doesn't it count the ideas sitting in my idea folders. And what about the sci-fi ideas I already have outlined that I may publish under a different name for marketing reasons?

Jo's pretty much in the same boat. In fact, most writers I know have a mega-ton list of ideas sitting in a paper file, a computer file, or both.

So what's happening when someone says they're blocked and can't come up with ideas?

Generally, it goes back to the single biggest stopper of a writing career--FEAR! Fear of not having the big idea. Fear of readers hating the story after you've put so much work into it. Fear of wasting time and not making any money.

If it's not fear, maybe you have to face the fact you're a one-book-idea person. If you don't believe that's the case, then guess what? We're back to the FEAR issue.

Yep, FEAR is that freaking insidious. And you have to find a way to drive back the forces of darkness.

"How?" you ask. All I can tell you is what works for me. Take a break. Take a shower. Take a walk. But my number one cure for coming up with an idea?

Clean my teenage son's toilet. Trust me. You'll want to do just about anything besides that!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Friday, July 7, 2017

Are You Writing for Fame and Fortune Only?

My friend Jo sent this interesting tidbit to me during our conversation about how-to books on writing. As he said, if nothing else, watch the first five minutes. Robert McKee talks about what he sees as the two types of writers.

And say what you will about Mr. McKee, he definitely understands the mindsets of the two types.

Hey, I'll be the first to admit I make money from my stories and I'm not ashamed of that fact. But on the other hand, I don't write whatever the latest trend is either. Something to ponder over the weekend.


Monday, July 3, 2017

The Orgy of Death

When I was a kid, I read an Englishman's scholarly tome on Ancient Egyptian customs. One of his comments has stuck in my head. He regarded the ancient civilization as being obsessed with death.

The more I've studied over the years, the more I realize that statement isn't true. Talk about laying you own hang-ups at someone else's feet.

A lot of people think I'm obsessed with the subject of death as well. I do write about it, but am I obsessed? Not really. I acknowledge death, the inevitability of it, which is more than white American culture can do.

So why is this on my mind? My mother-in-law passed away on Friday, June 16, 2017, at 2:06 a.m.

We Americans are so very precise about our time, aren't we? In reality, that is simply the time on the paramedics' watches when they arrived at her apartment, and they pronounced her dead.

Because you see the process had started some time before that. Some would say it was five minutes before when the aides at the assisted living apartment stopped CPR because my mother-in-law had a Do Not Resuscitate order on file. Some would say it happened when she stopped breathing about ten minutes before the CPR ended.

Maybe it really started earlier on Thursday when she was at rehab and her blood oxygen level dropped even though she was on O2 at the time. Maybe it started with that last trip to the hospital this spring. Maybe it really started when she fell at their old Victorian back on December 6, 2015.

Or maybe it all started years ago when she tried to raise my son as she had her other five grandchildren, and I told her that being a grandma was a much cooler job than being the parent. However, the grandma job was one she never truly relished.

But when she was actually gone, and I looked at the corpse on the floor of her bedroom in the wee hours of Friday, it was done for me.

The first thing anyone will say as they read this is that everyone grieves in their own way.

And that's very true. However, what truly bothers me are two things:

1) that we no longer respect death, and to die shows a failure on someone's part, and

2)  that we, as a culture, now lavish that same excess to funerals as we do births, weddings, and quinceaneras.

Around 2:15 a.m. that same morning, I had to console the RN and the two aides. Reassure them that they had done the right thing by following the DNR and ceasing CPR. Even DH, in a moment of black humor that usually only I display, he said that his mother probably heard them call the ambulance, said, "Screw that!" and took off for heaven. Because she had been adamant after the spring stint that she was not going back to the hospital.

The medical team at the apartment didn't fail. The doctors and nurses at the hospital during her various admissions over the last two years didn't fail. This is about a woman at the end of her natural lifespan, not failure or success.

Since she passed over Father's Day weekend, that put a crimp in vacation plans since some family had already left town, so all scheduling had to be shoved back an extra couple of days. Add to that, selecting a casket, flowers, planning the ceremony, etc., etc., etc. Then there was the private family viewing and two sessions of visitation before the actual funeral on Tuesday. All of the added stress of putting together a major ceremony while dealing with grief? Why do we do this to ourselves?

It's traditional.

Gah! I hate that term. It's an excuse. Traditions can be and are changed all the time.

I've already put together my funeral directives. I die? Cremate me, take the ashes to Hawaii, scatter them, and go get drunk on the leftover money in my estate. In fact, DH has already picked out the bar in Lahaina on Maui.

Celebrate my life. Tell stories. Read stupid passages from my books. Save enough money for the cab ride back to the hotel.

But whatever y'all do, please don't turn my passing into a fucking five-day orgy of death. My ghost will not be pleased.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Thanks, Preacher!

I love the show Preacher on AMC, but the earworms for the new season's ads harken back to my youth.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What IS "Writing to Market"?

I got pretty sick after my mother-in-law's funeral last week. So sick, I ended up in the ER. I'll spare you the disgusting details. Unfortunately, I lay my recliner for three days with my meds and a fuzzy brain.

Which meant all I accomplished was talking about writing, not getting much writing, or editing, actually done.

Being limited to e-mail, my friend Jo and I had an interesting discussion last week about what most indies call "writing to market". The term is used as an umbrella device to cover a couple of different concepts.

1) Following Trends

This is one where a writer produces a work to capitalize on the latest hot selling genre/type of book. Fifty Shades of Grey is perfect example. When it hit the bestseller lists in 2012, writers and publishers flooded the market with billionaire/virgin/BDSM books.

Since FSoG itself started life as Twilight fanfic, there's the requisite romantic triangle. In fact, you can't sell a YA book to a big publisher unless it has a romantic triangle.

A few weeks ago, I re-read one of my favorites, Katherine Kurtz's Deryni Rising. The primary protagonist is Kelson, a fourteen-year-old who's about to be crowned king, assuming he survives various assassination attempts and challenges for the throne.

As I pointed out to Jo, Ms. Kurtz would never be able to sell that book as-is today. Kelson would have to be older with two girls after him at court. And that's assuming the editor didn't insist on his father's closest advisors, Duke Alaric and Father Duncan, having an illicit affair.

If you need another example, how many of you put out an adult coloring book last year after sales took off during the Christmas 2015 shopping season? Come on, don't be shy. This is exactly what I mean about following a trend.

The point is writing/publishing to whatever flash in the pan is hot at the moment is not always a sustainable career move. I've met too many writers who are burning out because they're bored producing stuff they have no passion for.

2) Hitting the Tropes

Jo advocates the "writing to reader expectations" point-of-view when it comes to writing to market. In other words, hit the tropes or at least, your version of the trope.

As in, a romance should the Happily Ever After regardless if you're writing a heterosexual, homosexual, or even an alien relationship. A mystery needs to introduce all the suspects during the course of the story and reveal who the culprit is very close to the last page. Your science fiction doesn't have to have spaceships and/or little green men, but it needs the effect of some type technological/biological/etc. advancement's on the human race.

In other words, if you're writing in a genre you consume and love, you're more likely to understand the rhythms and tropes expected of that type of story. And you're more likely to continue as a career fiction writer.


I can hear y'all out there asking, "What about trends that become tropes?"

Hey, I admit it does happen, but I strongly suggest that you should aim to be the trendsetter, not the trend follower. Or even better, aim to have fun with your writing!

(P.S. If you want to check out Jo's books, here's his website.)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

DH and I actually went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 nearly two months ago. In the drive to finish the Bloodlines series, I totally forgot to post my thoughts. I figure it's not too late since it's still showing in a lot of theaters.

The real question is whether the sequel lives up to the first, and I have to say, "Sort of."


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) Great performances from the original cast. There's some character building, but not so much that it alienates viewers. Whereas the first movie is Quinn building the team out of necessity, the second movie is more the team saving Quinn from himself.

2) Kurt Russell was excellent as Peter's dad. (Though please note, the MCU takes liberties. Pete's dad in the movie is not the same character as in the comics.)

3) The adorability of Baby Groot cannot be measured!


CONS
1) I got really mad about the ending, and it took a discussion with another writer/comic fan to figure out why. The character who was supposed to deliver the emotional payoff couldn't because he spent most of the movie with other members of the Guardians than the one member who was the receiver of the emotional payoff. It was basic lazy story telling, which is something the MCU normally gets right. It was even more ironic since DCEU finally got their own storytelling shit together four weeks later with Wonder Woman.


Overall, I'd give Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 8 stars out of 10.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Moment of Silence

Due to a death in the family, Wild, Wicked & Wacky will be dark for the next week. Thank you for understanding.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

When Unsolicited Advice Hurts

New writers are often hungry sponges, who want to soak up the wisdom of the more experienced in the industry.

Which, don't get me wrong, is a good thing. Most of the time.

2017 is the ten-year anniversary of Amazon's Kindle. Like many tech advancements, it wasn't the first of its kind on the market, but it was the game changer, especially in the fiction side of the publishing industry.

So what does the Kindle have to do with new writers?

The newbies are getting a lot of advice from folks who've been in the trad publishing system their entire career. They're also getting a lot of advice from the indies who've been in digital publishing since Amazon launched Kindle Direct Publishing in 2009 (KDP had a different name when it first started).

I'm not saying this is all necessarily bad advice. But what both sides fail to take into account is that we're still in the middle of the digital disruption. Things are in no way settled. They are still changing. Ironically, my unintended vacation from publishing 2014 through 2016 makes the constant churn more painfully obvious.

If you're a new writer, you need to take a brutal look at what you want out of publishing your work, aka a solid goal. If you want awards, that's one path. If you want your letters (aka New York Times or USA Today bestseller attached to your name), that's a different path. If you want a long-term career, that's a third path. If you want a way to cover your costs when you compile Grandma's recipes into a book for the rest of the family, that's a fourth path.

I could keep going, but you get the point. And that's not to say some of these paths never cross. They can and do. However, your focus needs to be on your primary path in order to get what you want. And if you say you want Path One, but keep bringing up Path Two, you need to re-evaluate what it is you want.

The problem comes in when the more experienced writer tells the newbie "You need to X, Y, and Z to succeed ." However, X, Y, and Z are predicated on Experienced Writer's chosen path and their experience. If Newbie doesn't start with a solid goal, they can get sidetracked for years pursuing a goal that's not theirs. Not to mention, one experience does not automatically equal a second.

I've been the sidetracked newbie. It's frustrating when you realize your mistake. I've been the experienced writer, who's let their excitement overwhelm a newbie. And I've felt guilty when I realize that mistake.

For now, I'm trying to be the wise writer. If someone asks for help, I'm trying to ask questions to discern what the newbie really needs rather than what I think they need. Sometimes that pisses off the newbie, who thinks I'm hiding the secret handshake.

Folks, there is no secret handshake. And with the digital shake-up, it's a brave new world for all writers. Anyone who tells you different is lying, to themselves as well as you. The last thing I want to do is harm a new writer by giving them unsolicited or non-useful advice.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Spy

Spy is one of those movies I really wanted to see, but missed thanks to the summer of the niece from hell. Once again, I managed to record it over April's free HBO weekend.

Personally, I think Melissa McCarthy is freakin' hysterical. I've thought that since her days on Gilmore Girls, and I'm ecstatic that she's broken out from the Sookie mold. However, it's sad when a movie equitable between the genders is considered a feminist diatribe. And that seems to happen a lot with Melissa's films.

You'd think studly action star Jason Statham would have brought enough testosterone. And he did, to the point where he made fun of the type of guy he usual plays. In fact, Jason has some incredible comedic chops, and I'd love to see him and Melissa work together again.

Anyway, here're my thoughts...


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) Paul Feig's script was a brilliant skewering of the spy genre without relying on cheap shots, like fat jokes.

2) Rose Byrne was deliciously catty as the antagonist Rayna Boyanov, who's selling a suitcase nuke but is a spoiled brat who could care less about who buys the nuke, much less who uses it. Rayna and McCarthy's Susan develop an odd frenemy relationship that is hysterical.

3) Jason Statham's Rick Ford was brilliant! Ford quits in a huff after he's outed as CIA, tries to pursue the case on his own, and repeatedly gets in Susan's way. The end scene with Rick and Susan is worth the entire movie. Jason's comedic skill is on par with Melissa's, and I really would like to see them together in another film.

4) Allison Janney was pitch-perfect as Susan's boss. Encouraging without being a cheerleader.

5) I have to give a nod to Will Yun Lee. I've been a fan of his since Witchblade. His turn as Timothy Cress, one of the outed CIA agents, could have been expanded because he's funny as hell.


CONS
1) I have nothing against Jude Law personally. I've found his turns as Watson in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes series an utter delight. Unfortunately, Law's straight guy in this movie doesn't quite work. I'm not sure if it's the writing, directing, or Jude himself, but there's no reason and absolutely no chemistry to believe that Susan has a crush on Jude's Bradley Fine. And the times he's onscreen make me want to fast forward to the next scene.


Overall, I have to give Spy 9 stars out of 10. If you love Melissa or Jason, download it today!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Adorable Moment

Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins have way too much fun at their job...


Friday, June 9, 2017

Status Report - June 2017

I haven't done a status update in a while, so here's what's happened since I posted my April list of things to do:

1) No, I haven't started the edits on Ravaged yet.

2) The first draft of Sacrificed was completed on May 25.

3) I started back on Resurrected on May 26, and realized there were a couple of major issues that would turn into expositional crap if I dealt with them in this novel. So I plotted two short novels that will take place between Sacrificed and Resurrected, and started writing them. I post word count updates at my reader-oriented website www.suzanharden.com if you're curious.

4) The non-related short stories are done, but when they will be released is open to question with the new short novels for Bloodlines.

5) Proofing the Bloodlines paperbacks is taking an inordinate amount of time, far more than I anticipated. But I have to get them done because I will be at an author's signing event at our local library next month. More on the signing will be posted closer to the day of, which is July 20. In the meantime, they've essentially been moved to the top priority spot.

6) Needless to say, updating the Seasons of Magick series has been pushed back once again. It may be swapped with #7

7) I gotten more e-mails/PMs about A Modicum of Truth, so based on demand, it will need to take priority post-Bloodlines. It's good that a work is wanted, but it's a little nerve-wracking as well. I'm blaming the demand on the new Wonder Woman movie.

So that's what's happening in my world. Hope everyone has a great summer!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The George Lucas Effect

In the old days of movie-making and publishing, the original creator didn't have a whole lot of control over the final packaging of the product. There was only one version of a movie or a book. We didn't have the director's cut or the extended version or the author's preferred text.

In some ways, that control is a good thing. The extended version of Suicide Squad makes a hell of a lot more sense than the theatrical version. The same with the author's preferred text of American Gods. Both of these expand on the original versions without changing the essential character of the work.

Then there's George Lucas.

*sigh* He's changed the original version of Star Wars so many times it's become an embarrassment. The most egregious of these changes is the "Who shot first" question. By changing the Han-Greedo confrontation, George turned Han from a bad-ass space pirate to TSTL joke.

And therein lies one of the dangers to any artist who cannot let their work stand on its own merit. By trying to "fix" something, which was frankly the best possible art for your age and/or experience, you can end up ruining it.

First of all, I would hope that ALL artists improve as they practice their craft. And most of us do.

The problem is when we look at our first works, our older selves see how amateurish our older work is. To us. The mistakes and miscues are glaring. To us. And there's a part of us that wants to "fix" the problem so we don't look too stupid. To us.

Unfortunately, "fixing" those problems insults our readers. What we're really telling them is "You're such an idiot for buying and loving my shit work".

The other side is maybe our work wasn't shit to begin with. Sometimes, it's the inner or outer critic who enjoys pissing on your art really talking. And that's someone you want to ignore.

So what brought this up?

I'm going through the paperback proofs of my novels. Yes, there's some typos that weren't caught by any of the five editors or myself six years ago when the book was first published. But that's akin to when the boom mike accidentally gets caught in the shot. With today's digital processes, boom mikes can be edited out of the film. Typos can be fixed.

But what you really need to do is resist the urge to change the story itself. You do your fans a disservice by telling them the story they loved is "wrong". You do yourself a disservice by not acknowledging and accepting you have grown as an artist. And you turn into the crazy politicians who want to redefine "truth" every time Winston Smith blinks.

When you're looking at your older works, resist the urge to change shit. Otherwise, you could turn your hero from a badass to TSTL, and that ruins the story for everyone. Relish the imperfection because they show your path as an artist!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Wonder Woman

Finally! Finally! Finally! The Amazing Amazon made it to the big screen!

And you know the scene in The Big Bang Theory where they guys collapsed in their theater chairs, totally satiated, after viewing The Force Awakens?

Well, that wasn't the folks in the theater at the very first showing Thursday night. We wanted MOAR!

Apparently, we weren't the only ones considering the $223 million that Wonder Woman raked in worldwide in its opening weekend. (That doesn't count the roughly $11 million WW picked in the handful of markets where it opened in May.)


* * *


SPOILERS!


* * *


PROS
1) Moving Diana's origin from WWII to WWI was an excellent stroke, considering the brutality of trench warfare and chemical weapons used. It didn't detract from the story. Otherwise, we still have the original comic book origin of Steve Trevor's plane crashing on/near Paradise Island/Themiscirya and the innocent Diana rescuing the first man she's ever seen.

2) David Thewlis as Ares was a non-traditional choice, but the gentleman, formerly Professer Lupin of the Harry Potter franchise fame, made it work.

3) Robin Wright as General Antiope was fucking brilliant!

4) I can see why Chris Pine turned down another movie to play Steve. The writers gave Diana and Steve matching redemptive story arcs.

5) As I said in my review of Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Gal Gadot more than redeemed herself in her previous cameo. She fucking rocked here as the younger, more innocent Diana.


CONS
1) Uh, not enough Amazons and Etta Candy?

2) [Edit to add] I was expecting a post-movie teaser for Justice League, but there wasn't one.


As the first critically and commercially successive DC flick, this movie goes to show that Zack Snyder really needs to keep his hands off the fucking DCEU franchise. Warner Bros. needs to turn it over to Patty Jenkins. The woman has a clue on how to make a superhero movie.

This one definitely gets and 11 out of 10 stars!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

DON'T LOOK, ETHEL!

As a character in a total separate franchise would say with a coy look, "Spoilers."


Yes, Jared Padalecki let something slip at a recent con. The reason I love this video is the look Jensen gives him is a TOTAL Dean "Sammy, you fucked the pooch" look.


It still takes Jared another 10 seconds to realize what he'd done. Then comes the adorable attempt to backtrack.


I can understand the problem. I have to be super careful about what I post on www.suzanharden.com because, well, I know all the major plot twists.


In Jared's defense, and if you're a Supernatural fan, you should have already figured this out.


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SPOILER VIDEO


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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Friday, May 26, 2017

More Analysis on the Marvel Situation

About a month ago, I talked about how the promo tricks Marvel had been using for the last twenty years were truly starting to backfire on them and were destroying their sales. Two days later, YouTube geek sensation ComicGirl19 posted a similar rant to mine, naming several of the same reasons that Marvel sales were dropping that had nothing to do with diversity.

Then last night, an article from The Atlantic popped up in one of my feeds. And guess what it was about? Yep, Marvel's problems were their sales gimmicks, not their diversity. I highly recommend reading the article because the article lists a few more issues I was barely aware of, such as the antagonism of editors and writers toward fans, not just the sexism they and their fellows exhibited towards their female co-workers.

Marvel seriously needs to get their shit together before it's too late. Besides, how is Disney going to get new material? Or are they going to do what Sony did and kill Uncle Ben over and over ad nauseam?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Other Writers and Fan-girly Squeals

Once upon a time, I had the privilege of meeting George Takei at a Star Trek convention. I was so nervous I literally couldn't talk. Uncle George was terribly sweet, but he gave me an odd look. As in, "Is she just shy, or should I call security?"

I managed to say "Nice to meet you" or "Thank you". Seriously, I was that nervous, I don't remember what I said. I do remember my voice sounded like Beaker's from the Muppets.

I don't always act that shell-shocked around someone I admire. Well, except for last Saturday night. My friend Jo introduced me to someone whose work I admire very much, and I squealed like a little girl. I'm pretty sure I embarrassed the hell out of the writer, too, not just myself.

*sigh*

So why am I bringing this all up?

I've had the opportunity to watch professional writers interact with their readers over the years, and I've noted four typical reactions in writers. Three of these reactions will lose you readers, but there are ways to compensate.

First of all, if you EVER feel in danger from a fan, get help! Grab a friend, get security at an event, or call the police. Trust that little niggle in your hindbrain. There's a big difference between that feeling and butterflies in your stomach.

Now on to the types...

1) The Cold Fish
It's never easy meeting total strangers. Even the most gregarious person has a little trepidation in a new situation. These writers fail to make eye contact with their readers much less say hello. This behavior can come across as being too good to talk to the hoi polloi when in fact, it's the opposite problem.

I'll tell you a secret. The best at the meet-and-greet are simply better at hiding their fear. Stand up, walk around that signing table, and be pleasant and polite. It will make the encounter easier for both of you. Something to remember is that your readers are probably more nervous about meeting you than vice versa, too.


2) The Hot Potato
The opposite of The Cold Fish, these writers not only come out from behind their tables, they attack people in the aisles and try to force their books on the public. Few people like the hard sell. (And if you know one, I'd like to meet him or her.)

Coming across as a crazy used car salesperson will only get you shunned and rejected. Take a step back, tone down the sales pitch, and take an interest in the person, not the sales prospect.


3) The Negative Nellie
These writers don't feel they deserve their success, or their fragile self-esteem can't handle criticism, so they try to beat you to the punch with self-flagellation. This behavior can turn off a potential reader. If the writer doesn't think their book is good enough, then why would the reader want to take a chance on it? And if the reader already read your work, it sounds to them like the writer is criticizing the reader's choices.

If adulation throws you for a loop, stick with simple phrases. "I hope you enjoy it." "Thank you." "I appreciate your comments."

On the other hand, those phrases work pretty damn good if a psycho reader slams you, too.


4) The Best Response
The writers I've seen handle the public best are Sherrilyn Kenyon and the late L.A. Banks. Both ladies come across genuinely interested in fans. They say how glad they are to meet you. These writers are comfortable with themselves and love the career they've chosen.

It's damn hard to achieve that level of confidence in yourself and in your work. Part of it is knowing your own comfort level with the public. For example, Sherrilyn's a touchy-feely person. She grabs a reader's hand and acts like they are her favorite cousin that she hasn't seen in forever. For her, this is a genuine response.

I know I'm not a touchy-feely person. Sherrilyn's way wouldn't work for me. Heck, even getting an e-mail from reader makes me freak out.

But my own issues don't mean I can't behave myself, be pleasant and say "Thanks!" Yep, that's right. I take elements from the solutions for The Cold Fish and The Negative Nellies. I remind myself that my writing affected a person enough for them to reach out.

And in the end, that's all I really want. To entertain someone for a little while and let them forget their problems.

The least I can do when a reader reaches out to me is to reach back with a heartfelt, "Thanks for reading my work."