Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Underworld: Blood Wars

I admit I'm a sucker for the Underworld series. I have been since the first movie in 2003. It's been five years since the last installment. Blood Wars is the first installment from a female director. Unfortunately, the writing suffers from the same affliction as The Force Awakens--an incomplete story that depends too much on automatic fan love.

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1) The plot is a little more coherent than 2012's Underworld: Awakening. With the three oldest of the vampire Elders dead and Viktor's coven destroyed, the remaining vampires jockey for power. Some want Selene dead for betraying and killing her maker. Some want her to train their neophyte Death Dealers. And some know exactly what Selene's hybrid blood can do.

2) Kate Beckinsale still rocks as Selene.

1) As I said, the story felt very incomplete. It ended on a cliffhanger in much the same way The Force Awakens did.

2) The motivation for the two primary antagonists was practically non-existent. One of the pluses of the first three movies in the series was the personal, passionate reasons for both sides to take the paths they did. After that, power for the sake of power seemed rather petty.

This is one of those movies if you love the series, you'll enjoy it. Otherwise, you might want to wait for The Lego Batman Movie in two weeks.

As a superfan, I give this a 7 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

No More Silence

Don't let anyone tell you to shut up and go away.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Alternative Facts

Copyright 2017, Author Earnings
Author Earnings' latest report came out via Data Guy's presentation at last week's Digital Book World '17. This was more of an overall view of the industry and included not just Data guy's spiders, but also information from Nielson and Bookscan.

Yes, there was some pretty significant information. Such as the strength of indies in underserved markets such as African-American-themed books. Or that the print book sales surge was actually a test by Amazon offering consumers steeper discounts on trad published books after post-conspiracy debacle contract negotiations were resumed. Or that e-books have plateaued or shrink and instead are up 4%.

What's more telling to me though is that the same people, who derisively dismissed Hugh Howey and Data Guy's efforts when they started Author Earnings a little over three years, are now listening attentively. Yeah, the same people, who screamed from nearly every online venue that DG was a liar and his data was false, are now inviting him to their conferences, sitting raptly at attention and soaking in the numbers.

I know there's at least one of you out there thinking, "But, but, but digital was growing 100-200-300% back 2010-2011. 4% is awful!"

No, it's isn't. Let's say you sold 1 e-book in 2010. Not a lot, but a good start. In 2011, you sold 2 e-books. That's a 100% increase. In 2012, you sold 20 e-books and that's a 1000% increase for you.

Compare that to total e-books available on Amazon (because I'm trying to make this easy to follow). When I first started publishing, there were roughly 3 million e-books available. Staying in the top third, i.e. your rank was above #1,000,000, was fairly easy.

Now, there an estimated nine million e-books available. My books are generally ranked roughly around #2,500,000 mark. That's still the top 30%. However, there's more books to choose from so it doesn't mean I'm making anywhere near the amount of sales I was before.

(And no, I'm not blaming Amazon or anyone else. I only started publishing again last June after a nearly three year hiatus due to personal issues that I enumerated extensively during that time period. I still hold to the belief that the best way to market your books is by producing more material for your readers.)

So the money pot is actually growing. There just happens to be more people dipping into it. However, there's still room for indie growth.

How so?

Beyond numbers, there's something more telling. Trad publishing is leaving a hell of a lot of money on the table. Remember the African-American themed books I mentioned above? 96% of those sales were e-books, and guess who controls that market? Trad publishers like to claim that certain portions of our country don't read, but the numbers say otherwise.

The best thing indie writers can take from the latest AE report is that trad publishing is leaving a lot of genre territory for us to claim. So get out there, find a niche genre you love and start writing it!

P.S. Yes, I stole Data Guy's Pac-Man slide. It's cute, and it's a generational thing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Falling Over Like Flies

I admit I've been avoiding the subject of All Romance E-books/Omnilit over the last month. Mainly, I didn't feel like stirring the pot over a bunch of allegations. I hate to tell folks, but I've seen this before, and I can pretty much guarantee that the money is gone.

I don't mean the owner of ARe stuffed it in an account in the Cayman Islands. I mean it's already been spent. Yes, it sucks dirty donkey dicks. And depending on the laws in various states, maybe, a very miniscule maybe, the legal team going after the owner might seize some personal property as recompense.

However, if you have money due from ARe and feel the need to do something, author Brenda Cothern's attorney has filed a class action suit. You might want to check into it.

Unfortunately, ARe wasn't the only small publisher (yes, they did publish books in addition to being a retailer) to crash and burn over the last month. I personally know of three small/micro publishers to close their doors.

A lot of indie writers are complaining that sales are down, but I really have no anecdotal data to share. I published two novels and an anthology of my own stories, plus had a short in a trad published anthology, over the last seven months after a three-year drought. So, yes, my sales may be down, but probably not for the same reason as everyone else.

Is this all bad? A symptom of something worse happening?

My opinion is we're looking at a market correction. Several companies jumped into e-book publishing and/or retailing under capitalized. It happens all the time when a new market opens up. These companies hit the gold rush period, much as Ellora's Cave did with the erotica market, and their business plans did not take into account the periodic ups and downs of a business. And just like any other business, there had to be a dip in sales after the first surge of e-books.

Think of a brand new business as a rock. When you drop it in a pond, there's a big splash. When that splash lands back in the pond, it sets off a series of ripples. Each ripple becomes successively smaller until the pond's surface is level again.

We're at the point of the indie rock where the splash has landed back in the pond. Over the next few months, we'll see a few less sales, a few more writers quit, a few more small/micro publishers close. Then the next ripple will pick things up, but the rise won't be anywhere near as high as the initial splash.

Since the publishing world moves at the speed of Warp Tortoise, the ripples will probably continue for the next decade or two before the publishing pond stills again.

Then the next rock will hit. And only the deity of your choice will know what that will be.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Hidden Figures

Back in the late sixties, my parents brought home a book called "We Came in Peace." It was one of those special deals that you got a free copy if you bought a certain amount of gasoline. (Giveaways at gas stations were pretty common back then.) It chronicled the efforts of the Apollo program to land the first human on the Moon.

I devoured the book. Granted at the time it was published, I couldn't read yet, but I could follow the pictures. And I re-read it over and over again once I had learned to read. One illustration that stuck in my mind over the years was a African-American woman hand-sewing a spacesuit.

Today, that picture would be described as demeaning. Back then, it was nearly unheard of for a non-white to be in an illustrated book. It shows how far we've come in the United States, and how how far we have to go.

And that little book perfectly sums up the movie Hidden Figures. We could have beaten the Russians into space if it weren't for our own racism.

For the movie itself, it received a PG rating for showing archival footage of Civil Rights violence and for showing one of the lead character having to do her work in the segregated bathroom. In my opinion, this film is positive and family friendly. All parents should taken their eight years and older children to see it.

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1) I've loved Taraji P. Henson since her days on the series Person of Interest (one of those rare shows our entire family watched; I highly recommend binging it). She rocks as the shy but determined Katherine G. Johnson, a mathematician with NASA from the Mercury through the Apollo programs.

2) Showing black men in a positive light. One of my favorite actors, Aldis Hodge, plays Levi Jackson, the husband of aspiring engineer Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monae). His character could have easily slid into the stereotype of the angry black man, but Aldis brings a loving and respectful slant to Levi, especially in his support of Mary working to get her engineering degree.

3) Is there anything the fabulous Octavia Spencer can't do? If she and Taraji aren't nominated for Oscars on Tuesday, then what little belief I still have in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences will  be utterly destroyed.

4) I have to give a nod to Glen Powell, who definitely captured the charisma of the former astronaut and late Senator John Glenn. (Hey, five of my cousins attended John Glenn High School in New Concord, Ohio, and one of them had the privilege of attending the announcement of Glenn's run for president.) It's amazing how stupid beliefs fall away when it's your life on the line.

1) Uuuuuhhhhhhhmmmmmm......Sorry, I can't think of a damn thing.

Hidden Figures gets 11 stars out of 10 from me. Seriously, go see it.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Yes We Can

We'll miss you Mr. President.

Monday, January 16, 2017

It's Not Writer's Block, DAMMIT!

I admit I've had a rough time writing lately. The last four months were fairly productive despite the setbacks from me not being clear with my formatter about what I needed for Zombie Goddess. But something changed after Christmas.

We're two weeks into the new year, and I haven't hit six-thousand-word mark yet. Usually, I'm suffering from seasonal affective disorder this time of the year, which in my case is due to the drop in Vitamin D. But none of my usual tricks for upping Vitamin D or writing words have been working.

Another factor has been the flu GK came down with the day school restarted. It was bad enough our family doctor put him on some heavy-duty drugs to prevent the fluid in his lungs from turning into pneumonia. And guess who started showing the initial symptoms of that same damn flu Saturday night?

It doesn't mean everything's hopeless and I'll never write again. (Which, let's face it, is what some writers starting whining in these situations.) Instead, I tried something new. I bought some scented felt-tip markers off the clearance rack Friday night, and I got out one of my Wonder Woman coloring books I bought this fall. Saturday, I spent the Falcons-Seahawks and part of the Texans-Patriots game coloring a picture of WW and Harley Quinn. Sunday, I divided my time between reading, watching Die Hard and Rush Hour, and cheering (quietly) for the Steelers. After the game, I wrote a couple of sentences, just because one of my goals this year is to keep my zero-word days to less than once a month.

Hey, any progress is still progress!

So what about today?

As you're reading this, I should be sitting in Tim Horton's trying to hit four-figures on my daily wordcount if I'm feeling better. If I do have GK's germs (he had three days of headaches before the puking and deep-seated chest congestion started), I'll break my writing into short sessions between episodes of Supernatural and green tea.

It's part of being a professional writer, folks. You have to keep going forward.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Missing Carrie Fisher

2016 was a shitty, shitty year for celebrities. (It was shitty in other ways, but I won't get into that here.) Someone wrote an article about statistics and death that showed the math about how shitty 2016 was for celebrity mortality, and that it was in fact, far shittier than normal. If I can find it again, I'll post a link to it.

I can't remember the news organization who posted the statistics story because as I was reading it, the Breaking News icon flashed on my screen that Carrie Fisher had passed away. It felt like someone had ripped out all my internal organs.

To most people around the world, she was Princess Leia/General Organa. A beautiful heroine in one of the most popular movie franchises of all time.

But the roles I remember most fondly are the ones she seemed to have the most fun doing. Jake's homicidal ex-fiancée in The Blues Brothers. The neurotic, insecure Marie in When Harry Met Sally. Horny casting exec Betsy Faye Sharon in Soapdish. Dr. Evil and his son Scott's group therapist in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Or even a wacky version of herself in The Big Bang Theory episode, "The Convention Conundrum."

But Carrie Fisher was far more than the roles she played onscreen. To me, she was a smart, talented writer who produced so much incredible work despite her personal demons. She could be hilarious, maudlin and sharp-witted in the same sentence.

She followed Red Smith's advice that to write, you open up a vein and bleed on the page. And bleed she did. Carrie was open about her battles with addiction, her struggles with mental health, and her rocky relationship with her parents.

Maybe that's why her death affected me in ways that the others didn't. While I freely admit to worshipping Carrie as an eleven-year-old when Star Wars came out, it was the adult Carrie I admired even more. She was the type of writer I want to be: fearless and prolific.

And I have no doubt, wherever her soul is now, she still exists just as fearlessly as she did on this plane.