I write like
Jack London

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Friday, March 31, 2017

I CAN'T WAIT!

I've been waiting for this all my life!


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Finishing What You Start

Right now, I'm struggling to finish the Bloodlines series. There's many reasons for my slowdown that I won't get into here today. I'm going to focus on one, and it's the one that afflicts all writers if we're honest with ourselves.

Fear.

Some call it Imposter Syndrome. Some call it Fear of Failure. What ever you call it, whatever it is, we all have it. It's the fear that the art we've made isn't any good.

And [deity of your choice] help us, we want that reassurance that we aren't wasting our time by spending hours scribbling or typing words. Are they good? Are they crap? Who knows? We sure as hell don't.

Newbies especially want that reassurance. And never is that more evident when one of them approaches me with a few pages or a couple of chapters and wants me to read them. My standard response has become "Show it to me when it's finished."

The general response is along what you would expect if I had asked to ass-fuck their grandmas with a dildo instead.

The few who get over being initially offended ask, "Why do you need to see the whole thing?"

Writing fiction is storytelling. I don't know if your story has the basics. A protagonist. A beginning, a middle, and an end. A certain je ne sais quoi that ensnares me regardless of your typos and bad grammar. A few pages of pretty writing tells me nothing.

That's like asking me what your bread tastes like when we are standing in your field of uncut wheat. It's meaningless and irrelevant.

Usually at this point, the newbies have the same look in their eyes that they would if I'd just hit their dog with my car, got out, and kicked the corpse a couple of times for good measure.

So I gently ask, "Have you finished anything? Another novel? A short story perhaps?"

I'm still waiting for my first yes. Hell, I'm still waiting for one of these newbies to send me their completed novel.

And I think that's the hardest part of this art form. The part that separates the real writers from the wannabes. You have to finish what you start. Sure, that first novel may be a total piece of shit (mine sure was), but so what?

The real question to consider--did you have fun doing it?

But first, you have to finish that story before you'll ever know if it was fun.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Seriously, folks.

If I have to give you a SPOILERS warning before talking about this movie, you have had a very sad life, and you need to start watching animated Disney princess movies--STAT!

This is pretty much a scene-for-scene remake of Disney's 1991 animated version of the classic French fairy tale and using the music by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. The lush costuming and scenery are reminiscent of Hollywood musicals of the '30's and '40's.

Emma Watson's Belle is a little more millennial angsty than her animated counterpart. Ewan McGregor once again ably fills the shoes of an older actor who originated the role, in this case the late Jerry Orbach as Lumiere. Kevin Kline brings much needed depth to Maurice

There are a few slight changes to the story which only adds to the characters' motivations. Beast uses his mirror to show Belle her parents' old apartment in Paris and what really happened to her mother. Beast also opens up a bit talking about his relationships with his own parents, and how he allowed them to affect his personality. Finally seeing Gaston's obsession during the battle at the castle, LeFou switches sides, defends the castle staff, and gets his own happily ever after during Belle and Beast's wedding.

Overall, I give this movie 10 stars out of 10 because it makes my happy and I left the theater still singing the tunes. And I want to go see it again this week.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Target Marketing in the New World

Edit to Add: Ironically, Kris Rusch talked about a related issue this week. I suggest you go read her post on the massive amount of data we writers can collect on readers and our interactions with them.

* * *

Indie writers have this tendency to freak about modern marketing. They generally seem to go one of two ways: either they promote the hell out of only one or two books or they panic and don't market at all.

The really big mistake I think a lot of writers make is failing understand their own work and target it to an inappropriate audience. I see a lot of new writers in the game make the same mistake the Big 5 make--they through spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. But they have no idea why something sticks.

I will say this, and it is just my opinion--permafree isn't working like it used to. Too many readers feel they've been burned by the writers, but bad writing and incoherent stories weren't the only problem.

A subset of readers will only accept or download free books. I'm not talking about folks on a limited budget. I'm not dissing those people. I've been there. I know what it's like when you don't have a choice between food and heat. When even having a TV was a luxury out of my reach. I was lucky my county library was within walking distance. And I ended up buying copies of the very same books I enjoyed through the library system.

I'm talking about those folks who feel entitled to anything they want for free. Those who mock anyone for being stupid to pay. Those who openly pirate. Those people are going to pay you anyway, so including them in your marketing plan is probably not in your best interest.

And these types of folks are an example of what I mean. You need to target your marketing efforts towards people likely to have an interest in and the wherewithal to buy your book. Not everyone on the planet will want to read your book no matter how great your book is. So get over the idea that your book is for everyone NOW!

Let's start by looking at my own family. Mom's into sweet romance. My father-in-law reads military history. Genius Kid loves manga and military sci-fi. Dad secretly reads my X-men comics. My sister is a major horror fan.

Now, let's pretend none of these people are my family. How would I market my sword-and-sorcery novels to them?

A lot of indies would say that since my heroine and hero are in a long-term relationship emphasize that aspect to my mother. My protagonists are fighting demons so highlight that element to my sister. And, you get the idea. And that lovely plan will probably fail.

What's wrong with this plan? Well, first of all, I asked the wrong damn question. My question should have been how do I market my book to people who already LOVE sword-and-sorcery. The people who are actively seeking the exact type of book I wrote.

Does this mean that other folks won't like my book? No, but you'll be wasting your time and money going after people who aren't likely to make your book their first choice.

So how does this apply in real life?

If you decide to run a Facebook ad, you don't include everyone who loves books. You narrow it down by genre and subgenre. I could can even narrow it down by looking at people who are fans of the type of sword-and-sorcery I emulate, i.e. Mercedes Lackey and Barbara Hambly, not Roberrt E. Howard.

One of the best examples of how NOT to market your entertainment is John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood.  Michael D. Sellers does an excellent job of detailing the screwed-up marketing on a movie that had a ready made audience.

The best thing you can do though is understand your potential audience before you do any marketing whatsoever.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When Health Interferes

Writing is a glorious and enjoyable pastime for me. It's also terribly sedentary, which for me is no different than when I worked in IT or practiced law. It means taking breaks to prevent repetitive stress injuries, eating right, and exercising on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, I also have several chronic conditions that make keeping the health balance a little more difficult. The last two and half months have been especially so. I chalked the severe exhaustion up to my (relatively) mild seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I mean, we only had three days of sunshine for the entire month of January.

In the meantime, I was trying to finish the last three novels of the Bloodlines series. I'd been delayed a month thanks to my own freakin' mistake. Then the exhaustion set in, and it became a struggle thinking straight, much less writing a page or two each day. I figured as long as I kept moving forward, things would get better.

Then we started getting a little more sunshine, and I felt a little better. My days were a little more productive, but definitely not where they should be.

Time for the family's annual check-ups rolled around, and I started making the calls and appointments. My general practioner had an opening for me a couple of months early, and I took it.

I'm glad I did. My numbers were all over the place. Basically, the hormonal changes of menopause were playing havoc with my careful balance of the last two decades. It means experimenting with my drug formulas again to strike the right notes.

On top of the physical effects is a healthy dose of frustration and anger that my body is still making me pay for the choice to have a child. But that's what my personal journal and this blog is for, dealing with those feelings.

As I write this, it's been fours days with the new formula. I already feel the difference. The question is how this new condition will play out over the next couple of weeks.

But if you're a writer and you're healthy, please, PLEASE maintain that health as long as you can. Take good care of your body because it has more of an affect on our minds than we realize.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Mockingkjay Part II

This was one of the movies we recorded during the HBO free weekend last month, and subsequently watched. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II came out during the holiday season of 2015, about the time our beloved beagle Dax died and Darling Husband's parents ended up in the hospital. In all the chaos, we missed our chance to see it.

Normally, I don't hold the book against the movie derived from it. They are two very different artforms. But in this case, two padded two-plus-hour movies should have been shortened to one three-hour film.

Mockingjay Part I ended with the rescue of Peeta from President Snow's people, and Katniss's horrified realization of how far Peeta's torture has twisted his mind and emotions.

Once again, this movie is over a year old, not to mention the book came out seven years ago, so I'm not bothering with a SPOILERS warning.

Part II frankly plods through the last part of the story. There's a great many scenes that could have been trimmed since they were made to show off the special effects, not really advance the story.

There was also a certain numbness in Katniss, which I don't blame on Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal, but are more the fault of the direction and script. At this point in the book, Katniss had a single-minded determination that wasn't truly reflected in the movie.

Also, they left out Katniss's attempted suicide after killing interim President Coin. That attempt was a direct result over losing Prim despite all of Katniss's efforts. These two changes left me rather indifferent toward the character.

I also need to re-read the book because I was fairly certain Snow finally succumbed to the poison he'd been ingesting over the years, laughing and choking as he enjoyed turning Katniss against Coin in the end.

Overall, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II was technically proficient, but left me emotionally cold. I give it 6 stars out of 10.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Monday, March 13, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Logan

I have to admit my mind is still spinning over this movie. First of all, anyone going into this flick thinking it will be a Disney/Marvel MCU spandex fest or even a shitty 20th Century Fox X-men film are going to be sorely disappointed.

This is a western noir. Think Unforgiven. Okay, it's Unforgiven with superpowers, but it definitely isn't your mommy's comic book flick.


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) The movie takes bits and pieces from the Old Man Logan comics storyline. However in this version, Logan's not the one who was responsible for slaughtering the other X-men, which I admit makes me feel a lot better about the character. The way the filmmakers handle it gives an extra layer of guilt to Logan and makes his decisions that much harder.

2) Caliban was handled better in this movie than he was in X-men: Apocalypse. He's the tragic hero he was meant to be.

3) Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23 was a marvel! Keep your eye on this actor.


CONS

1) Allegedly, this is Hugh Jackman's last stint as Wolverine. I'm a little disappointed because I would have loved to see a Deadpool/Wolverine movie that didn't suck the way X-men Origins: Wolverine did.

2) This is also supposed to be Sir Patrick Stewart's last stint as Professor Charles Xavier. While James McAvoy does a great job as Professor X, Stewart will always be my first love in that role simply because I wanted to see him play Charles since 1987.

3) My only real issue is Donald Pierce leading the Reavers instead of Lady Deathstrike. But no, the idiots at 20th Century Fox already killed her off several movies ago. I would have loved to see Kelly Hu as an independent, autonomous X-villain. Unfortunately, the movie version of Pierce is just as much of a wuss as the comicbook version.


Overall, I give Logan 9.5 stars out of 10. Sorry, but I can't forgive using Pierce here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Music I've Been Listening To

Sometimes you need a little badness in your life...


Friday, March 10, 2017

Quest for the Lost Cat

Quantum Is Calling is an adorable mini-film where Zoe Saldana accidentally loses her friend's cat...


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Cycling While Writing

No, not the kind on a bicycle.

Cycling is the term Dean Wesley Smith uses for reviewing previous words in a wip for typos, consistency, etc. before continuing to work on the story in today's writing session. I know a lot of long-term professional writers who cycle through their story.

Heck, I did it for years without knowing what it was, mainly because when I'm in the zone, my fingers are flying so fast words are left out, switched, or a homonym is accidentally used.

Cycling doesn't catch everything, or it may not catch everything right away. I took a break from writing for a few days two weeks ago to work on taxes. When I opened the file for Ravaged again, I discovered that I'd stopped writing on a major subplot that started in Blood Magick and has a lot to do with the climax in Resurrected.

Let's just say I could've put both Sam and Tiffany's potty mouths to shame when I was cycling through and realized what I'd done.

So, I'm going back to the beginning and layering in the subplot. Want to know why it's important? I'll give you a couple of hints. It has to do with the witch whose soul Bebe witnessed being eaten back way back in Blood Magick. And it's related to how chicks  breath while they are still inside their egg shells. 😁

Monday, March 6, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - John Wick and John Wick Chapter 2

Yes, I'm cramming two review into one. And yes, I'm a huge Keanu Reeves fan. I don't care what anyone else says. The man doesn't get enough credit for his range or his use of subtlety. Seriously, go back and watch Much Ado About Nothing. Keanu can hold his own against Kenneth Branagh and Denzel Washington.

The original John Wick was one of the many movies I wanted to see in 2014 and didn't get a chance to. So when it debuted on cable TV last month, I watched. Twice.

I'm not going to give a SPOILERS warning. It's been out for three years, and if you haven't seen it yet, it's not my fault. I will give a warning before I start talking about Chapter 2.

The original film is a take on the Asian revenge stories with a neo-noir chaser. The triggering event is one I totally identify with as a furbaby parent. The fact that John's furbaby was the same breed as two of mine made his rage even more palpable.

In the typical fashion of a certain breed of human males, the entire tale could have been truncated by doing the right thing and giving the instigator to John for punishment. But no, the bad guys dicks get in the way, and John shoots them off with brutal efficiency.

The movie ends with an injured and beaten John "adopting" a new puppy to replace his beloved Daisy. However, his equally believed Mustang is still missing.

Which brings us to the opening of John Wick Chapter 2. The sequel picks up a couple of days after the end of the first movie, and John is looking for his Mustang. As the new head of the Russian Mafia tells his right hand man who's after him and why, the second-in-command asks, "Why don't we simply give him his car back?"

Smartest guy in the underworld so of course, he doesn't survive the first ten minutes of the movie.


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) While the plot of its predecessor is a fairly simplistic revenge story, John Wick Chapter 2 digs deeper into John's past and the underworld of the franchise. We learn how John did the "impossible task" in order to leave the underworld and marry Helen.Unfortunately, payment for assistance in the "impossible task" comes due in the new film.

2) The pencil story from the first film was not an exaggeration, and John proves it as part of an epic fight scene in the New York subway system.

3) Common, as professional rival Cassian, was a delight. His fate was left in the air, and I truly hope to see him in the next film of the franchise.

4) Compared to his icy precision in exacting revenge in the first movie, John loses it in this one. But then, literally everything has been taken from him at this point.

5) Don't worry. Boy (the only thing John calls the pit bull puppy from the first movie) survives. However, his puppy daddy crosses a line at the end. The same line as Miss Perkins in the first movie. Out of love and respect, Winston give John an hour headstart. The film ends with John and Boy running for their lives with nothing to their names.


CONS
1) The third installment can't come out fast enough.


While I would give the original John Wick a 7.5 stars out of 10, John Wick Chapter 2 cranks everything up to 9.5.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Music I've Been Listening To

All they need is the Dancing Baby with Baby Groot...


Friday, March 3, 2017

Epic Chess Match!

Where Keanu Reeves is stirring stuff in the universe between Ant-man and Dr. Hawking...