Saturday, September 30, 2017

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

Reliving the summer I graduated from high school...


Friday, September 29, 2017

Minding the Gap

As I write this, I'm in the process of reviewing the Kindle e-book my formatter delivered on Tuesday. And as I do, I realize I'll be on a whirlwind of completing books in the pipeline and publishing at approximately one per month until April.

The very British subway warning popped into my mind because I'm still standing on the platform. I see the train slowing to a stop to drop off and pick up passengers, aka other writers.

It doesn't matter what my destination is at this point. Will I successfully board that train? Or will I get caught in the gap, so when the train takes off again, I'll be ripped to shreds.

Mind the gap. Odd thoughts go through a writer's mind when they're stressed.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Bitching About the Past

Things seem to run in trends in the writer thoughts on the interwebs. The latest amusement (for me anyway) are writers that started seriously writing for a living around 2010-2011 bemoaning the quality of their old works compared to their newer releases.

Mind you, I'm not talking about the long-term folks who were trad published prior to 2010 and were either dropped by their publisher and/or realized the freedom indie publishing would give them.

No, I'm talking about the folks who didn't take the idea of making a living writing seriously until e-books and/or indie publishing exploded. Most had never been published, or at most, had one or two trad published books.

Anyway, they see the change in quality of their own work over the last six or seven years. Rather than rejoice they've grown as artist, they whine and gnash their teeth about the suckitude of their first novels. They waste time rewriting those book, or they whine about how they don't have time to rewrite those books. And sometimes, they take what I think is the worst option of all: they remove those early books from the market, essentially making them out-of-print.

*facepalm* (I swear anyone who is a writer has a dominant "whine" gene.)

I've already talked about this issue. More than once. Generally focusing on George Lucas here and here.

To paraphrase the late, great SF&F writer Jay Lake, once you the artist releases your work into the wilds of the public, you don't really own the story anymore. I'm not talking about copyright. I'm saying you can't control the thoughts of the people who read, see, listen to your work. You can't control their opinions of your work.

If you change your work, you are no better than George Lucas. You insult your fans by saying, "I didn't put out my best effort and you're dumbass fools for liking it."

Or even worse, you could lose potential fans by taking your older books off the market. You don't know which work of yours will resonant with the public. Hell, the song John "Cougar" Mellencamp wrote that he hates the most? "Jack and Diane". Yet, it's been his most popular work for the last thirty-five years.

If you think I'm immune from the embarrassment of older works, I'm not. While cleaning out my file cabinet a year ago, I stumbled across the first story I submitted to a magazine back in 1993. Yeah, it sucked, but I saw the glimmer of the writer I would become.

And yesterday, while working on A Modicum of Truth, I pulled up the original version of A Question of Balance from 2013. At the end that year's NaNoWriMo, I was two-thirds into the novel when I realized (okay, Subconscious smacked me upside the head) I was trying to cram three different plots into one book.

I made notes at the time so when I picked up the novel on 2015, I sliced off the extraneous bits. But I saved them for later. One of the bits I sliced off was the original version of the scene where Anthea tried to track Luc after he and Warden Gibb disappeared.

Oh. My. Goddess. The original version sucked so bad! LOL

But what a huge difference two years had made in my skills!

Another two years later, and I'm hoping A Modicum of Truth will be an even better book than A Question of Balance. If it isn't, I seriously need to rethink my life and goals because I should always be improving and growing as a person and as an artist.

After all, isn't that the true nature of the human condition?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Not So Lazy Sunday

After a late Saturday where one neighbor dared to berate other neighbors for having a holiday party (mind you, the guy bitching is the same one who comes home from the bars at 2:30 a..m. with his car stereo cranked to eleven and all the windows down), DH got me up in time for the NFL Pregame show.

Hello, my name is Suzan. I'm a football fanatic. I'm the one who has the Browns game on TV, the Texans game on radio, and the Steelers on the NFL website, only because I can't get DirectTV's NFL package. Satellite dishes are prohibited at our complex.

After all three teams lost, *sigh*, I went to Paneras to write for a few hours. Yes, I could have done that at home, but the temptation of watching the Green Bay-Cincinnati game would have been too great.

I got home in time to make cheeseburgers before Star Trek: Discovery's premiere. I liked it, but not enough to shell out ten bucks a month. Sorry CBS!

After ST:D (and when you write that abbreviation, you have to wonder what the suits at Paramount were thinking), I returned to working on A Modicum of Truth.

A full lazy Sunday would be nice, but I don't think I'm going to get one until after May.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

Listening to Your Subconscious

Yesterday, I mentioned having my Subconscious yelling at me when I was doing something wrong. Here's a concrete example of why I believe we writers should listen to our inner voices.

Did you know the original main characters for my first urban fantasy novel were supposed to be Duncan and Phillippa?

Yep, that's right. Duncan had a bit more of a sense of humor back in the early '00's, and he was Greek, not English. Phil was a vampire, not an Amazon demigoddess. She contemplated a restraining order against him for stalking when he walked into her nightclub, but she knew someone showing up every fifty years or so wouldn't fly with a mortal judge. Alex was Duncan's best buddy, and he was a former Texas Ranger from the beginning. But he was the one Duncan rescued from rogues who'd bit him.

I loved the concept. I loved the characters. Except no matter how I tried, the freakin' story just wouldn't gel.  So I gave myself a break and started toying with a sequel for Alex. A reporter named Samantha learns about him, but for some strange reason he couldn't erase her memory. Neither could Duncan or Phil when Alex told them about her.

That story wouldn't come together either. I was the proverbial frustrated newbie writer. Until Subconscious yanked my attention to her solution through a dream.

The scene in Zombie Love where Duncan and Sam are chased to Phil's antique store? And Sam stabs Sierra Mallory in the chest with a wooden spoon? But Sierra's not dead, and she opens her eyes, Sam literally climbs up Duncan's body trying to get away?

Yeah, I literally woke myself up laughing at that scene/dream.

And once I set Duncan up with Sam and Alex with Phil, the words started to flow like melted chocolate.

By the time everything's said and done next year, I'll have written nine full-length novels, two short novels, and two short stories in the Bloodlines series.

Because I got out of my own way and listened to my Subconscious. She can be a pretty smart bitch when it comes to storytelling. I suggest listening to your Subconscious once in a while, too.

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.