Saturday, June 30, 2018

Friday, June 29, 2018

Writing Tidbit

Dean Wesley Smith posted this video on his own blog because creator Michael La Ronn talked about Dean's book Writing Into the Dark.

For the record, I read Dean's book some time ago. And I pretty much gave up outlining back in 2008 when I wrote Amish, Vamps & Thieves. These days, I do a half-assed combination of plotting and pantsing. As in, I know how/where the story starts, I know how/where the story ends.

The middle stuff? I just start typing and leave it to the characters to figure out how they are getting from Point A to Point Z. It's basically my own weird version of The Amazing Race. LOL

Anyway, I watched Michael's video, and I was intrigued. He has some interesting spiritual/psychological insights beyond Dean's "Just the facts, ma'am" delivery. I ended up subscribing to Michael's YouTube channel to watch the rest of his videos on writing. And I'll probably check out his fantasy novels, too.

So check out Michael's commentary on Writing Into the Dark and see if he can help your process.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Summer Shorts Sampler

I'm not in this promotion, but a couple of writers I know are. Lots of good stories, but I highly recommend Joseph Bradshire's "Fire Flower" and Stuart J. Whitmore's "Wolf Block".

Even better? All the stories in The Summer Shorts Sampler are FREE!

So load up your phone, tablet or e-reader before that Fourth of July roadtrip. This is a great way to try some new-to-you authors!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Monday Movie Mania - Ocean's 8

I finally felt comfortable enough for an extended outing in public, and there are too many movies out in June that DH and I want to see. So the plan is to hit them in the order of their release...

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1) Sandy B. ALWAYS brings it! She was totally believable as Danny's little sister, Debbie.

2) The rest of the cast was charming and delightful in their roles. I just wish there was more interaction between them since most of the scenes were between each actress and Bullock.

3) The plot was frothy summer fun. No death threats or posturing.

4) James Cordon as the insurance investigator was funny as hell. He knows damn well who stole the Cartier necklace, but he doesn't feel the need to wave his wang about it as long as he can recover the goods so his company doesn't have to pay out.

1) Danny's dead!? Look, I didn't expect George Clooney to be in this one, but I was waiting for the reveal that Danny faked his death to get some peace with Tess. Was this Steven Soderbergh's "screw you" to Clooney for not wanting to do a fourth Ocean's movie?

2) I would have loved a little more character building with Debbie's crew. Rihanna's Nine Ball and Awkwafina's Constance in particular were shorted.

3) Really? They had to bring in Yen at the last minute to complete the heist? LAME!

Overall, Ocean's 8 is what I would expect out of a summer heist comedy--fun without a lot of thinking. I give it 8 stars out of 10.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

I'm Still Here!

It's been simultaneously busy and boring since I got out of the hospital.

Bills are starting to roll in just from the initial scans and biopsies from April and the first half of May. Despite having insurance, we're talking several thousand dollars worth of items with deductibles or stuff the asshole insurance company is flat-out refusing to pay for.

For example, United Health Care is trying to say any ultrasound or MRI is an "experimental" procedure. Mind you, lobular carcinoma is notorious for not showing up on x-rays.

So it's a matter for writing letters to challenge the UHC's bullshit. And calling various providers to set up payment plans.

Before anyone makes a comment about why we don't have savings, let me point something out--we did. We'd been saving for a down payment on a house. That's gone now, swallowed in the miasma of cancer treatment costs.

In the meantime, my typing was down to nil, thanks to my Jackson-Pratt drain. When the surgeon takes such a large swath of tissue, like in a mastectomy, fluid collects under the sown-up incision, especially blood and lymph fluids. My drain was a couple of inches beneath my left armpit. Unfortunately, there's no rhyme or reason for how long a person might need to keep the drain in. As my surgeon said, there's no correlation between age, gender, size, or type of surgery.

No worries, right? I could sit in my recliner with my laptop, right?

However, when I tried typing on my wip the second week after my surgery, my left arm would rub against the drain. Think of the type of rubbing of a new shoe that causes a blister on your foot. Within three days, the pain was unbearable. I had to stop. I even tried typing with just my right hand, but I'd get so immersed in the story, I'd start typing with both hands until the pain made me halt.

So I left my laptop on the desk, propped up my left arm, and watched too much TV.

The drainage petered down to where the surgeon felt comfortable pulling the drain on Monday. Yay! Freedom! I could write again without pain. And I did peck out a couple of pages Monday night.

However, my appointment with a oncologist here in town is next Monday, roughly four weeks from my surgery. I'm also looking to get a second opinion from an oncologist in Detroit. I don't know what's going to happen next. Radiation? Chemo? A combo of both? Neither?

Basically, I need to write (type) as much as I can over the next few days before the next step. But to be perfectly blunt, I'm reconsidering reconstruction after all the bullshit with the drains.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday Movie Mania - Gifted

Gifted was a sweet little character piece I missed in the theaters last year in my desperate attempt to get some writing finished. It only lasted in our local cineplex for a couple of weeks. I really should have gone to see it then.

I made a point of recording it during the February free HBO weekend, and finally sat down to watch it. while I was recovering from surgery. This is not a remake of Little Man Tate, though there are a ton of plot similarities.

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1) Chris Evans shows a depth to his acting he normally doesn't reach for in a lot of his other movies. His Frank is not a dumb mechanic. Evans gives Frank a measured nuance of why a former philosophy professor would become a boat repairman for the sake of his niece's humanity.

2) Elizabeth Marvel captured the incredible ego of today's public school officials, where it's never really about the kids, but about punishing the parent/guardian(s) for daring to question the official's methodology or opinion.

3) Lindsay Duncan as Frank's mom/Mary's maternal grandmother Evelyn was perfect as a person who really doesn't get the harm she does to the people around her. (Sending her granddaughter's cat to a kill shelter was low, but Evelyn really didn't get how bad she fucked up.)

4) Mckenna Grace was perfect as Mary. She didn't push the precociousness too far, nor did she come across as unnatural in her emotions. Despite Mary's intellect, she still comes across as a warm, giving child.

1) Octavia Spencer does her usual excellent work, but I wish casting directors and producers would see her as something more than the Mamie role they keep plugging her into.

2) This would still have been a great movie without the gratuitous sex scene between Frank and Bonnie, Mary's public school 1st grade teacher.

Overall, Gifted earns a 9 stars out of 10.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Sweet Cthulu, Am I That Old?

I picked up a couple Def Leppard albums over the weekend because the local oldies station has been playing them a lot.

When did the stuff I listen to become "oldies"?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Monday Movie Mania - Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 is one of those movies that we missed when it was at our local theater. DH was in the middle of soccer season. Not to mention, this was soon after his mom passed, so he was spending a lot of his free time doing  stuff for or with his dad. I didn't dare go without him so I went to Professor Marston and the Wonder Women instead.

But the original is on DH's list of favorites, so he wanted to watch it, and we tried the Amazon Prime rental feature. I was impressed with the ease and the quality of the streaming function.

But this isn't a review about Amazon, and since the movie came out less than a year ago...

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1) The story picks up thirty years after Blade Runner, and the producers and director stayed true to the noir atmosphere of the original movie.

2) I've never been a big fan of Ryan Gosling, but he did a convincing and sympathetic job as the replicant blade runner, K.

3) Robin Wright has really come into her own as an actress. I only wish there had been more of her in the film. Her character hints that she knows more about K than he realizes.

4) The writers add more clues that Deckard is himself an even more advanced replicant than Rachel without actually coming out and saying the truth. (The character figured out the truth in Phillip K. Dick's book , the basis for the original movie, but he retired Rachel to hide that he knew the truth.)

1) Using K the same way Rutger Hauer's Roy Batty was used in the first movie. It was at its heart lazy writing.

2) Taking Deckard off-world to interrogate him makes no sense. It would be a total waste of resources on a dying earth.

3) This story continues the recent trend of movies that set up the protagonist as "The Chosen One" only to yank the rug out from under them. I don't mind the everyperson being the protagonist whose moral compass demands they do the right thing, but I hate the need of writers to trash the protagonist's ego. It's a morality convention the Hollywood seems determined to shove down the throats of the Millenials, to say "Hey, you're not special, no matter what your parents said."

Overall, I give Blade Runner 2049 8 out of 10 stars just for the annoyances in my CONS list.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

New Music I Like

Some beats just work outside of stupid-ass commercials...

Friday, June 8, 2018

Tumors, Tubes and Superheroes

I have breast cancer.

Four words I really never thought I'd say.

The last two months since my annual mammogram have been a whirlwind of tests and doctor visits and raw rage. I had a plan mapped out for releasing eight books this year, and I'm so fucking furious my writing/publishing plan has been blown to hell. However, this isn't the first time cancer has upended my life, though it is the first time I'm on the receiving side.

Jo, one of my writing friends, helped me put together an alternate plan. I keep writing as best I can through the surgeries and treatments, and I don't worry about the production side of things, like editing and formatting until I get through treatment. I don't have to worry about the covers because the lovely Elaina Lee of For the Muse Design already completed them last year, which I'm forever thankful for.

As I write this, it's been ten days since my first surgery, the mastectomy of my left breast. I have Stage II-B lobular invasive carcinoma. While it is the second most common breast cancer, it only affects 10-30% (depending on which literature you read) of diagnosed patients. The five-year survival rate is over 90%, which means I have a damn good prognosis.

When I rolled into the operating room last week, I thought I'd hit acceptance mode. But as I sit here in my recliner, minor irritation is transforming back to rage. My incision site has hit super-itch mode, and my arm rubs against the Jackson-Pratt drain sticking out my side a couple of inches below my very smelly pit.

Which is that way because I can't shave or use antiperspirant right now, and I really can't stand the smell myself, much less want to go out into public. And yes, I am showering.

What does this all mean? When are the books actually coming out?

I'm looking at another four weeks of healing time from the mastectomy. Then comes the radiation and/or chemo. I'm not sure which treatment or combo is likely because the tumor turned out to be larger than what the surgeon and radiologist estimated from the MRIs, the only decent pictures they could get. I haven't talked to the oncologist yet. Worse case scenario is twelve weeks of follow-up treatment, assuming I have no complications from the treatment itself.

There will be another four to six weeks of recovery from the radiation/chemo before the first reconstructive surgery. Four to six weeks of recovery from the first stage before the second reconstructive surgery.

And that takes us roughly to February of 2019 before my life returns to a relatively normal position.

I can hear y'all thinking, "Wait a minute! We have to wait nine months for a new book?"

I don't know if that will be the case. The timeline may be shorter. It may be longer. Despite the mental and emotional bullshit of the last two months, I wrote 42,000 words. I finished the first draft of Hero De Facto, and I'm roughly halfway through Hero Ad Hoc, the first two books of my superhero series. The real question is how much can I get done before chemo brain sets in because that's the real danger to my writing productivity. I can't promise any specific release dates because I can't guarantee what will happen next.

And as they wheeled me into surgery last week, my husband whispered, "You'd better live. You need to finish A Matter of Death."

See? Y'all aren't the only ones ticked with me for leaving A Modicum of Truth on a cliffhanger.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Monday Movie Mania - Straight Outta Compton

This is one of the movies I missed during the chaotic summer of 2015. I recorded it during an HBO free weekend, and I finally had some time to watch it. Since it's been nearly three years from the original release date, I'm skipping my normal SPOILERS warning.

The big thing to remember is NWA talked frankly about the issues of police violence and the depression and suppression of black men long before people started filming and posting the problems on Facebook and YouTube. White establishment politicians and law enforcement did their best to suppress the group, including a smear campaign.

Straight Outta Compton tries to distill the essence of NWA's story. It has been criticized for not being accurate (Arabian Knight, one of the original members, wasn't even mentioned, and MC Ren and DJ Yella's roles were greatly diminished), but you would need a twelve-hour movie for nearly everything, and even then, someone would be upset.

The story mainly focuses of Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube, their rise and fall as NWA, and the subsequent fallout when they part ways.

O'Shea Jackson, Jr., looks and acts like his father Ice Cube so much so it's eerie. Paul Giamotti rocks as always, skimming the line between kindly Jewish grandfather and skeevy manager Jerry Heller.

And contrary to the real Heller's opinion, the movie does not paint him as the sole villain. The real Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E's widow Tomica Woods-Wright apportion the blame for more than a few of their problems on the guys' personal demons.

The movie does try to twist the story into a redemptive arc where the guys come back together shortly before Eazy-E succumbs to complications from AIDS.

From a white fan's point-of-view, the movie was a nostalgic walk through the past. A time when black artists, other than Michael Jackson, couldn't get mainstream attention on MTV, but still got heard through clubs and college stations. A time when rap was a force of societal change. A time when Suge Knight was power in the music industry, not a sad, bankrupt old man with blood clots. A time before Tupac died and Snoop Dogg became a game show host. A time before Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were millionaires and grandfathers.

Damn, I've gotten old.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey got me past the nausea from the MRI tracer. Thanks, guys!

Friday, June 1, 2018

How to Kill Your Writing Career in Five Easy Steps

1) Trademark a single word that isn't even the name of your series.

2) Steal someone else's intellectual property and illegally use it in your trademark.

3) Send your own cease and desist letters over the single word to small-fry authors using the word instead of paying your attorney to do so.

4) Try to avoid the blowback from the C&D letters by sending DCMA notices to Amazon.

5) Piss off the indie writer community by doubling down when you're called on being a trademark troll on said community.

If you're an indie writer, you've heard about Faleena Hopkins and #cockygate by now. One thing I can say about indies is they are a very supportive group.

Unless you decide to be a trademark troll.

We artists get enough of this shit from big corporations who think we can't fight back. Not long ago, MCA Hogarth was attacked by Games Workshop over the generic sf term "space marine". So when one our own does something stupid, our reactions range from Jenny Trout's WTF Faleena! to Cassie Sharp's Sweetie, you need to get some real friends.

Others actually took action. Some authors like Jamila Jasper went public with the letter she received. Jamila then used #cockygate to promote her renamed book. RWA contacted Amazon about the issue as a blatant attack on their membership. Several members then created a "cocky" anthology to help with the attorney fees (the book was released on Saturday, May 26th). Then there's writer/attorney Kevin Kneupper, who filed to cancel Faleena's trademark.

All this happened before I started writing this post. A death in the family last week  meant I came back to finish it five days later. And even more shit had happened.

Faleena stupidly thought filing a personal injury lawsuit against Kevin, Tara Crescent, and Jennifer Watson would make things go away. Mark Marcotte, a lawyer whose case is cited in Faleena's lawsuit as precedent, says Faleena's lawyer badly misstates his case (@markmarcotte on Twitter).

My favorite part was Faleena claiming she called Carol Ritter of RWA on May 16th and was pissed that Carol referred the call to RWA's counsel. Umm, if your already threatening to file lawsuits against people left and right, why on earth would anyone trust you to just talk?

There was a damn good reason Ms. Ritter didn't talk to Faleena. The cocky indie writer lost on her attempt at a Temporary Restraining Order last Friday on the Cocktales anthology. The Preliminary Injunction will be heard this morning.

The good thing to come out of this mess is that more writers are paying attentiion to trademark and copyright listings and trying to understand their rights and responsibilities. I'm not saying trademarks are a bad thing. If Faleena had trademarked the actual name of her series, instead of ripping off Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward's cover style and title, this would be an entirely different matter.

The bad thing is we have more idiots who don't understand, don't care, or just want to troll other authors in an effort to eliminate what they perceive as the competition.

I'll say this one more time: people can read more than we can write as individuals no matter how speedy we are. It's not a zero sum game. And if you need tricks to "win", maybe you're a sucky writer, and you should focus more on your craft to win the readers over.

- Angry Sheep, stepping off her soapbox.