Monday, July 30, 2018

Monday Movie Mania - Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again picks up five years after the original film. The entire cast is back (yes, I do mean the entire cast), plus six new faces who portray Donna, Tanya, Rosie, Sam, Bill, and Harry in their younger years, with plum cameos by Andy Garcia and Cher.

The story flips back and forth as Sophie prepares for the grand re-opening of the Hotel Bella Donna with the story of how Donna met Sophie's fathers and ended up on the island of Kalokairi.

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1) ABBA's music of course.

2) Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson's cameos.

3) Jessica Keenan Wynn as young Tanya had Christine Baranski down cold!

4) Hugh Skinner as young Harry was freakin' hysterical!

5) Omid Djalili as a Greek customs official who just can't get Harry's attention no matter how hard he tries.

6) Stellan Skarsgard in a fat suit!

1) Bring a box of tissues with you.

Overall, I give Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again a solid 8 stars out of 10.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Friday, July 27, 2018

Word of Mouth Takes Forever But It's Worth It

Last year, CBS finally debuted its new Star Trek series. They refused to hire anyone formerly associated with the franchise. The first showrunner left over creative differences with CBS management. The show was a year late coming to market. It was over budget. The namesake ship looked like it had been made with parts from the old Enterprise and Romulan Warbird kits from the '70's and then spray-painted gold.

Instead of running it on the CBS network, the execs decided it would be the centerpiece of their new streaming service. They advertised the hell out of it. After a long casting process, they hired Sonequa Martin-Green, formerly Sasha of The Walking Dead, as the star which many considered a plus. Michelle Yeoh was cast as the captain.

With well-known actors, a familiar franchise, and all that marketing, Star Trek: Discovery should have been a success. Right?

Meanwhile, Fox finally gave in to Seth McFarlane's whining and begging about wanting a hour-long, live-action series. The guys at Fox hate science fiction. I mean, how many SF series have they canceled? Firefly. Almost Human. They wanted to kill The X-Files early on, but it made too damn much money.

But right now, Fox can't afford to lose McFarlane's animated series. So the execs thought, "Hey! Let's make McFarlane happy, do the series, fuck up the marketing, the series tanks, and then he'll shut the fuck up and get back to working on Family Guy."

Except Seth knew in his heart-of-hearts he wanted to do Star Trek, but he also knew he would never be allowed to touch the franchise. So he created a fan-fiction love letter. One that was more Star Trek than the official Star Trek series launched at the same time. In theory, it should have failed. Right?

Last fall, the friends who knew I love Star Trek asked if I'd watched Discovery. Some thought I'd automatically defend it. I couldn't. As much as I love both Sonequa and Michelle, for they are superb actresses, I couldn't get past the grimness, the alteration to Spock's family tree, and the fact that the main character would commit mutiny so bad it resulted in war.

During that same time period, friends. who loved Star Trek and knew I loved Star Trek, asked if I'd seen The Orville. We all agreed it was the closest thing to Gene Rodenberry's original "stated*" intention, and we all fucking LOVED it!

Apparently, we weren't the only ones loving The Orville.

Discovery started strong out of the gate with its broadcast premiere. Comparatively, The Orville's initial ratings sank because many folks tuned in thinking it was a raunchy comedy along the lines of Seth's animated series or movies such as Ted thanks to Fox's crappy marketing plan. However word-of-mouth stabilized its ratings to a respectable level considering it was up against Thursday Night Football and CBS's comedy power block.

Despite CBS's claim of huge viewership on their streaming network, those numbers can't be verified beyond its one-hour broadcast premiere. Many questions abounded, especially since Discovery showrunner Alex Kurtzman announced a happier, fun-time second season with old characters Captain Christopher Pike, Number One, and Spock coming on board during the San Diego Comicon. Furthermore, the second season isn't scheduled to start until January of 2019, about the same time as the second season of The Orville.

If Star Trek: Discovery is doing so fucking great, why the changes and why the attempt at direct competition with The Orville?

But the main point I'm trying to make is you can have the best franchise name, the best packaging, and the best marketing and still fail if you aren't giving people what they want. On the other hand, you can totally fuck up your marketing, but you will eventually find your fans. Or your current fans will tell their friends, aka your potential fans, how fucking great your book is.

So settle down in your marketing freak-outs. If you've got a good product, your fans will find you. But it will go much easier if you have an appropriate cover and your marketing accurately reflects your genre.

In the meantime, the second season of The Orville premieres December 30th on your local Fox station!

* The word "stated" is in quotes because what Gene said and what he did were two different things. He was definitely more forward thinking than many of his contemporaries, but he still held on to some old-fashioned ideas about male-female relations. The dichotomy shows in ST:TOS, ST:TAS and the first season of ST:TNG. And you know something, that's okay. Especially when The Orville does an excellent job of exceeding Gene's ideals.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Is #Cockygate Over?

1914 hardcover edition
Yesterday, the internet (or at least the writer circles I frequent) was abuzz with the news that Faleena Hopkins had settled with Jennifer Watson and Tara Crescent over the ill-advised trademarking of the word "cocky".

According to an article last night on the Inquisitr website, part of the settlement includes Hopkins' withdrawal of her trademark. However, the trademark is still listed on the USTPO website as of this writing. Given the speed of the federal government, it may be days or weeks before we know for sure that #cockygate has ended.

Or has it?

1997 mass market paperback edition
Recently, author Michael Scott Earle not only filed for a trademark on the common fantasy term "dragon slayer", but he also filed a trademark for a certain styling of a cover where the title and series name are at the top, the author name is at the bottom, and a human is holding a weapon. This style of cover has been in use for over a century. Boing Boing has a couple of articles about the matter, but my browser wants to hang up every time I try to access them.

An even more interesting question is whether defending the trademark applications are worth it to Earle. Earlier this summer, his books disappeared from Amazon, lock-stock-and-barrel, during the recent purge of authors who allegedly broke the Amazon TOS by using black-hat and gray-hat marketing tricks.

[Edit to add: Earle has apparently abandoned the attempt to trademark the cover style in question.

However, if you want to file a protest on his application to trademark the term "dragon slayer" (which you should do if you ever want to write books about dragon slayers in the future), here's some tips on writing a letter of protest to the US Patent and Trademark Office.]

Monday, July 23, 2018

Monday Movie Mania - Ant-man and the Wasp

Our story picks up two years after the events in Captain America: Civil War. Scott has three days left in his house arrest for his part in helping the Winter Soldier escape. Meanwhile Hank and Hope are on the run for providing Scott his Ant-man suit while trying to recreate Scott's entry and return from the quantum realm in a desperate attempt to find and save Janet.

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1) The entire cast is back! (Well, everyone except Yellowjacket since he bought a one-way ticket to hell in Ant-man.)

2) The Wasp gets equal billing, and she shows just how dangerous her sting can be.

3) While Goliath didn't technically make an appearance, I was ecstatic Bill Foster made an appearance since he was the Goliath I grew up with.

4) Michelle Pfieffer was perfect as Janet Van Dyne-Pym!

5)The revised Ghost was a sympathetic character who Bill saved in soul long before the team saved her life; this went a longer ways in cementing the positive family vibe of the Ant-Man franchise than Janet's rescue.

6) The film neatly ties into Avengers: Infinity War, and a possible solution to Thanos, with the mid-credits scene. It also manages to give Hawkeye a damn good reason for not appearing in A:IW too.

1) Some the visual special effects gave me a headache.

2) The joke of Scott being the size of child was dragged on a little too long.

Overall, I give Ant-Man and the Wasp 9 stars out of 10.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Verge's Bad Romance

The Verge had an interesting article on Monday that summarizes the issues with the recent kerfluffles in the romance community.

I've spoken a little about #cockygate (here) as well as #tiffanygate (here) in between all my tests and doctor's visits.

I get wanting to make a buck. I don't object to making a buck.

Nor do I object to properly trademarking your SERIES name or a man writing romance.

But as a former attorney myself, I have a serious problem with using the law as a weapon to prevent competition as in Faleena Hopkins's case. I have an even bigger problem with Chance Carter's bizarre sex cult of personality shtick.

However, the absolute worst to me is Amazon out-and-out lying about their ability to track page reads in the KU program. With little authors like me testing the system, we know damn well they can't! It's one of the reasons I dropped out of KU a year ago. The only way I could make money through Amazon alone was by joining the Dark Side.

Frankly, I did better in Barnes & Noble and the iTunes store anyway so it wasn't worth the spiffy red lightsabre or the black robes.

Would I like to make millions of dollars? Hell, yeah! But not at the expense of writing. Because I have as much fun writing these stories as you all do reading them.

And I can live with that.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday Movie Mania - The Bookclub

I have no girlfriends in the town where I'm currently living. And while DH is pretty tolerant of most of my movie peccadillos, he draws the line at anything remotely close to women's fiction.

The Bookclub is a little gem of a flick that doesn't just hit the proverbial nail when it comes to the trials and tribulations of middle-aged women in America. It disintegrates the nail with the might of Mjolnir.

Even more impressive is The Bookclub has lasted in our little cinema for nearly two months. Long after some of this year's blockbusters have disappeared.

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1) The cast is superb!

2) It's rare for any movie these days to touch on the lives of older women. As an older woman, I can say each woman's story hits very close to home. Especially after a conversation I had with my friend in Nashville about what we'd do if something happened to our husbands.

3) The device of the Fifty Shades trilogy was actually humorous, not icky. The books were the macguffins to get the protagonists to evaluate their life choices.

4) I love the main theme--just because you're old doesn't mean you're dead.

5) Not everyone had a perfect HEA, but all the endings were satisfying.

1) The pacing could have been better. Overall, it was jerky, and the middle seriously sagged.

Overall, I would give The Bookclub 8 stars out of 10.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Indie Publishing Music Playlist

A long time ago . . . well, seven years ago, I put together a positive, in-your-face playlist to perk me up when people were trying to drag down the indie publishing movement.

Now, I need a little pick-me-up as I try to tackle my 2018 schedule that got blown to hell with the cancer. So here we go...

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Amazon on the Warpath or a Different Type of Conflict Diamond

While I was recovering from surgery over the past six weeks, Amazon cracked down on a few people scamming their Kindle Unlimited (KU) service.

(For those new to the world of indie publishing, a publisher can place their books in the Kindle Select program. While this gives the publisher access to special promotions, the books must be exclusive to Amazon and are automatically enrolled in KU. Readers pay $9.99 a month for KU, and they can read as many books as they wish within the program.)

From the advent of indie publishing, people have tried to con Amazon and/or readers. Private label rights was a big issue right from the beginning. Amazon yanked that crap pretty damn quick.

Since the start of KU, folks have been gaming the system to make the most bucks possible. Now, I don't have a problem with people making a buck or two. But I prefer doing it by writing an entertaining story that people want to read. Not by cheating readers, or retailers, out of their hard-earned money.

During the first iteration of KU (referred to as KU 1.0 by most indie writers), Amazon paid the publisher the full retail price once the customer read 10% of the book. Indie writers quickly figured out shorter works hit the threshold faster, triggering the payout sooner. Which meant a lot of short scenes that didn't even qualify as flash fiction were published on KU and irritated the hell out of readers.

Within a year, Amazon ditched the first version of KU for KU 2.0, a system that allegedly counted the number of pages read. Oh, the howls of outrage from the short story writers.

Until they figured out that Amazon COULDN'T actually count the number of pages the customer read. The number of cons to get the maximum amount of money by getting the readers to click to the end of the books exploded. Hell, I'm not even going to try to list them all here.

But Amazon couldn't ignore one major scam any longer. To do so would make them internationally liable.

It has to do with sweepstakes-style contests. Many countries have very strict laws governing these type of contests. In many more, these contests are very illegal. And since entrance was through Amazon's online store, they could/would be held equally guilty as the indie publisher.

A few indie writers went too far. It's one thing to offer a free e-book when a customer signs up for your newsletter. It's another when a indie writer offers to give away diamonds.


Yeah, the diamond trade is pretty heavily regulated on an international level. I don't know what this author was thinking.

Or he wasn't thinking. He just wanted his readers to make money for him by clicking to the end of his books.

Amazon pulled everything he had down: e-books, print books, and audio books. All that potential income--gone. Just because someone got greedy.

So when someone offers you a sure-fire way of making thousands of dollars through e-book publishing, think twice, do your research, and read the terms of service on the retailer's webpage.

Because screwing people over may not bite you in the ass today or tomorrow, but one day, Karma will and she'll take a bigger chunk than a megalodon.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Monday Movie Mania - The Incredibles 2

After fourteen years, we finally have the sequel to what I think is the best Pixar movie next to Up! And the theater staff didn't give us the wrong  tickets this time!

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1) I2 focuses on Helen Parr/Elastigirl (much to the excitement of the little girl sitting in front of us at the theater). But it's not just about the superheroics. It's about the jobs a parent will take when their kids are homeless.

2) On the other hand, Bob/Mr. Incredible deals with the issues of the role of men in our culture. At first, he's angry and hurt that his wife is tapped to be the PR example for the possible return of the supers. But he finds his parenting skills as the stay-at-home dad without losing his identity of what it means to be a man.

3) Like the original, the sequel emphasizes the qualities of family and working together.

4) The subtle dig at the need for representation. Void's fangirling of Elastigirl onscreen mirrored the young movie girl sitting in front of me. We all need to see someone like us, someone who shows us how to be our best selves.

5) Edna's bounding with Jack-Jack was too freakin' adorable.

1) Not enough Edna!

The Incredibles 2 lived up to its original and expanded on its themes. Overall, I give it 10 stars out of 10.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Monday Movie Mania - Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

DH and I intended to see The Incredibles 2. I asked for tickets for The Incredibles 2. But I only glanced at the theater number and not the title on my actual ticket.

We found seats in a very packed audience. The lights went down, but the logo for Universal Studios rolled across the big screen instead of the Disney and Pixar logos. DH and I looked at each other. He shrugged and said, "Well, we were planning to see this next week." So we stayed.

After the movie, I check our stubs and receipts. It wasn't just the movie that was screwed up. So we asked to see the theater manager. I was polite, listed the issues, and merely suggested that the girl who waited on us seemed overwhelmed and might need some additional training.

I give the manager props. She went above and beyond to make everything right. In fact, she refunded our tickets, even they both DH and I emphasized we'd planned to see Jurassic World 2 the following week anyway. So, many kudos to the manager.

Which bring me to the movie itself...

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1) Ummm...dinosaurs?

1) A world-class cast totally wasted trying to work with a redundant, repetitive, uninteresting script.

2) That's not even taking into account the total lack of character development. The previous four movies at least made a token effort.

3) You're going to figure out the one twist with the introduction of that character.

4) Making female characters dumber than a box of rocks. I thought we'd gotten past that. Or was this backlash to #METOO?

5) We've reached the limit when Spielberg and crew make DINOSAURS BORING!

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is one of those movies we would watch when there's nothing better to do on a cold, snowy January night, and it shows up on Netflix, FX, or TNT. Actually, I'd probably watch it for a few minutes before popping in Guardians of the Galaxy if I was in that much of a Chris Pratt mood. So, I guess it's a good thing we ended up watching it for free.

Overall, I give Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom 3 stars out of 10. And those 3 stars are for Scar the T-rex's scenes.