Saturday, September 29, 2018

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Hitting the Stratosphere Can Suck

During an interview on a late night talk show, Matt Damon told a story. His friend Brad Pitt told Matt he hated him because Matt could take his kids to a public school like any other parent in the U.S. Meanwhile, Brad had to deal with a ton of paparazzi following him and his kids everywhere, and he didn't have any real choice about putting his children into private schools.

I'm starting to see the same types of issues with author friends and acquaintances. Not that paparazzi follows writers around, but your problems change at a certain level of success.

Whereas some writers are making a living, and by living I mean they can pay for a roof over their heads, food on the table, and clothes on their kids backs, others can have their private yacht custom built a la Hugh Howey. This level of money starts a cascade of new problems.

First and foremost is raw professional jealousy from your friends. I've been accused of it, and I've seen it in attitudes aimed toward me. Those people generally don't remain friends for long.

It's a little sad to lose people from your life over something like this. I've been helped by a lot of people. There are some who expected me to kiss their ass forever. There are those who get furious if I exceeded their success. And there are those who have told me to pay it forward to new writers. I really try to emulate that last group.

Then there's family and other relationships, both people you currently hang out with and those you've lost contact with over the years. Funny how these people come crawling out of the woodwork when they hear of your good fortune, often with their hands outstretched for gifts. When you don't give them those gifts they think they deserve, they turn on you.

Or you're back to the same old jealousy issue. Nothing like your mother making snide comments about your spending.

So you start pruning the toxic relationships. The more successful you are, the more you have to prune, and the more isolated you can feel.

On the other hand, you find you need to censor yourself when you're the successful one. How can you talk about the pros and cons of a Boeing jet versus a Cessna jet when your buddy is trying to scrape together the cash to get the transmission replaced on her only car. Then you feel like a fake.

Deep down, I think that's the real fear for most writers. It's not the fear of failure. It's the fear of success.

Success changes everything. The struggle to achieve is easier to deal with than reaching that goal. Because once you reach that goal, you expect things to change.

And we humans hate change with a passion that cannot be matched.

It may sound like I'm blaming the victim, but I've watched a lot of writers sabotage themselves. Hell, I've done it to myself. Because I've already had success in other areas of my life, and I've seen what happens.

Success is lonely. We can't talk about it without setting people off. And next to change, we hate loneliness most of all.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Yes! I Write My Own Damn Posts!

I don't know who my accuser is, but lately, someone has been scanning my blog posts with PlagScan. I don't know if someone thinks I'm stealing from them or what.

If I talk about another blogger or article, I normally post a link to the original piece.

If I don't have a link, I list an attribution.

If I don't list an attribution, I state a reason why. Generally, it involves a bad actor, and I don't want to give the jackass any more attention. But hey, I generally leave enough clues for you to find the idiot if you really want to.

So to whoever is checking on me, quit it! You're fucking with my stats. You didn't find anything with the first three hundred posts. You're not going to find anything in the other 1500+ posts.

But hey, if you feel the need to check, speed it up! You're annoying me.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Happy 90th Anniversary, Disney!

Yes, I will be posting my favorite Disney tunes from now until Halloween!

Hakuna Matata!

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Implosion of KBoards

If you're an indie writer and haven't heard the news about KBoards, well, go back to your writing. Trust me, you're in a better place.

For the rest of us, I can't even call the KBoards fiasco a train wreck. No, it's more akin to watching a sun swallowed itself to become a black hole.

It comes down to a typical solution by Mom&Pop shops when the original founder leaves the business for whatever reason. The gentleman who originally founded Kboards passed away. His spouse and children had no interest in continuing his work.

And let's be frank, running ANY forum is a huge, thankless job.

So the family decided to sell KBoards to a company called VerticalScope (VS), which is a division of Torstar. You might remember Torstar as the former parent of Harlequin Publishing. You know, the same Harlequin that ended up in a huge lawsuit for screwing writers out of money.

Now, if I were a suspicious person, or someone who wrote thrillers, I would think that Torstar was behind the buyout because indies seriously screwed up Harlequin's profits in the romance genre. You got to remember Harlequin was Torstar's main bread-and-butter for years until they sold the Harlequin division to HarperCollins in 2014.

Alas, the real answer is far more sleazy and less personal. VS specializes in buying forums for their SEO, drives away the users, and slaps a shit-ton of ads on the website to generate revenue. They inserted a TOS that alarmed many of the writers who use KBoards to share publishing information with some terms that allegedly claimed rights to the content they posted, including covers and excerpts.

Matters weren't helped when someone from VS named Helena jumped on and did absolutely nothing to calm the situation or answer questions. The flame war quickly became a five-alarm dumpster fire with the unpaid moderators caught in the middle when Helena accused anyone questioning VS procedures of being trolls.

Writers tried to remove content only to find out they couldn't. However, they could modify their posts. The Writers Café on KBoards now looks like a ghost town.

I'm not linking to KBoards because I honestly don't want to give VS the clicks. But y'all can find it if you wish. Writers are already making alternate arrangements for online gathering places.

I'm a little sad that so much research and knowledge is disappearing, but it's more from a historical perspective. As someone on KBoards said, things are changing so fast in publishing that many past insights are no longer relevant.

So, goodbye KBoards! You did not go quietly into that good night.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Drifting Like the Leaves

It's been a rather bizarre week. I'm a little stuck on Book 3 of 888-555-HEROES. When that happens, it means Subconscious is working on something in the background that will click together when she's damn good and ready.

The story already took a turn I wasn't expecting, but that is usually a good thing. I like it when Subconscious surprises even me. It means (hopefully *fingers crossed*) that the story will surprise the reader as well.

In the meantime, I do what I usually do--jump back to another project. I started writing A Touch of Mother, which will be the fourth novel in the Justice series. The opening of the first scene was a little mushy for a Justice novel, so I scrapped the original 300+ words and started over. Yes, folks, you CAN do that.

But it also shows how much further along Subconscious is in the writing process than I realized. In the first version of AToM, I knew the wardens weren't letting the clergy out of their sight for a moment. This was long before I wrote the reason WHY in A Modicum of Truth.

Funny how the mind works sometimes.

Today, I'm back working on A Matter of Death. There's more than a few things that need to be ironed out before I continue on with Book 4.

The goal of course is to have a book out every month for the first eight months of 2019. Keeping my toes crossed that nothing else untoward happens for the next year!

Monday, September 17, 2018

No Movies?!

Nope, no new (to me) movie reviews this week. I've been trying to catch up on my summer shows before the fall TV season starts in between writing sessions.

Over the weekend, a friend and I were lamenting over the dearth of movies we like in the fall season. I miss the paranormal action flicks like Underworld. He wondered why no hard science fiction movies were coming out, a la Interstellar or Gravity.

The only thing remotely interesting to me before the holiday blockbuster season launches is The Predator, yet another reboot. My desire to see it stems from the cast. Sterling K. Brown can do no wrong in my opinion. Though most people know him from This Is Us, he will always be Gordon Walker, the misguided, doomed hunter from Supernatural.

Is anybody else feeling like everything is a rehash? Is there some new flick you're looking forward to between now and November?

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Kid Earworms

I think I like this better than Barney!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

No More Superman?

Apparently chaos still reigns at Warner Brothers Studios. Any sequel to the Superman solo movie Man of Steel has been put on hold.

The reason why Marvel is blowing their competition out of the water is simple--one person, i.e. Kevin Feige, is the sole visionary behind the company's success. It's huge, stressful job. One I do not envy.

But by keeping to a singular vision, Marvel's quality has been consistent while giving individual directors creative leeway, and the studio keeps raking in the dough.

On the other hand, Warner Brothers' efforts in creating the DCEU aren't working as well as they would like. Why? Two reasons: too many cooks in the production room and Zack Snyder's dark nihilistic vision of characters that Gen X parents remember best from the Superfriends cartoon series and Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-Zack Snyder. Sucker Punch is one of my favorite movies. But he wasn't the person to launch the DCEU.

As much as I dislike Man of Steel, Henry Caville has grown on me as Superman, kind of like that huge caterpillar under his nose that had to be CGI'd out of Justice League. I was hoping to see him as the Big Blue Boy Scout one more time.

And I'm doubly sad that Warner Brothers can do such a great job with their animated movies and their TV series, but can't get their shit together with their live action movies. DC has a long and storied history. It's a shame their owners are unable to respect that.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Monday Movie Mania - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Another movie we caught on an HBO free weekend was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This isn't one we wanted to see in the theater. In fact, we all agreed it would probably be disappointing compared to J.K. Rowling's original Harry Potter series.

We were so very wrong.

Since this movie was released nearly two years ago, I'm skipping my usual SPOILERS warning.

First, I should have researched this film more before passing judgment while it was still in the theaters. Rowling wrote both the story and screenplay, a fact I didn't bother to learn. As the Wizarding World's creator, she knows it better than anyone. We all assumed the film was a cash-grab by Warner Bros.

Second, I should have trusted Eddie Redmayne's choice of taking the role of Newt Scamander. Whatever you say about Eddie, you can never say his acting is boring. Hell, his character was one of the few interesting things about Jupiter Ascending.

The story is based on the adventures Newt has while writing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a magizoology textbook used at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter series. The dark wizard Grindelwald, a character mentioned as a former friend turned foe of Hogwart's headmaster Albus Dunbledore, is also introduced in this film.

The movie is set in 1927 New York City, where Newt is passing through on his way to Arizona. It gives fans their first glimpse of magical life in the United States. Let's just say the story accurately reflects America's segregationist policies and attitudes toward mental illness, and the image isn't pretty. However, Rowling does revelations in such a way that it won't scare the bejeesus out of the little kids even as it disturbs the hell out of the adults.

Overall, the deeper themes of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them shows Rowling's growth as a writer while at the same time, it mimics the charm of the Harry Potter stories. We're definitely looking forward to the sequel this Christmas!

I give it 10 stars out of 10.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Discord Is Music Too

Something to contemplate over the weekend.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Amazon Took Scammer to Court and Won!

If the recent account banning didn't stun scammers, maybe Amazon's lawsuit will make them think twice.

Last year, Amazon filed five arbitration demands against various people, accusing them of fraudulent behavior in the KDP biosphere. Such behaviors include fake reviews, paid reviews, fake accounts, and click-farming.

Amazon is usually rather quiet in its legal dealings, but last week, they filed a petition to confirm an arbitration award. They accused Thomas Glenn of manipulating book rankings through his marketing service. Glenn, a resident of the Dominican Republic, never answered the original claims against him, not did he appear at the arbitration proceedings.

What does this mean to Average Jane Writer?

First of all, don't buy reviews. Don't use click farms to increase page reads. Don't gift thousands of books in an attempt to hit some bestseller list.

Be very, VERY careful if you hire any outside marketing person or company. Ask questions of the people/company you're considering. Ask a LOT of questions. If they get pissy with you or refuse to answer your questions or give you bullshit answers, don't walk away. RUN!

Or as one of Sheldon's previous roommates said, "Run far. Run fast."

And if you do decide to do one of these things, ask yourself if it's worth losing your Amazon account or your writing career.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Flickers of Flame and Color

August in publishing and book retailing is generally pretty quiet. New York publishing notoriously shuts down for the month as folks head for the Hamptons if they can afford it, or try to find a cool breeze if they can't. Readers already have their last vacation reads or are dealing with kids going back to school, so sales slump.

September though...

September is when the trad publishers launch their big book/Christmas gift full-court press. Usually, they wait until after Labor Day, but not this year.

Libbie Hawker, writing as Olivia Hawker, had her fall release The Ragged Edge of Night moved up to September 1st. She's an adorable person who  writes historical fiction (I've raved about her Hatshepsut series before). This is a tale of loss, love, and sacrifice during WWII. It's an awesome read!

As an indie, I normally don't publish a whole lot during the fall months. Well, except for October, but that's more my ego concerning my birthday month. LOL

But generally speaking, I find my books get lost in the noise of the New Hallowthanksmas (a phrase coined by my former Hallmark co-workers in Houston) season. So no more publishing for 2018. Instead, I'll be writing and editing in order to hit the ground running in 2019.

And for once this year, I'm happy to be making a publishing decision based on business and not my health!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Monday Movie Mania - The Hateful Eight

First of all, let me say I'm a Quentin Tarantino fan. If you find him and/or his work offensive, you might want to leave my blog now.

The Hateful Eight came out during the insanity of 2015, so it took me a while to see it. Once again, I had to rely on an HBO weekend to see something I really wanted to see in the theater. FYI--this review is for the general release version, not the roadshow version.

Since this came out nearly three years ago, I won't give my usual SPOILERS warning.

Once again, no one is totally innocent in Tarantino's story. I wouldn't expect anything otherwise. But he normally gives us something redeeming about one or two characters.

This time however, no one has any redeeming features. These are a bunch of bad people trapped in a stagecoach stop in the middle of a blizzard. They proceed to prove just how bad they are.

But in typical Tarantino fashion, the surface is stripped away to display what's underneath, and in every case, it's a weird blend of righteousness and ugliness. Sheriff Mannix, whose father was a Lost Causer fighting long after the end of the Civil War, and Major Warren, a bounty hunter who had been a Union cavalryman, end up partners at the end in an effort to save their own lives.

One thing I loved about the movie was the treatment of accused murderer Daisy Domergue. It was refreshing to see a woman treated just as a man would have been in the same situation. She remains fully clothed. She's never sexualized, nor is it even hinted. Her brother is coming to rescue her, a la many a Bonanza episode in this type of hostage western storyline. Everyone asks each other what he thinks of hanging a woman versus a man. All the men, except her brother, merely shrugs and says it makes no difference to them since she's a killer.

All-in-all, the other characters treat her like one of the boys.

I think my disappointment lies in that only Daisy's brother Jody had a remotely noble goal. Generally, Tarantino gives us one or two characters whose goals the viewer can empathize with, even if they perform some heinous acts. In this case, no one gets out of the movie alive.

Frankly, I'm not sure why Tarantino made this story a movie. The Hateful Eight could have easily been a stage play since most of the action takes place in the snowbound station. It's not my favorite Tarantino movie, but it has an understandable end, similar to Se7en.

Overall, I give The Hateful Eight 7 stars out of 10.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Music I've Been Listening to Lately

A haunting song that has been used most recently on Marvel's Cloak and Dagger series...