I write like
Jack London

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Dazed and Editing

I've been editing this week. Mostly A Modicum of Truth, but last night, I needed to get out of the apartment for a bit. And when I'm out at a coffee shop, my mind is geared on new writing.

I'm attempting to stick to my writing plan. My original plan of releasing the three superhero books on the same day in late April (right before the release of the next Avengers movie) wasn't going to help kickstart the sales algorithms on Amazon. Too much has changed on their website in the last three years. I took a hard look at what's completed, where I was on the uncompleted projects, and how to maximize my releases.

The next project to finish is the first draft of is Hero De Facto. Except I haven't really looked at the story as a whole in nearly three years.

Sure, I went back and read the first couple of chapters and the last one in order to get back into Harri and Aisha's heads last November to get a jump start on Hero Ad Hoc over NaNoWriMo. But Hero De Facto still needed to be finished itself. So last night while eating some excellent turkey chili, I started reading and editing to get back into the flow of the novel.

I'd forgotten how close this book was to being completed. I forgot how funny and delightful it was. I only got a hair over 600 new words in (pretty low for three hours of concentrated work), but dammit, I had fun.

And it makes me want to get the edits done on A Modicum of Truth and Sacrificed so I can go back to the Hero series and have some more fun.

That's what I love about this job. It's so damn fun!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday Movie Mania - Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Not to speak ill of the dead, but this version of Jumanji was way better than the Robin Williams version. I'm not sure I like this one better because the majority of the chaos is kept inside the game itself, or if it's because everyone playing the game retained their memories in this version.

The writers treat Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle as a sequel to the 1995 version. It literally starts where the last one left off, with the board game partially buried in the sand on a beach. It's found by Alex's dad, who brings is home for him.

Alex is too absorbed in his video games to care, so the game transforms itself into a game cartridge to entice Alex. And so the movie begins pretty much like the 1995 movie...

I debated about putting a SPOILERS warning. The new version follows a similar formula as the 1995 version, but there's enough twists, I don't want to ruin it for you either.


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) While Jack Black as popular, blond Bethany's game avatar is played for gender-bent laughs, Jack actually brings a sweet, sensitive touch to his role.

2) Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart carry through with the same comedic timing and chemistry they displayed in Central Intelligence.

3) When I heard Nick Jonas was in this, I thought "???" The kid actually did a wonderful job as Alex's avatar. Especially, his honest emotional reaction when he learns from the other players he's been trapped in the game for twenty-two years.

4) Karen Gillan can do no wrong. As the avatar of the geeky Martha, watching her try to distract the bad guys was hysterical. (And she appropriately savaged the insanity of her wearing nothing in the jungle.)

5) The little callbacks to the 1995 version were sweet, especially Alex living in the hut that Alan (Robin Williams) had built decades ago.

6) Colin Hanks as adult Alex was adorable. He named his daughter "Bethany, after the girl who saved my life".


CONS
1) Ummmmm......uhhhhhh......I really can't think of anything. The writing was tight, the performance were wonderful, and the film captured the Bugs Bunny insanity of '90's videos games.


Overall, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle earned its 10 out of 10 stars!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Best Bits of The Big Bang Theory

Finding common ground with someone you hang with all the time but don't know very well.


Friday, January 12, 2018

How Do You Decide How Long a Series Should Be?

DH asked me that question the other night in bed. I'd finished the first draft of A Modicum of Truth Wednesday evening, and I mentioned I got the inspiration for the starting scene of what will be Book 4 in the Justice series.

I know a lot of indie writers are very concerned about the optimal length of a series. This is my opinion, and mine alone: As long as I'm having fun writing a series, I'll keep going.

But there's another thing that's personal to me as well: I go in knowing how the series will end.

Seriously, I have to know where my characters end up before I start writing. I may not know how they get from Point A to Point Z, but I start a project knowing exactly where Point A and Point Z are for the primary character.

I'd give specific examples from my work, but I don't want to spoil things for people who haven't read my one completed series, nor do I want to spoil things for the books that aren't out yet.

So let's use a best-selling author: J.K. Rowling.

Her character, Harry Potter, has a traditional hero's journey. He beats the bad guy who's been out to kill him since he was born. Ms. Rowling does this through the typical years of adolescence in a U.K.-style boarding school, from age 11 through age 17, i.e. seven books.

Each book had a standalone story while each volume carried the primary story forward. Even better, the ending is a call back to the beginning. Rowling had a final scene that many thought unnecessary, but was in fact quite essential. The book ends with Harry's son Severus on his way to Hogwarts for the first time. It's  shows everything in their world is okay and Severus won't face the same terror and danger Harry had.

The extended storyline is the model I prefer, but it is a personal preference because I need an ending, both as a reader and a writer. And because of the ending, you would have a fairly good idea how many books will be in the series.

That doesn't mean there's a magic number. Rowling planned seven books in her Harry Potter series. I planned nine books in the Bloodlines series.

That doesn't mean you can't add or subtract if things are working/not working. I added a few shorter working to the Bloodlines series because I was having too much fun with the characters.

On the other hand, you could have a series whose main character doesn't really change over the course of the books. Each book is therefore essentially a standalone story. Readers can jump in any time.

The late Sue Grafton's Alphabet mystery series is a good example. Private investigator Kinsey Milhouse changes very little through the course of twenty-five books. Some readers like that consistency. And there's nothing to stop a writer from going for ten, twenty-five, or even an hundred books, a la Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

A major problem to watch out for--some writers keep going because the money is so good they (and/or their publisher) are afraid to stop. As much as I loved Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Mysteries (aka the Sookie Stackhouse series), I hate to say this, but it was pretty obvious Ms. Harris lost interest in the series around Book Nine, which was released in 2010.

However, in 2010, the HBO TV series based on her novels, True Blood, was at its height of popularity. Both HBO and her publisher wanted to maximize profits, and they offered her a pretty penny to keep going.

But Ms. Harris lost track of the overarching plot (who Sookie would choose as her life partner), and she didn't plant enough clues of who Sookie's ultimate paramour would be. Readers were sorely disappointed about how the series ended.

Even though HBO had a deviated from the main plot of the books, their ending wasn't received any better.

To me, this is one of the best reasons to have a particular ending in mind if you're writing an overlying plot.

But ultimately, the decision of how to handle your series is up to you the writer. Just remember the Golden Rule and treat your readers how you would want to be treated in that position.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Experiments Are Good...

...but sometimes, they prove you were doing things the optimum way for you already.

Two weeks ago, I talked about trying writing sprints. Some authors use them to great success, getting in a few thousand words per day. They write for twenty-five to fifty minutes, take a short five to ten minute break where they hit the head or do jumping jacks, before setting a timer and write for another twenty-five to fifty minutes.

So, I tried sprints for a few days in the mornings, and SQUIRREL!

Yeah, no matter how hard I tried I couldn't do the five minute break. I was constantly distracted by SQUIRREL!

For the last twelve days, my daily word count was SQUIRREL!

So I'm better off sitting for a solid two hours in a comfortable position for neck, legs and back, getting into the flow of the novel to the point that I exist only in that time and space. In between the longer sessions, I can take a nice long walk, do the chores that are bugging me, refill my beverages, and then start writing again.

I don't know if any of you readers keep track of your daily word count. I do in order to try to beat last year's goal. (It's one of those weird personal things. And I was a thousand words short in 2017 of 2016's total words.)

But looking at my daily from December 29 through January 8? They're sad. Like only mid-three figures sad. Going back to my old way, I did my usual 1500 words, plus watched two episodes of Airplane Repo on the Discovery Channel (thanks for getting me hooked, DH!), and had a date night to see Jumanji (not to speak ill of the dead, but this was way better than the Robin Williams version). The full review will be up on Monday.

So, all-in-all, the morning sprint experiment was a nice try, but it didn't work for me. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try it.

Of course, it may have more to do with me just not being a morning person, too.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Monday Movie Mania - The Last Jedi

The best thing Disney did was have someone else besides J.J. Abrams take over Episode VIII. Rian Johnson wrote and directed a movie that had an actual beginning, middle and end. He followed the same formula used in The Empire Strikes Back, i.e. our heroes meet a dark and terrible moment, and they question their true purpose and its cost.

Unfortunately, Rian also made some very basic storytelling mistakes. Even more unfortunate is Lucasfilm released Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) and brought back J.J. to write and direct Episode IX. J.J. can come up with some incredible concepts, but the man can't write a coherent ending to save his life.

But going back to The Last Jedi, it was a MUCH better film than The Force Awakens. That in and of itself made my day. I only went to the theater for it because this was Carrie Fisher's very last role. Despite her personal demons, I've always loved her acting and writing abilities.


* * *


!!SPOILERS!!


* * *


PROS
1) The completion of Luke's story arc. He returns to the isolated screw-up, severely lacking in self-confidence person we met in the original Star Wars until he finds one last act of courage to save his sister and their friends.

2) Luke's promise that he'd see Kylo Ren/Ben Organa-Solo. A hint that he'll be a Force ghost haunting the kid?

3) The secret return of a certain Jedi Master who has one last lesson to impart on his last student.

4) Kylo/Ben's arc in becoming the Sith master. Adam Driver fucking rocks in this role. Frankly, he would have made a better Anakin than Hadyn Christensen.

5) The total silence Vice-Admiral Holdo took out the First Order ships.

5) The hints that other Force users are coming into existence to counter the rise of Kylo Ren to Sith Master.

6) The lovely callbacks to the original trilogy.

7) PORGS!


CONS
1) Finn and Rose's sidetrip meant absolutely nothing to the overall story. There's a storytelling principle called Chekov's gun that states every element of the story must be necessary. And this subplot was so totally unnecessary, but apparently they couldn't come up with a better idea for a confrontation between Phasma and Finn.

2) Speaking of Finn and Rose's sidetrip, the stupid flower pin was the worst Macguffin ever in a Lucas-related movie.

3) The incredible total fucking waste of the fabulous Benicio Del Toro!

4) The incredible total fucking waste of the marvelous Lupita Nyong'o!

5) The incredible total fucking waste of Admiral Ackbar's death!

6) The fact that Vice-Admiral Holdo didn't come up with her fabulous idea using one of the evacuated support cruisers.

7) Speaking of Holdo and Ackbar, why would he had been the one to sacrifice himself to save the Resistance?

8) Using Rose to try to kill fan 'shipping of Finn and Poe, or trying to create a love triangle between Rose-Finn-Rey. Either way, it kind of pissed my off.


The Last Jedi was a more complete story than The Force Awakens, but it could have a hell of a lot better. Overall, I give it 7.5 stars out of 10.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Best Bits of the Big Bang Theory

Sometimes, the best things on The Big Bang Theory are when the cast adds a little something extra to their roles. This song still makes me cry.


Friday, January 5, 2018

Perfect Writing Weather...Almost

It hasn't been above freezing in Ohio since two weeks before Christmas. Our whole, whopping high for the period has been 18F. And today's the first time we've gotten above single digits since Christmas Day. (It's 10F as I write this.) In fact, when I took my car in for its oil change on Wednesday, the guys didn't wash my car like they normally do because it was only 1F.

In our old house in Texas, cold weather would prompt me to light a fire in the family room fireplace, curl up on the couch with my laptop and a cup of Irish Breakfast tea, and write to my little heart's content. Or I'd be in the kitchen baking and writing while the timer counts down on the oven for bread or cookies or pie.

But right now, we're stuck in an apartment. Genius Kid has had a two-hour delay every morning since school started back up. (Frostbite is a very real danger for the kids waiting at bus stops or who walk to school.) Darling Husband is constantly on the phone because this is his super busy time of the year. There's only so much my iPod and earbuds can block out. Nor can I simply move to another room for a change of scenery like I used to do.

What I have done here in Ohio is go to a coffee shop to get some writing in, which I tried Wednesday morning after the oil change. Unfortunately, my favorite place was louder and busier than usual. Apparently, quite a few people were still in town visiting family or they were taking the first week of the year off.

And I've been reluctant to go out any more. The flu is sweeping through my father-in-law's assisted living apartment complex and though the high school. I'm paranoid about germs because if I'm infected, I'll be down four-to-six weeks. And that's assuming I don't get a secondary infection on top of the original, which is usually what happens.

I didn't realize how much I'd gotten my hopes up when we placed an offer on a house last Sunday. It would have been perfect for us. The rooms DH and I would use for our offices were on the west and east sides while our bedroom and GK's would have been on the south and north sides. Reasonable quiet and privacy all the way around. Unfortunately, another buyer also loved that house and made a better offer we couldn't match.

So, back to the drawing board.

In the meantime, I need to find a way to cope with the distractions in our apartment without expanding my waistline. If anybody has a brilliant idea, I'm all ears!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Purge - 2018 Edition

I started indie publishing my fiction in 2011. Through then and 2012, I met a lot of authors who were taking control of their career like I was. We had so much in common, and it seemed this new age of e-books marked a renaissance in writing.

In 2015 after the move from Hell, I was in the process of ramping my career up again. I realized some of the folks whose blogs or Facebook posts or tweets I read regularly back in the heyday weren't posting anymore. After a little research, I discovered roughly a third of them had quit writing.

The reasons for doing so were numerous, but the essential issue boiled down to they weren't getting whatever they needed from indie publishing. Whether it was money, accolades, attention, interaction with fans, etc. didn't matter. The work was too hard for how little those writers felt they were getting.

However, new writers kept entering the field. I chalked up some of the originals dropping out to "gold rush" mentality. They simply weren't writing for the sheer pleasure of it and selling their stories as a bonus.

Now, I'm at Day Three of 2018. Once again, I've mapped out a schedule for the year, and I'm cleaning out old stuff. And once again, I'm ditching social media contacts who haven't posted anything for the last year or two.

Guess what? The authors no longer writing are running about ten percent. I think its more due to keeping my business contacts manageable, rather than fewer people quitting. And over and over, I've been seeing writers' post about how the hamster wheel of publishing is spinning too fast and they can't keep up.

Uhhhh....

No one said you had to, folks. That's the whole point of an indie career. You can write as much or as little as you like. You can publish as much or as little as you like. No one's holding a gun to your head!

(And if someone is, call 9-1-1!)

The whole point of this glorious exercise is total control. Some people figure out they can't write full-time. It doesn't meet their needs, whether it's mental, physical, or monetary.

And guess what? That's okay.

If you need to quit, that's okay, too. Writing isn't for everyone. Just like I prefer to crochet rather than knit while watching TV.

But before you totally throw in the towel, ask yourself this: are you quitting because you realized writing isn't your cuppa, or are you quitting because you burned yourself out trying to keep up with the Jonses?

Take a break. Figure things out. And if you find that it's Number 2, might I make a suggestion?

Write for yourself. Don't write for anyone else. Don't write to publish. Find your joy again.

And if you can't find that spark, then do everyone a favor, and stop making yourself miserable. Life's too fucking short.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Monday Movie Mania - Coco

We didn't have a chance to see Pixar's latest flick until the Tuesday before Christmas. If it's still playing in a theater near you and you haven't seen it, go now!

The folks at Pixar have definitely got their groove back after a bunch of lackluster sequels and not that great originals over the past few years.


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) The story centers around the Rivera family's celebration of Dia de Muertos. For those who may not know, it's a holiday to honor family, especially those that have come before. The tale also delves deep into the harm that parents can do to their own children when they overprotect them and when they put their children in the middle of their feud with the other parent.

2) Like last year's Disney movie Moana did with Oceanic culture, Coco honors Mexican culture instead of appropriating it. The Hispanic cast includes old favorites like Benjamin Bratt and Edward James Olmos, and up-and-comers like Anthony Gonzalez who portrayed the lead character Miguel. That kid has an awesome voice!

3) If Gonzalez's version of the song "Remember Me" that he duets with his abuelita Coco at the climax of the movie doesn' have you crying, your heart is stone.


CONS
1) The story was a tad predictable, but everything else, cast, artwork, music, more than made up for it.


Overall, Coco get 10 stars out of 10 stars. Just make sure you have plenty of Kleenex!

This is one I'm buying for my permanent collection!