I write like
Jack London

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Friday, July 21, 2017

My First Book Signing...

...was pretty much how I expected. It was held in the basement of the local library in a small town so we didn't get a lot of foot traffic.

I sold a grand total of four books, two to one of DH's aunts. Apparently my MIL who recently passed, and a bit of a gossip hound, was too embarrassed to tell the extended family I no longer practiced law and was now a writer.

Even though it's been over ten years since I left my last legal employer. LOL

I met a few writers, some potential readers and the library staff. I gave away fifteen bookmarks with coupon codes for a free e-book copy of Blood Magick. I didn't immediately come out ahead, but have hopes that maybe some of the folks will download my first in the Bloodlines series and then buy the rest of the novels.

The best thing was the attention my covers garnered, even from people who don't like fantasy. The attraction justifies my decision to have Elaina redo the Bloodlines covers and do the Justice covers. That in itself was worth the money I put into the event.

Will I do another book signing? Maybe. I'm not sure right now. I think I need more books out before I try again.

Monday, July 17, 2017

If You Want to Reach the Bestseller List...

...I don't recommend reading this blog.

Seriously.

My goal is to create a large catalog that will provide consistent income well into my old age. Unlike a lot of other writers, I'm not looking to hit the NYT, the USAT, or any Amazon bestseller list.

Why not?

1) In a best case scenario, the lists are nothing more than a popularity contest. And they consist of what's popular at that specific moment in time. Despite marketing claims, the lists cannot and do not predict the longevity or endurance of a particular literary work.

2) Manipulation of lists make the popularity of the listed books questionable at best. The NYT is constantly changing what criteria it uses to calculate their top books, everything from banning children's books after a certain boy wizard became popular among the adult set to disregarding e-book sales because the Big 5 gave them more money in advertising and wanted to kill the fledgling market.

3) Making a list doesn't guarantee longevity of career or sales. Just in the last ten years, I've seen writers hit the lists with their first book, then quietly disappear when successive books don't make the splash that the first book did. Some writers will change their pen names and try again, but I pruned my social media contact lists/follow lists by roughly a third of writers who quietly sank beneath the waters of anonymity with nary another word.

4) I know many writers, especially indies, who are quietly making a living without hitting the lists. Hell, without any fanfare whatsoever. They get by with a small, dedicated fandom in a subgenre they love that is underserved. These are the writers with a solid sense of who they are and what they are trying to accomplish.

5) Which brings me to my own goals. There's quite a few writers who kept me going through a lot of dark times in my life. These writers crafted delightful tales that let me forget about my problems for a moment or two. They gave me a break when I desperately needed one. My goal from the beginning was to be that type of entertainer, to give someone somewhere the respite to catch their breath before they tackle the next hurdle in their lives.

So if you've been reading this blog in hopes of learning the secrets of a successful writing career, please take a step back. Figure out for yourself what you want as success. If attaining a bestseller spot (AKA getting your letters) is your ultimate goal, then more power to you. But it's not what I want, and I definitely won't be covering the how-to's for that particular goal here.

Now, let's all get back to writing...

Friday, July 14, 2017

Weird How the World Works

I don't think I've said anything here yet, but my first book signing is next week. After the whole MIL dying/getting sick hoopla, I had to scramble a little to get my ducks in a row for the event.

The last thing I was waiting on were the bookmarks I ordered. The package arrived yesterday. I gleefully ripped it open and...

...they were definitely NOT my bookmarks. Mine were black with the cover of Blood Magick on the front and a list of the Bloodlines series on the back.

The ones in my hand were beautiful pink swirls with a prayer and the name of a pastor on them.

Definitely NOT mine.

So I call the printing company. At first, the young lady who took my call thought I was complaining about my bookmarks because apparently I'd messed up the upload, and the bleed was really screwed up.

Me: "No,  no, no. That's not the problem. I didn't even get my BLACK ones. These are PINK!"

Print Company Lady: "Oh. OHHHH! First, I'm going to fix yours so they print correctly."

Me: "Wait! Will you be able to get them to me before my book signing on the 20th?"

Print Company Lady: "I'm going to send it expedited shipping. You'll have them by Tuesday, the 18th."

It took the poor gal nearly a half-hour and a fresh upload from me to get the file to where she was satisfied. While she was working, she put me on hold for a moment. When she came back on, she was giggling.

PCL: "My co-worker saw your book cover. She says it looks like something she would read. Is it on Kindle?"

Me (totally flabbergasted): "Uhhhh, yes."

After another few minutes, she had me look at the new version to make sure it was acceptable. (She did a fabulous job!) After she confirmed my order would be reprinted at no cost and sent via expedited shipping, she asked again whether my books were on Kindle. I affirmed that they were indeed.

Then I thanked her profusely for her help, and we ended the call.

Very bizarre end to the situation. I don't know if the co-worker will download Blood Magick, but hopefully I made a good impression by not acting like a shrieking harpy over the mistake.


P.S.

I will be at the Author Fair at the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library on Thursday, July 20th, from 6-8 p.m.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

TSA and Book Searches

I try very hard not to get political online, but the latest in Security Theater has me shaking my head.

TSA is now searching passengers' books and magazines in their carry-on bags.

I've had a problem with some of their policies over the last sixteen years. I have a rather large, ahem, bosom. I wear underwire bras for the extra support. Coming home from my grandfather's funeral in 2002, a TSA agent became a little too interested in checking my boobs.

I finally said, "Would you like me to take off my bra so you can check the underwires?"

She turned pink and shook her head.

"No, really. We all watched Flashdance growing up. It's not a problem." I deliberately gave her an evil grin and reach for my t-shirt sleeve.

Her skin goes from pink to beet-red. "That won't be necessary, ma'am." But she stopped feeling me up.

Then there's the over-the-top abuses like dumping a urine bag on a passenger with catheter. My heart goes out to anyone with real medical devices.

But since the last presidential election, TSA has gotten a lot more invasive. It's not just a matter of turning on your electronic devices to prove they aren't bombs. They insist on passengers turning over their social media accounts and passwords so they can examine the apps.

People have been reported for suspected terrorist activity for simply speaking their native language for wearing their native dress.

And now, the TSA (aka the government) wants to know what you read.

Here's my problem--there's no context.

I could have a copy of the Quran because I'm taking a comparative religion class. I could have one of Alter Ego's erotica books because I'm proofing it on my trip. Or maybe I have a copy of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, and some official gets a bug up their ass because both authors have been outspoken in their criticism of the current administration.

This coupled with some of the administration's other actions scare me. Inherent in the First Amendment is the right to read what you want. What happens when the TSA starts banning certain books?

Oh, when the ban comes, they'll claim it's a safety measure, but where does it stop?

I say this as someone who worked in a bookstore a couple of decades ago. Invariably once a week or so, some customer berated me or one of my co-workers for carrying X. My favorite incident was when I was ringing up a young man who was buying Mein Kampf.

The only other customer in the store besides him marched up to the cash/wrap and started chewing me out for selling the book to the young man. My response? "I'd rather have him read it and discover for himself that Hitler is crazy."

Her eyes got huge, and she sputtered a few unintelligible words before she threw down her romance books on the counter and marched out of the store.

I then had an interesting conversation with the young gentleman. He was working on his master's thesis in marketing. The subject was how modern advertising firms use the same techniques that the Nazis did in the '30's.

So how does this tie in with the TSA situation?

Fear.

Yeah, I know that seems to be the theme this week. But instead allowing your own fear to control you, this is letting other people's fear to control you. You need to educate yourself about real risks and dangers, and not let others' paranoia affect you.

Because if someone is trying to influence you through fear, it's rarely for your benefit.

Monday, July 10, 2017

How Can You Have a Lack of Ideas?

I've had a vague sci-fi idea in the back of my mind for some time now. So I asked my friend Jo, who designs both computer games and board games as well as writes superhero novels, for some recommendations on books for game theory. And he gave me a ton of reference links and material.

That led to him asking about the idea, which I really couldn't explain because I'm not sure at this point. And who knows? It might fizzle before it becomes fully formed. But if it does congeal, I'll add it to my idea folder.

But this is how my brain works. I'm wrapping up the Bloodlines series. I've started the Justice series. The first book of the 1-888-555-HERO series is almost done. I'm two-thirds of the way into another book that will become another series. Then there's the Four Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse which I was writing while sitting in the student pick-up line last year (which won't be happening this year now that GK is driving himself to high school).

And that all led to our conversation of how can a writer NOT have ideas. I mean, the list above will keep me busy for at least two years. That doesn't even begin to count my ideas under Alter Ego. Nor doesn't it count the ideas sitting in my idea folders. And what about the sci-fi ideas I already have outlined that I may publish under a different name for marketing reasons?

Jo's pretty much in the same boat. In fact, most writers I know have a mega-ton list of ideas sitting in a paper file, a computer file, or both.

So what's happening when someone says they're blocked and can't come up with ideas?

Generally, it goes back to the single biggest stopper of a writing career--FEAR! Fear of not having the big idea. Fear of readers hating the story after you've put so much work into it. Fear of wasting time and not making any money.

If it's not fear, maybe you have to face the fact you're a one-book-idea person. If you don't believe that's the case, then guess what? We're back to the FEAR issue.

Yep, FEAR is that freaking insidious. And you have to find a way to drive back the forces of darkness.

"How?" you ask. All I can tell you is what works for me. Take a break. Take a shower. Take a walk. But my number one cure for coming up with an idea?

Clean my teenage son's toilet. Trust me. You'll want to do just about anything besides that!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Friday, July 7, 2017

Are You Writing for Fame and Fortune Only?

My friend Jo sent this interesting tidbit to me during our conversation about how-to books on writing. As he said, if nothing else, watch the first five minutes. Robert McKee talks about what he sees as the two types of writers.

And say what you will about Mr. McKee, he definitely understands the mindsets of the two types.

Hey, I'll be the first to admit I make money from my stories and I'm not ashamed of that fact. But on the other hand, I don't write whatever the latest trend is either. Something to ponder over the weekend.


Monday, July 3, 2017

The Orgy of Death

When I was a kid, I read an Englishman's scholarly tome on Ancient Egyptian customs. One of his comments has stuck in my head. He regarded the ancient civilization as being obsessed with death.

The more I've studied over the years, the more I realize that statement isn't true. Talk about laying you own hang-ups at someone else's feet.

A lot of people think I'm obsessed with the subject of death as well. I do write about it, but am I obsessed? Not really. I acknowledge death, the inevitability of it, which is more than white American culture can do.

So why is this on my mind? My mother-in-law passed away on Friday, June 16, 2017, at 2:06 a.m.

We Americans are so very precise about our time, aren't we? In reality, that is simply the time on the paramedics' watches when they arrived at her apartment, and they pronounced her dead.

Because you see the process had started some time before that. Some would say it was five minutes before when the aides at the assisted living apartment stopped CPR because my mother-in-law had a Do Not Resuscitate order on file. Some would say it happened when she stopped breathing about ten minutes before the CPR ended.

Maybe it really started earlier on Thursday when she was at rehab and her blood oxygen level dropped even though she was on O2 at the time. Maybe it started with that last trip to the hospital this spring. Maybe it really started when she fell at their old Victorian back on December 6, 2015.

Or maybe it all started years ago when she tried to raise my son as she had her other five grandchildren, and I told her that being a grandma was a much cooler job than being the parent. However, the grandma job was one she never truly relished.

But when she was actually gone, and I looked at the corpse on the floor of her bedroom in the wee hours of Friday, it was done for me.

The first thing anyone will say as they read this is that everyone grieves in their own way.

And that's very true. However, what truly bothers me are two things:

1) that we no longer respect death, and to die shows a failure on someone's part, and

2)  that we, as a culture, now lavish that same excess to funerals as we do births, weddings, and quinceaneras.

Around 2:15 a.m. that same morning, I had to console the RN and the two aides. Reassure them that they had done the right thing by following the DNR and ceasing CPR. Even DH, in a moment of black humor that usually only I display, he said that his mother probably heard them call the ambulance, said, "Screw that!" and took off for heaven. Because she had been adamant after the spring stint that she was not going back to the hospital.

The medical team at the apartment didn't fail. The doctors and nurses at the hospital during her various admissions over the last two years didn't fail. This is about a woman at the end of her natural lifespan, not failure or success.

Since she passed over Father's Day weekend, that put a crimp in vacation plans since some family had already left town, so all scheduling had to be shoved back an extra couple of days. Add to that, selecting a casket, flowers, planning the ceremony, etc., etc., etc. Then there was the private family viewing and two sessions of visitation before the actual funeral on Tuesday. All of the added stress of putting together a major ceremony while dealing with grief? Why do we do this to ourselves?

It's traditional.

Gah! I hate that term. It's an excuse. Traditions can be and are changed all the time.

I've already put together my funeral directives. I die? Cremate me, take the ashes to Hawaii, scatter them, and go get drunk on the leftover money in my estate. In fact, DH has already picked out the bar in Lahaina on Maui.

Celebrate my life. Tell stories. Read stupid passages from my books. Save enough money for the cab ride back to the hotel.

But whatever y'all do, please don't turn my passing into a fucking five-day orgy of death. My ghost will not be pleased.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Thanks, Preacher!

I love the show Preacher on AMC, but the earworms for the new season's ads harken back to my youth.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What IS "Writing to Market"?

I got pretty sick after my mother-in-law's funeral last week. So sick, I ended up in the ER. I'll spare you the disgusting details. Unfortunately, I lay my recliner for three days with my meds and a fuzzy brain.

Which meant all I accomplished was talking about writing, not getting much writing, or editing, actually done.

Being limited to e-mail, my friend Jo and I had an interesting discussion last week about what most indies call "writing to market". The term is used as an umbrella device to cover a couple of different concepts.

1) Following Trends

This is one where a writer produces a work to capitalize on the latest hot selling genre/type of book. Fifty Shades of Grey is perfect example. When it hit the bestseller lists in 2012, writers and publishers flooded the market with billionaire/virgin/BDSM books.

Since FSoG itself started life as Twilight fanfic, there's the requisite romantic triangle. In fact, you can't sell a YA book to a big publisher unless it has a romantic triangle.

A few weeks ago, I re-read one of my favorites, Katherine Kurtz's Deryni Rising. The primary protagonist is Kelson, a fourteen-year-old who's about to be crowned king, assuming he survives various assassination attempts and challenges for the throne.

As I pointed out to Jo, Ms. Kurtz would never be able to sell that book as-is today. Kelson would have to be older with two girls after him at court. And that's assuming the editor didn't insist on his father's closest advisors, Duke Alaric and Father Duncan, having an illicit affair.

If you need another example, how many of you put out an adult coloring book last year after sales took off during the Christmas 2015 shopping season? Come on, don't be shy. This is exactly what I mean about following a trend.

The point is writing/publishing to whatever flash in the pan is hot at the moment is not always a sustainable career move. I've met too many writers who are burning out because they're bored producing stuff they have no passion for.

2) Hitting the Tropes

Jo advocates the "writing to reader expectations" point-of-view when it comes to writing to market. In other words, hit the tropes or at least, your version of the trope.

As in, a romance should the Happily Ever After regardless if you're writing a heterosexual, homosexual, or even an alien relationship. A mystery needs to introduce all the suspects during the course of the story and reveal who the culprit is very close to the last page. Your science fiction doesn't have to have spaceships and/or little green men, but it needs the effect of some type technological/biological/etc. advancement's on the human race.

In other words, if you're writing in a genre you consume and love, you're more likely to understand the rhythms and tropes expected of that type of story. And you're more likely to continue as a career fiction writer.


I can hear y'all out there asking, "What about trends that become tropes?"

Hey, I admit it does happen, but I strongly suggest that you should aim to be the trendsetter, not the trend follower. Or even better, aim to have fun with your writing!

(P.S. If you want to check out Jo's books, here's his website.)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

DH and I actually went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 nearly two months ago. In the drive to finish the Bloodlines series, I totally forgot to post my thoughts. I figure it's not too late since it's still showing in a lot of theaters.

The real question is whether the sequel lives up to the first, and I have to say, "Sort of."


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) Great performances from the original cast. There's some character building, but not so much that it alienates viewers. Whereas the first movie is Quinn building the team out of necessity, the second movie is more the team saving Quinn from himself.

2) Kurt Russell was excellent as Peter's dad. (Though please note, the MCU takes liberties. Pete's dad in the movie is not the same character as in the comics.)

3) The adorability of Baby Groot cannot be measured!


CONS
1) I got really mad about the ending, and it took a discussion with another writer/comic fan to figure out why. The character who was supposed to deliver the emotional payoff couldn't because he spent most of the movie with other members of the Guardians than the one member who was the receiver of the emotional payoff. It was basic lazy story telling, which is something the MCU normally gets right. It was even more ironic since DCEU finally got their own storytelling shit together four weeks later with Wonder Woman.


Overall, I'd give Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 8 stars out of 10.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Moment of Silence

Due to a death in the family, Wild, Wicked & Wacky will be dark for the next week. Thank you for understanding.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

When Unsolicited Advice Hurts

New writers are often hungry sponges, who want to soak up the wisdom of the more experienced in the industry.

Which, don't get me wrong, is a good thing. Most of the time.

2017 is the ten-year anniversary of Amazon's Kindle. Like many tech advancements, it wasn't the first of its kind on the market, but it was the game changer, especially in the fiction side of the publishing industry.

So what does the Kindle have to do with new writers?

The newbies are getting a lot of advice from folks who've been in the trad publishing system their entire career. They're also getting a lot of advice from the indies who've been in digital publishing since Amazon launched Kindle Direct Publishing in 2009 (KDP had a different name when it first started).

I'm not saying this is all necessarily bad advice. But what both sides fail to take into account is that we're still in the middle of the digital disruption. Things are in no way settled. They are still changing. Ironically, my unintended vacation from publishing 2014 through 2016 makes the constant churn more painfully obvious.

If you're a new writer, you need to take a brutal look at what you want out of publishing your work, aka a solid goal. If you want awards, that's one path. If you want your letters (aka New York Times or USA Today bestseller attached to your name), that's a different path. If you want a long-term career, that's a third path. If you want a way to cover your costs when you compile Grandma's recipes into a book for the rest of the family, that's a fourth path.

I could keep going, but you get the point. And that's not to say some of these paths never cross. They can and do. However, your focus needs to be on your primary path in order to get what you want. And if you say you want Path One, but keep bringing up Path Two, you need to re-evaluate what it is you want.

The problem comes in when the more experienced writer tells the newbie "You need to X, Y, and Z to succeed ." However, X, Y, and Z are predicated on Experienced Writer's chosen path and their experience. If Newbie doesn't start with a solid goal, they can get sidetracked for years pursuing a goal that's not theirs. Not to mention, one experience does not automatically equal a second.

I've been the sidetracked newbie. It's frustrating when you realize your mistake. I've been the experienced writer, who's let their excitement overwhelm a newbie. And I've felt guilty when I realize that mistake.

For now, I'm trying to be the wise writer. If someone asks for help, I'm trying to ask questions to discern what the newbie really needs rather than what I think they need. Sometimes that pisses off the newbie, who thinks I'm hiding the secret handshake.

Folks, there is no secret handshake. And with the digital shake-up, it's a brave new world for all writers. Anyone who tells you different is lying, to themselves as well as you. The last thing I want to do is harm a new writer by giving them unsolicited or non-useful advice.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Spy

Spy is one of those movies I really wanted to see, but missed thanks to the summer of the niece from hell. Once again, I managed to record it over April's free HBO weekend.

Personally, I think Melissa McCarthy is freakin' hysterical. I've thought that since her days on Gilmore Girls, and I'm ecstatic that she's broken out from the Sookie mold. However, it's sad when a movie equitable between the genders is considered a feminist diatribe. And that seems to happen a lot with Melissa's films.

You'd think studly action star Jason Statham would have brought enough testosterone. And he did, to the point where he made fun of the type of guy he usual plays. In fact, Jason has some incredible comedic chops, and I'd love to see him and Melissa work together again.

Anyway, here're my thoughts...


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) Paul Feig's script was a brilliant skewering of the spy genre without relying on cheap shots, like fat jokes.

2) Rose Byrne was deliciously catty as the antagonist Rayna Boyanov, who's selling a suitcase nuke but is a spoiled brat who could care less about who buys the nuke, much less who uses it. Rayna and McCarthy's Susan develop an odd frenemy relationship that is hysterical.

3) Jason Statham's Rick Ford was brilliant! Ford quits in a huff after he's outed as CIA, tries to pursue the case on his own, and repeatedly gets in Susan's way. The end scene with Rick and Susan is worth the entire movie. Jason's comedic skill is on par with Melissa's, and I really would like to see them together in another film.

4) Allison Janney was pitch-perfect as Susan's boss. Encouraging without being a cheerleader.

5) I have to give a nod to Will Yun Lee. I've been a fan of his since Witchblade. His turn as Timothy Cress, one of the outed CIA agents, could have been expanded because he's funny as hell.


CONS
1) I have nothing against Jude Law personally. I've found his turns as Watson in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes series an utter delight. Unfortunately, Law's straight guy in this movie doesn't quite work. I'm not sure if it's the writing, directing, or Jude himself, but there's no reason and absolutely no chemistry to believe that Susan has a crush on Jude's Bradley Fine. And the times he's onscreen make me want to fast forward to the next scene.


Overall, I have to give Spy 9 stars out of 10. If you love Melissa or Jason, download it today!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Adorable Moment

Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins have way too much fun at their job...


Friday, June 9, 2017

Status Report - June 2017

I haven't done a status update in a while, so here's what's happened since I posted my April list of things to do:

1) No, I haven't started the edits on Ravaged yet.

2) The first draft of Sacrificed was completed on May 25.

3) I started back on Resurrected on May 26, and realized there were a couple of major issues that would turn into expositional crap if I dealt with them in this novel. So I plotted two short novels that will take place between Sacrificed and Resurrected, and started writing them. I post word count updates at my reader-oriented website www.suzanharden.com if you're curious.

4) The non-related short stories are done, but when they will be released is open to question with the new short novels for Bloodlines.

5) Proofing the Bloodlines paperbacks is taking an inordinate amount of time, far more than I anticipated. But I have to get them done because I will be at an author's signing event at our local library next month. More on the signing will be posted closer to the day of, which is July 20. In the meantime, they've essentially been moved to the top priority spot.

6) Needless to say, updating the Seasons of Magick series has been pushed back once again. It may be swapped with #7

7) I gotten more e-mails/PMs about A Modicum of Truth, so based on demand, it will need to take priority post-Bloodlines. It's good that a work is wanted, but it's a little nerve-wracking as well. I'm blaming the demand on the new Wonder Woman movie.

So that's what's happening in my world. Hope everyone has a great summer!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The George Lucas Effect

In the old days of movie-making and publishing, the original creator didn't have a whole lot of control over the final packaging of the product. There was only one version of a movie or a book. We didn't have the director's cut or the extended version or the author's preferred text.

In some ways, that control is a good thing. The extended version of Suicide Squad makes a hell of a lot more sense than the theatrical version. The same with the author's preferred text of American Gods. Both of these expand on the original versions without changing the essential character of the work.

Then there's George Lucas.

*sigh* He's changed the original version of Star Wars so many times it's become an embarrassment. The most egregious of these changes is the "Who shot first" question. By changing the Han-Greedo confrontation, George turned Han from a bad-ass space pirate to TSTL joke.

And therein lies one of the dangers to any artist who cannot let their work stand on its own merit. By trying to "fix" something, which was frankly the best possible art for your age and/or experience, you can end up ruining it.

First of all, I would hope that ALL artists improve as they practice their craft. And most of us do.

The problem is when we look at our first works, our older selves see how amateurish our older work is. To us. The mistakes and miscues are glaring. To us. And there's a part of us that wants to "fix" the problem so we don't look too stupid. To us.

Unfortunately, "fixing" those problems insults our readers. What we're really telling them is "You're such an idiot for buying and loving my shit work".

The other side is maybe our work wasn't shit to begin with. Sometimes, it's the inner or outer critic who enjoys pissing on your art really talking. And that's someone you want to ignore.

So what brought this up?

I'm going through the paperback proofs of my novels. Yes, there's some typos that weren't caught by any of the five editors or myself six years ago when the book was first published. But that's akin to when the boom mike accidentally gets caught in the shot. With today's digital processes, boom mikes can be edited out of the film. Typos can be fixed.

But what you really need to do is resist the urge to change the story itself. You do your fans a disservice by telling them the story they loved is "wrong". You do yourself a disservice by not acknowledging and accepting you have grown as an artist. And you turn into the crazy politicians who want to redefine "truth" every time Winston Smith blinks.

When you're looking at your older works, resist the urge to change shit. Otherwise, you could turn your hero from a badass to TSTL, and that ruins the story for everyone. Relish the imperfection because they show your path as an artist!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Wonder Woman

Finally! Finally! Finally! The Amazing Amazon made it to the big screen!

And you know the scene in The Big Bang Theory where they guys collapsed in their theater chairs, totally satiated, after viewing The Force Awakens?

Well, that wasn't the folks in the theater at the very first showing Thursday night. We wanted MOAR!

Apparently, we weren't the only ones considering the $223 million that Wonder Woman raked in worldwide in its opening weekend. (That doesn't count the roughly $11 million WW picked in the handful of markets where it opened in May.)


* * *


SPOILERS!


* * *


PROS
1) Moving Diana's origin from WWII to WWI was an excellent stroke, considering the brutality of trench warfare and chemical weapons used. It didn't detract from the story. Otherwise, we still have the original comic book origin of Steve Trevor's plane crashing on/near Paradise Island/Themiscirya and the innocent Diana rescuing the first man she's ever seen.

2) David Thewlis as Ares was a non-traditional choice, but the gentleman, formerly Professer Lupin of the Harry Potter franchise fame, made it work.

3) Robin Wright as General Antiope was fucking brilliant!

4) I can see why Chris Pine turned down another movie to play Steve. The writers gave Diana and Steve matching redemptive story arcs.

5) As I said in my review of Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Gal Gadot more than redeemed herself in her previous cameo. She fucking rocked here as the younger, more innocent Diana.


CONS
1) Uh, not enough Amazons and Etta Candy?

2) [Edit to add] I was expecting a post-movie teaser for Justice League, but there wasn't one.


As the first critically and commercially successive DC flick, this movie goes to show that Zack Snyder really needs to keep his hands off the fucking DCEU franchise. Warner Bros. needs to turn it over to Patty Jenkins. The woman has a clue on how to make a superhero movie.

This one definitely gets and 11 out of 10 stars!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

DON'T LOOK, ETHEL!

As a character in a total separate franchise would say with a coy look, "Spoilers."


Yes, Jared Padalecki let something slip at a recent con. The reason I love this video is the look Jensen gives him is a TOTAL Dean "Sammy, you fucked the pooch" look.


It still takes Jared another 10 seconds to realize what he'd done. Then comes the adorable attempt to backtrack.


I can understand the problem. I have to be super careful about what I post on www.suzanharden.com because, well, I know all the major plot twists.


In Jared's defense, and if you're a Supernatural fan, you should have already figured this out.


* * *

SPOILER VIDEO


* * *


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Friday, May 26, 2017

More Analysis on the Marvel Situation

About a month ago, I talked about how the promo tricks Marvel had been using for the last twenty years were truly starting to backfire on them and were destroying their sales. Two days later, YouTube geek sensation ComicGirl19 posted a similar rant to mine, naming several of the same reasons that Marvel sales were dropping that had nothing to do with diversity.

Then last night, an article from The Atlantic popped up in one of my feeds. And guess what it was about? Yep, Marvel's problems were their sales gimmicks, not their diversity. I highly recommend reading the article because the article lists a few more issues I was barely aware of, such as the antagonism of editors and writers toward fans, not just the sexism they and their fellows exhibited towards their female co-workers.

Marvel seriously needs to get their shit together before it's too late. Besides, how is Disney going to get new material? Or are they going to do what Sony did and kill Uncle Ben over and over ad nauseam?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Other Writers and Fan-girly Squeals

Once upon a time, I had the privilege of meeting George Takei at a Star Trek convention. I was so nervous I literally couldn't talk. Uncle George was terribly sweet, but he gave me an odd look. As in, "Is she just shy, or should I call security?"

I managed to say "Nice to meet you" or "Thank you". Seriously, I was that nervous, I don't remember what I said. I do remember my voice sounded like Beaker's from the Muppets.

I don't always act that shell-shocked around someone I admire. Well, except for last Saturday night. My friend Jo introduced me to someone whose work I admire very much, and I squealed like a little girl. I'm pretty sure I embarrassed the hell out of the writer, too, not just myself.

*sigh*

So why am I bringing this all up?

I've had the opportunity to watch professional writers interact with their readers over the years, and I've noted four typical reactions in writers. Three of these reactions will lose you readers, but there are ways to compensate.

First of all, if you EVER feel in danger from a fan, get help! Grab a friend, get security at an event, or call the police. Trust that little niggle in your hindbrain. There's a big difference between that feeling and butterflies in your stomach.

Now on to the types...

1) The Cold Fish
It's never easy meeting total strangers. Even the most gregarious person has a little trepidation in a new situation. These writers fail to make eye contact with their readers much less say hello. This behavior can come across as being too good to talk to the hoi polloi when in fact, it's the opposite problem.

I'll tell you a secret. The best at the meet-and-greet are simply better at hiding their fear. Stand up, walk around that signing table, and be pleasant and polite. It will make the encounter easier for both of you. Something to remember is that your readers are probably more nervous about meeting you than vice versa, too.


2) The Hot Potato
The opposite of The Cold Fish, these writers not only come out from behind their tables, they attack people in the aisles and try to force their books on the public. Few people like the hard sell. (And if you know one, I'd like to meet him or her.)

Coming across as a crazy used car salesperson will only get you shunned and rejected. Take a step back, tone down the sales pitch, and take an interest in the person, not the sales prospect.


3) The Negative Nellie
These writers don't feel they deserve their success, or their fragile self-esteem can't handle criticism, so they try to beat you to the punch with self-flagellation. This behavior can turn off a potential reader. If the writer doesn't think their book is good enough, then why would the reader want to take a chance on it? And if the reader already read your work, it sounds to them like the writer is criticizing the reader's choices.

If adulation throws you for a loop, stick with simple phrases. "I hope you enjoy it." "Thank you." "I appreciate your comments."

On the other hand, those phrases work pretty damn good if a psycho reader slams you, too.


4) The Best Response
The writers I've seen handle the public best are Sherrilyn Kenyon and the late L.A. Banks. Both ladies come across genuinely interested in fans. They say how glad they are to meet you. These writers are comfortable with themselves and love the career they've chosen.

It's damn hard to achieve that level of confidence in yourself and in your work. Part of it is knowing your own comfort level with the public. For example, Sherrilyn's a touchy-feely person. She grabs a reader's hand and acts like they are her favorite cousin that she hasn't seen in forever. For her, this is a genuine response.

I know I'm not a touchy-feely person. Sherrilyn's way wouldn't work for me. Heck, even getting an e-mail from reader makes me freak out.

But my own issues don't mean I can't behave myself, be pleasant and say "Thanks!" Yep, that's right. I take elements from the solutions for The Cold Fish and The Negative Nellies. I remind myself that my writing affected a person enough for them to reach out.

And in the end, that's all I really want. To entertain someone for a little while and let them forget their problems.

The least I can do when a reader reaches out to me is to reach back with a heartfelt, "Thanks for reading my work."

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. came out while the niece was living with us, so for various reasons, we didn't make it to the theater in 2015. I wasn't into the series back in the day, so I wasn't too disappointed. So when it popped up on the HBO/Cinemark free weekend, we decided what the hell.

Once again, I'm not posting my usual SPOILERS warning since this movie came out two years ago.

This is one of those movies that was much better than what many of our friends said. Maybe it was because I'm not a hardcore fan of the series, but I loved it.

Armie Hammer totally redeemed himself from The Lone Ranger. As I said in that review, I didn't blame Hammer for the piss-poor writing, but this flick allowed him to real show his acting chops.

On the other hand, Henry Cavill sounds like Clark Kent through the first half of the movie. I don't know if he jumped into this job right after Man of Steel wrapped, but you can definitely tell what scenes were filmed first. And honestly, that's the only real gripe I have about the movie.

The script expands on Solo and Kuryakin's pasts in order to flesh out their characters and give motivation for how they ended up in the CIA and KGB respectively. Since this is essentially an origin story, the writers focus on the interactions between the two far more than they do the case they are forced to work on jointly. The chemistry between Hammer and Cavill was probably the best thing about the movie.

The movie captures the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, but not as well as it captures the style and fashion of that time period.

Overall, I give The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 8.5 stars out of 10.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The "Why Isn't Suzan Posting" Post

It's been a busy week here at Casa Harden.

Last week of classes at public school coincided with the last week of classes at driving school. Instead of going home after dropping Genius Kid off at driving school, I went to Panera's to write. Over 8K words written this week so far, and I should hit 10K by Saturday night. Yay!

Seriously, I'm closing in on finishing Sacrificed. If the first draft isn't done this week, it will be next week.

Yes, that offsets the sheer terror any parent feels when their teen is about to get their driver license.

In the meantime, I sold "Unexpected" to Sword and Sorceress 32. The latest volume of the long-running anthology will be released around the first of November. I'll let you know the specific date down the road.

Then I REALLY need to review the proof copies of the paperbacks done so far and get them launched.

I'm also considering whether or not to do a local author event. Dealing with total strangers in public sets off my anxiety, but Darling Husband has offered to be my bodyguard. Not sure what I'll do yet, but I definitely need something to sell if I'm going, i.e. finish proofing those paperbacks!

Overall, it feels great to be in the writing groove again!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Pitch Black

Yeah, I know Pitch Black came out in 2000. DH and I had planned to see it because we were huge Farscape and Claudia Black fans. Morning sickness had other plans. So by the time I stopped worshipping the porcelain god, the movie was long gone from theaters.

Over the years, I caught bits and pieces on cable. Every time we rented videos, there was always something else someone else wanted to watch, and being a mom at this point, I gave in. So when Pitch Black was on during the recent HBO/Cinemax weekend, I recorded it, and FINALLY I watched it uncut all the way through.

Note: Yes, I saw The Chronicles of Riddick and Riddick long before  I saw Pitch Black.

And since it's been seventeen years, I'm not giving my standard SPOILERS alert.

Pitch Black has a few trope tweaks, but for the most part, it's standard sci-fi horror. The criminal is the hero, the lawman is a junkie, and the holy man actually survives though the pilgrims traveling with him don't.

Unfortunately, the first Vin Diesel flick I saw was The Pacifier, and I've seen the entire Fast & Furious series plus the other Riddick films. I really couldn't get into Riddick as a bad guy. Dangerous, yes, but not evil. Both the pilot and the bounty hunter would qualify more as "evil" in their desire to sacrifice innocents for their own survival than the so-called murderer.

Overall, it's a solid, fun, B sci-fi/horror flick. It would be nice if the series could continue because I want to know more about the character Riddick.

I give Pitch Black an 8 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Friday, May 12, 2017

When a Fan Wants to Mash-up Your Series

A couple of weeks ago, a non-writing reader asked me what would happened if Sam Ridgeway ever met Justice Anthea.

Ummm...

Don't get me wrong. I'll be the first one to admit I love me some fan fiction. Heck, I've posted links to some good stuff here. Fanfic lets you experiment with the story and try new things. In fact, one of my favorite episodes of Supernatural is when the Winchesters find out about Chuck Shurley's novels. Then to Dean's eternal WTF, he discovers fan fiction about himself.

Dean: There's Sam girls and Dean girls. And what's a slash fan? 
Sam: As in... Sam slash Dean. Together.  
Dean: Like... together together?  
Sam: Yeah.  
Dean: They do know we're brothers, right?  
Sam: Doesn't seem to matter.  
Dean: Ah, come on. That... that's just sick.

*sigh* At least my reader wasn't suggesting girl-on-girl or incest action with my heroines because the subject matter doesn't quite mesh with my Suzan books.

But his question did get me thinking. What would happen if for some reason the two met?

I think Anthea would smack Sam upside her head for being a dumbass.

So what do you call it if you write fanfic about your own characters?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Nothing New Under the Sun Except Some Kind Words

I'm really not sure what to say at this point about the state of publishing. Things have quieted down in a way that has nothing to do with the usual summer lull.

No major publishers have crashed and burned. Many small publishers have quietly closed their doors. More people are indie publishing while others have walked away from it for various reasons.

Personally, I've been limiting my time on social media. I poke my head up once and a while to check my accounts. I e-mail with a couple of writer friends on a regular basis, but many of the folks I'd like to talk to are just as busy as me.

And you know something--that's okay. I know that some of my problems over the winter were SAD, some were hormone-related crap that needed maintenance drug adjustments, and some were the constant barrage of negativity through both the writers' grapevine and the news. Once the weather warmed and the new drug cocktail was developed, I realized how much the other stuff affected me.

And I decided to walk away from a lot of it.

Instead, I took last week off to write and submit a story for this year's Sword and Sorceress anthology. (I'll let you know if it gets accepted.)

In the meantime, everything clicked in my head for how Sacrificed will play out. (I've always known how it will end, but the middle part was foggy for the longest time.) My cover artist Elaina did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of what Tiffany and Sam go through in this story. As I write this post, I'm closing in on the 60K mark.

Probably the best things over the last week were people asking when's the next book coming out for both Bloodlines and Justice, as well as Alter Ego readers asking about her next book.

With the way things have gone in my life, I don't want to promise specific dates. Last year, I was a month late on Zombie Goddess from my own mistake, only to have my mother-in-law end up in the hospital again after another fall.

I can say I'm doing fairly good about sticking to the plan I laid out a couple of weeks ago. My dedicated writing laptop has made a difference in keeping my attention on the story. I just need to keep a steady pace over the summer.

As I told a friend nearly thirty years ago, happiness is a fleeting, ephemeral thing. I'm much more satisfied with my life when I'm content.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - The Fate of the Furious

I don't think future installments of the F&F franchise could top Furious 7, but The Fate of the Furious sure as hell tries. It definitely has all the action of the previous movies, but what makes this series special is its heart. This edition picks up shortly after the end of the last episode with Dom and Lettie FINALLY getting their honeymoon.


* * *


SPOILERS


* * *


PROS
1) Everyone still alive (whether character or real life) is back for this one except for Jordana Brewster (Mia Toretto O'Connell) and Sean Boswell (Lucas Black). Jordana's character had her bittersweet send-off in the last movie. Lucas signed for two additional F&F movies after Furious 7, but scheduling conflicts didn't allow him to appear in this film.

2) Brian and Mia were at least mentioned in the movie.

3) Ramsey, the creator of God's Eye, is officially part of the team. She gives Tej a run for his money as the resident brainiac.

4) Charlize Theron makes a delicious bad guy. Her Cypher is revealed to be behind the events in Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7.

5) Helen Mirren's uncredited cameo as Owen and Deckard Shaw's mom is a frickin' hoot! I really hope they bring her back.

6) The plot is more organic than the last couple have been. No weird plot twists that make no sense. This is probably the best screenplay since the first movie. It hits you right in the feels.


CONS
1) Okay, I do have one little quibble with the story. I think Dom and Hobbs forgive the Shaws and accept them into the family a bit too quickly. I mean it took two movies for Dom to forgive Brian and Dom and Hobbs nearly three movies to accept each other.


Overall, I give The Fate of the Furious 9.5 stars out of 10.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - TMNT: Out of the Shadows

Attention, readers! The Heroes in a Half-Shell have been around for thirty-three years now. If you need a fucking SPOILER warning, LEAVE NOW!

* * *

For the second time in less than three months, HBO had another four-day free weekend. We caught up on a bunch of movies we'd missed, though not as many as in February. (Not that I minded repeats of Deadpool and Suicide Squad.)

The latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot came out during the house chaos of 2014. Between not having seen the first one, the fact that Michael Bay was attached to the project, and my love for the original animated series, I passed on seeing the sequel last year.

Someone should have pointed out that Stephen Amell (aka Oliver Queen of Arrow) was now playing Casey Jones.

Besides the spectacular eye candy that is Mr. Amell, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by the use of Rocksteady, Bebop, and Kang in the new version. CGI has advanced to the point that the characters don't look fake.

Tyler Perry as Baxter Stockman was a delight, and I really hoped to see his mutated form in an end-of-film teaser, but alas, it was not to be.

One of my problems is that successive writers are taking Leonardo more and more into the Scott Summers/Cyclops asshole-douchery style of leadership. Moody and keeping secrets isn't Leo. At all. I hope if they make a third movie, his personality is lightened up a bit.

The second problem is turning Donatello into a broken-glasses-wearing nerd. Really, people? Can we get any more cliché?

Overall, I give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows 7 out of 10 stars for good, sold twelve-year-old delight!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Status Report - April 2017

I'm finally past the SAD that's been plaguing me through the winter. Sun, open windows, and shorts temperatures have definitely helped in the productivity department.

I also took a page from Dean Wesley Smith's book, and I splurged on an 11-inch super lightweight  laptop. I've disabled the browser, the e-mail, and the wi-fi. The change has made a difference in my productivity. In the two weeks since Bali Blue arrived and I set her up, I've written 22K words.

So what's happened since my last release in December?

1) The first draft of Ravaged is done. I'm not going to start edits until the first draft of Sacrificed is done.

2) Sacrificed is approximately 73% done. I was hoping to have it done by the end of April, but it'll be done soon.

3) Resurrected is approximately 30% done.

4) I'm also working on some short stories that will come out between the end of the Bloodlines series and the next Justice novel.

5) Paperbacks for the Bloodlines series should all be out by the end of June.

6) New covers for the Seasons of Magick series are done. The files need to be reviewed before forwarding them to my formatter. Then a bundled edition will be released.

7) Once the first six actions items are done, I'll get back to work on A Modicum of Truth.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I'm Not the Only One Who Has Given Up On Marvel

After my rambling diatribe on Monday, who should appear in my inbox today but ComicGirl19 bitching about the same goddess-damned issues. Have a listen:


Monday, April 24, 2017

Tripping Over Promo Tricks (Like Marvel Comics)

I've talked about how indie writer like to flog their small handful of books, or their only book, with every trick they can come up with. I've talked about how the writing, THE STORY, needs to come first. I talked about how an indie writer can't sell their single title to the same person over and over.

Recently, Marvel Comics' VP of Sales, David Gabriel made some statements in an interview during the Marvel Retailers Summit:

What we heard was that people didn't want any more diversity. They didn't want female characters out there. That's what we heard, whether we believe that or not.  I don't know that that's really true, but that's what we saw in sales.
We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.

Gabriel has since walked back those comments.

And of course, the internet went nuts. Both PC and Anti-PC proponents shot vicious comments back and forth. Personally, I sat back and laughed.

You see, I've been watching Marvel (and DC too, for that matter) making the same mistakes as a lot of indie writers, many of whom have quit the business over the years, and trad publishing have made.

So basically, Marvel has given us what-not-to-do guidelines:

1) Over-pricing product

Trad publishing has been doing this for years, especially by pricing e-books way higher than print books. Marvel upped Spider-man from $3.99 to $9.99. How the hell do they expect little kids to buy comic books when they are priced that high?

2) Giving the reader fewer pages

Indies are especially guilty of this faux pas, but the comic book companies are catching up. Most readers considered a novel to be a couple of hundred pages, but whatever the actual word-count or page-count they do expect a complete story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. When you slice a story in the middle and expect the reader to pay twice as much for half the story, the readers are going to be pissed.

On the other hand, comic books are expected to be a serial format. However, those episodes are getting shorter (40 years ago the standard number of pages was 24, now it's 10) while the price is going up. That leads back to my first point about readers feeling ripped off.

3) Sales Gimmicks

Hey, I'll be the first to admit gimmicks, like perma-free and 99-cent deals, can goose short term sales, but they're not a long-term substitution for decent writing. The comics industry tanked in the '90's thanks to the proliferation of multiple covers for the same issue and reboots out the wazoo to justify the multiple covers. Those crazy die-cut-, gold-embossed covers by whoever was the hottest artist at the moment.

And gimmicks are still used to the detriment of all on both the indie writer and comic book sides. For indies, the latest thing is buying, selling and trading e-mail lists.

NOTE: If you have signed up for my mailing list, or are planning to, my list stays PRIVATE. I WILL NOT buy, sell, or trade your information.

Why do I keep my mailing list private? Because (1) I already know buying the names of people who don't want to hear from me doesn't work, and (2) when other companies do that to me, it makes me pissed as hell.

For the comic books, the latest gimmick is short-term MAJOR changes to characters. I'm not a big Captain America fangirl, but making him a Hydra agent when fascism is on the rise in the world makes my stomach clench.

But to blame low sales on "no one wants diversity" when it's because of shitty storylines and stupid gimmicks?  No. Just no.

And for the record, I was a collector of X-men comics for thirty years, but I stopped ten years ago because of #3. Even when books were under $3, I couldn't afford all the spin-offs and crossovers to get the complete story. Not with a little kid.

And all of this brings us to...

4) Losing the Base Fans

I hate to point this out, but the Golden Age fans are dead or dying. Even those of us who grew up with the Silver Age heroes and stories are becoming grandparents. Where's the new fan base going to come from?

The movies? Really? When the studios are rehashing the same stories from the '30's and '60's over and over again? Even Genius Kid made a smart remark about how times are the movie producers going to make us watch the Waynes and Uncle Ben die on screen.


In the end, it's not diversity, lack of diversity, or whatever other hot-button issue of the day raises its head. We as writers need to be aware of our responsibility to our readers. Don't take advantage of them and deliver the best stories we can. That's all they really ask of us.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thank You, Nissan Midnight Edition Commercial...

...for finding me the perfect song for my Tiffany Stephens playlist.

(I'm now in love with Gin Wigmore and will be buying all her music.)


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Frustration Beyond Ken

And as Penny on The Big Bang Theory would say, "Your Ken can kiss my Barbie."

One week ago today, my new laptop arrived.  Three years ago when I needed a new one, Dell had stopped making the 11-inch sizes which was what my 2006 Isabella was. She was also the lightest weight laptop on the market back in the '00's.

So I sucked it up and bought a 15-inch laptop in 2014 after Isabella's screen died for a second time. Then manufacturers realized some of us need something small and light, but with more power than a tablet. Lo and behold! The 11-inch laptops are back!

And I could buy one for less than the new battery I needed for the 15-inch!

So I did though there was a massive debate between a blue one and a purple one. Blue won because it was thirty dollars less for the exact same specs. And it arrived on the 12th. I got everything set up and used my gorgeous new baby over the weekend.

"So what's the problem?" I can hear you asking.

Well, I had to finish our local tax return on Monday. (Yeah, I shouldn't have put it off until the last minute, but our town's return is relatively simple compared to the federal return.) Then yesterday, I had to run a bunch of errands, which culminated with a tetnus shot because I nagged my husband after he cut himself on a saw in his dad's garage, he couldn't remember his last update, and his step-grandfather had died of tetnus because the idiot (step-grandpa, not DH) refused to get treatment until it was too late.

So in an act of spiteful revenge, DH made an appointment for my tetnus booster as well. (Hey, at least I KNEW my last booster was in 2000!)

"What does this have to do with the new laptop?" you ask.

Today, Genius Kid and the rest of the junior class at our high school took the ACT because Ohio can't get their shit together when it comes to standardized tests. I had to pick up GK at 11:30 a.m., then I had the whole rest of the afternoon to myself to write.

So I put my new baby in her matching sleeve, grabbed an extra set of earbuds and my Stormtrooper flashdrive, and drove to the local Panera. I bought my Asiago cheese bagel, cream cheese, and large ice tea. I snagged my favorite booth. I popped open my new baby and booted her up.

And Word decided the copy on Baby Blue was not an authorized copy.

AAARRRGGGHHH!

If you're going to be an asshole and make some smartass comment on my blog about how Microsoft sucks, just stop right now. I will not only delete your comment, I will make a voodoo doll in your image and curse you for being a small, nasty person. Because I am in that sort of mood right now. Especially since I've been jamming on Sacrificed.

So I spent three hours trying to figure out what was wrong with my new computer. I think I have it fixed. Maybe. It's pretending to work. We'll find out for sure the next time I go to Panera's.

Because I have a free soufflé coming, and I really love their bacon spinach ones.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Oh, United!

The Sons of Maxwell created this after a disastrous engagement in Nebraska. Now, the notorious airline has moved to breaking people...


Friday, April 14, 2017

What Is Literature?

Literature

Definition:

(1) writings in prose or verse

(2) written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit

Origin - late Middle English (in the sense ‘knowledge of books’): via French from Latin litteratura, from littera (see letter).

For some reason, the difference between literature considered worthwhile and literature not considered worthwhile has been making the social media rounds over the last couple of days.

First, the magazine Bon Appétit made the mistake of posting this tweet on Twitter:


Nothing like insulting all us romance writers and readers who cook. And really, Bon Appétit? Slut shaming? After how many millions of people read Fifty Shades of Gray openly and publicly with the ORIGINAL COVER!

Bon Appétit has since changed the post:


Say it with yet again, ladies and gentlemen: THE INTERNET IS FOREVER!

Hybrid writer Bob Mayer then blogged about an NYT opinion piece that debated whether elitism or populism is more harmful to the arts. After reading the piece, I have to agree with Bob. The initial premise is like asking which smells worse: dog farts or cat farts.

And yesterday morning, Kris Rusch talked about the same issue in her weekly business blog. Ms. Rusch compared the indie revolution with the post-WWII increase in paperback publishers. The question she proposed: was there such a thing as a "good" book or a "bad" book?

To answer Ms. Rusch's  question: no, I don't think there's any such thing as a "good" or "bad" book. Oh, sure, there may be a difference between technically good or bad writing.

For example, look at how Yoda talks in the Star Wars. Standard English generally follows the subject-verb-object rule. Yet, Yoda's speech pattern generally uses object-subject-verb order.

Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.

Now if everyone in Star Wars spoke like Yoda, the writer can be properly castigated for abusing the English language, i.e. bad writing. However, Yoda's speech pattern emphasizes his alien-ness. This isn't a guy who thinks like the rest of us, so it's actually an example of good writing. The writer breaks the rules on purpose to create a specific effect in the consumer.

But when someone breaks down stories, or in this case books, into "good" and "bad" categories, it comes from their desire for power and control.

The actually reasons for desiring this control vary. The Bon Appétit issue stems from "good" girls cook for their men, whereas "bad" girls read smutty books, i.e. the desire to control female sexuality.

Trad publishers have lost a great deal of control in the industry. They are losing a ton of money for three reasons:

1) some writers who were trad published no longer submit manuscripts to them and are making money by going indie,
2) some writers have never submitted to them, and
3) some writers submitting to them haven't reached the technical proficiency need yet.

As a result, trad publishers claim that indie books aren't quality because they haven't been properly vetted.

Since the same corporations that own the big trad publishers also own the newspapers and magazines that do a lot of reviewing, things like the opinion piece in the NYT get published in order to shame readers into reading the "good" books, i.e. the same books our co-workers are publishing.

And then there's the moral police, screaming "Think of the children!"

My feeling is if you really want kids to read, give them something that interests them. I learned to read thanks to Dr. Seuss and Stan Lee. How many of moral police would be screaming about what a bad example the Cat in the Hat would be?

However, I would counter that Spider-man's "With great power comes great responsibility" would trump any bad cat influence I suffered.

Deep down though, the people who want to control what you read really want to control how you think.

Don't let them!

(And I'd be the first one to tell you to read Fifty Shades of Gray as many times as you want. )

Monday, April 10, 2017

I QUIT!

No, not me.

But I have been hearing it from a lot of indies lately. So much so I've been avoiding quite a few of the usual social media sites I frequent. It's a bit sad people give up when they don't hit the lottery.

Or even worse they write books they hate. Or game the system only to piss off their readers.

So if I'm not blogging as much over the next couple of months, it's because I'm avoiding the Debbie Downers out there.

I finished the first draft of Ravaged last Monday, so I'm enjoying that high and charging ahead on the first draft of Sacrificed. I refuse to let other people's negativity get me down right now. The only question right now is how fast can I get this bitch done!

P.S. If you're one of the assholes who thinks writing fast is shit writing, you need to go away. NOW! Because the last three books of the Bloodlines series have been done in my head for nearly ten years. It's just a question of getting them down on paper.

Or in my case, a computer screen.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - The Martian

Another movie we recorded during last month's free HBO weekend because we missed it during its general theater release, The Martian gives me a secret thrill. The screenplay is based on the novel of the same name by indie author Andy Weir, who published it in 2011.

As usual since the movie has been out for over a year, I'm not giving a SPOILERS warning.

There must be a universal rule that if you stick Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain in a hard science fiction movie, I will love it.

The Martian follows the plight of stranded astronaut/botanist Mark Watney, who is accidentally left behind during the Ares III manned Mars mission.

Man versus Nature movies rarely work when there's only one character. Humans have an aversion to watching silence, much less one endless monologue. And it takes one hell of an actor to keep someone's attention for any length of time in that silence. (Will Smith in I Am Legend is a prime example.)

Drew Goddard's screenplay and Ridley Scott's direction find ways to alleviate the quiet. The movie is edited to flip between Watley's efforts and initial loneliness, the guilt of the crew of the Ares III over Watley's apparent death, and the stunned realization of NASA that he's alive before their frantic efforts to put together a rescue mission.

There's a lot of similarities between The Martian and Apollo 13. Frankly, I don't see how the filmmakers could do otherwise. We're still talking about the same federal government agency. In fact, a friend commented that they tried to turn Jeff Daniels's NASA director, Theodore Sanders, into the so-called antagonist and it didn't work. To me, Sanders was what the director of any government agency always is and has to be, a politician looking at how to spin a disaster into something good. Or at least, not get your ass fired.

I want to show The Martian to every kid in the world to show that knowledge and ingenuity can carry you a long ways, but in the end, we humans caring about each other is how we all survive at the end of the day.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Friday, March 31, 2017

I CAN'T WAIT!

I've been waiting for this all my life!


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Finishing What You Start

Right now, I'm struggling to finish the Bloodlines series. There's many reasons for my slowdown that I won't get into here today. I'm going to focus on one, and it's the one that afflicts all writers if we're honest with ourselves.

Fear.

Some call it Imposter Syndrome. Some call it Fear of Failure. What ever you call it, whatever it is, we all have it. It's the fear that the art we've made isn't any good.

And [deity of your choice] help us, we want that reassurance that we aren't wasting our time by spending hours scribbling or typing words. Are they good? Are they crap? Who knows? We sure as hell don't.

Newbies especially want that reassurance. And never is that more evident when one of them approaches me with a few pages or a couple of chapters and wants me to read them. My standard response has become "Show it to me when it's finished."

The general response is along what you would expect if I had asked to ass-fuck their grandmas with a dildo instead.

The few who get over being initially offended ask, "Why do you need to see the whole thing?"

Writing fiction is storytelling. I don't know if your story has the basics. A protagonist. A beginning, a middle, and an end. A certain je ne sais quoi that ensnares me regardless of your typos and bad grammar. A few pages of pretty writing tells me nothing.

That's like asking me what your bread tastes like when we are standing in your field of uncut wheat. It's meaningless and irrelevant.

Usually at this point, the newbies have the same look in their eyes that they would if I'd just hit their dog with my car, got out, and kicked the corpse a couple of times for good measure.

So I gently ask, "Have you finished anything? Another novel? A short story perhaps?"

I'm still waiting for my first yes. Hell, I'm still waiting for one of these newbies to send me their completed novel.

And I think that's the hardest part of this art form. The part that separates the real writers from the wannabes. You have to finish what you start. Sure, that first novel may be a total piece of shit (mine sure was), but so what?

The real question to consider--did you have fun doing it?

But first, you have to finish that story before you'll ever know if it was fun.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Seriously, folks.

If I have to give you a SPOILERS warning before talking about this movie, you have had a very sad life, and you need to start watching animated Disney princess movies--STAT!

This is pretty much a scene-for-scene remake of Disney's 1991 animated version of the classic French fairy tale and using the music by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. The lush costuming and scenery are reminiscent of Hollywood musicals of the '30's and '40's.

Emma Watson's Belle is a little more millennial angsty than her animated counterpart. Ewan McGregor once again ably fills the shoes of an older actor who originated the role, in this case the late Jerry Orbach as Lumiere. Kevin Kline brings much needed depth to Maurice

There are a few slight changes to the story which only adds to the characters' motivations. Beast uses his mirror to show Belle her parents' old apartment in Paris and what really happened to her mother. Beast also opens up a bit talking about his relationships with his own parents, and how he allowed them to affect his personality. Finally seeing Gaston's obsession during the battle at the castle, LeFou switches sides, defends the castle staff, and gets his own happily ever after during Belle and Beast's wedding.

Overall, I give this movie 10 stars out of 10 because it makes my happy and I left the theater still singing the tunes. And I want to go see it again this week.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Target Marketing in the New World

Edit to Add: Ironically, Kris Rusch talked about a related issue this week. I suggest you go read her post on the massive amount of data we writers can collect on readers and our interactions with them.

* * *

Indie writers have this tendency to freak about modern marketing. They generally seem to go one of two ways: either they promote the hell out of only one or two books or they panic and don't market at all.

The really big mistake I think a lot of writers make is failing understand their own work and target it to an inappropriate audience. I see a lot of new writers in the game make the same mistake the Big 5 make--they through spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. But they have no idea why something sticks.

I will say this, and it is just my opinion--permafree isn't working like it used to. Too many readers feel they've been burned by the writers, but bad writing and incoherent stories weren't the only problem.

A subset of readers will only accept or download free books. I'm not talking about folks on a limited budget. I'm not dissing those people. I've been there. I know what it's like when you don't have a choice between food and heat. When even having a TV was a luxury out of my reach. I was lucky my county library was within walking distance. And I ended up buying copies of the very same books I enjoyed through the library system.

I'm talking about those folks who feel entitled to anything they want for free. Those who mock anyone for being stupid to pay. Those who openly pirate. Those people are going to pay you anyway, so including them in your marketing plan is probably not in your best interest.

And these types of folks are an example of what I mean. You need to target your marketing efforts towards people likely to have an interest in and the wherewithal to buy your book. Not everyone on the planet will want to read your book no matter how great your book is. So get over the idea that your book is for everyone NOW!

Let's start by looking at my own family. Mom's into sweet romance. My father-in-law reads military history. Genius Kid loves manga and military sci-fi. Dad secretly reads my X-men comics. My sister is a major horror fan.

Now, let's pretend none of these people are my family. How would I market my sword-and-sorcery novels to them?

A lot of indies would say that since my heroine and hero are in a long-term relationship emphasize that aspect to my mother. My protagonists are fighting demons so highlight that element to my sister. And, you get the idea. And that lovely plan will probably fail.

What's wrong with this plan? Well, first of all, I asked the wrong damn question. My question should have been how do I market my book to people who already LOVE sword-and-sorcery. The people who are actively seeking the exact type of book I wrote.

Does this mean that other folks won't like my book? No, but you'll be wasting your time and money going after people who aren't likely to make your book their first choice.

So how does this apply in real life?

If you decide to run a Facebook ad, you don't include everyone who loves books. You narrow it down by genre and subgenre. I could can even narrow it down by looking at people who are fans of the type of sword-and-sorcery I emulate, i.e. Mercedes Lackey and Barbara Hambly, not Roberrt E. Howard.

One of the best examples of how NOT to market your entertainment is John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood.  Michael D. Sellers does an excellent job of detailing the screwed-up marketing on a movie that had a ready made audience.

The best thing you can do though is understand your potential audience before you do any marketing whatsoever.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When Health Interferes

Writing is a glorious and enjoyable pastime for me. It's also terribly sedentary, which for me is no different than when I worked in IT or practiced law. It means taking breaks to prevent repetitive stress injuries, eating right, and exercising on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, I also have several chronic conditions that make keeping the health balance a little more difficult. The last two and half months have been especially so. I chalked the severe exhaustion up to my (relatively) mild seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I mean, we only had three days of sunshine for the entire month of January.

In the meantime, I was trying to finish the last three novels of the Bloodlines series. I'd been delayed a month thanks to my own freakin' mistake. Then the exhaustion set in, and it became a struggle thinking straight, much less writing a page or two each day. I figured as long as I kept moving forward, things would get better.

Then we started getting a little more sunshine, and I felt a little better. My days were a little more productive, but definitely not where they should be.

Time for the family's annual check-ups rolled around, and I started making the calls and appointments. My general practioner had an opening for me a couple of months early, and I took it.

I'm glad I did. My numbers were all over the place. Basically, the hormonal changes of menopause were playing havoc with my careful balance of the last two decades. It means experimenting with my drug formulas again to strike the right notes.

On top of the physical effects is a healthy dose of frustration and anger that my body is still making me pay for the choice to have a child. But that's what my personal journal and this blog is for, dealing with those feelings.

As I write this, it's been fours days with the new formula. I already feel the difference. The question is how this new condition will play out over the next couple of weeks.

But if you're a writer and you're healthy, please, PLEASE maintain that health as long as you can. Take good care of your body because it has more of an affect on our minds than we realize.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Movie Mania - Mockingkjay Part II

This was one of the movies we recorded during the HBO free weekend last month, and subsequently watched. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II came out during the holiday season of 2015, about the time our beloved beagle Dax died and Darling Husband's parents ended up in the hospital. In all the chaos, we missed our chance to see it.

Normally, I don't hold the book against the movie derived from it. They are two very different artforms. But in this case, two padded two-plus-hour movies should have been shortened to one three-hour film.

Mockingjay Part I ended with the rescue of Peeta from President Snow's people, and Katniss's horrified realization of how far Peeta's torture has twisted his mind and emotions.

Once again, this movie is over a year old, not to mention the book came out seven years ago, so I'm not bothering with a SPOILERS warning.

Part II frankly plods through the last part of the story. There's a great many scenes that could have been trimmed since they were made to show off the special effects, not really advance the story.

There was also a certain numbness in Katniss, which I don't blame on Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal, but are more the fault of the direction and script. At this point in the book, Katniss had a single-minded determination that wasn't truly reflected in the movie.

Also, they left out Katniss's attempted suicide after killing interim President Coin. That attempt was a direct result over losing Prim despite all of Katniss's efforts. These two changes left me rather indifferent toward the character.

I also need to re-read the book because I was fairly certain Snow finally succumbed to the poison he'd been ingesting over the years, laughing and choking as he enjoyed turning Katniss against Coin in the end.

Overall, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II was technically proficient, but left me emotionally cold. I give it 6 stars out of 10.