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When “Just Do It” Isn’t The Advice You Want To Hear

I’ve sort of drifted into this weird limbo of not getting much writing done. I still really love the story, but I think I’m psyching myself out into doubting my abilities. Can’t put my finger on where this is coming from. The feedback from what I’ve written so far has been good and the next scene is clear in my head, but the writing? Not with the happening. I know every writer goes through this and the only solution is to Get Butt in Chair and WRITE.

It’s just . . .

I really don’t want to hear that advice right now. And I guess that’s because hearing what I know I have to do only makes me feel like a bigger loser for not doing it. I’m not used to this at all. I’m more of a “What’s the problem? Let’s solve it.” kind of thinker. Especially when it comes to other people’s problems. But maybe certain problems don’t require a solution or, rather, the solution is simply a friendly ear and a little understanding.

Thoughts?

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What’s So Great About Firefly? Part 1

Last Saturday I went to Comic Con and since it was my only day there, (would’ve gone the whole weekend if I could’ve gotten off work) I decided to try to get into the IGN theater where all the big panels are held. Of the many awesome ones I saw that afternoon, I was pretty psyched for the last one of the day: Firefly:the tenth anniversary.

Can you believe it’s been TEN YEARS since it was on?

Anyway, the moderator came out to start the panel and introduced the first guest. About three words into the intro, the crowd exploded with cheering/applause/insane yelling because we all knew he was talking about Jewel Staite (Kaylee). This went on a good thirty seconds before the crowd settled. The same thing happened, again, three words into the intro of the next guest, Sean Maher (Simon). The last guest, Nathan Fillion, was calling from his cell and people STILL went nuts for just his voice coming out of a speaker.

To put the crowds reaction in perspective, the panel before it was for The Walking Dead, which is the highest rated show on basic cable. Averaging between seven to ten million viewers, it does as well as or better than lower rated shows on the big networks. A good portion of the main cast (including Norman Reedus who is the most popular) was at this panel and the crowd went crazy as they walked onto the stage.

But not Firefly crazy.

And The Walking Dead is currently airing, in other words, very fresh in people’s minds. In a decade, the Firefly signal has not been stopped and probably gets new fans every year. For show that lasted only fourteen episodes, that is REMARKABLE.

Back to the panel.

So, Jewel, Sean and Nathan were having a good time talking about their experience on the show in a very “we’re still good friends and like each very much” kind of way, when Nathan starts describing what Jewel and Sean are wearing. At this point, everyone’s looking all over the theater to see where Nathan is hiding. He tells Jewel to point to the back of the theater and directs her further by saying “warmer” or “colder” while we’re scanning the area for him. Meanwhile, he was sneaking up behind Jewel and once we realized it, an even bigger explosion of cheers/applause/insane yelling that continued at least a minute.

Obviously, you can’t have a Firefly panel without discussing the cancellation (it came up so much, Sean started busting the moderator’s chops by frequently suggesting they talk MORE about it) and Jewel mentioned how, creator, Joss Whedon was literally “shaking” with anger. Nathan added that after they got news, they only had four more days to work together. He figured everyone’s performance was going suffer because of low morale, but the complete opposite happened. They worked HARDER and milked as much enjoyment as they could out of those four days. How many of us can say we’d work harder at a job when we knew we’d soon lose it? Goes to show the level of love and passion that went into each episode.

Another cool story came from Jewel, who originally auditioned for the role of River Tam, but Joss wasn’t having it. He told her flat out, “You’re Kaylee.” After getting the role, she was told to GAIN twenty pounds and if I remember correctly, she had, maybe, a month to do it. Nathan jumped in to say when he later saw Jewel at the craft services table he was like, “Hey, how’re feeling?” and she replied, “Full.”

This lead to Nathan and Sean sharing stories on how they got their parts and had similar answers: Joss’ vision of the show sold them.

In Nathan’s case, there was no script to read. He had a production deal with FOX and had roles presented to him regularly. After a pitch, he’d ask for more details about the show, like character motivations, themes, etc and the response went something like, “Well, I don’t know, but that stuff will work itself out after we get started.” Joss, on the other hand, had all those details worked out to the smallest degree and Nathan knew he was in good hands. It was also his first show as the lead and was incredibly grateful for Joss giving him the chance. From then on, he decided he’d accept any role Joss offered, even if if he didn’t know what it was. Jewel and Sean agreed.

That’s enough for now. I’ll go into the Q&A portion of the night next week.

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The Next Big Thing (What’s it Called?)

My buddy, Kait, tagged me in this ten question meme about my current work in progress. Normally, I never have answers for these things, but for this one, I had stuff to say!

  1. What is the title of your book? Don’t have one yet. I’ll probably take suggestions from my buddies when I finish writing it because I SUCK at titles.
  2. Where did the idea come from for the book? I had this idea for a vampire hunter who wasn’t hunting because of a mystical calling or a burning desire to vanquish evil. He does it because the money’s good. Not really the kind of guy you’d want to root for, but it got the wheels turning and I figured out why he was really hunting. It’s mighty heroic.
  3. What genre does your book fall under? Paranormal post-apocalyptic.
  4. What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book? Public opinion on vampire hunting is at an all time low and if the government’s best hunter wants to keep his job, he’ll have to let a reality TV host into his world.
  5. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Never thought of characters as specific actors, but here’s who has inspired my main guys:
  • Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens for my vampire hunter. I’ve always liked the virtuous hero who, while aware of the time he’s in, has a moral compass from the wild west. He saves the day, but will no doubt ruffle some straight edge’s feathers.
  • Ryan Seacrest for my reality TV host. His look, from top to bottom, is flawless and every word uttered is pitch perfect as if he spends serious mirror time rehearsing. He’s also got an enthusiastic persona that’s endeared him to the public. He’s America’s sweetheart.
  1. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? This will be my debut, so I plan to self-pub and use it to start building my street cred.
  2. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? I’m still writing and it’s slow going. I’d like to be done early next year, but I haven’t given myself a specific deadline.
  3. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre? I’m not well read in the post-apocalyptic genre, but I am modeling my hero to be in the same league as Jack Reacher, Pendergast and Harry Dresden. So, hopefully, if you like any of those guys, you’ll like mine just as much.
  4. Who or what inspired you to write this book? Me. I inspired me. I damn inspiring.
  5. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Everything I’ve typed for this question sounded like a sales pitch, so I’ll just tell you why I’m excited to write this:
  •  There’s a theme emerging the more I write, about the person we see ourselves as vs. the person the world sees and how we deal with that.
  • It’s been fun creating my own mythology for vampires and seeing the emotional potential it has.
  • The prevailing sexy vampires in love/love triangle thing is not in this book. Plenty of writers have gone there already and I just don’t have anything fresh to add. BUT, the romantic direction I’m going in is something I’d like to see more of, but since I’m not, I’m writing it myself.

I’m sure I’m supposed to tag people, but I’d rather let YOU decide if you want to play. So, if you like these questions, go for it!

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The Knee-Jerk Reaction

Was doing a little internet surfing yesterday and came across a video review of Prometheus. It had the similar complaints I’ve heard in other reviews about the movie not making sense. But it was far more entertaining and, in part two, did some very cool theorizing as to what Ridley Scott might’ve been going for.

See for yourself, but only if you’ve watched the movie because there be many spoilers ahead.

On the sidebar was another clip, Prometheus EXPLAINED, and the only reason I clicked that one was because it had almost half a million hits. Surely, he must be saying something worthwhile to attract so much attention.

This guy gives good analysis. Watch out for spoilers on this one too.

During the review he mentioned when Alien (Prometheus is the prequel to Alien) came out, many critics, like Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin, gave it poor reviews. Here’s a small sampling of what reviewers thought of Alien in 1979. It’s not pretty.

Today, Alien is regarded as a sci-fi classic and holds a 97% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Out of all the reviews, THREE are negative. Guess which reviews have the most comments? The very first comment (and there’s over a hundred) on a negative review : “I’m thinking this guy is borderline retarded.”

In 1979, movies like Star Wars and Close Encounters were the benchmark for sci-fi and since Alien was not those movies, it got slammed. Maybe when a movie comes out that’s unlike what we’re used to, the knee-jerk reaction is to say it sucks. Does this mean some people aren’t smart enough to get this stuff? No way. There are lots of reasons people don’t like movies and the point of this post isn’t to figure out why.

Writers do lots of thinking and imagining because when they see the world, they tend to see things that aren’t there. Some of these things are so bizarre, they only make sense to the writer. What if Ridley Scott doubted himself and didn’t make Alien? He wouldn’t have the legion of fans ready to defend his work. He wouldn’t have inspired countless others to go outside the box with storytelling. This gives me the confidence to tell my stories the way I see them in my head. I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with something on the Alien level of recognition. (I doubt anyone REALLY knows that’s what they’re creating anyway. The people decide.) What I can do, is to always tell the story I want. Doesn’t matter if the idea sounds crazy or no one gets it. As long as it gets me fired up to write it, then that’s what I’m going to do.

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Do You Care If a Book Is a Kindle Bestseller?

Random thought today. Been seeing a lot of books published with Kindle bestseller on the cover. A LOT. To me, Kindle bestseller means the general Kindle 100. But there are so many subcategories, it’s entirely possible to be a bestseller in something as soon as your book comes out. But that’s never on the cover. Just bestseller.

This kind of truth stretching isn’t limited to books, either. This morning, I saw a promo for Revolution and the 29 MILLION people who tuned in. They don’t tell you that’s the cumulative amount of viewers over the course of multiple airings. They make it sound like that many people tuned in for one night.

But back to my point.

I’ve seen enough of this stuff in books that I gloss right over any mention of bestseller. And that really sucks because it would be cool to have “Kindle Bestseller” on a book, but it’s gotten so diluted, it seems kind of meaningless. On the other hand, it could be a good thing because it forces a book to be good on it’s own merits. And if it gets on the coveted list, it earned it’s place there.

But I have zero books published, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. Thoughts?

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What’s Wrong With The Wheel?

I think most of us have heard the theories on how many basic plots exist in fiction. Depending on the source you go by, the answer is as simple as one or as many as  . . . well, there isn’t any agreement on how many possibilities there are. And since these possibilities have been used so much in storytelling, writers are told to make these basic ideas FRESH! and NEW! I think this can get confusing because if you go too outside the box, no one can relate to your story. But if it’s too familiar to an existing story, you’re accused of ripping it off.

Arg!

I’ve been thinking about this since I watched Premium Rush. The plot is in no way mind-blowing: bike messenger is trying to deliver a package that a dirty cop is willing to kill for. A Chase plot, according to James Scott Bell. If I wasn’t a total Joseph Gordon Levitt fanboy, I probably would’ve passed on this one until it came to Netflix. But since I can’t help but go to all of his movies, I bought my ticket and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

I think this was due to the overall fun of the movie and likeability of Levitt’s character. He’s the first person you meet and he’s quickly established as a sarcastic,  slightly insane (with the way he rides through Manhattan) kind of guy who rides through the city on one gear with no brakes and never looks back. From then on, I was hooked and wanted to see what mess he’d get himself into.

Most comments I’ve read about the movie are people saying they’re not interested in seeing it because of the less than grabby premise.

But . . .

Everyone who has seen it, has really liked it. From the little bit I read, the feedback was all positive for the same reasons I had. It was fun and Levitt’s character was likable. I have a feeling this movie will do well once it’s rentable. Definitely reminded me of Gleaming the Cube or the lesser known B.R.A.T. Patrol. (No listing on Netflix OR Amazon. WTF?)

Coincidentally, the book I’m reading also has a not so mind-blowing plot, yet I’m still loving every second I’m in that world. It’s called Spider’s Bite by Jennifer Estep and it’s the first book in the elemental assassin series. The hero, Gin, is on her latest assassin job, which doesn’t go according to plan and has been framed for a murder she DIDN’T commit. But just like Premium Rush, Gin is introduced in a way that you know what she’s all about and like her immediately. By the time the main story is in motion, you’re set to follow Gin wherever she goes.

When I decided to watch Premium Rush and read Spider’s Bite, my objective was to be entertained by a FUN story. While I love a deep, thoughty story as much as the next guy, I still have a place for fun. This doesn’t mean a fun story gets a pass on having a solid plot. It still needs one. But maybe it doesn’t have to blow the hinges off what’s been done. Maybe the place to really concentrate on our uniqueness is in our characters and the way they react to the basic premise we put them in. What do you guys think? Any other examples of stellar characters livening up a basic plot?

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Your Mom Was Right About Honesty

Your mom or whoever told you honesty is the best policy.

My last blog surprised me with the response. I wanted to write something since I hadn’t in a while (Something I’m trying really hard not to do) and my social media blah was on my mind. So, I wrote my mind, hit publish and said, “Ah, that felt good.” (Just like that) Well, not only were the comments awesome, but I received positive messages on Twitter, Facebook and a really cool email. I don’t think I said anything super profound, just being honest. To me, that’s the best kind of blogging.

The other day, Piper Bayard posted a question on Facebook that went like this:

When a blogger has a personal challenge going on in his/her life, does it serve you as a reader to know about it? Are you interested in sharing someone else’s trials and journeys, or do you prefer things to be a bit less personal?

I chimed in basically saying that personal stuff on a blog is the best way to go for a few reasons:

1. (The obvious one) No one can write you better than you. Kait says it all the  time here that we’re marketing ourselves, which makes perfect sense because how else can we be unique? And there’s a lot that makes up me as I’m sure there’s a lot that makes up all of you. So, why limit our blog posts to a few select topics? There’s lots of talk about target audience and what they’d like to read. I sort of think readers don’t know what they want to read. They know what they like, but it’s our job to decide what’s reader worthy. Big difference.

Another factor for the blogger is individual comfort level. Some people will be more an open book than others, but how much of your life you share isn’t the issue. It’s how you share the information you’re willing to share, which brings us to point two:

2. If you’re a blogger, you’re a storyteller. Think about that person you know who always has interesting things to talk about. Now think about that person who talks your ear off to the point that you’d literally give him your ear to talk to rather than stick around for more. Everyone loves a good story and if you’re a good storyteller, it won’t matter what you blog about. The only criteria, structure wise, is to have a beginning, middle and end. And this doesn’t have to be paragraphs of text.

Go read some of Lauralynn‘s posts. Some of them are ONE paragraph, but are still stories. They don’t always have a theme or moral (I don’t think that’s purpose of blogs in general) and that’s okay. She writes these little snapshots of her thoughts well and when a new one pops up in my inbox, I have no idea what it’ll be about. I just know I’m in for a good story.

3. Intelligent honesty is gold. I say intelligent honesty because there some who will write awful and hurtful things and claim, “I’m just being honest!” or “I’m entitled to my opinion!” as a justification for basically being an asshole.

I’m not going to explain how to be intelligent with your honesty; either you know how or you don’t. To the bloggers that do, don’t be afraid to write something you think will turn off readers. Readers are pretty smart. They know the difference between nonsense and a well written opinion. Guess which one they have more respect for? Yes, there’s always the chance of being attacked on your blog. Strong opinions can attract a strong response.

A great example of what to do in one of those situations is How Long Should You Make a Guy Wait? by Natalie Hartford. Natalie had a definite answer to her question and not everyone agreed with her in the comments. Even when some of the comments got nasty, she still treated those guys with respect and actually managed to find some common ground with them. She might’ve lost some readers, but I think intelligent honesty brings in way more new ones.

4. If you prefer to write a specific topic, can you personalize it.? Take reviews for example. Lots of people, including me, do them. I could do a straight review, which is fine, but there’s also many other writers doing the same thing. And I really don’t blame someone for going to Entertainment Weekly for a review instead of my blog. So, maybe I’ll focus on a particular scene or what I got out of the movie. There’s probably less of that going on and as long as I stick to the above points, I’ll have something worth reading.

So there you go. The secrets to blogging success. Thankyougoodnight.

On a completely different note, I’m halfway through my buddy Claire Legrand’s debut, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and I LOVE IT so far. It’s categorized as middle grade, but unless you’re allergic to awesome storytelling, it will appeal to the non-middles graders as well. You can also read the first chapter for FREE! on her website. Here’s the blurbage:

Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster—lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does too.)

But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out…different. Or they don’t’ come out at all.

If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria—even if it means getting a little messy.