Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Arrogance Required

Arrogance has gotten a bad rap.  When someone is seen as arrogant, the connotations that go along with that moniker are almost always negative.  In a lot of cases, that negativity is deserved.  Those cases are usually when someone pipes up about something about which they know nothing, or regarding an activity they've never done but claim to be expert at.

However, regarding our profession - or any profession, really - arrogance is a trait that is necessary to achieve success.  Think about the brass tacks it takes to believe you have what it takes to play football better than anyone else on the planet.  Or that you are the person who is best to lead the country.  Or that you have what it takes to tell a story that lots of people will not only love, but will pay good money for...

When it comes to writing, that's what we're basically saying - we're so good at telling a story that audiences will sit enraptured by our tale.  It's necessary for us to put our work out there and market it so that other people will fork over their hard earned cash for it.  Yes, I know that many writers are pretty insecure when it comes to their stories, but folks simply won't be successful if we sit on our insecurities and don't try to get other people to buy them.

Think for a moment about authors like Stephen King or JK Rowling.  Do you have any doubt that they honestly believe they can tell a horror story or spin a tale about a wizard and world of magic better than anyone on the planet?  I know what you're saying, that they actually can write those tales better than anyone, so that level of arrogance is justified, but that doesn't mean that it's not arrogance.  Reaching the top of the profession requires it.

This doesn't mean you don't go out and try to improve your craft, or that you're unwilling to take honest criticism.  It means that when you write a story, you have to believe it to be so good that people will want to spend time reading it.  If you don't believe that, why are you even writing?

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Quality Versus Quantity

I've been having a debate with a few author friends recently, and it basically boils down to how often and under what circumstances a writer should publish new books.  One friend is of the opinion that writers, especially new writers, should put out as many books as possible as quickly as possible in order to create an inventory that can start making money.  The thought there is that flooding the zone creates more opportunities for people to buy your work, so give as many as possible.

The second school of thought is that while creating an inventory is nice, quality matters more since people aren't like to buy your inventory if what you write is crap.  In other words, don't publish unless you're certain that you have something of quality that everyone will like.

Some writers are extremely prolific.  Even as prolific as they are, they still manage to write wonderful books that demonstrate a remarkable degree of talent.  Others write wonderful novels but only publish every few years.  They meticulously go over every detail until it's just right.

I think I come down somewhere in between.  I've written four novels that are in serious need of rewriting.  Yes, I could publish them now and increase my inventory, but folks would then likely skip more of my work since really good stuff would be intermixed with absolutely horrible stuff.  In my opinion, bad stuff is so damaging to a reputation that it's hard to overcome it with good work.  People get skittish about picking up one of your books since they have no idea if they'll get a diamond or a mound of compost.

As a parallel, many people love the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip.  Back in my day - you know...eons ago when dinosaurs roamed the Earth - people couldn't get enough.  However, the strip's creator, Bill Watterson, was adamant about rewriting poor work so that the quality was high.  Despite demand, he felt that poor strips would turn people off and reduce his audience.  I feel the same way about putting out lower quality work.

That's not to say that writers can just sit back and await perfection.  Although some writers strike gold on their first foray, and can thus afford to be more selective, most of us will acquire a small but loyal fan base.  And since that fan base isn't large enough to bring us to the NY Times Bestseller List, we need volume to create a steady stream of income.
(on a side note, if you're retching right now because you think that the "art" should be done just for its own sake...grow up.  Most of us have funny needs, like "food" and "heat," so actually selling our work is sort of a big deal)

I think that once one achieves success, it then becomes easier to take larger breaks between works.  However, especially at the beginning, we have the double burden of needing to be both prolific and good.  Just don't sacrifice one for the other.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Great Review For Salvation Day!

Self Publishing Review just gave me a tremendous review for Salvation Day!  It's never easy to solicit feedback on your work, but I couldn't be more thrilled with what they said about my work.  Check out the review for yourself, and if you haven't read it, pick up a copy today.  I hope you'll enjoy it at least as much as James Grimsby did.

Plus, if you're interested in reading more about me and the crazy inside of my mind, check out their author interview with me.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Two Space Or Not Two Space

In researching for this piece, I've discovered that there's a controversy in the writing world I never knew existed - whether or not to put two spaces between sentences.  Feelings run unexpectedly high on the issue, from some folks saying absolutely not to do it, to others who say that it's steeped in rich grammatical history.  Some have gone so far as to say that it's a sign of being old(or at least over 40) if you use two spaces after a sentence.  What began as a quirky little post became a journey into a surprisingly passionate subject that pit nerd against nerd, and grammarian against grammarian.

I learned, eons ago when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, to use two spaces at the end of each sentence(or a semicolon).  It became so ingrained in me, and I've been doing it for so long, that it's as natural now as breathing.  In fact, I have to make a deliberate effort to only use one space, and I've found that effort so disrupting to the flow of my work that I stopped worrying about it.  But why did that rule ever come about?

Apparently it was all a result of our use of typewriters.  In the olden days, before computers, typewriters all used the same font and spacing.  The letter "l" used the same amount of spacing as the letter "w."  In order to create separation between sentence and provide for better flow, what I call the "rule of two" came into being.  And it was used for a long time.  It became standard practice in both classrooms and media offices.  School after school that taught typewriting - which was nearly every high school in existence prior to 1995 - drilled the rule of two into everyone's head.  This made it a natural reaction.

However, when computers came along, it became moot.  Office programs made it so that the spacing now no longer relied on manual typesetting, so one space was plenty good enough to see the difference between sentences.  Typesetters even began discouraging two spaces after a sentence as it created extra work for them.  This has not been enough to overcome some of the (older) inertia.

I use two spaces.  I probably always will.  I independently publish, and I still think that two spaces provides a good break between independent thoughts, but I'm not opposed to those who use one space.  But bring that up in a group of writers under the age of 30 and you might as well have set a sack of puppies on fire.  Talk about angst - sheesh!

So where do you fall, and why?  Are you a two-spacer?  Or do you believe it's one space, and all two-spacers are secret members of a Satanic cult?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Just Write The Damn Story

Folks, I've done my best to stay out of politics.  I don't comment on the current President, just like I didn't comment on the last one.  I don't talk about Congress, or the federal budget, or the latest polls and what they may or may not say about an upcoming election.  I even stay out of topics sensitive to readers on all sides regarding same-sex marriage, abortion, and the war on drugs.  However, I'm going to stray a bit here, because some stuff is creeping in that affects actual writing.

The biggest takeaway is that writers are writing scared.  Far too many are getting so worried about not offending people that it's getting in the way of writing good stories.  Some folks are going so far as to have sensitivity readers look at their work so as to ensure that no one is offended and all the proper PC etiquette is observed.  Remember the saga of The Black Witch?  Laurie Forest endured scathing criticism of a novel that most people hadn't even read yet.  One reviewer talked about how the book was culturally insensitive, and suddenly the McCarthyites came out of the woodwork.  You'd have thought she penned a new Mein Kamp or something.

Then there is "cultural appropriation," a term which makes me want to vomit.  This is the belief that we're all supposed to stay in our own little world and not write about that which is from another culture different than ours(as if one culture or another "owns" something, or readers even know which culture is doing the writing in the first place).  This is idiotic from several standpoints, not the least of which being how limiting it is to both the writer and the audience.  Who gave anyone the right to tell us what we can and can't write?  If writers stayed only within their own world, we'd be denied some tremendous stories...stories that belong to all of us, not just select members of a certain group.  There's also the myopic view that this creates, limiting us to only what we know and never allowing us to explore outside of it.  Isn't the whole point of exploring other cultures to get to know them?  What is the point of diversity if it can't enrich us all?  Further most of those talking about not culturally appropriating things are referring less to real culture and more to skin color, which is an awfully stupid way to assess which culture someone came from.  I know folks of all races from all cultures, so assuming someone's culture by the color of their skin is only slightly less racist than...well...nothing.

I've come across a lot of writers that won't engage on certain topics or viewpoints because they're worried they may upset the wrong group of people.  Doesn't this keep us from writing good stories?  What's wrong with writing what you like and then letting the audience decide if it's any good?  So many classics throughout time have been maligned as wrongthink, from Huckleberry Finn to I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings to A Wrinkle In Time, that if those writers had listened to such scolds, we'd have been deprived of some amazing work.

Write what you're comfortable with and think is a good story.  I didn't write Wrongful Death from the point of view of a high school girl, but I originally tried, and I wouldn't begrudge anyone, man or woman, who could pull it off.  I doubt JK Rowling was ever an eleven year old boy or a wizard, but she did a great job with Harry Potter.

This isn't just a political issue - it's an issue of freedom.  I thought we'd long since moved past the era of book burnings, but today's scolds are trying to accomplish basically the same thing, which is to prevent a larger audience from enjoying a certain work because the scold finds it to be heresy.  Where we used to worry about fundamentalist churches banning books, now it's "sensitive" people who somehow know what's best for our entire society.  What a joke!  If you don't care for a book, don't read it!  However, acting as judge and jury because you think you're all "woke" is incredibly conceited and stifling.

Writers should write.  Let the audience decide what's good and what's not good.  I promise they will.  Beyond that, don't worry about what a bunch of overly sensitive ninnies who wouldn't know good literature if it smacked them will say.  Just be creative.

Okay...rant over.  Now go back to your lives...

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Been Busy

Sorry about missing a post last week.  Life has been hectic, and I didn't plan ahead to have a post ready.  Time also caught up to me today(the NFL playoffs didn't do me any favors  :-P  ).  I promise I'm working on something for Thursday.  I get that y'all are probably getting tired of me missing posts or complaining about time, but that's life at the moment.

I'll pull out of my laziness and pity party this week.  Until that point, please accept my apologies for being short on content.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Calling All Bloggers!

This post won't be long - I'm putting out a call for anyone who would like to guest blog.  Someone recently pointed out to me that writers should help give each other platforms to get the word out about ourselves, and I've decided to join the cause.  Anyone looking to guest post, please contact me at  Send me a brief bio and what you'd like to blog about.  If you have a book out or about to be out, I'll happily link to it from here.

So come one, come all - dazzle us!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Last Jedi Review(WITH SPOILERS)

As most of the universe knows, The Last Jedi came out a little while back, and I went to see it the day after it was released.  I've waited a bit before reviewing it in order to make sure the legions of fans who were rabid got to see it and give it some thought before I reviewed it.  It's no surprise that I'm a big sci-fi nerd, so I was really looking forward to this movie.  Last chance warning - this review contains massive spoilers.

Okay, now that we've got that out of the way, we can begin...

I have to say...I didn't like this movie.  As time has passed, I've liked this movie even less, going so far as to say I hated it.  It was among the biggest disappointments I've ever come across, ranking up there with Batman Vs Superman and World War Z.  Disney seems to think that slapping the name Star Wars on something will make it automatically a blockbuster, and that's probably true, but that doesn't automatically make it a good story.

To start with, they've destroyed the legacy of the characters who made Star Wars great.  I get needing a new generation to pass the torch to, but this didn't pass the torch - it snuffed it out.  Killing Han Solo in The Force Awakens was supposed to add gravitas to the movie, so while I thought it a bit reaching, it fit.  In The Last Jedi, however, the other old characters were completely left out.  Chewbacca is on screen for all of two minutes, and only when he roars at Luke(leaving the rest to Rey for some reason) and gets an attack of conscience about eating a bird-like creature for supper, because it's cute or something.  Luke Skywalker, the hero of the original trilogy, gets barely any screen time, and what he does get makes him out to be a horrible person.  He isn't just a crotchety old man; he's an asshole.  He was supposedly broken by Ben turning into Kylo Ren and embracing the dark side, but then we learn of one of the main reasons why - Luke was about to kill him.  This is so out of character for Luke that it made me wonder if there was some kind of doppelganger involved.  Let's not forget that this was the same guy who literally refused to strike down one of the most evil men ever because Luke felt there might be a tiny sliver of good left in him.  However, in this movie, he appeared willing to stand over the sleeping form of his sister's only child and strike him down as he slept because there might be some bad in him.  Remember, in The Force Awakens, Kylo himself admitted that he felt a pull back to the light, so shouldn't Luke have been able to sense this conflict and try to bring him back before deciding to turn him into a shish kabob?  I know that he said he pulled back, but even going as far as he did destroyed the visage of a man who believes in ultimate redemption.  Remember, Kylo hadn't yet done anything; Darth Vader blew up whole planets and choked people to death simply because they pissed him off.

While we're on Luke, was the whole Yoda cameo really necessary?  Yoda showed up to tell "Young Skywalker" that he still had much to learn.  And he can apparently still use the force in our world by bringing down lightning to destroy the "tree of good"(that's what I'm calling it) that held all the Jedi books.  He was a sad, comical character who added nothing to the film.  A better idea might've been to bring back a vision of a reformed Anakin to remind Luke that he redeemed him, so maybe he can do the same with Ben.

There was one, and only one, point at which we thought maybe Luke was the badass we all knew he could be.  Remember that part in The Empire Strikes Back where Darth Vader literally blocked Han Solo's blaster shots with his hand?  In this movie, Kylo Ren had a dozen AT-ATs fire at Luke and he walked away from them.  I thought at first that a better thing might have been for him to deflect them the way Vader did, but it still gave me some hope that maybe he was a higher order of Jedi Master after all.  But then...nope!  Turns out that he projected a hologram of himself halfway across the galaxy,  He didn't raise his ship from the water and fly in to the rescue as the hero we always saw him to be.  Instead, he was sitting on a rock doing some kind of "ohm, ohm, ohm" yoga thing and fooling everybody.  Then he just faded away, because I guess force projection is lethal.

Going back to the beginning of the movie, the Resistance attack on the First Order's Dreadnaught was...well...laughable.  I get it that we're supposed to suspend disbelief in a movie about fighting in outer space, but you can't ignore obvious stuff, like major laws of physics.  During the fight, the Resistance bombers had to go over the top of the Dreadnaught to drop their bombs because...they needed gravity?  In space?  This is space for crying out loud!  One of the hallmarks of outer space is no appreciable gravity, meaning that the Resistance could've launched their bombs from practically anywhere and let inertia do the rest.  I get folks who come down on me for wanting a sci-fi movie to be a little realistic, but this part was waaaaayyyyyyy over the top.  They might as well have needed to shield their eyes from the sun, too.

As the Resistance flees the approaching First Order ships(btw, didn't the rebels rout the original Empire?  You'd think they'd have kept some kind of military force beyond "Leia and a few ships that can be beaten up pretty easily."  If not, then how did they retake power in the first place?), they run into something that has never been an issue in Star Wars before - fuel.  Sure, maybe an okay plot point, but given that no one has ever mentioned it before, it seemed like a stretch.  Still, let's go with it.  After an attack that blew Leia out into friggin' space, she somehow morphed into Supergirl and figured out how to fly through space.  With no oxygen.  And no air pressure.  Unconscious.  Yes, Leia showed a very brief ability to tap into the force in The Empire Strikes Back, and she is a Skywalker, but not only did they not allude to anything to do with her force abilities in The Force Awakens(aside from apparently knowing Han was used as a pin cushion for their boy), they've never shown space flying as a Jedi ability.  Yet this untrained woman pulled it off, I guess because they knew folks might be pissed she got killed(even though she's dead in real life).  So she magic-moves back inside, while in a coma, and the Resistance fleet is now in the command of some purple haired actress who we haven't seen up to now.  But she's brilliant.  Totally brilliant.  So brilliant that she has devised a plan to save her people and fool the First Order into leaving them alone.  So awesomely, outstandingly brilliant that she not only conceives of this plan, but then promptly tells absolutely nobody, thus giving everyone the impression that she's an incompetent boob and they have to do something if they are to survive at all(thus leading to a 45 minute totally unnecessary subplot which I'll discuss in a few minutes).  I've heard some very ignorant people say things to the effect of, "Well, she's in charge, and the lower Soldiers would never be told of the plan."  That's absolute, 100% horseshit.  There's a concept in the military called Mission Command, and it's both a big deal and fairly standard practice.  The whole point is that you tell everyone, including your lowest subordinate, the intent of the plan so that they can carry it out in the event things go sideways(as they tend to do in combat).  Purple Hair could've eliminated the coup, the trip to the Star Destroyer, and the trip to Vegas Planet, simply by saying, "BTW, folks, we're going to use our ship's destruction to mask our escape to this planet we used to have a base on."  That's Leadership 101, yet she acted haughty and basically provoked a few alpha personalities to come up with something, anything, if they were to survive.

Two of the biggest mysteries of The Force Awakens were the identity of Rey's parents, and who was Supreme Leader Snoke?  Was Rey a Kenobi?  A long lost child of Emperor Palpatine?  Some left behind half sibling of Ben that no one knew about?  WHAT COULD BE THE ANSWER?  Well, it turns out that her parents were nobodies who got drunk and traded their kid for some whiskey.  All well and good to show that strong force users can exist outside of the Skywalker line, but building up the mystery so much and then pulling this kind of crap was an enormous waste.  Even if they pull out that it was all some kind of Kylo Ren trick and she's really related to some big shot in Episode IX, this whole bit left everybody feeling deflated, and no one will buy it should it turn in the next movie.  And then there was about a letdown.  Darth Vader and the Emperor knew Luke existed in the original trilogy because of the effect he had on the force.  So here we had an enormously powerful dark side force wielder that now led what was left of the Empire, so there had to be a great deal to the story, right?  He couldn't have become that powerful and the heir apparent overnight, or without Palpatine noticing, so what was the deal?  Was he a brother?  An illegitimate son?  Did Palpatine violate the "Rule Of Two" for some unknown reason?  Surely here was a powerful man who would be integral to the entire canon of the galaxy!


Kylo Ren simply cut him in half and watched as what was left of him slid down his throne.  It quickly became apparent that Snoke was nothing more than a plot device for Kylo Ren to take over the First Order, kind of doing Darth Vader in reverse.  Again, amusing point, but not worth of the way they built Snoke up.  To make it more gripping, they needed at least 45 minutes of Kylo defying his master, as well as some kind of trigger beyond "Kylo wants to rule and really likes Rey."  The scene in Snoke's chambers was the best of the film, but only from an action standpoint, and not based on plot.  We got nowhere in knowing how or why Snoke rose to the top, nor how he became a great dark side force user.  He felt like a throwaway.

Speaking of throwaways, wtf was with Captain Phasma.  She was built up as being a bigger thing in this movie, a big baddy that would really cause chaos for Finn, and she turned into this trilogy's Boba Fett - a cool looking character with a lot of promise who died after a bad fight and did nothing of substance.  I could've done more in that movie than she did.  For that matter, Winnie The Pooh would've made a bigger impact in a cameo than Phasma.

Returning to that whole unnecessary 45 minute sub-plot involving the gambling planet, can we please keep the social commentary out of our movies?  We have to deal with this bullshit from all sides every damn day in our lives, and maybe we just want to go to a movie and relax.  The scene was first predicated on the only way to get rich was to sell weapons.  Really?  Not streamlining hyperdrive technology, re-growing limbs or creating robotic ones for amputees, or growing food for the galaxy's inhabitants?  It has to be nefarious and greedy money-grubbing and lead to death and destruction?  The view is so caricatured that it sounds like it came right out of a college protest.  Even within this ridiculous subplot they missed clear opportunities.  When they were looking for the cryptographer who could help them break the First Order's codes, and they were talking about a well-to-do scoundrel, I was certain they were going to bring in Billy Dee Williams and Lando Calrissian.  That would've gotten back to the nostalgia and blown everyone's minds.  Nope, instead we got a brief cameo of someone we never saw again, and then Benicio del Toro showed up playing basically the same character he played in Guardians of the Galaxy.  Then, as anyone with half a brain could've predicted, he betrayed Finn and the others.  Wow, just knock me over with a feather on that one.

While we're on the gambling planet and talking about preachiness, I could've done without the whole animal rights bullshit.  We get it - the folks who run the planet are bad, bad people who enslave children and whip animals.  We didn't need it shoved down our throats.  Further, I thought I was going to puke when Finn asked, "Was it worth it?" and Rose took the saddle off the horse/camel thing, saying, "Now it was worth it."  Give.  Me.  A.  Fucking.  Break.  Releasing an animal into the wild - one that will likely be recaptured about 15 minutes later - makes the trip to find the guy who can help you figure out how to disable the First Order's hyperspace tracking device worth it?  Perhaps we should keep our eye on the bigger picture, mmmkay?

All in all, this is a horrible movie.  Any fan of the original trilogy will likely come away from this profoundly disappointed.  I know there's all this great hype now from critics, but I predict this will become like The Force Awakens or The Phantom Menace after people have had a chance to really think about it - they're currently in the afterglow of "OMG!!!  IT'S ANOTHER STAR WARS MOVIE...YYYYYEEEEAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!"  However, it'll soon become, "Now that I've had some time to think about it, that really sucked."  I give this movie one and a half stars out of five, and I think I'm being generous.

But I'm an elite snob, someone who is out of touch, blah blah blah.  I'm sure that legions of sci-fi nerds are now preparing to burn me in effigy for my blasphemy.  Maybe they'll have better success if they act nothing like any of the wimps in this movie.  I never thought I'd say this, but can we please bring back George Lucas?