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I'm sure you're wondering how my signing went on Saturday. Well, it went about as well as I expected. I ended up selling 3 books, which isn't much, but it's better than none or a kick in the crotch. When I first got there, they had an area set up in the back where everyone was sitting with their Hometown Holiday Hurrah tickets. They had coffee and cookies and were doing drawings of their own. It was a nice way for everyone to hang out in the store.

The drawings started at 9 something in the morning, so when I got there, things were kind of winding down. I sat with everyone in the back, and the owner introduced me and let me talk for a little bit. I told them that I lived in Laramie and had been born and raised in Wyoming and a little bit about the types of things I write. A couple people came over to check out my stuff (I brought the magazines/collections my short stories had been published in and examples of my nonfiction). I was very nervous and felt very exposed. I got over it pretty quickly, though, after I started talking.

After the HHH drawings, everyone pretty much left the store. A few stayed to look at the merchandise, and I moved up front. My friends Rena and Tamara came in for a while (thankfully), so I wasn't by myself. Tamara and I had a very nice chat about writing and feelings of failure and movies.

I think if I had been more aggressive, I probably could have sold more books. Instead of smiling at people as they walked in, I should have asked if they liked to read and told them about my book. But I wasn't really into that day. I was a little tired and I already had feelings of failure, so I couldn't find my motivation. It was one of those instances where I wanted the world to come to me, and I kept hoping that it would. Of course, it didn't, but I wasn't surprised. I chalk this up as a learning experience. The next time around (and there will be a next time, but not necessarily in a flea market) I will know exactly what to do.

By the way, the new Serial Killer Magazine is out. I have some articles in there. You can purchase it at http://serialkillercalendar.com/.

Movie Review Monday

Two movies for your reading pleasure today...

The Bounty Hunter (2010)

Chic flicks/romantic comedies aren't my first choice in films, but I don't totally discount them. In fact, one of my favorite films is Dirty Dancing (if you can believe that!). I was hoping for so much more from this film; a lot of my friends told me it was hilarious. While it had some moments where I was chuckling, overall, it was too long. I mean, 1 hour and 50 minutes is just too much. I think it would have been fine at 1 hour and 30 minutes, but even then, that might have been too long.

I think the problem was that they were trying to do too much with the characters, give them too much of a back story. I got it: Jennifer Aniston's character is a workaholic. I got it: Gerard Butler's character is a gambler, and a bad one at that. I wasn't ever convinced that he was a cop, either, since he spent more time in jail. Perhaps that was the point, but it didn't work for me. There were so many different story lines, too. JA's character hunting down a murderer for her next big story and GB's character hunting her down, then the whole thing with the coworker who is obsessed, the bookies who want their money, and the cop who might be crooked but turns out OK, and the boss who takes his kids camping but has to come home. It was just a lot.

All in all, the story was convoluted and took the focus away from the romance. Plus, there didn't seem to be a lot of chemistry between Jennifer and Gerard. I wouldn't watch it again.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

I don't mind remakes, I really don't. What I mind is when remakes think they are reinventing the wheel. You can tweak the story, that's fine. You need to update it for the younger audience, but you are not creating something new. You are riding the coattails of a movie/idea that was vastly popular in the day and are trying to cash in on the revenue. That's fine. Hollywood is a for-profit business.

If you are going to remake a film, or a "re-imagining" as they are called, then remake it. Don't copy the original. Specifically, don't copy the death scenes from the original. If people want to see how it was done back then, they can rent the original. Ugh! That drives me crazy! I know the director/producer is just trying to pay homage to the original, but haven't they already done that by taking the title and the killer and bringing them back?

One of the big things they did in this film was give Freddie a different past. In watching the special features, the writer/director/I don't know how he was involved with the film said that the original didn't really give him a past. I furrowed my brow when he said this and wondered if he has actually seen the first film. Just becasue they didn't film a flashback doesn't mean he didn't have a history. If you recall, Marge takes Nancy into the basement and specifically tells her that Freddie murdered kids from the neighborhood, was arrested, and then let go because a search warrant wasn't signed in the right place. The parents then took justice into their own hands. Um, hello? How much more of a history do you need? You don't need a motive, most serial killers don't have one. If you want to recreate a history, that's fine, but don't say the killer didn't have one in the first place.

This premise of refering back to earlier films is nothing new, and films have been doing it forever. In fact, the original Halloween constantly refers back to Psycho, as do many other films. I'm not saying this is bad, goodness no, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Again, if you are creating a "re-imagining," then re-imagine the damn thing; don't just copy the original.

On the whole, this movie was pretty much like the original, with a little darker plot and a not-so-campy bad guy. However, that was part of the charm of Freddie. He delivered wonderful one-liners while hacking teens to bits. It helped relieve some of the tension. And it helped the audience relate/sympathize with him. The new Freddie isn't bad, and he does have some one-liners, but they aren't as funny/sarcastic as the original. I know some people would say that you can't compare the two, but you have to. Again, this is not a new film/idea, and they are intricately tied to one another, whether the director wants them to be or not.

I'm sure I will be watching the film several more times for research, and I don't dread it. Some films (remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) make me shudder thinking about watching them again. Have you seen these films? What did you think?
I hope that everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving and spent time with their family and friends.

I am gathering statistics on listenership, so if you listen to my chapters, could you please either send an email, comment on Facebook, or comment on my blog and let me know? I would greatly appreciate it!

Krista survived the zombie onslaught and was able to gather supplies. But now, she has to face something scarier: Liet. How will it go when he finds out where they went? Find out in chapter 9!

Update for the week: As I mentioned earlier, I mailed the first 3 chapters of my nonfiction this week. Other than that, I haven't been doing any work. It's hard with family here and we traveled for dinner. I hope to get back into the swing of things next week!

I'm doing my book signing tomorrow. I'm very nervous. As we were leaving town yesterday, one of my spouse's friends was outside shoveling his driveway. We stopped to say hi and whatnot, and I asked if he and his family were going to my signing. His response: "At Bart's? Yeah, I guess you can say you really made it as a writer if you're doing signings at a flea market." It really hurt my feelings.

Normally, I'm the type of person who let's things like that slide off my back, but when it comes to my writing, I'm much more senstive. I have confidence issues with my craft (as I'm sure you know from reading my blogs), so it affects me when people say things like that. Don't get me wrong, I can take criticism. I don't cry myself to sleep at night because a story gets rejected or someone didn't particularly like it, but it hurts when I don't get any support. His comment made me think: If he feels that way, how many other people think the same thing? I'm already nervous about the signing, thinking that no one is going to show up, and that comment totally pushed me over the edge. I know I need to just get over it, focus on tomorrow, so I will try. Actually, I'm going to try and not think about tomorrow at all until tomorrow!
I'm a little late posting today because, frankly, I don't know what to post about. Since it's a holiday week, not a lot is going on. I haven't been writing because I finished the draft of the first 3 chapters for my nonfiction book and mailed those off (yeah!). I should be working on the second half, but I don't have the movies yet, which is an integral part of the process. I'm hoping they will be here next week.

Other than that, I've been enjoying my down time and getting caught up on recorded TV. I doubt I will be posting tomorrow, but I will still upload the newest chapter on Friday. I guess the last thing I can say is: Have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving!
I've been thinking about my post yesterday and a comment a friend made (he pointed out the violence in Looney Tunes, which is slightly different because there is no blood, but it's violence nonetheless). Why is it that we equate cartoons with kids/innocence? I mean, weren't they created for adults (Felix the Cat, Betty Boop anyone?) ? Don't get me wrong, I've seen a lot of cartoons made for kids, pretty much everything on Saturday morning and Nick Jr., but there are a TON out there geared for adults. First and foremost that comes to mind is Anime. I have seen some of those that are border line porns and some that are pretty much porn. It got me to wondering why that cartoon affected me so much. Unfortunately, I haven't figured that out! I think part of it is because I don't think of superheroes having feelings like that. I mean, they decide to put their lives on the lines for the world, they know the risks, so they shouldn't be surprised when something bad happens. Plus, they are different than us, they shouldn't experience the same type of feelings. It does humanize them, especially Batman since he doesn't have powers, and shows that despite the issues, he can still do his job. I don't know. I'm sure I'm over thinking the whole thing. It's just a cartoon!

I hope everyone is gearing up for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. I know I'm ready. Any holiday that is about overeating, I'm all about!

Movie Review Monday

Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)

The 3 year old is really into superheroes right now, so anything with Batman, Superman, or Spiderman, he wants to watch. Especially Batman. This was on our Netflix queue, so I clicked on it. I think I may have had rose-colored glasses on for a long time because I do not remember superhero cartoons being that violent. Granted, it was rated PG-13, but wow. Luckily, the 3 year old doesn't get the violence, so it didn't bother him.

The film opens with Joker beating the ever-loving crap out of the new Robin with a crowbar. It isn't overly graphic, but the audience gets the message. Then, he blows him up. There's even a scene where the Joker is pouring gas on people and throws in a lighter. I know I probably shouldn't be surprised, after all I've read, the Joker is a maniacal evil man who has no concept of right/wrong or restraint. Perhaps if I had read the comic books it would give more insight.

It got me to thinking about the whole superhero cult and how they are portrayed. After all, a TON of new superhero movies have come out and will be coming out. Normally, these films show how the hero becomes the hero and then they face off against some nemesis. They usually always win, and there might be some peril, the hero getting hurt, but he always triumphs. The thing that really stuck with me with this cartoon was the amount of damage the Joker inflicted. Not only did he kill Robin, he scarred Batman, made him feel like a failure. Yet, because Batman is a hero, he continued to do his job. I suppose it was the realness of the whole situation that affected me. In most films, the superhero tries to find a balance between their super life and their regular life, and that is their only dilemma (with the exception of the last Batman when the girl gets blown up, that kind of messes him up a little). I think the major reason for this is because audiences don't want to see heroes with conflict, they want to see them kick butt and defend the American way (I know I do. Remember my blog on Iron Man 2?). But this, this was just crazy. The sense of loss and failure was incredibly pervasive.

I also think cartoons allow the creator a different platform. They aren't really created for mass market consumption (most of them go straight to DVD), so they can explore the seedier side of hero life. I think they also more closely follow the actual comic book scripts, but since I haven't read them, I don't really know.

I missed bits and pieces of the movie because I was trying to work, but it was a good film otherwise. I'm sure we will be watching it again, several hundred times, so I'll get my fill.
Supplies are running low, tensions are running high, and Krista has to go into zombie-infested land to make everything all right. Will she survive? Find out in Chapter 8!

Updates of my week: I'm ready to input the second round of edits into chapter 3. Then, it's off to the publisher. I'm hoping to be done by next week, maybe before Thanksgiving (but who knows) so they will have all of December/January to read through it. While they have that, I will work on the second half of the book. It's almost surreal that I'm almost done with the first half. It seems like this thing has been haunting me for years (which, in reality, it has!).

As the 3 year old was getting dressed this morning, mixing his camo pants with a turquoise blue shirt with turtles on it, he told me that turtles were his favorite animal. I asked him when that happened, and he told me when he found out turtles have sharp shells and lived in the ocean with sharks (I'm pretty sure it was at that moment, when he saw them on his shirt, but what do I know?). He then asked, "Can I be a diver when I get big?" I told him he could be anything he wanted. He then launched into a story about how he was going to put all his stuff on and go in the water, but his friend wouldn't go in the water. I asked him what friend, and he thought about it for a moment. He said, "Is Grandma my friend?" I told him yes. He says, "Then she won't go in the water. She's my friend who won't go in the water."

I hope your weekend is full of wonder and turtles!
I was reading yet another article on the pros of electronic publishing. There is a definite plus side to not having to pay for printing costs, and that does get bigger returns on your royalties, but I'm also wondering if there isn't a stick-it-to-the-man attitude going on. As Gretchen points out, just a few years ago, she wouldn't have self-published. She already had some books out, and there was a stigma associated with the term "self-published." The idea was that people who had to self publish weren't good enough to land an agent or a "real" publisher. In some cases, this is probably true. The publishing industry is feeling the economic crunch like the rest of us, and they are tightening their belts. They need to make a profit, so they are very picky about what they want. This means that a lot of authors are getting shut down. So, they turn to epublishing, thinking they can flip the industry the bird and say, "See! I don't need you! I can do it myself!"

However, the numbers that Gretchen talks about in her article are very specific to one genre and one person. Not everyone who epublishes is going to make that kind of money. You have to self promote. You have to get a following. And that can be just as difficult as getting an agent and publishing the traditional way. There are so many sites and so many people on the internet, how do you stand out? There really is no easy answer to this. Having a website or blog is a good place to start, as well as a presence on Facebook (I would say Myspace too, but I think that's pretty much fallen out of favor). You have to be willing to do legwork, send out review copies, join forums, be a guest blogger on others blogs, do readings. You could hire a PR company, but that will cost, and you still have to do some of your own work. You can't expect them to take care of everything. Even then, there is no guarantee that your book will go big. But that shouldn't stop you from trying. Even authors who have agents and have gone the traditional route can fail.

Being a part of the publishing revolution is always a good idea. As I've said in other posts, sometimes small publishers and self-publishing are a little more in tune with the latest technologies. Whatever path you choose, remember that you always have to take an interest in yourself before any one else will.
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about all the people who help me and have been very thankful. I don't know, maybe it's just that time of year, or maybe I just seem needier, but I am very happy to be close to my family and have friends around. A lot of the stuff has been every day BS, like having my wonderful father-in-law helping snow blow my driveway (could I do it myself? Of course, but he insisted), but there has been a lot of stuff in my writing career also. The first one that comes to mind is the ag editor who took a chance on me 3 years ago and took me on without looking at a resume or writing samples. The second is my family. My spouse is fabulous at PR. Because of his job, he meets a lot of people. A couple of weeks ago, he met a woman who owns a local business here in town. For some reason, they started talking about me and how I've had a book published. She had the fabulous idea of having me come to her store and doing a book signing. How cool is that? She doesn't own a bookstore, she owns a flea market, so it's a little unconventional, but it's still so cool! I mean, I'm all for out of the ordinary. If you've met me, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Have I thought about doing signings at a book store? Of course, but I wasn't sure where to start. I'm sure if I just called they probably could tell me yay or nay. The biggest reason I never called was out of fear. What if no one shows up? What if crazy people show up and start stalking me? (I know, the chances of that last one happening are pretty slim, but I have an overactive imagination, remember?) I could think of a hundred different reasons to NOT do it. To be honest, I'm a little scared about doing this signing, too. But, it will be happening simultaneously with a thing this town does called Hometown Holiday Hurrah. The event was started several years ago in an attempt to keep money in the city. When people purchase things in stores, they get tickets, and those tickets are placed in a drawing. I don't remember how many tickets they draw each weekend, but you have to be in a participating business to actually win the $1,000 jingle bucks. The program has been very successful, and people get a little crazy about it. My fear is that even though people will be there for that, they won't even pay attention to me. I'm trying to be all right with that. After all, my spouse went out of his way to set this up for me, the least I can do is go through with it.

The woman who owns the shop is very excited about the whole thing, which really helps. She's all about helping local authors and is thinking of maybe doing signings every few months. That helps waylay some of my fears. Plus, my friends have already told me they would come down for moral support. Even if I don't talk to anyone else, I can still talk to them! I'm also hoping that this will open some doors and give me some more ideas for how to promote my second book, if/when it ever comes out. I've already decided I will do readings for that one, both here and in the town my parents still live in. I'm also devising another plan to help promote the book should it come out. I'll let you know if/when I implement it. Personally, I think it's pretty smart!
I finally heard from the ag editor, and I am no longer writing articles. I am both relieved and sad about this. I'm relieved because it was getting really hard to find topics to write on, and even though it didn't take up a lot of my time, it still took up quite a bit; time I could spend writing my other stuff. I'm sad because it was a very nice steady check, and I learned a lot and met a lot of nice people in the process. I suppose if I really wanted to find another freelance article writing gig I could, but I'm going to bask in laziness for a while.

I really have nothing to talk about today. My brain is still mushy from working on my nonfiction and from lack of sleep. The 3 year old is getting better, but he'll still get up at least once a night. His stuffed puppy gets uncovered and must start shivering, which wakes him up, because I have to go in there and cover it back up. You'd think with all that fur it would be able to stay warm. Oh, well.

Movie Review Monday

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

If you haven't brushed up on your Greek Mythology, you might want to do a quick overview, although it's not that important to understanding the movie. The film is pretty good about the history lesson, but it kind of glosses over the subtleties. This movie was fun. I was expecting a light-hearted, YA adventure story, and that's what I got. The creatures weren't too scary, so my 3 year old was able to watch it with me. The computer generate graphics were very cool, and the casting was spot on. Uma Thurman as Medusa was great, and I love Kevin McKidd, so having him as Poseidon was great. My favorite character was Persephone, she was hilarious! Perfect characterization of an unhappy wife. Hades was entertaining, too.

The story had some issues, such as timing, but it worked in the constraints of the film, and why it was OK for Athena to talk to her daughter but Poseidon had to ask permission. We are reading the book for book club, so it will be interesting to compare and contrast. I know, I know, you can't really do that, but I will be trying to figure out why the screen writer decided to focus on certain elements and what I would have changed. It should be fun.

The whole absent parent thing was very interesting. This notion has been done in many, many stories before (Harry Potter) and it seems to be that as long as one of your parents is a god or a powerful wizard, you'll turn out all right. It also explains all your emotional issues and learning problems. Heck, it's fantasy, why not? Kids always pretend that are more than they; it's the beauty of imagination, but then the crushing weight of reality sets in. That's what nice about this story (and with Harry Potter), reality doesn't have to crush Percy's dreams.

I'm sure I could talk more about the film, but I'm struggling today. I didn't sleep very well, again, and I have a HUGE headache. Any thoughts about the film from you?
Krista is FINALLY learning how to fight, but it's more difficult than she expected. In fact, EVERYTHING in North Platte seems to be more difficult than she expected. Will she stick it out or head back to Florida? Find out in this week's installment. http://pembrokesinclair.blogspot.com/p/audio.html

Don't forget: you can download the chapters so you can listen to them at your leisure!

Updates for this week. I've been working on my nonfiction. Since I had half of yesterday off, I input about half the edits I needed to. I'm slowly (ever so slowly) finishing the first half of the book. Once that's done, I have the entire second half to worry about. Sometimes I don't know why I got myself involved in this! Some days it just seems so hard and tedious, but then I get working on it, and time just flies by. I worry about making the word count. I need to put that out of my mind and just write.

I also received a disconcerting email this week. Apparently, the publishing company that accepted one of my short stories for an anthology is being forced to close down. There is some issue with how they came up with their name. Legal stuff. It's very bizarre. At least I wasn't directly involved this time!

I finished the book I got for free at the conference, "Boys that Bite." It was all right. Not really my cup of tea. I'm not a big vampire fan. I finished it, though, which says a lot. Normally, if I don't like something I'll quit reading it. I don't have time to waste on a book that I don't like. They're too many out there for that.

I'm hoping to spend the weekend catching up on my sleep and getting a little further with my nonfiction. I have a lot of recorded TV to watch and a movie, so I'll try to squeeze those in at some point. Hope you have a great weekend!
There have been a handful of people who have influenced me in my writing career--teachers, other authors, friends. But the one person who has probably had the greatest influence is my friend Tamara (I know you recognize the name, I mention her a lot on this blog).

We have known each other for approximately 10 years. We met at school and had both undergraduate and graduate classes together. About 5 years ago, I got a job at the environmental consulting firm she worked at for an eternity. By this point in my life, I had given up on writing. I had some professors in college who had completely shaken my confidence, and I decided I wasn't good enough (they pretty much told me I wasn't good enough). My focus was going to be editing. If I couldn't write, I could still be involved in the writing process and help others. Tamara was working on short stories at the time, and she knew I had taken some writing classes (I think we may have been in one together), and she asked what I was working on. I told her nothing, and she asked why. I told her about the professors. She told me stories about other students that they had cut down and broken who also have never written again. At that point, I just got angry. Who are they to tell others that they aren't good? Isn't the role of the teacher to teach? Tamara told me that for whatever reason, these professors viewed students as competition, so they had to get rid of them. (Just so you know, this type of behavior is pretty rare in the writing world. While there are some authors out there who are threatened by other's success, most of them are very helpful and enjoy being in a community.) I decided I wasn't going to let those two spiteful individuals dictate my future of writing, so, with help and guidance from Tamara, I started writing short stories. Eventually, I went back and revised my novel, which was picked up last year by eTreasures Publishing.

Without her, I probably would have never created anything again. She is my rock, my inspiration, and my critic. She is always there for me when the going gets really rough and I feel like giving up. She reads through my work and gives me feedback. She is also a wonderful publicist. Just yesterday, she dedicated her post to me. She also updates her friends on Facebook and Twitter when I have something coming out. She is just a fabulous person.

Aside from being my champion, Tamara is also a fabulous writer. She writes mainly literary stuff and has had several short stories published. The lucky devil even recently landed an agent (yes, I am very jealous, but she deserves it. She's worked very hard to get to this point, and is finally seeing the fruits of her labor!). Her website is here, and her blog is here.

Tamara and I talk almost every day. We still bounce ideas off each other and read each other's work. I am very lucky to have her in my regular life and my writing life. She is the type of person who likes you for who you are (even if you are a little grumpy and mean), doesn't judge, and is a great inspiration. Do you have anyone in your writing life like Tamara?
Yesterday, after my post, I went to Piers Anthony's website to ask how he got his books to review and if I could send him my novel. I sent an email, and this is the reply I received:

Some books I read because I want to. Some I read because publishers send them to me, wanting me to blurb them. That is, make a brief but favorable statement that will help them sell copies. Some I read because unknown authors ask me to. I don't promise to like them; sometimes I don't, and then I lose a fan. Sometimes I love them. Usually it is in between, and I try to offer good advice on improving or marketing them. So if you are willing to gamble on that you can send me your book and I will get to it when I can, probably next month. This month has already filled to overflowing. I'm a slow reader, and a novel takes me several days. Unless it is so bad that I quit reading. You surely don't want that kind of fast response. You may send an electronic version to this email address as an attachment.

Piers Anthony

How freaking cool is that?! I, of course, responded and attached the electronic version of my book. I will let you know if/when I hear back from him.

Personally, I was a little surprised that he said it took him a couple of days to read a novel. I wish I had that kind of time. We read a book every month for book club and I barely get them finished before our meeting. It's not that I'm a slow reader, it's just that I don't set a lot of time aside for reading. I spend all day at my two jobs, then I go home to fix dinner for the family. The oldest child goes to bed at 8:00, then I hop in the shower. When I get out, I try to find some time to write (which doesn't always happen), then I try to be in bed by 9:30 so I can read. In theory, this schedule works wonderfully, in real life, that's a different story!

I'm not really worried that he'll hate the book, either. I mean, it's completely possible, but he doesn't strike me as the type of guy who would bad mouth another writer. Granted, I don't know him personally, but I would like to think he is a professional. Even if he doesn't like it, I'm not one of those people who will hate him for it. I'm not that shallow. Besides, he's entitled to his own opinion. If he doesn't like it, I don't lose anything. If he does like it, I gain another reader and I can tell people my idol read my novel. Hell, I can tell people that if he didn't like it. Again, I have nothing to lose!
Since I was traveling on Friday, I missed out reading my blogs. But, my friend Tamara made sure she sent me this one. I was a little shocked and sad when I first saw it, even though he rejected my story twice (who hasn't?). I mean, now there is one less agent in the field who accepts my genre. This, coupled with some news I received a few months ago about another agent leaving to be at home with an ailing father got me thinking: what is the fate of the publishing world coming to?

As many of you know, I'm a dramatist. I make things into bigger deals than they need to be. I'm sure that these two agents leaving reflects nothing on the publishing world as a whole. People change jobs all the time; they burn out or just find something that pays better. Sometimes they switch agencies in a matter of weeks (yes, this happened to me with an agent who was interested in my book a while ago. It was weird). But, with the state of the publishing world right now (it isn't faring very well and sales are down), it makes you say hmmmm.

It's nice to think that the stale, traditional mode of publishing will stay the same and we'll always need agents, but it's hard to say. After all, ebooks are really gaining in popularity. Self publishing is becoming a bit more respectable. I was reading Piers Anthony's newsletter yesterday, and he reviews books by self published authors (I need to figure out how to send him something! Even though mine wasn't self published, he still might read it). He believes that self publishing is a good thing. If more and more authors start to take this route, it could definitely change the industry. Same with going with a small publisher. Not always, but a lot of the times, the indie publishers are more up on new technologies and ways to get books into the hands of readers. The one I met down at Mile Hi Con had apps for your phone so the book could be downloaded, but it also had a feature with it being read to you. It was interactive and you could skip around in the book, see a summary of the chapter, go to links, and when you wanted to get back to the spot you left, it took you right back. It was pretty cool. Can a traditional publisher do that? Of course, but finding the wording for a contract and working out the rights is still a sticky situation. It will be interesting to follow this trend and see where it leads.

Movie Review Monday

Iron Man 2 (2010)

The first movie was fabulous. It was fun, funny, had a lot of explosions, and was a great introduction to a super hero. The second one, not so much. I think one of the things that made the first one such a great film was the separation between us and them; the clear distinction between the good guys and the bad guys. Plus, it was a revenge film. In Iron Man 2, the "bad" guys become death and the government. Well, duh! Who doesn't want to fight against these two entities? The first movie was a rehash of old story ideas, but it was done in a way that was exciting and entertaining. Like I said, there was a clear distinction between good and bad, and the audience knew exactly who they wanted to cheer for. When that distinction disappears or gets blurred in the second film, the audience doesn't really know who to cheer for anymore. Don't get me wrong, there is a bad guy, and we know he has to be defeated, but he isn't the main focus of the film. Iron Man's impending death takes up more screen time than the evil Russian.

Normally, I don't mind watching movies that portray the inner turmoil of a super hero. The new Batman films do a great job of showing how Bruce Wayne has to balance life, and Watchmen does a fabulous job of taking people with no super powers and making them super. The issue I have with the whole scenario is trying to make super heroes too much like us. They're not. Period. I don't care how many different ways you spin it: super heroes are not like normal humans and should not be portrayed that way. Bruce Wayne is not like the majority of us: he is rich. He stands above others in society because of his status. He is able to do what he does because he is written off as ecentric. Could you or I pull that off? Highly doubtful. Plus, we wouldn't have cool toys because we can't afford them. The heroes in Watchmen started out like us (some, like Rorshach, much worse than us), but then they moved beyond. They know they didn't start out special, but they made themselves that way and they use that to help others. They don't back down from a fight. Tony Stark's struggle with life and death in the film was OK for about 20 minutes, then I got sick of watching his self-absorbed, selfish, cry-baby character whining about how he's going to die. Who lives forever? You're a hero, suck it up and do what you can with the short time you have left. No one wants to see you have a nervous breakdown and drown your sorrows in a bottle. We get that in the real world. Go blow something up. I know, I know, that's supposed to be his character. Fine. We covered that in the first film. Now that he's Iron Man, he's not allowed to have those feelings. Yes, I get it, that's the point: he's not allowed to have feelings but he still does, how does he cope? Like I said, he blows something up. God, that would've made for a much more exciting film!

The other characters in the film were just as annoying. I'm sorry, but Pepper Potts just needs to quit or they need to find someone else to play her. I wanted to punch her in the face! Talk about whiny! Then, the Colonel friend who steals the other Iron Man costume? Yeah, I get it: even if the government acts like they are your best friend, they will still screw you the first chance they get. Of course, he redeems himself at the end, but he has to. We can't function without the government. Haven't we seen this scenario since the 1960s? The only character I did like was Mickey Rourke. That man is the epitome of awesome. As the bad guy, he has no conscious and was willing to do whatever it took to get his revenge, and he couldn't be controlled. The whole Russian undertones were fabulous (Cold War anyone?), reinforcing the idea about friends and being careful who you trust because they may just turn around and kill you first chance they get (Americans are a very untrusting bunch. We are convinced everyone is out to get us!). I think he was defeated a little too easily, but what can you do? The rest of the film was disappointing, so why would I expect a spectacular death?

All in all, the film was way too long. I could've done with a lot more explosions and a lot less human interest. What did you think about the film?
Krista has moved to Nebraska. And it is much worse than she expected. How will she handle it? To find out, listen to chapter 6 in the Audio tab.

Sorry for taking so long to post today, I was traveling this morning. I'm sure after my post yesterday you are curious to know what happened. Well, I will tell you. My day yesterday started with a message from a very upset artist. Turns out, the painting used for the cover of my novella was used without permission. It was stolen. The guy was writing to inform me that I needed to take it down and find out if he needed compensated. I was mortified. I had nothing to do with choosing the cover, and I assumed the publisher went through the correct channels. I immediately wrote the artist back and apologized profusely before getting to work and taking down all the places that had the book for sale that I could take down.

The whole situation was upsetting and devastating because about a month ago, I read some blogs about the particular publisher and how he was plagiarizing others works. At first, I didn't want to believe it. He had always been so nice to me. He jump started my career. He helped me find a publisher for my nonfiction (which is legit, thankfully). So after this came down, I started doing some more research and found numerous blogs about the things this guy has done. It's not the first time he's stolen artwork and he's actually plagiarized several works. It was a little unbelievable and sad. How could someone who seemed so nice be so bad? But I guess that is the allure.

I am still embarrassed to talk about this now. I mean, I trusted this guy for close to 2 years, never once believing that he was capable of doing what he did. But, looking back, there were signs. There were even times my gut was telling me something wasn't right, and my spouse didn't trust him one bit. But I ignored all of them. Luckily, I got out before I lost any money (sort of. I never received royalties from the novella).

Being a writer/artist is very difficult. I mean, we deal with rejection after rejection after rejection. When someone seems interested and throws us a bone, we jump all over it. Like I said, I was pretty lucky, but who knows if it would have escalated? The best thing to do is just cut all ties.

I am very fortunate that the artist was incredibly understanding. He handled the whole situation like a professional. Since this whole thing has gone down, we've actually become friends. It's very refreshing because he is a wonderful artist and we all need to band together to fight the evil out there. I am purposely leaving out the names of those involved for every one's protection. If you really, really want to know who the publisher is and make sure you haven't fallen prey, please email me at pembrokesinclair (at ) hotmail (dot) com and we can discuss it further.
Unscrupulous publishers and editors. They are out there. But how do you recognize one? The advice sites always say that if someone asks for reading fees or other types of fees, to run screaming the other way. This, of course, is a red flag. But some preditors aren't that blatant. Some of them seem totally legit. They are interested in your work, they publish your work, but they don't pay you for your work. Now, not every place you get published will pay you. There are a lot of "for the love" places out there, and they aren't doing anything wrong. So how do you know if you've fallen into a trap? First of all, go with your gut feeling. If it doesn't feel right, move on. If they publish one of your books and then don't ever pay you royalties or discount you on author copies, they are probably not working in your best interest.

It's not always easy to recognize a preditor. And if you've been rejected a million times and are desperate, it's easy to fall prey. Trust me, I know.
I received a fabulous compliment yesterday. My friend Jamie, who I have known since grade school, recently turned one of her employees on to my work (Hi, Gary!). As he was talking to her about it, he said my stories remind him of Piers Anthony. I was floored! Piers Anthony is one of my favorite writers, and to have someone compare me to him was very flattering and humbling. Needless to say, that totally made my day yesterday!

It got me to thinking about how we writers try to model ourselves after the greats. Any class, editor, or other author will tell you that if you're serious about writing, you need to read, read, and read and then mimic the greats. They say to mimic the successful writers because, well, they're successful. Eventually, you will find your own voice. It is really a great exercise and helps you figure out what works for you and what doesn't. I know I am greatly influenced by things I read and even things I watch. For example, while I was writing my YA zombie novel, we were reading a particular vampire novel for book club that I thoroughly did not like and couldn't get through. I decided to poke fun of it a little in my story. The zombie books by Brooks were what influenced me to write my book in the first place. It is good to be influenced by the greats, even if you don't particularly like them.

What authors have influenced you, for good or bad?
The spouse and I watched "The Walking Dead" last night. It was pretty good. I didn't really have any expectations, so anything would have been fine with me. I really liked how the humans felt sorry for the zombies. There was a scene where the main character is just getting out of the hospital and is trying to figure out what is going on. He heads to the park and finds a bike. Next to it is half a corpse, which of course comes after him. Later, when he has a better idea of what is going on, he finds the corpse again (it doesn't go very far since it doesn't have legs) and he tells her he is sorry for what happened to her before putting her out of her misery. It made me think about the whole situation. Yeah, these people have been turned into mindless killing machines, but they were human at one point. They didn't ask to be the living dead. They are still scary and have numbers on their side so they will eat/kill you if given the chance, but they do deserve a little sympathy. I know that scene was just there to show you the depth of the character's feelings, but it struck me.

The other scene that struck me was when the black character couldn't bring himself to shoot his wife. I told my spouse I wouldn't have any qualms about putting one in his brain, and he told me ditto, but then I started to think about it. Would I really be able to if it came down to it? I'd like to think I'd be able to put him out of his suffering, but how do I know he's suffering? I've never been a zombie, maybe it's really peaceful. I mean, the only thing you have to worry about is finding food, but you don't really even need that to survive. You're not really alive. Then, the other thing that plagued me was what if they find a cure? In the traditional sense, with the dead rising from the grave, I'm pretty sure those people are gone. I'd be OK with dispatching him then. But the live ones that they bite, well, they might be able to be saved. THEN, if you follow the fast, rage infected zombies, it's totally possible they could be cured. There is a lot to consider that I didn't think about when I initially made my statement. I really, really hope I never have to be in that situation!

I was really surprised at the special effects, too. I'm used to watching the Syfy channel, which has awful, awful effects, but AMC obviously has a bigger budget for those things. There's a chance to be a zombie extra, too, which would be awesome, but I don't have time. Maybe if they ever turn my book into a movie, my stipulation will be I get to be a zombie!

I'm very excited that this series is on TV. I hoping it spurs a renewed interest in the zombie genre and people will want to listen to my book. Perhaps by the time this series has really taken off, my book will be available to read! Keep your fingers crossed!

Movie Review Monday

Jonah Hex (2010)

I've never been one to listen to critics (unless it's for a movie that I think is going to be terrible, then I read them to validate my own feelings). I think they are entitled to their own opinion, but I find that the movies they dislike are ones I think are wonderful. Which is why I don't understand why they thought this film was a complete and utter failure. I enjoyed it. I'm guessing it probably stemmed from uber fans who were expecting the movie to be like the comic book and it wasn't. I don't know. I've never read the comic book. But, as I learned at Mile Hi Con, movies and books (a comic book is still a book) have to be different.

This movie pretty much had it all. Bad guys (really cool bad guys who are just evil to the core), antiheroes, damsels in distress (sort of), a plot to destroy the world/U.S., and lots of explosions. Add into that some steam punk and supernatural elements and you're good to go. Maybe I just have simple tastes in films, but this movie kept me entertained. Plus, I really like Josh Brolin, so I had no complaints!

I thought the plot of terrorists working from the inside to bring down the U.S. was very apropo, too. We are still reeling from the events of 911, but we're also far enough removed from them that we can start talking about them through films. Recently, this discussion has taken place in films such as The Hurt Locker and other military films (which I can't remember off the top of my head!). Jonah Hex brings up the same types of fears and issues, but it does it from a fantasy perspective, so there can be a separation between actual events and the audience. It is actually very clever allegory.

Quentin Turnbull is a disgruntled Confederate General who is hell bent on getting revenge on the U.S. He is such a wonderful bad guy because he isn't bogged down with a conscious. He's just bad. He blows up women and children to make a point. He even blows up his own men. (Hmm, who does that sound like in the real world?) But he's smart. Same with his henchman, Burke. He does what he has to do to meet their goals, and he's willing to die for the cause. However, in the course of the film, the bad guys have to be defeated. It's the formula. Since we can't defeat the evil in the real world, we have to have some closure in the fantasy/film world, so the villains are destroyed. It gives the audience a sense of control.

As is the trend with movies nowadays, the hero is what can be considered an antihero. He's an antihero because he's not going after the bad guy for the good of the world, he's going after him for his own selfish ends/revenge, even though his defeat benefits everyone. Plus, he does it for the money. Most heroes won't take anything for their services. Jonah was also part of the Confederate Army, but turned on them when they started torching hospitals. There is the notion that he never really believed in the ideals of the Confederacy--he was married to a Native American, he never owned slaves, he turned on his own men--so it's OK for the audience to root for him. Despite the fact that he wears the Confederate hat and coat throughout the entire film, he's still one of us, not one of them. I think part of the reason he has the coat on is to separate him from us. Yeah, he's working as the good guy to rid the world of evil, but he's not exactly the same as us. He's in between worlds, the spiritual and the real, and also straddles the line between good and evil. Again, allegory. The reason he's so affective against the enemy is because he knows how they operate.

All in all, it was a really fun movie and a great social commentary. It had great actors and fabulous explosions. I recommend ignoring what the critics have to say and forming your own opinion about the film.