Tuesday, July 7, 2015

On Finishing A Book-What's Next?

The Interdimensional Subwoofer is the third novel I've written, and I think, my very best yet. I've sent it to my editor and I'm just waiting to get it back so I can make the corrections and then send it off to agents. So I guess I should get started on my fourth book, right?

Well...I don't know about that.

Here's the thing. As an indie author who hasn't really gotten as much love for my first two titles as I would have liked, I still have that nagging feeling that I need to go back and rectify that. Now, I know, I should move forward, not backward. Those two books didn't sell for a reason, right? Well, I'm not so sure about that. A part of the problem of being an indie author is the fact that you are competing with so many other indie authors who all believe the same thing--there's just too much competition out there. With that belief, we constantly believe that it's not the writing or the cover that's the problem, but rather, the fact that it's too difficult to get your story known when hundreds of other trying to do the same thing every day. Whether it's true or not (That the writing isn't the issue), is up in the air, but the fact that we try so hard to promote ourselves is a constant issue that I think I've found a solution to, and it's in the form of "DLC".

What's DLC, you ask? (And if you ask it, then you're obviously not a gamer). DLC stands for Downloadable Content, and I'm going to implement it for my two previous books, The Darkness of the Womb, and A Boy and His Corpse. What they will be is short (Very short, 25 pages) stories that connect the books, but are also standalone titles. The first short story, "Clean Hands," will be about events prior to The Darkness of the Womb, but will have no true connection to it, so you wouldn't have had to read the book to know what's going on. It will be free and introduce the world to people who have never read my first book (Which seems to be the entire world itself).

My second short story, also 25 pages, will be about events AFTER A Boy and His Corpse. It will be titled, "Q: Are We Not Human? A: We Are Corpses!" which is a send-up of one of the most famous Devo albums. This title will only be free if you sign up for my mailing list, which is something I've (stupidly) neglected to set up for a long time.

(Image taken from: en.wikipedia.org)

So, you might be wondering why I'm doing this. Wouldn't it be wiser of me to invest in marketing campaigns and other things that other authors are already doing? Well, probably, but I think this is a way to get readers who otherwise wouldn't pick up my previous work to perhaps give it a gander if they like "Clean Hands" or "Are We Not Human?" Maybe then, if I get at least some kind of audience, I can move on with my life. But until then, I'll just keep pushing to get my first two books noticed. It's an uphill battle and one that I'll continue endlessly to climb. Whatever it takes.

Review: Pauline Kael on The best Film Ever Made

The Best Film Ever MadeThe Best Film Ever Made by Pauline Kael
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For such a short book, this was a real towering achievement. Written when Orson Welles was still alive (!), this book talks about how Welles was probably the biggest loser in the history of Hollywood after directing and starring in what is still arguably (and this book was written in 1971) considered the greatest movie of all time, and not getting famous off of it. His is truly a tragic story that actually sort of mimics that of the character he portrayed in the movie, which, I found out because of this book, wasn't totally a coincidence.

What's interesting about this title and what separates it from other film criticism is that the author actually points out many of the problems with the film. Now, this wouldn't be all that strange if it were any other movie, but to say anything but utter praise for Citizen Kane has always seemed like heresy. But Ms. Kael did it, and proves that despite all of its flaws, it's still quite the masterpiece, and she gives her own personal reasons for why that's so. It's really quite refreshing.

It's also a fantastic history lesson. I never even heard of Herman J. Mankiewicz before reading this book and always just assumed that Orson Welles wrote the movie since his imprint is everywhere else on the film. But I learned just what a character the screenwriter was, and how instrumental he was to the creation of the movie, which was originally simply titled, American. In fact, Mankiewicz is more prominent in this book than Welles himself, which makes for a somewhat distanced reading of it until you realize just how important a role he actually played. It really is quite something. I learned a great deal about Hearst as well, who, as everybody knows, was the inspiration for Charles Foster Kane in the first place.

In summary, this is just a great book. The author had a very strong voice and opinion, and it made for a fun, complex read. I loved it.

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Review: The Chosen

The ChosenThe Chosen by Chaim Potok
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Chosen is part of a trend of older books that are now retroactively considered YA, just because the protagonist himself is a young adult. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Like Lord of the Flies and Ender's Game, I think calling The Chosen YA is quite a stretch since it deals with very adult themes-like friendship over faith, and vice versa-that teenagers today might not find interest in. And it's not that I'm not giving today's generation of teenagers enough credit. I definitely think they can handle and absorb the material. It's just that I think you have to be a bit older to even find interest in something like this. I definitely wouldn't give one of my students this book after they just read something like The Hunger Games or The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It represents a different time that they probably couldn't even relate to. Quite frankly, they'd be bored silly.

There, now that I got THAT out of the way. The Chosen, as a whole, is a relatively slow and lopsided book. There are times, namely in the first and last 50 pages of this book, that I was absolutely in love with. Especially the ending, which is a great payoff and a beautiful conclusion. But there is a great deal in the middle that feels very methodical, and it's mainly since the conflict isn't really much of a conflict. Sure, it feels that way to the characters in the book, who are both Jewish (one is more hardcore than the other) but to the reader, I kind of just sat there waiting for everything to blow up or come to a head. And it never does! I can now understand why this was a best-seller when it initially came out but has since lost quite a bit of its reputation. I never even heard of it before my dad lent it to me.

Overall, The Chosen a decent book with some moments of sheer beauty. But in the end, I don't think I'd recommend it to many people. It definitely has a particular audience, though.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Goodreads Review: When I First Held You

When I First Held You: 22 Critically Acclaimed Writers Talk About the Triumphs, Challenges, and Transfo rmative Experience of FatherhoodWhen I First Held You: 22 Critically Acclaimed Writers Talk About the Triumphs, Challenges, and Transfo rmative Experience of Fatherhood by Brian Gresko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having never read a collection of essays from different authors before (I know. What have I been doing all my life?), I have to admit that it was a welcome experience and one I would like to embark on again. That is, of course, if I ever have the time to read since my daughter is coming very, very soon. Like, within five weeks soon. So I'm trying to get as much reading in as possible before the due date. Thankfully, I'm happy I took the time with this book, which speaks about the "Transformative experience of Fatherhood," as it's good. Really good.

Initially, I thought this book would be pretty lame (It was recommended to me at a book store when I asked if they had any books on parenting) because I was certain every piece from the 22 authors here would sound pretty much the same. Fatherhood is hard but rewarding, yada yada yada, that sort of thing. But I was surprised to see the honesty and variety in this book. There are passages about being surrogate fathers, being divorced fathers, being broken fathers, being sick fathers, etc, and in doing so, it provides a very diverse and interesting viewpoint on fatherhood. Like children, no two fathers are alike. For that reason, I took great enjoyment out of reading this book.

That said, some of the writers seemed much better than others. Benjamin Percy, who I now want to read every book he's ever written, has, in my mind, the best piece in this book, and mostly because it's about himself. I think what a lot of what was missing in this book is just how much the father themselves is affected as a human being, and his piece, "Your Own Worst Enemy," felt the realest to me. I may just be saying that since I'm not technically a father yet, and I still cling to the notion that being a father doesn't mean you lose being an individual, but the writing for that piece felt the cleanest and the best-written, while some other pieces in this book didn't feel as interesting or honest.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for any man who is about to become a father. There is much to learn here, as well as to enjoy.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Review: 2010: Odyssey Two

2010: Odyssey Two (Space Odyssey, #2)2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Boooooring. Having read the first book many years ago, one thing I remember with that story was just how dazzling and daring it felt. Much like the movie, certain images will forever be ingrained in my head. That Odyssey I loved journeying on. But this one, not so much. I mostly think it's all the characters, none of whom are interesting. Their voyage doesn't really seem all that harrowing in this story, and even if it was, I was so uninterested with the characters that I probably would have appreciated it more if they had all died. As it stood, I couldn't make a connection with any of them.

I also thought the questions left by the last book, like what happened to David Bowman, and was HAL really insane, didn't have satisfying answers. Yes, those characters were probably the most, if not only, interesting part about this book, but even they couldn't salvage this yawn - inducing mission. I won't be investing time in the third book, 2061.

Oh, and PS. Arthur C. Clarke really liked the word "myriad." It's all over this book. So much so, that if one were to make a drinking game every time they saw the word here, they would probably go blind and died. He used it SO much.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Top Five Worst Pixar Movies

Inside Out is probably Pixar's best film yet. In fact, it's pretty hard to pick out many stinkers from the company that Lasseter built. But there are some stinkers, and I don't think many people would disagree with (most of) my choices below. Honestly, I would put Wall-E on this list, since I hate that film, but I know that's more of my own personal taste. Deep down, I know it's a good picture. I just can't muster the energy to care about it.

(Image taken from: strangefigures.wordpress.com)

5. Brave

This Oscar-winning picture isn't really bad per se, as much as it's disappointing. With a kickass heroine who can take care of herself and decide her own future, it's kind of shitty that the second act involves her mother turning into a bear. There's a lot to like in this film, such as the theme and setting, but I just can't get over how stupid that second half is. A bear? Really?

(Image taken from: en.wikipedia.org)

4. Cars

The concept for Cars alone is pretty stupid. Cars with lights for windshields have problems and do things. Sure, Paul Newman is in the movie, and sure, Larry the Cable Guy's jokes aren't THAT bad, but overall, there is little, if anything, to like about this picture. If there was ever a Pixar movie that was made to sell toys, it's this one.

(Image taken from: www.imdb.com)

3. Monsters Inc.

A lot of people might put Monsters U. on this list, but I actually liked the sequel much more than the original, as it had more personality and spunk. For all its cuteness and creativity, though, the original picture is quite stale and doesn't hold up well. The jokes, even with Billy Crystal, don't usually land, and besides the tremendous final act with the legion of doors, the overall storyline is just missing something. A controversial pick to be sure, but it's one I'm sticking with. Monsters Inc. is not a great film, and worse all the more so since it had so much potential (Which Monsters U. ran with).

(Image taken from: en.wikipedia.org)

2. A Bug's Life

A Bug's Life is a terrible, terrible movie that both feels too long, and yet, too short at the same time, which is weird. The protagonist is annoying to the point of being unlikeable, and the antagonist, played by the brilliant Kevin Spacey, doesn't feel menacing enough. Overall, it just feels like a third-rate Disney movie that's not even good enough to go straight-to-DVD. There's a reason why the Monsters Inc. poster above says "From the creators of Toy Story" and doesn't even mention this clunker. It was only Pixar's second film, but it really brought you down from the high that was the first Toy Story.

(Image taken from: subscene.com)

1. Cars 2

Oh, man. The grand turkey of them all. If you thought Cars was bad, then you ain't seen nothing. Cars 2 is such an abomination, that within 45 minutes of the picture, I turned to my wife and told her to please wake me up when it was over. Larry the Cable Guy, who is ok in moderation, stars in this spy caper that ends up being so insufferably terrible that longtime fans of Pixar were convinced that the company had lost all of its magic. Inside Out is of course proof that that's not true, but Lawdy, this film gave us some doubts. Please never make another sequel to this franchise.

Review: Rabbit At Rest

Rabbit at Rest (Rabbit Angstrom, #4)Rabbit at Rest by John Updike
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whew. Finally finished. In this fourth and final book in the Rabbit saga (though, I think there may be a short story or novella after it or something like that) everything comes full circle. Rabbit is a bit older (though, only in his 50s. I thought we'd meet him again in his 60s) and just as selfish as ever. You know, reading through this series, I don't think I've ever encountered a character more oblivious to other people's feelings. Perhaps Updike was making a commentary on the average American, but then again, Rabbit doesn't really feel like an average American. Maybe an average and bored Pennsylvanian. Either way, this story, just like the former Pulitzer Prize Winning book, Rabbit is Rich, brings drama in everyday life and does a very good job of it. if I have one complaint, it's that the last 50 pages just drag on and on. It's a fitting conclusion, but a drawn out one. Either way, I think the series was worth the read.

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