Thursday, December 31, 2009
To be fair, having to follow as phenomenal a year of movies as 2008 turned out to be is a daunting task to begin with, some may even claim it sisyphean, but still… come on. Let’s see some effort, eh? But no, this year (2009) pretty much just failed. Simply put, this was a supremely crappy year for films. Don’t believe me? The hands-down number one box office draw this year is one of the stupidest, most incoherent, witless pieces of idiot-bait ever made, not too mention blatantly racist at parts (Transformers 2). While the most expensive movie this year (Avatar, coming in somewhere in the ballpark of 400 to 500 million dollars of Fox’s money) spends nearly three beautifully rendered hours droning on and on and on about the evils of capitalism and Corporations. (Rolls eyes)
So, yeah, I didn’t make as many movies this year, even to some of the purportedly better ones that I was excited to see, and my list will definitely reflect that. So bear that in mind as you read on, my Dear and Gentle Readers…
Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti are a big enough reason to make this film. Julie Roberts… eh… not so much… but you know what? She’s good. And so is the rest of the film. It’s a nice, clever little corporate espionage thriller. It’s a little Mamet-y and a little Altman-y and in all the right places. Great twists, great fun, really cool. It is something I plan on revisiting… and, I guess that’s all I have to say about it…
Here’s the thing, first off, I enjoyed the movie a great deal. Is Watchmen a failure… yes, maybe, but I still think it’s the best and closest adaptation we’re ever going to get. Also, I don’t think any of the choices, besides the song choice during Dan and Laurie’s Owl-ship sex scene, were bad, wrong, or didn’t accomplish the exact same thing any ways and often times in a more succinct and palatable manner for the non-comic book audience to enjoy. And honestly, the love for the source material is apparent on the screen. We’ll be lucky if we can get even half that effort for the inevitable day The Dark Knight Returns is made. Plus, its ugliness is absolutely beautiful.
Obviously, I have a severe soft spot for films of this nature, (Non-intelligent Zombie Apocalypse) but I rank this one pretty low on the list, and honestly, despite its charm and fun, if I had seen a few more films this year, it might not have even made it. Not that it was bad, it’s good. It’s fun. I really enjoyed it. No, more so its problems are two-fold: 1. It’s a little bit forgettable. It faded pretty quickly from my mind once the film was over. And 2. Well, this is geeky, but I hate the “dressing up as a zombie in order to fool the real zombies” ruse almost as much as I hate intelligent zombies. Plus, the characters all make some really stupid decisions that the professional zombie survivalist in me balked at, big time. I mean, deciding to scare a well-armed survivor of a zombie apocalypse by pretending that you are a zombie? Ah… bad idea. And while it is a funny moment, the obvious stupidity of the move somewhat telegraphs the joke. Woody is great, though.
7. Paranormal Activity
This one shocked me. It shocked me that I enjoyed this film even a little bit. It shocked me even more that I actually liked it. I mean, this film has a lot of things that I should hate. First off, it’s a POV (Point of View) film, which means that one of the characters is operating the camera. Now, 99.9999% of the time, this alone is more than enough to ruin a film. Why? Because eventually, at some point, you will find yourself wondering aloud: “Why the fuck are they still filming? Run, dummy! Run! Put down the camera and run!” (although REC gets a little bit of a pass because the character operating the camera is a camera operator by profession). Also, like most POV films, for some reason this movie is entirely populated with douchebags (Cloverfield). The girl is that familiar type of dumpy, screechy, hanger-on sorority chick follower and the guy? He plain ol’ sucks. Also, it was made for like 15 grand or so and uses one of the crew member’s actual apartment as the location. This usually means it’s a backyard film and, well, quality isn’t exactly Concern One in those cases. However… this flick pulls it off. It really pulls it off. A subtle slow build, but fun, creepy, and unnerving, with some fantastic tension, it’s all around well done. Sure, sure, it ends like all POV films: A whole bunch of screaming and camera jostling followed by a sudden end cut, but watch it alone in your house with the lights off and try to pretend like you didn’t crap your pants at some point. AND right when you would begin to question the characters’ concern with the camera? It’s done.
6. Sherlock Holmes
Someone asked me if this was Guy Ritchie’s big comeback flick. And I don’t think it is. In fact, Ritchie (for once) thankfully melts into the background. There are some familiar Ritchie directing flairs, but they work well, especially in the visualizations of the way Holmes’ mind works as he observes and plans. Other than that, Ritchie works hard at providing Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law a franchise and the two of them run away with it, dominating the film. They have a wonderful chemistry and the best part is not the speed of the wit that flies between them, it’s the ease of their interaction. There’s a very real sense that their characters actually know each other and have for quite some time. Now, it’s true, some folks might find it too talky. Others might find it too action-y. Me? I enjoyed it immensely and I applaud the idea to stick much closer to the actual Holmes found in the source material, despite the fact that most of the audience aggressively confuses the actual Holmes with the Basil Rathbone cinema Holmes, some even to the point of pouting about it. I know I was certainly glad to see that the Deerstalker hat was nowhere to be found. Yes, this is a modernized Holmes, but it is still firmly, firmly grounded in the original stories and it is a heck of a fun ride.
5. Star Trek
I am a long time Star Wars nerd from way back, despite George Lucas’s repeated and continued efforts to dissuade me, so even when old Star Trek was “good”, it would have never have made one of my Top Ten lists. Never. Also, JJ Abrams? He and I do not like the same things, or actually, we do like the same things, but he only likes the sucky parts. I mean, Alias? Come on, there’s no crying in the Spy business. There’s no crying in the Spy business! And Cloverfield? Ugh… awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Stupid. And don’t get me wrong, I love Lost, but really, I only love Lost from Fourth Season on, you know, as in when they brought in people to fix all the problems of the first three seasons? So, anyway, fast forward to now and color me shocked when JJ Abrams’ new Star Trek, one featuring the original, classic characters but played by a young and pretty cast, turned out to be ridiculously fun. Ridiculously fun! Sure, sure, the science was uber-stupid, (Red Matter? Wah…?) but when has Star Trek NOT been doused in liberal amounts of idiot techno-babble? And yeah, the bad guy was really just a cheap construct used to help facilitate the franchise’s new start, but so what? Either way, all of that stuff was totally eclipsed by what turned out to be an exciting and inventive jump-start for a doddering, and quickly dying, old franchise that immediately left me wanting more. This movie was a total blast, a perfect summer flick… now, if only someone would come along and do that with the Star Wars Prequels. Oh yeah, and Karl Urban? From the first moment you heard him… he was Bones. It’s amazing. Also, Winona Ryder is in it… sigh…
This is the second film to appear on my list starring Jesse Eisenberg, otherwise known as the poor man’s Michael Cera. But despite this film’s complete lack of zombies, I have scored it the higher of the two. It was a sweet, funny, and sadly nostalgic film about a college kid between semesters, forced to return to his parent’s house and his old high school life due to financial reasons, and work a long and slow summer at a crappy amusement park. Touching life lessons ensue. For the most part, this was a quieter film, despite it’s inclusion of celebrity hair-tucker Kristen Stewart and contained a plethora (A plethora? Si, El Jefe… you have a plethora.) of great performances. Ryan Reynolds as the has-been, never-was maintenance man. Great. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as Bobby and Paulette, the park managers. Hilarious. But the real stand-out is the always superb Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks), whose dry wit and delivery is pure comedy gold. This is just a good, small, funny little film, and it is totally worth your time.
3. District 9
If you read my blog at all, then as you know, I’ve covered my feelings on this film here and here. But, you know, for the new kids: It’s totally awesome.
I am more than willing to say: Everything Pixar has done is great. Even Cars, which is probably their by-far weakest film, is still better than most. The funny part is, just about across the board, pretty much every time they put out the trailer for their next film, it only makes me go: "Meh…" In fact, some of their films I put off and I put off and I put off, because there was no initial spark of interest. But when I finally saw them? Magic. Pixar walks that fine line of being able to entertain everyone in the room without treating anyone as an idiot. This is a studio with fantastic animation, sure, but more so, they are even better story-tellers. I don’t think I’d even want to work there, if I were given the opportunity, because I wouldn’t want the magic spoiled. I’d rather just watch and listen. Up is a tale of friendship and love and pure adventure. I don’t want to spoil it if you haven’t see it. Go. It’s brilliant.
1. Hurt Locker
I have already covered my feelings for my number one pick of the year here. But just in case you are super, super lazy, I will reiterate: This is truly a fantastic film. It works as both a statement on Iraq AND as an edge of your seats, nail-biting action flick. Well done, all around. Jeremy Renner is awesome. I can not wait for the chance to sit down and re-watch this again at home. Even if this was a somewhat anemic list this year, and even if I had seen everything else I wanted to, I strongly suspect that this film would have easily held onto the top spot. Easily. It is well deserved Best Picture material. Now, from what I hear, Up in the Air might give it a bit of a run, but I’m betting right now that The Hurt Locker gets the statue this year.
So that’s it. My list. I think these are all good films, so you should check them out. Also, I’d like to give a little nod to a couple I saw and liked but didn’t make the cut.
Public Enemies: Not bad. Not great, but not bad.
Jennifer’s Body: I support Diablo Cody. I love her work and she makes me tingle. So, despite some flaws, I found Jennifer’s Body to be a good waste-of-time flick.
Push: Not bad. Really not bad. Actually pretty good. A nice little modern day superhero among us type of flick. I love Superheroes in hoodies. Some good power usage. Some cool ideas. Lot’s of fun action. Ambitious, too, maybe too much so, as it is obviously hoping for a sequel that probably isn’t ever going to happen.
The movies I wanted to see, but missed for some reason:
Up in the Air
Drag me to Hell
500 Days of Summer
Where the Wild Things Are
I know, I know, it's a huge amount of possibly really good films... What can I say? I've been busy. Also, you know... just as a side note... if you wanted to, you could re-read this whole post, but in a sarcastic tone of voice and it's a whole new experience. Just sayin'...
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
2 week International Box Office: Roughly $411,000,000.00 (Again, give or take a couple hundred thousand.)
2 week Global Total: $642,993,860.00
That's a second week dip of LESS THAN 2%!
That is unheard of! That is unbelievable! That is the highest grossing 2nd week ever! Ever! Amazing, simply amazing. God damn, man... the people love it... the people love it...I wonder how much is IMAX and how much is repeat business... Anyway, what can I say?
Sometimes, I guess I'm just out of touch.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Avatar is alright.
It is definitely not bad. It’s not great, of course, but it’s definitely not bad. It delivered exactly what I expected it to: Some very, very pretty visuals with some good action, more than a bit of corny dialogue and some ham-fisted story-telling, all of which was mired in what can only be described as one of the most worn-out of Tropes (The Noble Savage). That’s not to say that it’s not entertaining, mind you, it is, at times very much so, but what it is not, is innovative, or all that original. Well… besides the presentation, that is. That is amazing, frankly, so let me amend my initial statement:
Avatar is alright, but if you’re going to go… then you have to see it in 3-D IMAX only, because honestly, anything less is going to make the film much, much less than alright.
Yesterday after the movie, while shuffling along with the slow tide of the exiting crowd, I was trying to figure out what rating I’d assign the film, something on a scale of one to ten to accurately gauge my feelings, and maybe include a few movies to reference that I felt might best illustrate those feelings. It was a slippery question.
See, you have to understand, so let me be clear here: I did NOT hate the film.
It was fine, it was perfectly alright, it just wasn’t great… at all. Beautiful, yes, stunning, absolutely. Viewing the film in 3_D IMAX was, at times… intoxicating, it was so good. But the film itself was most definitely NOT great. Post showing, I felt ambivalent about it almost immediately. Right now, as I write this, the memories of it break apart in my mind like smoke and swirl away. I know I saw it, but I’m at a loss for even a few iconic moments to grab onto.
So, I’ve mulled it over in the time since then, and now finally, my rating: Avatar is a good strong seven and a half. A good, strong seven and a half. That’s my ranking, but it worries at me a little to assign that number. It feels both too generous and yet, too stingy at the same time.
The presentation was fantastic, eye-popping even. Totally worth the money and the time. It was light-hearted and fun, honestly, it was… I don’t hate it at all. I barely rolled my eyes in disgust while watching. No, it’s just... the story itself was—for the most part—hacky. It was a little over wrought, it was filled with clichés and a ton of extremely familiar Sci-fi designs, not to mention more than a few tired out old tropes, some of which were borderline offensive and should definitely be retired at this point, and foreshadowing was used with all the subtlety of a flashing neon sign smashed repeatedly into your face.
“Hey, what’s that thing?”
“Oh, that’s a flying dragon skull… you know, the thing that just attacked you…”
“Oh yeah, I remember. That was exciting.”
“Is it the same one?”
“The same one that attacked you?”
“No, we just left it… we just got here… that’s a skull… forget it. No, see, that’s the one my Grandfather rode.”
“Oh yeah, you know how most of us ride those little dragons?”
“Well, he rode one of the big ones.”
“I know. He used it to unite the clans during this big crisis… and then… we apparently killed it and ate it afterwards…I guess that’s why we have the skull… huh… I guess, you know… crisis averted, right? Everyone was probably hungry…”
“I don’t know why I’m even telling you this, honestly, because it’s only happened like five times in our entire history of ever.”
“What? Riding a big dragon?”
“Wow, five times? That is rare.”
“It totally is. So, you’ll probably never see it happen.”
“Probably not. That’s a shame… Well, enough dilly-dallying, let’s get back to our current huge crisis…”
“I suppose.. too bad my gramps isn’t here now, huh?”
“Yeah, we could totally use him… or someone like him…”
You will never guess what happens in the third act, people, not in a million-billion years… never. Let me assure you, I totally did not see it coming.
Anyway, in case you don’t know, Avatar is the story of mighty whitey and recent cripple Jake Sully, a former marine and the only man capable of saving the noble, yet simple and helpless indigenous savages: The Cat People (Me-Yow!) from some Mean Suits, and their Army man dogs-of-war lackeys, all of whom want nothing more than strip-mines as far as the eye can see… because they’re evil! Turns out, Scully is like their savior and shit. He goes blue and thinks they’re the poo, mostly because the main girl cat only wears a thong. Also, you know what? All the Cat People’s lovely-dovey, planet-and-people-as-one-fiddle-faddle, their be-good-to-nature simpleton native lifestyle stuff? They totally know what they are talking about! Shocker, right? Despite all of our technology and science… it turns out, these simple-minded, mud-dwelling savages with their feathers and their chanting and their ooga-booga-ing… they’re the ones who actually see the truth about the world… and they see it truthfully… with magic and stuff… for reals. And that includes not wearing any pants or shirts (but don’t worry, ladies, you’ll have feather necklaces to cover your nipples… those Navi know double side tape, believe me), unless of course, you’re going into battle, then you wear these little crochet tops, which look fun. Also, animals are our friends and Corporations and the Military? Evil as shit.
I kid, I kid. (Not really.) It was alright. Really, it was. You know, I think if I had been 12, I would have been more blown away by it… No, no, the 12 year old me would have been only moderately impressed too. Maybe 8… if I had been 8, I would have been blown away. Maybe blown away is too strong a phrase. I would have been... somewhat more impressed. But not really, actually, I fully and proudly admit to hating Alien species and have said on more than one occasion: If life was Star War, I would totally join the Empire and subjugate the fuck out of all those freaky little bastards and their stupid single climate themed planets… starting with Naboo… but I digress. Long story short? I was entertained somewhat for the two hours and forty minutes of 3-D IMAX, but when I walked out, I was underwhelmed.
And I wasn’t the only one. Geeks and non-geeks all around me were all the same, up and down the line, to varying degrees. “Awesome looking, but familiar… and a little dull in the middle. “
I think that’s what bothered me the most, too. 15 years, give or take? With budget estimates that top out at $500 million dollars? And yet, Dances with Wolves meets Dune, The Last Samurai, Fern Gully, Halo, and Thundar the Barbarian (Ee-Yah-Ee!) is the best you could come up with? I read a great line in a review somewhere that said (basically): “James Cameron only cares that his characters are three dimensional visually.”
And that was patently obvious on screen.
So would I go a second time?
Maybe, in a few months, at the 3-D IMAX again, but otherwise, no. No, I would not. I don’t plan on seeing this film “normal” ever. Without it’s amazing presentation, the film will be forced to rely solely upon it’s narrative and that will only take whatever good feelings I have toward this movie at the moment and snap them.
The true litmus test of this film will be next week. World-wide, it opened to 232 million dollars… which is impressive, but what will week two look like? I’m betting a ghost town, folks, because I honestly don’t feel like there is much to return to here.
Earlier I talked about ratings, a good solid seven and a half, I said, but I was also trying to figure out what other movies share those same feelings… At one point, I thought: Maybe it’s like Deep Rising or Soldier, bad, but good, and yet watchable, but that’s not right. I’ve watched those films multiple times. I’ll even seek them out sometimes. No, I think Avatar is eventually just going to disappear into the stacks of the video store for me, never to be looked for or really watched again, whereas a somewhat bloated, but sincere failure like Watchmen, obviously made from the same type of passion and love, I will buy. Hurm… a true conundrum. It’s nowhere near as bad as Transformers, certainly, but is it in the same bracket? Nothing but spectacle? Lacking a reason to return? All show and no go? Maybe…
There’s a kind of hysterical fever that seems to grip Cameron’s latest films. People rail about their greatness, they slaver and froth about T2 and True Lies and Titanic… or at least they did… at the time. T2 still seems to hold up somewhat, but it is very obviously a pale shadow to the original or to Aliens, even to the Abyss. But the others? Cheese. Major cheese. How many of you can even sit through Titanic at this point? Huh? And it won a billion fucking Oscars at the time. It’s insane to look back on and think about now. Titanic swept the Oscars! Titanic! It’s like there was a trick pulled on us all and now we just don’t talk about it anymore. Is that how time will treat Avatar? I’m pretty sure it’s how I will. I may be alone though, Rotten Tomatoes is running at 83% positive…
Beautiful, silly in a fun way, and with some great action pieces, but hobbled by clunky dialogue, cliché characters, and designs familiar to the point of appearing as direct knock-offs, Avatar is worth the 3-D experience… but hurry, because once that opportunity fades away, so will this film’s luster.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Sure, yesterday was plagued by a down moment or two, but these things happen. Such is the life, right? And hey, in the meantime, there are things like this.
Gasp! What is it, you ask?
Tsk, tsk, tsk...
Why, it's one of the very first cast pictures from the upcoming (Edgar Wright directed) film adaptation of the popular comic book: Scott Pilgrim! Yay!
Wait... What's Scott Pilgrim? For shame.
Here's a skewed angle for a better glimpse...
From left to right it looks like we got: Scott Pilgrim, Ramona Flowers, Young Neil, Knives Chau, Kim Pine, and Stephen Stills.
Want more? (You know you do.) Look here.
Monday, December 14, 2009
The first was just a quick, one-off, semi-form letter type rejection from an Agency that I don't quiet remember having queried in the first place. I haven't updated my Query Tracking Spreadsheet (my QTS) yet, so the possibility exists that this was, in actuality, a preemptive rejection from a very efficient Agent... maybe.
The second rejection, sadly, was from the Agent I would have preferred to get, the one that had the 60 page sample. This was my first big strike out. She did write a nice little note back to me and included some thoughts and comments and recommendations and an offer for a re-submission at a later date with a re-worked version, or with something else entirely, so, that's kind of encouraging... all things considered... I guess. On the plus side, the main problem she had with the sample was different from the problem the last Agent had, so at least there isn't one huge glaring thing wrong. Of course, on the minus side... that could be also construed as being indicative of the existence of several problems. Be that as it may, at the moment, I choose to see it as a reflection of personal taste.
So, from here on out:
Well, there are still four queries currently out there and I will send out more tonight. After the holidays, I will be checking on their statuses. Also, I've been working on cutting the book's over-all length, so that continues. And the newest bit, per the recent response, I will be taking a look at the structure of the thing at the same time.
The quest continues... Onward and upward.
Friday, December 11, 2009
It's Lisa's week to blather on about something over at the Scribblerati blog and she's got a great post up and ready for your reading enjoyment. Go on and check it out, folks, and while you're there, you might want to peruse the other posts, as well as the other members of my very excellent writing group.
I hope you enjoy it.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Like I said yesterday: I'm going to Avatar on the 20th. I want to like it, I really do, I'm ready to, but the scars from the Prequels still itch when it rains, you know? So, here's me hoping for the best, James Cameron, but I'm gonna be honest with you... I'm more than a little bit wary, man, more than a little bit wary.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
One hundred posts!
For ten months or so now, week after week, day in, day out, day off, day off… another day off… sometimes for a week or two… I’ve been posting. Ten months or so... give or take. That’s dedication for you right there, folks. That’s me—just me, mind you—logging on and blogging eight, sometimes even nine, times a month and just cranking it out for y’all… just grinding it out. Writing! “It’s been a long road… getting’ from there to here…” And do I ask for anything besides your accolades, adoration and gifts of money and/or comic books?
No. No, I do not.
Man, are you people lucky or what?
So, as the snows roll in, blanketing the middle of this country with its heavy, frigid embrace, my attention turns away from my stack of unstamped license plates here at the Day Prison and instead... they turn to you, my friends, My Dear and Constant Readers. They turn to you. How ya’ doing? We’ve been together awhile now, you and I, so I thought, in commemoration of this big one hundredth blog post here at This Is Mine, I thought we could jump into the ol’ way-back machine and reach far, far back into the ether, all the way back to the source, and maybe do it up one more time, just like we used to back in the day... February ’09 style.
I think you know what that means…
Gunslingers of the Apocalypse:
As of right now, today, there are no new responses. All’s quiet on the manuscript front. Everything is as it was and continues to be. There are still 60 pages out there somewhere, in the possession of an Agent I would love to be represented by, while five other queries are hanging out on the desks and in the in-boxes of some equally strong candidates. If I took nothing else from my time at the Loft, it was to start big and work your way down. So far, (knock on wood) and despite a pair of rejections, I have yet to strike out with any of the Big Kids, so keep your fingers crossed, my Dear and Constant Readers, say a little prayer for me, your favorite blogger (Jon), burn me some incense, maybe sacrifice a goat and/or small child, basically whatever kind of superstitious hocus-pocus chicanery your own personal brand of religious mythology calls for when one would like the favor of the gods smiled down upon themselves… go do that. Thanks in advance.
Bastard out of Minnesota:
I have settled on “out of” for the title, instead of “outta”, I think this is a good thing. Thoughts? Also, the good news. I think I have finally managed to pummel the opening section of the third chapter into submission, at least enough for me to be able to turn my back on it safely and move on to the next parts. The bad news is, doing so took so long that now there isn’t enough time left to finish the whole chapter and still send it out to the Scribblerati for review at our next meeting on Monday. That’s a big sad face on my part. This book has been a slow starter, the nagging questions of world building and what to tell how, not to mention what information needs to be shared again since this is a sequel, after all, have been vexing… to say the least, and unfortunately, I am a mostly linear writer and don’t like to jump around much, so it’s been a little bit of a slog for me through the last 80-ish pages. The good news, though, is once it’s all down and I move on to Chapter Four, I’ll be able to more clearly establish the story and then, if I need to, I can go back, hammer out the iffy parts in the first couple of chapters, clean it all up and link it together in a satisfactory manner. It’s very reassuring to realize that after all this work, especially since things really open up after this chapter. I feel like I’ve been trudging through a swamp lately, but after last night, at least, the ground finally started to feel like it was firming up a bit beneath my feet… let’s hope.
The Comic Book Experiment:
Blog-friend Marshall Banana has paused in his near constant attempts at further baby-making and is slowly making progress on our joint experiment. Things are looking very good from this end. Yay for Marshall! Way to go! Keep up the good work! Although, I may borrow the Scrappers idea, while you're working on it, and try to meld it into short story shape for submission. Why? And to whom? …Read below.
This site is one of the last of a dying breed: an actual venue for the publishing of short stories of the Sci-fi and fantasy bend AND it actually pays pro-rates. Seeing this place is like seeing a Unicorn in your backyard. It’s intimidating though, because this is a realm of giants. Big names have trod here, and many still do, so care must be taken when you approach. Right now their submissions are closed, holidays and all, but they are scheduled to re-open come January. I have time to prepare.
I’m going to Avatar at the 3-D IMAX on the 20th, that’s the zero hour, and then…. Oh and then… we shall see, James Cameron, oh yes… we shall see. You’ll be hearing all about it, I’m sure, my Dear and Constant Reader. Be sure to await my response with bated breath.
Great stuff. Love it. Multi-dimensional wars fought between secretly seeded super soldiers? It’s like they wrote it from my dreams… After having watched the entire first season and having downloaded all of the current shows to date of the second, I have to say: All in all, Fringe is a very entertaining show with a really strong hook and an even stronger cast held together by a fantastic chemistry, the whole of it buoyed by good writing that has somehow avoided being undermined by either Fox or by the writing staff, a group whose other works I am almost uniformly not a fan of. Except for the new Star Trek. There is a tiny nagging fear that they still might veer off into X-files land, a place where answers and resolutions are feared and hated and driven off into exile, but so far… so good…
And that’s all the news fit to print, so let’s wrap-up…
In a nutshell, 2009 has been pretty good for me. I finished my book, with the invaluable help of the Scribblerati, the Copy Editor Twin Star Sukiyaki Death Squad Girls and all my various and sundry Beta-readers and friends. This is something most people can’t say, and I’m very proud of the end result. I’ve begun the query process and so far, in these first two months, I have managed to get some responses, which is another small and encouraging victory. The Day Prison isn’t to bad, all in all, at least, as far as Day Prisons go. Me and mine are healthy, wealthy, and wise, for the most part, so I can’t complain there too much. But best of all, most of all, I got Little Ms. Super-cute Fiancée. She’s pretty awesome.
So keep your chins up out there, my Dear and Constant Readers, life ain’t too bad.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
If not, start here, then go here, here, and here. Also: You can go here. And finally: Go here. John Scalzi does a good summation here.
And for the lazy out there, the nutshell:
Basically, Harlequin has announced that it is opening a vanity press house. They're calling it self-publishing and pretending that it's not a horrible scam usually reserved for false Internet publishing houses and people purporting to be former Nigerian royalty, but in actuality, they're really lying. Harlequin horizons is a vanity press.
Now true, Harlequin publishing and I, most likely (actually most definitely after this recent news), have very little chance of ever working together because I don't write bodice-ripping romances... at least, you know... not blatantly... Anyway, the point is, this does not bode well for the industry or for the craft of writing as a whole.
You see, Vanity Presses are one of the dark and terrible downsides that came about as a result of the Internet and publishing having met. It is a horrible beast that used to lurk in the shadows at the edges of civilization, and rightfully so, because it's twisted visage is too gross and mean for decent people to have to look upon. Vanity presses are ugly, ugly things and Harlequin is trying to drag it out into the light, dress it up like it's a semi-respectable self-publishing option and then force it's deformed, bastard children upon the world.
What's the difference?
Self-publishing is just that, you write it, you market it, you have it printed up as needed, and you keep the (usually negligible) profits. It's a route that is not for me personally, as I view the submittal process of traditional publishing as a challenge that will (hopefully) help me to turn out the best product I can offer, and one that I strive to meet. But whatever, the Self-publishing route is a personal career decision that every author can examine for themselves. As far as I'm concerned, if you just can't wait or you aren't interested in making any money or having anyone read your book, then go the Self-publishing route. That's fine. Even if I feel that it's a mistake career wise and comes with a somewhat unshakable stigma and I can't really see the value of it as a whole when weighed against the very obvious downsides, there are still some very valid reasons why someone might choose this route.
But like I said: it's not for me.
Vanity Presses, on the other hand, are synonymous with absolute crap. Let me be clear: They are synonymous with ABSOLUTE crap. A Vanity Press does nothing but CHARGE YOU for the privilege of having them bind up a glossy version of your manuscript. They offer no editorial support of any kind, nor any quality control, unless you pay them a ton of money, and then they expect you, the author, to pay even more money for a pre-determined bulk number of your book, right off the bat, and if you wish to re-coup that money, then you need to sell your whole stock yourself without any marketing support. Also, your book never makes it into any brick and mortar bookstores. AND the Vanity Press usually get a cut of your sales, usually around half... How is this ever seen as a good idea?
Good luck, rube.
Vanity Presses violate the number one rule of having a real career in writing: All money flows toward the author. It is a scam perpetrated on the dumb by the unscrupulous and one that usually ends with the poor schmuck being stuck with a garage full of their crappy books and out several thousands of dollars. There is absolutely no reason to go this route, at least, not one that couldn't be met simply by going to Kinkos.
No, Vanity Presses are generally the province of people with zero talent for the craft and are unable and flat out unwilling to submit themselves to the process, to critique, and to both the possibility of rejection, and, unbeknownst to them, the possibility of improving both their work and their publishing chances. They refuse to believe their "art" could possibly have a flaw, saying instead something akin to: "An artist's vision is pure, sacrosanct." Which is pure crap. They then try to go around and pretend that it's real, that they actually accomplished something, that a vanity press book is an actually published book, but it's not and everyone knows it. It's cheating. It's false. These people are the lepers of the literary world, the worst of the worst, the lowest of the low, the hanger-ons, the wannabes, and now Harlequin has decided to open a purposely misleading imprint designed to take advantage of these delusional souls.
So... people are in an uproar.
Why? A few reasons.
1. It's a scam. It's reprehensible that a previously "reputable" business would blatantly take advantage of people like this. And the tip-off is the careful wording on their official site so that it is clear that anything published through this new Harlequin Horizon imprint (or Hh) is NOT actually part of the official Harlequin list and they go to great lengths to assure their existing authors that these Harlequin Horizon books will in no way be associated with their own. Basically: Don't worry, we'll keep that shit separate. Harlequin then turns around and infers that this scam is actually a proving ground of sorts, a possible path to legitimate publishing, but really it's just a way to make a boatload of cash without having to do anything, off people that, at the very least, are operating under the false belief that this will help them on their path to their dreams.
2. Part of the publishing process is the Test. That you are either good enough or you're not. Part of it is that you have to work hard to make that grade. It's an accomplishment, one to be proud of. But if the sluice gates are thrown open wide and all the fetid trash that resulted from every mouth-breathing shut-in with the Internet, an oh-so-sensitve "everybody should win" bullshit attitude, and a ream of boring, delusional hackery are allowed to flood in and swamp us all with their stagnant purple prose, even if only on-line and under a false imprint pretending at legitimacy...
What's does that say for the rest of us? For those of us that work hard at what we do? Where's the value? Where's the accomplishment when so many can, even if wrongfully and only at first glance, be seen as equals for doing so little, for doing what basically amounts to taking a day-trip to the Copy Store with a pocket full of quarters and air-filled head? Aren't we all, and our shabby well-loved art, that much lessened by the association, by the lack of quality, by the lack of style and substance? What's the point of swimming for that fabled and far off pristine distant shore if it's swamped in a sea of poo?
So, I'm saying this now:
It's for real for me or I'm done. No Self-publishing. No Vanity Presses. Nothing. It's traditional or I quit. No compromises, no delusions, no regrets.
It's published or it's nothing.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I got my first real rejection letter.
Actually, I got it yesterday… on my birthday.
This particular rejection (technically my second, but the first one was just a 24 hour later form letter rejection, one that I attribute more to a key-word type trigger or a general lack of subject interest then to the fact that I suck, but whatever…) ANYWAY, this particular rejection comes from the Agent that requested the full manuscript from me about a week ago.
Now, honestly, this rejection wasn’t too much of a surprise as the Agent in question, at least going by her personal blog and her client list, is pretty YA and Chick-lit-y and I am not. So, from the start, it was always kind of surprising that she even expressed any interest in my stuff in the first place, especially since I never actually queried her specifically… but again: whatever… it’s still a bit of a bummer.
On the upside, she has been very attentive during all this with an amazingly fast turn-over, and even if she did come back with a response other than the one I would have preferred, at least she was quick about it. She also took the time to give me some feedback, which is cool of her, and proves that she actually read my book, or at least part of it.
Some of this feedback was possibly good stuff and I will examine and possibly implement it. A couple of them seemed more like an over-simplified solution for some inherent and known possible problems, and the last few were, for the most part, of the stripe that I would expect from… well, someone like her, at least, judging again by what she puts in her blog and who she represents… which is cool, you know, I mean, different strokes and all that jazz… but still: No big surprise. Some of the feedback, though.. well, some of it seemed really off-base. I won’t go into specifics, because it was maddening, but yeah… it was crap and very telling. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter, some shit you have to let go, because you can’t control people’s perceptions. Of course, however invalid in actuality that particular personal opinion was, the fact that it came up at all does carry with it the validity of it possibly repeating in my possible audience’s possible perceptions, which makes it something to consider and be aware of.
So, I’ll examine that too… even if it was bullshit.
But there you have it.
Two queries down, who knows how many more to go. This latest bit is disappointing, but what can you do? Such is the process, I guess. And, truth be told, I’ve only sent out six queries total, so far, and in just about a month and a half's time since Q Day, I've gotten three responses for further samples, sure two were from the same person, but still: fucking victory, man.
On one hand, I can appreciate the feedback and I’ll take a look at possibly implementing some of it and hopefully the time she took will end up helping me out on my road to getting published.
On the other hand… who cares?
A new Query Letter goes out tomorrow.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
What the hell...?
Excuse me? Miss? Hello...? Excuse me? Yeah, hi. Um... I'm not sure who hired you to paint in here, but I gotta tell you... On first sight, I'm not entirely convinced that this is something you usually do for a living... just a feeling. No offense. My concern , of course, is that I might not get a good, smooth coat out of this and, you know, this IS one of the first places people see and all, right...? I mean, I don't know about you, but a bump in the paint? Frankly, I won't be able to see anything else. I'll stare at it for an eternity.
And there's a moth... or something... on your stomach, a box elder bug maybe, I don't know... I can get that for you.
Also... FYI, you seem to have forgotten your pants.
Monday, November 9, 2009
So, I got a request for the full manuscript.
One of the two agents who had previously asked for an initial sample of Gunslingers of the Apocalypse (thirty pages specifically) e-mailed me on Friday and asked for the whole thing. They stated in their e-mail that they would "love to read more."
Now, maybe I'm reading into that statement a bit too much, but the word "love" really jumped out at me. Don't you think that the use of that word indicates that they already like it? Don't you think that the use of that word "love" denotes feelings of not just professional interest (in which case I think they would have simply written: "I'm interested in reading the whole thing"), but ones of actual personal enjoyment as well? Doesn't that seem like a reasonable supposition on my part? Or do you think I'm reading into it too much?
Hurm... We shall see.
It is certainly my hope, at least.
Anyway, I'm going to send it out in a couple of days here, after first taking a moment to obsess over it one last time. This is a moment that is both nerve-racking for me and also one of resigned calm. I mean, the way I look at it, at this point, it's down to the wire. Yay or nay, either way, it's done. No more next level in the submissions process, at least, as far as this particular agent is concerned. Either way, I move up or I move on. So, either way, I'm feeling pretty good.
I mean, I made it to the final round in the submissions process in just over 5 weeks while still on my first six Queries ever... That's not bad, people. That's not bad at all. In fact, you know how I look at that? You know what I see this as?
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
There's a storm brewing, kids. Trouble! Right here in Blog-city! There's some grade-A- mouth-breathing-Internet-denizen-slap-fighting on the horizon and we have a front row seat, people, you lucky ducks! I am so excited!
So, it breaks down like this...
In one corner: Kristen Nelson, literary agent, and her various and sundry blog-followers.
Now, Kristen actually seems pretty nice and, on a regular day, she mostly just blogs about her work and her daily life stuff. She appears to be level-headed and professional, so honestly, I expect her to refrain from participating in this.
No, the true combatants will be her Blog-comment Regulars, a surly and devoted bunch. The reason for this is because Kristen is a Literary Agent. This means that most of her Followers are, really, just a bunch of struggling writers. This means that they all visit her blog pretty much on a daily basis, all of them working their asses off, trying their level-darnest to interact with Kristen in what will hopefully be perceived as a pleasant and friendly manner, due to a desperate and shared hope that if they are successful, and she notices them, they will then receive an "in" from her to use on that inevitable day that they all submit their Queries to her. Meaning: if they're nice and attentive, then she will bestow upon them a free pass to publishing, fame and fortune! Huzzah!
That is the hope, anyway...
But really, this isn't going to happen.
I mean... duh... who the hell is going to base their professional career off the practice of regularly hitching their wagon up to the best sycophant? No one, that's who. But still, her Followers keep trying, after all: Ya' never know, ya' never, never know... and there are new ones added to the mix every day and they don't want to rock the boat and risk possibly getting tossed out into the cold. I mean, the lady might be handing out free publishing deals written on solid gold paper, for Christ's sake!
So, the cycle replenishes itself. At this point, the usual Internet hierarchy begins to establish itself: Take a net nerd and give them a regular presence on a website somewhere on the Internet and they will immediately squat down and begin to build a fort. From these ramparts, they cross their arms and begin to hold forth. Due to the length of time they have spent on this site and the amount that they post daily, they believe themselves all-powerful, unassailable, and always right, second in total awesomeness to the site's owner only, and they will bristle and attack at even the barest perception of disrespect.
So, when a dissenter appears and begins to douche-bag it up in the comment section to such a degree that it results in Kristen turning on the Comment Moderation in order to put a lid on said douchebag's activities... the Sycophants start to get a bit twitchy. They begin to spoil for a fight, ready at a moment's notice to defend Kristen the loudest of everyone and then... well, maybe then they will receive that "in." Unfortunately, with the douchebag effectively banned, the Followers now have no one to attack and nowhere to direct their anger and, if they were to follow the douchebag somewhere else and then attack that douchebag in anger... all that would do is turn the Followers themselves into douchebags, the very thing they hate. It is a situation much like that of the Jedi when faced with the Dark-side of the Force.
...Sorry, that was pretty nerdy...
ANYWAY, but... if that aforementioned douchebag were to go to their own blog and begin to talk a bunch of "shit" that can then be construed as a slight...? Well, kids, that's how flame wars start.
Thus, in the other corner, I present for your reading enjoyment: Gordon Jerome, bitter douchebag.
I read both of these blogs on a semi-regular basis for completely different and most likely, readily apparent reasons and you, my gentle and constant readers, will be able to find all the build-up, to what I just know will be an epic rumble, in their respective previous blogs and comment sections.
WOOOOO! Fight! Fight! Fight!
Quick, quick! Pull up a chair!
Friday, October 30, 2009
This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to any of you out there in Internet-land, because I usually don't have a costume. I mean, I sometimes consider it, however briefly, on occasion and a year or two ago I wore a domino mask, which was a major effort for me, but usually... meh...
I thought about maybe wearing a name tag that said JON, possibly in black sharpie, but that seemed like too much effort, what with the writing of my name and the peeling off of the back of the sticker and all that. I also thought about dressing up as a Non-participant, but, you know, really... that seemed a little too "Oh, look at Mr. Clever guy... stab!" So, this year? Nothing. Honestly, I'm pretty okay with this. I know God approves, and loves me the most of all his children, because Little Ms. Super-cute Fiancee's evil plans of a theme-couple-costume fell through at the last moment due to no actions on my part (Thanks, Big Guy... wink). So, as a result, here I am again, it's the eleventh hour and I have no costume. Why is this, do you think? Year after year? It's not like I hate Halloween or anything...
Actually that's not true.
I do hate Halloween.
Well, maybe hate is a strong word... hmmm... No, it's more like: No, thank you. That's really it. When it comes to Halloween, my attitude is: No, thank you. In fact, that's my attitude towards most organized holidays. No, thank you. Frankly, I like my life how it is and holidays... ugh... they're generally just a disruption that I could do without. Except Thanksgiving, of course, but that goes without saying. Heaven is a soft couch, a football game on TV and a turkey coma, my friends. But Christmas? Oh, more socks... and what's this? A sweater that doesn't fit? That's awesome, thanks! Fake smile! St. Patty's Day? Well, I already covered that. Bastille Day? Fuck you, you hipster douchebag. Boxing Day? Do you really think I'm going to switch roles with the servants? I don't think so...
Anyway, my point is: I'm just not that into the organized holidays. It's not me. I'm not that person. If you are, great, that's awesome... yeah, no, you totally look just like a Stormtrooper, dude, except, you know... fatter... but that's great. Go on with your bad self.
But as for me?
No, thank you.
Friday, October 23, 2009
So, yeah, like I said, no new news. I continue to wait for word on my various Queries and Requests for further samples. In the interim, my fingers remain crossed. There’s not much else I can do otherwise, just wait and hope. And honestly, it will probably be another month or two before I ever hear back, so I’m trying to settle in for a long wait and distract myself with other projects in the meantime.
Speaking of which, I met up with Marshall Banana: Baby-maker, and perused some of the early art he’s done for the comic scripts I sent him and they look pretty fucking good, man. Really good, in fact. So, that’s exciting, and a load off… it’s new news, too. I guess, I forgot to share that with you earlier this week. So, things on the practice comic book front are progressing and looking promising. If you see him on the street, please be sure to tell Monsieur Banana that he’s doing a good job.
Oh! Here’s some more news for ya’… Tomorrow is actually a pretty big day.
Tomorrow is Little Ms. Super-cute Fiancée and my Four Year Anniversary. Four years ago tomorrow, she and I went out for the very first time. We had late night beers at the Uptown Bar (soon to be closing… sad face), we followed that up with a full-plate order of chicken nachos at the infamous Little T’s, then we watched Ghostbusters to the wee hours of the morning. She left at 5:30 in the morning to go do a fill-in DJ shift at Radio K. It was a pretty awesome date. By the end of the first week, we’d gone on three more dates (to this day, I can only really remember those first three dates, the rest just kind of blurred together). After our fourth one, she pretty much moved in and, well… here we are.
So, what are our plans for the day?
Last year, we did a little overnight mini-stay-cation at the Graves Hotel, which was awesome. This year, well, we’re thinking of keeping it a little more low-key and wallet-friendly. We’re thinking maybe we’ll nosh on a little Gosa Gosa C at the super awesome Blue Nile. After that, it’s off for a little flat track roller derby action and beer with the North Star Roller Girls at the Minneapolis Convention Center and then… Then, it’s off for one or two more beers, but these ones will be special , as they will most likely be the last ones we have at the Uptown Bar (site of our first date), before it’s razed in the name of progress next month. That’s a big time Sad Face, because the Uptown Bar is one of the last places in Uptown with any kind of personality whatsoever, and now it’s soon to be gone forever in favor of a Hot Topic or a Bed Bath and Beyond or some horrible shit like that.
Anyway, it should be fun.
Oh my God… it’s fucking snowing out! Son of a bitch!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
As long-time readers, most of you may or may not recall that I am currently querying various Literary Agents concerning their possible representation of my recently finished manuscript: Gunslingers of the Apocalypse. By all accounts, this process is a long and arduous one, however, much like the spanking machine at Fraternities, it is also a very much required rite of passage on the road to being published legitimately.
I sent out my first five queries somewhere in the neighborhood of about 3 p.m. on September 23rd, 2009. The first one came back the very next day. No, thank you, was pretty much all it said. Polite, but impersonal. Undaunted, I immediately sent out query number six.
Then I waited.
The next two have recently come back and they both want to read more. (Teeth clenched: EEEEEE!) One came back last week, the other just today. Neither asked for the whole thing, just a limited amount of pages (fifty and thirty respectively) and I have complied. Now, honestly, this doesn't mean much beyond the fact that my query was interesting enough to make them want to check out a little bit more and they could totally still reject me, but, shit... man... I am that much closer.
That much closer...
The thought makes me tingly.
Be on alert for further updates as the situation progresses...
Friday, October 9, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
So, Little Ms. Super-cute Fiancee and I traveled to the distant wilds of the Minnesota-Iowa border this past weekend to celebrate Big D's birthday. It was fun. We played a little Wii, and I am happy to report that I am not nearly as sore from the experience as last time. We had a ton of good food, some great conversation, we played with the animals, and just generally hung out. It was very relaxing, for the most part. A good time was had by all.
And since it never quite seems like a vacation if we don't get some one-on-one time, Little Ms. Super-cute Fiancee and I decided to go to a movie late Saturday night. Surprisingly, or maybe not so much if you read this blog even occasionally, we went to Zombieland. I'll post a review about the film, and probably talk about the whole small town film going experience itself, later this week, so lets move on from that. (In a nutshell: Fun.) You see, it's the events that took place afterwards that concern this particular blog.
Now, earlier in the evening, before setting off, we'd talked about being careful of deer, as they are a very real and very common highway hazard, especially this time of year, so I was watchful and alert. I'd been here before, you see. So, we're coming home, barreling down the Interstate at a hard-rockin' 80 mph and, as any non-city native can tell you, when you're out there, past all the lights... it is black as pitch, man, we're talking Country-dark here. But you have to keep moving, fast too, because besides the deer, the other hazard out there in the country is country drivers. Believe me, you do not want one of those drunk fuckers to come bombing up on your ass out of the dark. So, we're moving along, flying, and all of the sudden, we come across a blackish-red smear across the pavement, a splattered trail of blood and bits that must have been 30 feet long. In a word: A big god damn mess. So, I am on the verge of saying: "Look, Little Ms. Super-cute Fiancee, look... someone tagged a deer... big time. I told you..."
The body was still sprawled out in the middle of the road...
There was a brief moment where you could see it's massive size in the glare of the headlights, a tossed over bulk of torn brown felt and strips of crimson.
We plowed it under.
You could feel the tangle of bones thunder beneath us, jabbing at the floorboards. We barely had time to exclaim: "Ah!" and we had passed the carcass by.
Holy crap! The rest of the ride was spent in tense silence, eyes jumping restlessly between the still a-okay dashboard instruments and the thick velvet-black that pressed in all around on our suddenly very dim-seeming headlights. We both strained into the dark for that flash of moonlit movement, for even a glimpse of shadowy, hulking silhouettes, hoping not to see that brief flash of gold as the deer turned our way in the moments before dashing into our path...
Luckily, it didn't happen. No deer and no noticeable trouble from the Little Ms. Super-cute-mobile. We made it home safe and amazingly, the next morning, the only apparent damage was a slightly bent (and blood smeared... ew) front license plate. Well, that and few bloody and fur-bristled bits of deer falling from the undercarriage to splat on the concrete. Other than that? Nothing.
Tres lucky, no?
So then, Sunday, we began the long and arduous trek back to the welcoming bosom of civilization and the deer-less protection of Casa La Awesome. Or so we thought... The Check Engine light comes on and being that it's Sunday, it looks like we're staying an extra day until we can get in to see a mechanic Monday morning.
Which really wasn't too bad, because the Lasagna was even better the second day...
Anyway, long story short (too late), the light was on due to an O2 sensor hanging off the catalytic converter, no big deal. We decide to drive it back home and get it fixed at our regular mechanic and the damage is really the nothing type of damage, the car is safe to drive home. Like the mechanic says: "You might have a misfire, but that rarely happens." The drive back was terrible, of course, because after a dry Sunday, Monday decided to be rain-soaked and the Interstates were clogged with the classic type of Minnesota Road Construction, seemingly never-ending and almost completely bereft of any workers, but we made it home without issue.
So, that night, we're doing dishes and discussing household stuff, as awesome young couples are wont to do, and the subject of the repair came up. Now, I was saying that since it's no big deal, we can wait to get it repaired and therefore avoid incurring any extra expenses at the moment.
Little Ms. Super-cute looks at me like I'm insane. "Shouldn't we get it fixed as soon as possible?"
I shake my head, "No, it's no big deal. It's not a necessary part. It's only relatively recently that cars even had catalytic converters."
She squints at me, unsure, and says sincerely, "But what about it sparking and setting on fire?"
"The guy said it could set on fire."
"The mechanic," she explained, "he said it could spark and set on fire, but that it rarely happened."
I was dumbfounded. It took me a moment to realize what she was talking about. "MIS-fire," I reiterated. "MIS-fire. He said it might mis-fire, but that it rarely happened."
Her face clouded for a second as she mulled this over. Then the light came back on. "Oh... That makes sense... I was wondering why everyone was so nonchalant about it..."
I set down the dish I was washing and slowly turned off the faucet. "Honey..." I said. "If ever in the future, someone wants you to drive a car that... maybe... possibly... might set itself on fire, even if it's a small chance..."
She looked at me for a moment and then held out her hand for the next dish to dry as she said haughtily, "Yes, I suppose you're right."
So to sum up kids... Questions when you're unsure: Good. Being in a car when it blows up: Bad.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Once upon a time, we were known far and wide by the name: The Sparkleball Death Bunnies. Eventually, this frivolity displeased us, so then we switched to: These Precedes Knees. That name never quite caught on. After that, we lit upon more of a catch-all description: A Group Of Writers Who Want To Write Good And Get Published And Do Other Things Good As Well... or AGOWWWTWGAGPADOTGAW for short, but honestly, we found that nom de plume a tad unwieldy. We briefly considered Gonorrhea, but, due to society's apparently overwhelmingly bad associations, that name was tossed aside. I then lobbied the group for Council of Werewolves, but failed to convince them of its obvious and inherent awesomeness. In the end, we settled, somewhat uneasily I think, upon: The Scribblers. But somehow... it just wasn't right...
Now those days are done. The dark days are over and we emerge renewed, refreshed, and newly christened as a group. Our name has been chosen and a site has been picked. From hence forth and from now on, you may call us:
And you may find us here
Friday, September 25, 2009
Anyway, a side question not nearly asked enough of me (never, so far) would be: Am I planning on doing anything else beside re-start my writing, watch and discuss Fringe, and also possibly watch Observe and Report because Anna Faris is hilarious?
Yes! Yes, I am going to do something else! I am going to watch some Movies at a Movie Theatre!
Yes, my plan is to take some time this coming week, and possibly Little Ms. Super-cute Fiancee, and go catch up on some of the films I have missed. So, in anticipation of this plan, I thought I'd provide you, my Gentle and Constant Readers, with the list of what I intend to see.
It's actually a pretty short list.
Ah, Fall movie time, not nearly as crappy as January... but close...
This is a good illustration of how far behind I am. Long time readers will attest to the fact that I have been fairly excited about this movie. However, due to my busy schedule and general laziness, I have yet to make it. That's gonna change, folks, because despite some lukewarm reviews, I intend on hitting up this little flick sooner, rather than later. I'll let you know what I think.
2. Jennifer's Body
Another anticipated film, and one that was swamped right out of the gate with, what could only be refered to as, tepid at best reviews. However, and admittedly I haven't seen the film yet, the tone of most of those reviews seemed, to me, to be more mired in Diablo Cody hate and general misogyny then the film itself, which is gross.
Myself, I love Diablo Cody, I think she's great. Honestly, I don't understand what exactly it is that trips people up. Some of the catch-phrasey sayings? Okay, "honest to blog" sucks, but is it any worse than "You're fired" repeated ad nauseum? No. No, it is not. I mean, sure, sometimes she gets a little overly enamored with her own witty verbiage, but who am I to begrudge her that? There's a strange little side thing I've noticed and that is that most of these same people don't seem to fault Tarantino for having the same basic failings and for being less apologetic about it. Hmmm... strange...
So, no, in the end, I think that is just an excuse. I think there's just something about Diablo Cody that rubs some folks the wrong way. And you know what? That? That, I can get. I don't agree with it, but I can at least understand it.
What's weird is that most of the people who bag on Cody for her supposed "Diablo-speak" are obviously lying. They're lying and they flat out refuse to admit what is obviously going on, that the real problem is hidden due to a fear of being accused of being small minded. You see, the real problem is that these people just don't like the woman, they don't like her personality, they don't like her lack of shame for having once been a stripper, and they really don't like the fact that she managed to gain fame and unabashed celebrity off of it. This is all stuff that, in my opinion, should have no impact on her end product. After all, the proof is in the pudding. Juno was good. And yet... I bet we all know an idiot or two who claimed it's only because they found Juno to be "unrealistic."
"Uh, kids don't sound like that."
Fuck off, you stupid douche bag.
A. Yes, some of them do. And regardless, and most importantly, the characters do. The film's world they inhabit establishes that fact early, firmly, and consistently. B. Teen does not equate stupid. C. This is Diablo's voice, either accept it or fuck right off. And finally, D. Accuracy? Accuracy? What the hell does that mean? Jennifer's Body is the story of a girl, who gets sacrificed to Satan by an evil Emo band (is there another kind?), who then comes back and seduces boys so that she can eat them, meanwhile her best friend/enemy has to stop her... and you found it... an "inaccurate" portrayal of teen life, did you?
Like those wads who call SLC Punk inaccurate... What are you saying: That it was an inaccurate portrayal of poser punk rockers in Salt Lake City in 1984...? Or that the poser label hit a little too close to home... hmmm? But I digress... anyway, I plan on going to Jennifer's Body.
3. The Informant!
I've begun to suspect that Soderberg has been making the same basic movie for years now and this film will either make or break that theory. I'm hoping for break. I mean, Out of Sight is a fun film, but I thought it was better the first time I saw it. I like Matt Damon, though. He's always been pretty alright, but ever since he made fun of Sarah Palin, I've been a big-time Damon fan, so I'll usually check out what he appears in.
Apparently, I'm not alone in that either. Did you know Matt Damon has the biggest return per dollar spent on him by the studios? I read a number break down awhile back and it put him at number 1 over all the big names. Basically, for every dollar the studios spend on him, he returns, like, thirty. The studios must love him.
So yeah, MOVIES!
Tell your friends.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
It was a very quick turn-around and a bit of a sad moment for me, but mostly it was a little anti-climatic and unremarkable... much like Q Day itself was. After three years both of these long awaited events turned out to be more Pop than Bang, you know?
Anyway, the rejection itself was just your standard run-of-the-mill form rejection e-mail, a single paragrapgh quickly churned out and amounting to little more than "Sorry, Charlie, over and out," so there isn't much going on there for me to mine any kind of funny anecdotal type stuff out of. It does contain a line apologizing for the impersonal nature of the form letter and assures me that they did actually read my Query letter, which was nice. I have consoled myself with the belief that this particular Query was rejected only because the Agent in question didn't allow themselves the opportunity to be dazzled by my story, since they only request a Query Letter initially. Oh well, I'm sure this is but the first of many small bumps on the road to publication. In the end, there's nothing to be done about it, except move on. So, since I have decided to have five out at a time, I immediately sent out a new Query to take that ones place and continue to maintain faith in the Agents still to respond. Bright side, folks, bright side.
So there's that...
Looking forward! This weekend I intend to return to work on Bastard out of Minnesota, which will most likely be limited, at first, to just re-reading and re-acquainting myself with what has already been done up to this point. I'm kind of excited at how fresh my eyes might be. Who knows what could grow out of that situation. Plus, it'll be nice to roll up my sleeves, flex my fingers, and get back into the down and dirty everyday business of actually writing. It's been too long and I am ready to go.
Besides, Lord knows, I could use the distraction, something to keep me from compulsively checking and re-checking my e-mail every hour or so (or five minutes), both praying for a response and dreading one at the same time.
Also, I need to get in contact with artist, blog follower, and documented baby-maker, your friend and mine, Marshal Banana. Did I tell you folks about this? No? Yes? ANSWER ME! Ahem... anyway, all's quiet on the Conspiracy front of late, however, rather than lament the passing of possible creative projects, Mr. Banana and I have decided to start practicing this comic book thing together. He has some slapped together scripts of mine and, the last time I talked with him, was busy scribbling away at them. We planned on getting together and commencing with the chatting and the looking and the la-dee-dah-ing once I finally began to get my queries off, so now that I've done that, I'll need to start setting this stuff in motion.
I'm just about caught up on the episodes that I had pretty much already caught (the first five) and tomorrow, I will be moving into uncharted territory. As a result, my impression at this point is generally still the same. It's a "good" show that teeters on the edge of maybe being "great." The ideas are cool and intriguing, the cast is pretty good at their jobs, even though the lead actress, Anna Torv, sometimes looks like a Gelfling. The overall chemistry really works well and there's definitely no complaint when it comes to Production Values. Now, admittedly, sometimes I'm not that big a big fan of some of the storyline execution, but all in all, knowing what I do and having re-visited the show's beginning, right now, I'm going to have to go ahead and give the show a thumbs up.
Is anyone else attempting this with me? Do I need to talk about the specific story points yet? Go episode by episode? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Just a little FYI for all of you out there, in case you think you might want to join me.
A little backstory to 'splain:
Fringe is a show created by a list of people, who's products I generally do not enjoy, who are responsible for the TV show Alias (stupid) and movies Cloverfield (really stupid) and the latest Star Trek (thumbs up), and the show's somewhat broad and a bit unfair elevator-pitch is: X-files meets the Twilight Zone with a splash of comic books.
So, when Fringe's first season played last year, I was excited by the concept, intrigued by some of the rumors, and apathetic for reasons that, if you know me and those references above, should be patently obvious. I watched the first... lets say five episodes, but I'm really bad about catching things on TV regularly these days, unless they play alot, like say Cops or Jail or those day-time Judge shows, so eventually, I missed a few episodes and then... well... it's supposed to be a continuity based show and I really hate missing parts of the story, so I just quit watching.
Also, while I did generally like what I saw, which was basically some good, weird sci-fi, that was backed by some very slickly produced, but not overly flashy action and FX, and populated with a couple of good characters and concepts, I was still more than a little concerned by the small, but very detectable odor of a possible X-files type of storytelling going on. This specific show type is, of course, the classic: All questions, no answers... forever and ever. Kind of like the way they started out with Lost. All tricks and sleight of hand, no substance. All show, no go, you know?
Anyway, I definitely didn't want any part of that. Also, there's only so many Monster-of-the-week episodes I can take in a row before I walk away. I like the long continuity, you see. That's why I show up. I like having to pay attention to stuff and remember it for later. That's what I like. It's what interests me. That's why I never watch Law and Order or CSI: wherever. I like the big, involved story and the slow character development over time. I like the Novel, not the short story, and in those first few episodes, Fringe seemed like it could go either way. So, I've been waiting.
Finally, the DVD set was just recently released and I read this among the various bits of press out there: Beware Spoilers
And now... well... now I am suddenly very interested.
The reason I'm telling you all this, as I stated above, is because I intend to watch the DVD set and then come here and talk about the show. This is my plan. If you want to join in... get to watchin'.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I realized yesterday that I hadn't actually blogged anything at all, so far, for the entire month of September and being that it is now the month's half-way point, well... I felt a little guilty. I mean, that's not fair of me, right? It's not fair of me to force you, my legions of devoted followers and number one super-fans, of the one thing you love most above all else, is it?
No. No, it is not.
So, here I am, blogging without course or rudder, and all for you, my gentle and constant readers. Where will this blog lead us? I don't know. However, I'm sure you can't help but wonder: "What the hell does that quote got to do with you not blogging, Jon?"
The short answer: Nothing.
The long answer: Noooooooooooooooothing.
(Ha! See what I did there? Ah... comedy...)
Anyway, for serious now, the real answer, honestly, is that I pasted it up there, got distracted and had to go do some stuff, then I came back and started typing and promptly forgot to mention it. And at this point, well, I'm rambling a bit and I'm well into it and I can' be bothered erasing it all and starting over, SOOOOOOO... I'm circling back. Slowly. I'll get there again eventually...
I am knee deep in a very busy time right now, cats and kittens, slogging through the morass toward my goal, which is one part of the reason for my extreme lack of blogging of late. Long time readers will also know, of course, that the other part is due to an overwhelming sense of general laziness on my part. (General Laziness... salute.) But mainly, it is my main focus at the moment, people, my priority Numero Uno, if you will, that is keeping me from spending time with you here. I got a new game going on and the name of that game is Queries.
Yes, it is true, finally, the long and winding road has begun to wind down and, as a result, Q-Day is in the Final Countdown. I'm talking single digit territory here, folks. This is an undiscovered country, one I have never even set eyes on before, let alone foot, so as I'm moving forward, it is with extra caution and care. I am checking and double checking, arranging and rearranging, preparing and re-preparing, and, as a result, anything that can be set aside for the moment, has been... momentarily.
I shall return to the daily grind soon, of course, but for the immediate future, I intend to finish my Query Letter on my end tonight, and then have a last perusal done from a separate pair of eyes or two. And while I'm waiting for that to boom-a-rang on back, I will busy myself with hammering my synopsis back into fighting shape. This is not a chore I am looking forward to, but it is a necessary one. Once those are done, and with my sample chapters completed, my intent is, baring any unforeseen difficulties, that I will be sending the first batch of queries off sometime late Sunday night/early Monday morning and then it begins... and after that...
Well, we'll just see, won't we?
Yes. Yes, we will.
So where does that quote come in then? Well, besides linking to a pretty funny article about an awkward situation, something that even us unpublished writers encounter now and again, and the hilarious amount of Internet slap-fighting that takes place in the comments section that you can peruse for your reading enjoyment, (Can you spot the ones where the truth might have hurt a bit? I bet you can...) I find the quote to be completely and unequivocally 100% right.
Now, on that article's comment section and on a myriad of other writing blogs and forums out there, you'll find some folks, usually people who are bad writers, bad story-tellers, or both, and also, often smell like pee (I assume), claiming: "You need to read X amount in order to understand what I'm doing!"
And that is just complete bullshit. It is. It's bullshit. It's complete bullshit and if you disagree, then you too, are bullshit. Here is why...
A. First off, I think the majority of these people are getting Good writing/story-telling mistaken for the general definition of plot. You may need to read a bit in order to figure out a story's plot, true, but I can still tell in the first sentence whether or not you write like a slope-foreheaded, mouth-breather.
And B. A boring first chapter is a boring first chapter, just admit it. If everybody keeps telling you that they're struggling with it, accept it. Rewrite it. Trash it. Write something else. Many people claim to adhere to the old adage of "kill your darlings," but in actuality, the majority of them are lying, flat out lying, and believe their first draft to be sacrosanct. They're bullshit. These are the people that make the classes so tedious, the ones who don't actually want a critique, they want a hug. F U, you effer. If you can't tell this oh-so-needed and all-important information in a way that is somewhat exciting or at least spread out in a way that doesn't bore your reader to tears, then either your story sucks or you do, choose.
I mean, your first page doesn't have to be the literary equivalent of boobs and explosions and car chases soaked in 100% pure adrenaline, but it does have to be interesting. I don't understand why these hacks think they can even fight this... with the sheer number of wanna-bes out there today, their submissions stacked in teetering columns on Agents' and Editors' desks the world over, one page is all you get. One page. It is down to you, and only you, to make them want to read on and if you think you need 15 pages to get going, for people to understand, then guess what? You are a black hole of unpublished suck.
I ranted a little bit there, but in a nutshell: One page. Accept it. Prepare for it.
And I've tried. I've really, really tried.
But... Also, riding shotgun with all of this, swirling around and around in my head, is that little nagging voice... the one that reminds me: I'm about to send it out. I'm about to enter the game. Time to put up or shut up. And that... that is intimidating. What if I suck? I hope I don't suck. I don't think I suck, but what if...? What if I suck...
There's nothing to be done about it now, of course, like Joe Cabot said: "Only one thing to do in that situation... shit your pants, jump in, and swim." But still... I stand on this precipice and I look down upon a storm tossed sea of hopefuls, their dreams dashed against the rocks... and it is intimidating.
Single digits, people. Single digits.
I'm about to jump.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Gunslingers of the Apocalypse:
I am burning like a house'a-fire, kids. Kicking ass, laying rubber, taking names, yadda, yadda, yadda. Rocking. The Hometown Twin Star Copy Editor Sukiyaki Death Squad Girl says pages are imminent, final pages, that is. WOOOOO!
Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice, Little Ms. Super-cute Fiance has finished the last minute, final round sweep up of any copy edits I might have missed from the Twin Stars's suggestions on the first three chapters, otherwise known as the submission sample chapters, and has since then decided to go through the rest of the book as well. I can't thank these ladies enough, their freely given time, attention, and dedication has been more helpful than I can possibly put into words, for you see, my Gentle and Constant Readers, as you can probably tell from my blogs, I could give two fucks about Grammar, and apparently, it shows. The difference their efforts make, however, is glaringly obvious once you're standing on the other side of the implementation of their edits, and my work is undeniably better for it.
So, if I do not say it nearly enough (which I don't), allow me to declare it publicly: Thank you, thank you, thank you, so very, very much for all the invaluable help, ladies. I hope you know how much I appreciate you and that while I can never truly express the depths of my gratitude, I hope someday I get the chance to show you even the barest sliver of the support in return, that you have shown me. I am in your debt. Thank you.
AND... the upside of all this is, of course, we are now only a week, maybe two, away from Q day, folks. Less than 14 days, people! Less than 14 days! Can you believe that shit? 14 days! After three years time? It's unbelievable. It's the end of a long road, my friends, one that, for good or for ill, is finally within my sight. I mean, sure, once I start submitting to agents and houses, yes, there is more to do, of course, I know that, but for all intents and purposes... the book is done.
I have finished it.
In less than two weeks.
I'm done and the next level begins.
I shake with anticipation.
Bastard out of Minnesota
This has been on hold a bit as of late, its been back-burner-ed, as they say, while I turn about with Gunslingers, put up all the tray tables, return the seats to their full and upright position, and prepare to bring it in for a final approach. The good news is, I'm feeling pretty confident with how the next couple chapters of Bastard go, not to mention how the initial ones came out, and, even better, recently I was struck with two really good linking ideas. One is for this book and one is for stringing into the next. I was really excited to think of/realize both of these, they're pretty good, or at least, they're potentially pretty good. I'm pretty sure I've written them down, but in case I didn't and they manage to evaporate from my head, here's some clues for myself: (Family/Gary)
That should be enough reminder.
Anyway, I hope to have some time to finish up chapter two in a week or so, hopefully in time for submission to my writer's group. I think we're called the Scribblers now, but I think it's still kind of undecided. We used to be Sparkle Ball Death Bunnies and before that, These Precedes Knees, we are, if nothing else, transient about our identity, apparently. Personally, I'm still holding out hope for Council of Werewolves, or maybe Gonorrhea, for obvious reasons, I think, mostly related to the eventual time when we can make other people say our name out loud somewhere public, hopefully at something official-ish. Sometimes you have to plan your jokes a bit ahead, you know.
No news. I e-mailed Zander about broaching the idea of writers working in with the group of artists in a kind of practice, fun, no strings attached kind of way, but I haven't heard back. I know he's busy and probably getting busier, too, his work seemed to be picking up more and more these days and he's also teaching his course at the Loft again (you should try it, if you're interested. It's really good and fun.), so it's understandable.
Sadly, though, I might have to face facts that maybe, for the moment, my comic book practice/hopeful experiment is dead. Honestly, though, I haven't been pursuing it too hard lately as I've been a bit distracted with wrapping other shit up, but my general plan is, once I'm on the other side of Gunslingers, I'll swing back into it. However, there may not be anything I can really do about it. Zander's is pretty cool and accommodating and so are a lot of the folks there, but I suspect there's a hold up, and more than a little push back, from some in the group over this idea (or maybe I'm just paranoid, I have been accused of it before...). But anyway, the sad truth is, sometimes geeks just plain ol' don't like new stuff and sometimes, occasionally, in these types of things, be it with artists, writers, musicians, strippers, whatever, you run into a type that, despite the fact that they are unknown or at best nothing more than a glorified hobbyist, they have a very inflated sense of professional value attached to their time/work.
It's like: "Look man, I just want to play around abit, figure stuff out, you know, practice the craft a bit. I'm not looking to create anything to show around or anything, (and lord knows, you could use the practice, as well, buddy...)."
And they're like: "I don't want to work for free..."
Work for free?
Motherfucker, who gave you the idea that your crap is worth a shit, bitch?
This is why you are still half-assedly jamming in the basement, man, occasionally playing the Entry on an off night, or showing your lame black and white photography at a friend's back-alley "punk" salon. These are the type of people who don't take criticism well, who don't think they need it, or that the fault lies in others, these are people who think they're done after the first draft. These people are the Self-publishers (shudder).
Or maybe I'm just over-reacting because of my own easily paranoid and overly analytical personality... but I doubt it... (shakes fist menacingly at passer-by)... keep walking, buddy...
This film is on my mind still. Mostly because of funny stuff, like here, but also because everything that has happened so far has only been the pre-game shit. The geek community is just the initial wave, the big stuff is still coming. The movie comes out in four months. How will Fox recover from the initial stumbles? How will they try to sell this to the Normals? And they really need to if they hope to make ANY profit at all. I'm not the only one curious, either, you'll find folks all over the Internet sharing their anecdotes of how they showed the trailer to their various Normal friends and relatives, to people of various levels of taste, and then listed their variety of responses.
So, I kind of did the same...
My mother wrote me and said: "I think the avatar trailer looks good. Except the girlfriend is not cute... except to another avatar." Of course, in the name of science, it should also be stated that my Mother still uses both hands, her index fingers, and a very, very careful aim whenever using the TV remote, despite my assurances that it is not, in fact, a phaser.
So then, not satisfied with just one neo-phyte response for my half-ass little survey, I busted in on Little Ms. Super-cute Fiance while she was shaving her legs in the bath and then annoyed her until she eventually agreed to watch the trailer. She watched it closely, her face impassive and finally shrugged.
"I couldn't tell what it was about." She said, uninterested. "Shut the door, I'm getting cold."
"I don't want the laptop to get all steamy and wet. So, anyway, the story appears to be, basically, Dances with Wolves in space, see this is..." I started the trailer over again.
"I don't need to see it again. Honey, shut the..."
"Quiet down, this is important. See, this is Jake Scully, he's in a wheelchair..."
"Important to what?"
"...posterity. Shush. See, he's in a wheelchair..."
"I'm not going to this unless you make me."
"But what do you think of the Avatars?"
"The blue people... come on, keep up."
She shrugged. "They look kind of dumb. Shut the door, I'm cold."
Now, obviously, Little Ms. Super-cute Fiance's priorities are slightly out of whack and she isn't much of a film buff, or even a geek, for that matter. However, she will on occasion have sudden, strong, and surprisingly hardcore geek tendencies, like the time she said to me, unprompted and out of the blue: "Do you know what my favorite Doctor Who episode is?"
I tried to explain to her just how many rungs of geekdom she leapt past in her plummet down the rabbit hole, but I'm not sure she was quite able to grasp it.
Anyway, it was the Family of Blood two-parter from the third season... FYI.
So there you have it. How will these responses fall in with the rest of the world's? We'll soon find out. Stay tuned, True Believers.
Also, remember how I was saying that there was something about the Avatar face that really, really bugged me? Well...