The Expansive Themes, Subtle Complexity and Luscious Spectacle that is Blade Runner 2049 *No Spoilers*

I just went to see “Blade Runner 2049” and could not help but share my reaction since it sort of relates to us here. I saw it on a regular screen in 2d. I would say upgrade to DLX or whatever super screen you can get. IMAX is never worth it though. 3d? Nothing… and I mean nothing is there to make it worth that price premium. But I don’t like 3d so YMMV.
First off, I’m a huge fan of the first movie.  Favorite movie all time bar none.  I’ve done a previous dissection of the film here.  The Breakers: Blade Runner.  It’s worth a read I think.
Visually it is everything you ever wanted and more. If Rodger Deakins does not win the Oscar, no one this year deserves it. He out does the first film in so many respects but always pays homage.  It is luscious like I said.  You can go from the Film Noir high contrast to the subtle grays and smoke of French New Wave to the loud noisy spectacle of 80’s action films.  All integrated and cohesive.  None feel wrong.  Neon, Fluorescent, “natural” light all his servants.  This is cinematographer porn and your eyes will thank you.
Pacing is slow at times, but it doesn’t drag. It’s very dreamlike, which fits with the first film, seamlessly.  There are long slow shots that just fill in the world so well, you are thankful to have the time to breathe and think on what reveals were brought up.  It was also good to see the world in daytime and in the varied environments of the “Greater Los Angeles” area.  It’s not all just arcologies and wasteland.  You have to see it to understand the scope, and boy is it something!
Themes and subtext… brilliant, staggering and poignant. This move is PACKED with so many concepts and that spawns questions.  I can see why they are not giving away spoilers or trying to explain it. It will pigeonhole and distort what it’s all about. Don’t let other people tell you what it’s about. There’s too much there to think about.  They are layered, deep and sometimes very personal.  This film relies on many conventions of film noir as well as what can be found in cutting edge Japanese cyberpunk Anime (think Masamune Shirow though he’s not a visual influence, just spiritual though it all hearkens back to the themes of Fancher’s take on Phillip K. Dick).  It does not just appropriate from others who followed in the genre it created nearly single-handedly (at least for cinema it did), it evolves and brings it forward into the era it once called the future.
The story is excellent in encapsulating all the above, but has one painful flaw: It’s the first movie of an obvious trilogy. But… at this quality that’s like complaining about “The Empire Strikes Back” or “The Two Towers” needing a third movie to wrap up the trilogy. I really look forward to the expansion of the universe beyond this sequel.  The story itself does stand on its own, but at the end, you have more questions than answers, and I don’t want to give away the biggest question of them all, because it will color your own ideas of the film all the way.  And trust me, I’m fighting really hard to not say it.  Oh… and as a HUGE positive:  no SJW influence.  That’s right.  They didn’t dip down into trendy current political fads or preach any of the current dogma, just like we don’t hear dogma preached from a 1980’s perspective it would be out of place, so that works in big big ways.
Acting, superb. There is obvious chemistry and very well played scenes that draw the emotion out of you if you understand the contextual depth of what is going on. They are subtle, poignant scenes, so don’t overlook them.  I should also say that the interplay between Ford and Gosling made me laugh outloud at times.  They do have some great moments together.
The music pays suitable homage to Vangalis. Never outdoing him per sey, but expounding and enlarging what he did. BUT… I had one complaint in this regards. There are a few scenes where you cannot tell if the music is diagetic or not and it’s very loud and distracting. This was done in the first film to great effect:
…but at the same time, here… it’s hit and miss.  The use of the film’s opening and closing music themes are perfect.  To be fair even the original has two solid misses in it’s musical lexicon: the love theme and the credit theme.  This film does not make those mistakes.  The added music, (much like the 1920’s style ballad in the street corner bar after Zorah’s death, “One More Kiss”) is extremely well done, but using real era stuff.
The material taken from the first movie to be incorporated is incredible. I literally gasped at one of the reveals. I’m super happy with how they accomplished it, and the technical achievements in this manner are marvelous and Oscar-worthy. It’s not what you think either.
A little more nudity (none would have been better) and cussing than I’d prefer, but tolerable.
I should also point out how well it follows the first film.  The violence is never glamorous.  It is sudden, gritty and intimate.  I cannot say it is not gratuitous… but it’s always appropriate and actually the “overuse” in one scene makes you realize the scope in which poor Agent K finds himself is far greater than just looking for a rogue replicant.  The final conflict is thrilling and had me on the edge of my seat.  In many ways this movie is a series of intimate portraits between people in the middle of a grand scene.  That helps keep the movie tight and connected with the audience.
As a semi-spoiler, I did have one thing confirmed that should send raves throughout the nerd community: “Soldier” starring Kurt Russell *IS* set in the Blade Runner universe in the off world colonies. If only they had Ridley Scott producing that film, it would have been much better. If you know the film, you’ll get it when you see it. It ranks up there with the Alien skull reveal in Predator 2.

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Ultimately, this is the sequel Blade Runner deserved.  It is like watching “The Godfather Part 2” in some respects where it fills in the world, expands upon it and makes so many more things whole and important.  Although it is not necessary to see the three attached shorts you can find online, they do help elaborate how we came to the world of 2049.  This is a deep thinking film.  You will ask yourself some questions that most people never even consider.  Do not expect shallow fare to kill two hour and forty-some minutes in idle popcorn puffery.  That will turn off many audiences who aren’t attracted by the nostalgia.There will be many reasons of why this film will be labeled a “flop”.  It can only be considered one if using the mega tent-pole blockbuster measuring stick which has to tick all the focus group boxes that make them thundering bland flash for cash grabs.  This is not for what Blade Runner 2049 is.  Nor is it just self indulgent hipster-poseur art-house pseudo-intellectualism.  So don’t let the inner life of this film pass you by.  It raises some interesting points on where our civilization is going and who we are as individuals, not in a preachy way, but in curious introspection and possibly even a distant warning like storm clouds on the horizon.If I had to encapsulate it all, I’d give it a 9.5 out of 10.  Fractions taken off for the nudity, cussing, the fact it is a sequel set up and that little sound issue.  This is a solid R rating too, like the original was (Technically unrated, but that’s quibbling).  Despite these points, he film stands on its own as a wonderful and possibly important piece of art.  It might even aspire to being considered a “great” film some day.  We’ll see.  Not many sequels get a chance to be considered that way.
This one does and is so worth seeing on the big screen.Don’t cheat yourself, go while you can, and bring someone with who can have a long discussion with you afterwords.

 

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Some Days I Just Can’t Even.

So…

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Once I find my book on “How to Even for Dummies” I’ll be able to move forward.  Last night I was going to release volume one of ALRDW.  Unfortunately an unforeseen work disaster interfered and I probably won’t be able to release it till the start of October now.  I just don’t have the time over the next week.  Sorry for the delay.  It was completely unavoidable.

That said, I will share the new sales blurb.  Feel free to share your thoughts.

Reimar’s world is turned upside down when his farmhold is attacked by the Skaerslinger. To save their village from starvation, Reimar and six other children are sold to the Kyrkja. Now, Brother Finn will take them to Saint Martin’s Academy where they will become servants of God. 

This little band must travel through the untamed wilds and the storm-plagued lakes of Akiniwazi: a battleground not only of nature but also between two peoples and the armies of Heaven and Hell. They confront powerful enemies that want Brother Finn dead no matter the cost and face an ancient evil that has discovered the dim but growing light in Reimar.

Together, they must survive this odyssey with only wits, faith, Brother Finn, and his dog standing between them and that which could take their lives and souls.

Perfectly Abnormal: A Review

Recently I was given a chance to review a book on a subject that hits close to home for me: chronic illness and disability.  Not only in my own life have I suffered it, through my shattered elbow, but in a very dear friend of mine, Bonnie Spencer, who suffered and succumbed to Sarcoidosis and Neuropathy.  This book is a great tool for those who have not experienced what these issues can do to your life even when it is not you suffering it.  When offered an early copy to review, I could not say no.

Moreover, I am glad I read it.

 

When Mr. Morris asked for reviewers for his book, I jumped at the chance. Through my friends, my family and myself I had seen and dealt with chronic health issues throughout my life. I was not sure how useful it would be since I had my own theories on it all, but was very pleasantly surprised at how thorough this book can be on the subject.

This book is a lifeline for those in the depths of the struggle, and a revelation for those who have just been indoctrinated into this world of imperfect health. It is trite to just say ‘you are not alone’, but even trite things have meaning from time to time, and this book is so much more than trite anecdotes and pop psyche feel good stories. It is a reminder that none of this is in vain. Sometimes, that is the best news that anyone facing these trials can get. You would be remiss in just clicking through.

“Perfectly Abnormal” covers a lot of the basics of what happens to those struggling with chronic illness and disability face and combat every day. It gives hope to those who may have lost it. I continually found tidbits of advice and reinforcement in faith sprinkled throughout the book like welcome oasis in the desert. Things I had forgotten, and things that had become weak in me.

Mr. Morris tackles the subject with logic, clarity and faith in a way that is both helpful and entertaining. His humor is both well timed and apt for the subject. Even in the bleakest of hours dealing with the pain of chronic illness and disability, a smile or laugh can be the best medicine.

For those who are in the throes of such trials, this book is a pleasant reminder that God is still with you. He has not thrown outside His grace, redemption or love. Mr. Morris debunks the myths that suffering in the form of illness is automatically “your fault and you deserve it for your sin”. Remember, Jesus could not have performed miracles of healing if there was no one to heal. God may use an illness, not just as a punishment, but to glorify Himself or for the benefit of others. That may be a hard pill for some to swallow, but it is essential to understand.

Being chronically ill or disabled is a huge, life consuming experience even for those not directly suffering. Mr. Morris makes sure to point out that even the caregivers who surround the suffering are doing God’s work and there is greater purpose for them in this. But furthermore, they too need to remember God’s in them with this and their experience too can minister to others. From the simplest act of kindness to a life long devotion with someone who can never get well. God is working through everyone involved. We should take heart that this is all according to His manifest will and cautions us not to shun those who are facing those trials, for even the caregivers need support.

The problem of chronic illness and disability will never go away. Jesus promises this, so we best be prepared to confront this. “Perfectly Abnormal” is an excellent tool for this. Take one and be a blessing unto others.

A Crisis of Doubt (Bonus Draft Excerpt!)

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I’ve been radio silent for a few weeks now because I’ve been struggling with some things in regards to “A Light Rises in a Dark World”.  I opened myself up to ask others what they thought of it in a professional forum to see what kind of surface reaction I was getting.  Everyone was great with what they told me and the criticisms all honest, having validity and expressed the opinions of those who cared to share.  I appreciate all of them, so don’t think I’m bashing them or unappreciative to what they did.

What this is about is an unintended consequence of doing such a thing that caused me to stumble in my productivity and confidence in my book.

I’ve had a set of good and bad reviews lately, and I had started to doubt my work.  Not the quality of it, but its public visage.  I started to question the cover, the title, the sales copy (oh yeah that’s puppy poo and needs to be reworked, for sure)… but the title?  The cover?  Like I said, a crisis of doubt.

But three other incidents have gotten around the corner.

My editor reminded me I get streaky like this where I’ll go ‘fallow’ (my word) for a few weeks, but bounce back with a lot of productivity.  I just need time to let the stew in my head simmer.  Let me tell you, it’s more complex and time consuming than black roux gumbo can be, and just as fraught with disaster.  So she’s the one that helped me realize I was lying on the floor covered in self doubt.

So while I was mulling about that, my writing buddy and friend, Dave, came along and reminded me that I was looking for reason to doubt myself.  Reasons to tear down everything and dispair.  Something I am still wondering about.  So he helped pick me up and made sure I was standing again.

Then Torfinn, the man that makes the foreign words work right and provider of good suggestions came in, and made some simple apt points about what was said and showed me again the good things that were said to counterbalance out all the negative stuff I was feeling that really may not have been there in the first place, but only in my own doubt.  So in essence, he dusted me off, straightened my tie and got me thinking about what needs to be done next.

So to you three, thank you.

Upshot of all this has yeilded some interesting thoughts in my head.  I realize I’ve been struggling with the “What Next” question.  I know what I want to talk about, and I’m shaping out the characters, but I haven’t found the right way to fit them all together in Book 2.  Until I do, I can’t make myself move forward it seems, but I can cogitate a lot about it.

Which has lead for me to understand the themes for books 1-5 better.  Yes… you heard me right, I’m already thinking 3 books ahead.  Pretty easy when book 3 is half written already, but with what’s going on in book 2 that’s going to take some heavy modification which I’m really salivating about doing… but can’t till I get done with book 2 because I need to understand the world that is being built better.  Every book is worldbuilding in chronological order for me.

Why you may ask?  Because I leave myself open to happy accidents.  It’s how I got the whole third act of book 1.  (Or as it will soon be known as ‘Volume 3’)  I knew where I needed to be, then let the characters and world tell me what was happening.  Of course, I got that done in a much more compressed timeframe than this, but it was nowhere near as complex as what I’m doing now.  The interconnectivity… oh you’ve heard this all before.  I’ll bore you to tears with that some other time.  Anyway.  I’m at 36.5 chapters, I have a new visual image going in my head that helps me understand my map the people and how the story must progress.

It’s going to be fun.

Lastly, I will be releasing Book 1 Volume 1 of “A Light Rises in a Dark World” this month still.  Putting finishing touches on my new cover.  Keep an eye out, for it’s going to be “BAM!  Surprise launch!”

And as a thank you for your patience, here’s another first draft exerpt from Book 2 for you.  Remember… this is a FIRST draft excerpt because y’all are worth it.

Bon appetit!

The Jarl’s Hall was impressive to say the least, Brother Finn thought as he walked up to the large structure.  It was twice as large as the Stallare’s Hall in Athrvorthfestning, but comparable to others he had been to.  What made this one stand out all the more was the incredible decorations at the entrance.  Trophies of animals, and demonspawn stood there or were mounted on the walls.  Carvings of great hunts were etched around the massive pillars while ornate tapestries dripped down from the walls.  The long hearth in the middle was roaring as the clergy from all around the area filed in as a processional to the chanting of the choristers in their midst.  The song finished as the last of the clergy reached their seats.

Jarl Jakob Vilhoaettir sat in the high seat watching the procession filed in and took their seats at the table.  Bishop Aarlig Krakisson stood before the Jarl and the Domari stood before him as the Thing finished assembling.  After the Kyrjka was seated, the Huskarls allowed the Forsamling who wished to be witnesses to enter, sitting on the outer benches by the walls.  Silence was strictly enforced.  Those who dared talk could expect to be escorted to the dungeon without hesitation.

When everyone was seated and the only sounds were the crackling of the hearth and the rain hissing on the roof, the Domari turned to face his master.  His form swallowed up in the all black robes of his office with a golden staff in hand taller than a man by half again.  On its tip, was a figurine of balances resting on top of the seal of the Vilhoaettir.  

“Deres Naade, we are ready,” he said with funeral humor.

Jarl Vilhoaettir nodded, his face a serene mask.

With the bottom of his staff, he pounded the timber floor the traditional seven times.  The knocks brought even greater quiet to the hall.

“Damer and Herrar, we are assembled this day, April the eleventh, in anno Domini One Hundred and Ninety Two Ad Segregationem.  We call forth a special assembly of the Thing that justice may be done!”  The man’s powerful voice cracked off the wooden walls loud as any herald.  

“All come forth in fear and trembling in the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and before the justice of Den Aerefulle Jakob Fritjovsson Vilhoaettir.  May all those who speak, do so in the Spirit of Truth, and no falsehood be found among the Thing.  Pay heed to this warning, for all may be judged for their actions and words.”

The Domari’s sparkling blue eyes swept over the hall, challenging anyone to disagree.  None did.

What I Learned About Storytelling from Running RPGs.

To this day, I remember the first time I rolled up a character for Dungeons and Dragons in 1980.  My friend and I sat on the back porch of my house in the shade on a warm summer day and rolled the strangest dice I had ever seen.

I was 9 years old.

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What began there was a love affair that became a wonderful creative marriage, then a bad romance which rebounded into an on again-off again fling filled with regret and finally a bitter, burned out divorce.  In my heart, I still love Role Playing Games, but I know what going back to running them, let alone playing them, will cost me creatively.

And that is where the damage was for me.  In my creative process.  Not to brag, but I was a good GM.  REAL good!  I had gamers who would petition to join my games over the years.  People who thought I should run games for GenCon and really get into the whole society of running games.  But I also learned my failings and that I could not keep up a pace that some of the people had because I did not see how I could make money doing it, and did not want to devote myself to what was necessary to take it to the next step and become that GM my gamers thought I could be.

For 30 years straight, I ran RPGs from Cyberpunk to Westerns, I ran them all it seemed.  Weekly turning out game and running long winded campaigns like a network television show.  In the end, I realized I was enabling participatory improvisational theater for amateurs and a small audience, and began to resent it.  I started trying to find new ways to love running games, but every year and every game system got harder and harder as I got more fed up with learning rules, doing the weekly prep-work and necessities for running good long term campaigns.

There were also spiritual reasons too.  Once I became Born Again, I could not play many of the character or games I used to love.  Gone were the games of magic and sorcery.  Gone were the complex characters I loved to play who were, for all intents and purposes, sociopaths, psychopaths and perverts.  I did, for a while find much fun in very moral characters trying to deal with very immoral choices, but even after a while I was burnt out.

All that experience though has been beneficial, for it has taught me a lot about storytelling.  This is what I learned from my players as well as their characters who were both participants and the audience of my creations.

Engage the Senses.

The reality is you and your buddies are sitting in somebody’s kitchen/basement/living room/dining room rolling dice among stacks of books.  You need to build mood.  That means lighting.  That means music and sound.  Smell, touch and taste not so much, but you can use good description to engage their imaginations.  The more you engage the senses, the better the immersion, and the the more likely you will have them sitting on the edge of their chairs, holding their breath as you roll your dice in secret, giving them a knowing grin worthy of Vincent Price.  Keep that in mind when setting the scene for you are all their senses and influence their intuition.

Pace is Critical

Gamers I learned have a very low boredom threshold.  If you don’t have combat every week, some players won’t show up.  Others, when the action is not on them, and you don’t have them interested enough to listen to what’s going on, they will engage in derailing side chatter which bogs the game down.  Same can happen to a story, just not as obvious.  The reader who is bored (and I speak as a reader myself) starts thinking about other things and finally finds a reason to put the book down and go back to facebook or youtube, ending your time together, maybe for good. That means if a section leaves a faint hint of Doritos and Mountain Dew in the air of boredom eating, what is a better, more interesting way to tell the tale.

If things slow down, attack them.  If they’re wasting time on minutia, remove the distraction.  If they feel secure, betray them.  All these things will help jump start a flagging pace, and snap the reader’s attention back to you.

Satisfy the Needs Including Your Own

Every player who plays an RPG is doing so to have their needs met, but so does every GM.  If players bore the GM by not wishing to play interesting storylines, don’t bother looking for clues, ignoring the flavor text you so carefully crafted to give them clues and rush on to the next dice rolling pewpewpew fest… It can leave the GM, or author dry.  The good news is that being an author, you can write in a way that satisfies your needs.

Want more character driven plots?  Have at thee!  You like a good whodunit?  What are you waiting for!  Write that story.  The downside is that in writing, if you write something only you want to read, you will not sell.  That means finding the tropes people want to read, and write to them in a way only you can.  Then you will see both your needs as a writer, and the reader’s needs get fulfilled.

Realize what you control and what you don’t.

Sure, you come up with the basic storyline idea and handle the activities of every Non-Player Character, the weather, and so on… but you’re not really in charge.  You’re just herding cats towards the completion of your story.  Players can take your story in crazy directions, often introducing ideas that you never thought of, leaving you scrambling to keep up with them.  Hugh Wilson, head writer and show runner for “WKRP in Cincinnatti” put it very well, when considering characters (and I paraphrase)  Writers start out with the idea of who a character is.  It becomes apparent quickly that they are in a collaboration with the actor, and then spend the rest of the show chasing the actor.

This is true of the characters you are writing as well.  You must be willing to listen to your own creation and follow where they take you to complete your story, or fix the incidents your character’s wouldn’t participate in.  Remember, the characters are the cameras in how the readers will experience the world.

Nobody cares about your character particularly if they are derivative.

Hands up; any gamer here who has gotten caught in a game where some noob comes up to you and starts prattling about his AWESOMEZ CHARACTARRRR named Steel McKillalot?  Or some exotic whackadoodle that is a Count Dracula knockoff with an unpronouncable name?  Yep.  Been there and have the tee shirt.  The same eyeroll can be found in readers if you spoonfeed ‘tell don’t show’ backstory in your book anywhere.  The instant you do, the wide eyed cosplaying fanboy has just clomped up to you while you’re busy and started gushing.

This is a problem even for authors.  Backstory can be introduced only after the character has been made interesting to the reader in the context of the story.  So why is this Count Dracula ripoff so cool I want to hear why he is the way he is?  Is Steel McKillalot something better than a two dimensional cutout with a stupid name?  Oh wow!  That is cool how he got that backstory because I liked what he did in the book you just wrote.  Epic characters have to audition, before you can give them their one man show… unless their one man show is the story, then… carry on.

Be open to happy accidents.

No plotline survives contact with the writing.  Just like in gameplay, you will be thrown a curveball.  That image of a scene will not be met and no matter what you try, that becomes a platonic symbol of what you wanted, but just lack the skill or tools to achieve.  When those times come, be open to the accidental discovery.  Perhaps it will be the character whispering something about them you didn’t know that sends you gallivanting after their take on what you had planned.  It may be the map you drew out in your mind is showing you an easier route or a flaw in your plan that must be addressed.

Case in point.  Early on in Book 2, I discovered an escape route would be an impossible run through a gauntlet for the heroes.  But as I looked at the map, I realized I had forgotten a whole new section of the land and said:

“Self, nobody would be guarding that way… it’s too crazy, and besides, they have to do this other thing or all is lost.  So they would go that way!”

That one realization completely rewrote my middle build.  Instead of being all sorts of cloak and dagger hiding over territory I’d already been and struggled to think of a new way to make it interesting… well… it went back to a classic adventure/exploration in the land of “Here There Be Monsters”!

Huzzah!

That is a happy accident.  Something I’d not be able to explore if I did not just chuck the solution out and stick with the original plan.  (It’s also why I’m a plantser.  I know where I have to get to, just how it happens is open for innovation.

In the end, these are lessons I learned over decades of running RPGs.  Maybe I’ll have to be content on producing gaming materials, but not run the games because I get too bogged down in the process, and I need time to write.  But who knows?  Maybe 10 years down the pike when my first movie comes out, I’ll produce the game and modules and get the invite to sit down and guest GM at GenCon.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

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Sermonizing, Failing the Payoff & Jumping the Shark: The End of Doctor Who

Warning: Offensive Opinions, Ranty Snarkiness & Spoilers Ahead

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The latest announcement from the BBC on the new Doctor has me thinking a lot of why I have been dismally disappointed in hind sight at the years of the New Dr. Who.  A show I’m quite a fanboy of.  Or at least I was until recent years.  I have considered many of my convoluted thoughts on the subject, and have come to realize that it’s a trifecta of issues that bothered me.  The reason I have not enjoyed the last 4-5 seasons of Dr. Who, despite remaining a fan of the series or individual episodes are as follows:  (and things I’ve learned from their mistakes).

 

Failing the Payoff

Ever since the decision to make “Season Story Arcs” had come about, we’ve had an unholy partnership of bad finales brought about by Failing the Payoff which I directly link to Jumping the Shark.  Mind you, individual stories have been great.  Fantastic even, but the season arcs with the exceptions of David Tennant’s first season, Matt Smith’s first and second season have been a bit rubbish.  Well that’s if you can call a smouldering dumpster fire a bit rubbish.  But why?

Every season save for the three I mentioned became massive “Save the Universe” type moments.  Even the oft appreciated Bad Wolf storyline from Season One was better save for jumping the shark at the very very end.  They’ve failed at the end because the writers wrote themselves into a corner.  Moffat was so good at it, he could practically have his picture in the dictionary for it.  His buildups are excellent.  He has some inventive ideas that create classic thrills and scares and seem like its going somewhere good.  But at the end, he loses confidence so he whips out one of my biggest irritant the Deus Ex Machina, and in doing so spoils all the build up.

Cases in point: Bad Wolf.  Companion gets phenomenal cosmic power.  Why?  Reasons.  With the exception of the three seasons mentioned all the companions develop a phenomenal cosmic power which ends the enemy but to save her the Doctor must rejenerate.  This is a rubbish copout.  Sure you can say that this groundwork had been laid all season long with Bad Wolf… which to be honest is the only reason I don’t go off on it more.

And poor Martha, who just has an out and out dumbass ending of Carebear Feels and Johnny Appleseed talky bits that really were silly beyond belief and became the poster child for wasted companions.  She didn’t jump the shark but the solution sure did.  Plus it was slightly alleviated because she had the best reason to leave the Tardis as anyone.  She was the rebound companion and had too much self respect.

Then you have the whole Doctor Donna Metacrisis in season 4.  What the Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!!!11!1!???  An awesome build up of planets being ripped from time leading to a face off between the Dr. and Davros?  Oh come on!  This has awesome written all over it.  But the solution was once again? Superpower Companion to the rescue at some forgettable nonsensical cost… if any!

What I learned is that if your ending isn’t good… guess what?  It poisons all the rest of the good work you did. You failed in the compact between you and the reader.  They expect you to do certain things, write about specific things specific to your genre even if you subvert or twist the trope.  But if you chintz out at the end…  no one will care about what you did before and possibly no one will trust you again.  (Full disclosure, I have seen only the “Return of Doctor Mysterio” and “Pilot” from season ten because A) they both jump the shark and B) I’m pretty pissed at Moffat’s serial violation of all these points.  Which is sad because I wanted Capaldi to have a better run than Sylvester McCoy and Colin Baker… who were also stuck with crap stories and wasted potential  (well not Colin Baker.  Ick).

Jumping the Shark

As you can see the theme for jumping the shark was Companion based.  Donna was great… then she got made into Doctor Donna.  Rose was great… then she became Bad Wolf.  Rory… the companion, through the power of Runninggag, who just wouldn’t die.  (Amy was good except by using her force of will to you know… drag the Doctor and the TARDIS across an impenetrable wall in space-time and back into reality.  You know… stuff like that) Clara was great… till she merged with the Doctor’s time stream and what was originally an interesting story became a gawdawful mess of “SuperClara and her trusty Sidekick, Some Schmuck Chauffer in a Blue Box”.  Hell, even River Song traipsed up to the line, but she was the one companion, other than say Micky, who didn’t become all-powerful or bend reality to their whim.  I will say that Rose at least had a good ending, all be it terminally sappy and now she comes back time and time again like a Brown Recluse bite and just as damaging to the integrity of the series and her own character’s credibility.  What part of “trapped in another universe unable to cross” don’t you get, writers?  Stop violating your own rules!

What this has taught me is that if you paint yourself into a corner, you’re going to have to go back and fix it where it starts and not… NOT… take the cheap way out and just ret-con some cheesy fix.  It also has taught me that sometimes, you just can’t bite on the tasty bait of a kewl trendy idea without taking into account the dangers of what it might create down the road.  This is also a major sin of Marvel Comics lately.

And that takes us into the last, most egregious sin:

Sermonizing

A while back I was introduced to the phrase “Story, not Sermon”.  It’s part of where lots of Christian Fiction falls down.  Too many focus on preaching while neglecting the story, and that life doesn’t always fall into neat little boxes of quantified faith and philosophy.  Lately, though, sermonizing has become endemic throughout movies, TV and music.  It isn’t so much in books much more than it had been in the past, other than artificial markets created for identity politics which are then weaponized by publishers and retailers with an agenda.  BTW, everyone has an agenda.  Those who claim otherwise are lying to your face.  When I read a book to learn something, sermonizing isn’t so bad.  For instance, I don’t pick up “Hind’s Feet on High Places” and don’t expect it to address me directly or obliquely.  On the other hand, if I pick up “The Screwtape Letters”, I don’t get sermonizing at you, but its more of a morality tale or fable where I can choose to ignore its subtext towards me, and the philosophy becomes a backdrop.  On the other hand, if I read “Ender’s Game” I don’t get any sermon or morality tale outside of the broad general themes of an Sci Fi adventure story.

What this has this taught me?  There are expectations on how much you can preach a belief or faith before it interferes with the good story.  “Hind’s Feet” is a book that uses allegory to preach directly to you about its subjects in an entertaining parable.  But I went into reading that book knowing it was going to preach to me.  If I had not and was averse to Christian theology, I’d have been pissed by the bait and switch.  Same goes for “The Screwtape Letters” if I did not know it was a morality tale with a solid trope twist.  But if suddenly I started getting either morality tales or parables from “Enders Game”, a book based on the pretense it is nothing more than an entertaining story, I’d have launched the book across the room.  It’s part of why the sequels have been failures.

So I work hard to use the morality tale/fable line in my work.  People know going in that I’m putting this out there as an aspect of the world.  I’m not preaching to the reader that this is how to believe.  It’s just the way the characters believe.  The instant you cross the line and try to make people agree with what you’re putting in the book, you leave prose and entertainment and become rhetoric.

How does this relate to Dr. Who?  For a few years now, we’ve been seeing creeping political correctness joked about, more libertine attitudes being normalized and the slow slow descent into forced Transacceptance theology.  Post Modernism and Social Justice has poisoned too much of the show’s underpinnings and has been slowly dissolving the “just for fun” nature of the show into subtle fables and sermons on how we should act and think. Social programming at its most nefarious.  Captain Jack was the first hammerblow.  Missy was the next.  Then came the “Day of the Doctor” with gender changing generals (a rubbish episode that wasted John Hurt), and then Bill and now… this.

No one who’s been paying attention is fooled as to what this is about.  This is pushing a political agenda and using the popularity and love of a trusted franchise to do it.  As a fan of the show since 1980, I find it insulting and infuriating that something used for entertainment and twisted it to push an agenda.  This is equivalent to a reboot of Star Trek making James T. Kirk into some man-hating feminist. Or Darth Vader was Luke’s mother.  It’s a comparable betrayal, and its something people need to realize is wrong for it violates trust for the sake of a trend.  I have no animosity towards the actress.  In fact, I feel kinda bad for her, because she’s going to be vilified and roasted on the spit of public opinion.  To them it’s now a delivery system for a socio-political agenda to sneak unpopular/abominable ideas past critical thought barriers of impressionable fans and normalize aberrant behavior.  All in the name of hypocritical “Tolerance”.

When you fail in the payoff, it’s often because you over-reached or sold something you couldn’t figure out and had to cheat.  If you jump the shark, it’s usually caused from the previous point, but made worse because its outlandish and violates the rules of your universe or at least sprains credulity.  And sermonizing… Well… that’s a direct violation of trust between you and your reader if you were not up front with the fact ‘Here there be rhetoric, not entertainment”, and that is the most bitter betrayal of all.

Some very important things for me as an author to consider.  Something I hope never to violate or at least be up front with my level of rhetoric/sermonizing/story.  A balance that I hope always comes out with story first.

If you think that this level of fan outrage has not happened before or is not coming, I refer you to this:

 

 

 

Walk n’ Talk

Tonight was a stellar night for me and Akiniwazi.  Both creatively and healthwise.

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As most will know, I am not in the greatest of health, due to a shattered elbow and long term weight problems.  It had left me very sedentary, for too long, and I’m now trying to reverse that trend.  The problem is that I never could seem to get my butt out the door.  Nothing motivated me enough.  Well, tonight, that changed.

For most of my youth, I used to walk a lot.  Miles and miles.  A mile walk or bikeride to school.  Plus, I was a paperboy and had to walk my route.  I did not have many friends, so I entertained myself by telling myself stories and working on RPGs I was playing or running.  But occasionally, a friend would accompany me and we’d talk for hours while we walked.  I miss it and it’s a habit I sorely miss today.

Combine this with me struggling with a touch of agoraphobia and hating to be out in public for various reasons, and my physical issues, my situation got worse and worse.

So what changed?

Tonight I got someone to talk to, and was able to unburden myself with all the book secrets and long term plotline of Akiniwazi.  I mean they got EVERYTHING.  “Inside Baseball” level of info dumpage.  But I noticed as I talked, I was pacing in my apartment constantly, so I said:

“Self, Get your pants and shoes on and start walking and see what happens.”  So out the door I went and started walking around my complex.  At least it was evening so it’s not like I burst into flame from the sun.  Ick, sun.

The reason I needed to talk like this is I have been struggling with how to finish the beginning hook.  I had the pieces sitting there in front of me, mocking me because I didn’t know how to put them together.  I did not want to mirror what happened in the previous book, and I sure wanted it to be exciting.  So, after all the big plot expose was done, and I left my collaborator in shock, I broke it back down to this one little piece of the picture and started trying to talk it out, because that’s how my creative process works best.  It was like putting a can of “Sea Foam” engine cleaner into a 40 year old engine!  It blew out so much black smoke and noise but in a few minutes of running it, the storyline became clear again!

And boy did it have a few logical twists I never expected too!  What really made me the most happy is that I was walking and never noticed my back.  See, sitting for work so much as both a commercial driver and now a desk jockey, my back, butt and thigh muscles have atrophied a lot, and walking hurts.  I had to stop every once in a while, but long story short, I’m fairly certain I walked about 2 miles tonight for the first time in about a decade!  That unto itself is cause for celebration for me.

Plus I cleared out a huge narrative problem that will leave the beginning hook’s resolution a lot cleaner, logical and tragic all in one swell foop!  I still don’t know what I’m going to do to top it for the climax… well not true, but I don’t quite know in what form that climax is going to take.  Once again, the middle build conclusion might be more dramatic as it currently stands.  I dunno.  See, this is the problem with the complexity of this book and what it will launch coming up.  Book 3 is going to have to get fatter still… and I love it.

Anyhoo…

2 miles of walking.

Major plot point fixed.

Enthusiasm pressure restored.

Time to release the brakes and start rolling forward.

Thank you all for coming on this ride with me.

 

Laundry Money

That is my sales goal for now.

To make laundry money every month with my book sales.

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I have meltdowns when thinking about book marketing/advertising and everything else about promotion.  Seriously.  I freak out.  I’ve bought a few books, I’ve taken a few seminars, I’ve discovered I get very angry about then being sold to by email lists I thought were not supposed to treat me like a hick on a used car lot.  It’s really left me flustered.  Flustered?  No… not strong enough.  Discombobulated?  Sure that’s decent.  And angry, because I don’t like being discombobulated nor flummoxed or flustered.

The reason?

I’m not good at it, and if I had enjoyed it, I’d be doing it for a living elsewhere.  I hate sales.  Seriously.  It is anathema to me.  I just want to focus on putting out a good book, and let the chips fall where they may.  I’ll be honest, I have a big ole psychological block about the subject that leaves me contemptuous of the field, and jealous at those who can do it because I wish I could.

I’m a complex little pirate, ain’t I?

Anyway, In my few furative attempts at advertising and promotion, I’ve come to realize that most if not all big hits is completely out of the control of the author or publisher.  That said, I do believe that promotion is in their control, but not something I’m good at either.  The worst part is that it’s a Catch 22 in the end.  You have to promote to earn money, but if you don’t earn money you have to have money first, and if you don’t have that… ummm kinda stuck.  See, I’d rather hire someone to do this for me because of how angry/stressed/discombobulated I get.  But, that costs money on a budget I don’t have because right now… I’m covering laundry money.  That’s it for now.

I do expect in the future this to change though.  When book 2 comes out, I hope to be making GAS money every month from both books.  And then when the 3rd one comes out, I hope it’s going to cover my utilities too.  By the time the 5th book comes out, I better be making rent or I’m going to wonder what the heck is wrong with me.

Ultimately, what I realized is that this all takes time.  The get rich systems/plans is just Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir sold by street-corner mountebanks designed to separate me from my hard earned money, not help me.  I don’t think all books or seminars out there are that way, but ohhhhh 85% possibly are.  Of course, I’m biased and cranky about it, so YMMV.

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But I really would love to hire someone who both loves and is skilled at marketing/promotion.  Farm out what I suck at to someone who’s good at it.  I did it with my cover.  I don’t care what people say about doing it myself.  I cannot do it as good or as fast as a real pro, and I think it shows with my cover.  Why not do the same for marketing/promotion?  Sure, it saves me money, but… is not my time better spent doing the one thing nobody else can do, which is write my books?

Tada!

But… someday… when I make more than just laundry money.

Stupid Catch 22s.

The Long Night is Over

Last night was a great night.  Got to go visit my parents while they were camping, meet some of their friends who I found out were reading my book and talk about it and pass on interesting stuff, and see how they’re reacting to it.  And then went to the drive in with my parents to watch Wonder Woman on a glorious summer’s night.  A good night was had.

But the reason the long night is really over is that I finally got all the obstacles out of the way, and “A Light Rises in a Dark World” is available as an ebook, Paperback and Hardcover.  BTW, don’t trust amazon when it says something is temporarily out of stock.  It’s a flaw on THEIR end.  The book is POD, and you can get it sent probably far faster than they’ll claim.  Been seeing that with other products too, and some of my fellow members at ALLI have been reporting the same problem for books not published by an Amazon imprint.  Just… come on guys.  Don’t be petty.

Anyway, as I mentioned and added to the site, I’m a member of ALLI.  Great resource for those who are published or just about to publish.  Great people over there too.

As an added bonus, I had an epiphany about the global story going on… and it has the potential to really REALLY change the direction of the entire series moving forward.  Them big picture storylines can really shake up your thoughts on what the world was supposed to be.  What it helped the most with is that it gave me solid motivations and plans on the “How” will be accomplished.  It also spiked the drama way up for what’s going to happen with poor ole’ Brother Finn and Reimar when the time comes.  We’re thinking big picture, mind you.  Book 4…?  Book 5?  Ummm… not sure when.  Maybe some moves will start happening earlier or the seeds will be laid.  I dunno yet.  Still working on the fun stuff and conceptualizing.  You know, the fun part of writing.

So that’s the update.  I’m focusing more on Book 2 now that I’ve got the wreckage of Book 1’s crashed launch off the runway, I can go back to getting Book 2 ready to fly.

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Where Have You Been, Young Man?

So, okay, one year anniversary has come and gone, and my posts have become a little less regular.

 

Okay… a LOT less regular.

 

But that said, I’m still here and still working on stuff.

But it’s been a back breaker lately, I just want you to know.  My job has been cranked up to Nightmare Difficulty.  I’m having some big problems dealing with getting the paperback book published which might descend into a legal fight if I cannot get a resolution this week… I don’t wanna have to get a lawyer to get my intellectual property back!  And the hardcover’s dustjacket problem has been almost fixed… I hope.  I will know this week.

So, know that I’ve been trying to move forward, and it has been happening, slowly.  Much slower than I wanted, and that may be okay.  All the delays thanks to scattered focus, lack of energy, working on health issues, and trying to de-stress from my job have made the second book far harder to push up the hill.

On a positive note, a few “no-dustjacket” hardcovers were sold and made it to customers before it was pulled, so a few people inadvertently got a collector’s item.  LOL  listen to me pretend this is a collectible already.  I’m also learning to not make announcements till it’s already in the bloody online store!  BLARG!

I am also going through a lot of chaotic thoughts about marketing and how to get the word out for my awesome book.  I don’t want to do the things I get pissed at myself.  Spammy mailing list?  ummmm, why do I need one of those?  I barely hack writing out my blog?  Why not just use the blog and worry about the rest later?  I dunno.  It would be nice to know from readers how they like to be marketed to, so if you have an opinion, please share.  How do you want to be told about new books and products without me being spammy and sleezy like too many authors have become lately.

Junkfood for thought.

Gloria in Excelsis