Not a Review of Wonder Woman, But…

June 15, 2017 0

The Narrators might be planning to do a review of Wonder Woman, so I’m not going to do that. This post, instead, is about seeing one of my favorite fictional characters realized on the big screen. I’m going to have to tell you, then, about my 44-year relationship with Diana, princess of the Amazons.

My first Wonder Woman comic was a gift from my parents. It was a giant-sized treasury edition of the early World War 2 comics. I look at those comics with adult eyes, and I cringe at the portrayal of Germans and Japanese. My child eyes focused instead on a woman hero. I had been watching a steady diet of Yvonne Craig being Batgirl on the 1960s Batman, as well as watching Emma Peel in syndication on the British Avengers television show, so I was primed to think of myself as a woman of action in my pretend time. But Princess Diana of the Amazons? Well, she was different. And it wasn’t just that Diana was more brightly colored. Honestly, it was because I had finished reading the Children’s Encyclopedia of Folklore and Mythology and I was hooked on the Greek Gods.

Suddenly in my hands were two of my favorite things: Greek mythology and an action heroine paired together. After that first giant comic, Wonder Woman returned to a monthly comic. I didn’t know it at the time, but she had just shed Emma Peel like martial arts action running a groovy clothing boutique and returned to her comic book persona, rejoining the Justice League through a series of self-imposed labors, like Hercules, while her male colleagues judged the success of her completion of them. Um…missed the problems with that as a kid too. Instead, I loved the way she lassoed her costume on and off, and thought that it would be cool to be both a super hero and an employee at the United Nations…at the same time!

All things Wonder Woman were to come into my hands. Reprints of old stories, the new comics, whatever I could find. Happiness and ecstatic glee were mine when I found out that there would be a pilot for a Wonder Woman series. Unhappiness and frustration replaced my feelings when Wonder Woman was blond and the story wasn’t anything like the comic books.  But in a few more years, well, cue Linda Carter.

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The Year of Living Authorly Post 12: The Future Comes Knocking

May 30, 2017 0

Recently, my agent asked me to send her some pitches for some new projects. This is another thing that is different for me as a publishing author–Strategic Planning.

Right now, I am still working diligently on the Klaereon sequel, and I plan to finish it by the end of the summer. There will be a short interlude for a short story, but then what next? This is the space where strategic planning comes in. By sending my agent, someone who is a marketplace specialist, several proposals for new projects, we can make an educated guess about which one of the projects might be smart to develop next.

The short summary, pitch, and query letter skills all come into play here, so some of the techniques I have already learned had quite a workout last week. I found that I enjoyed the process, as the Venn diagram overlap between creativity and organization is this very sweet spot. The technical writing masters also comes in handy here.

This is a sign post on the road that denotes working with your agent and strategically developing your next project is, in fact, a mark of writing as a career. Crossing into a writing career is a new piece of the overall puzzle, and I have been “careering,” so to speak, with editing, formatting, and planning book support, but this new piece speaks more to the future than any other piece has.

Let’s see what the future holds!

Review: Samurai Jack Season 5

May 16, 2017 0

We’re just about at the end of Samurai Jack season five. For those of you not in the know, creator Genndy Tartakovsky created the original Samurai Jack, which aired for four seasons, from 2001-2004, without a conclusion. The first show was largely a series of interconnected vignettes, Jack and his arch enemy Aku the glue that tied the show together. A mere 12 years later, Tartakovsky decided to give the show an ending, and we have 10 22-minute episodes with incredibly tight story telling to enjoy.

Samurai Jack has always been on the cutting edge of animation, having one several awards for outstanding animation. Entire episodes have been in black and white, or used outlines. It always takes avant garde risk and pushes the envelope not only in animation, but in music as well. This particular season surprises and compels. It is designed for adults. Adult Swim on Cartoon Network has always aired the show, but this season is the first where Jack has killed–and suffered psychological fall out for it.

You might wonder if you can make sense of Samurai Jack without watching the original. You can. However, knowing the original story helps you appreciate layers, especially in the episode where Ashi searches for a despondent Jack and we see how many people Jack has helped over the years.

Season five is a worthy ending, standing alone, but enhanced by what has gone before. If you do not get Cartoon Network, the show can easily be purchased on Amazon.

Review: The Monkey King

April 29, 2017 0

Sometimes I watch films over my husband’s shoulder. The other night Bryon was watching The Monkey King: Havoc in Heaven, a 2014 film starring Donnie Yen as the Monkey King. It looked pretty good, so yesterday I watched it with no shoulders in the way. For those of you who don’t know the story of the monkey king, this primer will get you up to speed. The Journey to the West sequence most folklorists are familiar with begins in The Monkey King 2, and there are plans for The Monkey King 3 to be released soon.

A critical overview of The Monkey King‘s reception in the United States points to what seems to me to be a lack of understanding about Chinese culture and cinema. Mind, I am certainly no expert, but I find the complaints of the movie lacking substance or the main character Sun Wukong of being annoying to be irritatingly groundless. In China it is the top grossing film of all time, and it is likely to be, as the story is as ingrained in the Chinese cultural conscious as Superman is in our own. Except, imagine if Superman had been around for some 500 years or so. Anyway, I think U.S. critics (and many viewers, if the Netflix ratings are to be believed) have no idea what to do with it.

From my perspective, it is a touching story. Cast aside all the special effects, and what you have is a story about an outsider trying to find his way in a world that is hostile to him, losing his love, and being used by people who do not have his interests at heart. Small wonder the Monkey King goes rogue at the end of the story, and that Sun WuKong can get his morality under control at all is some kind of miracle. It is a story of growth, redemption, and repentance. I dare you not to be touched when Sun WuKong tries to resurrect his dead friends, his enormous guilt for leaving them to try to gain acceptance in heaven weighing heavily upon his anguished shoulders. The story edits the original to make the Monkey King more sympathetic to good effect.

The special effects enhance the film. If you are not a fan of special effects like those found in The Sorcerer and the White Snake, that’s probably a good enough reason to not watch The Monkey King. Also, the film is in Chinese, and you are going to read subtitles, which is a turn off for many people. Personally, I am a snobby foreign film viewer, so this is only a plus for me. I don’t do English dubs. I didn’t do The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo U.S. style either.

So, this viewer is looking forward to The Monkey King 3, as well as completing my viewing of The Monkey King 2, which I’m about half way through. Check it out for yourself. Don’t let the reviewers fool you. This could well be one of my favorite films. EVER.

Review: Story Genius by Lisa Cron

April 13, 2017 0

Fellow Unreliable Chia and I were talking about writing. I have finished the third draft of The Pawn of Isis, and my very kind first readers have been steadily getting feedback back to me, so I’m getting ready to revise. I have a couple of ways I revise. I have been using some of the methodology from Blueprint Your Best Seller by Stuart Horowitz. I really like the way that book makes you really look at scenes and evaluate them, center on a theme, and reorder and rewrite. It’s a lot of work, but (re)writing is a lot of work, so there you go.

Then Chia asked me if I’d heard of Story Genius by Lisa Cron. No, I had not, I said. Chia said she was going to read it, but she had to take it back to the library. I said I’d look into it.

Already, based on some feedback, I have decided that the book may need another POV, due to some of the important stuff happening off stage. So I rolled up my sleeves and decided to add some new scenes. I realized I was just adding scenes, and not necessarily solving problems. That’s when I wandered into Barnes and Noble, went to the writing section, and picked up Story Genius. I devoured the book over the next two days.

All writer advice works for different writers. I saw some less than favorable reviews on Goodreads, but I, on the other hand, liked it so well that I feel a bit like a zealot. Bear with me. This could help revitalize writing and revising for you, and might help you spend less time drafting. At least I hope so. Sometimes it takes me as many as 7-12 drafts to get a book right. I’m no Patrick Rothfuss, and I don’t want to turn out a book a week, but I think it’s got to go a bit faster if I want to publish regularly. I have hopes this might help me do this.

It’s all about character desire and misbelief, and connecting the external plot struggles with the internal emotional struggles of your character. There’s lots of good inventing advice, determining when to start the book, advice about writing the ending, working on scenes, so much good stuff.

I would advise you to go check it out yourselves. I find I like flipping back and forth as I use it, so you might want a paper copy. But if you are the kind of writer who really feels motivated by the emotional arc of story, and you want to reconnect with the fun of writing, this might be a good book for you. I can tell you I am now hungry to revise, and regret those days when I simply can’t fit writing in. It’s pretty heady to climb into the heads of your characters and their emotions. I had been getting bogged down in the wheres and why for of plot, and this is generating the plot according to emotions.

I can’t say enough good things about this book, and I think I might owe Chia a drink or a fruit basket or something.

The Year of Living Authorly: Post 8 SFWA New Author Resources

March 28, 2017 0

Okay, okay. So I went to the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, and hung out with a lot of faboo people. Who should I end up hanging out with, but SFWA president Cat Rambo? We were sitting out by the pool on Friday, and I was going into my song and dance about being a new author and needing to learn all about what to do for book tours and stuff like that. And she said, “Why don’t you go to the SFWA website?”

I’ll admit, I was like, yeah, why don’t I? Because you know, I was so busy reinventing the wheel, I forgot there were a bunch of chariot drivers already on the track. Sure, that happens. However, nice pirates, when they stumble onto a treasure trove share the booty. Yes, I know there aren’t a lot of nice pirates. Moving on…

Of course, you’ll be wanting to know how to get to the SFWA Website.

First of all, I’m an associate member of SFWA (thank you, Sean Wallace). So I have access to the SFWA boards. BUT there’s a lot of information for writers, even if you don’t have access to the boards. I’m seeing the following categories that might prove useful

Advice for New Writers

Building a Career

The Business of Writing

How to Sell Your Novel

Networking and Self-Promotion

Tips for Beginners

It looks like I need to do some reading. So, I will hit the books hard, and then I will do some compilation posts. Stay tuned, true believers.

I’d like to thank SFWA President Cat Rambo for pointing out the obvious to me. Also, thanks for the swell tattoo. Authors who give out tattoos are the best.

Review: What You Should Know Before Watching Iron Fist

March 19, 2017 0

This week’s Year of Living Authorly Post is up at my blog so I can talk here about Netflix’s new Marvel offering Iron Fist. Yes, okay, I am not the first person this weekend talking about Iron Fist, but I have seen all thirteen episodes due to a spring break marathon with my husband, an Unreliable Spouse. We are mostly in agreement about the show.

Yes, it is in fact the weakest of the Marvel Netflix offerings thus far. I believe the problem rests squarely on the shoulders of bad writing. The dialogue is stilted. We keep flashing back to the same flashbacks. Characters actions and thoughts contradict themselves. It’s a hot, hot mess of a story, with one of the most disappointing endings that I’ve seen in a long time.

Should you even watch Iron Fist? Sure you should, but you want to go in with your eyes open. Know what you’re going to get and what you’re not going to get, and you might have a better experience. Here are some things to know.

Will I see kick ass martial arts? Nope, sorry. You would think you might, as the show features two of Marvel’s most kung fu-iest characters, a Kun Lun monk, and several members of the Hand. However, you will see some mediocre martial arts fights backed up by a weird 80s-style Tron soundtrack. I think you’re looking at 70’s action hero fare, if even that. I know, you expected martial arts. Do yourself a favor and go back and watch Season 1 and 2 of Daredevil and imagine that it’s part of Iron Fist. That’s what you’re going to have to do.

Will the show rivet me in action sequences from the get go? Nope, sorry again. Like every other Marvel offering, save the Daredevil offerings, the show is slow in the beginning and the middle. Unlike Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, however, there is no sharp pull-in, no call to action. Danny shows up and gets to be homeless while people discuss whether it’s him or not. Not exactly a blistering start. And then we spend episode two in a mental ward. We don’t even hear about Kun Lun until episode 4. It’s a slow coal train running through a small midwestern town, this show.

Will Danny Rand be an interesting hero? If you guessed no, you are right. Emotionally, he’s a 10-year-old looking for family because his own died, and looking in all the wrong places. He has no sense of adulting. This in and of itself could be interesting if played right, but it’s kind of boring, because it hits all the cliches you could imagine.

Will there be at least an interesting support cast to help me get through this show? Well, yes and no. Colleen Wing should be an amazing martial artist, but Danny is a hipster tool and Colleen is also a tool. If you watch the whole show, you’ll see what I mean. Colleen is also hampered by cliche conflict and contradictory characterization. Joy Meachum is a schizophrenic childhood friend who can’t decide what she wants. These two aren’t going to help you much.

Luckily for us, there is another plot line that involves the Meachums. If you remember Nobu from the Hand in the Daredevil series, you know the Hand can resurrect people. Harold Meachum, Danny’s dad’s business partner, received this gift from the Hand, and the plot line dealing with him may be melodramatic, but it’s also creepy and horrifying. Look, if you can watch for this plotline, watch for Harold’s crazy and his son Ward’s acting journey, you might like the show. Tom Pelphry, the actor playing Ward, really gets put through his paces. He’s worth the cost of admission.

Rosario Dawson reprises her role as Claire Temple and classes up the joint. Her parting shot of telling Danny and Colleen that they need therapy pretty much sums up the show. And Madame Gao is back, back in a big mysterious way. When I grow up, I want to be Madame Gao. Raise my hand and mystically throw people into walls. Damn straight. Except for the heroine production stuff.

So. Some good performances in a very poorly put together script. Some bright spots from actors who get a little better writing and plot line in the scheme of things. If you don’t watch the whole thing, you’ll miss the awesome appearance of Danny’s friend Davos from Kun Lun who says what many of us are thinking by that point, “You’re the worst Iron Fist ever.” It’s also probably your only chance to see an intern beat to death with an ice cream scoop this year.

The Year of Living Authorly: Post 5 Conventions–Image

March 3, 2017 0

Welcome to post 5 of The Year of Living Authorly. The subject of this post is one I initially had to grapple with, but I eventually made my peace with. You’re an author at a convention. You want to attract people to your work. You want people to have a certain image of you. What is the best image to put forward?

Much like an online persona, it’s best for authors to do something they feel comfortable with. I’ve seen authors dress as their own characters. I’ve seen authors dress in vaguely fannish clothing. I’ve seen authors dress like I might dress for my job as a professor. Is anyone one of these approaches better than another?

Conventional wisdom suggests that it is best to treat your author work like you might other work, that you should dress like you would as a professional. BUT I know that some authors trade on the kinship that they feel with fandom, and wearing a big floofy hat, or dressing vaguely like Jim Dresden is expected for these authors.

My particular dilemma with image is that I come from cosplay roots. From about 1985 until around 2007 or so, if you’d asked my friends what I did at conventions, they would tell you I made awesome costumes. Seriously, I used to do about 5-7 costume changes a convention. It was my raison d’etre for going to these things. And it was a blast. I was taken very seriously in the world of fandom costumers, and people still oooohhh and aaaahhh today over those pictures.

But I ultimately decided that in order to go where I wanted to as an author, I needed to professionalize. Why? Well, I wanted other people to publish me, and I wanted to make sure that I was seen as a capable person who could meet deadlines and took my work as an author seriously. I didn’t feel I could do this while I was dressed as an anime character or even Granny Weatherwax (and honestly, who wouldn’t take Granny Weatherwax seriously?). I thought it would serve my image better to go away from being a fan to being a professional.

I have to tell you, I’m not sure if this is the right decision, but I am comfortable with it. I will not go so far to say that I might never get fannish at a convention (read tshirts, goofy hats, etc), but if there’s a convention where I want people to think of me as a professional author, I am going to dress in a professional way and comport myself like a person who takes writing seriously. And honestly, there are cons where I feel I am not going to meet people in the publishing industry, but they are few and far between. The con I attend where I geek out the most, Convergence, is still a place where agents, editors, and fellow writers are going to be, and you never know when opportunity will come knocking.

Okay, so, that said, I know lots of authors who work the other mojo to their advantage. Chris Paolini used to dress up as a character from his book while he did his readings, I understand. Many writers make a memorable impression in fannish clothing. Cool. Do what works for you.

Me? While I don’t want to blend into the background, what I do want is for my demeanor and my work to be taken seriously, even though I am writing about demon binders in the 19th century. So, my advice is this: be professional until maybe you have gotten where you want to go. Then, maybe, you can play a little.

 

Next up: The cost of conventions. Can you afford them? How much does a convention cost anyway?

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