The Year of Living Authorly: Post 2 Online Presence

January 17, 2017 0

Some of you might know that this year my novel The Vessel of Ra comes out from Curiosity Quills Press, and I am getting ready to gear up to promote that book. Over at my website, I’ve posted entry one of this ongoing series The Year of Living Authorly.

Until recently, my primary activity as an author has been to craft stories to the best of my abilities and get rejected. I had rejection down to a science. 🙂 However, the rejections started getting more acceptance-like, and then they actually turned into acceptances, and then I had a book accepted and an agent took me and bam! I am in new territory.

So this series is to educate me about being a publishing author and I thought you might enjoy being taken along for the ride. I thought tonight, since I’m kicking off my part of this series on Unreliable Narrators, that I should talk about online presence. I do know a little bit about that, although I am no guru. We hope to have a guru on the show in February.

Clearly, I am online. As in right now. Where can you find me online? Twitter (@cathschaffstump). Facebook (both an author and a personal page). My own website. Here. I am given advice about where I should be. For example, I am publishing a YA book, so I should be on Tumbler, maybe. Or Pinterest. Or Snapchat.

The truth of the matter is online can in fact take away huge chunks of time in your life. But at the same time, maybe some online is good. Not the buy my book barrage that some people think is useful, but rather the hey, I’m talking about interesting things, or I’m a person. Maybe if you like hanging out with me a little by my book. Or, even more honestly, this is me. Buy my book or not.

I like being online. I debated whether to start being on LiveJournal (remember LiveJournal? My blog hooks up to it still.) back in 2002, thinking that it would consume all the time I should use writing. And, it can do that. But I like writing essays and reviews for their own sake, so it’s not hard for me to find things to talk about.  When I’m drafting, I like to live tweet my action and word count on Twitter. Facebook is more for authorly announcements, although these days my personal space is largely political (who’s isn’t right now?)

The point you should take from the previous paragraph is this: first of all, writing is number one. If you’re spending more time writing online, maybe you are a different kind of writer, but if you want to write short stories or novels, no amount of time you spend on line will magically make that happen. Yeah. You know this already. Secondly, if you don’t like being online, you probably shouldn’t do it, or you should find a way to do it that is the least painful you can. Sort of like finding the workout that is best for you kind of thing.

Now, let’s talk a little about this podcast. Unreliable Narrators is a different kind of endeavor. Certainly, it can be a publicity platform for the four of us, but it is not only about that. We felt the need to put something fun that we enjoyed into the world. In the writerverse, sometimes no can get you down. So this was another creative endeavor used to rejuvenate us. Don’t be afraid to get out there online in a different format you want to try. There’s youtube, podcasting, all sorts of things you can do. Again, make sure you’re having a good time.

Also realize that if you do have readers, they will want you to put things out. I have lost a lot of my readers recently for my blog, because I spend more time writing. You can count on me writing an article a week here and an article a week there, plus link posts to all the awesome on Unreliable Narrators when I’m not posting an article at my blog Writer Tamago. If your blog goes silent, that’s clearly a sign doing the whole online thing for you is not a blog.  Try a variety of experiments. Find what works for you.

Is being online a requirement? I’d say if you can be, yes, if you’re suited to it and you find a way to do it that’s fun for you. It’s certainly one of the ways to put yourself out there. We’ll talk about more of them a little later on. And this kind of online is about you. There’s also online that can be about what you’re writing. I have some ideas about that, but I should save that for a different post.

Next up–going to Cons!

Review: A Monster Calls

January 9, 2017 0

This weekend Bryon and I went to see A Monster Calls, which is based on the novel by Patrick Ness. I have not read the novel, but am interested in doing so. This is a hard film. This is not a film for children, for anyone who has experienced cancer personally or through a loved one unless you have some distance from the event. It’s also not a film for someone who might be losing a parent soon.

The film was harder on Bryon than me. His 90-year-old mother has Alzheimer’s, and while she is usually in good spirits, we lose a little bit more of her as time goes on. The other day, she had forgotten one of Bryon’s favorite childhood stories. That was hard for him.

In A Monster Calls, the protagonist Conor is about 12. His mother is undergoing treatment for cancer, and in his pain, he summons a monster. The monster decides he will tell Conor three stories, and at the end of stories, Conor will tell the monster the truth about the recurrent nightmare he is having. Conor will do just about anything to avoid telling the truth of that nightmare.

As the film peels back its layers, we learn about a variety of truths–Conor’s relationship with both his parents and his grandmother, the truth behind the bullying Conor experiences at school, and deep down, what his mother’s cancer is doing to Conor. At the same time, the monster tells Conor his stories and makes Conor question the simplicity of a child’s world compared to the complexity that has become Conor’s life.

The special effects in this film are beautifully rendered. Louis MacDougal, playing Conor, heads up a great cast which also includes Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, and Toby Kebbell. It’s worth seeing once for sure, although I’m not sure I can watch it more than once. Bryon assures me he cannot.

Most likely the only Academy Award nomination this film might see, if it sees one at all, is for special effects, which is too bad, because MacDougal carries this film with all the prestige of an adult actor at his finest.

Comics Review: Tonoharu

December 11, 2016 0

On the show, we’ve given a lot of love to Marvel Comics, and I can assure you, the Unreliable Narrators could do a very similar show on DC as well. It’s the independent comics that are a little harder to give love to. We have our faves (Mouseguard, Hellboy), but which indies you read are often a matter of personal taste.

Last night I drove home through an Iowa snowstorm after a full day of battening down the hatches for a creative snowy Sunday at home. I didn’t feel like digging into the writing or the huge epic fantasy I was reading, so instead I grabbed the volumes of Tonoharu that my comics guy, Ken, had tracked down for me.

Tonoharu may not pique everyone’s interest. It certainly picqued mine. The story is about two Americans serving as teaching assistants in English (think JET) in a small rural town. The art is in small squares, and is a simple, gray-washed style of moment pictures. In the prologue, Dan talks about whether or not he will renew for a year. For most of the story, we follow his predecessor, also named Dan, through his troubled, isolated year in Tonoharu.

Lars Martinson, the author, emphasizes in the support material, that the story paints a very grim view of living in Japan, and he goes on to wax poetic about how vital and life changing living in a whole different culture for a long time can be. I have to agree. While I have not lived for a year in Japan, my relationship with Japan has totaled 5 trips and probably about half a year in the country if you add it all up. My longest stay, as a student of Japanese in the summer of 1998, really helped me relate to Tonoharu. Dan is very much a fish out of water, although you can see that he would be just as uncomfortable in the US. His successor is much more like me, and figures out how to make it work in a compromise of the two cultures he’s negotiating.

The characters in the story seem real to me, because I have met so many of them. I have my own admirable sensei who is a fantastic person. I know my own shy students, strange expats who impose their culture upon the country, guys who are just there to sleep with Asian women. They all exist, and I found it eerie the way these characters might typify the expat experience in Japan.

I love Japan. Like any multi-cultural interaction, we find each other complicated and we have stereotypes about each other. We find enlightenment when we are surprised, we find isolation when we can’t understand. Tonoharu is a quiet comic, but if you’ve ever lived somewhere else for a while, you will find it a rewarding read. This will probably be one of my recommendations for the year as we close out 2016.

Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

November 25, 2016 0

It has been said films which are set in the 20’s do not do well at the box office, and I understand this is true of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which had, according to Warner Brothers, a somewhat disappointing opening weekend. If you are looking for all Harry Potter, all the time, of course you aren’t going to want to see this movie. It’s set in the US, and in a different time period. The central figure in the film is Newt Scamander, whom many of you might know as the author of the textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find from the Potter series.

Turns out Newt is the Jane Goodall of the magical world. Newt has a mission–to help his fellow wizards realize the magical creatures they share the world with are not as dangerous as the ban in the US would make them appear. Well, let’s be realistic. They’re dangerous like all animals are dangerous, but Newt is a trained professional and unnaturalist, if you like. Newt’s a quirky, captivating character, very interesting and single-minded, so the film must be supported by some other emotional layers. Unfortunately, the female lead, an ex-female Auror, Tina Goldstein, is kind of lackluster and dull.

However, it is in the supporting characters where one finds the real emotional meat of the film. One Jacob Kowalski, a non-mag (Muggle to those of you in the know) ends up involved in the plot and seems like he will be the butt of jokes, but turns out to be a stalwart friend and yes, a romantic lead. Tina’s sister, Queenie, is a mage who reads minds, and is a charming, sweet woman. The chemistry between Queenie and Jacob is all the more poignant because Jacob is not allowed to remember his interactions with wizards at the end, a strange unnatural American law, as Newt points out to Tina.

The other emotional plot involves the manipulation of an orphan named Creedence, who has been adopted by the  anti-Wizard organizer of Second Salem. Creedence is manipulated by Mr. Graves, a wizard high in the Magical Congress of the United States, who thinks he is the way to a dangerous young wizard who has a powerful, evil occulus. I can’t reveal much here without revealing a lot of spoilers, but this plot also has emotional depth, and also reveals Tina at her best.

If you want to see more of the Potterverse, as in not more Harry Potter, but more of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, this is a great way to go. Costumes are wonderful. Special effects are great. Newt is winning. Queenie and Jacob are fantastic. Go check it out and give it the love it deserves.

Miraculous (Miraculous Ladybug)

November 11, 2016 0

And now, for something completely different.

One of the things that my animation-loving spouse recently introduced me to was a new cartoon originating in France, but with an international cast of producers and animators. It is called Miraculous in the United States and Miraculous Ladybug in France. A mere three days after we failed to elect the first woman president of the United States and elected a president who sets women’s rights back 20 years or so, shows like Supergirl and Miraculous Ladybug become increasingly important for maintaining and elevating the status of young girls.

There’s a lot to like in Ladybug. Our main character Marinette, half Chinese and half French, is a normal teenage girl, tongue-tied in the presence of Adrien, her crush. She has a good friend, Ayla, and a snobby rival Chloe, and is supported by a cast of well-rendered high schoolers. These students are important because every episode, someone is evilized by the show’s thematic villain, the Papillion (called the Hawk Moth in English because that’s more villain like that Butterfly, I guess), and while the evilized villain isn’t always a friend, it’s good to have a stock of misunderstood adolescents to choose from.

Remember Adrien? The rich son of an overprotective father, he too has a superhero ID. Marinette’s Miraculous (a cute little bug-like creature called Tikki) turns her into Ladybug, upon whom Adrien has a crush. Adrien’s Miraculous (a catlike stinky cheese eater called Plagg) turns him into the Chat Noir, or Black Cat. The gimmick is that Adrien and Marinette have no idea who their partner actually is. Ladybug plays down Chat Noir’s flirtations, and Marinette is hopeless around Adrien, a well-maintained tension.

While the show is presented as a partnership in the U.S., Ladybug usually saves the day with her lucky charm powers and resourcefulness. Chat Noir and Ladybug are great friends and partners, good role models, and a lot of fun to watch.

I prefer to watch the show in French with subtitles. It’s good practice for my rusty French, and I always think original voice acting is usually the best performance. But for your kids, you can watch the show in English on both Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. They can learn French later.

So, go watch this bright, colorful show with good animation. Show boys and girls how well they can work together and get along. Enjoy its quirky villains and Parisian culture.

Spots on! Or words to that effect.

Animosity #1 by Marguerite Bennett and Rafael de LaTorre

September 29, 2016 0

Animosity is published by Aftershock comics and is the latest work from Marguerite Bennett, featuring stunning art work by Rafael de La Torre. There’s a richness and a texture to the drawings that would render them almost storybook quality.

Except that this is a horror comic. Undisputedly.

You might know Marguerite Bennett’s work from DC Bombshells, an interesting spin/retcon of DC heroines. This isn’t that.

On page two, all the animals in the world of Animosity become consciously sentient, capable of judging right and wrong. They become, well, like humans think of themselves as being. And they have all the same issues with being used or eaten or enslaved that you think they might. There’s a sequence which shows several very short stories of the animals gaining sentience, and it is a horrific four pages, tiny stories of immeasurable sadness or anger or horror or love. The rest of the comic is good, but it doesn’t measure up to all of those tiny stories.

The main story centers on a bloodhound, Sandhor, who awakens to realize how much love he has for the little girl who spends the most time with him, Jesse. In a world where animals want revenge against humans for many, many wrongs, Sandhor decides to protect Jesse as though she were his family. The comic will follow them through this new landscape. I am very interested to see what happens next, and heartily recommend the comic to you.

You can still get in on this limited series, but it’s hot. I understand it’s going back for a 4th printing. That’s good news for Aftershock and its creators.

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