Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Is it harder to come up with the title or to write the blurb for that novel you just finished?


The November 2021 Insecure Writer's Support Group takes place during NaNoWriMo. I wish to express my enthusiasm for all of you out there who are attempting to complete a novel by the end of the month. That's quite an accomplishment.

It's also an excellent time to do this blogfest that was started many years ago by science fiction author, Alex J. Cavanaugh. If you'd like to sign up for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, please go HERE and do so. It's a great way to bolster your confidence, get advice, and find encouragement for all of your writing needs.

Here's more that is cut and pasted from the IWSG sign-up page:

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Remember, the question is optional!

November 3 question - What's harder to do, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?

The awesome co-hosts for the November 3 posting of the IWSG are Kim Lajevardi, Victoria Marie Lees, Joylene Nowell Butler, Erika Beebe, and Lee Lowery!

My answer: Hoh boy...this is a big question. But, I think I have an acceptable answer. It is much harder to write the blurb, because you have to put on your marketing hat (if you have one of those) as well as your editor hat (hopefully you have one of those) and chop chop chop while also trying to hook the reader. Some of us don't have that many heads for that many hats. So, we can end up clumsily putting one hat on top of another and that just makes a mess. However, there is at least one strategy that might help: look to your query letters.

So yeah...if you are submitting the novel for publication to agents, you've probably been through the grinder regarding the query letter. That is...you've written one...and then submitted it to peers to get butchered and sliced and diced and quartered and rearranged until your writing ego has been cut to shreds. But hopefully, you've come out of that experience with a solid product: the query letter that has a bit of a shine to it. At least one of the paragraphs or a few of the sentences describe your book (or capture the essence of it). This might be perfect to use as the start of a workable blurb for your novel.

And that's all I've got to say about that.

I'm going to bow out early for the holidays. Congratulations to all of those who finish their novels by the end of November. Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to all of you. I will be back in 2022 for the January Insecure Writer's Support Group (I will miss December's so please don't kick me out, Alex).

Monday, November 1, 2021

Arcane from Riot Games' League of Legends is set to launch on Netflix this week.

MOBA stands for "Multiplayer Online Battle Arena," and League of Legends is one of these types of games. This next week, Netflix is launching an animated television series called Arcane, and it tells the backstory of two of the video game's most popular champions: sisters Jinx and Vi. I guess it will revolve around the income inequality between the city of Piltover and the underground (read as oppressed) city of Zaun. That's about all I know regarding this thing. But the trailer for it is awesome, and I plan to watch (or at least add it to the things that I intend to watch, which is growing kind of long if I'm being honest). It's kind of like all of the streaming options suddenly kicked into high gear because of Covid, and now I'm looking at twenty different things that I want very much to consume, because they are all in my wheelhouse.

Anyway, if you have not seen the trailer yet, you should click play and watch it below. It looks awesome.


Friday, October 29, 2021

It's been entertaining to watch the cringe-worthy comments made by toxic fanboys of the Wheel of Time series as the release date looms.

The Wheel of Time dropped another trailer this week. It's one of Amazon Pictures's entries in the epic fantasy genre. Although I've never picked up any of the books (and I don't intend to do so), Utah is a place where you can find a lot of strong opinions about the series given that one of their own (an LDS writer named Brandon Sanderson) finished it for the late Robert Jordan. But even before that, epic fantasy was an enormous playground for people with conservative leanings that run from the middle to the far right, as they usually have a chosen one that is a white male, and they go a long way to reinforce patriarchy, feudalism, and magical belief systems that have no place in a world where people with growing economic clout are fighting hard for science, diverse representation, democracy for all, a demand for high wages and work-life balance, and the idea that billionaires are amoral. As the fight intensifies I have no doubt that blood will be shed and the violence between these groups will grow.

Still...it has been interesting to be the fly on the wall in observing the comments from people who are watching The Wheel of Time's release date approach with narcissistic trepidation They say things on internet forums like, "I will watch, but I am uneasy with the showrunner's choices..." or "what gives me worry is that this adaptation may not land perfectly the thing that differentiated Jordan from others...." and I actually have no idea what that is. Another comment says, "the showrunner is so proud to point out Nynaeve deliberately tugging her braid is a shoutout to fans of the book, but it bothers me because it's obvious he does not quite get the downsides of the representations." Like...gimme a break. It's obvious that The Wheel of Time is going to have even worse toxic fanboys than old Trek and old Star Wars. If you weren't around for The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson was accused of being a hack and a social justice warrior (SJW), which is an insult in the circles they swim in. It just all makes me shake my head, the same reaction I had when I watched toxic comic nerds tear ruthlessly into the Captain Marvel movie, because Brie Larsen was intolerable I guess.

So, make no mistake, every one of these folks believes that if the show is not a perfect adaptation, their withdrawal of their support and "not watching" will send a loud message to the "Hollywood types" and get the series canceled pronto, even though as of this writing, it hasn't even aired yet and has been greenlit for a season two. Nevertheless, if it doesn't get their thumbs up, then it is entirely doomed. It's just weird for me to go to a place and think, "Gamer bro that lives in his aunt's basement and doesn't have a job is going to tank this series. Wow...bro...you got powa!" Indeed...I wonder why no one else sees it. It actually takes A LOT to cancel something or someone. Dave Chappelle hasn't been canceled (and it's not for lack of trying). J.K. Rowling hasn't been canceled. Chick Fil-A hasn't been canceled. What all of these things share is that they have been criticized but not canceled. And David Chappelle calls out the uselessness of cancelation by saying that he doesn't care what people say about him on Twitter, because Twitter is not a real place. It's an update on the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." This is especially true in a divided country, where no one is on the same page anymore, and one person's morality is actually amoral to the next person. As you may already know, the trans community is outraged at Chappelle for being "Team TERF." Well, in comes Caitlyn Jenner who says, "I support Dave Chappelle." Her voice is huge (whether they like it or not), and it just shows that there's no unity anywhere, which is why cancelation doesn't work.

We're also living in a pop culture world now, where fantasy imagery has become mainstream in ways that would have never been imaginable a couple of decades ago. This has both good and bad implications. The good is that a lot of producers and showrunners who've grown up on these kinds of stories don't now regard them as strange or risky ventures. The bad is that a lot has become so mainstream that older fans of the source material cannot (and will not) adapt. They are dinosaurs in their tar pits. So you get these internet outrages over changing a character's gender or ethnicity, even if it's supported or encouraged by the creators themselves (or their estates or spokespeople). With regard to The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan's take on gender was very problematic (Man magic is more powerful than woman magic, etc.). The show is going to minimize or outright eliminate those aspects of his writing. Like...it's a done deal. This is going to happen, because catering to the olds and the toxic fanboys does not make enough money. Their "clout" isn't what they think it is, and it's also wrong for society (or at least the society that I want to live in). And I imagine that many people will not accept this when they see it happen, and they will experience two emotions: 1) shock, and 2) rage.

All that being said, I'm excited for the debut of this series. I have high expectations, because I haven't read the books, and thus, I won't have anything to be disappointed about. What I do know is that the trailers look pretty great, and maybe some of that Jeff Bezos money will actually give us some rousing fantasy entertainment. Anyone else planning to watch? I've attached the second trailer that dropped this week below (you should watch it).


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Here are the things I liked and didn't like about season 3 of Titans all in one post.


I've always been a fan of The Teen Titans, The New Titans, and Titans from the DC Universe. I fell in love with them many decades ago, because of George Perez's artwork and Marv Wolfman's writing. But even as the characters evolved and other great comic book writers came and went along with artists that became legends, I've always thought that these characters were a lot of fun. Raven was my favorite, followed by Wonder Girl (and later Troia), Nightwing, and Beast Boy. People who review the shows always want to point out that what we get on screen differs a lot from the source material. This doesn't bother me at all in comic book movies, because every new writer that comes along does their own take on the source material. Look at how many times Spider-Man has been retconned in the comic books, and you'll see what I mean. The only thing that matters (really) is that the characters stay more or less within their lane.

Titans season 3 just recently wrapped up, and there were a lot of loose ends and some startling developments. We found out that ARGUS has moved into town. If you are familiar at all with the Arrow-Verse, you see this agency early on in Arrow as the ones who are behind The Suicide Squad. And then they kind of work a lot with other super heroes like Green Lantern. They specifically dropped the name Roy Harper in the finale, and he's been mentioned a few times before. If you don't know, Roy is also known as "Arsenal" and he is Green Arrow's (Oliver Queen's) former sidekick. This character was also in the Arrow-verse early on as Roy became Olly's sidekick while dating his sister (Thea) in the show. Anyway, I expect that ARGUS will be important in season four (should this show gets renewed). Honestly, it's probably a toss-up at this point as the show has not been knocking it out of the park at all. But it's also just barely good enough to keep me invested. In other words, I am enjoying myself, but just barely.

THINGS I LIKED ABOUT SEASON THREE: 

1) I liked that the budget seems to have improved. Given that they have so many superheroes, I get it. Effects can be expensive. But I liked the new powers Starfire manifests, I definitely like the effects on Nightwing's batons when he beats up bad guys, and I like that they FINALLY gave Gar another animal form and it didn't look too cheesy. Raven's powers are growing significantly and look cool. It seemed like she swallowed up some people in a "kind of" soul self thing, although it hasn't quite taken on the appearance of the Raven shape that it has in the comic books. But she's now wearing the Raven-shaped hood which I love. Maybe teleportation is next? That would be really awesome. Maybe we will get a huge T-shaped tower on an island in San Francisco? These are all things that I would love to see...so please INCREASE THIS SHOW'S BUDGET!

2) I liked that Hank died. Yeah...I went there. I was tired of Hawk and Dove, and I'm glad that those two have exited the series. They were the least interesting pair of people in the show, and I sincerely hope that they don't find a way to bring the characters back.

3) Donna Troy needs more spectacular effects. The season finale showed her using the lasso to anchor to the sky to draw down lightning from a storm that was created when Starfire and Blackfire vaporized a Lazarus Pit. I gotta admit...that was cool. Superboy is also a really awesome character, and I wish his powers were more represented with some really cool effects. But I'll take what I can get I suppose.

4) The actors are perfectly cast. This is a strong plus for the show. Starfire feels like Koriander to me. So does Superboy and Beastboy, etc. 

5) Themiscyra was fun...I just wish there was more of a special effects bonanza to go along with it (kinda like what we see in the Wonder Woman movies). 

THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT SEASON THREE:

1) There was way too much Jason Todd. He's another character that is like Hawk and Dove. I never liked this whiny brat in the comic books, and I was glad when the Joker killed him off (and I wasn't the only one), and I was disappointed that they found a way to bring him back using a Lazarus Pit so that we had to suffer an entire season of him being both a villain and an anti-hero. Like...that was just horrible. It was fun to see Scarecrow though, and I liked very much that they borrowed a lot of Hannibal Lecter to infuse into their version. It made him believably sinister and evil.

2) I didn't really like the Lazarus Pit stuff. Ra's Al Ghul used to be one of my favorite Batman villains. However, I feel like this villain has gotten stale. They used him in the Nolan films. And then they used him again in season after season of Arrow. And I guess he's coming back in Titans. Titans had so many fun storylines that I wonder why they are digging so hard into the Batman's rogues gallery to drum up bad guys. Maybe it's because they squandered/wasted Trigon the Terrible so early on. I mean...that was just a waste in season one, and it hurts even more that they tried to do this world-ending villain on a shoestring budget. Trigon is worthy of an Avengers-level budget.

3) Why are they introducing Tim Drake? I like Tim Drake as Robin in the Batman comics. But can we not (at all) leave behind the Batman and Gotham and have our own Titans storylines? Sigh.

4) I didn't like that Oracle was a supercomputer that was just kept in a room where Barbara Gordon would visit it and ask it lame questions. In the comics, Barbara Gordon WAS Oracle. She was the eye in the sky. She coordinated the Birds of Prey and fed them all kinds of information.

So there you have it. Anyone else watching Titans and care to weigh in on whether you like it or not?

Monday, October 25, 2021

Let's talk a whole lot of Dune today.


Like most of the United States, I watched Dune this weekend. I have a pretty nice entertainment system at home, and one of the people I watched with said, "Man, your sound system is kickin'! 10 out of 10." That gave me a smile. Still, I am curious as to what kind of visceral experience awaited those who purchased IMAX tickets. There will always be the allure of the absurdly large screen and a sound system that is incomparable to the ones that you can get for the small theater at home. I may check it out before it disappears from theaters. However, (and this should be obvious) it is nice to be able to watch something without the fear of catching Covid from strangers.

Invariably, I've been asked by people who know me (as I really like the story of Dune) to weigh-in on Villeneuve's version. In short I really liked it. But I cannot actually say more about it without contrasting to the 1984 David Lynch version of Dune. Even though it was universally panned, I've always liked that version, and I thought it was really well done. Sure...you never get the crysknife battles that you got in the story as David Lynch decided to elevate House Atreides combat-style with a kind of weird mechanical module that converts sounds into different types of killing effects. But for me, that was a forgivable directorial decision. All that really matters is that House Atreides soldiers are known to be some of the best in the known galaxy, trained by Duncan Idaho and Gurney Halleck, who were just amazing badasses with no comparison.

And David Lynch's unique style in that old 1984 adaptation was just so crazy bonkers that I loved it. There was gold on everything, the costuming was over-the-top, Patrick Stewart rushed into battle carrying a pug of all things, and when Paul rode the sandworms we got an eighties anthem guitar solo from Toto! I mean...it went really big in some absurd ways, and I'd argue that it really paid off. We got Jose Ferrer as the Emperor, and there's a scene where he's fighting the oncoming sandworm army from his golden ship and you see the hopelessness on his face that I just loved. There is also the strange grossness of David Lynch that suffused every inch of his film, like with the crazy eyebrows on the mentats and then Thufir Hawat having to milk his cat for an antidote to the poison introduced into his system. I wonder if we are even going to get any of that. Do I miss Sting sporting only a Batman-esque speedo? Yes, I do. 1984 Dune was a crazy show, y'all and arguably a work of genius.

So in comparison, this new version by Denis Villeneuve, is also a masterpiece. But it is a masterpiece of a different kind. It's slower in pace, and a lot more thoughtful with its screenplay. You don't have the weird inner thought monologues of the characters, and Villeneuve doesn't bombard you with explanations of how the Guild Navigators fold space. He doesn't bother you with any of the colorful minor characters like Princess Irulan and the Emperor of the known universe. Will we even see a guild navigator? My guess is, "Probably not." Instead, he keeps a tight rein on the telling of his story, and unfolds it layer by layer in a way that new audiences should have no trouble understanding. The only real characters you need to know are Paul, Jessica, Duncan, Gurney, Duke Leto, Rabban, and Baron Harkonnen. Everything else is just dressing. That list of characters is short enough for anyone to remember. Even Chani is only a blip in the movie (probably with a bigger role in part two as she becomes Paul's love interest). And it works for the movie really well. I have no complaints, and I actually really like Villeneuve's Dune in ways that I will never like Lynch's Dune. It's also just nice to have an update to a great story with all the modern special effects and a new crop of great actors, not the least of which is Timothee Chalamet who is very easy on the eyes.

This also leads me to other kinds of speculation. First, Dune isn't going to pull the box office numbers that movies pulled prior to Covid. We just haven't gotten back to that yet. But the numbers on it look extremely good despite being streamed and pirated and delayed more than a year from its original release date by a director that hated the idea of it being streamed. I'm wondering if Dune is the beginning of a franchise, similar to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). It actually lends itself really well to this kind of thing, and Harry Potter has failed in this aspect to produce a kind of universe that Warner Brothers can play in that can be a continuous cash cow for the company. Dune just might be this kind of thing, because it has really epic storytelling with a certain group of characters, and then moves on from those characters to others within the universe to tell other stories. I can't but help and ask, "What is all of this leading up to? Are we going to get all of the books in the series as movies? Boy, wouldn't that be interesting."

Anyway, if you watched Dune this weekend, please leave me a note in the comments and tell me what you thought of it. Also, do you think there will be sequels from Villeneuve within this franchise? 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Dr. Ramani Durvasula got me thinking about the toxicity of pursuing Fame in America and how it ruins lives.

 


I've been reading a book called Don't You Know Who I Am?: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. It is written by Ramani S. Durvasula, PH.D. It's one of those books that I'm progressing through rather slowly, at a pace of about 20 pages at a time. This is mostly due to the fact that I want to think about what I just read. It's also because a lot of what Durvasula talks about in the book are things I've witnessed first hand. Additionally, it's kind of fun to be the armchair psychologist and think..."Oh yea...this describes my family" or "Oh yea...this describes that narcissistic friend of mine to a tee. What an asshole they are."

And speaking of "asshole," there's a great definition of this term that I'm going to tell you about. I'd never thought of defining the word in this way. Apparently, an asshole is a "person who allows themselves to enjoy special advantages in social relations out of an entrenched sense of entitlement that immunizes them against the complaints of other people." It's a mouthful, but it kinda makes sense.

There is way too much to talk about in Durvasula's book that warrants attention (or that could fit into one blog post). But one thing did stick out in my reading last night, and that is what I'm going to blog about today. It's about fame. I'd never really given much thought to what fame actually was, but Durvasala defines it in a way that seems more meaningful than a catchphrase or a kind of force of nature/personality. Interested? Please read on.

Dr. Durvasula writes that "we humans want and, in fact, need social belonging and connection...the drive for fame then is largely our need for social belonging. Perhaps fame implies permanent social belonging, because the person will be recognized everywhere they go." Then she goes onto cite a personal example of someone who desperately wanted to be famous. When she asked this person why, they responded with, "So I am never lonely again."

When I thought about this example, I put down the book and was suddenly struck with how lonely some people must actually be. One particular example that pops into my head is Gabby Petito, the late (murdered) Instagram woman who went on a trip to see national parks in the United States with her fiancée, and their van life (though very instagrammable) was obviously a nightmare, and she was murdered by someone she trusted and her body left to rot under the sun. I wonder if she was driven to that kind of life because she was lonely. She was trying to pursue fame, and it just led to a toxic mess of abuse and violent crime.

And it got me thinking about how toxic our culture is. Americans are really good at walling off people, ignoring people, canceling people, and being mean to people. It's kind of like a super power that Americans all have. The idea of having fame seems to be a salve for that. If you are famous, then you can open closed doors. You can be invited to parties on the other side of the wall. You can feel welcome in places that are largely unwelcoming to everyone else. You can even rise above and profit from negative criticism that would destroy someone that wasn't protected by fame. So fame and fame-seeking seems to go hand-in-hand with the hatred that pollutes our country.

The more people hate, and the more people build walls to keep people out, the more important it will be for a person to have access to something that will allow them to move fluidly through all of those boundaries. Fame appears to be that "something," and it may be the most desirable commodity of all among America's youth these days. That (I think) is a bad thing for our country. For example, I can't imagine what it would be like to try and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with a famous person. How would they ever have time to emotionally support you when there are so many people clamoring for their attention? I think it would be a fertile breeding ground for massive insecurities unless the famous person took steps to create really firm boundaries with the public and put you at the center of what was important to them. Unfortunately, we see this kind of thing play out over and over again in the media. Those who are excellent with the boundaries have relationships that survive. Those who aren't good at boundary setting end up decimated by the public that worships them. There are so many bad things about America now though that it's honestly hard to keep track of them all. So it's just adding one more sociopolitical catastrophe onto the steaming garbage heap.

Anyway, I appreciate the thought exercise that Dr. Durvasula gave me regarding fame. And since we're on the topic, do any of you who are reading my words now hunger for fame (or do you have kids who are fame obsessed)? If so, care to share why? I'm a very non-famous person who legitimately wants to know.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

DC Fandome's Black Adam event looked glorious.


I've kind of become a super Dwayne Johnson fan. I drink his energy drink, Zoa. I follow him on Instagram. I watch all his movies. And I kind of just think he's a guy that continuously inspires me no matter what he is doing. Also, a lot of his public stuff intersects really well with the nerd things that I enjoy. The latest of which is that he unveiled the first look at Black Adam during a DC Fandome event earlier this week. I've embedded it below for your viewing pleasure. 

For people who don't know, Black Adam is evil. And this just opens up a philosophical can of worms starting with the question, "What is evil?" George R.R. Martin doesn't think that evil actually exists. Rather, what you mistake as evil is simply a person's motivation that is in opposition to yours. So, if that is the case with Black Adam, you can expect that there will be a lot of people who do not align morally with the character. But, if January 6 told us anything, it's that there are a ton of viewpoints out there, and a ton of people who admire different things. So there will be those whose motivations perfectly align with those of Black Adam, just like there was with Thanos.

I expect that the film will also go further, and try to sell the holdouts to Black Adam's cause...people who might like superheroes like Superman (for example). You know...the traditional good guy that does no harm and is essentially the stereotype of Sir Lancelot gussied up as a superhero. This is where we cross over from villain to "anti-hero," which is a big thing these days in the media that we all consume. With regard to Black Adam, I say that the possibility of this happening is doubled, because we've got Dwayne Johnson headlining the character. In the super short clip that aired on Fandome, you basically just see him stand up and vaporize one dude. But it looks really cool, which is all that matters. The fact that he vaporizes someone without so much as a warning is pretty much their way of saying...yeah...this guy is bad and isn't afraid of killing people.

That being said, it will be fun to see Dwayne Johnson playing a more villainous character. He's played the unequivocal good guy for so long that this feels like a fresh take on his career. To see him directly kill on-screen (as in the above example) is super rare. It's usually more of an "exploded the car with the bad guy in it" situation.

Anyone else excited for Black Adam? It looks like it hits theaters in summer of 2022.