Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A prequel money grab that didn't need to happen got canceled by HBO

When Game of Thrones ended, five possible prequel series got announced. Now it's down to one...tentatively...about Targaryens. I'm not sure who the intended audience is, but maybe there's just people who want to know more about Targaryens. However, the series that got canceled was going to tell the story of the Long Night and the Doom of Valyria...basically all the stuff I even had a remote interest in to begin with. Now, the only series that seems to be getting a "go ahead" signal of any kind is the one with the blond-headed imperialists riding dragons.

To be honest though, I'm not overly sad that the prequel series (set thousands of years before Game of Thrones's timeline) got canceled. Nothing about the show made any sense from the get-go. The events that happened 10,000 years in the past (from the perspective of the series) are pretty much irrelevant. It was a vague background window dressing at best. There would be no King's Landing court intrigue, no dragons, and only one or two major houses at best.

People might say, "Oh...but what about the White Walkers?"

Well the thing is...we have most of that mystery solved. We already know what the White Walkers are and where they came there's no use going into that unless someone wants to tell that story again (I would recommend against it). The Children of the Forest are basically Native American placeholders or the standard "elf" in most fantasy literature...and everything else can be summed up as a bunch of petty feudal lords squabbling with each other.

So (in my opinion) why did the prequel in particular get canceled? Word is they even filmed a pilot for it, so they were pretty serious, right? How does this make any sense? Here's my theory: it turned out to be a lot more expensive than they thought. Also, studio execs got scared that going forward, there was going to be even greater expense due to the magical bronze age element of all the things. Money is usually what kills projects, so this is where I'm placing my bets on what exactly happened.

I'm actually more excited for the Lord of the Rings prequel series that Amazon is doing than anything taking place in GRRM's world from A Song of Ice and Fire. I think I'm pretty done with that story (and its offshoots). What say you?

Monday, October 28, 2019

Will Doctor Sleep be any good?

I'm probably (most likely) going to a Fandango early release of Doctor Sleep this Wednesday, October 30. The thing is, I'm wondering if it will be any good. Early viewers of the movie have said this:

"Crafts visceral, disquieting dread not too dissimilar to Kubrick's masterpiece."

"Doctor Sleep is great...But bloody graphic with the violence in parts and very upsetting but so well done."

And then Stephen King weighed in as well by saying, "Mike Flanagan is a talented director, but he's also an excellent storyteller. The movie is a good thing. You'll like this if you liked THE SHINING, but you'll also like it if you liked SHAWSHANK. It's immersive."

The thing is, Stanley Kubrik was a legend in his own time, and he's kind of grown from there after his death. 2001: A Space Odyssey, which announced the experimentalism of new Hollywood at the same time that it created a different playbook for visual effects kind of defines who he was as a director. But it was a different age, with a bar that was far less crowded with people who didn't go to film school to learn all of the techniques to tell a visual story. I'm not even sure a director can even impress us these days, because the audiences have seen everything.

The fact that King is giving props to Flanagan (however) is good, especially given King's notorious dislike for The Shining's original depiction in film.

I'm going to try and keep an open mind, but I'm inevitably wondering if Doctor Sleep is going to be any good. I guess I'll find out.

Friday, October 25, 2019

If you want to give your kids the best chance at success in life you should strive to raise them free of all personality disorders.

I don’t think there is enough research going on between personality disorders and how those who have them are prone to use drugs and prone to end up in poverty or homelessness. However, there are lots of studies that go the other way. In other words, lots of people blame poverty and homelessness on creating personality disorders. But in my humble opinion, I think that kind of thinking is putting the horse before the cart. I think personality disorders are the cause (the root of the problem as it were) and the problems growing from this toxic root are poverty, drug use, and homelessness.

According to various psychology outlets and papers, there are ten kinds of personality disorders. They are as follows: 1) Paranoid personality disorder, 2) Shizoid personality disorder, 3) Schizotypal disorder, 4) Antisocial personality disorder, 5) Borderline personality disorder, 6) Histrionic personality disorder, 7) Narcissistic personality disorder, 8) Avoidant personality disorder, 9) Dependent personality disorder, and 10) Obsessive Compulsive personality disorder. If a person gets even one of these into their heads (let alone a whole bucketful) I think it increases a person’s chance that they will 1) get into illegal drugs in their adult life, or 2) end up unable to support themselves as an adult, or 3) both. It’s strange to think about, right?

So, why then did I start thinking about this? Let’s chalk it up to personal experience. I work and associate with a lot of people who struggle to “independently” support themselves, and I’ve noticed a trend: a lot of them are assholes. Many of them are terrible communicators, and this terrible-ness extends to avoiding communication altogether, ghosting, or lack of explanation and follow-through. Many of them exhibit toxic levels of narcissism by “splaining” away on various topics as if I were an uneducated slob. They can be bossy and rude. Many of them post a ton on social media, are very active on Instagram, as if every aspect of their lives was celebrity-worthy. Many post antagonistic things on social media as if begging others, “Come fight me, bro!” I suppose this behavior could be called, “Trolling,” but I’d also say it comes from a place of bitterness. Many of them cannot be counted upon to help out with manual labor requests, even though they have all the time in the world to do so. Many of them ask to borrow money with no intention of paying it back. Many of them are perfectionists, meaning nothing is ever good enough for them. They find a way to criticize just about anything. Many of them are ungrateful and undependable. And many of them act entitled as if they were prima donna’s in their own opera. Many of them are okay with casual exploitation. Quite a few measure value in physical appearance only, and this is usually because they have come to value this about themselves for whatever reasons.

This idea of mine grew out of all of the above experiences and with me asking a question: why are my interactions with people who struggle to support themselves so profoundly negative? You see, this flies in the face of what I was taught: that poor people were humble. I have found over and over and over that this is not the case at all. Then I picked up a report about homelessness and read a line that I had previously encountered before (and just never processed what it was actually saying to me): “Personality disorders in the homeless population are two to four times as prominent as those found in the general population.” This wasn’t a “new” thing, but my understanding of what that one line said was like a light bulb turning on in my head. It’s the personality disorder that created the homelessness, and not the other way around. I thought poverty and homelessness was the trauma that resulted in the personality disorder, but I don’t think that’s actually what’s going on here. And it makes so much sense with regard to the reality in which I live.

For example, no one I know (including myself) has fun working with people who have personality disorders, because (for want of a term that encapsulates what this means in practice) they are assholes. To explain it another way, it’s hard to work with a “jerk” (using another synonym), because they are abusive. It takes a very special person to sign-up to being psychologically and emotionally abused every day by another person. So these people with personality disorders end up being unsuitable for the workplace (and for a lot of life actually), which leads to casual and illegal drug use and the partying lifestyle (and generally heading straight for “rock bottom”).

In other words, I think personality disorders in adults are a gateway to illegal drug use and unemployment. And the thing is, no one talks about treating personality disorders as a solution (or nipping budding personality disorders in young people). What I see are people trying to address the symptoms, i.e., things like housing, donations, and the drug trade. But it also makes me think that this is all we can do as a society, because personality disorders are very difficult to cure or treat. For example, professionals are not even on the same page as to the cause of personality disorders in the first place, because it (potentially) can be anything in the environment. Is it parenting? Is it a social group that forms around a child at school? Is it commercialism and capitalism? Is it competition? Is it bullying? Or is it all of the above? Is it something I haven’t listed? If I were to give any advice to a parent, it would be this: raise a child to adulthood without any personality disorders, and you will give your child the best chance you possibly can for them to succeed. But as my friend has pointed out, when I told her my observation and idea, “How the hell do you do that in today’s world?” This comes from a mom who did everything she could to raise her daughter right, and guess what? Her daughter is brimming with personality disorders. Because of these personality disorders, the daughter is probably (and unfortunately) headed for rock bottom at some point. It’s like you can see the train wreck coming, and there’s no way to correct the course.

I do know people who are (to my knowledge) free of personality disorders, and they are a delight to be around and all of them are successful by every measure we have today to view such things. Is it a coincidence? I think not. And the fact that I know people who are free of personality disorders makes me believe that it’s possible to raise children to adulthood without them. I just can’t tell you how to do it. However, it seems like an awfully important goal to strive for, and one that (I believe) is not talked about enough when it comes to what it takes to independently support oneself in today’s society and to achieve some measure of fulfillment with regard to one’s life. “Don’t get infected with any personality disorders, folks,” is easier said than done.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The online reactions to the final The Rise of Skywalker trailer are all over the board.

Star Wars is a beloved franchise, which I suppose means that reactions to it are going to be all over the board. Some love it, some hate it, and many seem to post something akin to "I have very low expectations for this film." Is "the bar" looking pretty weathered at this point? Are people still complaining about The Last Jedi? Yes, yes they are. Here are a few of the reactions I read that struck me as interesting:

"The sequel trilogy has NOT worked for me, but I bleed Star Wars through and through, so I'll see the shit outta this on general principle. I just wish this story and these characters worked for me more."

"If Reylo does not happen I am done forever with Star Wars. I will never buy anything Star Wars or Disney. Why did they bother even setting it up in TLJ?"

"I have very low expectations of this trailer for the final episode...Mainly wanted more of the Mother of All Space Battles. Rey vs Kylo duel? Haven't we seen that a few times before? I'll be there on opening day, but I expect to be disappointed."

"I'm still incredibly miffed at the fact there's been zero in-film explanation of how we got from the end of Episode VI to VII. I have no idea where the First Order came from, or why the apparent victory at the end of Episode VI ended up in the way we are now."

"I, too, have low expectations for this film. I've also found that I'm fine with that. The movie will probably be mediocre, but there will be another Star Wars soon afterwards, and another one, until the heat death of the universe, so whatever really. I've either disconnected emotionally at some point, or discovered that I never really cared in the first place."

"And in the original trilogy you had no clue why Boba Fett was a badass bounty hunter. Or where the Emperor came from or how he rose to power. Or how the original Death Star was able to be rebuilt or partially destroyed when you saw it explode into dust with your own eyes. Or how Jabba was a big bad gangster with so much power. Or what the Kessel run even was, and so on and so forth. Sometimes just accept that everything doesn't need to be shown and explained to you in a tidy way. People don't want to watch movies and the stories they tell. People want to watch fan-fiction and have their subjective imaginations beats confirmed."

And last (but not least) here is what I have to say regarding the last trailer for the last of the "Star Wars Saga":

For what it's worth, this throne in the trailer looks really cool. I'm sure someone good actually sits in it; the thing doesn't look evil at all (snicker).
Any opinions out there regarding "The Rise of Skywalker?" Is it totally going to suck? Is it going to be amazing? Do you have Star Wars fatigue? Is Disney just beating a dead horse? Is there any story left to tell? What say you?

Monday, October 21, 2019

The last two episodes of Titans have been great because they introduced a perfectly cast Superboy.

Superboy joined the Titans on DC Universe, and has been present more or less in the last two episodes. The first episode that introduced him, called Conner, was really good. And bonus...we got Krypto the Wonder Dog as well. Why am I excited? It's kind of fun seeing the dog shoot heat vision beams out of its eyes. Played by Australian actor Joshua Orpin, I think that the casting for Superboy is absolutely perfect.

***Spoiler alert if you are planning on watching the series***

Okay, if you have made it this far, then you probably have either seen the episodes or don't really care. Either way is good. So the way "Conner" (who is Superboy) gets introduced is a bit jarring and messes with the pacing of season 2 just a bit. However, it pays off because Conner is in the right place to scoop Jason Todd out of the air to keep him alive a bit longer (see "A Death in the Family" for more of Jason Todd's ultimate fate). It seems "hamfisted" just a bit. However, I'm so glad they went there. It was really embracing the whole "superhero comic book show" theme. Plus, I think live-action Superboy is better than any of his animated doppelgangers have been.

The introduction of "Conner" feels like a great new direction for the show. Now if we could just get Koriandr to fly around I think I might be a bit more satisfied. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

You can almost hear the shriek of the marmot in this photograph which won the most prestigious award at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

Yongquing Bao of Qinghai, China, captured the moment a marmot reacts in shock at a Tibetan fox about to pounce. Their efforts were rewarded when they won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award at London's Natural History Museum. I think the thing that stands out most to me in this photo is the expression on the marmot's face. It's shear terror, and it's a reminder that the natural world is brutal. You can view the gallery of entries at this link if you'd care to see some of the others. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

It's kind of interesting to me that the Watcher in the Woods is not going to be on Disney + on launch day.

The list of things that are going to be available to subscribers of Disney + on launch day next month is impressive. It took me about a minute to scroll through the whole thing which was featured on io9 and gathered from a tweet storm sent out by the Disney marketing machine this weekend. A lot of people pointed out that The Watcher in the Woods is not on that list. For me, The Watcher in the Woods was kind of a defining movie in the 80's, mostly because it was so scary. In the back of my mind, it was going to be a movie I revisited/rewatched and I'm not so sure how well it would have held up so many years later.

When it first came out, The Watcher in the Woods had its own controversy. For one, Disney told parents not to take little kids to it. The movie’s plot follows the Curtis clan, an American family that moves to England and finds a beautiful old house for sale, with a shockingly low asking price. It turns out the home belongs to Mrs. Aylwood (Bette Davis), who is selling the house–mostly because of the bad memories–and has moved herself to the guest house. Her daughter Karen disappeared suddenly 30 years ago and there’s been a strange presence in the woods ever since. The Curtis’ older daughter Jan begins to feel this strange presence and soon begins seeing images of a young blonde girl with a blindfold. Slowly, Jan begins piecing together the events surrounding Karen’s disappearance. She learns some locals know more than they care to admit and were messing with some dark powers during a solar eclipse.

Many people are saying that Disney might be shying away from making this film available because it's part of that generation of films, i.e., The Black Hole, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Watcher in the Woods, etc. that veered into the weird and strange. I think the weird and strange though is something that's very much in style in 2019. So these films (seem to me) to be ripe for obtaining some kind of cult following, which would only seem to be a good financial decision in the long run since it's just free money.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Titans has actually gotten pretty good.

I upped and re-subscribed to DC Universe again to watch the second season of Titans. It's parceled out at the rate of one new episode every Friday, so if you are a person who likes to blaze through content and then cancel, you'll still want to wait a few weeks for your binge-watch weekend. I did like the first season of Titans, but not as much as I liked Doom Patrol (which seemed to be a fresh-take on just about everything I'd learned about superhero shows). But, to be fair, I haven't been able to watch Titans and not think of Amazon's The Boys and realize how close The Boys actually is to the Titans. The only thing that separates the Titans from the shockingly and all too real The Boys is 1) empathy, 2) ethics and morality, and 3) the removal of scarcity via capitalism through the use of a wealthy benefactor, Bruce Wayne, who just buys everything so that the Titans can be awesome at just being good people.

Unlike some people who are complaining about the series, I actually like the actress cast to play Starfire. Additionally, I think that the casting for the other characters is really good. The guy that plays Nightwing actually has the butt Nightwing is internet-famous for having, and the guy that plays Jason Todd plays that role to the hilt. He's every bit the annoying brat I remember from Detective Comics and Batman comics, which led up to his demise in the four-part story, A Death in the Family (I used to own these but lost most of my comics over the years).

If there is one thing I am finding fault with, it's not story. No, it's the budget and the wonky special effects. They look...bad. However, not unwatcheable bad. Just more on par with your average Asylum film like Sharknado. You can tell exactly when the C.G.I. is being used and when the actors are (in fact) acting in front of a green screen. So there is that.

For example, in the season two premiere, Trigon the Terrible looked as bad as anything I've seen from the Hercules series or Xena series from years and years ago. Yeah...that bad. And Raven has yet to manifest a soul self. I would have thought that the soul self thing would have been an easy C.G.I. effect to do as it's just a shadow in the shape of a raven. However, the way they are doing it is by using clouds of billowing black smoke. When her soul self emerges, it just looks like a swirling/floating whirlwind of black oil bits shaped like razor blades. By far the best effects center around Wonder Girl and Gar. To be fair, Gar's tiger has always looked a "bit" fake. It's not nearly as good as the C.G.I. tiger The Walking Dead had a few years ago when Ezekiel became a main character. But I imagine that The Walking Dead has a huge budget, so they can afford to spend more on things to make them look real. And Wonder Girl's lasso has the same effect of golden light that we saw Wonder Woman using in her movies. So that all looks good.

We also got to see Aqualad in one episode. I thought that his water power looked a bit cheesy, however, it didn't ruin or spoil disbelief. Sure, it wasn't the fantastic powers that Aquaman wields in his own movie, but again, I knew that wasn't going to happen. And...I honestly don't like the way Starfire's powers work, but whatever. She should just be able to energy blast things the same as Captain Marvel. But the way it's working on screen is more like she raises her hands and fire just comes rushing forth in every which (and uncontrolled) way that fire usually goes.

All in all, I think that Titans has actually gotten pretty good. The writing seems to be tight, the actors are giving it their all to inhabit these characters, and the story does appear to be growing. I'm just hoping that more subscribers hop on so that DC Universe can add more budget to the series and give us some spectacular stuff down the road. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Here are nine things I've observed about humans and life on Earth as I know it.

There are people in our country that insist they have "great and unmatched wisdom," when I don't really see it. However, (and in that same vein) it has encouraged me to say about myself that I feel I am exceptionally observant of human behavior, which (then) leads me to this blog post. These are things I've "observed" and come to understand about adults in America (and human behavior in general). It's all personal opinion, and I'll leave it up to you to decide whether I'm right or wrong.

1) People who are grandiose narcissists admire authoritarians and dictators. They also support authoritarian rule, even if they (themselves) are subjected to it. In other words, they have no problem with giving over personal freedoms to a grandiose narcissist in charge of everything.

2) People believe a ban on vaping due to vaping-related illnesses and deaths will save lives. However, many of these same people would not ever use the same argument with regard to guns, because "the issues are completely different." Only...they aren't. But, whatever.

3) A lot of people want something for nothing. Free labor, volunteer work, callings, lending a helping hand, and it's getting harder and harder to come by because people are saying "no" in record numbers. Why? Because "free labor" is an indignity (see item number 6 below for more information).

4) The average person believes their opinion is way more important than it actually is within the scope of a nation. Example: getting a protest together of some 10,000 peeps for issue "X" in one city in America (or maybe several) means there's going to be change and signifies a movement. Then when this doesn't happen, depression and anxiety and hopelessness set in. The cause? They never realized that 10,000, as impressive as it might look in a photo, is nothing as a percentage of an entire population. This world has billions of people on it. That's a number that is hard to comprehend. It can be done, and I for one can grasp how big it is, but a lot of people fail to do so.

5) Most people are terrible at small talk. They try desperately to remember the last time they spoke with you and to think of something to say, and it just ends up awkward (or triggering in the case of reminding a person of things they might have done deep in the past but it's the only thing a person can remember to talk about). It would honestly be best if nothing was said at all with an admittance to the fact that they don't care enough to stay current with what's going on in your life. I've heard it said that the truth shall set you free. It just doesn't make you any friends. More people should just embrace this.

6) Beauty has been glamorized to the point that people don't feel beautiful or pretty if they are subjected to any indignities. And indignities abound in the human race. Taking out the garbage from your house is an indignity. Scrubbing your own toilet, let alone someone else's toilet, is considered an indignity now. Having to drive a used car or mow your lawn is considered an indignity. Caring for an elderly parent is an indignity. Working a low-wage job is an indignity. Not being the head manager is an indignity, and the list goes on and on.

So people who are faced with the prospect of doing any of the above behaviors (and countless others) which used to be perfectly normal are now trauma-inducing. Self-esteem plummets, depression and anxiety set in, and it becomes a huge snowball that just keeps growing until the person bottoms out in society and goes on SSDI or seeks out drugs to assuage the pain that they aren't "beautiful."

I'm actually seeing these behaviors everywhere, and people who are physically pretty and handsome think they are ugly because they must go through the indignity of schoolwork or the indignity of a job. "If I were truly beautiful, then I wouldn't have to do any of these things." And what's even "sadder" if that's even that one of these people "dating" a person who has accepted an indignity "such as a blue collar job" is in itself an "indignity," which makes the person feel ugly. So yeah...vicious circle there for which there is no escape.

I think this idea of mine is at the root of why there is so much fame-seeking these days. People see fame as a portal/exit out of having to be subjected to any indignities that are just natural to life. "I will never have to scrub my own toilet again which proves I'm a beautiful person." Ugh...if I'm right...the human race just sucks.

7) A lot of people don't know what's actually good until someone of status tells them that "X" is good. This goes for art and food and other things. It's almost like "Status Popular" is a real living and breathing entity. "I'm going to ask Status Popular what they think of this art piece. Oh you don't like it? I don't either...." Or another example: "Hey Status Popular...what do you think of this particular car? Should I get it? No? Oh you're so right, I thought it was frumpy too." There are actually few people who (in a vacuum) have legit opinions regarding anything. Additionally, people who get their opinions from "Status Popular" become missionaries in the Cult of Status Popular. In other words, it becomes their mission to point out to others why "Status Popular's" opinion on anything is now the bar by which all things shall be judged.

8) Some people will never be grateful for your mercy, intervention, or help and will resent you for it. No matter how horrific a thing, there is at least some person in the world that legitimately wants it (and in many case there are lots of people who do). So making sweeping generalizations like "everyone craves freedom" is absolutely wrong. There are people out there who actually crave slavery. I'm convinced of this. There are people out there who want to be lied to. And doing the opposite of what a person wants is "trauma-causing" to these people. So yeah...figure that one out. It's honestly something difficult to wrap my head around, but whatever.

9) A lot of people are not comfortable with what they are. Me saying this twists the old adage of "You've got to love yourself before love can enter your life," which I think really means what I said in the previous sentence. "You must be comfortable with what you are, before you can find happiness," is what I think that old adage means. So how is this applicable? If you are a monster, accept that you are a monster. If you are addicted to sex, then admit it, and maybe find a career someplace that allows you to indulge that. If you want to play video games for the rest of your life, then find a career that allows you to play video games. If you are lazy and don't want to work then you probably should try to be a manager of some kind so you can boss your wage slaves around all day and take long lunches and lots of time off on someone else's dollar. Either that or get good at robbing people. My point is that you should embrace what you are and stop fighting against it. Maybe you'll find some kind of happiness; just my two cents. You know how much that's worth.

Monday, October 7, 2019

I don't think running a big-time successful kickstarter can be done by just one person.

I recently started buying into Kickstarters that are both done by authors and by small businesses. I have various reasons for doing this. First, I'm able to get product before it hits the shelves (and much of the time there's a discount and perks), and second, it feels like I'm a valued part of the process by contributing money early to a project. Out of the Kickstarters that I have chosen to give my money to, I've witnessed work being done behind the scenes that quite frankly leaves me breathless. For example, look at the videos. Many of them are high quality, involve scripting, and must convey a large amount of information. On top of that, there's putting together the pledge manager, and communicating with all of the people who chip-in on a project. That's why I think any really decent Kickstarter is going to be the result of a team of people working together. In other words, like many things in life, it takes a village.

If you don't know, Kickstarter has been around for a while. It's a crowd-sourced fund-raising platform that's much different from "GoFundMe," which (quite frankly) doesn't seem to demand any skill since it is just a platform where people go to beg for money. You need money for your healthcare bills? That's GoFundMe and not Kickstarter. Kickstarter is where professionals go who want to raise money for projects that they intend to fulfill. And I've been extremely pleased with the things I've chosen to back (some of which topped a million dollars in Kickstarter funds). While participating in these Kickstarters, I've also analyzed what exactly they are doing, and I've decided to break it down in a post because I find the whole thing fascinating.

First off, these really successful Kickstarters have a great landing page. The landing page already has carefully edited videos for you to watch with details regarding the product usually in prototype form. It tells about the campaign and the different reward levels. In the case of one author (who self-publishes) and runs AMAZING Kickstarters, he already has the book completely finished and in the hands of beta and maybe gamma readers before they even start a kickstarter campaign. I find that to be impressive.

Second, they have stretch goals, which are no small feat. Maybe the goal for the entire Kickstarter to be funded is modest, which seems to be the way most people are going with these things so that they can say the project is funded and begin work on manufacturing said product. But with a modest goal attained early in the process, how then do these Kickstarter operators get people to contribute more money? Well, it's through stretch goals: if we hit this target, then this product gets unlocked. And so on and so forth. The thing is, you've got to have that product ready to be shown and demonstrated and in most cases, you'll want a nice description of it and even a picture so that people can check it out. And the more stretch goals you have, the more marketing potential there is in these things.

Third, social media appears to play a really important role. In the Kickstarters I've been observing, there are already carefully curated Facebook fan pages and YouTube channels where people who are interested in just this product can go and talk about the product with other people. The best Kickstarters are ones that have a community that already participates and shares ideas on a particular thing (and uses said product) who can then talk about the new and different ideas that a company has come up with for their current Kickstarter.

Fourth, FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out) is a big driver of Kickstarters. Basically, what I'm saying is that it's important for the consumer to realize how good a deal a Kickstarter actually is. It helps to have people lament that they missed a Kickstarter publicly online (a Facebook group works perfect for this) or to point to the aftermarket sales of the product on ebay and say, "Look at how much markup there is in this stuff? Do you really want to run the chance of missing out on such a great deal?"

Anyway, it's been really interesting to kind of study all of these things as I've been buying into Kickstarters. I don't think a single person could actually run a good one. There's just too much work to do, and it requires skill sets from people in social media, video editing, writing, and marketing. But if a team of people can somehow get together behind something, I've seen some really remarkable stuff come out of these things.

What about you? Have you ever contributed to a Kickstarter? If yes, what for?

Friday, October 4, 2019

Grim Oak Press is going to publish limited editions of the five books of The Belgariad in hardcover next year and they're taking preorders.

The folks over at Grim Oak Press are putting out a limited edition hardback set of the individual five books that make up The Belgariad. They released the cover of the first book, and I've attached it below. It's by artist Allen Morris.
Do I like the artwork? Not really, but whatever. Maybe it will grow on me. The problem is that I'm so old that I remember when the "young adult" genre didn't exist and Eddings (who is now dead R.I.P.) was considered high fantasy. As soon as things became "young adult" then the covers switched to cartoons (or cartoon-like) drawings. The above looks like a screenshot from World of Warcraft (and anyone that plays WoW will tell you it looks cartoony). Also, Garion in that picture has a fat face...I've never pictured him like that. I'm on board with the drawing of Polgara and Belgarath in the back. I just wish there was more to this picture than three people standing on a farm that's clearly in Sendaria. Another thing this cover smacks of? Magic: the Gathering. It reminds me of artwork I see on Magic cards. I guess I was expecting Michael Whelan, and I didn't get that. I wanted to feel something epic from the painting.

At right is another cover from the UK edition of Pawn of Prophecy that was put out many years ago. You can see what I'm talking about, with the cartoon writing of the words "The Belgariad" and the cartoony sword. So looks like Grim Oak Press is going to continue this trend. Ah well. Who am I to question the categorization of why something is clearly written for children and another thing is clearly not? I'm nobody, that's who.

I still bought the five books and ordered a nice slipcase. All around, it set me back about $400 on pre-order. Why would I spend this kind of money?

Well (quite frankly) I've been looking for hardcover editions of The Belgariad for a really long time now. All you can easily find are the paperbacks and the omnibus editions (volume one has books 1-3 and volume two has books 4-5). And I'm not a fan of omnibus editions now that I own a house and have nice bookshelves. So yeah, you could say I've become a snobby book collector. But I don't care. I like my books and I like my snobbery, so there.

About a decade ago, another fine publisher called Easton Press (I think) put out limited edition hardbound and leather-bound copies of The Belgariad. Those are extremely rare and expensive to get. I saw them once on Ebay on sale for around $4,000. That's waaaaayyy beyond anything I will EVER get to afford. So picking up these five hardcovers seems like a way to check off a book I've wanted to collect from a list I've carried around for years.

And I still have one other concern: the newsletter mailed out to all of us that participated (thus far) in the preorder says they are looking for beta readers to look for errors in the original word processing text files for these books. In their words (more or less) they said, "these files are so old that they didn't update to modern software well." That made me shake my head. I'm not going to volunteer my time to sift through books I remember very fondly looking for errors, and I bet the people they do find will not be qualified to do so. You get what you pay for, right? So expectations on these hardcovers is plummeting with every update to the Grim Oak Press website.

However!...and silver lining as it were...the books I have seen from Grim Oak Press have been extremely high in quality. The stitching is perfect, the font is laser sharp, the paper is absolutely beautiful, and the interior illustrations have been incredible. So there is that. Maybe I just need to readjust my attitude and have faith that these books will ultimately be spectacular and make me smile in pleasure every time I see them (once they are on my shelves).

Anyone else intrigued out there? Andrew, I know you are/were a fan of The Belgariad. Are you picking up the five books for your collection? These are pretty rare things to come across, just saying.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The answer is complicated when asking if aspiring writers should read other people's books.

It's October, and that means (aside from Halloween) that the Insecure Writer's Support Group has yet another question to answer up on its blogfest link. So I'm participating :). If you too would like to sign up for the IWSG, please go HERE, and then at some point, thank Mr. Alex J. Cavanaugh for starting the whole thing. The October 2nd question is as follows:

It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

Ho boy...the IWSG went there, did they? Folks, I don't think people have any business writing when they don't read other people's books. But I realize that there are those who do this and use the above excuse (I happen to work with one) and I gotta say, it seems incredibly narcissistic. However, grandiose narcissism is really on the rise in this country so I guess...when in Rome? If you don't mind my thinking of you as a toxic narcissist, then write away.

The book industry owes nothing to anyone, and neither does capitalism. We have billionaire Kardashians who make all their money selling lipstick and who are famous for being famous. We have people with incredible educations who can barely make a living, and we have young people who were born pretty that become famous and rich for just looking good. So to be fair in answering this question, you don't have to do anything. You too deserve to be a celebrity; the world just doesn't know about you yet. "You are not the boss of me!" is a very fitting rebuttal to anyone who might suggest you actually read before writing a book. It's very "American." I have a toxic grandiose narcissist friend who regularly applies to be CEO of companies or sends his resume into jobs at colleges to be Dean of such and such. He only has a high school diploma, that's it. He hasn't gotten hired by any of them, but in his mind he thinks that this is the right kind of job for him. Anything less than six figures is a waste of his time. I could care less about what he does, because his business with me is related to Dungeons & Dragons. Whatever else he's got going on in his life is none of my business, and I happily embrace that.

The thing is, capitalism doesn't reward the smart any more than it rewards the reckless and stupid. That's just a fact. So a person who has never read a book can get lucky and (complete with spelling errors and terrible plot) get enough people to buy copies of their schlock to make a ton of money and count themselves as successful. Denying that this exists and does happen is just being naïve. Denying that the unskilled and the unworthy aren't regularly rewarded is a complete lie. In my own personal experience, I've seen it happens often enough that it seems commonplace (it's just never happened to me). Luck exists, and it shines its light in the oddest places, and you can beat yourself up over the hundreds of reasons your brain comes up with to answer the question: why can't I reproduce so and so's success?

When it comes to writing, I don't think that there's a formula for success. I don't think that any one person actually knows what makes something go viral, or what makes a person's book resonate with a large audience. If they did, it would be marketable and reproduceable and packaged. Seeing that it's not, then there's a hard truth to face: no matter how much time and effort you put into something there's a chance you will never see any reward of any kind. However, I do think that reading other people's books could provide you with at least some things that might help you. And that advice comes with a caveat: if you hate reading and you "must" read, don't waste your time by reading the writing of people who aren't producing the kind of success you crave. In other words, if money is what you want, then read books that are written by authors making a ton of money off their books. Don't waste your valuable intellectual time by delving into the latest fantasy porn book written by a self-published author that makes $8 a month in book sales. That's just a complete waste of time, even if you may feel deeply or superficially satisfied with such a story. That being said, here are things that reading gives to you that become tools for you as a writer:

1) You learn what's popular and who's buying. I'll give you a hint on this one: men of all ages aren't really readers anymore. People like me are very rare (I've read 36 books this year). Most readers are women, and women crave very different things than men. If you want your best chance at selling books, you're going to want to market your books to women to have the best chance at achieving your goal. For every dollar spent on a book by a man, there's probably a hundred dollars spent on books by women. So reading books written by women for women will give you an idea of what women like.

2) You'll find out if your idea has already been done before. I had a friend that wanted to start a business (and was looking for investors) to deliver furnace filters to homes every month. I googled furnace filter delivery businesses for him and showed him four in the Salt Lake area that are already doing this and then politely refused to invest in his idea. He never went anywhere with it...balloon popped as it were.

3) You will discover that every single human out there has a story they want someone to listen to or read. I think that's an important realization. And being a consumer instead of a content creator has its own reward. Since I bought a house, I've purchased beautiful book shelves, and I've been buying lovely hardcover book editions of favorite authors. My being a consumer has brought me pleasure, and made me realize that there's a lot of work and artistic love that goes into creating these things and that it was all done with me in mind. All I had to do was shell out some money. I didn't have to arrange for publishers to print said masterpieces, or to coordinate with copy editors, or to make arrangements with cover artists...someone else did all of that for me. 

So to finish this long blog post, I am one person, and I can tell if someone doesn't read books and is instead a "content creator" and "narcissist" wanting to direct others to their writing. The "I don't read, but I have something I've written for you to read" doesn't go far with me. I'm not interested in what that person has to say, and I'll politely decline and move onto things that pique my interest. But I am one person. Even if you sold me a book, you'd probably pocket $2.00. That's chump change. Go out and make your millions, be a success, etc. I honestly wish you well. Just don't count on a sale from me.

I gotta say, this was one interesting question from the IWSG.