What ‘The Last Jedi’ Teaches Us About Story

What 'The Last Jedi' Teaches Us About Story“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”

That’s the quote I kept thinking of as I watched The Last Jedi. Someone must have been channeling Friedrich Nietzsche because the meaning of his famous quote is woven throughout the 2.5 hours of cinema paradiso that is Star Wars VIII. Continue reading

Just Write.

Waited a long time to write this. From Bill Cosby to Kevin Spacey, 2017 has been the year of the Silence Breakers. Why did it take so long, we ask. Why didn’t we see this before? How can we prevent this from happening again? None of these are new questions for Hollywood. Bad behavior among creative people has been a thing since Charlie Chaplin met Mildred Harris.

People will behave badly as long as the community lets them. Hollywood’s interpetation of noblesse oblige begins and ends with how bankable an entity you seem to be. When the money stops, the party is over. Continue reading

New Short Story Published – The Battle of Victoria Crater

I’m pleased to say that I’ve published another short story. The Battle of Victoria Crater is now available on Amazon or anywhere else you like to buy your favorite books. What’s TBoVC about? Here’s a quick synopsis:

“Martin grows up on the harsh, haunting landscape of Mars dodging bullets, freezing temperatures and hired guns. How can a raw, hard-bitten group of colonists hope to survive against a menacing Earthbound corporation? What will happen if they give up and go home? Continue reading

Another Reason I Won’t Be Self-Publishing ‘Mesh’

Open up Twitter to get some more bad news for self-publishing authors. According to this article, Amazon no longer allows you to review books unless you can prove you’ve purchased them through Amazon:

To write a Customer Review, you must have used your account to purchase any item or service on Amazon (free digital content doesn’t qualify toward this requirement.)

Something tells me that this rule isn’t necessarily hard-and-fast. I doubt all the reviews for ‘Star Wars’ came *after* the users bought them on Amazon. Ditto for ‘Moby Dick,’ ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ or ‘The Fault in Our Stars.’ Continue reading

Fledgling Authors Need New Readers

Reddit is walking/talking contradiction in terms. I find it hard sometimes to reconcile the weird and/or dark places it gets to, with the beauty of insights I get on a daily basis.

Case in point, read this Bestof post and realized how similar the IndieDev journey is to my journey. He articulates where I want to be better than I can! So rather than attempting to rehash the same idea, here is what this one developer said, and then I’ll talk about why I think this applies to pipsqueak authors like me: Continue reading

New Short Story Out: Planet Ugh

Just published a new short story, bringing the count to seven shorts published in the past year. Planet Ugh was inspired by Youtube comments. The aliens have arrived, and Earth makes first contact. Do they think we’re ready to meet the rest of the universe? Our representative makes his case, but the conversation isn’t going well …

I wrote it for fun, and I hope you have fun reading it. It’s available on Amazon if you’d like to support me. You can also get it for free when you join the mailing list.

One Guy’s Simple Explanation for the Disney / LA Times Fight

I hate to see friends fight.

Like me, you may have been watching the fight between Disney and the Los Angeles Times over journalism, and early-access to Disney projects. It got more interesting yesterday, when the A.V. Club announced they would no longer attend Disney press screenings until the LA Times could.

Now look, I barely have a dog in this fight, but I know a bit about the industry after spending some years around it. Some people online do not understand why this is a problem, or what is wrong with this picture.

To help explain, I’m reposting a quick primer on the relationship between media companies like Disney and the Los Angeles Times that I originally wrote on Reddit:

In any consumer-based ecosystem, public relations make up a huge part of their marketing stream. It’s absolutely vital to them to have large media outlets talking about their product, discussing their product, reviewing their product. Media outlets, in turn, know that some of their readership are turning to them to know whether or not an upcoming product (in this case movies) are worth consuming and this readership factors into their entire reason for existence. One of the quiet rules of this relationship is You give us access and we’ll give you press / You give us press and we’ll give you access. Is this a symbiotic relationship? Absolutely. Is it ethical? No more or less ethical than a marriage where one spouse works and the other one keeps house. Sure, they could do the job on their own, but they’re much more successful when working as a unit.

Now, Disney is turning a symbiotic relationship into a dysfunctional relationship.Disney’s threatening the relationship and the rules that govern it. It’d be like a husband going “Hey, I didn’t like how you made dinner, so I’m not going to work” or a wife going “hey, we don’t make enough money, so I’m withholding sex.”

Actually, it’s even worse, because the animus is one-sided. The LA Times didn’t malicously report on Disney’s behavior. Disney didn’t even deny that it was happening. Disney’s acting in an abusive way by saying “even though I know you have to work, you’re not working enough for me.” They’re dog-whistling to the LA Times that they think they really wear the pants in the family and if the news org knows what’s good for them, they’ll get into line. It’s a toxic, dysfunctional effort at brinksmanship, but that’s why AV Club’s involvement is so important.

AV Club in this case is acting like the neighbor who knows both spouses and calls out the abusive spouse on their behavior. “Hey,” they’re saying, “if you like having me to dinner, you’ll sort this out like yesterday. I won’t tolerate this in my presence and if you go forward with this, you won’t find a lot of shoulders to cry on.”

If Disney is smart, they’ll figure a way out of this because as of right now, they aren’t coming off well. At the same time, we go through this every few years and the LA Times is by no means innocent of acting poorly.

Media outlets have occasionally gotten too big for their britches, too. One side of the table or others starts throwing its weight around, the other side stands up for itself and we all learn valuable lessons.

Remember the 2008 Writers Strike? Exactly. Stuff bubbles up, we yell, things get worked out, and life moves on.

This, too, shall pass.

Update – This has already passed … Disney ended the ban on the Los Angeles Times

Everybody Starts Somewhere and Other Notes

Hello sports fans …

Some quick notes while I take a break from being a writer to get over this bug I came down with. Re-watching Season One of Stranger Things in preparation for the next season that releases in a couple of days. I know I’ve talked about it before, but really … I’m filled with professional and creative jealousy when I watch this show. It’d be the highlight of my life to write something as good as what the Duffer Brothers came up with.

Go See Blade Runner 2049 While You Can

Blade Runner 2049 is being called a ‘disappointment’ for not making more money than it should have. I have my thoughts on why it doesn’t matter, but so does everyone else. Let’s not discuss or waste time. This is simply a movie you need to see in the theater. So go do it, while you can.

Last Point

Someone on Reddit just posted this and I love it. In 1984, Steven Soderbergh submitted a tape to Lucasfilm, showcasing an idea he had for a project.

Now, in the world of ‘Behind the Music’ and other biopics, this is supposed to represent a kismet moment. The moment that the Director of ‘Oceans Eleven’ meets the makers of ‘Star Wars.’ Music swells. The Journey Begins. Honestly, how cool would that be?

Yet for all of that coolness, the reality is much more ironic. Lucasfilm rejected Soderbergh out of hand, and this rejection letter is the proof. I’m showing you this, not to judge, but to say that ‘everyone starts somewhere.’ Before Steven Soderberg was THE Steven Soderbergh he was a guy living in a crappy apartment two blocks from the LSU campus and light-years away from the bright lights of Hollywood. He was a nobody, just like you and me.

Don’t fear being rejected. Don’t fear being unknown. Everyone starts somewhere. Just like you and me.


Yes, You Need Beta Readers

“Ouch,” I said. “This hurts. It’s also exactly what I needed to know.”

In between updates and binging ‘Mindhunters,’ I’m talking with my Beta Readers. They are hard at work making suggestions and providing feedback on Mesh. Just hearing from them is an experienc unto itself and I wanted to talk about it. Here’s why:

You can only know up to a point what people will think of your work. I can make a guess at how I think my story or my art will land with someone, but after that it’s really up to them. More often than not, you will have your assumptions challenged when they aren’t being completely destroyed.

So the question is, when do you want to hear that your book isn’t good: before or after it comes out? Me, I’d rather know before it comes out and you probably do, too.

Some authors don’t think so. Dean Wesley Smith, for example, will tell you that beta readers harm rather than help you. Nonsense. Beta readers are incredibly valuable to the writing experience. Without a Beta Readers, an author can spend ten years sending out query letters with no response because their work isn’t sellable and they never asked an objective audience to tell them the truth.

If you’re an author, you NEED to hear what people think of your work.

The information only hurts if you have an ego to bruise. Kill your ego, murder your darling. Your ego isn’t going to pay you for listening to it, but the readers will! It’s definitely within your interest to have the people you plan to sell your book to tell you what they think of it.

It’s not just that sucking is the first step toward being good at something. There’s an extra step in the process: How are you going to learn to suck less if you don’t know you suck?

This is the value of a good Beta Reader. They will tell you if you suck, why you suck, where you suck and when you suck. Know that you suck. Put your stuff out there. Hear it. Feel it. Accept it. Then start working at sucking less. Then listen, as they tell you how to suck less.

Don’t worry if you suck. You do. It’s okay. We all do.