Monday, July 28, 2014

Whinging Writers

Every so often a writer will soar to dizzying levels of fame and that causes other writers to moan and become really bitter and childish about it like the successful writer...cheated, or something? EL James and Stephanie Meyer are two of the most beloved and hated writers to come about for a while. I hated Fifty Shades of Grey (I did read it to the end though) but I loved the Twilight books (despite their flaws)

I was on a blog the other day reading about the new trailer to the Fifty Shades of Grey movie (which I admit I will go and see out of curiosity if it is better than the book)one person in the comments started complaining about how it wasn't fair that their writer friend was languishing in obscurity on Amazon while EL James and Stephanie Meyer continued to rake in the cash.

I'll admit it is annoying that EL James is making money off a badly written piece of fan fiction but she did not cheat or con her way to the top she got there all on her own even if I find it slightly questionable ethically that her book is based so much off Twilight. I don't judge her for her success. She has earned it. She wrote a book that appealed to a lot of women (and conned the stupid term "Mommy Porn" - vomit)

At least with Stephanie Meyer she wrote an original piece of fiction that was not a piece of fan fiction. One of the things I like the most about her books is one of the things people hate the most. I love how her vampires glitter. Think about it. They look like porcelain gods and they use their supernatural beauty to lure people close and then CHOMP they have their dinner. What I didn't like about their vampires was how they didn't have fangs. That was dumb. I think a lot of people hate on the Twilight books a little too much and chose to view the books through weird coloured lenses. When I read the books I didn't see an abusive relationship. Yes, Bella was way too attached, but I didn't think Edward was bad or creepy like so many other people do. I certainly did not think the book was overly sexual. If anything the books were tame as shit. They barley even kissed until they were married for Christ's sake.

I really hate it when other writers whinge that it's not fair that they haven't been successful yet. It's childish and annoying. If you have not been discovered yet work harder at writing a better book and then get out there and market the hell out of it.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Word Crimes is so funny!

Carry Me Away has a cover!

Carry Me Away has a cover and it is beautiful! It was made by Yocla Designs. I'm very happy with it. I'm in the middle of doing some edits and minor rewrites of Carry Me Away. I am almost finished but with a new baby and university beginning again on Monday my time is a little restricted especially when my little peanut demands cuddles from me all day long. I am hoping to finish it soon though. I wrote it back in 2012 so it is going to be great to finally see it polished and published. I am thinking of rewriting a story I wrote back in 2009/2010 next called "Forever In Your Arms" which is another short story that focuses on Zeus.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Clones: why haven't more people written about them?

I just finished watching Orphan Black season two. I really enjoyed it. I really like how the show is about clones. The idea feels so fresh. It got me wondering how come clones haven't been done more in books, tv and films? It's hard to come up with an original idea for anything these days because a lot of things have been done to death: vampires, witches, zombies gods and goddesses, fairies, mermaids and so on. But yet somehow clones have not. The only thing I can think that used them is Star Wars Attack of the Clones. It's nice to see something on TV that is brand new and original and not a reboot or based on a bored tired idea.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

George R.R Martin says "Fuck you" to people who question if he will ever finish a Song of Ice and Fire series

George Martin's series "A Song of Ice and Fire" has been popular for over 20 years but did not shoot to super pop culture fame until the HBO series "Game of Thrones" came onto television. With the show due to start its fifth season next year a lot of people are becoming worried that the show is going to catch up to the books and even surpass them putting even more pressure on George to finish his mammoth series than ever before. On top of that he has to constantly answer questions about his age and health. People think that because he is a big man that he must be very unhealthy and coupled with being in his late sixties they think he is going to die before he finishes his books.

I can remember reading back when JK Rowling was writing Harry Potter she had such bad writers block writing the fourth book and was under so much pressure to finish something she considered breaking her arm to give herself a break from writing. She didn't end up doing anything that drastic, thankfully, and was able to finish the book.

It must be terrible to be under so much pressure as a writer. I don't know how George R.R Martin does it. His series is insane. I don't know how he remembers all the plots and characters and other tiny details of his huge world. He is brilliant at what he does. I could never tackle a task as huge as a Song of Ice and Fire. Hell, in the last couple of years, I have only written short stories because I do not have the energy to tackle anything bigger than that which would involve any world building or research. It takes a long time to write a novel and a huge amount of creative energy and dedication.

George should be congratulated with sticking with his series for so long and continuing at it at a pace he is comfortable with. I'e read that even if he does die tomorrow he has already set the ground work for how the whole thing will end so people can relax something will come out to tie up all those lose ends.

The new Sailor Moon anime Sailor Moon Crystal is totally awesome

I've been a huge Sailor Moon fan since I first saw the show in 1997. The thing that sucked me in was the transformations. I loved the music, the lights, and how they spun around. It was just so magical. I'm 30 now and I am still a huge fan and have a collection of Sailor Moon books and toys that is pretty impressive. I've been thinking about my next big purchase and I'm torn between a high quality moon wand, a large figurine, or some perfume. Decisions! Decisions!

I first heard about the new anime two years ago and promptly lost my shit. It was exciting enough for me as a fan when they re-released the manga in English enabling me to read the entire series from start to finish. Then new merchandice started trickling in. Suddenly, instead of my choice of over priced dolls on ebay from the original anime to pick from, I had my choice of a big wide wonderful world of new stuff.

I'd watched the live action, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, back when it aired in 2004 and liked it enough. It took the show in some interesting directions but it was nothing compared to the master piece that was the anime. Sailor Moon Crystal was everything I hoped it would be: awesome animation, new and improved music, and a more faithful adaption of the manga.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the series and hopefully seeing some awesome manga moments come to the screen: Venus's sword, the flashbacks to the Moon Kingdom, and Usagi's wand lengthening into a big staff in her final fight with Beryl. There were some things about the anime I did not like: the mouths are funny, I don't like the new design of Jedite (although it was not as bad as the stupid wig the poor guy had to wear who played him in the live action...)

One thing I loved, loved, loved about the new anime was its theme song Moon Pride. I know a lot of people were disappointed they did not go with Moonlight Destiny but I'm glad they did something new and took a risk. The song is awesome. I particularly like the bit that says "We are not helpless girls who need men's protection!"


Seriously...we need more shows like Sailor Moon that have messages like that for little girls. I have a little girl now and I get pissed off in the shops when I see spider-girl costumes that come with a tutu. Spider-girl does NOT wear a tutu so why is there one on this stupid outfit!?! Does everything for girls have to be cute? Don't get me wrong I love buying cute stuff for my daughter but girls can sometimes want to kick butt too and you can't do that in a tutu.

Which I guess does bring up a point about Sailor Moon's outfit being super impractical for fighting crime...hahaha...yeah, that's true, but the bit about them not needing men's protection is still awesome. I love how Sailor Moon is not always brave, she falls and gets hurt, but gets up again and defeats the bad guy. And then goes for ice cream.

Side note: if I was going to be a super hero I would have the Pink Ranger's costume from the first season. It's the most practical female super hero costume ever: it has a helmet to protect your head, it's pink, light weight, has sensible fighting boots and a little skirt. It's a little bit sexy while being light weight enough to do back flips in and ride a motorcycle too and from crime. I've always hated how female super heroes (yes even Sailor Moon) are always made to have really sexy outfits when in reality the last thing you want to do is fight crime in a mini skirt and go go boots.

Some of the comments about Sailor Moon Crystal on the internet made me roll my eyes. I hate the people who think that everything should send a positive message to kids. People think that Usagi is too skinny now and complained that unlike in the manga and original anime she did not have a bit of toast in her mouth as she ran out the door on the way to school. I read one comment that said if she'd be shown with the toast it would have sent a positive message to kids about the importance of eating breakfast.

Oh for god's sake. Pull that stick out of your butt and just enjoy the damn show.

Then there were complaints about Usagi being made to stand outside her classroom door for being late (HOW WILL SHE IMPROVE IN HER STUDIES?!?) and her mother kicking her out of the house for an afternoon for failing a test (SHE IS ONLY FOURTEEN WHERE WILL SHE GO?) In answer to the last one, she was kicked out for an afternoon, not forever. Jesus. Lighten up. Take a breath.

There were comments about Tuxedo Mask walking around in a tuxedo. Yeah, granted, he's not trying super hard to get his identity a secret and Usagi is a bit dumb to not connect the dots sooner. But I get annoyed when people call him a pedophile for his relationship with Usagi. Yes, she is fourteen, but the age of consent in Japan is 13 and Tuxedo Mask is supposed to be 16-18 in the manga. The age difference between them is not that extreme.

I hope their relationship is shown in a more flattering light in this new anime than in the last one. In the manga they have a really healthy sex life and it'd be great if they show that in later seasons tastefully. The manga also showed that they had an interest in each other before they found out about their past lives. The anime sometimes made it come across that they were only together because they were in the past and had to remain together or else Chibi-Usa would not exist one day.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Write what you know...what do you mean by that?

"Write what you know" is one of the most common pieces of advice given to writers. There is a belief among some that you should only write about your own experiences and observations in life and you should not touch upon subjects that you have no experience or knowledge about. I've never understood why people think this is a good idea. We are writers. If we do not know the answer to something we research it. We go out and experience it. We read about it. We ask questions. We go online. We imagine. We create worlds that do not exist. Or we imagine what it would be like to visit a place on the other side of the world.

I'm sure most writers would love to be able to spend most of their waking hours researching their next project. If I had the chance to do it I would travel to Greece and visit all of the museums and historical sites. But I can't afford it. So I research those places and then I use the best tool I have. I imagine what it would be like to be there.

Drawing on your own life experiences can be a good source of inspiration for writers but do not restrict yourself to writing just about your own observations in life. Research, research, research. There is some advice you should listen too. If you want to write about the Amazon jungle but you can't afford to go there then read up about it! Watch some videos! Try and find someone who has gone and ask them what it was like. As long as you have an imagination you can write about anything.

Emotional connections to characters

How do you get readers to emotionally connect with a character? Can a reader only care for a character who is in a situation that they can relate to? Is is possible to connect with a character in a setting that is far from reality?

It's an interesting question. How far can we, as readers, suspend belief? Does a story have to be rooted in reality to make us want to root for the characters? I don't think so. I think most people read for escapism. We want a good story and most of the time we will probably want an interesting story set in an interesting world far from our own. That is the definition of escapism. Life can be boring, tiring, monotonous. Sometimes we want to get away from it all. We want to pretend we are a cowboy in the old west, a captain of a space ship, an alien, a witch, or a princess locked in a tower. It's fun. It's enjoyable. It doesn't matter that the stories are fantastical. We care for the characters because we become them.

Harry Potter, Frodo Bagins, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker...are all characters set in fantastical worlds that people care deeply for. I'm sure if they kill off Han in the new Star Wars films there will be an uproar because he is one of the most beloved characters in science fiction history. People do care. It doesn't matter that the world these characters live in is different from our own. We can imagine living in it. Because that's what an imagination is for.

I think it can be good to leave reality behind for a little bit sometimes. We all need a break from our lives and books and TV and film can provide us with a way to relax and unwind and forget about work for an hour or so. That's not to say that readers cannot connect to characters in literature or non fiction stories either. In the past couple of years I have gotten into reading autobiographies and they can be just as enjoyable. The difference with those stories is the people in them are real and the events really happened. It's less escapism and more being an observer to someone else's life. Personally, I find fiction more enjoyable, but there is something fascinating about non-fiction. I guess I do emotionally root more for characters in autobiographies (especially since I read true crime books) because I know they're a real person and the events I'm reading about actually happened. But that does not mean that I do not care just as much for fictional characters.

How much a reader cares for a character (whether they are in a fiction or non-fiction book) comes down to the talent of the writer in the end NOT the choice in genre.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How to handle it when someone gives you a bad review

It can be hard when someone gives you a bad review. It stings. It's like a slap to the face. Ordinarily, I don't mind them if someone gives me constructive criticism. Tell me what you did not like. What did not work? How can I improve the story? How can I improve as a writer and write better stories in the future? Don't just tell me "It sucked" or insult me and my level of skill. Give me advice. Help me. That's what a good critique should be. Give me something to work with.

As annoying as unhelpful criticism can be on the flip side it can be equally annoying when someone tells me "It's good" or "I liked it" and doesn't go into any further detail. What did you like? What worked? What did not work? What was your favorite bit? I also hate it when I get critiques that are too glowing, people who gush "Oh my goood you are the most talented writer ever!" That's great you think so! Thanks! But surely there was something I could improve. No one is perfect. Tell me what you didn't like!

In summary, a good critique lists both good and bad points, has constructive criticism, a little praise and does not include personal bias or insults. Some writers don't know how to handle raw honest opinions. I've seen more than one writer on the internet embarrass themselves by throwing a tantrum after someone gave their book a review that wasn't that harsh just honest about some flaws in their writing and was nice enough to contain some really good constructive criticism!

There was this one woman who self published her book and it got reviewed on a blog. The reviewer gave it three stars and said it had some issues but was otherwise not bad. The woman responded in the comments really aggressively and accused him of reviewing an unedited version of the manuscript (which he denied) and the whole thing snowballed from there. The whole thing went viral and other people started commenting on the blog. The number of comments swelled to a couple of thousand and soon the woman was being mocked all over the internet for her unprofessional attitude.

I've even seen some famous writers throw tantrums online after someone gave their book a less than glowing review. Writers being unable to accept bad reviews has gotten so bad in some circumstances there have been some who have gone on crusades against their reviewers and done "revenge reviews" on their books to "get back" at them for daring to call their own works anything less than a masterpiece.

If you want to succeed at anything in life you need to be able to accept criticism even when you disagree with everything the person is saying and think they're a total douchecanoe. Even if someone tells you right to your face "You have no talent and I would not wipe my ass with pages from your book!" you need to force a smile, nod, tell them "Thank you for taking the time to read my book" and then you go home and bitch about the whole thing in private to your best friend over the phone while eating ice cream straight out of a tub.

But it can be so hard to do that sometimes. I got an irritatingly bad review this week and it frustrated the hell out of me because I got marked down not for something that was wrong with my story but for my choice of genre. I disagreed with everything this person had to say about my work and I was all ready to bang out an email to politely debate each of her points with her but then I stopped myself.

I thought "No. It's not worth it. She won't change her mind. I still passed. I should be grateful for that I suppose. I don't agree with her comments but she is entitled to them."

I deleted the email and spent the rest of the day pacing the house irritated instead. I'm glad I did not make an ass out of myself over the whole thing. I think I did the right thing not emailing her. I don't agree with a word that she said and her comments were a little hurtful, but she is entitled to them.

I've been thinking about the whole thing a lot. I think after the initial hurt of bad reviews wears off they can actually be a source of inspiration for writers. I got a really hurtful comment about my writing back in high school from some random kid online and it stayed with me for years. It haunted me. I was angry for a long time over what that kid said to me but eventually I decided I was going to set out to prove her wrong about my ability to write. I got back into writing with even more determination than before.