Sunday, October 30, 2011

Movie Night: In Time

Since I'm already ripping off Carrie Vaughn's writing, I might as well rip off her blogging, too.

In the opening moments, a brief narration tells us -- essentially -- "Suspend your disbelief and just go with it." A few problems aside, I was able to do so. Viewers inclined to nit-pick will have more trouble. In terms of story, there seemed to be a lot of wasted potential. The rich guy giving the impoverished hero 100 years at the beginning felt like it should have been significant, but it's just a means to get the plot rolling. Likewise, the issue of why the hero's father died is dropped abruptly. And the premise, in general, wasn't explored as well or as deeply as I would have liked. But it was an adequate film with good performances and structure. Sci-fi that favors ideas over special effects is rare enough to be praiseworthy despite its shortcomings.

You could argue that this film is a socialist or communist fable. Maybe. It depends on whether or not you consider Robin Hood a socialist fable, since it's basically the same idea. Here before us is a corrupt society where the privileged are few and the peasants are many. In comes this heroic criminal, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor in the name of social justice. With his hot girlfriend, which I suppose gives it a bit of Bonnie and Clyde too.

Regardless of that, people who want to get some perspective on the rage over class divides in America would do well to understand the underlying metaphor here. If you, like me, grew up middle-class in the suburbs, in a family that was living the American dream, you might never get your head around the idea that on a fundamental level, money is life. Those people in Zuccotti Park railing about their poor employment prospects and huge student loans aren't really afraid of someone being more comfortable or successful than them. They're afraid of one day dying in the gutter because they can't afford a meal, or freezing to death in the cold because they couldn't pay the rent. Writers are told: show, don't tell. A thousand men and women with placards talking about their problems can get the message across, but how much more powerful is the image of a woman dropping dead in the street because she went broke?

In Time is a crappy title, BTW. I suspect the whole reason for it is because they hope to make a sequel called Out of Time. I'd watch it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Blog Hopping 10/28/2011

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! You're looking at my personal blog, home to the rants and ramblings of an aspiring author. I also do reviews of werewolf books, which are here. New this week is a review of Brush of Darkness!  Come this Monday, we'll have a review of Eternal as well. Have fun hopping!

This weeks ice-breaker for the Book Blogger Hop:

“What is your favorite Halloween costume? Even if you don’t celebrate, what kinds of costumes do you like?”

Eh, not really a fan of Halloween. But, when I was a kid, I was a huge fan of the Ranklin-Bass animated film version of The Hobbit. So my mother, who at the time was still a stay-at-home mom, made me a Bard the Hunter costume, complete with bow and everything. We went out trick-or-treating, and everyone commented on what a great Robin Hood I made.

People have no appreciation of good literature.

This week's ice-breaker for TGIF @ GReads:

"Spooktacular Reads: Which books do you consider festive Halloween reads? Which stories have chilled you to the bone?"

Umm, didn't we get this exact same question a few weeks ago? Well, in any case, I'm not really into scary stories. I've only read one real thriller for my blog, but it's a good one: David Wellington's Frostbite. A page-turning suspense read about the evil done in the Canadian Arctic by werewolves and ordinary men both. Fun times. ^_^

Also, while I have the opportunity, I'd like to apologize for my conduct on the hop last week. The "question" offended me and seemed uncreative, that is true. But the right thing to do would have been to skip the hop that week, not create drama. Sorry.

And that's all until next week! Have a look around, and happy hopping!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mission Report

Hate doing this kind of thing on Sundays, but it is what it is. Check my watch: 4:50 P.M.. Library closes at five, same time as the appointment I have cross-town. Simple job: make the drop, infiltrate the complex, find the package, get to the church on time. No time to lose.

Get out of the car, wishing I had cool shades to whip off dramatically. Do a fast swagger across the parking lot,  paperback in hand. Whip past the book drop, and in it goes, clang-clang. Objective one complete.

Without breaking stride, I head to the door. Security guard in a suit tries to stop me. I bluff past him quickly, the old "I belong here and I'm in a hurry" routine.

"We're closing in ten minu..."

"I don't need that long."

No need to check the catalog, I know exactly where I'm headed. Right at the circ. desk, up the stairs, down the hall to the Young Adult room. I stand out here, being way too big, but no big deal. Just act like I belong here.

At the stacks, I hit problem #1: the book's not where it should be. I curse under my breath. This wasn't unexpected: the author's name is common, and the library doesn't bother shelving series together. I scan the shelves book by book, wasting valuable time. It's not here. Damn! All this way for nothing. I'm about to give up when I realize: this is the end of the row. I wheel around, eyes scanning the stacks behind me. No company, but there on the shelf is objective two. Double-checking for possible interference, I pocket it.

I slip out of the stacks, unnoticed. Head back the way I came. But I make a classic amateur mistake: let my guard down. I spot something out of the corner of my eye a second before it grabs me by my attention, wanting to know where I think I'm going. I size him up quick: Short, but stocky and serious. Built like steel. (Probably because he is steel, or at least very shiny aluminum.) The usual array of books laid out on his midsection... classic New Books Cart. Hanging off his left side I notice an unidentified tome: Black with a red wolf silhouette on the spine. We've just had a complication.

I go for it before him. Getting more than he bargained for, he struggles to hold onto it. Taking care of the trump card is always priority one. Is this what I think it is? Check cover, cover quotes, looks pretty legit. quick scan of a random page. No doubt, this guy's part of The Pack. I wrest it away from him. Once I've got the red wolf book, Mr. Cart has no skills. I match a flurry of titles and spine with practiced disdain, and within he's against the wall, unmoving. For the second time, I wish I could punctuate the moment with some cool shades. Then I remember I'm not Jason Bourne, and the fast-tempo fight music is only playing in my head. I'm a guy who just picked a book off the new books cart. Squaring my shoulders, I pull that same saunter back to the door.

Girl at the check-out station gives me no trouble. I pass the same security drone on the way out, target and bonus in hand, and toss off my one-liner:

"Told you."

Despite my confidence, time is running short. I don't bother checking my watch, I know I'm running short. I start the car and gun it through the parking lot at a safe and respectable pace, then make a not-really-hard right turn with no squealing wheels onto the road. I pass a major intersection, tearing through a green light as cars swirl around me. At a corner, I take another soft right, screaming down the cross-street at a full five miles per hour. Noone follows. Going to stealth mode, I swing into the parking lot, nestle the car lightly between two others.

Miracle of miracles, I'm on time. Good thing too. Mr. Big doesn't like to be kept waiting. I stroll nonchalantly into the building, take up my seat in the pew just as 5:00 mass starts. I smile, light an imaginary cigarette, and toss off a random one-liner.

"Always on time, baby."

With the right attitude, ordinary life is an adventure.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Blog Hopping 10/21/2011

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! You're looking at my personal blog, home to the rants and ramblings of an aspiring author. I also do reviews of werewolf books, which are here, on a separate blog. Feel free to visit and follow both. Since last time, I've talked about broken-down cars, pimped-out cars, e-book pricing, and self-control. Come this Monday, we'll have a review of Brush of Darnkess on the other blog. Have fun hopping!

Book Blogger Hop

This weeks ice-breaker for the Book Blogger Hop:

“What is your favorite type of candy?”

Ah, a Halloween question. Well, I don't eat a lot of hardcore candy, favoring softer stuff like cookies and Pop-Tarts, but when I go decadent, I get Resses Pieces. They're like M&Ms, only peanut-buttery. What's not to like?

This week's ice-breaker for TGIF @ GReads:

"Pick 5 book blogs you visit often & think others should, too."

No. And I'll tell you why: because you just turned your blog hop into an annoying blog award meme. Most book bloggers, myself included, no longer accept those because they're annoying and useless. You have to put a lot of work into them, and noone ever clicks the links. They just see the little thumbnail, think "Oh, jeeze, another award?" and pass on. Think about it. I mean, we've already got a lot of visiting and following to do just for the hop. You want to increase our blog workload by a factor of six over the weekend. For shame, Ginger, you should know better. Anyone who really wants to know what I read, I have a blogroll.

And that's all until next week! Have a look around, and happy hopping!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On Junkers

As much as I grouse about my day job, not having money is even worse. For example, a week or so before day job came along, some moron rear-ended me. My car is tough -- many cars wouldn't even be running at age 15 -- but not that tough. So into the shop it went, for about $600 in tow and repair costs. It's still got a crumpled rear end that I don't bother fixing because it's purely cosmetic. Fortunately, I get day job and slowly start paying off that credit card bill, until last week I finally zeroed it out. w00t. I figure to put away some money  in savings with my next paycheck, but before that I want to take my girlfriend out to dinner. Nowhere fancy-expensive, nowhere you need reservations, just a nice Italian place with good food. You know, a date.

So I get in my car, start it up, and immediately it starts whine-squealing unhealthily. Uh-oh.

I try to get to work anyway, but after about ten minutes on Sunrise Highway, "Uh-oh" becomes "Oh no" when the engine starts smoking. I manage to get the car to my mechanic before it breaks down, but my family doesn't have any available cars for me to borrow. By an apparent stroke of luck, my brother's car is at the same mechanic, and ready to be picked up. A quick phone call secures me use of it for the day... only for me to realize that the registration is expired. Not wanting to get my brother into that kind of trouble, I instead drive home and call my job to tell them I won't be in.

My mechanic has the car fixed up by the end of the day, so that's good. Cost? $600. That's right, I'm now right back where I started. It's times like these I wonder if God doesn't just like screwing with me for his own amusement.

On the plus side, the unplanned day off gave me time to catch up on my querying, so that hopefully I can get a car that isn't a freakin' money pit someday. I'll take the silver linings where I find them.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On Self-discipline

I have this problem: I stay up way too late on the compy. Internet, games, writing, all sorts of things that keep me up until deep in the A.M. hours. That's how it is. The cool kids go out and get wasted, the geeks stay home and binge on World of Warcraft. When I was unemployed, this didn't matter, because who gives a crap if I wake up around noon? But the day job requires that I get up at 7 A.M., so clearly an all-night-long TVTropes wiki-walk won't do.

I try, I really do. But I get a good game, or an intriguing Cracked list, or what-have-you, and the next thing you know it's 3 A.M. and I'm cursing myself for lack of restraint. Then comes the next morning, and oh what a trial it is. Day job is dull as hell on the worst of days, so staying awake when you're already short on sleep is nearly impossible I'm dozing off at my desk, editing records in my sleep (and then cursing and backtracking through them to make sure I didn't fuck something up), and even when I do stay awake I can't focus enough to do the work fast or right. And every night, the same fearkin' thing again. I tell myself to go to bed early, but the fact is, bed means the next time I'm conscious I'm headed back to work for more dreary drudgery. Who wants to do this when your leisure hours are so precious.

This has happened to me once or twice before, and the last straw is always the same: yawning on the morning commute. Because that's where this humorous story gains the potential to take a very, very dark turn: Falling asleep at the wheel. This has happened to me twice. Neither time resulted in an accident, but it was a big scare.  It's not reached that point yet this time, but I have been yawning, and the memory of past near-misses is troubling.

So, no more excuses. Out come the big guns:

That, in case you don't recognize it, is a lamp timer. $20 or so at any hardware store. It's meant to turn the lights in your house on in the evening, and off after you go to bed, without you having to worry about it. How it works is: You plug the timer in to an electrical outlet, then you plug the lamp into the timer. The colored green and red thingamajigs can be placed at any time you want, and the big wheel turns as time passes. When the time hits a red marker, the timer cuts off power to the lamp. When it hits a green, power resumes. And it doesn't just work for lamps, you can hook up anything you need to go off at a given time to it. Like my compy.

So now, I don't have the choice to stay up later then 1. (I may move it back to midnight or 11 if that doesn't solve the problem.) I shut down by then and get some sleep, or compy shuts down for me. Yes, I know data loss and Stupid Windows Shit are probable results of a sudden power loss, but y'know what? My own damn fault for not having any restraint. A guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do, even if it has to be shoved in his face.

Socrates once said, "Know thyself." LupLun would add: "Especially know when you need a good bitch-slapping."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

When Money Feels Like No Money

While I can't say I consider myself an indie author -- I am, after all, still trying to go the traditional route -- I keep an ear to the ground regarding what's going on. I am also a fan of the indie gaming scene, and I think young e-pubbing writers could learn a lot from them. After all, what e-publishing does is to leverage the internet as a delivery platform for content, something which indie game developers having been doing for years. So when I chanced upon this post from Jeff Vogel, a prominent indie game dev, I thought what he had to say might be relevant. I quote:

"There are two sorts of prices we developers figure can charge for a game: You can charge an amount of money that feels like money, or an amount of money that doesn’t. In other words, you can charge an amount of money that is so low that most people will feel like they aren’t spending anything, or an amount of money that makes you go, “Hmmm. Do I want to spend this?”
Where is the line? How much money feels like money? Well, in my own mind, I use what I call the Frappuccino Rule. A frappuccino is one of those super-sweet caffeinated milkshakes they sell at the many Starbucks that have infected our Earth. The rule is that the price for a large frappuccino is the maximum amount you can charge and have your customers not think twice about it. This means that, once your game is around five bucks, it feels like spending money. Three or less, than it doesn’t.
Within these two ranges (cheap and expensive), there isn’t a huge amount of difference. Your game will make pretty close to the same amount if you charge a dollar or two dollars. (At $2, you only need to sell half of the copies to make the same amount of money as if you charge $1. Not difficult.) Similarly, the difference between a game selling for $10 and $15 isn’t huge. But the thinking process that goes into deciding to spend $1 on a game versus spending $10 on a game is entirely different. Before people spend $10, they will think about it. At $1, they won’t."

This is an important point, I think. A lot of self-pub authors try to increase sales by lowering the price, or increase profit per unit by increasing the price. But if you think about your own buying patterns, you probably have threshold values. For $0.99, you'll buy anything that looks mildly interesting. But as price goes up, you eventually hit the point where you have to think a bit before laying out the cash. Below that point, though, lower price just means less money. Which means e-pubbers are well served if they can get their hands on the statistics to determine those threshold values and price with them in mind.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Zuccotti Park Spirit Hits Home

So, Saturday. I'm driving. I roll casually down Sunrise Highway, through a mainly residential area with some strip malls. I got the windows down, the radio on, and I'm feelin' okay about my weekend. At a corner, something rolling down the sidestreet catches my eye and yanks it straight out of the damn socket. It's an SUV.

Not just any SUV, mind you.

It has the width and height of an SUV, but has been expanded to the size of a freakin' stretch limo. As in, I count seven sets of windows on the side. All tinted black, of course. And the paint job?


Not just any pink, either. Bright pink. Hot pink. Pink pink. We're talking about the single most penis-like vehicle you could possibly imagine.

Here I am, ambling merrily along in a tough, reliable, salt-of-the-earth Grey '94 Ford Taurus that keeps on keepin' on despite muffler trouble and crushed rear-end that I don't have the money to fix. And here's this rich-as-fuck whoever-he-is waving his dick-mobile around on a public street. I grip the steering wheel with the full force of my underemployed starving-artist rage. I have half a mind to swerve and nail that sucker right in front of the rear doors, but who am I kidding? Wang-on-wheels probably has a frickin' titanium frame for extra hardness. My proud silver bull would wind up looking like an accordion. That, or I'd tear straight through the damn thing and realize "WTF? This is paper mache!"

Hey, luxury car manufacturers have to cut costs too.

So I just drive on, settling for a finger-gun drive-by as I pass him. In retrospect, I'm not really thinking "rich fuck", or even "rich fuck's spoiled brat." I'm thinking "rap star needing a sweet car for a video shoot". Dude? Your music sucks and is not relevant to today's youth. Have a dose of real 99% music:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Blog Hops (10/14/2011)

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! You're looking at my personal blog, home to the rants and ramblings of an author. My book reviews on here, on a separate blog. Feel free to visit and follow both. Since last time, we've posted a review Gena Showalter's Twisted. Have fun hopping!

Book Blogger Hop

This weeks ice-breaker for the Book Blogger Hop:

“What is your favorite spooky book (i.e. mystery/suspense, thriller, ghost story, etc.)?”

Hmm. Well, that's a tough one, given that I generally don't read scary books. But, given the opportunity to broaden fellow bloggers' horizons, I can speak a little about scary video games. In this respect, I have a name for you: Jonathan Boakes. He's the U.K. indie developer behind Dark Fall, and was also involved in Barrow Hill and Scratches, both also creepy-as-hell games. Barrow Hill, in particular, kept me up all night scared out of my mind at... nah, won't spoil it. Give them a play, they were available on Steam last I checked.

This week's ice-breaker for TGIF @ GReads:

"Where do you grab a book and get lost in it? Show us your favorite spot you like to read at."

The bed in my bedroom. Which you can't see, as it's a mess. Actually, now that I think of it, I've been reading on that bed for all my life. It started with Mom reading me bedtime stories when I was 3 or so, and I've just kept up the habit on my own. I suppose you could say it's kind of a continuity with my childhood.

And that's all until next week! Have a look around, and happy hopping!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On Somnatic Hallucinations

I prefer thoughtful posts to pointless ones, but having decided pointless posts are better than dead air, a few words on dreams:

I barely remember most of my dreams, but when I do they're really freaky ones. For years, whenever I had a really bad cold, I would have a recurring dream that I was trapped in a series of tight tunnels beneath a rocket, and had to escape before blast-off or the flames from the rocket would incinerate me. A few months ago I had a really nasty one about being crushed to death in a trash compactor. And, on a more humorous note, I dreamed more recently that I was in a stare-down with a U.S. military helicopter that tried to shoot me with a missile. I ducked and the missile tore across the room and blew up my dresser instead.

Last night was especially weird, though. I was having a lot of trouble sleeping last night, you see. One of those nights when you lie in bed, knowing you need sleep before getting up for work tomorrow, and unable to drift off. It got so bad that when I finally fell asleep, I dreamed I was still trying to fall asleep. I thought to myself "You know, I should take off this shirt." And I did, only to find another shirt underneath it. Then I wondered what I was doing with a shirt on, since I don't normally sleep with one. Then I woke up, still in bed and thinking, "What the hell?"

I started looking around for Rod Serling, as that would at least explain some stuff.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend has a dream that she beat the hell out of some asswipe who tried to pick her up, stuck a condom up his butt for the humiliation factor, and then found me and sexed me up.

She always gets the good dreams.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Blog Hopping 10/07/2011

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! This is my personal blog, my reviews blog is here. Feel free to visit and follow both. Since last time, we've posted a review of Allison Moon's Lunatic Fringe, and Gena Showalter's Twisted  will be up soon. Have fun hopping!

Book Blogger Hop

This weeks ice-breaker for the Book Blogger Hop:

“It’s time to spread some love beyond the borders of the Book Blogger Hop! This week, we aren’t answering a question. We are spotlighting our fellow bloggers. Find your favorite(s) author interview(s), guest post(s), book review(s), or bookish article(s) that ANOTHER BOOK BLOGGER featured on their site recently and tell us why you love it/them! As an additional challenge, find your favorite one of EACH of the categories above and spotlight all 4 (interview, guest post, review, article).”

Well, I don't have four, but I will spotlight three: on the review front, Spellbound over at You're Killing Me, a blog which gets far less press than it should. On the misc. articles, Rabid Reads New Releases post, an occasional feature which is excellent for keeping your TBR lists up-to-date. And in a tie for misc., DJL's recap of the Austin Teen Book Festival.

This week's ice-breaker for TGIF @ GReads:

"To-Be-Read's: How big is your pile? Which book keeps getting pushed down the stack, but you keep meaning to read it?"

Well, the recent summer rush had me pushing a lot of books down, but one I've been putting off especially is Rachel Vincent's Pride. I like the series and it's one of my favorites, but it's difficult to get behind the main characters. With their brutal enforcers and primitive attitudes to women, the werecat prides are the lesser of evils at best, and Faythe and Marc's relationship, though not as awful as the dysfunctional mess that was Bitten, hits all the wrong buttons. Basically, it's a great series, but rooting for the good guys is difficult.

And that's all until next week! Have a look around, and happy hopping!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bowing Out of Banned Books Week.

I hate banned books week. It's so masturbatory.

Let me explain. Politically speaking, I'm a cynic. I've got opinions, and I vote on them, but when asked to discuss them with someone, I'll usually beg off, on the excuse that it just makes me angry. And it does, because it always feels like I'm wasting my breath. There are three possible outcomes of a political discussion: me trying to bring someone else around to my point of view, them trying to bring me around to theirs, or the two of us agreeing on something and talking about how everyone else has it wrong. All three are wastes of time, for different reasons. The first two are useless because words alone don't change people's opinions. They can, but most people fail to understand that anything they tell someone is filtered through the hearers life experience. If it matches what they've experienced of the world and its people, then you can persuade them. Usually, however, it won't. So you're left arguing in circles with someone who doesn't understand your point of view.

Then there's the third kind of discussion: preaching to the choir. Book bloggers love books. It's part of the job description. So we go immediately into combat mode at the suggestion that anyone would take our books away from us. Banned books week is a combination of a month-early Halloween and a pep rally: we sit around the campfire telling each other scary stories of the EEEEEVIL monsters of censorship and ignorance, and then we march on Washington with our allegedly-witty signage and our rants. This is supposed to "raise awareness", which from what I gather is code for "get the people who are already aware of this stuff amped up." In essence, we're practicing for the real fights we'll have to face in the coming year, when someone challenges a book for real.

The problem is, these fights will be political discussions of the first type, which as pointed out previously are f'in useless because you're talking to people who don't understand you. Instead these conflicts boil down to a political version of tug-o-war: the two sides of the argument pull as hard as they can trying to pull the others off their feet. Whoever has the most people on their side (the most votes, in other words) wins. Loser whines to the mass media.

And where does the internet fit into all this? It doesn't. They're the peanut gallery, offering cheers and support but not actually doing diddly-squat. Those bloggers that have a vote in the matter don't blog about it, they act. And action is very effective: I have never heard a single instance of a book being challenged that actually succeeded. So banned books week in the blogosphere is, at best, a bunch of speechmakers practicing for a future political endeavor where their speeches won't matter. At worst, it's a bunch of bloggers yakking for no other reason than demonstrating how enlightened and socially aware they are.

You may wonder why I'm getting my shorts in a bunch over this. Well, but also because I planned to be blog-hopping this weekend. I didn't, because every hop I found had a question about banned books, which I couldn't answer because A) I don't have anything to say that hasn't been said a dozen times before, and B) I don't choose to read books based on whether or not someone may have objected to them. I read books if I think I'll like them.

In short, I've got better things to do with my time. Like reading. You guys have fun, though.