Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's quiet... too quiet.

Okay, so I totally phoned it in last week, and don't have much to talk about this week either. I apologize. The issue is, not much is really happening. I had hoped to have a cover reveal for you this week, but things are running behind schedule. Actually, they're running behind schedule all around, but there's nothing I can do except wait patiently and occasionally nudge people. It's as dull and boring as it sounds.

Don't worry, though. I'll have at least two things to talk about next week. In the meantime, I appease you with a song:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On covers

Just a quick post today. I contacted the cover artist the other day, and it looks like I might have something to reveal in a week or two. In the meantime, Kate Evangelista, a good friend and fellow author who helped beta-read my own book, has a cover of her own to share: Her first novel, Taste, is out soon from Cresent Moon Press, and she just got the final cover back. Check it out!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Blog Hopping 2/10/2012

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! You're looking at my personal blog, home to the rants and ramblings of an aspiring author. This week, I posted a somewhat-overdue progress report for my novel, Bonds of Fenris. I also do reviews of werewolf books, which are here. The review blog is currently on hiatus while I work on my own book, but feel free to browse the archived reviews. Have fun hopping!

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

"What are some of your favorite fictional love stories?"

Well, I've enthused before about Kitty and Ben, who defy the usual stereotypes of lycanthropic romance. But I think I'm going to go a little more obscure today, and talk about Jinto and Lafiel:

That's a DVD of the anime, but it was originally a series of books.

Like the Kitty and Ben pairing, it's based on mutual support, but it goes deeper. Crest of the Stars, along with its sequel Banner of the Stars, is very hard science fiction. Jinto and Lafiel are both technically human, but when humans moved out into space they evolved into many different cultures. Jinto is a lander: born and raised on a surface world, and his particular circumstances are very unusual. Lafiel is an Abh, living in the spaceways. Their initial attraction is based on how different they are from each other, and their love is representative of two disparate cultures growing together. It's very sweet and thought-provoking. And the animated adaptation failed because the public didn't get it. Le sigh, but at least I still have those DVDs.

That's all for this week. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Progress Report

So, I started this blog with the intent of chronicling my journey to publication, and there's been some mission creep, I think. It's evolved into more of a way to get myself out there, as a person. Which is an important part of the process. I mean, there are a lot of independent authors out there, and you have to stand out. Avoid being another face in the faceless mass.

But the bigger reason why you haven't heard a lot about the process is that frankly, the process isn't very interesting. It's mostly busywork. The entertaining part, as far as I'm concerned, is mostly over when the book is done. Nevertheless, I figure maybe my followers might want to know how things are coming.

The past few weeks have been focused on finding two important people: a proofreader and a cover artist. I was looking for a third person, a developmental editor, but then I realized I've been working with those all along, calling them "beta-readers". Huh. Power of Friendship FTW! This last week has been kind of busy, because I've narrowed the pool of potential proofers to the point where I almost have a decision made. Likewise, I've narrowed down the field of cover artists to a few distinct possibilities who do good work. All of this is turning out to be not such a wallet-buster as I imagined, which is fortunate. Day jobs are still hard to find and unemployment ain't paying the rent.

The major hump right now is going to be typesetting, or more broadly, formatting for both print and e-book. I've been procrastinating on that, partially because I didn't want to go forward without an editor, and partially because it's intimidating. Smashwords provides a lot of good advice and tools (including their famous "meatgrinder'), but the body of the work still falls on the author's shoulders. I haven't taken the time to familiarize myself with the tools I'll be using. Still and all, I can't put it off much longer, so I'm going to have to pull up my big boy pants and get to it.

And after all this, the question of promotion comes up. Here, I'm going to be leveraging the blogosphere as hard as I can. Through Blog Hopping and promoting my review blog, I've developed what I think is a good understanding of how the book blogging world works, and I think I know how to get my fellow bloggers on board with cross-promotion. I've also got an idea that may or may not come to fruition, and if it does it will definitely get people involved.

So, while there's a lot of work that still has to be done, It looks like I'm on course for a May release. Good times. ^_^

Friday, February 3, 2012

Blog Hopping 2/3/2012

Welcome, fellow bloghoppers! You're looking at my personal blog, home to the rants and ramblings of an aspiring author. This week, I did a movie night feature on an old classic. I also do reviews of werewolf books, which are here. The review blog is currently on hiatus while I work on my own book, but feel free to browse the archived reviews. Have fun hopping!

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

"When you're browsing goodreads, the library, or another blogger's reviews, what grabs your attention to make you want to read it?"

An exceptional review from a blogger that I trust helps, but mainly, it's just awareness of the book. I have a pretty good handle on my tastes, (and my blog's subject matter is rather narrow) so I can usually tell from the blurb whether or not I'd be interested. Like Socrates said, "Know Thyself."

That's all for this week. Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Movie Night: Modern Times

If you're thinking that you hadn't heard a film called Modern Times was in theaters, that's because it wasn't. Well, it was, but probably not in your lifetime. This is a 1936 film written, directed, produced by, and starring silent film star Charlie Chaplin. It's considered one of his best, and it's not hard to see why. If you've only heard of this film, you've probably gotten the idea that it's about Chaplin's iconic character, the tramp, causing havoc in a factory. This happens and is easily the funniest part of the film, but it's only the first act. Afterwards, the movie tones down the frantic physical comedy, melding it with social commentary and a sweet -- if often melodramatic -- love story. Somewhat surprisingly, the film's deeper themes remain relevant even today.

The first shot of the film is a group of sheep being led through a narrow chute, which dissolves to a crowd of commuters spilling out of a subway station on their way to work. Not the most subtle message, but effective regardless. The tramp, our hero, works at a factory where he and his fellow workers get no respect from the CEO; their bathroom breaks are monitored with a 1984-style telescreen and they're forced to work faster than humanly possible on the assembly line. It reaches the point that management considers abolishing the lunch hour in favor of an automatic feeding machine. (Of course, the tramp becomes a guinea pig for this device, and is subjected to numerous abuses when it starts malfunctioning.) Failing to make it in a world that literally makes him a cog in a machine, the tramp winds up in jail after a series of misadventures -- which he likes because, while regimented prison life is just as dehumanizing, at least the jail is honest about it.

Meanwhile, we're introduced to an impoverished gamine (what we would now call a "waif"), who supports her father and younger sisters through petty theft. We first meet her stealing bananas off a ship at the docks, dressed in a tattered dress and no shoes. (And holding a knife between her teeth. My kind of woman.) After the gamine's father dies in the crossfire of a labor riot, her sisters are taken away by social services. The gamine runs away, preferring homelessness to the same fate. Fleeing the police after stealing a loaf of bread, she literally runs into the tramp, who has been having trouble making it after his release from prison. The tramp takes the rap for her, hoping to get sent back to his nice, comfortable jail cell. Although his deception is soon exposed, he earns the gamine's admiration for trying. When he eventually does get himself arrested, circumstances reunite him with the gamine in the paddy wagon, where he somewhat reluctantly joins her in an escape. Having fallen for each other, they set out to build a life together, the tramp vowing: "I'll get us a home, even if I have to work for it!" And if that doesn't sound like a sympathetic line, keep in mind what the tramp's last major job was like.

In these days of Occupation movements, this story is as relevant as ever. You struggle to find a job, and when you do the treatment you get makes you wonder why you bothered in the first place. You pursue a vision of a comfortable middle-class lifestyle, and it always slips out of your grasp. Sometimes, giving up and settling for a jail cell on the public's dime, or your parents' basement where you're reduced to the level of a child, seems the only real option. You can't be part of the rat race and still maintain your humanity, but you can't stay alive without a steady means of support either. And even if you find some sort of happy medium, a cold and impersonal world is always ready to snatch it away from you.

I don't mean to create the impression that Modern Times is a dark film. A quote on the DVD case calls it "One of the happiest and most lighthearted of the Chaplin pictures," which is an accurate assessment of the film's tone. But underlying a stream of gags involving things like roller skates, police chases, and out-of-control machinery is a brutal and cynical deconstruction of the promises of the industrial age, a message that is more than a little relevant to the Great Recession and the shattered promises of the information age. The fact that hope and optimism shines through it all is testament to the indomitable spirit of humanity, and Chaplin the auteur's personal belief that it will ultimately triumph, even if he's not certain how.

Also, the ending almost made me cry.

Brief addenda: Feminists may be irked by the fact that the tramp's dream of a better life features the gamine in the kitchen cooking for him, and she finds the idea appealing. While I agree there's some values dissonance here, the scene still works since the gamine has, by all accounts, never had enough food to cook before. Or, if you want to put a pro-feminist spin on it, compare her reaction to how the tramp prefers a life in jail to the broken promises of working life. And note that the happy ending they find (before the last-minute plot twist wrecks it) involves becoming a two-income couple instead.