Friday, March 12, 2021

In Search of Greg Kinnear

 


I know, I know, you’re probably thinking. “Stop with this strange behavior and write”

I will, I do, but first … Greg Kinnear.

He’s always been around. And no, for the record I didn’t just discover the works of actor Greg Kinnear. I remember seeing him in Dear God and thinking, ‘Wow, how awesome is this guy?’ Although I was a fan, I never really set out to conquer his catalog.

Until now.

Call it covid quarantine boredom or obsession, whatever the case I am finding myself watching his movies and only his movies. Well, that is until Kong vs Godzilla comes out.

Okay to be honest, I can’t blame it on my recent quarantine.

My obsession reignited when I saw him in the remake of The Stand. He played Glen Bateman and I have watched each episode three times. I loved the remake, I know I am the minority.

When it was over, I found myself needing to watch more Greg Kinnear. I know, that sounds weird, right? I never claimed to be normal.

Since my quest, I have rewatched, As Good as it Gets, Heaven is for Read (2x) and We Were Soldiers.

For the first time I watched, Stuck on You, Strange but True, Mystery Men, Last Song and  now my new and ABSOLUTE FAVORITE so far, Ghost Town. I’ll probably watch that again.

I know this blog seems weird and blogs serve like a diary, you can look back and see what you were doing or thinking at the time.

You’re probably asking, “why Greg Kinnear”. Well, he’s great but …. Look, if you’re like me and you want to watch something, you can spend as much time looking through Netflix, Hulu, Prime, etc as you do watching the movie.

Picking one actor or actress narrows down your search. Try it, whether it be Greg Kinnear or someone else, you’ll spend a lot less time searching than before.

Off to decided which Kinnear movie to watch next.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The Midnight Sky - A Review and End explained (SPOILERS)

 


The bottom of this review contains spoilers and will be accurately marked so you can stop if you haven’t watched The Midnight Sky.

 

It took me two days to watch The Midnight Sky, not because I hated it but because I was watching it with my granddaughter and ten minutes in she said, “Okay, please, enough.”

The ease in which I switched the movie told me it didn’t have my interest either. Yet, I was determined to watch the newly acclaimed movie from Netflix. Directed by George Clooney.

The story was good, it was really good, but it could have been great. Maybe I’ll rewatch it.

The story focuses on two sets. One on the spaceship Aether, one on earth.

Clooney plays a scientist and he is believable. Unlike the movie Geo Storm where Gerard Butler played a scientist and that just pushed my suspension of belief way too far.

In The Midnight Sky an unknown cataclysmic has rendered earth uninhabitable. Clooney, a terminally ill man stays in the arctic where the air is still safe to warn in coming spacecraft not to land. Decades earlier his character discovered K-23 an earth like and possibly livable planet.

Story two is the Aether and the crew. They are returning from K-23, making their way home to deliver the good news. “Yay! We have a new place to colonize.” The crew is likeable and a great cast. The tone and look is a total contrast to earth. They have been gone two years and haven’t a clue what’s going on.

Clooney is trying to reach them unsuccessfully, he isn’t real diligent until he discovers a little girl was left behind when everyone left the arctic. He now has to trek hundreds of miles to a weather station where he knows the radio works.

As I mentioned the story itself is really good. It mixes flashbacks of Clooney’s character’s life, pretty early on letting us know he chooses career over love and at the end of the world regrets it. Maybe ….he doesn’t care about much, but now .. this girl gets to his heart.

There are tense, anxious action moments but the pacing is off because of bad editing.

One of the things that make a good film editor isn’t just the ability to cut scenes together flawlessly, or catch inconsistencies, it is the ability to know what can go and what must stay.

Just because you spent a ton on a set or it looks beautiful doesn’t mean it needs to be in there, especially if it creates a really long sequence and takes away from the tension. Many of beautiful scenes end on the cutting room floor or rather recycle bin. If it doesn’t move the story, take it out.

There’s a scene in particular, this is not spoilery, that they leave the ship to make a repair (You know like every other spaceship movie) that scene is like 8 minutes too long. It took away from the point. The runtime of TMS is two hours, I think it could have been tight at One hour forty.

It has the feel of ‘On the Beach’ only with some hope. I recommend it if you want a movie you can eat a meal while watching. This one affords the ability to glance down at your plate without missing anything.

 

Now … SPOILERS… ending explained.

 

Through the flashbacks, we learn that Clooney has a child with the woman he loved, a little girl he never acknowledged. He chooses a career over love and family and his regrets being alone manifest.

He regrets never meeting the daughter or helping her.

It was pretty obvious from the get go that the little girl, Iris, wasn’t real. That she was a figment of Clooney’s imagination. Certain scenes she isn’t there and not on camera while she should be. Where the filmmakers error is showing the little girls POV when they are outside of a plane crash. Iris is not real so how is she seeing anything. Clooney is inside the plane and has no way of ‘imagining’ what she is doing.

BUT ….weaved with the flashbacks, the second you know he has a daughter, you figure out this imaginary girl is the daughter he never acknowledged, so he is, in his own way being the guidance he never was.

However he actually is. For real.

Once they make it to the weather station he connects with the Aether and Sully (Female) communication specialist. He tells her and the crew about earth and how to solve their problem to get back to space and to K-23. He is their guidance.

She thanks him and when she finds out his name she praises him. Tells him how he was the reason she got into NASA, that her mother was his colleague. And that’s when we learn, her name is Iris and she is his daughter.

Clooney’s character realizes this and gets some resolution. He wasn’t helping the girl get to the weather station to warn Aether. He was getting to the weather station to warn his little girl.

I’m pretty good at picking things up and I did not pick up any clues. But looking back at the progression of Clooney’s story, it was all there. I’ll need to watch the spaceship scenes again to see if they hinted that Clooney was her father. They probably did, but unlike the long tedious outside the spaceship scene, it ended up cut.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Milli Vanillis of the Literary World

 


Milli Vanilli. If you don’t know who they are. Look them up here (Image courtesy of Mental Floss) I’ll wait.

There was a time when being an author was a noble profession. Even with the dawn of eBooks and the ease to digitally publish, people still admired a writer. In fact, there are many who support the Indy writer wholeheartedly. But what if the author you faithfully support wasn’t real? I’m not talking about pen names, I’m talking about an author created to mislead you.

Are they unscrupulous and deceiving or just brilliant business?

For centuries there have been pen names and ghostwriters. I know this, so please don’t toss out defensive examples like Hardy Boys, Patterson, etc. Famous examples don’t make deception acceptable. There are a lot of puppy mills out there, it doesn’t make it less wrong.

Pen names are created to protect the writer’s identity, to say ‘hey, I’m real, I just can’t say who I am’. Those are different. A deceitful variance of such, along with nestling your books under YA when they aren’t … are for another blog. But for now … Milli Vanilli.

The greed of the novelist has made its way into the apocalypse genre with a vengeance.

Today I write about book mills or book packaging companies. There are several types, a couple I dug into, posing as a fake author to get my information. Yep, I played their game.

My focus today is on the ones that buy story ideas, then hire struggling writers to create an absurdly detailed outline for only a couple hundred bucks, then hire another desperate ghostwriter to pen the novel for not much more and they publish it under one of their stock author names. Not real writers that sit for hours and pour their heat and soul onto each page they write. They are manufactured names just like the books.

One in particular company is huge. They call themselves a publisher but they’re producers. But if you look up their titles on Amazon, the publisher isn’t mentioned. These authors are marketed as Indy Authors. Hundreds upon hundreds of books, several genres and a dozen authors.

I saw an ad for one their mill authors., We’ll call her Mary Smith. On the FB ad, people commented that they love her. I wanted badly to tell them she wasn’t real and that book was the work of a half a dozen people who will never get credit for writing a best seller.

They made $300-500 while the producer rakes in the big bucks, and Mary Smith garnishes a fanbase the writer(s) earned in the literary sweatshop.

Just because I ate a steak at Gordan Ramsey’s in Vegas doesn’t mean Gordan made it. He got credit for something another wonderful chef cooked.

Gordan Ramsey is a brand, just like these fake authors. The difference is we know Ramsey’s Restaurant is a brand, readers haven’t a clue who’s real and who is not.

If you’re a writer reading this, and this blog angers you, makes you defensive, or you think I’m writing about you …then perhaps it might be time to reflect. Just sayin’

Never getting credit for creating a best seller you wrote is just as bad as getting credit for writing something you didn’t write.

If your name is on a book you did not write, then in my opinion you’re creating a brand, not a legacy that many of us truly leave behind on the pages of a book.

Milli Vanilli. People were angry, music lovers canceled them because of the deception, readers should be just as angry at these book mills and fake authors.

I was in a band and we had this guy who wanted badly to be a guitar player. He got up there every gig, strummed away, but was never plugged in. Being on stage made him no more a musician than putting your name on a cover makes you an author.

Am I jealous? No, I have my place in this genre and am very content, but there are passionate writers vying for a spot they deserve and will never get because it’s crowded with fake names and wannabe writers all out for the buck.

Am I upset? Sure, I write everything I put my name on. Hundreds of books. Every part of my being goes into my stories. They may not be great, but they’re mine. If my name is on it, I wrote it. There are a lot out there that can not say the same.

Some will call it great business and good for them. Others will call it deception.

Sadly, what can be done? Not much. We as real writers, just have to work harder. We’ll do what our phony counterparts can not do, and that is write books. The fakes will fade, hopefully, like Milli Vanilli, with a tarnished reputation to follow.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

New Stand Mini Series Episode 1 Review

 


For years, and I think as far back as ten years, I have been waiting for the remake of The Stand. Not that I didn’t love the one from 1994, but I just loved The Stand. It was a book I read over and over, albeit I skipped a lot of Trash Can man scenes, and the mini series was at least a yearly viewing pleasure. I loved it so much the complete box set was a Valentine's Day gift from my second Husband.

So when it was announced it would be on CBS access, I knew I would finally see that remake. I wanted to not give spoilers, but that’s impossible so SPOILER ALERT.

Spoilers, you say, how can there be spoilers, it’s The Stand. Well …. There is. Things are different.

For starters it doesn’t start at the beginning, like the book or the OG miniseries. It starts about halfway through the book in Boulder. The first episode delivers the plague in flashbacks, at first I was iffy about this, but then I liked it. I finished watching the maiden episode hopeful that we would see more from the book as i goes on than we did in the original mini series.

This episode gives us a hint of Mother Abigail, but not enough to judge Whoopie’s performance and a splash of the Dark Man, hot Alexander Skargard. But it centers on Harold, Stu and Franny and their background stories. Those are rich with information. Although I did think some of the Stu dialogue was contrived. Like forced narrative down our throats. “Yes, I was at the gas station with Hap when that sick military guy Campion drove through after escaping his base and talked about a code red."

Something like that.

It goes into more depth of Harold and Franny more than anything, even more than Stu. But not as deep as the Franny in the book nor is she the same.. The actress is wonderful but … what the hell have they done to Franny? She is so unlikeable, so bitchy, that I didn’t care how depressed she was. I didn’t care about her at all and when they showed her in present day Boulder, they spent so much showing how trivial she was, her present day character is not believable. 

And … SPOILER …. When Harold utters his last line, I nodded and said, “Yeah, please.”

Unless you have seen the episode you won’t know what that means.

And, well, unless you have read the book or seen the original mini series, I’m not convinced the new viewer won’t be confused.

All and all I am still excited for the weekly dive into the apocalypse Stephen King style. And of course, eventually, Greg Kinnear will be on. I am anxious for Larry and Nick

While I think others will be on the fence, I give it a thumbs up and think this Mini Series is gonna be fantastic and meet my expectations.

What did you think?

Monday, December 14, 2020

If the Covid World was actually ,...

 


I write apocalypse fiction and have done so for twenty years. In fact, I wrote apocalypse fiction before it was cool.

I am not a doctor or scientist. I can say I have put thousands of hours of research in. If I only do five hours a week for twenty years that’s 5200 hours of research on various survival, end of the world topics, half of which are viruses. Does that make me an expert? No, but it gives me lots of info that would make me a cool Jeopardy contestant. That being said, I decided to give an Apocalypse Writer’s take on Covid-19.

The reason I write this is because a lot of people don’t think it’s real or think people are overreacting, I just want to offer a ‘what if’.

Keep in mind this is me, an apocalypse writer offering an alternative fiction-like theory.

What if I wrote the novel, Covid-19? What if everything we were experiencing was a novel I was penning. The most hardcore apocalypse reader would probably stop a third of the way through and ask, “What gives? When do things pick up?”

Like in a novel, what if everything happening is all part of a bigger picture?

As so many have done, many people wonder if there is something they aren’t telling us. The reaction and precaution doesn’t match the threat. After all, how many times have you heard people toss out ‘flu’ stats.

What if …

There really is something they aren’t telling us? What if the immediate shut downs, the reaction isn’t just caution, but rather true concern and fear.

What it …

COVID-19 was manmade and/or a retrovirus, an RNA virus that inserts itself into our DNA. The scientific community are unsure of the long term effects and where the mutation inside of us could go, what it could do. What if they see signs of this and therefor delaying things, shutting things down gives them a chance to see what happens to the survivors, without tossing yet another worry object on our plate.

Oh wait … Covid IS an RNA virus. So, heck, that’s already possible.

Yeah, wouldn’t that explain the serious long term effects many people are suffering from now.

We all know it is carried in droplets and airborne, but what if … it’s a vector?

Carried in any insect you could imagine. What if they didn’t let that little fact out. Because that would be impossible to control. Wouldn’t that explain why some people (Like with Zika) don’t get symptoms, or why only some get respiratory and others don’t? The warmer weather, brought more insects, more infections? November is the heaviest lice season. If you consider bugs as major carriers, as they have been in past diseases, wouldn’t it make sense why they shut things down? Limit households mixing? Separate and social distance, especially at schools.

I wrote this theory blog because the writer in me thinks there is more and these answers above are what I say to people who question the virus and the actions to contain it.

I take it to my apocalyptic level and say ‘what if?’

 

*Image courtesy of Texas State University

Monday, October 26, 2020

Lessons Learned as a Self Published Writer


There are days I absolutely love being a writer. The energy of a story blasting in your mind, driving in the car, getting so lost in writing thoughts, you get lost on the road. There are days I loathe it. The days where the negative, well-intentioned criticism test the thickness of your skin. Which, by the way, doesn’t really ever get thick. You think it, it’s not. 

As indy or self published writers, unless you are fortunate, you don’t make a lot of money. Even if you do, it’s short lived. I belong to a FB group that goes by the premise if you write 20 books, you can make 50k. However, they leave out the fact that you don’t stop there, you have to write twenty more. Back when Kindle first started, this would work, the average life span of a book was 4-6 months, depending on how long it took for it to sell. It had a great shelf life. Now, with Unlimited, readers hungrily devoured books, more authors were popping them out like my kids pop out babies. The life span shrunk down to ninety days. Also, unlike in the past, if your book nosedives that first week, you can just focus on the next book. Sometimes, even with all the ads, you get lost in the shuffle of algorithms and people paying top dollar for their amazon ad to appear first.

Those of us who keep our books priced low, just can’t afford that top tier advertising. With book covers and ads we do, we average $1000 in the hole when we release. That’s a lot of money to get back in non guaranteed 90 day window of sales. 

Editing

Then, the elephant in the room … editing. Granted, the positive is the 95% of readers who will not say much about a typo, those darlings say, ‘Oh, errors are even the big houses.’ But for how wonderful those people are, the few that breakthrough will cut you like a ten inch blade.

Do these people stop to think we DO know the difference between their and there, our fingers just type the wrong thing. We’re not idiots, as I have been called.

Maybe it’s me that gets the rash of emails right after any new release does well, people telling me how bad it is, or people trying to offer services. Hell, people don’t wait for that. They slam me anyhow.

First, I have paid for editing. In 2007, I took out a loan to have a book edited for $2300. To date, that beautifully edited book has made $138.16.

I never thought I’d sell my apocalypse books. I did. And that brought the onslaught of negative reviews and reality of publishing. I had books professionally edited. I hired one of the best in the business right now. And you know what? People STILL left negative reviews about editing. Which often has me wondering if editing is subjective.

The well intentioned email that says horrible things veiled in a bad attempt to word it nicely, often match the negative review they left. Okay, so blasting my book publicly wasn’t enough you had to email me as well? Hammer it in, yeah, I know, I suck.

Then you have those who offer to help. Mentioning help and possibly they have a lot of time on their hands.

As nice as this seems, before you accept … heed my advice … vet them. 

I have two wonderful women who help me and have for years, we finally got it down or at least close. I have had wonderful people in the past help me. I am eternally grateful to any and all, without them I wouldn’t be where I am. But not once, has this happened.


The Trap I fell into …

KDP introduced the Quality Assurance Warning program. Readers report an error, then after several you get a warning and your amazon book page gets a hazard symbol. A hazard symbol. Yes, actually it’s free editing, but it takes time to do and re-upload and usually it’s a book that stopped selling. Usually . Maybe the hazard symbol did that.

So, shortly after they introduced it, I got a particularly stinging email about my editing from a person. That same person sent a near similar email two months later, then third nasty email offered help and said they’d do it. I will call them NP (New proofer) I went in to ‘put your money where your mouth is’, everyone is an expert editor until they do it and get bad reviews.

About the time of the second nasty email from NP, I started getting daily quality assurance notices (This was before weekly notices).

This person proofed a book for me, did okay, my main lady then found a ton that were missed. Of course, that’s why you have it read through at least five times. But NP would send emails asking for older books, because NP spotted errors. I asked every time if NP was sure, and the reply, “I’m bored and retired and lots of time.”

I had that you know, gut feeling about NP, but ignored it. Six months later, of NP helping my team, I get message and NP said, “I think you need to start paying me for all the work I do for you. I am on SS and need a new monitor.”

I replied that I would do the best I could, but Covid killed my income. Okay I was getting free help, I get it and I was happy to give NP something, never did NP say anything about it before. I got busy and a couple days later, I get a nasty message saying., ‘well, I guess I mean nothing. I was going to charge you only 20.00 a book but now I won’t take less than 50.’

So, I paid NP $50 and two weeks later sent the new book for the first pass before I sent it to others. Then I posted the cover I made and was met with tough criticism publicly from NP. A reader jumped to my defense and an hour later, another message from NP complaining that I only paid for one book, meaning NP wanted backpay. My reply was professional, end result, NP said ‘goodbye and good riddance.’

Now … back to Amazon Quality Assurance. Between NP’s second nasty email to me and the time NP started helping, I received 49 Quality Assurance warnings mainly from older books. During the six months NP helped, I received 2. Was NP the culprit of the mass reports? I don’t know. I like to believe not and it was a coincidence they stopped. Now I’m left to wonder if they’ll start again.

Bottom line, when you charge 2.99 a book, pay for a cover, ads, and like me, Uncle Sam, those offers of free help are wonderful. Sometimes the help becomes friendships that are immeasurable and sometimes, free as it seems recently, it comes with a price. Leaving me feeling bad, guilty and cheap all rolled into one ball.

I could pay for top editing, and charge more for the book, but as I learned through experience with my publisher, it doesn't make you more money, you just lose the sales and only get page reads, hence, about the same amount of money and less new readers and more people that see the price and say, "I'll pass".

I blame myself for what happens to me, if people see me badly, that's on me. Plus, any changes won't help. There's no help for me. I'm the old dog that pissed on the carpet one too many times. People now look for the wet spot on the floor. However, maybe this blog will stop someone from making my mistakes.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

What's a Writer to Write?

 


I got an email today from a reader. Let me start by saying it was polite and you can tell she was nice, but she was also pretty blunt.

An honesty that left me pondering and made me realize that I, and other apocalypse writers like myself, are in a conundrum.

If you don’t think … let me explain.

She stated she lost interest in getting my books when I started to focus more on other types of writing. She mentioned aliens, vampires and other mythical creatures. You know what? I get it, I do. Those books were scattered within my other works. But this reader hadn’t given up on me, and for that I am grateful.

At first, I couldn’t remember what alien book she meant, and she looked it up. Then I remembered why I wrote that book and that’s when I started thinking. Normal virus books and zombie books just weren’t selling for me. Forget nuclear war, no one wants to read that. Trust me I know.

I mean, for a hot minute I thought maybe I was the Nicholas Cage of Apocalypse books. People loved what I was doing at first, then grew tired of me, and despite that I can still pen a good novel (Like Nick has some decent movies) people were leery about diving into something I wrote.

With diligence, I try not to deliver the same old, same old.

I try to write one book a year that is an original ‘end of the world’ scenario, and I think I do well with that. Above the Hush, 10:37, By Way of Autumn, Omnicide… there are a lot of them.

So when I wasn’t writing original end of the world, I expanded into different apocalypses, like Aliens and Vampires.

Stories I thought were good, characters I built in my head long before I wrote a single word of the book.

All I ever wanted to do was have people read my work, and I am blessed and fortunate enough that I have that. I strive to keep my readers entertained, take them away from troubles they may have or just take them to a different world. Make them laugh, cry, cringe.

Then … then … Covid happened. At first I didn’t think it would affect things, but it did. Suddenly, people were cast into a tamer version of my books, but much of human nature was the same. They don’t want reality, they want to be taken away from reality.

So with that comes the title of my blog. What is a writer to write? Or rather, what is an author who primarily writes apocalypse, supposed to write.

When I started to see the change in reading trends, totally lost at what people wanted, I decided, I was just gonna write good stories.

I would love … love … love to dive into a really awesome, heart-wrenching plague.

Do people want that? Will they ever want that again?

I don’t want to touch EMP, that market is flooded almost as bad as zombies.

Civil unrest novels, society breakdowns … nah. I suck at military stuff.

Volcanoes .. did it. Earthquakes, yep. Meteors, solar … um … I hit them all.

The one I am finishing now is totally original. Never done. I am ending the world again, in a new way.

But is it what people want? I looked at the top 25 Amazon Apocalypse books. Absent are the virus novels, zombie novels.

So I wonder if readers are just tired of apocalypse novels.

One day I’ll figure it out. Soon I hope. I’m open to suggestions. In the meantime … I’ll just keep writing.