Confessions of a Failed Writer part 3

September 17, 11:02 A.M.

I’m putting off listening to the auditions for my audiobook. I have a dozen or so and it’s a short scene the professionals have read. Why am I procrastinating? Self-doubt. Wondering if I’ll make the wrong decision on who will read my deeply personal work. I could do it myself, but I don’t have a great voice. I know all the inflections and how I want it read, but I’d prefer to leave that to the professionals with the experience and equipment to create a high quality finished product.

The second question is do I come up with the money to pay a voice actor or do I do a profit split? I’ve read the author’s laments who regret doing the split. But the upfront costs of paying a good producer can be a grand or more. Do I bet on myself for future earnings? Or do I take the safe route and save the upfront costs? I’ve only sold 9 copies of my book, so how many audio copies will I sell?

I will put that off until tonight. I’ll have my partner Anya listen with me for a second opinion. For today, I have daily goal of 2000 words. That’s an easy goal, maybe the word “achievable” is better than easy. Especially since I’m dividing the daily goal among three novels: Legacy of the Maelstrom, Mind the Shadows and sVck. I figure the three books should total about 225,000 words, so if I achieve my daily goal, I’ll be done the first draft of three books in four months. The trick is to write. Some writers do what is called “sprinting” where they close the doors and type until the allotted time is up. Usually an hour. Others write to be perfect. Each word is carefully chosen to not require much polishing in a second draft. My process is somewhere in the middle. I’m mostly writing dialogue with a few descriptors. Here’s an example of what I wrote last night.

                                                           sVck

“How was your dinner date?”

Savanah hung her head. Humphrey eyed her with a snarky smile. “I checked your window at 12:30 and you still weren’t home. And your 9:00 o’clock came out of your hall looking unsatisfied. What happened?”

“Things got out of hand, Humph. We fucked.”

Humphrey spit out his coffee. “You what?! You fucked a vampire!?”

“Would you keep it down, for christ’s sake?!”

“What do you mean, you fucked?”

“We did it. It was awesome. I’ve never been with a woman before. She did stuff to me. I came so fucking hard.”

“That’s awesome, Savvy. You needed to nut. Seriously. You’ve been doing a lot of blowing with no payback. What else happened?”

“I asked her about vampire life. I told her about my alternative food source. She showed me her thralls. Four guys. They ate raw meat and she fed on one while I watched. I, uh, showed her my method.”

“You blew one of her guys?”

“While she watched.”

“Hot.”

“He keeled over. Dead.”

“What?”

“I don’t understand what happened. Maybe he was so weak that…”

“…you sucked him to death?”

“Yeah.”

“Dammnnnnnn.”

In my next draft I’ll go through and add descriptions. Spice it up. Sometimes I leave the dialogue when I feel the reader knows who is who without the need to write “he said” and “she said.” It creates a better back and forth. 

What’s your process?

Confessions of a Failed Writer 9/16/2021

09/16/2021

The life of a writer is easy.

8:00 Wake up. Take dog out. Make breakfast.

9:00 Partner’s sleeping. Sit in office and look at Facebook. Watch hilarious Norm McDonald video

9:30 bust out laptop. Continue thinking of super powers I haven’t used for scene in new book

The life of a writer is difficult.

Many writers have deadlines and bosses and reasons to feel pressure from the outside world. I know a writer, who in addition to writing her own book series, ghost writes for others. I can imagine that’s difficult to be creative and never get the credit. She’s much younger and has written over 100 books. I’m sure the promise of a paycheck is an incentive.

What’s the incentive of the writer who hasn’t started to generate a profit. It’s a challenge to stay motivated without a proverbial stick or carrot to incentivize him or her. “Glue your ass to the seat and write,” is the advise famous writers like to give. That’s true. Some shut themselves off in a writer’s retreat in their home or in another location to prevent the distractions of life from interfering with their process. I’m more of an amalgam. I like being able to reward myself with a break to look up something online while also being “glued” to my writer’s spot. I don’t think I would have the concentration to write for 8+ hours a day.

Some writers plot out what they plan to write. Perhaps chapter by chapter, or scene by scene, the disciplined writer knows all the beats of his story. My writing style matches my other styles. I’m known as a “seat of the pants” writer. I start without knowing where the story will take me. I let the characters and ideas flow naturally. In a sense, the story is writing itself. In my novel, Twenty-One Octobers, I knew how it would end, or so I thought. I knew it ended with the death of the main character’s father, but I didn’t know what the MC would do in the end. Would he kill his father’s murderer or would he show forgiveness? I didn’t know, but the story knew. The characters knew.

I’m sitting in my office watching my dog sleep in his bed. My partner is setting up her home office after we zoomed out to get some shelves someone was giving away. I’m about to take my cat to the groomer. But I’ll be back to continue working on some sequels and a new story. I’m not sure where the day or my stories will take me, but that’s the fun of being a writer. 

Even for a failure.

Confessions of a Failed Writer

(You might have read this already. I am a failed blog poster)

I am a failure as a writer.

The first person I met at college had self-published her novel and it was a success. People bought it, read it, and liked it. She made enough money to pay for college and probably a bunch of other stuff. She now has a sequel, an audio book, and a movie deal.

She is a success.

I was tainted. I thought all I had to do was write a good book and it would sell and I could be an author with a car that doesn’t always have that low-tire pressure light on, and I would own a house, and people would want me to sign stuff that I wrote.

I graduated college with a writing degree. I wrote a book. A few friends and family read it. I wrote another book. A few friends and family read it. I wrote two more books. No one read it. 

Well, that’s it. I’m a terrible writer, right?

Maybe. Maybe not. 

In between publications, I joined a Facebook group recommended to me by another successful writer friend. They are a great help with information regarding self-publishing specifically on Amazon. But there is a lot of info and there is a lot of different advice.

First, you need a mailing list. “I wish I had built a mailing list before publishing all these books,” someone wrote.

First, you need to write to market. “If you want to make money, write what people want to read now! Read the top ten in the genre/keywords and copy the recipe. Billionaire Romance is hot now! Write that. Everyone is reading Clean Vampire Billionaire Harem Romance now. Write that and you’ll be rich.

First, you need to write twenty books and then you’ll make fifty grand.

Stop.

I don’t want to write that stuff. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Isn’t that what people say? You’ve heard the punchline. “…because they’re not hiring.”

What is success?

In America, money equals success. Successful people have money. Right? My friends and family would say I am successful because I graduated college and wrote five books. True. I successfully did those things. Am I a success?

I don’t feel like one. I wrote a trilogy of books in the Superhero Science-Fiction/Fantasy category. They have cool covers illustrated by a working comic-book illustrator. They are well plotted with lots of twists and turns. I did the work. I advertised in the right places, but no one’s reading my books.

Why not? If people were reading and saying stuff like, “This books sucks!” then I’d know I wrote a turd. I look at the most popular books in my genre and…damn it, they’re a lot of shirtless, six-pack dudes and no capes! They’re placed in the superhero category, but as far as I can tell there are no characters who can bend steel or fly. I feel cheated.

So, I started writing a sequel. Wow. That’s stupid, right? You might say, “Cut your losses!” I feel like I failed, but I enjoy the story I’m telling. I’m also working on a sequel to another non-superhero book I wrote and I’m also writing an erotic vampire novel. Because why not? I’m having fun going broke.

In this space I’m going to talk about writing. Not really about the craft or even the business aspect, but the decision to wake up every day and write. I want to tell you about my struggle. I’d like to hear about your struggle. I’ll talk about aches and pains and paying the bills and taking care of my pets and maintaining a relationship with a non-writer. All the dirty, ugly, non-sexy parts of what it takes to try to be a success.

What is success to you?

Archie: Volume One

Archie: Volume One

I’ve never read an Archie comic, nor have I seen Riverdale, but I get the premise. Archie goes to high school. His best friend likes hamburgers. Archie is torn between two girls. The end. But, like I said, I’ve never read one, so maybe there’s more to it. I mean, a non-superhero comic character who has been published continuously since 1942 has to have something interesting.

Cut to, an Archie reboot by famed superhero writer Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, et al). This is a reboot that doesn’t deviate front the source material too much (I think). The art is wonderful with big, colorful panels and cartoony characters with a modern style. Jughead loves cheeseburgers (but he’s rich). Archie has just broken up with Betty because of “the lipstick incident” and Veronica, a rich snob, moves to town and steals his attention. Archie is a loveable clutz. Moose is a dumb football player.  Nothing revolutionary, but familiar for new and old readers.

Archie: Volume One contains light, suitable-for-all-ages stories with a modern twist for a 78-year-old character.   

Collects issues 1-6 by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples

Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars

Amazon.com: Deadpool's Secret Secret Wars (9780785198673): Lolli, Matteo,  Camagni, Jacopo, Bunn, Cullen: Books

Wade Wilson takes us back to 1984, before his own origin story in 1991, all the way to the Beyonder’s Battle World where he inserts himself into the original Secret Wars story. I feel like the story would be less impactful if you haven’t read the original Secret Wars, so definitely do that. 

Is it canon? Like, did it really happen? (As much as a comic book can really happen.) There are some clues that it did, but there are also elements that point to wacky Deadpool having fun and breaking the fourth wall. One piece of evidence that took me out of the story was Absorbing Man. His power (at the time of Secret Wars) is the ability to touch a substance and gain the properties of that substance, For example; if he touched steel, he would turn to steel but also gain the resistance and strength of steel. But Crusher Creel (Absorbing Man) touches DP and gains his physical attributes and power, much like Rogue’s power absorption. Was this a clue that the story didn’t really happen, creative liberty, or just a writing/continuity error?

Deadpool’s Secret, Secret Wars is full of nostalgia while at the same time adding DP to the original story in a fun, and sometimes, touching way.

Good touching, not bad touching.

Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars #1-4 written by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Matteo Lolli.

Wonder Woman 84

Spoiler- This is a discussion about a movie. If you want to see that move, maybe wait to read this “review.”

Full-Disclosure- I’m a Marvel guy. I prefer Marvel characters to DC characters and Marvel movies to DC movies. However, the first Wonder Woman movie was amazing and the best DC movie by far and as good as any Marvel movie. My goal is to tell you what I thought and perhaps have a discussion about super-heroes. If you liked it, that’s great. I’m happy you enjoyed it. I was very excited about seeing the Wonder Woman sequel. So excited that I subscribed to HBO Max. I suspect many will be dumping that subscription. Not me. At least not until I finish Friends.

Scene One- A young Diana participates and wins a tournament that looks like American Ninja Warrior on steroids. But she took a shortcut and was disqualified even though she was about to win. What’s the point of this scene except that, even at a young age, she’s physically superior to the best of the best on the island? She should have been disqualified for being a creation of Zeus (see the first movie). The missed opportunity was the chance to feature a lesson or even a test of morality. Maybe she spares an enemy and suffers because of it. We see Diana is a just and merciful superhero later in the movie, and it would have been an essential scene if we saw those early lessons first-hand. Or better yet, the opening scene could have shown us the origin of the wish-stone that drives the movie’s story later on.

Love Story- It’s been forty years since Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) died saving lives. Wonder Woman (Gadot) still loves him, but this seems a tad overdone. She didn’t know him for very long in the war, and she’s been pining (no pun intended) over him for four decades? 

The Antagonists- I won’t say they’re bad-guys or villains. The movie goes out of its way to show the two primary opponents as people with backstories and hopes and dreams and not just people to fight. However, we don’t see Cheetah (Kristen Wiig) become the full-Cheetah until the movie’s last few minutes. Maxwell Lord is a failed businessman played by Pedro Pascal. Instead of wishing for infinite wishes, he wishes to become the wishing stone, which I guess is a surprise and somewhat clever assuming he knows what kind of power he’s dealing with.

The Eighties- I grew up in the eighties. Like every decade, it has its plusses and minuses.  When this decade is depicted in the movies and television, it’s done to exaggerate the fashion and culture until the show is even more eighties than the actual eighties. Everyone didn’t wear parachute pants and have Flock of Seagulls’ haircuts. The missed opportunity here was not having a fantastic 80s soundtrack. 

Superpowers- Wonder Woman is as strong as Superman and has a magic lasso and bullet-deflecting bracelets, she’s the best combatant in the Justice League, and she can fly! The final scene in the first movie implies that she is flying away and not jumping. Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps she didn’t fly. But in forty years, she doesn’t figure out how to fly? Because she does in the movie, but not until the end. Up until then, she jumps around and uses her lasso to swing like Spider-Man. Also, there’s a cute joke involves a reference to the original invisible jet from the show. They need to avoid detection in a stolen jet, and Diana busts out this new ability to make stuff invisible, i.e., the plane. Isn’t that funny and clever?

Humanity and Heroism- WW84 does something other superhero movies fail to do. Diana shows mercy and restraint to her enemies, specifically the non-powered ones. Hulk must have killed hundreds or thousands of people with his rage, but we don’t see people dying onscreen. Batman blows up cop cars, and it looks cool, but I say to myself, “Best case scenario, that cop in that car flying into a brick wall never walks again.” Hellboy punches a cab and flips it into the air onto its roof. Captain America beats the hell out of people doing their job. No one talks about not hurting the people who are shooting at them, but Diana does. Even when she’s at half-power, she’s a real hero.

I didn’t like this movie. I didn’t hate it. But I didn’t enjoy it. Maybe you did. I’m not trying to convince you to dislike it. I wanted it to be as good as the first, but it wasn’t even close. I’ll see the next movie, but I hope it takes place in the modern world and features villains worthy of a super-heroine of Wonder Woman’s power and star level. 

Some other stuff I couldn’t fit in:

An impenetrable suit of armor is mentioned, and of course, later, Diana must wear it. 

Maxwell Lord is using his wish power on the President while there’s a presentation about a new satellite that he can use to broadcast his wish power to the whole world. This will be used as an example of lazy writing that in future Screenwriting 101 classes.  

The end credits appearance was misplaced. If they wanted to use Linda Carter, they could have used her earlier to set up the whole wish stone thingee.

365 Days of Review: Day 4

 

Elfquest: The Final Quest

img_3434

I was very excited when I discovered this graphic novel with Skywise, Cutter, and Leetah on the cover. I grew up on classic Elfquest and have read and reread the original graphic novels many times over the years.

A lot has changed since the late ‘80s. For me and for the elves. New elves and tribes have been added to the existing wolfriders including sea elves and another tribe of wolfriders led by Cutter’s daughter Ember. While it was great to see the elves I was familiar with, there were too many divergent plots for my taste. While I understand that there would be unfamiliar characters, relationships, and plotlines, Elfquest: The Final Quest suffers from overcrowding. Like Crisis on Infinite Earths or any superhero battle royale, there are too many characters to focus on the story. In addition to the multiple tribes and all their characters, there are new human villains with technology to focus on. All in all, like Thanksgiving dinner, Final Quest was something I had to do, but I’m glad it’s over.

Look for reviews of the aforementioned classic Elfquests in future posts. I can’t wait.

Elfquest: The Final Quest combines issues 1-6. Art and writing by Richard and Wendi Pini

Bone: Out From Boneville (2002)

Review #3

Cousins Fone (naked), Phoney (star on his shirt), and Smiley Bone (taller, smokes a cigar) have been banished from Boneville for Phoney’s latest monetary scam of his fellow townspeople. The threesome is separated and they find out that the world is much bigger and more dangerous than they had ever imagined.

                         bone

The humor, art, and storytelling are G-rated, meaning that there is danger without violence, and characterization without sex or profanity. However, the portrayal of a female human gives the story a hint of sex, which is strange. Fone Bone watches from afar as Thorn takes off her pants and bathes in a hot spring. When the two meet, he falls instantly in love (as portrayed by the hearts circling his head). Later, Thorn is sexualized when she wakes up from a nightmare and her bare shoulder is exposed. I know what you’ll say; “Jan, you’re projecting your own thoughts onto this delightful kid’s comic.” Perhaps, but the oddities continue. Later, when Fone Bone and Thorn (121) are returning to a cabin, Thorn’s cleavage is on display. Finally, on the inside back cover is the image of Thorn from behind holding hands with Fone and Phoney and she’s wearing a suggestively short skirt. What’s my point? The artist, Jeff Smith, has 100% control of how his art appears and these images made me shake my head and wonder why, in an otherwise G-rated comic, would he personify the only female character (other than her grandmother) with these, albeit brief, sexual images?


Furthermore, I’m sure Smith does a lot to explain the world in the coming issues, but I was confused. It’s a fantasy world with dragons, prophecies, talking bugs, rat-creatures, and Sauron-esque bad guys, but the world also includes real-world items, such as comic books, dollar bills, the novel Moby Dick. These “real” items run the risk or ruining the fantasy the writer has worked hard to create.


Bone is an “all-ages” comic that feels like Calvin and Hobbes meets The Hobbit. It has received glowing reviews from The Comics Journal, Will Eisner, and Publisher’s Weekly using words such as “witty” and “masterful”. There is nothing wrong with Bone. It is well-drawn, there are no gaps in the storytelling, and it is a well-received, long-lasting comic book. I really enjoyed Rose, Thorn’s grandmother (ohhhh, I get it!) who races cows, singlehandedly beats a horde of rat creatures, and has a previous relationship with, and intimidates, the dragon. However, I wasn’t drawn in by the world or its characters. Fone and Phoney’s names are a bit too similar for my liking; a small complaint I know, but the similarity confused me at first. Phoney is a money-grubbing trickster who’s backstory makes him seem like a psychopath. Smiley is the light-hearted, agreeable type, and Fone is the stable one. I chuckled once or twice, but otherwise, the jokes aren’t that funny or clever. While Bone appeals to many readers, I found myself unenchanted.     

Bone: Out From Boneville collects issues Bone: 1-5 and was originally published in 1993. Art and story by Jeff Smith.

Y: The Last Man: Volume One

Y: The Last Man

Y

No capes. No monsters. No heroes (well, there’s one-his sister, Hero). No powers. No villains. No magic (possibly a magic medallion). Y: The Last Man isn’t like most other comic books.
Without warning or explanation, every male on earth dies. The story centers on the humans, but all the male animals die as well, leaving the females to clean up a patriarchal civilization.
The Why in the comic book is:
Why.
Isn’t.
This.
A.
Show?!
It reads like Heroes or Lost, or even 24. You might respond with “Isn’t there a show about the last man on earth called, um, The Last Man on Earth?” Well, invisible questioner, that’s true. But the show is different because it’s a comedy and the comic book is more of a dramatic fantasy. The comic came first, and it’s hard not to imagine that the basic idea of the show was inspired by (ripped off) the comic. No spoilers, but the climax of the first trade paperback is a plot point in the show.
Y: The Last Man is thought-provoking in its execution. The real world concerns of every male dying at once are addressed (What do the survivors do with the bodies? What about the mostly-male governments of the world?) Yorkick, an English-major and escape artist, along with his monkey Ampersand, does his best to travel from the United States to Australia to reunite with his fiancee. Along the way, he encounters violent Amazons, the remnants of the elected government escape from the White House, and a discovers a seemingly utopian town. Did I mention that technology has been knocked for a loop? Oh yeah, the phones don’t work and things like cars and gasoline are scarce.

I look forward to reading the other books in the series. There are many mysteries to be answered, such as: What happened to wipe out half the human race? Will Yorick reach his girlfriend? What’s the deal with his sister? Is Yorick (and his monkey) really the last man (males) on Earth?
Y: The Last Man is written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Pia Guerra and published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics collecting issues 1-10.

Star Wars: Shattered Empire (2015)

Shattered Empire picks up just as Return of the Jedi ends, but the heroes of the movie are mostly supporting characters. The main character is rebel-pilot Shara Bey, a woman who has sacrificed much for the rebellion and feels guilty for her desire to settle down with her husband and child. If you were hoping to see Luke and his fellow scoundrels from the films, they’re all there driving the plot and interweaving their stories with hers.                                                         

                           250px-Star_Wars_Shattered_Empire-1_(2015)

Shara Bey accompanies Luke on a stealth mission to rescue a pair of Force Trees from Imperial hands. Princess Leia has an interesting story as she travels to Naboo with Shara Bey and interacts with the planet made famous in Episodes 1-3. What is noteworthy about this storyline is what is unsaid. Naboo is the home of Queen Amidala, Leia’s biological mother, a plot point I hope the comics follow.

              Journey-to-Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens-Shattered-Empire-Page-17-660x1014


The art and storytelling are excellent, even if I was distracted by the space battles. The whole “Red One” to “Red Leader” type of dialogue works in the movies but falls short in a comic book. Otherwise, the art from paneling to colors, to inks and lettering are well done.

Shattered Empire kicks off a new line of Star Wars comics featuring new and old characters. Is it a must-read? Not really. There aren’t any new plot threads left hanging, nor are there any dramatic moments that make this story stand out. Shara is a competent character with a believable back-story, and the returning characters are fun but aren’t necessary other than to give readers a hook.  

Also, included in the collected edition is issue 1 of Princess Leia and a throwback first-issue of the original comic adaptation of the first movie. Leia is excellent (look for that in a future review) but 1977 Staw Wars is missable if you saw the movie.  

Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1-4 is written by Greg Rucka, and illustrated by Marco Checchetto and Angel Unzueta with Emilio Laiso. It also features Princess Leia #1 and Star Wars (1977) #1. It is published by Marvel/Disney