Hawkeye Disney+ Show

This is my review from 2019 of the Hawkeye graphic novel, that seems to have heavily inspired the new show (which as of this post I have not seen). My Life as a Weapon and the following releases, Little Hits, Rio Bravo, and LA Woman seem an unlikely inspiration for a television series starring the marksman Avenger. His career as Ronin (briefly hinted at in Avengers: Endgame) would have been bad-ass. Flashbacks to his life as a super villain in the comics would have been neat. But, Clint Barton apartment complex owner who gets a dog, a girl-sidekick, and deals with the likes of the TrackSuit Mafia, gets the shit kicked out of him, and battles the villain known as (Spoiler) is a great choice for plot line to bring to the small screen. It’s exactly what I would have picked.Matt Fraction’s run on Hawkeye is amazing and different from any superhero comic you will ever read.

Volume 60: Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon (2013)

“What’s his name?”
“He’s not my dog. What’s his collar say?”
“Collar says it’s ‘Arrow’”.
“I’ll come up with something better.”

I thought this would be an ordinary story about a team superhero member on a solo adventure. Typically these solo missions involve their backstory, maybe a love interest, they might confront the person who trained them, and so on. You know, superhero stuff that expands the character but probably won’t come up again in the context of a team book. 

Wrong.

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon features Clint Barton, a powerless, but not helpless Avenger. Clint’s meager apartment building is about to be sold and its residents evicted by a Russian slumlord aka Tracksuit Dracula. Clint offers to buy the building but the offer is rejected causing him to suspect something larger and more sinister is going on.  

Enter Kate Bishop, Clint’s young replacement during his recent absence. Together they journey to Madripoor to attend high stakes a high stakes auction of a videotape showing an assassination that the government and SHIELD and the Avengers would rather not be seen by the world. Everyone who is everyone is there to bid on the tape, including The Kingpin, Hydra, the Hand, and Madame Masque. 

This new (from 6 years ago) direction for Hawkeye is fun and the writing and art are perfect. Fraction uses some bold storytelling techniques including shifts in time without warning, something your creative writing teacher would say, “…is jarring” but it works, and what does she know anyway?

My only complaint is the disparity in Hawkeye’s combat readiness. Early-on he gets into fights with untrained thugs and the sheer number of opponents combined with the danger of combat and he is taken out. More than once. You might think, “Okay, it’s gonna be one of those kinds of stories where the hero gets his ass beat,” but later Hawkeye takes on trained and armed ninjas and beats them like they were cub scouts. What does this mean? I don’t know. Otherwise, Hawkeye, written by Fraction makes me happy.  

by Matt Fraction (Writer), David Aja (Artist, #1-3) Javier Pulido (Artist, #4-5) Matt Hollingsworth (Color Artist), Annie Wu (Illustrator) Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer), Alan Davis (Penciler), Francesco Francavilla (Illustrator)

Check out my other reviews on my Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/janivesthewriter

Best Laid Plans…

Confessions…Quickie Edition

I read the book 20 Books to 100K. The premise for this (and the similarly named Facebook group) is that if you write twenty books, you’ll have enough algorithm recognition from Amazon that you’ll make, well, 100 thousand dollars. I’m not sure if that means per year or overall, but I like the idea either way.

Another premise put forth by the author Michelle Kulp is to write “Quick Reads” and put out a book of 100-pages or less per month every month. Her focus, and the focus of the other books that push the same idea seems to be based on list-based non-fiction I.e. instructional books like 23 Ways to Organize Your Life. I disregarded the non-fiction angle and ran with applying this to my current work, a sexy vampire novel. I  had also just started writing a superhero novel based on my own graphic novel that would be perfect for the fast reads category.

What an inspiration! “But won’t you sacrifice quality for quantity?” you might ask. “Great hypothetical question!” I would reply. That’s an obvious thought for anyone, but imagine this- consider making a dozen tiny meals versus the planning and execution of a single  banquet. The answer is, that both are unique and require their own difficulties, but to be able to focus on smaller portions frees the mind from the daunting task of planning, writing, editing and releasing an entire 300ish page novel. You have a faster turnaround from idea to release, and one might imagine there is a market of readers not looking to invest the time and money in reading long books. 

“But readers love trilogies and they love to sink their teeth into a, or curl up with, a thick book!” Sure. That’s true. But in this short attention span world, I can see readers who like to finish a book in a single sitting and move onto the next. At less than 100 pages, the quick read isn’t quite a short story and it’s not as big as a novella. “It’s just right,” said a little girl, settling down in a bed that’s not hers.

I was psyched as I browsed books (and sales numbers) in Amazon’s short reads category. I emailed their customer service and asked to have my graphic novel put in that category, thinking that it would be possible to promote my book at a lower price point and achieve the coveted “Best Seller” status, even for a week. The reply to my request was, “You don’t decide to be in this category. We decide to put you in the category.” Shit! And this from a company that lets obvious erotica that is not super heroic be placed in the “super hero” category by publishers seeking an easier best seller title.

Sigh.

That isn’t going to stop me. I’ll still release my short novel and start on the next one to see what happens. Hopefully I’ll be invited into the short reads category, but at least I’ll be able to get to the goal of 20 books more quickly.

I wonder what I’ll do with my 100k…

Confessions: Good Meows/Bad Meows

Confessions: Good Meows/Bad Meows

11/2/2021

After a month of work, Jake Hunsbusher and I (mostly him) finished recording the audiobook. What an experience! You would think it’s as simple as reading the words and recording, but for an emotional project with different characters of varying ages, accents, and sexes it felt like a little movie with me as the director.  I would have him rerecord a few sections with the inflections and emotions that I imagined while writing. The audio read by a true voice actor adds a layer to the story for the reader/listener, just like an artist for a comic book adds dimension the writer could never have imagined.  

That’s the good news. The negative news is that I had some difficulty with a promotional aspect of modern-day publishing. Many indie writers swear by a service called Pubby which promises to get your book reviewed for a monthly fee. The monthly fee (a year’s worth all at once is not a monthly fee, btw) is charged at the end of the ten-day trial. I put a note in my calendar to assess and cancel if needed, and off I went!

The way Pubby works (in a nutshell) is you get stars for reading and reviewing books. You can use those stars, as well as your introductory stars and stars you purchase, to get your book reviewed. As you look for ways to get stars you are offered a limited selection of books to read. I chose a few that might be of interest and went to work. I had a hard time because the books were not interesting enough to complete so I stopped until I could find books that I could read and like. Here’s comes the problem. A day or two into my trial, I had one review for each of my books I had made available. They were positive in a generic sort of way that indicated the person may or may not have read the book all the way through. They read like, “If you like science fiction with lots of action, this is the book for you.”

That’s just it. The people on this service are writers looking for reviews. They want to get their stars and move on. If you don’t read the book, at least you can should a positive review like you hope other readers will do. I went at it all wrong; I wanted to READ the books!

It reminded me of Meow Meow Beans on the show Community. If you haven’t seen it, one episode features a social media ap that allows you to rate your fellow students for arbitrary reasons and the people with the highest rankings are worth the most Beans and thus rise to become the ones with the highest social values. 

I don’t want to get reviewed that way. I want people to love or hate my work on its own merits, but I at least want them to read it. Just like I don’t like when someone gives a bad review based on the first two chapters, I don’t want a positive review if all they read was the blurb on the back of the book.

So, I cancelled. Here comes issue 2. They gave me a partial refund. I asked and they said that was all the charges they saw. I checked with my bank and they said I had been charged the whole year. I went back and forth with Pubby and they couldn’t find my charge because I had spelled my email wrong the first time I signed up. The customer service person was super snarky, saying things like, “Again, did you sign up under a different email address?” And “Does this email ring a bell…? I had spelled my email wrong on the initial signup but I was still getting correspondence and further charges, so they could have easily looked it up another way. After a frustrating experience and terrible customer service, I give Pubby ZERO Meow Meow Beans.

Side Note: While talking with my credit card company representative, I felt the need to explain that Pubby is not a porn site. She laughed and told me she doesn’t judge. Which makes me think that she thought it was indeed a porn site, Pubby. Yeah. 

I’m not sure how other indie writers do it. 

I get e-mails from Mailchimp on how to expand my mailing list. I get e-mails from my server on how to enhance traffic to my store, which reminds me I should get a store. Facebook offers me a spend 20 get 20 deal. Bookbub has some ideas on how to spend my ad dollars. So does Twitter. And Instagram. 

Should I be exclusive with Amazon or go “wide,” meaning Apple, B&N, Bookbaby, etc. If I go wide I make less of a percentage of profits and lose out on that Kindle Unlimited deal where I get paid one cent for every three pages a subscriber reads. Cha ching!   

Anyway.

I picked someone to read my book Twenty-One Octobers, a self-made voice actor Jake Hunsbusher. He requires very little direction, but it’s weird to hear such a personal story read by someone else, yet draws from me the same emotions I tapped into while writing it. 

Part of the reason I am spending time and money on making an audiobook and a large print edition, aside from the potential revenue, is so my 84-year-old mother can enjoy at least one of her son’s works. But as I hear my voice actor read the words of a character inspired by her, I wonder how she’ll take it. Often I think my mother will like a book or a television show, only to be flabbergasted by her reaction. I bought her the dvd of “Police Academy” because I remember her liking the movies when I was a kid. She didn’t understand why I got her the slapstick raunchy comedy, and my partner suggested that maybe she didn’t like the movies, but went because I did.

Huh. 

I want her to read my book; I went to a lot of effort and expense, but despite everything the book will still be “too small” or “hard to hear” or she just won’t listen to it or read it. Why not? I don’t know.

I’ll leave with this possibly unrelated excerpt from a book I just finished called Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. She shares essays and anecdotes about her career and thoughts on being a writer. Though she is successful, she has a remarkable insight into thoughts of failing. 

No one has expressed it better than a great novelist I heard once on a talk show who said something like “You want to know the price I pay for being a writer? Okay I’ll tell you. I travel by plane a great deal. And I’m usually seated next to some huge businessman who works on files or his laptop for a while, then he notices me and asks what I do. And I say I’m a writer. Then there’s always a terrible silence. Then he says eagerly, ‘Have you written anything I might have heard of?’

And that’s the price I pay for being a writer.’    

Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

Confessions: October 5th

Write drunk. Edit sober.

I drink therefore I am!

I think I will become a wino.

Great advice?

Many of the great writers have been alcoholics. Or drug users. Or both. I have often joked about becoming an alcoholic to fuel my writing. But I can never find the right booze. If I’m out at a bar, I’m moving around and interacting with others; I don’t yawn and yearn for my bed. But if I’m home, a beer or two and I can’t concentrate on writing.

Beer makes me bloated. Scotch and whiskey and vodka are too hardcore while alone at home. What about wine? Red wine? Like a teenager experimenting, I pour a big glass. The kind that comes in a box with a plastic bladder inside. I power through the yawnsies, as I call them, and soon I’m in the sweet spot. Happy and invigorated. 

I have reason to celebrate. I signed a contract with an audio professional for my book Twenty-One Octobers. He’s good. When I read aloud, I feel the emotions of the powerful scenes but I really felt them when I heard them from a trained actor. He hits words and really pulls the joy and rage and bitterness of the characters in the audition, in ways I hadn’t expected. I coach him on the subtext like a movie director and he understands me. I’m excited to hear him while reading the full script. 

Confessions 9/23

On the theme of reviews: It’s easy to get energy from positive reviews but it’s just as easy, if not easier, to let the bad reviews get you down. Last night, I was looking at my Goodreads author’s page and trying to utilize its resources as best as possible, it is important to make sure your info and publications are up-to-date. Goodreads is a part of Amazon so they list all my books, available and not available. For some reason, it lists my trade paperback The League of Super Groovy Crimefighters twice and both listings have a few reviews. 

Scanning. 

Scanning. 

Two one-star ratings?! No followup on what they liked and didn’t like. Just fart and get off the elevator. I’m very proud of the work I did creating, writing, and publishing a limited series. To me, one star denotes the worst of the worst which would include terrible art and god-awful writing. Say what you want about the idea and execution, the art is great. I didn’t draw it, but the artists who contributed to the cover and interior work did a fantastic job. Maybe the humor was sophomoric. Maybe he didn’t like black-and-white. Maybe he didn’t think poking fun at the themes and oddities of the 70s was very funny. Either way, one star is harsh, in my humble opinion.

I’m being sensitive, of course. The comic series never really took off the way some other Indies like TMNT or the Tick did, so I understand some just didn’t get it. That’s okay. You never know. You have to try.

I did a promotion on Bookbub for a free book giveaway for my novel Twenty-One Octobers. 100 people were selected from thousands of entrants to receive a free digital copy. I netted about ten ratings and one written review, which was nice but perhaps not “worth it” for the money I spent. It’s hard to know if the other 90 winners have read or will read the book, but as an indie writer you can only try and hope something works. Some people will read what you write and love it. Some people will read it and hate it. Some will tell you, and fewer will tell you why. That’s okay, because most people won’t read it. 

I have a friend who showed her support by buying a copy of my science fantasy book Champions of the Maelstrom. Her mother picked it up off the table and read it without knowing anything about the book. She enjoyed it despite not being a fan of the genre or even knowing me. 

You never know. 

Confessions…9/22

A continuation of my previous Confession- my reviewer gave the final book in my series, Avatars of the Maelstrom 4/5 stars! I’ve been checking every day like a I was waiting for a grade from my professor.

“Great story, keeping you guessing every page I read. Unexpected ending…I’m sure you all will enjoy reading.”

Here’s hoping all my reviews are that positive.

I haven’t written anything in a few days; I’m working on new formats for my previous publications. Large Print and Hardcovers require redoing the original covers, a task for my freelance artists. I changed computers last year and lost the writing of Twenty-One Octobers, so I had to salvage my original Word by downloading the book on Amazon and splitting it up into chapters and recreating the book using Vellum. But after a couple of day’s work, I have my digital manuscript back.

I’m also waiting on the cover for the Trilogy edition of Tragic Heroes as well as the prototype cover for sVck, the first from friend and long-time artistic go-to-guy, Michael Kelleher, the second is coming from art house 100 Covers.

Okay, back to work. Blessings on all your houses.  

Confessions of a Failed Writer-6

9/21/2021

I had a minor success yesterday. I try not to check too often, but any writer is going to look at his or her reviews. The trilogy I released a month ago is fairly long, so even if someone bought them, they might not have finished. Anyway, I noticed my first two books in the series had one five-star review each. I was cautiously optimistic.

My previous release, Twenty-One Octobers has almost ten reviews. The people who have reviewed are friends or friends of friends, and while I think they genuinely enjoyed the books, the true critic is someone who doesn’t care about your feelings. The internet can be an unforgiving hellscape and god have mercy on your should if someone paid money for something and did not enjoy it. 

“I got this book with zero expectations but good reviews. I began reading and I couldn’t put the darn book down until I finished reading cover to cover. Yes that how good it was. Looking forward to book 2.”

That feels good. For someone to have spent their money and enjoyed something I worked for years to complete, well that’s the dream. And to write a review…-sniff-

“With ups and downs like in every story is a rollercoaster of actions and twist of emotions not foreseen by far. Again is book you cannot put down. Different from the first in a good way.”

-If you’re a friend and you wrote the above review, let me know only if it was honest. Otherwise, keep the secret to yourself.

And thank you. Whoever you are.

Confessions of a Failed Writer-rebirth edition

To paraphrase Ursula Le Guin: 

“When did you know you wanted to be a writer?” 

I’d respond, “I’ve always been a writer.”

I wish I had started writing with the intention of publishing earlier in life. In the computer lab in High School (class of 1990) I would write stories of my Dungeons and Dragons characters. My friend gave me my first criticism, she said, “You need more than fight scenes.” She was right.

I always had ideas but rarely got them down on paper. I wrote a poem on my love’s lament that was published in a school journal. I submitted an idea for a role-playing game adventure. But it wasn’t until I was in a near-fatal car crash twenty-four years ago that I decided to quit my job and become a comic-book writer. But I was wrong. I should have been writing while I had that full-time job. It’s all about time management and making choices on what’s important.

Make progress every day. Pick a goal (in this case-writing) and work on it every day. Ten minutes before work. After dinner before putting in a movie, write for half an hour. After putting the kids to bed. It adds up because on the day when you have more time, you already have a foundation. Even if you don’t use what you wrote, you got it out of the way and it will lead to better things. Write in the morning. Write at night. Write when you can’t sleep. Write when all you want to do is sleep.

I have a friend (actually a couple, but I’ll merge them into one for this) who is jealous of the time I have to write. This person would love to be a writer, but just doesn’t have the time. I disagree.  Sometimes, thinking I have unlimited time can be a detriment to the process of completing a project. When I have a job, I do a lot of “writing” while I work, looking forward to the time when I can jot down my ideas. The point is, we choose how we spend our time. There’s a quote, “I always wanted to be a boxer, until I fought someone who WANTED to be a boxer.” The point is,  if you want to do something, do it. 

Don’t wait until you “have the time.” Get a grain of sand and place it where you want it. Tomorrow, add another. Someday you’ll have your castle.

Confessions of a Failed Writer-4

On a whim, I bought a new cover for a book I haven’t finished yet. I’m writing this book with my partner (relationship, not business) and an opportunity to start work on the cover came around (sale) from an art house specializing in custom covers, and I jumped on it. I have a guy I work with for a variety of projects, and I used someone different for Twenty-One Octobers, but this new novel requires a different look. The story is a paranormal romance (vampire erotica) and maybe vampire’s are played out but I think they are due for a comeback. The work in progress is a tongue-in-cheek, saucy bit of romantic X-rated stuff. Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer with sex. So, Buffy the Vampire Layer, which is a thing. 

We’re working on pen names. I decided on Seaward Dracula. She’s still thinking of hers, which is funny because her maiden name is Coffin, but she doesn’t want to use that. Layna Coffin or something would be great, but also it sounds fake, even though it isn’t.

I continue to plug away at my goal of 2000 words a day, but yesterday got away from me. It was a Saturday and I didn’t feel up to writing. Which is okay, as long as I don’t let it happen two days in a row. I don’t know about you, but that’s my flaw when it comes to working out. Skip a day turns into three turns into a treadmill as a 500 dollar clothes hanger.

Anyway, back to work. Happy Sunday.