A Return to Form

So before I begin discussing some of the television shows of late, it is time for a confession. I’ve been seriously considering rescinding my policy regarding no book reviews.

The policy existed for a few reasons. There are concerns about conflicts of interest (promoting friends or nay-saying authors within my genre, etc) and also about the risk of creating enmity over honest critiques of works that fall below perfection. Although a heavy helping of tact and constructive criticism is essential to kaizen, there will always be those who are angered by the truth.

However there is a dearth of purposeful reviews. Product sites are host to star-ratings and plenty of unconnected praise, but they rarely go more than skin deep. What I’d like to see is true analysis; a discussion of themes, dissection of character motivations, breakdowns of any technical mistakes found by proofreading such as typos, misspelling or formatting concerns. 

Therefore I’ll be establishing three basic rules:

  1. The author or editor must request the review in the first place.
  2. Friends and colleagues can request, but I will mention a prior relationship with them alongside the release.
  3. The work must be available for purchase on at least one major outlet– This is to prevent trying to obtain “free” proofreading before release.

If anyone feels comfortable with these arrangements, feel free to contact me once the official page is available with my email. You can also simply comment here.

These reviews are spoiler free, but are lighter as a result.

Game of Thrones: Salt and Faith

Jon SnowI’ve finally cracked the seal on watching the latest season of Game of Thrones. Two episodes in and something was very amiss. There was the story line to Dorne which feels hampered by a missing faction elsewhere (which was present in the books).

Likewise, the situation at the wall involving Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) seems to have materialized from effectively nowhere, resulting in deal-making with someone he ought to hate. This proved frustrating personally as Davos is one of my favorite characters.

These incidents are justifying my concerns that deviations and omissions from the source material are starting to hamper the series. Thus the screenwriters have begun hot-wiring threads together, hoping to keep the engine running. Yet the 10-episode format limits available time to smooth the wrinkles of these transitions.

George R.R. Martin’s novels give the impression that he’s fairly good at avoiding pointless tales and subplots. Even the things that seem unconnected (and there are many, many such elements) often connect and trigger events down the road, although sometimes these have to be taken with a hint of salt and faith. Why the screenwriters didn’t respect this more, I cannot say. But their hastiness instills me with patience for Martin as he carefully crafts the final installments.

The book series is, after all, his Magnum Opus.

This is not to say that this season has all been bad. Watching a childhood dream come true for Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) on screen was rather amazing. And Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) complicated situation has my full attention. It simply maybe one of those moments when a few bad scenes must be overlooked to arrive at an otherwise good season. Time will tell.

The 100: Murder Made More 

The 100Going from fantasy “past” to science fiction “future,” I’ve finally cracked the code that is The 100.

There has been a trend where the first few episodes seem to have it rough, with character connections rampantly making or breaking. But as the story gets closer to mid-season, the alliances are finally sealed and the show tells the plot that it wants to tell… and quickly gets better for it.

This seems why the early episodes feel inorganic as the characters play musical chairs with pairings, the emotions they’re supposed to portray being jerked about. It could be that the producers have been trying to tweak and figure chemistry between its stars to best please its audience.

Another peculiarity has been the flip-floppery with regard to killing its darlings. In the prior seasons, killing characters was sometimes a painful, drawn out affair. This season saw sudden deaths claim two characters from the show’s dramatis personæ– one who resulted in a fair amount outrage. 

Be forewarned, there are spoilers within this news link if the reader is curious.

However, the death of this person was absolutely necessary to advance the plot in a vital direction. And curiously, it seems we’ve also learned more about this character post-death than anytime while they were alive. And, as usual, it’s the pow of each season’s finale that keeps its fans coming back to next season’s slow start. That’s one thing we’ve learned to count on.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Dangling Storylaces

Kimmy SchmidtIt was unclear what exactly was missing from this season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Only after being put side-by-side to the first season does the issue stick out. The first had an easier time weaving its most outlandish elements into the central plot. To this day, I still giggle over Titus Andromedon’s (Tituss Burgess) amazing Pinot Noir music video and the autotuned remix of his “Gonna Be Famous” (which is exactly what happened as a result). And Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) had her flashbacks to life in the bunker (occasionally revisited this season but not as often nor as rewarding). But this season, bizarre antics came more out of the blue, and were less memorable.

The plot-juggling was weirdly handled this time. Titus’ cliffhanger ending of last season was turned into an episode and then resolved with very little impact, although his follow up plots were simultaneously more interesting and entertaining. But less so for the rest of the cast. Jacqueline White’s (Jane Krakowski) hunt for spiritual meaning kept jabbing at a political cankersore. Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane) labored against the gentrification effecting her neighborhood to no immediate effect for all thirteen episodes, although the ending suggested an intriguing thread for the third season.

Kimmy’s story lines were a Boggle board; first on her forbidden relationship with Dong before folding into deeply embedded psychological issues– resulting in animated scenes that were strange and out-of-place. Then there was the dynamic between her and Jacqueline that seemed little more than filler.

Her finale simply didn’t have that coveted “full circle” plot that Seinfeld and The League were renown for possessing. The first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt accomplished this in a less karmic way then those other shows, returning to the origin of the problem. But the second season simply didn’t try, arriving at some catharsis that doesn’t feel as meaningful as one may hope.

That’s all for now. Keep an eye out for Penny Dreadful and Halt and Catch Fire reviews next time.

Friday Fun, Copyright & Bibliography

Saint PaulMy last post resulted in a pretty substantial impact. I’ll probably do another one or two on the same topic later, focusing around the technologies publishing companies can use to make their lives easier and marketing theories to help drive sales… maybe even one around public relations work or building a quality product. Likely in that order too.

I know that this knowledge is not as sexy as authors want to read, but this stuff is important for figuring out the bottlenecks. If anyone wants to write, they have to know the business.

Anyway, back to my more generic rantings.

While walking to the day job this morning, I finally had an idea for a story due in 20 days. Rather than devise something totally 100% new, it’s actually another tale set in the same universe in a story I innovated, soon to be released from a different publisher. I think press companies tend to enjoy linking stories like that, because they can redirect some sales from another title their way, thus cross-pollinating their readerships pools.

Frequently, writers coming from a fan fiction background get a little confused about this practice; fan fiction means you’re writing something that is not your original intellectual property, and unless it’s public domain or the creator gives selective rights (see Slender Man’s copyright status for an example, or Kindle Worlds) you need the permission of the owner to publish anything under their franchise. But if your creation is wholly original, it’s yours. You’re the owner. And you can take it to whichever and whatever publisher you want (who is then free to reject it.)

Digression: I just noticed The 100 is on Kindle Worlds list of properties. Now that’s something I might actually consider crafting a story for. The show is great and I need to read the original trilogy by Kass Morgan.

Anyway, this revelation leaves me with one story ready to write, two that need the synopses nailed down and one in need of inspiration. As much as I want to go home and tackle this queue to the ground, my day job calls and I have family/future family visiting this weekend.

One has to keep creating new work to grow the authorial resume. Typically, my bibliography only gets updated once a general agreement or contract has been signed. At which point, the awaited literature finds its place under the “Publications Coming Soon” section. There is more work brewing out there. But until I have at least a confirmation of acceptance, I never mention it specifically.

SadkoI picked up the idea of tracking my own bibliography from Josh Reynolds, a professional author I respect. I did an interview with him sometime back for the Bolthole, when he pointed to his own scoreboard. It’s interesting to see the growth. In 2003, he published three short stories. Same in 2004, but in ’05 and ’06, he doubled that. Afterwards, ’07 was an accomplished year for him, with over a dozen short stories and his first listed novel. He’s been a busy guy ever since.

Some struggling writers might feel down after seeing a resume like that. But if you’re one of them, ask yourself, “Have I been at it for 12 years?”

I bet the answer is no. I might want to reorganize my bibliography by release dates myself to keep tabs on my record.

However, that reminds me. This blog. The talk about starting my own publisher and/or my own site has made me consider whether or not to keep it. Originally I was going to polish and transform it into a more official looking site, but its roots as a fan blog kept bothering me. Yet He2etic’s Hysterical Horoscope has been around for four years and has over 300 blog posts. That’s a long time to just walk away from.