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Ever wonder what it's like to be in that moment between struggling artist and published author? Read on and find out.

Monday, July 14, 2014

10 Tips For Book Signings

            Weeks of effort have paid off and this month I have a heavy schedule of book signings and other author events. While I was at one of them this past Saturday, it occurred to me that I might as well offer ten tips based on what I have learned.

10. Arrive early and offer to help setup for the event. This gives you a chance to meet the staff and establish a connection with them. In turn, this allows them to discover that you are friendly and helpful.

9.  Bring donuts for the staff. I guarantee that if you bring a tasty gift for the people who work the book store that they will remember you and want you back. A book signing shouldn’t be a one-time event. It should be the first in a series of visits during your writing career.
8. Bring an assistant. Having a friend or family member along will put you more at ease and that in turn translates into a friendlier author meeting. A friend can also help talk with customers when the table gets a bit crowded so make sure it is someone familiar with your book.
7. Stand. The biggest reason for this is that your conversations with customers will have more positive energy if you are standing. Not to mention that just sitting there can often look as if the author just doesn’t care.

6. Greet everyone. You will get fewer people to stop and talk to you if you say nothing.
5. Have a poster, with your picture, that tells everyone you are an author signing books. Even if you are at a bookstore a surprising number of people will not realize that you are the actual author of the stack of books you are standing behind. And some people will pick up the book just because you are the author and will sign it for them.
4. Have something to hand the customers to remind them of your book. Bookmarks and postcards that have the cover image from your book both work well. It keeps your book on their mind as they walk around the store and even if they don’t pick the book up at that time it will remind them that the book is available when they see the items again.
3. Ask customers about themselves. Show an interest in them and get them talking about themselves and you have greatly increased the chances that they will pickup a copy of your book. Asking about what they like to read or what the last book that they read are both good questions that can be connected back to your novel.
2. Offer to sign any books that are left over. If you haven’t sold out, this creates an incentive for customers to pickup your book over the unsigned books that surround it. In many cases the store will be more willing to place the books in a high visibility location because of the autographs.
1. Have fun. If you’re having fun then so will the people who stop and talk to you.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Movie Review - Transformers: Age of Extinction

Transformers: Age of Extinction  $$ 1/2


165 Minutes
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Jack Reynor, Nicola Peltz, and Stanley Tucci.
Director: Michael Bay.

            Transformers: Age of Extinction is the fourth movie in the franchise.

             What I liked best about this film is that Michael Bay has set it in a world forever changed by the events of the previous films. People have been killed, buildings have been destroyed, and humanity has learned to be wary of the shape-shifting metal aliens that have resumed their age old war on our planet.
             The film starts off strong as Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg) finds an old truck and buys it in the hope that he can fix it up and sell it. His daughter, Tessa (Nicola Peltz), is less than pleased with the decision to spend money to support his inventor habit. Things get interesting when government agents show up and demand that he turn the truck over to them.
            Unfortunately, the story deteriorates as the movie progresses. It seems like they combined two separate scripts into one huge conglomerate movie and then cut scenes to bring it down to something in the 3 hour range. There are too many villains and too much that is going on to give any of them adequate coverage in just one film.
            Overall, I enjoyed Transformers: Age of Extinction, but could have done without the massive combat scenes at the end that struck me as little more than excuses to blow things up in spectacular fashion. I find that a poor substitute for a good plot.
            Here is how I ranked each of the aspects:

1. Fun – Fast paced action, plenty of comedic moments, and a few tiny threads of actual story. I enjoyed most of the movie. And if you like the wholesale destruction of buildings and robots then you should have no problems with the parts I didn’t care much about.
            I give Transformers a Full MB for fun.

            2. Story – There are basically two stories here and neither one of them fully developed. One involves a connection to a master race that created the Transformers and a plan to have them returned. The second story deals with humans mistrusting the Transformers and developing an improved series of robots of their own. Either one could have been successful, but crammed together and missing crucial parts of their respective plotlines prevented this film from telling a decent story.
            I give Transformers no MB for story.

            3. Technical – Michael Bay does a great job of blowing things up. There are plenty of cool looking alien robots and spaceships on the screen. The movie succeeds there, but another technical aspect of filmmaking is the direction. In this case Mr. Bay attempts to meld two separate storylines together and fails.
            I give Transformers a Half of a MB for technical.

             4. Acting – Mark Wahlberg does a good job in the main role of the film. I enjoyed the scenes where he has an active part of what is going on. Also notable are the performances of Stanley Tucci as Joshua Joyce, John Goodman as Hound, and Titus Welliver as James Savoy. Jack Reynor and Nicola Peltz turned-in a passable performances.
            I’m torn as to whether Transformers deserves a Full MB or only Half for acting. For this review I will err on the side of generosity and give it a Full MB. 

            That gives Transformers: Age of Extinction a rating of 2 ½ Movie Bucks. I definitely recommend catching it as a matinee or other discount showing. Since it is packed with special effects it’s probably best to catch it on the big screen.

                        Randy’s Rating System 

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Movie Review - How To Train Your Dragon 2

How To Train Your Dragon 2  $$$ 1/2

102 Minutes
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, and America Ferrera.  
Director: Dean DeBlois. 

            Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), Toothless, and the rest of the inhabitants of Berk are back. This time Hiccup has to deal with the twin problems of being nominated as Stoick’s (Gerard Butler) successor and the threat of invasion by an evil dragon lord, Drago (Djimon Hounsou).
            As far as sequels go, I feel that this film succeeded, but liked the original better. However, my children thought that this was the better of the two movies.

            This is how I rated it.  

1. Fun – If you liked the first movie then I expect you’re going to like this one. It is more of the same, but with a different storyline. Drago and his army do introduce a darker element into the story than what we saw in the first one. Still, I felt it deserved a full MB for fun.  

2. Story – I really applaud the storyline. The writers have nicely woven the twin plots together into a single cohesive tale. While I prefer the father and son story I appreciated how they deftly contrasted the two dragon lords, leaving us with a powerful message. It earned a full MB for story.            

3. Technical – Without having gone back and watched the first movie again, I felt that the animation for this film was even better. I found myself being distracted by the rich detail of the terrain through which the characters traveled. The rest of the technical elements were quite good as well. I gave this film a full MB for Technical aspects.  

4. Acting – This is good cast and they did a fine job with the voice acting. However, I didn’t feel the sincerity of their performances as strongly as I did with the first film. I didn’t love the characters as much as I did the first time. I don’t know if this is a problem with the direction the actors received or a matter of some of them just wanting to collect a paycheck and go home. In either case, I give the film only half a MB for acting.       

            Add them up and How To Train Your Dragon 2 gets a total rating of 3 ½ Movie Bucks. If you’re anxious to see it then don’t wait for a matinee. Catch it first run at whatever time works best for you. Just go see it.

                        Randy’s Rating System 

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.