Welcome To My Blog

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

Friday, November 29, 2013

Stage Two


            I’ve written a book, a publisher has picked it up, and now I can just sit back and bask in the golden rays of my success. Or at least, that is what I thought when I was still a naïve author in training. Don’t get me wrong, no matter how many books I write and get published I’ll still be an author in training, but I’m not as naïve about the process anymore.

            Signing a contract with a publisher only means that you have moved on to Phase Two of your work as an author—marketing. In my situation, there was a relatively short amount of time between the agreement to publish and the release date. Six months would have been plenty of time to prepare my marketing campaign if I had actually started on it when I had the chance. Instead, I waited until my publication date was about three months away before I got rolling with it.

            Had I known what I know now I would have approached the upcoming release date differently. Hopefully, all of you can benefit from my mistakes and avoid them in your own journey as published authors. Here is how I would do it now.

            Celebrate – Let’s be reasonable. Signing with a publisher is a significant goal for any author. Take a couple of weeks to soak it all in. Consider it a vacation from your work as an author and be prepared to get back to work when you are done with it.

            Go back to school – up to this point the education you have received as an author has been related to the writing craft. That’s great and it needs to continue, but then you need to learn how to market your book. No matter how good your publisher is at promoting their titles they will never be as passionate about the book as you. Pick up a couple books on marketing and spend the first month studying them. That doesn’t mean to just read them. In order to successfully market your book you need to understand how the information you read applies to your specific work. I found Jump Start Your Book Sales by Marilyn and Tom Ross to be the most helpful of the books I studied.

            Create a plan – after you finish your marketing studies take a couple of days and make a list of all the tasks that you will need to do to market your book. Don’t be surprised if some of these tasks cause you to add more items to your list.

For example, book signings seemed a simple enough step when they sat innocently on my list. Then when I looked into what I would need to do to make my book signings successful I realized that there was a lot more to it than I had thought. I needed to find locations to hold the signings and decide which ones were best for my particular book. I needed to contact the locations in advance so that I had plenty of time for them, and myself, to prepare for the event. I needed to come up with a way attract customer attention to my table, to devise a creative way to entice them to purchase the book, and to develop items to pass along to those customers who weren’t quite ready to buy the book. This went from being a single item to one that had over a dozen tasks associated with it.

Get busy – once you have a plan, start working it. There are definitely some things that will need to be done before you can move onto other tasks on the list. Items like creating an author bio and a list of book related interview questions will need to be done before you start questing for media interviews. Then there will be plenty of research to find actual newspapers, radio stations, and television shows for you to contact.

All of this may seem too much. At times it does to me. But if I want my book to succeed and if I want people to read it then this is what I have to do. One of the pieces of advice I received along the way is to do five things every day. I can do that. I can write and answer five interview questions in one day. I can contact five newspapers about whether they would like to interview me. I can send out five e-mails to companies inquiring about forming a strategic alliance.

So don’t sweat it. Five items. Every day. They add up.



Monday, November 25, 2013

Movie Review - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire   $$$$ 


146 Minutes
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and Woody Harrelson.  
Director: Francis Lawrence. 

            I made the mistake of being in the theater on opening night for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It was a madhouse. Young people packed the halls and excitedly talked about the film. Some were dressed in Capitol City styled costumes that evoked memories of the rich and decadent citizens in the first movie. Even after we walked into the auditorium to see Thor, the noise of the crowd penetrated the walls.
            Fortunately, I only had to wait until the following morning to see it myself and didn’t have to sit on the floor for hours to do so. If I were young, I have no doubt that participating in an opening night rush would have been a highlight of my month, maybe even the entire year.  

            Katniss (Jennifer Lawrenece) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) embark upon their victory tour, traveling through all twelve districts giving speeches to the masses and attempting to smile as they do. This should be a joyous time for our winners, but it isn’t. The government has cracked down on the population in order to crush a rebellion before it has the chance to get started. Katniss wants to run off into the wilderness with Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Peeta wants to be with Katniss regardless of where that might be. And the people want hope.
            For the people, Katniss represents hope.
            For President Snow (Donald Sutherland), Katniss represents trouble. Snow announces an unprecedented move to hold a special hunger game with the previous winners. This promises to be the most dangerous game ever.  

            The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is an excellent movie. I gave it my top rating of 4 Movie Bucks and feel that this is sequel that will not disappoint fans of the original film.  

            1. Fun – The beginning of the movie moved a bit slower as Katniss and Peeta work through their victory tour, but I enjoyed the character development that happened during this part of the film. There are plenty of tugs on the emotional heart-strings. I give it a full MB for solid entertainment throughout.  

            2. Story – Superb. The plots are nicely developed. I especially enjoy the romantic subplot that makes it so easy for us to tell Katniss to stay with the boy she’s with—in that scene. When she’s with Gale it makes perfect sense that she should stay with him. And when she’s with Peeta that seems right as well. I’m not normally much on the romantic triangle aspect of a story, but find myself enjoying this one. I found the writing to clever and powerful. I gave this element of the film a full MB.  

            3. Technical – Top notch. Special effects were great. The director, Francis Lawrence, put together a seamless story that hit on all the right notes. I gave this aspect of the film a full MB.  

            4. Acting – Tremendous. I can’t think of any role that wasn’t performed well. My only disappointment was that Woody Harrelson did not capture my attention with his soul-weary former champion as he did in the first film. It was still a good performance though. I give a full MB for acting.  

            That amounts to a perfect score of 4 Movie Bucks for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. This film will certainly give Ender’s Game a run for its money as my top pick for the year. Go out and catch this movie at your favorite cinema and experience in all its cinematic glory. 

                        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.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Movie Review - Free Birds

Free Birds   $$$


91 Minutes
Starring: Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, and George Takei.  
Director: Jimmy Hayward.

            Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. It beats out Halloween, it beats out my birthday, and it even beats out Christmas as far as I’m concerned. So it bothers me that there aren’t more movies and television specials that focus on all the turkeylicous wonder that is the holiday. As you can guess, my hopes for this movie were high.    
            Reggie (Owen Wilson) is not your usual turkey—he’s smart. Call it luck, fate, or clever plotting on part of the writers, but Reg ends up getting a Presidential Pardon and is taken to Camp David to live the dream of intelligent turkeys. His new life consists of watching Mexican soap operas and ordering pizza by the truckload. Until, Jake (Woody Harrelson) turkeynaps him.
            Jake has a plan to sneak into a secret government facility, highjack a time machine, and travel back to the first Thanksgiving to save countless gobblers from their deaths at the hands of future holiday feasters.  

            Free Birds is good family entertainment. However, it failed to hit the mark as an instant holiday classic. I had hoped this film would be the Thanksgiving version of A Christmas Story, but some uninspired writing and directing have dashed that dream on the jagged rocks of disappointment. On the positive side of that news, that leaves an opening for me to create the first definitive Thanksgiving movie. Free Birds earned 3 Movie Bucks and this is how it rated in each of the areas.  

            1. Fun – Good. The funny parts in the trailers were not the only entertaining bits in the film. The turkey characters were likable and fun to watch. I enjoyed the romance between Reggie and Jenny (Amy Poehler) and the rivalry between Jake and Ranger (Jimmy Hayward). All of it added up to a full MB 

            2. Story – The basic concept of a pair of turkeys traveling back to the first Thanksgiving was good. Unfortunately, past that point the plot was mundane and predictable. It just felt that the writers were going through the motions of cranking out a funny family film. On the plus side, they created a funny script that was funny enough to earn a half MB.   

            3. Technical – The animation was good, although I don’t know why turkey chicks come in red, blue, and yellow varieties.  The problem I had with the film was with continuity, which is the responsibility of the director. I know this is meant to be light entertainment, but Myles Standish (Colm Meany)  character really bothered me. He is depicted with what looks like a match in his mouth—which weren’t invented until 1826). His clothing and the gun he wields have an 1800s style to them. This character was not so much a villainous pilgrim as a Wild West gunslinger.
            The overall technical efforts earned a half MB.  

            4. Acting – Good. Owen Wilson puts in a wonderful voice performance for the main character. The rest of the cast did well. I particularly like George Takei as the voice of S.T.E.V.E. the time machine.  

            If you want some good clean Thanksgiving fun, I recommend seeing Free Birds as a matinee. The kids will love it and the adults should get enough laughs to make the trip worthwhile.  

                        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.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Gathering


            Today is the big day.
            Well, it’s one of the big days. My first novel goes to print. The next big day will be January 14th when the book is officially released and I can run down to the nearby stores and look for it on the shelf.
            Until then, I’ll just have to settle for revealing the cover and telling everyone what the book is about. Ready?

                Many of the prophets have spoken about the events that will happen prior to Christ’s return. It has been described as a “Great and Terrible” day. The Gathering follows the lives of the Williams family as they struggle not only to maintain their faith, but also survive the calamities and disasters which have been foretold.



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Movie Review - Ender's Game

Ender’s Game   $$$$

114 Minutes
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, and Ben Kingsley.  
Director: Gavin Hood.

            From the trailer, you might think that this movie was an action-packed space opera. But you would be wrong. While the action scenes are spectacular the heart of this film is the story itself. And what that really means is that this is a film about people in a difficult situation. It is about character.
            Fifty years ago, Earth was attacked by an alien race known as the Formics. Tens of millions of people died in the attack and humanity won by the sheerest of margins. Since then the top military people have started a program to take the brightest children and turn them into military strategists, in the hope that their young minds will be able to forge new tactics that will be effective against the aliens.
            Ender (Asa Butterfield) is a gifted young man. Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) believes he is the one that will bring victory to the humans and save our race. Ender is transferred to a battle school orbiting Earth and begins his preparation to become commander of the Earth military force. However, it is relationship with a series of bullies that is at the heart of this story’s conflict and what makes this film really stick out as a shining example of what Hollywood can accomplish when it sets its mind to it.  

            I found myself immersed in this movie right from the beginning. Don’t be surprised if it receives a couple of Oscar nominations at the end of the year. Ender’s Game earned a top rating of 4 Movie Bucks. 

            1. Fun – The film moves at a slower pace, but one that I think fits the nature of the subject. I wanted to find out if the Earth would survive another alien attack. Even more so, I wanted to find out what was going to happen with Ender. I give a full MB for fun.  

            2. Story – Excellent. A brilliant young man who should be going to school and hanging around malls with his friends is instead forced to prove himself to the military and his peers. It also deals with the nature of war in a way that I found refreshing. I’d like to give this more than a full MB, but that would be breaking the rules. A full MB will have to be enough for the story element of this film.  

            3. Technical – Good. The special effects were outstanding. The scenes in the battle room were exciting and best seen on a big screen. I give this aspect of the film a full MB.  

            4. Acting – Spot on. Asa Butterfield was a good choice for the main role in this film. He brings a vulnerability to the character of Ender that I think really gives the story an added dimension. Harrison Ford gives the performance that you’d expect from a veteran actor of his quality. The entire cast turned in performances that added to the quality of the film. I give a full MB for acting.   

            Add it all together and you get a perfect score of 4 Movie Bucks for Ender’s Game. If you are in the mood for some silver screen entertainment and like science-fiction then don’t hesitate to go out and catch this movie at your favorite cinema. 

                        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.