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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, December 30, 2013

What I Learned In 2013

            Here we are at the end of the 2013. It has been a landmark year for me. Several short stories and my debut novel were all picked up for publication. In the space of twelve months I passed from a wannabe writer to bona fide author. During this time I learned some important lessons.
            At the top of my list is the importance of branding yourself. There’s a lot of work and frustration involved in becoming a published author. Doubling, or even tripling, that workload is insane. Brand yourself and then once you are firmly established you can think about going a different direction.
            Marketing yourself involves getting the readers to identify you with a specific kind of story. In my case, I started out with Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror. My earliest published stories were The Coyote’s Tale (fantasy), Not Fragile (science-fiction) and Matches (horror). Fortunately, all three of these genres blend well together. Writing any one of them did not ruin the expectations among my readers.
            Publication and the subsequent marketing of The Gathering changes things. Even though it is speculative fiction it has religious themes that fans of my fantasy and sci-fi may not find interesting. It has a different audience than my short stories.
            As I started preparations for the upcoming blog tour in January and scheduled book signings over the next two months I realized what a nightmare this would be if I had to split my efforts between two genres. The situation would have been even worse if I had attempted to launch two author personas as I had planned.
            During this past year, I had been working on a comedy-murder. I like being funny and wanted to branch out and show people that I could write about more than zombies, dragons, and space aliens running amok. My plans also included a collection of children’s stories that I planned to self-publish.
            The truth of the matter is that a demonstration of my versatility as a writer will need to wait. I have to focus all of my efforts to spread the word that I have written an excellent speculative fiction story about the end of the world from an LDS point of view. The articles on my website need to contain subject matter that will interest people in reading The Gathering. Any materials I create for book signings, speaking engagements, and media interviews need to promote my expertise on the apocalypse. When people hear the name of Randy Lindsay, I want them to immediately think about that author that writes touching stories about the end of the world. And I’m just not talented enough to do that and promote a line of books, under a different name, that deal with a pair of goofball private investigators in Hollywood.
            If I had known at the time I signed my publishing contract what I know now I would have immediately started on the second book in the series. And if I understood then just how much effort goes into marketing a book, I would have started preparing my marketing materials right away.
            Now, where did I put that time machine?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Movie Review - 47 Ronin

47 Ronin  $$$ 1/2


119 Minutes
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, and  Rinko Kikuchi.
Director: Carl Rinsch. 

            This is an interesting take on a true story. My first experience with this event was with the film Chusingura. I found it to be an interesting tale, but the tragic ending kept it from being a favorite. In 47 Ronin Carl Rinsch has changed things up a bit by introducing a fantasy element to story. As far as I’m concerned it worked.
Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) is the respected Lord of Ako. His rival, Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), devises a plan where Lord Asano is bewitched into attacking him and is then forced to commit seppuku in order to regain his honor. The samurai that served Lord Asano are stripped of their honor, reducing them to masterless ronin, and banished. Led by Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), the ronin vowed to gain vengeance against Lord Kira for his treachery.

            Kai (Keanu Reeves) is the centerpiece of the fantasy elements placed into the film. He is a half-breed outcast, with tremendous fighting skills, who has fallen in love with Lord Asano’s daughter, Mika (Ko Shibasaki). The twin issues of forbidden love and samurai envy plague Kai.  

            47 Ronin reminded me of the epic sagas of old, except set in Japan. It gave a wonderful sense of the mythology of that country that I hadn’t previously experienced before. All-in-all, I thought it was really quite good.  

            1. Fun – This movie caught my attention and kept it. Dragons, witches, ghosts, and a mysterious race of warriors all added to the unique flavor of this film. It manages to pack quite a bit of gore-free action into the story. I give the movie a full MB for the fantasy retelling of an actual event.  

            2. Story – Working with a historic event can be challenging. Adding the Keanu Reeves character to the story allowed them to insert a few hopeful moments to this tragic tale. Weaving the fantasy elements into the story made it lighter and more interesting as well. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few flaws in the story, but because of their innovation in making these adaptations to the original tale I give it a full MB for storytelling.  

            3. Technical – This was a beautiful movie. The scenery and special effects made it a joy to watch. Creature special effects added to the wow factor of the film. I give it a full MB for the visual treats it presented.  

            4. Acting. Good. Keanu Reeves gives a standard performance. If you like Reeves then you’ll like his part in this film. And if not, well . . . the lead role is sort of split between him and Hiroyuki Sanada, who gave an excellent performance. The choice to bring in Japanese actors for most of the parts was spot on. I especially enjoyed the wickedly delightful witch (Rinko Kikuchi). Put that together and I give a full MB for acting.  

            47 Ronin gets 3 ½ Movie Bucks from me. This film, more than most, will benefit from seeing it on the big screen. Catch it as a matinee, which will make it easier to take the children. It probably isn’t appropriate for young children, but I had no problems with having my pre-teens watch 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.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Blog Tour Anyone?

            Guess what I did for most of last week. Go ahead, take one wild and crazy guess.

            That’s right, I worked on my upcoming blog tour for The Gathering. And now I’m writing an article about it. Talk about the blind leading the blind. But I’ll do my best to give you some helpful hints on the process. If you don’t plan to ever become an author you can just sit back and giggle at all the work that went into mine.

            For those who are unfamiliar with blog tours, you basically convince as many bloggers as you can to mention you on their blog. This is usually a month long process that centers around the release of an author’s book. Fortunately, I’m not doing this alone, Cedar Fort has helped me.

            The first step in creating a blog tour is to block out the dates. As you can see from the banner below, mine runs from January 2nd to January 31st. Since the release date for The Gathering is the 14th this gives me roughly two weeks of blogging before it comes out and another two weeks once it’s on the shelves.

            Next, you’ll want a visual reminder of the blog tour. This is a task that Cedar Fort took care of that would have been difficult to do on my own. See the lovely banner below? You could do a blog tour without a banner, or a button, but it wouldn’t be as effective. A graphic announcement of the tour will catch the eye of anyone visiting a blog that’s participating in the tour and they tend to stay up on the active page for most of the month. Some bloggers may even add it to their sidebar for the duration of the tour.

            Then you need to find bloggers who are willing to participate. Once again, Cedar Fort helped me out in this area. They provided me a list of blogs that I could contact about the possibility of getting involved. It still took me about ten hours to go through that list and check to see of the blog was active, dealt with novels in my genre, and had open spots in their schedule. I also made the rounds with my own personal contacts, writers that I’ve met at conferences and on the internet.

            If you don’t happen to have a handy list to work from then start with your blogging friends. See which blogs they have linked to on their blogs and then go there and check out the links they have too. Keep this up until you find enough blogs to promote your novel during the upcoming tour. That probably means about sixty since at least half of them will not be interested.

            Now all you need is content. What exactly is it that the bloggers will be doing? They could be reading the book and writing a review. They could be interviewing you as an author. They could be doing something as simple as mentioning that your book is for sale and posting the back cover blurb for it.

            One of the things I’ve learned during the marketing process is to make it as easy as possible for them to participate. I offered to send over an author interview that I wrote myself and they could use that as a starting point or post it as is. These are busy people and they are going to be much more willing to help you if you reduce the amount of time and effort they will have to give in order to do that. I’ll be doing a guest post for one of the blogs in my tour. In that situation, they give me a topic to discuss and I write an article that they will post on their blog. Minimal effort on their part and I get the chance to reach a new group of people.

            Whatever your fellow bloggers agree to do, they will need the proper tools. In addition to a banner, those tools will likely include links to your blog, a link to the Amazon.com page for your book, any content that you pre-generated, an image of your cover, and in my case a link to the blog tour page on my publisher’s website. I’m sure I left out several others, but this should give you an idea of what I mean.

             Finally, make sure to thank everyone once the tour is over. These people expended time and effort to help you sell your book. Do the same to show them how much you appreciate it. Not only is that the civilized thing to do, but it paves the way for a good working relationship with them in the future. It might even help you make some new friends.



Monday, December 9, 2013

Movie Review - Frozen

Frozen $$$


108 Minutes
Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad.  
Director: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee.


            Frozen wasn’t exactly what I was expecting from the previews. It turned out to have a fair number of musical numbers, none of which were in the trailers. What appeared to be an evil sister menacing a kingdom wasn’t that at all. On the plus side, the film had plenty of funny parts that didn’t show up in the advertisements.
            Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) are sisters and heirs to the throne of Arendelle. Elsa has the magical power to freeze things. As children, Elsa nearly kills Anna while they frolic in the frozen fun of her creation. Of course, that leads to an over reaction by the parents in cloistering the palace from the rest of the kingdom and forbidding Elsa from ever using her powers again.
            Then the parents die and Elsa is made queen. She accidentally unleashes her power and freezes the entire kingdom then runs away. Anna sets out to save her sister and the kingdom, enlisting an ice merchant named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer Sven.  

            Frozen offers up plenty of fun for the family, but falls short of becoming a Disney classic. It earned 3 Movie Bucks. And this is how I rated it in each of the four areas of film quality.  

            1. Fun – Plenty of fun. The characters that go looking for Elsa are all funny and provide a steady stream of humorous bits. At its heart, this is a tale of two sisters who love one another and that certainly adds to the appeal of this movie.  I gave this part of the film a full MB.  

            2. Story – Unfortunately, a princess that is kept cloistered from the kingdom at large has been done—a lot. Adding a second princess doesn’t really make that part of the story any fresher. I felt that the real story here is Elsa. She has a more compelling story and is the one who undergoes a change. As much as I enjoyed the character of Anna, my mind kept drifting to what must be going through Elsa’s mind during all of this. Still, this was a funny script that flowed well and gave out plenty of laughs. I gave this aspect of the film a half of a MB.  

            3. Technical – Good animation. They did an excellent job with the ice theme, presenting plenty of eye-popping art based on the cold. Where I felt the film really fell down was with the musical numbers. None of them were catchy. Some I felt were fairly tedious. And the opening score sounded like it belonged in the Lion King rather than in a Scandinavian setting. The overall technical efforts earned a half a MB.  

            4. Acting – Very adequate. No painfully delivered lines. The funniest performance came from Josh Gad as Olaf the snowman. Kristen Bell was very likeable in her role as Anna. I gave this aspect of the film a full MB.  

            If you want a nice family movie for the holiday, then you are pretty safe with going to see Frozen. See it as a matinee and take all the kids.  

                        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, December 2, 2013

Movie Revie - Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World  $$$


112 Minutes
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman and Christopher Eccleston  
Director: Alan Taylor and James Gunn.

            Before the nine realms existed there was darkness. Which was just how the dark elves liked it. Then came the light and a whole mythology of creatures that dwelt therein and the dark elves decided to wage war against them. With the Aether they planned to plunge the universe back into darkness, but the Asgardians stopped them.
            As the nine realms align the conditions are ripe for another attempt at total darkness. Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), the leader of the dark elves, returns with the last of his race in order to finish the job. This time the Asgardians can offer little in the way of resistance and Thor makes the decision to take the weapon away from Asgard in order to eliminate the dark race once and for all—an act of treason.
            Worse than that, he allies himself with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to do it.

            I found Thor: The Dark World very entertaining. That being said, it is in no danger of winning any Oscars. I gave it a rating of 3 Movie Bucks and feel that fans of the franchise will have a good time watching it.  

            1. Fun – I definitely had fun watching the fill. Based on my rating system, this was the film’s best category.  There’s action, comedy, quite a few bits of coolness, and a couple of touching moments. I especially liked when Thor obliterated the big rock creature at the beginning of the film. I give the move a full MB for non-stop entertainment.  

            2. Story – decent. The plot is not original, but I liked mythology surrounding the dark elves. I also enjoyed getting a better glimpse of the nine realms. The strange mix of archaic weapons and high technology was wondrously interesting. I gave this element of the film a half MB.  

            3. Technical – Very nice. Lots of cool other-world outfits, weapons, and vehicles used in a large number of scenes where things went BOOM!!! What’s to say—this was a visually effective film. I give it a full MB for extreme eye-appeal.  

            4. Acting – Good. I think Chris Hemsworth put in his best performance as Thor to date. Although, he still has some room to grow. For what little we see of him, Anthony Hopkins is tremendous. There wasn’t enough of Rene Russo. And then there is Tom Hiddleston. What can I say other than, Wow? This is a role that may stand out as one of the best fantasy/sci-fi antagonists of all time. I’m hoping they decide to make Loki: God of Mischief sometime soon. Overall, I give a half MB for acting.  

            Add that all together and you get 3 Movie Bucks for Thor: The Dark World. Perfect for a matinee outing with the family. You definitely want to see it at the cinema where it can be experienced in large-screen magnificence. 

                        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.