Jul 28, 2014

Cover Reveal - The Long Way Home by Regina West


My good friend, and editor, Regina West has a new romance novel - "The Long Way Home" - coming out in 3 days time (July 31st).


Regina West

The Long Way Home is Regina's debut as a romance writer and, to whet your appetite, I've been allowed to give you a sneak peek of the cover!

Drum roll...






Twilah Dunn has it all—an exciting life in Los Angeles and a thriving ad agency she owns with her fiancĂ©. Then she learns that her estranged father has died and her business partner is sleeping with her best friend. In one day, her perfect life unravels and the city she calls home is now anything but.

She returns to her hometown in North Carolina determined to sell her father's horse farm in order to buy back her business from her cheating fiancĂ©. But when she sees the farm’s dilapidated state, she can’t bear the thought of selling it that way. Against all reason, she puts her fast-paced, metropolitan life on hold and hires local cowboy Aidan Perry to help restore the farm to its former glory. She’s heard the rumors of his dark past, and she’s wary of mixing business with pleasure—again. But soon she can’t keep her mind, or her hands, off of him.

Can Twilah push through her fear and love Aidan? Will his past prove too dangerous? Has she really left LA behind or will it continue to haunt her?

For some, the path is straight and narrow, but others take The Long Way Home.


~~~

Congratulations, Gina. Best of luck on the 31st...and beyond. I hope to see your name on the bestseller lists soon.

For more information on Regina, or her new novel, you can head over to her 

BLOG 
or

Alternatively, you can catch up with her in person on TWITTER or on FACEBOOK

And you can read MY review of Regina's book on GOODREADS





Jul 7, 2014

Cover Reveal: Borrowed Time by Chad A. Clark


Today, I'm pleased to take part in the COVER REVEAL for indy author Chad A. Clark's new short story collection. Check out the cover, read the blurb, visit the website, buy the book, review the book, tell your friends...that's all I ask. :)




Borrowed Time is a collection of six tales bridging the chilling world of horror and the mind-bending realms of science-fiction. Join a young man searching for answers in the wake of a friend’s suicide, who uncovers an evil that proves some questions are best left unasked. Journey with a young artist along haunted back-country highways, hoping to make it home while re-discovering herself in the process. Travel to the distant future where one man breaks free from the safe isolation of his existence and risks everything so that he might learn what lies beyond the confines of his reality. Read these and more in the debut book from this new author.

Storytelling has always been one of Chad A. Clark’s passions. A Midwestern raised author, he specializes in horror and science fiction. Learn more about him at his website, cclarkfiction.net. You can also enjoy a new original work of fiction every week on his website, bakedscribe.net.


GSY

Jun 11, 2014

Bright Lights #17 - Alex Kimmell - the Key to everything


After a 9 month hiatus, the Bright Lights author interviews are back. Once again, I'll have a wide range of authors stopping by to share their thoughts on writing and offer some insight into what it means to be a writer.

So, without further ado, the first head on the chopping block is...


Alex Kimmell


Who is Alex Kimmell?

...
alex kimmell (the squirrel whisperer/twodoggarage/daddy not-so-much-bucks) is an accidental novelist, anti-rhyme-ologist, oxygen inhaler, carbon dioxide exhaler who often generates harmonious sounds with various instruments of different historical importance. his work has appeared on cool places around the 1’s and 0’s like Dumb White Husband, Black Lantern Press, Front Row Lit and The Wordcount Podcast. His novel “the Key to everything” and collection of short, horrific tales “A Chorus of Wolves” were released by Booktrope Publishing. come and join the neurosis at alexkimmell.com


For dessert, I urge you all to check out Alex's links below. Right now though, it's time for the main course... 



1. Alex, are writers born or made?

Writers are made. Each of us is born with an innate sense of creativity. All you need to do to figure that out is watch children play. The question is, is that creative spark nurtured in the individual or not? I wasn’t interested in being a writer growing up. But I was lucky enough to have parents and teachers who were very encouraging of my imagination. They directed me toward interesting books and studying the world around me. Much of my education was directed to music, so a lot of my creative energies were focused on that. When I started writing songs, I leaned on the history of poetry, literature and lyricists that inspired me. Maybe there are writers out there who picked up a crayon in pre-school and wrote down their first stories. Even so, you can bet they were supported and inspired by someone around them to help guide them finding their calling.


2. Aside from your own stuff, which ONE book do you wish you’d written? And why?

So many books can be named here. My instinctive response is to choose anything by Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman or Michael Marshall Smith. Since I can only pick one book, I’d have to say “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danelewski, That book entered my life shortly after it came out and has yet to stop expanding in my brain pan. No book has terrified me, intrigued me, confused me and inspired me as much as HoL. I’ve given copies to friends and they fall into one of two camps. Either they become obsessed with it like me, or they completely hate it and can’t be bothered to finish it. The book itself becomes a physical manifestation of the story. What you hold in your hands is in fact, a character in the story. It’s meta-fiction. It’s multi-layered storytelling at such a deeply creative level. So immensely complicated and yet the major themes of the story are so primal. No author before or since has inspired such awe in me. I read it at least once a year, and each time something new jumps out at me. I can’t imagine a time when there won’t be new discoveries waiting around the next page. There are websites dedicated to figuring out what everything means in it’s labyrinth. Each word a symbol, every character a archetype. All I know is when all the trappings are stripped away, it’s a beautiful story. I can honestly say that I wish I had written it.


3. Are writers just entertainers or do they have a deeper responsibility?

I don’t believe there is a responsibility to entertain. However, there certainly is quite a bit of motivation to do so. If you want the reader to dig through each and every syllable you’ve slaved so hard to craft, the story needs to bring some element of enjoyment. If readers aren’t enticed by what is on page, what motivation do they have to continue reading? If the first book is no fun, what point is there in opening the second? All art to a certain degree must entertain. If a painting doesn’t capture the eye, no one is going to look at it. If the music is un-listenable, who is going to want to hear it? Tastes obviously vary from person to person. As my father used to say, “That’s what makes a horse race.” I am not saying the writer needs to cater his work to an audience’s desires. We need to write what we ourselves feel the need to put down on the page. Nothing is going to please everyone. All we can do as writer’s is come as close to pleasing ourselves as possible. Hopefully having been successful at that, others will find some enjoyment in the work.


4. Writers nowadays have to be promoters, social butterflies and salespeople alongside the creative and somewhat solitary side that makes up writing. How do you balance it all?

Short answer: I don’t. Everything is so unbalanced! Though I don’t think it’s too different from how authors used to work before the internet. There have always been book signings, tours and promotional events. These days we have to do most of them from our computers. It’s a necessity to take more responsibility for these things if we want to develop a following and spread recognition of our books to readers. I’m on Twitter and Facebook a lot. More than I probably should be when it keeps me from actually writing. Every day I’m out there making friends, trying to get interviews and get my name out. Just like any other small business, I spend a quite a bit of my time hustling. My books were released by an independent publisher with a small marketing budget. They are great to me, but if we don’t work together as a team to spread the word, the word will not be spread. From the stories I hear, even if I were part of a major publishing company’s roster, I’d still be plugging away to get my books noticed by people. Unless you’re on the NYT Top 20 List, it’s going to be a struggle. Similar to having children, no one is going to take care of my babies the way that I will.


5. What would you tell your younger self before they took their first steps to becoming a writer?

Spend more time writing! Study grammar and learn the rules before you start breaking them. Be disciplined. Write more every day. Write write write! Read lots of books. Good books, bad books, horrible books, amazing books. Then write some more.


My thanks to Alex for stopping by and answering some questions. You can find Alex and his books by following these links:



Twitter: @alexkimmellauth


My Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/akauthorpage

tK2e on BN: http://bit.ly/tK2eBN


tK2e on iTunes: http://bit.ly/tK2eITUNES

ACoW on iTunes: http://bit.ly/ACoWiTunes



 ~ GSY

May 22, 2014

Mega-Franchises



Every summer, the movie studios release what they call "tentpole" movies. Normally, these are big-budget, effects-driven franchise movies, designed to prop up the studios and make them their profits for the year. I call them programmed franchises because they're not acquired with one movie in mind. The philosophy from the start is to produce at least a trilogy.

So much money is invested in these movies that failure can cripple a studio.

Trivia Blast!! - New Line Cinema had to merge with its parent company Warner Bros after the (relative) failure of The Golden Compass: 

Budget: $180M 
Box Office: $70M

(The Golden Compass was intended to follow the trilogy of His Dark Materials books by Phillip Pullman)


Jaws



 

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Stephen Spielberg is sometimes credited with creating the first summer "Blockbuster" movie with JawsJaws was the first movie to be distributed with a "wide release," meaning that it opened all across the country on the same day, something that is par for the course nowadays. Consequently, it muscled out all the competition and held onto the number one spot for weeks. It was also the first movie to pass $100M in box office receipts. It finished with $470M.

Jaws spawned 3 sequels of ever-increasing awfulness, since the concept was not really designed as a franchise in the first place. Jaws remained the biggest movie of all time until a little picture called Star Wars was released two years later.


Star Wars


 

Star Wars, at least in George Lucas's mind, was always meant to be the first of several movies. In a salute to the old serials of the past, he even called it Episode IV: A New Hope. The movie studios were wary of the project until they saw a line of people wrapped around the outside of theaters waiting to see it. Lucas was also savvy enough to realize the potential in merchandising his creation. Seeing the colossal box office and the huge demand for action figures and posters, movie studios forever decided that the summer would be blockbuster movie time.

Trivia Blast!! - Star Wars made Harrison Ford into a huge box office star, but his relationship with George Lucas began four years earlier. Ford taught himself to be a carpenter to support his acting career, and, after building some cabinets in Lucas' home, he was cast in a supporting role in American Graffiti.


Billion Dollar Movies

Titanic was the first movie to break the billion-dollar barrier in worldwide box office. After that, only 3 of the next seventeen movies to pass the mark were NOT part of a franchise. All 3 have planned or rumored sequels, however, which would leave Titanic as the only non-franchise movie to pass $1 billion.

Movie studios, hunting for marketable franchises, looked to successful book series: Harry Potter (8 movies), The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hunger Games (2 so far), Twilight (5 movies), and The Hobbit (3 movies)…

...a new batch of fun and beautifully made animated movies: Toy Story (3 movies), Ice Age (4 movies) and Shrek (5 movies including Puss in Boots)…

...and rebooted older franchises: Star Wars (3 prequels with new sequels announced), Star Trek (2 new movies), Planet of the Apes (2 new movies) and James Bond (3 Daniel Craig movies).

Trivia Blast!! - Disney increased its punching power during the summer months by acquiring Pixar for $7.4 billion, Marvel for $4 billion and Lucasfilm for $4 billion. 


Birth of the Mega-Franchise






Comic books have long provided cinema with some notable heroes, like DC Comics's Superman and Batman. These two characters have appeared in thirteen movies (so far) since 1978, netting DC's parent company, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., somewhere in the region of $6 billion.

Marvel comics (DC's biggest rival) have many familiar faces too, but financial problems meant they were unable to produce their own movies without other studios’ assistance. In an attempt to cash in on their creations, Marvel sold the movie rights to many of their top tier superheroes to different studios. Sony secured arguably the biggest name in Spider-Man, while Fox snatched up The Fantastic Four and The X-Men (with Wolverine). (Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Elektra and The Punisher were also dealt away).

Marvel eventually got back on its feet and launched its own studio. Without their A-List heroes, it had to risk everything on a character called Iron Man. The result propelled Robert Downey, Jr., to the top of the A-List, and Marvel were now a force to be reckoned with.

Marvel had a plan from the start, and it all hinged on Iron Man making a profit. Two further franchises were launched (Thor and Captain America), interlocking the characters and working towards one big story. This culminated in The Avengers, which is part of a trilogy of movies: a megafranchise!

Trivia Blast!! - Nine movies make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe Megafranchise, so far. Making almost $6.5 billion in a short six-year span, it is now the second most successful franchise in movie history. Harry Potter holds onto the #1 spot ($7.7 billion).

DC Comics is now producing a Superman movie that is intended to be the stepping stone towards a Justice League movie.



The Future

As the comic-book well dries up, studios will return to literature and revisiting past glories to bring the summer slate together.

Sadly, these blockbuster movies eat up theater screens, so that means there is a smaller selection of films to choose from – more money tied up in fewer films. The pressure on the studios to generate consistent money-making hits will increase until, like everything else, the bubble will burst. As in other times, failure could end a movie studio and then the whole industry will have to reassess to move forward. I wonder what type of movies we'll get then?

Trivia Blast!! - Despite appearing in a slew of successful movies between them, Tom Hanks and Angelina Jolie have had their biggest box office successes as voice actors in animated movies (Toy Story and Kung Fu Panda).


GSY

May 17, 2014

Milking The Movie Cash Cow

In recent years, yearning for a bigger slice of the money pie, movie studios have poured more resources into fewer films.

Trivia Blast! - In 2012, 135 films made up 95% of the total Box Office in the United States.

So, despite a huge increase in accessibility for fans (more theaters, online vendors), fear of losing profit dictates the movie slate and opportunities are dwindling to get an original idea made into a movie.


Franchises

Franchises are nothing new. When a studio hits on a money-making idea, they are not shy about green-lighting a sequel almost immediately.

Generally, there are two types of franchise: "programmed" and "opportunistic". A programmed franchise example would be Harry Potter - a successful line of books purchased with the intent to make the entire series. Of course, if the first of these movies tanks, or even if it struggles later in the series, the franchise can be quietly buried and forgotten. (see: John Carter or The Lone Ranger)

I will talk more about these in a later post. Here though, I'm going to talk more about the "opportunistic" franchise.


Cash Cow

Trivia Blast! - Movie theaters in the US draw more people than all the theme parks and major sports (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA) COMBINED!

There is always a glint in a movie producer's eyes when they can lure a big (or upcoming) movie star into a movie specifically designed to their perceived strengths (see: Beverly Hills Cop). If the first one works, it will spawn as many sequels as can be milked from the idea. Often the sequels fail because they are too repetitive and stale. (see: Beverly Hills Cop 2 & 3)

The most extreme version of the opportunistic franchise is when a movie is assembled with familiar, but not A-List, stars in a movie that is expected to make a decent profit and the movie then goes on to blow away the box office. Now the movie studios have something unexpected and they need to cash in...immediately.

Unfortunately, fresh ideas are less important than quick turnaround and so you end up with movies like... 



The Hangover



Made for around $35M, The Hangover was a silly, outrageous comedy and a surprise hit around the world. It pulled in almost $470M in worldwide box office. A sequel was quickly announced and released two years later. Hangover 2 was basically a carbon copy of the first, but this time the studio spent more money making it. It raked in $586M so part 3 was inevitable. Hangover 3 had a budget of $103M and despite making over $360M around the world, it was clear the well was drying up.

The Hangover is considered a successful franchise ($1.4 billion in worldwide box office), but it only contains one movie that the IMDB users rate above a 7/10



So what...?

I'd like to be clear that I'm not against taking a good movie and creating a sequel IF there are more stories to tell. I will happily fork over my cash to watch them.

However, turning one small idea into a trilogy, or more (yes, I'm looking at you Friday the 13th), is taking money and opportunity away from a broader range of films. If the choice is to pour $100 million into 4 or 5 new ideas or to squeeze out another Hangover, the studio will pick the Hangover every time.

Trivia Blast! - 18 movies have passed the $1 billion mark in the worldwide box office. Only 4 of them are stand alone movies: Alice in Wonderland, Frozen, Titanic and Avatar. However, three sequels have been announced for Avatar and rumors continue to circulate that there will be a Frozen sequel.



Open Big

It's important to have a big first weekend too. To make that happen you have to advertise and the more you advertise the more chance there is for having the big opening. And it has to be the first week because the next big franchise will hit the week after...and so on.

So, originality takes a back seat to...profit. And while the studios would have us believe they're giving the audience what they demand, they're not. They're cashing in on the goodwill created by the first movie of the series and cynically exploiting it.

Trivia Blast! - Only 4 of the Billion Dollar movies make it into IMDB's top 100 best rated movies: Toy Story 3 (65th), The Dark Knight Rises (50th), Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (9th) & The Dark Knight (4th)!

How many of your favorite movies are sequels, reboots or part of a series?

Next time, I will discuss the programmed franchises and the creation of new Super-Franchises!




Trivia blast information taken from MPAA 2012 Theatrical Market Statistics Report & MPAA 2013 Theatrical Market Statistics Report & All Time Worldwide Box Office & IMDB Top 250 Movies


May 8, 2014

Hold the mirror up to nature.



"...to hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure." - Hamlet Act 3, Scene 2

Why am I quoting Shakespeare? Well, I think as writers we would be remiss if we didn't take every opportunity to hold our mirror up to nature. Our characters should not only reflect aspects of our own inner lives, but readers should be able to look and see something of themselves in them too. Writers must weave their tales with effective literary devices: metaphor, simile, allegory, analogy, imagery, and mood, painting a picture with depth. And even when the stories are set in distant futures or long forgotten pasts, the reflection in the mirror is something the reader recognizes instantly. 

Recently, I read “The Forever War” by Joe Haldeman.



A classic of sci-fi storytelling, it follows one soldier’s journey from the first battle of a long war, all the way to the last. Time dilation and the massive distances involved mean the main character experiences four subjective years of military service while centuries pass back on Earth.

And, although the main thread of the story is about a very long war between Earth and an alien race, Haldeman is holding up his mirror to show the futility of ALL wars. The Forever War was written as an allegory of the Vietnam War, but it’s as relevant today as it was in the seventies when it was released. 

Even the title, is more than meets the eye. Why, if the war did not last ‘forever’, is it called The Forever War?

This is just one example. Write your stories and be true to the world you create. Hold up the mirror and then trust the reader. 


GSY

Apr 21, 2014

Monsters Re-Release (Or, How I Owned Up To My Weaknesses And Learned To Love Editing)


Hello, Little Spartans, it's been a while hasn't it?


I'm not going to sit here and give you the reasons I've not been around, but let's just say that I was taking a sabbatical and I wasn't at all kidnapped by aliens and experimented on. *WINK*

But seriously, TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER!

lol. No, just kidding. We can do that later.

First of all, I'd like to talk about my book - MONSTERS. Hold on, stop shaking your heads. I know you know I wrote this one a while ago. In fact, some of you have even bought it. 


Best of all, everyone seemed to like it. I got great reviews and a terrific response from everyone who read the book.


"Doyle was a great character..." 


"...the story was well paced..." 


"...unique..."


"...a twisting thrill ride..."


However, a few of the negative comments all hit on the same thing: head-hopping (POV ping-ponging between characters during a scene instead of shifting at a natural point like a scene change.)

Before I self-published Monsters, I edited it. Yes. Me. I also got a good friend to take a couple of passes on it. But, if you learn only ONE thing from me, let it be this: there is no substitute for getting an actual EDITOR to edit your book.

It's as simple as that. 

Now, I completely understand why people don't want to do that. Editors cost money. Everyone's gotta make a living. Chances are you'll spend more producing your book than you'll make back. For a good while at least. So, is it worth it?

AYE!! Trust me.

I hired grammar-ninja, Gina Hylton, and she was able to help me weed out the problems with head-hopping and catch a few stray adverbs and rogue commas. I fixed the head-hopping scenes and it tightened up my writing immeasurably.

So, I am proud(er) to say, Monsters is back and better than before. The story is the same, but the writing is better. And, although I plan to publish the follow-up through a conventional publishing house, I will never again cut that editorial corner.

And if you want your self-published book to be treated seriously, you should definitely hire an editor.

Monsters is available on KINDLE


Gina Hylton (aka Regina West) is currently an Associate Editor and soon-to-be-published romance author with Pandamoon Publishing. You can follow her on Twitter (@GinaWestAuthor) and Facebook.


Now...TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER.