Jan 29, 2012

Storytellers.

Storytellers have been around since the dawn of time. Whether they daubed their tales on cave walls or passed on family histories around fires, the Storytellers have long been highly valued in society. The ability to talk or write and relate information is no longer rare in society. However, the ability to weave such wondrous tales that they inspire the listener to greatness, or draw such dread as to have them worry a sleepless night away, is rare indeed.

Without readers though, none of it matters.

Civilizations have become extinct and their languages along with them, leaving information and stories behind that we may never understand. Without the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian hieroglyphics would just be a collection of pictures carved into stone and a whole aspect of a mighty Empire may have remained a mystery to us.

An unread book is no better than a fly swatter if there is no-one who will read it. And if you're not speaking in the language of your readers; if readers require a Rosetta Stone to translate your work, you don't have a story worth hearing or reading. At least not now. Perhaps some future archaeologists will dig it up and figure it out.

I don't believe that a story should be written purely to satisfy a fixed set of criteria for a readership, but without readers you are just someone who writes and your writing is only for you. If you want your writing to be admired, appreciated, loved; if you want it simply to be read then you have to understand what your readers want. Sure, you write for yourself and you may write even if no-one ever wants to read your words, but telling stories is as innate as breathing and storytellers need an audience.

I doubt many readers pick up a book wanting to put it back down because its dull or poorly written. I know I don't. Readers want to be given an excuse to turn the page and read into the wee small hours. Readers want to look at the clock and have to calculate how much time they really need for sleep if they could just get to the end of the next chapter. They want to be entertained, scared or whisked away to another world. They want to live vicariously through the eyes of the protagonist and take a break from everything that surrounds them.

As a writer though, the best trick is convincing a reader that the thing they wanted all along is exactly what you gave them. You gave them what they wanted but you also did it on your terms and convinced them to come along for the ride with you.

The good guy always wins in the end, right? So why do readers continue to pick up books and read stories if they know where it's going to end up?

To borrow a well worn quote: It's not the destination, it's the journey.

Make the journey interesting and readers will follow your tales. Use your own voice and you will present readers with something original. In turn, they will reward you by reading it, talking about it, spreading the word and raising you up to that most exalted place: Storyteller.



GSY

Jan 10, 2012

I ROOL!! (and 7 other random factoids...)



Okay, I don't really rule but I am the recipient of the Versatile Blogger Award (see picture above for further proof). I'll admit, I didn't enter any competitions to win this award and I wasn't the sole recipient (surely an error...ahem) however, I've very grateful to have received it and my thanks go to a wonderful new friend I made on Twitter: Angela Goff who runs the Anonymous Legacy blog.

Now apparently there are some rules I'm bound to now that I've greedily accepted this award, and the associated adulation...don't worry I'll wait for the adulation.

Here are the rules:

1. In a post on your, blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.
2. In the same post, Add the Versatile Blogger Award.
3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

Seems straightforward enough.

So, I must choose fifteen lucky winners myself now and it seems only right that I should choose fifteen lovely women (well, they say they're women but it is the internet and you never know nowadays, they could all be hulking, sweaty man-beasts who have nothing better to do than pretend to be female writers.)

Kidding. (I hope)

My nominations:

Erica Lucke Dean

Lela Gwenn

Valerie Haight

Dionne Lister

Cinta Garcia

Marjorie F Baldwin

KT Simpson

Tricia Kristufek

Krystal Wade

Karen DeLabar

MJ Kane

Andrea Parker

Mari Stroud

Harley May

And sending the love right back to Angela Goff

It would be well worth your while checking out these blogs since they're filled with great writing, incite, snark, intelligence, grace, occasional flurries of obscenity, wit, candor and sometimes tattoos. (All of these things do not apply to all blogs, all of the time or some of the blogs, some of the time.)

And so to finish this post I have to list 7 random facts about myself.

1 - I have a Tickle-Me-Elmo
2 - I am almost 39 years old.
3 - The Tickle-Me-Elmo was a joke. I mean to say, I wasn't lying about it, I do own one, however, it was given to me as a joke. My wife has a weird sense of humor. (Consider that a freebie fact.)
4 - I play bass guitar.
5 - I don't play bass guitar very well.
6 - My favorite actress is Cate Blanchett
7 - I will not go spelunking for any reason whatsoever.

Hope that helps.

GSY

Jan 5, 2012

Beta Readers

Those people who get to read the unadulterated, first draft, grammatical nightmare that you call a story are no longer called friends or buddies or, dare I say, chums. No, these people are now Beta Readers, like Beta testers in the computer world. There is little reward for this task except maybe a small thank you on the inside cover of the book but they do get to have an influence over the writer of a book. I'm sure there's been more than a few over the years who've told a friend, "I told her to write that line." or "That scene was my idea." And a little bit of vicarious living never hurt anybody...I hope.

Where do you find these hard-working and noble Beta Readers, those select few who are both smart enough to give you useful comment and available enough to spend some time on your new WIP? Well, usually it's friends. Sometimes close friends whose opinions you've grown to respect...or at least put up with. It's a huge ask but some of them will gladly delve into it for you if for no other reason than to pick apart your dream and dance on it as only a friend can. It is a lot to ask though, and friends are busy with their own lives. It can't be expected, just hoped for. You can join local writing groups and Twitter and Facebook looking for volunteers but usually these are people you don't know and worse, don't know you. How do they know what you mean, what you're tying to say? How can they possibly 'grok' your writing?

In most cases you have to develop an online friendship like any other and really just take a leap of faith. The major benefit of new friends and Beta Readers is that, by not knowing you so well, they're not so invested in protecting your feelings when they suggest you cull clumsy sentences. Occasionally, you need to hear that something you've written sucks and believe me, it's tough to hear that not everything that flows from your fingertips is golden.

Some people are just jackasses so its important you weed them out of your Beta Reader group but, there's a lot of valuable help out there if you reach out for it and offer up your own services in return - make it a mutual beneficial thing.

I have an Andrew. He's a lot smarter than me and he's been my friend for more than twenty five years. He's been extremely helpful to me in the past but it's unfair of me to ask him to be my book fixing slave forever. So, I intend to slowly get the courage to ask others to help me and see if it can move me along more efficiently with my writing. And maybe this will take the pressure off my friend who never really signed up to be a Beta Reader, he just kind of got nominated.

So, good luck with your writing and I hope you find someone to help you along the way as I did. Just remember this little nugget:

Opinions are like assholes, everybody's got one.



GSY

Jan 4, 2012

Most anticipated movies of 2012 (part 2)

As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted...

2012 is going to be a bumper year for movies and hopefully they'll live up to the hype. There's three I'm really looking forward to but first I'm going to continue my rundown of other movies to look out for:

The Amazing Spider-man - A reboot already? New director, new star and a second go around for the old Webhead. The original trilogy lost steam, the third movie was a massive disappointment but Andrew Garfield (despite being much older than the character) looks right for the part and seems genuinely into it. Emma Stone is currently one of the best young actresses in Hollywood so, I hope this one goes well but I know there's less excitement about it than there was for any of the original trilogy with Tobey Maguire.

Neighborhood Watch - A high concept comedy with Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill. When they're given good stuff all three of these guys are hilarious...the sadly though they all have real comedy clunkers on their resume. Fingers crossed.

The Bourne Legacy - One of the best trilogies of all time, the Bourne movies were a sensation, albeit a slow burn. The original caught everyone by surprise but by the time they were finished, Damon and co had created a very cool character. Damon isn't returning to the franchise though so it's going to Jeremy Renner and it'll be up to him to keep it going. He won't be playing Bourne though by the sounds of it so the title is a bit of a cheat but I understand.

Total Recall - Keeping up the reboots and remakes, this is a remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic, this time with Colin Farrell. Farrell is a decent and likable actor so I hope this one is a hit for him. The world needs more good sci-fi movies too.

The Expendables 2 -  Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Statham, Li, Van Damme, Norris, Lundgren...'nuff said.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green - A Family movie starring the adorable Jennifer Garner, about a childless married couple who put all their wishes for a child in a box and bury it in the garden and then...magically a boy appears in their back garden although he's not what he appears to be! Sounds intriguing and I'd watch Jennifer Garner watching paint dry...

7500 - I don't know why but this just sounds interesting...a supernatural thriller of sorts. It's about a passenger jet that encounters a supernatural force as it crosses the Pacific...might be good?

Argo - Ben Affleck starring in and directing another movie. This time its about a bizarre rescue of six Americans during the Iranian Revolution. The CIA basically pretending to be making a movie and using that as the cover to mount the rescue. Affleck is a hugely gifted writer, director (if you didn't see The Town, you should go watch it) and I think he's a decent actor when he's not phoning it in. I do hate him for stealing Jennifer Garner but that's a whole other issue...this movie looks interesting and possible Oscar bait.

Dredd - I only put this down because Judge Dredd is the biggest character in British comics history. It deserves a better movie than the Stallone stinker froma  few years back (Do you remember Diane Lane being in that movie...I didn't...what was she thinking?). Anyway, with a promise that the helmet will not be removed, Dredd is a second stab at the character.

Looper - Another sci-fi movie, this time with Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This one sounds twisty and interesting as a Killer for the future Mob recognizes one of his targets as his future sefl! Yeah, I know. My head hurts too.

Gangster Squad - A "based on a true story" crime story starring Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Set in the 50's and 60's in LA, it tells the story of the Police Department's attempt to keep organized crime out of the City of Angels.

Gravity - A sci-fi movie directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) and starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Sign me up! Children of Men is one of the finest movies I've seen...and you can't go wrong with Bullock and Clooney.

47 Ronin - Keanu Reeves as a Samurai...yes, your eyes do not deceive you. A band of masterless samurai (Ronin) go out to seek revenge for their master's death...and Keanu Reeves is in it. So...that should be interesting...

Les Miserables - Its a movie version of the musical based on the book...with Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean. One of the very few musical theater pieces that genuinely blew me away when I saw it, I will tell everyone this one is here because of my wife but in truth I won't fight her too hard when she wants me to take her to see it.

The Hobbit - More dwarf mayhem with Peter Jackson and a bunch of familiar faces back in the land of JRR Tolkien. Expect massive Christmas box office.

Okay, phew, that's the bulk of the decent sounding movies. There may be more comedies and Oscar bait dramas rolling out too but those haven't got such a high profile so far ahead so I know very little about them.

What about the big three you ask...? Of all the movies coming out, there are three which stand out a mile for me:

The Dark Knight Rises - Christopher Nolan set the bar for all future super-hero based movies with Batman Begins. Rebooting one of the prized franchises with huge success and bringing a realistic and dark edge to the superhero canon. With The Dark Knight Nolan set the bar for all summer blockbusters, showing that a film can be both intelligent and action packed, light-hearted and dark to it's core all at the same time. Heath Ledger gave a masterclass in acting as the Joker and it blew the doors of the box office. Nolan then followed those up with Inception, a dizzyingly smart blockbuster, with twists, turns and dreams within dreams that again totally moved the bar for filmakers to come...so now he's back with the same top class cast: Bale, Oldman, Freeman, Caine and adding Tom Hardy, and Anne Hathaway to the mix. He promises an ending to this trilogy; to this chapter of Batman and despite setting the bar so high for himself there seems to be very few people who believe he won't be able to pull it off again. The trailer got the fanboys drooling and expect a frenzy by the time the movie is released: JULY 20th.

The Avengers - Second only to the X-Men in terms of super teams (Sorry, Justice League), The Avengers will finally Assemble this summer. Marvel, now with movie making wing put together, has been able to roll out the individual heroes and let the public get to know them. Some aren't as well known as Wolverine or Spider-man but the fact that Iron Man was a massive hit shows they were doing something right. Last year they added Thor, an Asgardian God, to the mix and Captain America, a World War 2 super soldier, slowly making their way to melding all these disparate heroes into Marvel Mightiest Team. Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Nick Fury all unbelievably brought together into one movie. The cast is tremendous and the directing reins were handed to Joss Whedon which tipped the fan frenzy into overdrive. Whedon's not known for his Avengers work but for he has written several comic books including a great run on Astonishing X-Men. He can handle large ensembles of interesting characters and if anyone can get the movie to work like the fans want its him. This is one of those movies I've wanted to see since I was a little kid. This is stuff you talk with friends about and imagine who you'd cast in your version of the movie. Much like X-Men this is a something I've hoped for for a very long time. Released: MAY 4th

and finally...

Prometheus - Ridley Scott. Alien franchise. Phenomenal cast. Mind blown. JUNE 8th.

There ya go. That's it. Now we'll see how many I ACTUALLY get to go see! Stay tuned for updates.

GSY

Jan 2, 2012

Most Anticipated Movies of 2012 (part 1)

I told you I'd be back! (said in best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice)

As a movie fan there's a few reasons to optimistic in 2012. Sure, box office was down in 2011 but I think that's because there was no Avatar propping it up. Movie goers are also sick of paying $6 for a drink and triple the price of admission to see the movie in 3D. I mentioned Avatar a moment ago and it has been the only movie where 3D has really made it better in my opinion. The movie was still terrible but boy, it looked good.

So, yeah 2011 didn't blow me away but 2012, if the trailers are anything to go by, will be a peach. Okay, I'll be the first to admit that originality might not be front and center since most of the most anticipated movies of the coming year are sequels, prequels, reboots or re-imaginings of previous fan favorites. However, what is exciting is the fact that Hollywood has lined those movies up with sure-fire fanbait directors and casts, luring us back with promises of better and bigger and best.

I'm basically going to talk about three movies I would sell a kidney to go see (I know I don't have three kidneys...details, details) but before I get to them, here is a quick blast through some of the others that are on the schedule:

Skyfall - James Bond is back and fingers are crossed that this one will be more Casino Royale than Quantum of Solace.

Red Tails - A World War 2 movie about the Tuskegee pilots with very cool looking dogfights. It's produced by George Lucas so you know no money was spared on the effects. Let's just hope he didn't have too heavy a hand in the story.

The Grey - Liam Neeson, stranded in Alaska, punching wolves with homemade broken glass knuckledusters...sounds fantastic and the trailer was good too. Liam Neeson might be 60 but he's been born again as an action star. Also look for TAKEN 2 sometime later in the year as Liam returns as Brian Throatpuncher (or whatever his name is).

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters - I know, right? Sounds awesome! I haven't seen any footage of this but its going to star Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as the titular with hunters so I'm there.

Snow White and the Hunstman/Mirror Mirror - There's a deluge of fairy tale related movies and both of these are based around Snow White. The first looks to be more action oriented and the second a more colorful comedy. Both have plenty of big names in their casts but the Hunstman one looks more appealing, despite Tarsem's incredible visual flair on Mirror Mirror.

Jack, The Giant Killer - Directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men, The Usual Suspects) and starring plenty of well known actors, this one looks like it could be fun. The trailer was good and who doesn't like to see Giants fee-fi-foe-fumming around?

John Carter - Based on the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs, this one is directed by Andrew Stanton (from the Pixar pool of geniuses...he did Wall-E) so the visual flair and storytelling credibility goes up ten notches. An American Civil War veteran ends up on Mars and basically gets to be Superman, leaping around and beating on bad Martians. I'm sure there's more to it than that but that's enough to start with.

The Raven - A gothic thriller with John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe, investigating a series of crimes mirrored on his poems and stories.

The Hunger Games - I haven't yet read these stories but this is the "next big franchise". If it hits the other two will surely be made. Don't know much about it except the fans of the books are excited!

Wrath of the Titans - The first one was dumb and rubbish...and Sam Worthington was in it. I'm a sucker for the Greek Gods though and I want this to be good. The trailer looked impressive but I thought that about the first one as well. I have reservations (Sam Worthington) but I may check it out nonetheless.

The Cabin in the Woods - A horror movie which supposedly turned the genre on its head. Written by Joss Whedon, this movie took a while to get a release date so, not sure if thats a good reason to be excited or a not.

Lock-out - Sounds like John Carpenter should be directing and Kurt Russell should be in the lead on this one...a man is offered his freedom if he rescues the President's daughter...the catch...she's being held in a space prison which has been over-run by the inmates. Maybe a spiritual successor to Escape from New York...starring Guy Pearce.

Dark Shadows - Based on a cheesy old Gothic soap, this one has Johnny Depp and Tim Burton reuniting to do weird as only they can.

Men in Black 3 - Josh Brolin playing the young Tommy Lee Jones! Time travel! Will Smith being Will Smith! Might be fun.

Brave - The new Pixar movie looks gorgeous. Whether it lives up to the...aahhh who am I kidding, this movie will kick all kinds of animated arse. Pixar's worst (Cars/Cars 2) is still better than most people's best. I predict...massive hit! (no brainer)

...and that's the end of part one...come back for part two very soon...


GSY

Jan 1, 2012

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly movies of 2011

I didn't get out to the movies as much as I wanted to in 2011 so I'm still waiting to catch up on a couple of releases on DVD. That being said, I saw enough to be able to compile a couple of lists so, that's really all I need to be going on with...

The Good
(in no particular order)

1) Mission Impossible 4 - The last movie I saw in 2011. Plenty of action and stunts, some excellent set pieces,  cool gadgets and a splash of humor made this the best in the series so far. I would definitely go see another one with this team. Great live action debut for the Pixar man Brad Bird as director.


2)  Captain America: The First Avenger - Another glut of comic book movies in the first half of 2011 saw Cap and his shield come out on top. Eye-popping action, a group of Howling Commandos, a great bad guy in Red Skull and all anchored by an earnest performance by Chris Evans in the lead role. Also, we mustn't forget the feisty and gorgeous Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter. We should take a moment now to thank director Joe Johnson for the scene with Peggy in the red dress.
*sigh*
And plaudits for the musical number written by Alan Menken. It didn't hurt that the show-stopping Star-Spangled Man with a Plan song montage was both funny and gave credence to the gaudy superhero suit sported by Cap. Win win!

3)  X-Men: First Class - I'm a huge X-Men fan and after X3 and a cheesy Wolverine offering I wasn't looking forward to the next in the series but this one surprised the hell out of me. I'm sure endless discussion could be had between comic geeks on who was in the team and why but I was won over by Magneto. The Magneto: Nazi Hunter bits were brilliant and Michael Fassbender is easily one of the best actors on the scene today.

4) Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Yeah, it's silly and yeah, I didn't care. Apes is much better than you think its going to be and that's because they thought of a story for it. Sure, it was a good excuse to show off some technical skills with some stunning special effects but thanks to Andy Serkis as Caesar you have a reason to root for the Apes. This movie got me interested in seeing a sequel and that surprised me.

5)  Bridesmaids - Best comedy of the year by an easy margin. Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph are seasoned Saturday Night Live performers so their skills are unquestionable but it's their easy and normal friendship that is the core of this funny comedy. Despite the high estrogen levels in the cast, men can find plenty to enjoy in this movie. This isn't just a "chick comedy" so do yourself a favor and watch it if you haven't already. Melissa McCarthy steals the show and I'll be watching out for her in future movies.



The Bad

1)  Vanishing on 7th Street - What initially looks like a creepy, high concept thriller turns out to be a yawn-fest full of whiny, dull and unlikable characters. The trailer made it look spooky and it starts off that way but it drags its feet and then devolves into dumb.


2)  Priest - Ugh. Just ugh. Just stupid and pointless and did I mention stupid? Paul Bettany deserves better than this. Avoid at all costs.

3)  Conan - I'm all for some sword and sorcery fun. I can relax the old gray matter to watch some cleaving and spell-casting but this just turned out to be one big, pointless fight scene with the occasional crummy cgi effect thrown in. Didn't even have the saving grace of some Austrian ham-acting in it. Jason Momoa was better in Game of Thrones so you should watch that instead.

4)   Sucker Punch - I love Zack Snyder's style as a director. Everything he shoots looks gorgeous. This one seemed like a no brainer: Cute girls, machine guns, samurai swords, dragons, and the slow-mo combat Snyder basically taught the world in 300. The trailer looked great and the effects looked astounding. It's just a shame no-one bothered with a story. Or a story that made one tiny bit of sense. This movie is as confused as any I've seen. The visuals are a geek boy's wet dream but the story is weirdly misogynistic and even more dumb. There's no thread holding the concept together and it becomes fantasy within a fantasy within a...who cares....it's just not any good. No amount of razzle dazzle saves it.

5)  Cowboys and Aliens - The reason I threw this one on here is because it should've been a whole lot better. It really wasn't the worst movie...maybe not even in the top five worst movies but I wanted to include it just to make the point that Jon Favreau, Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and Sam Rockwell were all involved in this movie and it still wasn't very good. The story was lame and the big alien bad guys were stupid. On top of that the movie was too serious about itself. I get that they didn't want a comedy or a simple tongue in cheek, winking effort but the characters were all humorless and dull. And I can't even begin to tell you how disappointed I was that Rockwell was so underused. I can't even talk about Olivia Wilde's character because my head exploded when her back story was explained.


and finally...

The Ugly


I'm just going to come out and say it - Transformers : Dark of the Moon.


An almost 3-hour car and toy commercial shot in glorious Michael Bay-O-Vision. That's all it was. I liked Transformers. It was enjoyable. Transformers 2 was pitiful. I thought a 3rd effort would maybe return to...at least as good as the first one. No. Not even close. Horrible movie. We should all make a pact and never go see another Transformers movies again. Who's with me?

I sat through every minute of it and I'm not sure why I bothered. At no time did the movie become good. Shia Lebeouf is so grating and annoying now that I just shudder if he's mentioned as being in the cast of a movie. He brings the same Shia-schtick to this as he does to everything he is in and it still doesn't work. And he's the most thought out human character in the movie.

Terrible in so many ways and it made a fortune at the box office...and I helped it. That's the ugliest part of all.


Anyway, let me know what you think of those choices...if indeed you dare...lol.

I will return soon with my MOST ANTICIPATED MOVIES of 2012 list.

Happy new Year!!!


GSY