Monday, November 20, 2017

Contracts and Copyrights and Covers—OH MY!

Don't worry about the details . . . 
Really great article by a buddy of mine who is doing a twelve-part series that everyone should read.  Today’s article is on contracts.  Here's a brief introduction:

This article is the third (of twelve) in my publishing series. This article is going to be long, but worth the read. It’ll cover everything (or almost everything) that you wanted to know about contracts.

Whether you’ve landed an agent who has just received an offer from a large publisher, or whether you’ve dealt directly with a small or medium publisher, the contract is the single most important document you will ever sign. It’s even more important than Copyright. There are a lot of different things that can go wrong with contracts, so I’m going to try to highlight the most important aspects of specific types of clauses, things to question, things to avoid, and a basic explanation of the parts of the contract so that you have a better idea of what you are dealing with.


Friday, November 17, 2017

When Cleaning Goes Wrong

And this . . . is where I dropped my soup!
He came at me before I was even aware he was in the room.  Fists clenched and down to his sides, as if he was a gunslinger about to go to work.  His brows were furrowed down over his narrowed eyes.  He breathed, like a bull, through clenched teeth.

His first words streamed out in a vicious path so fast that I couldn’t make sense of them.

“What’s that, buddy?”

“YOU THINK MY ART IS TRASH!?”  My five-year-old made it an accusation, not a question.

Ooops!

Looks like daddy’s cleaning of the house had some unwanted repercussions.

I have an artist in my house.  He’s always making “art”.  Mostly, it looks like a mess to me.  Bits of paper cut up and held together using too much Scotch tape.  This isn’t the first time I’ve stumbled onto the “artistic” world.

“Hey man, what’s all this construction paper doing under your bed?”

“Dad!” the frustrated five-year-old cried out, as if raging against the angst of an unfair social machine.  “I’m an ARTIST.”

The kicker was his next line.

“Mom understands!”


There we have it.  Another artist in the house.  Competition is just what I need.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Marketing Covers for Flames of Perdition

A lot of things have gone wrong over the past year, but a lot of things have gone very, very right.  One of the things that went really, really well is a marketing version of the current covers for Flames of Perdition series (the Del/angel books).  I found some fun images that I wanted incorporated together (perhaps for an omnibus version of the books) and found an artist on Fiverr who works cheap—Bobooks.

For sixteen bucks, it’s actually a really good cover.  Technically, I had unlimited revisions—which is a lot like kicking over every motorcycle outside a biker bar and taking all-comers.  This came together almost immediately, and I only had minor changes to make.


Don't tell Del she only cost $16.
Based on this little success, I’m going to go ahead and build out some marketing covers for Hell Becomes Her and Company of the Damned.  

Keep watching this space for the updates.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Why Poets Are Awesome

And yet, her cold, dead eyes haunt me.
Poets do in a handful of words what it takes a novelist several thousand.

Consider a "simple" Dickinson poem:

Because I could not stop for Death -
He kindly stopped for me -
The carriage held but just Ourselves -
And Immortality.

In just the very first line, Dickinson conveys the sentiment of most mortals. We have much to do, much we would wish to accomplish, much and more that we'd like to see and experience. Some of us, toward the end, might welcome Death (personified in this case), but a good majority of us, if given the chance, would be too busy. And yet, Death is inexorable and undefeatable. Indeed, even within the next two lines, Dickinson provides for not fight, no whining, no excuse for her speaker. Death simply shows up, and the speaker is next in the carriage. But in her final line, we have something of a paradox that is not immediately explained—the speaker, Death and now Immortality are altogether. How is that possible when the speaker is dead?

This is only the first sentence—twenty words—and yet, Dickinson has set up an atmosphere of quiet acceptance, the persona of Death inside His carriage, and is already in pursuit of a meaning, or lack of meaning, to our mortal lives.

That's just scraping the surface and it took me close to 200 words to explain a part of Dickinson's 20.


Were I to pursue these themes as part of a novel, I'd first have to set up the character, the setting, and the plot which is easily a few thousand words before we've even come to the rising action. This is just one "little" poem. Nothing compared with some of the longer pieces like "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" "The Wasteland" or "Paradise Lost".

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Call Up - Movie Review

No Trons were harmed in the making of this film.
The idea of an immersive gaming environment is very enticing.  Add a cash prize for the top player, and a fully VR/AR game suddenly becomes an offer you can’t refuse.

That’s the premise of writer-director Charles Baker’s The Call Up (available on Netflix).  This low-budget scifi, first-person-shooter (FPS) is not a bad way to spend an evening after the kids have gone to sleep.  Set in the near-future, and based on similar FPS games, the idea is one that we’ve seen before: Eight top-ranked players are offered the change to beta a new version of their game with a $100,000 prize.



Most gamers, offered the chance to beta a new version of their addiction, would do it for free, or even pay.  But something isn’t quite right.  Of course not.  There is a plethora of evidence in just the opening credits, from the ominous music, the sinister background checks, that let us know bad things are going to happen to our heroes.

That’s where The Call Up makes some very obvious mistakes.  The first act takes too long in the set-up, and deviates with a secondary character’s hesitation to gear-up, that it never really develops any of the other characters.  It’s not really clear who we should be caring about, or even rooting for—we don’t really get to know any of the characters until the third act.  Baker’s directing is very good.  The visuals, CGI and even the acting are better than average.  There are also some narrative issues with the characters reactions to the FPS situations they are confronted with.  The audience would expect these top players to be, well, top players.  I also wish there had been just a bit more of the FPS to this FPS movie—some discussion or use of tactics, some consistency in respawns, wounds, etc. 
Chris Obi is certain you knew the risks when you signed up!

Most of the players act as if they’ve never even logged onto an account in their life.

Even the computer-generated sergeant (Chris Obi), who also provides narrative instruction and mission guidance, has more personality than most of the players.  There are bright flashes, especially as the characters come to realize that they’re trapped, and sinister things are afoot.


Overall, The Call Up is a nice expression of near-future tech in gaming.  The premise is solid, and even non-gamers will have little trouble understanding the plot.  There’s a decent twist at the end, but a few missed opportunities that could have been explored and exploited to enhance the experience.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

In Which I Feel Really Bad

When a soccer ball comes along . . . 
Last night, at my eldest son’s insistence request, I played scrimmage soccer with his team at their last practice.  Many parents did.

Spoiler: We lost.

I found it interesting to step back onto a field after so many years of just watching my sons play.  It’s one thing to yell, “Pass!” “Take the shot!” or “Clear it!” and quite another to actually be asked to do the same.

I do have a slight edge in that I played Utah AYSO and was on my high school soccer team.  A few of the other parents had also played, and those that didn’t quickly found that they had the advantage of both height and weight when compared to a 10-year-old.

To that point, while I had never intended to play all-out-aggressive soccer, I learned two things.  First, even at a quarter level, I’m a big guy.  Second, I’m waaaaayyyy out of shape to play soccer.  Running a few miles every day is nothing compared to the sprint-sprint-sprint and quick footwork required for playing soccer.

To compensate, accidentally of course, I ended up taking out two players.

One of them was my son.

I’m sure I’ve felt worse in my life.  But when you double-fake and spin into a forward pass, only to find a ten-year-old girl catching the ball full in the face, then dropping like a stone to the ground with painful thud . . . well, yeah.


Fortunately, no one was permanently injured or maimed.  The kids “won” with a last second goal, and everyone was pleased . . . except my lungs, who are still protesting.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Halloween Was Scarier Than Usual

These kids are actually walking and singing.
Yesterday, I received the scariest notice I’ve ever had from my boys’ school:

Good Afternoon Castle View Parents,

At this time Castle View Elementary has been placed on lockdown due to a disturbance inside of a classroom. Riverside Police Department is on site and actively working to resolve the situation. All students are being evacuated to a safe location off-campus. Unfortunately, at this time we cannot release any students until the lockdown order has been lifted by RPD. We will communicate with you again as soon as the situation is resolved and give you further instructions on student pickup.

Thank you for your cooperation

I never did get a follow up message on where the kids were or what needed to happen to pick them up.  I can’t really fault the school district or the administration.  They were busy with the amazing controlled chaos of managing the students at a nearby park, and trying to communicate with the parents who, like me, received this message and believed the worst.


My Three Sons
The news reports, of course, milked this for everything it was worth, but the truth is that the parents were more terrified than the kids.  They’ve been practicing lockdown drills for just this kind of concern.  While it always pains me that this is the reality we’ve created for our children, today I was grateful for that foresight.  My middle son, Tris, said he arrived at the park first, and his biggest annoyance was that he didn’t get to eat lunch (food and water was later provided).  He said he quickly found my youngest, Xavi, and then they played “for longer than a normal recess.”  My oldest son, Porter, true to form, was telling jokes and helping with some of the kids who were nervous.

I have to give it up to Riverside Unified School District, the Castle View Elementary Staff and the Riverside Police and Fire Departments.  All were on hand, keeping control of the situation, providing parents with information as it was available, and working to release the children as quickly and safely as possible.  The first thing I heard when I walked up was that all the kids were accounted for and safe.  None were still at the school.  We also knew that the situation was still “active” but obviously they didn’t provide any more information on that.

To my sons, the biggest concern was their backpacks.  Xavi insisted that a “robber” had come to the school—I guess the theft of his art supplies and monster trucks would be the greatest tragedy he can imagine.  Porter and Tris knew even less and didn’t bother speculating.  They were more concerned about the lack of homework (yes, I have those students).  While the helicopters over the area that evening let me know that the situation was still not resolved, we felt more than safe enough to go trick-or-treating that evening, and there was a great haul.  Friends let me know when the news reported that SWAT had ended the stand-off and that was essentially that.

While this is just a small blog, I definitely want to thank RUSD and Castle View Elementary staff, and the Riverside Police and Fire departments.  They managed this situation with the safety of the children and the concern of the parents first and foremost (at least from my perspective) and handled everything with amazing efficiency and effectiveness.  It totally sucks that our children have to learn lockdown procedures because of the world that we’ve shaped—but it’s far and away better than shrugging our shoulders because, “What can you do?”


After I retrieved my sons, I thanked any staff, fire or police personnel that we passed.  They all seemed happy to be there, doing their best to keep the kids safe.  No children were harmed in the least, and most didn't even realize the seriousness of the situation.

Thank you, again.  Thank you!