Random musings on Romance and The Terminator

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I know it’s only January. But I’m nowhere near as bad as the grocery stores that were selling Christmas candy alongside Valentine’s candy and St. Patrick’s day candy, so bear with me.

I wouldn’t say I’m a huge Romance reader, i.e. it’s been some time since I’ve read a Harlequin novel of any kind. So, some of what I’m about to say comes from distant memories of it and some of it comes from the excellent material from the Genre Structure class I took (Psst, it’s really great and if you want to learn more about genre conventions, I can’t recommend it enough. In fact, all of WMG’s classes are top notch).

A lot of writers take pride in pushing the boundaries of genre, refusing to be constrained by it. Indie publishing has turned genre mixing into some sort of bloodsport though, where anything goes, which is fine to an extent.

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Characterization and Word Choice

One of the gripes I hear most from writers is about the challenge of making characters sound different, i.e. giving them each an individual voice. Let’s explore the subject, shall we?

One way of making your characters sound different is to give them an accent. And this can certainly work, as long as you use their brogue or twang sparingly, like you would spice. Add too much and it becomes distracting gibberish that’s hard to parse out.

The other way is to change their syntax. But don’t go all Jar-Jar on us. One of the best examples of syntax usage is R. M. Meluch’s character Dr. Mo Shah.

Dr. Shah’s voice sounded again from the intercom. “Captain? May I be having a word with you?” Confidentially, Mo Shah’s tone added.

“Oh. These are not being signs of slaughter. These are being medical communications. Physicians conferring with each other, I am believing.”

“He did not pass the drug scan,” Dr. Shah reported.

Farragut pursed his lips. Spoke at last: “What’s he doing?”

“The whole pharmacy,” Mo answered. “And the R&D lab.”

The Myriad: Tour of the Merrimack #1

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2019, A year of changes

First of all, Happy New Year, one and all.

Last year saw the words “The End” go on my space opera. It came in at a respectable 150,000 words. It’s a mix of futuristic nanotech, genetic engineering, the clash of cultures, feudal politics, sexy romance, and swords.

The new year is also supposed to see a new short story and two novellas, all as part of anthologies.

On the self-publishing side, I plan on re-releasing a short story in June and a novella in February. The novella is a bit of conundrum. I’m tempted to expand it and make it a second edition, one with additional content and some added steam (i.e. that means sexier), along with a sexy cover that I can’t wait to show you.

The major change this year is that all my self-published ebooks will be available to my newsletter subscribers two weeks before they are released to the rest of the world. So, if you want to take advantage of this, you have to be on my subscriber list, i.e. my super-fan list.

If you’re not on the list, you can sign up under “Newsletter Opt-in” on the right-side of the screen. Go ahead and do it. It’s easy.

I’m not into making new year’s resolutions, but I will say that my goal is to make 2019 a more productive year overall, with sequels and side stories for my space opera and a sequel to Promethea Invicta. Speaking of Promethea, I’m eagerly awaiting a better microphone (due here next week) so I can produce an audio version. I’m also very excited to announce a collaboration with Tom Kratman. More to come on that.

Meanwhile, my short story, Equality (first published in MAGA 2020 & Beyond) is live as of today directly from me via Bookfunnel (in your favorite format), as well as from these vendors (Print, Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, Scribd, D2D). And of course, it’s available through your favorite library as well; just ask your librarian.

Kal Sprigg’s review of the Aquaman Movie (no spoilers)

I watched Aquaman last night.  I’ve got to say, I haven’t been this hyped up about a DC movie in… well, ever.  Which is pretty amusing considering Aquaman has been sort of a joke for a long, long time.

The movie manages to live up to that hype.  It’s fun, it’s got good action, an understandable plot, and motivations for the characters that actually make sense.  They do a great job showing Aquaman’s character, in little things he does, not just the big dumb hero stuff of saving the world.  Some of it is sort of check the box, (save the nuns, check, save the trapped guy, check), but a lot of that stuff is cliche for a reason: it shows that he actually cares enough about people to risk himself to save people caught in the middle of his battles.

Read the rest: King of the Seas: Aquaman Movie Review (no spoilers)

Why I’m the exclusivity contrarian

Exclusivity is one of those words that conjures up images of fashionable, stylish clothes, of expensive shopping, of status symbols. It also conjures up images of being part of a carefully selected group, of prohibiting the unworthy from entering.

Thing is, that first type of exclusivity, the one that conjures up designer clothes and shoes, exclusive clubs, requires a barrier to entry–usually price. Sometimes there’s value to go with it. Sometimes there’s not, just a polished turd with fantastic marketing. Those tend to fade away pretty quickly. The things that stand the test of time tend to be well-made as well as well-marketed, although the most exclusive need not advertise at all. It’s a bit of that “If you need to ask the price, you can’t afford it.”

Then there’s the type of exclusivity that sounds great, but isn’t. It’s the type of exclusivity that’s all about limitations–you cannot leave, you have no say, the other party can alter the deal at any time. You may have entered into the agreement willingly, but if you can’t withdraw consent, you’re at their mercy, aren’t you? If you’ve ever entered into a bad deal, whether in real estate or in a personal relationship, you have a good idea of how things can turn for the worst, and unfortunately, often do.

So now, let’s talk about Amazon’s Kindle “Unlimited” (KU) program. Although readers pay $9.99 a month to be in it, the amount of times it’s referred to as “free” tells me that people have conditioned themselves (and others) to think of this subscription service in a flawed way. It’s the same mentality that some people have that that tax refund at the end of the year was not their money in the first place; they don’t realize they’ve given the government an interest-free loan all year. While it’s called Kindle “Unlimited” it does NOT mean that you can read all the ebooks in Amazon’s inventory. Quite the opposite. If anything, it’s a limited program rather than an unlimited one.

To be clear, I’m going to focus on this from the perspective of an author, not a reader although my own experience as a reader was negative as well. The KU selection was limited mostly to people I didn’t read and the few that I read, it was cheaper just to buy their books, which I did.

 

The subscription model is not the issue. The exclusivity requirement is.

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Equality: A Short Story Re-released today

I’m happy to announce the release of the ebook version of “Equality: A Short Story.” To get your free copy, click here. It will remain free until the end of the year, so get it now.

Libby lives in a peace enclave for a reason. Here, her beliefs live and breathe, forming a cocoon. They embrace her like a mother’s loving arms. Peace. Security. Social consciousness. All in one place. Twenty-four-seven.

Coming home late one night, she walks through the park, happy and secure.

Until a man with a mask and a knife jumps in her path.

Will Libby survive the aftermath and the shattering of her beliefs?

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Movie Review: What Dreams May Come (with spoilers)

What Dreams May Come is a 1998 Robin Williams movie  about a man who dies and searches for his wife in the afterlife. It is based on the novel of the same name by Richard Matheson.

Definitely a tearjerker: everybody dies, including the dog, which is usually the point at which I stop watching a movie, but the poster suggests they meet up in Heaven so I kept going.

I’m not going to go into a lot of story or execution details except to say that the “trick” of meeting his children in the afterlife (they don’t look like you’d expect them to look) was explained in a way that had internal logic and didn’t feel like a cheat. I have not read the book and don’t plan to (the sample tells me all I need to know and that is that I have better books lined up waiting to be read) so I can’t tell you how closely the movie aligns with the book.

The one thing about the movie is that is FANTASTIC is the message: that a man’s love for his wife was so great that he was willing to give up Heaven and join her in Hell. We need more movies like this, about couples who go through hell and Hell together, about the wonders that can be achieved by men and women who love each other working together to make a better world, even if it’s a surrealistic, fantastical afterlife.

So have a hanky (or two) ready and be assured, this has a happily ever after even if it’s not what one would call a Romance. It is definitely a romance, however. And bonus: the point of this romance is not for the woman to fall in love with a man just to demand that he change.

Movie Cheats: A Perfect Getaway (Spoilers Included)

A Perfect Getaway is a 2009 movie starring Milla Jovovich, Chris Hemsworth, and Timothy Olyphant. I was also promised Gerard Butler.

The storyline reads:

For their honeymoon, newlyweds Cliff and Cydney head to the tropical islands of Hawaii. While journeying through the paradisaical countryside the couple encounters Kale and Cleo, two disgruntled hitchhikers and Nick and Gina, two wild but well-meaning spirits who help guide them through the lush jungles. The picturesque waterfalls and scenic mountainsides quickly give way to terror when Cliff and Cydney learn of a grisly murder that occurred nearby and realize that they’re being followed by chance acquaintances that suspiciously fit the description of the killers. (Source: IMDB)

It took $14M to make and grossed $15M in the USA. Despite the eye candy (there is some breathtaking scenery, and yes, I mean both kinds) and a lot of potential, it is a mediocre movie at best.

It’s been out like nine years. Why bother?

Well, someone suggested that I watch it and just before I got around to watching it, some of us were having a discussion on Facebook about how it’s easy to spot writers that are NOT prolific readers, but rather prolific movie watchers. So it seemed apropos to take this mediocre film and demonstrate what that means, i.e. when a writer is first and foremost, a movie watcher, rather than a reader.

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Equality:A Short Story (warning: graphic content and dangerous ideas)

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“You call that a dick?” a strange, distant voice said.

A flash broke through the veil of crimson pain. The smell of hot metal, burning sawdust and dirt scorched its way down Libby’s throat. An awful ringing swelled in her ears. And then … silence. Silence and darkness.

***

February 25, 2036

Libra Baingana adored the beauty of the sweeping arches that circled this part of “The South’s Most Romantic City.” Despite the lack of lighting and the lateness of the hour—it was past midnight—the arches gave the perimeter of this heavenly little district a distinctly positive and empowering atmosphere. Much better than walls or fences.

The cab came to a stop in the turnabout, alongside the “Welcome to Clinton—A Peace Enclave” sign. The brand-new, exclusive, inclusive community boasted a plan optimized for walking and cycling. The cab driver could take his vehicle no further. Only electric vehicles making deliveries that benefited the entire community were allowed on the few streets wide enough for cars.

Libby swiped her watch across the billing scanner. Ordinarily she prided herself in giving drivers a generous ten-percent tip if they went above and beyond. Sometimes she’d add a bit more if they were willing to listen to her sing the praises of the Enclave. But she’d not opted to sing tonight—the driver, a man with the boring name of “Joe” looked about as MAGA as they made them. Had she had a choice, she’d have called for another driver, but her app said none would be available until morning. It would be better for everyone if she invested his tip in some carbon credits instead. Besides, with gas as cheap as it was nowadays, there really should’ve been a discount, but greedy people like him insisted on overcharging those who needed their services.

She slammed the door shut and stepped away, expecting him to peel out and leave her choking on a cloud of carcinogens. Instead, he eased that criminally oversized four-seater into gear and drove the five-mile-per-hour speed limit all the way out as if he didn’t care at all, which he wouldn’t if he habitually overcharged. Not tipping had clearly been the right decision.

She took a deep, satisfied breath and started walking. It was an easy twenty minutes to her cottage even in heels and a dress. She set out across the community park with its exercise-encouraging footpaths. When the motion-activated solar lights failed to keep up with her pace, she slowed.

The glass of the framed certificate in her bag rattled a bit so she pulled it closer. She couldn’t wait to get home and put it on her wall, right above the ranking belts. They were like a rainbow—white, yellow, gold, orange, green, purple, brown and red. The final rank, black, was the reason she was out so late. She’d gone out to celebrate with the rest of her karate friends. But none of them lived in the Enclave. And her Enclave friends didn’t care for her karate friends’ violent ways. Which was completely ridiculous. There wasn’t a violent bone in their bodies—or hers. Karate was about discipline and conditioning. She loved moving through the forms. She’d even sparred. It wasn’t that hard and she’d only been bruised a couple of times. Karate had shown her the power within her own body. It had shown her that she was as strong as anyone else. Fierce. Independent. Equal.

Something caught the edge of her vision as she passed the communal composting drums. The small building that housed one of the park’s restrooms was up ahead, its blue, police call-box shining like a beacon. Usually she loved the Enclave’s energy-consciousness—it felt a bit like celebrating Earth Day every day—but the stupid path was so poorly lit, she’d have felt safer with a pair of light-up shoes. The hairs on the back of her neck stood, insisting that something was wrong.

Stop it.

Libby took a deep breath and shook off the trepidation. That MAGA cab driver had really gotten to her. She walked faster. In just fifteen minutes, she’d be in her own cottage, enjoying the—

A hulking silhouette stepped out of the dark and into her path. She spun and bolted without thinking.

The blow to the back of her head sent her reeling.

She dropped to her knees. Her palm scraped the sidewalk as she pushed up with one hand and drove her elbow back. It connected with a meaty thud and bounced off a wall of muscle and bone. There wasn’t even a grunt.

Fingers bit into the back of her neck, shoving her forward again as her voice caught in her throat. Freshly laid sod cushioned her landing.

She twisted and kicked under the pounding of piston-like fists.

They just kept coming, driving each and every breath from her body.

“Stop.” Blood gurgled into her throat.

Her arms were a meager shield. Pain exploded from her cheek. Her nose. Her jaw.

She fumbled for the watch with its SOS app, but it was gone.

His grip nearly yanked her scalp off—

“Don’t.”

—as he dragged her across the grass.

Light seared through swelling eyes.

She’d lost her heels. Her hose had torn. And then they were off and she was bare against the tiles.

Crimson dripped into her eyes, blurring her vision.

Straddling her hips, he looked down at her through a black morphmask.

She flailed under him going for his face. It was out of reach.

His hands wrapped around her throat.

She tried to break his hold, wedging her arms between his, but he was too strong. She punched from the side. He blocked with his elbows.

Adrenaline-powered knees pounded into his back. Once. Twice.

He didn’t buckle.

He didn’t budge.

The morphmask closed in until the reek of his breath was all she could smell.

He smacked her head into the tile. The world swam around her. Something wound around her neck and then the smell didn’t matter anymore.

All that mattered was air. The air she wasn’t getting. She could no longer feel the harsh unforgiving tile beneath her, could no longer see the uncaring light around her.

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