Sunday, March 29, 2015

Poetry Corner: Haven't You?

Image courtesy of Graphic Stock 
Haven't you ever been alone
when surrounded by all your friends?

Living a lie only you can see.
Being the girl all want you to be.

Pleasing everyone but yourself
The best thing I ever did was
to just be me.

Yeah, not really sure what led to this. The experience was about as unforgettable as the poem. Given the flow, I suspect it was something for class, but not really sure what. Perhaps creating our own syllabic poetry, but it doesn't match common patterns such as a cinquain or tanka.

Not every word that a writer puts to paper is brilliant. Yet there is a great message here.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Poetry Corner: Warhol's Campbell Soup

What a crazy thing to paint.
Warhol's Campbell's Soup Can
A Campbell's soup can,
the logic is so faint.

So why wasted the man,
his talents of artistic splendor
on painting a soup can, I wonder?

It's not even the colors I'm used to.
The style is not all that grand.
The work is good, it's true,
The man's got a leg to stand.

But why paint a soup can?

This was a writing exercise, and you can guess what it was. Looking at art and writing the poetry it inspired. For some of these I am quite inspired, but Andy Warhol (I know, I must be an uncultured heathen!!) never inspired me to do more than ask a lot of questions. Questions like "How is that not copyright infringement? Who would pay for "art" like this? And the ever prevalent thought: What combination of drugs inspired this madness?"

But it was for high school creative writing.

What do you think of Andy Warhol's work? Leave a note in the comments below.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Movie Review: Chappie

I don't typically do movie reviews, partly because I don't get to see new movies as often as I would like, and mostly because what often makes a good movie for me is the cinamatics, not necessarily the story. Every now and again a great movie comes along that has a story worth reviewing. Chappie is one of those.

Now, as far as a movie goes it was ok. There was a lot of deus ex machina, I did not care for two of the main actors, it felt a lot like District 9 with robots, and several other issues that as a film lover I had problems with.

What I want to focus on is the story, or stories, as it were.

One of the things I love about Neill Blomcamp is that he is a master at allegory.  His films have so many layers and can appeal to so many different audiences. On the face, Chappie is a great sci-fi action film with lots of flash and a relatively action-oriented plot. He doesn't waste a lot of time on character introductions, and jumps right into the story.

But underneath the surface story there are some very deep questions. He makes the audience look at the difference between the poverty stricken criminals and the nerd who is doing well.  The criminals have plans and ideas, but they are geared around their own personal wants. They live life the way they want and act free, but are constantly trapped in situations that go from bad to worse.

The nerd is successful and doing well. He does not create for himself, but creates for the sake of society. When he is following societies rules, he is doing well. But when he starts making selfish choices, things start going bad for him.

 Blomcamp makes the audience analyze the way we teach our children and how it effects who/ what they become.  The nerd, Dion, teaches Chappie never to let anyone tell him he cannot do anything he wants. That he is a unique being and should be proud of that. He wants to make Chappie great. But he makes Chappie promise to live by his code. He believes that he is doing what is best for Chappie, but really he wants Chappie to make him look good.

The main criminal, Ninja, wants to make Chappie into a "Bad Ass Robot" who makes him lots of "monies" he tries to teach Chappie the things he believes will make Chappie tough, and help Ninja achieve his goals, but as the story goes along he becomes attached to Chappie. In the end, he risks his life to save Chappie, despite leading him down a very bad path solely for Ninja's gain.

Ninja's girlfriend Yolandi is a tough chick who clearly wants a different life. She is the first to take on the "mothering role" in teaching Chappie. She pours love and support into him, demonstrating her own desperate desire to be loved and accepted as she is. Her child-like approach to teaching and accepting Chappie demonstrates that she has never received this sort of care, and is merely acting out what she wanted so much.

Each of them loves Chappie in their own way, and each end up risking their lives for him in the end. However, if the audience had not seen Ninja go from purely selfish to caring concern, we would not have been able to see this deeper allogory on how parents may believe that they are doing what is best for their child, but are simply focusing on their own selfish view of how their child should be.

There are other brilliant layers to the story, such as the analysis of the "human element" that Vincent focuses on and how the AI ended up being more humane than the humans he deals with in the end.

There is also a very, very deep layer that leads us to question how failure effects people and leads us to be worse people in an effort to achieve success. It is most obviously played out with Vincent's character, but we see it in how Dion is willing to break rules to achieve success. We see it in how Ninja, Yolindi, and American who seem to be more wanabe's than hardened criminals step up their crimes and violence as they struggle to survive. We see it in how Chappie develops as well.

So many different layers and so many questions. A movie that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. The best of both worlds!

I was only able to touch on a few of the deeper messages I found in the film, but there were many others. What deeper messages did you get from the story? What questions did you have,  and what insights did you see? Share in the comments below.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sneak Peek: Hell School, Meet Sam

Today is an intro to my main character Samantha Havre. Her friends know her as Sam.

Sam, for those of you who don't know, is me. Well, the synthetically scrubbed version of how I saw/ see/ wish to be myself. There are some changes. For one she is notably native.

I am a Heinz 57 and the odds are good that there is some Native American in there, but nothing I can point directly to. Yet, despite that I have always had a draw to all things native. From the customs to the people, to their belief systems. When I was 12 my dad took us to a Rocky Boy Pow Wow in Montana. He was doing electrical work for the tribe and we got to stay for the three day event. It was amazing! There was a German Anthropologist there who was asking me about the dance and at the end was surprised that I hadn't grown up on the res. He said it seemed to him my heart was Native. Perhaps there is more. One day I might get a DNA mapping to see.

But this is about Sam. Hell School: Fresh Meat introduces us to Sam, a 14 year old mixed Cree girl who's family moves to South Carolina after her parents' divorce. Her cultural adaptation was very much my experience moving to South Carolina. I felt like a fish out of water!

Brenda Schad, much how I picture Sam
She is quiet and a bit shy, with looks that could make her one of the "popular girls" and a personality that puts her with the geeks where she belongs. There is a lot of blending who I was, and who I wanted to be with Sam's personality, down to her name. As a young girl I hated my name. I always wished I could have a name that had a cool nick name. Samantha was a name I always fancied as a child and I would have gone by Sam or Sammy. (though Samantha Sampson would have been horrible.) Ironically, I learned when I was an adult that my mom always favored the name Samantha too and wanted to be a Sam when she was young.

Samantha is ridiculously tall and developed for her age, When I was young my mom joked that I was her version of "Honey, I blew up the kids." and she jokes the summer of my 12th birthday I went from 12 to 21 in one summer. Sam was no different. Her womanly figure draws unwanted attention from both sexes, the boys leering over her and the girls despising her.

It also leads to the very unwanted attention of her very own stalker.

What else would you like to know about Sam?

Leave your questions in the comments below.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Poetry Corner: Stop That

I told you to stop that,
stop tickling me.
I told you to stop that,
don't follow that bee.

I told you to stop that,
you breathe much too loud.
I told you to stop that,
your head's on a cloud.

I told you to stop that,
don't wish on a star.
I told you to stop that,
don't be who you are.

I told you to stop that,
That's all madam said.
I told you to stop that,
guillotine took madam's head.

Yay for mixing creative writing and history. I had a sister who was very repressive while I was a teen. I mixed that frustration with the French Revolution and came up with this twisted little piece. Not brilliant, but true nonetheless.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Writer's corner: The Balancing Act of Integrated Marketing

We've had strep at our house and so I found myself at home for 48 hours. What?!?! So much work to get done! I have really been struggling with balancing social media, blogging, writing, editing, audiobook production, and planning marketing lately. You can guess what has been getting the short straw.... Yup, marketing.

A part of me felt less guilty about this because I was running my adwords campaign and checking on it every couple of weeks. The campaign looked like it was doing well, as I have a .75% CTR on one campaign and a .36% CTR on the other... and yet, I wasn't able to see what it was doing for me. I saw a minor increase in sales, but nowhere near enough to pay for the click throughs.  My bounce rate is bad (98%) and I hate google analytics. It is a bunch of useless stats that are harder to comprehend than trying to read Chinese. (At least for me.)

So I spent those two days reading, reviewing, planning and plotting on how to work my marketing campaign and guess what I've got?

Well, I know that no single source of marketing is the magic bullet. I know that the key is to come up with a magical blending of social media, content marketing, email, and offline.  About six months ago I started paying for a subscription for Hootesuite and have been using that to manage my social media, but I recently found out that it has not been working. Here I thought I was sharing my posts across multiple platforms, when in reality half my posts were not getting shared anywhere other than twitter.... failing on the content sharing across social media. That explains why I haven't been seeing the stats growing.

I should be using my adwords to at least develo an email list, but I still haven't figured out how to do that. I have a Wix site and although there are some aspects that are very convenient about Wix, figuring out how to develop a landing page to offer a free sample of my book for an email address has not been easy.... that or I am entering febrile delerium...

And I don't know what to do with the email once I get it. The only "email list" I have are my blog readers, but I don't even have that. It is through blogger. They have my email list.  I have gotten a few email addresses from some of the blog hops I have done, but I don't use them. I should, but I don't.  I signed up for a free trial of hubspot before realizing that probably won't work for me (Beyond the fact that I can't spare $200 a month on Basic software.)

So I continue to muddle through,

What are your favorite marketing tactics authors have used? Share in the comments below.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Poetry Corner: I Love You

I am the dream that comes from dreams.

Living on the shores
Old-sung heroes often come
Veering from the Lores
Even fortunes cannot drive them from their path so true

Young and innocent
Old and wise
Unite with this reprise

Painting by Loo1Cool  from Deviantart

There is nothing more to be said. Sometimes I amaze myself.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Maze Runner Final Pre-book Review

Well, it is finally picking up! Of course, it is almost over.... what a teaser to force us to read the next book! My kids are hooked, though, so I guess it worked.

The girl has finally woken up, and "Things are changing" My boys bug me every night to keep reading, so it should be done and reviewed pretty soon.

Just a minor note. It is a shame that it took so long to get going. I mean, I get that there was a lot of world building that needed to be done, and I cannot say that I can think of a better way that he could have done it, except to have just done it faster or smoother. In fairness, it did steadily build in intensity and complexity. It hooked my boys. I really hope the next books will be smoother, now that the world building is done.  My boys are eager and we have three and 1/4 books to go.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Writer Musings: What is a Strong Female Character

One theme I have noticed in the reviews I have received is that I write "strong female characters". The first time I read that I was a little surprised. I had some strong female characters, and some sort of pitiful female characters.  

 In The Hunters, for instance, Fury is definitely a "strong female character" but then Havoc is a strong male character. They are professional vampire hunters, so they wouldn't last long if they weren't strong no matter what their gender.

Several of the other females in the book were at least trying to be strong, but again they were defending their town against vampires. They would at least have to think of themselves as strong, right? Even the female I considered weakest had her strengths. That led me to wonder, what would a weak female character look like?

I mean, presumably she would be the opposite of a "strong female character", but no one considers themselves weak in real life, do they? For example, I have a female friend who is 5 feet, barely 100 lbs, and struggles to open a jar. But she is witty, sharp, clever and has a very dominant personality. Is she weak, just because she doesn't have physical power?

I have a sibling who "throws her weight around" so to speak, is very verbally and physically aggressive, and extremely competitive yet lacks the social grace to recognize when to back off or how to care for people's emotions. She considers herself very strong because she doesn't let anyone walk all over her.

I cannot fathom how one could write weak characters that are main characters, and have them be successful. How would a weak person triumph? If there is no triumph, how can we cheer for them? In my experience the only time the main character is weak is usually in cautionary tales. Bet even those characters don't see themselves as weak until it is too late.

I try to write characters that are realistic and believable (most of the time) and to me, no one thinks that they are weak. They tend to focus on their strengths. Even those of us (I will admit, I know I have weaknesses.) who acknowledge our weaknesses do not consider ourselves weak, right?

What do you think makes a "strong female character?"  Do you consider yourself weak? Do you know others who consider themselves weak? Do I just have a warped sense of reality... Ok, we all know I have a warped sense of reality, I write fiction! But am I perceiving the world the way I want in believing that people do not consider themselves weak in general?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Until next time,

Keep Reading!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Poetry Corner: Midnight

Many innocent children
In the middle of the night
Don't see life the same
No, not the same at all.
In the sunlight
Garish truth is right
Here at midnight
Truth becomes deranged

I got on an acrostic kick for awhile. I enjoy acrostic poetry so much that I actually had a section of it in my activity book Creative Exercises to Inspire, which was based on a summer program I did with kids in our neighborhood to keep them off the streets. I have to say, it was probably one of the favorite parts for the kids. They got to keep a creativity book and that was the most common poetry I found when they got to do free writing.

You'll be seeing a lot more of these as I continue sharing!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Writer Ramblings: The Simple Joys

I am excited about a few things this week.

1. I am almost finished with the rough draft for Hell School: Fresh Meat.
2. I am about to start editing my friend Lynette White's second book in the Destiny Series.
3. I have begun creating the audio book for The Hunters.

The rough draft has been long coming. I meant to be done last summer and have it published in November, but life happens. I am pleased to finally be in the home stretch. Editing Lynette's book will be a nice break and get me back into editor's mode so I can polish up Hell School after.

As for the audio book, I am a little nervous. I have gone round and round trying to decide what to do with the audio book versions of my books. I wanted to do ensemble casts, but that never ended up playing out. I wanted to hire someone to do them, but I totally get now why audio books are so expensive sometimes. Some of the rates I was quoted were more than I make an hour at my day job!

I've done a lot of research and decided to do the audio book myself with sound effects.  I am debating whether to release it in segments, or as one whole piece. I already have four hours recorded, and am not even halfway through the book. Plus I have editing and the sound effects to add in. It is a lot of work, but I think it will be well worth it.

Are any of you readers fans of audio books? What do you think about sound effects added in? Would you rather pay $1 for each hourly segment, or an upfront $15. for the whole book? I am guessing on price at this point, but I think it will be around 10-15 hours total.

Let me know your thoughts on audio books in the comments below.

Until next time,

Keep reading!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Poetry Corner: Exams

Those wretched, awful, horrible things
with razor-sharp teeth and ink-black wings.

The time is oh so nigh
so listen to my warning cry.
Exams, exams, they're on the way.
They'll ruin more than just one day.

Quick, get the books.
No second looks.
Lock yourself up tight
and study until late in the night.
The day has come,
the time is now
I must pass these things without have a cow.
I must. But how?

You awful, wretched, evil things
As I numbly stare at you on my desk
I expect you to magically sprout wings,
and fly away you little pesk.

This poem still makes me laugh. I have always hated testing. Recently I had to take a continuing education course and an exam after, and I still hate the stupid things!