July 26, 2012

Media Evolved and Why Your Blog No Longer Matters

I started my first LiveJournal back in February 2003. Later than some, earlier than many, well before Blogger appeared. Then I had a writing-focused LiveJournal. Then I finally made the switch over here. And I like my journals, whether it's been in LJ form or Blogger form. I don't "blog" as the term means. I don't post frequently enough or in a topical enough fashion to warrant calling it a blog. I journal, which I prefer because it's lower stress, lower demand, and I get to talk about whatever I'm in the mood to talk about.

In the future I hope to be able to post things like "I just signed with X agent" and "X agent just sold my novel to X publisher!" and "Check out a preview of my cover, I just made a mess in my pants!" These are all things that I want to post. Years from now I can look back at those posts and remember fondly the excitement I felt with I signed with X agent and the excitement-turned-fear of selling my novel to a publisher (a three-book deal? But what if I choke?!?!). That's why I keep going with this thing. It's a post-modern scrapbook.

Here's the thing, the people that say you need a blog to establish your platform? Yeah...not so much. Not any more. Blogs peaked and are now on the strong decline. The titans of writing bloggers have gone away or strongly decreased their output. They're exploring video, trying more convenient avenues like Facebook fan pages, or just not wanting to make the effort because Twitter is so much easier.

A blog is no longer necessary to establish your platform. You want to interact with like-minded people or people who are fans of your work? Get on Twitter. You'll speak with agents, you'll speak with peers, you'll speak with fans. You'll communicate in near-real time because we're all hooked up and jacked in. It won't let you look back years from now and remember fondly that time you tweeted a yfrog pic of your cover. But it will get you the largest and fastest distribution to people interested in what you do, with the most dynamic audience you could hope for. It will change, like the internet always does, but for now, Twitter is king (or queen if you prefer; I consider Twitter gender neutral).

You want proof? Twitter has been down most of the day. People are on Facebook freaking out that Twitter is down. If Blogger was down, would the same thing happen? No. The former as an immediate bridge to your audience. The latter is a library for your audience to come read at their convenience.

So let's add this to the list of how to spot a phony claiming to be a social media expert:

1. If a person tells you to be on Facebook and then starts talking about "Friends," they don't know what they're talking about. If you're on Facebook, you create a fan page. It does not require you to approve anyone wanting to follow you (as some of these people will be complete strangers you don't want to share your life and information with) and there are no limits on how many people can be a fan (whereas there are limits to how many friends you can have).

2. If a person tells you to get a blog to establish your platform, tell them they're in the wrong decade. You need Twitter. You need a blog to catalog your work, but if you have no work to catalog, your blog will net you similar returns only after a lot more work.

July 20, 2012

Making Your Candle

I was reading the sample of Melinda Lo's ASH and she wrote something that struck me as odd. The main character's mom is dead and her father lights a candle that burns for three days. Now candles aren't made to last that long, and that got me thinking. What if creating one's own funeral candle was a culture's death ritual.

What you use for wax and wick have meaning. What you include to melt in (or out of) the wax has symbolism, etc. Each life millstone and personal accomplishment add to the candle, thus a person's life can be measured by their candle.

July 18, 2012

The Right Ingredients

Have you watched the 10th Anniversary Firefly Panel from ComicCon yet? If not, we'll wait for you.



That hour was well spent, yes? I watched it again while you were watching it. It was time well spent, I think. (Granted, I'm a hardcore Firefly fan.) There's one scene in particular that struck me as amazing, and I wanted to talk about it here.

In established media like film and television, it's hard to know how much we as fans learn about the show, the cast, etc is real and how much of it is spin. You can take it on face value. You might see them in person and think, yeah that seems real. Or you might wonder if the actors are still acting. They can do that, you know. Act. It's what they do for a living.

I bring this up because the family-like nature of the cast of Firefly is well documented and the pessimist inside me has always wondered just how true that was. You see it in special features, but that's just a glimpse and a glimpse can be misleading. The moderator of the panel actually mentioned that, and that's how we got to the coolest story about the "business" side of this that I think I've heard. (Business being the craft of making a television show and not the story they're telling.)

It's a natural segregation that actors spend their time with other actors and crew spend their time with other crew. They have the most in common. It's natural that they would divide themselves as such. But that can create a division that inhibits the overall goal of everyone to create the best possible product. So Nathan Fillion (who is always credited for fostering the family-like nature of the show) walks up to a group of other actors early on in filming. He says "This is a contest. The person who can name the most people's name is the winner. That's Brian, Tom, Tim, and Frank. I'm winning." And just like that, rather than people forming into small groups, everyone made the effort to know everyone else. Even if it began as a manufactured competition, it ended with a group of people that knew each other and made an amazing product.

Having experienced live performance first-hand, I cannot stress how large an impact the attitudes of everyone involved has on the final product. One bad seed can turn something magical into something miserable. And, as Nathan demonstrates, the opposite is true as well. More than ever I love the Firefly crew and cast. My respect for Nathan as a professional is through the roof. And as soon as all my books make me JK Rawling rich, I'll take steps to reward these people. They've earned it.

Until then, watch the video. Watch Firefly if you haven't done so in awhile. If you want an awesome lesson in writing craft, listen to the director's commentary for Out of Gas. Tim Minear did some amazing things with that story.


Completely unrelated to this, if you haven't watched Thomas Jane's fan-made short for The Punisher, check it out.

July 16, 2012

Another Epic Fantasy Discussion

What makes Epic fantasy Epic fantasy and not just traditional, urban, or any other sub-genre is a well-worn conversation. One that I'm kind of bored with, actually. It's been discussed enough that the informed have come to a general consensus (scope of setting/cast/stakes, etc), the uninformed bumble in that general direction, and the hair splitters try alternate arguments to come to the same conclusion. (No insult against hair splitters, as I've split many a hair myself.)

BUUUUT, as I was watching the most recent episode of Extra Credits, something new in the conversation caught my attention.

In my anecdotal review of fantasy fiction, I find the hero's journey to be incorporated more frequently into epic series than in traditional fantasy. Epic books by their very size allow more space to follow the many steps of the journey. And it made me wonder, is that an easy marker to distinguish between the two? Is a traditional fantasy more likely to skip over the refusal of the call than is an epic fantasy?

Discuss.

July 8, 2012

Knight Rider Revisited

So I've got some pretty awesome opportunities going on right now, of which I will not speak lest I jinx them. I will say that it involves rewriting two different manuscripts, which may seem horrible to the uninitiated but is really flipping awesome. I'm in serious crunch time right now and will be for a few months. If ever there was a time not to suck, this would be it.

The trick is, when I'm not writing on the official stuff, my brain keeps creating. Lately, it has been falling back on that Knight Rider post I did awhile back. I have since rewatched the pilot of the original series (and thus answered why he was called Michael Knight, something I knew as a child that but forgot as an adult). If you've never seen the original Knight Rider, you haven't missed much. It was an '80s show that is very much an '80s show. It did not endure the test of time.

The thing is, it was iconic for its time and impressionable to a young boy. Even if you haven't seen it, you've probably seen KITT, the black Trans-Am (from the original series) / Shelby GT500 (from the 2008 failed series) with the red light that flashes back and forth like a Cylon.

The 2008 show smacked of formula and made classic sci-fi mistakes that someone that doesn't normally read/write the genre would make. Specifically, the artificial intelligence of KITT and the abilities of the car were too powerful too quickly. The super-computer that can hack building security systems to watch through cameras, that can change the appearance of the car, etc etc. Put that all in the beginning and where do you have to go to challenge your protagonists? That's not power creep, that's a power skyrocket.

They did a few things right, tossed up the "man and his car" dynamic with another character. They better played the outlaw status (of course, with a lame FBI agent). Of course, they screwed up the whole two people and their car dynamic with the surly jock guy driver and daddy's-girl love-hate romance thing that was never very romantic and never actually developed their characters beyond being whiny. I really don't like the cocky jock hero. That was the biggest barrier for me to getting into Farscape. Crichton really rubbed me wrong.

ANYWAY, so me being me, I think I can do it better. ALSO, my mind is in super-duper creative mode, and while I do not have time to write fan fiction, I do have a blog where I can tickle my fancy for the time being. So settle in for a more of Joseph L. Selby's Knight Rider (2012).

July 3, 2012

Getting Out There

I tend to talk myself out of activities that don't involve people I already know. It's a failing of my upbringing. There's a really cool organization around here called New Hampshire Sports and Social Club. I saw them out a few years ago during the "social" aspect and looked into it. Basically, you play a fun sport and then you go out to drinks with your teammates. It's a pretty cool idea and a great way to meet new people.

Except they're NEW people! New people are dangerous unless the internet is between you. So I talked myself out of it. I mentioned my interest to my friends, but we're busy adults and things never worked out. Until one day I saw a call on Twitter. We need refs for kickball.

Kickball?

Kickball!

I've reffed before (intramural basketball). I've played kickball before. I could ref kickball without the risk of being put on a team of weirdos and creeps. I wouldn't have to be rude by showing up to play and then leaving as soon as the game was over. I would be EXPECTED to leave after the game was over, A) to maintain a sense of impartiality; and B) because someone would most likely hate a call I made. I could do this!

And I did! And for the most part, it was great. I was a little caught off guard how competitive people can be. IT'S KICKBALL! But competitive they were. I did manage to go the entire season without ejecting anyone, but I came close a couple times.

Recently they started a Tuesday-night league closer to my home. They needed more players and said, hey, you've earned the right to play for free. Why don't you play. So I am. And none of my teammates are creeps or weirdos. One is a bit of a perv (meh), one is a bit awkward (meh), and one is scared of the ball (so you play kickball?), but otherwise they're all good peoples.

It's been an awesome experience. I get a little sun, a little fun, a little exercise. I kick a ball. I run around bases. I taunt the other team. I taunt my team. It's pretty refreshing.

It's good to do things other than writing.