A lot of people like crap (sometimes)

Also known as “really bad stuff people will buy with good money.”

Did you ever have the experience of being told often and without restraint to watch a certain movie because it was so awesome you will wonder how you ever were able to breathe and feel joy before it came into your life? And then did you finally see the film and become disappointed by the fact that it did not free you from your unending existential crisis? You tell your friends, “meh, it was ok.” To which they reply, “Yeah, I guess we built it up a bit too much.” After that you probably eat or drink something together and everything is smoothed over and you all agree in the unspoken language of friendship that it is once again safe to love and trust each other again.

Well, this isn’t about that. This is about the inexplicable instance of something being demonstrably awful and unfit for consumption, yet it rakes in millions of dollars in revenue and attracts a not inconsiderable following of deeply misguided fans. I recently had the misfortune to finally sit down and watch what is seemingly one of every Marvel fanboy’s favorite pictures. Yes, I am talking about 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

 

Yes, Mr. President, I did.

Yes, Mr. President, I did.

 

Now, before I go any further, I want to remind my readers (all three of you – the two gentlemen a month behind in their news feeds who were brought here by the picture of the fat guy and a lion and also you, Special Agent Abernathy… I see you watching me) that the opinions expressed in this blog are just my opinions and are not in any way meant to be read as some sort of manifesto. Trust me, if I had the arrogance to assume I was somehow “right” about anything, I’d be running for a government job. Instead, I’m here talking out of my ass and seeing which way the wind takes it. Please relax and take all of my shenanigans with a grain of salt. I hope you get a kick out of it, but if not then the exits are clearly marked.

Now, back to Hugh Jackman’s crowning turd masterpiece. Turdsterpiece? Masterturd? Masturdpiece? Masturdpiece. Yes, I’m blaming Hugh Jackman for the simple reason that I can’t fathom this movie ever getting made without the presence of his pecs of screaming sex. He’ll just have to find a way to deal with my ire as he struggles to stay atop his mountainous pile of cash.

 

"These claws ain't just for countin' money, bub."

“These claws ain’t just for countin’ money, bub.”

 

Honestly, I like Hugh Jackman and I respect that he wanted to give Wolvie fans the full treatment the character deserved, but… Folks, this movie is full of so much crap it’s still being shown in German porn theaters to this day. Its script makes Japanese game shows look predictable and staid. The cast is actually pretty good, but trying to hand me Liev Schreiber as some kind of selling point is like putting a new coat of paint on a twenty year old economy car. I mean, yeah it still runs, but does anyone even care?

All I kept hearing about this movie was how good a job it did of handling the characters and the backstory, by which they meant that it stuck closer to the comics than other superhero movies. Right away that should have been a red flag for me. Also, the fans trumpeted that its action sequences were much more faithful interpretations of the super-powers being portrayed and looked awesome to boot. I guess that should have been another red flag or three, but I like explosions as much as the next Michael Bay.

 

"Sounds interesting. Michael Bay II: The Explosioning. But who will we get to direct?"

“Sounds interesting… The next Michael Bay… Michael Bay II: The Explosioning. But who will we get to direct?”

 

I guess the action sequences and acting were decent, but the story and overall writing didn’t leave much for the actors to work with. First off, there were so many mutants tossed into the film it felt like they were more the rule than the exception. I liked the first X-Men movie because it purposely did not do this. Also, if this is supposed to be so faithful to the comics, why isn’t Gambit a Cajun? Seriously, the guy has barely a trace of a patois, but in the comics it was written so thick it was obnoxious. Also, he’s supposed to be as obnoxious as he sounds. Oh well, I guess in movie-Marvel Universe we get bland Gambit. Ok.

But I must confess I’m not as intimately familiar with X-Men as most of my friends. Growing up, I always thought the heroes were too overpowered and ridiculous to warrant my attention. But with that being said, if Sabretooth is supposed to be Wolverine’s brother, why didn’t he recognize him in the first X-Men movie? Maybe he did – hard to tell since he didn’t have any actual lines. But that’s another thing. Why did he go from being a half-animal thug there to being a bloodthirsty criminal mastermind here? I know the comics get to play fast and loose with the stories and characters, but do the movies have to start doing it, too? And for the sake of giving Liev Schrieber some significant screen time? Seriously, what kind of dirt does this guy have on Hollywood execs to keep getting major roles?

 

But in his latest effort, he's really stretching himself by playing an expressionless hitman.

But in his latest effort, he’s really stretching himself by playing an expressionless hitman.

 

But my biggest problems with the movie come in the script. I’m a writer, so I’m always going to be utterly unforgiving when it comes to plot holes and hack jobs. There are several things that bother me with the writing in Origins, but you’ve been real sports for sticking with me to this point, so I’ll just pick one and then wrap this up. When Logan escapes after having his skeleton changed to adamantium, Stryker (the guy who was responsible for doing it and thus making Logan “indestructible”) orders his best assassin to kill him. So… you just made an indestructible man and your first order is to destroy him? Ok… Having difficulty with the logic there, but who ya got? Some kind of mutant who blasts people with massive lasers firing from his eyes? No? Who then?

 

"Me. I'm totally boss with a gun."

“Me. I’m totally boss with a gun.”

 

A… a gun? Against an indestructible man? Where were you planning on shooting him? In an active volcano, perhaps? Oh, well. Fine. It wasn’t hard to see how that was going to turn out, but to the filmmakers’ credit, they made it a memorable scene with a helicopter crash and explosions and Hugh Jackman looking badass and everything. But, get this. The very next scene. THE VERY NEXT SCENE… Stryker’s top sciency-looking dude tells him that Agent Zero really had no chance anyway because Wolverine can’t be killed with anything but this adamantium gun and bullets right here.

Say what? Why the hell didn’t you give Agent Zero, the world’s best gunman, that damn thing to begin with?!?!?! Wait… Oh, I see. You guys just didn’t like him. All right. That’s a pretty shitty thing to do to somebody, but I guess Stryker’s outfit isn’t all that interested in scruples anyway. But then several scenes later, they get together again and surmise that the gun actually can’t kill Logan even though they haven’t even tried it once! Supposedly, they deduce this from the thin air whereof the writers are apparently pulling the plot. So, Stryker decides that he can’t/doesn’t need to kill Wolverine, he just needs to erase his memories by shooting him in the… memory, I guess?

 

"If you close your eyes and take a bullet to the head, this entire movie will make perfect sense."

“If you close your eyes and take a bullet to the head, this entire movie will make perfect sense.”

 

I couldn’t stop groaning and punching things for a solid hour after it ended. This film made almost 350 million dollars. It is an indefensible pile of shit on celluloid, but it somehow managed to collect more money from stupid people than most Nigerian princes (citation needed). I don’t have a problem with movies that I just can’t understand or appreciate making money – everyone has different tastes – but when shit that has been pooped out without regard for quality turns a profit it just makes me crazy.

And here’s where I bring it home: It’s exactly like the get-rich-quick ebooks I see constantly topping the Amazon bestseller list, and I’m not just talking about the plagiarized erotica novels. Those are certainly bad and the con artist “authors” need to be found and stripped of assets, clothing and a vital organ or two, but they’re just part of the problem. Even more scammers wait to steal your money in the form of those dreadful how-to books. People have been craving a simple cure-all since the dawn of upright sapiens and there have always been snake-oil salesmen out there to profit from their misfortune. Alas, it’s no different on the internet. Everyone is so ready to get a simple guide to tell them how to do anything (make money on the internetz, get a good job, put a baby to sleep, have more sex, etc.) that they’ll eagerly throw away $16.95 so a supposed “expert” can tell them how. Or, sort of how. Well, see, it really works if you just follow all the steps… at the right time… in the right way… and you cross your eyes and squint your fingers… and just believe that childhood superhero dreams are always right.

 

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to check me out on my good side: Spy for a Dead Empire is on sale for $0.99 until Wednesday, August 26th!

Advertisements

Jon Stewart and what he means

For those who have been living under a mountain, Jon Stewart has resigned as host of the Daily Show. Actually, I guess if you’ve been living under a mountain, you might not even know what the Daily Show is. In fact, I find it highly unusual that you can even get the internet in your subterranean domain. Unless you are somehow rich and powerful and no doubt eccentric and can afford the miles and miles of super-secret fiber-optic cables? Can you even read English, you half-crazed Goblin King?

For the sake of the other reader of this blog (you know who you are – no, it’s not time for jello and Jeopardy yet) I’ll imagine you can read English and you have a rough idea of what has transpired in American media over the last 15 years. Because, really, it would just be too much to try to recap. You know… I just want to keep things moving, otherwise reader #2 gets distracted.

 

"Thanks..."

“Thanks…”

 

Jon Stewart’s departure from the Daily Show has been met with much rending of clothes and loud and tearful lamentations among the liberal elite and more-or-less confused masses, yearning to be set free from the burden of original thought. That may sound overly critical, but that’s only because it is.

Now, before you finish scowling at me and skitter back to the dark and buried secrets of your no doubt well-appointed cave, I confess that I am a fan of both Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. Actually, probably just the two together. I didn’t think much of either before they were joined. They were two mediocre tastes that somehow tasted not just great, but TEH GR8!!!!!1111onethousandonehundredeleven together. I will miss him and am forever grateful for his gift of satire and much-needed criticism during one of the darkest eras of frightened conformity that has ever gripped our nation.

But discussing his leaving and what his presence/absence means and has meant to our country is not the conversation we should be having. Judging by the reports coming from radio, TV and web, we are paralyzed by fear and grief over losing a national icon! Whatever shall we do?

The answer? Change the conversation. The debate should not be, nor should it ever have been (and I believe Jon Stewart would agree with this) “What Does Jon Stewart Mean?” The debate should be, and should always have been, why the hell are we taking a satirist’s view of the news more seriously than mainstream journalism? What has happened in this country that we mistrust our newspapers and nightly news segments so much? Why have those once serious-minded institutions warped themselves into mouthpieces of demagogues and echo chambers for sound-bytes? Why did it take a fake news show to show us that all the real news shows were also fake?

 

Seriously, this might as well be on at 7.

Seriously, this might as well be on at 7.

 

More importantly, was it always like this? Did we always value entertainment over factual reporting? Hate speech over nuanced debate? The ten word slogan over the long interview? The truth is yes. Most definitely, yes. We’ve always been like this – and by “we” I include all of western civilization – but with the opening of the borders of media, where more people of every type of broadcasting acumen and background have a microphone, we’re beginning to see just how silly we all are.

Can we talk about that instead? Can we discuss how The Daily Show started to make us realize how necessary it is to laugh at each other and ourselves, instead of letting media outlets encourage us to be fearful and hateful? Can we ruminate on the possibility that with such a (possible) detente in the politicization of media we move forward and come to a new era of understanding and reason because we can look at each other more as humans and less as straw men and effigies? Can we laugh at our differences and solemnly agree about our similarities and (horror of horrors) find that compromise and reasoned discussion are the ways to build a better society?

 

Or maybe just meme each other to death?

Or maybe just agree on forwarding a few less memes?

 

Probably not. Instead, let’s make another demagogue out of Jon Stewart. See where that gets us.

 

Notes from the Self-Pubbed, (Issue #1!!!)

So, I recently took all of my titles out of the Kindle Unlimited program. No, this has nothing to do with Amazon’s recent adjustment to how it rewards authors for pages read on copies borrowed through the program. I’m actually alright with that and even curious to see how it works for my books. The last couple of months I was on the program I was starting to get more than a few borrows. So, I’ll eventually come back to Kindle Unlimited, but I wanted to conduct an experiment this summer and fall.

 

"Just needs a few Gamma Rays and then BAM! Bestseller..."

“Just needs a few Gamma Rays and then BAM! Bestseller…”

 

See, I’ve been using free giveaway promotions for the first couple of books in the Grant Scotland series, but I have a feeling that the self-publishing industry is no longer doing itself any favors by engaging in the practice. Conventional wisdom among self-published authors over the past few years has insisted that you give away your first novel or three in order to get your brand established. Indeed, there’s a lot of evidence that this worked well for many people from 2008 or so to 2012 or so. I don’t have stats for you. It’s largely anecdotal. People built a customer base in a market where demand outstripped supply and these days they can rely on those same customers to pay for more product since those authors are trusted and known suppliers.

These days, almost every self-published author uses this tactic. What this has resulted in is a giant glut of product into a marketplace that is still clearly growing, but could be over-saturated at the moment. I don’t know for sure, but I’ve heard speculation about that among authors – I think Bookdaily is where I read a couple of articles about it – who believe we may be shooting ourselves in the feet at this point. Customers have downloaded so many free books, they either can’t get to them all or are so eager to get through their TBR pile that they don’t give a book a chance before setting it aside.

My own experience so far would lend support to this. I’ve given away thousands of copies of Spy for a Dead Empire, but I have 12 reviews and hardly any sales at all outside of promotions. This means people either haven’t read the book or read it and discarded it OR read it and put my other books on their wishlist but will only download them when they’re free. The first two don’t bother me so much (well, ok – the second thing is worrisome) but it’s the third thing that has me the most frightened. In our rush to carve out our own audiences, we self-pubbers may have created our own monsters. After all, we share a great deal of readers, especially among genre authors. What if the e-book audience out there has become so used to getting free content, they just assume they’ll always get it for free? And they’ll wait to get it for free, too. Why? Because at least one of their favorite authors will be running a promotion at any given time. They can always find something free to read.

 

"Pay $0.99 for your book? Sure, because I really need another one of those..."

“Pay $0.99 for your book? Sure, because I really need another one of those…”

 

This is worrisome and makes me even more inclined to rush back into the protective arms of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. There, people can borrow the book for free, but I’ll still get paid if they read it. Actually, I’d get paid even if they only read some of it. But before I go gently into that good night, my plan is to do a full slate of $0.99 promotions across all the major platforms – Nook, Apple, Kobo and Amazon. (If you sign your book up for Kindle Unlimited, it can’t be listed with any other retailer) Just recently, I completed a week long promotion for Wayward Daughter, the newest Grant Scotland novel. I used two recommended promotion sites: Riffle Select and EBookBooster. EBookBooster is actually a service that submits your deal to a bunch (25, currently) of different promotion sites. Each of those sites have a relatively small following, though. Riffle has a good sized audience, though, and I’ve done well using them both together for my free book promos in the past. I figured I had built up enough of an audience from their collected mailing lists to have a reasonable chance at getting them to buy my latest installment on sale rather than getting it for free.

The ads through EbookBooster (I actually think only about half of the contacted 25 sites actually run the ads, to be honest) ran on July 22nd and Riffle added me to their newsletter on the 24th. The result was… not encouraging. I spent $25 on EbookBooster (still seems like a great deal, even if you don’t wind up on all the sites they submit your book to) and $40 on Riffle. I sold 7 copies of Wayward Daughter at $0.99 and 1 copy of Dead Empire at $3.99.

 

"I like authors who DON'T lose money during a promotion."

“I like authors who DON’T lose money during a promotion.”

 

Now, Wayward Daughter is still very new, so some consideration needs to go to that. I didn’t want to promote Dead Empire, since these were both mailing lists that contained readers who had seen that book appear for free at least twice over the past year. Didn’t seem right to try to get the ones who didn’t bite the first time to pay to bite this time. I could do Troubled King for $0.99 on those mailing lists, since I think they only saw it for free once. And I’ll probably do that, but my next step, I think, is to try new mailing lists with Dead Empire. There’s a couple I’ve never used that have received some good reviews from other authors. Sites like EReaderNews and Fussy Librarian. They require at least 8 reviews, which Dead Empire qualifies for, but my other two don’t yet. I plan on trying to rectify that by signing up for a blog tour, which usually generates some reviews. Although that might just generate more reviews for Book One than the others, but that seems to be unavoidable at this point. I’ll just have to remain patient with Book Two and Three.

So, my plan now is the bargain promo for Book One later in August. Then I’ll get Troubled King on the Riffle/EBookBooster promo in September. After that, maybe I’ll try Wayward Daughter again, but probably not. Maybe the omnibus. We’ll see.

Meantime, the writing continues. Book Four is outlined and a couple of chapters are done. Weekly word counts have decreased as I balance pizza delivery schedule with writing time, but when I sit down to write, I’m still as productive as ever, so that’s good. Thanks for your interest! Please read and review my books!