Thursday, March 29, 2012

Our Very Own Dystopia

I don't like talking too much on the blog about things I'm working on. You know... the books that might never see the light of day. I also don't really like getting political here. But the parallels between the book I've been querying and current events are making me twitchy.

You see, Memory Keeper was written over a year ago. It takes place in a world that has been ravaged by war, where people die between twenty and twenty-five, which makes reproducing early and often a necessity if there's any hope to keep the human race alive. So... bad stuff happens in the name of saving the world. Really bad stuff. Women (girls) become little more than broodmares, and when push comes to shove, after a certain age, it's far more important to save the baby than save the mother.

The thing is politicians are making me wonder if we are going to have a world like this before an apocalypse makes it "necessary." Things that are happening now:

There are more things. This is all over the news and the internet, and the hits keep coming.

But we don't live in a post-apocalyptic world where we're struggling to keep humanity alive--we live now. The idea that laws are being pushed that would essentially turn women into livestock is terrifying. What's next? Stonings? Burning at the stake? Scarlet letters? We are supposed to move forward with the times, not back. Women need to take a united stand for our rights, or soon enough the government could take them all away.

We're on a path to our very own dystopia. I hope we don't have to travel very far down that road before people stand up collectively and fight back. May we work together to stop this before ending it requires a revolution.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On John Carter, Marketing, and Dropping the Ball

Last weekend, the husband and I took the kids to see John Carter. With its huge budget and marketing costs, studio executives are expecting the movie to lose $200 million. (I won't get into the fact that the numbers don't add up but, yeah, it's looking like a big loss for Disney.) Now, granted, it's only been out a couple weeks, but with Hunger Games coming out this weekend, I don't think John Carter is going to have a long life at theaters.

Which is sad because it's not a bad movie. For an afternoon of popcorn and fun with the kids, you could do a lot worse. Yes, the acting could have been better (and they could have made Taylor Kitsch hit a dialect coach so he actually sounded southern), but it was fun. And FAR better than episodes 1-3 of Star Wars. (Sorry, I'm a fan of the series as a whole, but those three films almost destroyed my love for 4-6.)

What I want to know is...

What the hell was Disney thinking?

First, that budget... $250,000,000? There were no huge stars in John Carter, so unlike a lot of sci-fi adventure movies, the cast cost was minimal. Taylor Kitsch isn't a horrible actor, but even comparing it to the 2009 re-boot of Star Trek which had Chris Pine, Chris Hemsworth, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Eric Bana, and Leonard Nimoy. No, none of them individually was pulling down huge numbers at that time, but together? That's a big chunk of change. Like John Carter, it was a special effects heavy movie, but its budget was only $150 million. Why did they spend that much money on John Carter? Special effects rarely sell movie tickets.

Plus, John Carter had strikes against it going in.

  1. Timing. WHY would the studio put it out only two weeks before one of the most anticipated movies of the year? Honestly, Hunger Games doesn't even need much of a marketing budget. Love of that book and word of mouth will drive ticket sales. (Unless the movie sucks, in which case...) John Carter should have either been moved up a couple weeks or pushed back until the lull right before the summer blockbusters. (I'm pretty sure that's the reason Mirror, Mirror was pushed back from March 16 to March 30. It might not get a lot of screens, but at least it won't be shoved out by Hunger Games.)
  2. Marketing. Supposedly the studio spent $100 million on marketing. Other than seeing the preview a couple times at the movies, I hardly ever saw it. Not on TV, not anywhere, and I watch a lot of TV that would hit the target demographic. You know where else I didn't see much of anything about it? At Disney World--over New Year's. This is the biggest budget movie Disney probably has coming out this year and there was no push AT FREAKING DISNEY WORLD. WTFBBQ? Where is the Twitter push? Where is the facebook page? Where is the viral marketing that's so important these days? (I've heard more on Twitter about the Star Trek sequel than I have about John Carter.)
  3. Cast. Don't get me wrong, I like Taylor Kitsch just fine. He's easy on the eyes and not a bad actor. But John Carter didn't have any leads that by their name alone would draw a crowd. Look at Star Trek again. Hell, look at Hunger Games. With the budget John Carter had, there should have been a star *somewhere.* (The only names I recognized from the cast list were faces hidden behind CGI.)
  4. Story. Star Trek had the push of the original movies and the TV series. Hunger Games has a huge push from the books. But the books John Carter is based on are old (published in 1917). Most people (even sci-fi fans) have never heard of these books. That's problem number one. There's no push from a fan-base. Plus, the books are based on antiquated ideas about Mars. Truly, I was able to get past that to enjoy the film, but without some discussion of it beforehand by the people involved, it was more than a lot of people could swallow (especially those in the sci-fi world). 

I really hope all the predictions are wrong and the movie ends up making money, but it started at a horrible disadvantage. And the studio didn't allow enough time for word-of-mouth to spread before the film would be shoved aside by others with more buzz. If John Carter fails, it's not because it's a horrible movie (which it really isn't). It's because Disney dropped the ball.

*Note: Star Trek and Hunger Games were chosen for comparison because they were the first films I thought of. However, last year's Thor also had a budget of $150 million and included stars (and minor stars) in Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Chris Hemsworth, and Natalie Portman as well as fairly equivalent levels of special effects with regards to Asgard and Jotunheim along with the Frost Giants themselves.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Time for Change

Publishing is a strange business. For a while, publishers will snap up a genre because it's hot. And then they get too many and they're done. This happened with vampires, and werewolves, and dystopians, and... You get the point.

Agents warn authors all the time not to chase trends, and I don't think most people doo. I think it's more an issue of the idea coming too late to catch the wave. Take one of my current WiPs. I'd had the first seeds of this idea germinating for over a decade (yes, it was a slow-starter) before the plot and characters finally came together. Once it did, I wrote the entire manuscript in a month. 

The only problem is that it's a genre that already had its trend time. (Like... right now. The saying that the when the books start coming out, it's too late for your manuscript? Yeah. That.) However, there are a lot of people who are still interested in the story. I just had to do something to make it stand out.

So... I took a good, hard look at the manuscript and said "What if?" (again--since that's how most stories start). Now, I didn't want to mess with the heart of the story because it still spoke to me. And... I loved the characters. But what I could change was the world-building, and the more I looked at it, the more I loved the idea of the changes. 

As soon as they were settled in my brain, I dove into the revisions. One of the ways I know something really works for me is how quickly and easily it comes together. Even more than the original version, this story--with its new societies--works for me. 

So how did I work around the "trend" issue? I mashed genres. This manuscript is the first in a trilogy, and conveniently enough, there are three very different societies in the world. Each of the installments will focus mainly on one of the three until all are covered, and I can't wait to start on the next one. I hope beyond hope to share these stories with you because I think it's a tale worth telling... and hopefully worth reading :) 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Die, Damn You, Die... Again

I'm in the midst of doing some revisions to a manuscript. On the one hand, I'm remembering just how much I love this story and how in the main character's head I was when writing (this is the book I drafted last year in 31 days). This was major in-the-zone writing and I love it. I think the revisions are making it better too. But... I hate re-killing characters I love.

An explanation first. Those 31 days last year? I spent most of them crying as I wrote this manuscript. It's a very emotional story for me and so many scenes tore me up to write. But I was a sobbing idiot on the days that I had to kill a couple characters. Yes, I know GRRM--if he were ever to read this--would be laughing at me right now, but I think I understand where the difference lies between his perspective and Rowling's. (

You see, I kill characters all the time in my adult stuff. I even kill characters I like a lot. And when I do it there, it doesn't really bother me. (The adult story that affected me the most remains unfinished because it was so depressing for me to write. Not tear-jerking, just depressing, and no one even died on the page--only in the past.) But when it comes to my young adult work, killing characters sucks something out of me.

When I'm working on adult stuff, the characters are like my friends. Yes, I'd be heartbroken if my friends died, but I know that I'd pick up the pieces and my life would go on. (Sorry to my friends, but it's true. If nothing else, I'd need to go on for my kids.) But as an adult writing YA, those characters are more like my kids than my friends. And if my kids died, my world would fall apart. Hell, even if my kids' friends died and I had to watch them crumble, it would kill me a little bit inside. So when I have to write the deaths of characters who are so real inside my head that they fell like my own children, it rips my heart out and stomps on it.

I'm at the part in revisions where people start dying. In this world, death is a really common thing, but not the type of death these characters face. I had to "re-kill" one of them today, but that was the easier death. The harder one? The one that really screws with my main character's world? That came a couple chapters later, and the closer I got to it, the less I wanted to work on the book. This death--and the aftermath of it--tear so many things apart that I couldn't stomach the idea of facing it so close on the heels of the last one.

But I have to do it.

So tomorrow, I'm going to pull up my big girl panties and destroy the lives of a group of kids who live inside my head. But tonight I couldn't. Tonight I decided to knit instead.

So, yes, GRRM fans, I guess I'm adorable too. But at the end of the day, I'm okay with that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Following Directions Is for Sissies

Today's post isn't really about writing. Well... it is in that I had to write something, but it was a letter, not a book. So hopefully you'll bear with me.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll see me talk about my kids (The Boy and Mini-Me) every so often. I freaking love my kids. Not just love them because they’re mine but because they crack me up with their awesomeness.

So, it’s parent-teacher conference time and I’m buried in work and RT is coming… and The Boy’s teacher sends homework for the parents. We’re supposed to write a letter to our kid for conferences. It got pushed to the side and forgotten. Until today. Because, you know, it’s due tomorrow. (Procrastination for the win!)

Last year when I had to do this, I had to read the letter to The Boy at conferences. It made his teacher cry (because I’m all eloquent and stuff). So I sit down and say, “All right, I can do this!” For a minute, I debated trying to go funny and do a rant on homework, but I didn’t think that would go over so well, so I did heartfelt again.

I talked about sharing a love of storytelling and what a great brother he is and how he makes me realize that he’s the kind of person I want to grow up to be.

It was a very honest and true letter. I printed it out… and realized there were instructions on what we were supposed to write about. You know, things like what we’re proud of them for (did that), how far they’ve come (meh), and what their goals should be for the rest of the year (are you kidding me?). At first when I saw the instructions, I’d debated re-doing the letter, but when I saw that last bit, I stuffed the one I’d written into the envelope and put it in his backpack to take to school.

You see, teachers are like editors for our kids. They’re the ones who have to point out all the stuff they do wrong. That’s their job (I know because I did it for a while)—they are supposed to make the kids “better.” My job as a parent isn’t to tell him he needs to work more on capitalization and punctuation. I’m supposed to tell him that he’s a shining star because he busts his butt every day. That he’s gone from being special ed, title one, autistic to being completely mainstreamed and gaining ground on his autism every day and applauding the fact that he reads like a fiend. My job is to tell him how freaking awesome he is.

I’m not his editor. Not about this. I have to harp on him about brushing his hair and his teeth cleaning his room. As far as what he’s done in school though? I get to be his biggest fan.

So I decided to screw the “rules.” Because when he’s beside himself frustrated because things don’t come easy to him like they do to the other kids, The Boy won’t care about me telling him about how important proper grammar is. But if we’re both really lucky, he’ll remember that I think he’s perfect.

That’s homework for parents that I can get behind.