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The Desolation of Agency

Like many of you I went to see “The Desolation of Smaug” this weekend. My reaction to “An Unexpected Journey” was luke warm. I felt several scenes could have been cut to have a tighter film overall. But for the most part I felt that it captured the sense of adventure and wonder that was “The Hobbit.”

For this film, I was mostly there to see Smaug. We’ve reached an era in CG that finally we could do dragons justice. Not that movies like “Dragon Heart” were bad — I remember being blown away by how awesome it was back then — but this is Smaug. He is THE dragon. And man did they nail it. I can agree with Martin Freeman, he was Smaug the Stupendous.

I wish I could say as much for other parts of the film. Sure, the Barrel Ride was a lot of fun. I’d say it captured the perfect essence of adventure. A bit ridiculous? Sure. But I laughed with mirth and enjoyed every moment of it. If only Legolas and the completely-made-up Tauriel could have been left in Mirkwood.

What a dreadful inclusion to the story. I can understand showing Legolas. He lives there, it makes sense he’d show up, and I enjoyed the little moment between him and Gloin. A little wink to fans of the series. But why invent a brand new character and insert a love triangle? If we’re looking for relationships, why are we not focusing on the growing bond and eventual betrayal between Thorin and Bilbo. Is it because Hollywood believes American audiences can’t handle platonic male relationships? Probably. And I can see where that fear comes from. Just look at all the jokes/memes between Sam and Frodo being lovers. On some level, was Jackson trying to head that off?

Ultimately, the inclusion of Legolas and Tauriel robbed the dwarves of their agency. What were moments for the dwarves to shine and demonstrate their martial prowess, are robbed by elven ninjary. Back to the Barrel Ride, we do get some great moments with the dwarves. We get to see how well they work together to overcome their foe — tossing weapons around and chopping down tree trunk bridges. Jackson even gave us one of the most spectacular moments of Barrel Bowling and Dwarven Beserker Barrage! I loved it so much that I’ll forgive the magically empty barrel out of nowhere.

But in the third act it all falls apart. Orcs descend upon Lake Town, Kili lay dying from an orcish arrow, while those that stayed behind fight to save his life. Instead of giving us a scene where the dwarves win against all odds, using their surroundings to defeat their foe AND save the life of their friend, we have to be saved by the elves. Jackson even set us up for that moment. Bard gives them “weapons” of smith hammers and fishing hooks that the dwarves scoff at. What a great gun on the wall moment! In the fight to save their lives, the dwarves pick up the make-shift weapons and go to town!

It’s sad to see the dwarves pushed aside in their own story. What should be their moment to shine, turns into the Legolas Action Hour. The dwarves should not be looking to Smaug as their ultimate enemy, but Peter Jackson.

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Guest Post: Meredith Brown, Sullivan Maxx Agent

This is a very exciting guest post I have for everyone. For those that have followed my blog for a while you’ll know that I have recently signed a contract with the Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency. My esteemed agent is Meredith Brown and she’s been great, helping me get my first book ready to shop around.

To celebrate all of this, Meredith has agreed — after much prodding and gnashing of teeth — to write a guest post for me. She touches on what she looks for in a manuscript, what she’s currently looking to represent, and of course her email if you have anything you’d like to submit.

Without making you all wait any longer, here is Meredith.

Hey y’all! My name’s Meredith Brown, and I’m your friendly neighborhood agent, here to talk about agent-ing and also give you guys a little bit of info about who I am and such. So, I suppose I’ll start with the basics. I graduated with a degree in Creative Writing and immediately knew I wanted to go into the publishing world. I spent my college career as a copy editor for my school paper and have been editing my mother’s stories and so it just seemed very natural for me to continue doing that, but for people I didn’t know personally.

Anyway, I lucked out in the way I got my job as literary agent; I’ve known Holly McClure since I was a toddler and she knew I would be great as her employee. I’m also the only person at her agency who reads fantasy and science fiction, so that’s an addition to her company (Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency) that I was able to bring. Also, now y’all know what sort of things I accept! I honestly don’t care if it’s aimed at the adult, YA, or children’s category. I only care if it’s well-written and hooks me in! I also definitely enjoy reading other genres, especially anything YA (I have a love affair with David Levithan and John Green, to name a few), so you can also feel free to just send me a pitch and I’ll look it over and let you know what I think.

On that note, you may be wondering what I look for in a manuscript. As I said, it definitely helps to be well-written and to have a great hook. Well-written, by the way, does not mean perfectly written. No one’s perfect, not even me, and I’m a grammar-obsessed copy editor-cum-writer-cum-lit agent. Basically, it’s totally fine if you have some typos and maybe muddle up some grammatical stuff. But! That doesn’t mean it should be sloppy. I’m not saying it can’t be your first draft, because I don’t know how y’all work. For me, my first draft is actually pretty edited, because I tend to over-analyse and go back and make sure everything flows as I’m writing. Some people don’t do that because they just need to get it out of them in one fell swoop and then go back in and edit. That’s totally fine! I hear the latter is actually how Neil Gaiman works, so you’re definitely in good company. Anwyay! Point being, just make sure that it’s fairly clean and is a good representation of your work. Honestly, as long as the story’s there and the beginning has a good hook, I’m willing to forgive a lot more.

Oh, and one last thing, please please please don’t have your main character waking up as the beginning. It’s clichéd and just kind of lazy. But, you already knew that, right? If you need a bit more guidance than that, here’s something I’ve learned. Write your beginning the way it first comes out of you. Now, most people will talk their way into a great beginning, but it won’t be the first thing you write. So, read it over and find that crazy-good first line. Usually it’s in the middle of when the action starts, not the actual beginning. I hope that made sense! It makes more sense once you do it, I promise. Oh, and do try not to start off with an expletive, either. You need to gain the reader’s trust before doing that, even if your character is a potty mouth (trust me, I made this mistake A LOT in my creative writing classes).

I’m definitely currently open to submissions. My work email is meredithlegare@gmail.com. It might take me a few days to respond, but I do read every submission I receive.

I’d like to thank Meredith for giving us some insight and — of course — picking my manuscript up and seeing in it the chance to go to the very top. Thanks, Meredith.

“Steelheart”

Brandon Sanderson’s “Steelheart” came in today. Looking forward to reading about super villains.

Unfortunately I’m building up a backlog of books to read so I don’t know when I’m going to get to this one.

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Cumberbatch and Star Wars

Apparently Benedict Cumberbatch’s name has been tossed around for Star Wars. And while I know this will never happen, I still can’t help but feel this is the only character he can play.

Cumberbatch as Thrawn

Cumberbatch as Admiral Thrawn

You all know I’m right. Putting aside the argument of whether or not he should have played Khan, he showed that he can play a great villain. And for my money, Admiral Thrawn is one of the best villains out there. Too bad we’ll never get to see this on screen.

A boy can dream though.

Love and Agents

I can’t believe I was able to sit on this for as long as I did. Today I signed off to be represented by Meredith Brown of the Sullivan Maxx Literay Agency. I can’t tell you how amazing this feels. Finally, the years and hundreds of hours working on my first book feels validated. Not to mention how big of a step this is for the book in general. First, I had to complete it and what an accomplishment that was. What I didn’t realize was how hard draft two was going to be. You read all the time that the rewrite is harder, well, they’re right.

Of course now I’m onto another big step. My beta readers had a pretty unanimous voice on an aspect of my book that needs addressing. Luckily I feel I have a great solution to it and that also enhances the overall themes of the book. However, it means a pretty hefty rewrite. So, I’m not looking forward to that. But I think it’s something that must be done and will really make it shine.

This has been an awesome month for my writing career. Not only have I signed an agent, but I made my first short story sale with Sword and Laser. They have an amazing podcast where they interview some really great authors. At this point I kind of see it as a goal to be on that list of interviewees. But only time will see if that will happen.

In  news of Love, my friend and fellow writer Jenn Lyons has been so gracious as to nominate me for a  One Lovely Blog award. How nice. Like all of these awards, it does come with a bit of a criteria, which I don’t mind fulfilling. It’s not like they won’t my soul.

I don’t think.

1) Thank the person

Jenn, thank you so much! It’s great to have someone to talk shop with on a daily basis. And your covers make me super jealous.

2) Link the picture of the award

One Lovely Blog Award

One Lovely Blog Award

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Tell everyone seven things about yourself.

  1. By day I’m an animator for a casino company.
  2. I’ve recently gotten into the Star Wars LCG card game and everyone must play it.
  3. I’m part of Thespian Troupe 2020 with the title Master Thespian having done some 160 hours of theatre work in High School alone.
  4. I’ve been paid for a car commercial I was never in.
  5. My brother is a screen writer.
  6. My other brother is a cop.
  7. One day, all three of us will rule the entertainment industry.

OK, so maybe the last three aren’t necessarily about me.

4) Nominate seven others.

Gary Henderson

Matthew W. Quinn

James R. Tuck

Lawrence Pearce 

Shanna Germain

Ryan M. Murphy

Ashley Jillian

These are just a few of the blogs I follow. They are all great sources of information and inspiration.

Thanks again Jenn, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for your own work. You’re definitely way ahead of the curve in volume on me, it’s super inspiring.

Guest Post by Matthew Quinn

For those that frequent my blog, or have been here for a while, know that I’ve dealt with trials and tribulations of self-publishing. Recently, I’d say within a year or so, my writing friend Matthew Quinn made the jump with several of his short stories. I invited him over here to write up a post on his experience with his short stories.

My Career as a Kindle Direct Author, Thus Far

Hey everybody. My name is Matthew W. Quinn. Jeff graciously allowed me to make his blog a stop on my blog tour promoting my newest Kindle-published stories — the alternate history spy tale “Picking Up Plans In Palma” and the supervillain protagonist tales “Ubermensch” and “Needs Must.”

I’ve been writing short fiction and trying to sell it to magazines since 2001. 2006, when I was a senior at the University of Georgia, brought my first sale — “I am the Wendigo,” sold to the now-defunct webzine Chimaera Serials. A few more sales followed— the college tales “Nicor” and “Lord Giovanni’s Daughter” to the print magazine Flashing Swords in 2008, my licensed BattleTech tale “Skirmish at the Vale’s Edge” to BattleCorps in 2009, “Coil Gun” to Digital Science Fiction in 2011, and most recently, “Nicor” to Heroic Fantasy Quarterly in 2012.

(Flashing Swords paid me for both stories but went on hiatus before they could be printed.)

However, I still had many I wasn’t able to sell. I used feedback from the markets that rejected them and commentary from online groups like Critters and my two real-life groups to improve each version of the story, but as the markets for short fiction declined, I soon ran out of acceptable places to submit.

So I decided to self-publish. The first was my horror tale “Melon Heads,” which I started writing in 2004 after coming across an urban legends website in college. “Wendigo” came next, a glorious resurrection requiring e-mailing an Internet forum someone posted the text on to get them to remove it. My last two were also college stories, the Ottoman-era Lovecraftian tale “The Beast of the Bosporus” and the science fiction “Illegal Alien.” I decided to self- publish three more after figuring I wasn’t likely to find a paying home for my supervillain stories (subject matter) and “Palma” (length).

Here are some lessons I’ve learned, some the hard way:

*Social media advertising for short stories is not worth it. Buying Facebook ads and paying to promote the posts announcing new publications may have gotten me a lot of Facebook followers and a few sales, but they were a net loss. And my attempt to use Google ads to promote “Melon Heads” failed miserably. I made no “Melon Heads” sales at all while the Google ad was active.

*Internet message-boards, though time-consuming, are a better option. I had a review for “Palma” from a fellow member of my alternate-history forum within a day, while a former member and I have swapped reviews for each other’s work. And I made a couple sales of “Palma” within days of posting a publication announcement on the forum. The message-board also got me in contact with Alex Claw, who has provided excellent covers for most of my stories, as well as loyal reviewers Sean C.W. Korsgaard and Matthew Stienberg.

*Twitter can be useful. Author Saladin Ahmed is a proponent of increasing diversity in speculative fiction and when I tweeted him the announcements for “Ubermensch” and “Needs Must”—stories whose protagonist is an irreligious half-Indian biomedical engineer—he re-tweeted it to his many thousands of followers. I don’t know how many sales resulted, but I’m fairly certain I acquired a few Twitter followers.

*Don’t expect rivers of cash from short fiction alone. I’ve made more money Kindle-publishing the first four stories than I would have made from non-paying or many token markets, but my Kindle revenues combined are less  than the penny a word Flashing Swords paid me for “Nicor” or “Lord Giovanni’s Daughter” individually. I’m thinking the money will come long term, once I have published books drawing people to my Amazon author page. William Meikle has Kindle-published many short stories he’s sold to dead magazines and anthologies and considering how he has many novels in print, I imagine he’s doing well. Of course, that presupposes I’ll sell one or more novels and we all know about not counting chickens.

*Elaborate cover art doesn’t guarantee sales. “Illegal Alien” has a beautiful cover, but at this rate it will be years before it sells enough copies to pay for it. “Melon Heads” and “I am Wendigo” have simple covers I got for free and they’ve sold far better. If you’re going to invest in a fancy cover, do it for a book, not a short story.

Matthew W. Quinn is a freelance writer and editor from Marietta, GA. Those interested in finding out more about him can visit his blog, The World According To Quinn.

The first LibertyCon I attended, there were many panels talking about self-publishing. What I heard the most often was that you needed at least 20 to 25 pieces of work on Amazon before you started to see decent sales. That number is the general point when your short stories start to feed off one another. I think Matt is well on his way. I’ll be interested to see what happens in the near future.

Thanks to Matt for the post!

Tumble Me Sideways

I decided to go ahead and start up a Tumblr. Mainly to secure the name. I’m probably thinking too far ahead, but I thought it was worth it. I wonder if there is a way to publish some of my the back history on this blog to Tumblr… Something to look into.

If you have a Tumblr, let me know. I’d be happy to follow you. Seems like an interesting place.

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