Monday, May 26, 2014

Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past 3D

Never thought I'd like a heartwarming movie. X-Men: Days of Future Past set aside big summer movie special effects and instead focused on story. This was nice change. The first three X-Men movies had left me a bit underwhelmed with this franchise. I enjoyed X-Men: First Class, but wasn't too impressed with the Wolverine movies.

Still, I'm glad they continue to make X-Men movies. This one renewed my interest in the franchise. Apparently, there was an end-credit scene about the next X-Men movie and I missed it. So, if you're planning to see this movie, wait for the credits to end.

It's remarkable that a movie can get you to care about characters you don't know during an action scene with little dialogue. The movie opens to apocalyptic New York. (Why is s always New York?) We get the story of how the apocalypse started. We then see a team of mutants fighting Sentinels who, though annoying, are pretty badass.
That was a great way to open a movie. Through the fight, we see how unstoppable the Sentinels are. At the same time, we see these X-Men who continue fighting these things despite being grossly out-matched. They never had the upper hand, yet they kept fighting.
I've seen most of the X-Men movies, but I haven't read the comic- would like to. We got some "new" mutants alongside some familiar faces in Days of Future Past. The movie never officially introduced these characters, but it didn't need to. We got to know them though the opening scene.

The movie throws us right into the problem. It wastes no time sending Wolverine back in time. Wolverine's consciousness is sent into his younger self in the 70's where he has to meet up with younger Xavier and Eric to stop the Sentinels from being created. The movie doesn't stay in the past. It switches from past to present.

Though I do enjoy Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, I'm glad he wasn't the center of this movie. Unlike the other X-men movies, Wolverine didn't take over the plot. We saw the inner struggle of other characters.

Man did we get some character development and some role reversals. Young Xavier starts out as a douche who's given up on everything while Mystique/Raven is fighting honorably for mutants.
I love Mystique. First of all, it's awesome watching her fight. We see her before she went all dark side with Magneto. She's right at the brink of falling down that path. She's a woman on a mission struggling between being Raven and Mystique.

I enjoyed watching young Xavier grow and once again accept his power. His change was believable. The scene where young Xavier met his older version was an awesome moment. Eric was Eric. He was presented with a problem and decided to handle it in his own way. I have to mention Quicksilver. He was only on screen for a short period and he owned it. He was hilarious.
The ending had the warm and fuzzies all over it. But, it wasn't cranked up to sickening levels. It was an ending full of hope.

The only thing that bothered me about this movie was that they didn't explain why Xavier was still alive and why Magneto still had his powers. When I first heard they were making another X-men movie my first thought was how were they going to do that. I read an article saying they were taking the storylines from all the other movies including X-Men 3, and they did. We saw flashbacks from the third movie. I expected them to explain why Xavier was alive. They didn't. Maybe it's in the comic. I'd like to get back to reading comics/graphic novels. Don't have the money right now.

I hated, hated what this franchise did to Rogue. I don't even understand why they thought it was a good idea to make her so weak. I was happy, though, to see her in the trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past. I was hoping they'd fix her character. Alas, they cut her out, mostly. A bit disappointed. Rogue is one of my favorite characters and I like Anna Paquin as an actress.
Of course, I saw this movie in 3D. I'm thinking 3D works wonders for a movie with a lot of special effects. X-men had some good 3D moments, but for the most part, it wasn't worth it. I know the whole point of 3D is to pull the viewer into the movie. So far, I haven't seen this done well with scenes were characters are just talking. It does put you into the scene. Seeing a landscape or a building in 3D makes you feel like you standing there looking at the scene instead of seeing it through a screen. I love those moment when it's raining or snowing in the movie because the 3D makes it seems like the drops or flakes are falling on me. However, 3D just didn't work with this movie.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Preparing for BEA!

BookExpo America is like heaven for book lovers and I'll be there for three days next week helping out with Aubey LLC's, my publisher's, booth. Fortunately, my boss is understanding. She'll let me leave the booth during the day to listen to panels, walk around the hall and see my favorite authors, as long as I don't go crazy. I already downloaded the BEA app so I know what I'll be doing.

Last year, I collected a ton of swag and books.
On top of that, I got some great feedback for the cover of The Sciell. Between BEA last year and ALA earlier this year, I discovered that a lot of people are interested in my book. I hope that continues this year.

I'll be doing a book signing on Saturday May 31 from 10:30am -11:30am. Before that, I'll be passing out flyers and some cool Sciell swag.

I'll be there to work as well so I'll be tweeting, taking pictures, talking to people about Aubey and helping out with book signings. Because the office is located in DC and I live in Brooklyn, my apartment has become a storage facility.

This isn't everything. Still waiting for one more box. The business owner, my mom, is bring books, pens and flyers with her.

Living in Brooklyn has helped the business out. Instead of having to stay in hotels, people just stay with me. My mom doesn't have to pay to have our books and swag shipped to the conference center. She ships them to me and we'll take a cab on Wednesday to the conference center to setup.

Hopefully, this year, BEA will help out the business a lot. As you can image, the conference is expensive, like eye-watering expensive and it's exhausting. Three straight days of manning a booth wipes you out. BEA is what you make it. I keep saying I'm not good at talking to people. Now, that just sounds like an excuse. I'm good at it when I need to be. I'm gonna suck it up and get my network on.

All our book signings are on Saturday May 31
Deborah Johnson- A Poor Child - 12:00 pm- 1:00 pm
Deborah Johnson and Mark Wallace- We Are Not The Enemy- 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm

Last year, out of fear, I didn't go to Networking Happy Hour because I've never been good at networking. I regretted it then. People in the publishing industry are super nice and easy to talk to. Since I'm in NYU's publishing program, I'll probably know some people there. I'll be going this year.

Stop by booth #3128 May 29-31 to say hello!

I talked to you before about Story Cartel. Because of them, I've gotten some reviews for my book!

The family dynamic in The Sciell is complicated. I have characters call someone aunt or uncle when they aren't related to them. My two main characters, Shade and Vayle, call each other brother and sister though they aren't related by blood. Pretty much all my characters are related in some way. 

To make it easier on readers, I created a family tree, which I included in the book. This also maps out how the Sciell's power passed down from the first generation to the current one. I plan on adding to this throughout the series as you're introduced to more characters.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Movie Review: Godzilla 3D

I've never been a huge fan of monster movies. The only Godzilla movie I saw was Godzilla vs. Mothra and I don't even remember that one. But, the trailer for the new Godzilla movie looked awesome! I knew I had to be on that. I'm glad I saw it. This isn't your typical mindless monster destroys city plot.

It was really good. I was surprised. I'm a bit tired of people remaking movies I saw when I was a kid. Apparently, some movies are ripe for a 21st century reboot. Godzilla looked amazing. This was not some B monster movie with bad effects. The visuals got your heart going. They sucked you into the movie.

Now you know I had to do this.
The first time Godzilla stood, when that camera panned his entire awesomeness, everyone in the theater cheered. 

The movie was told from the point-of-view of the people around the monster. Godzilla had more of a human element. This also meant we didn't see Godzilla, the monster, a lot. I got a good eye-full of him, but I wanted more. We did get some great action scenes. Again, I wanted more. Bottom line, don't worry, the trailer is vague, but we do see all of Godzilla.

Most of the time though, I did enjoy this perspective. It gave us the calm before the storm kinda thing. It emphasized just how awesome Godzilla is. In one scene, the beach water receded, a lot, because Godzilla was coming out of the ocean. In another, we saw this massive wave as Godzilla rose to the surface.

I like the idea of only seeing pieces of Godzilla. Made the movie more exciting.
The director knew what to do to emphasis Godzilla.

The characters weren't monster movie stupid. I was a bit annoyed by their automatic reaction to throw a NUC at the problem. I mean, does that ever work?! Despite that, I cared about the people. It wasn't just a monster movie. It had a good heart-warning story to it. What was even more amazing was that even the monsters had personalities and stories.

This is a movie you see in the theater. I can't imagine it being as exciting to watch on a small screen. And, yes, the 3D was amazing.

This had to have been the hardest review to write. I can't talk about the full epicness that is this movie because it'll spoil the fun. The people behind Godzilla are keeping a tight fist around the movie stills. I couldn't find that many images, which is unusual. I like this approach. They're making sure people who review Godzilla don't spoil it. Well played.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Last Free Day

Today's the last day to download Visible Through Darkness for free! We're celebrating the release of my new novella Devdan Manor.


Serin released her hand and turned to her. His sad eyes broke her heart.

“No, the land exists in the human world. It’s for beings with power. A barrier prevents humans from seeing it or reaching it by accident. It’s called…it’s called…home. No, that’s not right.”

She had enough of this.

“Who are you?”

Serin laid his palm against her cheek and rested his other hand on her lower back. Jade wanted to fight him. She couldn’t. He pulled her close.

Physical contact was supposed to be disgusting. Only Mom and Dad had enjoyed it. She wasn’t supposed to like being touched.

His teeth played with her ear. Waves of shivers wrecked her body.

“Do you remember a boy you used to play with? You didn’t know where he came from. You asked him about his mommy and daddy, he wouldn’t tell you. You asked your parents, they evaded the question. Soon, you stopped asking. You played with him every day until suddenly, he stopped coming. We had just celebrated your tenth birthday.”

His teeth and lips on her ear and jaw turned her will power to water. She needed to think. She needed to push him away.

That name Serin. She remembered. He had been her imaginary friend. How did he know about that? When she felt low, she thought how, besides Mom and Dad, her faceless imaginary friend had been the only one who didn’t look at her as if she had three eyes. He was a person a lonely child made up. He wasn’t real. Was he?

“We’re both unique beings. One of a kind, that monster called us. I learned… in prison, our families brought us together because they thought we’d understand each other. They hoped we’d become friends then lovers, then, we’d get married.” He sighed. His breath went straight to her head. “I was on my way home one day. They took me. They made me watch while my only friend grew up and forget about me. I watched while Mom lost the will to do anything. She died alone and heartbroken. I saw those humans kill your parents. I was forced to watch the disrespect their bodies received.”

She felt his voice everywhere.

Serin kissed across her jaw to rest his forehead against hers. How did he know how to kiss like that?

“I missed you, Jade.”

He kissed her lips.

She needed to think. He needed to let her go. She had to process this. Serin wouldn’t let her go. She didn’t want him to release her. She had never felt this warm, even with Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

New Release: What haunts demons?

Devdan Manor is now available through Amazon!

What haunts demons?

Expelled from his birthplace for a power he couldn't control, Cyl Antun searches for a real home with his two siblings and longtime friend.

Darkness falls. Vicious nocturnal demons close in on them. A mansion appears. They rush inside to escape the night terrors. Strange marking cover the walls. A black void now surrounds this house. They’re trapped. The mansion is empty. Yet, they are not alone.

The next village was remarkably less welcoming. Thick fog laced with powerful magic ruled that place. It obstructed the senses. These residents were like snakes. They wrapped their cold bodies around them. Only, the bodies didn’t feel solid. Just cold and wet. Another race of demons he was not familiar with. Ryse called them Fari. They were old. Uryl had to tighten his grip on Ryse’s hand. She was so excited she kept trying to run through the fog after those invisible demons. Apparently, being tormented by them was an honor. 

They kept their village hidden. It was supposed to be impossible to stumble across them. They preyed on humans and demons.

Ryse kept bending down every couple of paces to pick up rocks. They were usual shapes and colors. Ryse said you could buy a house in Mortaus with just one of them. If they were so valuable, why hadn’t he heard of them? Ryse seemed to enjoy herself. Cyl decided to keep his mouth closed and let her collect her rocks.
The sun had gone down by the time they found their way out of that hole. 

He should’ve been happy there. Nuall had been quiet. 

He knew as much about the whispering demons as she did. Why did Nuall believe he knew more than he was telling?

Her voice was giving him a headache. Telling Nuall to shut her mouth would only cause her to talk more and louder. Why did she have to be so spoiled?

Nuall opened her mouth. No sound came out.

“Finally,” Uryl said. 

Another one of his brother’s abilities.

Nuall stared wide eyed at Uryl with her mouth open. Her shock turned to anger. Her mouth moved. If she had a voice, she would’ve been yelling. That wasn’t helpful.

“They’re still following us,” Uryl said over his shoulder.

The whispering demon’s presence appeared well behind them. They matched their pace, but kept their distance. 

The other demons they passed ignored them. 

Darkness pressed them on all sides. They didn’t see light from a house. They didn’t sense a town or village nearby.

Demons not fit to live in the light- those who couldn’t transform into a more appealing appearance- hunted at night. In this world, those that looked like humans were treated as beautiful. Those that couldn’t hold a human-like form were cast away. Banished into dark territories where they became monsters. 

Those beasts went off to play in the human world. Some remained here to feast on demons stupid enough to travel at night.

The four of them needed to find shelter. 

Glowing red, green and blue eyes stalked them. They weren’t the problem. The silver and red eyed beasts were Korc. Violent monsters with more teeth and muscle than they knew what to do with. They weren’t fit for society. They killed for fun. He heard stories about them wiping out villages. One had managed to worm its way into Mortaus using flattering and jewels. It had eaten its way through four stores before being put down.

Now, ten of them were approaching. Slowly. 

They should’ve thought this through. 
Growl, hissing and howling overwhelmed his senses. The noise above that was worse. The Korc emitted a cry that sounded like millions of demons being tortured to death. It was nothing but cries of pain, anguish despair, anger and prayers for death. The sounds could reach inside you. Make you feel like you were the one being tortured. Listen long enough and you’d feel physical pain. 

The darkness opened to a tall mansion. Most of the building was built inside the cliff. Cyl didn’t like it. Why was there light only on the one building? What was it doing so far away from town? The ground was hard and dry not suited for planting. The cliff fell into a cluster of trees. He couldn’t smell water nearby. This was a house where no house should be.

The eyes approached faster. The predators’ noises assaulted his ears. He couldn’t think. He needed to move. He was running. He hadn’t told his body to. They were all running. Toward the mansion. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Creating A Message to Entice Readers

I mentioned in my previous post that your message, what you say about your book online, is just as important as your book cover. With Twitter, you only have 140 characters- less if you're also sharing a link or image. On Facebook, people are turned off by paragraph long posts. How do you condense your 100+ page story into one phrase or sentence?

This is similar to developing your elevator pitch. If you only had a minute to tell someone influential about your book, what would you say? However, this should be shorter than an elevator pitch. Think tagline for a movie.

Think of themes 
I struggled with this, probably because I'm too close to my book. I went back to my beta readers and asked them what were some of the important themes in my story.

Use Google Trends
Check out Google Trends and see it you can link any of the popular searches to themes in your book.

Twitter Trending Topics
Similarly, Twitter's trending topics could help you form a message about your book. Remember Oreo's Super Bowl tweet "You can still dunk in the dark"? Genius. Don't force this. I've seen people try to sell produces using a trending hashtag and it was so obvious.

If you have reviews, look through them and see if there's a common thing readers enjoyed about your book. Also, check out reviews of books similar to yours. See if there are any elements of those books that readers liked the most. If your book has those elements, use them to create your message.

Genre Research
Research your genre and see why people love those types of books. For instance, I write fantasy and horror, so I would look up why people are drawn to those genres.

This goes back to looking at reviews but, I wanted to make it a separate section because you don't have to get this information from only reviews. Yasiv by Amazon is the more visual version of "Customers who bought this product also bought..." This could give you an idea of the popular books in your genre.

Know your target audience 
This is key. You can develop the best message, but if it doesn't resonate with your audience, then all your work has been wasted.

Need more than one
Use one tagline often enough and it'll stop working. That's why you need a couple. For my book, the line "Darkness isn't evil, just angry,"  used to attract attention. It doesn't anymore, which is why I'm creating new taglines.

I recently learned from someone who works in publishing that people don't click on ads that say pre-order. Something to keep in mind.

Why Your Book Pitch Matters (Even If You’re Self-Published)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Sales May Be Tragic-Don't Give Up

Story Cartel makes your book free for readers in exchange for reviews. Each review gets the person entered into Story Cartel's monthly contest to win a Kindle or Amazon gift card. The book is only free for 20 days. The author has a chance to get reviews and readers has a chance to win something.

I need more reviews for The Sciell. The problem is, no one is buying it. I have two pretty positive reviews. I asked for those, paid for one, and they haven't helped sales. They're reviews from critics not everyday readers.

I've also been trying every tip I've learned in my book marketing classes. Didn't help. Goes to show you just how nerve wracking the publishing industry can be. We really don't know what works.

You have to keep trying new things.

I looked into Netgalley, which is similar to Story Cartel. You make your book free for a limited time and reviewers request a copy of it. Publishers love Netgalley. It's $399. I wasn't comfortable spending that when I had spent an unnecessary amount of money on a Kirkus review that didn't help sales. To upload one book onto Story Cartel only costs $30.

I researched case studies for this site because I'd never heard of it. It looks like you do get reviews. But, the review to download ratio is low-as in 100 people could download your book but only 5 would review it. Since it's only $30 and I could use 5 reviews, I'm trying it out.

The Sciell went live on Story Cartel yesterday. It's now free for 19 days. So far, no downloads. I ran an ad on Facebook about it and that did nothing. Now, I'm rethinking the messaging. What can I saw about my book that'll get people to download and review it? That's a tough one. Still figuring it out.

Remember, your messaging, what you tell people about your book on social media, is just as important as the cover. Please don't go on social media and say, "this is my book, it's about..." That's boring, no one will click that link unless you already have an established fan base. You need a message that intrigues people. If no one interacts with your post, you need to change your message. 

Engagement is the name of the game.

I've been active on social media for three years now and I'm still struggling with this.

As I said earlier, The Sciell has two reviews, but it's not doing well. To make things even four other ebooks on Amazon have tragic sales. I'll admit, I have my moments where I'm angry and disappointed. Where I wonder what the hell is all this for.

My book was released in March. My online sales are at 1. It's not like I've been doing nothing to promote The Sciell. Nothing is working. I'm a publishing student. I have people working for publishers teaching me what works for marketing and promotion. I have done so many papers on the subject.

As you can image, it's a bit frustrating. 

More than a bit. But, what am I gonna do? Quit? I don't think so. I spent eight years writing this damn thing. 1 month working on the cover and, what felt like, a million years laying it out in InDesign.

 I am not about to give up. 

My adventure with Story Cartel has just started. I'll keep you posted- let you know if it's worthwhile. You can check out The Sciell's page here.
Also, my horror novella, Devden Manor will be available Tuesday May 13. To celebrate, I plan to make Visible Through Darkness free from Monday May 12 to Friday May 16. 

If you've read excerpts I've shared, you'll know my writing can be a bit gory- not splatterpunk. This time, I wrote a gore free book. Devdan Manor is all atmosphere and very little blood. Add it to your Goodreads' shelf here!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-man 2 3D

Since the nonsense that was Spider-man 3 with Tobey MaGuire, I'd lost interest in the franchise. I used to watch the Spider-man cartoons as a kid, but Peter Parker was like Captain Planet- full of bad one-liners. I've always found the Wall Crawler to a bit annoying. Actually, I loved him in Marvel's Civil War and I enjoyed Ultimate Spider-man Vol. 1. Let's just say, I go back and forth with this superhero. 

When Marvel came out with the The Amazing Spider-man, I paid no attention to it- even after I heard the positive reviews. I didn't care. Same for Spider-man 2. I didn't even look at the trailers until I saw the preview before Captain America 2. I was blown away. Spider-man 2 looked freaking epic.

I wanted to see it. After that, I watched the first Spider-man to prepare for the second one. Turns out, it was really good. 

Spider-man 2 didn't fall victim to the curse of the sequel. The visuals were amazing. The movie was fun to look at. Don't worry, the special effects didn't take place of the story.  

Yes, there was a story. Actually, there were several.  The writer's packed a lot into this movie. They should've trimmed some things down. But, the crowded story line wasn't something I noticed while watching the movie. 

I was so invested in Peter, Gwen and Electro. We learned more about Peter's father. We got some great character development out of Peter and Gwen. I liked Max/Electro. I wished the movie had focused on those aspects. Instead, for some reason, they decided to throw in Harry Osborn becoming Green Goblin. 
He was not needed.

Because of the packed story line, the movie didn't have time to fully flesh out certain things. Peter and Gwen graduated high school at the beginning of the movie. We saw what Gwen was doing in terms of college and a career. Aunt May mentioned Peter's college tuition, but we never saw him go to class. He never mentioned college or a career path. We knew Peter was still selling his pictures of Spider-man. 

When he wasn't being Spider-man, he was at home in his room or chasing Gwen. The movie focused more on Peter as Spider-man. Nothing wrong with that. It did bother me, though, that the movie made Peter look like a free-loader while those around him were working hard-without donning a costume to fight crime. Seriously, the kid just graduated high school and they made him look like he was doing nothing. Fighting crime is all well and good, but Peter has a life outside of being Spider-man. 

The movie should've had only one villain. Electro. They should've spent more time on him. I didn't like how they ended it with him. He wasn't really a bad guy. He was just pissed at everyone. He had every reason to be. 
After he became Electro, it was like no one cared he was also Max- this poor nerdy guy who had been bullied at work and was mutated because the people at Oscorp were a bunch of bastards. Max was the invisible man in New York City. As someone who lives in Brooklyn, I could totally identity with that. The movie should've dug into that more. It was funny-and a little sad- when Max went all fanboy after Spider-man saved him.
Bottom line, Jamie Foxx as Electro- bought it.
A good portion of the story focused on Peter and Gwen's relationship. At the end of the first movie, Gwen's father's dying words were for Peter to stay away from his daughter. We see Peter struggling with that in the second movie. It was well done. They didn't kick up the angst to annoying levels. The mush was also at level I, someone who doesn't like romance movies, could tolerate. Spider-man 2 hit you right in the gut. Gwen and Peter's roller coaster relationship took a turn I did not see coming. I feel so bad for Peter. 

The kid Spider-man facing off Rhino at the end was cool. Well played Marvel. 

Spider-man 2 worked the 3D. Marvel seems to be getting better at it. 

Despite its problems, The Amazing Spider-man 2 was an enjoyable movie. I don't feel like I wasted my time and money. I might buy this one and I rarely buy movies. If Marvel comes out with a third one, I'd be on that. 

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