Saturday, August 29, 2015

Do Not Invest in the Time Suck

Time can be the most important commodity for any aspiring author. Many of us have day jobs, little ones to look after, pets to walk, creepy guys to not text back, dragons to slay, back hair to comb, and so on. All of these things are poking your shoulder saying "Hey I need attention!" How do you manage your time? I don't have all the answers. I'm still trying to figure it all out myself. I am always evolving and trying to learn better ways to do things. I just realized something recently, and that's what this blog post is all about. I was investing too much time into the time suck.

What is the Time Suck?

Is it some kind of succubus feeding off of your soul? Is it a leech trying to get at your blood? Is it a baby trying to get some milk? A time suck is anything that you do that doesn't provide an adequate return on your investment of time.

So what would you consider to be a good return on your investment? It depends on what you are doing. If it is something that helps bring value in some way then you can justify it. If it doesn't then you know it's a time suck you shouldn't be investing your time in. Let's take a look at some of my recent time sucks.

My Recent Time Sucks

  • Arguing politics on Facebook
  • It is a waste of time trying to convince people who have no intention of listening to you or changing their minds. It's like arguing with a brick wall. There are people like this on both sides of the political spectrum, and they annoy me. It's like that itch in the middle of your back that you can't reach. Example: One guy tried to argue math with me. I was a math major in college, so the mention of math makes me like a dog that found a butt he hadn't sniffed. He tried to argue that one rate was monumentally larger than the other. It was something like 0.000000000003% vs. 0.000000000001% and the margin of error was 1.5%. So I'm like dominating the argument, but he still calls me an idiot. smh...
  • Replying to Celebrities on Twitter
  • I am wasting time replying directly to celebrities. They aren't going to retweet. They aren't going to reply. They might not even read it. So why? It makes more sense to quote them and comment on it for my own followers without worrying about what the celeb thinks.
  • Video Games
  • No chance of a return on investment. The only thing I can say is that it might help me stay sane. Wait... the voices in my head say that's not going to happen.
  • Playing with my Smartphone
  • I am a tech nerd. I can't help it. I love my Galaxy Note Edge. I have been playing with different apps lately and in general just messing around with it. I recently reorganized my edge app tabs. It is something that was time consuming, but did it really need to be done? Does the time spent on it justify all the time missed where I could have been playing with My Little Pony dolls? Err... I mean... writing?
  • Watching Silly Documentaries on Netflix
  • Do I really need to know the latest research being done on Bigfoot? or about secret files on aliens? I know some of this stuff is really far out there, but I like to watch it to see some of the silliness that some people actually believe. Cthulu is sorely under represented on Netflix.

The More You Know

Take a look at the things that you are spending time on in your life. Ask yourself, "Hey what am I getting out of this?" If the answer is Herpes then you might want to reexamine your life. You can cut out the time suck. That could give you those extra few seconds needed to save yourself from Godzilla when he comes.

So what are some of the time sucks in your life? What can you cut out that would help give you some extra time? When you comment here it gives me the warm fuzzies inside. Let's identify the time sucks and stab them with the rusty spoon of justice! Let's reclaim our lost time and be more productive!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

No Escape

Rated R / 1 hr 43 min / Action - Thriller

What is it about?

Owen Wilson gets a new job in Thailand and brings his entire family with him. On the plane ride over he sees a monster on the wing. William Shatner goes crazy. When they land, Pierce Brosnan offers his family a ride to the hotel while telling Owen about his adventures with ladyboys in Thailand in front of the children. For some reason everyone goes along with it because he used to be Bond. He might still have that license to kill. The next day Owen goes looking for a newspaper and that is when all hell breaks loose. No I'm not talking about the Trump-cat phenomenon. The prime minister of Thailand is killed in a coup and a group of militants roams the streets starting fights West Side Story style.

You will like it if...

You like action thrillers based on survival. This is like a survival horror movie, but there aren't any zombies, vampires, or dustbunnies giving chase. The main characters don't know the area, don't understand what anyone is saying, and they're being shot at. The tension throughout had me leaning forward in my chair. Over the years I have liked Lake Bell, but Owen Wilson surprised me with possibly his best non-comedic performance. The pacing of the movie is fantastic as well. It starts off a little slow, but once it grabs you by the crotch, the film doesn't let go. No Escape lacks a bit in the story department, but it does have a message. The message it has could put some people off even though it isn't preachy about it. The movie also gets repetitive, and I found myself wanting to yell at the characters like it was a cheesy horror movie as the film went on. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and would recommend it to anyone interested in this type of movie. No Escape gives you a shot of adrenaline that doesn't allow you to escape from your theater seat.

Next Week

The Transporter Refueled
If you have any suggestions please post them in the comments!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Are you a Planner or a Pantser?

Do you plan or pants your writing? The end. Not really. I ask this question because I'm insane and need to know if my insanity is shared by others. We could hold hands if only they would let us out of our straight jackets.

I have used both methods and I kinda like using what I consider to be a hybrid approach. So is it an iron or a fairway wood? I dunno... It's golf and will make me fall asleep rather than finishing this blog post, so let's only talk about it in whispers and zzzzz..... 

My approach gives me the structure and scheduling power I need to complete the story and guide it in the direction of my initial idea. It also gives me the flexibility to completely ignore everything and make up whatever kind of craziness I have brewing in my head. I know what each character's motivation is and what their ultimate goal is. I can feel free to let the characters do what they would normally do. They are real people after all. In my head. Why are you looking at me like that? Shut up! Sorry about that. I had to put one of the voices in my head in it's place.

So how do I do that writing voodoo? Well, I first come up with an idea or pull one out of my notebook of book ideas. The characters magically pop up in my head asking for rice krispy treats. I think about what I want to do with the story and what needs to happen to get from point A to point B. Those make up the main turning points in the story. I further break those down into smaller steps until I have enough chapters to fill out the length of story I want to tell. I write a 1 or 2 line description of what that chapter is supposed to be about.

Then the process of writing begins. *cracks knuckles* Time to pull out my big boy writing tools and put the plastic ones away. I am a good boy who doesn't want anyone to step on them by accident at 2 AM. When I begin I know the starting point of each chapter and the beginning of the next. It becomes a matter of connecting the dots, but I don't have to use straight lines! I treat each chapter as a piece of flash fiction or a short story of sorts. With this outline I can make a schedule and deadlines. I'm trying to get better with this as I still have to work a day job and this is my first novel. There are also several other unanticipated delays that come with being a first time author.

I pants the crap out of these chapters. The characters spill out on the page and frolic in the world. Sometimes they take me in strange and wonderful directions. Sometimes they try to jump off a cliff. I let them. Sometimes they tape teddy bears to their body and use them instead of clothing. I find that my job is to give my characters the motivation to make their way to the starting point of the next chapter. If you know your characters well enough then you can eventually get them there. It might take a few chapters worth of writing to do it. That is how my 25 chapter outline for Virtual Wars balloons into 41 chapters. Those are red balloons filled with whipped cream of course.

So which do you prefer? Planning or pantsing? No pantsing with no plan? Naked and afraid typing on a laptop while drinking wine and cry-laughing?

Sinister 2

Rated R / 1 hr 37 min / Horror

What is it about?

Bughuul is back with some nasty tricks like sawing a kid in half, but it's not real. Or is it? This time he has his hooks into a woman and her two sons. She is hiding out in a creepy looking house from her abusive husband. The deputy from the original has been trying to frustrate the monster at every turn. He films himself dancing naked to "MMMBop" by Hansen everywhere he thinks the monster might be. This time there is a a woman with her two sons staying in Bughuul's chosen haunted house. The deputy wants to help remove the curse of Bughuul from their lives by using the Raid bug spray.

You will like it if...

You like blatantly average horror sequels. Despite the triumph of the original Sinister film as a unique take on the Boogey Man, this film is inexplicably a few steps backwards. There are a few scary moments in the same blood spurting vein as the original, but these are too few. Bughuul ends up being more of a side character just chilling in the corner shooting dice. His creepy ghost kids take main stage. The problem is that the child actors playing the ghosts are terrible. I could have been just as creepy by replacing the kid actors with Lego people while doing the voices for all of them myself. The two live children do a bit better, but there isn't much for them to do other than follow the ghost kids around. Presumably to tell the ghost kid actors how terrible their acting is and give them ghost wedgies. The script has some nice twists to it that are squandered. Sinister 2 is the cheaper not as attractive cousin to the original, but it may be worth a look if you can ignore the terrible acting.

Next Week

Post suggestions in the comments!
Several minor releases set to come out next week. I'm hoping to see the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon sequel, but not sure if it or any of the other releases will be playing here.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Writer's Guide To Just Doing It

I have been chomping at the bit to get back to doing a blog post on writing. I just needed my saddle and a jockey to jump on my back with a whip. I asked her to be gentile. OK enough about my personal life.

As the title suggests this blog post is about writers writing the words and doing something with it. Let me explain. If you are a writer then you write. That is what writers do. So why are you sitting there reading this? Go write already!

OK I get it. It is hard to come up with ideas sometimes. I am about tapped out on what to write about the world of Virtual Wars, and I'm not ready to release some of the other goodies that I want to release. That is why I am writing this post, and it brings me to the first point in this guide.

Tip #1 - Just Do It

If you aren't passionate about your current project then create or work on another one that you are passionate about. What's the point in forcing yourself to write something that is only going to cause agony in your life? Life is too short for that. Do what you want. If you have no desire to write anything then maybe you should be doing something else.

I'm not saying to abandon your current project completely just because you hit a snag or you lack motivation right now or your cat is sitting on your laptop. You have to finish your work and publish it in all it's craptacular glory. I'm just saying that sometimes you have to switch gears and work on something else that gives you life and energy. That syringe of adrenaline straight to your heart that causes the words to spew through your fingers like a marvelous orgasm.

Tip #2 - Just Do It

A lack of motivation could be due to stresses in your life that threaten to bring you down. Screw them. Put on some Puff Daddy and kick the shit out of whatever is stressing you out. Unless it's a person. We don't want to go to jail. Here I'll help, but not with hiding any bodies (I will totally help with that... maybe, but probably not.)

There are many things that you can do about stress that will help you. Writing angrily about what is stressing you is one of the ways to get it out. Exercising is another. I like to picture whatever is stressing me and shadowbox against it. I win every time by KO.

Tip #3 - Just Do It

Distractions will slow you down no matter what you are doing. That's why I've thrown my phone across the room, used duct tape on the cat's mouth, and am ignoring the latest Godzilla attack happening outside. Build a well lit padded room for yourself. It will come in handy later if they need to put you in a straight jacket. Keep all of your writing supplies nearby. Lock yourself in and write away. Just so you know I was making part of that up. I don't have a cat and I don't condone animal abuse especially abuse that involves wearing Dallas Cowboys gear.

Any kind of distraction will suck all productivity out of you like the succubus it is. The TV needs to be off. The ticking of a wall clock shut down. A leaf floating in the wind needs to be shot. As much as I love my blog and some of the stuff on here, shut down your browser and get to work already!

Tip #Eight Hundred Fourty Freaking Seven - Just Do It

I put that on my Nike shoes. Have you noticed a theme here? Why are you still here? Do I need to act like an old man and tell you kids to get off my lawn? I have a shotgun. Actually it's a confetti cannon. Well if you're not going to leave then I am. I have writing to attend to. Just make sure to flush and spray air freshener before you leave.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Straight Outta Compton

Rated R / 2 hr 27 min / Biography - Drama

What is it about?

Straight outta Virginia, crazy movie reviewer named Brian. Making reviews that ain't lyin'. OK OK so I'm not Ice Cube. The movie follows the lives of the rap group NWA which includes Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube in a cup with some vodka. They also had DJ Yella crayon and MC Ren n' Stimpy even though they are side characters in the grand scheme of things. This follows their story from the beginning when Dr. Dre was playing Liberace records in a club. The formation of Eazy-E's Ruthless Records with the rise of NWA. Ice Cube leaving to go play dominos professionally. Dr. Dre leaving to start Death Row Records with real inmates. Ice Cube's slow transition over to film with him writing the script for Friday. The film goes all the way up until Dr. Dre's departure from Death Row to form Aftermath Records.

You will like it if...

You like biopics about icons of hip hop and rap music industry. If you don't like the music of NWA, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre then you are unlikely to enjoy or could possibly be offended by portions of the film. The majority of the movie focuses on the lives and behind the scenes business dealings of the main characters. It is by no means a comprehensive look at the lives of the characters involved. It does hit all of the main points while presenting a message that is just as valid today as it was back then. I kept seeing things in this movie and thought this is exactly what the #BlackLivesMatter movement is all about. It's a shame that we haven't made any progress in these areas since the mid-1980's when the timeline of this movie starts. It is 30 years later and still no progress. That is only the first portion of the film. It then transitions to show how money comes in between people and causes more problems overall. Then there is the enigma that is Suge Knight whose character is entertaining overall when you read up on all of the craziness that surrounds him. If you are at all interested in the history of rap music, NWA, Dr. Dre, etc. then this is a must see.

Next Week

Hitman: Agent 47 or Sinister 2
Vote for your choice in the comments!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Virtual Wars: Booting Up Cover Reveal

Posting this from my phone because my internet is down, so I'm going to keep this short and sweet. Virtual Wars: Booting Up is a collection of 3 shorter stories that lead up to the first novel of the series titled Virtual Wars: Initialization. I plan to release this collection sometime in the near future.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Fantastic 4

Rated PG-13 / 1 hr 40 min / Action - Adventure - Sci-Fi

What is it about?

Reed Richards says at his elementary school Career Day that he wants to be a professional belly dancer, but the teacher tells him to be realistic. In response he builds a teleportation device. He enters it into a high school science fair, but they still gave the prize to the volcano display. The Baxter group wants to give Reed a scholarship to come study with them and help develop his machine. He had cracked inter-dimensional travel. He found a portal to the world of My Little Pony. Unfortunately Dr. Doom wants all of the ponies for himself.

You will like it if...

You like slow origin movies based off comic books. This film reminds me a bit of the first Ironman film. Everything seems to be well done and the acting is decent. The problem is that the source material isn't as compelling as the first Ironman film. The script attempts to add humor with an interesting comic story, but it falls flat. It's like having garlic bread without garlic, butter, or salt. It's like having pizza without cheese, tomato sauce, or any toppings. It's like having pie without filling or any kind of sugar on the crust. The humor isn't funny and the story isn't compelling enough to carry it through until the action actually begins. The entire experience is just blah. The movie isn't all bad. If you like the Fantastic 4 then it is less cheesy than the original two films. The cast is younger and grittier. This film feels authentic where the original two films are almost cartoon-ish. I enjoyed it for what it was, but I doubt that I will have a desire to see it again. I just have one more comment on this experience. The best part of the experience was seeing the first official Deadpool trailer on the big screen. For me that was worth the price of admission.

Next Week

Straight Outta Compton and/or The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Vote for your choice in the comments!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Virtual Wars Religion

Religion can be a touchy subject as we all may believe different things. Over the years it has been the cause of war, famine, charity, celebration, etc.. Religion can bring a sense of community and goodwill towards others. It can also bring heated arguments and possibly violence between people who disagree on this subject. In this blog post I am going to discuss the role of religion in the world of the Virtual Wars series. Please keep in mind these are not my personal beliefs.

Religious Climate

People in this fictional world have been through a lot and religion has had a key role in their trials and hardships. Many of the details have been lost, but the basic storyline is taught in schools. Information was leaked to news organizations saying that an extremist religious group in the middle east had gotten hold of a nuclear bomb which they intended to use against their enemies in the west. Christian fundamentalists led a surge to war with the Islamic state that is said to be sheltering these extremists. What they find is that the country had been developing nuclear weapons for years under the supervision of these radicals. They have also developed the missiles to deliver them across the globe targeting any perceived ally of the west or Israel. The chain reaction results in the world as it is in this fictional world.

What happened is seen as being a case of religion dictating policy within several countries. When the Council of the United Districts was formed there was a significant push for the separation of church and state. Within the Constitution there are specific laws outlined to prevent religion from dictating policy. Religion among the general population is sometimes seen as being backwards or in a negative light for these reasons. Many of the same religions still exist in this world, but at a much smaller scale.

The New Religion

There is a new offshoot of Christianity which is called The Church of Saint Benaton. It is named after Henry Benaton who was one of the survivors of the Great War. He was a Baptist priest before being forced to live in a cave with hundreds of other survivors. The community he lived in was able to cobble together enough food to feed everyone, but finding clean water was a problem. He was able to find clean water for the group just as the crisis seemed to be at its breaking point. He attributed the find to his faith. He died from cancer days after his discovery, but all around the world there are tales of a man wearing black who showed the way to clean water. The man has been attributed with saving the lives of thousands of people in various parts of the world.

The religion itself sees Benaton as being a prophet of God. He is known as the "Water Bearer" and sometimes associated with the Aquarius zodiac sign. They still consider themselves to be Christians and that only through Christ they can be saved. It teaches many of the same concepts of other Christian religions. The church mostly teaches of love and acceptance of others. They also have many of their own teachings. The religion holds the purifying power of water and the ability to purify water as being holy. Followers of the church believe that the Great War was the culmination of the events detailed in Revelations. They teach that God still loves and believes in his followers after the end of the events in the Bible. The Church teaches that Christ will come to this world again and again until mankind has moved on as God will not abandon God's followers.

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