Saturday, March 26, 2016

Stay Positive!

Right after I had clicked the publish button on last week's blog post the idea for this one fell into my lap. I almost wish I could go back in time and post this one first, but time has a funny way of not letting me do that. Time is a jerk, but I'll save that for another blog post. Today I want to talk about something that is very important. It really baffles me how so many people can fail to grasp this one simple concept. I want to impress upon you (with a metal branding iron if need be) the importance of staying positive and not being a jerk.

Arguments and Debate

All too often I see people trying to promote important issues by attacking someone who does not feel the same way or promotes something different that they feel is harmful to their cause. No one is going to listen to you if you come in with arms windmilling screaming "DULCINEA" at them. Hurling insults at someone, even if they are deserving of the insults, will only make you look bad. People from a distance can't tell who is who and are more inclined to side with the person who doesn't look like they have rabies. So chill homie. Be the voice of reason not the voice of hate.

If you want people to listen to you then you have to present your argument in a positive way. Attacking someone for ruining what you feel is important is not a way to win them over to your side. Think about it. If I came up to you, spit in your face, and then screamed at you that Godzilla would maul Raiden in Mortal Kombat, would you agree with me? Would you even bother arguing the point? Yet this is how I see people approaching each other on the internet. Instead if I were to say that I like Raiden too, but Godzilla's hide is too thick for Raiden to punch through thus rendering many of his attacks ineffective. Now we have a debate. You would be much more likely to engage. Especially if Raiden is your favorite Mortal Kombat character.

Some people are not open minded. They will not change their mind no matter what you say. Some will disagree with you just because of their biases and hate. You could say the sky is blue with some of these people and they will disagree just because. Some are not mentally equipped to argue with you and will not change their mind no matter how completely you destroy their arguments. Don't engage with these people. Deep down they are already in a hell you will never understand. Do not let them drag you down to their level. You will not find any candy or flowers or rainbows there. That is where hate and despair live. Anger and sadness is all that you will find there.

Listen

The first step is to listen. Listening does not mean just waiting for your turn to speak. Take the time to try to understand other people. If you haven't walked a mile in their shoes then you can't completely understand them, but still we must try. If what they say is not true then you can point them in the right direction. It is up to them to take that information and do what they want with it. It is not up to you to forge a hammer named "Truth" and smash it into their nose over and over.

Listening to what people are really saying is how you can relate to their message. Talking and communicating effectively comes down to understanding why they are presenting the message that they are presenting. Getting to the root of things and figuring out how to move forward. If you disagree with what they say, a deeper understanding of the logic behind the argument can give you insight on why. Ask yourself, is it a personal bias on my end? Do I have a better solution? Is there a flaw in their argument? Take the time to form an intelligent and well thought out statement relating to what they are saying. Move the conversation forward.

Do not change the subject unless that conversation is basically over. I see a lot of people who feel they are "losing" an argument, so they change the subject. It's not about winning or losing. It is about learning. Don't be afraid to be wrong. We all are at some point in our lives. It's OK. This is how we learn and improve. No one is perfect, but the pursuit of perfection is a noble one. One that I strive for every day even though I know it is futile. The only way to move forward is to seek out new ideas and engage those who do not agree with you.

Don't Be A Jerkface

A jerkface is someone that spews a hateful message without thinking of the consequences of that message. A jerkface is incapable of admitting that they made a mistake. A jerkface will hurl insults as if they are valid arguments. A jerkface doesn't care if they are harming others by what they do or say. A jerkface will try to use their power to hurt others because they can. The willfully ignorant, hateful, and spiteful messages that are being broadcast around the world need to stop. They impede progress and divide us all. Don't separate and reject, instead we should accept and include people.

We are all human beings here. I want to hug you all. Unless you are stinky. In that case I want you to take a bath and then I want to hug you. If you are reading this and not a human being please stop trying to use radio waves to hack my brain *puts on tin foil hat*. Just because someone is different does not make them any better or worse of a person than you are. Unless they are an undead zombie. In that case I suggest aiming for the head.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice

Rated PG-13 / 2 hr 31 min / Action - Adventure - Fantasy

What is it about?

Batman sees the finale of Man Of Steel and decides that Superman's love of all things Hello Kitty is dangerous to his city. Flashback to his origin story, Batman began making bat shaped marshmallows to roast in the flames of the explosions within his films. Superman thinks this is a bad thing because he doesn't have graham crackers and chocolate to go with them. The boy scout inside him screams at the missed opportunity. Lex Luther figures out a way to manipulate the two of them to fight each other or at least have a rap battle to the death. So we're all set up for an epic battle for the ages and Wonder Woman.. Not sure why she is there, but WONDER WOMAN!

You will like it if...

You liked the stylish action of Zach Snyder's previous films with the gritty semi-realism he adopted with Man Of Steel. Like Man Of Steel there are plenty of pauses for dramatic effect and scowling throughout this film. The action isn't as well done as Snyder's previous efforts as he favors the illusion of speed and has removed all of the vestiges of slow motion that made many of the iconic moments in 300, The Watchmen, and Sucker Punch. The speed makes it harder to tell what is going on in some of the scenes. Unfortunately these gripes are for the strengths of the film. The script is an absolute hodgepodge of about 5 different comic book stories. None of them are given the justice they deserve. The final enemy is given powers he never had in the comics and given a weakness that he never had. It's like they weren't sure if they were going to be allowed to make another movie, so they tried to mash everything into one mega-movie. It ends up being a Franken-movie with ears growing out of eyelids, noses growing on elbows, and nipples everywhere. Fans of the comics will hate this movie for the way the filmmakers did not stay true to the characters or the source material. It's not so bad for the heroes (Wonder Woman is actually awesome), but the villains are all completely mauled. This is why Deadpool is a much superior film. With Deadpool they nailed every single character in a much less sexual way than I made it just sound. We can forgive changes to the story, but when they start messing with our favorite characters, hero or villain, that is when we as comic fans have to stand up and say "No, this is bull5#!7". Batman V Superman is one of those times. This film had so much potential to be great, but the filmmakers squandered the opportunity.

Next Week

Everybody Wants Some, Miles Ahead, The Dark Horse, or whichever film you vote for. Vote early, vote often, vote in the comments or Godzilla will pick the movie! As always the movie selection is subject to change based on what is showing here in theaters.

Upcoming to DVD on March 29

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Face Of Evil

Recently in a Facebook author group I belong to someone asked a question about what kind of flaw they should add to their hero. The conversation evolved into one about villains as well. I love writing villains. They are quite often the most complex and possibly broken characters. Heroes can also be interesting in their own way, but villains have less restrictions. They are truly free to do what they want. Dip a french fry in the milkshake? Sure! Torture the My Little Pony doll? Why not! Train a horde of ninja monkeys to take over the world? That's my specialty!

So this week I wanted to go through some of the steps I use toward creating a villain. I use many of the same steps as when I create a hero. The back story may even be similar, but with a villain it is imperative to twist things. Every point in their back story can be balanced on a knife point. Tip it one way and the character can use it for good. Tip it the other and you have them summoning a demon dust bunny with a toothpick sword.

No One Sees Themself As The Villain

This is one of the most important things to think about when creating a villain. They might be able to see how others might think they are a villain, but the character will not think so themselves. It forces me to think of a reasoning behind why the character is so evil. Why would they do these things? It's not just for the lulz, except for when it IS.

When creating the hero this is much more obvious because the villain is doing all these evil things and people are suffering. Of course the hero wants to stop the bad guy/girl/gorilla. For the villain it becomes much more complicated. The hero in many cases is only as good as their foe. This is why one of my favorite comic heroes is the Silver Surfer. The character is OK, but one of his main villains is Thanos. Thanos is my favorite comic villain of all time. He is intelligent and powerful. He is capable of accomplishing nearly anything except for the one thing he wants. He subconsciously sabotages his own efforts because deep down he knows that down the line his current actions will not lead him to where he wants to go. To me Thanos loves to play the game more than he enjoys the prize at the end. That's why he sabotages himself, so he can play the game all over again.

Take a look at the villain in any of your favorite works of fiction and ask yourself "Why?" The simple answers are money, revenge, or power, things any reader can understand. The more complex the reason, the more interesting a villain becomes. It's difficult to create a reason that doesn't boil down to one word, but you can start there then expand it to give your villain extra flair. The one thing that angers me more than anything in any fictional story is a villain that has no motivation to be bad. They are evil just because they are evil. There is no reason behind it and the villain can't even justify it themselves. It's not realistic at all. Those type of stories lose me pretty quickly and make me want to throw the book at the author's face.

History

Now that you know the why it's time to think about the why behind the why. I think I just broke my brain. What I mean is the history behind why the villain acts the way they do. What in their back story causes them to react that way? A horde of alien insects is invading earth to take all of our resources and exterminate any life on this planet. This may be how it has always been for them. They don't feel any empathy for us any more than we do for a moth that flew into our house. Going even deeper, these insects may feel the need to expand and take over planets to ensure the survival of their species. Their original home planet exploded like Krypton. Now they have super ant powers. Our only hope is Ant-Man.

This gives insight on how the villain thinks. It is hard to know where your character is going until you know where they have been. Walking a mile in their shoes will help you to understand the character and makes it that much easier to write. The best predictor of future behavior is always past behavior. History repeats itself over and over. If your villain has gotten a positive result in the past by taking a particular course of action then they are likely to repeat it. I know this entire paragraph is filled with cliches, but these are cliche because they are so effing true.

Today

One of the things I see many times that really irks me is a villain stand idly by while the hero deconstructs their plans. It's like once the villain's plan is set, they are then incapable of making adjustments. While the hero is running about in the world, the villain is doing stuff too. Maybe they are changing their plan to account for the hero, or maybe they are trying to figure out how best to cook Smurfs. They shouldn't be statues waiting for the hero to come bring them to justice. Even when they are off camera the villain is living their life as well. Time doesn't stop for any of your characters because they are not the focus of the current chapter. It might not be vital to what I am currently writing, but I like to think of these things. It helps give me ideas of how the villain and other minor characters may impact the story as it moves forward. It turns my manuscript into a living breathing beast that is quite possible of setting itself on fire, like Godzilla. In this way I wrestle with Godzilla every day.

Night Reads

I am super excited about tonight's Night Reads episode. Technically it is the 2nd episode, but this is the first one I have been promoting beforehand. I'm also helping to promote another author's work which makes it extra tasty. If you can't make the live show on Periscope, it will be up for 24 hours on Periscope and later an edited version will be up on YouTube. All the details can be found here: http://brianbasham.blogspot.com/p/night-reads.html

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Allegiant

Rated PG-13 / 2 hr 1 min / Action - Adventure - Mystery

What is it about?

The evil of the Erudite dictatorship has been defeated. Now time to usher in the new dictator... Miss Piggy. Of course the new head honcho is making all of the same mistakes all over again, so Tris and Four leave. That's what heroes do when a new bad guy shows up! Outside the wall they find a wasteland where the rain is a rusty red color. It's creepy, but they push on. They then find the people responsible for Chicago's current state. The fiend who set up the factions and let them fight each other, Gonzo. He wants Tris to join him in his fight for existential chemical imbalance or something equally convoluted.

You will like it if...

You liked the first two Divergent series films. What can I say? The third book in the series was a train wreck and this film is no different. They didn't try to follow the book too closely and as a result made it even worse. Don't worry, they still hit a lot of the major plot points, but how they get there is very different. Allegiant relies heavily on flashy CGI special effects to cover for its inadequacies. In some scenes the special effects look almost comically bad. The film also suffers from many of the same problems the previous films do. The side characters in the film have the best actors (Jeff Daniels, Naomi Watts, and Miles Teller), but unfortunately in minor roles. The two lead characters are just awful to the point I wish they would kill off Tris and Four to continue the story without them. Fans of the first two films should enjoy the mild action and flashy special effects in this new installment. Fans of the books might not. For everyone else I would wait for it to come out on Redbox/Digital/Netflix. There isn't anything special about Allegiant that makes it worth the price of a ticket if you're not already a fan.

Next Week

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - There is no vote or other choice. You must comply to the demands of the next week I will be reviewing this film. WRA.

Upcoming to DVD on March 8

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Murder Was The Case

Imagine a crime scene. Blood stains on the carpet. Bullet holes in the walls. Empty shell casings litter the floor. The fingerprints on the PEZ Gun. The victim's body with it's stuffing spread across the room. The carnage of a murdered Care Bear.

Yes this week I want to discuss murder in fiction. Not just death or war, but murder. It can be the ultimate betrayal, a random occurrence, or a tragic accident. It's as romantic or dispassionate as you wish to make it. This blog post isn't about the why of things, but more about the what and where. What are the police going to see? What So let's toss the Legos out across the living room floor and build a murder scene!

The Murder Weapon

No murder scene is complete without a murder weapon even though it might not be at the actual crime scene. The weapon determines the look of the scene. Knives, swords, rapiers, katanas and other bladed weapons mean blood. Glorious blood. Short blades mean there is some blow back. Blood on the killer or their clothing. A long precise blade like a katana would splatter blood across the wall in a line consistent with the path of the blade swipe. A strong sword edge like a bastard sword would have characteristics of a blunt force weapon like a hammer or the base of a Belly Dancing Contest Participant Trophy.

Other than blood, what else could be left behind on the weapon? What kind of marks would it leave behind? Rope marks on a neck with bruising, fibers, fingerprints, smudges of DNA (saliva, skin, boogies). Is the weapon easily hidden? Most murderers will try to hide or destroy the weapon. Burnt fragments might be found in the fireplace or it could have been dumped in a nearby river.

There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to a murder scene in regards to the weapon used. Murder weapons are as numerous as your imagination can conjure. Smoking guns, blades, poison,  and so on. I used a stuffed unicorn doll as a weapon in one of my stories. One of the things I always ask is, "how does it effect the crime scene?" Does the victim fall spurting blood? Do they stumble around knocking things over? Do they put up a fight?

The Crime Scene

The scene of the crime tells a story to those who are looking for one. Sometimes the story is that someone tried to clean up their mess after the fact. They never seem to do good enough of a job when needed by the writer. While there may always be clues in the crime scene, they are not always obvious. What are the Police going to see there? A hole in the wall may lead to a bullet. Chips in the plaster could be from a sword or another blunt object.

There are many other stories that the scene can tell. The books on the shelf gives background on the kind of person who lives there, what their interests are. The pictures on the wall shows what their family looks like. Which ones are important to the story you are trying to tell? A broken lock on the front door could be from the killer breaking in or perhaps a jealous lover? How can you tell the difference? Was one wearing a tutu? Perhaps they are one in the same person. Do they leave boot prints on the tiled floor or dirt stains on the carpet? How do the heroes find the villain that did this crime?

A Murder

I wrote this blog post thinking about writing a murder/mystery story from from the perspective of someone who wasn't there to witness the crime. It is a mystery that the reader can try to unravel along with the characters in the story. An enigma, a mystery, something yet to be revealed. Perhaps they were there to witness it all, but are revisiting the scene. While the crime scene may tell a story, it leads to other questions and story yet to be revealed. How will the characters use these details and evidence? For vengeance? For justice? That is for the author to show. I only share with you some of the things I think about and consider before introducing a murder scene.

Friday, March 11, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane

Rated PG-13 / 1 hr 43 min / Drama - Mystery - SciFi

What is it about?

Michelle is having marital problems. She tried to marry a Care Bear after watching Ted 2, but found that it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. The Care Bear just wasn't cool and wouldn't smoke from the bong with her. She panics and runs off. She gets hit by a truck and rolls over several times. When she wakes up Samuel L. Jackson has her chained up next to a wall next to Christina Ricci from Black Snake Moan. This time John Goodman is there wearing a stained white T-shirt a few sizes too small while putting his pinkie in his belly button. She panics and tries to escape, but there is something horrifying outside. Something that stops her in her tracks. It can only be 1 thing, Godzilla diapers.

You will like it if...

You like claustrophobic thrillers with insane characters. I absolutely love thriller movies with twisty turny plots that have you on the edge of your seat. This one starts off slow, but gives you bits and pieces as it goes to keep you on edge wondering what will be next. The tension is constant because you don't know what John Goodman's character is going to do next. Even though he takes two steps and is out of breath. John really needs to go on a diet and work out some. I worry for his health. The cast is so small that there aren't any real supporting roles. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman both give stellar performances. Cloverfield Lane ends up being a slow burn thriller that I felt was just as good as the previews made it look. If you are interested based off the preview and like slow burn thrillers this is worth going to see. If not then maybe wait for it on Redbox/Netflix/digital.

Next Week

Allegiant, Midnight Special, or whichever film you vote for. Vote early, vote often, vote in the comments or Godzilla will pick the movie! As always the movie selection is subject to change based on what is showing here in theaters.

Upcoming to DVD on March 8

  • The Big Short
  • Sisters - Tina Fey fans should like this one. Fun comedy, but not a must see.
  • Carol - I want to see this, but haven't yet!
  • Brooklyn - I want to see this, but haven't yet!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Night Reads

Night Reads is officially open for submissions! Some of you who have been following me on Twitter might have heard about this project that I am working on. So far I have done 1 test run and am preparing to do another in the near future. This super secret project has been in the works for a few months now. I'm hoping to make it a semi-weekly ritual to summon an elder dragon's spirit that will haunt the people who cancelled Firefly.

The idea behind Night Reads is for me to perform a live reading on Periscope. Periscope is a live video broadcasting app for Android of iOS. You can check it out here: https://www.periscope.tv/ For this to be successful I am going to need content. I will occasionally read my own work, but most of the time I want to read yours. The purpose of this is to promote writers and help readers find the new, strange, and wonderful worlds those writers have created. I hope this will also give fans of the works being read a chance to connect and enjoy the selection all over again, and go SQUEEEEEEE!

If you are interested in signing up this is going to be set up on a first come first serve basis. Readings will be scheduled out 1 month in advance. This will give me a chance to take a week off here and there if I get too busy. I don't want to have to cancel last minute on anyone. The live readings will be on Saturday or Sunday nights at 9 or 10 PM EST. The video will be posted on YouTube within a week of the broadcast. I hope to reduce that down to a day or two. Suggestions are always welcome. The process is still new, so if I mess something up, I will try to do better next time! <3

Submission Guidelines

These are not set in stone yet and they may change over time. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I recommend including all of these things within your submissions. If you leave out a required field then I will delete the submission. Anything not labeled as required below is optional.
  • Author name / Pen name (required)
  • Title of the work (required)
  • Genre (required) - example: Romance, SciFi, Fantasy, etc.
  • Audience (required) - example: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Adult, etc.
  • Purchase link (required)
  • Copy of the cover graphic or picture of the book - This will be resized to about 400 pixels in height (required)
  • Author Headshot - This will be resized to about 400 pixels in height
  • Your website and/or the website for the book
  • 500 (or less) word summary
  • Author Bio
  • Link to your favorite 1-3 social media profiles (at least 1 required)
  • Reading selection(s) - A selection of 2500 to 6000 words in length from your work. I don't want your entire manuscript, just the portion you want me to read. This can be broken up into 2-3 selections from the same work if you like. Please include where each selection comes from using page number or chapter number to help everyone get a sense of where we are. If the selection requires some explanation then it may be better to choose another selection. Please submit submissions in .pdf or .doc file formats. I'm not going to try to decipher formats that are difficult to read. (required
All submissions can be sent by email to nrsubmissions@gmail.com. Please put "Submission:" and your work's title in the Subject line of your email.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Zootopia

Rated PG / 1 hr 48 min / Action - Adventure

What is it about?

Judy Hopps is a rabbit on a mission. She wants to be the Easter Bunny, but she has been told all her life that the sky is purple. She knows this is a lie. The only place she can escape the oppressive cult carrot farm of her parents is Zootopia. The magical city of everything is going to be alright because Tony The Tiger is in charge and he's going to make it GRRREAT again! Judy joins the police because Easter Bunnies are the law when they wear uniforms like Judge Dredd. She also decides she may want to be a judge someday and have her own TV show. Judy's first case is to find a missing otter. He is one of many animals that went missing on their way to a Katie Perry concert. If she doesn't find the missing otter then she will be forced to return to the carrot farm cult to live out her days playing Sudoku.

You will like it if...

You like cute animated Disney films. I want to say first off that this is not a comedy. I can count the amount of funny scenes on one hand. Zootopia does tick off almost all the boxes when it comes to your standard Disney film though. The computer animation looked as good as anything else out by Pixar or Dreamworks. All of the characters had a cute fluffy feel to them. The characters were well fleshed out and interesting. I was impressed that Jason Bateman's character had the same facial expressions and mannerisms when talking. You can tell from the start that a lot of work and care went into this film. One of the most impressive parts of the film was the story. It had the makings of an underdog story mixed with a mystery and a hint of thriller thrown in. There are also a lot of important social messages thrown in that can be over the top in spots, but I enjoyed the effort and didn't mind. Many of the concepts may fly over the heads of children, but the bright colors and fantastic animation will entertain them while the adults can enjoy the complexity of the story. I wasn't expecting to like this movie as much as I do, and so far it is my 2nd favorite film of 2016 behind Deadpool. If you have kids I would take them to see this, and if not you should give it a shot once it's available on digital/DVD/Redbox/Netflix.

Next Week

10 Cloverfield Lane, The Brothers Grimsby, or whichever film you vote for. Vote early, vote often, vote in the comments or Godzilla will pick the movie! As always the movie selection is subject to change based on what is showing here in theaters.

Upcoming to DVD on March 8

  • In The Heart Of The Sea
  • The Peanuts Movie - Good Grief!
  • Victor Frankenstein - Charles Xavier and Harry Potter team up!