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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thoughts about the Demise of Originality in Entertainment--Thank Marvel Comics for Sparking This

Okay, apparently I am finding things to rant about lately more so than usual. I'm typically a very laid back, I-don't-get-my-knickers-in-a-twist kind of person, but occasionally I need to point out a few things.

Recently, Marvel announced that someone new was going to be wielding Thor’s hammer in the comics. In a nutshell, the new “Thor” is going to be a woman. Here's an article about it:

As much as I always want to see new superheroines in the comic book market, this touched a nerve for me. First, if Marvel wanted to have a new female superhero that is like Thor, why not use one of the Norse goddesses to create a new, interesting focal character for the Marvel Universe rather than just lazily taking an already established franchise and slapping a different gender onto it? Heck, the Thor comics and movies established that the goddess Sif is as strong, stubborn, and skillful in combat as Thor, and she has personality to boot. And Thor himself would still tie in to the story; so why not just make Sif her own superheroine? Or they could create a completely new superheroine from any of the dozens of other Norse goddesses: Freyja (goddess of battle, also a character in the Marvel universe), Hlin (goddess of protection), Vor (goddess of wisdom)…there’s plenty to choose from if you want a “Thor-like” superheroine who isn’t actually assuming the role of Thor.

But I’m getting off track. What got me irked isn’t some feminist agenda—this isn’t the first time Marvel or DC have taken established male superheroes and passed along the role to a new female counterpart—it’s that rather than taking the effort to create an original superheroine, they instead ripped the packaging off another character and slapped it on a woman in order to appeal to the cosplay audience (apparently, it’s popular for women at sci-fi conventions to cosplay as their own version of Thor). Hey, Thor’s popular, so that instantly guarantees the female Thor will be too, right?

Which segues into my broader question: why has the entertainment industry become so cowardly?

I apply this to almost every facet of the entertainment industry. Every movie nowadays is based on either a pre-existing franchise—whether it’s a book series, television show, a movie reboot, or it plagiarizes a previous movie so grossly you can barely call it its own idea—I can’t think of the last time a (GOOD) original screenplay came to theaters. Looking at what is currently in movie theaters, the few movies that look like original screenplays have gotten such atrocious ratings and poor audience turnout that it shows that Hollywood isn’t even trying with originality anymore.

There are still hundreds of great stories out there to be turned into excellent, one-of-a-kind films. Why is the entertainment industry picking the absolute worst ones to put on screen? It’s almost like they want audience to think that originality is dead, and good material can only be harvested from what came decades before.

Television shows sometimes produce some good original programming, but it’s few and far between as well. And sadly, the book publishing industry suffers from this cowardice too. How many “Hunger Games,” “Twlight,” “Harry Potter” and “Divergent” rip-offs have there been since the boom of these books’ popularity? Why aren’t bigger strides being made to find the next great never-before-seen storyline?

So Entertainment Industry: Stop. Being. Lazy.

Take risks. I know it’s just business—you want to make money and you know what audiences respond to. But you’re also not giving them much to choose from. You’re giving us rehashes of the same thing so of course we’re going to go see them because everything else you’re throwing at us is half-baked.

None of those pre-existing franchises would even be here if their creators hadn’t pursued their own visions—not what numbers and ratings dictated—and brought them into existence. If you put as much time and dedication into originality as you do into some of these “based-on” franchises, you could produce some truly era-defining work.

How will people fifty years from now remember our time? What memorable movie, book, or media will be what symbolizes our social, emotional, and personal outlook on life? (Dear God, do not have Twilight or Shades of Gray be the only phenomenons that “represent” the early 2000s)

Create. Discover. Defy the odds. And give original characters a chance rather than making them doppelgangers of already well known characters. Who knows, you might just create a brand new icon for a generation who can be truly super.

Thank you.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Impromptu Interview Time!

I had an impromptu interview about "The Scholar and the Sphinx" last Friday with Tony Birch, who read my book thanks (big, big thanks) to Dr. Andrea Birch who is the Dean of Fine Arts & Humanities at Brenau University. It was unrehearsed so again I look like a dork, but what else is new . It's the last video at this page, so enjoy and check out the other videos related to education. Thank you to Tony for the interview, such a nice guy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Thoughts about the Price of Art

I feel a need to talk (o.k., rant) about something that has been a issue for both myself and my husband, as is an issue with anyone who pursues an artistic/creative endeavor.

Getting a foot into one's chosen field is hard enough. Art is subjective, so artists--whether it be writing, painting, filming, video editing, music composing, dancing, etc.--are always at the whims and choices of others in order for us to get our work/skill noticed and exposed to the public.

Self-publishing has grown in popularity due to this fact, and some have found success with it because they know how to market themselves and they have the expendable income to produce their own work. I congratulate you who have found this route profitable and satisfying.

But then there are those still living paycheck to paycheck, who have no expendable income to spend on massive marketing campaigns or even if we did get our foot in the door and are being noticed by the community, we get little to no assistance in getting our work promoted so we are easily ignored or not taken seriously.

Now before you believe that this is a "whine and cheese" fest, it is not. I am happy with the publisher I have, and understanding that it is small and independent I don't expect it to have the resources to market its books like Random House or Tor Books can. And honestly there is something very nice about having say and some control over how my book is marketed and presented. I thank my publisher for that. I have no complaints in that department, nor do my fellow authors who publish with them.

What this is about, is the general public belief that artists ask for way too much for their work, and therefore should be happy with receiving the bare minimum--and some people consider the bare minimum pricier than what they want to spend.

It's even worse when an artist and their client agree on a set amount at the start, and then gradually the client--whether because they discovered they couldn't get the funds that they hoped to gather, or figured they could use their budget more "wisely"--comes back and tries to argue down the price the artist agreed upon. Sometimes to less than half of the original quote. If the artist doesn't budge, the client might turn to a college student or a budding freelancer who doesn't know the value of their own work, and therefore will do the work super-cheap (and super-amateur. But hey, even amateur work gets the job done, right?).

I get that people are trying to save a buck where they can. I understand that people often view what artists do as "fun," a "hobby," or "self-gratifying." And I don't disparage college students or freelancers who need opportunities like the rest of us. I was once one, too.

But I can't count the number of times I have been to an art fair, an independent movie screening, or some other public fine arts events where I heard someone look at a piece of art and mutter, "Pfft, I could do that."

That. Is. Bull. If you could do that, I would slap a canvas and set of paints and brushes in front of you right there and then, and demand you pump out an exact replica of what you're looking at. And, if you can, tell me afterwards that what the artist is asking for that piece of art isn't completely justified by the time, effort, and dedication they put into it.

Just like any other job, art takes time, skill, hard work, passion, and perseverance. Art is also deceptive; artists can make something that looks easy and pretty but it cost blood, sweat, tears, and hours upon hours that could have been used for sleep or relaxing. Art makes the world a more beautiful, colorful place; it has the power to unite and create, to dispel sadness and loneliness, to educate as well as entertain. It is what makes humankind more than just animal; it is the means by which we express our hearts and souls.

So, all I ask is you understand the value of art, in all its forms. The next time you scoff at the price of a book, a painting, or a sculpture, really think about what work went into it--how artists spends months to years of their lives creating something for your enjoyment, or improving upon something that perhaps you do for a living. Support your artists, your writers, your world-beautifiers. If you're willing to pay $10 for a movie ticket, you can pay the little extra so that artists can keep doing the work that they do.

Thank you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Update about the Release of "The Scholar and the Sphinx" Book Two

I'm a little bummed...I just found out that due to unforeseen circumstances, the release of my second book has been pushed back a few months, but it should still be out in time for the holidays. When it becomes available for preorder, you should still be able to receive it to give as a Christmas gift...So for anyone who still hasn't read The Scholar, the Sphinx and the Shades of Nyx, now's the time to get your copy so you're all up to speed when Book Two comes out!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Feature on Author T. Michelle Nelson's Blog

T. Michelle Nelson, the author of the Lily Drake book series, was kind enough to give a shout-out to The Scholar and the Sphinx on her blog today. She is a fellow YA writer and her series looks very cool. Check it out here:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Georgia Author of the Year Awards and Sci Fi Summer Con

So, just recently had a couple events this month...on June 7 were the Georgia Author of the Year Awards in Kennesaw, for which "The Shades of Nyx" (this is how I'll shorten the title now, since the second book in the series will be out in September) was nominated for the Young Adult category. Did not win, unfortunately, but congrats to Terra Elan McVoy for winning with her novel "Criminal."

It was a good night, since I finally got to meet fellow KRP author Victoria Wilcox, who is absolutely lovely in every way and was the winner of Best First Novel. I also got to see Martha Ezzard again, as she spoke at Brenau University back in March about her book "Second Bud," which won Best Memoir.

This past weekend was Sci Fi Summer Con at the Wyndham Galleria in Atlanta. Turnout was sadly disappointing--only 35 attendees (there were actually more people working the conference than those who were guests). But I had some rocking table "neighbors," including J.K. Barber (Jay and Katie who self-publish as one name), Caralyn and Jeff Tucker of Mystic Reflections, and Amy and Lisa who created awesome props for Elf and Goblin Treasures. It was more about making good connections and information-sharing than selling, but I did sell some books and traded one.

Also, it's nice to spend a weekend at a nice hotel, even if Dave and I crashed as soon as we hit the bed after the con...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Best Kids Books Gives a Lovely Review

The Best Kids Books blog, with reviews by both young students and teachers from Gladstone Primary School in New Zealand, gave "TSSSN" a sweet review today. I encourage you to follow them on Facebook or Twitter, as they have some really unique picks for children's and young adult books that would be great suggestions for school reading: Thank you to Enchante Chang and Keying for the review: