Three Things

April 1, 2014

1. Last weekend was the final weekend at Sherwood Forest Faire, where I play François le Foutre, the “most fearsome fruit in all of France.” As the character, I’ve talked about my “gay pirate romance novel” for two years. This year I finally wrote and published it. Altogether, 339 books sold this season, not including the thirty-odd books that were given out as rewards for the Indiegogo campaign.

François will be re-appearing this fall at the Texas Renaissance Festival, in a brand new period-appropriate costume made (at least partially) of bubble-gum pink velvet. With the larger crowds, my goal is to sell 650 books so I can break the 1,000 barrier by the end of the year. That money would then get used to bankroll the sequel, whose title is still being brainstormed. (Leading contendors so far are “Yank the Plank”, “The Rear Gunner of Gaios” and “Look at the Size of that Cockboat”.)

2. Kind of humbling to think about how big some of the things I’m participating in are starting to get. Found Footage 3D is now 7 weeks away from production, and thanks to the right resources and a great team, our fan base is growing rapidly. The Kristen Stewart April Fool’s prank was seen by 2,000 people in just a few hours. That’s something I (at least partially) wrote, that’s been seen by thousands of people. Hundreds of people have read my book (far more than the 300-odd copies I’ve sold, as it’s been passed around the campgrounds). A screenplay I co-wrote has gathered 2.5 million in funding, en route to $5 million. When you actually stop to think about how significant that actually is, influencing something that thousands, if not millions of people will enjoy—and getting paid for it—it’s a pretty awesome feeling.

3. Want to give a shout out to Evelyn Talmadge of Goalsmiths. Over the last few years I’ve gone to see her a couple of times for a few sessions, and was reminded this week of the long-term benefits of the work she does. One of the thing she helped me with was an addiction I was dealing with, and this week I used the same tools to manage a diet change that I’ve been struggling with—and just like that, I cured myself. If you’ve got an addiction, trauma, or anything else you’ve been wrestling with consciously that would be better altered at the subconscious level, you should talk to her.

Owen Egerton on Writing, SCOTUS on Selling Used Books, Valuing Your Script, Odd Punctuation – Random Things for this Week

December 24, 2012

A few random things for this week:

  • Advice for writers. Owen Egerton, Austin’s favorite author for a billion years running and someone I interviewed two years ago, recently published a list of 30 pieces of advice for writers.  My favorites are 12, 14, and 21.
  • Could selling used books become illegal? Though the title is sensationalist, this is a well-crafted article about a student from Thailand who bought textbooks overseas (where they’re cheaper) and then sold them in the U.S. at below-market rates for profit. Wiley sued, claiming a copyright violation of sorts, and has thus far has won the suit to the tune of $600,000. The case is now before the Supreme Court, and whichever way they rule, the implications their decision could have on the publishing industry could be pretty staggering.
  • How much is your film script worth? Script mag put together an article on valuing your work as a writer breaking into the industry. Most of the beginning is pretty basic and self-explanatory, but once you get to the bottom it has some really interesting points about coming in as an “investor” or a co-producer.
  • Unusual Punctuation Marks. I think the interrobang, the percontation point, the exclamation comma, and the question comma should become standard usage. What do you think?

InkTip Loglines

August 13, 2012

My favorite loglines from this month’s issue of InkTip magazine:

  • Coal for Christmas (Family feature by Lois Wickstrom and Jean Lorrah) – A young boy fears his baby sister will die of pneumonia in their freezing home, so he tries to be bad enough to force Santa to bring him whole load of coal for Christmas.
  • Dead Again (1/2 hour comedy pilot by Agata Darlasi and Angelo Kyritsis) – An arrogant executive is cursed to die every day at 10:47 pm in ridiculous ways.
  • Military Disco (Comedy feature by Patrick Connelly) – Two privates try to get themselves kicked out of the Army by pretending they’re gay and starting a dance club, but their plan backfires when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed and the military leadership sees it as an opportunity to bolster recruitment.
  • Repatriation (Drama by Janelle Dessaint Kimura) – An American photographer in Tokyo is forced to leave her Japanese husband behind when world governments methodically join together to repatriate all citizens to their country of racial origin, creating an artificial “post racial” world. She risks everything to circumvent the new world order to raise her children in a diverse, secure location.
  • In Search of Cyndi (Romantic Comedy by Ben Espin) – On a frigid beach, two wayward teenagers discover a severed, frozen foot wearing a gold anklet with “Cyndi” engraved on it. The boys embark on a comical but heartfelt search to match this unusual “glass slipper” with its Cinderella. Happily ever after has never been so – awkward.
  • The Zamboni Driver (Comedy by Scott Teel) – Sick of watching losing sports stars earn outrageous salaries, a fed-up, underpaid NHL Zamboni driver requests a $5 million contract. He loses his job, but not before he becomes a media sensation, inspiration to the home team’s players, and hero to millions in the working class.
  • The Sleep Traveller (Sci-Fi feature by Faye Stergioula) – In an attempt to find out who ran him over, a cripple resorts to hypnosis. When the amateur hypnotist asks him to avoid the car, he does it – and wakes up able-bodied!
  • Charisma (Suspense feature by Sean Lisik, and not the same as the script by the same name I wrote several years ago) – Ninety-nine percent of the world’s serial killers are male. “Charisma,” displays the manipulative, seductive differences of the exception.
  • The Healing Gland (Suspense feature by George Gaio Mano) – An accident reveals that a man carries a cure for cancer in his body. Unfortunately, removing the cure from his body will kill him, and that is what everybody wants to do.

This, of course, doesn’t include the logline for Postville, which also happens to appear in this month’s issue. 🙂

Fifty Shades, Showing v. Telling, and Gay Characters – Random Things for this Week

July 30, 2012

A few random things for this week:

  • Clinical psychologist rips Fifty Shades a new one – This article, Fifty Shades of Grey Giving Bondage a Bad Name,” is an opinion piece written by a clinical psychologist and published in the Sydney Morning Herald. In a nutshell, the author, who in 2006 published what at the time was the largest empirical psychological study on people in the BDSM community, doesn’t have a lot of great things to say about the book. While I agree with her on most counts — that the sex is “boring, repetitive, and leads women to aspire to undesirable and frankly unattainable goals,” that “in BDSM terms, Grey is a lightweight,” and that “Fifty Shades is just another bodice ripper,” I disagree that it demonizes BDSM and the people who practice it. Although I haven’t read all three books (I’ve skimmed most of the first two), from what I’ve read, it’s the protagonist who thinks it’s terrible (or odd, or unusual) at first, not the author. The protagonist becomes a convert, at least to an extent.

    Of course, her argument that the book gives the (false) impression that all people who practice BDSM are psychologically disturbed is not without merit. As a writer, I’m inclined to defend the author, purely from a standpoint of a good story needing good conflict. If Christian Grey was emotionally stable, Fifty Shades couldn’t have sustained a trilogy — nor would it have galvanized a bidding war for the movie rights.

    Regardless, it’s an interesting article. Check it out.

  • 5 Ways to Know If You’re Showing or Telling – Although the section on “dialogue tags” contradicts itself, lots of good suggestions here for improving writing quality.
  • A few weeks ago I was involved in a Facebook discussion about how gay characters are portrayed on screen.

    Then on Sunday I attended a script reading and listened to a script by someone completely unconnected to the community above, who wrote a script where the main character was gay and one of the points of the script is that his gayness was “not the driving force of the movie.” Coincidence or alien plot? You decide.

In Defense of Daniel Tosh

July 23, 2012

Last week, the Internet was all abuzz about Daniel Tosh threatening a woman in the audience with rape. For those unfamiliar with the story, it goes something like this: girl goes to comedy club, where Daniel Tosh is performing; Daniel Tosh makes lots of rape jokes; girl shouts out that rape jokes are never funny; Tosh says, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now?”

Interestingly, much of the controversy about this story is whether or not rape jokes are funny. I’ve seen several posts about Sarah Silverman doing a rape joke “properly,” supposedly from a routine done roughly the same time as Tosh was doing his joke. But I’m not going to talk about that. Nor am I going to argue that this was the “right” or “appropriate” thing for him to say or do. But I am going to offer a look from his perspective.

First off, if you go to a Daniel Tosh show, you need to expect that you’ll be offended. It pretty much comes with the territory. Going to a Tosh show and complaining about any of the content would be like going to a porn convention and complaining about the objectification of women. In the victim’s account of the story, she says she didn’t know who he was, that she thought he was just “some yahoo who somehow got a gig going on after [Dane] Cook,” but even so, it’s a comedy show, and many comedians (Dane Cook included) dabble heavily in the offensive when it comes to their comedy.

This brings me to my second point: never heckle a comedian. One of the things every comedian learns is how to handle hecklers, and one of the best ways to do that is pretty simple: you humiliate them. Make them realize (in a way that’s entertaining for the rest of the audience) that you’re in charge of the show, that they’re not being funny, and that if they continue to shout out you’re just going to make them look like a complete idiot. If you don’t, the show gets out of control.

Many comedians have a standard bit that they use to deal with hecklers, but those don’t always fit — as probably would have been the case here. So looking at it from Tosh’s perspective, he’s on stage, he gets heckled, he’s gotta put his heckler down, and he’s gotta figure out how to do it on the fly, in front of a couple hundred people. So he says what he says.

To be sure, it was a pretty horrific thing to say, and I think everyone agrees on that, Tosh included. He’s since apologized via Twitter, and though his apology doesn’t come across as very … well … apologetic, I think if he had it to do over again he would come up with a different way to handle the situation. Because yes, rape jokes can be funny, but even he seems to realize that suggesting an audience member be gang-raped is over the line.

Teenage Ninja Turtles

March 22, 2012

Ever since the news broke that Michael Bay’s Ninja Turtles relaunch will be changing their backstory and consequently removing the word “Mutant” from their name, fans have been freaking the f*** out. To quote Michael Bay, “Take a breath and chill.”

Remember: Michael Bay’s allegiance isn’t to fans of the TMNT corpus. They’re going to go see the movie anyway. His job is to make a CGI-fest that everyone else will go see. And if TMNT co-creator Peter Laird is on board, it’ll probably be okay.

Is There an ePublishing “Bubble”?

March 12, 2012

Last week, Nathan Bransford wondered if there is an “ePublishing bubble.” In his post, he links back to an article in UK’s The Guardian which argues “yes,” based on Hyman Minsky’s Financial Instability Hypothesis.

Great idea. Unfortunately, he only gets to the second of seven linear steps before making an argument that’s tragically flawed:

Following the disturbance, prices in that sector start to rise. Initially, the increase is barely noticed. Usually, these higher prices reflect some underlying improvement in fundamentals. As the price increases gain momentum, more people start to notice. Speculation thrives.

On first inspection, epublishing doesn’t appear to fit the model here, as it’s clear that the prices of ebooks are falling drastically (in the week of Jan 1, 28% of the top 100 ebooks on Amazon were 99p or under, and 48% were under £2.99). But that’s because we’re looking at this the wrong way round – from the perspective of the consumer. The ebook explosion is coupled with the rise of the e-reader, and the profits there are in the hands of the manufacturers. There has also been a fast turn around in these new technologies from Kindle to Kindle Fire, from iPad to iPad 2; and a brand new market of consumers for these products has appeared from nowhere. The change to cheap ebooks and self-published ebooks is a “change in underlying fundamentals”.

Um. No. By this logic, you can manipulate any profit-making enterprise to fit your hypothesis. The iPhone is a bubble! Poker and Riverdance were both bubbles! Except these weren’t bubbles, these are trends – things whose popularity gradually expanded, and just as gradually receded to levels that were more sustainable in the long term. Yes, as with the Gold Rush, most of the profits are made by the people selling the products and services telling you “how to do it.” Just as most of the profits were made in poker, and in Riverdance. In all cases, though, the post-recession levels of participation were still much higher than they were before the expansion.

A “bubble,” by contrast, requires unsustainable overvaluation that will be corrected suddenly and massively (a “burst”). Like what happened in housing last decade, or with the dot-com before before that, or the stock market in the 1920s. In all of these cases consumers were paying the higher prices. When consumers are shelling out for concrete products that makes their lives easier, that’s the opposite of speculation; it’s commerce.

Many people are arguing that the next bubble will be in education. Although there is some dissent with that argument, I find that one much more likely to stick. But self-publishing, though it may reach a peak in popularity, will not collapse in the same way the housing market did. It will simply reach a healthy long-term equilibrium, where some people succeed and others fail.

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