Monday, January 28, 2013

Dinner and Balloon Animals

I decided to hold off for a couple of days since there wasn't much to talk about the day after my free download promo. The total number of downloads for A Very Slagel Christmas was 43. I'll have to ask Jackie how many copies of The Nerdfly were downloaded that day.

In other news, I'm on to Chapter 4 in my next book and I wrote a five-page scene for my college friend's movie. No word back on that yet. I also got an e-mail from someone at Robert Morris University saying that my name was in the credits for a documentary that one of my professors released this week. If it's the documentary I'm thinking of, then I helped to film some of the interviews back when I was a sophomore. It's an Italian piece called La mia Strada.

My parents and I went to dinner at a restaurant called Atria's last night. It's supposed to be sort of a fancy place, but for whatever reason, there was a woman wheeling around a cart full of balloons in our section. She kept stopping to make balloon animals for customers and give them business cards. I would have taken a picture of her on my phone, except it was way too dark in the restaurant for that to work.

That's all the news I have for now. It should be Open Mic Night at Duke's tonight, so I'll be going out in an hour. In the meantime, I've always got more writing to do.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Downloads and a Birthday

Well, the free download day is in full swing. I'm up to 36 downloads for A Very Slagel Christmas so far. I posted an ad for it on Jackie's "Beginnings Series" page on Facebook the other day, and it's gotten a few likes and comments (including a few from people who say they've downloaded the book). All in all, it looks like this promo really is getting people's attention.

It was also my mother's birthday today. We didn't get to do much since it snowed all day, plus I had to go to work. We still made time for ice cream cake and presents though. I also got the movie Big Trouble from Netflix today, which my mother and I watched together.

We've seen it before. It's based on a novel by Dave Barry, a favorite of both of ours, so we figured tonight was a goof time to watch it. I'll talk more about the movie in another entry.

Finally, I finished Chapter 3 of my next book this evening. I'm not 100% thrilled with how one of the scenes in it turned out, but I want to keep moving while I'm on this writing kick. That scene will be one of many things for me to stew over when the editing phase for this book comes around.

That's all for tonight. I'll be back with the final download count tomorrow. Adios!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Writing in the Dungeon

As of today, I'm on to Chapter 3 in my next book. That's not much news for such a long break in between blog entries, but that's pretty much all I have to tell. My life gets severely uneventful whenever I'm writing, because I'll literally spend entire days typing on the computer if I can help it. Today was the first day this week that I even left the house.

I may have found an ideal writing place in the house this time. My dad has a game room with a bar set up in the basement, and except in the evenings, no one else ever goes in there.

I usually have the lights turned off to set the mood when I write there. My parents call it the Dungeon on those days.

Well, so far I've set a good pace for this book. Two chapters in one week is pretty good, considering how long it normally takes me to get that much work done. Seriously, the last few chapters in Part 1 of the series took me almost a month apiece to "crank out." I might have the first draft of this installment done in six months if I can keep up this momentum.

Back to the Dungeon in the meantime.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New "Nerdfly" Cover

Check it out! I designed a new cover for my friend Jackie's book The Nerdfly a little while ago, and now it's up on Kindle:

This book and I go a long way back. I first met Jackie when she came to my school and read an early draft of The Nerdfly to my sixth grade class. I loved it, and when I finally got a paperback copy, I read it on a weekly basis. I even got Jackie to autograph it, since I'd become a member of her local writers group by then.

Original cover

She also gave me a poster of the cover from one of her book-signings. In exchange, I made a clay replica of the titular Nerdfly for a later book-signing and drew some illustrations for the book's website.

So, it looks like I've come full-circle with The Nerdfly. The original cover is still available on Amazon in paperback, but e-books seem to sell a lot faster these days. Maybe this will be what really gets my name out there. :)

And of course, I highly recommend reading both The Nerdfly and its predecessor, The Peacekeeper. They're technically for young adults, but I think the humor is sharp and satirical enough that older readers can appreciate it quite a bit too. Plus, if you're a zombie fan, you'll probably really crack up at the third act in The Nerdfly.

Monday, January 14, 2013

New Writing and Old Reading

Well, I started writing Part 2 of my sci-fi fantasy series yesterday. The outline still needs a bit of work, but I think the first half (or at least the first third) of it is solid enough that I can start the actual story and see how things go from there. I didn't have a full outline prepared when I started Part 1 in the series, and I think the end result came out pretty smoothly. My goal is to have the first chapter done in a week, which was about how long it took me to write the average chapter in Part 1.

In the meantime, I've also started reading The Hobbit again. It's interesting, because I'd read the book four times prior to the movie's release, and yet when I saw the movie, there were a lot of things in it that I didn't remember at all from the source material. I'm not just talking about the stuff with Radaghast and the White Council, which definitely wasn't in the book; I'm talking about things like the Necromancer, the orc who killed Thorin's grandfather, and the rock giants that were fighting on the Misty Mountains. Now that I'm reading the book again, I realize that all of those things are mentioned very briefly, almost in passing, so they probably didn't fully register when I was reading about them before.

How I managed to miss all of those things four times, I can't say. Maybe I'm just used to Tolkien's slower and more atmospheric writing style in The Lord of the Rings.

I also didn't realize while watching the movie just how closely it follows the book. The first ten minutes are almost a perfect adaptation of the first chapter, right down to the way the dwarves are introduced and the songs that they sing at dinner. I haven't gotten to the chapter "Riddles in the Dark" yet, but from what I remember, the scene with Gollum in the movie seemed to follow the source material pretty closely as well. I'd say that the movie only covers the events in Chapters 1-6, so it'll be interesting to see if my perception changes while reading from Chapter 7 to the end.

The Golden Globes were on last night too. I usually don't like watching award shows, but my mother had it on, so I overheard a few of the winners. Daniel Day-Lewis absolutely deserved winning Best Actor for Lincoln, and I'm very glad that Adele's "Skyfall" won for Best Song. If I didn't know better, I would have sworn that the song was from a 1970's James Bond film -- very classy.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A New York Heartbeat

It's been a busy last couple of days. I'm roughly 2/3 of the way through my next book outline, my college friend and I are working out ways to shorten the sequence that I'm writing for his screenplay, and I've been making some adjustments to my Amazon and Kindle profiles. I've also been going to karaoke/open mic night nearly every night this week. If anyone in my social circle is reading this, you may discover an online video in the near future of me dancing backup while a friend of mine sings "Genie In A Bottle."

If you're interested, here's the IMDb page for a movie called A New York Heartbeat. I worked on the art department when it was being filmed back in 2010, and I actually have a production credit on the website. Exciting stuff!

That's all for right now. I'm scheduled to work at 3:00 AM tomorrow, so this won't be a karaoke night. In the meantime, it's back to my book outline. Adios!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Feedback for Thought

Jackie took a picture of me at karaoke last night and uploaded it onto my Facebook timeline:

Not the most flattering image of me, though in my defense, I was singing "Let's Get It On" at the time. It takes a bit of strain to belt out that tune. You wouldn't think it's a popular song to dance to, but a lot of people got up and started jamming to it for some reason. They weren't really slow-dancing either; it was like they were all doing fast dances, except in slow-motion. Glorious little moments like that are the reason why I experiment with my song choices. You never know when you'll pick that one that the crowd is just really in the mood for. The only trick after that is to sing it right.

Today was a busy writing day. I finished outlining a subplot for my college friend's screenplay and e-mailed it to him for some initial thoughts. I also started outlining the sequel to my sci-fi/fantasy book. A lot of ideas have been piling up in my head over the past few years, and the best way I can think to sort them out is by writing a chapter-by-chapter summary of the story. Hopefully it will come out to roughly the same length as the first book's outline.

Lastly, I got my first customer review on Amazon: 4 out of 5 stars for Deer Lake. Here's the review itself:

"I loved the story, the characters were believable and fun. Not really a very scary story unless you are afraid of wild animals and being in the woods :)
I did find the story tended to drag a little at times. It could also use a little more editing." - ferri

I'm taking it with a grain of salt. What else can you do but learn from feedback like this and try to do better next time? I've already probably spent twice as much time editing my sci-fi/fantasy book as I did editing Deer Lake. I'm also glad that my work is finally starting get some real attention on Amazon. In addition to getting a review, Deer Lake is also showing up on the site's recommendation e-mails.

This could be the beginning of a beautiful fanbase.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Jack Reacher

Okay, quick thoughts on Jack Reacher.

This isn't the kind of movie that I'd typically go to see (Oh look, Tom Cruise is running around and beating people up AGAIN), but I was interning at the studio where this movie was being filmed back in 2011 and I actually got to read an early draft of the script. Basically, I just wanted to see how much or how little was changed in the final edit. Not too much, it turns out.

The only glaring differences I noticed were that we see the bad guy's face in the opening scene as he commits his crime so we know that the chief suspect isn't guilty (it's left a mystery at first in the draft I read), the scene where the suspect gets knocked out by fellow inmates is shown via flashback after we see him in a coma (the scenes were in chronological order originally), and there's a huge car chase about 2/3 of the way into the movie. I don't really remember that from the earlier script, but that may be because screenplays don't give a lot of description to action scenes. There was probably a line that said, "JACK REACHER gets involved in a fast-paced car chase" and I missed it while reading.

Another thing that really stood out to me was Alexia Fast's portrayal in the role of Sandy. None of her scenes were changed between the two drafts, but when I read the script on its own, I pictured her character as kind of a ditz and didn't really care about her. Fast's performance, however, lent a lot of personality and vulnerability to the role and made Sandy very likeable. It really shows you just how much an actor can inject life into a character. I always kind of assumed that the screenwriter was in charge of all that. So I learned something from this movie.

The only problem I had, without giving too much away, was that one of the characters turns out to be working for a different side than they initially appear to be, and I don't think either version of the story gave a clear reason why that person became a double agent. It might be explained better in the novel One Shot which this film is adapted from, but I'll have to look into that.

Tom Cruise is pretty good in the film. He's much more abrasive and imposing than I'm used to seeing him, and that set this apart from most of his other action roles. And for what it's worth, he does do a good job of running around and beating people up. I also got a kick out of seeing Robert Duvall play an elderly shooting range owner and lend Tom some backup in the final showdown. Forty years after being in The Godfather, he finally got to fire a gun at someone.

Overall, I give Jack Reacher a "B." Check it out if you're looking for an action movie with some wit.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Have a Sparkly Day

I had an interesting morning at work today. One of my supervisors led me to the Christmas section of the store, unveiled a giant kiddie pool full of glitter, and told me to swim around in it for three hours. In other words, I was asked to repack all of the "Christmas Pick" items.

Christmas Picks are very glittery. They're basically small decorations shaped like various holiday flowers and leaves, and coated with several layers of glitter that I swear are applied with nothing but static electricity. As soon as you open a box of these things, you get blasted in the face with a cloud of sparkles -- which then attach themselves to you via static electricity. Even if the Picks are already on the shelves, seemingly cleaned of all the loose glitter, and you just move one aside slightly, you'll wind up covered head-to-toe with the stuff. It's inescapable.

We had an entire aisle of Picks left over from Christmas (probably because the customers don't like glitter either) and they all had to come down today. Thus, I spent the majority of my shift looking like a walking, human-shaped disco ball. I forced myself to think negative thoughts all morning for fear that thinking happy thoughts would cause me to float off the ground like Peter Pan and be skewered by one of the ceiling fans. I also ran to my car as quickly as possible after work for fear that Bella Swan might see me sparkling in the sunlight and try to date me.

And here's a helpful tip to anyone who might end up repacking glittery sale items themselves some day: if you come across a pine cone that broke off of one of the decorations, do not pick it up. Pine cones from Christmas decorations are like glitter hand grenades. They store massive clumps of the stuff inside all of their crevasses, and as soon as you pick one up, it will deposit those clumps all over you in a shiny, colorful explosion.

It didn't end after I finished repacking the Picks either, because then there were piles and piles of glitter left on the shelves. I had to sweep it all together and dump it into a garbage bag, which then sprung a leak, and I had to leave a long trail of it lying on the floor in that aisle while we had our daily sales meeting. I'm pretty sure I performed other duties after cleaning up the mess, but I'm not certain since my glass lenses were coated with glitter.

I also saw the movie Jack Reacher today. That film has no glitter in it. Therefore, I give it an "A+."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Starting the New Year

Happy New Year, folks! I managed to stay up until midnight last night and go to work at 5:00 AM this morning. It's nothing I haven't done before, but I was very glad to be assigned the ribbon and paint aisles at Michaels today. It's much easier to stay awake when you're doing a task that you enjoy.

We also made these today:

The idea is to put our names on them and hang them up by the registers. We had to make them today because the gingerbread people we made a few months ago are no longer in season.

I like having a camera on my phone now. :)

The icing on the cake was that we had virtually no customers this morning. My guess is that no one knows we're open on New Years, so they didn't even bother coming. I think I saw one guy wander in and out, and that was it. A possible sign of better things to come this year? Why not!

In other news, I e-mailed a copy of my manuscript to one of my cousins on my father's side. She proofread one of her brothers' dissertations, so I figured she'd give an insightful critique. She also does a lot of traveling through work, so she'd probably like something long to read on the plane.

Last but not least, we visited my father's side of the family for New Year's dinner tonight. I asked one of my uncles if his company has any plans to hire in the near future, but he said that they generally don't like to hire at all. He'll look into it anyway.

In the meantime, I've got more Kindle checks to look forward to. I already sold a copy of A Very Slagel Christmas today. Now THAT'S a sign of better things to come!