Monday, July 28, 2014

Adventures at Comic-Con (Online)

No, we didn't go. We wanted to go, but as in years past, we just didn't quite make it. Next year, we tell ourselves. Next year, we'll go.

We'll get there. When the Cubs win the World Series. (Oh, now that's depressing.)

Comic-Con started out, once upon a time, as a comic book fan convention. Founded in 1970, the first three-day convention drew three hundred people. Today, it's so much more. With an estimated 130,000+ in attendance, the 2014 Comic-Con International had something for everyone: comic books, toys, games, a costume competition, an art show, portfolio reviews and movie screenings. They bring together comic book creators, sci-fi and fantasy authors and publishers, and TV and film producers, directors, writers and actors.  

And for those of us unable to attend, there's a live feed of information, a Comic-Con blog, and a multitude of videos of the various panels. Last night, Collin followed the live feed and we watched videos of some of the panels, like the Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man panels. He was proud of himself--he predicted the release dates of some of the movies on Marvel's Phase 3 and 4 schedules.

Guardians of the Galaxy won't be in theaters until Friday, but they already have a sequel on the schedule. Kudos to local boy turned hot director James Gunn (yep, he's from St. Louis--why didn't we get the premiere?).

The Avengers: Age of Ultron panel featured five of the six original Avengers (Scarlett Johannson, aka Black Widow, was unable to attend due to impending due date), new cast members (including James Spader, who voices Ultron--a busy man, as he was also on the panel for his TV show, The Blacklist) and Joss Whedon and Marvel Studios head guy Kevin Feige. 

We really have to wait a year for this movie?

Wasn't I just whining a few weeks ago about having to wait for Guardians of the Galaxy?

What if I get hit by a submarine in the middle of Market Street before they're released?

Don't laugh. My agent said it could happen. Not to anyone else...just to me. I wonder what she meant by that?


And here's the Guardians of the Galaxy GIF I created for Collin--it's a first effort, and I need a lot of practice with the tools, but....

PS After much consideration, Collin and I decided to go back to publishing exclusively with Amazon KDP Select. The sales (and other advantages) there are good enough to warrant such a move--so tomorrow through Thursday, The Unicorn's Daughter will be free. Chasing the Wind will be free Thursday through Saturday, Angels at Midnight on August 4-6, and Alexander's Empire on August 7-9. Within the next month, paperback editions will also be made available through Amazon.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Taking a Vacation...From the Internet?

No, I haven't been on an internet vacation. Not yet, anyway. But I've thought about it. Have you?

We all know how much fun the online world can be.  But it can also be a huge time-suck.

My favorite online hangout is Facebook--it's fun, and, Mark Zuckerberg's all-too-frequent "improvements" aside, mostly easy to use. I belong to several writers groups there--but I've found that's not going to sell books. No...I make my sales elsewhere on Facebook. I go make an ass of myself on a couple of soaps' pages (I watch The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful with some regularity--and the storylines on soaps give me much to ridicule) and my sales invariably increase. Then there are the movies and TV shows I love--The Blacklist, Agents of SHIELD, The Big Bang Theory, any Marvel superheroes and my beloved Minions. The more active I am on those pages, the better my books sell. 

Take a vacation from that? Why? 
The jury's still out on Google +...though I did get followed by The Blacklist there. Could be interesting. Think I'll stay with it!

Twitter is good for keeping up with what everyone else is doing. One of my Tweets was recently retweeted by Bronx Zoo's Cobra. Seriously. Anything can happen at Twitter!
I left LinkedIn a while back. It's a great site if you're looking for a job, but not so useful for authors. Waste of time. As for Goodreads and Shelfari, well, I couldn't come up with a single good reason to stay with either of them! 

Email, for me, is the most time-consuming. I have five email accounts--one used solely for archiving purposes, one for coupons and newsletters, two for business, and one for personal email. I had seven accounts, but my two oldest accounts, both at Yahoo, had been hacked so many times, I finally deleted them.

I deal with so much email, I often get confused as to what I'm responding to whom. I used to think not answering one's email was inexcusably rude--but these days, I find myself struggling to keep up with mine. And I confess, long, chatty emails are often put aside until "later," when I have more time. "Later" never comes. And I apologize to the friends who sent those messages!

Blogging, for me, takes the least amount of time. I blog 1-3 times a week, and the list of blogs I regularly follow is a fairly short one.

What takes up most of your online time? Would you consider taking an internet vacation?


Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Photoblog: Looking for the Silver Lining

One of my favorite things to photograph is clouds. I especially like to take photos of dark clouds when the sun is behind them--dark clouds with silver linings (sort of). It just seemed like the right theme for today, though the dark clouds hanging over the world right now have no silver linings....

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

This One's For You, Ivy!

I came across this the other day and immediately thought of my blogger friend Ivy at The Happy Whisk. Ivy is always posting funny pics or photos of the wonderful things she bakes. I hope you enjoy it, Ivy!

I also have some book news to share. After Collin and I went to see the seventeen-minute preview of Guardians of the Galaxy last week, I realized what a great marketing idea it was...and how it could work for books. Sure, Amazon, Smashwords and just about every other outlet carrying ebooks will allow prospective buyers to sample the first few pages of a book--but that's not always the best way to tempt a reader. Just as Marvel and Disney opted to not show their audience the first seventeen minutes of Guardians, but to use something that happens a but further into their story, I considered that this might be the way to go with book previews. With the exception of Chasing the Wind, my book previews will not start with page one. Two are currently available, with a new one coming every few days.

So far, the results have been positive....

Chasing the Wind preview
Free at Smashwords
$.99 at Amazon (because they wouldn't let me do free)

An Army of Angels preview
Free at Smashwords
$.99 at Amazon (same as above!)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Here's the Story of a Frontier Lady....

I was never a fan of TV westerns--but as with any genre in TV, movies and books, I've found exceptions. In this case, there are two: The Big Valley (1965-1969) and Bonanza (1959-1973). These two shows were more family dramas than formula westerns. Each of them featured a widowed parent with grown children. Both shows were set in roughly the same time period, the late 1800s, their locations not far from each other (The Big Valley was set in California's San Joaquin Valley, near Stockton, while Bonanza's Ponderosa Ranch was located in Nevada, near Lake Tahoe)....


Come to think of it, the Barkley and Cartwright clans could have merged to form a post-Civil War Brady Bunch.

Bonanza's Ben Cartwright was a widower with three sons by three wives: Adam, Eric (aka Hoss) and Little Joe. He was an overbearing sucker, and since all three of his wives died, The Big Valley's tough matriarch, Victoria Barkley, might have thought twice about marrying him. Victoria, after all, was a woman ahead of her time, able to ride and shoot as well as any man. (She once held off a pair of killers who were after her daughter, Audra, who had witnessed their crimes--after three men on their stagecoach ran away in fear.)

Victoria had five children. She and her late husband, Tom, had four--Jarrod, Nick, Eugene (who was "back east" attending medical school for all but a few episodes) and Audra. Heath was Tom Barkley's illegitimate son, but Victoria came to consider him as much her child as the others, and he called her Mother. (In one episode, she paid off a gunslinger sent to kill him, outbidding the man who'd originally hired the guy. Now that's a mother's love!)

If she married Ben and he got out of line, he'd have to sleep with one eye open, I think.

Not too long ago, The Big Valley was set to be a feature film--but it was cancelled when the producer was convicted of tax fraud. It's just as well. The film planned would not likely have lived up to the TV series. Anybody remember the big screen versions of Bewitched or The Beverly Hillbillies?

Do you have any favorite TV shows, past or present, that you'd like to see merged?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Photoblog Fridays: The Four-Letter Word

As anyone who knows me well--or even knows me casually--I hate winter. I really, really hate winter. I try to hibernate from December to March, but it doesn't always work out as planned.

However, I do think certain aspects of that horrendous season can be beautiful....

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Misadventures in Moviegoing

I've mentioned before that I usually prefer to watch movies in the comfort and privacy of my own home. However, there are exceptions: anything featuring the Minions or the Avengers. Back in 2012, Collin and I attended a fifteen-hour Marvel Movie Marathon that included Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America and the midnight first showing of The Avengers. More recently, we saw the first showing of Captain America: The Winter Soldier at 8:00 the night before the official release date.

Monday night, we attended a screening of the "first look" preview of Marvel's latest release (August 1st), Guardians of the Galaxy, with a few hundred other Marvel fans and local film critics. We loved the preview--I didn't think I would like it when I first heard about it, but the more I see, well, I can't wait now!

As for the rest of the could have been a movie. The title would have to be something to do with Murphy's Law.

It started with Collin's discovery that our printer needed an ink cartridge. He couldn't print the email he'd received to verify that we had requested two passes to the preview.
We decided to have an early dinner at a nearby Chinese place.  Storms were firing up in the area, and I wondered if we'd get to the theater ahead of them. Though the screening was scheduled for 7:00, we were advised to arrive early. Very often, these events are overbooked, and even with a pass, late arrivals are turned away. 

We decided we'd get there between 5:00-5:30. That put us fairly close to the front of the line--which became a very long line very quickly. We spent a little over an hour in line, and were given instructions regarding anti-piracy. Phones would be allowed in the theater, and we would be permitted, even encouraged to photograph and Tweet the image on the screen. After that, all phones were to be shut off (not put on silent, SHUT OFF!). No other recording devices were permitted in the theater--no tablets, no recorders, no iPods, nothing. "If you have them with you, take them to you cars now. If anyone is caught recording, you will be arrested immediately. There is a ten-year prison sentence for piracy."

Some of us were puzzled, as we'd brought tablets into the theater previously with no problem. Collin and I take ours everywhere. We had them with us that night--and since we'd taken the bus to the theater, there was no way we could take them home and come back. "We would take them out to our vehicle, but he drove away when we got off." That was what I wanted to say--but for once, I managed to keep my mouth shut. Our Kindles were already turned off, so unless the theater staff decided to search our bags, we were okay.

I'm convinced Disney should be running Homeland Security. 

Finally, we were seated in the IMAX auditorium. As soon as I got the photo (above), I turned my phone off and put it away. That's when I heard the thunder. Someone said we were under a severe thunderstorm warning. More thunder. The man seated in front of us still had his phone on. "I've got the radar," he said, passing his phone to me. 

There was an angry-looking red cell right above our location on the map. Not good.
"It'll be gone by the time we leave," Collin predicted.

It wasn't. The lightning was sporadic and the rain fairly light, so we figured we'd make it home with no problem, even though it was about a quarter mile walk from the bus stop to our apartment. I had my cane with me, but found myself wishing I hadn't left the walker at home.

The sky was ominously dark when we got off the bus. We made one stop, hoping the storm would pass by the time we started the walk to our place. It didn't. In fact, it started to rain harder. We ducked into the pizza place and bought a couple of sodas, thinking we'd wait it out there.

The rain came harder. The lightning was dangerous, with strikes every few seconds. "What time does this place close?" I asked.

"10:00." Collin said.

I looked at my watch. That would give us just over an hour.

The storm got worse. I suggested calling a cab. Collin didn't think we'd get one. Too close to home. The fare wouldn't be much more than $5.00. Finally, I talked him into it. He had the number in his phone, so he made the call. 

We got a cab within fifteen minutes. Just in time--shortly after we got home, the hail started....

Monday, July 7, 2014

"What's the Worst that Could Happen?"

A friend is moving this week. She says she has everything under control, with four days to do it and not much to be moved. I envy that. Over the years, I've moved many times--many times more than I would have liked. Collin and I have become experts at packing and organizing storage lockers. We've learned, out of necessity, how to deal with just about every imaginable moving day disaster.

When Dad was alive, there was no problem. Dad either did the move himself or supervised the movers, and there were never any problems, beyond his complaints about my books. He once said he'd rather move furniture and appliances any day over the dozens of boxes of books.

Now, almost all of my books are on my Kindle, along with all of my music, videos, photos, writing files and other documents. I'd love to be able to ask him to move my stuff now...and just hand him my Kindle!

Almost every move since Dad's passing has been an unqualified disaster. The first time, we hired competent movers, but getting our critters to the new house was a bit of a problem. By that time, my pig, Iggy, was too big for the back seat of the car and she had arthritis. We rented a small trailer, but she wouldn't stay in it without me, so I had to lie in the trailer with her--and Collin's dog, Sandy, stood on my back all the way!

Getting Iggy in the trailer, it turned out, was much easier than getting her out.

The next time we moved, we borrowed a truck from a friend and hired the young man who did our lawn work. He'd always been trustworthy and a hard worker, so we didn't anticipate problems. He brought another guy along for the heavy lifting. It looked like this would be a smooth move.

Then his girlfriend arrived with their baby. She was constantly in the way, right from the start. After taking Collin and me, along with the critters, to our next location, they took the truck--without asking--and went off to take care of their own affairs. When they finally did bring a load of furniture to the house where Collin and I were waiting, the girlfriend plopped the baby down on the living room carpet, turned our TV on, and made herself at home--after demanding I make them something to eat. I turned the TV off and refused her demands for food.

Pretty brazen of her, considering they had stolen a large number of Collin's video games and other stuff during one of their frequent detours. Needless to say, they didn't get paid.The worst part? We actually did this again for a later move--and once again, had a guy who thought it was Bring Your Girlfriend and Baby to Work Day. Crazy? Well, the definition of insanity really is doing the same thing again and again, expecting a different result....

We'd learned our lesson. Next time, we hired professional movers--but I use the word "professional" loosely. It took them all day to load the truck (they spent most of the time using our phone to make personal calls and eating our candy, which had not been offered to them). They didn't arrive at our destination until almost midnight--after stopping for a long, leisurely dinner. At least they didn't steal anything, other than about half what they were paid. They could have finished moving us by noon, had they not done all they could to bill as many hours as possible.

We've been in our present home just over eight years now. The move here was an easy one, with a new moving company provided by our good friend Carolyn, and another friend, Carol, with her large truck and trailer. God willing, we won't be moving again for a very long time to come, if ever.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Photoblog Fridays: Something Different

I follow several photobloggers, including my partner in crime, William, at Ottawa Daily Photo....Grace at Perth Daily Photo...Bob at St. Louis Daily Photo...and London Lulu at Princeton Daily Photo (though she hasn't posted since March). I'm not a photographer, and I don't have enough to do daily posts, but I thought I might try an experiment here: a weekly photo post. 

I've often thought if I had been a photographer, I'd specialize in nature photography: weather, birds, animals, trees--that sort of thing. So most of the stuff I'll be posting here will be nature shots.

But for today, I'm going with another favorite subject: my son Collin. These photos are by no means professional, or even on par with my favorite photobloggers, but I love them because they remind me of what a happy child Collin was. He rarely cried and has almost never been sick in all his 35 years (I still ask him when the mothership is coming back for him!) He was usually smiling, happy, laughing. My dad often said if people who were happy were healthier,Collin had to be the healthiest kid on the planet.

Like I said, he was almost never sick....

In the first photo, he was just a baby. It took very little effort to make him laugh.

He was almost a year old in the second shot, and we were beginning a long trip by bus from San Bernardino, California, back to St. Louis. By the time we reached our destination, Collin was the only one still smiling!

The third one was taken at Six Flags. It was his school picnic. I had to fly to Washington DC for the American Booksellers convention afterward. He was happy, as usual. I had a few bruises from changing clothes under a blanket in the car.

The last one was taken when we stopped for lunch at the IHOP where he worked at that time. From what I understand, Collin has an issue with masking sure his customers had enough condiments--or something like that. His co-workers kept putting condiments on our table until....

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Must Love Minions!

There was a story in the news recently about a woman who decided to divorce her husband, even though there were no serious problems between them, simply because he didn't love the animated film Frozen.


What kind of idiot leaves an otherwise successful marriage solely because their spouse doesn't share their love for a movie? I grew up in a family of TV junkies who would fight to the death over the remote control. And anyone who knows me well or is familiar with my blog or Facebook page knows I'm hopelessly addicted to the adorable Minions of the Despicable Me movies.

Even I wouldn't end a good relationship just because my partner didn't share my love of all things Minion...though the poor guy might find me and my Minions difficult to live with....

I also have Minion sheets and Minion Christmas tree ornaments. Think this qualifies as an addiction?