Category Archives: Announcements

Calendar of Upcoming Posts: August – September 2017

As I said last week in Friday Update #10, the four-month silence of Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm is coming to an end, and a new slate of posts, series, and big ideas is on the way. Although this may not represent the entire span of things I have planned in the coming month, here is a working schedule of content postings you can expect soon.

August 23, 2017: The Marketing Author 001, Part 11
The emotional recovery hiatus I spent away from writing happened during the weekly stint of The Marketing Author 001 postings, and for months it looked like I would never finish the series. Well, I did, last night. The next installment about finding experts to guide you along your authorship path debuts tomorrow night at 7pm EST.

August 24, 2017: Photobucket Apocalypse
A heart wrenching story about what happened to my online promotional screenshots of a project I’ve been working on for years, wrapped in a lesson about trusting third parties to handle our content and essentially giving them the basket in which we put all of our eggs into. It’s a lesson we can all learn from.

August 30, 2017: The Marketing Author 001, Part 12
The Marketing Author 001 series reaches its conclusion, giving aspiring authorpreneurs encouragement to take a chance on the independent authoring business and have some confidence about the outcome, even if success takes a while.

August 31, 2017: New Entry into the My First Mullet Saga
Although the plot is a secret, at the end of August the next terrifying installment in the ongoing My First Mullet series will make its debut exclusively on Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm. But to give you a teaser, this time both man and mullet are forced to confront a force that could ultimately destroy them both. Has their war pushed them into the face of a new common enemy?

September 4, 2017: The Art of Censorship
Based on a concern I’ve had as a writer for years, this likely controversial essay will attempt to call out a writer’s responsibility to show authenticity in his or her writing, regardless of how it might be negatively or positively received by people with opinions. This may or may not be split into two parts, depending on length. If it becomes two essays, the second will be released the following evening. For now I plan to keep it as one complete piece. As writers, we need to consider the truths we write about. This essay will attempt to show why that matters.

September 6, 2017: The Marketing Author 001, Part 13
The true final installment in The Marketing Author 001 series, this bonus chapter will offer a list of recommended software to use during your foray into independent authorship. This list includes Microsoft Word and Scrivener, but promises to go beyond just the word processors to help you build a toolbox for future success.

September 7, 2017: Using Scrivener for Game Design
Two years ago, I wrote a first impressions article about Scrivener, but I never wrote the second half of that piece. This isn’t that second half, but it is a new idea for how an untapped market can use Scrivener to its advantage. Even though it won’t outright say so, the theme of this essay is to be creative in how you use software to your advantage, regardless of your industry. Even if you don’t design games, you should still read this for ideas.

September 13 – 15, 2017: Write at Your Own Risk…Er, Pace
A three-part essay exploring the importance of developing quality writing versus the commonly advised approach to rush independently produced books out the door within a month or two of conceiving the idea. This will also double as my postmortem of what happened and will soon happen to my novel, The Computer Nerd. Don’t miss it.

And this is just what’s on the planner. I also aim to produce a number of book reviews for my summer reading list (and many of the books I’ve read in the last few years that I’ve never reviewed), and will hopefully post those one after another throughout the coming month.

In late September, I hope, hope, hope to be ready to launch a series I’ve been wanting to do for the last year-and-a-half, which I’ve been putting off because I didn’t quite know how I wanted to tackle it. But I think I’m just about ready to give it a whirl. I’ll talk more about that soon enough.

So, please come back each evening to see these latest posts. With the exception of “The Art of Censorship,” all of the above posts are written and scheduled for release, and will only be tweaked between now and their live dates. So, they are coming. Look for each one to go live between 7:00 and 8:30 pm EST on their respective release dates. Feedback is welcome. Looking forward to seeing you then.

Please be sure to subscribe to Drinking Café Latte at 1pm to receive alerts when new posts go live. The handy blue subscription button is located at the bottom of this page.

Cover image by Pixabay

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Friday Update #10: The Summer of Silence

It’s been a while since the last Friday Update, and any update for that matter, so I figure with summer ending soon, I should give a progress report about how things are going.

Drinking Café Latte at 1pm:

First of all, the site isn’t dead. It may look it, given that my last post was on May 3rd, but to be fair, my traffic here is so low that sometimes I think I’m wasting my time posting anything new. One of the important things about making the most of our time and resources is to feed the things that work and ignore the things that don’t, and this blog is ignored enough by others that I feel justified in minimizing my time keeping up with it.

But, that’s not the only reason my posts have become infrequent. Frankly, I’ve been preoccupied with other projects of the likes that can’t be posted here, at least not in a way that I’d consider interesting to anyone but me, so rather than bore what audience may happen across this site, I’d rather post nothing.

If you’re wondering, though, I’ve been spending a lot of time rewriting the “code” for a game I’ve been working on since 2009. More on that in a future post.

But, as I said, the site isn’t dead, and I do have some new posts planned for the coming weeks that you should keep an eye open for. I hope to post the release calendar for these posts in the next few days, so keep an eye open for that, too.

Writing, Authorship, etc.:

Even though I haven’t been posting anything on my blog the last few months, I have been picking at some old stories with the intention of rereleasing them with new content. This has been slow-going, with most of my focus on game design lately, but certainly not nonexistent. I’ve since scrapped the idea of releasing a new annual Zippywings title, as my 2016 titles are too few to justify making a new book, and my 2017 titles haven’t been in progress, period. But, I do plan to release a special edition volume that includes rewrites of my 2015 titles, print versions of my 2016 titles, and a handful of extras never before produced as an e-book. It may not be the only Zippywings master collection I produce, but it will be the first of the definitive editions, and hopefully the final short story/novella versions of these stories that date as far back as 1995. If I produce a second volume, I plan to include all new material for that. But that’ll be a while still.

Anyone who follows my e-books will know that Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern Day Fantasy, Year Two, is my most recent release, and is now 15 months online. After a year of releasing one title after another, it may seem like I’ve run out of juice. But that’s not the case.

For those who have not been keeping up with me the last year, I have spent much of the last 15 months relearning not only my craft, but also editing and marketing, and I’ve purposely held off on getting too deep into any new project without having a stronger foundation of professionalism, product value, and delivery.

To boost my chances at getting my voice heard by more ears (or seen by more eyes), in March I’d enrolled in an online course called Author Remake, by Alinka Rutkowska, which outlines step-by-step the process for reaching and retaining the most fans and for getting my work out to the most venues possible, and I’d also subscribed to a few programs, including, most recently, KDP Rocket, to increase my chances at gaining exposure for my books. I’m still figuring out how to make the most of these tools, but the good news is that by this time next week, I’ll be fully paid off on all of it and can start moving toward developing a better central hub and mailing list (and freebie incentives) for those who want to become fans. It should be noted that most of my online presence will likely transfer to that hub when the time comes.

Even though I’m still making updates to previously published stories (because, I can, so why not?), I have new ideas that I hope to break ground on soon. I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but let’s just say that one of my ideas may or may not include a couple of dumb teenagers who somehow save their town from destruction. More on that another time.

In-progress Projects:

In the last year, I’ve mentioned or posted details on future projects that still have not seen the light of day. Here’s a basic report on where everything is at the moment:

Gone from the Happy Place:

This is my rewrite/retitle of The Computer Nerd, which will address some of the story flaws I’d either ignored or didn’t think about when I was rushing to release it back in October 2015. I’ll write postmortem on that story at some point, but let’s just say some practices should not be done, regardless how many “experts” say that you should.

The story is still coming, and I hope to release it soon. But I won’t do so before my author hub is ready. For the time being, The Computer Nerd (or, The Computer Nerd Scandal, depending on where you’re finding it), is still available for sale, and will probably remain on sale until Gone from the Happy Place is released. After that, I don’t know. I don’t really want to confuse readers, but I also don’t like the idea of making anything unavailable, especially for historical purposes. We’ll see.

Teenage American Dream:

The short story version will more than likely make an appearance in the next Zippywings title, but the novel is going poorly, in my opinion. I haven’t spent any length of time powering through it, and for good reason. I’m having trouble deciding if it even works. To be clear, I’m sure I can get it to work, but there are problems I have with it that I haven’t figured out how to fix, and because it’s like a bronco that I have to tame, and finish for that matter, I’ve made it easy on myself to find distractions in other things.

I do still pick at it, and at some point I’ll figure out what’s wrong with it and reshape it into something worth reading. But for now, it’s going to take a while for me to finish it. Don’t expect it before 2018.

Oh, and when I do release it, it will also have a different name. “Teenage American Dream” will remain as the title for the short story version, however.

Sweat of the Nomad and Zipwood Studios:

I haven’t really done anything with these stories yet. Like “Teenage American Dream,” the short story/novella versions will appear in an upcoming Zippywings anthology, but the novels will be further off. Can’t yet say when I’ll have more information. They’re still on the planner, though.

A Modern-day Fantasy Series:

The main hold-up on these books is in deciding how I want to block them. For the longest time, I had a clear vision about how I wanted this series to unfold, but after all that I’ve been learning this year about editing for genre, I’m starting to rethink this vision and how to restructure these stories to fit conventions better. I’m also giving thought to a prequel trilogy called Pawn of Justice, which follows series regular FBI Special Agent Thomas Sturgeon as the lead, and how it sets up the A Modern-day Fantasy story line. At some point, I’ll just need to dive in and write them. But, I want to make sure I don’t dive in blind. Again, this will be addressed in a future blog about The Computer Nerd (if I haven’t written it already and simply forgot).

Snow in Miami:

I got about halfway through this story last December and then stopped. I don’t remember why I stopped, but I think it had a lot to do with the season ending before I could finish, and my plans to release it as part of Zippywings 2016 also ending. Incidentally, that was about when I decided to give up on Zippywings 2016 even though I highly considered releasing it anyway as a June 2017 book. Sometimes deadlines approach faster than endings. They aren’t supposed to, but there are plenty of things in this world that aren’t supposed to happen. Anyway, my current plan is to finish and release it as part of a Christmas trilogy, which would include 2015’s The Fountain of Truth and whatever I write at the end of this year. Hopefully that’ll work.

Gutter Child:

Can’t remember if I’ve spoken about this online, but this remains my least popular story, and I’m sure it’s for good reason. I want to turn the existing story into a subplot for a greater story, and I’ve been reading a number of thrillers lately that have given me some ideas on how to make this better (and more commercial). Like The Computer Nerd and Teenage American Dream, this will get a name change when I’m finished. More on that another time.

Previous Titles:

As part of my plan to rebuild my platform on more solid footing, I’ve either rewritten, am in the middle of rewriting/revising, or plan to revise the following stories (by adding new content and deleting irrelevant content):

  • Shell Out – New chapters to better frame the character’s motivations. (to be done)
  • When Cellphones Go Crazy – New chapters to add subtext to the story and provide a stronger ending. (done)
  • The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky – New chapters to make it less of a fable and more of a story with proper antagonists and goals. (in progress)
  • Cards in the Cloak – Rewritten scenes to keep the conflict front and center. (done)

I need to review The Fallen Footwear for content, but this, too, may get an update if I find one warranted.

It should also be noted that, due to length, I may spin Cards in the Cloak off to its own book and leave it out of the next Zippywings anthology. It’ll depend on how long it is with and without Cards.

If you want to keep up with progress on these existing stories, feel free to check out my page at FictionPress (my user name is zippywings), where I’ve been posting new chapters these last few weeks. They’ll appear there first. It’s the only place I’m getting proper feedback.

My First Mullet:

Stay tuned…. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Life in General:

Other than that, I’ve been trying to keep from getting heat stroke this summer. I’ve read a few good novels, which I’ll likely reserve my reports on for a separate post, as this one is getting long. I’ve also seen just a handful of movies—Spider-Man: Homecoming was the only good one since my last post—and I’ve been watching a lot of news. I’ll keep my opinions to myself about current events, though. Socially, things are awful, but that’s nothing new. My car is making strange noises. My debt is less than it was a year ago, but still higher than I’d like. Work is work.

I guess that’s good for updates right now. Oh, I’ve spent a lot of money at Wawa this summer. They’re aggressively opening stores in my area, and I’ve made the mistake of giving them a chance. Now I seem to eat there every week. Sigh. This is why I can’t have nice things. I spend too much on temporary things. But it’s so good. And it’s a gas station. Sigh.

Don’t forget to check back here in a few days for the release calendar of upcoming posts. The future is exciting (unless you’re lame).

Friday Update Bonus: Saturday Night Special – Happy End of the Year Report

So, 2016 is finally over. Hooray!

To celebrate the passing of one of my least favorite years in a long, long time, I would like to point you in the direction of the header where you might see the tab “My Books” awaiting your attention. Doesn’t that look nice and official up there?

Now, look a little closer. If you hover your mouse over the tab, you’ll see a dropdown menu cascade before you. In that tab, you’ll see a list of all of my currently available e-books. You may also notice that some of those titles have right-facing arrows beside them (looks a little like this > ). Note: For you phone readers, you may have to click on the three lines beside the magnifying glass to see what I’m talking about.

A couple of those title selections have had arrows there for months and months, but perhaps you haven’t noticed until now. Those arrows, if you see, point to sample chapters for the matching books. For nearly a year, the only books you could sample were The Computer Nerd and Teenage American Dream (in “Future Books”), and only the first six and five chapters respectively.

Well, as a belated Christmas present and in celebration of 2016’s much anticipated exit, I have not added anything to The Computer Nerd (sorry, keep reading to find out why), and Teenage American Dream remains unreleased, but I have added the entire stories of not one, not two, not three, but eight of my current e-books to Drinking Café Latte at 1pm, each for free, and each completely. All you have to do is select the chapter or part you wish to read from the submenu marked “Read (Title),” or access the store page for that book and scroll down to the bottom, and follow the chapter links to read the stories in their entirety. If you’ve ever been on the fence about reading these books before, now you can test drive them to your house and back risk-free.

And, if you’d like to download the official e-books for your phone or e-reader from the store of your choice, you can still do that. Those links are open. Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and Inktera have them available for free. Amazon Kindle has them for $.99 each, though I’m pretty sure it’ll price-match Apple, so I think you can get it free there, too, even if it doesn’t say you can (I’m basing this on recent sales reports). Basically, there’s no reason not to check them out, now that you can have free access to them whenever you want and wherever you are. Want to read at the beach this January? You can do that! (Yes, I know it’s not the right season for that, but I live in South Florida, so every day is a beach day for me.)

The titles you can now read for free in their entirety here at Drinking Café Latte at 1pm include:

  • Shell Out (2015)
  • Eleven Miles from Home (2015)
  • Amusement (2015)
  • When Cellphones Go Crazy (2015)
  • The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky (2015)
  • Lightstorm (2015)
  • The Fallen Footwear (2016)
  • Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge (2016, two stories in one)

I will also likely make Cards in the Cloak and The Fountain of Truth available here for free in the near future. But Cards in the Cloak is almost the length of a novel, with the first chapter in need of a slight rewrite, and The Fountain of Truth has one section that I’ll need to split into pieces, which I haven’t figured out yet, so it will take a little more time to get those online. Keep an eye open for them.

Regarding The Computer Nerd, I am still contemplating the possibility of changing its title and relaunching with a new cover, new first chapter, and a few other changes in 2017. So, I don’t foresee the Drinking Café Latte at 1pm version of the story (in its entirety) going live before then. Again, stay tuned for updates.

Finally, Christmas is over and I did not finish Snow in Miami in time. Rather than rush and release a terrible version of the story, I decided to hold it back for now, until I have a draft I’m happy with. I’ll release it as part of Zippywings 2016, hopefully at the end of February, and I’ll likely release the standalone version next Christmas, hopefully with a companion book. I was too swamped with other things this year to really focus on any one story for long. Plus, I want to launch books a little smarter in the future than the way I’ve been doing before. That said, 2017 will probably yield low in my slate of upcoming books, but I do hope to start releasing new titles after April (when I finish the CPT class I’m taking on Saturdays).

So, that’s your end of the year report. Hope you have a happy start to 2017. I know I will. Thanks for your readership. One of these days I’ll get my mailing list up and running so that you don’t have to stumble upon each update here. For now, keep watching Facebook or Twitter for updates, or, if you hit the subscribe button below, you can get updates in your mailbox. It’s the best way to find out what’s new. You can also send comments whenever you think I’m taking too long to do anything around here.

Happy New Year!

Why It’s Okay to Write for Fun

“Introduction”

I’ve been admittedly quiet here on Drinking Café Latte at 1pm for the last few months, thanks to the swell of commitments that have overwhelmed me lately. Notably, I’ve been reexamining my fiction priorities, learning how to better market my books, figuring out whether I should better market them, deciding if I can even pay for marketing, and still juggling a host of matters outside of my writing goals, like exercising, suffering through the recent political climate, studying new avenues of professional focus, eating better, and not shutting the people I care about out of my life in the process.

It’s been a difficult balance, but one I’ve been attempting to keep steady nonetheless.

This blog is one of the things I keep on the back of my mind constantly, but figuring out what my plan is for its future is one that stays in constant flux. Posting the occasional Friday Update is important for establishing a connection with anyone who cares about my writing, but with my writing life caught up in learning how to better edit for genre and marketing and not so much actual production, I find that I don’t have much to say on Fridays at the moment, so I don’t say anything. For those who want to know more, and more often, I can see how this lack of consistency might be frustrating.

Frankly, I’m frustrated by it, too. I feel like I’ve got too many goals to reach in too short amount of time to make significant progress on any of it.

Part of this frustration comes down to this war of requirement I have between writing because I want to versus writing because I have to. Sometimes I think the answer is neither. Often times it applies to both. Keeping up with my blog is part of that war of requirement. Once upon a time I wrote only because I wanted to, because it was fun. Now I write because it’s fun, but also to build an audience. When the writing isn’t fun (and there are times when writing is the last thing I want to do today), building the audience becomes my only motivation, and when that’s not happening, either, I wonder if it’s better if I just pop in a movie and ignore the rest of the day.

I’ve been watching a series of videos this month from established authors, publishers, marketers, etc. as part of the Publishers Success Summit, hosted by Eric Van Der Hope, and I can’t help but think they all have the same message, even if they deliver it through different channels and by different specific measures: essentially, they all say to build a platform, treat your writing like a business, and so on. And given what I’ve experienced since the first day I uploaded Shell Out to Smashwords back on May 29, 2015, I can say that what they preach is truth. Marketing is important if the readers are to come. I haven’t been doing much of that, and the results show. I’m still widely unknown and unread, and I’m constantly worried that I’ve overspent my budget every time I eat out.

But a couple of weeks ago, as I was walking to the beach, I started thinking, well, not all writing has to be business-minded. Sometimes it can really be just for fun. But how do we get ourselves to a point where we can accept that idea and still prepare for the possibility of writing for an audience, business, or fan base someday?

Well, that’s the question I want to explore over the next few weeks in my new short series, Why It’s Okay to Write for Fun, right here at Drinking Café Latte at 1pm.

Tomorrow at 1pm, the first part, “The Importance of Literature,” will go live, so be sure to come back then, and every Thursday at 1pm for the next few weeks (I’m not sure how many parts this will contain as of yet, but I can guarantee at least five), to explore with me the advantages of writing for fun when a business mindset has yet to form, even if one may form eventually.

It should be fun, and please be sure to make comments and encourage discussion as you see fit.

Handy Table of Contents for Each Released Part:

Part 1: “The Importance of Literature” (Posted December 22, 2016)

Part 2: “The Importance of Experimentation and Ignoring Fear” (Posted December 29, 2016)

Part 3: “The Importance of Imperfection” (Posted January 5, 2017)

Part 4: “The Importance of Managing Fun” (Posted January 12, 2017)

Part 5: “The Importance of Balancing Priorities and Knowing Audience” (Posted January 19, 2017)

Part 6: “The Importance of Learning from Our Past” (Posted January 26, 2017)

Part 7: “The Importance of Knowing the Rules of Writing and Storytelling” (Posted February 2, 2017)

Part 8: “The Importance of Finding Useful Education and Resources” (Posted February 9, 2017)

Friday Update #9: Superhero Switch and the Coming of Christmas Brings Snow in Miami

Welcome back to Drinking Café Latte at 1pm. As you’re aware, Christmas is coming fast and hot (well, depending on where you live, I guess), and that means eggnog, gingerbread coffees, cookies, and all sorts of goodies are on the way, and I’m here to let you know about some goodies that are coming your way from me.

Goodie #1:

For those of you who have been reading Cannonball City: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One this past year (the anniversary of its worldwide release is coming at the end of the month), I have great news. Its sequel, Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two, is now free for a limited time. How limited is this time? Hard to say, but I’ll keep it free throughout the holidays for sure. However, it’s best to pick it up while you can, before I put the price back on. You know what happens when you procrastinate? You forget. And then you lose. So, don’t procrastinate.

This freebie comes with a trade-off, however. My plan since day 1 has been to develop and release a bite-sized version of the series, where the Annual Editions are broken down into individual story units closer to the length of a traditional thriller or adventure novel. The individual stories would add up to the same universal conflict, but due to the way that conventions dictate how a story unfolds, the core story points would inevitably change. Essentially, A Modern-day Fantasy Annual Edition and A Modern-day Fantasy (Standard Edition) would develop at different speeds and in different ways, while keeping the story line roughly the same.

Because I don’t want to confuse readers with the option to choose the bulky Annual Edition over the easier-to-manage Standard Editions (which would take two or three books to equal the story of an Annual Edition entry), I want the pricing to make it easy. In short, I’d rather readers stick with the Standard Editions. The Annual Editions serve as my original vision for the story, but experience has since taught me that the Standard Editions make for a better fit (and more satisfying read). It doesn’t mean they will be over before they begin, but it does mean the story can be delivered at a more sensible pace.

So, the trade-off for Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two going free for the holiday season is that Cannonball City: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One will now cost you $4.95 to pick up. So, I hope you were one of the people who contributed to its 543 free downloads this year, and not one of the procrastinators who kept putting it off.

It should be noted that I don’t plan to make Cannonball City permafree again. It was free for a year to introduce readers to the character of Jimmy Knightly, but with the Standard Editions on the planner, I don’t see a reason to keep it free, as one of those books will surely come out with a free price tag. Likewise, Superheroes Anonymous will be free for a limited time, but limited times run out before you know it.

Moral of the story: Don’t put things off. You’ve got a good goodie to get, so get the goodie while the getting is good.

Goodie #2:

A year ago, I released an e-book called The Fountain of Truth, which is a collection of three holiday-themed fables, one of which is a revision to the classic tale of how Santa Claus began, one which teaches us to listen rather than to assume, and the titular title reintroducing a story I like to share on Facebook every Christmas Eve about speaking truth. This year, I am preparing another holiday-themed collection called Snow in Miami, which will feature an update to my flash fiction story “Unexpected Weather,” with two new stories, “A Black Friday Tale” and “The Pear Tree,” included. In this book, the three stories will be threaded together through the lens of a husband and father who must learn how to actually be a caring husband and father through his sharing of holiday stories with his wife and son. We get a sense early on that his wife and son are just people who live in his house and demand things from him that he doesn’t want to give. But throughout the course of telling and hearing these stories, he begins to understand just how lucky he is. So, you’ll actually get four stories for the price of three.

I don’t have an estimated release date for Snow in Miami, as I’m still having to split my time between work, CPT test prep, and other projects. But I do expect to upload it to Smashwords before Christmas. However long it takes to get through the channels to the other stores will depend on that upload date.

In the meantime, enjoy this opening sample from “Unexpected Weather”:

Mr. Carson propped his feet on his desk and lit the cigar he had been waiting all day to smoke. Chicago’s temperatures were falling by the minute, and the muzak filling the room was gradually integrating bells and chimes into its drowsy score. Christmas was coming soon, and the bonus he was sure to get from his most recent mega-sale would pay for gifts for the entire family, the neighbor’s family, and even the meter reader who occasionally showed up on his property to gauge him for his utility usage. It would be a Christmas like no other. He’d finally have the means to stock his yard with a holiday scene so spectacular that he would surely win the neighborhood decoration contest this year. He’d even hire that ice sculptor to carve out the outdoor ice bench he had always wanted to sit on, on Christmas day.

His success was a long time coming. Months of proving to the boss that he was capable of leading his office would have to pay off now. Months of top-level ignorance would have to come to an end.

He puffed on his cigar and let the smoke fill his mouth. He was forming cloud nine between his cheeks.

His chair started its backward arc toward the cubicle wall when his boss, Mr. Rivers, popped into view. He had snuck up on Mr. Carson wearing those dang moccasins again.

“Carson,” he said, “how many times I gotta tell you not to smoke in the building?”

Mr. Carson pulled the cigar from his mouth and dangled it over the edge of his desk, just above the trashcan. He wasn’t permitted an ashtray, so he made it his habit to catch the ash in the can. He kept a separate can for paper to the right of the desk to prevent accidental fires. This one just held a single plastic bag.

Mr. Rivers shrugged. Then he handed him a narrow, gift-wrapped package.

“Here, no need to apologize. I decided to make your life easier.”

Mr. Carson took the package, flipped it over and under, listening for something to rattle inside.

“Open it,” Mr. Rivers said. “Early Christmas present.”

Mr. Carson was a little suspicious. He knew Rivers had heard about the mega-sale, and per the standards of the company, sales that large warranted bonuses. Mr. Carson hoped that this wasn’t his bonus. He had been counting on a large check.

But he obliged his boss. He pulled off the wrapper and tossed it in the can to his left. A narrow green box was exposed. He opened it. Inside was a skinny electronic device.

“E-cigarette,” Mr. Rivers said. “Or vape, as they’re calling it now. Unobtrusive and mostly safe for indoors.”

Mr. Carson opened the battery hatch to find it empty.

“Sorry, batteries not included. Figured you could try it at home first, in case it’s not as safe as I assumed.”

Mr. Carson looked up at his boss, but didn’t say anything. He wasn’t sure what to think about this gift. He was an authentic smoker, proud to carry around his packs of real nicotine darts with the silver lighter that had the naked woman silhouette he was so fond of. Gift from his dad on his eighteenth birthday. Refillable fluid. A real gift from a real man.

“No need to thank me,” Mr. Rivers said. “I should be thanking you for nailing the Trifecta Account today. In fact, I am.” He gestured at the e-cigarette. “Stroke of genius.”

Mr. Carson shrugged. No big deal.

Okay, it was a real big deal, but he didn’t like to brag in front of people who cut his checks. They were a notoriously humbling lot, positioned to strike down anyone who displayed too much pride for a job that was somehow enhanced by the assistance of a team, which this particular sale was not: he certainly had a right to say it was all on him, because it was. But Mr. Rivers didn’t like braggarts, so he kept his mouth shut.

“Anyway, I had a talk with the bigwigs upstairs, and they agree that your work on this account was of stellar performance, and they think you would be perfect for their starter office in Miami.” A wide smile formed on Mr. Rivers’s lips. “You start in two weeks. Isn’t that exciting?”

Mr. Carson finally opened his mouth. The smoke he had been savoring finally blew out into the opening and evaporated. The space between his cheeks was now nothing more than a tongue that had lost its taste for change.

“In lieu of a bonus, the board has agreed to pay for your moving fees instead.”

Mr. Rivers leaned over the desk and patted Mr. Carson on the shoulder.

“I’ve already asked Mrs. Williams to set up the conference room with finger foods for your going away party. You like bologna sandwiches, right?”

Mr. Carson was partial to turkey, but his boss never paid attention.

“Anyway, you’ll like Miami. Never gets cold there. Just think, you’ll get to spend Christmas at the beach. Isn’t that exciting?”

Mr. Carson thought about the ice bench he would not get to sit on, on Christmas day.

“Anyway, enjoy your last day. Again, sorry about the batteries. I was thinking I’d let you wait for the party in the observatory. I know you often talk about the big window overlooking the lake. Thought you might want to remember the view.”

Mr. Carson’s sister’s apartment overlooked the lake. They were just over there for Thanksgiving. Mr. Rivers was thinking about someone else.

Mr. Rivers’s eyes drifted down toward the trashcan to Mr. Carson’s left. He reached in it and pulled out the gift wrapping.

“Here, don’t want to cause a fire, right?” Then he found the small plant that Mr. Carson had bought a few months ago to liven up the cubicle. He snuffed out the cigar in the soil. Then he tossed the cigar in the trash. “Housekeeping will take care of your garbage today.”

Mr. Rivers paused at the opening as he headed out to the walkway outside the cubicle. He tried to look at Mr. Carson from over his shoulder.

“Good luck in Miami, Carson,” he said. “You’re going to do amazing things there.”

Mr. Carson was barren of thought by that point. The world stopped making sense to him.

***

            At home, Mr. Carson didn’t know how to tell his wife that the money in Chicago was coming to an end, and that to keep the money flowing, they would have to fly south with the birds. As he rehearsed his speech in his mind, and subsequently shot each version down as ridiculous and an invitation to make Mrs. Carson cry, he took the carton of cigarettes from his trusty brand out to the front porch and lit one stick after another. By the fifth smoke, he was feeling a bit more relaxed. The chill in the air was giving him goosebumps, and the night was steadily growing comfortable.

By the time he had stubbed out half the pack, he was feeling pretty confident in his speech. She would understand. She would have to.

***

            Mrs. Carson didn’t understand.

“Who does he think he is?” she asked, when Mr. Carson told her the news.

“The Great and Powerful Mr. Rivers,” Mr. Carson said.

“We have a life here, John. A life.”

“Yes, I know that, and you know that. But knowledge hasn’t had much power around here lately.”

They were sitting at the dinner table, and Mrs. Carson was just about to pour the wine when Mr. Carson got to the dark side of his speech. It had begun beautifully, with the news that he had succeeded at his big sale. Mrs. Carson was so happy for him that she retrieved the bottle of Chianti from the rack to celebrate. But Mr. Carson didn’t want to lose his place from what he had practiced, so he continued talking. Mrs. Carson put the cork back into the bottle before the first drop hit the glass. Uprooting everything she knew to start over in some gaudy place where the natives walked around half-naked in their front yards at Christmas time was no cause for celebration.

“I just wish you’d stand up for yourself every once in a while,” she said.

“I do. But they don’t listen.”

“Standing up for yourself requires getting them to listen.”

Mr. Carson shrugged. He knew she was right. It wasn’t like him to marry someone who didn’t see the truth in things, and she could see the truth in anything. He liked that about her, even though it caused him stress most of the time.

“Maggie, here’s the thing. The door here is closed. Once they close it, they close it. I know this isn’t ideal, especially with Christmas coming up. But it’s a great opportunity to—”

“Great opportunity? You’re already sounding like them. Have you really thrown in the towel that fast? Without consulting me first?”

Mr. Carson set his fork down. He could sense the conversation was going to interrupt his eating rhythm for a few minutes.

“This isn’t a matter for consultation. They didn’t ask me if I wanted to go. They told me I’m going. Even if we don’t go, I can’t go back to that office, not for anything other than to throw my stuff into an empty box.”

Mrs. Carson’s eyes began to tear up.

“I don’t understand why they won’t give you a choice,” she said.

“It’s called business, Maggie. Relocation was always a possibility. Said so on my contract. I just didn’t think they’d ever call on it.”

Mrs. Carson pushed her plate away and stared off to the side for nearly a minute.

“You know,” he said, “you’ve been wanting a tan for a long time. This could be your chance.”

She rolled her eyes. He noticed the corner of her lips turning upward slightly.

“Your dream body will follow. Imagine the influence of all those bikini-clad beach bunnies turning you to an obsessive fitness and diet fiend. For the holidays no less. Make all your friends up here jealous of your luscious figure.”

Mrs. Carson’s expression lightened. She was considering it now.

“Think of Nancy and her big butt. Then think of you and your smaller butt.” He brought his palms close together to signify the differences in the two butt sizes after hers would shrink.

Mrs. Carson pulled her plate in front of her and started eating.

“I should probably enjoy this dinner while it lasts then,” she said.

Mr. Carson leaned over the table, angling as close to her as he could.

“It’ll be okay, I promise.”

He wasn’t sure it would be okay. He knew nothing about Miami, except that it was hot, crowded, and the music was bad.

Mrs. Carson nodded. “Okay. If we’re stuck, I guess we have to go where the money is.” Her face was still solemn, but not like it was when he had broken the news.

“We’re not stuck. We’re going to be better off than we are here. Richer and happier. And thinner.”

She put her hand up.

“Fine,” she said. “We’ll make it work, I guess.”

After dinner, Mr. Carson retrieved the box that Mr. Rivers had given him earlier and took out the vape. He found a box of batteries in the refrigerator and popped one into the compartment. He wasn’t sure what to do with it exactly, but he started with the button on the side. The thing began to smoke almost immediately. It was as if he had put a thermometer in his mouth and a fever had set it on fire.

“What’s that thing?” Mrs. Carson asked him, when she returned to the table after clearing it.

“Gift from the boss. It’s one of those electronic cigarette things.”

“How is it?”

Mr. Carson thought about it for a moment. It was considerably weaker than his normal cigarettes. And yet, it had a certain flavor to it that he found pleasant. Even fragrant.

“Weird,” he said. “Well, different.”

He pulled the device out of his mouth and stared at it.

“It makes me feel different.”

He put it back in his mouth.

“But in a good way, I think.”
 

(end sample)

Have a good week.

Friday Update #8: Quiet, yet Still Here, and Still Making Strides toward a Better Future

I’m looking at my update history, and I see that it’s been a couple of months since my last post. If you’re following my blog, I have likely given you enough time to forget that Drinking Café Latte at 1pm is a thing, so let me step back into the light for a moment to ensure you that it is still a thing.

But where have I been?

I’ll give you a quick summation of things, and then I’ll get to the stuff you’re probably on here to find out more about.

Hurricane Matthew

So, I live in South Florida, and one of the big issues that South Floridians had to face in early October was a little thing that could’ve been utterly disastrous called Hurricane Matthew. Even though the hurricane did some damage along the eastern seaboard, it didn’t do anything close to what meteorologists were promising us back on October 6th, which was essentially total devastation. A Cat 4 rolling in with a 15-foot storm surge in a place that rarely gets hit so hard is only manageable when the ground is higher than sea level. Where I live, we are pretty even with the sea, so a storm surge of 15 feet would bring the ocean into many of our neighborhoods, and even though I don’t live in a flood zone, a surge that high would possibly turn my neighborhood into a flood zone. So, I was understandably living on pins and needles that day.

Fortunately, the storm did not quite reach our coast—an act of God perhaps, as all the models were telling us that we were screwed, and even the weather reporters on the local stations were visibly nervous, and justifiably relieved when the storm took a new track in those final moments. The storm turned so early, in fact, that I didn’t even lose power.

But because it was forecast to bring doom to our town, I had to spend some time preparing for it, and writing and researching wasn’t really top on my mind.

A New Course

The following Monday, October 11, my manager pulled me into her office and handed me a sheet of paper, saying, “Here, I think you’d be good at this.” I looked at the flier and saw an invitation to sign up for a CPT certification course in manufacturing at the college I work at (different campus, though) for just $300, thanks to the school winning a science grant (normally a course like that would run for $1800). The benefit to signing up was that I could earn 15 credits toward an AS degree in engineering, should I ever elect to work toward one, and earn an extra $5000 a year in a related field. Because I make very little doing what I do for a living already, and because I make far less doing what I love on the side, I thought it was worth looking into. Of course, because I make so little doing what I do, and far less doing what I love on the side, spending $300 on anything these days is a luxury I often cannot afford.

However, this program was set to begin on October 15th, payments would’ve had to been submitted by the 14th (remember, I found out about this on the 11th), and if I were to sign up, I wouldn’t have had much time, if any, to really debate the pros and cons of changing my direction on the fly, to rededicating my time to something I didn’t even know if I wanted to do, or even to figure out if I could afford the cost. Whatever I’d decide would’ve been a snap decision that could ultimately change the course of my professional future, and making a choice for or against would’ve affected me for years to come, most likely.

Then I considered that the 14th was payday, and that I would’ve had just enough to cover the bill if I were to skim on a few others, and that I’d been praying for opportunities to embark on a more profitable life for a long time now, and I saw this as an answer to that prayer, so I took the chance on it.

November 5th was the day of our first exam—on OSHA standards and safety—and I passed. I’ve got three tests to go before I earn that certification. The class will continue off and on until April.

What that means for my writing and other projects is simple: I have to actually study something for school again—something I haven’t had to do in 12 years—so I’m relearning how to be a student, and doing so is cutting into much of the time that I had originally put into my other projects. So, I haven’t been doing much work outside of studying and game designing (one of my secondary hobbies) since my last Friday Update.

The Computer Nerd

But, I did make time to update the ending to The Computer Nerd. I still have a few changes to make before I can call myself satisfied with the story enough to push out a final revision (or at least final until I learn yet another important lesson about mysteries and thrillers), but I’m getting close to updating Amazon and Smashwords with the newest version. I won’t give an ETA because I haven’t made it priority since October 15th, but I do have a few holiday breaks coming up, so I foresee the possibility of an update happening in December sometime.

Zippywings 2016

Finally, because the end of the year is fast approaching, I feel it’s time to discuss the likelihood of a new collection of short stories appearing at various e-book retailers come the last days of 2016.

My original plan (as of last year) was to produce an annual collection of short stories (called Zippywings, which is based on my online presence) for the years 2015, 2016, and 2017, to supplement the forgotten volumes I had produced between 2004 – 2006 called The Collection of Junk. I had developed this plan based on the assumption that I would be producing revised editions of my existing short stories throughout these three years, with novelized versions of select stories appearing beside them.

However, this plan has been significantly altered thanks to the lack of sales I’ve made on Zippywings 2015, or anything really. Pretty much my entire e-book success has been based on the free short stories I released in a yearlong burst of productivity, and not one paid book has generated more than four or five sales. This greatly reduces my desire to even produce Zippywings 2016.

However, I am a perfectionist at heart, and I still like the idea of having the book exist, even if it exists only in my personal library. So, I will be putting it together. But I don’t think it will include much more than what I had already produced at the beginning of the year.

The stories that will be included in the volume:

  • Gutter Child (novella version)
  • The Fallen Footwear
  • Waterfall Junction
  • The Narrow Bridge
  • Teenage American Dream (short story version)

The stories I hope to revise in time for inclusion:

  • Sweat of the Nomad (novella version)
  • Zipwood Studios (novella version)
  • Snow in Miami (the Christmas special)

Of these stories, “Snow in Miami” is the only one I plan to also release as a freebie on Smashwords, if I finish it in time. Like I said, writing hasn’t been a priority with everything else coming at me this season.

The other three, which you’ll probably recognize as the titles of the next three novels I had planned, exist as short stories, and have for years, but I had wanted to rewrite them as longer form stories. Because that plan is on hold for now, I figure there’s no harm in releasing the original versions (with better writing) as part of Zippywings 2016, and then address their novel versions, which will likely endure different titles, later.

The Next Friday Update

Because I’m not writing as often as I’ve been in the recent past, I don’t expect to deliver a new Friday update each week like I had planned this past summer, but I will stay in touch as important developments arise, so do subscribe to my blog, or check back here often for new news. I expect to post at least one more by Christmas, maybe a couple, so don’t forget about Drinking Café Latte at 1pm. Updates will continue, even if they’re slow.

Post Script

Oh, and we elected a new president last week. That’s new, if you haven’t been keeping up. To quote a line from the 1996 film, My Fellow Americans: Hail to the chief, for he’s the chief and he needs hailing.

Friday Update #7: A Primate Mailman and Other Marketing News

Since my last update, I’ve written part of a new prologue to The Computer Nerd, in an effort to raise the stakes of the story a little sooner. I still have to finish it and clean it up, but it’s there and in progress. Here’s a snippet of what’s to come:

            Something in the dark slammed against the handle to her locked bedroom door, and she shot forward out of her restless sleep. The ringing echo of clanging metal had barely died when the unknown force hit the handle again. This wasn’t the usual wakeup call she had every morning. If it was even morning.

A pair of stem-shaped shadows divided the dim light shining through the crack under the door and stretched across the floor toward her. They didn’t shake, just remained stock still as the source of the shadows jostled the handle, cursed, and jostled the handle again.

The woman slid her feet out from under the sheets and reached for the table near her bedside. Her robe was folded on the tabletop. She had asked the assistant who placed it there to keep it neat, but now that she needed it, she wished she had left it near her pillow where she could reach it.

“Come on, you useless tool,” said the gruff voice on the other side of the door.

The woman felt anxiety creeping up on her. She expected someone to unlock her door as they always did first thing in the morning, but they usually had keys. And they rarely cursed at the door. She didn’t know who was trying to break in, but the last thing she wanted was for the impatient man to see her undressed. In spite of her circumstances, she still wanted to look classy.

She stretched toward the table again, but the handcuffs locking her to the opposite rail prevented her from reaching all the way.

“Fine, you leave me no choice,” said the man on the other side.

The woman was given one pillow. It was hardly big enough for her head. She tried batting at her robes with it, but she merely brushed the edge of the table.

The shadows finally shifted to the side. The man on the other side of the door was changing his entrance strategy. She had no idea how long it would take him to enter, or what he would do once he finally broke in. In spite of the near frigid temperature of her room, she began to sweat.

And that’s just the beginning. I hope to upload a new version of The Computer Nerd in time for the first-year anniversary of its worldwide debut on October 20th. Keep an eye on the news.

Time for MailChimp

After an unnecessarily stressful time at my job this week, I decided it was time to pull the trigger on setting my marketing strategies to get more attention on my books, as a way to bring me closer to financial independence. Seminar after seminar I’ve been listening to this summer has universally agreed that the mailing list is the way to go, and that MailChimp is the best site for beginners to use. So, that’s what I did this week. I signed up for the service.

Now, I haven’t done anything with it yet. And I probably won’t for a while still. But what I think I’ll aim to do is to write a pseudo sequel to The Computer Nerd (more like a side story involving the bounty hunter Mr. Sanders) and make it free. Then anyone who subscribes to the mailing list through the second book can get the first one free. Then I can resume marketing strategies as usual for the third and, if I deem it necessary, fourth books.

If you’ve read The Computer Nerd and you’re wondering how on earth I would pull a trilogy or tetralogy out of that story, then I would say think of Mr. Sanders as a potential protagonist, and you might figure it out.

Anyway, I’ll be spending some time figuring out how I want to set up my first marketing campaign. It’ll be a while still before I do that though.

The Cost of Marketing

Which brings me to my other eye-opening point. I’ve listened to several of Nick Stephenson’s freebie seminars since June, and garnered a lot of information and tips on how to grow my audience. Obviously, without spending the $600 necessary to get his whole course, I can’t find out all the details, not without extensive independent research. Even though I would like to enroll, I can’t afford that right now. Too many bills and too little income.

But, this week, he sponsored the release of a new book called Broken by author Gordon Hopkins, based on Stephenson’s Leopold Blake character, and offered a 75% launch week discount on the title. Anyone who bought the book between September 10th and September 14th (his traditional five-day window) would gain free access to a new course he’s designed called Your First Six Figure Launch, as well as all six of his earlier Leopold Blake novels.

I bought the book, got the freebies, and listened to the course. And I finally learned of a detail I’ve been trying to figure out since June. Turns out, to get a really good, consistent marketing campaign going, I would need to set aside about $230 a month or so, minimum. And I think that’s before the free 2000-subscriber limit on MailChimp kicks in.

So, for someone whose bills constantly flirt with his matching line of income, I think that’s going to be a huge challenge for me. So, I don’t actually want to get the mailing list active until I’m close to launching the third book (but I’ll start it with the second).

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.

Oh, and I’m back to eating healthier. I’ve lost about ten pounds since the beginning of the month. Cutting way down on the carbs to get that weight loss.

End-of-the Month Roundup: August 2016

My Friday Updates started off with a bang, and then they tapered off, and most of August has been without. “Why?” you may ask. Well, the simple reason is that I haven’t had much to talk about in August.

But, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I have actually done a lot of work, but not on my writing. I’ve been spending much of August studying, marketing in particular, but also editing. It’s the editing I’ve been learning that’s stalled my free-flow of writing. In short, I want to get my stories right, and to do so, I have to better understand the genres they fit in.

I’ve always had a problem with genre classification. I get the general genres like action and drama. But I’ve never been taught the conventions of these global genres, nor the conventions or obligatory scenes of their more defined parts (like action adventure, for example). Thanks to The Story Grid, I’ve been learning more about the genre types, and to some extent the conventions that make them work. More importantly, I’ve been giving more thought to what defines certain stories within their chosen genres, including my own stories. Especially my own stories.

I’ve been wanting to write an update to The Computer Nerd for a while, but I’ve been holding off because I want to attempt to run it through the grid (as outlined at The Story Grid website), and I want to be sure I fully understand how the grid works, and in turn figure out what I still need to do to make The Computer Nerd work. I also want to pick up Shawn Coyne’s book so that I have some kind of textbook to refer to when I give storygridding (a term Shawn Coyne coined) a try. I think it’ll be easier to graph once I know exactly what I’m supposed to do.

To be clear, I do think the story works based on the genre I’ve established. But now I’m wondering if I’ve picked the right genre. And I also think I can make it better. Even still, I have pictures in my head for improving it.

But, of course, that’s not the only thing I’ve been studying, nor the only thing keeping me up late at night.

When I do put it through a new rewrite, and eventually rerelease it, I also need to consider the cover image. I like what I have, but I don’t know that it’s appropriate for the genre. So much to consider, and I feel like no matter how much I learn about my craft, my awaiting knowledge seems to stack and stack.

There’s also the secondary concern about marketing. Whenever I do reedit and repost the story, I’ll want to do so with a change to the metadata. In short, I want this thing primed for marketing, and that means stripping out much of what’s already in there and replacing it with a more direct (and beneficial) link.

But how do I follow that?

The primary marketing tactic I see and hear all over the Internet is that the mailing list remains king. And guess what. I don’t have one. Nope, no mailing list. My blog subscription option is the best source I have for sending out new information, and most of the people who come here come to read my one comedic post about hoverboards, so they’re not going to subscribe. Clearly, that needs to change. So, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the mailing list and when to start it. But, I don’t want to really push the thing until I have what Nick Stephenson calls a “reader magnet” ready, and I’m starting to think that moving the post-credits scene to a mailing list exclusively is a bad idea. That scene is really part of the book, and should remain with the book. So, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a novella about the bounty hunter who’s searching for our mental institution escapees (spoiler alert if you haven’t read The Computer Nerd) and using that as my subscription incentive.

Would you be interested in reading the story of Mr. Sanders’s pursuit of our escapees?

Of course, getting people to subscribe means giving them something else to buy down the road, and The Computer Nerd is not something I plan to make a sequel or an entire series out of. It’s supposed to be standalone. Assuming they want something in the same genre, what do I give them?

I’ve been giving more thought to other stories I’ve posted or have planned to post by now–Gutter Child and Teenage American Dream specifically–and considered that maybe their stories could fit more into a mystery or thriller convention, and less in the convention they already have. So, among all of my other stray thoughts, I’m wondering if I should expand Gutter Child and turn the current plot into a subplot, and give Teenage American Dream a darker problem. I have some ideas on how I can expand them, but that will undoubtedly hold up my current plans of the other stories I’ve mentioned on this blog. I feel like I’ve been ignoring them long enough.

So, that’s how my month has been. No progress, just a lot of studying.

I also host a biannual game-making contest, which had a deadline this month, so I’ve been giving that a lot of my attention. But you came here to find out about my writing, didn’t you?

Friday Update #6: The Branding Betrayal and Other Briefs

I haven’t posted to the Friday Updates in a couple of weeks, mainly because I haven’t had much to say since my last post, but also because I’ve had other commitments and time got away from me. More on that later.

In Support of Branding

I wanted to kick off this post with a slight nitpick. As some of you may know (if you know me personally), I’m a fan of movies. I enjoy a good movie as much if not more than a good book. I enjoy them for the stories, sure, but I especially enjoy them for the experience they provide. And I’m especially a fan of movie franchises, as I can continue to reenter the worlds of my favorite characters and experience something new while hanging on the edge of my seat to the exploits of people old (but not necessarily those of old people, except for maybe Clint Eastwood, and only if he does another Dirty Harry, which I guess would be hard to watch nowadays given that he’s the same age as my grandmother, who just recently passed away—more on that later).

However, one of the things I depend on in my movie experiences is continuity, and that’s especially true of those that actually continue into sequels and more sequels. Franchises like James Bond can get away with actor changes because there are so many of them that eventually the actors will get too old to play the part, like Sean Connery, who’s the same age as my grandmother, who just recently passed away—still, more on that later). The only thing we really must have in a James Bond movie consistently is the tracking gun barrel sequence at the start of each movie, and the opening credits sequence with the dramatic song and the nearly naked women superimposing the movie’s weapon of choice. There are story points that must be addressed, too, but those are related more to the genre than to the franchise itself. At any rate, James Bond has a specific brand we expect each film to adopt, and those are the things we expect—oh, and of course the James Bond theme song by Monty Norman. Other movie franchises like Mission: Impossible also have an expected brand, with the lit fuse marching toward an explosion and the classic theme by Lalo Schifrin (I almost mixed the two composers up—I’ve watched these franchises so many times that they sometimes run together on details like that). It’s also well-known for its anti-brand of style by changing directors and storylines so much that each movie barely resembles the one before it, and really only has Tom Cruise and the opening fuse to bind all five together. Weirdly, this works out great for that series.

If you’re paying attention, then you’ve noticed that I’ve addressed two of the top three blockbuster spy movie franchises currently running. The third franchise, the Bourne series, also has a brand, with each film taking the exact title from the book that corresponds with its entry number (The Bourne Identity is the name of the first book and movie, The Bourne Supremacy the second, and so on through The Bourne Legacy, which changes the lead character but stays firmly in the established cinematic universe), and this keeps them all in the same family.

Or, at least this is true of the first four films.

Now, I just saw the latest Bourne film, Jason Bourne, on Wednesday, and even though I enjoyed it, there are a few things about it that annoyed me. And it all has to do with its branding.

Movies like this remind me why branding in a series is so important. On the outside, novels in a series establish brands by having similar covers and similar fonts from one installment to the next. Their internal content can also establish brands, with recurring themes and recurring popular characters populating them. But they also form brands by the titles they use. Novels do this. Movies do this. Even the names of television episodes (something many audiences will never even see) do this. The show Scrubs, for example, would title each episode as “My [Something].” That puts every episode into a family. My favorite show, Community, would title each episode after a fake and ridiculous course title (“Advanced Complaining,” for example, was never a Community title, but it could’ve been because each episode was titled something like that). I think branding among titles is a good idea, but keeping a continuity among titles to establish that brand is vital if the series has three or more installments and the first two are of the same style.

Before I saw Jason Bourne, I watched the Honest Trailer for the original Bourne film trilogy, and I think it does a fine job highlighting many of the trilogy’s repeat items, enough for me to recognize them when I see them in new installments. I must also say that plenty of elements within the newest movie match those of the older films (the use of the word asset, for example) quite faithfully. And I was pleased to see that the end title song, “Extreme Ways” by Moby, makes its fifth appearance in the series, over the usual hi-tech background graphic where the credits flash, with its expected differences in style from its previous incarnations. And, of course, the story is basically the same as it is in the first four movies. Even though it brings nothing new, it’s still most everything I expect from a Bourne film. Well, almost everything.

Going back to the title, there are two expectations that people like me will have whenever a new entry into the series is released: 1. The title will be The Bourne [Something]. This is how it’s lain out in the previous four films. It’s how the fifth movie should’ve been presented. It’s what we expect when we set up our DVDs and Blu-rays beside each other on the franchises shelf. 2. The title should coincide with the book that matches its installment number. In this case, the fifth book is called The Bourne Betrayal, so the movie should’ve been called The Bourne Betrayal. Even its IMDB entry mentions this inconsistency in the trivia section. What’s worse is that the movie’s plot actually supports this title.

So why change the name? I don’t know. I suspect that the studio dipped its hand where it shouldn’t have, as it often does, and decided that it would make more money or be more appealing to feature the main character’s name instead of what audiences actually expect. I mean, it worked for Jack Reacher, right?

Here’s the thing. The movie is the same regardless of what title it’s given. My complaint is about as OCD and nit-picky as OCD and nit-picky get. But I also think this inconsistency is as annoying as snot. Just give it the expected title. As long as it has the name Bourne in the title, we’ll know it belongs to that franchise. The title change has single-handedly taken a franchise I love and made it into something I love a little less. It just feels like a detached entry now. Being that it takes place 12 years after the previous three just isolates it even more.

Now, if the next Bourne movie is called Jason Bourne 6, and not The Bourne Sanction (the sixth book’s title, and the sixth title to maintain consistency), then I’ll have to stop caring what decisions the studio makes for this franchise. Seeing as how they aren’t changing the formula a lick from movie to movie, either, I’m guessing the series has had its heyday and is ready to take another long nap. I don’t know. Makes me sad, though. This really was one of my favorites for the longest time.

For those of you who write series books or make series movies, please stick to your established brands. Changing them by even the slightest angles derails the momentum you’ve created. Don’t do it. Change the stories instead. That’s what we care about being new.

Other Non-Writing Things

So, I missed last week’s post because I was distracted. We had my grandmother’s memorial the following day, and I was mentally checked out from doing anything creative or informative in the hours leading up to it. I was also exhausted from two straight days of walking several miles on the soggy beach during the hottest time of the day, so I ended up sleeping through most of it. So, sorry if you were expecting news. But I really didn’t have any.

The week before, I was supporting a friend at a cocktail party on the 29th floor of a beachfront condo about an hour from where I live. I was tired when I got home. Plus, I didn’t have any news. I did have fun though. I don’t get invited to cocktail parties like that too often.

Smashwords Sale

For those of you who might’ve been interested in buying my e-books during the Smashwords sale, the sale is over, and everything is back to full price. But, you can still find coupons for discounts and freebies in the Promotions sections in the header, so don’t worry about it. Thanks to those of you who bought something, or will buy something.

(I just noticed that most of the existing coupons are expired or soon to expire. I’ll generate a new batch at some point soon. Keep checking back.)

And that’s it for this week. I’ve spent the last few days working on my computer game, Entrepreneur: The Beginning, and I’ve been reading a lot on the Story Grid website, catching up my knowledge on how to edit, so I haven’t been writing much lately. I will soon, though. Don’t worry. I did write a poem called “My Fading Silence” a couple of nights ago, however. You can read it in my previous post. I don’t write poetry often, so it’s a rare treat.

Oh, and I’ve officially cancelled my preorders for Teenage American Dream, Sweat of the Nomad, and Zipwood Studios until further notice. I will be reinstating them at some point, but not before I get an email list together or something substantial toward their development. I also need to figure out if I want to release their original short story versions under their existing titles and their novel versions under new titles. Check back here often for new information.

Friday Update #5: Thesauri and How to Grieve

I didn’t get much writing done this week. I’ve been spending time researching marketing, as I’ve been for the last few weeks, and thinking about more ways to better the work I have. I’ve also been spending more time on side projects, including work on a computer game I’ve been building since May 2009, called Entrepreneur: The Beginning.

Perhaps the biggest of my writing news comes from the books I bought earlier last week, The Rural Setting Thesaurus and The Urban Setting Thesaurus, which arrived at my house last Saturday. They come from the authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, and The Negative Trait Thesaurus, three other books I own, all of which I highly recommend if you need a quick reference on character types, character feelings, and setting details. I won’t get into the specifics in this post—let’s just say all five books are worth the investment—but I do hope to include them in my eventual writers’ books series, which I really need to launch soon. I got a raise at work this week, and the new income may make it possible to upgrade my phone in the near future to one that takes better photos, so I may wait until then to really get going. But we’ll see. I’m still reading through the introductions of each of these thesauri, but I believe they are helpful resources all in all.

The End of an Era

2016 has been a pretty awful year for me so far (and for others I care about), and not much good in general for most people it seems. Last month I lost the last of my grandparents, not an uncommon occurrence for someone who just turned 40 like me, but turning 40 is a big deal in its own right, and having to deal with both catastrophic changes in the same week is a little rough. Well, yesterday I had to say goodbye to another lifelong legend—the Schefflera tree that stood in the backyard of my family’s home and defined it since I was a small child. My grandfather had given it to my mom as a housewarming gift, and it spent the next 38 years growing strong, bringing both shade and character to the backyard. It was the bedside tree of my favorite cat, Sniffy, and companion to “Eagle Base,” the shed that my neighborhood friends and I used to use as “base” during our epic games of hide and seek. It outlasted the orange tree that I grew up climbing, and survived a number of hurricanes.

This week, my mom was told that the tree was causing problems to the drain field, so after some financial considerations (a drain field costs $5000 to replace), which included the cost of replacing the field every ten years, she decided the best course of action for the yard and the neighbors’ yards was to have someone cut it down. So, that happened in the last 24 hours.

I don’t usually grieve the loss of a tree. But with my grandfather dead, Sniffy dead, and the shed known as “Eagle Base” long since destroyed, I feel like my entire youthful history is getting erased. Yes, there are pictures of all of these people and things. But my memory gets worse every year, and one day there will be no more memories of that tree, or of the ways it had served its home well.

Well, except for this:

So, that’s my update for the week. Not much to speak about in the writing circle, but sometimes it’s best just to know how things are going.

Here’s a picture of the tree for posterity.

schefflera
My Schefflera