Movie (and TV) Monday

There’s no use in denying it.  I waste a lot of time watching movies thanks to the Blockbuster kiosk down the street and Netflix via my Wii.  Most of the stuff I watch is horrendously awful, and frankly, I watch them just to see how truly bad they are.  Occasionally, I will discover a movie or TV show I’ve never heard of before that is not only good, but fantastic.  Here’s what I discovered this weekend.

The Good – Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles (Documentary): Not only had I never heard of this movie; I had never heard of the mystery of the Toynbee Tiles.  In the early to mid 80’s, a message started appearing in tiles embedded on the streets of Philadelphia that referenced resurrecting the dead on Jupiter, but the origin of the message was a mystery.  A young runaway, Justin Duerr, became intrigued by the tiles.  He noticed them all over the city.  Over the next 30 years, his fascination turned into an obsession.  He had to know who was placing these tiles in the streets.  His research led him to discover that the messages didn’t just appear in Philadelphia, they appeared all over the East coast and in parts of South America.  He teamed up with others that were spellbound by the mystery and through what only can be described as dogged determination, they eventually find the person behind the tiles.  The movie had me hooked from the first frame.  I found myself pulling for the investigators, and I became totally invested in their adventure.  It was a great way to relax for two hours on a Saturday.  Thank you, Netflix!

The Bad – Project X (Comedy?):  I guess this was supposed to be a comedy, but in the end, it just made me angry that I wasted $2 on it.  I rented it because it was billed as the next Hangover, which is kind of true because I was hungover with regret and despair that this movie found the funding to be produced and released.  It has your typical raunchy teen movie theme; the parents are going out of town and entrusting their good, nerdy kid to watch the house while their away.  Meanwhile, his criminally inclined friends plan a party to get drunk and get laid.  Mayhem ensues.  Horrible writing takes over.  Stilted acting overinflated with every cliché they could dig up invades. And, a ridiculously violent end to the evening leads you to conclude that maybe humanity’s rule over this planet should come to an end if this is all we have to offer in the way of entertainment.   Screw you, Blockbuster kiosk!

The Awesome – The Whitest Kids U’ Know (Comedy!!): I grew up on Monty Python.  I would sit with my dad and watch it on PBS back in the days when we only had five TV channels.  TWKUK is Monty Python 2.0. America’s version of sketch comedy with no restraints.  It is gloriously inappropriate humor that makes spot on, if not totally goofy, commentaries about the absurdly ironic nature of American culture. I watched all 10 episodes of season five of their IFC TV show on Saturday and Sunday, and I was so disappointed when there were no more to watch.  The best of the best was a reoccurring sketch that ran through all 10 episodes called, The Civil War on Drugs.  In essence, two stoners join the war between the states because they think it’s about making pot illegal.  There’s actually even an almost heartwarming plea to young people in one sketch to visit old people in nursing homes…  almost heartwarming.  I love you, Netflix!

This is the tamest clip from TWKUK that I could find to post here.  The show is etremely inappropriate, but funny as hell.

The frustrating…. errr, I mean rewarding pursuit of the traditional publishing deal

You’ll have to excuse me. I’m suffering from author madness at the moment.

Before I explain the title of this post, let me stress that this is not a complaint. It’s merely an observation.

As some of you know (and many of you probably don’t care), my agent has been making a herculean effort to sell The Takers (and as much of the series as he can) to major publishers. He updates me whenever he hears back from a publisher with either rejections, or notes on how to improve the manuscript. I’ve declined to make some of the changes, but more times than not the suggestions do add elements to the story that I think make it better. I’m not stubborn or naive enough to believe I have all the answers, so I’m always excited to hear what people in the storytelling business have to say. My sole desire is to deliver a story that is as close to perfect as possible. Suggestions and criticisms from editors are going to help me do just that.

That’s not to say I don’t like The Takers as it is currently written. I do, and many of you have expressed to me that you like it, as well. I’ll never change the tone of the story. The suggestions so far have been to give a little more background information on Oz and Stevie’s relationship and, for God’s sake, get rid of the cliffhanger ending. I’m finding out that editors do not like cliffhangers. I love them, but I understand that’s a personal preference that many don’t share. I have no problem stepping outside of my head and making the ending a little more concrete… But just a little.

Here’s the frustrating part. These are two separate notes I got back from two different publishers.

Publisher A – Oz is completely unlikable. The reader can’t relate to him and therefore will never root for him.

Publisher B – Oz is too likable from the beginning. There’s no room for him to grow.

Do you see my dilemma? Both publishers are part of what’s known as The Big Six in the industry. They’ve managed to make a lot of money in a business that fails 70% of the time. They know what they are doing. So, either I have somehow managed to create a completely unlikable main character that is too likable, or one of them is wrong.  The problem I have is figuring out which one is off the mark.

This sounds like I’m complaining, and I guess on some level I am, but I do deeply appreciate the time both publishers spent reading and providing me with feedback.  If the two criticisms had been similiar, I’d be busy trying to correct the problem.  As it is, Oz will remain unlikable in a likable way.

Pardon me while I go slightly insane.

Lou’s Diary – Entry One (text version)

I am alone, and I don’t know if that matters because I don’t know what I am.  I’m not a person… not a real person.  I am an imaginary person, a fictional character.  I am lines on a piece of paper, drawings and words in a comic book.  Everything I have a memory of doing and saying aren’t memories at all.  They’re the things I’ve done and said on the pages of a homemade comic book created by some… kid… a kid who was tortured and shunned by other kids because of what he was…  he was treated like he wasn’t a person… not a real person.   I am the figment of boy’s imagination who never knew if he was real or not because he felt like no one cared about him.

I have lost count of how long it’s been since I left the others.  The snow has been constant and heavy.  The days look like nights and the nights like days. I haven’t run into any trouble.  The Délons would never come this far North.  And I haven’t come across any Banshees, Myrmidons, Bashirs, Silencers, nothing.  Not even any Skinner dead.  To be honest, I wish I had.  I wish there was something to fight besides the thoughts running through my head.  I’d give anything to come across a Destroyer… especially a Silencer.  PLEASE give me a Silencer to kill!

You should know, diary, I let someone die… no that’s being too easy on myself.  I killed someone. Because of my stupidity, my lack of leadership, whatever you want to call it, Valerie is dead.  Killed by a Silencer…

My hands are nearly frozen.  I have to stop writing, or my fingers might fall off.  I should just find a spot to freeze to death, but I won’t.  I don’t know why exactly.  For some reason that I can’t explain, I have to keep going.  I guess Stevie Dayton isn’t done with me yet.

Thanks for the NPR nominations

I did a quick (translation: inaccurate) count of how many times The Oz Chronicles received nominations for NPR’s search for the best Young Adult novels, and I was happy to find at least six nominations through the first thirty or so pages.  It doesn’t sound like a lot, but most of the nominations went to the blockbusters (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Book Thief, etc.).  So to those that nominated the Oz Chronicles, I say THANK YOU!  To those that didn’t, it’s not too late.

The first step in the process is to assemble nominees from you, the audience. To nominate your favorite YA books for consideration, log in below and write the titles and authors into the comments field. Here are a few guidelines:

To those that just don’t want to, you’re totally going to miss out on the trip to Disney Land I promised everyone who nominated the Oz Chronicles…  Wait, I forgot. I didn’t promise anyone a trip to Disney Land.    But if the Oz Chronicles makes the list and NPR recommends the series, I’ll wear a Mickey Mouse Club hat for a week.  I’m talking 24/7.  That’s several trips to the grocery store, three trips to the gym, three runs around my neighborhood, at least one movie, a couple nights eating out… That’s almost as good as a trip to Disney Land, right?

Thanks again nominators!

Lou’s video diary entry

Notice – If you haven’t finished Book five, there is a bit of a spoiler in the video.

The video diary option was the clear winner in the poll.  Some of you made good points about making the diary available in book form, and I will at some later date.  This is a ‘publish-as-I-write’ project.  It may actually help me with background story for book six.  At any rate, here’s entry one.  The first part of the video is me explaining my plans for the diary.  The entry starts at about 2:35.  Enjoy!

A little help for the Oz Chronicles – NPR is looking for Young Adult book recommendations

NPR is looking for the best Young Adult novels.

This goes out to the friends, followers, and fans of the Oz Chronicles.  NPR is looking for the best Young Adult novels.  It’s a long shot for the Oz Chronicles to make the list, but why not go for it?  So, if you want to show your support for Oz here’s what NRP wants you to do.

The first step in the process is to assemble nominees from you, the audience. To nominate your favorite YA books for consideration, log in below and write the titles and authors into the comments field. Here are a few guidelines:

Click here for more details:  The Best Young Adult Novels? You Tell Us

Spread the word!

My Ireland debut – Writing an author bio

A blog post for which I was paid one pair of Irish pants… I wish!

I’ve gone international.  More precisely, some of my blog posts have gone international.  A writing blog in Ireland just picked up an article I wrote for CreateSpace on writing an author bio.  CreateSpace is a regular gig and occassionally they’ll give permission to other sites to repost material.  I love it because it’s free advertising for me and my books.  My stuff has also appeared on a site in the UK a couple of times.

Here’s a little tidbit from the bio article:

To many, writing an author bio is an enigma wrapped in a riddle buried with Blackbeard’s treasure. It’s hard to know what is and isn’t relevant. What sets one author bio apart from another? Does work experience count? Is it accolades that matter most? What about education – does that make a difference? How can you express who you really are while meeting readers’ expectations of you as an author?

Check out the rest on Writing.ie 

In the age of social media, who do you hug?

“Dude, I know you like my tweets, but let’s start with a handshake and see where this goes.”

I am an awkward hugger.  My problem is I don’t know who to hug.  I’m not opposed to hugging, as a practice.  I’m just very sensitive to invading someone else’s space.  Family and old friends get a hug. That’s a no-brainer…  although, manly friends and family are a little hard to figure out at times.  I have an inconsistent hugging record with most the men I know, but hugging is not the foundation of those relationships, so it’s not a big deal.

New friends and people I know through other people are my main problem areas.  There is that horrendously uncomfortable moment when such a person joins a gathering and begins to greet and hug everyone else they know better than me.  My mind immediately begins to assess the situation.  Are we at the hugging level?  If I lead with a hug, and they expect a handshake we’ll both disappear into some kind of social vortex of cumbersome regret.  If I lead with a handshake and they expect a hug, I will appear cold and aloof, maybe even overtly hostile.

Inevitably when the person reaches me, there is a clumsy pause followed by me leading with an extended hand that is held wide enough to be converted into a one-armed hug should their approach suggest they expect a friendly embrace.    The conversion is not smooth and there is usually a chuckle by everyone at my expense.   To which I respond with a smile and sheepishly remove myself from any further contact with the recipient of my hybrid shake/hug.  Thereby ensuring that we will never extend our relationship beyond the perimeter of the occasional get-together and at the same time guaranteeing we will forever dwell at the nexus of uncomfortable greetings.

I bring this up because it occurred to me at a party yesterday (where most the people in attendance received the shake/hug from me) that there is an entire virtual universe of people I now have to worry about when it comes to unwieldy greetings.  I’m referring to those folks I only know through social media.  Up until now, it has only happened at book signings and appearances where 99% of the people expect a handshake.  The other one percent initiates the hug and removes me from all responsibility in the greeting conundrum. But, I fear there will be a time in my future where I will meet my social media “friends” at some event or function where there is no book as a greetings buffer.  What then?  Do the people in my social media circles merit hugs?  Or, more accurately, do they want a hug from me?  Is it valid for me to invade their space?

I’m R.W. Ridley and this is the crap that keeps me up at night.

Toying with a wild idea for the Oz Chronicles (you decide)

I’ve been shooting my mouth off about releasing entries from Lou’s diary as a supplement to the Oz Chronicles until I can get the next book out.  Actually, I’ve been writing it on Facebook and this blog so technically I’ve been shooting my fingers off about it, but I digress.   I made this suggestion in response to the numerous messages I’ve gotten from readers asking me when Book Six is coming out.  Much to the publishing industries objections (well, those in it that have read my books anyway), I’ve ended all the Oz books with cliffhangers, including Book Five.  Lou is in a pickle, and people want to know what’s going to happen to her.  The diary will hopefully fill that void until the next book is released.

I’ve got a list of books I want to write outside of the Oz universe, and I’ve gotten into the habit of taking a hiatus from Oz and writing something different to give my brain a break, but for some reason I think I can do this, so I’m going to give it a whirl.  But, I’m thinking of taking it one step further.  You see the annoying laws of brand awareness say I have to do more to get my face out there.   As someone recently described me as “creepy-looking” I’m not sure if that’s a great idea, but I’ve never made a concerted effort to do so.  It’s time I give it a try which means doing more vlog entries which means shooting, editing, and lamenting over how creepy I actually do look.  If you add my normal writing time to the Lou Diary writing time and then factor in the video production time, that comes to… a lot of freakin time.   I’m thinking of killing two birds with one stone.  My vlogs will be me reading an entry from Lou’s diary.  My plan would be to release one a week.  It sounds like the perfect compromise, but I’m sure I’m overlooking something.  Rather than jumping into this head first, I’m going to ask for your input.  Vote in the survey below and a week from today I’ll tally the results and abide by your wishes.