Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Supporting Independent Authors---and enjoying one heck of a good story.

If you've read some of my previous posts on here you'll know that I am very supportive of independent authors. Not all of us have the connections of best selling authors, and those of us that write know that seldom does an agent you query actually take the time to read what your synopsis is before telling you to piss off. It is too risky for them to try to make money off of a new writer. That's why most of the time these days authors sell a lot of books on their own and then the agents come out of the woodwork to sign them...when they have no risk but can share in the piece of the pie. Ever heard of Fifty Shades of Gray? Rich Dad, Poor Dad?

Before I rant, you should meet independent write Wendy Willett, author of Amber Shadows and the Missing Wands. I recently asked Wendy a few questions regarding her writing and experiences with her book.

What inspired you to start writing and when?

I've always had a creative side. Since I was a kid my talent and thirst for creativity has gone through several changes. First it was singing, then it was acting, then it was writing. While I can still sing and act, I prefer to be behind the scenes, creating the story.  Writing started for me when I wrote an article in grammar school for our class newsletter and found it fun. After school I went to college and found it extremely boring. I wasn't taking courses I wanted, rather the courses they told me I had to take first year. They felt like nothing more than repeats of my senior high school classes. I graduated from Carmel High School for Girls, a college prep high school. They separated the girls from the boys back then and boys were only in my advanced courses, like Drama and Art. Now it is an integrated school. After I graduated, back then, the College of Lake County did not have a drama department and theater. Had they had those classes, I would have added them to my classes and stayed. So I decided to join the work force. I became a secretary for a sign company, met my ex husband and married. I retired 2 years later when I was near my due date to deliver my first born. From that point on, I was a stay-at-home mother. Time passed and I was expecting my second child. During that pregnancy I decided I needed something more in my life than just being a mother. I was bored and felt there had to be more to life than being a mother and wife. It was my creative side calling out to me. That is when I became a student of Institute of Children's Literature. My daughter was born in 2001. This made time hard to come by for studying, but I was able to get my diploma by studying when my children slept. During my last months of studying, the character Amber Shadows popped into my head. I felt it was time to write about a young female protagonist who had magically abilities, yet had emotional turbulence going on in her family life. Most books I had read had male protagonists and it seemed to me that it was done to death. Suddenly I was developing a story. Meanwhile, my professor wanted me to continue my education in advanced classes because of my high grades and talent for writing. She wanted me to go into journalism-writing articles. Now while writing articles was fun for me as a kid, it simply was not what I wanted to learn and do in my writing career. I told her I wanted to write and learn how to develop books, so she taught me to develop my talent of writing a full story from beginning to end. I have been working on writing various projects since then, when I am not working. A big influence on me in writing Amber Shadows would have to be all the works I read on science fiction, the supernatural, and of course my favorite...magic.  Movies even influence me! I'll be watching a movie and for some reason, I'll find myself paying attention to the script more so than the whole movie. I'll be sitting there saying, the line should have been this... or that. I'll even ruin the ending for myself and guess the ending because I can not shut my writer's imagination off! When this started, I found that I like script writing and editing and decided to write the screen adaption to Amber Shadows and the Missing Wands, my first book in a planned series of four. I've edited scripts with others in the indie business, and found it was more enjoyable than writing scripts.

Tell us a bit about your future projects.

Projects I have started are still works in progress. I wrote the pilot to Maniacal Witch and although written and complete, it sits up on a shelf until such time as I can be free to pitch it and continue writing the series. I am open to a producer wanting to read it, buy the rights to it, and offer me a contract to consult on each episode with another writer, and receive a percentage of royalties.  After having to deal with many disappointments in partnerships, people not following through because they weren't who they said they were, etc. I made the decision to remain solo as a writer on projects I am doing now. Currently, I am editing the Amber Shadows script adaption because it needs to come down in pages. I had put so much description in it because I wanted the director who contracts me to make the movie, to visualize the book as I had written it. So unless I can find a reputable producer and director who wants to read it at 140 pages, I need to get it down to the norm of 120 pages. The bad part of having to edit it down is, I feel I am taking away from the script in having to follow these formalities of the film business.   I am also developing book II in the Amber Shadows series, Amber Shadows and the Crystal Locket of Lost Time. Each book I do in the series, will have a script adaption made for movie options. I will be writing the scripts but wouldn't mind another writer adapting each book so long as I have a say-so in the making of the movie. I want the filmmakers to stay true to the stories I write in the series just as J.K. Rowling did with the Harry Potter movies. There is another script project that I have been wanting to write about, possibly even make it a book first. The ideas are spinning around in my head every day so it will be written.  I'm keeping it hush, hush though, because I do not want the idea stolen by another writer who decides to claim it as his/her own. That happens way too often in this business. There are also a couple other ideas brewing in my head for books to write. However, right now my focus is on the Amber Shadows book series and script adaptions. Once the Amber Shadows series is done, I will be moving on to my other projects. 

Who is your favorite writer?

I don't have any. I enjoy many works of various writers, but to say one of them is my favorite would be playing favorites, so I won't say. I did enjoy the Harry Potter series and the Charlie Bone series, stories I've read from my friends such as Pot of Gold, which would make an awesome screenplay by the way. And I've always loved the works of Sir Conan Doyle and J.R. Tolkien. I've recently taken to reading the Fallen Series by Thomas Sniegoski when I can find time.

What kind of experiences have you had promoting your book?

For the most part I promote on FB and Twitter. I have done book signings/readings for the grade school my children attended. One reading in particular stands out in my memory. It was the first time I was asked to talk to the 5th grade students and teachers about writing books and screenplays. They wanted to inspire their students to write short stories and develop them properly, so they asked me to read for them an excerpt from Amber Shadows and the Missing Wands book and talk about my experience as an author/writer. To make them see how amazing reading and writing is, I read each character as if I was the actual character. I found this extremely fun to do because I was able to put my acting abilities to use too.  Afterwards, I received a standing ovation. The kids stormed up to me for autographed posters of the book cover. That was such a rush and one I will never forget! I only wish I could do more book readings/signings. Another time I was asked to teach book writing at another grammar school in Libertyville Illinois. I gave them a project to work on and their teachers only had to follow up on how well they developed their stories.  I miss going out to meet students and fans for book signings, but the reality is I have to maintain a paying job while writing in my spare time. Perhaps in the future I will be able to resume book signings and readings. The kids/fans are amazing and fun to talk to. If I can inspire at least one child to write and develop their talent, then it is more than worth the time given. There is such a joy in reaching out to kids about reading and writing.  

You can find Amber Shadows by searching Amazon and all other major online book retailers.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

10 Commandments of College Life

10. I don’t encourage underage drinking. In fact, I suggest you don’t break the law. However, I’m not an idiot. You go away to college and you’re away from home and the parental controls and you’re likely to partake in an adult beverage from time to time. Or for some of you party animals…every damn weekend and Wednesdays. So if you insist on drinking, I suggest you pick out a liquor that you actually like and slowly build up a tolerance. Slowly! I mean that. Don’t go pick up a fifth of your new favorite and drink half the bottle on a Friday night. You know what happens when you do that? You either have the worst hangover of your life that lasts for three days or you freaking die. Seriously. Go slow. That way over your college years when you have a birthday or a party or something, your cohorts will recognize you as the guy that likes Crown or a particular vodka. They’ll give you those as gifts from time to time and if you pace yourself you’ll have a nice stash of whatever you drink that should last you at least two or three years past college. Why pay for it if you can have enough of it bought for you for various reasons.

9. Pick a cool professor that you actually like. Preferably someone who is closer to your age and barely tenured. You never know when you might need a professor to have your back when you do some dumb shit at college.

8. Do not buy beer for minors!! I stress that. It’s bad. However, once again I won’t be foolish. If you insist on buying beer for underage drinkers, recruit two or three friends along with you to be the beer-buyers. It is best that at least a couple of those “of age” friends be pretty girls. Pretty girls get invited to more parties. When everyone is drunk let the hosts know that they are running low on beer. You’d hate for the babes to leave. So you collect $ from these suckers to go out and buy another case for them. Make sure you approach people individually about the beer shortage. Collect ten bucks from four or five people. Come back and drop off the case of beer. Collect $50 for a $20 case of cheap beer. Split the proceeds with your pals. You hit a few parties each weekend and make a couple hundred bucks. Not a bad score and you look like the good guy for doing the deed.

7. Make friends with a couple of upper classmen with a nice apartment. You never know when your roommate is going to be a dick and you need some place to crash.

6. Now that you’re in college and all growed up, it’s time to put away that shit music that got you through high school and expand your musical tastes. Listen to different things. No more Ke$sha, no more shitty rap music where every other word has to be deleted in the videos. Don’t be that person that still listens to Minaj and Miley, or that white kid that still thinks he’s bad ass by swinging that baseball cap around backwards and listening to gangsta rap. Don’t be that douche bag. Go back and explore musical history by checking out some old Muddy Watters, crossing time into the late 60’s, the re-emergence of some edgier music in the 70’s. I do suggest you avoid disco. But make sure you hang out in the era of George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars. You will Funkin’ dig it. Try some newer alternative stuff. Don’t be closed minded. It’s a big damn world out there. Pop culture just slings mind numbing shit for the masses. Be smarter than that.

5. A simple slogan says it all: Better Dead Than Red. I’d wager a guess that at least 95% of the faculty at your university are left wing progressives. Don’t let those commies beat the spirit of socialism into you. Question authority. After all, they hide on campus behind academia and have never had to produce in the real world. Those that can DO. Those that can’t TEACH. Remember that. Communism sucks. Don’t let the commies beat you down. To borrow a word from your pals Public Enemy, “Fight The Power.”

4. Be a prankster. You have four to six years of college, depending on how lazy you are. Have some fun with it. It’s a great time before you go into the real world and actually have to take responsibility for your actions. Find someone else in your dorm that has a good sense of humor and won’t kill you for pushing the envelope against them and start a good natured practical joke war. Be careful that you don’t take it too far. You don’t want to be newsworthy at 6 o’clock or anything. Try something funny like waiting until your target is out of his room. He will likely lock the door if he’s smart. That’s when you take a piss in a pizza pan and put it in the freezer. When it is frozen you take it out and pop the frozen circle of piss out like you would with an ice tray. Then you slide it under the door with enough force that it makes it to the middle of his room. When he gets back he’ll wonder how someone got in and took a piss in his floor. A clever little trick if you can avoid being caught by your R.A.

3. Enjoy life in the Quad. When it is warm girls show up in bikinis to work on their tan. It is especially fun to hang out during co-ed intramurals. I knew a guy who would sneak out at night and drop a deuce in the sand where they play volleyball. That was always a laugh when some guy would tromp through the litter box with no shoes on.

2. Debt sucks. Don’t let the snake oil salesmen pawn a dozen credit cards on you that you can’t even make payments on. And you definitely don’t want to still be paying for a cheese pizza you ate during your junior year three years after you graduate. Don’t run up a lot of credit card debt unless, of course, your parents are footing the bill. Then by all means go buy that new Kindle.

1. Don’t forget to be a dreamer. That nerd at Facebook invented that platform while he was in college. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs dropped out of college and made their millions because they weren’t afraid to chase dreams. Just because you are in college doesn’t mean that you can develop some new concept or find your own niche in this world. Those who are foolish enough to think they can change the world are the one’s that actually do.

So here is one more tip for you guys who are planning on going to college this Fall. Get out a notepad and a pen and take some notes. These movies will change your point of view about college life. Make sure you watch these before the next semester. This is important.

American Pie 2
Old School
Revenge of the Nerds
Revenge of the Nerds 2
The Graduate (an old movie, but the guy shows you how to extend your lazy streak well past college and how to get lucky at the same time)
With Honors
Dead Man On Campus
Back To School

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A College Class About Miley Cyrus...Are You Kidding?

According to an article on Yahoo News, a small liberal arts college in upstate New York (Skidmore College) is offering a college course on Miley Cyrus. Take a moment to insert your own joke here. I don’t think I need to go into an explanation of what is wrong with America’s college system these days. I am curious as to how the professor convinced the powers that be at Skidmore how a class about Miley Cyrus will add to the stature of the University, add to the overall well-roundedness of the student body, and how this class will help students be more prepared for life in the real world after graduation.

I have a college degree and a ton of debt to go along with it that I’m still paying for. Outside of a handful of classes that were actually helpful, I could have gotten the same level of education at the public library and from the Internet. That would have saved me from still having to pay an ass-load of debt. I feel bad for college grads today coming out into this so-called economic recovery only to have lower level or temp jobs and having all that debt come due while they still can’t land that first great job they hoped for. If I were a college student and this class was the best new offering they could come up with I would seriously consider a transfer.

But to offer a class about Miley Cyrus and having to pay a good sum for it seems somewhat ridiculous to me. The 21 year old Justin Bieber look-alike seems to be on the verge of an emotional breakdown like a lot of other child stars that grew up on camera before her. I’m not pissing on the her talent or anything, I’m just making a point that offering a class on cultural success when the girl is barely legal seems a bit dumb. Perhaps the college would be better served having a class about how pop culture impacts society. The whole art imitates life imitates art sort of thing. Starting with the rise of rock and roll in the 50’s and the emergence of Hollywood would be a great place to start.

And besides, if you have to pick one cultural icon to dedicate to an entire class I can think of a lot of more deserving icons. I’m sure Cyrus would agree. How about the blonde bombshell herself, Marilyn Monroe. Or maybe Andy Warhol, The Beatles, or any number of amazing actors with a storied history such as Jack Nicholson or Humphrey Bogart. Or perhaps someone who doesn’t rip off the

80’s band Accept by swinging from a wrecking ball in her video with a Bieb’s haircut. We’ve seen that video before, but we can be thankful that the guy from Accept kept his clothes on during the video for Balls To The Wall.

Oh, before I forget. Angus from AC/DC had been there before as well.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It Takes Heart...Chasing Hollywood

On my Facebook page, Author Cyrus Alderwood (a pen name) I have a lot of actors as friends on that list. Initially I set the page up to promote my latest book, but I got a lot more out of that just a few book sales. I paid attention to a lot of the posts that actors put up (many of whom would be considered as struggling actors chasing their dreams) and learned a good bit about the best of human nature and desire.

I am fortunate to have as a friend an actor named Jake Lawson who is originally from Gate City, Virginia, not far from where I grew up. I met Jake some time ago through mutual friends in the area (yes it is a small world in rural Virginia) and learned a good deal about the path that his life had taken and what kind of sacrifices and dedication it takes to follow your dreams. In short you need courage. And true to the title of this blog, it takes heart.

I sat down to talk with Jake a while back to interview him about his chosen career path and the struggles that come along with it. If you are an optimistic person that is chasing a goal or dream, Jake’s story should be a bit of inspiration. You see, Jake recently had a great turn in his acting career having filmed “Solace” with Anthony Hopkins and Colin Farrell. Following on the heels of that breakthrough he was picked up for a major role in “Field of Shoes,” a story set back during the times of slavery in the South. Both major films will be released in 2014. If you don’t know who Jake Lawson is, you very well might by this time next year.

I asked Jake what it takes to chase your dreams and barely get by in L.A. for 9 years before getting a break.

“You have to have that never say die attitude,” he says. “Life in this business is tough. You have to keep improving and believing in yourself. And now, finally, after nine years I’m seeing good results from the hard work I put into it. You have to have family and friends to lean on through the tough times. They get you through them.”

He worked countless jobs in L.A. to get by. Just like most actors that are trying to make their way, he worked in food services, worked as a substitute teacher, worked construction, and countless other tough jobs just to get by. However, Jake didn’t leave for L.A. right after college to chase his dreams. He started out as a school teacher in the Gate City school system teaching English and coaching the basketball team.

“Growing up I always loved basketball. I have a passion for it. I wanted to be the next Mike Kryzewski and that’s why I took the collegiate path I chose. I wanted to coach for a career.”
Jake decided to go back to graduate school in order to chase that goal. He coached for a small college for four years before taking a job coaching another high school team in Oak Ridge, TN. The transition back to high school was tough so he left that job and went back to Gate City. After working for a local attorney and politician for a short while he knew that it was time to take the plunge into acting, something that he had been wanting to try since he was a kid. Jake went to Nashville where he got his Screen Actors Guild card after filming a couple of commercials for the U.S. Army and Goodwill. In 2003 he left for L.A.

He had the courage to leave behind a steady job, predictable income, and health benefits to follow a dream that had been a part of him for most of his life. When I asked how tough that was, he said it wasn’t a hard choice at all. “This was what I was always supposed to do.”
“I just want to keep the momentum going,” he said when he explained that he just signed with the top talent agent in the southeast.

I asked him what his thoughts were as he reflected back on the past nine difficult years.
“Thank God for all those old jobs and struggles. That was my path to travel. You have to enjoy the journey.”

Jake is a great example of hard work and dedication. I always keep a simple philosophy in my head when things are tough and find that you don’t have many supporters in your corner. Winners focus on what they are going to. Losers focus on what they are going through.

You can get more information about Jakes acting career at the Internet Movie Database:
One of my favorites, he played the crazy old preacher in a small town zombie movie spoof.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Go Read Some Comedy, Damnit!

You know that feeling you get when you’ve went way too long without a break? The constant stress of work and life catches up with you and all you want to do is escape to your own private beach or cabin somewhere and take a week to relax. To do absolutely nothing but enjoy the sunshine, the peace of nature, the stars shining brightly at night, and maybe read a good book.

You need a vacation…some time away to find yourself. To rethink your life and the path you’re on. It’s that place where being exhausted is borderline burnout. That place where you don’t want to be.

That’s where J.D. found himself in the book “Pot of Gold.” Working long hours at the bank and burned out with his station in life, he finds himself constantly stressed. To add to his woes he receives the letter stating that his divorce from his high school girlfriend is final. It was a rough marriage with a bad ending. Just when he thought his day couldn’t get worse, he receives a letter from a local attorney informing him that the father he never knew had passed away.

J.D. meets with the lawyer thinking he’s to discuss the matter of a small inheritance. Instead, J.D. is given an opportunity. A once in a lifetime opportunity. His father left behind a chance for him to take an adventure, one that could change his life forever. He accepts the challenge and sets off cross country with his best friend and troublemaker, Pete.

As they travel the path J.D.’s father set out for them they somehow manage to piss off the wrong people, the New Jersey mob. “Pot of Gold” is the hilarious journey from coast to coast of friends looking for their own purpose in life with two aloof mobsters on their heels trying to bury them along the way.

"Pot of Gold" can be purchased at all major online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Top 35 Hair Bands

There’s nothing like going to a concert and paying way too much for a ticket and getting a mediocre show at best. It also reminded me of times when the rock shows were more like a party, the ticket price for general admission was $19.50 and if you got there early enough you were pretty darn close to the stage to see you favorite bands. Yep, that was the 1980’s when there was always a tour going on…a headlining act and usually two other glam bands that opened up for them. The show would get kicked off at 7:30 and wouldn’t end before 11:00.

I remember seeing a lot of Hair Bands (of Glam Metal, if you prefer) back in the 80’s and early 90’s before MTV killed rock and roll. So, I thought I would put together a list of my top 35 Hair Bands of that era. I’m sure I’ll leave some out. But here’s my list of personal favorites.

35. Def Leppard
34. Extreme
33. Bulletboys
32. Whitesnake
31. Motley Crue
30. Helix
29. Dirty Looks
28. Thunder
27. Slaughter
26. Scorpions
25. Bon Jovi (Not a real fan, but Wanted Dead or Alive is bad ass enough to get them on the list)
24. Badlands
23. Warlock
22. White Loion
21. Lynch Mob
20. Enuff Z’ Nuff
19. Trixter
18. Britny Fox
17. Tuff
16. Tesla
15. Shark Island
14. W.A.S.P.
13. Quiet Riot
12. Lita Ford
11. Poison
10. Warrant
9. Twisted Sister
8. Skid Row
7. Great White
6. L.A. Guns
5. Faster Pussycat
4. Dokken
3. Ratt
2. Kix
1. Cinderella

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Next Indiana Jones Movie

One of my favorite movie franchises of the 1980's was Inidana Jones. The first in the series, Raiders of the Lost Ark, still remains my favorite to this day. Although they are all great, you must admit that one is tough to beat. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was great, and in the 1990's we saw a revival of the brand with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Harrison Ford has starred in some of the best movies of the last thirty years, but we movie buffs will always remember him as Han Solo and Indiana Jones. That is why it was kind of sad when I went to the movies and watched Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. It was also a great movie, and the plot moved forward from Indiana Jones always battling the Nazi's to finding a new foe with the Soviets during the Cold War. It was refreshing to see him square off in a new adventure with a new foe.

However, father time catches up to all of us. I was a bit skeptical when I first heard Shia LaBeouf was to play his son and potentially take up the lead for the franchise. I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of the Transformer movies, which is why I was I skeptical. However, after seeing that movie when it came out I was very much surprised that the torch had been passed so effectively.

I think LaBeouf will do an excellent job with the franshise if the powers that be in Hollywood decide to make a few more Jones movies. So the big question is...when and if they will make another? Is it already being developed? I sure hope so!