Friday, 27 October 2017

Unoriginal.

Last year, my wife and I went to the movies twice, it is a record low for us as we were always keen to go out and see something entertaining. This year looks to be a repeat of the last, as we have only seen two movies on the big screen and it is October as I write this. But why? I dwelled upon this a couple of times throughout the year but I eventually forgot about it, getting Praxis released became my priority. The editor of Praxis, Brian Niemeier, had written about his thoughts on audiobooks before, I responded with a respectful counter view and he appreciated it. As I was thinking about movies the other night, he posted a piece on his blog where he talked about this year's movie releases not performing so well, and it got me thinking about the topic again. Towards the end of the article, Brian writes the following:

"At this point it's hard to say whether Hollywood's woes are due to changing media consumption trends like cord cutting and streaming, the general decline in storytelling afflicting more and more films, or a preference cascade away from Tinseltown as normal people make the healthy decision not to give any more money to people who openly hate them."

Now that really got me thinking. This article is written as either a companion piece, or as an extension, you can decide which.


Storytelling in Hollywood, and its decline, are certainly big factors as far as I'm concerned. I saw Alien Covenant earlier this month (I borrowed it) and was so glad I never put any of my own money towards that film. The story of that, especially walking around an alien planet with no protective head gear (which is how they get infected), and some the stupidity of some of the characters in the movie (aimlessly shooting at an alien and hitting a fuel tank) was just so aggravating to watch. It was even harder to believe that Ridley Scott directed this movie, someone who's previous works I have long admired.
A.C also continues another Hollywood trend, prequels.
From a personal point of view, I do not see why entire movies need to be made to tell a backstory, mainly because the audience will know how it will end, who will live and who will die. To be fair, A.C was a financial success and the critics liked it. But the audience? Not so much.

Remakes/reboots are also another factor. I talked about the remake of IT last year with some friends, and I predicted it would fail. It turns out that I was quite wrong, the movie was well received by both critics and audiences, and pulled in a large profit, $654 million at the time of writing this. However, there was also the release of The Mummy, staring Tom Cruise. Why we needed this series being rebooted, I'll never know, but it happened all the same. To be fair to the movie, it was a financial success, having pulled in $409 at the time of writing, but critics and audiences both hated it.

Then there are sequels, and god damn we have had plenty of them. Ironically, both the movies my wife and I have seen this year have been sequels, Logan and John Wick 2. Both were entertaining, financially successful, and well written movies, and on the day of writing this, I purchased the Logan Blu-Ray. It comes with a bonus version where it is presented in black and white, a brilliant idea that I cannot wait to watch.


Then there is Transformers: The Last Knight.
Wonderful, another one.
I grew up with the Transformers, I have always loved them since my childhood, but the live action movies left a lot to be desired. The writing in them was either questionable, or just really bad. Most would agree that Revenge of the Fallen was the worst of them all, Age of Extinction was pretty bad, but it was also unneeded. Michael Bay should really have ended it with Dark of the Moon, but he appeared to not know when to stop. Again, I point out in fairness that the movie did financially well, pulling in $605 million at the time of writing, but again, the response from critics and fans was something else.

Brian also pointed out that people were also not in a hurry to give money to people in the movie business who hated them. This was a really good point, there are a couple of examples that really back this up.


Ah yes, Who could forget Jennifer Lawrence and the stories surrounding her this year? After it was reported that she had said Hurricanes Irma and Jose were "Mother Nature's wrath" at America for electing Donald Trump, some folks did not take to kindly to that. To be fair, she did not actually say that, but her comments, as far as some were concerned, did hint as such. Her movie, Mother, was apparently boycotted by Trump supporters who had felt she attacked them. It only just made back its budget at the box office and was not very well received by critics and viewers. This obviously stuck in the minds of those higher up in the movie world. When promoting his latest movie, writer Aaron Sorkin, who had gone after Trump quite a bit during his election campaign, pointed out that he had been gently reminded that Trump supporters buy movie tickets too. "In other words, try not to insult half the people," he said. Moments like that serve as a gentle reminder that you must really remember who pays to see those movies, so best not to insult them. It also reminded me of when Simon Pegg said about the main villain of the Star Trek Beyond movie, that "he's very much a Trump or one of the Brexiters". I remember seeing that and thinking that I would give that movie a pass, I guessing others did as well, the movie ended up taking the least of the three at the box office.

I'm not going to lecture people on how they should spend their money, absolutely not. These days, I find myself watching a lot of the older movies, simply because they are more entertaining and it looks like the film makers really tried to put out something good. My approach to modern movies, and if I should see them, has come down to this: is this really worth my money? So far this year, when I have looked at the movie releases, I have come up with the same answer. I have I missed out on a lot? Sure. But from this, I take two things. First off, my money did not go towards some of these movies, and secondly, this approach really has saved me a lot. Of. Money.






 


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Thank You, A Hundred Times Over.

I had a goal in mind when I released Praxis on Amazon, a small one I suppose. I wanted to sell more than Nomads did, which was around ten copies I think. I remember looking at when the first few sales came in, three, that maybe I wasn't going to do so well and that it would be a failure I would learn from.

Then, my friends in America woke up.

Three orders jumped to twenty-one, and they kept climbing on a daily basis. I kept checking the sales figures when ever I had a free moment, unable to process that there were people out there who actually wanted to read my work. At the time of writing this, Praxis has sold one hundred and two copies and is rated at four and a half stars on Amazon. I'm still blown away by the support shown to me by readers out there, I struggle to find the right words to articulate my gratitude to you wonderful people, but here it goes.

Thank you.

Thank you for giving an independent author like me, someone totally unknown to any of you, a chance to show you what I can do. For those interested, the paperback version of Praxis will be sorted soon and will hopefully be out by the end of the month. The audio book I also intend to arrange as well, and am taking auditions for it through ACX, I will post updates as I have them on my Twitter page. I do, however, have something else to ask those of you who purchased Praxis.

Please leave a review.

Reviews will help me to learn, such as what stories are liked and what ones are not, characters, dialogue, and so much else. They will also hopefully attract other potential readers to my work, and that is always a good thing.

This final part, you can think of as my mission statement I guess.

I want to entertain with my stories, to give readers something they can enjoy without the unwelcome intrusion of politics, ridiculous story elements, or condemnation of the audience themselves.
Yes, Marvel, I am looking in your direction.

I will tell stories of regular folks, men or women, in extraordinary situations. I will tell them in the style of either books, comics, and movies, from the eighties and nineties, because for me, that is when story telling was at it's best. I will not be one of these authors who does not appreciate his own audience, because I would not be in such a position without you. I will not be one of these authors who bitches that he cannot write because of a current political climate etc, or an author who becomes a political activist, because quite frankly, that is just stupid. I want to be an author who entertains people, to hopefully one day to earn a reputation that has readers looking forward to my next release. The coming days, weeks, months, and years, will see how that goes.

Justin Knight, independent author, at your service.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

What is Next?

At the time of writing this blog entry, Praxis has acquired twenty-five pre-orders, a number I had only dreamed of hitting. As detailed in my previous blog entry, it was a long road but totally worth it, because I made some mistakes and learned from them. As I await the book's proper launch, I am nervous and hopeful that people like it enough to give it good reviews. I am also hoping that there are people out there who are wondering what is next for me. Well, do read on.


I wrote a short story whilst the book was being edited, intending it to be for a short story magazine but it was rejected. I took a look at it and decided there was still some potential in the material, so I added to it, edited it some more, and made it as a tribute to my favourite Marvel comics character from my childhood, Death's Head. I had always wanted to do a series based on the adventures of a carefree and nomadic character, Furman Simms and the Problem Princess is basically a blue print for it. If enough people like it, I shall go ahead with it. If not, I shall leave it to one side for the time being. However, part of me knew that, when I looked over what I had written, I still had a lot of room to improve my craft. The problem was, I simply did not know how to do it. But then, something wonderful happened, thanks to a couple of friends of mine.


Two friends of mine, Scott and Mark, were running a podcast at the time, called Big and Robot. The show has long since finished now but it was a fun listen. They would occasionally have on special guests, the conversations would vary in length but they were a mixture of fun, amusing, and informative. One of those episodes featured Canadian author Blake Northcott, who was writing the latest series of the sadly missed Michael Turner's Fathom. She is also the author of the Arena Mode Saga and the Vs Reality series, the latter being developed to be a movie. I was listening to the show as I was making some notes in one of my notebooks, listening to her talk how she slowly got into writing. At one point, she talked about putting herself through something called the James Patterson Masterclass in Writing, and I literally stopped what I was doing and listened intently as she spoke about it. I looked up the course on Google and was pleased to find that it available to those of us in the UK and I decided I had to do it.

 
I made myself do the extra hours where I worked so that I could afford the course and have since started it. At the time of writing this, I am half way through lesson two, and I am intent on learning as much as I can throughout. I am grateful to Blake, as well as Scott and Mark, for putting me onto the course, and I have told myself that I will not write anymore books until I have finished it. Working through the course is going to take a me a while, a couple of months to be precise, so whilst I will still promote Praxis and blog from time to time, I will not be doing much else. With regards to my old work, Darkest Before Dawn has been properly formatted for Kindle and given a different cover. Nomads, I am currently going through and cleaning up because it was put out in a bad state, as far as I am concerned. If anyone is considering buying it, please don't, because I will also be dropping the price of it once it looks better.

Fun times are ahead for me. I want to learn how to be a better writer so that I can entertain people with good material, and that I can hopefully build a career out of it. The road ahead of me is a dark and mysterious one, but that's not a bad thing. Thanks to the people I have interacted with online, and become friends with, I've got a great light to lead the way for me.



Monday, 2 October 2017

The Journey to Praxis.

Its hard to know where to start with how Praxis came to be. One of the earliest memories I have is someone I worked with at the time, telling me that "I could write a book" about what went on where we worked. I thought the idea a joke at the time, but then, as I thought of more and more things I had seen and heard over the years, an idea began to form. I had said once that a story involving a blue collar workers was more engaging to me, because they could go anywhere. Superhero stories have become boring, predictable, and stuffed with unwanted politics, look at almost any Marvel comic on offer; a shadow of their former selves. I've been a blue collar worker all my life, its how I was raised. I decided I wanted to tell stories that myself and those like me would want to read, Praxis is the end result of that, but getting there was a hell of a journey.

I loved the original Alien movie, because it was basically truckers in space. With Praxis, I wanted to do a warehouse in space. Since I had worked in warehousing a lot growing up, I had plenty of knowledge to assist me. Outlining and writing was fun, I really felt alive at times and loved crafting the story as it fell onto the screen, one word at a time. When I eventually finished, I thought I had written a masterpiece and that my farts would smell of roses, especially as it finished at one hundred and six thousand words long. Brian Niemeier had agreed to edit the book, so I passed it over to him and patiently waited. Eventually, Brian got back to me, and told me a few things I was not expecting to hear.

A long time ago, I had written Nomads, my first proper novel. I still do not look back on it kindly because part of me believes I could have done better with it. I felt that, among other things, I could have built the characters better, fleshed them out more I guess. With Praxis, I went overboard with what I thought was development and unneeded scenes. Brian pointed this out, informing me that a lot of the scenes were not needed, they slowed the plot down too much. In short: a lot of fat needed to be cut from the book. I look back on that moment as when it dawned on me that the hardest part was now to come: deciding what needed to be cut out.

Certain scenes, whole chapters, characters, and a massive subplot were cut from Praxis, one hundred thousand and six words fell down to eighty-one thousand, the script was much tighter. I had received feedback from various beta readers which had helped the story up to this point, which included changes to the ending and some minor scenes leading up to it. but it was one person's advice that helped lead to the final draft. My friend Bre had pointed something out after she had finished the first draft and admittedly, I had forgotten about it at first. I was looking at the current draft, still thinking something was missing, and then I remembered what she had said. Additions where made to the book and I had my final draft, it was something I was pleased with. I realised also, that because I had removed a major subplot, the book's original name did not suit it anymore. So, Penance became Praxis, and the changes were complete.

I had some help in other places from some wonderful people too, Nick Cole, Jon Del Arroz, Jon Mollison, and Bre herself gave blurbs for the book, Robert Kroese and Ellie Douglas helped promote it. The cover artist for Nomads, and my friend, Peta, provided a wonderful cover, and I'm hoping to get an audio version done soon, as the original recording artist has a lot on his plate at the moment to do it.

I look forward to the feedback and reviews on Praxis, nervously, but I really do. I know that I still have a long way to go before I am at a standard I am happy with and I aim to work on that. In the mean time, I wish to thank all who helped plug the book, all who supported it, all my beta readers, and the eventual readers themselves.
I do hope you enjoy.


Sunday, 3 September 2017

So I'm Starting a Podcast.


I enjoy writing this blog, it gives me the chance to occasionally get things off of my chest and more. I have written reviews of either comics, movies, and audiobooks, and they get a pretty good viewing count. I have streamed here and there in the past, talking about writing with fellow indie authors, and talk about games, comics, TV, and movies with some great friends. I had this desire to do something else though, something maybe a little different. I love a good podcast, there are ones on iTunes etc that have been well made and are a damn good listen. Some of these, such as the Write Now Podcast, GeekGab (which I have been a guest on), Final Level (Ice T's podcast), have served as an inspiration to me to do my own thing. I had thought about doing it on YouTube as some have done, but I decided against it in the end. But why?

I have seen numerous people who use YouTube and have their videos monetized or even had people unsubscribed from their channel. People such as Jill Colton, Diamond and Silk, and even Dave Rubin, have noticed YouTube messing them around in one form or another. I have a small channel and don't get me wrong, I do not consider myself anything big on that platform. As much as I have enjoyed doing my live streams, I decided that if I were to do something a bit bigger, YouTube really wasn't the place for it.

So after a bit of thought and discussion with a friend of mine, Wombat and the Wordsmith was born. My friend Andy (Wombat) will be joining me as a co host. My cover artist and his wife, Peta, has provided the artwork, which you can see above. Our aim is to do two a month, discussing movies, comics, games, and even writing and books. We also intend on having a special guest on the show once in a while to talk about them and what they are doing. We are going to do our first episode at the beginning of December as a tester, and so I can figure out the recording software a bit better, I'm still a newbie with that kind of thing.

I'm looking forward to it, me and Wombat always have a laugh when we talk so he was always the best choice for a co host. I do hope you'll tune in when we launch it. The only general rule that I will enforce on the podcast is: no politics. It is something both of us are sick of hearing about and this podcast will be to entertain, not to bore. I hope people will listen in.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The Male Feminist Domino Rally.


Usually, I don't like to gloat at the sufferings or failings of others, I really don't. However, there are times when I allow myself to do that if I think the individual involved really deserves it. Today, it is one of those times.

Joss Whedon was portraying himself as the king of the male feminists. He spoke up for equality and his support of women numerous times, despite various suspicions about him, especially with the reception of Age of Ultron and the angry tweets fired his way. This week though, a knock out blow was sent his way by his ex-wife, Kai Cole (pictured with him, above), after she wrote a guest blog for The Wrap. To say that the blog piece was explosive would be, to put it mildly. Kai could almost be accused of playing "the bitter ex" but, again, the blog's contents certainly justify her writing it.

Cole claims that he used his relationship with her as a shield, so that nobody would scrutinize his relationships with other women, and also not scrutinize his writing as anything other than feminist. She also claims that over the fifteen years they were together, he had numerous affair with actresses, co workers, fans, and even friends. Rumours are circulating as to who he screwed but I'll cover my ass here and not name names, just in case. Cole points out in the blog, that she is a very private person and writing the blog was very antithetical of who she was, but it was obviously something she had to get off of her chest. I can't say as I blame her, to have been betrayed in that way must be so hurtful. Whedon gave a weak response, which you can see at the bottom of the blog, in which he claimed errors and inaccuracies, but claimed not to comment any further due to his kids and respect for his ex-wife.
The response to this piece was, for lack of a better phrase, downright funny.


Of course, Full McIntosh himself couldn't help but make it about masculinity, as you can see. At this point, the guy is nothing short of the gift that keeps on giving. However, it was noticable that Sarkessian has so far stayed quiet about it, I can only wonder why. The fansite for Whedon's work, Whedonesque, announced it was shutting down on the 21st of the month. According to the linked article, the owners did not give an exact reason for the closure, they did not deny the revelation played a part in the decision either. Examples like Whedon show that the best way to deal with someone like him is to simply give them enough rope and wait. They will eventually take themselves down, it is just a question of time.


So why do I write this? Because it has become more than noticable now that it is always the male feminists who are caught out in this sort of situation. Jamie Kilstein (above), was forced to leave his job after disturbing allegations were made against him by a group of women who had worked with him. Christopher Goldberg was arrested after being found in possession of fucking child porn, another male feminist who claimed he "hated sexists", Trump supporters, and supported the women's march. They join the ranks of Devin Faraci, Matt Hickey, and Sunil Patel, other male feminists who have been outed as sex pests in one form or another. Professor Jordan Peterson appeared on Joe Rogan's podcast and talked about male feminists, and he called them sneaky and creepy. After events like above, it is an acurate description.

The worst part about this is that I know these discoveries will not end here. I have no doubt there will be others and I have even placed a bet with myself as to who some of them could be. Obviously I am not going to say for fear of getting my ass sued, I shall wait and see. As for Whedon, the fans of the Wonder Woman movie sure did dodge a bullet when his script was rejected. The only remaining problem is that he is directing the Batgirl movie, god only knows how that will turn out.


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

So I Watched... Castlevania


So my daughter got me into anime a little while back, I have been watching shows like Attack On Titan whilst introducing her to the classic that was Akira. I became aware of the Castlevania series a couple of weeks ago but had too much on my plate in order to get around to it. Well, I finally got around to it and I am glad that I did.

Dracula falls in love with a woman and they marry. He teaches her how to become a doctor but whilst he is away, the church burn her at the stake because they believe she is a witch. Dracula returns, is royally pissed, and gives the land a year before he rains hell on them. A year later, he delivers and it is not pretty.


The series is a good one. It is dark, gory, tragic, but really compelling viewing and I watched the episodes all in one go. The animation is heavily influenced by the classic animes out there, the characters never bored me and Trevor Belmont is a great combination of sarcastic, reluctant and heroic. The main thing about this show that annoyed me though, was its length.

The series is only four episodes long, each episode only twenty-five minutes long. To be fair to the series though, the story (based on Castlevania 3) never felt to me like it had been rushed or compacted. A second series is due out in 2018 and I cannot wait for it because even though the series ended, it did not finish on a cliffhanger ending but an engaging one instead.

I highly recommend that you check this out. The series can be watched in one go if you want, binge watching seems to be a trend these days and Castlevania is certainly suited to that.