Archive | July 2012

Making Money While Waiting ~ Commissions

So I have just received what I believe to be the twelfth rejection letter for my book. As I come to the conclusion that the journey of a thousand miles may take more than a few steps to really start, I start to wonder how I can make money once classes start again while practicing my writing.

The conclusion I came to was commissions. Why not? Make money from writing many smaller stories for fans. Nothing extreme, just a small income with small results, or big income with big results. Either way, I could pump out multiple fanfics and short stories in, like, a week. Easy stuff!

So I look at DeviantART for literature commissions, and learn that there’s this point system thing going on. I assume points is a nice way of talking about cash, but then see cash submissions are elsewhere. So…what? How do I get money from writing here? Points? What am I gonna do with these? What do points do, exactly?

…this is going to require more research…

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The Problems with Writing a Series…

As I am yet unpublished, I have no right to say how hard it might be to write a series for profit.  I’m sure it’s a lot easier to write something knowing that people will pay money to read it. When you make your first project you hope to publish a series in thirteen volumes, then issues start to arise.

I planned to finish the rough draft of my series within two years. I would write each book within a month or two. Then, once I finished each volume, I’d show it to my beta readers, then edit, then go onto the next draft. I figured two years was a little generous, even. I could finish it in eighteen months, I was sure.  At the start, I felt passionate about the whole cast, the characters, everything.

I’m on the eighth book, and now I’m realizing how difficult it really was.

The problem? Well, there’s more than one.

It isn’t that I’m not passionate about the world. I still love the characters, still want to tell their story to the end, to tell this epic tale until everything reaches its overwhelmingly epic end. Passion isn’t the issue. The heart and mind are willing–the soul even–but my hands just don’t move like they should at the keypad. The words aren’t coming out.

Maybe it’s writer’s block, but I was hitting such a good stride with the series, too, that this is distressing.

The other issue is the cast of characters. There are too many of them. I have roughly divided my series into four arcs or so. In the first arc, there are over thirty characters. OVER THIRTY! I can manage that in the first arc, but each arc the cast expands just a little more. Now, I have nearly one hundred unique characters. That…is a little intense, and it’s hard to give each character his or her dues. Sure, some of them aren’t exactly present after awhile to need time devoted to them, but…

The other issue is that other ideas just kind of spring up inside of my head constantly. I have an idea momentarily for a new book, even if it isn’t as powerful as the idea I have in my head right now. The world I am creating is so vivid inside of me that it needs to be released first…but other ideas keep getting in the way, some sillier than others, and some far more marketable.

…so what do I do in the end? Take a break from writing this epic to write something else for a bit? Or continue this saga until the end?

The Dark Knight Rises Batmarathon Part 2 – Batman (60’s)

My God, this is beautiful.

This is the first film to really take full advantage of the Batman name. As far as most people know, it is the first Batman movie made. It’s the Adam West cheese-fest! When judging the quality of a story, most often we look for things like strong characterization, well-structured plots, what have you. However, every so often, we find movies that, while technically awful, with hammy acting, poorly structured plots, and bombard the audience with events so ridiculous that they could never transpire in any universe you can imagine, are still incredibly entertaining.

Such is the case with Adam West’s Batman. The plot is simple: Batman and Robin stop four super villains who want to take over the world. It’s a basic villain team-up movie akin to later entries in the Batman film series (Batman Forever and Batman & Robin come to mind).  While those movies are seen as disappointing, people look back on this film with fond memories. Why is that?

Simply put: it knows what it is, and never tries to trick anyone into thinking it’s anything else.  Later Batman films tried to pull off both the tongue-in-cheek humor of the Adam West era while still trying to emulate the dark tone of the Tim Burton films. The problem is you can’t mix the two. This film never tries to implement anything really dark. Whenever it draws through any subject matter that might be in the least bit disturbing, it plays it for dry humor. It’s smooth, uninterrupted comedy gold.

On a technical level, it is awful. The plot is cliched and silly, the acting unconvincing and terrible, without any real hints of characterization or growth throughout the whole film. There is no trace of effort to make a well-written, nuanced film. Still, you should know what you’re getting yourself into when, in the first five minutes of the film, Batman flies past a building full of bikini-clad women in order to catch a disappearing yacht as a shark filled with mines flies up at them, only to be stopped with a can of Shark repellent.

I personally love Adam West’s Batman. He is perhaps one of the great actors to play Batman, and certainly one of the most memorable–if not the most memorable. No one has played the Caped Crusader quite like him. He rarely cracks a smile, even when delivering the silliest of lines imaginable. Burt Ward as Robin is fun, but he mostly bounces off of West’s antics. Even the other villains don’t compare to how awesome this character is.

Of all the villains, Catwoman was the only one I could take seriously. She cracks the least amount of jokes, actually develops a relationship with Batman–though how Batman doesn’t get suspicious when his squeeze starts purring is anyone’s guess–and even tries to hurt Batman on an emotional level. If anything, the Joker seems to me like the most laid back of the characters, actually telling the Riddler to cool off with the riddles, to stick to the plan, etc. Come to think of it, while the other three villains all get time to shine, the Joker mostly functions as the muscle of the group. When the Joker is the most muted and dull of all the villains in your movie, you know you exist in a world that no longer exists in the world of logic.

Perhaps that’s the beauty of this film. It’s the complete opposite of every single Batman film around. Instead of brooding darkness, you got hilarity. Instead of disturbed, twisted minds, you get goofy one-dimensional characters who never fail to leave you smirking at how goofy the whole world they occupy is. Despite being a technically bad film, it’s damn entertaining.

4/5

Dark Knight Rises Batmarathon Part 1 – Batman 1943 Serial Review

This exists.

That’s the review in short, but keep reading if you want my full thoughts.

Nowadays, film serials are less common–if they even exist at all–but back in the 30’s to 50’s, these things were shown in pieces before a major film. It can be compared to the shorts they sometimes show before Pixar movies nowadays, only they all had a continuous plot, like a television series. Some of the more famous ones were Buck Rogers, Zorro, or the Lone Ranger. That sort of stuff.

So Batman had a film serial.

…yeah…

Honestly, even after watching all five hours of it, I can’t really think of much to talk about. Maybe that was because I was also messaging people on Facebook and texting while it was playing in a corner of my screen, or maybe it was because this is perhaps the most generic, boring, dull Batman film I have ever seen.

It’s hard to even defend this serial’s existence. Aside from being the first Batman film, there is nothing memorable about it. The film is about Batman and Robin as they track down a criminal, save the world, whatever. Also, there police hate him and want to take him in. This is as basic of a plot as you can get, but that’d be okay if it’s done well. Which it isn’t.

The first issue is Batman himself. At the time, perhaps he was threatening. However, you can’t intimidate a modern audience while you sitting with your hands folded in a cave with rubber bats flapping around your head while the Boy Wonder runs over as if he just came out of another film set. Even then, I find it hard that anyone took this character seriously, even then. He isn’t goofy like Adam West. He reminds me more of George Clooney’s take on the character in that they both try to be suave and do the most with the script they’re given, but it’s very hard to make a character credible when he calls the commissioner on a pay phone to tell them they delivered fresh crooks.

Oh, that reminds me. The commissioner isn’t Gordon. It’s some other guy who wants to get Batman behind bars because it’s the law. Maybe. We’re clearly supposed to side with Batman, and the commissioner isn’t given a real reason to hate Batman. In the 89 film, Batman was a mystery to the police. They thought he might be a threat, or worse than the Joker. Once they realized he was a hero, they began to side with him, treating him like a hero. In Batman Begins, they attacked Batman because the police were corrupt, and Batman was opposing them. Oh, and he also ran over a bunch of their cars in a tank.

The police are a bunch of buffoons who don’t accomplish anything anyway. They barely notice that there’s a terrorist living outside their town, planning on doing evil stuff to Gotham. To be fair, early Batman comics didn’t have a lot of the major villains like the comics today do. Sure, the Joker existed, but he wasn’t Batman’s nemesis like he is today. Catwoman was around, but, again, not a major presence. Dr. Hugo Strange was perhaps Batman’s main enemy in that era, the closest to being his nemesis.

…so instead of using a good villain, they go for the racist stereotype.

Dr. Daka, the most Caucasian Asian you’ll ever meet, is a terrorist working through lesser criminals to undo American democracy, and take it into the Japanese Empire. Maybe. This is seen as evil not because he might kill millions of people or the inevitable economic chaos that’ll come about from a sudden upheaval in government. No, it’s because it’s “not American.”  I like to consider myself patriotic, and I understand this serial was made in war time, but this feels almost a little juvenile in how it focuses on how evil Japan is because it’s not America. Not that we were in a war with them or anything like that. Just…oi vey.

Really, though, what it boils down to is that nothing in this film feels like it needs to be a Batman story. There is no Batmobile.  The only characters who are taken from the comics are Robin and Alfred, both of whom are overly simplified to the point of absurdity. Batman is suave, but feels more like James Bond than the Dark Knight. The character’s appearance, name, and background could be changed, and no one would notice. At the same time, it isn’t offensively bad either. The racism in the film is grating, but you need to take the film in context to look over that. It’s wartime propaganda, one that doesn’t understand that the real threat of a foreign nation at war with us isn’t that they’re different, but rather that said foreign nation wants to kill us.

This is unremarkable as a film serial, but especially unremarkable as a Batman movie.

1/5

Six Rejection Letters for Agents; What do they Mean?

I knew getting into writing I was going to get rejection letters. I read somewhere that there’s an average ratio of 1:12 rejection letters for every acceptance. Books like Gone with the Wind got rejected way too many times. I wonder what the agents who rejected JK Rowling felt when she made it big time?

That’s what I keep reminding myself with every rejection, but I still feel uncomfortable as they keep coming in. I mean, I know I’m not a bad writer, but what do they mean when the work isn’t what they’re looking for at this time? Does it mean that the market isn’t right for my book and that I should wait until it changes? My story is a dark fairy tale, and everywhere I look, dark fairy tales seem to permeate through pop culture. Once Upon a Time, though I’ve never seen it, seems to be rather popular.

So does that mean that my book isn’t good enough? Part of me thinks that saying “We feel your book isn’t right for our agency now”  is merely a polite way of saying “We’d like as much to do with your book as we’d like to do with the feces of a worm infested cow.”

Then again, agents briefly glance over people’s queries. They get hundreds a month, so one writer’s request means little to them. Every writer feels their one work is so profound and special, but they have to read through every “profound and special” manuscript, so what they do choose needs to inevitably be the best of the best. Every writer thinks that they’re sending in the best of the best if they feel ready to query agents. It’s only when we take the time to read through our rejection letters do we realize that we weren’t nearly as great as we once thought.

However, that’s the interesting part. Just because we aren’t that special doesn’t mean we can’t still get published.

I won’t be discouraged so easily. A few rejection letters? I’ll wallpaper my room with ’em once I’m published. Every writer worth his or her salt had to deal with a couple rejections. Why should I whine about it online? I need to be published, and if I have to glance over a few letters saying no, well, that’s fine.

On the other hand, I did get a couple personalized responses from agents. One told me that the letter was good but the work didn’t engage them all too well (that actually encouraged me), whereas the other told me that I forgot to address the e-mail to them (that made me face palm myself). Until I’m published, personalized rejections will only help me learn.

Blogging on ALL the Batman Films

I am going to watch every Batman movie ever made before the Dark Knight Rises comes out.

This might sound like nothing special. What’s the big deal? You’re gonna watch Batman Begins and The Dark Knight before the third one comes out. Big deal.

No, you misunderstand. I’m going beyond that.

Oh, you’re gonna watch the older films too? Oh, so what? Tim Burton and Schumacher’s films are famous.

No. More.

Adam West’s cheesy film? Ah, no big deal. What’s so special about—

No. I mean EVERY one worth noting.

In total, I intend on blogging about the following films in the coming week in order:

1) Batman (1943 serial)

2) Batman and Robin (1963)

3) Batman (‘89)

4) Batman Returns

5) Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

6) Batman Forever

7) Batman and Robin (‘97)

8) Catwoman

9) Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker

10) Batman Begins

11) Batman: Gotham Knights

12) The Dark Knight

13) Batman: Under the Red Hood

14) The Dark Knight Rises

I’m omitting a few of the animated films just because watching more than 14 films in a little more than a week is a little absurd. I intend on watching every one of these, and reviewing them, then, at the end, recapping on what I thought of them.

You might be wondering why I’d want to blog all the Batman films? After all, I’m a writer who hasn’t updated his blog in a good ten days or so. What right do I have being a movie critic? Why would I blog on a bunch of silly movies about a guy who dresses up as a bat? What does this have to do with my journey to being published?

A lot more than you’d realize.

When I was younger, I loved comics. I still do, but I was completely obsessed with them between third and fifth grade. I credit Stan Lee and Chris Claremont as two writers who helped inspire me to be a writer in the first place, and, in later years, Alan Moore would help inspire the novel series I’m trying to publish! Even now, I wonder if, once I’m published, I might send my resume to Marvel Comics or DC to try my hand at writing comics. I’d probably be rejected or laughed off, but it’s still something I’d one day like to do.

My favorite hero in particular was Spider-Man, and X-Men was probably second, but Batman was a close contender for third. I was fascinated by his complex psyche, his relationship to his alter ego, how he adopted people into a pseudo family, how they bounced off one another, and–who am I kidding? I loved him for the villains and all of their sick psyches. As I grew up, the points I just mentioned made me appreciate the character even more, but I always did love the Caped Crusader’s rogues gallery. I watched all of the movies growing up. There was even a time Batman and Robin impressed me, though that time lasted all of two minutes after the credits rolled.

I feel that, as a writer, one needs to reflect on what they enjoyed in order to bring enjoyment to others. If we want to write something compelling, we have to understand what compelled us as readers. So, for the next week, I’ll be diligently rewatching the aforementioned films, post my thoughts on them in an orderly manner, then, after watching the Dark Knight Rises, reflect on what I just experienced. I’ll compare who was the best Batman, who was the worst, what films I enjoyed and didn’t, what villains left an impact and which ones didn’t, what style is the best, etc. Some of the things I say will surprise you, some might not. For anyone going into writing or who are already writing, I think my perspective on the series might intrigue you. Hopefully.

Wish me the best of luck.

– Anthony Gramuglia, a hopeless fanboy who thinks he can write

The Start of Something Bigger ~ What I Want

Do you ever regret following your dreams?

When going into college, many people laughed when I said I was going to be a literature major. “What can you do with a BA in English?” If what everyone told me was true, the only things I had to look forward to, after college, was a career in–well, no one could really tell me. I wasn’t going to be a nurse, or an engineer, nor would I create any new, brilliant websites. People made a few guesses about what my future jobs would be, but no one could give me a straight answer. No one could give me a good idea on what to expect from the future.

So I decided to really think about what I REALLY wanted to do.

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved stories. It doesn’t matter what medium the stories come from. Books? Movies? TV? Cartoons? Anime? Comics? Doesn’t matter to me. I inhale stories on a daily basis, to the point where I don’t even see stories like normal people. When I’m confronted with a story, I break it down. I take apart the elements of it, criticize it, praise it, see what works and what doesn’t. I gain an appreciation for story telling that most people who just taste stories don’t. After all, most people don’t devour stories quite like I do.

So I digested stories, but where do I store the nutrients?

It would be a waste to just let those empty calories gather up, wouldn’t it? Calories, like knowledge, have to be employed, used for some positive output. I had to exercise my critical brain in some way. The question remained how. Was that why I became an English Major? To break down books and exercise my brain?

Perhaps, but I want more.

What else did I love? Writing. I was always writing stories. Not just ordinary stories, but big ones. Novels. Huge epics that drew from the countless stories I lovingly devoured. I consumed so much that it would be a waste not to produced something that could be devoured by others, right? Maybe something that other people could lovingly dissect and take apart, or just tasted by enough people to lure them in for a second bite?

From there, my future seemed set in stone.

What you are reading now is the account of my quest, and more than that a collection of the works I have digested. This blog will be my entrails, and the post is–well, it certainly isn’t my waste since I hope someone reading this will draw something out of it. If that sounds nasty, well, I’m a writer. If I’m going to be paid for writing it certainly will be for memorable analogies.

– Anthony Gramuglia, future writer.