Why John Carter Is The Best Movie Of 2012

I will begin this post by stating that I had no intention of seeing John Carter after viewing the first awful trailer that Disney posted on IMDB.com. In fact, I don’t think any of their trailers piqued my interest enough to draw me into the theater and spend even a penny on this movie.

It looked strange, nothing made any sense, the movie posters were tacky, and I had better things to spend my time and money on. That is, until I saw this:

And then it all came together. Never mind the rest of the trailer after the initial text. John Carter was written in 1912? It inspired the creative minds of George Lucas, James Cameron, et al? Now I must know more. A quick Google search informed me that there are 11 books in the John Carter series, with the Disney movie being an adaptation of “A Princess of Mars”(which, had they named it that, I might have been more inclined to see it).

So, nearly one month after its debut, I made the 9.5 minute trip to my local theater and purchased a ticket. I wasn’t surprised to find myself the only patron in the John Carter screening, especially after reading about the nasty reception it debuted to. There was a fellow from the previous screening, and I’d guess his age to be somewhere in between 55-60. I asked him what he thought of the movie, and he said he’d enjoyed it quite a bit. He told me that he’d read the book series as a kid, and that the Disney version lived up to his expectations and beyond. Now my confidence in this movie was beginning to grow.

It also helped that the end credits were rolling, and Michael Giacchino’s beautiful soundtrack was in full swing, putting a slight smile on my face. I’m a sucker for classical music and soundtracks, and I made a mental note to purchase the John Carter OST from Amazon after the feature, whether I enjoyed the movie or not.

Finally, it’s time for my showing. The lights dim, the Disney intro plays, and my anticipation has now created a multitude of butterflies in my stomach. 2 hours 13 minutes later and I am beside myself with excitement. What a movie! What a ride!

Andrew Stanton deserves more than he received for this epic take on a classic novel. He perfectly understood and captures the essence of every(most) little boy’s dreams: which is to discover a new world, fight an evil power, and rescue a damsel in distress. I cannot tell you how many times during childhood that I’d envisioned myself as a character similar to Taylor Kitsch’s John Carter, and the very fact that I had the opportunity to witness a childhood fantasy come to life on the big screen was worth the price of admission alone.

I laughed, I cried, and I never wanted the film to end. Where are the other 10 movie adaptations? Let’s see them now! I went home and downloaded the Kindle version of “A Princess of Mars”, and read it in one sitting. To my delight, the Disney version was a near replica of the book. I added the movie to my list of great book-movie adaptations(it’s a small list, unfortunately), and marked my calendar for a future screening of John Carter at the secondhand theater 45 minutes away.

So what makes this Disney movie the greatest of 2012? Notice that I don’t say the greatest so far. Prometheus was fantastic, The Avengers wowed, Moonrise Kingdom was brilliant, and I’m sure The Dark Knight Rises will be a blockbuster. But none of these movies came from a 100 year old book.

It’s not so much that Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a book with a wonderful science fiction plot, but that he wrote a terrific book with a wonderful science fiction plot that inspired almost all of the greatest sci-fi minds of our time. Not only that, but he created something that would soon become the subject of children’s fantasy the world over, and that’s what John Carter has above every movie slated to come out in 2012, The Hobbit included.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Peter Jackson, and I know he’ll do a great job with the franchise. But John Carter made me happier than I can ever remember feeling during a movie. I was drawn in to the screen, as if I was beside he and the princess the entire film. Her beauty, his unusual strength, their love, his conviction, the well-sequenced action scenes, Woola the lizard dog, and Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas all fit together in this wonderful film.

I blame Disney for the disastrous reception critics gave John Carter. Their awful marketing campaign kept everyone away from this film, and those who saw it expected perhaps something else entirely, I know I did. Almost every scene in the trailer had such a minor role in the film that I wonder if the person editing the trailer even watched the whole movie, or just skipped to the parts filled with CGI.

If I had to rate the movie, I’d give it a 4/5, simply because there were a few parts that were drawn out just a bit too long. But for the story, the acting, the soundtrack, the visual effects, and the fact that this book inspired my favorite directors, I give it a 5/5. If I become rich someday, I will rent out a theater screen every month, and have a John Carter party. Such is my dedication to this film and hopefully future adaptations, if others in Hollywood agree with me…

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My Life Today & Tomorrow

We all reach that point in life where new chapters begin, old doors are closed, and a fresh start is essential. Today, that chapter commences, and I will be translating that area of my life onto this blog. Therefore, I am announcing that my blog will soon be divided into subsections and other topics of interest, with the majority focus still on writing, but expanding to entrepreneurship. Don’t worry, it shan’t become confusing, I promise.

Throughout the upcoming days, weeks, months, etc, I will be posting my adventures with renewed vigor, and hopefully I can offer advice and insight into the multiple occupations I am currently invested. I hope you will join me, and share my stories with others, so that together we can create one big (insert cliche comment here) community. Stay tuned, and thanks for being a dedicated follower!

Best Websites for Writer Feedback

The other day I wrote a rather controversial piece about Authonomy (www.authonomy.com), and received mixed responses, with most of the discussion taking place on the Authonomy forum after a member shared the blog. In my post, I encouraged people to avoid Authonomy. Today I will share my favorite alternatives to Authonomy.

1.) YouWriteOn (www.youwriteon.com – This website is formatted similar to Authonomy in regards to the rating scale, but the interface is rather difficult to get used to. Nonetheless, it’s much more secure and reliable for feedback and advice. The premise is simple; you upload your novel and then the website assigns it to another member to read and review. You then review another member chosen at random. After 8 reviews, your story enters the website’s story chart, and the top ten highest rated writers each month receive a review from Random House, Penguin, Harper Collins, etc.

The beauty of YouWriteOn is that the number of writers on the site is significantly smaller than Authonomy, meaning your chances for reaching the story chart are much greater. There’s also the ability to have your book self-published for a very small fee, though I do not recommend self-publishing for various reasons(see previous blog posts). From what I’ve experienced as a short-term member of YouWriteOn, the reviews are top notch, and you really get a feel for how readers will view your book in the future. It’s easy to create an account and begin right away. You don’t have to spam people for reviews, nor do you have to spend hours trying to get people to back your book.

2.) Blogging – I recommend this because it is so easy. You simply upload portions of your story, submit the post to various forums, etc, and people will respond. You can update the blog with your progress on the book, and eventually you will create a following which you can use to promote your novel once it’s published. My favorite blogging website is WordPress, but Blogspot offers a great alternative, depending on your personal preference.

3.) Scribd (www.scribd.com) – This is fairly new, but it’s a great way to share your story with friends on Facebook. You can upload it and have your Facebook friends provide feedback, etc. It’s the easiest way to get reviews of all the tools I’ve listed.

4.) Writing.com (www.writing.com) – An older website, but still a fun way to upload documents and have people provide advice. It’s one of the largest writing communities on the internet, and has a good track record of success.

I still cannot in good faith recommend Authonomy, but it’s a free website, so if you’d like to try your luck, then by all means create an account. I believe that YouWriteOn offers a much better system of receiving feedback than any other similar site on the internet, and for beginning writers, it is an invaluable tool. Share other favorites in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe.

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Authonomy: Approach with Caution

If there was ever a hive of scum and villainy in the literary world, it would be Authonomy (www.authonomy.com). As a writer searching for advice early on in the process, I looked high and low for a place to share my work and receive feedback from others, besides Facebook, blogging, etc. So I came upon Authonomy after being recommended from a friend in the publishing industry. That “friend” has since been placed on my blacklist, and shall receive a bundle of coal this Christmas.

Authonomy was both a blessing, and a tremendous burden that distracted from my writing more than anything else ever could, or ever will. Many sleepless nights were spent trying to extract a review from the users on the website, and it took some time before I realized that all of my tireless efforts were folly.

Before I continue any further, let me explain what Authonomy is. It is a project by Harper-Collins to get more people excited about writing. Obviously it has many more complexities beyond that, but the main idea is quite simple. The website revolves around writers creating an account, uploading their unpublished novel, poetry, etc, with the ultimate goal of receiving  a publishing deal from Harper-Collins themselves. But what they don’t tell you is that in the four years since the website’s launch, Harper-Collins has not accepted a single book for publishing.

Books are rated by both a 5-Star system, and by being placed on “Bookshelves”. Each user has a bookshelf with space for five books, their own not included. So in order for a writer to progress up the rating scale, they must spam other writers into “backing” their book (placing it on a bookshelf), and having their book rated and reviewed. Since there are a few thousand users on the website, with more being added daily, it takes quite awhile before you begin to see results.

Unfortunately, whether you have a great book or not really doesn’t matter on this site. Most of the writers employ cloak and dagger strategies to have their book travel up the rating scale, and onto the Top 5 Books of the Month list. These books are read and reviewed by the Harper-Collins staff, who then provide feedback and bid you “good luck” in the future while they turn you down.

I remember feeling that my experience with Authonomy was akin to something like a group of powerful men holding a delicious meal before the eyes of a thousand starving people, and telling them they must fight to the death in order to win the meal. Obviously that’s a rather morbid and exaggerated example of the website, but it isn’t quite far from the truth. I have seen many great books that have progressed nowhere, and many more books with total garbage inside that made it to the top five, because the writer spammed just everybody on the site with some sad story or another. There was this woman I recall, who’s book contained more typo’s than Spell Check could keep up with, not to mention a juvenile dialogue, non-existent plot, and grammatical errors out the wazoo. Yet, she convinced enough people that she had a terminal illness, and that she just wanted to have a book published before she died. Needless to say, she made it to the Top 5 list, and was granted a review by the Harper-Collins editorial staff.

Her book never accomplished anything further than that, but her lies propelled her above the “real” writers on the site. This is not the only case of a “sally sob story” being used to promote a book on the website. Nearly every other message I received asking for my support was by someone professing to have some sort of illness, or disability, you name it.

My point, before I extend this rant any longer, is that Authonomy is not to be trusted as a viable tool for authors. It’s much too unpredictable, and writers will say anything about your book if it means that you will give them a good review in turn. My book made it all the way to the Top 20 within a few weeks of uploading, but it came at a big sacrifice to my other writing projects. My arduous labor was for naught, it seemed, because for every legitimate review someone posted of my book, ten more were posted with something like “Good book! Please rate, review, and back my novel.” In all honesty, very few books were worthy of reaching the Top 5, but if you want good reviews, you must provide them, even if it means lying like there’s no tomorrow.

It was not a complete waste, however. I do admit that a few positive and constructive reviews were sent my way, but unfortunately not enough to merit a good experience overall. When I started spending 5-6 hours per day solely spamming writers into checking out my book, a sudden revelation hit me; this is madness. 

Each month I checked out the books that had made it to the Editor’s desk the previous month, and each one had been rejected. Several of them I felt were extremely well-written, and I began to question what Harper-Collins judged to be a “good book”. It was then that I decided to “throw in the towel”. That was over a year ago, and Harper-Collins still has yet to publish a book from Authonomy.

Writing Seminars and Why I Hate Them

We have all been invited to attend a writing seminar in some form or another. The glitzy brochure in the mailbox offers “secret” advice from Author experts, or “exclusive” consultation with an “award-winning author”, etc. Meanwhile, a quick Google search will reveal that these so-called experts have barely sold 1,000 copies of their self-help book, with no real experience to offer the attendees of their overly expensive conference in a cheap hotel.

So why do people shell out hundreds of dollars for this obvious con? Simply because they aren’t willing to do the hard work themselves. It’s much easier to have an “expert” stand on a stage and give you a step-by-step process to becoming a successful author, even if they’re sharing the most obvious of advice. But because you paid $125 for this ticket, you believe that it is exclusive.

False.

I’m not saying that every single writing seminar is a fraud, but what I am saying is that all the information you need is readily available for FREE. I hate Writing Seminar’s because they are a way for little known author’s to con desperate writers into giving them money in exchange for “wisdom”. I’ve been to several such seminars, and they all repeat the same basic information. But if a $150 seminar is what it takes to get you on your feet, then more power to you. In the meantime, here’s a few articles I’ve found extremely helpful on my journey to the Editor’s desk:

Ten ways to become a Successful Writer:

http://www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/16077/writing/ten_ways_to_become_a_successful_writer.html

Be a Happy and Successful Author:

http://www.squidoo.com/happyandsuccessfulauthor

15 Practical Author Tips:

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/a-guide-to-becoming-a-better-writer-15-practical-tips.html

Become an Author: http://www.ehow.com/how_2308324_become-author.html

Finding a Literary Agent: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-find-a-literary-agent/

There are many, many such articles with wonderful tips on becoming a best-selling author, writer, journalist, etc. The point is, avoid writing seminars at all costs. Save your money, put your research skills to work, and educate yourself on the world of literature.

Ten Tips for Twitter Beginners

Twitter is an amazing social media tool, and used correctly, can promote and advertise yourself to the world. But in order to be effective, you must understand how Twitter works. For one, you must realize that it is not Facebook, Myspace, or Google +. It’s entirely different, and therefore contains entirely different rules and guidelines that you must follow to use it properly. That being said,  I believe everyone should have a Twitter account, and if you do not, then hopefully this article will convince you to come out of the Dark Ages and into the future of communication.

Tip #1: Twitter only allows 140 characters per tweet. This is, in effect, a quick way of sharing something of relevance, or irrelevance, with the world.

Tip #2: There are no “friend requests” in Twitter. Twitter uses a very simple system of following someone who’s tweets you’re interested in reading. They will receive notification of your follow, and have the option of following you back. Their tweets will show up in your Twitter feed, and you can also receive tweets on your mobile device by subscribing to users that are important to you(friends, family, co-workers, etc).

Tip #3: Anyone in the world can read your tweets, unless you make them private, and likewise, you can tweet @ anyone with a Twitter account. This is an easy way of connecting with celebrities, business people, friends, musicians, etc. Most celebrities do not have a public Facebook account, simply because there’s a 5,000 friend limit, and there are many fake celebrity accounts. With Twitter, there is a system of verifying that the account does indeed belong to its celebrity user. Also, many celebrities will respond to tweets, because it is so simple.

Tip #4: If you want to gain followers, then follow complete strangers and friends alike. Many people will follow you back, and this practice will get your numbers up. This doesn’t mean you have to follow them forever, but be forewarned that some people, upon discovering that you’ve stopped following them, will do the same for you.

Tip #5: You will not sell your book, products, movie, pictures, etc through Twitter. It is not a sales tool, it is a marketing tool. Twitter is a way of expressing yourself and your work through short tweets. If you want to sell your product, purchase ad space on Facebook, Google Adwords, etc.

Tip #6: Hashtags. These are a critical part of Twitter’s success. Placing a hashtag in front of a word will highlight it in your tweet and make it a trending word(i.e. #amazing, #facebook, #subway), and once your tweet is posted, you can click on the word you’ve hashtagged and see what other users are saying about it.

Tip #7: Connect your Facebook and Twitter account for the most effective means of reaching your audience. This saves time, and is great if you use Twitter on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Even regular, non-internet capable handsets can be used for Twitter. Just go into your Twitter settings > mobile > text messaging, and follow the instructions.

Tip #8: Be active with your account. If you want followers, you have to be somebody worth following. Share a funny quote, tweet something random, reply to followers tweets, and be as interesting as you can.

Tip #9: Don’t be “that guy” who always tweets about their book, or always asks for followers, or tweets every two seconds. People will shun you sooner than you can say “oops”.

Tip #10: Have fun with your account, and realize that it’s just another way of sharing what’s on your mind with the world. Grammar is not necessary, and you will have to commit grammar crimes regardless, since there’s a 140 character limit.