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Alma Matters

Alma Matters

So, something really awesome happened this week. Part of me wants to keep it close to the chest and privately bask in it. But at the same time....damn, this was a super cool thing, a simple joy. And shared joy is doubled. So I'm going to tell you about it. 

But before I tell you that story, I have to tell you this one. 
 

Greedo Swap

So I had this idea today. Now I might have been bingewatching Cracked.Com's "After Hours" and "Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder" videos on YouTube all day, BUT! this popped into my head and began to unspool. It's too long for Twitter (obvs) and the blog is better than Facebook about pictures (and I'm about 10 years too old to be on Tumblr), so YOU GET A BLOG! What if Greedo was not some weird green alien speaking a foreign language? What if, in stead, Greedo was a sassy black woman?

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Bear with me....

(And excuse the fact that I want our hypothetical sassy black woman to be portrayed a la blacksploitation parody Foxy Cleopatra, aka BEYONCE!, from Austin Powers.)

First off? The swap makes the dialogue a lot more fun than Han Solo waxing snark with some deformed love child of a dog toy and a Snork. Imagine if you will, our sassy black woman bounty hunter coming up in the Mos Eisley cantina with her blaster out, backing Solo up to a table in the rear of the building.

A: Sexual tension. Hot! B: Bad. Ass.

Solo: I was just on my way to see your boss. Sassy Greedo: Baby, Jabba's put a price on your head so big every bounty hunter in the galaxy looking for your sweet ass. *purrs while looking him up and down* It's a good thing I found you first. Solo: This time I've got the money. Sassy: Maybe you should give it to me and I'll forget I saw you. Solo: I don't have it with me, tell Jabba... Sassy: Baby, Jabba's through with your shit. Dropping shipments at the first sign of an Imperial cruiser? NotimeSolo: Even I get boarded sometimes. Sassy: I bet you do, baby. And if you're lucky, Jabba's only going to take your ship. Solo: Over my dead body. Sassy: *licks lips* I don't know about dead, but that's the general idea. I've been waiting for this a long damn time. Solo: Yes, I bet you have.

And his blaster jams because Sassy has used the stiletto heel of her boot to block the trigger (whilst also suggestively flirting under the table with Han).

Sassy: You think I didn't see that one coming? Get on your feet and bring your fine ass with me. I'm taking you to Jabba.

And then? The entire course of the series changes! Han gets taken to Jabba fed to the Rancor. Sassy Greedo gets Han's ship (through clever negotiation with the Hutt).

When she goes to docking bay 94, Sassy finds Chewbacca tuning up the Falcon. You might want to think that Chewy would never betray Han, and I think you'd be right. So when Sassy flashes her pink slip, Chewbacca has a choice to make. He can either go find Han (in which case, Chewy's efforts end in a lot of screaming, and the rancor pulling fur out of its teeth, probably, because this wookie is not putting on the metal bikini) OR he can say, "If the Hutt has Han, he's bantha fodder. I can tool around the galaxy with this chick. I am, after all, a mercenary."

So let's say that Chewy and Sassy are hashing out this new arrangement when Luke and Obi-Wan arrive with the droids.

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Sassy: Bitch, please, I don't see you flying anything so fine as my baby.

Chewy and Ben have a brief talk about the change of ownership. Chewy mentions to Sassy that the old guy's loaded as long as they head out to Alderaan. This is an act of good will on the wookie's part since this is his new partner and all. He tells Sassy that they get 2k up front and 10k when they reach the peaceful blue planet. (She doesn't need to know it was 15. Why? MERCENARY!) By this point, the Storm Troopers have arrived and Sassy uses some bad ass moves to beat them to smoking piles of PVC rubble. Luke and Obi Wan are convinced she's awesome.

They make the jump to hyperspace and the new score (with more guitar distortion and Hammond organ) swells like this is a Tarantino flick.

So while they're flying to Alderaan, Sassy is on the Imperial equivalent of a police scanner listening in for sweet new ways to score cash when she hears about these droids that blasted out of Mos Eisley. So, she pops back to the passenger area to check on her new bounty friends to find Obi Wan watching the kid play with a laser sword and a floating remote.

Sassy: You can all relax. The Empire didn't even notice we left. So, tell me about your droids. You know my daddy used to work on droids back when we lived with a bunch of jawas and I had one just like this here protocol droid.

tumblr_naj52kbLbi1s24jb7o4_250She pumps him for information with Black Widow-like precision. Luke totally buys her bullshit sob story about her dad (who was actually a gangster with the Hutts), but Ben notices that she's using the Jedi mind trick on the kid.

He realizes that Luke might be Anakin's progeny, but Sassy is probably better suited to his needs. So Ben puts the helmet on her head--with the blast shield down--and she shoots the remote like a boss.

Sassy: Hokey religions and ancient weapons are nothing like a good blaster at your side, baby.

Once they get snagged by the Death Star's tractor beam, Sassy tells them to hide in the cargo hold while she sweet talks the Empire types (promising them the droids for a hefty sum, because clearly if Alderaan is gone, so is Old Ben's money.) So Ben sends Luke on an errand to turn off the tractor beam. Meanwhile, he and Sassy go liberate the princess. (Sassy figures if the princess has money, she'll find a way to get paid AND turn in the fugitive once the Empire puts word out. Double dip, sweets.)

Together Leia and Sassy lay waste to detention block AA23 and together they all get back to the Falcon where Chewy has the ship ready to fly pronto.

Luke gets caught and taken to Vader where the most formidable badass is looking around confused because...

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That something is the genetic legacy of your former self and your lady. Probably Obi-Wan, too, but really your kid is there. BOTH OF THEM, I MIGHT ADD! So when Luke is brought before him and gives the name Skywalker (and starts singing like a damn canary about his background), Vader knows that there weren't two moisture farmers named Lars on Tattooine, okay? So Vader realizes right then and there that Luke is his son hidden from him by either Obi-Wan or Emperor Palpatine.

tumblr_mq6vmjHZ1v1qz5q5lo1_500By this point, Luke hasn't had a lot of time with Obi-Wan, so he's not all, up in Ben's business. Luke hasn't watched Vader kill him, thus solidifying his hatred that would lead to Empire Strikes Back whiny face. SO! Vader has a great opportunity to strike up a relationship with his son, a reveal that isn't precipitated by the father cutting off the son's hand. Vader has the chance to say, "That Obi Wan guy? He lied to you. Not only did he take you away from your real parents and hide you on the desert planet you've grown to hate so much you want to be Storm Trooper fodder in an intergalactic civil war, but he lied to you about your father. That's me, by the way."

Luke is so malleable at this point in the series that all it will take is a galvanizing event to solidify his position. Vader can just say, "don't believe me? Look in the hangar."

Luke looks and sees the Falcon blasting away without him, Threepio waving at the maker he doesn't remember. (Sassy, Chewy, Leia and Ben took R2 with them because he has the plans and thus, will lead the Empire to the hidden rebel base.)

This is the deciding moment for Skywalker. Not seeing Ben die at Vader's hands in the single most lackluster light saber duel ever, but seeing him fly away and abandon him. It just confirms what Vader has said.

So Vader takes Luke as a secret apprentice. (Vader even says in Empire that he and Luke can over throw the Emperor, so he's been thinking about it anyway at this point.) One of their first bonding experiences is going after the rebel base on the far moon of Yavin. Luke gets in a Tie Fighter and starts blasting Wedge and Biggs out of the sky like a pair of wamprats. Vader has a proud papa moment because his son has inherited some of his piloting abilities.

The rebels don't destroy the Death Star. Instead, the Empire destroys the rebel base, but not before Sassy busts out, Princess Leia smuggled in the compartment of the ship. The Empire pays Sassy for delivering the droids and they think Leia is dead. Ben goes with Sassy to train her as a Jedi. (And Leia because he knows who she really is.)

The next 2 movies are badass women going across the galaxy. Leia is maintaining the rebellion like a Force-powered Mockingjay, taunting the Empire (since they thought she died). Sassy is working with her and keeping her close. (If the money's right, she may turn her in. It's very Jayne Cobb/Tam Siblings.) Ben doesn't die, so we probably don't hit up Degohbah.

Meanwhile, Luke becomes a Dark Lord of the Sith. He and Vader overthrow the Emperor in an elaborate coup involving a gas mining colony on Bespin. Leia has discovered that the Emperor would be there and vulnerable, so she and Sassy and Ben make for the cloud city. (Which is good because Sassy knows a guy there who owes her money.) We get a massive Skywalker v Skywalker battle with Obi Wan and Vader looking on like Burgess Meredith in Rocky.

Seriously, the entire Star Wars franchise as we know it is altered and Hayden Christiansen doesn't end up in the bullshit cut of Jedi. Han may have shot first in the real trilogy, but if Greedo was a sassy black woman, he wouldn't have shot at all.

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EDIT: So, my husband said this idea was (and I quote) "Worse than Phantom Menace". Other than the fact that this is grounds for divorce, I would just like to add this....

FINE. We don't kill Han, because a) Jabba isn't THAT pissed off yet and b) Han would escape. Unfortunately, Jabba would probably try to torture Han, maybe take a hand off as a warning to others who piss him off. Well, Han wouldn't dig the torture or disfigurement, and he'd fight to get away. In so doing, he's horribly scarred. He puts on armor and takes on a new persona, his only goal revenge. He's hunting Sassy (and his ship). He is Boba Fett. So Sassy and Leia get the rich arcs listed above for the next two films and Han gets a revenge arc. (V for Ven-FETT-a, am I right?) WIN! 

The husband also warns against Sassy and Leia gaining a third female companion as then they become Chewy's Angels. 

Mic Check

Barker copySo, I don't have this whole "professional writer" thing figured out. (Shock and awe.) I, like most people, am just making shit up as I go along and hoping to every god that I don't fall flat on my face in front of everyone. There's one thing, though, that I've been thinking about of late that I really struggle with. And that special something is maintaining enthusiasm while marketing myself.

Hell, self-promotion is hard enough. Sure, let's take a group of people who are professional introverts and have a well-documented tendency toward fraud complexes and then have them PROMOTE themselves.

I admit that the days I feel like a failure are fewer now than they were...say...4 years ago, but I still have about one week out of every month where I am convinced I should just get out of writing forever and save the human race from my drivel. Those days still exist.

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Even when I have those days, I still have to get out there and bang the drum. I don't mind doing it for other people. In fact, I love being the carnival barker for other people. Step right up and see the amazing Beth Cato and her debut novel THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER! Tremble before the might of Delilah S. Dawson (writing as Ava Lovelace) as she unleashes THE SUPERFOX upon you. 

And so on.

But it gets exhausting to do it for oneself. At least for me.

Seriously, there are days when the field in which I grow my fucks is a barren waste. give_a_fuck

There are days when I absolutely loathe my writing (the same book that I loved two days ago and have to encourage you to buy) but I have to muster the enthusiasm to convince you it's not a waste of your life energy (and money) to experience it. And even if I like the book or story, there are days when I'm just tired of looking at it, thinking about it or even knowing I created it. It's like with anything else... sometimes you just get burnt out on something. For example, I've read UNVEILED somewhere in the realm of 10 times (minimum) in the past 4 months. This past weekend I had to read it (again) for what is (I hope) the final proofing pass...and I can't begin to tell you how much I hated that book. Not necessarily because it was shit (I'm the way wrong person to ask about that, see above points), but because I'm just tired of it.

And, of course, NOW is the time when I have to really gear up the promotion machine to get YOU to love it and buy it and tell everyone in the world how amazing it is.

Oy.

enhanced-29213-1398019678-5Not only do I have to fight myself on this one sometimes...but I have to fight the rest of the world. Or so it seems. Most of the self-promotion I do is via social media. Facebook, Twitter, this blog...these are the main ways I try to flag your attention and get you to notice my works. I don't know about you, but my Twitter feed moves incredibly fast. There's a billion words that I try to sift through to see what my friends are saying. Of late, I've been rather quiet (for me) on Twitter because I have just felt kinda out of it. Like I don't have anything to contribute.

And that leads to anxiety. There's this odd fear... I don't know if other people (creatives or otherwise) feel this way, but I have this fear of being forgotten. If I don't tweet something witty today then you're all going to forget I exist and move on to the latest, hottest, prettiest, coolest new model of funny chai-loving pyromaniac.

I feel that way in my writing life, too. Like if I don't produce something new right the hell now, I'm going to lose what tenuous purchase I have on a publishing career and fall into the abyss.

I feel like I'm competing for your time. There's so much content! And the internet is so LOUD! I feel like I have to constantly yell louder to be heard in the din of "click here". And on top of that, you have to measure your promotion carefully. Like with the Kickstarter, I had to carefully choreograph when I made what announcements and upped my game. I felt like I had to constantly refresh things and out do myself to keep people interested.

And that's exhausting.

So yeah. It's not something I've figured out yet. At least, in my opinion. I mean, I can't see returns on sales or hits or followers and such, so there are days where I feel like I'm just shouting into a hole. I know that it's necessary. It's part of the job, and I'm sure there's a balance and rhythm to it. I just haven't found that yet.

So yeah... um... buy my books? ;)

And seriously, go check out Beth Cato, Delilah S. Dawson, Tex Thompson, Stephen Blackmoore, Kerry Schaefer, Chuck Wendig, Marsheila Rockwell, Rene Sears, AD Marrow, Michelle M Welch, Sharon Skinner, Karina Cooper... oy, okay, I could keep going. They are amazing wordsmiths and all around awesome people. If you don't buy their stuff, my stuff...just... go support some author types. 

Q&A Ongoing

tumblr_m7o5bhV6XU1qgztfyo1_250Good Monday morning, gang! Phoenix is underwater and my kiddo is home from school. So here I am on the internet. So last week I was supposed to be on the #Hashtag podcast with Mike Woods and Karina Cooper. Sadly, that didn't work out because technology. We will get the bugs worked out and do it again. However, when we said we'd be taking questions, a couple of you posted to my Facebook page with some of your queries. As these don't really refer to the topic we were going to use on the podcast, I figured I'd answer them here. Consider today an open Q&A period. My own Ask Me Anything without Reddit. Here we go... First question...

Lejon Johnson asks...What was the effort of bringing Book 2 to reality actually like, Kickstarter and all?

In terms of editing...very much the same as working with a publisher. (Of course, the same editor from WILD CARD worked with me on UNVEILED, so we knew one another's styles.)

Other than that... it's been kinda crazy. The Kickstarter itself was stressful and all-consuming. I felt constant pressure to generate content and keep upping the ante. Basically, I felt like a carnival barker busking for that entire month. The editing period felt nice because it was familiar. Then, huge rush here at the end of things. Putting together publicity, getting pre-sale reviews, doing all the logistical things that make a book A BOOK, planning the next steps to make sure the book has the best, widest distribution possible... yeah, it's a lot more than I realized went into things. I have a new respect for the process, feel pride in having done this....but also prefer the traditional method of having professionals do all this stuff so that I can do my thing: write.

In book 2, do you kick off from where you left off, or is there "breather" time between the first and second stories?

UNVEILED picks up about 8-9 months after the events of WILD CARD. Cat has had some time to get cozy in this new version of things, grow a little with her skill set, and basically feel comfortable. Hehehe. And so that's when I pull the rug out from under her.

We know book 3 is written, does anything have to change with that now that book 2 editing is done?

Nothing major. I went into editing UNVEILED knowing what needed to stay in order to protect events in UNINVITED (Book 3). Also, nothing major changed in the events of UNVEILED that would alter the future for Cat and company. So the narrative stayed in tact. I might be one of my faults, actually, that I am somewhat attached to my order of things and will do what I can to preserve the essentials.

Zach Reddy asks... What are the potential side effects of letting a gaggle of trickster gods run free in your head?

Honestly, it's not much different up there than it was before. (Not sure if I should take comfort in that or not.) However, I do caution those looking into working with them...you will start seeing their fingerprints in your life. You might also find yourself becoming a bit more sadistic in the humor you take at the expense of others when Karma spanks them. Also: Loki.

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Regina asks... Q: Why don't you telepathically give me book updates instead of making me sign into an email that's supposed to be my primary one but I totally keep forgetting exists? 

Allow me to respond in the language of my people:

Loki

Krista asks...  Are you still dumping Jeff?

Considering the recent conversation that he and I had pertaining to the Whedon version of "Much Ado About Nothing" vs the Tennant/Tate version of same? Yes. His sad devotion to the former while not having seen the latter is disturbing, pitiful and just wrong. I'm sorry. The Tennant/Tate version is superior in every way. *It should be noted that the Jeff in question and I have been "breaking up" with each other for 10 years now. It's a long-running joke between friends. We've never dated.

Angela asks... Why haven't you finished the personal transporter yet?

Because pirates stole my applesauce.

Brian asks... Do you, in fact, want to build a snowman?

Yeah, actually. I do.

Seriously, though. What has been the most challenging part of the whole process for you?

Reminding myself that it is a process and still happening. Honestly, this is not what I wanted for the C# series. And yet, I can't say the series has failed because it's still happening. It's still moving forward and people want to read more. Reminding myself of that, keeping away from binary thinking of pass/fail and all that jazz has probably been the hardest part. I can work logistics like no one else. I can edit til my eyeballs bleed. I can pimp myself...but keeping my head straight is where the going gets tough.

Cheryl asks... How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?

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Jeff asks... Are you dumped, super-dumped or totes-in-the-dumpey-dumped? Choose one.

Totes in the dumpey dump. Again, because you're a heretic. #Tennant/TateMuchAdoForevah!

So yeah... have a question? Hit me with it!

Double the C, Double the S...

...and you'll always have "success". It's a strange little mnemonic that I remember from an episode of Full House. (Seriously, I can barely remember what I had for breakfast an hour ago, but Danny Tanner's wisdom has imprinted on my psyche forever more. What the hell, synapses?) Anyway...today I want to talk about success. The simple definition is, "to reach a goal," but this word carries so much baggage. It means something else to every person and can vary from project to project. Culturally, though, we have this sick and twisted definition of success, and that definition usually involves lots of money and fame. The pinnacle of your profession is a bag of cash and your name in lights.

While I think this is utter bullshit, I think we have a bigger problem with our cultural ideals. It is best summed up in this meme that's been making the rounds. Mr. Grohl...please take the floor...

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I think Grohl is right. There's something going on, a shift that is saying success comes from a spark of luck on a single attempt. Sure, there's luck involved in success. Being in the right place at the right time...finding the sound that speaks to a generation...finding a vein in your work that resonates with popular culture. Luck will strike the match, but it's being talented at what you do that will enable you to fan the spark of and turn it into a Die Hard-esque explosion. (Support is how you ride it like McClane, bitch. But that's another post.)

But now...there's something else happening.

"Luck" isn't. "Luck" is actually a group of producers and marketing people looking to sell an idea are the ones behind votes. They are the judges you have to impress. Shit like American Idol is diluting the process, I think. Rather than hone a craft with shitty instruments, or writing notebook after notebook of lousy poetry until you find your voice...it seems that the quick flash in the pan is being highlighted as the road to success.

There's this sickening trend that we're making people famous for bullshit. Paris Hilton? Snooki? The Kardashians? What's the point? Why do we glorify these people? Seeing them get their own "reality" shows (spoiler: it's bullshit) has led to this twisted idea that if you do something ridiculous you, too, can be elevated to celebrity status. (Which we've been told since we were kids is the end-all-be-all of human accomplishment, right?) Pop out 8 kids, shave your head after a stint on the Disney channel, give your 7 year old pageant-queen daughter a cocktail of Mt. Dew and Red Bull, or sing the best karaoke for 10 weeks and you are successful. Or maybe you can post something random on YouTube and hope it catches fire and goes viral like gonorrhea.

Where's the work? Where's the ethic of honing a craft and climbing to the top? Shooting for the moon? What the hell happened to the idea that you are the captain of your destiny and YOU make your own success?

And I'm not just talking about the music industry. There's a slackening work ethic among up-and-coming authors. (Not all, mind you, but it's something that's out there.) Writers who decide they will try NaNoWriMo and self-publish their work on December 1. Then they wonder why they aren't Hugh Howey or Amanda Hocking and nailing a six-figure contract on December 2.

It's like we're in the process of forgetting to keep working. We're not doubling the c or the s, if you will. And that just leads to a half-assed product.

I'm not talking about EVERY musician or every writer. But if this becomes the norm, then what will our creatives look like in a generation? Will success be hinged on a false ideal of "luck" and ratings rather than elbow grease and talent?

I dunno. Maybe I'm just rambling here.

What about you? What defines your success?

 

ETA: Don't forget to RSVP for tomorrow's event at Bitten By Books. Cat, Marius and Flynn will be answering all of your questions. We'll be giving away a copy of WILD CARD and 3 limited edition poker chips. Also, there are just 7 days left to back the UNVEILED Kickstarter. <3 j.