Octavia Butler and Kindred – Clear Writing and Slavery

 

By R.C. Peris

Oddly, Kindred has set on my bookshelf for years. I carted it from LA to Phoenix. It was always on my to read list. As 2017 draws to a close, I evaluated what I had read for the year. It was not a good year for reading but it was an excellent year for writing. I completed a children’s picture book and two novels in two months. What I didn’t do was read a whole lot. I read Jane Eyre for the tenth time. I read Far From the Madding Crowd for the first time. I read Lady Chatterley’s Lover for the third time (I read it every decade and marvel at my changing views of it).

I have decided I did not have a good year reading. For 2018, I will read more women authors, science fiction, and books by people of color or diverse cultures. I discovered many lists of book suggestions for these categories. It’s not 2018 but I decided to start early. I pulled Kindred off the shelf. Octavia Butler hits all three of my reading goals. She’s a woman, black, and a science fiction writer. I read her biography. We are both California natives. I was surprised to learn she had dyslexia. She didn’t drive for that reason. It’s hard to live in the Los Angeles area without driving. She rode a lot of buses. I lived in Pasadena when she was alive. I didn’t have a car for several months and I wondered if I ever rode the bus with her. She was friendly to everyone.

Octavia Butler’s dyslexia made me evaluate her writing style carefully. Her prose is clear, straightforward, and cogent. It’s a joy reading her words. I do miss the lyricism that other writers, like Leslie Marmon Silko, can interweave in their prose. But Octavia Butler’s writing style matches her subject. Kindred is about the horror of slavery and the courage the slaves demonstrated in light of their reality. I don’t think poetic lyricism would have been appropriate. Concise language reveals the horror of slavery. Concise language makes you afraid. Concise language conveys the injustice of slavery.

Octavia Butler died at the age of 58. She was one of the first female science fiction writers and one of the first who was black. She was a trailblazer who became the first science fiction writer to win the MacArthur grant. Kindred is a great novel about the dark shadow of American history – slavery.

Facts about Octavia Butler

 

Bad Girl – I, Tonya (Movie)

By R.C. Peris

It was the Clinton era and a bad girl was in the news. A lot. And a good girl was praised and felt sorry for. A lot. Tonya Harding was once the top-ranked figure skater in the world. She managed to do the triple axel. A skating move no woman had done. Her legs were pure muscle and she had massive bangs. She was not an ice princess. She cursed, screamed, and got angry. Harding had her boyfriend beat Nancy Kerrigan on the leg. Kerrigan was an ice princess. She came from a middle-class family. She never cursed. She always smiled graciously. The judges loved her.

 

Tonya Harding was considerably more interesting than Nancy Kerrigan and the backlash against her was sexism. Pure and simple. Women were supposed to be dainty, princesses like Kerrigan. They were not supposed to be loud, cursing super athletic women.

 

The new movie, I,Tonya, starring Margot Robbie delves into the life of Harding and addresses the sexist and classist issues surrounding her ice skating career. It’s fun to watch Harding mouthing off and yelling. It’s fun to see a woman angry and loud for a change. A movie about Nancy Kerrigan would put me to sleep and manage to annoy me at the same time.

Female Rage

 

By R.C. Peris

Roy Moore lost the Senate election. He had been accused of pestering, accosting, and generally grossing out underage girls. The mall cops banned him from the mall. He had a reputation for hitting on young girls. Roy Moore is one, in a very long line, of men who have been in the news for harassing and assaulting women. Al Franken resigned for his actions that, quite frankly, seemed like grade school nonsense. Then there was Louis C.K. doing things that his women victims found disgusting. Harvey Weinstein was a rapist who took advantage of the starlets desiring work and their name in lights. Every day in the news is more stories of women being used and abused. I want a story of female rage. I want a story of female revenge. We aren’t victims. We have power, at least some. We can make men pay. Remember the movie 9 to 5? They got revenge against their boss. That movie should be watched by every feminist. In high school, the movie that entertained millions was Fatal Attraction. Michael Douglas was the married man who had an affair with her and then ditched her. Alex, the female character, refused to let him go. She refused to be brief entertainment. She sought revenge. And boiled a bunny. But she sought revenge. She wasn’t a victim until the wife killed her. Then she became a murder statistic. But before that…she got revenge. She turned the man’s life upside down. She stalked him. He was cornered. A victim. No one wanted to know a woman like Alex. Except for me. I remember hearing people say she was “crazy” and “mentally ill”. Maybe. I think she shocked people because she was a woman getting revenge on a man. I thought the movie was cathartic for me. Maybe for all women if we opened up and let her be our heroine. Is it wrong to hope Alex gets resurrected to get revenge on all these powerful, scummy men who think we are objects for their own purposes?

The Well of Fate [200 Word Short Story]

Story by R.C. Peris

Dear Mother:

In the center of the universe is a tree and from that tree extends a big branch hanging over the Well of Fate. I spent one hundred days trudging uphill through the frigid cold of the universe to reach the tree. I shed my sack, climbed the tree, crawled onto the branch and hung upside down. I was suspended over a swirling abyss – the bubbling waters of Fate. Every event of human life was down there. Every possibility. For humans and for the gods every event was out of our control. We were victims and pawns of the tidal movement in the Well of Fate.

For eight days I went without food or water as I was suspended. I was seeking that which plagued me. My ordeal. Lack of power over my life and others. I had grown very weak and tired. I was prepared to die to get what I wanted.

On the ninth day of weakness, despair, and fervent praying something spat up from the Well. I caught it. It was a small stone with a letter on it. I was confused but excited. I placed it my small bag. More stones shot up. On the tenth day, nothing more came from the Well. I climbed down from the tree and went to my sack where there was food and water. When I had slaked my thirst and hunger, I crossed the universe and went to my cave by the molten silver sea.

I played with the stones and lined them up. I created words. I created sentences. To create is a lonely endeavor. I spoke to no one.

I created a poem about love and was able to obtain a lover. I created a poem about death and was able to destroy my enemy. I created a poem about war and was able to get men to fight each other.

The stones were power. I had power. Words were power. I was now in control of fate. By creating sentences I created possibilities. There was no end. I could create new worlds. I could recite my words and change the minds of men. On the hundredth day of possessing the stones, I could no longer create. I bashed the walls of my cave. My power slacked. I lost confidence. My lover left me. I had so many new enemies. I fled my cave and now walk the kingdoms hoping one day I will have the power of words again. Perhaps if I suffer once again…I will go back to the Well. If I die then I die. If I survive, I will visit you mother and perhaps as mother and son we can wield power and change the minds of men.

Yours Truly,

Odin

For More Stories Visit – The 200 Word Short Story

The Pagan

 

Story by R.C. Peris

Papa was Lord of the Sea. Our mother and my three sisters lived in a castle in the hills. When papa was away fighting in a raging battle, mama died. My Aunt Aoife came to care for us. She fed us and put us to bed. I don’t think she was sad mama died.

When papa came home he wept and Aoife soothed him. Papa invited her to live with us and after many months I saw Aoife kiss papa. This made me scared. Aoife cared for us but she did not love us. She never once smiled at us or hugged us.

In the spring, papa and Aoife got married and a few months later she became pregnant. Papa left to fight another battle. Aoife began consulting with a Druid priest. They had secret meetings. This was curious. One day Aoife suggested a picnic by the lake. My sisters and I waded in the lake looking for tadpoles. Aoife raised her arms and spoke our names. One by one each us became a swan.

We have been swimming in this lake for hundreds of years. Aoife told us the spell would be broken when we could hear a Christian bell ring. Many people have celebrations by this lake and they ring bells. My sisters got excited when they heard bells but I had grown sick of it. I had come to hate the sound of bells. I was fine being a swan. My feathers were beautifully white and I could glide so gracefully around the lake.

One day, hundreds of years later, a man whom everyone called Patrick rang a bell and my sisters and I became young girls again. This made me so mad that I charged forward, grabbed the bell from him, and broke it. People yelled, “Pagan.” My sisters and I were taken to a convent. It was horrible. It was not like papa’s beautiful castle. And we had to pray several times a day to some strange God. Each day was drudgery so I ran away and went to the lake. I plunged in and allowed myself to drown. All because someone rang a Christian bell.

 

Discover More Stories at The 200 Word Short Story

 

A Coven of Witches Should Run for President

 

I want to revisit the 2015 movie, The Witch, directed by Robert Eggers. I was recently re-reading The Scarlet Letter, the perfect chestnut of American literature, and a sermon by Jonathan Edwards. Edwards, a masterful writer, wrote this;

However strong such kind of objections against the eternal misery of the wicked, may seem to the carnal, senseless hearts of men, as though it were against God’s justice and mercy, yet their seeming strength arises from a want of sense of the infinite evil, odiousness, and provocation there is in sin.

The Puritans were obsessed by evil and it is of no surprise that a witch hunt began. The movie is set before the witch hunts. It opens with a family standing before the town council and getting banished for not adhering to towns principles. The father of the family is too pious for the town. We next see the family leaving in a wagon outside the wall that encloses the town and then the doors shutting. The Puritans built walls to keep out the Native Americans who made violent attempts on the settlements. The Native Americans came from the dense, dark woods. But other things lurked in the woods, like evil witches. The wall kept evil and disaster away but did not prevent the breeding of evil.

The movie addresses misogyny and the limited choices women had. The daughter of the family joins the coven at the end of the movie and, for the first time, she looks wildly happy and free. When the witches had killed her siblings and parents, she had a few options:

1. Starve to death on the abandoned farm.
2. Possibly die while trying to reach the Commonwealth on foot.
3. Or face potential charges of being a witch after arrving at the colony and explaining that her family was killed by supernatural forces (and her own blade in her mother’s case). And again, death is a likely outcome at the end of a Puritan’s rope—just ask the 20 descendants from this generation who were executed 60 years later.

Faced with these options, joining a witches coven seems entirely reasonable. Hawthorne understood the inherent unfairness and cruelty inflicted on women by the Puritans. After all, Hester must wear a Scarlet A for the simple act of sex. She also lives apart from the community and appears to have no friends.

In our current political climate, there are echoes of the Puritans. Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Ted Cruz have all said strangely misogynistic things, advocate for laws that directly impact the liberty of women, and the few women in Trump’s cabinet/camp reject feminism.

Maybe some women should form a coven and run in the next campaign. It’s women versus them. Perhaps women should delight in their ‘strangeness’ and take down the hypocrites.

The movie trailer for The Witch:

 

David Mamet, His Masterclass, and Talent for Dialogue

I recall last year, Masterclass was offering lessons from master writer, James Patterson. I thought it was funny. Patterson writes outlines to his stories, with assistance, and then has a few writers who crank out pages and he gets the final review. I wouldn’t say that was master writing as much as master management.

Masterclass is currently offering lessons in writing, film, and direction from David Mamet. When I discovered that, I perked up.

https://www.masterclass.com/classes/david-mamet-teaches-dramatic-writing?utm_source=Paid&utm_medium=AdWords&utm_term=Aq-Prospecting&utm_content=Search&utm_campaign=DAMA#/

David Mamet came to my attention in college with the movies Oleanna and Glengarry Glenross. I was most impressed with Glengarry. I had just ended a crap sales job over the summer selling Kirby vacuum cleaners. Each morning we piled into our Team Manager’s car and hit the road looking for houses to knock on so we could vacuum their carpet and sell them a vacuum cleaner for an ungodly sum of money. I didn’t do horribly. I averaged two sales a week but it sucked. The whole thing. What was worse is that the ‘career’ sales people (all men) were constantly giving one line pep talks to keep us motivated. They had read all the sales books and adored Tony Robbins and Zig Ziglar. They were chasing the dream. One day they were going to be rich. Glengarry took the upbeat sales person and flipped them over. The men in Glengarry are desperate or they are jerks. Often both. What Mamet managed to portray with his dialogue is the stink and curdle of desperation.

I started reading Mamet’s plays and watching and re-watching his movies. Most of his movies fall flat. The Spanish prisoner was completely devoid of excitement. I think I fell asleep multiple times watching it. But I did enjoy his plays. Mamet does dialogue is a riveting, jarring way. No one talks like his characters. Mamet is not naturalistic. He takes characters, guts them, and makes them claw to survive as they bleed. There is animosity in his dialogue and each character seems deeply distrustful of humanity.

I might consider a masterclass in writing from David Mamet.

Here is the Al Pacino monologue from Glengarry:

 

How to Get Your Book Made into and Audiobook

One of the best ways to boost your books sales revenue is to turn it into an audiobook.

The global audiobook industry is currently evaluated at $3.5 billion dollars and the United States is currently the largest singular market with $1.8 billion dollars in audio sales in 2016 and this was a 31% increase from 2015. The Audio Publishers of America has stated that every year for the past three years 36,000 audiobooks were issued.

The most popular audiobook genres in 2016 were mystery, thriller, romance and fantasy/science fiction.

How do you get your book transformed into an audiobook with a higher price point? The best way is to use Amazon’s service – ACX. Once you create an account you can claim your book (your book must be listed on Amazon). You then post looking for auditions. You are required to give a 2-3 page audition script, which is just pages from your book. You also need to state your marketing goals and plans.

There are two ways to compensate the actor/actress. One is pay nothing up front but split the royalties 50/50. Another way is to pay a small amount up front with a lower royalty share. Generally, if you don’t make your audiobook exclusive to Audible then you get a much lower royalty but you can saturate the audiobook websites with your book. Of course, Audible accounts for most of the sales of audiobooks.

It can be hard finding an actor/actress to record the audio without any money up front. A lot of times, the talent will respond to the ad but ask for a flat fee up front even though you specified in your post royalty sharing only. But keep your call for audition posted and check into the site ever few days. Sometimes tweaking the ad to flesh out your marketing strategy for the audiobook can help.

It may take effort and a small investment, but turning your book into an audiobook makes marketing and financial sense.

More about making audiobooks:

How to Pitch Your Book to the Media

        

You are an author and you have a book. You think your book is awesome and hope, no expect, for instant, massive sales. It doesn’t happen unless you are Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling. You get the picture. But don’t worry, there is hope.

A publishing company once told me that they wrote a press release and then emailed it to media outlets. That was it. It’s no wonder that most of their books had meager sales. Many authors think a press release blasted out is actually effective. Here is the truth. Most media outlets get 1000s of press releases each month. They are overwhelmed and a press release does not help them do their job. A press release basically states this: I wrote an awesome book, I am awesome, buy my book. Where’s the story?You need to evaluate your book, market, and your education,

You need to evaluate your book, market, and your education, experience, and organizations you are involved in. Then you need to come up with a story to pitch the media outlets or at least help your book promoter come up with a great story. Are you a retired teacher with ten grandchildren who runs a rescue organization for sugar gliders in Colorado and who has just written a YA book? If you were to pitch bloggers, what could your story be? Imagine the headline.

Example: Retired grandmother and veteran teacher has figured out how to pursue her passions. Her love of animals and love of writing have energized her retirement. She has tips for anyone wanting to revitalize their life.

Notice how the story isn’t about the book but lived life lessons that can offer information for the viewers and readers of the media outlets. If you pitch, you also have made the life of the media contact easier as they no longer have to sit at their computer staring at a boring press release and wondering how the heck it could be story.

Do your research before you promote your book and also figure out who you are as a writer. What’s interesting about you? What’s unique?

Do some soul searching and start crafting your story to pitch media outlets.

For affordable help with book promotion check out this video:

What is a Treatment and How to Write a Treatment?

A treatment is essentially a summary of your story idea or already written screenplay. The treatment must identify all the characters, their descriptions, all the plot points including the beginning, middle or end. Screenplays are almost never read until a few stages into the vetting process. What productions companies, directors and producers do read are treatments. The treatment gets your foot in the door.

Here are the basics of treatments:

  1. Just plain paper. Don’t get fancy or add photos or illustrations. Only include words.
  2. State your name and contact details.
  3. Provide a logline. A logline is one sentence summarizing the entire story.
  4. List all characters with relevant descriptions.
  5. Then write the summary. Stick to 12 Pt font and an easy to read font.

 

When we spoke with Michael LiCastri, a screenwriter with sixteen feature length films, he said “treatments should be no more than 2500 words, which usually means 4-5 pages.” We asked Mr. LiCastri about where samples of treatments could be accessed. He suggested using Google. There are a lot of sources about movie writing on the internet. Do your research before you dive into the writing process.

Mr. LiCastri said, “a good, solid treatment can get you movie deals.” The Jessica Chastain movie, Miss Sloane, was chosen for production in minutes, which is impressive since it was pitched by a new writer.

 

Here are some resources:

https://www.screenwritinggoldmine.com/how-to-write-a-treatment/

http://www.movieoutline.com/articles/how-to-write-a-treatment.html

https://www.writersstore.com/what-is-a-treatment-and-why-do-i-need-one/

 

To learn more about Michael LiCastri, go to his IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4186485/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

Or his business site:

https://mlicastri12.wixsite.com/website

 

Miss Sloane trailer:

 

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