Fisting Immortality

I’ve decided Martuk needs to do more fisting.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for weeks, nay months, actually, but after watching the sudden and quite unexpected success of the obscure author E.L. James (Google her) newest book in her very difficult to find Fifty Shades of Baby Got Back series (is that what it’s called? I think that’s what it’s called), I think it’s time to take a deep breath, find my quiet space, remember my Safe Word, relax everything and just let it happen. Just allow the Writer in me to open up to Martuk and the rest of his merry Martuk … the Holy crew fisting things.

For instance, E.L. James writes:

“He grabs me suddenly and yanks me up against him, one hand at my back holding me to him and the other fisting in my hair.

So, with that in mind, in the pivotal scene between Martuk and The Elder (before the sacrifice and the demons and the bloodshed) in the first book, what had read:

“He took a sip, allowing the liquid to linger in his mouth, on his tongue, obviously savoring the sensation.”

would now be

“He took a sip, allowing the liquid to fist his mouth, fist his tongue, obviously enjoying the sensation.”

See? Instant bestseller, right?

Or in 1st century Jerusalem, after he’s cursed with Life Everlasting, when Martuk sits with the Messiah:

He shoved the bread in His mouth, the glass of wine now in hand. Silently chewing, His eyes watched me as He washed it down with a healthy drink. Swallowing, He then sighed, focusing, inhaling deeply, exhaling, growing quiet as His eyes narrowed.”

would then become

“He fisted the bread in His mouth, the glass of wine now in hand. Silently chewing, His eyes fisted me as He fisted it down with a healthy drink. Swallowing, He then sighed, focusing, fisting deeply, exhaling, growing quiet as His eyes narrowed.”

Now THAT’S a memorable passage, right? RIGHT?

Wow. I think this might actually work!!!!!

You think the second book, Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche, could do with some good ol’ fashioned fisting?

Let’s see.

Okay, let’s start with Martuk talking with The Sister, his friend, in her apartment in modern day Paris:

I sat back as well, my arms stretching up and along the back of the sofa. “And I will continue my tale, if this is what you’d like.”

With a gentle smile on her lips, she nodded, urging me to begin.

Wrapped in the comfort of her apartment, the dark of a Paris night outside, the cool air from the open windows kissing my flesh, my heart feeling safe, my soul feeling secure, I took a deep breath.

And cradled in her kindness, I dove back into the blood-soaked memories of this, my life.

might be

I sat back as well, my arms fisting the back of the sofa. “And I will continue my tale, if this is what you’d like.”

With a gentle smile on her lips, she nodded, fisting me to begin.

Wrapped in the comfort of her apartment, the dark of a Paris night outside, the cool air from the open windows fisting my flesh, my heart feeling fisted, my soul feeling fisted, I took a deep fist.

And fisted in her kindess, I dove back into the blood-soaked memories of this, my life.

Hmmm, I might need to think about this one.

Okay, okay, I’m not throwing in the towel just yet. How about later, when Martuk discovers his friend Tiber in the hills surrounding 3rd century Antioch?

His skin rippled with the swarming of those that feast on the dead. Their small white bodies crawled out of his ears and wiggled from his nose and spilled from his lips to litter the smattering of hair on his slender chest.”

could easily be

His skin fisted with the swarming of those that fisted the dead. Their small bodies fisting his ears and fisting his nose and fisting his lips to litter the smattering of hair on his slender chest.”

Um … that’s probably another one I need to carefully consider.

You know what? Perhaps this E.L. James-style of, oh, what’s it called, writing? — yeah, I think so — might not be the right fit for Martuk.

Because no matter what I do or how hard I try, this fisting just isn’t working. I’ve done it this way and that. In modern Paris and ancient Uruk one thousand years before Christ. Even 1st century Jerusalem with the frickin’ Messiah! I even had Martuk’s friend fisting up in the hills of 3rd century Antioch and, still, nothing. It just feels somehow wrong. Off. Not right.

Yet it worked so well for E.L. James. Her fisting seemed so natural! A bit clumsy at times, yes. And painful to experience on the page, most definitely. Still, though, she really made that fisting work. Just jammed her fist into any sentence she could find, regardless how well it fit or even if it should fit. Forget being gentle. Forget being kind. Miss James took no prisoners! She shoved it into everything everywhere.

But when it comes to my fisting, I think it might be time to pack it up. Call it a day. Obviously, despite silly things like hopes and dreams, it’s not for everyone. Not even my immortal Martuk.

In fact, now that I think about it, maybe the last thing he needs to be doing is Fisting Immortality.

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The Increasingly Poor Decisions of EL James

If Variety is to be believed — and it’s usually more right than not — “author” EL James has decided to write the script for the second Fifty Shades of Grey movie. Let me attempt (and I can’t promise my head won’t explode while doing this, but I’ll give it a go) to count the ways this is so very, very wrong.

A) Screenwriting, especially the adaptation of a book to film, is more than recording in script-form what happened in the book. If Miss James’ fiction writing is any indication, her work as a screenwriter will almost certainly lack the finesse, sophistication, pace and, oh I’ll just say it, SKILL that a screenplay for a major Hollywood movie needs. As I’m learning with my own spec adaption of Martuk … the Holy, you need to have a ruthless eye for what’s essential and what can be consolidated or completely chopped. It’s a very delicate balancing act, one that Miss James, according to first hand accounts from production, steadfastly refuses to do.

Listen, if Kelly Marcel, a gifted screenwriter with some very good films under her belt, can beat her head against the wall for months trying to turn Miss James’ first person present tense narrative-free drivel into something – ANYTHING – that might work onscreen and still come up woefully short (due, in part, to Miss James’ constant intrusion and obvious need for control), how in the hell does Miss James think she can pull it off?

She can’t.

B) The success of a book adapted for film is found in the creative team that works WITH the author to successfully help the story make the transition. In other words, the author needs to surround themselves with the best team possible and then let go and allow those who know what they’re doing get busy and do what they need to do. The goal should be having the film be a success for everyone, and that’s damn hard to do if a newbie keeps inserting his or her busy-body into every frickin’ decision.

Miss James’ unwillingness to take her hands off the wheel — and Universal’s head scratching (and, in hindsight, no doubt desperate) decision to give her unprecedented control — has taken what could have been a fairly good film based on an infamously bad book series and turned it into a hilariously bad movie (one that had a great opening weekend, but has seen a 60% drop since then).

Allowing a hack writer to pen what will most certainly be an amateurish script is asking for trouble. It’s putting a hopefully respectable and respected Director in a position of having to work with something that might be impossible to shoot, forcing a production team to work for many months on something that reeks to high heaven from the get-go, and cornering a Studio — A STUDIO — into putting a successful franchise in the hands of a first time (say it again with me, kids) FAMOUSLY PISS POOR WRITER. After the reviews of the first film, they NEED the second to be better. Period. Full Stop. End of story. And for a non-screenwriter to demand she write the screenplay …

My god, a gamble of that magnitude makes even MY head spin. And the clueless arrogance and hubris of Miss James … I don’t even know where to begin.

C) The audience.

So, yes, let’s talk about the audience. The first movie had a smashing opening weekend. Driven by curiosity and, for fans, an almost knee-jerk need to defend something they like, people hit the theaters in droves. And if the reviews and audience feedback are any indication, the adaptation was a disappointing dud. One that made money, yes. But will it get repeat business, the cornerstone of every blockbuster franchise? Probably not. Will people be lining up as eagerly to see the sequel? That’s a big question mark.

Because if the sequel is as bad as the first one, the curious, having been sated with the first installment, may decide it’s not worth the price of a movie ticket and just catch it on PPV or Streaming. And the Fans Who Seek to Defend? Well, if they’re feeling disrespected — ANOTHER bad film of a book I love? Are they even TRYING? — they may reconsider.

Listen, the sequel NEEDS to be stronger. Period. And it needs a better script and less author intrusion. The chances of that happening if Miss James is in charge? Slim to none. And with her contractual control? Good luck getting her to do rewrites or agree to cuts that everyone agrees are necessary, but that she believes are fine.

Again, my head, it’s spinning, spinning, spinning with how off the rails this can go.

In conclusion, what remains is this: for writers like me who are just beginning their Hollywood journey into AdaptationVille, the willingness of a Studio to allow even the slightest bit of control in the future is hanging by a thread. What if so-and-so ends up being another EL James with his or her hand in everything? And they have no idea what they’re doing? And they’re bullshit slows down production and costs us money? Ack! They’d run for the hills.

You know, it kinda sucks that, as writers, we’ve had to work doubly hard to help readers see they deserve better than the stupefying pile of stinking shit that called itself Fifty Shades of Grey. And, as readers, we’ve had to sift through the mountains of atrociously written Fifty Shades wannabes that have spread through the publishing world like an unfortunately timed yeast infection.

Are we now, as screenwriters and moviegoers, going to have to pay yet another price for The Increasingly Poor Decisions of EL James?

God, let’s hope not.

worse than mediocre – NY Times

A recent diatribe in response to a NY Times piece about Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program:

Although the article focused on the problems with Kindle Unlimited (which I agree is grossly unfair to self-published authors) what really stood out for me was the claim that the last few years have been a ‘golden age” for writers. In my opinion, for readers, it’s been anything but.

As more and more decide they can “write”, quality plummets. And if you have a large social media platform, the chances of your sloppy, abysmal work gaining a following, becoming a bestseller, and getting hundreds of “OMG, this is SO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!” five star reviews is great. Which enables really bad writers to continue putting out really bad books. What also happens is you have a whole generation of readers who are never exposed to truly great storytelling and interesting, unique characters, and potential writers who hold up this bad work as the standard to aspire to.

How is that a “golden age”?

I have no idea what Amazon will do with Kindle Unlimited. Truth is, I don’t think they care. What I’m more concerned with is returning to the time when books were good and hacks who were slightly worse than mediocre weren’t applauded and rewarded.

Jonathan Winn

author of Martuk the Holy: Proseuche

Career Implosion in 5, 4, 3, 2 …

Writers need Readers. Period. End of story. They’re our bread and butter. As long as they One Click, flip the pages, and Rate and Review, we can write. They make what we do possible. And the interest — hopefully the continued interest — they show in our work affords us the LUXURY of doing what we do.

They should be treated with gratitude, respect, and, yes, patience.

If you’re lucky, if you’re VERY lucky, your readers will forge a relationship with you. Will feel they’re welcome to reach out with questions and praise. Will feel, on some level, that you CARE about them, sincerely, and that you APPRECIATE their interest and support. And if you’re very, very lucky, readers will enjoy your work so much that they want to see you succeed. Perhaps even have some kind of vested interest in seeing you do well. Will CELEBRATE with you as you do better and better. Will tell their friends about you. Urge their friends to buy your work and read it and review it.

And, my god, guys, that right there is the Holy Grail for writers. Really. Readers being so engaged that they, via the oh so powerful Word of Mouth, get out there, sing your praises, and, essentially, do your marketing for you.

But that’s a double-edged sword. 

When Readers become that engaged, they’re working with a narrative of Who You Are. Or, more accurately, Who They Believe You Are. A narrative you help create, by the way, with social media, quick emails, blog tours and interviews.

Now, if the narrative is good — Oh my god, Jonathan is so freakin’ cool. I love his work! — you’re golden. But if the narrative is bad — Wow, Jonathan is such a douchebag. I can’t stand that guy and wouldn’t read Proseuche if it was the last book on earth — it’s really, really, really bad.

Of course the narrative can change. If you’re going from Douchebag to Golden, congrats. Takes a lot of work, a lot of humility and apology, the repairing of an image and the forging of a lot of trust, but it can be done.

But what happens if you pull a Chelsea Cain (I refuse to link her because, as she herself said, you can Google it yourself), go on a social media rant about all the “inane” questions you get from readers and how you are, in essence, not the readers’ bitch, dig the hole deeper by being utterly unapologetic about how ungrateful you sound, and, in the space of an afternoon, completely change the narrative of Who You Are?

Well, you’re fucked.

Because, and this is something her Publisher gets that she still doesn’t, there are now a whole bunch of readers who have as an introduction to her this Angry Facebook Rant reeking of a sense of entitlement and a lack of gratitude. And who knows how many people who were familiar with her, who’d read her books, and were perhaps looking forward to the new one, have now decided NOT to One Click because, really, if she’s not going to appreciate their support, why should they?

Besides, there are so many OTHER authors to support. Authors who are nice. Who appreciate them. Who WANT their support. Who still NEED them.

Of course some will say Hey, people are talking about her and that’s a good thing.

But is it? Having people know you as someone who didn’t appreciate their readers — now, I’m not sure that’s how Miss Cain actually feels, but that’s the NARRATIVE that’s being discussed and lodging itself in the minds of readers — and who was generally unpleasant about the whole thing is somehow going to help her in the long run?

Let’s ask Faye Dunaway how well that works. (hint: not very well)

Point is, a history as a bestseller doesn’t exempt you from being gracious and polite. From APPRECIATING those who choose to One Click and show their support. And if their questions are REALLY that inane and troublesome, then get off your ass, set up an automated email response that addresses those most frequently asked — Hugh Howey has one that’s humorously apologetic for being “from a robot”, witty, engaging, sincere and, best of all, informative — and maybe update your website, showing the number of the book in the series instead of assuming readers will figure it out by reading the synopsis.

But, for god’s sake, if you’re feeling THAT stressed and THAT angry, turn Facebook off, close the computer, and WALK AWAY!!! 

Because bitching about your readers is one surefire way to completely screw up Who They Think You Are and implode a career in 5, 4, 3, 2 … 

 

Where no Martuk had gone before

Woke up this morning to find Proseuche sitting squarely in the Top 100 on Amazon for Ghost Fiction.

May not seem like much, but, damn, it was a first for me. I’ll take it!

See?

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 8.58.47 AM

Kinda cool. 🙂 

Hangin’ with Hugh

In case you missed it, here’s an excerpt from a Guest Post I had the pleasure of publishing over on Hugh Howey’s site recently while celebrating Proseuche’s release.

 

Amazon opened the doors. Instead of hoops, Amazon offered opportunity. Seeing an industry denying undiscovered talent their chance to be heard, Amazon stepped to the plate.

Single mothers in the Midwest found their romance novels becoming bestsellers. Goth kids dressed in black discovered they’re not alone, their zombie books collecting earnest raves from their peers. Retirees who’d put their dreams of Writing on hold so they could pay the bills and raise a family reinvented themselves as novelists with a lifetime of stories to tell.

Head on over. It’s worth the read. 🙂

the scent of the page

There’s nothing quite like holding a real, honest to goodness book in your hands, you know? Especially when the story’s as good as Proseuche is.

So, if ebooks just ain’t  your thang — no worries — Proseuche IS available in print. Just head on over here and click your way to bookshelf happiness.

Proseuche_Print_Cover_5