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DC’s Kryptonite is Superman

I went to see Justice League yesterday and, while it was better than most of the DC movies— admittedly not a high bar, it still fell flat in comparison to what Marvel has been producing.

I’ve been considering the whys and wherefores of DC’s continued failings on the cinematic front and have come to the conclusion that the root of the problem goes much deeper than the people involved in producing the movies. The crux lies at the heart of the DC universe itself:

Superman.

He is the gold standard for heroes. He can literally do almost anything— depending on which series of the comics you follow— and has an unshakable morality. In short, he is a god.

Now, when trying to create other heroes to exist in a universe with Superman, those heroes have to exhibit abilities which at least rival the Man of Steel, or they become laughably insignificant in comparison. Wonder Woman is almost as strong as he is, as well as having weapons of incredible power themselves; Flash is as fast— or slightly faster, again depending on which series you follow— so fast he can manipulate time; Aquaman is also incredibly strong and nigh invulnerable, especially in the water, and the list goes on.

It even seems like DC understands their problem, to a degree, when young Barry Allen asks Bruce Wayne what his super power is in the movie.

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***SPOILERS AHEAD***

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You have been warned. 🙂

So, the movie begins in the aftermath of Batman vs. Superman: a world that is now bereft of the man of steel and new threats are looming. Batman works on putting the band together and the big bad, Steppenwolf, (DC has always had a terrible time with names, in addition to their Superman problem) is doing his bit to bring an apocalyptic end to Earth. He does an impressive job in the beginning, wading through the Amazonians and Atlanteans to gain two of the pieces to his Unity puzzle box, and mostly puts the smack-down on Batman’s newly-formed team while trying to find the third and final piece.

To this point, the movie is pretty good for the most part and I was enjoying it. The characters were flat, but there’s only so much time for development in a team-up story such as this, so I was willing to forgive a few stereotypes and obvious gags. Because of the defeat, however, Batman decides the only way they can win is to try to raise Superman from the dead.

And it went downhill from there.

The fight scenes were amazing and comic book-esque, but all of the tension the story had built to that point evaporated once Superman returned and regained his senses upon seeing Lois Lane after the obligatory hero vs hero battle.

The big bad and all he had wrought suddenly became no more than a comic foil for the heroes and the concluding battle was just an excuse to smash stuff. Steppenwolf was barely an annoyance for Superman and only delayed his defeat because Superman had to go save a building full of innocent bystanders while Flash rescued one family in a pickup truck.

The apocalypse ended with a whimper and a laugh.

Hero stories are about someone overcoming incredible odds to eventually triumph against an implacable foe. The presence of Superman turns that on its head and suddenly the bad guys become insignificant and the other heroes merely sidekicks.

Pulling back and looking at the bigger picture, humans themselves become completely irrelevant in a world with Superman. The only ones who can carry water for him are like gods themselves: Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg. Commissioner Gordon exemplifies this when he calls for Batman to ask about a series of abductions in the film, claiming the police force could find no pattern to them. Half a second later, the heroes spout off a complete analysis of what they’re shown and disappear to act on the information. The message there is clear:

Regular people have nothing to contribute.

Who wants to live in a world like that?

Marvel’s universe has some incredibly powerful beings too, but they are also flawed in many ways, which makes them more relatable as characters. Normal people can still have an impact in that world, which, for me, makes for a much more interesting and enjoyable fantasy.

Please, tell me what you think! Did you enjoy the movie? Disagree with my assessment? I’d love to hear your opinions.

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Field of Dreams Syndrome

If you build it, he will come.

Not everyone has watched the movie, but most people have heard the line.

We writers, by and large, are a sedentary, solitary lot. Sitting, hunched over our keyboard, learning and spending time with characters we’ve worked for months or years to create is our idea of a fun time. We laugh, we cry, we love these stories we create — of course, everyone else will love them too! Once we click “publish” the virtual headlights will shine for miles and miles from cars (computers) filled with people who just want to experience the world we’ve created. They’ll gladly hand over their hard-earned money just to read our words on their screens.

This is the Field of Dreams Syndrome.

I was fully infected myself when I hit “publish” in 2010. I’d read about the success stories. How hard could it be? I thought. The writing, the completion of the book — that’s the difficult part, right? Of course it is. How many people actually finish writing a book? Oh, sure, everyone thinks they can, but how many actually do? I’m a one-percenter! All I have to sell is ten or twenty books a day. There are hundreds of millions of people out there. Surely ten or twenty of them will buy my book each day.

*click*

I tapped my fingers on the desk, waiting patiently for that first sale. Sure, it might take a few minutes, maybe an hour. After all, the book has to propagate through the system before it shows up on every computer screen in the world. Any second now …

Three days later, my patience had worn thin. How long was this going to take? I had spent months writing the thing! The least people could do is acknowledge all that hard work and buy the damn book. Then, after hitting “refresh” for the thousandth time on my sales report, there it was: my first sale! Yes! Finally! Now things will start rolling.

I grabbed the phone and dialed my mother. “Hey, Mom, great news! I got my first sale!”

“That’s wonderful, Dear! I just got online a few minutes ago and bought one, too. Now you’ll have two sales!”

My heart sank. “Um, yeah, that’s great. Thanks, Mom.” I hung up, knowing full well that my first sale would likely be my only sale.

Any of that sound familiar to you? I feel your pain. I, like many other writers out there, was incredibly naive and thought, if I write it, they will come. Do your research, understand your genre, your audience, what makes a great story. Get involved with a writing community, either online or in your home town. Share experiences. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your writing or your marketing.*

Above all, remember one thing: if you love writing, then you’re in this for the long haul. Once you type, “The End,” follow it up with the next, “Chapter One”.

Is this heaven? No, it’s the life of a writer.

But there are times when it can feel like heaven.

*Edit: Check the comments below for some of the things I’ve done as examples of this.

Silence is Golden, Except When It’s a Blank Page

I’ve been largely silent lately. Yet, I feel far from golden.646909_38471679

For those of us who haven’t reached a level of success with our writing to be able to set aside the “day” jobs, life can often get in the way of doing something we love. Crafting stories and spinning yarns is something I’ve grown to love, but I’ve had to set it aside for the past couple of months to focus on a new task which also involves something I enjoy greatly. That is working with kids. I’ve stepped in to become the local coordinator for a firm who offers after-school tutoring to low income and disadvantaged youth. It’s been an eye opening experience as well as a mountainous amount of work, but the service we’re providing to these kids is much needed and I’m grateful to be part of it.

I’ve always been fascinated with the brain and how thoughts are processed — what factors determine if an experience is worthy of lasting memory. I have memories dating back to the time I was only two, but I know many people who can’t recall anything significant in their lives until they are four or five. Why the differences? Our brains are all made up of the same materials, so why are they dissimilar in how they work?

Yesterday, in between making sure busses were at the right schools and instructing one of our tutors how to administer a pretest to determine where the students are at academically, I spent a few minutes with a little girl who is taking the first steps toward becoming a reader. We played with some word and picture magnets, matching up the written word with the correct drawing, before we sat down and read a worksheet about a black and white dog named Spot. You may have heard of him.

Watching her small eyes light up as we sounded out unfamiliar words together brought joy to my soul. Seeds of comprehension planted, needing only the water and sunshine of practice to grow, I cherished those few minutes and wondered whether this young lady’s mind might decide to attach an extra significance to the experience as mine had.

I suppose it’s only arrogance on my part to think that reading a handful of short sentences about Spot the dog would constitute a defining moment in the life of a first grader, but my real point is: we never know when something we do or say will become significant to someone else. I think we’ve all experienced things and made lasting memories from events that other participants in those events don’t even recall. Take care in how you treat and interact with other people. You might be creating a lasting memory for someone else and you don’t want it to be a bad one.

My silence is broken. All hail the ink filled page! Tune in next week for a sneak peek at Abandon Hope, the sequel to Knot in Time!

Inspiring Teens Blog Hop – October 14-19

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Today sees the start of the week-long Inspiring Teens Blog Hop!
Main page for the hop – http://booksbygretaburroughs.weebly.com/9/post/2013/09/inspiring-teens-blog-hop.html
It coincides with Teen Read Week 2013, which aims to get our teenagers reading! We hope to bring you a fun week in which you can meet writers and win their books, and enter a drawing to win one of two $10 Amazon gift cards.
– There are 35 authors of middle-grade and YA books and 27 bloggers taking part, so that’s 35 fantastic giveaways! Most of the bloggers are also writers.
– There is a writing contest on Wendy’s blog on Tuesday with a prize to win.
– Check out the main blog page for a full listing of blogs and authors for each day. You can win one of two $10 Amazon gift cards: http://booksbygretaburroughs.weebly.com/9/post/2013/09/inspiring-teens-blog-hop.html

Good luck with winning prizes and we hope you have fun!

Social Notworking — A Beginner’s Guide

Headline spelling as intended. I wish I could take credit for it, but I can’t. I actually heard a DJ say it on the radio the other day and thought it was brilliant. How many of us turn social networking into social notworking? I know I do. All. The. Time.Social Media Logotype Background

Facebook. Twitter. Tumblr. Pinterest. Instagram. Reddit. Vine. YouTube. Google+. Wattpad. LinkedIn. These are just the tip of the social notworking iceberg that looms off the bow of your unsinkable marketing ship.

We feel like we have to be part of all of it. Be everywhere! The simple fact of the matter is: we can’t do it all and stay sane. Like it or not, small businesses must promote, advertise, and network. Independent authors are small businesspeople. (If you’re not treating your writing career this way, you need to rethink what you’re doing.) Businesspeople need to network, but it must be done with a goal and plan in mind. It must also be regulated.

Nearly all the networking/notworking sites are shiny and interesting, just like the rest of the Internet. Here’s where the planning part begins.

1)  Take a few minutes each day to investigate the different sites, one or two at a time. Get a feel for how they work, what kinds of content are popular, and what the demographics of its users are. (Hint: If you want to reach teenagers, LinkedIn should probably not be your first choice)

2)  Make yourself a list of the ones you feel most comfortable using and that you find engaging. You won’t be an effective networker on a site you don’t find interesting or get easily frustrated working with.

3)  Next list who your main audience is for your books. If you write down, “Everyone!” go take a cold shower and come back when you’re ready to deal with reality. Nothing, not even ice cream, is universally liked. Get as specific as you can with your target audience. You will have a much easier time marketing to fifteen-year-old boys who wear pocket protectors and adore Tank Girl and Call of Duty than males, aged 10-55.

4)  Cross reference your two lists. Which sites that you enjoyed working with best fit the demographics of your primary readership? If none of them do, you might have to work a little outside your comfort zone to reach your target readers.

5)  Pick one or two places from the combined list to focus your efforts. Jacks of all trades are generally masters of none. Trust me when I say I’m speaking from experience here. Spreading yourself too thin is a quick way to derail your efforts.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

6)  Limit your time. Get yourself a kitchen timer and use it to keep yourself on task. You might find yourself to be a brilliant marketer, but if you don’t have product to sell — books — what good does your stunning social media platform do? Allot yourself fifteen to twenty minutes per site, per day. When that timer goes off, close the browser window and start writing. No excuses.

Transforming my personal social notworking into networking is admittedly a work in progress. I wish I had had some guidance like this a few years ago. I might be farther along the path to fame and fortune than I am now. But it is never too late to start!

What tricks do you use to keep yourself from falling into the social notworking abyss? I’d love to hear about them!