Think About It

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During mating season, the male mallard duck (drake) shows off their brightly colored feathers to attract females. Female feathers tend to be dull in color. There's no reason for female ducks to have colors since they choose who to mate with. Once the mating season is done, drakes shed their colored feathers, essentially removing their makeup. Side note, female ducks are called...ducks.

One of my friends sent me an article that discussed the reckoning: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. The article was in response to the Weinstein fallout that had begun, that every powerful man who's ever done a woman wrong is getting called out. Part of the article compared what looking at a woman meant—objectification—versus what seeing a woman meant—valuing her as a human being.

Several of my friends and I were discussing the topic of looking versus seeing. And they all agreed that seeing a woman as a person is the right thing to do.

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From my point of view, my friends were overthinking, which I'd told them. The coming reckoning isn't about men's behavior like groping or masturbating in front of people. Because groping your lover is usually fine. The reckoning is about sexual harassment, or that consent needs to be given before sexual activity can happen, which we all agreed on. No debate there.

But they were overthinking by saying things like a guy shouldn't look because there's more to a woman than just her physical beauty. Or if a dude looks too much over a long period of time, then he may coerce himself to throw out consent and do something inappropriate. That's crap. If a man has to grope or rape a woman to get his rocks off, then he ain't a man. He's a shithead.

There’s nothing wrong with looking. So go forth and gawk. Gawk all you want. You'll look creepy, but, hey, it's your life.

There's a reason why women are considered the fairer sex. Science has proven that men are visual creatures. Probably because men did the hunting, fighting and defending. The processing of images has evolved to be very important to men, so our brains are hard wired for this trait. As a result, men looking at women becomes a very natural thing to do. I know I spend loads of my waking moment staring at women. We're programmed to be lured to a woman's hourglass shape, her red lips, her long eyelashes. It's no wonder why men love porn. It's a visual medium. The cosmetic industry, which caters almost solely to the ladies, raked in 56.2 billion dollars in 2015 in the US alone. Much like the drakes, human females do the attracting. 

Even our language has supported this dichotomy. The fact that the term trophy wife exists says something. However, we don't have the equivalent for men. What would he even be called? Consolation prize?

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Being a writer, I'm constantly reminded that the biggest population of readers are women. The romance category, which includes fine literature such as Fifty Shades of Grey, make up around 50% of the fiction being bought. Trashy romance novels are porn for women. The reason is simple. The biggest most powerful sex organ for a woman is her mind. It's the reason why they need to connect in order to have amazing sex. The reason conversation is so important to them. Connecting to their mate, seeing if you will, turns them on. That's why ladies always want a guy with confidence and a sense of humor. They're looking for inner qualities that will stimulate their minds. Because women are way more forgiving of a man's looks.

Guys, not so much when it comes to women. In fact, show a guy a gorgeous woman, and he's ready to spend the rest of his life with her. At least I am. I know. I'm an idiot. Men don't need to know who she is, what she likes, what her passions are. Men are all about the features. Nice rack. Plenty of room in the trunk. Nice long stems. Great paint job. Any dents or dings? Nope. Great. I'm good to go!

I'm not saying this is right or wrong. When my friends and I were debating, I said that placing judgement on whether a guy looks or sees a woman is puritanical because all of this neural activity is just that. Thoughts.

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Whether I objectify a woman or wonder who she is as a human being has no bearing on whether I'm a good or bad person, whether she's worth my time or not. There are going to be moments where I wanna fuck a woman for no reason except to get off. And then there are moments where I want to delve into what she's about. Neither is good or bad because I've not harmed anyone.

They just be thoughts, yo.

The lesson here is that our thoughts are nothing until we make it into something. There's an ocean's divide between thinking that I wanna kill someone versus actually killing someone. That's why I said my friends were overthinking. Unless I act on my thoughts to grope a woman without her permission, then it doesn't matter whether I look at her or see her.

We are not our feelings. We are not our moods. We are not even our thoughts. -Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

Is Batman really Superman?

Is Batman really Superman?

I’d just gotten back from the San Diego Comic Con, 2013. If you search for that on the net, then everybody and their mothers’ brothers’ cousins’ roommates’ acquaintance who met at the bar the other night has written about it. So I’m not gonna add to that but will give my take as a storyteller and what this massive wet dream for fandom means. Hmm…women don’t have wet dreams so forget I wrote that. Can’t I just press the delete button? And Zack Snyder, director of MAN OF STEEL, made a surprise announcement:

Anyways, I’m letting my thoughts on Comic Con simmer before I ramble about it.

Today at work, I was catching up on all the emails that had accrued while I was out. Most of it was either deleted or filed away, and very little of it required my attention. I tried to get everything done before I left for the four-day weekend. When asked what I do for work, I often find myself stating that I manage emails, since it seems to be the main focus. And I also find that other people in the corporate world manage emails, too. So people go to university, study hard all night, go into deep debt with student loans to manage an email box. Woot! Love the corporate world.

Cynic? Yeah. What else do you expect of me?

I've won a million dollars!

I've won a million dollars!

As I was managing my email box, I was listening to a lecture. Not that deleting or filing emails isn’t fulfilling…but if I can learn something and work at the same time, then why not? Two guys were talking about knowing oneself, and that you can’t know yourself and not be vulnerable to emotional pain. For example, to be in a healthy and successful relationship where two people come together, be it plutonic or romantic, they suggested that we have to open ourselves up totally. It’s only then can relationships flourish toward whatever they are working for. Romance novels, movies, and Hallmark Specials often depict failing relationships due to miscommunication, and there’s truth in that. But to be that open, we do leave ourselves vulnerable. And the two guys support that whole-heartedly. If we do get hurt, then it’s exhilarating because it means we’re alive, that we’re feeling something.

That took me back to my martial arts days when my teachers were sparring. They said they weren’t alive until they felt pain. I was a lot younger and ignorant then, but I thought they were psycho.

But, again, there’s truth in that. Not the psycho part…well maybe.

When researching what it took to be a good writer, I ran across a book that stated you need to feel.

And that makes sense. Everything we do as artists, be it storyteller, actor, painter, sculptor, fighter, we’re communicating with emotion. As a writer, I'm trying to tie the reader to the character with emotion.

Watching an interview with J.J. Abrams when he started work on Star Trek, he asked himself, why care about James T. Kirk? Essentially, how does he get the audience to care about Kirk, who is an egomaniac? It’s an interesting question because Kirk has such a huge fan base. Abram’s answer: kill his father. I was like, he stole my idea! Not really, but the main purpose of my prologue is to root my main character to the reader.

As humans, we’re given emotions for a reason. It tells us what’s going on, it informs of us of any changes that need to be made, it's data of some sort. Man, I sound like I work in IT. I suppose it’s a good thing. But it sucks when we’re in it, freeing when we’re out.

Loss of Subtlety

Belieive it or not I'm walking on air...

Belieive it or not I'm walking on air...

Subtlety has escaped Hollywood. Hollywood, however, is a representation of what the market will bear. Market being the peeps. Us. What we’re likely to pay a whopping twelve bucks to watch.

To be more homogenous, movies must have:

• Action • Suspense • Romance • Mystery • Redemption • Revenge • Comic relief • Strong female lead • Coupled by a backward-thinking male lead who learns to love the strong female lead finally realizing that she’s his everlasting soul mate for all time and beyond • A chase scene either by foot, car, truck, or air, with shoot outs that lead to a climactic battle between God and Satan, where armies of orcs, elves, muggles, wizards, witches, followed by mere men and women, and a child who was born with a butterfly tattoo preordaining her to cure the virus that has threatened life as we know it and must complete a special training that will make him (wasn’t it a her?) nearly invincible (nearly because we have to have tension in our epic fog of a story) • And a Hollywood ending where the child cures Satan of his issues, and both God and Satan float off into the sunset • The End

Ebert and Scorsese

Ebert and Scorsese

One of the things I do is read reviews of movies, Roger Ebert being my favorite. They don’t have any bearing on what I watch. But I can learn a lot about story telling by people’s likes and dislikes, and they’re fairly common. As a story teller, the market is important to a certain point. But as J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyers has proven, good content creates the market. We see this in the explosion of wizardry and horromance in the media today.

I see you

I see you

When reviews are either good or bad cohesively, there may be some merit. On Fandango, I had looked up the times for Hereafter, directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Matt Damon. Part of the movie was filmed in San Francisco in an apartment building my friend lives in. So it was cool hearing stories of how filming went.

Fandango had a rating of yellow, meaning most of the people who saw the movie thought it was “so-so”. That’s the middle rating. But Jackass in 3D got a bright green rating, the top, a “must go”. A red means “oh no”, stay away or lose two hours of life you can never get back.

Most people complained Hereafter was slow and uneventful. But you can’t have a good story with substance based purely on the afterlife. You may point out Paranormal Activity, but it’s just cheap thrills. Would you stay in a house that haunted you for any length of time? I’m brave. But I ain’t that brave. And none of the Paranomal movies explored why they stayed or what issues being haunted brought up. It represents nothing. It's like going to a strip club, paying to get a hard-on, then walking home with with no relief.

Not that I know of those kinds of naughty, naughty things.

A good story with substance uses something as the backdrop, like the afterlife, to show case interpersonal issues. Hereafter does that from three different perspectives: a psychic who can communicate with the dead, a journalist who had a near death experience, and a boy who yearns for his dead twin.

Work it, work it

Work it, work it

A good example of backdrop is Casino Royale. I'm not a huge Bond fan. I never knew why until I started to study story. James Bond is a classic character. He's suave. He likes all women. He sleeps with all women he desires. He likes his drinks to be shaken, not stirred. He can get out of any situation. He's a master fighter, can wield any weapon made available, and is witty.

But as a character, he never changes.  He doesn't go from having no confidence to being confident. He doesn't realize the error of his ways. He doesn't learn to be loyal because he already is. He doesn't have any bad qualities.  Qualities that a writer can hang his hat on to change.

Except for one. He's emotionally detached to the women he's intimate with. He never falls in love. Then Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green, shows up in Royale. She's confident, brash, reads Bond for who he is, and just as every bit competitive. Through their competitiveness, Bond falls in love with her. A huge change in both character and in the movie. When Vesper dies, he must struggle with the pain, something all humans go through. As a result, Casino Royale is one of the best reviewed Bond movies.

[poll id="34"]

Got Romance?

Macho, macho man, we are macho men...

Macho, macho man, we are macho men...

What is romance? And why are half of the books sold romance novels, trashy or otherwise? Is it indicative of women's lack or need of it? Variety is the spice of life, so maybe they need different men as stated in Steve Harvey's book.

I, being a macho, macho man, am stereotyped to not know the answer to this or any other thing about women. Oddly, this myth is not perpetuated by women, but by men. I can't count how many times men in the media state they know nothing about women and never will. And if that were true, then freakin' learn, dammit! Women certainly want us to, which may be why romance is so lucrative.

Having completed my first novel, I've been asked is there romance in it? I don't know.

I think you need a tic tac

I think you need a tic tac

Hey! Have you seen this:

A man gathers his briefcase, closes his office door, enters an ambiguous, crowded elevator. Taking a deep breath, he looks at his Tag timekeeper, exits the sky scrapin' building, and raises his hand.

A yeller taxi screeches. A radiant woman gets out, with hair from a high-priced salon wafts in the warm breeze, dressed in perfect fitted clothes, carrying a Burberry purse. Don't ask me how I know that brand.

They're eyes lock and the world comes to a startling but pleasurable halt. Her hair waves coyly at him. His stature postures over her like a gentle beast ready to pounce. Her eyes gaze ever so softly into his. She brushes her hair with the back of her hand.

What do we know and have been programmed to know from this cliche? A scene we've seen in countless movies, TV shows, books, plays, and commercials.

He is the it boy. She is the it girl. And by the massive powers of God, the universe, Shiva, Buddha, Geezus Krist, and the dominant iPhone with FaceTime, they're meant for each other for all time, passed time, into infinity and beyond, and a little more.

Whew! I need a smoke.

Going back to the question, does my book have romance?

Should I close my legs?

Should I close my legs?

I didn't know how to answer that question until I readRoger Ebert's essay on Lost In Translation,starring Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansen, directed by Sofia Copola. In fact, I saw this in the theater years ago and didn't know why I loved it until now.

In many ways, the movie starts out to be a cliche. A lonely man visits Japan. He runs into an equally lonely woman. They're subtly attracted to each other, but by no means are they the it couple. He's an older married man, she's the younger married woman. I thought they were going to hit it off. A nice romp in the bed, some drama about his wife or her husband catching them, then a climatic ending where they both leave their respective spouses, and run toward each other as the waves splash onto the sandy beach.

Why do you have pants on while I'm in a bikini?

Why do you have pants on while I'm in a bikini?

Nope. The movie is about a deep connection between two people, which is probably why I loved it so much because I cherish deep connections.

Does my book have romance?

No. Not like the taxi example above. My story focuses on a married couple who has to contend with the death of their child. Then they have to contemplate the mortality of their other, who is called to duty when a looming war approaches.

My goal was to explore the pain of loss, the guilt one spouse places on the other, on oneself, and to explore war itself. It has been a painful and enlightening experience in the sense storytelling.

San Francisco Writer's Conference

The San Francisco Writer's Conference was my first writer's conference. I didn't know how things worked, but the conference was held over three days full of lectures. The crappy thing about it was several lectures were going on within each hour session. So I had to make a decision on which lecture to attend. Because this was my first conference, I really wanted to focus on the business aspect of publishing. Over the next week or so, I'm going to post a lecture for you to listen everyday. So come back and check on what I've uploaded. Each one is about 45 minutes long, giving the attendees enough time to go to the next lecture.

The first one I'm going to upload is a lecture by best selling suspense romance novelist Brenda Novak. Her trilogy, The Last Stand: Trust Me, Stop Me, Watch Me, has become New York Time Bestsellers. She talks about strategies she's used to make her more visible and credible before her first book was published.

Please feel free to download these. I apologize for the quality of the audio, but there was a lot of ambient noise. The format of the file is .caf, but you should be able to play them using Windows Media Player or Quicktime. Tell me what you think, and come back as I will upload others.

brenda_novak-1

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What you can expect in future audio uploads from the conference:

Key Note speeches from best selling authors

Body Language

How to write plot summaries

Self-publishing

Branding tactics

Q&A with Agent panels for both fiction and non-fiction

Lecture from a top agent, Donal Maass