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Friday Night Fights: Hulk vs. Kratos

Hulk Vs. Kratos

http://twicetheaveragerevenge.tumblr.com

This week’s fight promises to be brutal. Hulk aka “The Strongest There Is” Vs Kratos aka “The Ghost of Sparta” aka “The God Slayer”. Last week’s battle, Batman vs. James Bond, went lopsided on us, with Bats proving the having favorite and victor. But, no more knockouts, folks. This is our first deathmatch (and since both brawlers seem impossible to kill, this could take awhile).

So who takes this one, and why? Let’s get ready to rumble…

 

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Extreme Homepage Makeover

Hey gang…how do you like my new web digs?

In anticipation of the upcoming release of FAKE ID, I decided to give the site a makeover. I want to thank Tessa Elwood of Pop Color Web Design for hooking it up. If you’re in the market for a great site and stellar customer service experience, you’ll want to reach out to her.

Also, if you saw the landing page, you probably noticed the placeholder for the FAKE ID cover. The real thing is coming soon (VERY SOON). Stay tuned, because I may be giving you guys a little bonus once I reveal the cover. Can’t say too much about it, yet, though.

Have a great week. More in a bit.

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For Writers: What you can learn from the MAD MEN

Courtesy of USAToday

Last night I caught INSIDE THE ACTOR’S STUDIO and the special guests were the talented creator and actors behind one of TVs most popular series, MAD MEN. If you aren’t familiar with the 1960s period drama about an advertising executive who is a portrait of duality, no worries, this lesson won’t be lost on you.

Towards the end of the episode, during Q&A, a drama student recounted her experiences in amateur productions, explaining how invaluable she found the weeks and weeks of rehearsals her troupe participated in before a performance. She asked how much rehearsal time the MAD MEN cast had before they shot their scenes. The answer shocked her and most of the audience.

There were no rehearsals on the MAD MEN set.

Jon Hamm, the show’s star, explained that they participated in a weekly table read (think middle/high school English class, where everyone takes a role and reads Shakespeare aloud from their desks), then the next time they got to practice was during the lighting set up right before they shot. No true rehearsal, just a chance to familiarize oneself with the material, then go home and make sure you knew your #&$* before the cameras rolled.

As important as that fact is, it pales to the reasoning behind it. Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, explained that every minute they’re on set costs money, so there’s no time to waste. Although he pointed out that if a guest actor doesn’t know their lines, he will fire them (at costs of up to 100,000 dollars for the time it takes to replace them and reshoot) because unprepared people cost more in the long run.

Consider that. The amateur actor (that’s not meant as a dig, just pointing out that the student who asked the question is not yet a professional) admitted that extensive rehearsals increased her comfort. The pros let her know that they don’t get that luxury. Yet, MAD MEN is one of the most critically acclaimed, award-snatching shows on television. A lot of that has to do with stellar scripts, but without talented (and prepared) people to do the work on a tight schedule, the scripts wouldn’t mean a whole lot.

How’s this relate to you, dear writer? After all, you won’t be dressing up in a retro suit and pitching ads for LIFE cereal and Vick’s Cough Syrup. You’re not performing.

That’s where you’d be wrong. You’re not an actor, but your profession requires that you perform on demand. Or, it will. When you crossover from amateur to pro. Think about it. Deadlines. Proposals. If you want to be a book-a-year writer, then you have to be prepared to write fast, fast, fast.

You have all the time in the world to write book 1, your baby, that masterpiece your Muse faxed you from Heaven. As soon as you sell it to Massive Publishing House X, you’ve got people to answer to. Deadlines to hit. It’s a role you better damn well know.

If not, you will be replaced. It will cost them less in the long run.

But, if you can manage to do the job in the time allotted, not second guessing, and trusting that preparation is better than comfort, then who knows…maybe when they come up with INSIDE THE WRITER’S STUDIO*, you’ll be able to shock a few amateurs with what you’ve accomplished.

*Yes, I’ve fantasized about it. And yes, I’m the first guest. ;)

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What you can learn from Sam Jackson (other than cool ways to say f***)

courtesy of IMDB.com

I just read this incredible NY Times article on Samuel L. Jackson and felt the need to wax philosophical on the benefits of preparation.

It was a quote by director William Friedkind (Rules of Engagement) that stood out to me initially (a lot in the article stands out and I could base a series of posts on the phenomenal actor’s life, but for now…), “Sam is a director’s dream. Some actors hope to find their character during shooting. He knows his character before shooting. Sam’s old-school. I just got out of his way. I never did more than two takes with Sam.”

I put the emphasis on ‘before’. For a reason.

For Spring 2012, Jeremy Lin has been the international poster boy for ‘readiness’, the idea of maximizing a singular opportunity even when you’re at the low point of your career. It’s a great in-the-moment story, but it remains to be seen if we’ll be discussing Jeremy in the same breath as the greats (or even next year).

Sam Jackson’s longevity stretches back 40 years. HE DIDN’T GET HIS BIG BREAK UNTIL 1994! But he’s maintained the same level of preparation and professionalism through feast AND famine. Let’s be real…the last 2 decades have been a fantastic feast for him. He averages 4 movies and 300K in residuals per year, he’s the highest grossing actor in history, this guy could phone it in for the rest of his life and still be a BAMF (go to any crowded theater/fanboy flick and anticipate cheers if he should pop up…it happens every time).

My point: this isn’t a guy who shows up on set hungover, with an assistant making up cue cards because he doesn’t know his lines. He could. But he doesn’t. He’s still treating the work like he’s struggling, like he’s not the most memorable character from Pulp Fiction, or Mace Windu, or effing Nick Fury.

After all his massive success, he’s still ready BEFORE.

Are you?

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2012: Who’s betting on the Mayans?

According to the Mayan Calendar Guys, this is it folks. The end is nigh. I, for one, don’t buy it. I call ‘World Keeps Spinning’ in the Apocalypse Pool. Since that’s how I’m betting, I guess I should share a little info on what I have planned for the new (not last) year on the 3rd rock.

I’m not calling these resolutions. Any one who’s read “The Track” knows how I feel about those…however, there will be some changes in 2012.

This Blog Thing

Yes. I’ve got to get this under control. A post a month just won’t do. For the record, I do blog frequently. You can check me out on a regular basis over at Sleuths, Spies, and Alibis and The Lucky 13s. Still, I can’t neglect this blog or you loyal followers any longer. Look for a minimum of one post per week going forward. No themes though…I have to stick to the rules on those other blogs. Here, you’re going to get whatever leaks out of my skull on any given day. Straight, no chaser. It will be fun.

This Newsletter Thing

The official L.R. Giles Newsletter will start going out sometime this winter and will continue on a quarterly basis. I know a bunch of you have subscribed (if you haven’t, see the signup form to the right of this post…it’s FREE y’all) and I promise to get you the goods. I’m talking great info, contests, and giveaways. Look for Issue #1 sometime in February.

This TV Thing

The blessing and the curse. I’ve written about how episodic TV in modern times can be one of the great teachers for aspiring writers. But, you can have too much of a good thing and I’ve got to get this TV habit under control. It doesn’t affect my fiction, but it probably does play a role in my inability to balance my blogging responsibilities. There will be a TV cut this year. But what should go? Breaking Bad (nope), Big Bang Theory (hell no), Supernatural (probably…sorry Sam and Dean, the schtick’s getting old). This one makes me sad, but if I’m going to finish those TWO NEW NOVELS by early spring, I need to free up some time.

This ‘TWO NEW NOVELS’ thing

Oops, did I let that slip? ;) More on that soon…

Happy New Year.

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The month in review and overcompensating

I’ve been having trouble keeping up with the blog…surprise, surprise. Ever since I started a blog many years ago, I’ve gone through spurts of white-hot intensity where I’m dropping posts 3 times a week, responding to comments, and just being That Guy. Then, the inevitable drop-off comes. I don’t have much to say. I’m distracted by a writing project. I just lose track of time. Then I happen to notice the date of my last entry and succumb to guilt akin to a dieter blacking out and waking up in a bakery, having massacred all the cupcakes. Like now.

It’s been a pretty busy month, and I’d like to catch you up on a couple of things. So, see, this is how I apologize, by overcompensating. That’s healthy, right?

My New Hangouts

Because I’m so great about timely blog entries here on my own site, it only made sense that I’d agree to write for TWO OTHER blogs as well. I’m now a regular contributor at Sleuths, Spies, and Alibis – a group of YA Adult Mystery writers who blog on all topics related to crime, literature, and kids (what a combo). I also contribute to The Lucky 13s – a group of debut YA authors across many genres who all have pub dates in 2013.

There’s a lot of good stuff at both of these blogs, so be sure to check them out.

Recent Interviews

In case you missed them, I participated in a couple of fun blogs/interviews for Aimee Salter and Daisy Whitney.

In Other News

I’ve finished a draft of a YA Urban Fantasy novel and hope to get that revised soon so I can tell you more about it. And I’m halfway through a YA Paranormal  novel (really it’s Horror, but I’ve been told the P-word in more aesthetically pleasing than the H-word nowadays). Again, more on that soon.

That’s all, folks. For now.

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Type A Lamar and the Business Card Debacle…

It’s rare that a post can be random and relevant, but that’s kind of what this is. The relevant part involves the trip I’ll be taking later this week to attend the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 40th Anniversary conference in Los Angeles. I’ll get to rub elbows with some industry folks and attend cool and informative workshops, which is always a plus. But, more importantly, I’ll get to meet my very good writer friend Jennifer Bosworth and my Super Agent Jamie Weiss Chilton in person for the very first time (this alone is worth the price of the plane ticket).

Confession: I rarely get excited. It’s like my brain secrets Prozac, I’m so even keel. However, this trip excites me. It’ll be my first time on the west coast, and I can’t wait to see LA for myself. I’m from Virginia and the farthest west I’ve been is Texas…all I know about LA comes from ENTOURAGE and KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS. My only regret is that my wife can’t make this trip with me, but she’s demanded that I bring her back something “decidedly LA”. I’m thinking a jar of smog.

That was your dose for relevant, time for the random…

I’m a Type A all the way, an obsessive PLANNER. So, uncharacteristically, I made a misstep in my conference prep. See, it’s good protocol to have business cards with you when you attend these things because you meet so many people there’s no way to keep everyone straight in your head. And I have A METRIC TON of business cards already. The problem: the cards are specific to my Indie Pubbed adult paranormal novel LIVE AGAIN, which maybe doesn’t matter too much, but it’s not the impression I necessarily want to make at conference centered around books for children and young adults. This didn’t occur to me until Thursday night, exactly 1 week before I get on a westbound plane.

The Type A in me panicked. While all of my relevant contact info was on the LIVE AGAIN business cards, I’d simply be MORTIFIED to hand those out at SCBWI…it’d be like, I don’t know, wearing white after Labor Day. I needed something representative of my young adult work. Since graphic design is a hobby I’ve dabbled in for the last two years, I got the bright idea that I would DESIGN A NEW BUSINESS CARD IN ONE HOUR, so I could make a rush order with Vista Print and get new cards before I leave.

If you’re a planner, too, you probably already see what’s wrong here…

It was close to midnight when I started my ambitious design project. I’d been up since 5 AM. I discovered SLEEP-DEPRIVED DESIGNING is kind of like DRUNK DIALING YOUR EX…you wake up the next day with one thing and one thing only on your mind, “What the hell did I do?”

I completed my design, all with a snazzy, unique color palette (not the problem), and this cool little ink-in-water accent along the bottom left to highlight all my social media logos (not the problem). I even added a custom logo (problem).

The logo I’d been working on was meant to represent a character I’d created for a YA project. It’s essentially the silhouette of a guy wearing these big ’80’s style headphones because the character was really into music. I got the basic logo from istockphoto and planned to tweak it (which I never got around to) so I could throw it on some promotional stuff. Really, there’s nothing wrong with the idea on paper. The problem comes in when you consider the following (something my sleep addled mind was not able to do…at the time it seemed like the best idea ever, freaking award-worthy):

1) The character changed, and music isn’t as big a part of his makeup as it used to be. The headphones are insignificant now.

2) I can’t say too much about this project yet. And I can’t say WHY I can’t say much about this project yet.

3) Since the character changed, and I’m not supposed to discuss him too much, the logo is meaningless. It’s like painting a Pepsi logo on a prehistoric rock for the dinosaurs to stare out.

4) This is the worst part – It’s a kid wearing BIG ASS HEADPHONES. That doesn’t exactly scream WRITER. It screams DJ!!!!!

And I paid fifty bucks to get my new DJ business cards in time for my WRITER’S conference. <Insert Joke Here>.

So if you happen to be at SCBWI next week and you’re looking for me, I’ll be the guy saying, “Hi, I’m Lamar. I’m a writer…but I also do weddings.”

 

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He who cares less wins…

Sorry for the long delay folks, been a busy month but I hope to share some huge news with you soon….

In the meantime, I depart from my typical writing/movies/pop-culture spiel to share a little lesson that may serve you well in all endeavors going forward, particularly where money is involved.

Some backstory

In a former profession that relied heavily on negotiation and sales, I had an incredibly talented boss who taught me one of the most valuable lessons I EVER learned.

“When it comes to negotiation,” she said, “he who cares less wins.”

Basically, in any deal, you have to remove emotions from the equation and simply make yourself not care about the outcome. Whether you’re talking about 100 dollars or 100,000 dollars. I learned the lesson firsthand when I worked for the company and was dealing with a seller who had a subpar product. My company still wanted the product, but needed some improvements made, improvements that would’ve cost less than 5 thousand dollars. The seller fought tooth and nail to not make the changes we requested, but we held strong and got what we wanted. When we finally completed the transaction and saw all of the balance sheets we learned the seller STILL MADE 90 THOUSAND DOLLARS!!

My point…all that moaning about a five thousand dollar change and they still walked away with 90K. So, it didn’t hurt them to make the change, but they were trying to see how much we cared. If we’d been emotional and felt we really needed to accept their terms because we just LOVED their product so much that we were willing to look past the flaws, then we would’ve essentially paid more for less. But, by stating what we wanted, and being willing to walk away if we didn’t get it, we actually got the exact thing we needed/loved/had to have, and the seller STILL made money. Everybody wins.

FAST FORWARD

My wife and I have been car shopping, a miserable experience that I rank just above Moving. Thanks to all the various online tools and mobile apps available today it’s easy to do all the necessary research before you walk onto a car lot (something car salesmen probably loathe) and make informed decisions. Using said tools, my wife and I were able to narrow our car choices down to a Top 3. Not only that, we were able to determine what sort of interest rate we should be eligible for, the price we should expect to pay for the car, and the value of our trade in.

Of course the dealer had other ideas.

It was no shock that the salesman tried to low ball us in every conceivable category because that’s his job. Part of the technique involves making you miserable while you haggle back and forth over figures. The longer you spend in a dealership trying to get 500 dollars here, and a percentage point there, you get worn down. You don’t want to keep going through this, and you don’t want to start over at another dealer. They mean to wear you down so you take a garbage deal.

But that only works if you care…

I don’t. So this is how my deal went.

I test drove my top choice vehicle. Sat down to talk numbers. The minute they started in with the lowball figures I told them exactly what I expected in every category (sales price, trade in value, loan APR). They tried their hardest NOT to meet my terms.

If you’ve been through this, you know how it goes…typically you’ll do 2 or 3 iterations of haggling with the salesman. Each time you refuse to accept his offer, he makes a show of “going to speak to his manager to see what he can do”. He’s really getting coffee or taking his turn in an ongoing Scrabble game while you sit for 20 minutes. If you’re able to hang on that long without going into a Wolverine Beserker Rage, they’ll eventually bring out some guy who’s dressed slightly better than your salesman. He’s supposed to be the mysterious manager your guy’s been fighting with to get you the “best deal”, he’s probably just the best Scrabble player. This guy is meant to represent the Final Offer, he’s the “Okay folks, i’m doing all I can for you here and this is what I’ve got…” guy. He’s still giving you a s****y deal, though.

When I reached the “talking to the manager” point of the negotiation, I did what few people are willing to do. I sprang from my seat and walked out. Because I don’t care, and because I know something else…

Homecourt advantage is hard to beat.

You can’t win on their court and on their terms. As long as you’re sitting in that uncomfortable chair, and you keep playing the haggle game, they KNOW you want the car. When you suddenly storm out, seemingly unprovoked, hell, they think you might be on your way to get your Uzi. Let them think that.

That was a Saturday.

On Sunday, when the dealership was closed, I sent an email directly to my salesman. See, email is writing, and that’s MY homecourt. I told him the exact terms I was willing to accept, and if he (or his manager) couldn’t meet them, then I’d take my business elsewhere. However, I would not return to the dealership until I had confirmation that I’d get what I want.

By Monday I had a message on my answering machine stating that each and every one of my terms would be met.

Here’s the thing, my terms were fair, and I’m sure they’ll still make more money that I should’ve allowed, but I’m not interested in nickel and diming THEM. I just want a reasonable price…and boy did I get one.

I put a deposit on a brand new 2012 vehicle that’s coming straight from the factory and I’m paying less than I did for the last Used Car I bought. All because I cared less. Really, I cared more about not cheating myself. Funny how alike those two things are.

I tell you the story because there will come a time in your life where you’ll have to negotiate, and you should really consider that getting whatever that deal offers is not worth selling yourself short. Ask for a little more than what you want (because you’ll likely have to negotiate down to what you REALLY want), know what the other side of the deal can feasibly offer and what they’ll gain by dealing with you, and understand that within the parameters of FAIR VALUE, you should never agree to less than what’s right. You’ll regret it later if you do, and I guarantee that you’ll care much more about that…

 

 

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Wolverine: Old Man Logan

This is not a review. If you came looking for a review, what you’ve found is a gushing love fest for a story I just read. Sorry. You can avoid the lengthy monologue below if you’re not into comics. If you are into comics, all you really need to know is BUY THIS BOOK TODAY!! You’ve been warned…

My love of storytelling came from comic books. As a kid, I wanted to be a comic book artist. Teensy problem: I couldn’t draw. Seeing that as a huge hurdle on my path to art superstardom, I decided to focus on the other part of the medium, the writing.

But I never lost my affinity for the realm of 4 Colors. I’d spend weeks going hungry at school so I could take my accumulated lunch money to the local comic book store and give it to the social malcontents who ran it (another story for another time). Me and my friends would engage in serious bartering sessions to get rare, prized issues of this title or that title. You would’ve thought we were trading Fortune 500 stocks.

I still have boxes of those very same books that came into my possession during various 5th, 6th, and 7th grade lunchroom sessions. I admit, with no shame at all, that I was a comic book geek.

Sadly, as an adult, I have not been able to engage in the hobby like I used to. Mainly because of inflation (a single issue of any given book is now roughly equal to 1 gallon of gas). Also, what was groundbreaking and heartwrenching to a a kid in the 90’s, is cliche to an adult in 2011. (Captain America is dead?!? Oh, wait, he died in ’07, but he’s going to come back just in time for the release of the Captain America film this summer. Whaaatttt? Didn’t see that coming…)

Occasionally, I’ll peruse the Graphic Novels section of my local B&N, and I might run across a compilation of some particular storyline that I’ll pick up just for kics. Usually, I end up disappointed. It’s all stuff I’ve seen before.

Until I read Wolverine: Old Man Logan by Mark Millar with art by Steve McNiven.

Wow. I can’t give this book enough praise. No spoilers here, but I can honestly say it’s THE most satisfying superhero story I’ve read in the last decade (keep in mind, I haven’t necessarily been paying attention, so if you know of something as good or better than this book, please point me to it so I can spend some hard earned money).

Wolverine, the biggest badass in the Marvel Universe, is an old, pacifist farmer with a wife and two kids 50 years after the supervillains defeated the heroes and took over America. Strapped for cash, her reluctantly goes on a road trip with his old buddy Hawkeye (now blind, but still likes to drive), to get the rent money he owes his landlords, the Incredible Hulk’s Hillbilly (“Green” Neck) grandchildren.

I felt like crying tears of joy after I read the first page. And the 50th page. And the last page. A true masterpiece…

Storytelling like that makes me simultaneously thankful I have eyes and jealous that I may never, ever come up with a concept THAT good.

If you ever picked up a comic book in your life, I highly recommend this book.

 

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Writer Secret #4,282: It’s never NOT hard

You ever see one of those masked magician shows? You know, where the guy tells you how magic tricks really work at the risk of being blackballed by other magicians across the globe (sidenote: being blackballed by these guys would seem much scarier if they were more like Voldemort and less like Penn and Teller…anyhow). Today, that’s me. I’m going to dispel some of the myths and murmurs I’ve heard over the years relating to what writing is and what writers do. Without a mask. Because I’m fearless.

In this edition, I want to talk about the idea that it’s just easy for (some) writers to knock off story after story like they’re a print factory (Cough-STEPHEN KING-Cough). Obviously, when it comes to personal experience I can only speak for myself, but I know enough writers, and have read enough about writers by writers to infer that what I’m about to share with you is pretty universal.

If there is a such thing as a muse, she’s a lazy $&#^*. She’s the equivalent of those people who find out you’re a writer and say stuff like, “I’ve got this great idea. [they tell you their idea and it isn’t great at all]. You can write it, then WE can sell it and get rich. Just promise not to steal it.”

Oh, I promise, and my word is ironclad.

Anyway, the idea may come in a flash. In its skeletal form it might be the right mix of suspense, and comedy, and have a dog in it. That’s the fun part, the dreaming it up.

Getting it on paper legibly, with the words in the right order is another story all together.

You have to do the work (I’m in the midst of an anxiety filled revision at this very moment), and there will be times where it’s tempting to just do something less strenuous. But, the sense of fulfillment when you finish…the knowledge that someone may read what you slaved over and enjoy it…dulls the birthing pains.

It’s never NOT hard, folks. But it is worth it.

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