Monday, 28 February 2011

Harry Potter Flawed?!

Herro, my super-duper Alterheroes! It's time for another round of the Frost Bolt. Now enough with the pleasantries, let's get right to it!


The Weigh In:

Rank: Lame, Great, Super, Ultra, Omega, God-Like
Revenue Stream: Poor, Good, Fantastic, Superb, Unrivaled 
Fan Base: Low, Medium, High, Skyhigh, Universal
Appeal: Small, Average, Huge, Wide span  

Harry Potter Series

Rank: God-Like
Revenue Stream: Unrivaled (300,000,000 +)
Fan Base: Universal (400,000,000 +)
Appeal: Wide span (120 countries +)

Percy Jackson and the Olympian series

Rank: Super
Revenue Stream: Superb (50,000,000 +)
Fan Base: Skyhigh (35,000,000 +)
Appeal: Average (20+ countries)

It's quite clear who the winner already is, therefore I'll keep this short. Harry Potter is one of the greatest novels I have ever read. So great, in fact, that all novels on the NYT Children's list owe this behemoth many thanks, as it was the one that started it all. The intricate plotting is one of its best assets, but more so are its characters, who beguile the reader from page one. I cannot say anything good that hasn't been said before. Instead, I'll attempt to point out some of its weaknesses - one of which is the redundant use of adjectives. The novel is tediously heavy with these absolutely, positively bad super descriptive modifiers, and I do recall reading the same -ly adjective twice on the same page! Another minor irk is the slow pacing. It takes ten years for a bit of action to start, and can be a tremendous turnoff for many readers. However, once the tension does commence, YOU CANNOT STOP!

The same cannot be said for our next contender.

Let's begin with the flaws. First of all, it's derivative, and quite horribly so. Many aspects of this series is adapted from Harry Potter. For instance, the invisibility hat (very tacky) Annabeth wears can be compared to the invisibilty cloak. Regrettably, it's used with very little zest or imagination: "Hey I'm Annabeth and I have an invisibility hat. What can I do with it? Oh, I know! I can use it to escape from danger." Oh Please! This is perhaps the most obvious use of the magic. At least when assassins brandish invisibility they use it to kill people, spy and rape women in their sleep. I'm not implying it be used for these foul purposes, but come on, give use something unique. And speaking of unique: another aspect far from this is the Expelliarmus Spell. . .with a sword. Yes, you read that right. The book employs the same effect of this world famous charm to disarm a piece of metal. The jist is to kinda juke forward and flourish your wrist in a manner that flips the sword out of the foe's hand. Percy used this to defeat Ares (and this is stupid 'cause a god should be able to counter this parlor trick - from a child, no less!).

As if the Harry Potter-esq themes isn't bad enough, the novel even went so far as to steal the villain. No, you say? So the fallen Dark Lord, who is not of his former self, but trying desperately to do so, by enlisting his dormant followers to gather items to rekindle his powers, yet indirectly finding ways to kill the boy who lived (oops!), Percy, is not He Who Must Not Be Named? SERIOUSLY?! Well excuse me! Either I'm a silly git or this has to be the most bold-faced character theft I have ever seen.

To say this was the least of it would be a terribly lie, but I'll leave that for someone else to comment on.

In spite of all this, I did like the whole idea. It was the best thing about this series. Sadly, the execution was poor and I often found myself saying : "If I'd gotten this idea, I would've done WONDERS with it!" And I know I would've, and I'm sure many of you would too.

To this end, I rate the Harry Potter series as Super-duper Boltacious and the Percy Jackson series as a Near Frosty Mess. There was action on every page of Percy Jackson, which was exhausting (gimme some damn breathing room, please) but a great allure for reluctant readers. The voice was pretty decent, despite the instances where you can tell an adult was writing (complex diction, phony dialogue etc.,), however, the derivative elements were too hard to ignore. As for Harry Potter. . .well, it's frickin' Harry Potter! What more can be said about a novel that forced the NYT to start a new list?

  • HP Series is Boltacious
  • HP Series is a Frosty Mess
  • Percy Jackson Series is Boltacious
  • Percy Jackson Series is a Frosty Mess

Friday, 25 February 2011

Friday Wonder Ponder

So, we've come to yet another end of a marvelous week, and I do hope we can see many more.

Today is the first ever Friday Wonder Ponder (try saying that three times fast), where you tell me your deepest, darkest answers to my greatest Ponder-ments.

I'm pretty certain we all write with a goal in mind, and we also have that one author who's career we would love to emulate. Wouldn't it be great to be as wealthy as J.K. Rowling? As renowned and consistent as James Patterson? Or as stupendously awesome as Neil Gaiman? If I had to choose, I would love to have J.K. Rowling's career. Not due to her wealth and fame (I can't handle that - I just can't), but because I would love to write such a unique, twisty, magical novel and touch the lives of billions. Ah yes. . .that would make me a very happy man.

So, for this first ever Friday Wonder Ponder, which author's career would you love to have and why?

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

My Book Will Make Me Rich!

Think again.

The idea that writers make a lot of money is a misnomer. And a terrible one at that. Those that do attain wealth are a rare 1% and still cannot contest the riches of  Hollywood, Business or Sports People.

Today I will attempt to show you just how little money a writer makes, even if they do attain a sweet advance.

(Note: This will not take into account royalties, foreign sales, film options and other revenue sources; this is a basic calculation of the losses attributed to the advance paid by a publisher. The 2011 U.S. Federal IRS taxes will be applied.)

In publishing, you gain what is called an advance. This is a publisher's estimate of risk and can fluctuate based on market trends, sales record and foreign rights potential. Basically, a publisher pays you based on how well they assume your novel will sell. The average author receives $30,000 and can climb to as high as $5,000,000 (as with the case of Audrey Niffenegger's second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry). The module used to define the monetary value of an advance is as follows:

"nice deal"   $1 - $49,000

"very nice deal"   $50,000 - $99,000

"good deal"   $100,000 - $250,000

"significant deal"   $251, 000 - $499,000

"major deal"   $500,000 and up
(Learn more about an advance here)

An agent can get you a decent advance, as well as build your career, however, he needs to be paid and so does the government, apparently. The IRS deducts anywhere from 10% - 35% of your earnings (after deductions and exemptions) and an agent takes 15% of whatever monies you make from the works he sold. Let's assume you got lucky and landed a good deal, before you quit your job to become a full time writer, understand that that amount isn't what you get.

Agent's Cut:
15% of $100,000 
= $85,000

IRS Tax:
Tax Year:  2011
Filing Status: Married, Filing Jointly
Taxable Income: $85,000
Tax: $13,500
Percentage of income: 15.88%
Tax Bracket: 25%
Your disposable income will be: $71,500
(Calculate your taxes here) 

This still isn't too shabby - most authors don't receive good deals, even for series books -, but is by no means enough to support a family of four. . .five. . .six for a year. You can, however, make good money from writing, but that, like all things, take time.

So, if you have dreams of becoming rich and famous from your first book, then I must sadly inform you of your delusion. Let that novel be the stepping stone to a bright career - and who knows. . .you just might make it into that coveted 1%.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

One Word Why


This is why I write.

Whether it be longhand or shorthand; on a piece of tissue paper or in my head; I write because it is an escape from a life, a world, a people that is oppressed by difficulty.

To live, for only a moment, as someone else is an adventure; to experience their joys, their sorrow, their world. . .is a gift.

Vicissitude will always affect my life - for better or worse. . . - but in that tiny moment when I sit by myself, close my eyes and listen. . .I cannot be touched.

Because here. . .I am free.

Share one word that illustrates the reason why you write, and why.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Twilight Sucks?

Hey my super Alterheroes! It's time for the first ever FROST BOLT. This weekly gauntlet of doom puts various trends up for discussion, where we will determine if they are Boltacious or a Frosty Mess. This week, it's books!

So, without further ado, let the FROST BOLT begin!  



Weigh in: 

The Millennium Trilogy's sales has amassed over 45 million worldwide; was predicted to rake in over 15 million in 2010 alone, or the recent sales of James Patterson, Stephanie Meyer and Stephen King combined; and has a big-budget Hollywood version currently in production starring Daniel Craig.

The Twilight Saga has pulled in more than 60 million globally; is the sole reason for the vampiric phenomenon; and has spawned three block buster films.

I must admit, estrogen based reads aren't something I'm into ( and no, I have nothing against female protags), but the success of these books had me curious and, as a writer, it was a great learning opportunity.

The Millennium Trilogy is an ambitious crime novel by deceased author Steig Larsson. It is set in his home country of Sweden and follows a rape victim, Salander, as she fights for her civil freedom and takes revenge on certain people who have harmed her in the past. Each of the three books started slowly with exposition of family trees and prolix information of corporate finances. Needless to say, it was a snoozefest, and I almost put it down, but I still sloshed through these murky details because of one variable: Salander.

She is a Gothic bad girl with an appetite for $ex, hacking and older men. I must say, she is a whole lot of fun and I wouldn't mind getting in her world again. In my opinion, this is the biggest reason for the novel's success. Salander isn't a goody puff ball who walks around with halos and catches butterflies in her hand, she is a real person - with real pain and flaws. What surprises me is how well Steig was able to capture such a character being a man. It's simply amazing.

Of course, the same cannot be said for Twilight. First of all, Bella Swan is annoying; all she does is complain about everything: Oh I'm a freakishly pale girl at a new school with no friends. OMG! That even freakishly pale dude with hair that defies gravity is so hot, but he took one look at me and nearly puked. OMFG, the wind here is, like, too, I dunno, windy.

I seriously wanted to drown this girl in the toilet.

However, if you thought that was bad, then brace yourself for the plotting. Next came the fact that vampires walk in daylight. Three letters sum up this nonsense: WTH!? The idea of glittering bloodsuckers is silly as is (though a very nice twist to the lore), making them day walkers is a tad foolish. Why? Here's the thing: as with any magical creature, or being of great power, there needs to be a line between powerful and god-like. Good storytellers know that such beings must have a weakness, because if not, one will beg the question: "Why is the human race still in existence?" And this is exactly the point. Vampires have superspeed, superstrength; ultra sight, taste, smell, hearing and can turn their victims if they so desire. With this arsenal, they are the ultimate predator and can dispatch humans with ease. So, how can they be stopped? Quite simple, really: you can slay them by either piercing their heart, cutting off their head or exposing them to sunlight (the latter being the ultimate weakness). In Twilight, the vampires can walk in UV light without a Moonstone and, instead of turning to ash, glitter like diamonds.

This. Is. Ridiculous.

If they possess all the powers of a vampire, and their greatest weakness dispelled, why the heck is the human race not enslaved? Think about that. If the vampires can spawn new ones and build an amry of god-like undead (in daylight, no less) then why don't they rule the world? Because the Volturi wishes to keep the balance?! Rubbish! Common sense prevails here. Humans are their food, as well as a threat to their survival, it would be logical to conquer and enslave man before he defies them. Instead, vampires coexist with humans - they drive cars, they have jobs and they even go to school. Oh! Did I mention they're cold-blodded killers?  And I haven't forgotten those oversized plush toys Twilight call werewolves. You can argue they are sort of man's protectors and bar the vampires from taking over. But if you study the novel well, you will realize that the werewolves aren't much of a threat. Firstly, their numbers are limited to special folks born in clans. Secondly, it takes at least two werewolves to take down a really strong vampire (three or more to defeat a Volturi member, especially Jane and Alec). And thirdly, the puppies aren't well organized because they live almost like bushmen. 

I hope you're seeing the giant plot holes here. The dynamics of the novel's fantasy are lacking and trite, more gimmicky than anything else. Understanding this, why is Twilight such a huge success? Well, there are two factors, one of which was summed up perfectly by Stephanie Meyer on the Cynsation blog:

"It seems to be part of human nature to enjoy being scared in a controlled environment. The popularity of horror novels and movies, not to mention roller coasters, attests to that. Mostly the monsters we have created to scare ourselves are entirely horror; zombies, swamp things, witches, werewolves, etc., are traditionally gruesome and repulsive. We run from them in terror.

Vampires, on the other hand, have a dual nature. Certainly they are frightening and deadly, but are also alluring. They have attributes we envy, such as eternal youth. They are often attractive, rich, powerful, and educated. They sometimes wear tuxes and live in castles. The paradox there makes them hard to resist, at least as subjects for stories."

This is a very plausible conclusion, however, I have another theory. Every woman loves a bad boy. They know he's no good; will probably beat them, cheat, lie and berate them; yet they still crave him. Why? Because some women - though they might never admit or be aware of it - are drawn to a powerful man. Perhaps it's the thought of controlling him, or being his one and only, but if you ask a battered woman why she stayed with her bad boy, one answer trumps all others: "I thought I could change him." And that's it. The most undeniable appeal of a dangerous man is the idea of changing him to suit her fantasies.

The relationship between Bella and Edward is like living with a tiger; it's scary to think Edward can eat her at any second - thrilling to see him battle his hunger with his love. Stephanie Meyer created the ultimate bad boy, but unlike those in the real world who might never succumb to love, change their ways or be as kind, hers glitters, stalks - pardon - protects and is willing to wait to take his woman's cherry. Yes. Another allure of Twilight is making love without making love. As a Mormon, Stephanie does not believe in, or condone, promiscuity before marriage, and this is quite evident in her work. Bella knows she can "get it on" with her glittering killer whenever she pleases, but instead of doing the act, she fills that time with a sort of innocent foreplay (kissing, staring into his yellow eyes, riding on his back up trees...). This temptation is an irresistible tease, and can be likened to the desire of looking at a hot girl's (or in this case, guy's) tight pants, seeing the imprint of his or her you-know-what, and dreaming of what you will do to it without actually committing the act.

Pretty darn kinky, right?

And let's not forget Bella had two guys fighting for her - something every female (and some guys) won't mind having - but I'll leave that for another discussion.

Overall, I rate these two sagas as Boltacious! The Millennium Trilogy was a bit boring and complex, but Salander's intelligence and unholy behavior was a delight. And though Twilight's fantasy was riddled with error (and Bella a tad whiny), the romance was irresistible, innocent and, at times, a walk on a highwire.

  • The Twilight Saga is Boltacious
  • The Twilight Saga is a Frosty Mess
  • The Millennium Trilogy is Boltacious
  • The Millennium Trilogy is a Frosty Mess

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A Hero Emerges

Greetings! It is I, T.D McFrost, the most powerful Alterhero in the world. Of course, you're probably wondering what the heck is an Alterhero? Well, I can't divulge this just yet, but know that you are one too, and if all goes well with my publishing adventure, I'll probably have the entire world proclaiming their right as Alterheroes! Muahaha!

But enough about my crazy endeavors, on to the good stuff.  I am twenty two years old and currently revising an Upper Middle Grade Fantasy Novel. To be honest, I have been working on it for over seven years--honing my craft, refining the plot...that sorta thing. I have had some interest from agents with regard to a full, but it was ultimately a rejection. No biggie, I'm in this to win it and that's why I created this blog. So, for all you Alterheroes out there who are penning away at your craft with dreams of being published, this is for you; for all you cool geeks who love video games, books, food, Youtube and nap time, then this is for you.

Sit back, laugh at my not so funny jokes, play a game with Simon, apply for a job at publisher's weekly or browse the NYT Bestsellers. It doesn't matter, really, as long as you have fun.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go wash my heart-spotted undies.
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