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Guest Posts from Cheaters

Guest Posts from Cheaters

I have a few sites that I manage (including this site, the Olympia Heights comic, my publisher site, and a site I co-founded with a friend that looks at popular culture.) I’m used to getting email pitches from people who didn’t really look at my site or who think I work for a much bigger company than I do. But something has started happening these past few weeks that really rankles me as a teacher. I’ve seen three applications to sites I work on from different writers (or so they claim to be) wanting to do guest posts that link back to essay writing services.

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Essay writing services are services that take money from college and high school students for the promise of a “plagiarism free” essay. They claim you’ll get a wholly original essay, but there’s really no way for would-be cheaters to verify that claim.

That’s right, I said cheaters. Taking an essay you did not write and submitting it as your work is cheating. As your teacher, I’m not asking for an essay because I want more reading material on Women’s Suffrage. I’m asking because I want you to practice and hone your writing skills while effectively communicating an understanding of the content.

Writing is a career skill. Most white-collar careers will require you write, and the quality of your writing (even in emails) not only affects your ability to communicate your thoughts clearly, but also changes how your co-workers see you: if you can’t make coherent, clear sentences, your co-workers are going to be less-than impressed with you.

So let this be a note for anyone thinking of pitching a guest blog to me with a link back to an essay writing service: no. Nope. Nope. No, no, no! I am a teacher, and though what you do may not be illegal, it violates every university and public school policy for academic integrity, and I will not help you increase your Google search rank by pasting your name and link all over my sites.

glare

Creators Are People Too, Lest We Forget

Creators Are People Too, Lest We Forget

I know it’s probably not a great idea to start off a blog post about something as important as feminism with a quote from Hannah Montana, but here I go anyway:

Everybody makes mistakes/ Everybody has those days/ …Nobody’s perfect/ I gotta work it/ Again and again ‘Til I get it right/ Nobody’s perfect/ You live and you learn it/ And if I mess it up sometimes/ Nobody’s perfectHannah Montana, 'Nobody's Perfect'

We’re all human, and yet we’ve gotten to a point with social justice movements that we hone in on the mistakes in our entertainment and blow them out of proportion, rather than pointing them out and also holding up what was done right as a shining example.

When it comes to racism and sexism, it’s important to call out bias when we see it. Some things should become a taboo. A little bit of shaming when it gets to extreme racism, like chewing out someone who is horrible enough to use the N-word in 2015, can be productive: even if the offending racist doesn’t learn to be open-minded, at least he/she might think twice about saying the word in public and perpetuating their bias to future generations. The problem comes when we make people afraid to have a productive discourse about these issues. If we treat all racism and sexism equally, we’ll create and environment where people refuse to admit when they do something even slightly not-okay. When we do that, when we make it impossible to admit we have a problem for fear of the angry mob, we can never move forward and correct the issue.

I’m Going to Talk About The Avengers: Age of Ultron Now

You were warned. You were also warned by the GIANT IMAGE OF BLACK WIDOW at the top of this post. I’m about to talk about the latest Marvel cinematic universe movie. Some spoilers will be given beyond this point.

Why I Don’t Read Romance

Why I Don’t Read Romance

A Valentine’s Day Confession

I don’t read romance novels. That is, I usually don’t. I have, but I don’t do it as a rule. I know a lot of romance authors and I completely respect what they do, but I find the genre to be a minefield of problematic depictions that I just don’t care to navigate. Let me explain.

Now I’ll start by saying that I love a handful of books that could be classified as romance. I’ve read the Sookie Stackhouse novels all from cover-to-cover. I’ve read Shakespeare’s comedies, which pretty much all end in a wedding (with the exception of Love’s Labors Lost, which ends in death). I’ve read The Fault in Our Stars. I’m not adverse to love stories. My books all have love story sub-plots. The problem I find with the romance genre is, that in want of conflict to fill 50,000 words, authors fall back on unhealthy relationship behaviors that make the endings of these books really hard to get behind.

A Minefield of Problematic Romance

Pop Primer Digest

Pop Primer Digest

I’ve been writing articles for my friend Matt’s website since this fall. I thought I’d take a moment to point you to a few of these articles. It’s a really cool site (and it needs more writers, if you’re looking for a place to analyze popular culture in a more academic way.) I try to put mythology and writing stuff here, so this is a great outlet for off-topic stuff.

What Am I Talking About?: Feminism

Occasionally, on this site, we will discuss social and cultural issues, as this webzine’s purpose is to introduce and discuss aspects of Popular Culture. As such, the writers on this site will discuss many topics, but we may not always have room to give each topic its due within the space of the article. “What am I Talking About?” is a column meant to address that problem (so many words, so little space). In this column we will define and discuss concepts and ideas relating to Popular Culture…

The Boggart: What We Can Learn from the Bogey Man

I’ve been re-reading the Harry Potter series from page one after a break in the fandom following the publication of the seventh book. Going back, I’m finding a lot of interesting little tidbits (like the fact that Dumbledore is terrible at gamification, or wondering if there’s a muggle medical journal from 1992 talking about the boy with the pig tail in London).

Today I re-read the boggart scene, Professor Lupin’s first class with Harry…

5 Stupid Reasons for Banning Books

In this special video for Banned Books Week, Amy Leigh Strickland gives you some really stupid reasons that some of her favorite books have been banned…

 

You can find the rest of my articles listed under my writer profile here.

5 Christmas Gifts for Aspiring Writers

5 Christmas Gifts for Aspiring Writers

We’re coming up on that time of year when we madly Google listicles for gift ideas. You’re probably here because you know a writer and you just can’t figure out what to get them for Christmas or their birthday. There are tons of books on writing that you could buy them, sure, but how do you know before reading them which books are actually helpful?

Here are five ideas for writerly Christmas gifts that are NOT books on writing or fancy notebooks (like they probably have dozens of).

The New Rules of Marketing and PR

514260BTshL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_This is the best marketing book out there. It’s a must-read for anyone trying to establish themselves as a brand online. David Meerman Scott has put out several editions of this book because the web is a quickly-changing environment. He teaches readers how to promote themselves by creating content and engaging in meaningful discussion. His method is a great start for any aspiring author looking to built an audience online.

Build a Better Book Trailer

Build a Better Book Trailer

At UtopYA 2014, Carly Strickland and I attended a panel on book trailers. We got to hear a lot of interesting ideas for promoting with book trailers and how to make a proto-trailer on a budget. We heard about some elaborately produced book trailers with budgets well over a thousand dollars. Most importantly, it started a conversation for us about book trailers at Matter Deep Publishing and what we’d like to see from them.

I love movie trailers. I don’t want to fast-forward the Redbox DVD to get to the menu because I like to get a little taste of what I might watch next. My husband is different. If he knows he wants to see a movie, he doesn’t even want to see a trailer. But even I can’t stand watching a bad movie trailer. Inspired by our discussion at UtopYA, I started considering what made a good trailer and what made a bad trailer.

BAD TRAILERS ARE:

  • Slow-paced
  • Full of spoilers
  • Quick to move past the inciting incident to show every plot arch
  • Inappropriate for tone of the movie/book
  • Filled with too many talking heads

Too many trailers fall into the trap of showing too much. Like with a good book blurb, I only need to hear the premise to know if I want to read the book. Tell me much more and I’m either overwhelmed, bored, or annoyed that you gave away half the novel.

GOOD TRAILERS ARE:

Pop Primer Video: Banned Books Week

Pop Primer Video: Banned Books Week

I made a video for Banned Books Week. It’s party of a video series for a new website, Pop Culture Primer. I’ve been writing there for a few weeks, and it’s pretty awesome.

What is Pop Primer? Well, the site is the brainchild of my friend Matt Cox—something I decided to donate my internet skills to because I wanted to see it happen. Matt is a scholar, studying English Literature with a focus on popular culture. He loves to look at things like video games through an academic lens, and I think that is awesome. So we started Pop Culture Primer as a site for people to write academic analysis of popular culture.

Want to write for us? Click here.

You can see some of my articles here.

And you can watch the Banned Books Week video below.

Plagiarism: A Guide for Parents

Plagiarism: A Guide for Parents

Teachers: Use Grammarly’s online plagiarism because you’re here to improve your students’ writing, not critique some strange adult on the internet.

The indie world has seen a lot of sad cases of plagiarism over the past few years. Every few months, without fail, a story crops up of someone getting busted splicing together two indie romance novels and running Edit>Find and Replace on names. There are so many indie romances out there that the thief usually gets a few months before someone happens to read one of these Frankenstein’s monsters and one of the originals, and then the pen name they were published under dissolves and vanishes. Many indies and fanfic writers are also familiar with the accusations leveled against Cassandra Clare, who now has a movie franchise despite having to change her pen name to avoid sullied Google searches. When it happens in the real world, for profit, there’s a lot at stake and sometimes lawyers get involved.

So what about when it happens at school? As a parent, you should know that this is no laughing matter. As a teacher who catches this crime at least three or four times a year, I’ll give you some tips on how to handle it.

Let them know about the real world consequences

“Ah, the Shape of Things to Come” OR, How the 1960 Movie of The Time Machine Started With Good Intentions but Became Creepy and Flawed

“Ah, the Shape of Things to Come” OR, How the 1960 Movie of The Time Machine Started With Good Intentions but Became Creepy and Flawed

The Time Machine, one of the original “Steampunk” novels by H.G. Wells, has a special place in my heart. It was a major stylistic influence for Rescue OR, Royer Goldhawk’s Remarkable Journal, in that it is a frame story that begins with a nameless narrator and quickly delves into another narrator’s story– the main event of the novel. Today I watched the 1960 film adaptation and I have a bone to pick with it. I will warn that this comparison is going to be spoiler-tastic. This is all the warning you get. You’ve had a hundred and eighteen years to read the novel and fifty-three years to see the movie. At this point, if you complain, you’ll be like all of the people last month who got mad when people spoiled The Great Gatsby. Didn’t you read it in eleventh grade?

Time Machine (1960) 6

Rod Taylor looking like a 1960s Sci-Fi hero with his anachronistic haircut.

The novel of The Time Machine is essentially about the stratification of classes. The future that the inventor sees is the result of the working classes and the wealthy evolving separately. The wealthy never have to work or struggle to live, and– as a result– they devolve into complacent children– the Eloi. They are small, strange people with a simple language who do not read and do not even find their own food. The only sign that they are anything but happy little Boohbah dolls is the fear they have at night. Meanwhile, the working class has evolved into the Morlocks, a pasty  light-sensitive race of people that live in factories underground and continue their function of feeding and clothing the upper (literally) class. The only change is that they come out at night and kidnap Eloi to cannibalize. The poor are feeding on the rich for once.

The 1960 film adaptation of The Time Machine takes a very different turn on the themes of H.G. Wells’ speculative novel. The theme changes from class warfare to general warfare. It’s fascinating, early on, when a diversion is added to the inventor’s initial time travel; he stops off in World War I and World War II and finds himself horrified at how much worse the war-like nature of his countrymen has become. Despite the fact that the story seems to still be set in England (as evidenced by the blimps in World War II) yet nobody but the ginger has an appropriate accent, I really enjoyed this diversion. Of course, Wells couldn’t have written it as he wasn’t a prophet. It was a nice modern update. Then things got a little heavy-handed on the war side and soon the theme of the original source was completely thrown out.

Weena, the Eloi girl that the inventor befriends, is now a woman. The writers of the film make a major mistake in developing a romantic relationship between “George” and Weena, while still keeping a childlike casting and even having the inventor call her “just a child.” If she’s just a child, George, then you are a pedophile. Great job, MGM.

The writers of the 1960 film adaptation take it one step further, and in doing so, break the plot. Instead of the excursion into the tunnel being an attempt to find the time machine, the film has Weena kidnapped by Morlocks, damsel-ing her and changing the motivation for the journey itself. The way in which she is kidnapped is what breaks the conventions of the novel, which the writers still use without consideration for why they worked. You see, in the novel, the Morlocks live underground without light and come out during the night to kidnap their food source. In the novel, they are so light-sensitive that they are hurt by as little as a match-worth of light. This creates a truly horrific scene in the tunnel when the inventor is engulfed in pitch black, able to feel the hands of the Morlocks on him, but unable to keep a match lit for more than a few seconds. And he’s running out. The movie, however, has the Morlocks using an air-raid siren to hypnotize the Eloi into walking to their deaths, removing the need for the Eloi to fear the night. The Morlocks are shown in full light with their glowing red eyes that now don’t make sense (because glowing eyes would indicate the need for night vision), yet they are still repelled by a lit match. Things just don’t add up!

And then the movie makes its biggest misstep. George saves the Eloi, enlightening them, when he teaches a man how to punch. George, fraught with anguish that the world has been destroyed by nuclear war and violence, saves them by teaching them the lost concept of violence. *facepalm*

They flee the cave, and all of the Eloi, who have never before had to work or climb or even try to save someone from drowning, climb out of the tunnel without a second thought. Meanwhile, Weena, the prettiest woman, needs George to drag and push her up the tunnel. This, combined with the trope of the older, experienced man teaching the simple, helpless woman the ways of life and love,  made this movie actually more sexist than a Victorian novel.

From here the movie returns to the plot of the book. The Morlocks open the door to the time machine to trap him. He fights them off long enough to take off into the fourth dimension. He goes forward before going back to his own time. Nobody believes him. He leaves again. Roll credits.

A film adaptation that starts off with good intentions devolves into a contradictory mess with plot-holes and creepy romantic moments. While it is understandable that the film makers of 1960, one year into the early stages of the Vietnam War, might want to change the theme, they essentially broke the source material and made what started as an interesting piece of speculative fiction into a silly action movie.

Mothership Goose

Mothership Goose

Carly Strickland, my awesome illustrator/cover designer, has a brand new picture book that all nerds should love (and buy for their children, nieces, nephews, and strangers). Mothership Goose is a collection of nursery rhymes illustrated with a vintage Sci-Fi twist. The illustrations are rich, bright, and beautiful, and you’ll see something new on every read. Read the rhymes on their own or follow an adorable little mouse on his quest to repair the Great Goose!

Below are some previews of pages from the book. You can order it on Amazon.com, wait for the iBook version (coming soon), or buy a copy at the Alabama Phoenix Festival to have her sign. This book is the ultimate nerdy baby shower gift, so stock up now!

Psst, she does freelance cover design.

Pop! Goes the Weasel

Pop! Goes the Weasel

Hickory Dickory Dock

Hickory Dickory Dock

Little Bo Peep

Little Bo Peep

Cover Art

Cover Art

A new Mother Goose rhyme

A new Mother Goose rhyme

Old Mother Hubbard

Old Mother Hubbard