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My Superman Pitch | MOVIE PITCH MONDAY

It has always been a dream of mine to be a comic book writer and while I have my own comic, it’s really cost prohibitive to continue producing it. I would love to work for a legit comic book company like Marvel or DC, even as a guest writer, writing a mini-series.

My favourite comic book characters are Superman, Spider Man, Batman, and Nightwing so to have the freedom and budget to use these IPs and play in their toy boxes so-to-speak would be a dream come true.

In this post, I’m going to pretend I’m pitching an idea for a Superman mini-series. So this is what I would hope to write in a perfect world where DC allows me complete freedom with this beloved character.

I have a ton of ideas, which I’ve written down over the years so it was hard to pick just one. I really like the Earth One series because they are grounded in reality so I would go that route. I also like how Superman is young so I may want to continue in that narrative at some point. However, for this pitch, I’m going to go in the opposite direction — old man Superman.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, nobody wants to see their grandfather punch a dude in the throat. Well… actually, a lot of you probably do want to see that. Anyway, usually old people don’t make for interesting content, but hear me out.

The Set up

Okay, picture this if you will — Superman with a long grey beard, not unlike the kind you might find on the face of an old ship captain. He’s still buff, but not as ripped. Instead, he has that stocky old man muscle tone. He has long grey hair and a dope scar across his face, implying he’s less invulnerable and has been in a battle or two.

One of the challenges with Superman is that he has amazing abilities, almost too good. So to put him up against a common thief or petty criminal isn’t that interesting. Even really powerful threats don’t stand much of a chance without Kryptonite.

So in my story, as Superman ages, his powers diminish. He’s not as fast, as strong, doesn’t heal as well, etc. He’s all but retired from his duties as Superman and is enjoying a quieter life with his wife Lois.

Metropolis has new heroes — not the super powered kind, but just teenagers and MMA fighters who take to the streets and want to do right by Superman and carry on his legacy.

Perhaps there’s also a little resentment with Superman, a tiredness if you will from a life of helping citizens of Metropolis. While rewarding, it requires so much from him, so much sacrifice. It has taken away from his family life and he’s now ready to move on from that old life, and enjoy his retirement years with Lois.

Act One

In the opening act, we see Clark and Lois on vacation in the tropics. They just look like regular snowbirds getting away for the winter and enjoying the typical tourist life of drinking margaritas on the beach.

They travel via plane because Lois is too old to fly around with Superman. He’s also not as fast so it’ll look weird if some old man has an elderly woman under one arm, a bunch of luggage under the other, and wearing a Tommy Bahama shirt and cargo shorts.

On that trip, Lois falls ill and Superman flies her back to Metropolis as fast as he can. She’s admitted in the best hospital in Metropolis and undergoes a series of tests and treatments by the best doctors the city has. It’s also well known that Clark Kent is Superman and Lois is his wife, so the doctors, perhaps more so than ever, feel beholden to do everything in their power to save her.

After several days, the results come back and it is determined that Lois has cancer and doesn’t have much longer to live. Perhaps being exposed to all the x-ray vision and heat vision is what caused it, so Clark has to deal with that guilt.

Act Two

In the second act, some threat hits Metropolis and the local heroes are on the scene. Clark doesn’t want to leave Lois’s side at the hospital because he knows she doesn’t have much time left.

On the news, there’ coverage of a school shooting as a group of masked men storm a private school and hold the kids hostage. The men, four in total, appear to have super powers. They easily defeat Metropolis’s new superheroes as well as the police. Citizens of Metropolis are sending out a beacon, hoping Superman will come to the rescue.

Lois encourages Clark to go, but he’s reluctant. “There will always be a threat,” he says. “We have police and military to deal with these issues. I’ve come to terms a long time ago that I don’t owe anything to anybody.”

The sheer fact of him being in Metropolis and ignoring the rest of the world’s problems is evidence of that.

Lois convinces Clark to go because there are kids in danger and this is almost like her last wish. She tells him that nothing would make her prouder to have her last memory of her man saving a school full of children.

Superman whooshes out of the hospital and flies into action. He has this badass uniform, not the typical one. I would do a new one. Maybe looks like an old king or something.

Superman breaks into the school and expects to disarm some troubled kids, but when he arrives, he’s met with a group of misfit teens with powers. They give this weakened version of Superman some trouble. They essentially beat his ass. He’s driven into the lockers, smashed through a wall, thrown into the basketball backboard in the gymnasium.

Superman fights back but is battered and bloodied, clothes ripped, but manages to save the day. He obtains some fabric from the main kid and takes it to Batman for analysis. Bruce Wayne is old and out of the game, but helps Superman. He has his lab and gadgets and is still a detective.

While with Bruce, Clark receives a phone call from the doctors, Lois has passed away. Clark is pissed. He races back to the hospital and is really distraught. These punk kids have robbed him of his last moments with his dying wife. He now feels all alone in the universe and needs some time for quiet reflection and contemplation.

He flies up to the Fortress of Solitude and reflects on his life. Being a hero comes with a lot of sacrifice. All the time he had spent saving others was time taken away from being with family, so he wrestles with that.

He flies back to Metropolis and gives Lois a proper send off. Everyone is at her funeral from Hal Jordan, Diana Prince, Bruce Wayne, Oliver Queen, Dick Grayson… they all comfort him and remind him that he’s not alone.

At the funeral, Bruce takes Clark aside and informs him that the results of the test came back. The DNA is part Kryptonian. “Impossible,” Clark says, thinking there’s been a mistake, or that Bruce analyzed his blood by mistake. There’s no mistake. The tests also reveal that the three other men with the main guy had trace amounts of Kryptonian DNA, but there was something else going on in their blood that was different than the main guy. Bruce would need to analyze it further.

Act Three

In the third and final act, Superman goes to the one person he feels knows something about genetic manipulation and Kryptonite — Lex Luther.

Superman shows up, smashes through Lex’s penthouse and we see an old man Lex. He seems happy to see Superman, but Superman isn’t happy to see him. He flies across the room, grabs Lex by his lapels and slams him into a wall, he’s in full rage and about to beat Lex to death.

Next thing you know, the part Kryptonian kid shows up and smashes Superman through a wall and really has his way with him once again. The two battle it out and completely destroy Lex’s penthouse. Lex then decides to break it up and says to Clark, “I thought you’d be happier to see your son.”

Superman knows that he doesn’t have a son, so he’s confused. As it turns out, the child is a clone of Superman — a hybrid created by Luthor using Superman’s DNA. The kid learns about these origins for the first time as well.

Superman takes off and disappears for a while. Bruce reaches out and informs Superman that the kid is a hybrid, which confirms Luthor’s story, but the other two seem to be regular people with a sort of super serum derived from their friend’s blood. They receive super powers, but only temporarily and they are not nearly as strong.

Bruce has reverse engineered this concoction and made a batch of this super serum for himself and for Superman. He gives Superman a few canisters, but Superman refuses.

Later, a major threat hits Metropolis and the local heroes have their hands full. They’re receiving a major beating and it appears Superman is the city’s only hope. He acts purely on instinct and rushes to the scene where he does everything he can to stop the attack. This new creature is really powerful and beating Superman to a pulp.

But, Superman refuses to give up. He hears Lois’s voice and summons a second wind. He’s all heart.

The battle ensues back and forth as the whole world tunes in. Superman is bloodied and beaten into submission. Just when he’s about to be defeated, Batman shows up and injects Clark with the super serum.

Superman returns to his former glory and rises from the rubble. He becomes the hero we’ve all grown to love and beats the villain from pillar to post. The whole world cheers him on. Batman is also jacked up on the sauce and is doing flips and using gadgets to really lend a hand where he can.

But then, just when hope is all but restored, the serum begins to wear off. The threat has not been defeated. It returns and beats the piss out of Superman. Batman is thrown into a building and is no longer able to fight. Superman is now alone and is even more diminished than before he took the serum. He’s all but going to die and the world is watching. Hearts are broken, people are crying, it’s a really sad day.

Just as the villain is about to deliver the death blow to Superman, the Kryptonian kid shows up and helps defeat the threat. He and his squad take it down and save the day.

In the end, the last panel shows the kid standing over a beaten and bloodied Superman and he simply extends his hand. The words “To be continued” in the bottom right corner.

In the following books, we’ll see a passing of the torch so-to-speak as this new hero emerges to protect Metropolis. Perhaps this kid is a little impulsive, a little impressionable, opportunistic… Lex is able to get in his head and control him, but now that he knows of his roots, he wants to do right by that heritage and become more like Superman. Superman, while losing a wife, has gained a son, so this becomes his new focus as he continues on the rest of his life.

So there it is, one of my Superman ideas. Let me know what you think! 🙂

Additional Pitches

Back to the Future 4 thumb a quiet place
home alone

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How to Overcome Consumption Obstruction in Writing


What is consumption obstruction — and more importantly, what can you do to overcome it?

Our Goal as Writers

Your goal as a writer is not to impress your friends, or to carry around this air of arrogance so when you meet people at a party you can tell them that you’re an author in hopes that you appear more sophisticated (I’ve met plenty of these people).

Your goal is the same as my goal, which is also the same as every other content creator — it’s to capture consumer attention.

That’s the asset we’re all vying for.

We want someone to take time out of their busy day and consume our content whether its a blog or a YouTube video a film or a book, and let’s be honest, there are a lot of other things trying to compete for that attention.

When you write a book and bring it to market with the hopes that it gains an audience and a loyal fanbase, you are essentially asking someone to forgo all the other options they could be doing with their time from hanging out with friends and family, exploring the world, listening to music or podcasts, watching YouTube videos, movies, online shopping, playing sport, practicing an instrument, creating art… there are a million ways people can entertain themselves.

And let’s be fair, reading a book isn’t an easy thing to do.

My guess is that most people read less than 50 book in their entire lifetime and there are millions of books already in existence, and every day new books are entering the market, competing for that limited resource known as attention. In most cases, let’s say the average person can read a book, cover to cover, in 10 hours.

They maybe get 30 minutes to an hour per day, usually before bed, to escape the stresses of the day, be entertained, be engaged, fall into a world, and be so consumed with the story that they forget about their troubles for a moment and don’t want to put it down. This is the so-called page-turner effect. This is what we want to create.

So why did I go on this big rant and what does it have to do with consumption obstruction?

The reason is simple.

Our Jobs as Writers

Our jobs as writers is to:

  1. Write a book that stands out amongst all other entertainment options. To do this, we must, at a minimum, have an:
  • Interesting premise
  • Intriguing title
  • Captivating cover art
  • An opening line that hooks the reader’s attention

While all of this is extremely difficult and becoming more and more difficult everyday, let’ assume we are able to do that. A reader has one of our books in their hand and they are interested in exploring it further.

Our job is not done. We still need to:

  1. Keep the reader’s attention all the way until the end, and then have the book payoff in such a meaningful, uplifting, inspiring, life-changing, perception-altering way that they recommend it to their friends, leave a positive review, buy our next book, become advocates for us.

That’s the business we’re in.

Avoiding Consumption Obstruction

How we do all this is to understand what I call consumption obstruction.

In other words, evaluate your book and ask yourself — what, if any, obstructions or barriers are there for someone reading my book?

The first step is to identify them, the second step is to eliminate as many as possible.

Now, I’ll admit, I’m guilty of breaking some cardinal consumption obstruction rules obstruction rules in some of my novels. In my book Prodigy, I open with a lengthy introduction setting up the world, and it’s also written with very academic language. I mention things such as “Pyrrhic victory”, which most people probably aren’t going to know what that means.

After the introduction, I still don’t get into the story, I have a prologue, which is additional story setup.

However, I felt that the intro and prologue were necessary to establish context and that information didn’t really fit anywhere else in the story.

Nevertheless, despite all this, Prodigy is by far my most successful book and I think it’s because it has a number of things going for it that overcome consumption obstruction.

  • Short book length
  • Short chapter length
  • Intriguing premise
  • Interesting title
  • Captivating cover art
  • Initial hook
  • Gets into the story as quickly as possible
  • Not overly heavy handed on descriptions
  • The plot isn’t overly complicated — it’s easy to follow
  • Not too many characters
  • Recaps to calibrate the reader

I’ll go some of the items on this list in a little bit more detail and explain what I mean and why it’s important.

Short book length — I try to write short digestible books, usually around 60,000 words. I feel attention spans are getting shorter and I don’t want someone to be put off with an 800 page epic. That’s be an obstruction for a lot of people. If I have more story to tell after 60,000 words, I’ll just write a sequel.

Chapter length — people don’t always have loads of time to read. They may be waiting for a bus, or have 20 mins before bed. If you have super long, complicated chapters, that can turn a lot of readers off. I try to aim for 800 – 1500 words. I feel that is a reasonably digestible chapter length.

Getting into the story as quickly as possible — ask yourself this, “What if I removed chapters 1 and 2 (or 10) and my book started on chapter three, would I lose anything necessary for the story? I try to get as deep into the story as possible and anything relevant can always be brought up later. Any time there’s a lengthy, convoluted set up where the reader has no idea who the main character is and what’s at stake (we’ve all read books like this), that is a consumption obstruction and is going to turn a lot of people off (me included!).

Also, try to avoid opening with an intro and a prologue — get to the exciting stuff as soon as possible and hook your reader. Make them invested and care about your characters or plot.

Initial hook — your opening line or paragraph should pull them into a world. It’s generally recommended not to start with dialogue or cliches such as — the alarm clock blared and so and so woke up…

Descriptions — this is obviously personal preference, but I tend to go a little lighter on descriptions simply because I feel the reader’s brain is pretty good and filling in details that aren’t on the page. I don’t usually describe how the character looks with the exception of name, gender, and age. Other details such as height, weight, race, hairstyle, clothing, attractiveness, etc. I let the reader fill that in.

Once I received a comment about my book The Art of the Hustle from this black guy and he was like, “I love your book, especially since the main character is black.” In the book, I never mention race, but in his mind, that’s what he envisioned.

Interesting concepts — have a plot that pulls people in and continues to deliver. Show the reader something they’ve never seen before. Keep them guessing, keep them anticipating what’s going to happen. Books with boring, predictable, flat, uninteresting, uninspired premises are a consumption obstruction.

For the last two points, I’ll briefly say this:

Reading fiction actually requires more work from the reader than non fiction.

Fiction isn’t a passive thing that you can read casually. It requires balancing many different characters, anticipating where the author is going, following along on this journey and juggling various plot points that may not be fully revealed until later. Therefore, your job is to know your audience, what their comprehension level is, and to find that balance between not having it too simple and predictable where they get bored, and not being overly complicated. If you have a too many characters, they have weird names that are hard to pronounce, their relationships are complex, these are all barriers.

In some of my books, I’ll go back and recap what has happened. Before I move on to the next part, I’ll have one character explain the past ten chapters or so in a few short sentences. I’ll have one person say, “Hey, wasn’t it crazy when that happened, then this happened, we met that guy, and he gave us this crucial piece of information that’s going to help us go there and do that.” Having these recaps is a way to get everyone is on board with what’s happening so that we can all move onto the next bit together. In other words, the reader is calibrated to the story. I may even do this several times through the book, just to really make it easy for the reader.

Notice in this very blog post you’re reading, I made it easy to consume. I have short, inviting sentences, add bolded phrases to make certain text pop up and be highly scannable. I created numbered lists with bullet points to avoid large blocks of text. Headings further separate the wall of text, inviting the reader into smaller scannable and digestible chunks. Heck, I even included a video!

You can incorporate this same philosophy in your writing as well.

Additional Resources

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How to Edit your Vlog with Adobe Premiere Pro

Edward Mullen vlog

Vlogs are all the rage these days — whether you’re shooting day in the life videos, product reviews, unboxing, mukbangs, or some other kind of video, you’ll need some way to edit your footage and get it out to the public. While filming is fairly straight forward, most people walk around with a recording device in their pocket, for many editing remains a mystery. Learning complicated editing software isn’t easy, and there are so many to choose from.

In this post, I’ll show you some basic features in Adobe Premiere Pro, which you can purchase on a monthly or yearly subscription service for as little as 19.99 USD.

Contents

  1. Project bin — this is where you put the clips (videos, photos, audio) … you want to use in your project
  2. Source window — this is where you can preview and edit your clips
  3. Program window — this is where you get to preview what your project looks like
  4. Effects bin — this is where you can modify your clips with different effects
  5. Video sequence — this is where you can build your project out of the various clips

Project Bin


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Source Window

How it works

Double click a clip from the Project Bin and it will be displayed in the source window. You can use the marker to scrub through the video and find the spots you want add into your sequence. Isolate it by adding start and end makers. Once your video part is isolated, drag the video only icon into the position you want on your sequence.
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Video Sequence

You can add titles within Premier Pro, but a better selection can be found in After Effects. Download After Effects and Bridge.

 

  1. File
  2. Adobe Dynamic Link
  3. New After Effects Composition
  4. When After Effects launches, save as Title and Location
  5. On Right hand side, go to Effects > Presets

  1. Choose Animation Presets > Text Presets
  2. Choose Animate In
  3. Choose Browse presets [ = ] icon

  1. This opens Bridge > allows you to preview all the presets
  2. Choose the one you want à double click
  3. Scrub over slider to see sample text
  4. Double click text to change it
  5. Highlight text à modify it the way you want
  6. Save project
  7. Go into Premiere Pro and see it in your source bin
  8. Drag into timeline where desired

NOTE: To Edit Text, right click on the text within the sequence and select ‘Edit Original’:


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Adding a Premiere Title

  1. Go to File
  2. New
  3. Title
  4. Enter title
  5. Modify it accordingly
  6. To save, simply close the window, it’ll auto save in the project bin

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Transitions

There are other transitions other than crossfade.

  1. Go to Effects tab in the bottom left corner. If it’s not there, go to Windows à Effects
  2. Video Transitions
  3. Dissolve
  4. Cross dissolve
  5. Drag and drop

Shortcut – Ctrl D. Select the clip edge so that you get this red marker, then press Ctrl D.


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Scale Images to Fit

Sometimes when you import an image, it is way too big and it looks zoomed in. What you need to do is go to:

  1. Edit
  2. Preferences
  3. General
  4. Select ‘Default scale to frame size’

NOTE: For clips already in sequence, right click and select fit to scale.
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Export

  1. File
  2. Export
  3. Media
  4. AVC – Intra 100 1080i
  5. Format H.264
  6. 1920 x 1080
  7. Frame rate (make sure same throughout)


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Adding Zoom in / Zoom out Effect on Photos

  1. Select a photo
  2. Click on Effect controls
  3. Select Scale and ensure you click the stop watch icon, which effects scale over time. By default, each clip is 5 seconds
  4. Change scale from the beginning, then move the scrubber to the end and change scale again. This is what will happen over time
  5. Change position if necessary. This does not affect animation


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Layering a Smaller Video

  1. Upload video
  2. Add video to sequence
  3. Select video
  4. Go to Effects
  5. Set positioning and scale


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How to Speed up a Video

  1. Select the rate stretch tool
  2. Select the clip in the sequence
  3. Stretch or compress the clip
  4. If you want your video to be twice as fast, compress it by half


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How to Crop a Video

  1. Go to Effects > Video Effects > Transform > Crop
  2. Drag and drop crop onto the clip you want to crop

  1. Use the Left, Top, Right, Bottom to adjust the black borders
  2. Use Position to re-centre the now-cropped frame


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How to Change Position Over Time

  1. Select the Position stop watch icon
  2. Use the scrub to begin at a certain point in the clip
  3. Add marker
  4. Set position
  5. Use the scrub to end at a certain point in the clip
  6. Add marker
  7. Set position


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Razor Tool

  1. The Razor tool allows you to slice up a clip in the sequence for editing purposes


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Ripple Delete

Ripple Delete is where you edit a video (say, make it shorter) and then there’s a gap left over. Ripple delete allows you to close the gap.

  1. Right click on the gap and select Ripple Delete


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Zoom In and Out of Sequence

  1. Hold Alt and scroll with mouse

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How to Add a Different Colour Background

  1. File
  2. New
  3. Colour Matte
  4. Put at base layer
  5. May need to crop top layer videos


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How to Crop

  1. Effects tab in bottom left corner
  2. Either type in ‘crop’ or go to Video Effect > Transform > Crop
  3. Drag and drop onto clip
  4. Then go to Effect Control
  5. Crop accordingly


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How to Adjust Volume on a Clip

  1. Place clip in timeline
  2. Right click on clip
  3. Select Audio Gain

  1. Change ‘Select to Gain’ level


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How to Copy and Paste

  1. Select one or more clips in the sequence
  2. Choose Edit > Copy
  3. In the Timeline panel, position the playhead at the point in the sequence where you want to paste a copy of the clips
  4. Do one of the following:
    • To overwrite the pasted clips, choose Edit > Paste
    • To insert the pasted clips, choose Edit > Paste Insert

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Exporting Hi-Res

  1. Export > Media
  2. Change form H.264
  3. Change Preset to HD 1080p 29.97
  4. To change name, double click Output Name


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What I Learned from Almost Dying this Week

This past week has been really enlightening for me and I thought I would share the lesson(s) I learned.

I got really sick, and I still am – I’m like patient zero over here, don’t come near me! I started feeling unwell last Wednesday and by Friday I was convinced something was seriously wrong. I went to the doctor and got a blood test (haven’t heard back yet), and then spent the better part of a week in bed.

Each day I would awake with the sun at 5:30 and watch it set at night. It was like Groundhog Day. I re-lived the same day over and over and over. On several occasions I contemplated taking my own life to stop the madness (not serious considerations, but if I felt this way on a camping trip and I had a gun, I’d probably shoot myself in the face and let the river take me out to sea).

What I felt was like someone with giant hands had magically slipped their way under my skin, through the back of my skull and was now cradling my brain, and then with their big-ass banana-fingers, they would squeeze my puny brain. Then I had massively swollen lymph nodes, which I learned are not just in your neck. I was like, ‘Yo fam, I think I have armpit cancer!’ I have these massive lumps in my armpits (thanks Google for talking me off a ledge with the armpit cancer). I felt weak, tired, sore, and sweaty. I would fluctuate between high fever and bone-chilling shakes.

Mealtimes were interesting. I would routinely have to coax myself into eating the smallest of portions. I’d be like, ‘Come on man, just eat one piece of carrot. Can you do that for me?’ Spoon shaking as I lift it to my mouth. ‘Good. You’re doing so good. Okay bro, listen, I need you to do the same thing, this time why don’t we go for one of those big-ass potato pieces. Great. Perfect. Now slurp up some of this high-sodium bullshit Campbells calls a broth…’ This was my internal dialogue for each meal – a quarter of a can of soup. I could never figure out why I was always hungry.

The desire to eat was often, but the opportunities to eat were rare. Occasionally the clouds would part and the sun would shine down on me and I would have these brief hour-long windows (usually twice a day, almost like clockwork), where I would feel reasonably decent (I could stand and walk without wanting to die!) and I would take advantage of these opportunities. I would wash dishes, do meal prep, bathe, etc. Out of necessity, I even ventured outside (in the rain mind you) on one crazy occasion to re-up on supplies (meds and soup). While these windows were brief and few, they were the only thing that helped me stay alive since I don’t have the luxury to hire a live-in nurse or caretaker. But inevitably, the darkness would return and I would be in a state of head-splitting agony, sweat-drenched clothes, and mind-numbing delirium.

Sometimes during these hour-long windows I would feel so good that I would eat a steak sandwich and down a fruit smoothie. Kind of like I stole a base in baseball. It was my way of giving the middle finger to the virus, which I could feel pulsating through my body. But the virus would have the last laugh.

You know how when you get sick and each day that passes you usually feel slightly better than you did the day before? Well, not with this virus. It kept me down like an oppressive master. I felt like shit for seven days straight and I wasn’t getting any better. And if you’re thinking that seven days off from work is awesome, it’s not. It’s not like I was watching GoT all day. I was ‘sleeping’ for 20 hours per day. I learned to sleep on towels, and to have a change of clothes already laid out for me to change into in the middle of the night because I would soak everything with sweat and then shake violently to stay warm. I recalled a line from Les Stroud Survivor man, ‘You sweat, you die’. Well, Les, you lied – I sweated and did not die!

Anyways, this went on and on until yesterday something was different. During one of my brief windows of feeling decent, the darkness never returned. I was so happy. I still felt like shit, but I was very happy. I got a little ambitious and even did 2 chin-ups followed up by mandatory flexing in the mirror. This was the first sign in a week that my health was trending upward.

I had been cooped up in isolation for so long that I was desperate to get out and interact with the world. But in this solitude I discovered the first of many truths. Namely, I was essentially living my cat’s life – sleep all day, eat shitty food, and have no female visitors. What the fuck kind of life is this? What kind of cruel existence have I created for this poor creature? So perhaps when I’m thinking more soberly I will consider getting Socrates a girlfriend or a playmate. I may also consider taking him on adventures. I don’t know.

Anyways, back to me. So if any of you woke up feeling as I did today, it would be an easy decision to call in sick. I feel like shit. However, compared to the past week, I feel markedly better. So I went into work today with a fresh haircut, clean shave, and a smile. Big mistake. I pissed off the virus and he’s like, ‘what the fuck, bro. You think this is over? You think you won?’ I only lasted a couple hours before I went home with my tail tucked. I did notice that being in public during rush hour in downtown Vancouver was really shocking to my system. I had been operating on a sloth-like pace for a week. Then I get thrown into the maddening beehive of commerce and I was like, ‘Yo, why are you people walking so fast?’

The important lesson (aside from my new perspective on my cat’s life) was that life is very temporary. I’m healthy as shit, and I felt like I almost died. And that could happen any time, any day, to any one of us. Some bullshit virus could come along and snuff you out of existence like nothing. And the world will keep on moving.

So my plea to you is this – and I know you’ve heard it before. If you are one of those cheeto-finger, mouth-breathers who doesn’t take your health seriously and only exists to sit in front of your TV and go to work, stop and ask yourself – what are we doing? Life is worth living. We are only on this planet a short amount of time. Pay no mind to gossip, or get consumed with time-wasting endeavours that don’t push progress. Don’t allocate large portions of your day to people who do not enhance you or believe in you. Don’t live in the past with regret.

EM

The Perception of Publishing

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It’s no secret the publishing industry is undergoing a radical change, but what still needs to change is people’s perception.

Traditionally, for an author to gain exposure, they needed to be published with a major publishing house (which only accepts manuscripts solicited by literary agents). Therefore, literary agents acted as gatekeepers, determining which books are worthy of being published.

However, with the advent of digital books, the marketplace and channels of distribution are open to everyone. While it has never been easier to get a book into the hands of readers, there are still some major hurdles authors need to overcome.

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If publishing were a true meritocracy, then the best books would also be the ones that sell the most. Currently, that is not the way it works. I’m sure we can all think of bestselling books that are terribly written.

The reason this happens is because publishers spend a lot of money to promote a book. The promotion generates interest, which can translate into sales. If enough books are sold within a certain time period, the book will become a bestseller. Once it makes the bestseller’s list, it will convince people it’s good, when it may not be.

Most bestseller lists are reported weekly, based on total units sold. To make the list, a book usually needs to sell between 7,000 and 12,000 copies. That means a book that sells heavily for one week will be on the same list as a book that sells heavily all year round. So a book that sells 7,000 copies in one week and then zero the remainder of the year may be perceived to be better than a book that sells over 100,000 copies per year (but never more than 7,000 per week).

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Since there are many subsequent benefits of being on a bestseller list, many authors and publishers manipulate the sales by purchasing a large volume of their own books. Once they make the list, they can forever claim the bestseller title, which then connotes quality, credibility, and prestige. Being on the list, even in this artificial way, allows a title or author to gain exposure and sales that are perhaps undeserved.

Considering how much emphasis is placed on this list, it does two things:

a.) reinforces people’s perception of books, and;

b.) funnels the herd of book buyers to buy bestsellers over non-bestsellers.

My concern is that given the financial limitations many authors face, it discourages authors from writing, and instead encourages them to pursue a more financially worthwhile career. In effect, robbing society of great storytellers and reduces our cultural enrichment. Therefore, the perception of publishing needs to change.

On Episode 16 of The Edward Mullen Podcast, I discuss the many different publishing options for writers. I will briefly recap that list:

  1. Major Publisher: (Hatchette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon & Shuster)
  2. Medium Publisher
  3. Small and Vanity Publisher
  4. Self-publish

In the podcast, I discuss the various pros and cons of different publishing options and concluded that self-publishing was the right avenue for me. However, what I’m finding is that I often have to defend that choice to people, as if my books are in some way inferior to books published under the traditional route.

In many other creative outlets such as music, movies, and art… the term independent does not carry the same stigma. In fact, in many cases it is worn proudly like a badge of honour since it represents hustle and a willingness to forgo the corporate world to keep the art pure. It’s also a viable way to earn a living and garner respect. Many independent musicians and movie makers have won the highest awards in their fields. Sadly, this has not caught on in the publishing industry.

As I have discovered, there are many restrictions to being a self-published author, even if your books are read by millions of people around the world. Some of them include:

  1. You may not gain credibility
  2. You may be restricted from entering book contests
  3. Your book will not be distributed in certain stores (including some ebook stores)
  4. Your government may not give you a writing grant

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With music, a song can be uploaded to the Internet and listened to with ease. If your song is good, it can be shared, played on radio and in clubs, and be featured in movie soundtracks. Radio stations will want to play your tune and invite you into the station for an interview. Once you develop a fan base, you have multiple revenue streams available to you such as album sales, touring, selling merchandise, and YouTube revenue. It is by no means easy to make a living and develop a fan base as a musician, but hear me out. If you are an aspiring stand-up comedian, you can follow the same formula as the musician, and eventually find your way into movies, television, and various hosting gigs. The major money-making opportunity available is live shows. A comedian or musician can earn millions by performing at clubs and venues around the world. Movies are similar in that they require a minimal investment of the audience’s time and money.

However, none of these options are available to authors, even the most successful ones. When was the last time you saw somewhere wearing a Stephen King shirt? When was the last time an author hosted anything on television? Yes, writers can earn a living in various ways, but the point I’m trying to make is that authors upload their content for free, but do not have secondary avenues to make money like touring comedians and musicians. Books require more of a time commitment, cannot be shared easily in venues, television, or radio. Due to these financial limitations, an aspiring author may give up to pursue a career that is a more worthwhile use of their time.

In the interest of brevity, I will reiterate two points. First, a self-published book can be just as good as a bestseller, and even outsell a bestseller, but is prohibited of many of the benefits of a bestseller. Second, due to this perception in society, we are stifling the creative potential of our best writers and storytellers, and thereby robbing society of the great benefit of entertainment.

Prodigy Returns Coming Soon!!

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The highly anticipated trilogy to the cult-classic Prodigy series is coming soon to eBook stores!

When Earth’s prodigy finds herself alone and afraid, she must quickly pull herself together and face a new trial. Her mission: locate her father and bring him home. With new threats and challenges emerging at every turn, Alex must rely on her fast-thinking and bravery while attempting to survive in a completely foreign environment. Of course, she is game for this new test as she stands defiantly in the face of adversity. This time, she calls upon some unfamiliar faces to aid her in her quest.

The Secret Origins of Prodigy

Prodigy - Edward MullenRecently I was asked: “Where did you come up with the idea for Prodigy?”

I thought it was an interesting question and that others would like to know, so here is the tale of how Prodigy came to be.

When I started writing my debut novel The Art of the Hustle, it was just a side project, something to keep me busy. I had no idea at the time that I wanted to be a writer and hadn’t really written fiction. In fact, I kind of stumbled into writing. The Art of the Hustle originally began as an inspirational email I wrote to a friend who was suicidal. I told him a story from my past and highlighted some of the troubled emotions I had gone through in hopes it would help him get through whatever he was dealing with.

When I was done the email, I realized I had written a huge amount of text, and I wanted to do something with it, turn it into a story perhaps that others could read. I sent the short story out to a few other people and the response was really positive. They all wanted to know more.

I kept writing my story, which followed my life pretty closely. I had so much fun writing the book that I completely re-evaluated my life choices. At the time, I was studying for the LSAT and was trying to get into law school. I decided that maybe a career in writing would better suit my personality.

I decided to write a second book, but if I was going to be serious about being a novelist, I should be able to write about anything. Sure, I could write a story about my life, but what about something I’ve never experienced? I accepted the challenge and deliberately wrote a story from a female perspective, set 100 years in the future, and who has a form of autism that makes her exceptionally brilliant.

At the time, I had just got my iPhone and was blown away by the technology. I had never seen anything like it and it captured my imagination. I particularly found the iBooks app of interest. I couldn’t believe I could access nearly any book ever printed on a such a small piece of metal and glass that could sit in my hand.

Naturally, I asked myself, ‘What’s the iPhone 100 going to be like?’ In other words, what would be better than this? I then thought, instead of reading any book, wouldn’t it be cool if you could just download any book you ever wanted into your brain and it would forever be in your memory. And if that’s possible, you could do that with any piece of information. What if everyone did this, what would that do to society? What if we all became enlightened, rational, and kind?

And so the story began to swirl around in my head. I had some concept of perfect civilizations from political science and philosophy classes I had taken, so I set out to theorize my own version. This was also fueled by my frustration at home stupid us humans can be. So my society had no crime, no poverty, no corruption… The only problem was, there was no conflict for our hero to go through. I then created a controversial law called The Child Rearing Act and opened with scene that suggested society wasn’t so perfect.

To pay homage to Plato — an ancient Greek philosopher — I reference his masterful work, ‘The Republic’. Milo finds a paperback copy at one point and reads from it. Some others have pointed out that there are a lot of Greek references in the book. Yes, I know! This is deliberate. I borrowed (stole) the concept of the guardians from Plato, called a character Archimedes, and made about two dozen other references.

So there it is, that’s how Prodigy became a real story. I’m so glad it resonates with so many people. I really enjoy the characters, especially Alex, and would love to see her on the big screen one day!

Thanks for reading, I appreciate you.

Edward

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