Thursday, January 29, 2015

Some thoughts about what "best picture" might mean.

Good morning!

The Oscars are coming, the Oscars are coming!

Each year I do my best to see all of the Best Picture nominees.  I will say this to Hollywood:  It's hard for those of us who don't live in LA or New York to actually see all of the nominated movies for actor and actress nominations when they aren't released to regular folks until AFTER they've been nominated, if at all.  I mean, hey, you want us to tune in to the 9 hours of coverage on Oscar day, how about if you give us a chance to care about who's nominated and why?

Okay, rant over.  I'm focusing on the Best Picture nominees.  Each year I try to see them all.  Granted, that doesn't happen always before the nominations are out, or before the awards are handed out.  Why?  Three reasons:

1)  Many of the Best Picture nominees aren't available to fly over country before they are nominated.

This is problematic for one main reason:  Are these movies really good, or does Hollywood figure no one is going to see them if they aren't nominated for Best Picture?  For many years there were only five films nominated and everyone pretty much had either seen those films or knew of them.  Since 2009 we've nominated 9 or 10 films and some of them are really, really, really small films that never hit theater screens outside of "limited release."  Therefore most of us have to wait for the video release which often doesn't happen before the Oscars are handed out. This leads many of us to wonder if Hollywood really thinks these movies are the BEST or if they're just trying to generate interest in films that would never be seen if not nominated.

2011 comes to mind as a year that made us wonder.  Of the nine nominated films I watched five from start to finish.  Two I tried, I really did, but the Best Picture winner, "The Artist" angered me and "Tree of Life" confused me beyond words.  I'm not a snob and if a non English speaking movie is truly the Best Picture, it should be crowned as such.  But "The Artist" was a silent film, in black and white, with a cute was like they tossed all the gimmicks they could into one movie and then put wildly annoying music into it and tah dah, best picture.  Yeah, not so much in my opinion.

A couple good surprises from this expanded nominations list came in 2010 "Winter's Bone" and 2013 "Nebraska."  These are quiet films with solid casts that tell smaller, intimate family stories.  Sure, "Nebraska" is in black and white.  Just proves I'm not anti black and white movies.  Both are genius films and neither would have much of an audience if Oscar hadn't included them on the Best Picture list.

2)  Movies are expensive and it's easier, cheaper, and all around a better experience to stay home and rent the DVD.

When I was younger, and let's go back as far as 1993 before I had kids, I saw every movie released, and I saw them in theaters.  Between 1982 and 1993 there just weren't many movies I didn't hit.  Why?  Going to a movie was social, it was a pretty decent date, and it was fairly inexpensive. For a couple bucks you could get to a movie share a popcorn and soda with your date or friend, and it didn't eat up your entertainment budget.  Now, movie tickets range upwards up $10 a piece.  Not a huge investment compared to live plays or concerts, true, but since going to a movie is a crap shoot, half the time you walk out saying, "So, I had to put in two hours at a job I hate to pay for that movie ticket to a movie I didn't like."

Matinees aren't the bargain they once were, either.  They used to be half price if you got to the movies before 6 Pm. Now, you still get to pay $8 before 4 PM.  More, if you wind up in a 3D or Ultra screen movie.

Conversely, buying a DVD/blu ray with a digital copy generally maxes out at $30.  You can watch it a million times and the popcorn is free.  With advances in TV picture quality and the explosion of surround sound systems, it just makes more sense to stay home and watch the movie.  Besides, if you really hate the film, you can sell it back to the second hand market, recouping a couple bucks.

3)  Blockbusters are a thing of the past...and nothing stays in theaters very long.

Excellent Best Picture
When I was in high school, "ET" was in theaters for an entire summer and beyond.  Kids would sit around saying, "What ya wanna do tonight?  Let's go to ET."  Popular movies stayed in theaters for a long, long, long time.  When"Dirty Dancing" came out, one of my friends and I spent every Tuesday ($2 Tuesdays) and Saturday afternoons sitting in the dark confines o the theater...for several months.  That just doesn't happen anymore.  Movies go from "oh it's the opening weekend, it's going to be packed, let's wait a bit" to "Wait, it's not playing anymore?" in a matter of a couple weeks.  Case in point, the movie "Big Eyes," one of the darlings of the Golden Globes. I didn't even know that was a MOVIE until I passed a poster in my local theater.  A few days later, I could no longer see the film.  It was in theaters for less than a week.  

Massive blockbusters are few and far between  "Titanic"  "Avatar" are probably the last two truly universal massive films that have been nominated.  "Titanic" is almost twenty years old and "Avatar" is six.  Other movies in recent history have done well, but where's the "Oh you have to see this movie, everyone's seeing it" movie?

But what does any of this mean within the question of what is a "Best Picture?"

Well, as writers, we'd like to see a movie that's written well, with few mistakes and great dialogue.  We'd like a good story well told.  Sure, costumes, editing, cinematography are all vital, but a movie starts, first and foremost, as a story.  

So far I've seen three of the eight nominated films this year, and I plan to see one more today.  I've seen "Grand Budapest Hotel, "  "Boyhood," and "The Imitation Game."  If I had to pick from those three it would be "The Imitation Game" hands down.  Why? Two reasons:

1) "Grand Budapest Hotel" is a Wes Anderson film. The man who brought us "The Royal Tennebaums" and "Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou."  I get it that people love his films. I do not.  I think they are the equivalent of the worst kind of name dropping.  Anderson writes small parts for a hundred people and gets big name actors to work for five minutes.  So he gets all the huge names in his movies, which brings people in, but his films are incoherent and narcissistic.  If we give him an Oscar that will only encourage him to do more.  I know I'm in the minority with this opinion, but I've stood by this opinion for decades. Incoherent storytelling is not a best picture.

2)  "Boyhood" is a truly original concept:  Filming a family drama that covers twelve years of a family's life...and do it in real time with the same actors.  No one's done this before because no one's taken the time to do it.  It's fascinating to watch the child actors, especially, grow up before our very eyes.  There's a certain sense of reality attached to it, and that's fresh and original.  The movie itself, however, is not fresh or original.  It's another family drama about a broken family, a single mom, the kids' struggling through teen years.  So, on story merit, this is not a best picture.

Is the "Imitation Game" a best picture?  It hits all the marks for me, but I haven't seen all the competition yet.  That'll be a project between now and the 22nd of February.  I'm just not sure I'll have access to all the films...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

oops, they did it again.

Well friends, they've gone and done it again.

Remember when I went on a rant about "Jersey Shore" dipweed Snooki publishing a book? Well, here you it now, we'll wait.

Welcome back.  See...that was my rant against Snooki.  Well guess what?  I just heard, and then read, a report that makes Snooki, as an author, look like the second coming of Oscar Wilde.

Kim Kardashian is publishing a book...if you can call it that...containing her "selfies."  Don't believe me, Check out the report.

So...traditional book publishers and brick and mortar book stores are failing left and right.  Well, hey, no wonder, when what you give the American reader is complete and utter crap.

Let's think about the amount of talent or effort this particular best seller idea involved:  Kim Kardashian, a woman famous initially for a leaked sex tape and then because she had a nice butt, and then because her family is a hornet's nest of self indulged, vapid, mirror watchers...she looked at the pictures she took OF HERSELF WITH HER PHONE and she said, "This is a book."  And a publisher agreed.

I'm starting to wonder if anyone knows what the word "book" means.

I am angry about this, but not because this no talent culture cancer has a book deal and a lot of hardworking, talented, dedicated authors don't.  This is a really good example of what's happening in publishing today, and it's the biggest red letter headline announcing the death of traditional publishing and book and mortar stores.  

Book publishers might as well be standing on street corners shouting, "We've given up and we're only going to publish books by people we've seen naked.  And the fewer actual words involved the better."

And they wonder why they keep failing and failing and failing and more and more authors, new, unknown, and well known, and best sellers, continue to flood to self publishing and e-publishing.  

Books are important to our culture and to future generations.  Sharing ideas, sharing stories, sharing humor and tragedy and drama and social commentary is all important, even vital, to the world culture.  If we have no need to read, then we take a monumental step backward into the Dark Ages.  Publishers, if they hope to survive, need to think about the content of their offerings as much as they think about the "shock value dollar" they'll garner from a project like this one.  

If the only thing book publishers are going to give us as readers are third rate novels upchucked by fourth rate celebrities, or, worse yet, cell phone pictures of said fourth rate celebrities...then those of us who need to tell the stories, need to share the drama, the humor, the social commentary, then we need to go someplace else and be heard.

Or maybe I could just start shooting naked pictures of myself to publishing houses.

Thursday, January 15, 2015



I've decided to lower my e-book prices for a while so more of you can enjoy my books for less!  Not all the pricing has completely uploaded, but it should in the next 12-24 hours.

So, if you want to read one of my "Rock Harbor Chronicles"  books  (Formerly my "wicked Women" series), or either of the Elsie W. books, and you buy your e-books on Amazon, CLICK HERE to check out the new prices!

If you have a Nook and you get your e-books from Barnes and Noble, CLICK HERE for novels by Sarah J. Bradley and for the Elsie W. books, CLICK HERE to check out the new prices!

Now, if you read your books on any device other than a kindle or a nook, then you're still in luck!
CLICK HERE for Sarah J. Bradley novels .  For the Elsie W. books CLICK HERE to check out the new pricing!

I know that's a ton of info, but I'm really excited about lowering the prices on my books because it means one thing:  We are now just a short time away from seeing a new book!

Oh, and yes, Rick Springfield fans, all new pricing also applies to "Dream in Color," all of the sites.  YAY!

This is honestly the lowest price I'm going to be offering for the rest of the year, and it will be for a limited time.  How long that limited time is, I have no idea.  I'm not that organized!

Remember, if you read my books, or any books by an independent author, please leave a positive review.  (If you hated the book, however, feel free to NOT leave a review!  LOL!)  
Reviews and word of mouth are still the best, and sometimes the only, way an author can continue to do what they are doing.  It's not just so I can sit at my desk and spin yarns.  It's so this planet, our culture, can continue to hear stories from voices that have not been pigeonholed by big publishing.  

As they used to say in those great Bartles and Jaymes wine cooler adds:


Saturday, January 10, 2015

What do Cinderella and my new book have in common?

Good evening!

I've been buried, like many people, under post holiday blech the last week.  Monday, as some might know, was "Blue Monday," i.e., the most depressing day of the year. (Being the first Monday after all the holiday cheer is over.)

So glad we get that out of the way right away.  Now we can focus on the many months of cold, cold, winter sans Christmas lights.

Well, I, for one, have been busy.  My New Year's resolutions have nothing to do with weight loss for the first time in more than a decade. If I lose weight this year it will be 1) a miracle and 2) a happy by product of the other health related things I'm doing for myself this year.  I made an appointment to see my hand surgeon because the non sense ends in 2015.  I'm 47 and far too young to be dealing with the kind of pain I'm having.  Also, I scheduled a dentist appointment.  Not because I'm having any pain...but because I've put that scolding off long enough and it's time to just get the cleaning over with and be done.  Also in my plans are such super exciting things as a mammogram and most than likely a trip to a therapist for my own brain now that everyone else in the house seems to be fixed.

More importantly, however, I've been working, sporadically, yes, but working, on the new novel, "Missing in Manitowoc:  A Nora Hill Mystery".  I have a solid team lined up in support and a plan for this thing.  The first draft is done and now I'm in the very fun part of writing when you have the blank pages filled with words and now you get to add MORE words.  Basically, I'm accessorizing...and what girl doesn't love that?

It's like that moment in Disney's "Cinderella" when the Fairy Godmother gets her dress all on her. I'm starting with sort of a raggedy piece of writing and with the wave of a magic wand...or in this case a lot of talking out loud...I manage to put a ball gown on my plot!

This might seem like a tedious exercise.  For writers starting out, you get to the end of your first draft and you feel like you've just birthed the most perfect baby that's ever been born.  Until your writer's group or your critique partners get hold of it and start asking you to fill in the truck sized plot holes (see what I did there? I didn't call them POT holes, I called them PLOT holes!) and you then go home thinking you're the worst person who ever put words to blank space.

Take heart because while you did not birth the most perfect baby in all the world, neither are the worst writing in history.  A first draft is just that.  No one, and I really mean no one, puts out a clean perfect, readable book in one draft. No one.  And if they tell you they did, they are lying and you should bop them on the head with a feather duster.  (You don't HAVE a feather duster?  What do you use to bop liars on the head with then?)

So I'm at that Cinderella moment in my story when I not only still love it, I want to make it more beautiful than it already is in my eyes.  And that's the most fun a writer can possibly have, that beautiful moment between complete blank space and the dreaded line edit.

So friends I'm off to accessorize my heroine Nora Hill...and you should go forth and WRITE!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy New Year we Have a Winner!

Good morning and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Okay, okay, I'm what, like 32 hours late on that?  Hey, I'm not a youngster anymore, I'm not about to be standing outside in the cold with a million other people watching Ryan Seacrest do yet another job.  (As a side note, some Americans are worried about illegal immigrants taking jobs...I think we need to take a look at Ryan Seacrest and how many jobs he's taking from other Americans...just
sayin'.)  Anyway, I've never been one to like the idea of hanging
Seriously, he must have like 150 W2 forms!
out in Times Square at New Year's.  Sure, I watch it on TV every year.  Of course, I do stay up that late.  And yes sometimes I catch it live, but since we're in the Central Time Zone most of our T.V. stations go to a taped delay so yeah, I have to wait until Midnight to watch that ball drop.  

Anyway, happy new year to you all.   This is going to be, as we all hope. a better year than the last.  If you follow me on my author page on Face Book, then you know that this year I vow to be true to what I do and to be fearless in doing it.  Since I'm starting a completely new project, and have decided to also really broaden the scope of how I market, this could be a good thing or a bad thing, but it will definitely be a different thing.

I digress, because I know you want to know if an who won the free book.  Well, we fell a little short of the 1000 views I was hoping for for the blog.  However, we did get far closer than perhaps other posts might have put the blog, so I wasn't going to be all grumpy about not giving away a book for want of a few views.  (Okay, 100 views...but still.)  

The other thing I realized that became an issue is that not all of you, my readers, have a google account and therefore posting a comment to the blog was problematic.  (A coworker brought this up to me.)  Therefore, I took not only the comments posted on the blog, but also comments posted about the blog on my Face Book Author Page or my personal Face Book page.  I put all those into a bucket and stirred and we have a winner!

As luck would have it, the winner is, yes, the one person who was able to comment on the blog itself.  So,'ll need to message me your contact info.  The best way to do that privately is to follow my Author Page if you haven't already and then message me privately there. Also, let me know which book of my six current books (or one novella) you'd like or if you want to wait for Missing in Manitowoc to come out in the spring.

As for the rest of you readers, look for more book giveaways to be coming in the new months.  I'm looking for a release of a series this year...there will be plenty of motivation for you to read what I write!  

Finally, and with the deepest gratitude in my heart, I want you to know that I really do appreciate you, my readers.  Sometimes we self published authors feel like we're sitting in a room talking to a great dark hole.  It's nice to hear from you and know that someone out there in this big, wide world, is listening.  It keeps us from looking insane to our families!  

Happy 2015 all!  Be kind to each other and let's walk through this year together!