The Joker Movie Laughs at Forecasts of Violence

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Hi! October has arrived, and I like to celebrate not only the cooling-down effect of Fall, but also the scarier things in life with Halloween being right around the corner. Each post made in October will feature either a subject tied to the month, Fall in general, or fear. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Fear October Banner

Joker Left SideAre you scared of clowns? Personally, I remain only slightly unsettled by them after years of horror movies (namely the original adaptation of Stephen King’s “It”), the recent ruse of public scary clown depravity, and a general distrust of anybody trying to convince me they smile that big all the time.

But, the outcry against the Todd Philips-directed, Joaquin Phoenix-starring title movie The Joker, seems to have little to do with a fear of clowns. Instead the fear seems to circle around how this fictional character, whom started existence in comics back in 1940, will inspire fanboys to execute violence in his name. Specifically, white men are being targeted with this particular fear. The likelihood is high that even CNN is only looking for hate-clicks by bringing forward this narrative, but it managed to cause a call for the movie to be banned from US theatres.

CNN Tweet
via @CNN on Twitter

The other side of the argument is that we’ve seen similar villains in movies for years. Hannibal Lecter, Jigsaw from the Saw movies, and Alex de Large of A Clockwork Orange fame are just a few off the top of my head. The idea that a bunch of white dudes will suddenly turn violent because of a reportedly slow-moving Joker film is laughable, and if someone DOES get inspired, well…

The Other Argument
via @JoeySalads on Twitter

The hate clicks didn’t cause a ban of the movie however. Instead, The Joker laughed atJoker Right Side early low-earning calls by grossing $234M worldwide, ahead of last year’s off-comic movie Venom. People wanted to see this movie despite loud warnings of nigh inevitable violence in movie theatres upon its release.

Movies are an art form that can, and do, inspire people. Much like music, paintings, prose, and poetry. They’re supposed to. Why we would look at this movie and cluck about how it might inspire violence, rather than ask why or how the movie is relevant to today, is beyond me. This movie showcases mental illness at, possibly, its worst. Not because mental illness itself is bad. Rather, it showcases how the rest of us are villainous by ignoring it, and in some sectors we’ve proven the movie’s hypothesis.Joker Full Face

Instead of looking at it for what it is, people are supposedly trembling in fear of a non-existent white-man clown laughing as they die. No. The rest of us are laughing cause it’s not going to happen, especially because of a movie whose title character has been on the big screen several times before.

Blood and Blade New SwordThanks for reading! James’ dark-fantasy novel, Of Blood and Blade, is available on Amazon. Of course, face paint is also available, so there’s that.

Lessons from the WFGC Hotel Blog-Hop Anthology: Part II

HOTEL Anthology logo

Hello! This is Part II of What I Learned from the WFGC Hotel Blog-Hop Project.

If you haven’t read Part I yet, I highly suggest you read it first.

 

In April of 2019, my friends and I from the WFGC released the Hotel Blog-Hop Anthology. As a spearhead of that project, I learned several lessons about people, leading, and what goes into creating a project. This is Part II of What I Learned. Have a laugh at my expense and, just maybe, avoid some of our mistakes. If you haven’t read the anthology yet, links to all the stories are on the WFGC website.

“Not Everyone is Going to Finish”Finish Line

When the second round of people dropped out of the project, I was getting discouraged. Brian Buhl had a conversation that turned things around for me. He told me to make sure, when people asked if they could do Thing A or Thing B, that I make every effort to say Yes instead of no. He reminded me this was not a professional contest, nor a book. We didn’t want to turn people away over silly rules that were not necessary.

He also explained that some people are always going to quit. They get excited initially, but either don’t have the wherewithal to complete it, or more likely, life gets in the way. Don’t get me wrong, I was still put out some, but it made sense. I extrapolated from this that it would be true with any contest/anthology/blog-hop, but it isn’t visible to contestants. Brian also helped ensure I didn’t hold any animosity towards those who quit by making sure I realized they were human…just like me.

What I learned about losing people on a project:

Everyone is human, and I must remember this always.

Your project may be your baby, but that doesn’t make it important to everybody else.

Everybody faces obstacles in life, and they have the right to decide what they want to take on. There’s no point in taking their decision personally.

 

Marketing NumbersMarketing is NOT My Strongpoint

Towards the end of the project, deadlines loomed over everybody. In a week, we were all supposed to be hitting Publish on our awesome Hotel stories, yet not many people outside the WFGC knew anything about it. And I had no plans save putting the links all over the Twittersphere the day of.

In swooped Chris Henderson Bauer wanting to know the plan. Discovering there is none, she took it upon herself to get our collective asses in gear. My words, not hers.  She also developed a tweet template for all involved authors to use for pre-published marketing. In short, Chris saved us from complete and utter anonymity after all this work.

What I learned about marketing:

A “day-of” plan is not good enough if you want to garner attention outside of those who already know what you’re doing.

If you can, allow an entity larger than yourself to help spread the word. In most cases, this probably involves money, but not always.

Marketing is one of the most important aspects of any project- having eyes on it and interest built up before release day is not going to hurt you. However, that means having a plan and enacting it an appropriate amount of time before the official release.

 

Hitting “Publish”

You can probably imagine that we had less than a perfect launch day. Imperfect (and in some case zero) systems in place, less information given out than usual, and unfinished stories all led to confusion on launch. I failed my responsibility for having systems and information in place, and it could be said I should have pushed those with unfinished stories to finish up faster.

Some might say I’m being too hard on myself. Maybe, but having a history of managing people, I think more could have been done on my part. I fell into a trap of “nobody will far apart if it’s not perfect” thinking, which I should have known better after that first week’s trials.

Regardless, the team managed to put out all the fires one by one, and by the thirteenth, every story was officially out in the world. I don’t know how much attention each individual author received from the Hotel project, and I hope it wasn’t so underwhelming that they wouldn’t consider doing something similar again.

What I learned from launch day:

If you’re leading a project, your job is not over until everybody else’s is, and you’d better be in the trenches or you’re not leading.

Having systems in place that work and are being actively used will help save you from putting out fires at the end of a project.

A “it doesn’t have to be perfect” mindset is a surefire way to ensure the end product is not as satisfying as it should be.

 

It may sound, at this point, like I did not enjoy the process of the WFGC Hotel Blog Hop Project. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I learned some hard lessons, sure, but a fairly large group of friends joined me in creating something cool in under three months. Sure, the process was harder than it needed to be at times. Those rough spots are behind us, the pain of them all but forgotten. The results are still live, and something all of us are proud to call our own. I’m proud of everybody who crossed the finish line with me, and even those who didn’t.

This was a project. I didn’t do it on my own, and I learned (in some cases, re-learned) excellent lessons. There’s really only one last question I have:

 

When are we doing it again???

Serious CircleHi! I’m James Neal, author of dark fantasy available on Amazon.

Granted, so is pizza. Mmmm…pizza.

Lessons from the WFGC Hotel Blog-Hop Anthology: Part I

HOTEL Anthology logo

In April of 2019, my friends and I from the WFGC released the Hotel Blog-Hop Anthology. As a spearhead of that project, I learned several lessons about people, leading, and what goes into creating a project. This is Part I of What I Learned. Have a laugh at my expense and, just maybe, avoid some of our mistakes.

What is the WFGC Hotel Project?

The WFGC Hotel Project is a blog-hop/ anthology of stories which was unleashed upon the world on April 10, 2019. The story however, begins in February. As you might expect, the theme of the project is a hotel. What is WFGC you ask? It stands for Write Fight Gif Club, a group of writers on Twitter who support each other. Often, we help with writing questions. Sometimes, if you prefer, we also provide procrastination.

If you haven’t read the anthology yet, links to all the stories are on the WFGC website.

Office Man

My Role

I sparked the idea of the project by having a short story that I didn’t know what to do with. When I asked WFGC members what I should do, talk of publishing a group anthology started heating up. The reality of the idea set in eventually, but many (including myself) were already excited. We decided to do a free blog-hop instead of publishing a paid anthology that would require contracts, rights, the whole nine yards.

I became the de facto “leader” of the project. I was to be the one to keep these forty or so interested writers invested in the project, follow through on commitments, and ensure the project came to fruition. Which it did, with a grand total of 18 stories!

I did not do it alone.

I did not do it alone. Fellow WFGC’rs Rhiannon Amberfyre and L.C. Marblewood handled damn near all of the registries and people tracking required for this project. Brian C. E. Buhl developed the timetable which we worked, almost exclusively, off of. Chris Henderson Bauer actioned our very short (not her fault) marketing campaign. What did I do? I answered questions, developed the Blog-Hop logo, wrote the project’s Survival Guide (with live updates as they happened), and created the projects website which is, essentially, a blog.

So what did I learn from this role?

People will lose the fervor of the initial idea and leave the project.

If you’re doing this for the first time, you have no idea what you’re doing.

Eventually, you must solidify ideas the group can work with, and this often includes compromise from your original vision.

 

Compromise

My initial idea for the project was simple: every story takes place in the same hotel, but within each room, absolutely anything can happen. It was even going to have the tagline: Every room tells a story. Why could absolutely anything happen? Because we wanted our authors to have room to write in any genre, and allow anything to happen, so long as the hotel as a whole wasn’t destroyed in the process.

Ultimately, it was decided that this vision was too limiting. Many people wanted to be able to exit the room and still have events happen. Several wished to have their characters meet with other author’s characters to create a sense of unity. Some people wanted to write stories outside of a singular hotel. All good ideas, and my initial vision did not support them.

We managed to make all of things possible, though it did steer my own story in a specific direction…the hotel needed to be a quantum, metaphysical space, and my story allowed that to happen…at least canonically.

This is what I learned about compromise:

The initial idea is not always best for the group.

I need to better my ability at persuasion.

Most times, it’s better to say yes, than no.

 

Everyone Needs to Understand What’s What. What?

Question Mark

The first three days after deciding we were actually going to do this were hectic. No, that’s an understatement. It was chaos. Forty people were throwing out ideas, nobody wanted to say no to anybody, and there was no plan of action. Attempting to answer those questions without a roadmap was pointless, but I was trying anyway (along with Rhi and L.C.).

We knew we didn’t want to limit genres pretty much from the get-go, but nobody understood how that was going to work if we kept to a single hotel. Many questions revolved around due dates, and on that we had absolutely no clue until we were almost a week out. We lost several people during this time. Not that I blame them. People are busy, have lives. If you cannot give them a simple piece of information such as “when do you expect me to get this to you,” they are not going to commit.

Rhiannon and L.C. came up with the idea of allowing people to “register into the hotel,” by assigning them a room number within our theoretical hotel. This worked wonders. People knew they were being kept track of, and would receive information as it came about.

I then created the Hotel Project Survival Guide, which put all known information in one place. I put that on Google Drive and allowed all interested parties to download it. It occurred to me soon after that the Guide would need to be updated regularly, and that is when I decided to create a website for the project. I’d never created a private one before, but thankfully, the process did not prove all that difficult.

This is what I learned about organization:

People need a clear plan of action, and it will be easier on everybody if that plan is already established.

When people do not have an actionable timetable, they will not commit b/c real life is hectic already and they don’t need to add stress to their life.

Simple systems which insure people will be informed and up to date create a sense of safety and take much of a project’s stress off your people.

This is Part I of What I Learned from the WFGC Hotel Project. Part II is also available. Thanks for reading!

 

Serious CircleHi! I’m James Neal, dark fantasy author with a novel on Amazon.

Granted, toilet paper is on there too…

I Stand With New Zealand, All of Her

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*Quick note from author:

This blog post is in a raw, highly unedited form. I considered editing it, then considered not posting it at all. My final decision is based on one ideal: silence is complicity. I will not comply with fear.

This post is sporadic. It’s not journalistic. It is highly opinionated. By posting it I am doing what I can to stand with ALL the people of New Zealand, and fighting fear. I don’t care if you don’t agree with me. I don’t want you to follow, care about, or read me if you agree with the murderous bastards who destroyed so much in so little time.

 

Kiwi Heart Banner Small
In an era of mass shootings, New Zealand suddenly has to ask the question: Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

49 dead

40 wounded

Sounds like a standard headline for the United States these days. Not surprising. Everybody’s sorry and now let’s talk about guns. Except:

This isn’t in the United States. This is in New Zealand. Paradise. Where the nicest people I know on the internet live. They call each other Kiwis, and I don’t know anything cuter in this world.

A good friend of mine who wasn’t directly affected by the actual violence is crying today because she never expected to have to explain something like this to her son. Violence like the Christchurch mass shooting terrorist attack was supposed to happen in places far away- places like the USA.

The attack was purposeful, built and planned to spread across social media. Built and planned to show the world blood. Built and planned to turn your phone into an instrument that spread violence like the fucking plague. And by and large, you did exactly what was expected. The plan worked. Video of the shooting hit social media and people gorged on it, shared it, and expected likes on their posts about it.

One thing I am proud of. The shooter’s name isn’t being amplified much. He doesn’t get all the infamy he’d hoped for.

This was an attack on unity. New Zealand is different from the USA. They’ve already figured out how to live together. Atheists, Catholics, Muslims, and more live in far more relative peace together than in my country, where it seems we’ll never even get over the color wars. And that’s why this attack is so egregious.

Some white guy wanted to break up the unity of a peaceful country because his race, and his beliefs, are better than yours. Better than mine. Better than the Muslim mosque he murdered his way through.

I’m all for protecting your home. Protecting your people on your property. With violence if necessary. This attack protected nothing. Not even the shooter’s ideals. The only way to show your ideals are better than another’s is to allow them to live beside you and live the better life.

Murdering them is grotesque. Murder en masse is masturbatory evil. It proved nothing but how little humanity the shooter had to start with.

So yeah, shooter. You’ve made me angry. You succeeded. What you probably didn’t expect is that, because of you, I’m rethinking everything. I’m thinking about how I can unite with the many people of my country and the world.

I am aware I hold little stake in this tragedy. I didn’t lose family. I didn’t lose friends. But that’s not the point, is it?

The point is, I stand with New Zealand, and all her people. We’re going to fight you. We’re going to fight your kind. We’re going to learn, we’re going to lead, and ultimately Mr. Murder, we’re going to win. That’s the only legacy you left.

If you’re reading this, and agree with the shooter. Fight me. @ me. Say your hateful comments about me, my children, my race, my convictions, my ideals, say I’m weak, say I’m stupid. I stand against you.

I promise you, there’s a much larger army around me, than you.

Kiwi Heart

Bullying, WriteFightGifClub, and Letting Children Flounder

Social media is supposed to be a place where you create a network and keep in contact with friends and/or like-minded people. Sometimes I worry I’m one of those people who spends too much time on various platforms. The events of last Wednesday didn’t absolve me of that worry; but it did show me that, on Twitter, I’ve found my tribe.

Bullying WriteFightGifClub and Letting Children Flounder, jamesnealbooks, james neal,The Setup:

It’s Wednesday night, and my eight year old son is supposed to be going to bed. To be fair, he tries. Unfortunately, he’s upset and wailing and I can’t get him to tell me what is going on. I’m thinking he stubbed his toe until he says this:

“I don’t want to go to school anymore. I just know my class is going to bully me all day again, every day, for the rest of the year.”

If you’re a parent, you already know how chilling and desperate that sounds. My son is only in second grade and loves to socialize. How could he not want to go to school? Who is bullying him? Why?

Oh fuck. The whys. Why didn’t I know this is happening? Why isn’t his teacher doing something about this? Why did these other kids choose mine? Why am I so useless?Bullying WriteFightGifClub and Letting Children Flounder

Why am I so fucking useless right now?

His crying lessens with lots of big hugs and telling him he’s just the coolest. He doesn’t believe he’s the coolest. If he is the coolest, why is he the one getting picked on? Pretty deep thinking for an eight year old.

I don’t know how to deal with bullying. I was bullied, my self-esteem is still affected by being bullied. How am I supposed to tell my son everything is going to be okay?

WriteFightGifClub

Yeah, I wish this was something I came up with to help my son. The reality is it’s a hashtag I came across a couple months back on Twitter. It’s a group of writers, started by two people who were slogging through Nanowrimo last November and needed a place to blow off steam. It’s still a fairly tight-knit group, but growing thanks to the founders’ creativity and the sheer number of gifs posted daily. In #WriteFightGifClub, it’s not a surprise when a thread is thousands of posts long.

If you have no idea what Nanowrimo is, that’s okay. The point here is that WriteFightGifClub is my tribe. A group of people I’ve been creating relationships with for the past two months. When I didn’t know what to do, I turned to them for help. That may sound like a strange place to go, but I needed help. NOW. And I knew somebody would be there.

Schooled By a Teacher

Lucky for me, one of the members that is online at this moment is a teacher in New Zealand. Clementine sees my post about my son being bullied, and immediately jumps into the conversation with not only practical advice, but also book recommendations for my son to read. How cool is this lady? She’s awesome. The coolest.

Clementine is telling me to visit the principal and make sure they are aware of what’s happening. It turns out a principal cares a lot about school reputation, and if you’re going to make it public that they won’t help your child, well, that’s not good in the community’s eye. Generally speaking, they don’t want a negative public view.

She also tells me to keep giving my son love and reassurance despite him not accepting it at the moment. Right now, it all hurts too much, but when he’s at school or lying in bed he’ll remember me saying those words and know I meant them.

Several other members are present for the conversation. If they don’t have anything to add to the conversation per se, they still give condolences, one even offers to kick the bullies’ asses. That makes my boy smile.

This is my tribe. The type of people I want around me. The type of person I want to be. None of them had to respond to my tweet. Not one. But so many did, and they helped me help my son. Those are real friends in my book (author pun intended).

The Takeaway

Bullying is hard on the victims. It forces them to question their worth. It forces their loved ones to question if they love well enough. I’m not an expert. I don’t have a happy ending. My boy is still going to school; and he’ll likely be called names again today. When I pick him up, I’m going to give him a big hug and tell him he’s the coolest. I’ll do it every day until he doesn’t need me to anymore.

If you’re a parent, that’s about all you can do. The bottom line is, your child has to find their own way through it. Life sucks that way. Just make sure they know you love them, especially when they flounder through the dark places.

 

Thanks for reading.

Interested in my stories? Links can be found here.

 

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