Burnout paradise

You may notice that I write reviews here. In fact, there was a time on this blog when I wrote nothing but reviews. Reviews, reviews, reviews. Day after day and week after week. Reviews. And there’s a good reason for that: they bring people to the blog.

I may be a fairly successful writer in the UK, but I’m largely unknown in the United States, and that’s where the majority of blog traffic comes from. Consequently I don’t get a lot of web searches for sam hawken author (or whatever) and instead get a lot of searches that bring people to the many, many reviews I’ve written over the course of four years.

There’s nothing really wrong with this. I first started writing reviews for my own amusement, but they are on the blog to be read, so I’m not going to complain when people read them. Some days the only traffic I get to the blog are readers looking for my reviews. They could not give a hooting hell that I’m a prize-listed, bestselling author. They don’t have the first clue who I am. All they know is that I have a review for Forced Vengeance that they want to read.

My original goal when it came to reviews was to write a review for every book I read, every movie I watched and every game I played. From time to time this has become a serious chore, as I’ve had backlogs as high as thirty or forty reviews waiting for my attention, and all because I’ve gotten totally burned out on writing the things. Eventually I do come back to them, but burnout is seriously hard to shake.

I find myself in a similar place today. I only have a couple of reviews to write, and ordinarily I would post both of them today to clear out my review queue, but I just… don’t want to write them. I know I should write them and I know I could write them, but I’m not in the right frame of mind.

Now you may recall from many previous entries on this blog that I’m not a big fan of the “when the mood strikes me” approach to writing. A fictioneer of whatever stripe you happen to be, writing is your job and you have to treat it like one. Blogging is something of a special case, though. Unless you’re earning a living or a reputation from your blog, it’s really just an appendage to the actual work of writing. Great exposure if people actually go there and read things, but otherwise little more than a glorified hobby.

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Wake me when it’s over

Sleep habits of famous peopleI have a writer friend who has a demanding full-time job and a young child, both of which pretty much monopolize his waking hours. In order to make his writing work fit in there somehow, he gets up at three o’clock in the morning in order to have a couple of quiet hours to hammer out his words. I know he has some trouble some days getting those words sorted out — and who wouldn’t at three in the morning? — but the point is that he’s doing his best to find the right schedule to get his words consistently produced.

Now you know from reading this blog that I have some sleep issues. I drink entirely too much caffeine and take some odd medications that affect my sleep patterns. I find I need chemical assistance to get to sleep at a decent hour and, when I finally do sleep, I sleep in little bursts that leave me feeling exhausted when the day finally begins.

Over the weekend I did a little reflecting on what I ought to do about everything — sleep, work, the whole shebang — and came to a few preliminary conclusions. I decided that on off days I was sleeping too long (at least until eight o’clock) and every day I was having caffeine too late in the afternoon/evening. I considered that given my propensity for getting to bed between eight and nine in the evening, I could safely get eight hours of sleep and still get up by four-thirty or five. This would give me 60 to 90 minutes of quiet time before the rest of the family was up and moving around. All good, right? So I tried it. I’m… not impressed.

Getting up wasn’t a problem. I found I was able to wake promptly and get out of bed much faster than I could when rising at six, which is my usual workday rise time. I suspect this is because I was not what they call sleep drunk due to oversleeping. I generally take about fifteen to twenty minutes to rise when the alarm hits at six, and after I wake I often have to be awake for at least half an hour before I feel like a human. Classic sleep-drunkenness symptoms.

So I got up and a set to work. Immediately I found I wasn’t as alert as I thought I was, and my eyes were dry and stinging in the way they get when I haven’t had enough sleep. I’d thought to delay my morning dose of caffeine for an hour at least, but instead I made my way downstairs and guzzled an energy drink along with my daily AM meds. Now was I ready?

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[REVIEW] JET: Vengeance

JET: VengeanceSometimes I think I really don’t know what audiences want. When I’m writing, I generally have an idea of what sort of reader I’m aiming to please, and I’m happy to say I’m right more often than I’m wrong, but when I read books by successful authors I am often left wondering exactly where the appeal is. Is there something wrong with me? Do I just not get it? I honestly don’t have any idea.

Russell Blake has written approximately 507,000 books over the past few years and has sold, to date, over 700,000 copies. Given Amazon’s generous royalties for self-published ebooks, it’s safe to say he’s probably swimming in a pile of gold coins right now, à la Scrooge McDuck. Clearly people like what he’s serving up, and I respect that. When you work in the field as a professional author, money is king. If you’re making money, you’re doing your job correctly. If you’re not… maybe you should seek another line of work.

Most of Blake’s stuff doesn’t really appeal to me, largely because I’ve heard some things about the conspiracy theories he spins in some of his other works and I find them anathema. The JET series, on the other hand, seems perfectly tailored to my tastes. You know from reading this blog regularly, and perhaps from the work I’ve published over the years, that I very much enjoy action storytelling, and if that action concerns a tough female protagonist, I am even more enthused. Seeing as how that’s the case, you’d probably be surprised to learn that I’ve grown less and less enchanted with Jet, Blake’s heroine, as the volumes march on. JET: Vengeance is the third installment of what is currently a seven-book series. It has everything in it that the other ones do, and that’s actually the problem.

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[REVIEW] Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Yakuza: Like a DragonI used to have a PlayStation 2 and I loved it. I played with that thing until my fingers bled. Well, not literally, but you know what I mean. It’s a terrific machine, and I actually put one on my Amazon wish list to replace the old, dead one so I can play some of my previous favorites again. Yes, I know I own an Xbox 360, but sometimes the classics are the best.

Anyway, there are some truly great games on the PS2, and from what I understand, Yakuza is one of them. Sort of a Japanese take on the Grand Theft Auto franchise, the game has spawned multiple sequels in Japan despite tanking in the US, and even managed to get a film adaptation directed by none other than Takashi Miike, well known for his extreme crime and horror films. This is akin to getting an art-house director on a Resident Evil movie, as opposed to Paul W.S. Anderson. You would rightly expect something terrific.

Video game movies are derided as throwaway trash. Truth to tell, they usually are. Even the good video game adaptations are flawed in at least one significant way. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy video game movies as a whole — in fact I quite like some of them — but I’m trying to be honest about the general quality of these things. I’m going into this filmic sub-genre with my eyes open, in other words. But still, with Miike on board I thought I was in for a special experience.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon is not a special experience.

I should make it clear right from the outset that I see exactly what Miike has done here. He’s decided, “Hey, this is a video game movie. People expect it to be a piece of crap, so why not enjoy myself? Banzai!” Ensue craziness.

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Finding bigfoot

BigfootOne of the things that drives my wife crazy is my insistence on a couple of outré ideas. For one, I think UFOs are real and that they may — heavy emphasis on may — be of extraterrestrial origin. For another, I think bigfoots exist.

Okay, okay, I can hear you laughing, but I stand by my opinion. I firmly believe that most, maybe as high as 99% of reported sightings, are either hoaxes or misidentifications. Saw a big, hairy thing in the woods? That’s probably a bear, or an elk or even a deer. People see things in the woods and can’t contextualize them for one reason or another, so they immediately jump to the conclusion that they saw a bigfoot. But they can’t possibly all be bigfoots, otherwise there are sasquatches in every patch of woods in every state in the union. I should have a bigfoot in the one hundred yards of trees behind my house.

There are no bigfoots behind my house.

And then there are, of course, the hoaxes. People love trying to pass off their crappy video footage of supposed bigfoots. These things are all so uniformly amateurish and awful that a deliberate spoof created by Penn & Teller, called the “Sonoma footage,” was able to get the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) into a real tizzy when it was released. Matt Moneymaker, the head of the BFRO, actually went publicly to bat for this obviously faked video and looked mighty stupid when the hoax was unveiled.

Apparently there’s real money in authentic bigfoot footage, which is probably why the hoaxers keep it up. The show Finding Bigfoot has probably increased the incentive for people to fake it. Now there’s not only the potential cash upside, but now they can get TV time. The latter is probably why so many “witnesses” interviewed on the show are clearly mistaken or lying; getting on television is more important than personal credibility.

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