January 05, 2014
A thought by James Berardinelli
I'm not a big one for making resolutions. I think at some point, maybe when I was in my 20s, I made a single resolution each January and invariably forgot about it by the end of the month. However, I like to plan and some of those plans come close to resolutions. For the past couple of years, my attention has been divided, with 50% of my free time being devoted to the writing of a trilogy of books and the other 50% devoted to reviewing activities. I like sports but didn't watch much in the way of baseball during 2012 or 2013. In fact, last year was the first year in more than a decade when I didn't attend a single game in person. But the books are completed (at least in draft form) and things will change in 2014. How much is still in question, but here are some ideas:

The books: They are done - all 1550 pages of them. I finished writing the third volume on Christmas Eve. That doesn't mean I can simply put them aside and turn my attention to other things. The first book, called The Last Whisper of the Gods may be its final form. I'm currently doing a read-through to iron out any lingering spelling, grammatical, and continuity errors. The second book, called The Curse in the Gift, will get the same treatment. The third book, The Shadow of the Otherverse, will need some additional work since it's currently in "first draft" form. I should be done with all of the necessary editing by April. However, since editing doesn't demand the level of time and brain cell commitment as writing, my workload has eased.

As for publication dates, those are still up in the air. My agent has sown some seeds but hasn't been willing to put his foot to the accelerator until Book #3's completion. Publishers are understandably reluctant to release first volumes of incomplete series. (Lessons have been learned from the likes of Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin.) My expectation is that my trilogy will be primarily available in e-book form. Depending on the publisher, there may also be a paperback run. E-books can be turned around quickly, so it's possible that at least the first book could be out before the end of 2014. I would expect a short window in between the publication of volumes: possibly as short as a couple of months but no longer than six months. There's no compelling reason to delay. Self-publication remains a potential strategy if I don't like any of the deals being offered. The big negative associated with self-publication is that the weight of marketing falls on my shoulders. The positive is that I accrue 50% of the proceeds (less what my agent takes). If I self-publish, I also have to hire someone to do the cover art and create a map that looks more professional than the scribbled one I have been using.

In the past, I have received e-mails from any number of people offering to donate proceeds to ReelViews via Paypal. While I appreciated those offers, I never took that route, instead offering the "click on ads" option. Now, for those who want to throw a little cash in my direction, buying the book is an excellent way to accomplish that. (There will be links at ReelViews.) Plus, you'll get something that hopefully will be enjoyable. I'll write in more details about my philosophy of writing these books when they get closer to publication. Generally speaking, they fall into the "traditional/epic fantasy" genre, although the third volume takes what I hope will be viewed as a "road less traveled" for this kind of series. I worked hard to make the ending less generic. The series starts in comfortable, familiar territory then gradually diverges as events move forward.

Finally, it's my hope to use ReelViews to provide "bonus content" for those who read the books. There are a number of "deleted scenes" that exist and can be posted here. I may also write one or more short story tie-ins. All of this would have to be done with the blessing of the as-yet unselected publisher so specific plans will remain in limbo until a final marketing strategy is determined.

The reviews: The bread-and-butter of the site has always been and will continue to be reviews of movies currently playing in theaters. This is what I have been doing since ReelViews opened on January 26, 1996. Generally speaking, that means between 120 and 160 reviews per year. I don't see the numbers changing in 2014 although I may be seeing a few more of the films I might otherwise skip if my new newspaper gig didn't require them. A good example: Ride Along. All things considered, this wouldn't have been among my top choices for a review, but the paper wants it and there is an advance screening. So expect to see the review, although I doubt it will be a long one (unless I am pleasantly surprised).

ReelThoughts/Video Views: Here's where the uptick will be the most obvious. With more available time, I can now devote a few hours each week to writing features and/or discussing older movies. My goal is to have something new most weeks. That would equate to about three new ReelThoughts per month and one new video review per month - not back to pre-fatherhood levels but feasible in my current circumstances. I may try to review original iterations of films being remade, although the first two in that category - Robocop and About Last Night - have already been reviewed.

The Site: Here's where I detour into Wishville. A lot of this is determined by how financially successful the trilogy is. If it doesn't sell, none of this will happen, because upgrading the site requires hiring someone and web design ain't cheap. But, if the books bring in enough money, I have laundry list of things I'd like to do. First: pare back the ads to Google & TribalFusion only. That means no more pop-ups. That means a cleaner look. Second, have the appearance of the site professionally upgraded. Third, develop a mobile version of ReelViews. Fourth, create iOS and Android apps. All of this is very appealing but it would also cost thousands of dollars. Truthfully, the money may not even be the biggest issue. Instead, finding someone who's hard-working and trustworthy to do the work may be an impediment. I've looked around a little and haven't liked what I've seen. So it may be that I'll issue a request to readers of the site to put forth names. I won't be looking for a handout; I'm willing to pay market rate. But the site needs more than I can give it with my increasingly antiquated html/php/scripting knowledge.

So that's where I'm headed this year. No promises but we'll see in December how close I come on these non-resolutions.