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Monday, February 24, 2014

Tokenism: Why I'm Furious at the Fantastic Four Casting


In the reboot of the Fantastic Four movie, Johnny Storm will be played by Michael B. Jordan.

Some will ask why I’m not satisfied with Hollywood increasing diversity. But that is not what this casting choice is about. I could just imagine the Hollywood executives sitting in a room saying “We need a black character in the movie black people won’t see it.” This is not creating diversity. It is token-ism.

If studios were concerned with creating diversity, they could focus on any of the interesting and complex persons of color in comic books. Michael B Jordan would make a great Luke Cage. He is not Johnny Storm. Johnny and Sue Storm are supposed to be brother and sister. Why isn’t a black actor playing Sue Storm? Are we really supposed to believe Michael B Jordan and Kate Mara are brother and sister?

Some people claim when fans are upset at casting decisions it is because they are racist.  Bull. I’m not the racist one. It’s the studios who think I will be placated because they stick a random black actor into a cast.

I’ve also heard the argument that making a white character black is not the same as making a black character why. Why? A change of race is a change of race. I know when I’m being pandered to. Fundamental to the character of Johnny storm is that he is Sue’s brother. I supposed they could make him an adopted brother but all that says is “Hey we wanted a black person in the script so we shoved one in.”

Nothing against Jordan. He was great in Chronicle which may be why the director, Josh Trank, wanted him in the movie. Chronicle is one of the best written superhero movies I’ve seen. Which is why I am so disappointed with this lazy, insulting casting.

Image from:


I’m a geek. I’ve read Marvel Comics for other 35 years. I know there have been black members of the Fantastic Four including, at various times,  Black Panther, Storm, and Luke Cage. Why aren’t we seeing them in this movie? If they wanted diversity, they could include Wyatt Wingfoot, a First Nations character, or another woman in the cast. Instead, we get another token black guy. And we’re supposed to be happy about this?

I’d like to say no one is fooled by the studios. Unfortunately many people are. They see this as a sign of inclusion.


I have much more respect for how Marvel introduced the new Ms. Marvel. Rather than turn Carol Danvers black, they introduced a completely new character, Kamala Khan. By focusing on Kamala, a 16-year-old Muslim from New Jersey, we get to heard different stories, hear about life from a different perspective.

The TV show Arrow introduced a new character, Diggle. Rather than leave him a token black character, he exists as a full character with an interesting back story.

Kamala  Khan - The New Ms. Marvel

Making Johnny Storm black is not creating diversity. It is a feeble, lazy way for studios to say “Look at how progressive we are.”

If they wanted to be progressive, they would tell Luke Cage’s story. Or Kamala Khan’s. Or Black Panther. Or any of the dozens of other existing characters of color. Fox is not the only studio to do this. It seems every movie or TV show needs its token black person now. It’s ticking off the fans and angering people of color.

You may be fooling some people Fox, but you’re not fooling me.

Shame on you.

TV Tropes - Token Minorities
Token Black Guy on Uncyclopedia

Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

5 Big Problems Facing Science Fiction Writers and How to Solve Them #asmsg #scifi

J Michael Straczinsky

Recently I read an article from last year in which J. Michael Straczysnki spoke about the biggest problems facing science fiction. Here are five common problems facing science fiction writers and how to solve them.


It's not just the networks.Many people roll their eyes at all types of "genre" fiction. This is kind of ridiculous because the best science fiction is written to be extremely serious. At its core, science fiction is a social commentary that shine a light on the human condition. It asks the hard questions and offers solutions.

Sneer all you want at L. Ron Hubbard. I fell in love with his writing before I heard anything about Scientology. He wrote a wonderful article on science fiction and the role it plays in society. He stated that science fiction, much like morality plays in times before, allowed us to sneak a message past the reader. Rather than hammer home a message like a church sermon, we bribe the reader to pay attention with spectacles. Science Fiction is supposed to break boundaries and challenge the reader.

Solution: Give your story depth and have the courage to face the big issues.The next time someone rolls their eyes at you because you “only write science fiction”, stand up for yourself. This is not a moment to slink away. It is an opportunity to educate the ignorant.


When people say this, what they’re telling you is audiences need an “in”. They need something to relate to. If your audience cannot relate to the setting, situations, or characters, they will stop reading.

Solution: Give your characters real-world problems no matter how fantastical or alien their surroundings are. The best science fiction deals with the human condition. Rather than keep your story on Earth, keep your characters and plot grounded in things your audience can relate to.


Doing whatever you want to do is a sign of a lazy writer. That does not mean you have to spend half your book describing the science behind the events/object in your book. That is also the sign of a lazy writer.

Solution: Establish rules for your science and follow them. Even in the purest fantasy, you need to logic and rationality behind your writing. You don't have to get a Doctorate in astrophysics; however, you do need to know the mechanics of the science in your story, at least at a layman's leve.


Straczinksy goes on to say "If you’re doing a drama, no one suggests that solving the relationship problems or the murder has to save the world, but they feel that it has to be that way if you’re writing SF, which is why it’s also so often the rule in SF movies. It’s absolutely crazy-making. 2001, one of the most classic SF motion pictures of all time, could never get made today. Not a chance."

I’ll admit, I’m very guilty of this in my own writing. Back in high school, when we read Death of a Salesman, my English teacher told me it was kind of revolutionary. Most tragedies, she said, were about important men: world leaders, kings, presidents. Who cares about the little people?

Solution: Look at your own writing. Have you forgotten the little people? Why not write a story about a waitress who loses her job because the entire staff has been replaced by robots? Or the high school teacher trying to prevent her students from cheating now that everyone has neural implants. Stop picturing your book being turned into a Michael Bay film.


Remember what I said about morality plays? The same rule applies. Your book is not supposed to be a church sermon. You have to entertain the audience.

Solution: That doesn’t mean you have to blow things up every five minutes (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay) but you need events. You need drama. You need love and lose, humor and – yes – even sexuality. Even if you are writing about microscopic organisms on Mars, your readers are still human. Write things that humans care about.


Here’s how J. Michael Straczysnki’s words of wisdom to the critics of science fiction:

"I keep waiting for a paradigm shift to happen that will let network and studio execs see that SF is the same as any other genre in terms of how you approach it – logically, character based, with challenging ideas and forward thinking – but I worry that it might never happen in my lifetime."

You'll notice I've said nothing about how to convince other people to take science fiction serious. There's a reason. The only thing you can control is yourself and your actions. Forget about the detractors. Focus on improving your writing.

Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo

Saturday, February 15, 2014

8 Best Free Stock Photosites for Writers & Bloggers and When You Should Pay For Images

The hardest part of being a writer isn't writing the book. It's getting people to read the finished product. How do you do that? There's no magic solution but the best thing you can do is to stand out from the crowd.

How do you get people to notice you? That part is easy. You have to do something that other people are not doing. A great place to begin is to start incorporating high-quality photos with your Twitter, Facebook and blog posts.

Six months ago, I started teaching myself Photoshop. That meant I needed pictures to play with. An internet search will show you there are dozens of sites offering "free" stock photos. However, "free" doesn't always mean what you think it does. Besides, who has time to search through dozens of sites.

Luckily for you, I have so you won't have to. Here are the 8 best websites I've found for free stock photos.


Price: Free. To download, all you have to do is upload a few photos you have taken to add to the pool of available stock art. I added some vacation pictures from Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.
Login via facebook, twitter, or email
What You Can Use it For: Anything, including commercial use. They recommend you get model release forms is you use recognizable people for commercial usage (e.g. book covers) but this is not required for editorial use (e.g. blog posts). Full rules and limitations are on their blog here:
Pros: Lots of high-quality free images. It’s the first place I go to look for stock images for background images or locations.
Cons: Limited photos of people.  Search feature takes some time to get use to. No adult photos and very limited sexual imagery. This will limit usefulness for romance/erotica writers


Price: Varies. Majority are free
Login: Create a free account to allow download
What You Can Use It For: Varies based on provider of stock images. Check the terms of each picture you use. It is normally stated right below the picture what you can use it for.
Pros: Lots of high-quality free images. Has an adult filter you can turn on or off. If you want pictures showing lots of skin, you can find them here. If you don’t want to see that, you can turn it off. Also has 3D graphic artist that allow material to be used for commercial use. Very useful for scifi/fantasy writers. If you want pictures of spaceships or fairies, you can find them here.
Suggestion:  Favorite any picture you intent to use. This will help find the picture again in the future and gives you easy access to usage rights.


The following have more limited stock photos but are completely free. They images are high quality and can be used for commercial or non-commercial use. If you can’t find the image you’re looking for at the other sites, try these. Many of them have links to commercial sites as well. They earn revenue by trying to get you to visit/subscribe to these pay sites. That doesn’t mean you have to follow the links.

3. OpenPhoto.Net
4. FreeRange
5. Imagebase: 
6. MorgueFile:
7. Pixel Perfect Digital
8.Public Domain Pictures:


So why pay when there is so much for free?

Simple: like most things in life, if you want the best, you’re going to have to pay for it. Paid site like Shutterstock, Dreamstime, and Fotolia have the best, highest quality pictures available. Some images just aren’t available for free.

I found the cheapest option is Fotolia.

Your best bet is a monthly subscription. I usually go with the $40 option. It allows you to download 10 superlarge photos or 20 large photos per month. Superlarge (what they call XXL) is only required if you intend on doing lots of photo manipulation or want them on billboards. I use the regular size (or M) photos in all my photomanipulations for book covers. They work fine.

Shutterstock is the most expensive. Their lowest monthly subscription rate is $249 but gives you 25 pictures a day. Dreamstime isn’t much cheaper. You’ll pay $245 per month, also giving you 25 pidtures a day. For most writers, that’s complete overkill. This would only be useful if you make your living using photos.

Don’t be fooled by the lower prices for “credits”. On Fotolia, you can get 10 credits for only $14. However, a normal M-sized photo costs 5 credits and a XXL costs 20+. The best bet is a monthly subscription. I sign up for a month when I know I need lots of images, then I suspend my membership until I want to download more.

Shutterstock does one thing better than Fotolia: search feature. It is significantly easier to search for photos on Shutterstock than Fotolia. So here’s what I do. I search for images on Shutterstock. This will tell you the name of the artist/photographer. Then search the photographer on Fotolia. Almost always, you’ll find the same photo on Fotolia for less than half price.


Creative Commons Summary: 
Under terms of use, you will often find the image is subject to Creative Commons Usage. That means you are free to copy, redistribute, or adapt the image for any purpose including commercial usage. The only restriction is that you must attribute the original image to the original creator.

Public Domain Summary:
Free, unrestricted usage. It often means copyright on the image has expired or the creator has waived their copyright protection.



Price: Free
Login: Not required to download fonts
What You Can Use It For: Varies. Most, but not all, are open to commercial use. Check the license on each font
Pros: Thousands of fonts. Useful for adding text to webgraphics or cover art
Cons: I haven’t found any yet. My only warning is don’t use fancy fonts just because you can. Normally, simple fonts work better.

Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo

Monday, February 10, 2014

Blogging Tips for Authors - Why I've Been Doing It All Wrong

I started  this blog a little over a year ago. Traffic is decent: about 1,500 hits a month. But recently I realized my entire approach has been wrong.


I'm a proud member of ASMSG (Author Social Media Support Group). We've recently begun an exciting initiate to create genre-based social media hubs. To facilitate this, I offered to go through our 800+ membership list and group each writer by genre. This meant I had to look at hundreds of author's websites and blogs, as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts. I quickly realized a problem.

Most authors write or blog almost nothing about their set genre. Horror writers give cookie recipes. Erotica authors post pictures of their children.

So what's wrong with this? It ignores the basic rule of Marketing 101: focus on your target market.

For the last year, my blog has been scattered. I started by focusing on marketing tips for authors. The problems is, authors are not the target market of my writing. I was attracting lots of hits to my website but few of them were coming form people with any interest in the books I write.


Simple. Write topics that your target audience will care about. This will bring them to your page. Over time, you will build a relationship with them. They may decide to pick up your book. Or they may tell their friends how great your blog is.

If you don't know what your target audience is interested in, you have bigger concerns than what to put on your blog. Hopefully, you are part of your target audience. Most people write what they know and love. I love comics and fantasy so that's what I write. What kind of blogs do YOU go to? Mimic those.

Check out celebrity blogs. You won't find Martha Stewart blogging about the war in Syria.

If you're stuck for a place to start, here's a great tool: HubSpots Blog Topic Generator. Type in a few nouns and it will give you 5 relevant blog topics.

For example, I typed in Fantasy and Science Fiction. It gave me "10 Quick Tips About Fantasy" and "The History of Science Fiction". It gave me a few others but, since I'm going to be using them on this blog, I don't want to give away all my secrets.


Over the next month, there will be some changes here. I'll still post the occasional tips for indie writers but I will no longer discuss pure marketing. The target market of my books doesn't care about marketing and there are more qualified marketing experts than me. Instead, I will be focusing on genre-specific topics I care about as well as sharing some research into strange and unusual news around the world. I'm a total fan boy for conspiracy theories. You can expect more of that and less lectures on how to set prices for your books.


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Fallen Hero Rises Free February 3 - 4 on Amazon

Due to technical difficulties, A Fallen Hero Rises was not made free on Amazon yesterday. To compensate,I've made it free for today and tomorrow, February 3 - 4.

Get your copy of A Fallen Hero Rises Free:
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