Review: The Lone Ranger

After all of the terrible reviews and the bad word-of-mouth, I was expecting to write a review of The Lone Ranger that would decry it as the end of civilization as we know it. But guess what? I liked it!

I know I'm a little late to this party, but given all of the bad press, I wasn't willing to pay to see this film – even when it was only $5 on pay cable. But then it was available for free. So I hunkered down for what I thought would be the ultimate endurance test, only to find a fun, if flawed, movie that I could view with my mind set on idle. Damning with faint praise, perhaps; the movie certainly has its faults, and Clayton Moore it ain't. But, perhaps because of all of the derision heaped on it from all sides, I was expecting a much bigger steaming pile to assault my senses, and that level of badness just didn't register with me.

Bookended by two tremendously energetic action pieces set on moving trains, the film only lags a bit in the middle, when a little tightening-up in the editing room could have made a world of difference. The first drawback the film has is that Clayton Moore is no longer around to play the title character; for those of us who grew up with Moore's version of the Ranger, that's a major hurdle to get over. Then there's the fact that the screenplay is an origin story, something required in a film that aspires to be the frontrunner of a superhero franchise (and make no mistake: the Lone Ranger is a superhero, set in the Old West; like Batman, he has no super powers – beyond the ability to fire unlimited rounds of ammo from a pair of six-shooters -, but he is a hero that kids dreamed of being as they grew up). Origin stories of established characters force the screenwriters to adhere to a pre-set tale, while trying to bring something new and exciting to the mix.

Part of that “new and exciting” mix in this film is to make Tonto the primary focus of the film. Bad move, even if you have a talented actor like Johnny Depp to fill the role. Armie Hammer may be a good actor, but he can't match Depp's quirky performance; and the role as written doesn't do him any favors. What we get is the Lone Ranger as second banana in his own film, portrayed as a bit of a stuffed-shirt buffoon until the climax, when the movie requires him to turn into the iconic hero and dead-eye shot that the legendary Ranger was in movies and TV shows past.

Still, if you can get past the obvious flaws that this film drags along with it like the railcars full of silver ore that the locomotives haul throughout the movie's climax, The Lone Ranger is a fun piece of film; a popcorn movie that's shy a bit of melted butter in the middle, but very watchable in an afternoon-to-kill kind of way.

Publishing Your Book

Writing a book is an eye-opening experience. Beyond the actual writing, there are a host of other considerations, mainly to do with marketing the finished product. Gone are the days when the writer was an artiste, an intellectual being above the common practice of huckstering his own work; today, the author is part scribe, part businessman, part IT person and part promoter.

City Sketches pulled me out of my comfortable position as blogger and forced me to wear a variety of hats on the way to being a published author. Fortunately, there are a variety of programs, apps and social groups that make the journey both easier, inexpensive and potentially rewarding financially. Here are some of the best that I have used; consider this a map to writing and marketing your book:

  • Scriveners (www.literatureandlatte.com)This program is like a word processor on steroids. Designed specifically for writers, Scriveners will take you through the entire writing process, from organizing your thoughts and then the structure of your book to writing and formatting your work to preparing it for the many platforms available (ePub, Kindle, PDF, paperback, etc.). Once you’ve compiled your book to various platforms, you can also export it. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but this program (which costs $45) is worth every penny – I cannot praise it enough!
  • MyeCoverMaker (www.myecovermaker.com)Your book cover is vitally important to your sales figures; it is the first thing most people see when they pull up your book on Amazon, and it has to grab their attention immediately. If you want to design your own cover, this is the site for you. Designs come in all forms and in 2D and 3D, and can be used as the book’s cover or as part of an ad for your opus. Once you’ve saved a design, you can drag-and-drop it into a folder called “front matter” in Scrivener, where it can be incorporated into your book when you compile it. The service costs about $15 per month, or you can simply pay $4.95 for each individual cover that you design.
  • SendOwl (www.sendowl.com)Once you’re ready to market your book, you’ll need a payment gateway (such as PayPal) and a payment portal. SendOwl fills this bill admirably. They’re an English company, and their support group is first-rate. Upload your work to them in as many formats as you want to sell on your website (you do have one for your book, right?). Once you have a cover image of your book on a website page, use SendOwl to set up payment buttons (“Buy Now” or “Add to Cart”). SendOwl does the rest. When a book is purchased, they will send out e-mails confirming the sale and providing the link for download. They will track sales and provide you with analytics. And they will provide you with the means to offer discounts and affiliate programs when and if you want them. The service provides for differently priced programs; I recommend the $15/month package.
  • Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP; https://kdp.amazon.com)This is where you’re going to go when you want to sell your work as an e-book on Amazon/Kindle. The basic plan is free – so what are you waiting for?
  • CreateSpace (https://www.createspace.com)You’ll also want a physical, printed-book presence on Amazon, and this Amazon-owned company is the best way to go. It’s a POD (Print on Demand) company, and again, the basic service is free. You’ll have to use their cover-design software, as your book will need a front and back cover and a spine. Once you’ve uploaded all your info, they will generate a proof copy online for your approval. When you OK the proof, they’ll list your paperback on Amazon in tandem with the Kindle edition. Books are printed as they are purchased, and you will net the price of your book minus printing costs and fees. You can also purchase author copies at cost.
  • Goodreads (www.goodreads.com)This is the best site for marketing your book, bar none. Goodreads is a social-media site for book lovers/readers, and its membership runs into the tens of thousands. Build relationships early on as a reader with other readers and with authors. Then, when you have published your book, you’ll be eligible to join their author program (so you’ll have a user profile and an author profile). From there, the methods for getting eyes on your work are too numerous to list here. Do not pass up this opportunity!

Hiatus

You may have noticed that we've been on hiatus for the past week; unfortunately, that will remain the status of this site for another week or so as we slog through tax season and as we put the finishing touches on our first book, City Sketches, which should be out and available on our sister site, Travel's Bitch (www.travelsbitch.com), and on Amazon.com by the end of the month.

Bear with us – the book will be worth it, and then we'll continue to entertain and inform you in our usual snarky way.

Thursday Short Takes

Returning Series – The latest season of The Amazing Race begins on Sunday, Feb. 23 at 8 P.M. EST. This time, it’s an “all-star” event featuring popular teams from past races. The line-up is, in my opinion, staggeringly uninteresting – but I’ll at least check out the various locations that are highlighted in each episode.

Ongoing Series – Titan Books continues to bring back the oldies, and three long-out-of-print series are really hitting their stride as the book company commits to seeing the publication of the entire list of titles for each author:

  • Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu series – fourteen in all, these now politically-incorrect thrillers are still slam-bang adventures that will keep you turning the pages. President Fu Manchu and The Drums of Fu Manchu (# 8 and 9 of the series) are now available in trade paperback for pre-order from Amazon.com.
  • Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm series – over twenty paperbound titles in this one; 8 have been published already, several more are ready for pre-order, all from Amazon.com. These books tend to be politically-incorrect in a misogynistic way – women viewed from the 1950s Playboy take on “girls.” Still, good action reads, in a much grittier, blue-collar manner than James Bond.
  • Helen MacInnes thrillers – just to prove that thrillers aren’t the exclusive domain of male writers, check out Ms. MacInnes’ list of novels from the ’40s through the ’80s. Start with Above Suspicion, Assignment in Brittany (so accurate in its descriptions of spying techniques that it became required reading for all WWII Allied agents going behind enemy lines), North from Rome and Decision at Delphi, and then choose from any number of titles set during WWII or the Cold War. All titles are available in paperback form from Amazon.com.

“City Sketches” Is Coming!

For the past year, on our sister site (www.travelsbitch.com), I have enjoyed sharing memories of my travels to various cities abroad. Along the way, I hoped to inform and entertain you with the histories of, and the rich cultural experiences awaiting you in, these diverse towns. I've always believed that a good working knowledge of an area enhances the joy of travel.

As these posts accumulated, an idea sparked in my head that these essays could be pulled together in one place; that a collection of these writings could have the potential of reaching a larger audience and to inspire in those readers the desire to travel and to experience cultures and adventures of their own. The path was already laid out – the format of the post entries; I just had to follow it to its ultimate destination – the collected essays in book form.

So I'm thrilled to announce that those collected pieces will be available as an e-book, City Sketches, by late April of this year; plans are already in the works for a paperback edition to follow shortly thereafter. The essays have all been re-edited and revised; while essentially the same pieces, there will be additions and deletions that will correct any errors and enhance the information included in each sketch.

So look for the appearance of City Sketches at Travel's Bitch in a few months.

 

Hereby Resolved!

I’m still unclear on when my interest in the Way of St. James suddenly veered into the territory of obsession; but I understand now that I have set myself onto a path from which I can neither turn nor retreat. Casual curiosity always strays dangerously close to whimsical determination; and from there, the snares are out that will catch and hold one inexorably to a personal cause.

I first became aware of the Camino de Santiago in the fall of 2013. Where and how are shrouded in a haze of books and film that I encountered on the subject at about the same time, but my imagination was piqued. The Way had everything:

  • Myth and Legend: St. James’ barnacled corpse floating ashore in Galicia and its transport to Santiago; the miracles attributed to him by pilgrims hiking to the town’s cathedral.
  • History: From the first centuries of Christianity to the Middle Ages to the present, the countryside has seen countless pilgrims and just as many stories of persistence and salvation along the Way.
  • Romance and Adventure: The lost art of the pilgrimage lives on today as travelers trek across the north of Spain in the footsteps of all who came before them, achieving a task that few others on this planet will accomplish.
  • Geographical and Cultural Wonders: Travelers will hike across the Pyrennes, through mountainous terrains; across wind-swept grasslands along Spain’s northern reaches; and through the rolling greenery of Galicia as they reach their goal. They will pass through rustic villages and try local delicacies in their native settings; they will pass through large towns of architectural splendor, including Burgos – where they will see the final resting place of El Cid, one of the nation’s greatest heroes.

But the Camino held one other attraction for me: it was doable. At 63 years of age, this body of mine is fighting me, threatening me with fatigue and years of wear-and-tear. My mind rebels – I am not ready for retirement from life, and I will not spend my remaining years seated on a rocking chair somewhere whittling wood. But I can’t do some of the things that I could ten or twenty years ago. And so the Camino beckoned, and I gravitated inexorably toward it. The path is not a Herculean challenge: hiking through the Pyrennes requires no extraordinary mountain-climbing skills; trekking through the north of Spain is a fairly level proposition. This is an adventure that I can do – and that was all the knowledge I needed to commit myself to this month-long journey.

So as the new year of 2014 was ushered in, I made this resolution: I will make the pilgrimage to Santiago; I will walk the path that stretches from Saint-Jean-Pied-a-Port to that Galician cathedral. The adventure begins!