Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nothing is Scarier

About a week and a half ago I woke up early Sunday morning because the house alarm went off. It wasn't the warning 'you need to deactivate me' alarm that goes off whenever someone enters the house. It was the 'INTRUDER ALERT! INTRUDER ALERT!' alarm. I raced downstairs with a bo staff I have handy for just such occasions.

There was no one there. The only living thing in the room besides me was a tiny little wiener dog laying in her bed. I turned the alarm off and waited.  No one stirred. I made a swept of the main floor; searched every closet and corner. Where ever I thought a criminal might hide I inspected. I looked at the other floors too. I found nothing. It only served to increase my caution.  Something  had to have set off the alarm. So I kept looking.

I felt like I was in a horror film. You know, 'monster approaches from behind the character but only the audience can see them' thing? I felt like that. I thought this kind of 'fear of the emptiness' was what a horror film director or a survival horror game designer wants to create.

There was nothing in the house. Nothing except me and the harmless dog; but I thought there was more. Because of the alarm I thought something dangerous was in the house with me, just out of sight. That was all that was needed to create the spooky atmosphere. I was too scared to do anything but patrol because nothing is scarier.

Its those accidental moments in life that a writer has to treasure. It helps the writing to recall that fear and what caused it in order to reproduce that fear in a story. MY story is about to get its cover illustration. A preview can be found at http://tinyurl.com/c9drhbt

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Book Cover

I'm ordering a book cover today. Its a big step. While technically speaking I could publish any day by going to amazon or some place I didn't feel ready without a cover. After all, whether its a physical book store or online its the cover that attracts the prospective reader's attention. I felt this more keenly after looking around amazon and this group on facebook 'review seekers' where every book had a cover. Its the professional thing to do.  After I get this cover (and do one more revision) I will feel good about publishing.

I'm using Pro Book Covers who I found over twitter. About a week or so ago I sent out a tweet asking about good artists with the hash tag "Book cover" and they followed me. They didn't contact me, though, which I thought was weird but I guess 'Pro Book Covers is following you' is contact enough. What I like most about this service (other than the guarantee of course) is that the head guy of Pro Book Covers, Travis Pennington, is also writer. Its common ground. It means he understands how important a cover is to a book's sales.

I was actually in the process of filling out the info for the order when it asked if I had a web site address. So I went to my blog here and, noticed my last post was a week ago, and thought 'why don't I blog about this?' I'll tell you how it goes.

And, just in case you missed it, here's a link to the first chapter of the book's preview: http://tinyurl.com/c9drhbt

Friday, May 18, 2012

Review of the Talisman of El by Alecia Stone

Contests: Talisman Of El ARC Bonanza | Centrinian

A group on GoodReads told me about this contest: a giveaway to promote the debut of Alecia Stone's first novel. Its gone on for almost eight weeks now. Because I was late to the draw I almost missed it. Anyway, the contest includes a preview for the prologue and first chapter so I thought I'd take a look.

The prologue stars the protagonist and his dad. The two throw around plot threads like his missing mom, a medallion that's connected to some placed called "Arcadia", which is implied not to exist on Earth is also somehow connected to said mom, and some apparently invisible creatures that kill his dad but for some reason don't kill him. Its a fairly interesting start but that drops in the first chapter.

Flash forward a bit. The protagonist (Charlie) lives with adoptive parents in a different town. As opposed to the compact and otherworldly prologue this chapter is drawn-out mundane life. Charlie starts his first day at a new school with barely a hint of what happened in the first chapter. At this point Miss.Stone invokes Audience Surrogate: shy, a target of bullying, 'new kid' awkwardness' etc. Usually when I see this device its before the 'specialness' of the protagonist is made known, but than again I still don't really know.

Now to my favorite part of the preview: Alex. Alex is a girl introduced on the bus ride to school that stands up to the bullies and later befriends Charlie with great persistence. He's very shy, after all. Between their contrasting lives (she's confident, bored in the small town, and has two overprotective parents) and the promise they make at the end of the chapter, I presume she's a love interest. In which case I can safely say that Charlie has at least one thing going for him into the adventures ahead.

Bottom Line: I would enter the contest.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Toonami Is Back!

The most amazing thing happened today: Toonami returns to Adultswim! I know you may think I'm exaggerating but it really is that big a deal to me. I grew up watching Toonami. More than nostalgia it helped make me the man I am today. I am in no way kidding.

 I ran home from the bus stop to watch it after school. I looked forward to watching it on Saturday night. It was a fixed part of my life. When I was punished for a week (I forget why) and couldn't watch TV, all I could think about was "I'm going to miss Toonami!" It especially rankled because that week was the airing of a "Special Toonami Event: Intruder." It was never aired again. When I found it on Youtube I was overjoyed and watched them all at once. Then when Cartoon Network aired that 'April Fool's prank' this year and broadcasted Toonami on Saturday night I stayed up extra hours to watch more of it. The next day I joined the "Toonami Faithful" in their campaign to bring it back. When I saw one of them tweeting it was back I couldn't believe; even looking at the site on adult swim I couldn't believe it. Then I tweeted and shared on Facebook.

Toonami gave me my first experience in Anime (Japenese Animation). I can still remember them: Dragon Ball Z, Ronin Warriors, Card Captor Sakura...some of my favorite shows. I drew (and continue to draw) inspiration from them for my novels and general writing ideas. I will freely admit which influenced which subject (Dragon Ball Z power levels, Ronin Warrior mystic armor, Card Captor Sakura and its magical incantations....) and provided the 'Fuel' to power my writing drive. That 'favorite activity' I mentioned in the post "In The Zone"?  For me that's watching anime.  In fact, my very first work of fiction was for Card Captor Sakura. That eleven chapter fic has led me to a four book novel series. These days I regularly watch new series because Toonami opened that door for me.

Beyond shows to watch and something to look forward to, Toonami also provided life lessons. Not in that lame 'after school special' sense but in clip shows that ran during commerical breaks. "A boy has the right to dream; there are endless possibilities stretched out before him....what awaits him down the path he will then have to choose....." I still feel both joyous and scared when I remember that: the right to choose one's own path in life but to take responsibility for that path. "No one's giving to give you a map; you gotta walk your own path." Than a simple yet profound line. I recited it when I felt unsure; such as the final in a college level math course; "Believe in yourself and create your own destiny: don't fear failure."

I haven't been this excited since I got my new job or my driver's license. It really is that big a deal for me. I hope Toonami will stay on the air for a long time to come.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Primary Abstract vs Secondary Concrete, plus a preview

Journey To Chaos part 1: A Mage's Power Chapter 7: The Joust, a fantasy fiction - FictionPress.com

Chapter seven is a pivotal chapter. It is the start of the secondary conflict. Though it is secondary it is of great importance to the plot and the nature of the world. I need this plot to accomplish my most important goal with this book: for the reader to accept Tariatla as a 'real world with magic' instead of a 'magical world'.

Magical Worlds are always less real to the reader because they are magical. They contain things that don't exist in reality and the default notion is that they aren't real even inside the world of the story. Tvtropes describes this tendency in detail but the gist of it is the idea that only 'present day Earth' counts as real and anything else is by default 'not real' and instead some kind of metaphor. The purpose of the  secondary conflict is to avert this.

The primary conflict is Eric's lack self-confidence and his trials to overcome it, but that is an abstract conflict. If I wanted to make that the front and center conflict than the story would have to be metaphorical. The world itself would be different; not a real place but subconscious taken form. A secondary conflict that exists apart from Eric is needed to ground the action in 'reality'. Until now that conflict has been Eric settling into his new world (finding a job, a home, etc) and while that was useful for world building one cannot 'settle in' for two hundred pages. The real danger begins now.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

To Build a World Think About Ants

"What I have to know about a story is only a fraction of what I can tell about a story."

An author has to know how their world works. Otherwise something odd is going to happen and readers will call 'foul'. At that point they'll either dismiss the story or Fan Wank. This is especially important for Fantasy and Science Fiction writers, who will (at some point) have to explain the mechanics and limitations of their magic or science or risk losing them to 'plot device' status. This means doing a lot of thinking and a lot of self-research.

When I started the second chapter of "A Mage's Power" I realized I didn't know how the new world I created was supposed to work. At the time I didn't even know its name. So I took a break from writing. It must have been two months or more. I thought about how magic works, where monsters come from and the kind of society that would develop along side such a threat. I thought about the structure of the nation that Eric stumbles into: politics, geography, culture, economics, etc.  Any detail of Eric's life: the food he ate, the clothing he wore, his paycheck, etc I had to pin down in order to create the world he lived in. The most pressing question, of course, was: how would a real society handle a boy from another world that was dropped in their backyard by a trickster god that will appear if you say his name three times?

The answer to these questions can be found here at the free preview of "A Mage's Power".
That quote is from me, by the way.  I said it during a summer class titled "Topics in Creative Writing: Jack Kirby's New Gods". Yes, comic book legend Kirby.  It involved how he used the comic book medium to tell stories and juxtaposed it with illuminated manuscripts and poetry written by William Blake.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The sixth chapter is up

http://www.fictionpress.com/s/3008794/6/Journey_To_Chaos_part_1_A_Mages_Power

In this chapter Eric goes on his first official mission with his new team and settles into his new life. There's plenty of mundane boredom for the novice mercenary but also dangerous realities.

This chapter was in the works since the beginning. I watched this one show, it was on Discovery I think, where part of the cast's job was monitoring a community of local birds. I wanted to put a mercenary spin on that. I felt it would be a good way to establish the kind of drudgery that novice mercenaries had to do while providing time for the new team to bond.

Its also the chapter for their first "boss fight". As the book was inspired to a large extent by video games I had fun writing that. It also provided for great character development because the three respond in different ways.

Finally, in the most recent edit, I took the advice of a published author I encountered on twitter and added a weather element to the scene. He said it would help the atmosphere and it certainly did. I'm surprised how well it worked actually.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lightening Strike

My laptop is always on and 'wordpad' is pinned to my start menu. Inspiration can strike any time and anywhere; you have to be ready to catch the lightening or it will disappear. Good mods, bad moods or straight out of the wild blue yonder.

Just the other day I was editing Tv Tropes, not even thinking about writing, and suddenly....STRIKE! I felt this desire and and wrote for hours. I felt charged and alert; almost precognitive about what to write. I went to bed happy that night. Those times are unexpected and some of the most fun. Its like in Ancient Greece when philosophers wrote of being 'divinely inspired'. At times it feels like I'm being pulled along.

Bad moods usually lead to a 'locked status' as far as actually writing goes but they're still useful. I think 'silver lining' and suddenly the rough outline of a plot or story arc starts forming in my mind. My favorite instance of this is when my computer was sick (slow, Blue screen of death, etc). I thought about how this could work for a book and I got the same jolt of inspiration. I grabbed pen and paper and wrote as fast (and legibly) as I could. I filled both sides and and reached for a second sheet. Later I used that rough outline to for a story arc. I wrote the first two or three scenes and first draft looked great. That rarely happens.
Of course I aim for the good moods. I outlined how this usually happens in my other post "In the Zone". Its like stoking a fire until a blaze starts but you have to be ready to catch that spark. That's why my laptop is always on and always with me.


The Lightening Strikes here: http://tinyurl.com/c9drhbt