Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Insert blah-style descriptor here

I feel like I'm stuck in the end of summer doldrums. Everything is so meh ...

I've been working on a lot of projects, but none are progressing at the speed I'd like. I just haven't really been able to take a moment to recharge.

I'm also bummed that the inaugural season of the National Women's Soccer League is complete. I haven't really been a huge fan of any teams since college, so it was a lot of fun to have a team to cheer for and cry over (the Seattle Reign, in case you were wondering).

A lot of people probably didn't even know that there is a professional women's league in the US. Their loss. The quality of gameplay was excellent. Even better, there were a bunch of intenational's playing - amazing players like Jessica Fishlock, Christine Sinclair, Kaylyn Kyle, Renae Cuellar, and others that really gave the game some spectacle and flair.

Plus, you have to give props that they made every game available for viewing online, so you never had to miss a match. I'm hoping for some expansion teams for next season. Maybe one day, we'll get one in Florida.

Considering how many games I watched this season, I better get a lot of writing done before the next one comes around! It's a fun addiction, though.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The reader's the thing

I've just had my novel Shiloh's Way read and critiqued a few times as I work on the final edits. I've gotten some really useful feedback that's going to help a ton. However, seeing how two different editors viewed the text was hugely enlightening. I was blown away by how obviously readers being themselves into the works they're reading - through their own experiences or knowledge.

Let me provide a couple examples. My main character suffers from self-esteem issues. One editor is obviously a gregarious extrovert and very self assured. She found the character annoying from time to time, and couldn't fathom why the character acted the way she did. Meanwhile, the other editor was like, I totally get her. I've been there with those issues.

Isn't that a lot like real life? People who have never suffered from, say, depression have a very hard time understanding or having empathy for those that do. You often hear things like, just snap out of it, stop feeling sorry for yourself, yadda yadda yadda. Yeah. Not that easy.

Another point that was really funny to me is that I have goblins in the book, and it was suggested I be careful borrowing too much from Tolkien. It's true that the goblins were based on a literary predecessor, but it they came from Christina Rosetti's Goblin Market -- published 75 years before The Hobbit. It's just humorous because, since everyone has seen the movies or read the books, there is an assumption that Tolkien created all these things.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll be working on these edits for awhile. Hopefully, with the great help I've received from these editors, I'll be able to turn it into something worthwhile!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A name unlike any other

You know what's hard? Names.

Naming a character has a massive impact on how readers first view a character. It's strange, but you automatically begin to make assumptions simply based on what the writer decides to call someone. Pictures pop to mind if you read Abner Snodgrass or Mildred Grimes as opposed to Ace Hunter or Sydney Miles.

So, you want the name to sound right, be evocative, and have some meaning behind it. After all, you will be using it an awful lot.

I've been struggling over names for my new work for weeks now. I think I have one so far. Ugh.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Twirl that mustache!

Villains are interesting.

When you look at your prototypical Cambellian mythic hero, they're not really very complicated. While their temperament is variable, they always suffer to fight the good fight. Although they may struggle, their ultimate choice to is to stand against evil, turn back the darkness, and protect the innocent. So, their motivations aren't that complex.

A good villain on the other hand needs a really powerful motivation that is able to overcome the mores and ethics of their culture. The important thing to remember is, bad guys don't see themselves as villains. They don't commit crimes or hurt people to be "evil." If you want a strong, fascinating antagonist, there has to be a reason that they move and take action.

To me, those are the most interesting foils for heroes. Sometimes, the proper motivation can actually make you feel empathy for the antagonist, think Inspector Javert - born in prison, dedicating his life to law and justice to the point it blinds him to the inequality around him. So, we understand him, even if we can't accept his dogmatic pursuit of Valjean.

The proper motivation can make you despise a villain more while allowing you to better understand why they choose the actions they do. Look at Voldemort in Harry Potter -- he's just basically a racist. It's a reflection of the horrible things we see in our own culture - to worry more about purity of blood than worth of character. How many racist organizations are currently active in our enlightened age? Too many. But, Rowling embed him with a deeper motivation, his desire to be in control of his destiny, to be special, and his disgust of his origins ... this resonates with a lot of people.

I bring all this up as I begin to crystallize the antagonists for my new project. Last night, all the threads came together creating a pattern for my big bad's actions. It's really exciting when story points coalesce into something resembling a salient plot.

So, yay! I have a bad guy!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Starting anew!

Hello, blog! Long time, no type.

I've been working on a lot of projects, one of the most time-consuming is called real life. I'm a little skeptical about how it's going to turn out, but I can't really stop it now. So, first a quick update.

Blackburn Burrow, my horror/adventure screenplay is still under option for a few more months at Amazon Studios. The comic books they commissioned by Ron Marz and Matthew Dow Smith have all been released on Amazon, so go get them! Ron Marz always tells a good story, and I adore Matthew Dow Smith's art style.

Now, I have talked with a lot of people about the adaption, and the consensus has been that they'd rather keep the creatures alive rather than undead, because they're unique and new. And, by a LARGE margin, people don't want Merrin to be a romantic interest of Mister's. I wrote the screenplay with teen girls and women in mind in order to provide a good role model on the screen. Women don't have to have a man to kick butt or be a strong character. It gets shoehorned into so many stories where it doesn't need to be. The adopted father/daughter relationship between Mister and Merrin is a selling point. It's different. It makes her much stronger, as well, as she's more of the focus.

However, while I would love Amazon Studios to stick to the original premise, I understand if they want to go another way. That's the movie business -- just like I enjoyed the comics that were very different, I'd enjoy the move the studio made. If they choose to pass on the option, I won't give up on it. Blackburn Burrow has a lot of promise! It doesn't need a huge budget -- I think that would actually hurt the film. I'd prefer intimate horror to big set pieces. Anyway, I'm happy however it goes.

I do know one thing, though -- after seeing Amazon's pilots for TV shows, they put out a great product. It would be in good hands with them. If it comes back to me, maybe I'll turn it into a novel.

Speaking of novel's -- Shiloh's Way is off being edited right now. This is more of a content edit and critique to help me shape it up. I'm seriously considering putting it in the Kindle store for people to check out once rewrites are out of the way. It's pretty unique for a fantasy novel, but it still needs a LOT of work.

I am currently working on a new project that I'm developing in a different manner. I've got the structure, and I kind of want to write it into that framework. Think of a novel-length haiku, in a way. Sometimes, having a fixed structure can really help focus your writing. It may work, it may not.

I plan on using the blog as a warm-up exercise as I write, so you'll be hearing more about it soon!

Don't forget, the four issues of Blackburn Burrow are still free on Amazon! Go get them, and leave a review -- perferably stating you'd love to see it as a movie! ;)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I want a do over.

I want my week back.

The last seven days went something like this ...

Some sort of freeway monster ate my license plate between Orlando and Jacksonville, causing a lovely (and expensive) visit to the DMV. I was visited by a lovely influenza virus and her date, Mr. Respiratory Infection (he's a bacteria; it's a problem with their parents, but they're working it out). Of course, that kept me home from work and sent me on a lovely (and expensive) trip to the doctor. Fortunately, my neighbors decided to keep me entertained while I was trapped in bed with the constant hammering and drilling of a construction project. We end that with the kitchen sink drain pipe exploding. Ok, it didn't explode. That's hyperbole. It vomited. No, really; right after I used the churned stuff up in the disposall, a hole ripped open in the pipe depositing what looked like cat vomit all over the place.

Let's just say, it was a terrible week for writing. Hope I can start getting caught up as my strength comes back.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

At least I'm in the hunt!

I forgot to mention that on Feb 1 the BlueCat Screenplay Competition announced that one of my scripts had moved forward to the quarterfinalist round. Some honesty is important here -- usually, the scripts that make it through the first round in a contest tend to be the ones that were actually formatted correctly. I know that everyone always wants to think it's because of their amazing talent, but a lot of garbage gets submitted to these things. The readers often have to wade through hundreds of submissions that don't follow the rules of screenwriting.

So, making it to the next round just means my script is at least mediocre and that my Final Draft program is working correctly. If you'd like some numbers, the contest had 3391 submissions with about 10% moving on to the next round (341 scripts).

The nicest thing about BlueCat is that you get feedback on your entry as part of the entry fee. I think that I, and a lot of writers, really view it as a cheap way to get your script read and get some notes, with the contest being a bonus. They do offer a much more in-depth analysis, but being the poor scribe that I am, it's not something I can really afford.

The competition has a page count cut-off. Of course, my screenplay was far past that, mainly due to the nature of my script's genre and my poor skills. So, I was forced to do the ol' chop chop to make the submission requirement. The fastest place was to cut the majority of the denouement. I still believe it's an important part of the script, but you can get the gist of where the future is leading my characters without it. Of course, what was one of the main complaints in the critique I received? The reader thought the ending was too abrupt and cheated the viewer. Well, sir -- I agree! At least it shows that the reader REALLY did read the script.

The screenplay I submitted was Gaia 4: The Last City, my anime/space opera homage. There is really nothing along the lines of Macross or Lensman coming out of American cinema these days, although I really feel that there is a hunger for that sort of story. The script is also based on a novel I'm working on, although it's slow going. Hopefully, I'll have an update on that sometime soon.

If you wanted to check out all the quarterfinalists, you can do so here.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Reach out to the truth ...

It's not any secret that I'm a huge fan of games, of both the video and board varieties. Part of the reason I love games is that some tell you a story and some allow you create your own. It's the same reason I love movies and books. It's all about the tale it tells and the characters involved.

One of my favorite games of all time is Persona 4. I bring it up because, not only was a new version of the game recently released for the Sony Vita, the animated series is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. I love the characters, the concept, and the arc of the story. The tale is unique, yet also familiar; it's iconoclastic, but also archetypal. That's not to say it is the deepest and most profound story ever told; it's not. I just find it highly enjoyable.

The core concept that really draws me in is the idea that, at some point, you must face another you -- the you that contains all the beliefs, desires, and motivations that you dislike about yourself. By facing this other part of you and accepting it, you gain power. Now, accepting doesn't mean that you would continue with a destructive behavior, rather that by finally acknowledging that the behavior is really you, you're given the ability to overcome it and change yourself. However, the first step is accepting you as you are.

It's a powerful message. If you get a chance, check it out!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Masochism as a way of life

As a writer, it's often very difficult to get honest feedback. In my opinion, there are two types of dishonesty when dealing with criticism of your work. The first is the most obvious and common -- people just don't want to:

a) be mean
b) get on your bad side
c) harm a friendship/relationship
d) all of the above

It's actually really selfish. I know that sounds weird, because, after all, this person took time out of their life and busy schedule to read something for you. However, being less than honest is the opposite of being helpful, it literally harms your ability to properly edit and shape your work. Why do they do this? So that they aren't uncomfortable. That's selfish. It's better to say, "I don't feel comfortable critiquing your work."

The second type of dishonesty comes through disinterest. An uninterested party will often give your work just a cursory review, leading to poor feedback that can be just as dangerous. The critique masquerades as a powerful, impartial examination, but in reality it's just a sloppy glance that leads you astray.

You really have to be on your guard for both these types of input.

You also have a responsibility to both properly and specifically inform your reader what sort of feedback you desire, and you must accept the critique with grace and courtesy.

When you hand something to someone to read, be honest as to what you're looking for in return. Unless they're from an MFA in English program somewhere, they've never really been trained how to give feedback.

My first reaction on getting feedback is to always argue the reader's conclusions. I desperately want to defend my work and it's validity. I think it's just natural - the way parents often defend their kids before knowing the whole story. Put the feedback aside after you read it. Calm down. Read it again. Never respond immediately. Technology seems to drive us towards our baser responses, and it would be so easy to fling off an e-mail into the wired. Don't do it.

The reality is -- I'd rather someone say my piece just doesn't work, than to get some false praise that keeps me engaged in a fruitless pursuit. Value honesty.

So, to me, writers must have a certain masochistic streak. The only way our works get better is if they're torn down. It's a very organic thing, though -- like growing muscle. If you want to write, you're going to get hurt. But, to paraphrase Pink (wow, NEVER thought I'd ever type that ... I should take a screenshot), just because you're hurt, it doesn't mean you'll die. Keep at it.

And, find someone good to give you feedback!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I love all the bits and pieces

My last blog spoke a bit to the concept of world building. I love how compact, creative expressions can create a world - a song, a poem, or even a painting. I long for my writing to be even partially as concise as those forms.

While not considered a particularly literary pursuit, I have really enjoyed some of the worlds expressed through board games! I've always loved video games, but there is something visceral about the tactile nature of board games - the pieces, the cards, the dice, or whatever each individual game may bring.

A lot of people think of Monopoly or Life as being the essential board games; those people are missing out. I highly encourage you to check out the web site for Board Game Geek. You'll see a list for The Hotness on the left hand side. You'll be blown away by the variety and scope of the games listed. Besides that, some of the art is AMAZING.

I bring this up because I've long thought about creating a game in an unusual world I've been thinking about. Cooperatively competitive ... Meaning, you do better the more you work with others. I would love to support the world with short stories and novels, but I think I want to start with the game. More on it later!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The world is the thing.

As I await the fate of Blackburn Burrow, I'm working on several other projects. One is a sci-fi anime homage called Gaia 4. While I have a first draft screenplay done, I really consider that more of an outline for the novel. It gave me ample opportunity to develop the characters voices, while creating dynamic, moving plot.

However, unlike books, film uses cheats to world build. You're given visual clues with connotations as to the social and political nature of the culture. The written word allows you to go so much deeper. World-building is one of the greatest joys of writing. It also takes a heck of a lot of work and is filled with myriad pitfalls. If you build a certain pillar of the culture, you can't just go an ignore it several chapters or books later. As a reader, I despise that kind of retcon, and I constantly endeavor to never force my readers to face such a disconnect.

Gaia 4 has the subtitle The Last City -- and, that's exactly what it is, an isolated and completely insular colony. Knowing that, and knowing what is to come, it was important to generate a mechanism to explain why there hadn't been more of a cultural shift in the society, especially when faced with the constant stresses they've endured. The answer has to be completely organic.

So, I had to begin at the establishment of the city and accept that the city's "history" may actually change the story I envisioned. A story is a huge puzzle; the pieces have to fit. If you force something into your story that doesn't belong, it really affects the integrity of the whole narrative.

Just a little something I was thinking about.

Don't forget, you can download copies of the Blackburn Burrow comic for free through Amazon! The art is amazing. Definitely worth checking out.