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Absent

20 Mar

Oh boy, I’ve been neglecting you, poor readers!

Work, New Jobs & Stuff

Honestly, I’ve been so swamped with finding new work and getting my business running that I’ve completely pushed aside my writing life.

*sighs*

Lately, when I come home from work, I’ve noticed that it’s almost impossible for me to get into the mood to write or edit.  As such, I’ve determined if I’m going to keep at this novel thing, I have to get up extra early and do my writing then.  In the afternoon/evening I find myself naturally wanting to work on stuff related to my business.

So yeah, early morning novel stuff–that’s definitely gonna take discipline…lol.

Inspiration

What actually prompted me to remember all of this was the fact that I just finished playing the new Tomb Raider reboot last night.  Some of you know I’m a fan of Lara Croft, as well other archaeological and tomb-raiding characters such as Indiana Jones and Evelyn from The Mummy series.  I love globe-trotting adventures that are connected to mysteries of historical significance.  This very same spirit runs through my novel, Element 7–in its own fantastical “secondary world” way, of course. 😉

For reasons I can’t explain, few things make me say “stop the world–all else is on hold!” like a new Tomb Raider game would–and that’s Indiana Jones, The Mummy, and new episodes of “The Legend of Korra.”

Silly, but true.

Anyway…the new Tomb Raider game was pretty darn awesome, imo.  And even though it’s set on one island rather than in multiple locations like the old games (or the ones I played, anyway), it’s still epic in its own way.  As you can imagine, after finishing the game I was reminded of my own adventure story, which has gone neglected for too long now…

A Struggle

This editing/writing stuff has always been a constant struggle for me, but now it’s only going to get tougher.  I’m basically going to be working three jobs in the upcoming weeks–one with my current part-time retail position, another part-time job as a contractor for a lady who runs an estate sales business, and then my own business.  So, as you an imagine, squeezing in writing time is not gonna be easy.  (Of course, not playing video games might help. 😉 Though, everyone needs a little downtime and a way to replenish their imaginations.)

So why am I doing aaaaall of this?

Because I haven’t been able to find something in my field full-time.

The good news is that the estate sales lady wants to draw in more business so that she can have a full-time team and offer better pay–which means I could eventually drop the retail job and focus on the other one while doing my own design stuff on the side (as most interior designers and decorators do these days, I’ve learned).

It might all work out; it might not.  At this point, though, I’m willing to try just about anything!

Carry On

I don’t know how much blogging I’ll get to do nowadays, but I’ll be sure to keep you folks posted.  I’ve got a lot on my plate, but Element 7 is always on the back of my mind and I’m not gonna abandon it yet after all this time.

As it always has, it will take time to finish the job, but by golly I will finish it!

Addendum: oh yeah!  By the way, I came across this cool new blog called The Archaeology of Tomb Raider, if anyone is interested. 😀

Epic Emotions, Heroes & Parallels – Writing From The Heart

5 Dec

I have to be honest… I’ve felt a tremendous need for introspection over the past week or so on things that have nothing to do with my writing–probably because I’m going through a lot of changes.  Though, don’t worry, I’ll spare you most of the details.

One thing I do want to say is this: one way some of my most recent experiences are actually related to my writing, however, is that suddenly I feel more connected to my characters–particularly my heroine.

I remember when I was working on the last couple of scenes in Element 7 during my heavy edits, I felt really emotional about them because, in a way, I was going through some of the same things that my MC (main character) was: heart-break, confusion, disappointment…

Those are very potent, less-than-desirable experiences.  Though, perhaps going through these things will only help to make my writing that much more potent.

2012 has been a very dark year for me, actually (and most will never understand just how dark it truly was for me).  And really, it’s only been in the last couple of months that I’ve felt those dark clouds start to roll away.  The future–my future–doesn’t look quite as…well, bleak as it once did before.  I’d lost any sense of purpose in my life, but lately I’ve seemed to find some…

The Drifter, by Jack Vettriano.

The Drifter, by Jack Vettriano.

A Call to Action

I’m sure many writers know that there’s a moment in every epic “Hero’s Journey” story known as the Call to Action (or Adventure).  (This is relevant because Element 7 is, essentially, an nontraditional hero’s journey, folks!)  Typically, this Call occurs closer to the beginning of a story, but…I’m working on a trilogy, and I think my novel actually has two Calls to Action–one near the beginning, and one right at the end.

Why?

Well, there’s got to be something to look forward to in the sequel…right?  (‘Course, gotta leave readers hanging a bit, as well. ;))

Anyway, the reason I’m even bringing this up is because right now I feel like I am facing my own Call to Action (with starting my own interior design business and whatnot)…and, to be honest, it’s a pretty darn scary place to be.  If I chicken out, then I won’t have a “story” to live out and tell to others; if I answer the call…

…Well, I’ll kinda have to change.

Fact is I can’t continue to be the person I currently am if I want to get to where I want to go in life.  I have to move even more out of my comfort zone than I’ve been doing lately.

Baby steps are great, for a while, but sometimes you just have to take a huge freakin’ leap if you want to get to The Next Level.

You know what I’m sayin’?

Personal (Ironic) Parallels Between Fiction & Reality

So when I first started formulating the basic ideas behind Element 7, I was 19.

I’m 24 now.  (Yes, that means it’s been over 5 years since I started working on this thing!)

Ironically, my main character, Voi, is also 24, so I’m just now catching up to her, lol.  Also, ironically, Voi once made the decision to run her own business at a young age.  She’s a bit ahead of me, in some ways, and lately I haven’t just been looking at her as a hero so much as my hero.

Yes, that’s right–I actually look up to a fictional character.

You see, Voi is a lot more outgoing than I am.  She’s not afraid to do something crazy–like drop out of college to pursue her love of flight and become a stunt flyer then later an entrepreneur.  She’s not afraid to make mistakes–or rather, she doesn’t let fear stop her from making them.  Also, she’s a bit of a pioneer.

Most entrepreneurs are, methinks.

The point is I kinda admire that about her, and it’s only been recently that I’ve been able to relate to her so utterly directly.

It’s kinda neat.

So, as I sit here churning out my last edits before beta reading, I feel that I’m at a special point in my life where I can stop writing/editing from the notes and outdated plans and whatnot and just simply write from the heart.

Hmm…yeah, so no prompt this time!

Like I said, I’ve kind of been in an introspective mood, so I don’t really have a prompt for you readers like I usually do at the end, heh.  However, if you have any comments, do feel free to share! 😀

Writing Action Scenes

3 Oct

This past week I’ve been working on some scenes that lead to the climax of my WIP, and since it is an adventure story…well, that means a lot of action.

The Challenge of Writing Action Scenes

I think it’s pretty well-known amongst writers that when you’re writing an action scene you want to avoid using long descriptions (and words).  This creates the feeling of snappier pacing, mimicking the inherent swiftness of action sequences.  The challenge, then, comes in relaying necessary information that gives the reader a clear picture of what’s going on…without getting terribly wordy about it.

Easier said than done!

When I write I see everything as a movie, full color ‘n’ all.  I have this saying: if I can’t see it, I can’t write it–’cause it’s true!  I can also be very detail-oriented, zooming in on certain aspects in attempt to render full three-dimensional imagery, so it’s been challenging for me to weed out less-than-critical details during action sequences when my narration pacing feels like it’s starting to drag.

For example, the other day I was editing a scene that involves four of my main characters who were…well, violently engaging four antagonists, heh.  (Let’s just say there were both conventional weapons, like guns and knives, as well as magic involved.)  Most of everyone was doing something in the scene and it took place in a relatively confined area.  My POV character was in a position to see most of all that was going on, so I wanted to reflect that in my writing, mentioning only what he would likely notice.  Also, sometimes he likes to check on his team members by flashing a quick look over his shoulder or whatnot, so then there was that.

That’s a lot of information to juggle, when you think about it.

As far as I see it, the more props and actors (so to speak) that you have in a scene, the more difficult it’s going to be to clearly communicate what’s happening.  As such, you have to be strategic in what you focus on in your narration, which is usually (though not always) anything dealing directly with the POV character–unless you’re writing from an omniscient viewpoint… o_O

As an example, it might be tempting to launch into description as to what your character’s opponent(s) looks like, but unless something about that person’s appearance hinges on an earlier plot point or provides necessary context for the current situation–oh look, it’s that man with the good-looking smile who you thought was actually a good guy!–it maaaay not be the best idea to include that kind of detail.

This is what I’ve realized over time, anyway.

Linky Linky!

Not long ago, when I was tweeting about working on an action scene, fantasy writer Lindsay Kitson shared with me a link to some articles with advice on writing fight scenes.  The author, Marie Brennan, mentions having some martial arts training (fencing and karate, it looks like).  In any case, you might find the link worth a look!

What do you do to make writing action scenes easier or flow more smoothly?

The Encounter

28 Oct

It’s #FlashFriday again, and the #FridayFictioneers are writing and sharing their 100-word(+/-) stories over at Madison Woods’ blog.  You can check out some of their stories and even share one of your own, if you’re interested.

So far I’ve typically used Madison’s inspiration images as a prompt, but yesterday I came across a soundtrack that I really liked and wanted to write a scene based off that.  Here’s a YouTube video of the piece that inspired this 100-word short for this week, from the Tomb Raider: Underworld soundtrack by Colin O’Malley, supervised by Troels Brun Folmann:

I found an inspiration image, as well:

I don’t know if that particular jellyfish is stingless (relevant later), but I thought it was pretty. 🙂 Anyway, it was just for inspiration.

Oh yeah–and Lois is back! 😀

~

The Encounter

Lois plunged through an underwater tunnel to escape the imploded ruins above.  She burped out bubbles, anxious to resurface.

A blue glow beckoned from a leftward passage and she surged towards it.  Rough stone abruptly fell into a formless void, leaving her floating.  Overhead, a great mass of delicate translucent creatures pulsed with light, gorging and relapsing to propel themselves gracefully through the water.

The transfixing beauty involuntarily tranquilized Lois, subduing her need for air.  She watched, unhurried, as a jellyfish drifted by; its tentacles brushed her face.  Invigorated, she shoved water behind her, breaching through the creatures without fear.

~

Introducing…Athena Voltaire!

31 Aug

This isn’t exactly “writing” stuff (more like inspiration), but…yesterday I was trying to hunt down this movie that, several years back, I saw either a trailer of or movie stills for (at least I thought I did) which involved either a Chinese or Japanese spy around the WWII era (I know! I can’t remember which)…and she was wearing this pilot helmet, and…that’s all I remember.

Not much to go on, I know.  That’s why I couldn’t find it!  (If it even exists.)

But that’s okay–because I accidentally came across something infinitely more amazing!

She’s a pilot, she’s handy with a pistol, she can kick some Nazi butt… Who is this chick?

Introducing: Athena Voltaire!

Athena Voltaire started out as an online web comic which, after earning a nomination for an Eisner Award and becoming a big success, carried over into print (available here).  In the creator Steve Bryant‘s own words during a Critical Mess interview in 2010, “Athena Voltaire is a book about a 1930s globetrotting aviatrix who fights Nazis and supernatural creatures. That’s the book in a nutshell.”  It was inspired by the likes of James Bond and Indiana Jones, as well as the real-life aviatrix Florence Lowe “Poncho” Barnes, and is described as a pulp adventure.  (Originally she was to be a space ranger, though I, for one, am glad for the change.)

Seriously, what’s not to love!  (Okay, she is portrayed as an obvious feast-for-the(-male)-eyes with a cleavacious 36-24-36 figure, but the concept is cool enough that I can get over this.)

You can check out some of the comics here (just click the images to progress through the story).  To learn more about the comics and the illustrator, check out these interviews on Westfield Comics and The Mighty Crusaders Network, as well as Bryant’s own blog.  (Interested but don’t feel like reading?  Well, check out this MTV Geek! video interview with Bryant instead.)

Lastly, here is a teaser video for Athena Voltaire: Flight of the Falcon when it first came out in ’06:

And if you really love it, you can even “like” it on Facebook. 🙂

In The Meantime…

I should get back to editing.  Though, coming across this while working on a rough spot in the manuscript was pretty inspirational.  A reminder of the kind of thing I’m working towards: good, old-fashioned adventurous fun.  Complemented by moments of introspective character study, of course.  I enjoy a bit of both.  (I also came across some really cool information about earlier aircraft models as well as modern-day fixed-wing VTOL aircraft, but…I won’t go into that.)

How About You All?

Have you come across anything recently that has inspired you with ideas or just provided that bit extra motivation you needed to push through something that wasn’t working out?

The Adventures of Philip Marlowe!

4 Aug

Since Anthony asked about this earlier, I figured I’d just make a quick post about it!  (Easier to find on the site than a comment on a post, heh.)

You may have heard of writer Raymond Chandler’s famous character before, Philip Marlowe–a hardboiled, wisecracking private eye.  Several movies have been made featuring this character, including The Big Sleep (1946) with Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe and a later adaptation The Long Goodbye (1973) featuring Elliott Gould, as well as some TV and radio adaptations.

Lots of radio adaptations.

I’ve only seen a couple of the movies like The Long Goodbye and listened to a handful of the radio episodes, particularly the ones voiced by Gerald Mohr.  (I admit, I have a weakness for his voice! lol)  Though, they were very entertaining and I’ve very much derived inspiration from them.

Anyway, if you’re into film noir and detective pulp adventures, then you should definitely check out some of the radio episodes from The Adventures of Philip Marlowe on the Internet Archive.  They’ve got a pretty big collection there and you can listen to them and even download some onto your MP3 player!

Great for a listen while you’re stuck commuting in traffic. 😉

Now, how about a movie trailer?

I Think I’m In Love (Plus Thoughts on Pioneers & Unassuming Heroines)

3 Aug

No, not in love with a man.  (Or with a woman, for that matter.)  But rather, with a book.

Oh, come on, now, don’t give me that look!  Like it’s never happened to you.

Here, allow me to explain.

Pioneering OSS Agents (need I say more?)

While on vacation I was reading (studying, more like) this super interesting book called Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs: The Unknown Story of World War II’s OSS by Patrick K. O’Donnell…and OMG, it has all sorts of information I haven’t been able to find about technology just before and during WWII.  (It’s the little things in life that make me squeal with delight, simultaneously rousing my muse to an uber happy place.)  This book talks about what kind of training their recruits had to go through, some key operations and also some of the gadgets spies used back then like knives disguised as pens, fairly elegant dart guns, and the “L” (lethal) pill, among other things.  (Whispers: it even has pictures!)

Quite fascinating, really, and I’m simply in awe by the amount of research that went into putting this book together.  Lots of riveting first-hand accounts.  (I haven’t read a book this interesting in ages, so I guess this says something about the fiction I’ve read in that time, eh?)

…And the whole time I’m reading it I’m mentally generating scene ideas for my next novel while meditating on how to improve various details in my current WIP to make them more life-like.

Entertainment, education, inspiration… What more could you possibly ask for in a historical novel?

Why Else This Book Rox My Sox

It’s especially lovely because it almost reads like a genre historical war/espionage thriller yet at the same time is so informative.  (The only big difference is that the author likes to tell you things before he reveals them via storytelling.  “Operation X would be his demise.  This is how it happened.”  He does it more elegantly than this, of course, and in more detail, but that’s pretty much how it goes down.)

Also, when reading the first-hand accounts, you really do get a sense of the character of a lot of these guys and the human aspect of being involved in a pioneer organization.  One of my favorite passages was regarding a mission to gather intelligence in Istanbul; surviving team member Spiro Cappony recalls:

I accepted the mission and was joined by two other team members, A. Georgiades and Mike Angelos, and they said, ‘Gus (they called me Gus), how the hell are we going to get to Istanbul?’  This is how new we were.  ‘Who’s going to meet us?’  ‘A guy by the name of Spurning, he’s a professor from Yale University.’  One of them said, ‘How the hell are we going to know who the guy is?’  I said, ‘Well, my orders say he’s going to show a ruby ring on his finger.’  ‘Man oh man these guys are crazy,’ remarked one of the guys. (107)

I mean this is enough cause and inspiration for me to make parodies of the classic spy story or something.  I love it.

Here’s another brief passage that I just love about an operational group, comprising Greek-American and Greek national recruits, who were to be deployed in Greece:

At [Camp Patrick Henry in Virginia] our boys would march and sing, both in English and Greek, and the entire camp would say, ‘Who are these guys?’  We were dressed smartly, had new experimental clothing including jump boots, and we were the first unit to be assigned the new Eisenhower jacket.  We looked good, acted good, and the biggest thing, we felt good. (110-111)

Yeah, classic cocky guy talk and behavior.  I am just itching to write about more characters like this in my next novel who are new to some experimental endeavor.  (Much like America’s pioneering airmail pilots, who have also been a big inspiration for me; I guess you could say I have a thing for pioneers, heh.)

As it turns out, though, my heroine is more of a “sky spy” than a conventional field agent (kind of playing off those conspiracy stories that claim Amelia Earhart was spying on the Japanese here), so I’ll probably get more mileage out of this historical account after I start writing the next novel…like sometime next year, heh.  Still, it does help.

Learning Along With Your Characters

Sometimes I feel I’m at a big disadvantage in that I don’t have any experience in the types of things I want to write about, so reading books like this really helps to put things in perspective for me.

I remember when I first started doing drafts of my novel how I wanted to write about a heroine who was highly experienced in all of tasks she is hired to do throughout the story but then later decided to go the route of someone who was new to many aspects of her world.  T. S. Bazelli once wrote an article about Lost World Fiction in her Speculative Fiction Genre Glossary Project, and while talking about the Lara Croft adventures I mentioned how originally I wanted to write about an actiony Croft-type character who was not only adventurous and very knowledgeable in her field but could also kick some serious butt.  However, the more my story evolved and the more I learned about my leading character, the more I realized that this approach wasn’t right for her story because I was starting it at a point in her life where she didn’t (yet) have those kinds of qualities.  Instead, she starts off more like Evelyn from The Mummy, with some background in art history and pretty much zero experience as a treasure-seeker or gunfighter–thank you very much, Mr. O’Connell-types.

And as a first-time novelist I think there’s some advantage to not writing about a woman who is super kick-ass heroine right off the bat, but rather an unassuming heroine–one who is clearly not everything her employers need her to be though chooses to undergo transformation in order to become that person.  (This is a perfect place to start with a protagonist if you’re writing epic fantasy, I think, and I suspect my story could actually be classified as epic, though it is not traditionally so.)  For one, as she learns more about her world and is trained to acquire new skill sets, the reader also learns about the world and how things are supposed to work.  Also, as the author, such an approach allows you to learn things as you go along–especially during the editing stage when you’re trying to color in those little particulars you just kind of sketched in before.

…Which is kind of nice when you know just a little as your protagonist going in!

So Yeah, This Has All Been Extremely Fascinating…

But I really should get back to work now!  (Returning from vacation doesn’t make this easy, heh.)

Though, I do still need a prompt…

What are/were some major sources of inspiration for your current or most recent WIP?

Also, how has learning more about that source shaped the direction you chose to take your story in?

Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec!

21 Apr

Sometimes it’s amusing to learn how people discover your blog.  Take “Top Searches,” for example.  In the past week I think the weirdest one that’s led here is undoubtedly “nyxnissa lesbian.”

Hm… I don’t think I ever discussed lesbians before.  (Though, I have mentioned Nyxnissa.)

Ah, well, that’s not what I really wanted to talk about today.  I’ve got a quick movie review for you, dear audience!  Finally got around to watching this strange piece of work.  It’s quirky, it’s fun, it’s whimsical…

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you:

Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle BlancSec! (Or, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec!)

As you can see, it is a French film.  That may be enough information for you, lol, but if not read on!

About the Film

The Extraordinary Adventures was originally released about a year ago in France.  But it’s so wonderful and unusual (and likely little heard of here in the states) that I just have to share it with you!

The movie is based off a comic series, actually, of the same name.  You can actually preview the first volume of the comic and even purchase it on Amazon, if you so desire.  As for the movie, it is viewable in French or English and/or with subtitles.  Though, I recommend it be viewed in French with the English subtitles, if you don’t already understand French.

The Story

The story takes place in Paris, France of 1912.  There is an elderly man, up to something decidedly occult in his apartment, with a nagging question on his mind: Is there life after death?  Next thing you know that pterodactyl egg over in the museum has come to life and Paris is suddenly in uproar!

Meanwhile, the lovely and daring Adèle Blanc-Sec, played by Louise Bourgoin, is finishing up a book-signing (she is a journalist and writer, you see) so that she might hurry on over to Egypt to consult a certain dead pharaoh’s doctor on the matter of her terribly, tragically ill sister.  Through a series of ridiculous events, Adèle manages to pluck her sought-after mummy from its tomb, evade the local authorities and emerge unscathed and victorious with her prize.  She then packages said mummy for transportation along with her other luggage back to Paris, where she may consult the elderly man–who just so happens to be a scientist with a knack for bringing things to life–from aforementioned apartment and bring her catatonic sister back to vibrant life.

The rest is complete absurdity and mayhem of the utmost degree!

I should mention that one of the most enjoyable aspects of the movie is not just the outlandish adventure but Adèle herself.  She is incredibly feisty, sardonic and entirely capable of accomplishing whatever it is she sets out to do, thank you very much.  Here is a still of our leading lady:

…and when she’s not being a lady, shamelessly charming men to do her bidding–the true Adèle:

(Yes, as brief as it may be, there is some nudity.)

Overall, the film is very much absurd and implausible–which makes it all the more endearing!  It is what it is, and I’d give it five stars for being so much fun.

For more information and an interactive experience sure to please, you can check out the film’s official website (you can view it in English) and discover the Paris of 1912!

About the Director/Writer/Producer

Luc Besson was the guy behind several successful films, but perhaps he is best known for his work in The Fifth Element.  He’s also known for Leon: The Professional, Taken, and The Transporter series.  But The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is quite different.  Still, it maintains that sense of wild adventure you’d expect from Besson.

…And that’s a wrap, folks!

It’s lunchtime then back to work for me.

Oh, I almost forgot the trailer (an English version):