Saturday, September 8, 2018

Anthology is GO!

So, as of a few minutes ago, the anthology is a go! I have completed all of the editing, the formatting, and even the cover image. I decided against the interior art, mainly due to wanting to be done with it (more on that later).

Right now I'm going to sit on it for a bit, then probably start sending it out to my PDF purchasers within the next day or two.

For those wanting a .mobi file, that will take a bit of doing. I have to re-familiarize myself with the program I use to create them, and then make sure all of the formatting translates properly. So, assuming I can get that all figured out, I should be able to send that out in a few days.

So, if you are interested in this anthology, click the link to the right, and make sure to tell me which format you want, and if you want it sent to a different email address than your PayPal account uses. This includes those who want a .mobi file. Let me know your Kindle's address and I can send it there.


Anyways, as I inferred in my first new post, I'd like to get back into blogging about my usual stuff. So, here goes.

As long-time readers may recall, I have been struggling mightily with completing my Masters in History. Right now, I just need the Capstone and I am done. I quickly changed my mind about taking a comprehensive exam. I have, ironically for someone with a love of history, a horrible memory for the details. Dates, names, places, etc., it all escapes me when I try to remember it. In all honesty, History was probably the worst choice for a major for me. But, here I am. It's too late to turn back now.

So, I decided on the Thesis route. But, after dropping out of the Thesis class twice for being unable to really wrap my head around the concept, I switched my program at my college to a new one, which includes a "preparatory" class that wasn't included in my old program (and therefore, would not be paid for with Financial Aid). And I just started that class this week.

The main textbook had a nice section explaining the difference between a Term paper, which is all I had done up to this point, and a Thesis. And that was HUGE for me. I might actually get through this and come out with a Masters Degree (and a mountain of student debt, but let's not dwell on that).

On the writing front, I have been struggling to settle on a single project. This, as you may also recall, has been a problem of mine for years. Though I have taken to writing quite a lot of RPG material. I may even re-open my RPG blog and talk about that.

As for reading, I actually hit 14 of my stated goal of 20 books for 2018 last night. granted several of them are kid's books that I have read to my son at bedtime, and at least one of them is a graphic novel (Spider-man Noir, highly recommended!). But, hey, reading is reading, right?

Anyways, anything fun happen in my absence?

Monday, September 3, 2018

Cover art?

One of the final steps in producing this anthology of my stories is artwork. Artwork always gives me the most trouble, especially when it has to do with some of my RPG writing projects. So, I'm happy to share that I actually have a cover image I am going to probably use.

The interesting thing is that this artwork solved two problems I was struggling with. First off, it relates to the stories inside by being a direct reference to one of them. It's a modification of the cover used for "The Orc Way" (as you can see in the link image to the right). And that fact lead me to a solution for the other problem I had; what to title the whole thing.

Turns out "Orcish Ways" makes for a good title. It relates to the stories, as many of them involve orcs in some way. And with the cover image being used, it all kind of ties together nicely.

Now I'm waiting for my wife to do the interior art. Which are basically going to be portraits of the protagonists for each. She's already started, so i imagine those will get cranked out soon (she's pretty quick once she gets going on them).

Anyways, here's the artwork I am most likely going to use for the cover. Unless someone comes along and hands me something better.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

An anthology in the works!

I am re-opening this blog with a request for help combined with a bit of self-promotion. Don't worry, I plan to be around for more of my usual wit and charm as well.

The Pitch:
Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I am doing a fundraiser for my family. And, in an effort to avoid the fees associated with sites like GoFundMe and the like, I am handling it all myself.

However, this won’t just be me panhandling. This will be me selling my creations. As many of you know, I like to write fantasy stories. For a long time I had had many up on Amazon Kindle. But, those sales petered out pretty rapidly, and honestly weren’t very strong to begin with. So, I unpublished them and have been trying to find a home for them. Unfortunately, the market for “reprints” (which is what they are, since they were previously published) is pretty lean, and never pays well.

I have mentioned doing this before, but I find the situation is calling for some urgency. To that end, I am in the process of putting all of my stories together, along with a few new, unpublished stories, into an anthology. Right now, the initial plan will be to offer it electronically. There will be two options, PDF and .mobi (the format read by Kindle). I may find others that I can do and offer those as well. I will also be looking into POD versions through Lulu (or someplace else, if anyone has suggestions).

Right now, the work is about 80% done. Each story will have a brief introduction discussing the background of the story’s writing, what inspired and motivated me, and where the idea came from. Additionally, they will all be put through a quick editorial review, combing out any snarls and fixing any errors, and maybe adding a bit of clarification if necessary. And lastly I will put together some artwork for the cover and maybe some interior illustrations (though those don’t always work well with Kindle formats).

At this time, I am going to open it up for pre-orders of electronic formats through PayPal (see also the link on the sidebar to the right). If you are interested, the price is $5.00. When you place the order, make sure you tell me your preferred format, PDF or Kindle. If you choose Kindle, include your Kindle Account email address, and I can send the .mobi file directly there, assuming I can still create one. If not, your Kindle app is actually quite capable of reading PDFs as well.

Thank you for taking a moment to hear me out here. I appreciate even just that. And, if you aren’t interested in the actual anthology, I totally get it. No worries. I just ask that you consider sharing this. That, in itself, will be a huge help.

The following is the Table of Contents:

“Blood from Sand”
A desert warrior and an escaped slave who is more than she appears battle the dark arts of a mad sorcerer who wants what she has stolen.

In orc society, it is the females who choose their mates. Pekra sets her eye on one, but another has already marked him for her own.

“The Orc Way”
A group of orcs have been tasked with kidnapping a dwarf to learn the secrets of forging steel. The one they find turns out to be more than they had anticipated.

“On Pain of Delivery” (New)
A pregnant Pekra is left behind when her mate must make a journey for the clan. Her only companion is an outcast dwarf. When cabin fever sets in, all hell breaks loose.

An assassin takes a job, but to survive killing her target, she must battle the most dangerous foe she can imagine.

“The Darkest Seed” (New)
A strange fog arises, enveloping a Viking ship. What the fog brings with it is beyond even the most feared imaginings of these fierce warriors.

“The Gauntlet of Glowar” (New)
A mercenary is left for dead on a battlefield, but somehow lives. Yet, in order to survive, he must make a pact with an ancient artifact.

“The Keep of Glowar” (New)
Lead to an ancient, abandoned ruin by an annoying spirit, a warrior must confront the new tenants and their horrific leader.

“The Naked Dead” (New)
What started out as a routine cargo run turns into a horrific fight for life, as an intrepid space explorer must use his considerable skill and wit to escape certain doom.

“Blackskull’s Captive”
A young boy is captured by orc space pirates, and unwittingly leads them to their next victims. So, he decides that next time it will not be so easy for the brutes.

Thank you all!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Once more unto the breach!

It's almost November again.  And you know what that means.  That's right. No shaving for an entire month!

Oh, and I'm also going to try to write 50k words in 30 days.

Yep, NaNoWriMo is upon us once more. And, even though I have failed several times in the past, I am going to give it another go. But this time will be different.  Why, you ask?  Because this time I'm doing something different.

I have always kind of been a "pantser" when it comes to writing.  I start with a cast of characters in my head, some general idea of the "world" involved, and a basic plot. I know what I want to happen by "The End" but not in a detailed way.

This time, though, I am going to be working from a relatively detailed outline. I started by writing a one-sentence description of each chapter. And now I am about 2/3 of the way through expanding those into 1-2 paragraph expositions. Interestingly, I have added a few chapters as I have gone along, and now it's a much more complete story. I have a feeling that, when I finally finish the final draft, the book will probably weigh in much heavier than the projected 50k word rough I will write next month.

In short, I'm going to write this book like a real* writer.

The story is one that I have flirted with for many months. In fact, I'm pretty sure I have mentioned it here a few times. Basically orc mercenaries in space. And I even came up with some ways to integrate the magic and high-tech without it seeming forced. I think it'll be cool. And really, that's why we write anyways, right? Because we write the stories we want to read.

I even started a Facebook group for a few of us to post word counts and try to keep each other motivated. Heck, my wife is even going to try it. You know, among all of the other plates she's spinning (what with running for governor and all).

I'll probably post about my progress here as well, so stay tuned!

*"real" as in "more successful than me"

Monday, September 11, 2017

Military Science Fantasy

Military Science Fantasy. That’s what I am currently writing. Again. Some of you may recall that many moons ago I had decided to write a book about orcs in a Science Fantasy setting. One friend mentioned calling it the “Orcspendibles,” basically being a mashup of the Expendables with orcs. I loved the idea, and have jotted notes, made false starts, and even started an RPG project related to it.

Well, I think I may have made some REAL progress now. A couple of weeks ago I laid out the entire plot for the (first) book in bullet points, with each sentence describing a chapter. I ended up with 15 chapters. I later added a few more to flesh out the plot with some subplot points. And today I’m starting to expand those one-sentence descriptions into 1-2 paragraphs each.

One of the things that I was stumbling with was where I was drawing my inspiration. I know most writers will say “Find your own voice; do your own thing; etc.” And while I totally get that, I find a lot of my own writing begins with what is inspiring the story in general. When I write Sword & Sorcery, it usually starts with some Conan elements. Fantasy often draws from D&D and the related novels I have read. Planetary Romance usually draws from Burroughs. So, where were my Orcspendibles going to draw from?

Initially, I was digging into military sci-fi and stuff like that. But that wasn’t really doing it for me. Then it hit me, I needed to attack it from a different angle. Instead of focusing on the Sci-Fi elements, I looked to the Military part. And that came to me in the form of all of those Mack Bolan novels I’ve read, as well as other modern military action novels. I’m also looking at movies of the same bent, with the obvious choice being the Expendables films, and even a few plot points borrowed from The Wild Geese.

It seems, in hindsight, like a “duh” moment, especially considering the whole things started with the Expendables with orcs. But I just needed to cycle through the other elements until I came full-circle back to where the idea was born.

I think as a writer, I do that a lot. But, in the end, while some elements may seem familiar, I’m hoping to put a new spin on it all and make something unique. Because, really, isn’t that what writing fiction is all about these days anyways?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Reading Habits

For 2017, I set myself a goal on Goodreads of reading 25 books. I’m currently sitting on 14/25 completed. I am including in that list books I read to my son before bed, and graphic novels. So far, I’ve stuck a lot to my normal reading habits. A couple of Men’s Adventure, some Sword & Sorcery, etc. However, I am trying to force myself to branch out a little bit.

My current reading is The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham. This is kind of a departure for me. Initially, I started reading it because several friends recommended it when I asked about Epic Fantasy with non-human races. And, while technically it meets those two requirements, it deviates greatly from my previous experiences with that sub-genre (admittedly mainly D&D-based fiction).

This book has a lot of political intrigue, and characterization. The first is something I usually don’t get into (and it’s why I never really had much interest in Game of Thrones). However, I am kind of digging it this time around. And that’s probably due to the second item above, characterization.

Like any good book in this genre, there are multiple plot-lines developing at once. Abraham revolves each plot-line around a single character, or small group of characters. And each chapter shifts to a new focus from the previous. As the story progresses, some of them cross over with each other, but the plot-lines remain distinct. I find that I like that. Mainly because all of his focus characters are very interesting. And I find that when I reach the end of a chapter, I look forward to getting to the next chapter about that character. But that eagerness is tempered by the fact that the intervening chapters are just as interesting.

Does that all make sense?

I think the one thing that really sets this apart from my usual fare is a lack of combat and action. Not that it’s absent. It’s just more sparse. Normally if someone isn't getting their skull split within the first chapter, I’m put off. But this time I’m not minding it so much.

I also always have a Kindle on tap to read on my phone when I don’t have my book handy (what I refer to as my “bathroom reading”). I recently finished Charles Gramlich’s Under the Ember Star, and am now working on Ashe Armstrong’s A Demon in the Desert (Grimluk, Demon Hunter Book 1).

Overall, I think I may be able to hit 25 books (maybe more) by year’s end. I’m happy about that.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Iron Fist on Netflix

Today I am going to re-open my long-dormant blog with a rant.

For those who may not recall, I am a huge Marvel Comics fan. And I have diligently watched everything they have put on screen (there’s a couple of cartoons I haven’t seen yet). For the most part, I have enjoyed the vast majority of it. But, today I want to talk about Netflix’s Iron Fist, and subsequently, The Defenders.

Let me start by saying that among the Netflix Marvel shows, Iron Fist was the weakest. It had the most issues that made it difficult to stomach at moments, and I think there could have been some better choices made in casting and filming. That being said, I still give it a solid 7/10. It had a lot of exciting moments, a few surprises, and some good action. But there are some issues that others always bring up that I just want to put my own take on.

“Danny should have been Asian.”
I hate this one the most, so I will start here. First of all, the character in the comics isn’t Asian. That in itself is reason enough. I am very against recoloring existing literary characters, personally. The only time it has ever worked in the context of comics is Nick Fury, and that is only because he is based on an alternate universe version of the character, and is totally separate from the “original” character. But, aside from that, there are social issues that make Danny being white more relevant. Danny represents the dichotomy of a privileged white kid being raised in a disciplined and Spartan environment. This plays into another point I will make later on. And finally, making him Asian would have been so stereotypical. You may as well say that only Asians can master the martial arts. By that logic, everyone in the entire show should have been Asian, and it probably should have been set in Hong Kong, rather than New York. Here’s another small tidbit: Kun’Lun is not Asian. It is an extra-dimensional location that is home to people of all colors and ethnicities. Which should have been made amply clear in the first few episodes of The Defenders.

“Danny is a whiny kid who never acts mature.”
Or some variation. This is a legit complaint on the surface, but it’s easily explained if you put the character in the proper context. As stated above, Danny spent his first years as a wealthy, privileged white kid. He had that torn away, and spent his formative years in an isolated environment that was the polar opposite in almost every way to what he knew before. That alone would cause some emotional confusion for him when he returns to the normal world, and tries to resume his former life. Add to that the fact that during his time in Kun’Lun, he was immersed in tradition, prophesy, and mysticism, and then later, once he became the Iron Fist, it was hammered into him that he had a destiny to fulfill. In his mind, that is all that matters. He is focused and driven by this “destiny” to the point where he has tunnel vision, and can’t see the realities of the outside world. The only lens he has to view that outside world is through the eyes of a small child. Given time, he will eventually reconcile the two. And you can even see hints of him getting there in The Defenders. I think in Season 2, he will be a much more relatable character.

Honestly, my complaints are mainly visual. First of all, Danny should be much more fit-looking than he is, IMHO. This IS a comic book movie, after all. I get that they were going for the sleek, slender look (probably because of Bruce Lee), but he could have done with a bit more muscle. I also wish that he could look more adept at martial arts. He looks a bit better in The Defenders, but you can still tell that Finn is pulling a David Carradine for this character. Casting a real martial artist would have been a much better choice.

The one thing that all of the shows suffer from is poor lighting. Each of them have scads of fights that happen in dark places (night time alleys, tunnels, etc.). Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to see what is going on. In the opening scene of Defenders ep.1, my screen was practically black during the entire fight. Just poor filming technique.

Am I disappointed in the overall portrayal of one of my favorite comic book characters? Maybe a little. But I also think that is partially due to the others being so well-done. Both of Daredevil’s seasons are top-notch, Jessica’s show is a great view of the darker side of comics, and Luke’s show is a fine example of updating a characters roots without changing anything about his core. Each of them had problems too, but they were far outweighed by the good. Iron Fist comes up shorter in that balance, but it’s not horrible.

In short, I enjoy the character for how he is portrayed in the context of the Netflix/marvel universe. And I look forward to finishing up Defenders this week, and to seeing the subsequent seasons already slated.