Welcome Message

Welcome to my blog. Here, you will find information about my novels, life in Japan, as well as author interviews, discussions on writing, and more. Feel free to browse and if you enjoy a post, please comment. Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Last Post Of 2012

This was quite a year for me. I published my first novel, Adventure Hunters, in January. My JET Program ALT job of five years ended, I moved in with my wife, and joined the writer's group Master Koda on Facebook. My family gave me and Yoko a wonderful wedding reception and Jeremy came for his yearly visit. I got a new teaching job and met some wonderful new teachers and students. Yes, 2012 was busy.

For me, this was my "writing year." This was the year I decided to get serious about writing. I know I'm just a newbie and still have a lot to learn, but this year was a lot of writing firsts for me, and I hope to improve my craft in the following year(s).

What do I have planned for 2013? I'm keeping my resolutions simple and writing-oriented. I want to publish my next novel, become a more disciplined writer, and learn more about marketing and promotion. I think I have become a bit of a social media butterfly, using Twitter much more than I use to, as well as running online promotions, and of course, starting this blog. I hope I can increase my sales this year. Writing is my focus. I love my teaching job, but if it ever came to the point I could make a living writing, I'd quit in a heartbeat and write full-time.

"The best laid plans of mice and men" and all that. I don't know what 2013 will bring. Something wonderful may happen. Something terrible may happen. But as long as I have my wife, my family, my friends, and my readers, I'll be happy and ready to face the new year.

To everyone who has supported me this year, both in flesh and blood and online, I want to say thank you. From flying to Japan, funny emails and Facebook posts, long distance phone calls, and words of advice and encouragement and congratulations; Thank You.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

In Defense Of Fan Fiction

Fan fiction gets a bum rap. Somehow, if you write fan fiction, you're not a "real" author. I don't believe that. An author writes. As simple as that. A fantasy author is a writer. A speechwriter is a writer. A cookbook author is a writer.

For readers who may not know, fan fiction is, according to Merriam-Webster, "stories involving popular fictional characters that are written by fans..." These are stories not written and authorized by the author and/or their management or estate. These fan fictions range from regular stories that try to stay true to the author's world to parodies to erotic/romantic pairings of characters.

Aren't media tie-in novels basically fan fiction? All the Star Wars novels, Star Trek books, and dozens of others, in a way, are authorized fan fictions. The publisher is hiring writers to write in a pre-made universe, following the rules of that universe. That's what fanfic authors do: write in someone else's world. You could argue big names like Stephen King and Jeffery Deaver have dabbled in fan fiction. King wrote a Sherlock Holmes short story and Deaver wrote a James Bond book, Carte Blanche.

I began my writing with fan fiction. I remember writing a short story in elementary school using Indiana Jones as the main character. When I began writing screenplays, my first ones were for TV shows I liked: Star Trek, Cleopatra 2525, The Secret World of Alex Mack. I was practicing, and more importantly, I was writing.

I think writing fan fiction is great for two reasons. One, and most important, you are writing. You're getting that story out of your head and onto the paper, or most commonly, screen. Two, you're having fun. You enjoy writing. You enjoy it because you enjoy the characters and the world and you don't want to leave it. Writing is always at its best when if doesn't feel like work.

I think writing fan fiction can be great practice. You can let your imagination run free and make the characters do stuff they would never do. On the other hand, you know the characters and their responses and you can craft stories accordingly, trying to write a story as close to the original as possible. It's also fun to fix problems or things you don't like about the original work. "The story would have better if..." Now is your time to see how it would have turned out had "if" happened.

I'm a fan of traditional fan fictions. I prefer stories that try to remain as close to the originals as possible. With large universes, such as Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings, whole new characters can be invented. Who says you have to use Picard and Gandalf? Go wild! But I think the best ones are the ones that try to remain true, while bringing a newness to the property. They are fun to read, also; seeing how different fans interpret the same universe.

The downside to fan fiction is it is unpublishable for profit. You can't write a dozen Castle short stories, then put them in an anthology to sell on Amazon. You'll be sued out of existence in a heartbeat. You can write them for fun and practice, but if you want to make money writing, it must be original. You can't just take your fan fiction, change the names, and publish it. Your world has to be distinct enough not to cause copyright infingement.

But, in an odd way, fan fiction for TV shows can get you a job. Called 'spec scripts' (for "speculative") writers often write a script for a TV show and pitch it to the producers. If it's good enough, they can get hired. And they did it by basically writing a fan fiction piece.

To me, though, fan fiction is best for practice. By writing and studying the world you're writing in; you're learning characterization, dialogue, structure, and all the rest. Once you feel ready, you can write your own stuff.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Christmas Post

Donna R. Wood has been posting a series of Christmas articles written by independent authors from the Master Koda Facebook group. Here is my contribution to her ongoing series. Read them and enjoy the holiday season!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Book Review: Cassidy Jones And The Secret Formula

Cassidy Jones And The Secret Formula is a young adult novel, the first in a series, written by Elise Stokes. I usually don't read young adult (aka YA) fiction but this one seemed promising and had lots of positive reviews.

The premise is simple and predictably comic booky: during her dad's interview with a famed geneticist, fourteen-year old Cassidy suffers an accident that enhances her strength and senses. Shortly after that the scientist is kidnapped. When the scientist's son Emry comes to live with Cassidy's family, the two join together to find Emry's mom.

I'm a little on the fence about this one but hear me out. First the bad. It's written in first-person POV, which I've stated before that I don't like. Next is the dialogue; which, while not horrible, isn't very good, especially for a teen novel. However, I do know that writing dialogue, especially good dialogue, is one of the most difficult things for a writer to do. I know I have atrocious dialogue and I can forgive Elise on this. Some writers are just naturally good at it. The dialogue in the novel serves the purpose of conveying information and moving the plot forward. But the characters just don't seem to have a unique voice.

Each character has their own personality but I found Emry the hardest to wrap my mind around. He is supposed to be mature beyond his years, because of his genius intelligence, but something about him just seems...off. While trying to make him mature but a teenager at the same time, it seems Stokes hasn't quite got a handle on how to write him.

These quibbles aside, I liked the book. I liked it for what was not in it. Angst and romance were in short supply, which I was thankful for. Cassidy loves her family and she isn't bitter or angry towards them. Her and her brother have the regular sibling rivalry but I love the fact Cassidy is smitten with her five-year old brother. Rather than being annoyed by him, she likes it when he smears cookies on his face and just generally likes him, a nice break from the "I hate my family" angst. The family seem a little too clean-cut but they are nice.

Cassidy is well-written and likeable and the main villain is a hoot. The action sequences are fairly well thought out and portrayed well, although a few fights were cut too short, in my opinion, and I would have liked to have seen more feats of strength from Cassidy.

The pacing is fast and the story is enjoyable with likeable characters. I don't know how long the series will go on, and while I may not read every story in the Cassidy chronicles, I'll definitely pick up the sequel. All in all, a nicely executed enjoyable book.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Book Review: On Unfaithful Wings

Independent author Bruce Blake was kind enough to do a blog swap with me, so I decided to check out his novel, On Unfaithful Wings; the first in the Icarus Fell series.

Without giving too much away, the novel deals with a dead-beat loner who gets killed, then resurrected by God to become a harvester of souls. His job is to lead them to Heaven. But his job is made difficult by Carrions, harvesters playing for the other guy. When Icarus (yes, Icarus Fell is his name) deliberately botches a job, it creates repercussions that leads to a fiery battle in a church for his soul.

The book is great. Icarus is a good anti-hero, a former drug addict and alcoholic trying to do right by his son. Trevor is the only thing Icarus feels he has done right and he desperately wants to cling to that. Icarus is well written, an anti-hero without being a tough guy or unsympathetic. I found myself rooting for him, laughing along with him at his funny observations, and basically feeling this is a character that really existed. Because the book is written in first-person, we know Icarus very well. The other characters are also well written with their own personalities and each feels unique.

The bad. It's written in first-person about 90% of the time. I'm not a fan of first-person POV, never have been. I find it limiting and at the same time unrealistic. I always think as first-person as a person telling a story and nobody tells a story as detailed as the way it is written in books. It is not a fault of Bruce Blake's, he is a great writer, I'm just not fond of first-person POV. A few times he switches to third-person when he is writing from the perspective of Sister Mary-Therese. I found this perspective switching confusing the first couple of times and wondered why he didn't write the whole novel in third-person. I think the same perspective should be used throughout a book.

But that is a minor point. The characters are well-written; from Icarus, to his insecure guardian angel Poe, to the sun-loving angel Gabriel. Each character has their own voice and some, like Poe, seem to have their own interesting backstory, which hopefully will be revealed in further volumes.

While this story deals with angels, demons, Heaven, and Hell, it isn't religious. Icarus asks a few pointed questions about life and death but this book is really non-denominational. There is nothing in here to anger Christians and the book doesn't beat you over the head with religious messages or get into deep philosophical territory. It is the story of one man trying to make his life right again, set against a Heaven versus Hell backdrop.

I bought two more of Bruce Blake's books after reading On Unfaithful Wings in just three days. I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Where I Start

One of the most common questions asked of writers (especially popular or prolific writers) is "Where do you get your ideas?" The answer, most of the time, is "Everywhere." Writers are inspired all the time by what they see, hear, and experience. Sometimes all it takes is a certain image to get them fired up and typing away. Writers do need to start somewhere, though; but where?

I think the genesis for most ideas for stories can be divided into four categories: character, scene/situation, theme/topic, and setting. Character is starting with either a specific person, say an actual person because you'll write a historical novel; or a type of person, like a cop or a superhero. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is an example. You could start with a specific scene or  situation. Most of Stephen King's books fall into this section. Salem's Lot is "What if vampires took over a small New England town." Themes are another place to start. Perhaps a book about lost love, feelings of loneliness, or a fictionalised account of cyber bullying. Setting is a particular place, perhaps you want to write a book that takes place in a haunted mansion or on a cruise ship. The book series Star Trek: Titan is an example.

I start with character. I often have a very basic idea for a character that I want to write about and I'll build that character. My story evolves from who that character is and how they came to be that way. My current work-in-progress is The Super School Uniform. When I started, I only had a character in mind: a Japanese schoolgirl with superhuman strength. That's all. Everything else evolved from trying to figure my character out. How old was she; was she a high school student, middle schooler, college age? If she has powers, how did she get them? Was she born with them? Given by aliens? Are they mystical in nature? Is she afraid of her powers or happy and a show-off? By answering questions about my character I was building my story and plot, keeping what worked and discarding ideas that didn't fit.

I often have a specific scene with that character, an image to work from. Sometimes it makes its way into the story, sometimes not. Sometimes an image itself, either of a person or an object, will make me want to write about it. Of course, these are often already licensed or copyrighted, but they get me thinking.

There's no wrong place to start a story. If you are more of an emotional writer, character or theme might work best. Maybe you want to use your favorite vacation spot as a jumping off point for your story. It doesn't matter. Try different approaches. Some are easier than others but they all have one thing in common: they'll get you thinking about a story. And thinking about a story will get you writing it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Interview: Blaithin O'Reilly Murphy

 I was interviewed by Irish author Blaithin O'Reilly Murphy on her blog What Bla Did Next. It was posted December 12, I'm a little late reporting it. As always, please read the interview and learn more about this fellow independent author.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On Bruce Blake's Blog

I did another guest posting on Bruce Blake's blog. It's one I did before on my own blog, but feel free to check it out again, along with Bruce's work. He writes urban fantasy.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Guest Post: Books Versus Movies by S.L. Wallace

Today I have a guest blogger, S.L. Wallace. Here is her bio from her Amazon author page: "S.L. Wallace is a teacher and life long writer who is a descendant of the famous William Wallace. Like him, she believes in freedom and independence. Unlike him, she fights her battles with the pen, most recently taking a political stand against recent changes in government at both local and state levels.
The Reliance on Citizens trilogy is her first published series."
 Check out her blog, Crossroads of Humanity, and her novels. Heart Of Humanity will be available soon.


Books Versus Movies

How many times have you heard someone complain, “But that wasn't anything like the book,” after seeing a movie based on a book? Often, I think the problem isn't with the movie itself but rather that the reader has a fabulous imagination. And that, my friend, is not really a problem. When settling in to watch a movie that's based on a book, I try to remind myself that books and films are two entirely different mediums. In short, I try to enjoy it for what it is. Some movies fall flat, in my humble opinion, but others go far beyond my expectations.

I'm a teacher by day so I'll focus on two amazingly well done movies based on kids books.

The first is Warner Brothers, A Little Princess, released in 1995, with director Alfonso Cuaron and starring Liesel Matthews. It's based on the novel, A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, first published in 1905. I read this novel as a child and was completely blown away. Because I enjoyed it so much, I followed up with The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy. Years later, I was lucky enough to discover a copy of the book, Sara Crewe, at a local library book sale. It's Hodgson's serialized 1888, novel upon which A Little Princess is based.

A number of films have been based on A Little Princess, the most famous one may be the Shirley Temple version. As a child, I'll admit I thought that version was enjoyable, but Warner Brothers took the story to an entirely different level. Instead of placing the story in London, they moved Miss Minchin's boarding school to New York City. I am one who enjoys original stories, and I don't particularly like it when Hollywood feels the need to Americanize foreign films or place everything in America. But Warner Brothers didn't end there. They split the story into three parts that added complexity and depth. When Sara tells the other girls stories from India, we are transported to India along with them, and when she receives letters from her father, we are taken to the battlefields of World War 1.

Was the movie identical to the book? Not at all. Creative liberties were most definitely taken. In the novel, Sara Crewe's father isn't sent off to war; he reportedly dies of jungle fever. But the main themes of the story remain intact. This is a story of a child who is, at first, treated like royalty and later, due to circumstances beyond her control, is neglected, starved and abused by the same woman who once thought her so special, and through it all, Sara perseveres because of her strong sense of self worth.

Another great kids movie based on an equally well done novel is Holes, released in 2003, with director Andrew Davis and starring Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight and Shia LaBeouf. It is based on the novel, Holes, by Louis Sachar. This novel is actually three stories rolled into one. Up front, it is the story of Stanley Yelnats who is wrongfully accused of theft and sent to a boys' juvenile detention center out in the middle of the desert. Every day, the inmates are sent to dig holes in the dry lake bed beneath the hot desert sun. According to the warden, this is to help them build character. Actually, she is hoping to uncover treasure stolen from her great great grandfather by Kissin' Kate Barlow, an outlaw who lived in those parts long ago. Both the novel and the movie seamlessly intertwine the story of Camp Green Lake from long ago with that of the boys' detention center today. In addition, we also get to hear the story of Stanley's great great great grandfather who immigrated to America after his heart was broken by the featherbrained, Myra Menke. Take some wild onions, add a few fictional deadly spotted yellow lizards and a dash of canned peaches to the mix and you get an amazingly great story.

So...how did the movie compare? It was one of the truest accounts of a book being transformed into a movie that I've ever seen. Why is this? That's easy. After rejecting the first screenplay which deviated too much from the book and was far too dark for a children's movie, the studio hired Louis Sachar, the author, to write the final screenplay. He was also on set every day of filming and had a cameo appearance as one of the people who buys onion juice from Sam the onion man.

So there you have it. What makes a book transition well to film? Hire a screenwriter who believes in staying true to the meaning of the book if not to the exact storyline, and keep the story interesting and intelligent. The audience will appreciate it.

My Links: 


I really appreciate S.L. for taking the time to post. I hope everyone enjoyed it. As always, leave comments and thanks for reading.

I Did A Guest Post

I did a guest post on S. L. Wallace's blog Crossroads of Humanity. I talked about some of the differences between American and Japanese schools. I encourage everyone to check it out, as well as S. L.'s books and blogs.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Book Versus The Movie: True Grit

A while ago I watched True Grit by the Cohen brothers. I use to watch Rooster Cogburn and the Lady with John Wayne quite a bit as a kid, so I decided to give the new version a try. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about Jeff Bridges taking over from The Duke, but I heard the movie was more faithful to the book. Several months later I decided to give the novel a read, since I was trying to read books I normally wouldn't and True Grit was considered a classic.

The novel is told in first person from Mattie's POV, the fourteen years old girl who hires Marshal Cogburn, because he has 'true grit,' to find her father's killer. The character is well-written in the book and well-portrayed in the novel. However, in the book, since we only get her thoughts and perspective, she is annoying as all get out. She's bratty, arrogant, pushy, and demanding. She doesn't really go through a character arc and come out a better person. When we learn about her eighty-years old self, she's pretty much the same. She is the same in the novel, but since we get her interior monologues and character perspectives in the book, her bad qualities seemed amplified.

If you don't compare Jeff Bridges to John Wayne, he does an admirable job in the movie. Wayne's Cogburn seemed more tough-guy than Bridges's portrayal. His Cogburn is more of a wash-up, a tired old marshal seeking something in helping a little girl, even if he (and the audience) don't really know what it is. His Cogburn matched closely with the novel's.

LaBoeuf, the Texas Ranger played by Matt Damon in the movie, is the most changed character. He has very little page time in the novel and his role was expanded in the movie. In the book we only get Mattie's perspective on him, a person she doesn't like and basically considers an idiot. In the movie he comes across as an arrogant and naive young man trying to prove himself, a little unsure what he's getting into. He's the most likable of the three.

The movie follows the book quite faithfully (I was surprised how short the book was) while adding quite a few character building moments and nuances that are missing from the book because the story is told by Mattie. They say the book is comic, but maybe the humor is too subtle for me. While I sometimes chuckled at how pigheaded Mattie was, she was more annoying than anything.

I do admit that the book is well-written. In this case, I recommend the movie over the book. The story is told almost exactly and the viewer gets more characterization of Cogburn and LaBoeuf. Bridges gives a fine performance and we get to enjoy the characters more.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


I'm 'In the Booth with Ruth.' Ruth Jacobs is a British author and blogger. Every day she posts interviews with established, as well as up-and-coming authors. She interviewed me for her blog and you can read it at this link.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Lost Era: The Buried Age

I'll be reviewing Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Lost Era: The Buried Age by Christopher L. Bennett. (What is it with him getting stuck with these unwieldy titles? Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock and Star Trek: Enterprise - Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures are two that spring to mind).

The book is part of an umbrella title called the Lost Years, various Star Trek novels that serve as prequels, covering parts of history not shown or talked about on-screen. Bennett's focuses on Captain Jean-Luc Picard, covering about eight years of time, starting with the destruction of his ship the Stargazer, and ending just before he takes command of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

The book deals with an event that affects the galaxy, with literally trillions of lives at stake. The main alien race, the Manraloths, have technology thousands of years ahead of the Federation's, and it borders on super science. An example is using the event horizon of a black hole to store information for virtually all eternity. The technology could have been used as deus ex machina, but Bennett presents it with hard science and in the end, the technology doesn't sound so far-fetched.

Most of the TNG regulars make an appearance in the book, the big exceptions being Crusher, Wesley, and Riker. When Data is recruited for Picard's mission, I was taken aback, thinking the author just wanted a way to bring the characters together; I'd always imagined that the main bridge crew hadn't met before the events of the pilot episode Encounter at Farpoint. However, Bennett points out that most starship captains can pick their command crew, so it makes sense Picard wouldn't just pick his officers from reading their file. Trio and Data have significant parts later on the story, and there are appearances by Yar and Worf. While they seem just thrown into the story at first, their reasons for meeting Picard before serving together on the Enterpise come together nicely and doesn't feel forced. Many characters from various episodes make appearances or are name-dropped, but if you don't know them or forgot about them it's okay, a working knowledge of TNG isn't needed to enjoy this book.

The focus is on Picard and his feelings over losing the Stargazer and his reluctance to rejoin Starfleet. The book tries to cover the journey from Picard the fun explorer to the stern Picard we meet at the beginning of TNG. Bennett does an adequate job and most of the time I could hear Patrick Stewart's voice as I read Picard's lines. Data's lines were spot on, in my opinion, as were Guinan's. Bennett does a little more telling than showing when it comes to characterization but I think he did an adequate job of Picard's journey as a character.

All in all, this a good book and one worth looking into if you're a Picard fan. It gives us another view of his character and an epic, cosmic mission to save the galaxy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Novel Reuploaded

In a post on Facebook, an author asked whether he should take down his novel and rewrite parts of it based on the two negative reviews he received. It got me thinking about revising and when is enough is enough.

When a physical book is printed, it's finished. Whatever mistakes there are (forgotten characters, confusing plot lines, no period after every sentence) rests with the author. Yes, an editor reads it, and works with the author to make the book the best it can be. But they can only do so much, they have deadlines to meet and solicitations to make and the book must be published. Once it hits the printing press for mass distribution, it's out of the author's hands and into the reader's.

Ebooks are different. They can uploaded as many times as needed, and the newest version is the one that gets put on the virtual shelves. This allows the author to continually revise their story; fix spelling mistakes, add chapter titles, replace every period with a heart, whatever needs to be done to the novel.

But is this the best thing to do? I don't think so. I do admit that reuploading is sometimes necessary. It happened to me with Adventure Hunters. I admit, when I uploaded it the first time in January, I was too hasty. I didn't have anyone proofread it or hire any beta readers. A friend of mine downloaded it and later emailed me about all of the mistakes and inconsistencies that were in it. I took it down and went through all of his corrections, cursing myself for missing these. I must have read those passages dozens of times, how could I have missed all these mistakes? I was also unhappy with the cover and decided to redo it.

After fixing the mistakes I debated whether to rewrite some passages. I had some worldbuilding ideas I had thought of after the initial publication, but I held off. I added a few lines mentioning the three main religions of DosShell but I decided to save my ideas for the sequel (yes, there will be a sequel to Adventure Hunters). I did this for two reasons: I thought with more time, I could improve my worldbuilding and add more details to my world, and I would have more material for my sequel, possibly making it better than the first one. Also, I felt doing major rewrites would just end up hurting my novel.

Which brings me to: when is enough is enough? At some point, the next draft of your novel is going to make it worse, not better. There comes a point when the author needs to put down his laptop and let the story stand on its own. There will always be parts of a story we don't like; scenes that could be better or characters that could use strengthening, a hundred other things. But eventually you have to send your baby out into the world and let it face reality. I'm not saying you should never fix a novel after it is uploaded. If you catch misspellings or a person's name changes throughout the novel, or the cover isn't good enough, fix it. Slight cosmetic changes are okay. Rewriting large chunks or restructuring the third act shouldn't be done.

What about rewrites based on negative reviews? Again, I don't think so. If you are fortune enough to have an editor or a couple of proofreaders or beta readers, they will hopefully catch any mistakes before it goes to print (real or virtual). However, you can't please all of the people all of the time. What one reviewer hates may be the favorite thing about your book for another reviewer. If you are consistently getting negative comments about the same thing from multiple reviewers, maybe you should look at the problem. They may be right. But if you don't agree, it's a wash and the decision goes to the writer.

I also don't advocate multiple uploads with major revisions because of people who have already bought your book. If they don't like your novel in the first place, they will most likely not buy it again. If two friends are discussing your book and there are differences because they read different versions, it may make them decide not to read you again. Would you trust an author who seemed like he couldn't make up his mind about what he wanted to put in his book? Even though most revised editions are free to download again if you bought the book once, will you read it again just to discover one line was added? Probably not.

If you feel you need to rewrite major portions of the book, I'd suggest uploading it as a different edition. Maybe market it as the "unabridged version" or "expanded and uncut" or something along those lines. "The definitive author's edition" sounds good. In this case, it lets a reader know that substantial changes were made.

As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


For your holiday shopping convenience, I am offering my book, Adventure Hunters, at a discount until Tuesday Japan Standard Time. On Amazon my book will be available for 99cents. If you use Smashwords the book is free. That's right, FREE! All of this is part of a promotion with other authors who are giving their books away for free or at a discounted price for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Adventure-Hunters-ebook/dp/B0071KF6EM/ref=la_B0071UQHX6_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353541650&sr=1-1
Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/126424
Use the coupon code AP57D at checkout to get the book for free.

Check out http://fivestarindieauthors.com for other authors promoting their books

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Book Versus The Movie: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

A few weeks ago I saw the movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It was interesting and I knew the book had been somewhat popular, so I decided to read it. After finishing it yesterday, I decided to give my view on the two.

The book is told like a biography, using the author's narration, but the majority of it is told through Abe's notebooks; selected journal entries detailing his life. Along with these entries are few photographs. The fact that the book is set up like that, as a "real" account from "lost" sources is fun and seems like a good idea. But the very thing that seems to be fun is its greatest weakness.

It reads like a biography, a dry one at that, and constantly flips viewpoints, as we go from Seth Grahame-Smith's third-person narration to Abe's first-person point-of-view and back again. While the majority of the book is from Abe, the constant back and forth is distracting. It would have been better to stay with one POV. I've never been a fan of first-person and feel that if the book had been told more traditionally, in a third-person POV, it would have benefited greatly. It would have been more of a story, a narrative, than a hodgepodge of notes.

The biography approach creates a series of vignettes, since it covers Abe's life from age nine to his death. This creates a disjointed narrative, entire moths are lost between chapter breaks, characters are mentioned once or twice. It reads more like a summary of his life.

The mash up is interesting, however, and the author gets kudos for weaving fact and fiction well together. The problem with the book isn't its story but its approach...

...Which was not a problem in the movie version. Adapted by Seth Grahame-Smith from his own novel, it is interesting to see the differences between the two, even though they were written by the same person. Grahame-Smith obviously knew what would work for the screen and what wouldn't: instead of trying to cram in as much of his original novel verbatim as he could, he crafted a slightly different story and stuck with a single narrative approach.

While many of the scenes and plot points from the novel are present, many have been truncated, characters eliminated, and in the case of Rufus Sewell's character Adam, newly created for the movie. And most of this benefits the movie. The thing the book was lacking the most was a villain. While Abe was fighting vampire's, there was no one to direct his anger to, only to vampires in general. Without a villain, there was nobody for the reader to root against. Abe's struggles seemed somewhat meaningless.

The movie, while jumping through time somewhat disjointedly, benefits from a continuous narrative and a villain. Adam is a constant throughout the film and a focal point for Abe. The story, and Abe's fights, now of a focus, a goal, something the book severely lacked.

Style-wise the movie is very nice, from the Russian director of the Nightwatch series and Wanted. He knows how to stage action sequences (where else are you going to see a vampire pick up a horse during a stampede and throw it at another person?) and has visual style. All of the actors did a good job with their parts.

 This is a case where I feel the movie is better than the book. The book was unique, but dry and flat. The movie benefits from a straightforward narrative and loads of visual style.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Martin Reaves asked me on the Facebook group Master Koda to be on a blog hop. It's something I've never done before. Each author in the blog hop tags five authors (if they can find them) on their blog and gives them an easy interview to fill out about their current work-in-progress novel. Then they tag other authors and it keeps going until they run out of authors. The blog hop sounded fun and it's a good way to meet other authors. Here are two others participating, Steven Montano and Bruce Blake (who tagged Martin Reaves).

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:
What is the working title of your book?
The Super School Uniform.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Two movies: The Masked Girl (check out the YouTube trailer) and Iron Man. The first is a Japanese short film in which a high school girl is given superpowers and must find several kidnapped girls. I always liked the idea of a Japanese girl with superpowers. Then came Iron Man, and Tony has no superpowers without his suit. (Although, when asked by Captain America what Stark was without the suit, Tony replied "Millionaire genius playboy philanthropist.") Knowing that school uniforms are an important aspect of school life, I thought it would be interesting if her school uniform would be the source of her powers. If she couldn't wear it, she was powerless.

What genre does your book fall under?
Action, science fiction, light novel.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I actually thought about this at a few times. For the main villain I'd choose Kitamura Kazuki. My heroine… I'm not sure. I'm basing the look of my character, Takamachi Hina, on a model named Yuzuki Mana.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A Japanese middle school student gains a suit that gives her superpowers and she must stop aliens from terraforming the Earth into a copy of their own homeworld.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Self-published, via Amazon and Smashwords.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I'm still writing the first draft, but so far about 10 months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I don't know of any. But in other media, I'd say various anime and Kamen Rider.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to write something completely different after finishing my fantasy novel Adventure Hunters.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
As a former teacher currently in Japan, I've peppered my book with many references about daily school life. I hope it will give my readers an insight into a different culture.

There you have it I hope you enjoyed it, and don't forget to check out the other authors tagged for this blog hop.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Adventure Hunters 2.0 Is A Go!

Nope, 2.0 is not a sequel to my action-packed, spectacular, epic fantasy novel Adventure Hunters (ok, maybe "epic" is stretching it, haha) but it is a revised, updated edition.

After uploading it back in January, James Reed, an online friend, got a hold of it and pointed out the numerous errors, misspellings, and mistakes I hadn't caught, no matter how many times I had read the frakking thing. So, I went back, added in his edits, along with a touch of more worldbuilding. There was actually much more I wanted to add to the novel, but I have decided to leave it for the sequel. With more understanding about writing and worldbuilding, I'm expecting the sequel to be better than the first. Btw, the sequel's tentative title is Adventure Hunters Return.

After trying to make the manuscript better, I wanted to make the cover better. I found an awesome landscape picture on DeviantArt by FantasyKnight, who kindly let me use it for free as my book cover. A recommendation by my friend Richard led me to his friend Edward, who composed the cover using FantasyKnight's picture. The cover is much better than anything I could have come up with.

So there you have it. Adventure Hunters is available (again) at most of the major ebook retailers. If you already bought a copy of it, don't worry, you can download it again for free. Which I recommend. If you haven't read it, I recommend it. If you have friends who haven't read it, I recommend it If.. well, you get the idea.

As always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Book Review: Only Superhuman

I've never posted a book review before, but since I had made some posts on Facebook saying "I'm looking forward to this," I thought I should.

Only Superhuman is written by Christopher L. Bennett and is a hard-science take on superheroes, in a science fiction setting. Without giving too many details away, the main plot is about Emerald Blair, a member of the Troubleshooters Corps, a group of modified humans who maintain law and order in the colonies established in the asteroid belt region beyond Earth. When a conspiracy is discovered to enslave all of mankind, Blair's loyalties are questioned when all is not what it seems to be.

This is Bennett's first original novel, a project he has been working on for twenty-plus years, and I'm happy to see him have his pet project come to fruition. Until now, Bennett's novels have all been media tie-ins, mostly for Star Trek. His stories always have a hard-science slant to them.

First the good. Blair is a likable character, fun and funny. She sometimes uses puns, both amusing and groan-inducing, but it isn't Bennett being funny. It's Blair corny sense of humor and she knows her jokes are bad. It's all part of the fun. The characters are distinct, and while they may not have the over-the-top powers of their comic book counterparts, each Troubleshooter has their own unique power or ability. You do get some of the archetypes: the super strong one, the hyper intelligent one, etc., but I never felt these were copies or rip-offs of existing characters. The science in the book is plausible without bogging down the story in explanations or too many scientific terms (a pitfall of some of his earlier works). The pacing is fast, which is good for an action story and their are plenty of nods to superhero characters, especially in some of the names. Bennett is very good at world building and he knows Blair's universe and how it works.

Now the bad. For my personal taste, there was too much sex and nudity. Bennett has spent most of his time writing Star Trek novels, which seems to have strict rules about nudity and sex, as in, there is almost none at all. While it gets hinted at and talked about in the two Department of Temporal Investigations novels by Bennett, nothing really happens or is shown. With Only Superhuman, Bennett seems to be making up for those restrictions. While I have no problem with Blair being sexual or sexually aggressive, I do feel it was too much, shown too many times. After several intrudes in the book, I was thinking "Okay, I get it! She likes sex! Let's move on." It didn't have to to with Bennett's writing ability, it just seemed sometimes unnecessary. And while I have no problem with Blair as a character being comfortable being naked, there were a few times when I felt it was, again, not necessary for the story. Sort of like in horror movies, where the first victim takes off her clothes with her back to us, hears a sound, turns around so we cane see her nude, then gets in the shower. Really? Was that shot necessary? Nine times out of ten, no. Like I said before, it seems to me Bennett was making up for all the sex he couldn't put into the Star Trek books. The sex scenes and nudity aren't graphic, just too many of those kinds of scenes.

Another thing I didn't like was not knowing how strong Blair was. They always said she was strong, enhanced beyond the norm, but we never learn how much. It is implied she can bench press a ton, but we never see that. I know Bennett wants to keep things realistic, but this was half comic book as well as SF, and the former half wasn't really shown. Descriptions of lifting things, bending things, showcasing Cowboy's gun skills, are never showcased. That's part of the appeal of a good comic book novel but was sadly never written in this one. But, this is also part of Bennett's pitfalls, he is not good at physical description. He mentions plasma guns and other weapons but never what they look like.

However, I do recommend this book. The good points outweigh the bad. The characters are funny, well-written, Blair's history is thought out and detailed, and the world building spot on. I'm hoping for a sequel.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Writing Space

Every writer has their preferred place to write in. I do too, along with a few things I always take with me when I do.

I've gotten into the habit of writing at least one hour a day. Sometimes I do it longer but I try for at least an hour minimum. I actually have the time to write for longer periods but I'm trying to get into the habit of writing every day. Then I'll work on stretching my time. It's difficult for me to form new habits.

I usually write around 2PM. By that time, I've gotten most of the housework done, had lunch, and watched an episode or two of a show I'm trying to catch up on. Currently it is Smallvile, although I'm hooked on Arrow, as well.

I have two writing spaces, depending on the weather. The first, and my preferred one, is the roof of the large apartment I live in. It's above the fourteenth floor and offers an impressive view of Iwakuni. While there are other apartments as tall as this one, this may be one of a few with an accessible roof. It is fenced off, with two tables and square blocks for sitting. A slide and spring horse are available for children. I like the fact that it is ten floors above mine. I can get far away from my apartment, but still close enough in case I forgot something, or such.

The second place, if the roof is too windy or its raining, is the balcony. While not offering as nice a view, it is shaded and relatively blocks the wind. I've got a legless chair but no table, I have to type with the my iPad propped on my legs but it's okay.

There are always a few things I take with me: my iPad, iPhone, something to drink (usually coffee or cola), my Morning Musume cap, my sunglasses, and earphones. I use my iPhone to set a one-hour timer (mostly to make sure I write for at least an hour than as a maximum limit). I wore the cap at first to block the sun to keep my face from burning, I never wear caps and this is the only chance I get to wear my Morning Musume cap, so I do it now, even on the shady balcony. I type on my iPad using Pages and listen to movie soundtracks as I write.

I've typed in other places as well, McDonald's and Doutor Coffee Shop, but no matter when I went, it was too noisy, even with earphones, as well as having the visual distractions of everyone walking by. I like the roof because it gets me out of the apartment but it's still close. I find it more difficult to write in the apartment itself (especially with no desk and chairs); the TV is there to watch, I can stretch out on the couch, the futon bed is in the next room… You get the idea.

With fall and winter are coming, I'll have to start writing indoors. I'll just have to push those distractions aside and keep at it. I'd like to write in a coffee shop, a small local one but Iwakuni doesn't have many of them. I guess I'll have to look into it. It isn't because I want to perpetuate the image of writers in coffee shops, I just really like coffee and the idea that as soon as I'm done with one cup I can get another.

Post your comments below. Where do you like to write?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hulk vs. Hulk vs. Hulk

I'd like to use this posting to talk about the three Hulks that have appeared in Marvel's movies. I'm in the minority when I say I'm a fan of Ang Lee's Hulk. I think it's far far better than that mess The Incredible Hulk, and I prefer Eric Bana's portrayal over Mark Ruffalo's.

Now, The Avengers. When I heard Ruffalo was taking over the role of the Hulk/Bruce Banner, I was disappointed. While I was positive Bana wouldn't be reprising his role, I held out a small hope that he would. Now, I know nothing about Ruffalo. But his portrayal was good. His Banner seemed like a man who has a tight lid on himself, assessing every situation on how it would affect him emotionally. And Joss Whedon was right to insert the Hulk in small doses, he works better that way. Whedon's Hulk wasn't the cut and buff version of Louis Leterrier's nor the somewhat soft giant of Ang Lee's. He was somewhat in the middle, and more gray, it seemed to me. While I don't think Whedon's Hulk was outstanding, it wasn't bad either, and fit in well with the rest of the cast and the movie itself.

Which brings us to the meat of this post: Hulk vs. The Incredible Hulk. The first time I saw Hulk, I was disappointed at the end, I'll admit that. I even remember the UA Crimson White review. It said "Ang Lee, it's 'Hulk smash!' Not 'Hulk deal with repressed childhood trauma.'"The first time I saw The Incredible Hulk, I thought that was how it should be done. But Ang Lee's film stuck with me and the more I watched it, the more I liked it. I also watched Leterrier's, mostly for the action scenes. And the more I watched it, the less I liked it, while the more I watched Lee's, the more I preferred it over Leterrier's movie. I realized the difference was story: Lee's was full of story and emotion, while Leterrier's was empty.

Take Bruce and Betty. We learn more of their relationship in the five minute scene at the lab in Hulk than all of The Incredible Hulk. And in the latter movie, I hate to say that Liv Tyler couldn't act her way out of a paper bag in that one. Normally I like her, especially in low-key roles, like in The Lord of the Rings. But she needed emotional depth, showing hurt, distress, and anger. Liv Tyler was wrong for the role, and I'm sure doing the same role after the outstanding Jennifer Connelly was difficult. I've seen a couple of other of Leterrier's movies and directing actors is not his specialty.

William Hurt was wrong for Ross and seemed to be sleeping his way through the movie, or at least laughing on the inside, as in, "What am I doing in a movie like this?" Sam Elliot seemed like a general and a concerned father, and again, there was more depth to the relationship between him and Betty.

Which brings us to Edward Norton and Eric Bana. Norton is infamous for rewriting movies he stars in and The Incredible Hulk was no exception. While I'm not sure of which parts he rewrote, or how much of the movie he did, Norton just seemed like...Edward Norton. I got no sense of danger from him. Eric Bana, on the other hand, seemed to know there was a monster within him and portrayed that.

To me, the scenes that most distinguish the two movies is when Bruce Banner tells what it is like when he is the Hulk. There was one exchange in The Incredible Hulk and three in Hulk. Here is Edward Norton's.
Betty Ross: What is it like? When it happens, what do you experience?
Bruce Banner: Remember those experiments we volunteered for at Harvard? Those induced hallucination? It's a lot like that, just a thousand times amplified. It's like someone poured a litre of acid into my brain.
Betty Ross: Do you remember anything?
Bruce Banner: Just fragments. Images. There's too much noise. I can never derive anything out of it.
Betty Ross: But then it's still YOU inside of it.
Bruce Banner: No. No, it's not.
Betty Ross: I don't know. In the cave, I really felt like it knew me. Maybe your mind is in there, it's just overcharged and can't process what's happening.
Bruce Banner: I don't want to control it. I want to get rid of it.

Eric Bana
Betty Ross: What happened to you last night?
Bruce Banner: I had the most vivid dream. It was being born. Coming up for air, light hitting my face. Screaming. My heartbeat. Boom. Boom. Boom
(and later in the movie)
Betty Ross: Can you remember anything. Is there anything from when you were changed?
Bruce Banner: It was like a dream.
Betty Ross: About what?
Bruce Banner: Rage. Power. And freedom.
(later, in another scene)
Bruce Banner: You know what scares me the most? When it happens, when it comes over me and I totally lose control…I like it.
Bana's was more dramatic and traumatic. When he talked about how it felt, the "boom, boom, boom," his face shows the elation. Norton just looked out a truck window as he delivered his lines.

Lee's use of multiple frames really made it seem like I was watching a cinematic comic book. The "Hulk dogs" and repressed memories? Those were actual elements from the comics. I also feel The Incredible Hulk is the weakest movie in Marvel's Cinematic Universe.

The difference between the two, as I said, is story. Hulk has it in spades. You learn more about Bruce than you ever did in the second movie. Of all the superhero movies I've seen lately, I think no other film has delved deeper into the main character as Hulk. It's not just telling how he became like that, but the why, and the effects it has on him mentally and emotionally.

Few films can balance action and drama but Hulk did that well. Audiences want to know a character, and Ang Lee delved deep into Bruce Banner's psyche. I'm disappointed the movie is so poorly received but it is one I'd highly recommend.

Cat Cafe

What's your favorite animal? Picture it. Now, imagine a place where you can be with your favorite animal anytime you want. Unless your favorite animal is a 12 foot mako shark, ready to tear you, Samuel L. Jackson, or anybody else in half. Sharks are just dangerous.

My favorite animal is a cat. I love cats: small, large, any kind of cat. And if you live in Japan, you're in luck. Japan (which should be nicknamed CCCW: the Cute and Cuddly Capital of the World) has cat cafes. These places are small cafes, serving coffee, snacks, and bundles of fur and happiness.

I live near Hiroshima and there is a cat cafe about 40 minutes away. What are these oases of cuteness? Cat+cafe= cat cafe. Often small, these places look like any decent coffee shop. Warm decor, tables and counters for sitting and relaxing. But I noticed the tables were low, the chairs legless. And furry animals were everywhere.

Cats own this place and they know it. They roam free, having run of the place except for the kitchen areas. (As much as I love cats, I hate cat hair in my coffee). Scratching posts and toys are scattered about. Cats ranging from kittens to full grown, and of different breeds, live here, providing warmth and a stress-free place to unwind.

I pay for an hour, around $10, for time with the cats, and an included beverage; coffee, tea, or such. They serve light cafe-style food as well, cakes and sandwiches and the like. Time after the allotted amount is extra, you often pay for 15 or 20 minute extensions.

For my time and money I get a quiet environment. Depending on the time of day, the cats maybe playful, chasing balls or feathers attached to the ends of sticks. Sometimes, everyone is tired, and they are curled in balls or stretched out. And these cats sleep where they want: in the window, under tables, in the shoe case, on the counter. No place, except the kitchen/food service area, is off-limits.

And who might patronage this kind of place? If your image is young girls yelling out "CUTE!" every five minutes, you're mistaken. Many cat cafe owners, especially the ones in the major cities, say their best customers are salarymen. Office workers, stressed out after working until 8 or 9 PM often come to cat cafes before heading home. They order a drink and unwind, petting their cares away And since most of them are repeat customers, they have point cards. Each visit get a stamp and when the card is filled, you get a free visit. I've filled up a couple of cards.

Where I live now, I'm not allowed pets. I love the cat cafe, it allows me a brief time to have a pet of my own. The breeds of the cats are ones that are known for being tame and domicile: Russian blue, Scottish fold, and the like.

With space a premium in Japan, not everyone can afford pets. Cat cafes provide people a place to have a pet of their own for a short time. The success of these cafes have spawned similar ones for different animals, dogs and rabbits being the most popular.

But nothing will beat a cat cafe. Bushy tails, soft paws…what's not to love?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

I'm Back, George Lucas, and More

It's been so long since I've posted on this blog. My few followers may have thought I've abandoned it. I haven't. I've realized I need to post more than just writing stuff, hopefully I'll be adding something new, with an aim to post it on a weekly basis. We'll see how that goes.

When I was back in America hanging out with friends, they showed me the YouTube video ""The Star Wars That I Used To Know". They asked me what I thought (it was interesting and well made) and said something along the lines of George Lucas ruining Star Wars. I basically said nothing, since I hate confrontation, but it stuck with me. I later heard George Lucas used as a verb, either "pulling a George Lucas" or "George Lucasing", I can't remember which. The main point seems not to be the actual changes Lucas has made to his films but rather if he has the right to.

Yes, he absolutely does.

I'm a Lucas supporter. I love all the Star Wars, even the prequels. The Empire Strikes Back is my least favorite of the six. I have no problem with JarJar and I don't think it was stereotyping. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull wasn't what I expected but it isn't the travesty people make it out to be. But, back to the changes.

The debate seems to be whether Lucas should be allowed to change his films or not. Do they belong to the fans or him? They are George Lucas's. As the creator, I think he has every right to change them. The films are his, both legally and creatively. Haven't you written a story, painted a picture, or built a model, only later to come back to it and say "I wish had done this, or changed that"? I'm sure most people have. So why can't he?

Fans believe, for the most part, the films are theirs. Once it is released, the original creators no longer have a say. Sometimes, fans think it belongs to them even before it is released; they probe the Net for set images and costume designs, critiquing every little thing and seeing if it matches with "their" vision. I think that's why some films, like The Phantom Menace and Ridley Scott's Prometheus, are disliked. It didn't match what the audiences were expecting.

So then we have fanon. Fan+canon= fanon. It is where fans take a film or episode of a beloved TV show and series and, because they hate it so much, pretend it never happened and doesn't fit into the movie or show's universe. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, These Are The Voyages…, the series finale of Star Trek: Enterprise, and The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton, come to mind. I admit I engage in some fanon as well. Creators aren't perfect and will produce clunkers now and then.

But if they have the opportunity to tweak it, to go back and add the little touches they think will enhance the movie, shouldn't they be allowed the shot? Yes.

Creators need fans. They are the people who make the movies and shows known. But they aren't the final say in the matter. The creator is. At the end of the day, it is George Lucas's name on the movies They are his. Do we have to agree with and like every single change he makes to the Star Wars saga. No.

But it IS his right, as the creator, to make those changes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What's Going On

Summer break has started here in Japan and this week my job ends. I'm a little sad to see it go and I'll miss my students a lot.

On the plus side, I'm moving into my wife's condo on Friday. After two years we will finally be able to live together. I'm looking forward to it. Moving out won't be as bad as when I moved out of Iwakuni, a new ALT is taking my place here in Hikari so I can leave almost everything to her. I only need to move my personal stuff.

Then on August 1 I'll go back to America for almost a month. I'm looking forward to seeing every one again.

On the writing front, it's looking like The Super School Uniform will be over 100,000 words, which I'm happy with. Better to write too much and take some out in editing than to try to add stuff. I will be adding stuff on the second draft, hopefully more characterization and details and such. I'll be glad to finish and move on.

I wanted to reciprocate a post by my friend Lynn Rainey. She wrote a post here and gave some good advice I'm trying to follow.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Back To The Ole Drawing Board (umm… outline, rather…)

I've had to pause on writing The Super School Uniform. I haven't stopped for good, just put the actual writing on hold for a bit. The last few weeks I've been finding myself getting stumped on things in the story: motivations, set-ups, and the like. Then I came across this link shared by Jeffery Deaver. I realized that I didn't have enough things thought out well enough. I had purposely left my outline a little vague, thinking that I could fill in as I wrote. But, I found myself having to pause during my actual writing, sometimes for days, until I got a particular point figured out. It felt frustrating, because it felt like I was wasting time by not writing. So I have decided to pause on the actual writing, go back to my outline, and make it more detailed and have more points well thought out and such. It feels bad I'm not actually writing, but I think having a more detailed outline will help me in the long run.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Smashwords Forum and SmashReads

You've heard me mention Smashwords a few times on my blog. It is a free ebook distributor; they take your manuscript, convert it into an ebook along with an uploaded cover image, and distribute it to major ebook stores like iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, and others, as well as offering it on their own site in a variety of formats. Every author on the site is self-published and the variety of books offered is amazing.

There is a forum, while not officially associated with Smashwords (although I think it should be, and I hope it will be), that is a gathering of Smashwords authors and readers. A new section of the forum, SmashReads,has just opened up. In it, readers can share recommendations on authors and stories they have found on the Smashwords site. The sub-forum is split into sections based on length. I'm also partly biased on this section since they chose my selection for its name. :)

I'd highly recommend joining this forum if you're an author, reader, just thinking about getting something published, or looking for something new to read. Sign-up is free and there are many opportunities to interact with the authors and give feedback.

Here is the link: http://smashwords-forum.proboards.com/

As always, leave comments below, and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

No update in a while...

It's been a while but I'm still here. I've been plodding my way through The Super School Uniform. I'm currently thinking how to best stage my next action scene. This sequence is somewhat important because it will reveal what the aliens, the Noigel, look like without their protective suits, along with what kind of weapons they use. I'm going for a Predator/Jem'Hadar kind of thing without hopefully making the Noigel TOO similar to them. If anyone has any cool alien designs/inspirations they'd like to see, please tell me. I didn't think of the Noigel designs when I wrote the outline, I figured I would just make it up when I got to that point in the novel. Well, it's here now, and stumping me more than I thought it would. I guess I'll plan ahead better when I write my third book.

Anyway, I've also been reading. I'm trying to alternate my book this year; swapping between Stephen King, Jeffery Deaver, Star Trek, and something I normally wouldn't read. I'm currently reading The Bourne Identity. So far it has just been okay. Maybe knowing what he is, because I've seen the movies, is hindering my appreciation, but the book seems to be just a series of "follow the money and meet people who give you clues." The story heavily involves banks and money and people who work for people who work for a person who works for a person that wants Jason Bourne dead. I'm about halfway through and I hope I will finish it. I tried reading The Three Musketeers and The Time Traveller's Wife but didn't finish them. Maybe one day.

I joined the site Goodreads so I can get recommendations on books that I normally might not read. My reading selection is somewhat limited and I'm trying to expand that (hence The Bourne Identity and The Maltese Falcon). I also search out new authors on Smashwords. I'm hoping to come across some good stuff this year.

As always, leave your comments below and thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Writing To Music

I would think most writers would agree: noise helps you to write. In fact, I read an article that said that background noise, at around 70 decibels, helps. That is why writing at cafes is popular, tuning out the the low level noise forces you to concentrate harder on the the task at hand. Writing to music is the same, I think.

I listen to mostly three kinds of music: movie soundtracks, Meat Loaf, and Hello! Project (Morning Musume, Berryz Koubou, C-ute, and others). I also like country and a few other artists but I'll admit I'm out of touch with the American music scene. But like most artists, I listen to music when I write. Silence is too distracting.

I write mostly to movie soundtracks. I find if I write to music with words I began to think more about the song than the story on the screen in front of me. I'll start singing along to Meat Loaf and whatever few words I know to Morning Musume songs, thinking about their dance routine in their PVs. Music with words makes my mind wander.

Soundtracks help. With no words to distract me, I just pick an album I like and start it up. Once it's finished, I switch to another one. The music becomes the cafe background noise that I tune out to focus on my writing. Sure, when I pause in my writing, a particular tune may make me think about its scene in the movie but it is less distracting. Sometimes listening to an action piece while writing an action scene helps my writing.

Lately, the soundtrack to X-Men: First Class has been getting a lot of play time. I just really love it. With a lot of soundtracks in my iTunes library, some of course get played more than others.

Of course, I'd live to hear your thoughts. What do you listen to when you write? Any recommendations? Anything you'd suggest avoiding? Leave your comments.

As always, thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Reading: iDevice Vs. Physical

I'm currently reading Deception Point by Dan Brown on my iPad. The first time I ever read an ebook it was on my laptop. It was awkward and hot, even with a heat absorbing pad on my legs the MacBook's bottom got pretty warm. Turning pages by hitting an arrow key just felt strange, not to mention the weight resting on my legs. I liked a paperback better.

After I got an iPhone I began reading more ebooks. The screen size definitely took some getting use to. But after that adjustment period I began to see the appeal, especially since ebooks take up so little disk space. If the iPod was "a thousand songs in your pocket" (as the slogan went) then an iPhone or iPad is "tens of thousands of books in your pocket." Practically a library with you at all times. And it is for that very reason I read ebooks now and rarely buy physical books. With so many books to choose from and so many different ways to get them, I'm now reading books I probably wouldn't have if I had had to buy them in a bookstore. I simply put a big library on my iDevice and when I'm done with one book, I just scroll through the library and read something else that catches my eye.

The downside, for me at least, is that in exchange for having a massive library that I can get for free or very little money, not all ebooks are properly formatted. Formatting, for me, is important and poor formatting can take me out of a story quickly. If one of my ebooks is poorly formatted I will often look for another copy that's been done better. Thoughts that haven't been italicized, paragraph breaks in the middle of a sentence, spaces between letters in a word all throw me for a loop and make have to reread the sentence. The two worst offenders, in my opinion, is either paragraphs that have not been indented or just run on or that there are two lines of space between every paragraph. Those drive me nuts. While I do that type of formatting on my blog, it is because each new paragraph is a new topic or thought. It shouldn't be like that in a novel.

I'm curious about the current pricing court battles and how they will affect ebooks in the future. In my opinion, ebook prices at the major retailers are way too expensive. Sometimes an ebook costs more than its paperback counterpart. Why should that be so? I know digital publishing is a new frontier and the companies are trying to adjust to it, but it seems pretty easy to think that lower prices would attract more customers.

Back on the brighter side, I prefer ebook reading. I love the ability to take out a book, any time and any where, and read it. If I hate what I'm reading, I can switch to something else immediately and not have to wait to get back home or go to the nearest bookstore to get something else. Syncing across different devices is great too, sometimes reading on an iPhone is more appropriate than reading on an iPad, like at the doctor's office or bus stop.

That's it for this post. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 08, 2012


I've picked up on my writing some and I'm writing the scene that is my midpoint, with a total of around 55,000 words up to this point. If I can keep this pace up I'll break 100,000. Which would be really nice. I just preordered the Kindle editions of Bennett's Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Forgotten History and Jeffery Deaver's XO. Bennett's Only Superhuman comes out in October and they are taking preorders for the hardcover but not the Kindle edition yet. I prefer reading ebooks using Apple's iBook app but the iBookstore isn't available in Japan, so if I order an ebook on Amazon I have to use the Kindle app. That's it for this post.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


I'm sorry to say that my writing has slowed to a crawl these last few weeks. I was getting close to 1,000 words a day but I have fallen way behind on that. Writing 1,000 - 2,000 words a day is Stephen King's advice but I think I'll switch to writing for a minimum of one hour every day. If I can write more than that, great; but if not at least one hour. I had a rule of no writing on the weekends but I may have to amend that.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Links to Other Authors

In this post I've added links to the homepages of three of my favorite authors: Stephen King, Jeffery Deaver, and Christopher L. Bennett
Stephen King needs no introduction. He's the writer I admire most and the one I most closely try to emulate. I've never read a King story that I've disliked, although there are some I like more than others. I haven't read all his books but I'm trying.
Jeffery Deaver is a thriller/mystery writer most well-known for his Lincoln Rhyme series. My favorite book by him is The Cold Moon. Deaver is known for his plot twists and reversals. While I think he occasionally stretches them, his books are fast-paced and difficult to put down. His prose and style are very different from King but I highly recommend him.
Christopher L. Bennett is a sci-fi writer that has written mostly tie-in novels, the most being for Star Trek. He brings hard science to his stories, with lots of technical details but his books are epic in scope and his world-building skills are admirable. His first original novel, Only Superhuman, is coming out this year and I'm looking forward to it. I'd recommend Star Trek: Titan - Orion's Hounds and Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations - Watching the Clock.
I hope you'll check out these authors. Are there any you would recommend? If so, say it in the comments box.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


In an earlier post I touched on outlining and structure, and I'd like to talk more about them here. I'm not trying to give advice, especially being a novice writer. I'm just telling what I do. Most of what I learned about writing comes from Syd Field's book Screenplay and Stephen King's On Writing. I won't do a review of these books so just bear in mind that many of my habits came from these two works.

I start with an outline, a road map of my story. It isn't long, usually not more than four pages. I begin with a log line, a short descriptive overview of the story, the kind of thing you would find in TV Guide or such; usually only one or two sentences long. After that I figure out four things: opening, ending, Plot Point 1 and Plot Point 2 (PP1 and PP2, for short). These are the main parts of my story, the road signs that tell it what direction to take.

The opening and ending are fairly straightforward: what is the hero doing at the beginning of the story before they get into their situation; do they win in the end or lose? These are usually pretty easy to figure out.

PP1 and PP2 aren't quite so easy. In a two hour movie these usually happen about thirty minutes and ninety minutes, respectively, into the movie. These are the points where the hero (or heroes) have to make their decisions or something drastic happens to them at this point. Often in action movies PP1 is when the hero learns what the villain has done or trying to do and PP2 is when the hero is caught or when the villain has almost started his final plan. Once I figure out these two points, I have signs to direct my story towards. As I think and write my outline these may change over time but the function of them don't. They are there to anchor my story. In Adventure Hunters, the opening is the three adventurers in the ruin, the ending is telling their last story, PP1 is deciding to search for the Lambda Driver and PP2 is when the golems are activated.

After figuring out those four points, I write an outline, having split my story into three acts. Act 1 ends with PP1, Act 2 ends with PP2 and Act 3 ends when the story ends. I then write fourteen "scenes" for each act, rough outlines of all the major scenes in my story. These descriptions are brief and don't include every detail, they are just general outlines to give me a rough idea of what my story will be like. This is, without a doubt, the hardest part for me, especially Act 2. Syd Field calls writing the outline (or treatment) a "kick in the pants" exercise. Now I have to take my half-baked idea and turn it into a narrative.

I don't have every detail worked out, only the major parts. There are many things I'll leave blank and figure out as I am writing the story. Some take me by surprise. An example of this is in Adventure Hunters when the three heroes go to meet the gargoyles. My outline had it written as a very straightforward "gather their collective breath and get information" series of scenes. But as I was writing their journey through the forest I needed more tension. I needed a character to be scared of the gargoyles who lived in the forest. Neither Regina or Artorius fit the bill, it wasn't in their character. That left Lisa. So as I wrote the scenes, I made her first be angry and racist towards the gargoyles. But that didn't work, so I changed it into a fear bordering on a phobia. But why was she scared? I eventually wrote a scene explaining why, tying it in with a traumatic experience with her parents from her childhood. This was something I never planned on when I created Lisa and wasn't in my original outline, it grew as I was writing and was a pleasant surprise.

Syd Field says to write a four page outline, Stephen King makes it up as he goes along, and Jeffery Deaver writes 100-200 page outlines for his stories, knowing every twist and turn along the way. I'm aiming for somewhere in the middle. Without an outline I write about thirty pages and get lost and frustrated, I've done it before. But a 100 or 200 pages outline? I might as well just write the novel. Deaver is a thriller writer and a master of plot twists, he needs to know every twist and turn in advance to make sure everything fits together. There are merits to all three approaches, I think.

After I'm happy with my outline and hopefully find it without too many plot holes, I'll start writing. I refer to my outline and use it as a map but it isn't gospel, I'll change it if I think something else works better. Along with my outline I have a word count I try to shoot for. Again, this number isn't gospel or ironclad but if I get close to it I'm happy. I think it helps me out, knowing that I'm inching closer to a goal and giving me a feeling of accomplishment. However, I won't write just to fill up a word count, if my story ends and I have nothing else to say, it ends. I don't want to stuff it with useless filler.

So there you are, a glimpse into my writing process. Of course I'm new at this so I'm sure my habits will change the more I write. If any other readers out there would be willing to share their process I'd love to read them, just write in the comments box. As always, thanks for reading.