Friday, December 16, 2016

Sort Of Expensive Christmas Presents

            Greetings and Merry Christmas, ye loyal readers. As the blessed holiday is but days away, I see it fit to bestow upon you all some gifts that only a financially-stunted writer can afford. To begin (sorry about the lack of wrapping paper)…
WRITING PROMPTS.
I’ve racked my brain for the better part of five minutes to come up with these gems for your writing edification, so pull up that empty document and prepare to be inspired.

-          Mankind has established thriving colonies in space. Obviously, Santa Claus is going to need an upgrade. Write something (carol, bedtime story, epic novel, etc.) about St. Nick in the intergalactic future. I imagine a reindeer-powered wormhole drive, an obscure ice planet base, and Santa’s entrance through your home’s ventilation system will come into play.
-          While we’re still here, though, why is Santa at the North Pole? Give a rousing account of the deadly Penguin Wars.
-          Reindeer are transportation at the North Pole, but polar bears are obviously the security force. We have Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, so now we obviously need ( name ) the ( something something ) Polar Bear. It practically writes itself.
-          Pseudo-scientific reasons for reindeer flight. Go.

Let’s face it, the obvious fact that you’re still reading this means you aren’t writing anything yet. Very well, I’ll have to deploy the second part of my gift:
A PLAYLIST.
The following music is part of the Ambient Cyberpunk playlist that I like to listen to when I’m writing—and I’m listening to it right now. I strongly recommend it for every sci-fi scrivener out there who needs some background noise when at work. Considering the number of songs here…this gift is VERY expensive (all the songs are available on ITunes, FYI). Albums are bold/underlined, and their songs will be underneath the respective albums in bullet points. Some of my favorites will have links directly to the song on YouTube. Clear? Didn’t think so.

Invisible, Inc. by Jason Garner & Vince de Vera
·         Intro
·         Map Ambient
·         Map Main
·         Factory to Market Wholesalers
·         Kelfried & Odin Weapons Foundry
·         Sankaku Heavy Industries
·         Plastech Cybermedical
·         OMNI
·         OG Track
·         Trailer
·         DR Style (Shopcat Remix)
·         Credits

Iron Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Ramin Djawadi
·         Mark II

National Treasure by Trevor Rabin
·         National Treasure Suite

Portal Stories: Mel Soundtrack by Harry Callaghan
·         Interfacing
·         The Spheres
·         Waking Up To Science
·         Testing Begins
·         Out Of Order
·         Acceleration
·         The Junkyard Offices
·         The Junkyards
·         Welcome To The Future
·         Long Way Down
·         Transitional Period
·         Natural Light
·         Troubled Water
·         Testing With Nature
·         Decades Of Science
·         The Best The World Had To Offer
·         Mel’s Story
·         Troubled Water [Trailer Theme]
·         Adjacency [menu]

TRON: Legacy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Daft Punk
·         The Son of Flynn
·         Armory
·         Rinzler
·         The Game Has Changed
·         Adagio for TRON
·         End of Line
·         Derezzed
·         Solar Sailer
·         TRON Legacy (End Titles)
·         Father and Son

There you have it: now you know what music to listen to (or avoid) while writing science fiction stuff. Now get back to the writing prompts; I didn’t put them up there for just myself. When you’re done, if you want, you can send me whatever you wrote to the email address under the “Contact” section—I do like to see what people have written (No, I won’t use the stories myself, and yes, your name and information will remain private). Happy writing, and again, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Book Reviews And Some Christmas Stuff

I think I should start here by naming the elephant in the room: I’m very, very bad at thinking up titles for anything. No, really. The original working title for Stormlock was The Wizard Story—when I was forced to give the testing facility a name, it sounded good enough to become the title. There you go. A little bit of sad trivia for you.
Anyway, let’s move on (quickly) to a couple of book reviews here. If anyone out there is thinking about making an English/Victorian steampunk YA novel about mobile, somewhat corrupt cities, don’t bother. It has been done at least twice, most likely many more times while I wasn’t paying attention. Fortunately, both of the books I’m covering here were done by some good authors, so this won’t be a disgruntled rant like last time. The two that I’d like to bring up here are Worldshaker by Richard Harland and Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve, published 2009 and 2001 respectively.
If you need a good steampunk novel for the younger/middle end of the young adult spectrum (valuable Christmas ideas here), I would heartily recommend these two books for your consideration. Both are worth a look: while they both cover moving cities with struggles between the upper and lower classes, they have their own distinctions between them. I’d start with Worldshaker as it is a little bit of a lighter read, but I’m not talking about length. It is a good introduction to the area of Victorian values and class problems, it has action and intrigue, and it necessitates the reading of its only sequel, Liberator. However, it does feel a little simple at times. The interpersonal relationship situation can be complicated, that is certain, but everything else feels somewhat straightforward, I hesitate to say predictable. And Liberator does drop the ball a tad at the end—its climax takes up the final third of the book, a slow burn rather than a firework, but the end did give me the feeling of fulfillment I value in many of my favorite books. In the end I applaud, applaud, applaud Harland for his realistic and detailed tensions between the Worldshaker’s elite and the slave classes. People of today’s upper and lower societal classes would benefit reading these books.
I also really enjoyed reading Reeve’s Mortal Engines this past month. Burned through the first book in no time. The worldbuilding is like Worldshaker on steroids, broadening the scope beyond the city-ships themselves. The characters are way more complex—on both sides, for both the “good” and “evil” people that are encountered. There was a tangible threat of menace from inside and outside, and the post-apocalyptic elements were creatively handled (I appreciate that). Worldshaker is more historical fiction, but Mortal Engines is a well-done futuristic dystopia. The major criticism I have was the way the book ended. The last chapter felt like a punch in the gut—nay, a thirteen-round losing streak against a waist-high boxing champ. While the spark of hope is kept alive, I would only read the next book in the hopes that it would provide a pick-me-up, that those last page won’t be my final memory of this series. And it looks like Reeve’s Predator Cities goes on for at least three more books, so my fingers aren’t crossed. But, as hard as the ending was, it was artfully done. I respect that too. So yes, I recommend this one as well, but you should probably buy the whole quartology in the hope that the main characters’ winds of fortune improve.
Using my own Dystopian Teen Novel Review Checklist, Worldshaker and Mortal Engines both get about 10, which I consider to be a low enough score. Unless you count the “Stalkers” in Mortal Engines as an incarnation of zombies, in which case its number skyrockets (I feel there aren’t really enough of them to merit this addition, though, so I ignore it).

Huh. All that took longer than I was thinking. I was planning on using some time to talk about the season; Christmastime seems to be one of those seasons especially set aside for writers. The weather keeps you indoors with all kinds of comfortable clothes, blankets, and furniture, and the early twilight enhances a sensation of mystery and expectation. But, again, I’m running out of space as you run out of patience. As long as I’m on a roll here, though, I’m going to make another recommendation: somehow, someway, if you do not have it already, get the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas album. It will make great ambient music as you stare into snowy darkness, trying to think of the next perfect sentence.
            Unless you’re just killing time playing video games. Then I recommend Portal 2’s Workshop map “The Winter Testing Initiative”. You can’t go wrong with maddeningly difficult, Christmas-themed Portal test chambers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Few of My Comics

No, I'm not going to post about politics. In fact, as a counter to all of the stupid-sad, I present to you all some stupid-funny stuff from my comic blog Lab Rules, where exist my first clumsy attempts to master a computer coloring program. These four examples seem vaguely writing-related.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Another Stormlock Thing

Hello again. Enjoy the trailers? Doesn't matter; they're up there now. And here's one more thing--since I've been working on a submission package for the first book, I threw together a potential cover image for it. Here it is.



You might notice that it's no longer just "Stormlock Book 1" which I consider a major improvement.
I'll try to get something more interesting together for the next post, but I can't make any promises--I have some tests of my own coming up.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Final Trailer

Finally, the Full Trailer!

Hold on a second...

Hmm. The video seems to be slightly too large for the blogger to handle. Oh well. I'll post it on My Facebook Page and you can see (and share) it from there!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunday, October 2, 2016

October: Month of Trailers!

It is October! And this month is going to be slightly different: instead of two posts, this is going to be the only one. HOWEVER, keep checking back, because every Sunday I'm going to post a new video.
These videos have been a project of mine last summer, and now I'm ready to unveil them. They are book trailers, if you will, for a book that does not technically exist yet: MY book. These are trailers for Stormlock. The first four videos will showcase each main character / test subject, and the fifth will be a little different…
Enjoy! And don't forget to share this.

Trailer One: Test Subject 4, Alicia Fodorney
video


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Something Got Published!

Hello everyone! Yes, I am slightly early, but I do have a bit of news: "Cognito, Ergo Sum" has finally been published by Daily Science Fiction!

Well, it was published yesterday, but my wi-fi was having its own miniature robot uprising at the time, so this update got delayed. If you go to DSF now, my work will not be there to greet you.

I have the next best thing, though--a direct link to the archived story itself on DSF! So if you click here or on the link on my "Published Works" page on this blog, you can read it for yourself. I hope you enjoy it! (It has gotten some pretty good ratings, not that I'm bragging.)

(Fine, I'm bragging. Only a little.)

CELEBRATIONAL PREVIEW OF OCTOBER:

It's going to be a little bit different next month. Instead of two posts, one in the beginning and one in the middle, every Sunday I am going to be posting a book trailer of my own design! The subject? Stormlock.

This is all way better than it sounds. See you then!

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Few Letters On Personality

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can't tell you how his friends spoke to him, for he had none.” (C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Ch. I)

I hope you don’t mind if I’m uncharacteristically serious for a moment.
I’m a person who’s quite interested in personality types. To me, the number and seeming accuracy of personalities and temperaments is fascinating as I look at myself and my friends as sort of case studies. Whenever I hear that data from another person, I’m either surprised (“I wouldn’t have guessed that about you!”) or rather pleased (“That does sound right!”). It’s also fun to look at the characters you’ve written and figure out their types. Me, as far as my own personality goes, I’m a proud INTJ. You can see it on my short bio. I like to study my own type in order to better understand myself and how I work. And I’m sure there are many more people out there (maybe even you) who also like to engage in this exercise of self-discovery.
However, with a little bit of self-reflection, I have come across a danger that comes when one identifies and studies his temperament. Allow me to demonstrate using my two examples: Eustace Scrubb in C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and myself.

“But just as he reached the edge of the pool two things happened. First of all it came over him like a thunder-clap that he had been running on all fours—and why on earth had he been doing that? And secondly, as he bent towards the water, he thought for a second that yet another dragon was staring up at him out of the pool. But in an instant he realised the truth. That dragon face in the pool was his own reflection. There was no doubt of it. It moved as he moved: it opened and shut its mouth as he opened and shut his.
He had turned into a dragon while he was asleep. Sleeping on a dragon's hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself.” (Dawn Treader Ch. VI)

Short of directly looking into a mirror, an honestly taken personality exam is the most accurate of self-portraits that you can observe. I’ve taken the test at 16Personalities.com, confirming that I am an INTJ. Upon getting this result, I felt not unlike Eustace looking into the pool at his transformation. (Well, Eustace had the bigger shock—I’d known my type for a while. Just double-checking.)

“In spite of the pain, his first feeling was one of relief. There was nothing to be afraid of any more. He was a terror himself now and nothing in the world but a knight (and not all of those) would dare to attack him. He could get even with Caspian and Edmund now…” (Dawn Treader Ch. VI)

Reading over the INTJ Profile on 16Personalities, I was pleased. It felt accurate. It felt interesting. But best of all, it felt cool. Only 0.8% of the population are in my class, and we seem a highly capable bunch. For me, being told that my kind is “one of the rarest and most strategically capable personality types” feels pretty good. According to the strengths department, INTJs are quick, imaginative, strategic, self-confident, independent, decisive, hard-working, open-minded, and quite capable. Huh! Am I just not paying attention to what I’m doing (or what I could be doing)?

“But the moment he thought this he realised that he didn't want to. He wanted to be friends. He wanted to get back among humans and talk and laugh and share things. He realised that he was a monster cut off from the whole human race. An appalling loneliness came over him. He began to see that the others had not really been fiends at all. He began to wonder if he himself had been such a nice person as he had always supposed. He longed for their voices. He would have been grateful for a kind word even from Reepicheep.” (Dawn Treader Ch. VI)

Things get worse after reading all the way through the strengths list, since the next section pertained to INTJ weaknesses. Again, it was pretty accurate. My personality type comes with…let me see…me being arrogant, judgmental, too analytical, anti-structured-environments, and romantically clueless. In summary, we’re socially stunted. We may have the mind of Sherlock Holmes, but the sociopath comes standard too.
It’s monstrous. Personally, I do not socialize easily. A bar is dull. A club would be painful to enter. I have frequently been in crowded areas—of people I know, too—and have not engaged in the conversation. The net result: it often gets friggin’ LONELY up here. I’m not exactly approachable, either. Being 6’2” and ugly has its advantages, but PR is not one of them.

“‘Then the lion said—but I don't know if it spoke—You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know—if you've ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away. […] Then he caught hold of me—I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on—and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again. You'd think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they've no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian's, but I was so glad to see them. ’" (Dawn Treader Ch. VII)

The danger that I risk in the personality exams is simply this: I can start thinking that my traits are fixed. Eustace could have just succumbed to the reality that he was a monster. But that’s not how people work.
Lord knows we all hate a static character. If there’s no growth in the MC as the tale progresses, what’s the point? The best stories have the person/creature/thing/whatever develop and change, becoming better than they could have realized. Reynard Muldoon became a leader. Megamind became a hero, and so did Deadpool, in his own fashion. Eustace became a less irritating boy.
Look, if there’s one thing that I want you to take away from my semi-coherent introspection here, it’s that the best characters improve—including yours. Strengths need to be built on. Weaknesses? Those need to be worked on, repaired if possible. I’ll start, if that’s what it takes. It may hurt a bit, but in the end I might make some progress towards becoming more human. I’ll go out and walk around, maybe even talk to people. Get out of the ol’ comfort zone.
Oh wait…I’m currently studying abroad. I’ll need to learn a new language first.
This should get interesting.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

At Least I Can Admit It

Okey-doke. So, due to travels toward my semester abroad, funky wifi, and a general lack of immediate inspiration, my post for the beginning of this month will be merely an admission of guilt. My apologies. I should have a handle on things by mid-September though, so don't go doing anything you'll regret later.
But as long as we're here, I might as well provide a teaser for a project that I'm planning on posting soon...



Ten bonus points if you can guess what its theme is. See ya.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dystopian Teen Novel Review Checklist

Alright, that’s it. It’s about time that someone made a checklist-style book review so I can stop suffering through all these popular dystopian teen books.
This summer I decided to let my pop-culture embarrassment catch up to me. As much as it pains me to say it…I had not read any of the Hunger Games books up until recently. So finally I acquired a library copy and read the first installment. My official book review is thus: not bad. I found it entertaining, even if it was a bit of a downer eighty-five percent of the time. If I’d bought the book, I would have kept it.
Unfortunately, this venture made me want to look deeper into this area of contemporary culture. Not the Divergent series, though—I’ve heard enough from that sector, and judging by the movie reviews I hear, the whole assembly is in its death throes. I did remember that another popular book had hit the theater screen recently, though. That’s what led me to pick up 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. The reviews were so positive it was intimidating. I was nearly breathless with anticipation when I turned the dust jacket aside.
Surely my whole family remembers that week. Certainly my well-read older sister does. That was the week I would not stop complaining. My most spoken sentence? “Oh, COME ON!” I could predict the outcomes of entire chapters. I can predict the whole rest of the bloody series if I feel like it. Like FUN it was a new take on alien invasions. The writing itself claimed to be not your standard alien invasion, but it was. It was the PEOPLE who changed. Rick Yancey made every character—I hit upon the right word this morning—witless in the devastation’s wake. Yes, I know an alien invasion of that level has catastrophic effects and world-shaking implications. But it seemed the sole duty of every character (90% are teens) to b**** about it on every page. There were no buck-up people who weren’t evil somehow. There was chronic mournfulness around every corner. Call me a sadist or unsympathetic (I won’t contradict you), but all I could think about while I was reading was a quote by Rocket Raccoon: “Oh boo hoo, my wife and family are dead…you think you’re the only one who’s lost something??”
Finally, the main character’s name was Cassie. That’s right. We’ve got Katniss, followed by Tris, and now Cassie. There’s also Cia, a girl main character from another series called—not kidding—The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau. I read it about a year ago just to make sure it didn’t beat my own book series to the punch. It didn’t. Once again, typical teen deathmatch dystopia.
Katniss, Tris, Cassie, Cia.
Am I being harsh? I kinda hope so. And don’t think you’re slipping by without a mention, Maze Runner. I’ve got my eye on you.
I think the biggest problem is that we don’t know what’s inside these books until we open the covers or see them on the big screen. Sure, every teen book promises on its hands and knees that you’ve never read anything like this before. But now I want a faster, more effective type of review that will analytically demonstrate whether or not this new series is just the same old thing. I egotistically, pretentiously, and cynically present to you:

My Own Ratings On New Stories
From a Pretentious Egotistical Writer
Motto: “We hope they don’t notice those acronyms.”

Place check marks in all that apply. Each check is worth one point.
Main Character:
-          Is she white?
-          Female?
·         If so, is there some form of love triangle around her?
·         If so, is one of them an unapproachable dude she’s known from childhood, while the other one is less hunky yet slightly deeper model that she unwillingly (yet quickly) falls for?
·         And again, if so, will half of the series’ plotline be dedicated to the main character’s indecision about which hunk she should date?
-          Does he/she have not a scrap of positivity?
-          If there some sort of testing that is happening?
-          Is the main character being completely manipulated?
-          When the main character seems to be driving the plot, is he/she still being manipulated?
-          Do the character’s quirks not play into his/her overall actions or personality at all?
-          Is the main character complaining? A lot, perhaps?
Setting:
-          Is it dystopian? (I hope so, otherwise it could get boring.)
-          Are there loads of poor, downtrodden masses? (Again, that can be OK.)
-          Is there some powerful militant/elitist class that has risen up to rule?
·         If so, do they claim to “protect” the populace?
·         Are they clearly evil? Let’s say, oh, do they promote senseless teen brutality?
·         Did they clearly have a thesaurus handy when they were naming things?
-          Are there some incarnation of zombies or vampires? (If so, this check mark is worth eighty thousand points. Take that, Maze Runner movies.)
Plot:
-          Is the entire plot of the series basically as follows:
·         Badness happens.
·         Evil entity does bad things to benefit themselves.
·         Main character is somehow special.
·         He/she figures out the apparent evilness.
·         …Then forms a love triangle to hamper any rapid progress.
·         Main character and a small rebellious force escape evil entity’s clutches.
·         …Then finally they come back to defeat evil in an unsatisfying manner
o   (note: denouement of love triangle should be just as unsatisfying).


Scoring my own potential book series…it got about ten. Okay, about eighty thousand and ten if I’m extra honest—I’ll admit that drone mobs are somewhat zombie-ish. See? I can complain about myself too. I’m such a teenage main character like that.