Blog Archives

Equites Release

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Greetings to all.  Today, I have great news, as my second novel, Equites, has been sent to the printers, and is finally live and available for purchase!  Currently, it can be purchased on the iUniverse website (link below) in hardcover, paperback, and e-book, and will soon be available on mainstream book sites such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.

This marks the beginning of a busy year, as I will be doing even more promotion for the Lightrider series.  This will include giveaways, a national Book Exhibit, and my first venture into conventions, at the Big Apple Con on Mar 7th in NYC, and the Garden State Comic Fest in Morristown NJ over the summer.  More details will be released as time goes on, so please, keep checking back for info and my usual writing entires.  Here’s to a successful New Year.

http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000518643/Equites.aspx

Points of Light Christmas Edition: A Christmas Carol

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Welcome to the first post of December. As the Christmas season comes down again, I decided that since the first holiday month on the blog went well, that it was time to do it again, this time with a series of Christmas themed entries. Now have no fear, I have no intention of talking commercialized specials like Frosty and Rudolph. Instead, my desire is to examine genuine pieces of Christmas stories, be they literature, film, or another medium. Therefore, let’s begin with perhaps the greatest piece of literature in history- Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol.

The Plot

As this is a story that has had multiple adoptions and retelling in the century plus time since it’s writing, I will be brief here. This is the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a cold, money-obsessed man who care only for money and for none of the joy of Christmas. But a visit from his deceased partner, who is doomed to wander the earth for his greedy ways in life, precedes a trio of ghosts who show Scrooge the past, present, and future should he continue in his ways. This leads Scrooge to embrace change and become a fair and generous man to all those around him.

What Writers Can Learn: Morality, Symbolism, Social Commentary

There is nary a person that has not grown up hearing some version of A Christmas Carol. Its impact on the holiday cannot be understated- indeed, the book is created for returning Christmas to a more joyous time on both sides of the Atlantic, and giving the weight and meaning it has now. However, Dickens’ tale has deeper roots. Dickens felt for the hard life of poor children and workers in England, and wrote several pamphlets on the cruelty of life those workers had to endure. He himself had lived several months in a workhouse as a child, and had observed the men and women who slaved away there. However, Dickens realized he could accomplish more with his writing then he could with political fare, and created a Christmas narrative to send his concerns out to the masses. Scrooge therefore, and figures like Jacob Marely stand as a criticism on capitalism, and Scrooge’s transformation and the happiness of the poor Cratchits is Dickens’ hope for the redemption of mankind.

Indeed, Dickens fills the novel with symbols not only on mankind’s nature, but also on life itself. Scrooge and Marely clearly represents greed and its destructive ways, and the chance for redemption, while Bob Cratchit is obviously the working man Dickens saw in life and Tiny Tim the poor children he also saw. However, the three Sprits also contain deeper symbolism. The Ghost of Christmas Past is portrayed as bright and shining, often imbibed with the power of ‘truth’. The past itself is often seen through nostalgia, making it seem a far better and simpler time. Yet, it also carries the weight of our choices, and how we must accept what they have led us to.

The Ghost of Christmas Present is joyful and happy, showing not only the emotions we should hold at Christmas, but also how the present seems full of possibilities. However, as the Spirit proves, the present also forces us to look at things as they are now, and the things we must see and judge ourselves by in the world. Indeed, a forceful scene, often cut out of current adaptations, is where the Spirit shows how Ignorance and Want, shown as poor, malnourished children of Mankind, cling to him, and how if they are ignored, will spell they end of humanity. Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is the least subtle- a dark, foreboding figure in the mold of the Grim Reaper. Because after all, the future is always shrouded in mystery, save that it contains one thing- Death, which every person fears, and the question of how a person’s life will stack up when they are gone. Therefore this Sprit’s part of the novel is the darkest, and the one just prior to Scrooge’s redemption. It also carries the most weight, perhaps best shown in, ironically, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, where the Spirit tosses Scrooge into his grave (which opens into Hell), laughing and calling out, “The richest man in the cemetery!”

Final Thoughts

The many adaptations of A Christmas Carol have worn out many of the messages, but that does not make it any less of a tool for writers. It takes the hardships of the poor, the evil of greed, and the hope of redemption, and wraps into a Christmas ghost story (a hard enough thing to write as it is). Writers wishing to convey any sort of social message, or a moral, should examine it and see how well these heavy issues can be wrapped in a holly wreath and hung in the minds of men.

As for the adaptations, people with genuine interest should view either the George C. Scott or Patrick Stewart versions, which are closest to the original novel. However, children would be well served by the afore-mentioned Mickey’s Christmas Carol or The Muppets’ Christmas Carol, and excellent comedic versions exist in Scrooged! or Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, which reverses Scrooge into the nicest (and most taken advantage of) man in England, who learns to be greedy and mean. And of course, there is one rather recent version which I will discuss next week. Be warned though- this version carries with it a rather Halloween-flavored hunger…

Also, I will be appearing a the Cranford NJ Public Library this Thursday night for a signing and discussion on Lightrider, so any in the area, feel free to attend. And a congratulations to Emile Wilson, winner of the Lightrider Holiday Giveaway!

Rafflecopter Contest!

First off, I want to thank everyone who worked on the Clark Library Author Meet and Greet. It was great to make some new fans and talk with a lot of like-minded authors. Second, I want to announce the first Lightrider Holiday Giveaway! It’s very simple folks- just use the Rafflecopter link for the instructions, and you are automatically entered for a chance to win a signed copy of Lightrider, along with a full set of beautiful character bookmarks done by Derrick Fish. So please, head over to my Facebook page, click on the giveaway link, and good luck to everyone! The contest will begin on Nov. 1st, and run through the month until Thanksgiving.

https://www.facebook.com/TheLightriderJournals/app_228910107186452

The Publishing Process: Marketing Part 3- Book Signings

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By this point in your marketing process, you should hopefully have a great, eye-catching cover and someone in place to help guide you through getting your name out there. Now, you need to focus on setting up events where you can see people and get your name out there. One of the most basic events a writer can set up, is the one we will be discussing today- the book signing.

The Set-Up

If anyone has ever waited in line to get an autograph, you have experienced the basic concept of a book signing. It is a great way to meet readers, talk about your book, sell some copies, and get a nice ego boost as well. However, these events take time to set up, and even more time for new authors since unlike the people you have waited in line for, you are probably not famous yet. The first part of getting a signing is to first find places that you can host a signing in. As I mentioned before, you do not want to spread yourself in areas that are far away, so you should first examine your local area for spots you can use. These can be anywhere from libraries to bookstores to even schools. And again, if you use places that you have some history in, you have a better chance of being able to set one up.

Now even with a local setting, you will still need to sell the signing itself (which may also involve spending money for an event). After all, these places are going to be giving you their time and space, and don’t want to give them for nothing. Therefore, be able to promote the signing to the owner. Have a strategy for how you will help to raise awareness for the event, and what exactly makes your book a standout. And while you don’t want to do this in great detail, it is not bad to invite a few people to the event. It will guarantee the event will have an audience, which will help to assure your promoter their will be a draw. So try to use methods like newspapers, online media, and as much word of mouth as you can.

The Event

Once you have an event set up, then you need to start making preparations. Obviously, you need to make sure you have copies of the book to sell at the event, as well as some signs and decorations for the inside. You should make sure you have a general number of how many people will be at the event, and plan accordingly; being short on books will greatly hurt your image to fans and to promoters. And obviously, you need to have some way to keep money from the book sales safe. Your first step can be to get another person to handle the cash, so you can focus on the event. It might also help to get some additional devices, like a portable credit-card reader, to accent your intake.

The most important thing you need however, is a speech. As much as you will be sitting and signing, you aren’t going to grab loyal fans by just sitting there. After all, when you go to a signing, you want to speak to the person, even if only for a few seconds, and try to ask them something. And you should be able to talk about your work and grab their attention. So before the signing, write out a speech where you discuss the book. You can talk about your influences, the process of writing and publishing, read passages from the book, anything to explain how you came to this point. And if there is time, have a q & a section for the event. Readers like nothing more than asking about a novel, and this gives you a chance to connect with them, as well as learn the vital skill of thinking on your feet.

Final Thoughts

A signing can be a great deal of work, and even scary to a first timer. But they are essiential to all writers’ promotion, and should not be half-assed in anyway. Using local places is a great way to get started, and it will help you to later set up events in places where you are less known. But most importantly, they can be a great deal of fun for the authors. I can personally attest to the joy of being asked great questions about a book I had poured so much work into, and hearing people give such positive feedback. So when the time comes, look around you for places, use your connections, plan things out as much as possible, and be ready to conquer your stage fright.

Thoughts on Writing A Good Female Character

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I had intended to spend this week’s blog on another Point of Light, but upon opening my newspaper on Monday morning, I came across something that caught my attention. It was an article on the lack of a successful super-heroine film, a fact that as a comic fan I can readily attest to. As I read the article, I found myself musing on the problems not only with women in comics, but also the problems I faced writing women into Lightrider. Therefore, this week’s entry will be my journey to write good female characters (as well as some notes on the lack of said women in comic books films).

Women in Media and in Lightrider

As I mentioned, I can easily attest to the lack of good super-heroine films from comics. While Thor and Batman bring in money hand over fist, Wonder Woman remains in development hell, while atrocities like Catwoman and Supergirl are released to worldwide disdain, further burying the concept of female heroes. Most women in these films are either damsels (Vicky Vale), or brought in to be part of a team (Black Widow), or just as eye candy (take your pick). I will readily admit part of the problem is that these characters have to compete in a male-driven world (as I mentioned in my piece on Mary-sues, female characters are often wrongly accused of being Mary-Sues when they are presented as strong characters). Even when there are acceptable strong female characters, they are almost always given some level of sex appeal to grab male readership (see Starfire in early Titans; a sweet, gentle, yet powerful alien with a model’s body that didn’t always wear clothes). Even Wonder Woman, the greatest heroine of all time, suffers from this problem, as she is best known for fighting crime in a star-spangled one piece that has changed in size various times over the years (and despite this, most men are so uncomfortable with her mission to educate the destructive race of man in the ways of peace it has hindered her film debt). As such, most comic book movie heroines have to try to relate to women and appeal to men, and usually fail on their own.

While I won’t try to claim that I never noticed or somewhat enjoyed the sexualization of women in comics, I can say that I have a much greater attachment to female characters that actually HAVE character. As a child, I never understood why so many of my favorite cartoons omitted the girls from their toyline (or at least didn’t give them the big weapons the men had). As I got older, I latched onto many strong female characters (Katara and Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender, Raven and Starfire from Teen Titans, Cassandra Cain (Batgirl) from the Batman comics), and rolled my eyes at attempts to sexualize them (I still cringe at Starfire’s early days in Red Hood and the Outlaws.) But at the same time, I was also creating the Knights in Lightrider, and despite my understanding of good female characters, I originally wrote all the Knights as men.

I can’t really say why I did this. To some degree, I think I was afraid I would be unable to really write an accurate female character. And perhaps some part of it was the large amount of male-centric media I’d been exposed to. But as I began to show my work around, I heard from a friend, “Why aren’t some of them women?” It was a comment I heard more then once, enough that I began to seriously think about it. I decided that I needed to really asses what a good female character was before I could begin such a massive overwrite. So I looked over the characters I mentioned above, long with others I had seen as a child, and began to analyze why they worked as female heroes. But as I worked, I realized something. I cared about Katara and Toph because they were upbeat, strong, characters that had overcome personal hardships and were bravely fighting an unwinnable war. I cared about Raven and Starfire because despite all their powers, at their cores, I saw people I could relate to and understand. I cared about Cassandra Cain because she was trying overcome the shadow of her assassin father. And I found similar traits in every other female character I researched. And so I realized this- I cared about these women because they were characters first.

And thus, I had my answer. I went back to the book and chose the Knights I could change (some were simply too male to be effectively changed), made the alterations, and made a group that was not only more balanced, but was still the group of unique characters I had intended them to be. So in conclusion, for writers who want to create good female characters, to movie executives and comic writers trying to make a real heroine movie/comic, and finally, I say this- Before you think of them as a woman, make sure you think of them as characters. Because characters lasts a lot longer than a skin tight costume or the sex driven attention span of men.

Points of Light: The Crow

Last week, I said that Points of Light needed to focus on two dark films that inspired me in the creation of my two main characters.  I began with Sam Rami’s Darkman, which provided the torment and loss for Joe, as well as some dark humor and the asthetic of the Knights’ costumes.  Today, I will examine the other dark film and graphic novel, which was a major turning point for the creation of Nightstalker- James O’Barr’s The Crow.

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The Story

The Crow, one of the most famous independent comics of all time, is the story of Eric Draven, a musician killed alongside his girlfriend by a gang of violent street punks.  One year later, Draven is resurrected by a mysterious crow (which according to the film, guides souls to the land of the dead, and occasionally brings them back), dons a black costume and frightening white makeup, and goes out onto the streets to take his revenge on the criminals that destroyed his life.  The film and comic take different approaches- the comic deals far more with the emotional turmoil Draven goes through as he comes to terms with death, while the film focuses more on the acts of revenge he takes against the gang.  Both end with Draven taking the criminal out and returning to the earth to see his girlfriend again, finally accepting his death and the circumstances around it.

What I Learned: Duality, Dark Humor, Inner Turmoil

The Crow is laced with tragedy, and with good reason.  O’Barr wrote the story after his girlfriend was killed in a drunk driving accident coming to pick him up.  O’Barr poured all of his anger and guilt into the pages of the novel, and that all comes across in the movie, which sadly has its own tragedy (actor Brandon Lee was killed during filming due to an accident with an improperly loaded gun).  Regardless, Lee put on a tremendous show of Draven’s inner anger and rage as he took revenge.  What I found amazing however, was that despite his inner anger and turmoil, he still showed traces of humanity and tenderness, especially with his friend from his old life, Sarah.

Even when he finds that Sarah’s mother is with one of the thugs, Draven still takes time to both heal and lecture her on the importance of her child.

This, in a moment, crystalized Nightstalker for me.  While he was someone that was dark and scary and violent, he could still be human, and care about others, even regret the course of action he had to take, despite it’s varying levels of justification.  But when he was violent and scary, he would still bring everything he had to it.  Still, I always appreciate some humor in my heroes, and Draven could pull that off even in his most frightening scenes.

But more then anything, I saw Draven’s inner turmoil and how it was driving him.  He was driven by a desire for revenge, without question, but also so many other things.  He was wracked with guilt that he couldn’t save his girlfriend.  He was tormented by the pain he endured.  And the memories of his past humanity, which he knew he could never have again.  But he never showed any of that to the people he battled against.  All his pain was reserved for moments of solitude, or moments with the few allies he gathered in the time he returned.  It was a unique dynamic to me- someone that buried the pain, but dug it up when he was alone.  It made him human despite all his brutality and anger, and I knew how much Nightstalker would need that.

What Writers Can Learn

Like Darkman, The Crow is an amped up revenge story, but with a different focus.  Reading the comic or seeing the film is a way to see a character shaped by grief and loss; knowing the backstory shows how far a person might want to go to see justice done.  There’s also the moral of accepting death and our own limitations in the sight of it.  Even if the supernatural/superhero elements don’t reflect your own ideas, they are concepts that resonate in some of the greatest works in literature.  If you want to tell a story that deals with death and what it can cause a person to do,  there’s no greater and truer fiction then The Crow.

Today’s Vlog Stop- Curling Up With A Good Book

Today the Vlog comes to Curling Up With a Good Book, and along with the chance to enter for a signed copy, there’s an interview with me about Lightrider, it’s inspirations, and some of the material I like to read.

http://curling-up-with-a-good-book.blogspot.com/