Mini-Review: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

A image of ancient Chinese characters: two women and two men.  "A Film By Ang Lee" Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"
Image Source: http://www.mediacircus.net/cthd.html

So, in an effort to be a better film student, I’m trying to catch as many of the “major” and important releases that I’ve missed before they go off of various streaming services. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a movie that I’d always intended to see (due to my love of martial arts movies), but was, in all honesty, put off by because of the Oscar hype that surrounded it. I won’t go off into a long discussion (rant) about hype, but let’s just say, in some cases, hype has the opposite effect on me–it makes me less inclined to see a movie, not more. However, with it (at the time of this blog post), scheduled to go off of Netflix later this month, it seemed like the perfect time to check it out.

What I Liked

In a way, waiting might have been a good thing. I don’t think hat I would have appreciated Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon nearly as much. What it does, it does very well and is an example of something that “transcends its genre.”

I liked the personal story being told and the way it handles its central characters. In a way, this is a story about love–what is it, how is it exhibited, what happens when it is unrequited, what happens when it is set free, what is the place of marriage and love–are they analogous, or are they mutually exclusive? It is also the story of women and their roles and functions in a patriarchal society. This is the element that I feel that I would have missed had I seen it when it came out. Hear me out, as I’m not an unenlightened neanderthal. However, there are certain genres that turn me off–crime/mob stories, heist stories, and, yup, you guessed it, “love” stories. In my earlier days, this focus on love, marriage, and women’s issues would have “ruined” the movie for me. However, having taken Dr. Hixon’s Disney film class, I now understand how those tropes have permeated through the movie landscape (for good or ill) and I’ve learned to pick up on them and not “hate” them as much as I used to.

I also liked the martial arts. For a martial arts movie, I thought the actual fights were good Now obviously, that isn’t the true focus of the movie and they could have been stronger, especially the earlier ones. But I found the ones in the later half of the movie to be particularly interesting and well done in terms of choreography.

The characters were also well done, although the women characters are the ones who truly shine in story. The men are a bit one note, even the two main male leads. Both seemed under used. While I’m glad they didn’t go with the traditional “love” triangle for this story, breaking the focus up between the two male characters meant that neither the “strong, silent” protagonist or the “rebel without a cause” protagonist had a chance to shine. They both seemed under developed due to the lack of screen time they were given.

Finally, I like the story. Again, it wasn’t as strong as I’d been led to believe by the hype–it isn’t the best story I’ve seen in a martial arts movie–the Ip Man movies come quickly to mind, but it is far from the worst. I would give the plot (just the events of the story) an A-/B+ alone.

What I Didn’t Like

Okay, really the only thing I didn’t like is this movie’s claim to fame: the unrealistic gravity defying “flying-running” on air. I understand this from a stylistic choice and even from an aesthetic choice to differentiate your martial arts movie from everything else out there, but every time it was on the screen, it took me out of the action.

Look, I’m more into well edited, hyper kinetic fight sequences. The pseudo-rolling combat of Scarlett Johannson’s Black Widow, the methodical and clearly paced combat of Donnie Yen’s Ip Man, and the frenetic energy coupled with masterful comedic timing of Jackie Chan’s earlier movies (specifically thinking of Rumble in the Bronx here). Each one of these shows that it is possible to create a believable fight sequence that is both clear and fun to watch (okay, okay, so the edits in Marvel Movies are sometimes hard to follow, but as my mind mostly fills in the gaps, I’m okay with it).

However, knowing that it is clearly impossible for the action in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to be occurring without wires really takes me out of the action and story. I would have even preferred some sort of supernatural/hypernatural explanation because for humans to run up walls, jump from rooftop to rooftop and fight on swaying limbs was just too far for me. It didn’t help that the actors/stunt people clearly looked like they were being held upright by wires, even if we couldn’t see the wires. The way their bodies moved and swayed, clearly indicated that gravity was affecting them in a way that only wires/harnesses could have mitigated.

Had the movie been made today, a lot of the action would have probably been digitally created using digital models of the characters and animated with appropriate physics. I know it is heresy, but it would have to have been done this way for me to have liked it and kept it from distracting me and taking me out of the story.

Overall Grade: A-

Overall, I think this movie did what it set out to do: tell an interesting story about two female characters in a repressive, patriarchal male society in ancient China. While I’m not sure that I like the very element it was praised for (the unrealistic flying effects), I can say that I did like the story, characters, and martial arts far more and those elements really made the movie come alive for me.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Revising Section 3 (of 3)
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2

HawkeMoon Reviews Are In

Storyhack Issue 4 Cover
HawkeMoon by Sidney Blaylock, Jr.
Has a scarecrow with hood and young red-haired lady in blue tunic with crescent blades.
Image Source: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WJXVR9D/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

I was cruising the internet yesterday, trying to see if I could find reviews on my latest published story, HawkeMoon which appeared in Storyhack #4 last year. There are couple of major sites that do short fiction reviews, but to the best of my knowledge (Tangent Online and Locus Magazine), but I guess neither reviewed Storyhack because I didn’t see the magazine listed for either site). However, the issue was reviewed by a couple of places. One, a fellow WordPress blogger and the 2nd was a market that I think I’ve submitted to once before. Both had interesting things to say, so I’ll link to their reviews.

Planetary Defense Command

The first review comes from Planetary Defense Command whose tagline reads: “Defending the planet from bad science fiction.” I’ve not read this blog before, but they do give a short review of Storyhack #4. While I’m not going to post their entire review (which you can read by clicking on the “short review” link in the previous sentence), I am going to repost their review of my story for commentary purposes.

They say: Hawkemoon by Sidney Blaylock.  A strange form of undead, an assassinated king, and animal magic sounds like too much to cram into one story, but it fits together nicely.”

This is a hopeful review for me. I read novels, but I write (at the moment) short-stories. I’m always trying to get a lot accomplished in the 5,000 or so words allotted to me by the short-story format. I do have a lot of elements going on in my stories–because I think of them as mini-novels (or maybe better, proto-novels). I just can’t be as grand in scope with the myriad of plots and subplots as I would like because I don’t have the space to go into that level of detail. I have just enough time to one major plot with a character arc and then I’m pretty much out of space. How can I expand my stories out more so that they can breathe and not feel like I’m putting too much in and making them too busy?

Now, the final statement of the review isn’t a criticism. As long as I can balance all the elements, like I did for this reader, then it will work fine. However, as you can tell from this blog entry, I tend to be quite detailed and meticulous and I often want to imitate the complexities that I read in my favorite authors (Brandon Sanderson, Tad Williams, Elizabeth Moon, and Robert Jordan) in short form where as all of these writers are primarily long form writers.

My goal is to work on my stories to get them to where the reviewer would like to see them turned into novels as he/she does for the last two stories reviewed. That’s ultimately where I’m going anyway, so if the reviewer notes that that story could be the entry chapter in a novel (or expanded out into a novel), then I’ll know that I’m on the right track with getting my stories where I want them to be.

Broadswords and Blasters

The 2nd review is from an online market that I think I’ve submitted a story to in the past called Broadswords and Blasters. No, they didn’t take whatever story I sent them, but I don’t think it was HawkeMoon that was submitted (but I’d have to check my submissions via Duotrope to be sure). They had a much longer review (with criticism) of the issue as a whole, but I’ll just repost my review (again, for commentary purposes).

HawkeMoon by Sidney Blaylock, Jr. A king has been assassinated, so the captain of the royal guard goes in search of the one master assassin who was responsible… only it turns out she wasn’t the one behind it. This story is memorable for its characters, but even more so for the ultimate villain of the piece, The Scarecrow King.” I wished the setting had been a bit more developed than it was, as it felt very much a cardboard backdrop against which the characters acted, as opposed to a fully developed world. I know, that’s a lot to ask for in a short story, but I still think the overall setting was too roughly sketched, and thus seemed fairly generic for my taste. This story is the cover story for the issue, and I can absolutely see why.”

Okay, so there’s a lot to dig into here. First off, the characters. It is gratifying to here that the reviewer responded to the characters. While I did focus on them, they weren’t completely my focus like with a couple of my stories. Yet, hearing that the characters were the most memorable parts of the story really heartens me and helps me think that when I focus on characterization (& not just the cool visuals/plots happening), I can create a story that is interesting and intriguing to the reader. Now the criticism–the reviewer did not like my world–he/she thought it was too “sketchy” and underdeveloped. It is a fair criticism. I did have a more detailed world in mind, but it didn’t get from my mind on to the page. The world was supposed to be a mix of traditional fantasy lands, kings, knights, guards, but with the beginning of the new (German) renaissance–burghers, merchants, mayors, etc., just beginning to come into play, with an Old Town (more like a medieval village) and a New Town (more like the early modern Germanic towns in which the “Kris Kringle” legend sprang up (without the guns/gunpowder of the period). However, I couldn’t figure out how to work that into the story without a great big exposition info dump. The best I could come up with was having New Town be where the castle and townspeople were located and Old Town being more like a rundown fishing village.

Still, this criticism is both valid and constructive and I can use it. I knew that the world I had in the story seemed generic, but chose to ignore that fact. Now what I plan to do is identify places where I think the story is weak and see if there is a solution that addresses the weakness in some small way to at least alleviate, if not fix, the problem area in the story.

Sure, as writers we’d like to have perfect feedback, but now I’m learning that world building, while not really a weakness, may be a bit sketchy for me as I focus on characters and characterization. It’s something that I know I need to be aware of going forward to make sure my stories are the best they can be and so I can get reviewers to want to say that they’d love to see my stories as novels (or as the beginning chapters) to a novel.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Revising Section 3 (of 3)
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2

Mini-Movie Review: Se7en (Seven)

Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt as detectives stare out at the viewer.
Image Source: https://theamericanmag.com/se7ven/

So, I watched this movie before my preliminary exam, so this mini-movie review might a bit vague as I try to remember what I was feeling about the movie. Did I like it? This is a complicated question (for a complicated movie). This will be a shorter entry, but I’ll try to put my feelings about the movie into words (& hopefully those words make sense).

Seven Deadly Sins

So, as I’m sure I’m going to be told, the concept of a serial killer enacting the the Seven Deadly Sins was probably unique at the time, but I found it a bit trite. Now, again, I must remind readers that I am interested in Sci-Fi and Fantasy and had little interest and patience for movies outside of those two genres. However, with TV series like Law and Order, NCIS, and a myriad of television shows on stations like Crime TV have probably blunted the shock value that the movie might have had on me.

Good Characters, But They Don’t Always Do Smart Things

Without getting into spoilers, the resolution of the movie is set up because the characters, while smart and determined, don’t always do the smartest things. I guessed the ending (partially) about 20 minutes before it happened. While I wasn’t able to guess one of the character’s reactions, I did guess the lead-up to his final choice in the movie. The characters, however, are more realistic in that they have real desires and goals outside of the main plot. This, I’m finding, is crucial to helping characters seem real. They need to have goals and interests that have nothing to do with the main plot–and these characters do have them. What I didn’t like, especially with Brad Pitt’s performance, was the “twitchiness” of his character. Much like his character in 12 Monkeys, Pitt jerks and twitches quite frequently (but not as much as the 12 Monkeys character), and I (personally) found it distracting.

Nihilistic Storytelling

It also has a nihilism that I find quite annoying. Sometimes the world seems to mirror the emotions/actions going on in the story. Rain seems to come down at times to help aid the depressing air of the story. While not Grimdark, but it still isn’t a “pleasant” movie to watch. There is a grit and grunge to the world that accentuates the gruesome atrocities of the serial killer.

Overall Rating: B-

While I recognize the significance of the film in terms of cinematic quality, I found it a bit tedious (and as I said above, a bit trite). Looking at it with 2019 eyes, it seemed to be trying to make a statement that has been made over and over: life sucks and people can be cruel and perpetuate that cruelty. No matter how critically acclaimed those films are in culture or cinematic history, it doesn’t make me like the film any more. I can appreciate it, but I think that, for me, films that are full of nihilism simply turn me off, no matter how well they are made or present their ideas.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 2 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

Let’s Talk About the Mandalorian (on Disney+ Streaming)

Image of the Mandalorian (a man in sci-fi armor with a cape and a rifle strapped to his back) walking down a dusty sci-fi street.
Image Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/47935790

Okay, before I begin, I should note that I’m a HUGE Star Wars fan. While I haven’t been particularly impressed with some of the later Star Wars movies (The Last Jedi & Solo I’m looking at you), I have been a pretty ardent fan of the series since I was a child. According to my mother, I did see SW is the theaters (although I have no concrete memory of it as I was younger than 5 at the time), but my first SW movie that remember concretely was Empire Strikes Back (and yes, I’m old enough to remember the movies without the annoying Episodes numbers in front of them, so that’s how I’m going to roll). I remember being taken back to see SW again in a discount theater a week later (because I liked Empire so much and it was much better the second time around as I now had some context). I give you all this backstory so that you can understand that if my comments seem too positive, it is because I’m coming at this as a fan and not as a scholar and/or dispassionate viewer.

This is the Star Wars TV show that You’ve Been Looking For

So, let’s talk about what works. To me, Mandalorian represents a show that does the “Space Western” genre correctly. While I don’t want to “crap” all over Defiance as there are talented actors and crew members who worked on that show, Mandalorian represents a shift away from that nihilistic and “grimdark” show of Defiance that emphasizes recreational drug use and heavy doses of sex/sexual innuendo over storytelling. I’m not a prude, but come on, this is supposed to a sci-fi show where people are just barely surviving rather than (being uncharacteristically crude here) getting their “freak” on. Luckily (and blessedly), there’s none of that “grimdark” ambiguity here. The titular Mandalorian is no hero–he is a bounty hunter for whom remorse and emotions are a detriment, not an asset. This is no wide-eyed farmboy here (one of the many criticisms that early Star Wars fans had with Luke Skywalker. However, we’re only 3 episodes in, but we are beginning to see an arc developing for the Mandalorian. I won’t go into details as they could be considered spoilers, but suffice to say, we’re seeing new depths to the character. One of the things that makes this show so good is the high production values of the show. In many ways, this show looks like a Star Wars movie, but given to us in 30-35 minute chunks complete with storytelling arcs that work both on a shorter level (episodic), but also sustain a longer narrative (Episode 3 had consequences so I eager to see where Ep. 4 takes us).

No Disintegrations

So, what are the downsides to the show. Well, for me, not many. The show seems to really do a good job of presenting a live-action version of the Star Wars show (much like the live action remakes of famous Disney animated movies. If there was a downside, I would have to say length (although that could also be considered a plus as well). I really like getting wrapped up in the mythology of the world and so I hate it when the show ends–it feels like the foray into the world is all too brief. However, the fact that it doesn’t overstay its welcome might also be one of its strengths, so I’m torn on whether or not this is truly an issue. For some, not me, the fact that the hero never removes his helmet might be a problem, but I like the mystery. I also like the “everyman” motif happening as well. And since there is a “matriarch” of sorts who also doesn’t remove her helmet, there’s even an “everywoman” vibe happening as well and I think there should probably be more of that. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that those who want “grimdark” storytelling (in which everyone dies a horribly gruesome and unfair death, people “crapping” all over each other just because they can) probably won’t find much here to excite their interests–it just isn’t that type of show (at least, so far, and thank goodness)!

Not a Mini-Review

While I’m enjoying my time with the show, this shouldn’t be considered a mini-review. I’ll wait until the show is finished its run to pass judgement over it. So far, however, I have to say that I like what I’ve seen and hope that it will finish its first series/season run out with distinction. Finally, a contemporary series that I can enjoy!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 2 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

Still Working on NaNoWriMo: DSSRV Outrider, Issue #2

Giant Spider terrorizing a frozen landscape.
Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/508203139184792584/

I’ve been working sporadically over the month for NaNoWriMo. On Saturday of the week before last, I managed to sit down and think about what I wanted to do for the graphic novel version of Ship of Shadows. As regular blog readers know, I finished the first issue of the script in the spring of this year, but bogged down over the summer in terms of writing it. I (unintentionally) took a break from the story as I thought I knew where it was going when I wrote the outline, but discovered (in the actual draft) that wasn’t where the story needed to go.

Showing Tana’s Backstory

One of the things that I realized was that I already told this story with the published short story, so it was very difficult for me to get super-engaged in this story as there was nothing new in this version of the story. The new ideas were coming in issue 3 and 4 (at least in the original draft). However, my mind kept rebelling and the more I tried to work on issue 2, the more my mind rebelled and the less and less motivated to work on it.

What I realized was that I had a goal in my mind for these various “remixes” of the story: the short story is the introduction of the world and characters to me (and my readers), while the novel is a longer, more lived in version of the world where the character is at the height of her abilities, but is thrown into a situation that will challenge her abilities to the maximum (& may even break them!)

So what I decided was the graphic novel should help me understand the character better. In other words, I would find out (along with the readers) more about Tana’s backstory. Why is she the way she is? And this is where I decided issue #2 should go. We see Tana at her lowest moment as a child and she must find a way to pick herself back up. Then issue 3 should pick up with the second point of the story, but the stakes should ratchet up from the original story and end on a cliffhanger. Then issue 4 moves back into Tana’s backstory. Issue 5 should then show them getting out of the horrible situation and issue 6 (the final issue) should resolve the story and show how Tana, who is a “pilot” becomes a “captain” (remember, in the novel she’s been a captain for quite a few years and has quite a bit of experience under her belt).

The Graphic Novel as a Linkage Between Short Story and Novel

If it hasn’t been clear, I’m now using the graphic novel to dig deeper into Tana’s character and I’m hoping that it will help me understand who Tana is as a character by delving into her backstory.

While I don’t intend there to be a direct one-to-one linkage between the graphic novel and the novel (i.e., that you have to read the graphic novel before reading the novel), I do want to use it to help me figure out my characters, my setting and world, and the emotions/character traits for my story. Hopefully, by working on the graphic novel and seeing how Tana develops as a character earlier in her life, I can then “build” upon that to show the readers a three dimensional character at the start of the novel, or at least, that is my hope.

See, NaNoWriMo is still helpful even if one doesn’t have the time to actually work on the pieces–one can still do the “dreaming” necessary to help create strong and meaningful drafts later down the road.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 2 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

NaNoWriMo 2019

NaNoWriMo Calendar--Calendar with checkboxes and word count.
Image Source: https://writerswrite.co.za/perennial-nanowrimo-calendar/

So, I’ve discussed National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) on the blog before, so I won’t belabor the point too much. For those who might not have heard about it, it is a way of tracking your progress through the month (in terms of Word Count) for a novel. I believe that the Word Count is 50,000 words produced in the month of November in order to count towards getting recognition that you’ve completed NaNoWriMo for that year.

While admirable, I’ll likely never “complete” NaNoWriMo because, as I’ve pointed it out in previous blogs on the subject–November is the exact wrong month for me to try to accomplish such a lofty goal (at least while I’m in school). I have far too many school-related activities to do to even begin to work on a 50,000 word draft. Just this week, in addition to prepping a class, I need to grade 38 Annotated Bibliographies and Daily Writings, I need to research and write my own Final Project Proposal and Annotated Bibliography for the class I’m taking to turn in by Nov. 3, and I need to take care of the several school-related things (like applying for an Honor Society by deadline) that I’ve slacked on doing while prepping for Friday’s exam.

So I don’t have time to do NaNoWriMo, right?

NaNoWriMo 2019–Well, Sort Of . . .

While I don’t have time to really invest in writing the full draft of a novel, I do have time to sit down and jot down a handwritten “rough draft” of a novel. As this is, for me, “Year of the Shadow” where I write long projects based on my short story, “Ship of Shadows,” I have a strong idea for a novel featuring many of the characters from the short story. I began writing out the skeletal form of the story, but stopped at Chapter 5. I was just jotting down 2-3 sentences per paragraph, but I wanted something more substantial. What I didn’t realize is that what I was doing was developing a “plot outline” where I was emphasizing the events, but I was also creating character “hooks” that I could use to start discussing the characters.

In beginning of November, I plan to write out this plot outline again, this time going all the way to the finish of the novel. Then I plan to do the same for the Screenplay and the Graphic Novel. As a matter of fact, I think that’s why I’ve stalled on the Graphic Novel. I really want to get Tana’s “backstory” in the graphic novel, but I didn’t structure it that way and now I think I need to go back to issue #2 and rewrite it, so that it is a flashback scene, so that when she actually tries to save a fellow crewperson, we see the motivations behind the actions rather than me trying to tell it through “captions” above the panel.

Summertime and the Writing is Easy

The perfect time for NaNoWriMo, for me, would be the summer. In the summer, I have much more “free” time and I can use that for writing (even if it is in shorter bursts than I’d like). Even though NaNoWriMo doesn’t work so much for me in November, I can use it to get a “Rough Draft” of the novel together (and the same for a screenplay and the graphic novel).

Even though in January, I plan to “switch” to a different project for my “Year of . . .,” that only means that I plan to start thinking about a new story that I’ve published and how I might be able to expand them out and touch on the backstory of characters and figuring out the sequel for the story. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t actually be working on a 1st draft for the longer pieces. My mind is good at doing “2 things” really well. As I mentioned in the gaming post, I can really do well in manipulating two different modes/registers at the same time. Any more than that, then my mind says too much, don’t want to do it.

This is what I want to avoid–getting too many projects going at any one time (& not finishing any of them). It would be awesome if I can get to next November and have what NaNoWriMo promises: a finished 1st Draft of a novel (and other projects). Once there’s a 1st draft, then 1) I’m invested and am much more likely to see the project to the end and 2) it is far easier to critique a product rather than an idea. Write now, all my longer projects have been just “ideas,” and you can’t critique ideas because you can always change it to make better–to match your vision.

So, to sum up, my goal for this NaNoWriMo is to, instead of using it as month for novel (and other longer writing projects), it is a time to “plan” out those projects and set those plans down on paper and to use the next 12 months, until next November to get those 50,000 words written.

So this is MY 2019 NaNoWriMo Challenge: 1) Rough Draft of Novel “Ship of Shadows,” 2) Rough Draft of Graphic Novel “Ship of Shadows,” and 3) Rough Draft of Screenplay of “Ship of Shadows.” If, at the end of the month, I’m able to get these done, then I’ll report back on the progress. If you never hear anything else about this until next year, then you’ll know that I didn’t get it done.

Hey, at least I’m honest! 😉

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 2 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

Hawke and Moon: The Characters of HawkeMoon

Image Source: https://findtattoodesign.net/designs/884-hawk-and-celtic-moon

In celebration of HawkeMoon’s publication and “cover story” status in Storyhack, Issue 4, I’m delving deeply into the story, its characters, my process, and generally doing blowout coverage through the entire week. If you want to read the original Author’s Note for HawkeMoon written when I had just finished writing the story, here is the original blog post.

Storyhack, Issue 4 (Print): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1686240082

ebook version: https://books2read.com/storyhack4

Hawke

So, in the issue, Hawke isn’t actually depicted anywhere that I could see–which is okay–but he is very much the protagonist of the story (at least, in my mind). He is the first viewpoint character and it is his motivation to find the King’s killer that drives the story along initially. Hawke is a strange character as he is the fantasy equivalent of an “African American” in a predominately “European” fantasy world. While I don’t delve into Hawke’s backstory at all in the story, he is described as having dark skin. I would imagine in this world that there is a southern region that functions much like Africa/The Middle East (hot, arid, and the sun beats down on the land increasing the melanin of the inhabitants). The two lands probably rarely interact so I’m not quite sure how Hawke would have come into “The Lands” (the European part of the world). I doubt it would have been slavery or any real world amalgam as that concept is foreign to this world, but he was “cast out” by his tribe, so perhaps he was taken in and expected to work for his meals? Not really sure at this moment to be honest. I do know that he is doggedly determined and highly moral and this has allowed him to rise through the ranks to become Captain of the King’s Guard, which is where we find him at the beginning of the story.

Moon

Moon is the character that has really caught the attention of the editor and the artists, I think. Having read The Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb and playing (& finishing) pretty much every Assassin’s Creed game from the beginning of the franchise (except for the smaller 2D offshoots), I knew assassins as an organized group were still pretty popular, but I almost made her a thief instead of an assassin due to the moral implications of killing for money. What I finally decided was the Moon needed to be an assassin as only an assassin would risk an attempt on the King’s life (especially with a feared Captain of the Guard like Hawke protecting him), so I gave her a moral code. She only accepted contracts for those she felt embodied “evil.” While I don’t explicitly get into this in the story, you do get an implication that she doesn’t kill indiscriminately. She is more of a surgical tool and works to make The Lands better through judicious use of her skill set. However, making her an assassin came with an added benefit: she became more than a match for Hawke. Moon doesn’t play “second fiddle” to anyone and her skills put Hawke to the test–again, great for tension and challenging the protagonist. Moon would be considered a “European” (i.e., white) in this world, which is where the artists take her. I personally envisioned her as extremely pale (as in “no sun”), but the artists have made her much less pale and more normalized. Again, this is fine–I’m just noting some of the differences between the way I envisioned her and how others envisioned her. Her crescent blades are also different, but I knew they would be–that mental image was very hard to describe in words. I’m no artist by any means, but I had to draw out what I was envisioning–to my knowledge, there is no real world weapon that is analogous to the crescent blades that Moon wields.

Setting

This story takes place in The Lands. In my mind it is a loose confederation of nations ruled by a King. The level of technology is about mid 1500s to early 1600s society–with burghers and the like from Amsterdam and that area. Again, none of this is explicit in the story, but I wanted to give readers of the blog a peek into what I was thinking when I wrote the story. The Lands have older medieval civilizations, but are much more modern and moving towards more enlightened society. I don’t think there will ever be a full-on renaissance in this world, but I could be wrong.

As mentioned earlier, The Lands represent a “European”-like society, but there is also a Southern area that has people of darker colors. This society and The Lands trade with one another and do not have any animosities towards one another. I haven’t really nailed this part down, though. This would be the first thing that I would work on if I choose to expand this out into a longer work (graphic novel/novel/screenplay).

Well, that’s all that I have for now! I hope you enjoyed this deeper look at the characters and setting of HawkeMoon.

Storyhack, Issue 4 (Print): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1686240082

ebook version: https://books2read.com/storyhack4

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

HawkeMoon is the “Cover Story” for Storyhack and is Available Now!

Storyhack, Issue 4.  HawkeMoon by Sidney Blaylock, Jr. in stylized font.  A picture of a scarecrow like monster in a hooded cowl menacing an Assassin (Moon) who is holding her trademark scythe-like blade with a dead brown tree in the background.
Image Source: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1686240082

Wow! Just Wow! I honestly cannot believe it. If you’ve been a long-time reader of the blog, or even if you’ve just joined, you’ll know that I’m a “semi-pro” writer. I write (and hopefully, receive payment & get published), but I’ve not yet written any long works, such as novels, so I don’t yet consider myself a true “pro.” The blog was my way of both promoting my work and talking about things I like (in the interim when I had nothing currently in print), but I am also using it as a motivation/springboard to “level up,” so to speak, to get comfortable writing longer, more intricate works. While I’ve been published before (and every time is an awesome feeling!), this time my story is the cover story for Storyhack, Issue 4! This is the 1st time that I’ve ever had a “cover story!”

Storyhack, Issue 4 (Print): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1686240082

ebook version: https://books2read.com/storyhack4

Cover Story

What I can’t believe is that the editor chose my story as the cover/featured story! I knew it was first (based on the galleys), but I never once considered that it would be the cover story! Wow! I almost can’t express myself. I never expected that one of my stories would be chosen as a cover story/featured story. Not only is the cover sweet and presents a really cool and dynamic imagining of Moon, but the story also includes a interior image of Moon as well.

And it isn’t just my own work that’s cool! The whole issue looks really nice and the artwork for the other stores looks awesome. I can’t wait to read the other stories by the other authors who were selected based on the intriguing and awesome artwork included. I can say that this is truly a quality magazine and I am so happy that the editor, Bryce Beattie, selected my work for his magazine.

A Week of HawkeMoon

I hope I don’t wear out my welcome, but I’m so giddy at being selected as the cover story that I thought I’d do a week’s worth of coverage on the story. Specifically, I want to talk about the inspiration for the story, the characters, where I see it going in the future (any sequels, etc.). I’ve pushed back a couple of blog entries that I’ve already done to next week, so (fingers crossed), you might actually get two whole weeks of blog content from me this time, even though school is starting soon. I’ve actually already done an “Author’s Note” blog on HawkeMoon when I finished the initial story, but I intend to go more in-depth about the creation process and the finished product, now that it is available.

Please, please, pleasseee, consider purchasing either the print or the eBook edition–not for me, but to show support to the publisher. This is how we reward quality work and make it possible for people like me to continue to have opportunities to publish. Large corporate publishers are only interested in authors like Stephen King or J. K. Rowling who can reliably deliver large returns of investment, and so they’ll never even look at me, or someone like me, no matter how good our work is because we can’t give them huge audiences. However, if we support small presses like Storyhack, then we give opportunities to good and talented writers to find their voices and get publishing experience to perhaps become the “next” big-name writers–and I’m not talking about just me, but for all those like me who are suffering rejection after rejection for the one Acceptance/Publication that makes their dreams of being a published writer a reality.

Please feel free to reblog this post as/where necessary! Have a great week!

Storyhack, Issue 4 (Print): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1686240082

ebook version: https://books2read.com/storyhack4

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019

Assassin’s Creed Origins: Finished and Mini-Review

A picture of Bayek with a white hood, shield, and bow standing in front of a golden wall of Egyptian Hieroglyphs.
Image Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2017/10/28/ten-things-i-wish-i-knew-when-i-started-assassins-creed-origins/#65554fcb6eb8

While these mini-reviews for finished video games (recent) that I’ve finished never do all that well (in terms of people reading them), I still enjoy writing them because my goal for most of my games is to finish them (i.e., to see the credits roll), then reviewing/explaining the good and bad things about them is a fun way to recap my experience with the game and to reflect on why I felt the game was fun, effective, etc. (or why not). This game review is for Assassin’s Creed Origins which tells the “origin” story of the Assassin’s Guild. I actually like the formation of “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” so that’s what I’ll use for this review.

The Good

The characters are really well done in this story and when I say characters, I really mean the main characters, Bayak and his wife Aya, and the other main protagonists in the story. They are from Egypt and their coloring indicates they are of African Descent. As they work towards self-determination (although it is through violence, using assassinations to accomplish their goals), I would still argue that this could be seen (in a less restrictive canon) as an Afrofuturistic text. This, however, is not central to the storyline; at heart, this is a revenge tale, pure and simple along with the ramifications of what happens to love and life when a “bad thing” happens. I also like the fact that the narrative is fairly strong and kept me interested throughout the story. The graphics were also well done along with the gameplay systems. I only ran into sporadic instances of glitches and I don’t think it ever froze on me, although it did push my Playstation Pro fairly hard and made the system rev up as if it were an airplane engine on idle.

The Bad

So, much of the bad will feature into “The Ugly” section as well, so I won’t go too deeply into it here, but length is a definite problem. Simply put, it was too long and took too long to complete. Also, the fact that some story elements are gated off by level, meaning that one needs to “grind” (there’s that word again) and do side quests to build up his or her level in order to tackle ever increasingly difficult story elements. Thanks to “training” open world games (like the InFamous series), I’ve learned that it is a good idea to do a good mix of side quests before going back to the main/story quests, but here it is required. Unless you are within at least a two to three levels of your opponent, the difficulty of the encounter will be close to impossible, especially early in the game. The side missions are of varying quality, but you’ll need to complete them in order to advance, no matter how you feel about them. You just have to hope that you don’t get too many average ones (esp. in a row).

The Ugly

This game is subject to Ubification and/or “Ubisoft Bloat.” Like most recent entries of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, there’s simply too much in terms of “map clutter.” The game litters the map with a ridiculous amount of content for you to engage with, and to be honest, most of it is simply “clutter.” Ubisoft wants you to engage with it as a “games as service.” They don’t want you selling the game back to used game/used book stores, they do want you buying their DLC and interacting with their in-game store, and they really want you putting time into the game world for this reason. Now, to be fair, you can do everything you need to without spending additional money (well, except for the additional story missions unless you get the Season Pass or whichever “Super-Deluxe” edition that includes the season pass. There’s simply too much clutter and things to do. I will probably work on it periodically (just to earn the “Platinum” trophy since the requirements aren’t too onerous this time), but this game wants to be the only game you play for 6-8 months, whether or not the content is actually compelling enough to support it.

Overall: B (85)

I liked this a great deal–they just need to do something that Ubisoft never will: they need to shorten the game and tighten its focus. While I don’t mind that they’ve turned it more into an action rpg rather than a strict stealth game (I actually like action rpg as a genre more than I like the stealth game genre), there’s just too much “padding” and “clutter” to make the game artificially long and artificially extend the game’s shelf life so that one can’t trade it in quickly and there are more opportunities to sell (either overtly or implied) more content to the game player. This game could have received an A had it treated game players as actual players and not consumers and tuned the experience accordingly.

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

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