Book Haul for June 2019

Several Fantasy novels displayed on a table with the spines and titles facing the viewer.
Image Source: https://www.nosegraze.com/january-2018-book-haul-wrap-up/

It is about halfway through the month and I realized that I hadn’t yet talked about the books that I bought for this month. I bought two books from McKay’s Used Book Store, a local used book store in the TN area (they may have stores elsewhere, but I don’t think so). I really prefer our local Friends of the Library book sale (the proceeds go back to help fund library events). I think I remarked on this previously, but as a child, I used to get an allowance and it allowed me to get approximately 2 books per month (paperback novels were about 3.95 on average, rising to 4.95, then to 5.95 at the end of my childhood).

Movies, Edited by Gilbert Adair

Film strip on a purple background framed by a gray border on the left and right sides.
Image Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/524993.Movies?ac=1&from_search=true

Movies, Gilbert Adair (Ed.), (ISBN 0141180846)

This is an edited collection of essays dealing with movies. I bought it because I really wanted to get more invested in my “specialization” field of film. While I’ll probably never be a “true” cinephile, I do love movies and (before I started the PhD program), I tried very hard to watch a film every week–either through Netflix or through Blu-Rays. The essays in the book run the gamut from theory, the pioneering aspects of movies, to the movie-going experience and even creating. It is a fairly large book (447 pages), but the essays (a least the ones that I’ve read so far) are fairly short (3-5 pages). I’d love to say that I’m going to finish the book this month, but chances are good that its going to take me at least two months to truly finish it. So, far I’m reading the theorizing section, but what I’ve read so far is fairly interesting.

It was the back cover blurb that caught my eye: “At the turn of the millennium cinema permeates all of our lives. From the Lumiere brothers’ first public film screening at the end of the nineteenth century to the technical wizardry at the end of the twentieth, it has both recorded and created our history. Its images and icons are part of our collective consciousness. We are all film buffs now.” In so many ways, this is true. While my lexicon is made up of the Force from Star Wars, today’s generation’s “Force” is J. K. Rowlings’s Harry Potter films. Those are the touchstone films that the newest generation understand and can reference–there “force” is the “Dementors” as I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of something “wraith-like” being described as looking like a “Dementor.” Films, do indeed, permeate our culture and are worthy to be studied.

Digital Fantasy Painting by Micheal Burns

A woman with a halter top and gun speaking into a communicator of some kind with two space ships at the top and bottom of the image and there is a warrior holding up a shining sword in the bottom left hand corner.
Image Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21093633-digital-fantasy-painting?ac=1&from_search=true

Collins Digital Fantasy Painting by Michael Burns (ISBN 0007160038)

This is a book that I picked up on a bit of a lark. There was another book that I wanted, but that book was far more expensive than I wanted to pay at the moment, so I got this one instead. Now, anyone who knows me realizes that art (outside of words) is not one of my strengths. I see the images in my mind, but (as we know from my writing), I often get frustrated when I can’t duplicate the images exactly on to paper. Now magnify that frustration by a factor of 10 when I try to do art. What I see so clearly in my mind, doesn’t even come close to being replicated by my fingers and it’s so infuriating that I can’t reproduce it. I did do a stint in the 11th and 12th grades where I tried to work on my artistic abilities, but the progress was so slow that I realized that, not only would it take years to progress to any decent sort of ability, but also that it would probably take away time from writing and becoming a better writer, so I slowly let the idea of art fade.

So why did I pick up this book? Well, it at least gives me insight into the processes and ideas and techniques that real artists use to create their works, especially in the “new” digital arena. Add to the fact that these are fantasy works and it was almost a no-brainer. The factor that cinched it for me, however, was the fact that there was a section on creating “maps” for fantasy worlds. As a fan of maps and a hopeful novelist one day, I feel that creating maps is something that I can do artistically. Some of my earliest “works of art” were hand-drawn maps of various countries for school “reports” about those countries. Having a book that gives me concrete techniques for doing something that I used to do as a child pretty much sealed the deal. I’ve started the book, but haven’t gotten that far. The book is short, however, and at 160 pages (many with illustrations), this is one that I do feel that I can finish sometime this month.

My goal is to get 1-2 books each month (like I did as a child). Since I probably will only finish one of these two books this month, next month might be a chance to get that more expensive book that I saw (if it is still there) so as not to get more books than I can read (I have too many unread books now, so I don’t need any more). Still, hopefully next month I can update you on 1-2 more books that I’ve added to my collection! Have a great weekend!

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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E3 And Me–2019 Edition

Final Fantasy VII Remake characters looking out at the audience--Cloud and Tifa.
Image Source: https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/10/18660638/square-enix-e3-games-trailers-announcements-final-fantasy-7-avengers-e3-2019

So, this is my annual look at E3 and the new games that are coming out over the next year. I’ll try to be more consistent in putting up the games that I’m interested in than I was last year (2018), but I won’t take over the blog with them like I did in 2017. I’ll probably just do one or two (at the max) per week.

However, based on what I’ve seen so far, this year seems to be more of a “winding down year.” Both Playstation and Microsoft have “talked about” (not formally announced, but discussed in fairly candid details) of the new systems that they are working and that are rumored (and expected) to come sometime in 2020. I think I heard one of the correspondents on YouTube refer to E3 this year as “lackluster.” However, there were some games that excited me, so I’ll talk about them briefly here.

Watchdogs Legion

Source: YouTube (Watch Dogs: Legion)

This game is a continuation of the Watch Dogs franchise. I’ve bought and played the two previous entries in this series. The 2nd game seemed a little cramped and I never finished it, although I still intend to go back at some point and seriously try to finish it. However, Watch Dogs Legion intrigued me because it shows not only the detailed open world that Ubisoft is known for, but also showed that the game allows you to recruit (supposedly) anyone from the game world to become part of the resistance. The premise looks cool as does the setting (the near future city of London), so I’m most definitely intrigued.

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

Source: YouTube (Star wars: Jedi Fallen Order)

Okay, so this one is by EA and my disdain for some of their practices is well known. However, this one actually looks like it might be fun and interesting. I think that it really helps that it is a single player game and is focused on a strong narrative. Depending on how this development goes for the game, I’m may not pick it up immediately, but I actually may give it a look (which for a game published by EA) is an accomplishment.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Source: YouTube Final Fantasy 7 Remake

This is one that I’m personally looking forward to simply because, while I was around and knew about the original FFVII, I never played it–in its proper game form. I actually played a demo of it from a demo disc (remember those old things?). However, both my uncle and I had noticed the (unfortunate) tendency of JRPGs of the time period to follow the same “young boy who saves the Earth” motif. As such, I decided to pass on the series until FFXIII (I did also play the demo for FFX, and I really liked it and played it multiple times, but ultimately decided to pass on it). However, having put time into the Final Fantasy series, I’d like to see what this game has to offer. Yes, I know it doesn’t accurately replicate the original game, but I just want to get a sense of the story and characters (and for me, getting that in a new, shiny wrapper, just seals the deal).

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
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel (Sci-Fi)
    (Current Longer Work-in-Progress) 
    Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

HawkeMoon Updates: Edits

Hawk on a branch with a nearly full moon behind him with a blue sky background.

Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alicecahill/31622378722/

This blog entry will be a shorter one as it is a holiday on Monday in the US (which means a 3 day weekend for me). Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some writing done over the weekend–along with a movie over the holiday (I also have yardwork to do that I’ve put off for a couple of weeks, so it won’t be all fun and games).

HawkeMoon

However, I wanted to just let you know that the editor for StoryHack sent me the file for the edits to my story HawkeMoon. He turned on the “Track Changes” function and I need to go through and look at the edits that he made. According to the notation at the head of the file, there are approximately 217 changes to be looked at/gone through, so hopefully, I can get this done in a reasonable amount of time.

Love or Hate the Process?

Many writers, especially after they reach a certain level of success in writing, hate the process of “editing” their work. Not going to go on a tangent, but you see it all the time: writers whose earlier works are wonderful, but their later works are far less effective because they want their original draft to be their only draft.

For me, I (for the most part) like the editing process, especially when the editor is truly trying to shape the piece of writing so that it can be the best that it can and so that it will shine. I’m hopeful that no matter what level of success I finally achieve with my writing, that I will be a part of the editing process and not resistant to it.

The only time I’m truly resistant to external editing or I hate the process is when the suggestions are going to change the spirit of my story. I make no secret of my disdain for the current love of “bad things happening to good people” sub-genre in fiction thanks to Game of Thrones (one of these days I need to actually explain what that whole sub-genre is, but not today). However, if an editor tries to change my work into a nihilistic story or into a story that resembles GoT (or whatever is fashionable at the time), that’s where I have problems with the process. For me, editing is about making the story better, not turning it into something its not because that’s the current “style” at the moment.

So, I personally don’t hate the editing process, but I do like a lot more when I can see that the changes are there to help the story be the best that it can be even if it isn’t “fashionable.” I’ll keep you updated on the progress of HawkeMoon and I hope you have a great weekend!

Sidney

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




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

Characters Lead the Way, Redux

Image Source: https://lonewolf.fandom.com/wiki/Shadow_on_the_Sand

While cleaning up this weekend, I happened to stumble across the original “Rough Draft” that I’d printed out for my story Dragonhawk. This story (to the time of writing this blog entry) remains my one-and-only story that was accepted on the first try. It is truly a “rough draft” in that it is only three (3) paragraphs long (and is probably shorter in total length than this blog entry will be by the time I’m finished writing it). What struck me, however, was the first word on the “rough draft” was Kelfryn, the name of the protagonist.

Inspiration from a Book Cover

So, the book cover above, is from a series of Choose Your Own Adventure books called The Lone Wolf series by Joe Deaver and Gary Chalk. While the D&D books were pretty popular at the time, the ones by Deaver and Chalk really spoke to me. While not part of the Warhammer universe, the illustrations still have that “Old World” feel that marks the Warhammer brand (and what is probably what drew me to that universe). While definatley dark (the character could and often would die and the “adventure” would be over–much like a “game over” screen in video games), I always found the artwork both on the covers of the book and in the interiors to be arresting and fascinating. The above cover of a warrior riding a giant “warbird” was particularly interesting and stuck with me into adulthood.

Kelfryn and Scryfe

As I began writing, I had several incarnations of this image pop up, most notably an idea for a novel entitled Sparrowhawk as I imagined the protagonist would be a young Norse warrior who was mentally bonded to the bird (much like Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders were bonded with their dragons in her series of books (which I, of course, loved and devoured as a child). I was also much taken with the idea of a bird hunting other birds–which is what the Sparrowhawk is named for doing. However, the novel did not progress and that idea fell by the wayside. After I had a few publications under my belt, I decided to revisit the idea, but this time I went back to the original image that had captivated me: the warrior riding a giant warbird. Then it came to me: why not have both the warrior and the bird still be mentally bonded, but why not have them hunt dragons?

The Art of the Character Sketch

From there, I tried to come up with a reason for them to hunt dragons and I likened them to fishermen. They had to hunt dragons to survive. Finally, I reasoned that even with the warbirds, dragons would be too ferocious, so they would only hunt things that the dragons left behind (scales, teeth, talons, etc.) when they went out hunting for food. Then came my stroke of brillance: I used Scrivener’sCharacter Sketch” template to completely write out each of the two main characters: Kelfryn (who became a young “wannbe” warrior) and Scryfe (his devoted warbird companion). I filled out all of the sections of the Character Sketch with a solid paragraph for each of the major categories (I found those sketches earlier this year–that’s how I know). After doing the character sketches, I simply started the story and everything seemed to fall into place–I didn’t have Writer’s Block at any point, nor did I have any major diversions to the story that I dreamed up–both character and plot seemed to just seemed to merge together, so that’s what I’m working towards now–getting back into the Character Sketch mentality.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

HawkeMoon Acceptance!

Falconry--falcon landing man's gloved hand.
Image Source: https://www.usatoday.com/videos/travel/2018/11/12/celebrate-world-falconry-day-historic-hotel/1977581002/

So, sometime ago, I wrote an Author’s Note that covered the genesis of my short story, HawkeMoon. While I thought it was an awesome story, I despaired of every getting published as it is an action story. And it features an ending that is not the typical “GrimDark” fare that you see these days in Fantasy based on the successful of Game of Thrones (and its many imitators). Well, after 21 tries, #22 turned out to be the right market! HawkeMoon was accepted for publication by StoryHack Action and Adventure! While I’m not sure what issue it will be in yet, you can be sure that I’ll be keeping readers know when it is available.

Action and Adventure

So, this market is exactly the type of market that I wish there were more of in the Fantasy and Science Fiction field. Most of the markets are more for “social” sci-fi where they look at a trend and extrapolate on that trend for near future/far future and then that becomes the author’s world. Fantasy is a lot more fluid, but thanks to George R. R. Martin’s success with his “GrimDark” Game of Thrones series, it is very hard to interest editors of markets to get behind anything that is not “GrimDark,” or has elements of that sub-genre in work. I make no bones about despising the “GrimDark” sub-genre, hence my despair at finding a publisher for HawkeMoon.

One of the things that I like about this market–in addition to the awesome system of keep authors in the loop about the submission process–is that the editor understands that “action” and “adventure” are not dirty words, but are elements that are integral to the story. Yes, characterization is the most important (see, I’m learning), but just because characters don’t have “bad things” happen to them and then they turn around and do “bad things” to others (take a guess to which Fantasy series I’m referring to), doesn’t make the story nonpunishable. Action/Adventure, when used appropriately, can heighten the suspense for the reader and make the character “change” by putting him or her under extraordinary circumstances from which they must escape. So, they don’t “change” via a soliloquy or deep intense reflection–that’s okay. They still change–whether its deciding to kill (or not kill) that Troll guarding the bridge, or whether or not to pull the trigger on those starfighter controls that will, in effect, kill his mother and yet, all the girls go gushy over because of his long black and emo personality (guess which popular space opera movie I’m referring to here), still these are choices that the character makes and these choices define the character (for good or ill) and are just as appropriate as deep navel gazing (reflection) or long dramatic speeches (soliloquy) in defining the character.

Celebration

So, I haven’t decided what to do quite yet to celebrate HawkeMoon’s acceptance. My birthday’s coming up soon, so I may just roll the celebration into my birthday and call it a day. At the very least, getting an Acceptance for HawkeMoon is an awesome birthday present!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Mini-Review: Netflix’s The Dragon Prince (Season 1)

Image Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/9/7/17826544/the-dragon-prince-review-avatar-last-airbender-netflix

Okay, with the impending release of Season 2, I thought I’d take a moment to come back and talk about my reactions to Season 1 of the show now that I’ve taken I’ve seen the first season all the way through. This will be a shorter entry as I have a packed schedule today, but I’ve been meaning to revisit this series for a while.

Characters

So, one of the main reasons that I didn’t initially like the show was that the main character was just too close to their earlier creation–Sokka from The Avatar: The Last Airbender series. Prince Callum (pictured in the above image on the left) is very much in tone, spirit, and vocal inflection a “spiritual successor” to Sokka. While I like Sokka, I can only take him as a “side” character. As the main character, he grates on me (or at least he did until the 4th or 5th episode). I think they toned down his character and gave him a “specialty” which made him seem more in tune with the other “main” characters and less of a walking “joke.” The other main characters were fine and I didn’t really have any problems with them, but Prince Callum really turned me off at first.

Plot

I actually liked the way the plot unfolded after say the 4th episode. The main characters find something and must return it to its rightful place — in other words, a quest. This was missing in the early episodes. Once they set out and began their quest, things seemed to fall in place for me with the show and I began to look forward to watching it, rather than it being a chore to get through.

The main villain seems a little off, however. He seems to use the best interests of the Empire as his justification, but his actions are at odds, and much of what he does seems like a “power grab.” I can’t tell if the creators are trying to create a “complicated” villain (and just not reaching it, in my opinion), or if they are trying to show the villain’s “two-faced” nature (i.e., the Palpatine/Emperor duality from Star Wars Prequels).

Final Observations

The show has potential–which Netflix seems to have seen as they greenlit a second season of the show. They’ve added a new “main” character–so I’ll be interested to see how that works out in regards to the characters’ dynamics as they go about their quest. They’ve added several side characters, so I’d like to see how they are going to be used over the upcoming semester as well as I kind of like their side characters as much as the main characters–probably not their intention, but they are still varied and fun.

Overall Grade: B

So, due to the earlier part of the season, I would have rated this as a B-, but based on the stellar last half of the season, I’m raising my grade to a solid B. If you can get past the early humdrum episodes, I think there’s a worth fantasy series that is worth checking out. It’s no Avatar: The Last Airbender, but it isn’t that bad as fantasy series go.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Netflix’s The Dragon Prince

MV5BMjA5MjEwODU1MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzk0MzA5NTM@._V1_UY268_CR9,0,182,268_AL_

Image Source: IMDB

I had a chance to watch the first episode of this Fantasy show from the creators of the Avatar: The Last Airbender and I found that it was pretty good.  I don’t think, at this early stage (and having seen only one episode), that it is a good as their previous show, but I think that it has promise.

Characters

So, this is where I’m still undecided.  The characters that they introduce are mostly interesting, but unlike Avatar, they don’t fully flesh out each character’s relationship to each other.  There is an extended “history” of the world at the beginning, but the writers also use quite a bit of dialogue as “exposition” in the episode as well.  There are some funny character moments as well as some dramatic ones, but especially for the first episode, I would have liked to have had more grounding in the relationships and motivations.  There are, of course, analogies to the old series, a serious sister, a jokey, but ultimately heroic brother, but there are also some new ideas, that of a “step-brother,” which hasn’t really been explored too much in animation, but is pretty much a fact of life in many Western families.

Plot

So, I won’t go into too much of a plot summary here, but basically humans have killed the Dragon King and are pressing the borders of the other races (elves) now that there is no “guardian” on the borders.  I understand that the humans are being portrayed as the “bad guys” here (colonists, or as Shuri from The Black Panther might term it–colonizers), they are portrayed on-screen remarkably sympathetic.  The writers want you to form an attachment to these humans, even though they are on a mission of war and conquest, and after the first episode, I can’t quite reconcile these two disparate elements together, and it took me out of the plot.

Will I Continue?

Yes, for the moment, I think I will.  I’ll probably watch one episode a week (my normal viewing speed) and I’ll report back after the season is done.  I really like what they’ve set up, although I can’t quite decide if I’m going to like it as much as their original show, which (although I’ve not seen every episode, I’ve seen enough to know that as a Fantasy and Sci-Fi person, as long as it doesn’t go crazy, I’m probably going to enjoy most of it, even if I don’t enjoy it as much as Avatar: The Last Airbender.  However, I’m reminded of the old adage: “Perfect is the enemy of good.”  While Avatar looks to have been perfect, this seems perfectly fine as well.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 28)