Friday, August 29, 2014

More Inspiration

Summer's almost over. Where did the time go?! I'll be starting class next week. Soon, I won't be able to go to the park to write and take pictures. Well, I have the Fall. At least it doesn't start getting unbearably cold until like November. Still, when it's no longer 70/80 degrees outside, I won't be hanging out in the park. Here's the last round of summer pictures to inspire your writing.

This has been my favorite place to relax, read, world build and take pictures.

My dog Oreo loved trips to the park. 

I stumbled on this little gem. Don't know what it is. That was the first time I saw it in the park.

Here's another little animal I'd never seen before.

My park has turtles, but they're usually tiny. I went bananas when I saw this.

Sometimes, I can't believe this is Brooklyn. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Map Making The World: Part 2-Tsya

I treat map making the same way I treat writing-- if my instincts tell me it doesn't work, then I gotta change something.

This blog series will help me finish my book images on time. I'll be sharing my map making experience every Wednesday until the images are done.

In the last post, Map Making: The World, I shared the start of my world map for Chains of the Sciell.

I'm doing it land by land. This is a close up of Tysa.

As an experiment, I wanted see what the map would look like with a parchment background. I found a free royalty-free image on DeviantART. I've said this before, I love that site for map making. It has free downloadable images and brushes. For most, all you have to do is credit the artist and/or send them a link to your finished product.

I got the parchment from ElissaKarminakria.

Not bad. I like the texture. As another experiment, I decided to turn the parchment into a pattern and apply it to my lands instead.

Much better! Here's how Tsya looks finished. I added rivers, mountains and country names.

I'm actually quite proud of this. I usually leave documents and images I'm working on open all the time. I keep going to Photoshop just to look at my maps. They make me so happy. 

I got the mountains and trees from a brush set on DeviantART. Sketchy Cartography Brushes by StarRaven

Here's a simple guide on how to covert images to patterns: Photoshop Help /Creating patterns

Note: When you're making a pattern out of the parchment image, you should select the entire image-- not just a small portion of it. At first, I turned a small section of the image into a pattern. That section wasn't big enough to fill the entire land. The results looked terrible.When you follow the steps in the Photoshop guide, select the entire image to turn into a pattern. 

You've probably noticed a new landmass at the bottom of the World Map. Meet Sorin.
Tsya is where architecture is born. Sorin is where weapons are born. 

Creating this landmass was...interesting. With Tsya, I had an idea of how I wanted the land to look. With Sorin, I had no idea. Using the Brush Tool, I created a big brown blob, then I shaped it with the Eraser Tool. I didn't like the first couple of tries, so I consulted the map cheat sheets I mentioned in the first post of the series. I used them as a guide to shape my land and that's what came out of it. I'm happy with. On to the mountains!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Add To MS Word's Dictionary

If MS Word was a person, we fantasy writers would drive them insane. Our stories are packed with made up names. Word goes crazy with the red underlines. For some reason, seeing  those red marks drives me bananas. I can't continue writing until I get rid of them, which is sometimes impossible.

I heard years ago not to add words to MS Word's dictionary. I'm breaking that rule. With characters called Blea, Bel, Kaige and Vayle, my paragraphs are packed with those red obstructions. "Ignore All" doesn't always work.

I add all my made up places and character names to Word's dictionary so the program will tell me when I've misspelled them. While editing, I don't have to pay special attention to those words. If they're not underlined, it means I spelled them correctly.

Most of the time I forget how something is supposed to be spelled. I don't want to stop writing to consult a map or a journal. That would get irritating. Yesterday, I was writing about the Eleni Mountains, but I didn't remember how I spelled it. MS Word showed me the correct spelling.

This also helps with names I misspell often. For some reason, I can never get Del'Praeli right. Also, whenever I type a character's name-- Aliceanna--, some letters get left out or switched around. Don't know why. I either leave out an 'n' or switch 'c' and 'e'. I wouldn't notice. Now MS Word knows how her name is supposed to be spelled. AutoCorrect will fix it for me. Adding words to the dictionary is easy. Just right click the underlined word and select "Add to Dictionary." So far, I haven't come across any drawbacks to this.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Demon Doll Gets A New Trailer [Video]

The creepy doll from The Conjuring finally got an official trailer. I've been needing a horror fix. This one looks like it'll do just fine. And, it come out in the Month of Horror.

The husband's face when that women put the doll on the shelf was priceless. I'm loving that surprise at the end of the trailer. Well played.

Trying to figure out what this story has to do with the Annabelle doll from The Conjuring. In that movie, two females owned the demon possessed doll- no baby involved. Doesn't look like Ed and Lorraine Warren are in this one. Still looks like a creepy movie.  Annabelle will be in theaters October 3.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Map Making The World: Part 1

First, I made a country. Now, I need to tackle the world. I've started working on the world map for Chains of the Sciell, Book 2 of The Merging Worlds Trilogy. I'm doing this more for fun. The characters never leave Jael.
It'll be useful to include a world map in the book since the story mentions other countries.

I want my map to be accurate- putting the mountains and rivers in the correct places. I created atlas cheat sheets by collecting images using Google. To get the results I wanted, I had to search for "Physical Maps." I printed out each image and pinned them in my sketch pad so I can use them as reference.

Follow Auden's board World Building: Map Making Reference on Pinterest.

This website was a big help: Maps of the World

I drew a rough sketch to get an idea of where each landmass was--as well as the location of major bodies of water.
Some things have to be moved around. This map has to make sense with my story.

At the bottom left of my world, sits Sorin (the largest square at the bottom). It's a major weapons manufacturer. The largest square above it is Jael. In Southwest Jael is a city called Denont, which is a major port. Most of Sorin's weapons come into Jael through Denont. I'm still trying to figure out how-- if it's smuggling or if the Denont leaders are fudging the import papers so they can take some weapon off the top without anyone noticing.

Anyway, when the world is thrown into chaos, Denont has the most weapons in all of Jael. This becomes important to the story. However, between Sorin and Denont sits the Black Hole. A passageway that eats ships.

Right now, traveling the Black Hole is the only way Sorin can get weapons to Denont- which is unlikely. Denont needs those weapon and they have to come from Sorin. I'm thinking of moving the little island Rika. Its made up of canals. This way ship from Sorin can travel through Rika to get to Denont. This might be tricky though. Jael (where Denont is located) owns Rika.

This is why I'm doing a world map. I'v mentioned this before, countries don't exist in a vacuum. Trade is important. No land has everything it needs.

So far, this is what I've created in Photoshop. I working as slow as I can because I want to do this right.
It took me forever to create the second landmass. I painted a big brown blob. Then, I erased some sections while painting on more until I came up with a shape I liked. I'll have to do this 6 more times. I drew the landmass on a separate image as a new layer. I needed it to be big. It's easier to edit that way.
I then moved that layer to my world map.

I'm going through this tutorial again to get the basics down. I created the above image of Jael using this tutorial.

I'm also looking for other map making tutorials because I want to add some fun textures and brush strokes.

I started creating this until I realize I probably wouldn't be able to move this landmass to another image.
Creating that map requires a bit more advanced Photoshop skills. I found the previous tutorial easier to follow.

 I have a couple of images I need to create for this book. Since I plan on releasing Chains of the Sciell in March, I'm a little behind and school starts in 2 weeks. I'll also need to work on the book trailer. I love Adobe Creative Suite.

Update: Chains of the Sciell is now available.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ferguson Comes to NYC

It's tragic an unarmed 18-year-old had to be killed before people became enraged about cops unnecessary use of force when it comes to POC--especially black men.

I've always been terrified of cops. When I see them in a train station with guns strapped to the hips or worse, rifles across their chests, I don't feel safe. I'm looking to get as far away from them as possible. I don't know how it is for other races but, we, black people, are taught how to get pulled over without being arrested, assaulted or killed. That's ridiculous. It reminds me of little black girls in the 50s being taught how to get raped without getting killed.

I was sued by a cop for mental anguish. A much older police officer sued a 21-year-old for mental anguish. Yes, the world is that messed up. He was rushing to an emergency with his sirens off. I didn't see him coming. He hit me as I was driving through an intersection. However, the police report said I was at fault for not yielding, which gave him grounds to sue me almost 2 years later. I was 19 at the time of the accident.

The report mentioned a witness saying I'd been speeding. Actually, I'd been driving slower than the speed limit. A week before the trial, I get a call from my lawyer. A different witness was willing to testify that I had ran a red light. My. stomach. dropped. I could understand the speeding. To an outsider, it may have looked like I was driving fast. But, the light had been green, like really green. It didn't turn yellow or red as I crossed the intersection. I'm reluctant to say this was a race issue. Still, my fear of cops shot up because of that incident.

When I first heard about Michael Brown, I had assumed the cop who shot him would get away with it. Cops have been using deadly force when dealing with black men for years. I still don't understand how the cops were acquitted of the Sean Bell shooting. Why would I expect the Brown shooing to be any different? As I followed the story, I realized this wasn't something that would just get swept under the rug. That's tragic. This is not a new issue.

What's remarkable is how social media has been key to this whole thing. I don't watch the news because I know they lie. From what I've read, the news had been painting Brown as this thug who deserved to die, which inspired #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. Even if he was a thug, on that day, he was unarmed. The police knew he was unarmed. They had no reason to shoot him.

I've been keeping up with what's going on in Ferguson through Twitter and the USA Today app.

Looking through Twitter, I learned about Day of Rage. Protesters against police brutality gathered in Union Square, Times Square NYC and across the country.
"Early Thursday morning, members of the online hacktavist group Anonymous posted a video on YouTube calling for anyone angry about the brutal police crackdown in Ferguson, Mo., to take to the streets of their own hometowns in they have dubbed a ‟#DayOfRage”." (The Daily Dot)

I didn't find out about this until 8:30pm. It started at 7pm. If I'd known about it sooner, I would've been there right when it started. I went to Union Square. By then, most people had moved to Times Square. Still, the protest was powerful.   

According to #NMOS14, these protests took place across the country with thousands of people showing up at each location. For NY, some protesters started at Union Square and walked to Times Square. That's from 14th St. to 42nd St. Hardcore. A few protesters in Times Square were arrested. 

I'm amazed at how organized this protest was. We got some productive arguments. People might've disagreed with the speaker, but they were never disrespectful. You could feel the passion from each person. People took turns with the mic and spoke their heart. One women got in front weeping saying, I can't change my skin color. Another person talked about an issue close to my heart --how amazing it is being around artists who look like her and share her passion. I'll experience that one day. People weren't saying all cops were bad. They want cops to stop treating them like criminals just because of their skin color. It was an inspiring night. I'm glad I was a part of it. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Inspiring Your Fantasy Worlds

Unusual places can inspire fantasy stories. I like collecting images of actual places that are so amazing they look like something out of a novel. In general, I'm fascinated by landscapes and architecture from around the world. I'd like to do more traveling one day.  Here are some images to inspire your world building or to simply enjoy.

Portland Japanese Garden

Marble Caves of Patagonia Chile
This looks like something straight out of a fantasy novel. I can imagine someone riding horseback across that path. 
Mont Saint-Michel, Island in France
I'm thinking an ancient tribunal meets. I can image people standing in the archways, shouting at each other. Or, someone standing at the top looking down sees colored smoke racing through each arch as though it has a mind of its own. Even better, some ancient evil rests at the bottom of this well.  
The Iniciatic Well, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra, Portugal 
I don't know if this is an actual place, but I've used it in one of my stories.
The arches below inspired a structure in Chains of the Sciell. It's Heaven's Gate in the novel. It's the Stonehenge of my world. No one know what it was used for. Without giving too much away, Heaven's Gate is a portal. It sits in a forest just like the one in the image above.
San Galgano, Italy

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fantasy World Building: Balancing Magic & Technology

While researching why most fantasy novels don't have modern technology, I found one reason was that people believed it's tricky balancing magic and technology. One would disprove the other.

I'm not talking about Urban Fantasy. I mean fictitious worlds with magic and technology. I understand why most fantasy authors write low-tech settings. Figuring out how the characters can get away with certain things in a world with satellites and camera phones- where nearly ninety percent of the world is charted is so hard.

How did I balance magic and technology?

1. Most people don't believe magical beings exist
Those that have special powers, use it to conceal themselves from the rest of the world- sort of like Harry Potter- only my beings aren't nearly as organized. They live in small remote communities and keep to themselves. They don't use technology. Beings with power make up a tiny portion of the population. They've lived for centuries so they're adept at hiding. Kind of like the way vampires are in most Paranormal Romance stories.

2. The land's layout helps with #1
All of the beings of power live in one province (Continent) Jael. The most populated modern cities are all on the coast. There is no greenery unless someone plants a roof garden. Buildings are remodeled unceremoniously. Then, we have Middle Jael, which is like stepping back in time. It's all thick green forests, farmlands and small towns. People can go to Middle Jael to visit/study historic structures- something they can't do in the cities. Middle Jael is the perfect place for someone who wants to live peacefully away from other people. The magical beings also live in mountains, one in particular- the Orlon Mountains because humans can't cross the Aldric Dessert, the stretch of land in between that mountain range.

3. Magic has influenced the world, but its affect is seen as a "wonder" 
You know how we have Stonehenge and the Bermuda Triangle? My world has those things too. They exist because of a being(s) with power. I mentioned the Aldric Dessert earlier. It's also known as the Aldric Abyss. Only one of person, Aldric Landis, has crossed it and lived. However, Aldric lived the rest of his life in a mental institution. People have studied that land, no one knows why it affects people the way it does. The air is toxic but they don't know why. Magic is the reason.

4. Most beings didn't want their power
Because of this, they have no ambitions to take over the world. They don't want to be acknowledged. They want to be left alone. At least until book 2 ;)

5. The most powerful beings are small in number
The Sciell are the most powerful beings in the world because they were chosen to hold the power. The Sciell is one family (some by power not blood) with only three generations. There is only a handful of them and because of certain problems, more die than are born. Their fertility rate is low. They could live for a hundred years and only have three children.
It has taken me ages to make a believable world. I still have doubts about whether I did it right. I'm having someone else read Book 2. They'll tell me if it's believable. So far, people aren't complaining about an unrealistic world for Book 1- The Sciell.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Mythical Creature: Yuki-Onna

When I see a mystical being in one of my favorite shows, I have to look it up. While doing this research, I realized Yuki Onna appears often in anime. This was fun! It's fascinating linking a character from a show to actual mythology.

"The Yuki Onna is one of Japan’s most well-known and yet unknown yokai. There is no single story of the Yuki Onna. From dread snow vampire of the mountains to a loving bride and mother, she has played many roles over the centuries; worn many costumes. She is ephemeral as a windblown mist of snow, and as impossible to hold."
She's a spirit of snow storms. She lures men into the cold wilderness where she causes a violent blizzard. When the blizzard takes over the landscape, she vanishes into the mist and snow. The victim desperately searches around to save her, but ultimately fails and freezes to death in the snowstorm.

Yuki-Onna wears her hair loose. She's dressed in long white robes, which are sometimes seen spattered in blood. She appears on snowy nights as a tall, beautiful woman with long black hair and blue lips. Her inhumanly pale or even transparent skin makes her blend into the snowy landscape. Some legends describe her as nude, with only her face and hair standing out against the snow. Despite her inhuman beauty, her eyes can strike terror into people. She floats across the snow, leaving no footprints. She can transform into a cloud of mist or snow if threatened.

Yuki-Onna is also known to have the ability to freeze people with her icy breath. One tale states that she was once a pregnant woman who died in the snow. Because of this, she's sometimes seen carrying a baby. She may also appear to a man. They'll start a relationship, marry and have children. Then, she'll cause a snowstorm and lose herself in one, causing her victim husband to run after her and die in the cold. Sometimes, she marries a man in winter only to melt and disappear by the spring.

The most widely known version of Yuki Onna came from Lafcadio Hearn, a traveling journist.
Two men, a wood cutter and his apprentice, some stories say it was a father son pair, left their village one winter's day to gather firewood. They go caught out when a storm started. and took shelter in a small hut. The younger man awoke that night  to discover the hut's door open, and a ghostly white woman -- both beautiful and terrifying -- leaning over the other man and breathing white mist over him. When she turned to the young man, the strange woman offered to spare him if he swore to never tell anyone what he had seen that night. He made the vow and the strange woman left fading into the storm outside. The young man turned to companion, and found him frozen to death.
The young man kept his word for years after that strange night and told no one, not even his wife who he married about a year after the incident. They lived a simple and happy life, raising their children. One evening, as the children slept and his wife sat quietly mending some clothes, he was struck by how much his wife looked like that strange woman of many years ago. He told her about the night and how much she reminded him of it at the moment. When he finished the story, his wife rose, now completely snow-white and enraged, and told him the only reason she wouldn't kill him immediately was for the sake of the children. Warning him strongly to never give them reason to complain, she drifted out into the night and disappeared in the falling snow forever.

For some reason, ice is one of my favorite powers. Yuki Onna gave me an idea for a new ability for my race of beings, the Sciell. Stripping all the warmth, body temperature and positive emotions, from a person.

Myth Beast: Yuki-Onna
Yuki-Onna: the Snow-Woman of Japan
Yuki-onna by Lafcadio Hearn

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Is Being a Good Writer Important?

No info-dump, show- don't tell, avoid adverbs, no passive voice, beware of repetitions. You've probably come across these writing rules. We treat them like the unbreakable rules. This is Writing 101.

Are they as important as we make them out to be?

I'm currently reading a book that had a major info-dump in chapter 2. Let me repeat chapter 2. We don't care about any of the characters yet and the author pulls us out of the story. I was seconds from quitting that book. The chapter was so boring and unnecessary. The lure of a shy, socially awkward female protagonist kept me reading.

Info-dump is universally considered a major no-no. Putting it in chapter 2-all of it was backstory- is like asking people to stop reading. I checked the reviews for this book. I couldn't possibly be the only one bothered by this. Turns out, I was. People loved this book. No one cared about the info-dump in chapter 2. This author got a ton of glowing reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. They aren't in the thousands. Considering how hard it is to get reviews, over a hundred is pretty good. 
A while ago, I bought this fantasy book. It had a great cover, awesome concept. The reviews were hailing it as the best thing ever. I was excited about reading it. I started it. I could not get past the bad writing. The author did no showing. It was all telling. The story did a whole lot of "I looked and saw." This bothered me...a lot. I went back to the reviews thinking I couldn't be the only one annoyed by this. I was. People talked about the plot, the characters, the world building, pacing. No one mentioned or cared about the amateurish writing.

These are the most recent examples. I've come across many books that tells instead of shows or stories where the author found a word or phrase they liked and used it to death. Despite that, people enjoyed those stories. 
As you probably know, 50 Shades of Grey has a movie coming out next year. I haven't read the book, but from what I heard, it's not the best written story. I learned in a workshop at the Writer's Digest Conference over the weekend that this book has sold millions of copies.

One of my favorite series is The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence. It breaks all the rules about how to handle backstory. People love this series. 

Most of these rule breakers aren't self-published authors.
We hear all the time about hooking the read on the first sentence. I can't recall the last time I read an interesting first line or even a memorable opening scene. In the land of ebooks and online shopping, I don't think that matters. I never use the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon. I've read books that dragged for 2 or 3 chapters before they got interesting. 

On the flip side, we have insanely popular series like Harry Potter and Game of Thrones that are well written. Although, I have caught some adverbs in Harry Potter. At the conference I mentioned earlier, I learned it's not so much about the writing. It's about our ability to tell a story. We've gotten it in our heads that there are things we have to do in order to tell a good story. You can write a book that avoids every single thing that annoys readers- culling needless words, no adverbs, trickling backstory a little at a time. You're still going to get someone who doesn't like your book. You can't please everyone.

I always knew we could break some rules in writing. I assumed, show- don't, tell, no-info-dump, stay away adverbs were the few hard and fast rules. Knowing that I can break them and still write a book people love it a bit freeing. I've heard the avoid using the verb "to be" rule. Never understood it. I'vw come across many highly regarded books riddle with "was" and "were". I know what I like in a story and I'll write that. I'm writing simply to entertain readers.

What do you think? Are the rules of writing still important?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

This movie made my summer. It was epic, hilarious, visually stunning and even heartwarming. I was worried. Marvel hyped this movie up. I was worried it wouldn't live up to the hype. It did. It really did.

I didn't see it in 3D, couldn't afford it, but Guardians of the Galaxy was so much fun to look at. I loved all the spaceships and the technology. They threw us into the world without explaining any of it. They didn't need to. The way the story moved, we figured things out on our own. I don't remember starships in other sci-fi movies looking this amazing. I love the designs and vibrant colors. So creative.

I don't know what sorcery was used to create Groot, the tree, and Rocket, the raccoon, but they looked so real. I know, at this day and age we shouldn't be surprised when non-humans characters look believable in a movie. I was impressed. Especially with Rocket.
Rocket, was awesome. He's my favorite. He'd kinda a psychopath but he's fun. Nearly every word out of his mouth was hilarious. Groot was so adorable. I hadn't expected that. I mean he is a big tree. He has his badass side and his sweet side. The two of them were an awesome and hilarious combo.

I like how the movie gave us a glimpse into each characters personality without breaking the story's stride. They sprinkled a little backstory at a time. Each character was well rounded. They all start out as walking stereotypes. Then, we learn more about them.

 Gamora (Zoe Saldana) wasn't just eye candy. Like Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy (GotG) didn't have one person at the center of the movie. We got to know and enjoy each character. The story was amazing, but the characters made the movie. Each had a strong personality. The movie gave everyone their fair share of camera time.
We got character develop in a way that wasn't mushy or predicable. We have a group of anti-heroes- my favorite kind of character. Although they became these epic heroes at the end, they still have that badness in them. Just the way I like it.

The trailers hinted at a romance between Gamora and Star-Lord (Chris Pratt).
You guys know how I feel about romance in my action movie. Fortunately, GotG was more action than mush.

For those who've watched Family Guy, you may have had a moment where your only reference to a song was that show. For me, it was Journey's song Don't Stop Believing. Whenever I hear it, I always think of the Family Guy episode.

GotG was the same. Most of the soundtrack was the epic score you get for movies like this. They also had a lot of 70's songs. I liked how they made each song a part of the story. They weren't just background music. Now, whenever I hear Hooked on a Feeling, I'm gonna think of GotG.

I haven't read the comic so I don't know how faithful the movie was to the original. From the responses I've seen so far, it's pretty faithful. I like how each side character got their moment. Yondu (Michael Rooker) was kinda annoying until we got to see how epic his arrow was.

The villain, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), was flat. I didn't understand where all his hatred came from. He was just there to be a bad guy nothing more, which was fine. He did what he was supposed to do- make everyone else look good. His ship was awesome though.
I like how Marvel is connecting each movie. Clearly, the Avengers don't show up in this movie, but we do get Thanos. He didn't do anything besides be mean. Since he's such a major villain, there's now talk that he's going to be in Avengers 3. You can't just drop Thanos into the franchise without doing something with him. That's a great way to piss off fans.
As I mentioned before, I didn't see this movie in 3D, though I usually do. I'm kinda regretting it. Knowing Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy would've been amazing in 3D.

I learned my lesson this time. I stay until the end of the credits. That extra was more for comic book fans. The end credit scene showed a character and the audience went bananas. I don't think it foreshadows another Marvel movie. It was just for laughs.

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