Saturday, June 30, 2012

Expect the Unexpected

I just finished another awesome scene in "Black Swan Origins: Nineveh."  It came from the point of view of a character whom I had wanted to keep in the background.  However, she decided to step forward and star in a chapter where I really needed a fresh perspective.  I love it when characters get free will and do that. 

When it comes to writing, I've learned to always expect the unexpected.  Helmuth Von Moltke the Elder once said that no plan survives contact with the enemy.  Likewise, in writing, no story survives contact with paper (or, in this modern age, Microsoft Word).  Something sounds great in your head, but then you write it out only to find out that it is ridiculous and needs to be burned immediately, or that it is ridiculous and can only be saved by several revisions.  Or you get a stroke of genius that forces you to completely rewrite all of the pages and pages of hard work which you had done in order to make it work.  At any rate, if you are inflexible and unable to adapt, you're better off not writing fiction.   

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cutting Back To Two A Day

One of my friends gave me an awesome freelance gig which is very simple.  All I have to do is copy emails into Excel.  Unfortunately, there are about 23,600 of them, so that means that I'm going to need to cut back on some other things, including my writing.  I'm going to make it a point to squeeze in two pages a day anyway, but its going to be a while before I can do more than that.  I will also still blog.  However, my posts are going to be somewhat short for a few weeks. 

Picking My Battles

I finished reading "Masters of Command" and thoroughly enjoyed it. Barry Strauss does a great job of analyzing the leadership of Alexander the Great, Hannibal Barca, and Julius Caesar. Caesar definitely wins, because he is the only one who managed to set up a lasting empire (Augustus merely built on the foundation which he laid). That being said, he had an unfair advantage, since Alexander and Hannibal preceded him. However, two things about the book bugged me. First was the assertion that Hannibal was "probably not dark-skinned." This is ridiculous, because, although Hannibal's mother was Spanish (and yes, people from Spain are Caucasian, a fact unknown to many of my fellow Americans):

A) Carthage was a North African nation, and at this time period, North Africans were primarily black.

B) Carthage had begun as a Phoenician colony, and the Phoenicians were from modern-day Lebanon.

To say that a person with African and Lebanese blood in their veins was "probably not dark-skinned" is silly. History clearly indicates that Hannibal had a multi-racial background.

Another thing that annoyed me was that, when describing Caesar's campaigns, Egypt was considered separate from the rest of Africa. A first-grader can look at a map and tell that Egypt is in Africa. However, if there's one thing I learned about this book, it's about picking my battles.

The fact is that some people are so close-minded that they will ignore historical and geographical facts so that they don't have to face reality. It is generally a waste of time to try to reason with such people, as I have learned from experience. So instead of letting them get under my skin, I simply tell them to do the research themselves if they don't believe me and move on. I have more important things to worry about.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Giving Peretti A Shot

One of my friends gave me a trilogy written by Frank Peretti.  I've started reading the first book, which is titled "This Present Darkness."  Now generally, I do not read much modern fiction.  I find most of it to be dull and boring.  However, I've decided to give it another chance and so far, Peretti has me interested.  It's definitely what I would consider Christian visceral fantasy, a term I invented because dark Christian fantasy is a bit of an oxymoron.  It opens up with two angels hunting down a demon and strengthening a beleaguered pastor.  While my schedule is rather full at the moment, I will be sure to squeeze in some time late at night/early in the morning to finish this tale. 

I had one Creative Writing Professor who gave a really good bit of advice: great writers read more than they write.  Unfortunately, I got turned off when he banned sci-fi/fantasy literature in his class and dropped it, but I am glad that I got that gemstone from him first.  By reading other authors, you get great ideas for your own work and can learn valuable insight into how to tell a story.  For example, from Grettir's Saga, I learned an interesting way to depict a hero with a tragic flaw.  Rather than being a highly polished warrior like Achilles or Othello, Grettir is more rough and tough, and streetsmart as opposed to booksmart.  His weakness is his overconfidence, as shown by his decision to take on a revenant named Glam (a revenant is basically a highly intelligent zombie).  Ironically, his downfall is due to his victory, not a failure.  It gave me an awesome idea for one major character I have, which I will reveal in a latter book of my own trilogy.

At any rate, I can't wait to see what inspiration I get from reading Peretti's work, and to see how he helped to blaze the trail of Christian visceral fantasy.   

Introducing the Magician

During my thirty day writing blitz at the beginning of the year, I developed a character who is a master strategist.  He is so brilliant that I've codenamed him "The Magician."  He loves studying military tactics and is extremely creative, constantly confounding his foes with new and innovative attacks.  Were he to live in our world, he would devour books such as Sun Tzu's "The Art Of War" and "On War" by Clausewitz.  Needless to say, I will be reading those two books a lot, as well as others on the same subject, to ensure that I do the Magician justice. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Weaving Legends Into Nineveh

I have always loved history and folklore, and always will.  So in "Black Swan Origins: Nineveh", I have decided to weave some of the school's legends into the story.  There is a lot more to Lambert Grettirsson than what meets the eye, and in the scene which I wrote, one character finds out the hard way.  He is finally taking his rightful place as the most fascinating character who has ever dwelt within the school's walls and it is wonderful.  I will weave in other legendary characters as well, but he will be the chief among them.  He may be dead, but the deeds which he did will ensure that his legacy stays very much alive. 

Keeping Both Feet On The Ground

Like many authors, I sometimes daydream about the day when my book will become a movie.  Nothing would make me happier than to see my characters and world on the big screen.  However, I also know that doing this excessively is detrimental.  It wastes valuable time that needs to be spent on completing the novel in the first place.  Not to mention that whether or not it becomes as big as "Lord Of The Rings", "Harry Potter", "Twilight" or "The Hunger Games" is largely out of my hands.  All I can control is how well I write the story.  Obviously, I will promote the heck out of it when I am finished.  That being said, the key thing is to finish it in the first place.  In other words, less dreaming, more writing!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Lambert Unleashed

It's time to revamp one of my most important characters: Lambert "Lammy" Grettirsson.  While Sandra's brother is dead when the novel begins, his influence cannot be overstated.  I look forward to developing him in this draft.  In particular, I want to cover more about what the other students at Nineveh thought about him.  He was the first kid to ever defy the "survival of the fittest" mantra of the adults, and that decision had ramifications which affected everyone around him.  While I won't say anything specific, suffice it to say that he is proof that meekness is not weakness.  Although he is very kind and gentle, those who feared him had plenty of reasons to do so.

Many people are under the impression that love involves letting people do whatever they want without fear of consequence.  This, quite frankly, is not love.  It's appeasement.  In addition, refusing to deal with someone who is acting in an inappropriate manner is actually a form of cowardice.  Sometimes, you need to show tough love and reprimand someone who is being a jerk, a whiner, or a bully.  Now, this does not mean that you should be a vigilante that takes the law into their own hands.  It does, however, mean that you should speak up when someone is wrong, and, if you are an authority figure, discipline them with a punishment that fits the crime.  Lammy understands this and, although so far I have primarily focused on his tender side, I will also show that he was not someone to mess with. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Dream Matches

After hearing so many fellow UFC fights clamor for an epic battle between Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, I have thought a lot about some dream matches which I would love to see.  So without further ado, here we go:

Alistair Overeem vs. Junior Dos Santos

I see this as the ultimate striker vs. striker match.  After seeing Dos Santos drop Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir, I want to see how his power holds up against the man who demolished Brock Lesnar.  I just hope Overeem lays off the PEDs so that this is a fair fight. 

My prediction: Overeem knocks out Dos Santos in round three, simply because he is a more complete striker.  He has some pretty vicious kicks which put the odds in his favor.

Justin Lawrence vs. Lyoto Machida

These are two of the fastest and most agile MMA fighters I have ever seen and, in spite of coming from different disciplines, their styles look strikingly similar.  They both have a knack for swarming over their opponents while dodging blows that are faster than bullets. 

My prediction: Machida wins by decision, purely because of his experience.

Frankie Edgar vs. Jose Aldo

This is one dream match that may actually happen.  Aldo has already expressed interest in fighting Edgar, and Edgar seems like he is open to the possibility after he has his rematch with Benson Henderson.  After seeing Aldo's takedown defense and vicious knee strike finish of Carlos Mendes, it's clear that he is no stranger to taking out wrestlers.  However, after seeing Edgar's brutal takedowns of Maynard, he may be "The Answer" to Aldo.

My prediction: After a five-round war, I see Edgar taking this by decision. 

Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones

This would be a dream come true, but highly unlikely, since Silva has shown no interest in fighting Jones.  However, if it were to happen, it would be experience and knowledge vs. raw talent.  Jones has flattened everyone he has come across except for Rashad Evans.  However, Silva is on a whole new level than anyone Jones has faced.  Silva combines his own natural ability with years of study and innovation, and if anyone can find a way to beat Jones, it's him.

My prediction: Jones dominates the early rounds, but Silva weathers the storm and turns the tide in round three, leading to a KO or submission in round four. 

Why I Now Believe In Revision

In the past, I hated revising stories.  I considered it tedious, boring, and an impediment to moving on to better works of fiction.  However, after seeing my novel become absolutely amazing, I have drastically changed my opinion.  Revising is like taking your body to the gym.  At first, you'll be constantly sore and always exhausted, but over time, your muscles will grow, your waistline will shrink, and you'll have more energy and confidence.  That is exactly what is happening to "Black Swan Origins: Nineveh" right now.  I have never been so proud of a work of fiction.  While I will definitely value the guidance of an experienced editor, I know that when I submit it for publishing, it will be my best work thus far. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Freaking Epic!

I am four chapters into this draft and it is absolutely amazing!  Two more characters are really gaining momentum and the plot is hurdling forward.  The book is basically writing itself now.  All I have to do is go along for the ride.

I've toyed with the idea of creating a screenplay version of it when it is done.  As much as I would love to, I want to finish all of the books first.  This trilogy will only be the first of several and will span many generations in this world.  This month is very hectic for me, so I am not working on it as much as I want.  However, the key thing is discipline.  I make sure to write at least two pages a day.  My current average is four.  It's also giving me an excuse to watch more UFC.  I have always loved hand-to-hand combat and those matches are a gold mine for seeing what works in a real fight and what doesn't.   

The Myth Of The Fair Fight: How Urijah Faber Learned This The Hard Way

Urijah Faber is the most popular UFC fighter who has never won a title in the promotion.  With that laid-back California accent, mellow demeanor, and sense of humor, it's not to hard to understand why the UFC uses him so much to promote the organization.  I haven't even seen one of his full fights yet and I'm a fan, which is why I was shocked to discover that, several years ago, he was in a street fight in Bali.

I read about this in his book titled "The Laws Of The Ring."  Basically, he was hanging out with some European girls at a bar, when one of the local males rammed him with his shoulder.  As Urijah put it, this guy was a male escort trying to hustle wealthy foreign ladies, and he mistakenly thought Urijah was trying to steal his potential clients.  Anyway, being drunk, Urijah challenged him to a fight.  They went outside and the California Kid stomped him.  Then all of the escort's homeboys jumped in with brass knuckles and broken bottles.  Urijah spent the rest of the night fighting for his life, not only in the street, but back through the bar, in a store, and only got away thanks to the help of a sympathetic cab driver and some bystanders who turned out to be Good Samaritans.  Basically, he found out the hard way that, in real life, fair fights almost never happen. 

The fact is, if someone has a beef with you in real life, all they care about is teaching you a lesson.  Most people don't care about honor or fairness.  They care about taking you out in the most efficient way possible.  In other words, if you tangle with one guy, rest assured that he is going to come back at you with his brother, his cousin and his best friend.  If this happens Stateside, at least one of them is going to have a gun.  This is why, if you are challenged by someone, you're better off backing down.  You don't know who that person is, who they're with, or what they're packing.  They could be an off-duty cop.  They could be out on the town with a gang of fifteen guys.  They might have an arsenal of AR-15s in the back of their SUV.  It's tempting to want to "be a man" and slug it out, but at what cost?  A living chicken is better off than a dead duck.

Faber learned this the hard way, and emphasizes in his book that it's important to be the bigger man and walk away.  Be sure that you take his word for it, because you might not be so lucky.  Unless your life is in danger, if someone challenges you to a fight, walk the heck away!       

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Age Isn't Just A Number

I added another page and a half to BSO: Nineveh Version 6.0 and have already discovered an issue with the characters.  They are wonderful, but they sound much older than they actually are.  In this scene which I am writing, they sound like people in their late teens.  However, they are supposed to be twelve.  Right now, I am simply going to focus on getting the plot straight.  I will change the characters' voices to make them sound younger in Version 7.0. 

I consider it very important to have everything perfect in my stories.  That's why I'm not going to ignore the age issue.  I've read stories which sounded interesting, but later shelved them and walked away because the characters didn't seem authentic, or the plot was full of holes, or the setting was too ridiculous to believe.  Plus, I love a challenge, and this is the first time where I focus on middle school-aged characters in a novel-length work.  Granted, because of their involvement in gangs and the occult, they will be mature beyond their years.  That being said, if they sound like college freshmen, then it means that I'm not done with the revision process.   

Friday, June 15, 2012

Enter The Consigliere

I finally reached a scene in which I get to introduce a pivotal character known as the Consigliere.  I won't say too much about her since I don't want to give away any spoilers.  Suffice it to say that if people were machines, she would have come out of the factory broken.  In other words, she is pure evil. 

Some people are not comfortable believing that there are sociopaths out there to whom right and wrong mean nothing.  However, the very existence of the prison system is proof that they exist.  That's why, in order to reflect reality, I have certain characters in my stories who only care about their own selfish motives, who don't empathize with their victims, and to whom laws, rules, and codes of conduct are just empty words.  In addition, since we are all sinners, God makes it clear that ANYONE can become that depraved without His mercy and grace.  The first chapter of Romans shows systematically how human beings, through turning their back on Him, slowly transform into savage and feral beasts.  At Nineveh Academy, the process is merely accelerated by power-hungry tyrants. 

That being said, there are good characters in the novel.  One of the more notable ones is Sandra's brother, Lammy.  Describing his opposition to vicious maniacs like the Consigliere will certainly be an interesting challenge.   

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why I'm Skipping UFC 147

While I make it a point to watch as many UFC Pay-Per-Views as I can, I am skipping UFC 147.  There are only four matches on the card, and Vitor Belfort, one of only two fighters I was interested in seeing, had to pull out due to a hand injury.  As much as I like Fabricio Werdum, it's hard to justify paying to watch an event for only one fighter.  Granted, by pay, I mean grab a meal at Applebee's, which shows it for free.  That being said, even dropping $9.00 only to see one fighter is a bit much, although the burger and fries would be delicious.

The fact is, there is no title on the line and the card is headlined by Wanderlei Silva.  Granted, I did see the footage of him making mincemeat out of the Gracie Hunter during his Pride days and was very impressed.  However, since he has only won two out of his last five fights, it really seems like his best days are behind him.  I see no reason to make him a main eventer other than his name, and would rather save my money to see Anderson Silva's rematch with Chael Sonnen at UFC 148, as well as finally getting to see Urijah Faber in action when he fights for the interim bantamweight title against Renan Barao. 

One Foundation May be Shifting

I have reached a dilemna in my draft.  On the bright side, The Protector's best friend is growing in leaps and bounds.  On the other side, one of the action-packed opening scenes is being threatened.  I may have to axe it to make the story flow better.  However, I am going to try my best not to.  I'm going to adapt the new scenes so that I can keep it and will only remove it if it comes across as really forced.  I can always remove it or change it later, but since it is the foundation of The Protector's sibling's character, I'm going to try to keep it from shifting.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Qi Gong Rocks!

I just finished doing the "water" program from Matthew Cohen's "Qi Gong: Fire and Water" DVD.  I feel absolutely amazing!  My lower back pain has subsided, my wrists feel like they are brand new, and I feel a lot more focused, relaxed and alert.  I have an urge to start doing karate, but since it is really late at night, I'll save it for the morning. 

One of my life goals is to become an expert in four different martial arts.  I already have a black belt in karate, a striking system.  Next, I want to learn how to grapple, so I will probably do Brazilian jiu-jitsu.  I also want to master a weapon and a "soft" martial art.  After tonight, I know that the "soft" martial art will be Qi Gong. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Could DiCaprio Have Pulled Off The Riddler?

On Yahoo! Movies, I read that Leonardo DiCaprio was considered for playing the Riddler in Christopher Nolan's final "Batman" film.  I think that he has the acting chops to pull off such a role, especially the darker version of the character that Christopher Nolan would have thought of.  Although DiCaprio was a good guy in "Blood Diamond" and "The Departed", he showed a lot of talent and range in those films, and I think he could have easily adapted to playing a Batman villain.  That being said, I'm glad that Nolan decided to go with Bane instead.  In my opinion, the Riddler is too similar to the Joker and having them back-to-back would have been a bit much.  The ruthless and calculating Bane is a fresh and exciting challenge for Gotham's hero, and I can't wait to see how Batman deals with the foe who broke his back in the comics.

There really isn't much to the article, but if you want to read it, here it is:

Developing "The Protector's" Best Friend; Seeing A Hero Get Saved

Earlier today, after typing up some of my Peace Corps memoir, I started writing a scene with Sandra's protector.  It went really well and I gained new insight into the mind of The Protector's best friend.  In order to prevent revealing any spoilers, I'll just say that she is very perceptive and empathetic.  The only challenge is whether I will make her a city slicker or a girl from the swamp.  Due to my increasing fascination with swamp people and my desire for a challenge, I'll probably go with the latter. 

At "Night of Freedom" yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting a marine who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He earned a Purple Heart for saving his colonel and was very outgoing, friendly and enthusiastic.  Later that night, he came to faith in Christ.  I am always deeply moved when someone does this, but when a real-life hero like this young man gets saved, it feels extra special. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"The First Dunite Citizen" Complete, "Nineveh's Apex Predator" Revised

I finished "The First Dunite Citizen" over the weekend and revised "Nineveh's Apex Predator."  The former was submitted to a magazine and the latter was submitted to a writing competition.  Now that those two are done, I can return to "Black Swan Origins: Nineveh."

My chief concern is that I'm giving Max too much screen time.  In my recent fiction, she appears more than any other character.  Granted, she is extremely fun to write about.  However, she's not supposed to be the focal point of the series.  I'm going to need to build up the other characters so that she does not hog the spotlight. 

Stop Hating On Gwyneth!

I read on article on Yahoo!Music Blog about Gwyneth Paltrow using the N-word on Twitter.  I didn't believe it at first, because Gwyneth Paltrow never struck me as a racist.  After reading the article, it turned out that I was right and that this was just a load of media hype.  All the poor woman did was quote the name of a song!  I am an African-American man and I really don't see what the issue is.  She wasn't using it in a derogatory manner.  She wasn't promoting white power or trying to put down Jay-Z, Beyonce, or Kanye West.  She was just tweeting a photo of herself with Jay-Z and Beyonce with the title of the song that was playing at the concert!  Isn't everyone overreacting just a tad bit?

I also disagree with Billy Johnson, Jr.'s rule that white people can never use the word.  Ever.  Granted, I wouldn't take too kindly to a bunch of people waving nooses and calling me a stupid N-word every time I walked past them.  However, that's very different from someone reading "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and quoting the word, or someone simply repeating the lyrics of their favorite song.  Imagine if Katy Perry created a song called "B-words in London" and Ryan Seacrest happened to tweet a picture of himself on stage with her and included the song title.  Wouldn't it sound dumb for someone to say that "if you're not a woman, don't use the word"?  Isn't it bit silly to claim to have the sole privilege of using an insult?

In my opinion, Gwyneth Paltrow didn't do anything wrong here.  If my black brothers and sisters don't want white people using the N-word, then they SHOULDN'T PUT IT IN OUR MUSIC!!!!

I'm done talking about this foolishness, but if you want to learn more about it, the link is below:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Discovering Matsura Seizan

While hanging out at Barnes and Noble, I found a book called "Secret Tactics" by Kazumi Tabata.  It covers insights, rules, and philosophies of martial arts masters, including Miyamoto Musashi.  However, the one guy who caught my attention was Matsura Seizan.  His rules and insights were very simple and practical, such as the fact that you should listen to your teacher while still keeping an open mind to other ideas.  He also said that any opponent can be beaten and that you shouldn't care who your foe is; your goal should be to take them out as quickly and efficiently as possibly.  Or, as he put it, "with one blow."  He also said that there is nothing mystical about kempo.  You get good through discipline and experience gained through a lot of fights.  Some of the more esoteric among us might be disappointed that the truth is that simple, but the fact of the matter is that it is.  So many people are under the impression that martial arts experts have some sort of bizarre mystical power or superhuman talent.  That is really only true for a select few.  The majority are simply hardworking, studious individuals who, through creativity and practice, discovered efficient ways to do away with assailants, thugs, and bullies.  There is still much about Matsura that I really don't know.  However, thanks to Kazumi, I have found out that it is in my best interest to learn as much about him as I can.       

Learning From The Past: Earning the Right To Give Advice

I make a lot of novice mistakes in my previous blog which I am going to correct.  The biggest one that I made was giving writing advice prematurely.  I want to make it clear that I am an excellent writer and am proud of what I have accomplished so far.  However, there is one thing that I must do before I give advice to others: I need to get a book published.  Having a B.A. in English Literature and publishing short stories are all admirable achievements.  That being said, I know that I will only be taken seriously on the web when I have a book that people are paying to read.  I consider it the equivalent of getting a black belt in karate.  Sure, you can give pointers when you're at a lower rank and certainly win a lot of fights.  However, you won't have the discipline and maturity to truly teach others until you are a black belt.  Master Clark made me wait a couple of extra years before he would test me for that rank.  Even though I could beat most of the other students at American Karate Academy, I lacked discipline.  I skipped classes frequently, to the point where I was chided by a fellow student named Laura for it when I saw her at the grocery store.  In a not-so-subtle way, she told me that, while I was really good, I needed to attend class more.  That was a big wakeup call, especially since she was one of the better black belts in the school.  Why should I get promoted if I couldn't even be bothered to show up?  I wised up and started coming more frequently.  Sure enough, Master Clark tested me within a few months when I showed that I had learned my lesson.  Likewise, to teach others about writing, I can't just coast on natural talent and skill.  I need to prove that I have the focus, maturity, and discipline to teach others.  In karate, that involved getting my black belt.  In the writing world, that translates into getting a book published.