Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Drafting from real life

As I've been working on editing "Drawing Battle Lines" I came to chapter nine where a particularly intriguing character (from my position) came to exist.  What happened, when I first came up with this character slot, was that I needed a personality that would fit in the role.  This had to be someone who would work opposite the stiff-mannered Captain Justin Brand (you can find him in "The Past Repeated").  There is a chapter, earlier on, that depicts a meeting between Brand and Minister of Peace Anat Meron (who also appears in "The Past Repeated").  While Meron is far more formal than Brand, both characters have a deep loyalty and patriotism, as well as a slightly more stiff and to-the-point manner.  Justin is actually fairly comfortable in this meeting, more so than with any other non-military person that he had spoken with.  Funny enough, it makes me think of the episode where Sheldon and Leonard's mother meet and become friends on The Big Bang Theory.  And, if you thought I was mentioning the scene where they kiss, well here's that video.

Getting back on track again, the fact is that I needed someone who would be a good comparison to the Meron/Brand conversation.  As comfortable with the Minister of Peace as Brand is, so uncomfortable would he need to be with a similarly powerful Olympus Union delegate.  Almost perfect that I happened to be writing where a friend was near by.  As such, Miss Danielle Abbate enters the world of the Olympus Union.  For those who trip over the pronunciation, it's "Ah bah tay".  You'll notice no title is presented... Justin notices this as well, because she specifically doesn't demand one to be used.  She prefers to refer to him as "Justin" instead of his honorific, as the Minister does, even though she'll use it sparingly.  The trick to writing the encounter, however, is understanding how the real life person would handle the situation.  Danielle is, thus, written as a bit more friendly and casual, although incredibly shrewd.  She's happy to talk to you and be your friend, but has absolutely no issue with stomping on someone who is getting too far out of line.

It's important to note that I certainly take some poetic license here.  Miss Abbate takes a little extra pleasure in tweaking Brand when she realizes that he seems unwilling to react to certain comments.  While far from sadistic, she purposely crafts a cute and sweet exterior to mask a more fun and wicked personality.  Of course, the telling moments will be when the person that this character is based off of lets me know what she actually thinks.  Then, we'll have to see if changes are mandated... or if I'll get stomped by the real life person.

 * * * * * * * 

Only partially related is the fact that I've actually been listening to the band The Parlor Mob while writing lately.  They aren't the only band that I've been listening to, of course, but they've made the leap into my playlist a lot more often these days.  Thanks to my Zune player (and software), and in part to lovely folks at Pandora, they became a very pleasant discovery.  If you listen, you can definitely can sense some similarities to Wolfmother (whether it was intentional or not).  I'm officially plunking down the cash to purchase their album "And You Were a Crow" and suggest that you do so as well.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Truth about the Kindle Fire

I was slated to get the Kindle Fire as a birthday present.  I'd be thinking more and more about getting a tablet, but the cost was somewhat prohibitive.  The idea crossed my mind to pick up the Samsung Galaxy since I'd seen it in action (a co-worker owns it).  My only problem was that this thing runs about $500, and that's about what I'd paid for my laptop less than a year ago.  It would be nice to have, but not essential to have.  Perhaps in the new year, if I sold a bunch of books, I could pick it up, but certainly not now.  That's when I started reading the articles about Amazon's impending tablet, meant to compete with the iPad.  Working it as a loss leader, they would sell this new tablet at just $200 - about half what the iPad costs - and that put this thing right in my wheelhouse.  It's Android based, just like my phone, and should continue providing me the ability to hook in my GMail and the various Google Docs that I've been using to manage my book series.  Perfect, right?

So, of course, I started reading up on this after the decision had been made to go pick one up.  Might as well make absolutely certain before the money is laid out, right?  Funny thing is, I found that people who actually picked it up found it to be lacking.  For something that was so heavily advertised as the cheaper answer to the iPad, something was missing.  The Android operating system was just that - OS only; the Kindle Fire is all about the Amazon marketplace and not the Android marketplace.  That's sort of important to note, and not something that you hard a lot about before it shipped.  Hey, it's their device, so they can do what they want, but it's nice to know (and I'm glad that I didn't buy directly from Amazon like a lot of people who did).

So I had a few simple concerns and decided that I should go and check it out.  If I was going to own a tablet, I wanted something that could connect me to my various Google accounts, enable me to continue using the e-reader aspect, add other business related apps to help me do my job on the train, and maybe pick up a few games here and there.  When I arrived at Best Buy, I was shocked at how much it look almost exactly like the Kindle.  You know, the Kindle that I already have.  I worked around with it a bit and noticed something else... it was a lot more limited than I expected.  Sure, you read reviews, but it's always better to verify for yourself, right?  I verified.  They were right.

Deciding to call one of the sales associates over, we had a little chat.  After getting an understanding that this was really just a media platform - read books, play a few games, watch a streaming movie - he said the one thing that I had already begun to expect: "The Kindle Fire isn't a tablet."  That tore it for me.  I don't need to make calls on my tablet (although, I hear you can Skype on the iPad and Galaxy), but my phone still has the ability to do more than the Fire.  Ah well, I got a sweet new hard shell case for my acoustic guitar instead.  This baby has a built in humidity monitor!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankful for Authors

It's the day after Thanksgiving and while we're here in the holiday spirit, I can't help thinking about some of the people that I'm thankful for.  Nope, I'm not doing the typical family and friends shout out that you generally do this time of year.  It's not that I don't love those folks, but there are some different people that I want to send this particular shout out to.  A handful of guys that I've actually never met in my life, although I'm hopeful that I might meet at least one of them one day.  These guys are named Stackpole, Heinlein, Asimov and Zahn, and they (among a few others) are my inspiration.

Michael A Stackpole is one of the most amazing science fiction writers that I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Definitely recommend you to check out his Stormwolf website to keep up on what he's doing these days (I have it bookmarked).  Where I first met Mr. Stackpole was when I read the Blood of Kerensky trilogy.  Set in the Battletech universe, I was absolutely captured by his character development.  Funny enough, this is where I learned to start playing with different names, getting into Gaelic with Phelans and Aidens.  My writing would later pick up on some of these names, and my current styling mirrors that.  I like to think some of my characters can be an homage to the men and women that he writes.  Back when I played Star Wars the role playing game with our paper and dice (oh, yeah, my geek goes deep), my all time favorite character was Phelan Rand.  And, yeah, you can expect to see him show up in Olympus Union one of these days, I can almost guarantee it.

What I really, heavily credit Mr. Stackpole with is giving me the writing bug and the urge to create.  You see, he also wrote this series for Star Wars based on the X-Wing video game.  I played the game (about the last time I was really into a game, and damn, I was good)... and I loved the book series.  It was called "Star Wars: X-Wing" which kicked off with "Rogue Squadron" and ran for seven books.  Important to note that books five through seven were written by another author, and attempted to mirror the concept with a brand new team.  The part that got me, and possibly the new author?  Building from scratch.  I touch on this in my Acknowledgments for "Drawing Battle Lines" but what really got me intrigued was the concept of starting something brand new and building it up.  What Mike Stackpole did with Rogue Squadron, I tried to do with a "Squad" of my own in my old Starkillers series, and took it a step farther in Olympus Union.  Mentioning him in the notes for "The Past Repeated" never happened because I wasn't certain how he would react.  One of the coolest moments of my life was reaching out and requesting permission to mention him... and being told yes. Twitter can actually get credit for momentarily connecting me to an incredibly awesome author.

Continuing the vaunted Star Wars connection, I have to reach out and thank one Timothy Zahn.  It isn't the connection to the space opera that really gets me to Zahn.  What actually really intrigued me was his ability to tell a story where the technology was an incidental part of the story, as opposed to the whole damned thing.  When reading the 'Cobra' books, he talks about struggles of interaction and about wars that could happen at any time.  The science fiction comes into place to be a core portion of what's changed, but that could work just as easily with any generation. Timothy just happens to be casting his sentiments into the future.  It was when I was introduced to Frank Compton while reading "Night Train to Rigel" that I really started to change my mindset.  In the Compton series, you're really reading mystery novels on the train rails.  The trains are science fiction driven, and the bad guy can't exist without technology, but this series could easily allow Zahn to take it into the 1950s and do a spin on the US railroad system.  This helped me to decide on focusing a bit less on the technology, and more on the story.  Technical bits come up in my writing, now, only if its relevant.  I like to think this made me a better writer.

Orson Scott Card and Isaac Asimov might have made me better writers, or they might have just made me a better brain storming sort.  I've read a great deal of Asimov, but got quite hooked on the Foundation series while writing my second book.  When you talk about Card, of course, everyone's mind goes immediately to Ender's Game but I actually look more at Ender in Exile.  What strikes me about these men is the ability to imagine and re-imagine their stories.  In the Foundation series, you start out by expanding... and then expanding to another level... and now that I'm working on Foundation's Edge there is yet another re-imagining of the interactions and the 'rules' that you took as bedrock.  Meanwhile, in 'Exile' Mr. Card starts to re-figure his storyline a little bit.  He fills in gaps and he looks at different angles.  It happens in the Bean series, too.  In the afterward, it's even admitted that this is the "correct" version.

A willingness to look at things differently, and keep on making changes that are believable within your universe, captures the heart and mind and keeps the pages turning and turning.  It has for me.  So now, I make it a point within my editing to go back and see what other angles I might have missed.  New pieces get added in, new explanations or expansions, and the story becomes more full.  I did it for the first book, am doing it for the second, and one day I'll do it for others.

Hopefully, my US-based readers have had a nice Thanksgiving.  And, even more hopefully, the people that you're thankful for are entrenched deep in your mind these days.  Not that I don't feel thankful for my amazing day job, the ability to write novels in my free time, or the fact that I have a roof over my head.  It's just the people who really make it worth waking up each day.  At least, that's why I've come to figure now that I'm in my thirties.  For the rest of the folks that have really made it matter for me, you can check out the Acknowledgments section of my first book and keep an eye out for the new book, hopefully coming to digital shelves in December.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Switched schedules and helping others

My schedule was pretty off today.  I was up at 2:45am on Tuesday, which had me asleep before 9:00pm, and up at 5:00am on Wednesday. Before I delve into the author aspect of this, let me explain why I had such kooky hours.  On Tuesday, November 22, I participated in the tenth year anniversary of Feeding nyc.  What is that?  An amazing program that purchases all of the goods for a Thanksgiving dinner, packs it into boxes, and delivers these meal-in-a-box kits to thousands of hungry families across New York City.  I encourage you to visit and read up, learn a bit, and consider donating - either money or time (or both) for next year.  It's a fantastic experience that I was lucky enough to be a staffer for; I'm looking forward to doing it again next year.  It's that time of the year to give thanks, after all, and this really helps me (and many others) get in and make connections, help others, and remember along the way how lucky we've been.

I'll be honest, it also gave me an unexpected bonus in my writing, too.  You see, I have the good fortune to occasionally work remotely in my day job.  After helping to feed the hungry, I came on home and worked a full day, which can leave you a little worn out.  Hitting the sack early left me wide awake and feeling *really* good at 5:00 this morning.  With plenty of time before my alarm was set to go off, I manged to sit at the computer and get on a real tear in my editing. How much?  I actually found a two page segment that was later morphed into an entirely new chapter!

How does something like that happen? It was funny, actually. As I explained in yesterday's blog post, my first draft is about getting the story out as best as I can. The follow up is where I get to work on the details.  What I found when sweeping through is that I left out far too much in that two page segment.  For starters, there were just a handful of sentences trying to explain a character who definitely needed more. This character is, in fact, one of the closest people to Duncan in the entire series... and I had an incredibly defined picture of him in my head!  How does one paragraph justify him?  It doesn't really.  After I started to flesh him out, I realized that the project they were working on was also far more important and deep to cast off just a page or two for explanation.  As I wrote and wrote, I came to realize that this deserved to be a chapter unto itself.

The craziest notion is that this new entry supplanted chapter two, pushing down the rest of the numbering.  Just like that, early on, and I'm already off and running into the 'new' chapter three.  Won't even be surprised if another chapter or two ends up coming out of this.

So it turns out that goodwill towards men, as the saying goes, has all kinds of benefits.  Call it karma, call it luck, but I'm feeling pretty pleased.  Truth is, I would have been happy simply knowing that I helped others.  It's a great feeling to know that someone's life is better because of something that you did.  If we all did a little more, and squabbled a little less, maybe some of the strife that I and other's write about for the future won't even come to pass.  Might not make for good fiction, but it makes for good life.  I'll be on the look out for a soup kitchen to volunteer in, I'm thinking.  And I encourage you all, again, to make a donation to Feeding NYC.  Every little bit helps.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My editing process is weird

It's entirely possible that my editing process is somewhat weird.  Truth told, I haven't watched too many people edit their books before.  What I do know is that, for starters, I'm not working with a professional editor.  Yes, I'll let someone else with an actual connection to writing have an eye over what professes to be the final edition, and even go back to make edits on that final-final.  That person wasn't a pro the first time, though, and won't be this time.  to be perfectly honest, however, I was pretty pleased with how "The Past Repeated" came out, so I see myself maintaining this methodology for the second book in the Olympus Union series, "Drawing Battle Lines".

Ray Romano had a funny bit in his old "Everybody Loves Ramond" television show where he talks about editing.  It was back in the episode where Ray Barone's brother, Robert, gets married; Ray gives the best man speech.  (Quick side note: that site is actually a pretty cool little site.  I'm glad I found it, and really encourage you to go take a look.  I know it's not science fiction, or an ebook, but there's more to life.  No, seriously, there is!)

In his speech, the subject talks about how editing manages to make everything better.  The craziness, the cheapness, the foolishness, it's all removed in the process of editing.  What we're left with is the good memory after the fact.  And, of course, he makes fun of his parents, Robert's new in-laws, and the rest of the family.  It reminds me a little bit of what goes on when I do my editing.  Well, without the mocking of parents and family bit.

When I first put my ideas together, it's all about the outline.  I start off with the main topics of each section which develops the story arc.  I move back in and set up the individual points, much like you might bullet point an action plan for a presentation, and even include a few sub points with actual quotes that come to mind.  I never start writing flat out, but I'll definitely insert snips and bits if they come to me while outlining.  Once the detailed outline is done, I go back in and start writing in the fleshed out story itself.  I actually jump around a bit; just because you read a book from first to last page doesn't mean you need to read it that way.  Finally, we get to the point that I reached the other day: you write the final words in the final sentence of the final chapter (preferably with a song playing that makes the entire scene almost too contrived).

Editing, for me, is all about starting at the beginning and figuring out what I left out.  When I first put in the story, it's more about getting the basic tale told.  Who did I have there, who did what, what they said, and why did they do or say it.  When I re-read it, often times I realize that the information in my head didn't translate into the information on the page.  I like to look at it and consider what someone who has no clue who the character is, or what the scenario is, would be thinking.  Why does Duncan Lab have trust issues?  Why do people living out near Jupiter have an issue with the Olympus Union.  Just because I've got Derek Maguin (Minister of Alpha Station, from "The Past Repeated") and Daxtan Chandler (a brand new character, a pilot, introduced into "Drawing Battle Lines") figured out to the fourth book... doesn't mean you have a clue what their deal is.

I also make it a point to flesh out the characters and add a little more depth.  After all, you only know Derek and Dax from what I tell you.  It's up to me to make them sympathetic, antagonistic, easy or hard to identify with, surprising or cliche... and I like to use both words and actions.  For instance, Justin Brand is fairly obsessed with duty, and feels that being a member of the Ares Elite requires him to be 100% Olympus Union, all the time.  He delivers lines that you - and any average person in or outside of the story line - would consider to be either sarcastic or bearing an ulterior motive, yet he truly believes them, and says it with a straight face.  Consider the following except from "Drawing Battle Lines" (which, I caution, may or may not change during editing):

"Is there a problem, Captain Brand?"
"No, Minister," he replied, recovering quickly.
"Do you take issue with my modification of your terms?"
"No ma'am.  I'm Ares Elite, and am a man of duty.  It's your job to command, mine to follow orders.  Whatever you decide is not something for me to take issue with."

You see, even when he is put off by something from the leadership, he immediately readjusts.  He is a soldier in the style of the ancient Greek warriors.  New information, and new orders, that come from above, simply become the new paradigm.  Brand does as he is told, and believes as he is told.  Will this exchange be modified?  It depends on whether or not it, and the sentences on either side, properly convey Justin's character.  Sometimes I find that I need to change a word here or there, use a synonym, change half a sentence, add something in or take something out.  Often, if I had trouble properly explaining a situation in the initial draft, I'll add a paragraph or two that better represent what's happening.  Then there are situations like the original scene from the Alpha Station.  This started as a short story that I had put together outside of the book, but I felt that it really helped to paint the disconnect between Jupiter and Earth.  Short story transformed into chapter.  And, yes, I do have a couple of other short stories floating around.  They may or may not turn into another chapter of the new book... but that's the fun with editing.  As Ray Barone explained - I can help leave the memory the way that I want you to remember it... not necessarily as I initially created it.  And that's kind of fun.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Amazingly, the end was finally here

It's amazing when things like this work out.  Actually, it makes me chuckle a little bit.  Couldn't help but flash back to this Patton Oswalt bit where he talks about his first trip to Amsterdam.  Alright, so if you click on the link and watch the video, or you've heard the bit before, you know that it isn't exactly the same.  After all, he was talking about smoking his first joint, and the song that comes on the mix tape makes it almost comical and too perfect.  (No, I didn't ruin it, go check it out anyway, it's funny)  As most folks who know me already understand, I don't do drugs.  So... maybe it's more apt to use Bill Envall's story about riding in an F-16.  Except for that whole mess that happens at the end. So, alright we'll say that I had a Patton Oswalt moment, and a bit less than an Engvall moment.  I'm also a bit out of character, and rambling in a blog, because I'm still pretty psyched over what happened last night.

So there I was... (as all the great bar and water cooler stories begin) sitting at my desk.  The Zune player was cranking through my "Writing" playlist and I was making fantastic headway on my second novel, "Olympus Union: Drawing Battle Lines", in the early evening.  It was the home stretch, the last chapter (per the outline, anyway), the end of the vaunted first draft.  Now, my playlist contains artists like Anberlin, Thriving Ivory, Hoobastank, Chickenfoot and Queensryche.  Among that group, and a handful of other bands that seem to get my creative juices flowing, and keep them that way... it was Alter Bridge that started playing.  And, what did it start playin?  "The End is Here" from their first album.  As I said, it was a Patton Oswalt moment.  It was too perfect.  The last sentence was being typed.  The final period was added in.  And it was all perfectly timed, as the song was seconds from completion as I had finally reached my completion.  Olympus Union is about to have the second book in the series hitting the digital shelves.  While Amazon has been serving up "Olympus Union: The Past Repeated" since April, now I'll actually have a pair of books in the list (and get to see "People who bought this also bought...").  It's incredibly exciting.

Important note: If you have a Nook, this is the Barnes and Noble link.  For the iPad folks, here is the iTunes book store link.

So what comes next?  I already started running through the second drafting in the first chapter at about 5:30 this morning.  What was playing?  Oh, I didn't start that up yet, as I only spent time working on a couple of pages.  I'm going to run through the entire book and flesh out some segments that appear to need more explanation, possibly re-write a few things, and quite possibly (as in the first book) add in a whole new chapter.  For those who have read "The Past Repeated" that's where the Alpha Station story came from.  And, of course, Alpha makes another appearance in the second book.

I've got a second (and possibly third) set of eyes to go through it afterward.  The biggest thing that I want to be certain that I do is keep it consistent with the first book.  Checking names, keeping consistent time lines, and so forth.  In the end, however, I'm hoping to get this out into the world by the end of December, or very early on in January.  Keep your eyes peeled - maybe I'll even post a sneak preview snip or two!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rewriting a hero

Way back, long before I even started to create the Olympus Union series, I wrote a monthly science fiction series named Starkillers.  Oh, I can't link to anything anymore.  Nope, I can't even tell you the old URL, because I eventually sold it off.  In the Starkillers post-apocalyptic universe, however, lived a vigilante named Jeremy Force.  He was based down in the Austin, TX region.  I actually still have a bunch of MS Word documents with at least a half dozen weeks of stories about Jeremy.  So, when I created the Olympus Union world, I decided that it might be far enough into the future to have a vigilante with some extraordinary abilities.  After all, I've got the Ares Elite, so he would fit right in.

When I started editing The Past Repeated I decided that I wanted to introduce Jeremy, but that I didn't want him to be a main feature.  That was the main point behind his appearance only in Chapter Ten.  He could become a dominating character all to himself.  The key was more that he was going to have a connection to the government, and to push forward the concept that the Olympus Union continues to come down as both "good guys" and "bad guys" at the same time; it further enforces that mindset - there is no black and white.  My original intention was to take Jeremy and turn him into what I had done with the original concept - a series of one to three page stories on a monthly basis (or possibly even weekly).  This still may happen, depending on where I go with it, and what the site morphs into.  More on this in a moment.

One of the other changes that I felt would be important to make was a change of his name, and to some extent, his personality.  You see, when I was coming up with my little super hero, initially, he was based a little more on Nightwing.  Batman's side kick certainly had some of Batman's toys, and utilized some of his similar athletic ability, but he also had a much lighter humor.  Jeremy Force was wickedly sarcastic and, to some extent, could be goofy.  He had a short fuse, but often recovered into sarcasm without too much difficulty.  He was stopping bad guys, but he maintained a lighter side.

I ran into two problems:
1. One of my lead characters, Kro, was already sporting that personality.
2. The situation that Jeremy would now be dealing with was quite a bit more grim, and required something of a harder edge than my previous stories.

When I started 'Jeremy Force' there was something of a sense of humor floating through the Starkillers universe.  At the time, there was plenty of sarcasm from the good guys and bad guys.  It was a United States trying to cope with vast differences and some tough situations.  So, you grinned and pushed through it.  He also had a fantastic interplay with his tech.  The personalities were based off of two guys that I worked with at the time, and even had a few of their quotes intermingled when I could.  Olympus Union isn't that world, though.  With OU:TPR, I was painting a scenario where there was a hard fought battle to establish peace, not to survive in a war.  The new Jeremy was out there, on the ground, with the little guy.  He was going to be saving the normal citizens from the crimes that the super soldiers - the Ares Elite - would never be brought to bear on.  That group was brought about to handle riots and revolutions, not muggers and gang bangers.  Fortunately, at the time, I was working on reading the Hush graphic novel from the Batman storyline.  I moved on to the second book and eventually was brought into reading this monthly.  Batman - the comic book version, not Christian Bail - had a human side to him, but was far more grim.  He looked at what he did as an obligation.  This was what he did, and this was who he was.  There was very little time available for levity, and he really didn't show any.  I started looking at the crimes that he would stop, the story lines that were painted, and decided that my city-bound vigilante needed to move more towards that end.  Split the difference between Nightwing and Batman, and then edge a little more towards Wayne and away from Grayson.  At that instance, Jeremy Force was dead and Jeremy Hunter was born.

So, again, the initial plan was to set up weekly or monthly stories on the guy.  I still might do that.  What I'm thinking at the moment, after sketching him out a bit, is that I might actually put a small novel (I think they're technically novellas) together for Jeremy.  We'll see what happens after I finish up this book, but if it comes to me quickly, I might see about turning something around fast.  Might even pop it out there for $0.99 (or, if it ends up being a 30 pager or so, maybe I'll just post it on the website for free).  The guy deserves some feature, and he's going to be fun to reinvent.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Inching closer, looking farther

In my last blog post I talked about finally deciding on a name for the sequel to The Past Repeated, my first e-book novel in the Olympus Union series.  I've been inching closer and closer to completing the first draft of Drawing Battle Lines as November moves forward.  There is a strong chance that I could finish up by next weekend, if tonight's writing session goes well.  Then I'm just off to editing.  The first time, I managed to do my edits - which included many a re-write and new chapter - in just a couple of weeks.  While it grows a little slim, Drawing Battle Lines might very well make its way onto the Amazon shelves before 2011 comes to a close.  The funny thing is that I'm starting to look a bit farther out these days.

I've made little secret that the Olympus Union series, at least to this point, has revolved around the happenings and people living near Jupiter and its moons.  Haven't picked up a copy of the first book yet, or talked to me about it?  The Olympus Union is a government intended to unite the Earth and all of man's expansion out into the solar system.  Suffice it to say that the Jovian System's colonies have been under appreciated, and under cared for by the Olympus Union as it fights for purchase and legitimacy.  What TPR starts, DBL takes to the next degree.  The third book (no, I haven't even thought of names, and no, I'm not going to start calling it code name Leviticus) will bring the differences to a head.  The only issue is that there's really more out there than just Jupiter, mighty and impressive as it is.

     That's right... I'm looking out past the Jovians, right at Grandfather Saturn.  This is where the next battle will be fought, and it should be interesting to write about too.  While book three will still be focused on impending civil war, I'm looking forward to playing with the twenty-three moons.  While the satellites around Jupiter have begun colonization, or mining or even some low level terraforming, there are some brand exciting things that I can do here.  Frontier level items that can be borrowed from the early days of the European colonial era, in fact.  Oh, of course, there is also Titan which will make for some intriguing literature all by itself.  Perhaps the most famous moon in the solar system, other than Luna herself, it's also the only other place in our Solar system that has liquid water.  Clearly, a battle ground, and long the source of dreamers for both science and science fiction.

Truly, I am genuinely excited.  As I cross the 2/3 mark of this trilogy (or, of course, half way mark if it becomes a quartet), I already know where I'm going next.  I've got destinations and stories in mind.  Haven't bothered, at all, to consider aliens in this series.  Truthfully, I don't see any star born neighbors making an appearance.  There is more than enough fun to be had in our own system before journeying beyond.  Let's see what we can do... and now, it's time to get back to the real writing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Official Title of Book Two

There is a song named "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield.  It begins, as such:

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

Those who know me have always known, while I am a writer, an internet professional, and (while not rehabbing injuries) an athlete, first and foremost I have always been a musician.  If you do a Google search for Gary Bloom Music you'll find a bit on me.  You'll probably come across my album, Lighting the Dark and you might even find some videos of me playing live.  One song that I don't think I've ever recorded - audio or video (if that's wrong, of course, I'm going to find a copy and get it live) - is For What It's Worth.  That's interesting because I play it quite frequently, and have for years.  It's even on the set list for my forthcoming acoustic show on Thursday night at Christopher's Bistro.  It was while I played this song a few weeks ago, in the middle of a live show, that I actually decided on the official name of my new book.

For those who read my blog regularly, you'll remember the post where I created a project name for the sequel to The Past Repeated.  My decision was to go with Exodus, mostly because it fit. That, and it followed so neatly after nearly naming the first book "Genesis" instead.  Well, Exodus is now going to be retired, because I found something that fits much better, and I found it within a set of song lyrics that I've uttered over and over (and, to some folks' dismay - over and over).

The first two lines of the second verse just clicked one night:

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong

And, yes, the rest of the song works very well for what I'm doing in Olympus Union. I've been thinking about working up a slightly more rocked out version of this, and recording it.  You know... soundtrack item... just in case we get a movie going one day.  It's just those two lines that fit better than any other, however. One of the big points about my Olympus Union story setting is that everyone thinks they're right, it's quite possible that everyone is wrong, and there are indeed battle lines being drawn.  A large part of "Exodus" is the different sides drawing their battle lines.

"Drawing Battle Lines"

That's it right there.  Book two.  The official name.  The sequel to "Olympus Union: The Past Repeated" is "Olympus Union: Drawing Battle Lines".  I like it.  A lot.  No voting necessary, no uncertainty like I had with the first title. This is just it.  And it came from musical inspiration, which just fits perfectly well for me.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Movie Review: Captain America

Last night I picked up "Captain America: The First Avenger", courtesy of Time Warner's On Demand.  I'll admit that I had some reservations at first.  For one thing, I didn't know a whole lot about Cap growing up.  I knew about the way he was created (World War II, a scrawny kid turned into a beefcake as an experiment, super patriot), but this wasn't a comic book that I read growing up.  Most of my comic reading life, I admit, I had been a DC Comics guy.  Superman, Batman and The Flash were my known quantity.  Marvel, for me, was the X-Men - which is why I felt so odd about those movies.  I grew up reading about who the characters were, where they fit into the timeline, how they came into the various positions.  I know that the comic's first class was really Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Beast and Marvel Girl.  I shuddered a bit when Warren Worthington was relegated to a side gimmick in the third movie, instead of a core member of the team, and the former playboy who would turn into Archangel, a key member of the X-Factor team.  Yep, I was pretty deep into that portion, and it was my only Marvel Comics obsession.  What I knew about Captain America was really limited, and despite the attempts of a good buddy to get me to turn into a Cap fan (Joel, if you're reading this, I truly hope you enjoyed this movie), I went into it a bit blind.  That set up should let you know that I took it much more as a movie, and not as a comic book recreation. So, don't expect any complaints about story line comparison.

Funny enough, I actually need to start on the dark side of things. The bad guy.  The man who, really, plays the best bad guy.  Hugo Weaving just looks like he was *born* to play a bad guy!  Even when he isn't acting, the man looks like a villain.  I mean that in the nicest possible way.  Writer Kevin Coll wanted Hugo to be cast in the roll of Sinestro in Green Lantern.  Personally, I think Hugo could play any roll as a villain.  My only regret is that Dondo Kriz isn't nearly evil enough, and that The Past Repeated just doesn't have a villain quite vicious enough to be played by this genius.  He brought darkness to a character that needed it.  He brought menace to the perfect foil. He took a potentially campy situation - comics from those early days always had such awful campy-ness to them - and managed to create a sense of belief.  The character's alter ego is even named Schmidt - essentially the German equivalent of Smith - which we all remember was his role in the Matrix Trilogy.  Need to save a few words for the other actors, but suffice it to say, Hugo is fantastic.

So my one complaint about the movie is who was picked to star.  I've got nothing against Chris Evans.  In fact, he managed to defeat my general preference that it's better to have previous unknowns playing major super hero roles.  Christian Bail is good and all, but he's just not Batman to me.  Even Mike Keaton wasn't (and Clooney wasn't close).  Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern seems a bit off.  You know they're going to make a Flash movie, if it's not already in production, and I don't anticipate that one casting correctly either.  Only Iron Man pulled off the star correctly.  So, Evans was surprisingly an excellent fit.  The only issue - he's already the human torch.  Still, the CGI that took him from scrawny to studly was very well done.  Tremendous job writing up the back story on who Steve Rodgers was, and why he was the right fit for the super soldier program.  Rodgers is painted as a young man who will do anything to stop a bully, to help others, to do the right thing. Then he is cast into a role that isn't expected, and twists your general path of how he makes it to Super status... and Evans makes it all believable.  Very well acted, great mix of confidence and humility, and a really interesting explanation of how the costume came to be.  I'm being intentionally vague around this portion, to avoid spoilers for those who haven't seen it.

Some important notes are that Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci deliver classic supporting performances.  We have almost become accustomed to both Jones and Tucci landing some great comedic moments in otherwise serious parts.  Neither man disappoints.  I was actually fairly impressed with Mr. Tucci taking on the role of a German scientist; his accent and speech was pretty solid.  No one should be surprised with Tommy taking on the role of an army Colonel.  Honestly, it couldn't have been better cast, and he even mixes in some "Agent K" from the Men in Black movies with the performance.  Enjoyable all around.

So, how do I rate it overall? I've discussed the theory before about movies being directly rate-able by what you would pay for them.  Understand that, despite catching this On Demand, the original plan was to catch a weekend matinee; time merely conspired against me and Cap was pulled from the theaters before I could get my schedule in order.  So, doing it all again, how would I have proceeded?  Yeah, this was Saturday night worthy, all around!

Last quick comment.  Dominic Cooper portrays Howard Stark.  Absolutely brilliant, but slightly swarthy, indeed a bit of a ladies man.  Stark.  Making the connection yet?  Go ahead and click on that link... see if he looks like someone else you've seen before... and then remember that Marvel is making an Avengers movie.  One that Captain America will appear prominently in.  Took me about two minutes to make the connection after he was introduced onto the screen, and that's just because I heard the name wrong.  No clue if that was a part of the original story, but I loved it.

For those who dig the Stan Lee cameos, here's the man himself. 'Nuff said.