Archive for May, 2007

Chapter 21: The Soaring White

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

David and company are forced to camp out in some very unfavorable conditions. When sleep finally does come, it sends him into the mind of the enemy to rediscover a horrible fact… one that could very well solidify David’s path in this world.

My fiance finally got around to finishing up the novel last week, and gave me some very interesting feedback. Seeing as how fantasy is not his genre of choice, his take was overall very favorable. He indicated some things that I’ve kind of suspected all along, which isn’t surprising, but it was still positive for somebody that has a really hard time accepting talking animals as actual characters.

Surprisingly, he loved the scene that is currently playing out in the forest. He went on and on about the foggy forest, and how he could really feel himself there. That’s a really nice thing to hear, especially when the critical eye rejects many of the characters on the basis you can’t have a tail and a voicebox, and really, “Calemadestes is not a real name“. Regardless, I love the feedback.

Podcamp Meet Up

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

I usually save this blog for creative stuff, but… well, I guess this does apply. This thing is supposed to be about creativity, and an important part of that is tools.

My usual tool box contains my keyboard, a mouse, a pencil, maybe a paintbrush. Oftentimes, I forget that community is also vital part of those resources.

Every month, the organizers of Pittsburgh’s Podcamp arrange a meet-up to discuss Podcamp. It’s a great collection of people, whether they attended last year’s Podcamp or are interested in the one coming up in August. It seems each month the gatherings get bigger, and I always meet someone I’ve never spoken to before.

What’s really nice is the excitement that everyone has, both for new media and Pittsburgh as a city. It’s refreshing to be in a room with a big group of people that don’t regard Pittsburgh as the industrial, smoky city that we’ve been told it is since the Steel Days. I had to leave this one early, and left feeling decidedly unsatiated. There’s so many opportunities here, in Pittsburgh, and on the web.

My mind is swirling with ideas… and when you do something in any kind of creative field, it’s the ideas that are the most valuable thing in your toolbox. The other tools just shape that idea into something tangible.

Chapter 20: Haunting the Wood

Monday, May 21st, 2007

David and company part ways from the circus as both move on, and a new companion joins their ranks. David has time to mull over Calemadestes’ words regarding his situation, even if her answers create more questions, and they find themselves in the mysterious milky growth that is the Kore Wood.

I don’ t watch a lot of television, but there are a couple shows that I really enjoy. Both are on Monday nights and, ironically, pitted against one another in the same time slot.

The first is Fox’s 24. This show has held my interest longer than any other series on television. It centers around one main character — Jack Bauer, a member of the US’s Counter Terrorist Unit — and a revolving door of supporting characters. Each season is heart-stopping drama and blowing stuff up, and I am continually impressed with what they do in the varying shades of world-domination/destruction. And, as always, Jack is in there somewhere — delivering some amount of inhuman sacrifice for his country and always being right when the president doesn’t know what to do. Jack is such an incredible character.

The second show is NBC’s Heroes. I love it when things have a sci-fi twist anyway, and this has just the right amount of impending doom thrown in. The ensemble cast (and accompanying powers) play off one another flawlessly, and the whole thing believably pulled off in the real world makes for superb story-telling.

That’s what’s engaged me with both of these series, beyond the bad mamma-jamma that is Jack Bauer (seriously, the guy’s technically died three times and tortured a president and not broken my cognative dream once); it’s the thing that caught my attention above the far-fetched abilities of the people in Heroes. It’s how the characters interact with other people, environments and situations: that’s the story.

The season finale of Heroes especially has me considering things to do with tSoD2, and it’s got more to do with the people and their fantastic characteristics than their crazy-cool powers.
They’re so human… I am so impressed with their vulnerabilities and flaws. Even Jack Bauer, with all the greater good he does on 24– he’s still a broken, busted man because of everything he’s been through.

I love making up characters, but I’m not good at inventing flaws; much in part because I like to believe everybody is mostly good inside. That will be a good challenge for my next writing escapade: inventing characters with downright weaknesses and terrible vulnerabilities. The most basic form of character sketches are happening now in my brain… more soon, more soon.

Chapter 19: Dawning

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

More cryptic answers for David’s cryptic questions. There’s more to Calemadestes than vague leadership and two word answers. And: Miles!

The basis for Calemadestes came from a comic book character I drew in high school. Me and my artist friends would have sleep-overs where we stayed up late into the night to draw or read comic books, pumped full of raw ramen noodles and Diet Coke to keep us going until dawn. We were obsessed with comic books and, since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I proceeded to pretty much rip off my favorite X-Men and Xcalibur characters. Of course, I thought they were all original ideas at the time; but hardly anything you create in middle school is actually a new idea — it’s just new to you.

There were several characters I still remember, although more by their powers than their actual names. I have a few inked sketches of them, even. There was one that was your run-of-the-mill-psychic-flies-through-the-air girl, and a chick who’s body played host to an ancient Chinese dragon, which gave her pretty righteous powers — although, I don’t think they were ever actually defined… I just like to draw her channeling the dragon in various dramatic ways. Another had all ball-in-joint joints and could climb walls like a bug.

Yet another girl was very nature-y; she could talk to trees and communicate with animals, that sort of thing. She was also seven feet tall and could kick a lot of butt with her bow staff. That’s the one that popped into my head when I was brain-storming for Clam. She lost the bowstaff and she can no longer make the trees grow according to her whim… but she gained a giant galloping lizard, which is pretty cool. It was more fun fleshing out a striking character like her when I’ve known and met more impressive people through the years — as opposed to Bill Nye the Science Guy, Ronin Warriors, Batman: the Animated Adventure, and 90210, which all served as my exposure to cool characters when I was 14. She’s definitely got more life this round, and became a very engaging character for me throughout the writing. You’ll see more of her later.

For the record, 99% of the characters I created back then were girls, because I could never draw dudes. I did try to draw some sort of lumpy-muscled monstrosity (that was a clear rip-off of the X-Men’s Beast, I might add), and I’m pretty sure his name was Lor. I think I gave him insect eyes. Regardless, he garnered a lot of criticism, and I have declined running for political office on the off-chance he will ever surface. He was that awesome.

A Little Philosophy

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

We were sitting around talking philosophy (or, rather, I was listening and randomly chiming in), when Josh proposed the idea that perhaps everyone exists on different wavelengths, and that we only see those that are on our wavelength or frames per second. The twist is that if you existed on a different wavelength than the one you experience every day, you could see other people or places or things that you are unaccustomed to…

What an INTERESTING idea. Now stay tuned — my posting of this conversation subject will make full sense in about, oh, two years.

Chapter 18: Attack!

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

The circus — and David’s new found friends — are ambushed. There are more Rakers and nasty Crows than David has had to deal with outside of his dreams, and the scene at the stream quickly descends into a full blown nightmare. This chapter was the first real action scene in David, when you count all the people and bad guys, and I had a BLAST. I was listening to the last 5 tracks from the Narnia soundtrack during the actual fighting scene (which is the final battle in the movie). And seriously, Charlie is one kick-butt birdcage.

I’ve been on a kind of quest for personal branding lately. My experience with branding comes with my job in advertising, but in my opinion that is an entirely different game for tSoD, especially since my workplace keeps me in the visual realm of branding (logos, colors, etc). But with bootcamp having come and gone, and Podcamp coming again in the fall, the social networking stuff really gets to be inspiring. And I think it can be a vital aspect to making what you do a success. For instance, Chris Brogan (social media butterfly and general Cool Dude) recently gave a fantastic post on personal branding on his blog. Between the post and the resulting comments, there is a lot of good stuff there, so give it a glance.

My personal challenge: I stink at talking to people. I can chat online like nobody’s business if we’ve met before, but I still have problems talking on the phone with friends I’ve known for years. So speaking to strangers is kind-of-sort-of well-maybe-really-intimidating.

Is it an excuse? Yes. Is it lame? Oh definitely, especially because the people I meet at the functions I do attend are so darn nice it’s hard to imagine why I get nervous and run out of intelligent words to say. But no one knows what you’re doing unless you tell them. End of story.

So go tell someone, I’m trying my hardest to do the same.

Doughnuts and Art

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

Doughnuts & Art at the Creative Treehouse was a fantastic time. The total tally of attendees was something around 130, and I got some nice feedback on my work. There was a lot of really great work being shown, and a very wide variety available for hungry eyes. The only shadow of the evening was that 2 out of 3 bands cancelled, but an attendee approached one of the organizers and asked to play.

“Sure, what do you play?”

“The ukulele.”

And it was AMAZING. There was also a tamborine and some spoons. I don’t know what the bands that were supposed to be there sounded like, but man this guy was awesome. It added a whole new dimension to the show.

We also wandered down to 517521, a fantastic vintage everything store, and then down to Affogato for some (aka too much) wine and the most glorious peanut butter oatmeal cookie ever taken from an oven. An Amptique dance party finished the night (note to self: it is very hard to dance in galoshes) and we were homeward bound.

Plans are to repeat the whole thing in August, which should be fun. I think that will also be the month for the next 24-hour Creative Marathon and Pgh Podcamp2, so it will be a creative and productive summer!

Chapter 17: Dance with Danger

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

A bad dream rips David from sleep, and a bizarre fire draws him outside. I mean for TSoD to be visually engaging, and the little flame is a fun example of that. I also like the similarity between David and the wooden sculpture, although I feel like I sort of beat that point to death; but I have gotten positive feedback on the comparison, so I’m keeping it.

I had a creative epiphany last week, and it gave me a much needed surge of energy.
My writing process is not a linear one. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve done four novels so far. Each of them provided a great learning experience in one way or another, but TSoD was the first to ever really operate from an outline, and even then it was only loosely followed. In the past, I just sort of painted my plot into a corner until *poof!*, one day I uncovered the way they would neatly wrap up. Although this has worked out satisfactorily so far (and no one can claim the stories are predictable: since I don’t even know the end!), it’s not a way of writing I would encourage — it’s stressful, it can lead to many a rewrite, and I’m waiting for the time when a solution does not present itself in a timely manner. Then I will be in real trouble.
But Stephen King’s On Writing talks on this point — King’s theory is that each story is already there, and it is the author’s role to uncover the truth of it, and I agree. I think there are several ways to handle a story, and many paths to take for its completion: but there is only one true path, one best path. Each tale has a best possible path, and as the author it’s my job to find where that route naturally forms.
The point is this: where am I going to go with David?
My plan from the beginning has been two books: basically a micro and a macro, a little picture and big picture. But I was on the way home the other day, letting my mind wander and relax (work and wedding planning are keeping it continually buzzing at 60 mph, it deserved a break) and suddenly, inexplicably — this could be a trilogy.
Josh has encouraged me to consider carefully, and he’s right. Trilogies can be cumbersome and just too much of a certain plot or idea or character. There is a dangerous, oversaturating element there; but my last trilogy got better and better with each book. That might simply be a declaration of my improved competence in writing, but it could also be the opportunity to produce a deeper, richer adventure.
I am still considering whether it is plausible or not, but I am also beginning to think it will be a necessary element to the tale. It would help connect David better with the reader and assign a more “real-world” element to the story, plus flesh out the stakes. Not to mention it will be a crazy challenge for me as a writer, since I’d be tackling a setting I’ve never undertaken before.

And the event that sparked the consideration in the first place? A crowded bus ride, excellent sound-proofed earbuds and one Nine Inch Nails song. I had forgotten just how inspiring music can be. Oh, the possibilities…