Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Review, Part Two: Writing

How about that, a double post day...what is this, a flashback to my LiveJournal days?

2013, The Year In Review, Part 2: The Writing

I honestly believed in my heart of hearts that this was going to be the year that I got my deal. Obviously, it wasn't. But I'm not going to focus on that right now. Most of that is out of my hands now, so there's not much to carry on about. Anyway, let's talk about writing.

I felt like this was one of my worst years writing since I spent a good portion of time working on revisions and rewriting, so it was hard to do "word counts" for those things. And they look bloated because I may work on two chapters that only need light cleaning up in one night so it looks like I wrote 7,000 words and the next day I have a chapter that needs to be blown up and I only get 700.

I keep a writing log in Excel and I usually quit on it at some point (October this year) because I don't know exactly how to handle revisions/rewrites in my word counts.

Anyway, a review of what I wrote this year:
  • SISTERS OF KHODA, YA fantasy, 2nd rewrite (112k).
  • TOURNAMENT OF PRINCES, YA fantasy, plan, abandoned.
  • WINTER'S SORROW, Fantasy novella, 2 rewrites (31k).
  • TOURNAMENT OF PRINCES, YA scifi, 1st draft started, back burnered (~3.5 k done).
  • THE WRONG PATH, Fantasy short story, 1st draft. (3k).
  • THE SEVEN LABORS OF NICK JABLONSKY, YA contemp, 1st draft (~12k done).
  • WINTER'S DISCORD, YA fantasy, 9th rewrite (131k).
By my count, that's about 300k, give or take....maybe I was a little more productive than I thought. I think the last draft of DISCORD is damn good and I think the TOURNAMENT and LABORS have loads of potential. SISTERS does too. I have a really thorough beta reading it right now and she's already given me amazing notes for the first three chapters and how to fix them. I'm very excited.

As for 2014, what do I have planned? Well, I haven't gotten my official 2014 notebook, so I haven't written a formal plan, but as I see it, here's what I plan on doing:
  • Finish LABORS and TOURNAMENT drafts.
  • Rewrite SISTERS.
  • Plan the sequels and prequel novellas to DISCORD. Possibly draft one of the novels and the accompanying novella.
  • Plan and draft the follow-up to SISTERS, tentatively titled THE ROAD TO STANDISH. (Part of the YOUNG WEAPONMASTER series)
  • Work on a novelette or two based in the WEAPONMASTERS world.
  • Work on a short story or three.
  • Plan and write something that my daughter would enjoy.
  • Plan and write something that my nephew would enjoy.
I've written a ton on writing routines. Now it's time to stick to that routine.

Wish me luck.

2013 Review, Part One: Reading


If not for the birth of my son Cooper, I'd almost say this was a pretty crappy year. His birth actually makes up for a lot of the crappy things that happened this year.

Now, let me say, I don't generally like making blanket statements about something. (Like I just did.) But it wasn't a great year for me and I'm looking forward to 2014.

I'm going to avoid talking too much about school (2012-13 School Year: Meh, 2013-14: Worst Ever so far), personal issues (I'm really not destined to own nice things) or health (hip replacement was a miracle but tweaked back and stress have undone some of the progress I made from June 2012).

Let's focus on the things that this blog was supposed to be about: writing and reading.

Reading first.

I read 64 books this year. I intended to read 75, but such is life. I gave a "rest" to my WHEEL OF TIME read and will pick it up next year. I read a lot of graphic novels and limped my way through some good and mediocre novels. Here's my top five for the year of books released in the last 12-15 months (in no particular order):

  • Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole: Control Point, the first book of The Shadow Ops series made my list last year, so this was a natural. It's better than the first by far and it was my favorite treadmill read of the past summer. He ramps up the stakes while giving us a broader view of the world that he'd built. Myke is on the precipice of being one of the important voices of my generation of fantasy writers. Now, if I could just get him to appreciate team sports...
  • The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch: Lynch is a genius and Jean Tannen is one of my favorite characters in the modern fantasy canon. (Come on, a smart, strong fat guy that wears glasses? Yes, please.) Lynch juggles three different stories here and the flashback and the play they are performing are vastly more interesting than "A" story revolving around the elections, but THIEVES returns us to what makes Lamora and Tannen tick, a rollicking con with bigger repercussions than anything they've ever done. Lynch plants some nice seeds for the bigger series in this one and I can't wait for THE THORN OF EMBERLAIN.
  • Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang: I am fascinated by idea of "Imperial America," in particular American foreign involvement and the conflicts created therein, so this book was a natural for me. And I loved it. Beautiful, vivid and an amazing tale that mixes history, legend and mythology while asking some pretty tough questions.
  • The Red Knight by Miles Cameron: A big sweeping epic with a huge cast of POVs focusing on the siege of a keep on the border of civilization and the Wild. Great characters, great plot and talk about painting a vivid picture with words!
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: A loose retelling of the Cinderella myth (very, very loose) that is absolute genius. A rollicking fantasy adventure with hints at bigger repercussions for later books. Action, romance, love triangles, elder magic, tragic backstory (read the novellas), etc...it's like Sarah put all the tropes into a giant pot and made a damn near perfect pot of sauce. 
Honorable Mentions:
  • Bomb by Steven Sheinkin: A thrilling nonfiction account of the race to build the first atomic weapon.
  • The False Prince by Jennifer Neilsen: Hidden heirs and succession conspiracies. Feel like the 1st person POV hurt this book. Could've been a real Game of Thrones for teens if it were 3rd person close with multi POVs would've made this book top 5.
  • The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima: Good ending to a great series.
Top Older Books I Read:
  • Batman: The Killing Joke and Year One: Fantastic stories that I couldn't put down. Classics.
  • The Blind Side by Michael Lewis and Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissenger: Read quite a bit of nonfiction this last year in prep for the change over to the Common Core and these two stuck out as brilliant.

Biggest Disappointments:  
  • Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes: Billed as GAME OF THRONES for teens, it reads like a bad pastiche by someone that just read the Wikipedia entry on Game of Thrones and decided the most compelling thing about GOT was the incest part. It was just bad and it made me sad as someone that wrote a YA GAME OF THRONES type book.
  • The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy: What could have been a fun, rollicking adventure story about the Princes in your favorite fairy tales got caught up in it's own gimmick (a real problem in YA and MG right now). Healy plays with every trope all wrong and it comes across mean and not fun or silly at all.
  • Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes: I was really disappointed that I was so disappointed with this one. Sam is one of the coolest guys out there right now, but UNDERGATES was a big let down. I understand the appeal and there are some flashes of "what could've been" in it, but overall it didn't live up to the hype for me. 
  • Kick-Ass 2 by Mark Millar: Gratuitous, pointless and over the top for the sake of being over the top. It had none of the weight or point of the first one.
Books I'm looking forward to in 2014: Avalon by Mindee Arnett, Dare Me by Eric Devine, Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison, Landry Park by Bethany Hagen, Frostborn by Lou Anders, Breach Zone by Myke Cole, The Fell Sword by Miles Cameron, The Shadow Throne by Jennifer Nielsen, The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch and Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas.

So, there's my 2013 in reading.  I'm aiming for 75 books in 2014 again. I think I can do it.

Writing post will be up a little later on.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nose Meet Grindstone

It's hard to believe that it has been almost 3 months since the last time I wrote a blog entry. It has been one of the busiest, most frustrating starts to the school year in my career and anything beyond that realm has been pushed to a back burner. There are plenty of days where I feel like I am holding on by the tips of my fingers. And when you consider that my son's sleeping habits have changed and we're not exactly getting great sleep at the Zeleznik Compound, it's a miracle I've gotten anything done that doesn't involve planning, grading, the Common Core or APPR! But I have, somehow, managed to get some things done. A major rewrite, some new words that have been impeded by the loss of Verdell (my home computer) for a little while and some advance thinking about what I'm going to work on down the line. Unfortunately, with that comes sacrifice, meaning I haven't been blogging as frequently as I would have liked. There's something about today that makes me feel like I needed to get something on to the blog. Could have something to do with tomorrow being the anniversary of my hip surgery, it could be the holidays or it could just be I want to occupy myself in a moment of thought where I'm going to act like a little baby.

I'm entrenched in this contemporary YA that I'm writing, but it's proving to be harder than I thought, especially considering I did a major rewrite of one of my fantasy books then tried to dive back into the contemp. It's not that easy and I sort of struggled getting back into the "head" of the narrator of the contemp. It's 1st person, so it's very, very different from what I'm used to writing and I have to sort of get into the mindset. Not having a computer over Thanksgiving break killed all and nay productivity...it's very difficult to write in a notebook while keeping an eye on a mobile 9 month old. Now that Verdell is up and running, I'm going to give a real run at hammering out the contemp as quickly as possible. I think it's a good story, I just need some good old fashioned butt-in-seat time. Hopefully, two weeks of Christmas break will help!

I need new words right now. I need them because I've been sort of in rewrite purgatory for the entire year...I took a break for the novella but still, I'm stuck in my own old words and I need some fresh blood in my writing because I'm looking down the barrel of some more rewriting, though it won't be as much as a rewrite as a straight up murder.

Between the rewrite and novella, I'm realizing that I need to pretty much write the second book of my SEASONS series from scratch, so I've got some planning to do. I realized that the pacing of SPRING is all wrong and I need to pretty much blow it up and rebuild. Sigh. Hashtag writer problems.

The plan, as I see it, is to spend a few days catching up on the school work I'm behind on (and there's always a truckload of that) and then sit down and do a real writing plan then get to writing.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dreams and Sacrifice (Am I Using Parenthesis Right?)

The beginning of the school year is always a dodgy time for me. Any activity not associated with the beginning of school usually comes to a grinding halt. (If you could see my lawn, as meager as it is, you would understand what I am saying.) The last few years have been difficult too, between the switchover to the Common Core (I'm pretty fluent in it, but by no means an expert despite working with it for three years now) and the inundation of the Literacy Mafia (or by their corporate name: Pearson). Between moving and setting up a classroom (they moved me BACK to my old room), prepping for the classes and learning the new initiative, there isn't much room left in my brain for anything beyond school. Couple that with having two kids (the house looks like a tornado hit it on the inside) now, chaos reigns supreme. But with that comes some decisions about sacrifice.

I want to be a successful published novelist. That is one of my life's dreams. (Well, the whole being the starting fullback for the San Francisco 49ers didn't work out. And neither did being a Lothario of super hot, super rich celebrities. I suppose I could still try that stand up comedy thing...but, I digress.) I realized in order for any of that to happen, I would need to sacrifice a little. (My Twitter habit hasn't helped in that distraction.)

Usually, sacrificing for my writing came at the expense of sleeping. I'd stay up late (I'm something of night owl. Actually, you know how they say that you aren't a "morning person?" I'm not a middle of the afternoon person...if that makes sense) when I was really enthralled with a writing project. I can remember vividly doing a rewrite a few years back at the request of an agent and staying up consistently past 1am to work. (Everyone's in bed by then.) I also would usually shut down the mechanism from the end of August until maybe December or even the beginning the next year. I realized that if I want to be a successful writer, this was not an acceptable arrangement. I needed to sacrifice more. Even though I'm exhausted and beat down (I teach Freshman, so let's just say the number of gray hairs on my head has grown by a hundredfold in the last two years), I need to take some time to read and write. I ask my kids to do so, why shouldn't I do the same. (Modeling is a huge part of my teaching style now.)

I'm obsessed with writer's routines and long for one. (I've blogged about that before) So, I've decided to set a little time each night/day to write. Only an hour a day, if I can do more, than I do, if not, then at least I logged in an hour. It helps that I have a project I really like and am finding a groove on. I'm putting it together like a pitch to my agent to see if he likes what I am doing with it. (I'm playing with genre and the narrative style a little bit. Nothing I want to share yet, but it's...different for me.)

I'm about 5k in and grooving. (My writing tracking has fallen to shit, so I'm going to try and fix that tonight if I can so I can track my words.) It's contemporary and first person, two very different things for me, and I'm really enjoying it. (I've blogged a little about it before as well.) I abandoned the idea of writing it long hand. It's a romantic notion, but too difficult considering my circumstances.

My goal is to try and bang out about 20k by the end of the month. Do a little more in October so I can finish in November. It's ambitious, but doable. I'm hoping to have about 30 pages for my submission to my agent in the next week or so to see what he thinks of the stylistic thing I'm trying. I'm envisioning the project being about 75k. When I finish that, I think I may try my hand at a novelette in the Jaiman world then move on to the abandoned project I mentioned in that other blog while planning another plot monkey I have jumping around in my head that requires some research.

Then again, I may just watch a lot of college football and drink beer. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Size Matters Not

The 800 year old Jedi Master once uttered the words, "Size matters not." As a fantasy writer that prefers epic fantasy (as a reader and a writer) these words are normally not in my vocabulary. I think epically in everything that I write. Lots of earth shaking action and consequences with unreasonably large casts of thousands. (I blogged about this in one of my tropes of the week entry, an element to my blog that is going to make a return, maybe on a monthly basis instead of weekly.) As a young adult writer, I've sort of learned to rein in my word counts while keeping the "size" of my story the same. My trunk novel THE FALLING DARK, a traditional epic fantasy, topped out somewhere around 180k, short by many epic fantasy standards but long for a first fumbling at novel writing. My two SEASONS books came in at around 130k each (interestingly enough each was close to the books that I remember reading in my youth that I sort of compared them to: the DRAGONLANCE books, which my reread/analysis will be continuing this week) and SISTERS OF KHODA came in at about 115k. Not as big as say the 300k of A GAME OF THRONES or 305k of THE EYE OF THE WORLD, but big for Young Adult.

As I toiled on these for months and months at a time, I always found the appeal of something shorter, not quite short stories (my epically wired brain struggles in that confined place) but things like novellas and novelettes intrigued me. But there's no market for them, right? So, I concentrated on writing books. But that appeal was always there. But then some things happened that changed my thinking.

First, I read the very brilliant Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Before I read them, I read the four novellas that she and her publisher released for 99 cents each before they released the book. You didn't need to read them to understand the book, but I decided to read them...and they were terrific. But I still wasn't sure what I could do and how I could do it. It came in a conversation I had with my agent about my own worlds. Why not write my own prequels for my books as a way to get people talking about me? As my agent is apt to do, he nudged me in the directions of some things to read as "research" for the project and let me do my thing. (That promised post about research is coming!) It took me about a month to write the 30k novella prequel to SEASONS OF DESTINY. (The title is in flux right now or I'd tell you.) I sent it to betas, who pounded it out in good time. I did a rewrite and sent it off to my agent, who has in turn returned it to me to do another rewrite.

Now, the plan is to release this novella on my own for a buck or two and get people talking about me, but something happened along the way....I fell in love with the format. I can't explain it. I'm a big guy. I like big things and big stories, but there's something about this method of writing that I love. And I've become a little addicted. I wrote down multiple ideas in my writer's notebook in two of my worlds: another prequel novella to SEASONS, a "sidequel" novella to WINTER'S DISCORD involving a melee team (it makes sense in context) and novelette in the SISTER'S world.

I know what some of you are thinking, why would I spend my time writing something where there so little return?

There are a lot of reasons. I'm an unknown commodity right now. I want to get people talking about it and, more importantly, me. I like writing them. It's not as constricting as a short story and it's not as sprawling as an full blown fantasy novel. It's a great way to build depth for your world. Yes, worldbuilding, the ugly stepbrother to plot, character and theme, is made clearer and deeper with a good novella. Finally, it's practice. Writing is a muscle and it needs to be worked out. Just like working out, you do big compound movements like benches and deadlifts, but you also do things like shoulder presses and rows to build up the support muscles too. That's what novellas and novelettes are.

In this day and age of being able to put something out on your own, why not? Is there a better method of self promotion than offering your writing up on the cheap/for free? I think not. 

So, keep your eyes out in the coming months as I start slowly writing and releasing some of these for your enjoyment.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Paid Hobbyist

Since all the cool kids are doing it and I'm one to fall in line with the zeitgeist, I'm going to respond to this blog post by an author I've never heard of. (And why does that ALWAYS seem to be the case when it comes to stuff like this?) According to Ms. Morton, if you don't score an 80 or better on this little quiz, you aren't a professional author, shouldn't ever consider yourself a professional author and that you are just wasting your time on trying to be a professional author.

Now, before we get the the quiz, I need to put up this qualifier: I am an as yet published author still struggling to make a name for himself. So on to the quiz, here are Ms. Morton's questions:

1. Is your home/work place messy because that time you’d put into cleaning it is better spent writing?

Yes, but not for that reason.

My home and work places are messy because I'm lazy and I don't like cleaning, not because I'm too busy writing. I spent a good part of today actually attempting to clean up my house a bit(and failing miserably at it). My classroom is usually disorganized because I'm busy during my free periods grading or planning or making copies or attending meetings, so there's that.

2. Do you routinely turn down evenings out with friends because you need to be home writing instead?

Uhm, no....sort of.

I don't have friends.

Okay, that's harsh. I have friends, it's just that, generally speaking, I don't LIKE going out as much as I used to. I'm sure that there's some psychological reason for this self imposed exile. It could be that I just love being around my kids a lot too. And I often rue the time I spent screwing around when I was younger going out. But this makes me think of Patrick Rothfuss's quote about writing: "Sitting at home all the time reading and writing is not awful, but go hiking, have disastrous relationships, go to the sort of parties that people end up kissing each other.. Because you know, those are useful experiences. They will lead to you being a more experienced human being, and the more you experience in life, the more you have to draw from in your writing."

But even now, I won't turn down some time with friends just to get some writing done...that may change when I get a real deadline.

3. Do you turn off the television in order to write?


I keep the TV on almost all the time when I write. I'm a background noise kind of guy, so it's usually something inane. I've written hundreds of pages with The Food Network on in the background. Seriously, there is something about The Food Network and writing that just go together. If not The Food Network, there is probably a game on in that background. The few times when I do turn the tv off, music's playing. 

4. Would you rather receive useful criticism than praise?


Here would be my place to rant about people who really don't want to hear what is wrong with their writing....but I don't want to do that today.

5. Do you plan vacations around writing opportunites (either research or networking potential)?


Vacations are vacations. Get aways. That doesn't mean that I won't work during one. I bring my writer's notebook everywhere. My last major vacation was to Disney World a few years ago and I had my notebook with me. I was still unagented at the time and was thinking about scrapping the project to prep another MS for seeking out an agent. I was in line to take the safari at Animal Kingdom when my phone buzzed with an email. It was from my present agent asking if I'd done an outline he requested. I went home from the park that night and scribbled in my writers notebook like a maniac to get moving, but it wasn't part of a writing opportunity.

I've always wanted to attend a con, but it's not in my immediate future. I'd rather spend time with my family.

6. Would you rather be chatting about the business of writing with another writer than exchanging small talk with a good friend?

No, sort of. (See the post about friends above.)

A lot of my friends are writers and teachers, so we naturally talk about writing all the time. I'm sort of the "writer guy" at school, so I'm always talking about writing.

But quite frankly, I'd rather talk to my friends about other things: something we read, saw on TV, a big game, something we ate, etc.

7. Have you ever taken a day job that paid less money because it would give you more time/energy/material to write?


Providing for my family is my number one priority, bar none. I'm a teacher with a pretty stable job that I won't be leaving for "my writing." I make other sacrifices for my writing (sleep mostly). Providing for my family is a non-negotiable. Natalie, Cooper and Kim are more important than my writing.

8. Are you willing to give up the nice home you know you could have if you devoted that time you spend writing to a more lucrative career?

What? I'm not sure what she means by this question. Does she work for the people that write out state assessments?

If seems like she's repeating question 7...and you know my answer to that...so moving on.

9. Have you done all these things for at least five years?

Another terrible question, since I answered no to so many of those, then my answer here is no.

But I've been writing as long as I can remember.

10. Are you willing to live knowing that you will likely never meet your ambitions, but you hold to those ambitions nonetheless?


What kind of a writer is she? This question makes no sense. At all. In the least. Is she asking me if I'm ever going to give up my dream? Again, I'm convinced she has a day job with Pearson writing state exams.

I write. I am a writer. I will always be a writer. My ambition is for my books to be as big as George RR Martin. Am I ever going to achieve that level? Highly, highly doubtful. Doesn't mean I'm going to stop writing. So I guess my answer is yes.

So, I wasn't even close. Now, to be fair other authors fared worse than I did. Neil Gaiman pretty much said he was 0 for 10. Awesome.

I'm not quite sure what was the purpose of Ms. Morton's post. Many others have written extensively on this and I'm not going to rehash what they've written, but I have some questions. Was it some sense of superiority to writers that do any of the things on the list above? What lesson is to be learned? I'm going to be honest, if that's the life of a writer that Ms. Morton lives (and from what I can tell she's maybe slightly successful which makes her considerably more successful than me right now), then I don't know if that's the life I want to live. Seriously. Her life sounds incredibly dull. Sorry.

I'm okay with her calling me a hobbyist, because, to be honest, that's what writing is. I often tell my wife this if she scoffs at me for "writing." At best, writing will more than likely be a part time career for me. (I know, I know, doesn't this become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy and I'm setting myself up to fail...but again, look back at my answer for question 7.) For many reasons, I can't imagine a day where I am not teaching. (Okay, that's a little bit of a stretch of the truth, because I could, but I genuinely do love teaching.) Could writing have been a full time career for me? I'm sure in some quantum universe I am a writer...actually in many of them I'm sure I am a full time writer. But in this universe, I am not.

For now, I just want to be a paid hobbyist, at least by Ms. Morton's standards.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Young Adult Property Wish List

I really wanted to write a blog post on research in writing and what that means, but I had another idea that uprooted that one this morning. I was hanging out with my son (he's five months old) and I decided to indulge on an activity I haven't honestly indulged on in some time: watching cartoons. Now with a five year old, I get my fill of cartoons between Disney and Nick Jr, but they aren't necessarily entertaining to me. Granted, there is a prolonged series of blog posts about Disney Junior's Sofia the First, but that's not this post. (Seriously, between the world building, succession drama and magic system there's plenty for an aspiring fantasy novelist to comment on.) This is about something else.

I watched a few different shows: Ben 10 Omniverse (I talked about Ben 10 in my Hugo post), Justice League Unlimited and Beware the Batman! It was the last show that got me thinking. It depicts a younger version of Batman figuring out his way fighting crime. It was okay, but I was left wanting. I'm not an expert on the canon of Batman, but it felt as if it were trying to hard to be "different" than any other version of Batman and that bothered me. It got me thinking (and I tweeted a little about this) about what existing properties in media today deserve a YA makeover/prequel. Here's my list:

I know that Beware the Batman is being billed as a "younger" Batman, but if there's a hero in the DC universe that deserves a YA version, it's Batsy. It has all the hallmarks of what's in YA right now: a dark loner orphan trying to fit in while trying to seek justice for his parent's murder. I know there was a "Gotham High" thing circulating around a few years ago and there's a very Smallville Bruce Wayne TV script out there too and both of those were attempts to make the Dark Knight YA-ish. There are a lot of different approaches one could make. One is a straight up, as close to the canon prequel with hints and clues about who would become what in the future. This would be your Smallville route. Another could be similar to "Gotham High," just completely de-age the villains and make them fit within the new setting that is created for the YA audience. A third way could be a straight up "younger" Batman facing the villains we know and love.

My Pitch: Bruce Wayne appears to be a spoiled rich kid with no parents and a Lamborghini in the student parking lot. What his classmates don't know is that Wayne is a vigilante in training even though he doesn't realize it yet, surrounding himself with allies like former NFL player and technology genius Lucius Fox, rookie cop Jim Gordon, quirky, Sherlock Holmes obsessed English teacher Maggie Adler and a mysterious martial arts master, all unknowingly teaching him everything he needs to know for his future career as the Batman.

NOTE ABOUT SUPERHEROES: I'm sure I could do several pitches for superhero themed YA concepts, but I won't. I'll give you the two that I think almost NEED any kind of quality project dedicated to them: Wonder Woman and Luke Cage. I'll say this as well: ENOUGH WOLVERINE ALREADY.

I know there are already YA Star Wars books, but those all seem to focus on EU characters and mostly are about the Jedi. Let's face it the Jedi are boring and the EU canon has gotten as convoluted as that of the Transformers or Godzilla. So why not focus on the original stories and the Holy Trinity of characters: Luke, Han and Leia. They are the more interesting than any of the Clones or Madalorians or whoever else is out there.

My Pitch Luke: Luke Skywalker lives on a moisture farm on the backwater planet of Tattooine where he stares at the stars waiting for his chance to leave the sandy rock and fulfill his imaginary destiny. Time whittles away slowly and Luke falls in with a group of racers and scamps trying to find the next challenging race in this "Fast and the Furious" meets "Buck Rogers" YA scifi adventure.  

My Pitch Han: Han Solo is a grease monkey building starships out of spare parts. After winning several sublight races between the various planets of the Corellian system, Han runs afoul with the local authorities and reluctantly agrees to take his skills to the Imperial Military Academy on Cadria. Han's cockiness and lack of respect of authority makes him a target for his commanders and fellow cadets. Everything changes when he is sent as part of a support crew for a mission to Kashyyyk and he meets a wookiee named Chewbacca.

My Pitch Leia: Princess Leia Organa is the youngest human to ever serve in the Imperial Senate and hates every moment of it. She can sense the rot in the place and is disgusted by it. With the help of her father, Bail Organa, she becomes a member of the Rebel Alliance and becomes a leader to the younger people of the galaxy with a message of hope in dark times. (Okay, that's the weakest of the three, but I'm imagining it as a very political/courtly drama kind of thing.)

Okay, this one might be a stretch, but the more I thought about this one, the more I liked it. Who doesn't like a decent gangster story? And has there been a better gangster story than The Sopranos? It's soap opera like situations are perfect for a YA story.

According to Wikipedia, Tony Soprano was born in 1959, meaning he'd be a teen in the late 70s. Perfect. You could play in the wilderness that is the late 70s in NYC/NJ and maybe pull some adults in with a nostalgia for that time period. Plus, how great an adult foil would Tony's mother make?

My Pitch: Anthony Soprano worships his father, renown gangster Johnny Boy Soprano. So it only makes sense that Tony pretty much runs his high school the same way his father runs northern New Jersey with his friends Silvio, Ralph and Jackie. Desperate to be noticed, Tony cooks up a scheme that is as crazy as it is dangerous: rob a card game being run by one of the most dangerous men in northern New Jersey: Feetch LaManna.

I know that Disney is sort of covering this for a younger audience with Sofia the First and that the source material they mine for their stories are the same ones that a lot of YA authors are also mining but the Disney Princesses are iconic and there's some room to play with some of the more contemporary ones. I'm thinking of Belle for the most part. My daughter adores her and there's lots of room for something to be done with her. You could go an adventure route or a prequel route, focusing on either Belle or Prince Adam/The Beast. But again, the problem with this one is that the "rewritten fairy tale" niche is really, really crowded.

My Pitch: The people of her village consider her eccentric but Belle could care less. She seeks adventure and excitement where most girls her age jockey for position for the attention of Gaston. The problem is that Gaston is in love with Belle. The woods that surround the village are filled with dangerous creatures and the only two people in the village that seem to notice are Belle and Gaston, who have different methods of dealing with them: Belle with compassion, Gaston with the end of a musket.

NOTE ABOUT DISNEY PRINCESSES: There are a lot of different combinations. A Snow White sequel with Snow White and the dwarves becoming witch hunters is another. An aged up Sofia the First in some kind of succession conflict/war would be harsh but interesting to me. But again, the problem comes with a crowded market.

Nick has sort of tried this already a few years ago and they haven't done anything with it since, but an adventure series focusing on her adventures could be very interesting if done right. Now, I'm not going to write a pitch, instead I'm going to let you watch this video:

There's plenty of other ones that I'm leaving out. Sherlock Holmes and James Bond almost instantly come to mind, but they've been done are being done. I contemplated a pitch for Conan, but decided not to, as appealing as he is, I wonder if he'd work as a YA character. Superman was done, and done well in Smallville, so despite the popularity of the character, I think it's still too soon for there to be a rehash of his character.

Are there any other characters for pop culture, television, comics, movies, etc that deserve a YA makeover?

Also, any publishers/owners of the above characters that like my pitches, please contact my agent Bob Mecoy. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Short Life of A Dead Project

There's been a lot going on at the Z Compound the last few weeks and I'm trying to sort it all out. We got back from a mini-vacation to the Dutch Wonderland amusement park in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We had a great time, but this isn't going to be a John's family vacation post, it's going to be a writing post. It's a story really.

I finished my novella prequel idea back in June and was struggling with a new project, sort of. I had a decent idea but it wasn't coming together for me. It started as another medieval-esque fantasy about a scheming princess and her scheming suitors with a savage enemy threatening to destroy their way of life way back in January, but I couldn't get moving on it. It wasn't for a lack of trying.

I did some quick world building and even did an outline. It was going to be a big project. Multiple POVs including what I was calling interlude POVs peppered through the story. I was happy. But it didn't catch. It wasn't working for me. My good friend, Mike Winchell, loved the project and kept urging me to write it, even making the suggestion that I make it scifi. I didn't completely agree with him and decided to keep it fantasy but I decided I didn't want to do magic. I was kind of magicked out and didn't want to create another magic system. (Let's be honest, my magic systems are all kind of the same.) So I decided I was going to meet Mike part of the way.

I was up late one night and the movie The Great Race was on. What a great movie and it inspired me. What if my story took place in a world where the tech level was late 19th/early 20th century (trains, steamships, airships, telegraphs, etc.) but without gunpowder. Newspapers would be reporting on the competition between the suitors and I could play with genre a bit a la Sharon Draper's Tears of a Tiger But I was adamant  After a series of email exchanges with my agent, I was left with a pretty solid idea for a story and a decent explanation of WHY there were no guns (a secret society) and a solid threat for the heroes that necessitates the competition. But it still wasn't working for me, so I stalled and stalled. My agent suggested working on some short stuff. And I did. I'd created the framework for a really good world, but it didn't fit the story I was trying to tell. I finally listened to Mike's advice. Why not try scifi?

It started very space opera-y but that didn't feel right. It felt to fantasy-ish. I mean Star Wars is really just epic fantasy with space ships. I decided I needed to go in a different direction. I gave it a Firefly/ Battlestar:Galactica feel. Modern "look" but with star drives. I developed a "world" for these stories that was a direct reflection of those two works with a very rudimentary history that I could figure out as I wrote the story. It was going to be a commentary on reality competition shows (like MTV's The Challenge) and the celebrity news cycle. (Don't judge me, I happen to like MTV's The Challenge.) I pared down what the massive collection of POVs and plot threads, boiling it down to three main characters and a love triangle (Yes, I like playing with tropes too!). I could play with genres too with interlude chapters along the way (news scripts, interviews, government releases, gossip rag articles, etc).  I was excited.

I started writing, deciding I was going to try and pants the novel a bit to see what I could do with it. But I was still struggling to get my feet under the project. I couldn't get into the project. It wasn't grabbing me. And if it's not grabbing me right now. Maybe not having a plan was hurting me and having that much freedom was a problem. Whatever it was, I wasn't making progress in what I was calling A TOURNAMENT OF PRINCES. I was at a crossroads for the project. A crossroads I'd been at several times in my life. Was it time to stop writing a project? The answer, unfortunately, was yes. But I'm not abandoning it quite yet. I need to study (tomorrow's blog post). 

I wanted to write a novel this summer, but I didn't. So far. For now I'm trying something new: a contemporary YA called THE SEVEN LABORS OF... I've got one of two titles I'm messing with and I'm not saying until I decide on which one yet.  Yes, it's a play on Heracles's Twelve Labors but it's only an allusion to mythology, it's very contemporary otherwise. I've done some planning on it and have a good idea where I'm going with it. It's a departure for me in many ways. I'm going to write in 1st person (I far prefer 3rd) and I'm going to write the first draft (I'm calling it Draft Zero) longhand in an old fashioned composition notebook. See, here's your picture.

So for now A TOURNAMENT OF PRINCES is mothballed. I'll return to it at some point, it's still in the official writing queue, but for now, the month of August is going to be dedicated to Draft Zero of THE SEVEN LABORS.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

This Category Needs An Enema

A few nights ago I sort of eavesdropped on a Twitter conversation between Django Wexler and Brian McClellan concerning the Hugo Award For Best Dramatic Presentation-Short Form and the unrelenting love that Dr. Who gets from the voting body. Now I have no aspirations of winning a Hugo even if it is the Academy Award of the SFF publishing world. I write primarily YA and, for the most part, that is largely ignored by them. But that's for another post, not this one. I want to talk about the Short Form because I think there is something wrong with the selection process that is ignoring large swaths of nominees because they favor the "things they know." Kind of sounds like a redundancy in the world of scifi/fantasy, based on recent events. Anyway, that's another blog entry for another blogger...back to my point, if I have one.

Of the 55 possible nominations since the category was formed, Dr. Who has been nominated 23 times and won 6, which is both considerably more than it's closest competitor: Buffy the Vampire Slayer with 6 nominations and 1 win. Now maybe part of it is that I just don't get Dr.Who. I mean I have fond memories of watching it when I was a kid on my grandparent's little b&w TV when I would spend weeks at a time with them. If I remember right it was on PBS in the metro NYC area, though I can't be sure. Anyway, there was no cable back then, so it had to be some broadcast network. I've tried watching the reboot/recent continuation and I just can't get into it at all. It's backstory and canon are more convoluted than that of the Transformers and compared to some of the other stuff I watch it's kind of rubbish. (I know I risk my geek card by typing this but hopefully I'll earn it back by the end of this post.)

I wonder how is it that about 42% of nominations (kind of weird that's the number, wonder if it's symbolic?) come from one show when you think of how many genre programs are out there. And it's success rate is equally as baffling when you consider that it consistently beat out a classic like Battlestar Galactica. But that's not even the thing that sticks out. It's how narrow the list of nominees actually is. Almost three quarters of all the nominees came from 5 television shows. You're telling me in this day and age of hundreds of television networks, webisodes and webshows, that's the scope of the list? It's baffling to me. It has to say something about what's happened to the SFF community. What was once a place of progress and advancement has become stagnant and stuck in an almost "Good ol' boy" cycle. Let's talk about all the things they ignored.
Animation: How is it possible that there are NO animated shows on this list (I'll admit some ignorance here in that I haven't studies the "other" nominees I spoke of to determine that they aren't animated and I apologize for that). How can something like Avatar: The Last Airbender OR Avatar: The Legend of Korra not have earned a single nomination? The "Iroh's Tale" vignette of  "Tale of Ba Sing Se" episode of A:TLA is worthy of a nomination all on it's own. (I defy you to watch that one and not cry. If you do not, I contend you are one of the lizard people.) Avatar (both incarnations) are original concepts that are brilliant examples of modern fantasy. Is it because they are aimed at a younger audience? (There's that disregard for YA/MG again, but that's another post.) Star Wars: The Clone Wars has done some pretty darn good stuff during the course of it's run too. Though I've never watched it, I hear amazing things about Adventure Time as well.

The Venture Brothers is another show that I can think of that is some of the best scifi/fantasy on TV now. Is it because it pokes fun at so many tropes of sff OR because it's animated that it gets no love in the Hugos? It is some of the best episodic television out there, as far as I'm concerned and that means it's easily some of the best scifi on TV today.

And let's not forget the two most popular step brothers since John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell: Phineas and Ferb. Tor.com went so far as to call the show the best scifi on TV, yet the Hugos will march out three mediocre episodes of Dr. Who because it's the "grand duke of Sci Fi programming?" There are other shows that I don't regularly watch but when I do, I'm impressed: Gravity Falls, Ben 10, Generator Rex and Sym-bionic Titan all come to mind. I'm also ignoring the multitude of DC/Marvel properties that have shows too. They do some fine work too. But for some reason, these shows: well written, designed and acted don't get the same respect as the quirky white English guy saving Earth does.

Network & Cable Television: I'm usually sour on the big networks, but lately they've been taking big riders of genre shows and delivering too. Sure Lost has been nominated, so have a few others, but for the most part there are dozens of shows that have been ignored. First one that comes to mind is Castle. Is there a show that has more nods to the SFF world than this one? I mean they've had episodes featuring bigfoot, vampires, zombies and steampunk.  The episode where they go to "comicon" and poke fun at Star Trek/Firefly/Andromeda is all time classic brilliant, yet no nomination at all for the show.

Another one that comes to mind is Person of Interest. This is the definition of doing scifi for an adult audience without them knowing they are watching scifi. It's an amazing show that crosses so many genres it can be mind numbing, but it's clearly a scifi show that won't get noticed because the main characters hide in an old library...not a police box.

There are others. I know that Once Upon A Time can be soap opera-y, but there was some good storytelling going on the first season. I don't know if Arrow was eligible this year, but it does some fun stuff with genre and is well done.

And let's not forget the granddaddy's of today's television: The Simpsons and Family Guy. (I know, they are animated shows but I count them in a different category.) Both of these shows have never been afraid to dabble in scifi. Family Guy has played with time travel, multiverses and parodies of the SFF world. How either "Blue Harvest" or "Three Kings" weren't nominated I'll never understand. "The Splendid Source" (an adaptation of a Richard Matheson short story for crying out loud) is one of my favorite episodes of any television show ever. Do I really need to talk about The Simpsons? "The Book Job" episode is all time classic and that's one example out of about a hundred.

There are other shows: Big Bang Theory comes to mind immediately as being genre savvy. Yet there is no love for it. I'm sure there are others, but I really don't watch sitcoms anymore.

Webisodes/Web Shorts: How do these not get love? I mean seriously. Sure we had Dr. Horrible, but that was Joss Whedon and he could pretty much slap his name on a floor tile and it'll get nominated for a Hugo. (I say this not as a complaint because said floor tile would be shiny.) How has The Guild, featuring geek girl Felicia Day, not garnered one nomination? (Not to mention other webseries that she's worked on!) Not to mention all the BSG webisodes or Blood and Chrome. I'd rather see that nominated rather than another episode of Dr. Who.

And what about individual sketches from shows like Saturday Night Live? I mean their send up of Twilight Firelight was hysterical and spot on. (And, quite frankly, wouldn't be a terrible pitch for a YA novel in the right hands.) The Louis CK sketch involving heroes on a quest and an annoying hornblower was another one. Why are these not getting some mentions?
(I'm going to confess that even I'm out of the loop on this and I'm sure there are even more worthy ones.)

Commericals: Yup, why not. And I'm thinking of one in particular. This Cartier commercial. Again,the category is awarded for: "The best dramatized production devoted primarily to science fiction or fantasy." How does this not fit the bill? Super Bowl commercials are great for this. Yet perhaps because they are computers, they are ignored.

Music Videos: Okay, it's a dying art form, but I was thrilled last year when "F**k Me Ray Bradbury" was nominated but there have been plenty fantasy and scifi themed music videos that have been overlooked over the years. I know it's a bit old, but I think of "Tonight, Tonight" by the Smashing Pumpkins. But there is one that absolutely needs to be on the next ballot and I'm going to crusade for this in the coming year: Commander Chris Hatfield's cover of Bowie's "Space Oddity." Here it is and I defy you to tell me it's not deserving:

Let's get this done people. Let's make these changes and get our voices heard in the Hugos and put a stop to this damned Doctor Who.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dragons Of Autumn Twilight Re-Read Part Two: Chapter 3-5

Phew, it's been more than two weeks, I know. This was not my intent in this endeavor at all. I just got really into Myke Cole's Fortress Frontier (HIGHLY recommend the book, easily one of my top ten of 2013) and Michael Lewis' The Blind Side (Not done with it yet, I'll explain why in a minute, but it's phenomenal). Plus I started the three week summer writing institute where I teach (they'll be a blog post on that in the near future) and did some writing. But I'm going to effort on the blogging a little more and I'm back to this, so let's talk about Chapters 3-5.

This section builds off the ominous tidings of Chapter 2's cliffhanger, but any response to that isn't addressed right away, mostly because it's obvious Tanis doesn't want to talk about what it means either, this moment of tension is avoided by the arrival of out final three members of our companions and they may be the most interesting of the characters, to me at least.

Let's start with Goldmoon and Riverwind, the barbarians. Weis and Hickman do something interesting here that I always liked. Barbarian is such an ambiguous term in the context of epic fantasy. In my mind, I go in one of three directions: the Conan route, the faux Viking route or the faceless wildman rabble of the dark overlord route. Now, there's a longer post in me about these tropes but this isn't the place for it. Weis and Hickman go in a different direction and there barbarians don't seem to fit within the tropes of epic fantasy. These barbarians are plainsmen (read: Native Americans), but with swords! But they ruin that by making the barbarian princess a blonde haired, blue eyed beauty that fell in love with a tall, dark warrior. I didn't find her interesting when I was a kid and I don't know, but I was always fascinated with Riverwind. We don't get much of an impression of him, we don't even sense the connection these two have beyond that of servant and master. But these characters aren't the real stars (though I do know that they will get their chance later), the real star of this section is the introduction of Sturm Brightblade.

Weis and Hickman know their tropes and how to play with them. Sturm is presented to us as the "knight in shining armor" type. He's the definition of the D&D paladin (I know, I know...f**king game mechanics) from the moment we meet him. It's almost cliched from the "straight back" to his formality to the fact that he shows up wearing his full armor. Here's where having spent all these years reading Martin spoil me. I scream at the book...there's no way that Sturm is going to be traipsing around in full plate armor, especially antique armor. But beyond that, the most interesting thing about this section comes from when Sturm is asked if he was a knight now and he doesn't answer. No one seems to note this except for Tanis who says nothing about it. It's a wonderful moment that I probably missed when I was younger. It's a great bit of character in there for us to realize that he's actually a fraud. And it's obviously killing him.

Hickman and Weis introduce one of the backbones of the world that's been created around them: the Knights of Solamnia. I'm a big fan of the Knights and love the politics that get brought up in later books, but for now it's merely stated that there is a great amount of distrust and disdain for the Knights, almost as much for them as the barbarians. And it introduces us to a great little tidbit of worldbuilding by the authors: the sweeping mustaches. I love this. I know that might be silly, but it's a perfect little touch that stands out. We're not given an explanation (yet), just shown that they are an important part of Solamnic culture. I'm curious to see how my memories of the Knights compares to what I read. (And I do know that the Knights don't really make an appearance until book two.)

What comes next in the book is another thing that sets it apart. Usually, this is the part of the epic fantasy novel where the heroes band together and decide they are going to stop the great evil. Not so fast, my friend. And I like this. One of their own makes a mistake and inadvertently hurts someone (a cliched phony religious zealot) who is healed by what appears to be lost magic: the magic of healing. Then our band is on the run, the barbarians that have mysteriously acquired this magic. Then comes a series of what is obviously transcribed game encounters as the enemies pursue their escape. It's well done and intense with the right amount of gravity and levity as the companions escape, leading to the major revelation of the chapter: there are constellations missing...those of the most powerful old gods aren't there anymore.

More portents and mysteries. The first 60 pages are as good as I remember them, even with a more critical (and maybe cynical) eye. It feels like I'm reading a good story and that's all that matters. I feel like I enjoy experiencing the story through Tanis's POV, again he's the most obvious gateway character and it works. The thing that stands out so much about these books is that these folks are normal people. They aren't kings, dukes, regents or anything like that. They are the blue collar people (okay, Goldmoon is a princess but I'm not counting her right now because she's not REALLY part of the crew yet) of this world and that's not something we're used to seeing.

Next up: Chapters 6 & 7: What do our heroes do now?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Dragons of Autumn Twlight: Old Man, Chapters One and Two

So we begin. I actually read it this afternoon while feeding my son at my father in law's house and when I finished I went swimming with my daughter and niece. As I floated in the pool I contemplated just how I was going to tackle this task. I knew that I had to set some kind of rules, but I wasn't sure what those rules were.

I knew that I was feeling nostalgia for the books, but I did read them when I was in middle school. That was almost 30 years ago. I'm not much of a re-reader and that's gotten even worse as I've gotten older, time gotten tighter and all the different online resources out there make re-reading less of a necessity when it comes to reading a series. I can just check Wikipedia to skim details and get right back into a series. Anyway, I tried to push out what I remembered about the books so not to completely spoil myself, as silly as that sounds, though there are things that I do remember as they are indelible in my mind. So I guess that was the first rule.

The second rule, and I know that I'm going to break this, is not to get all flustered when obvious game mechanics appear in the story or something reads like it is straight off the gaming table. Let me make a quick confession. I love D&D. I collected the manuals and am still obsessed with the worlds, but I've never played a single game of D&D. Never rolled a die, never listened to a game master, nothing. (I'm also not much of a video gamer, other than sports games, but that's a blog post for another time...I know, what a waste of a geek.) All this means is that while I enjoy these stories, the necessity of including obvious game mechanics or desktop RPG elements into the story grates on me. It's a problem I had with another very popular fantasy books I recently read that was almost a paint by numbers D&D session transcription...a very good one mind you, but still, after a while it made me skim huge chunks of the book. But I'm not here to talk about that book, I'm here to talk about DOAT (as I'm going to refer to it from here on out).

Old Man
One of the huge spoilers that cannot be avoided once you have read all the books is who the Old Man is...and I'm not just talking about him being a guy named Fizban. He's the avatar for the most powerful of the returning Gods. But let's be honest...he's Gandalf....he's Merlin...and he's an obvious agent of some great power wrapped up in the disguise of a crazy old man. It's always an interesting trope to play with and it's done pretty well here and brings up a great potential theme (already) in the writing: fate vs. free will. Is it the fate of these characters to save the world? Do they really have a choice or has it already been decided? It's one of the great questions that every "quest fantasy" asks and this one does it very interestingly because it's obvious that these characters are just pawns in the story.

Chapter One And Two
The thing that I think about as I'm rereading this book as a writer especially is audience. As I said earlier in this post, I read the book nearly 30 years ago when I was in 7th or 8th grade. I'm guessing that was lowest end of the target audience. As I can figure, we're probably looking at a target of 16-25 year olds for an audience when these books were written. (This is a gross generalization I know, so please, relax.) I look at these books and wonder if they'd be marketed as traditional or YA fantasy today. (Maybe even that nebulous New Adult. Anyway, the two first characters we meet are elderly: Fizban (though we don't know his name yet) and Flint, one of our protagonists. (I will talk about using multiple POVs later in this series but not now.)We meet two of our other protagonists, Tanis and Tasslehoff (there will, in all likelihood be a separate entry for Tas, but much later in the series). And thus begins the POV shifting.

In most modern fantasies it has become common practice to at least give us at least a physical break in the page between POV shifts, more common than not is to give one character their own chapter, but not always. Not in this book, they might give you a paragraph to break. Anyway, I digress.

Let's talk quickly about Tanis. Tanis is our gateway character. He's the hero. A half-elf ranger....we're wading into game mechanics because I know that Tanis is a fighter not a ranger, but go with me on this one....was the default for many of us. Not human. Powerful but somewhat balanced. It would have been easy for him to descend into Aragorn-ville if the writers allowed him to be, but they don't. Already you can tell there is something about Tanis that makes him more than he appears.

There is a throw away line, almost, in the chapter where the writers talk about his beard. I obviously didn't notice it the first time I'd read it, but it really stuck with me as I read it this time, even in the first chapter. What a great symbol the writers are using, and I'm interested to see how this plays out for the rest of the books. The beard means so many things that you can't ignore it's significance. It represents the reprehensible part of his heritage, the part that he doesn't want to identify with but he has to because there are "lands not friendly to those of elvish blood." All this sets up a terrific conflict: Tanis's inner conflict to identify which society he truly belongs, if he does at all.

Anyway, the opening chapter descends into a nicely done infodump that tells us why these characters have been away from one another so long and a quick "random encounter" from one of those charts in the game books, though introducing Fewmaster Toede is terrific and our heroes dispatching the mooks quite easily but leaving them with all sorts of questions.

The second chapter transitions to the typical "meeting of the heroes" in the tavern. It hits all the notes just right, and I'm not saying this as a criticism either...more like a good musician hitting the right notes. The "dark tidings" vibe is well done within the story and the thing that struck me was the lack of detail in some of the description. Being a Martin fan and having so much time in Randland in the last few years, there were several lines that made me chuckle where I thought about the way Martin or Jordan would have written them. The one that made me stop was when the protags notice a group of guards "armed to the teeth." Martin and Jordan would've taken up at least a paragraph to describe the weapons, armor and uniforms of these characters. Instead, Weis and Hickman don't. This economy of words is nice and makes me think if this is something I can do too.

Within this we get two terrific fantasy tropes played very differently, one perfectly, one not so much. The one that doesn't go as well is related to game mechanics again...I know, I know, I promised I wouldn't harp on it, but I am, sort of....magic comes at a great cost. I'm kind of tired of that trope (some of that coming from the book I was talking about earlier but I digress) and prefer the Harry Potter, magic is genetic kind of magic system. The Vancian (if you aren't sure, Google it, I'm sure someone has a blog post or definition of it somewhere that can help you understand it) System devalues the power of magic in my mind. (There is a blog post in me about the absurdity of "wizards are physically weak" requirement but this isn't the place for it.) These books are always going to be tied to the D&D magic system and that's going to give me fits. And it's one of the reasons why Raistlin frustrates me. He doesn't work within the context of D&D. He's a great character, but he doesn't fit the rules of the world, they just wanted to make him creepy for creepy's sake. (Okay, part of my judgement is coming from my own knowledge of the rest of the series and magic users in other D&D tie in novels.) Creepy would've been fine, if they were consistent.

The thing they do right is the last few paragraphs of the chapter. One of their band has broken the oath. Broken oaths are another building block of good fantasy. And it sets up so much of the rest of the start of the story. So many questions that we need to answer: Who is Kitaria? Why is she sending word to Tanis? Why is he so upset about the letter? Why is she breaking the oath? It's just well done.

For the most part, the first 30 pages were about what I expected with a few surprises I don't think my 13 year old self would have noticed. I'm going to watch for the way the beard symbol plays out. I think it's pretty important for Tanis, who I am paying close attention to, seeing what I can learn about him as a character since he was the character that I liked the most when I was younger.

Next post: Chapters 3-6. Post might be up Sunday. Keep your eyes out.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Studying The Canon of Modern Fantasy: DRAGONS OF AUTUMN TWILIGHT

I've tweeted about this before and had some discussion on Twitter about my desire to "study" the modern fantasy canon and it begins today. I'm going to look at the "important" books that inspired my generation of fantasy writers and readers. It's a daunting task, I know, and everyone's list is bound to be different, but here's what I'm considering reading in the coming months:

  • The Original Dragonlance Trilogy
  • The Belgariad
  • Wheel of Time (I'm done through book 5)
  • The Original Shannara
  • The Song of the Lioness (EDITED) (I'm done with the first three books)
  • The Queen's Thief
Now, I'm taking suggestions, so feel free to add them, but this is the base that I'm starting with. (I didn't include A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE on purpose.)

The first series in queue is the original DRAGONLANCE series. There's a lot of nostalgia for Dragonlance in the recent months. It might be more important to my development as a writer than even JRR Tolkien. I know I've mentioned it on Facebook and there was this great article over on Pornokitsch about it.

My plan is to read 2-3 chapters a night, the blog about it. I'll probably do a quick summary of what was read, some analysis (to my English teacher friends, do I dare use a Well Developed Paragraph in these essays?) and finally discuss the influence that the story has over me as a writer. I'm not going to do this with every book/series, but I felt that Dragonlance was so important to me that I'd give it a try.

Comments are welcome and appreciated from any and all of you. I'll be linking blog posts to Twitter and Facebook as well in hopes of involving other fans.

I'm a little nervous about this because I have such fond memories of the books, I'm afraid that the older, wiser and more well-read me is going to pick it apart. I'm hoping it's not.

So keep your eyes out and let's roll.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Post WIP Hangover

On Tuesday I finished the first draft of my SEASONS OF DESTINY prequel novella and for some reason I'm "feeling" it the last two days. I'm just kind of in a daze and not really sure what to do next. It's the end of the school year, so that should be consuming me, but I've put in all my grades and I'm no quite ready to pack my room up (I'm moving rooms again next year), so I'm sitting at my desk with not much to do but let my mind dwell in the dark places again. I need to focus that energy into something, I'm just not sure what exactly.

I've got plenty to do, writing wise. I have a few short stories that I could probably take a second look at to submit to various places. I had the idea for another short story, set in the SOD universe as well, pop into my head yesterday. I've got a world primer/world guide that I want to write for my SISTERS rewrite not to mention a few short story ideas I have for that world. I've got an entire file of novel ideas that I could be working on, but I'm still in this hangover phase where I can't focus, can' settle down enough to work this out. I'm still kind of tired from the combination of the end of the school year and finishing the novella.

I feel this way whenever I finish a major project. I'm a marinater when it comes to rewrites too. I don't like jumping right back into a project until I've been away from it for a while, so rereading the novella won't work. I want a quick turnaround on this project, but not that quick. I want my betas to look at it, tell me what they think. Then I'll take a pass at it before sending it to my agent. In the mean time, I'm still looking for a project.

Am I the only one that feels this way?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Writing From The Dark Place

I met my wife in 1996. I was 23 and slinging bags of chips and soda bottles on the shelves of the grocery story I worked at. I would tell anyone that listened that I was going to be a famous writer someday. It was one of the most insane, confusing, convoluted, crazy and best summers of my life, a summer that I predicted would be a crazy summer. So crazy that I decided I wasn't going to write. Not that I was doing much actual writing. I mean, like I said, I was telling everyone I was a writer but I wasn't really doing the things a writer needs to do. I took a break because I had a feeling that I was going to be writing from a very dark place and I thought that was detrimental to my writing. I was so stupid and naive to think that. What I should have been doing is writing. Dealing with the chaos of my personal life and using that energy, as negative the source of it was, to put into my writing. There was a lot of emotion in those times that I could have used that is now lost in the ether and I'll never be able to harness again except in vague memory. The lens of memory is too foggy by the amazing times since then that I can't latch on to those feelings. It doesn't mean it didn't leave permanent scars or shades associated with those memories, it's just hard to express them in the same way now as I would have been able to then.

It's not about writing dark, it's more about writing from the dark place. It doesn't sound like there's a difference, but there is and it's not so subtle.

I'm a dark person in a lot of ways. I often joke that for my clownish, obnoxious exterior there is a deep, deep melancholy in me. I actually believe it's genetic on both sides of my family. I think that it explains the propensity of alcoholism, though I'm not a psychologist. What I didn't realize then that I do now is that writing from a dark place can be a good thing. It's a place to explore the recesses of out psyche and get them on paper. We may not always like what we see in what we write or, more importantly, what it reveals about ourselves, but it can be sort of therapeutic in a way. I think it expels some of the demons that haunt us and gives us a clearer mind to look at these issues. I talked about some of the motifs in my work and it's clear the sort of issues I'm working out in my own writing. Will I ever get the answers I'm looking for from writing? It's hard to say, but I might get a little insight into what makes me tick and help prod me into asking the questions of the people that I need to ask.

I'm in a bit of a dark patch now. I've had a hell of a 2013. New hip (really 2012 but hey), new kid, turning 40, etc, so I've had a lot to think about. Plus the end of the school year, especially in these times, usually puts you into a dark place anyway but this year has been tougher than usual. Not to mention some other things going on in my life that have pushed me into a dark place. And it's a place I need to attack and use in my writing. Again, we're not talking about writing something dark, but writing from a dark place and turning that energy into something good from bad. It's just a question of process now.

 I've been doing a lot of thinking about the writing process today and reading about the rituals and routines of other writers: Maya Angelou, Joss Whedon, Neil Gaiman and Michael Chabon among them. I'm fascinated how different they are. I fantasize about my non-working writing routine to the point where I have it completely planned in my head: wake up with the kids and bring them to school (in this fantasy my son is in school already, even in fantasy I'm realistic since I won't be achieving the level of success that allows me to cast aside one career for another until he's in school) then go to the gym. Maybe stop for breakfast after the workout then home by 10ish to write until 1 while I'm watching The Dan Patrick Show in my special writing room (in my fantasy I have a writing room and a new house). Stop for lunch, while I love that Roald Dahl would have a gin and tonic with shrimp, I think it'd be a simple meal (lunch is a meh meal for me, I'm more of a breakfast/supper guy) with some reading. Then I'd putter around the house doing laundry, mowing the lawn, etc until I had to get the kids. Hang out with them, make dinner, read/watch TV, homework time, etc. Then I'd go back to work from about 9-12. But that's all a fantasy now, a dream that I probably will never reach and each day it seems more elusive. (See there's the dark bits.)

For now, my process isn't as clean. I got no writing done this weekend, when I'd hoped to finish the first draft of my novella. But it didn't happen. And I'm not going to be dark about that. Back into the salt mines, I've got more to write.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Movie Review: Magic Mike

No, seriously, I am going to write a review for a movie about male strippers.

I was seriously derided by member's of my wife's family for tweeting that I enjoyed this movie. It's no classic, that's for sure (and I'll get to that in a moment) but it was a pretty darn good movie. As I was watching it, I turned to my wife and said, "This reminds me a lot of 'Boogie Nights.'"

As I think on it, it was more like BOOGIE NIGHTS Light and I think that was part of the appeal to me. BOOGIE NIGHTS is one of my favorite movies of the last 20 years. I think it's a great example of a modern epic. No, really. We use the word epic all wrong these days but this isn't one of these times. BOOGIE NIGHTS was an epic movie along with being a modern classic. Make no mistake, MAGIC MIKE doesn't approach BN in scope or quality, but they are both similar movies exploring similar themes while playing with similar tropes, to varying degrees of success and failure.

What I Liked:
  1.   Matthew McConaughey: In a forest of wooden performances, McConaughey stands head and shoulders above the rest. McConaughey is often cast as the kind of guy that men want to hang out with and women want to be with. He is always likable in his roles and is the guy you are rooting for the entire time. For the first time that I've seen him, McConaughey is playing unlikable and doing it well. He's still got that likable thing going on, but he's so sleazy and sneaky in this movie. He's on the cusp of being a washed up exotic dancer but clutching to it like a piece of flotsam. He owns the role, more concerned with the money he's earning than what happens to his men while seeming to care about the men. For a guy that makes his bread and butter by playing likable guys, his two most memorable roles are creeps, this one and as Wooderson. If Burt Reynolds got an Academy Award nod for playing Jack Horner, I have no idea why McConaughey didn't for Dallas. Seriously.
  2. Seedy Underbelly: We all love movies about the things we don't want to talk about. That's why gangster movies are so popular. And we continue to go deeper, look at TV shows like BREAKING BAD and SONS OF ANARCHY or the rise of "grimdark" in fantasy literature. We like the dark, seedy underbelly of society. The dark places we don't want to go and taking your clothes off for money is part of the dark underbelly, only to be found under layers of glitter, baby oil, spray tan and who knows what else. Like all with life, things intersect especially in the dark recesses of the sex business. And they are places many of us, in the darkest places in our minds that we don't want to admit exist, are drawn to and fascinated by them. This movie takes us to one of those places. 
  3. Band of Brothers, So To Speak: If you read my previous post about being able to tell I wrote something, you know that one of the themes that I often explore in my own writing is the bond between men. MM deals heavily with this issue and really latches on to it in a bunch of different ways. Mike is responsible for The Kid throughout the whole movie. He is the reason The Kid gets into the business and there is a strong bond between the two characters because of this. They become brothers and constant companions...until they don't. The dancers as well are a band of brothers, united under Dallas as a member of his company, bonding together and responsible for one another. When something happens to one, there is no hesitation by the others to help out. The entire final third of the movie is about the dissolution of this bond and the damage it can cause to these men.
  4. Futility of Dreams: If there is a great American theme in literature and cinema, it is the realization that our dreams don't always come true and in all likelihood our dreams will never come true, no matter how hard we work. It's a hard truth sometimes, but it's also reality. The characters in this movie are all lower middle class, blue collar types that probably didn't have much of a chance at anything anyway. We don't get much background about the characters, but there's certainly an implication about their histories and where their dreams went off the tracks. It's a fascinating study to say the least.
  5. Men As Sex Objects: While this isn't my cup of tea, it's nice to see a movie where we aren't just ogling naked women. Also, the plot line between Mike and his gal pal Joanna was well done. The hurt that Mike feels when he realizes what he is to her is brilliant and one we've seen a thousand times from the other end.
 What I Didn't Like
  1. Can't See The Forest For The Trees: Wooden acting damn near killed this movie for me. Besides McConaughy and Tatum (at times), this cast was a bunch of Pinocchos. The older sister (I'm getting to that in a second) is as wooden as they come.
  2. Cliche Storm: Steven Soderberg, the director, usually does a nice job playing with the tropes of storytelling and puts his own spin on them. I mean look at the OCEAN'S movies. The characters are all cliches, but he does them well, but he flounders a bit here. There is so much he wanted to do with this movie he lost a lot of the characterization of the guys in the troupe and they descend into cliche-dom before long. His use of drugs and the drug culture was overused and trite as well, there were other ways to go. I think there would have been a better movie if instead of solely Ecstasy or pills (and I get that's a part of the times thing) he used something like steroids (it would make sense considering the entire "aging stripper" plotlines) instead. Also, too many of the scene seemed like retreads of things we've seen before, borrowing heavily from BN.
  3. Mama Bear: I always like the overprotective sibling character, but in the older sister is really flat and boring. There's nothing appealing about her character at all. She adds nothing to the movie but a nag on the boys good time. The fact that I feel that way about her shows how poorly done a character she is. 
  4. RomCom: The entire Mike/Brooke romantic subplot feels forced and while the ending is relatively satisfying (right up until she says that her favorite breakfast place doesn't open for 7 hours...what are we going to do until then), it still didn't fit the tone of the rest of the movie.
What Can I Take Away As A Writer?
I had to think about this for a while, because as a guy that writes YA and fantasy, there isn't much on the surface of this movie for me to take away without crossing over and talking about the influence and significance of BOOGIE NIGHTS on my writing. But there is some stuff that I can take away from MM to use in my writing, including somethings that are already there.

In my series SEASONS OF DESTINY, I have a character that I desperately want to come across as crooked and sleazy (actually in my mind's eye he bears a striking resemblance to Channing Tatum). Watching and paying attention to the character Dallas was a good way to do so, because he oozes the exact sort of attitude and demeanor I want the character to. And like Mike, that character is on a road to redemption and salvation, if you will.

I also realized that you can't just shove a romantic element into a story if there isn't one there. I know that SEASONS lacks some romance in it, but I'm not going to pigeonhole it in there because it might make it more marketable for a romance to be in there. And that goes for a lot of other elements too, you can't just shove things in there because you want them there, they have to make sense within the context of your story.

There is something trashy about this movie that appeals to me. I could've put this as it's own thing under the "Things I Like" section, but I covered it with what I put there so I didn't. I genuinely believe there is a white trash/low life Nicholas Sparks-esque novel in me somewhere and I think that it would sound quite a bit like MAGIC MIKE looks.

Well, that's a first...I just analyzed how a movie about male stripper could influence my writing.

As I progress with these movie reviews, I'm going to include photos and maybe even gifs, but for now you'll just have to use my words. Cause that's what's really important.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How To Tell It's A Zeleznik

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk while my roommate was teaching her class and a discussion about theme came up with her class. She brought me into the discussion and asked me if, when I write, do I put themes in my work on purpose or do they develop independently? It's an outstanding question that I paused and thought about it for a moment. The words of another colleague came to mind, "No writer worth their salt puts something in their work on accident." (I'm paraphrasing a bit as I don't remember the exact quote from him.) And that is true...sort of. I responded to my roommate that they do get put in there on purpose though you don't often realize that you are putting them in there until after you've finished a draft or two, which is how I usually can pick up on my themes, which, in the course of this brief discussion, I realized I explored many of the same themes in all of my works (I know, all unpublished but someday dammit!) and I realized what I was talking about is motifs.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word motif means "a usually recurring salient thematic element (as in the arts)." It's one of my favorite literary words because it the motifs a writer uses in their work reveals as much about the writer as they do what they write. This is great self analysis I suppose though I'm probably too close to the subjects to comment on them, but looking across all the crap (and until some editor deems that I am the genius that I think I am, I'm calling my stuff crap) that I've written, I've picked up on some motifs and elements that would identify me as the writer:

  1. Bonds of friendship between men: Okay this one is in just about everything I write no matter what the genre and I KNOW it's one that I play with and explore. Henry V is my favorite Shakespeare play and it's one of the major themes of that play and it's crossed over into all of my work, from my trunk novel The Falling Dark to my Seasons of Destiny books to the novella I'm working on now, the friendships between guys is an important theme. 
  2. Children paying for the sins of their parents: Mostly sons paying for their father's transgressions but there's other examples in their too. It really is one of the major themes of  Seasons of Destiny and I definitely put it in Sisters of Khoda as well. I know that I want to tell a Jaiman story revolving around some mistake his father made as well somewhere down the line. 
  3. Trees: It might have been the fact that a tree took my first two teeth when I was younger, it might be that I'm fascinated with the power and mystique of them, but in all of my work trees take a central role. From the "witchwoods" in Seasons to the grotto in Sisters, there's a lot of thematic importance to trees.
  4. Betrayal: As a writer of fantasy, betrayal is my bread and butter to be quite honest, but it's an important part of all my stories, even my self indulgent attempts at contemporary fiction.
 I'm sure there are more, but these seem to be the ones that my stories revolve around and make my fiction move. They are the things I'm probably trying to reconcile within myself and using my fiction to self-analyze and self-therapy-ize my own issues.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Being Mean

One of the things I've ranted on before, in one place or another, is the prevailing sense entitlement that has reached epidemic proportions in our world. As a teacher and aspiring published novelist it permeates almost every aspect of my life on a semi-regular basis and it's a direct result of our generation forward...and it's only going to get worse.

When I started this blog, I vowed that I was going to keep anything beyond the scope of writing out of it, but as with a great many things, my writing life and my professional life intersect and I find a parallel that I want to discuss, this idea of entitlement that has become part of the fabric of our culture and what it's doing to publishing.

If you are new or just don't know, I am a high school English teacher at an inner city school in Syracuse, NY. Now I know we're not talking the Bronx or Chicago or LA or anything like that, but still. For the last two years I've taught Freshman, two sections of double block literacy program classes with students at least two grade levels behind in reading ability and one section of Advanced. I had a situation occur during my advanced class yesterday that inspired today's post.

About a week ago, I had assigned a creative writing assignment related to Romeo and Juliet to the students. (Common Core be damned!) They were quite good actually and I was very happy. Grades on the assignment (graded on a rubric) ranged from 75 to 100 with the average being 90. AS students read their comments and looked at their grades, I heard one girl say "HE hates me, he's so mean."

Now initially, I thought perhaps this girl was speaking of some boy. It turns out that boy was me and she was very upset at the 90 she received on the project. Now never mind the whole 90 is good argument, that point is moot.

The project was good. It was a creative angle, but about half way through her story, it got very confusing (Not in the good way that confusing can be in a story but in that, "What the f**k was the writer thinking?" kind of way) and I had to reread it several times to get back into the story. Her writing was good, not great. She earned 30 out of 40 points on the section about Ideas/Organization/Content and was perfect for the rest, earning her a 90. She came up to me, with red-rimmed, tear filled eyes and asked, "Why did you give me a 90?"

Let me pause for a moment (trust me, I'm going to get to the writing part in a minute) and tell you all something, there are few more infuriating things to say to a teacher than "Why did you give me ____?" I won't go into the particulars of why, but it does.

I looked up at the girl and very coolly responded, "You EARNED a 90."

To which she responded with, "Everyone else got a 100."

Entitlement at it's finest. "Everyone else did well, so should I."

I kept my cool and said, "No, they did not." She walked away in a huff, not happy with me at all.

While all this was going on, my phone was buzzing in my pocket. I'd received an email from my agent informing me of a rejection on WINTER'S DISCORD I'd received with some notes. It was a bummer and I was really disappointed. It was a publisher and editor I would have loved to work with.  The critique of my work hurt. I descended down the slippery spiral of self-doubt and anger over my own perceived lack of writing ability. But as much as it bothered me, I took it in and reflected, making me wonder if his assessment of my work were true and the first questions that came to my mind were ways to fix what he suggested was broken. Just because I think I'm good, doesn't mean I'm good enough. I've got to earn this, it's not handed to me

My agent did tell me he disagreed with what was said and was incredibly supportive of me, saying, as agents do, just the right thing at the moment I needed him to say something to make me feel better about me and my writing.

I see my student's attitude everywhere in writing today. Read the comments section over on Agent Query. Read some people's blogs. People think they are good and they aren't or they need some editorial help to make them better. But that's not what they really want.

And it's this attitude that ruins self-publishing. A board that I frequent has a "Writing" thread and one of the people that frequents the thread sent out a few queries for his book to agents. It got rejected. He threw up his hands and began a rant on the evils of the publishing industry then announced he was going to self publish his 300k word fantasy novel because of that rejection. I can't tell you how many things were wrong with that post, so much so I think a vein in my head may have ruptured.

Regretfully, there lack of editorial control in too many self-published books, mostly because someone doesn't want to hear that maybe there's a chance they aren't as good as they think they are. And what that does is color someone like me as being against self-published authors, which for a long time I was until I got schooled on it a bit in the last few years. My view has eased so much that my present WIP is going to be a self-published e-novella. However, I'm using a professional editor to help me get it ready for public consumption(my agent, but hey, that's what he's there for!) and I'm using professional artists to do any artwork.

In the end, we're human beings and it hurts to hear someone say that maybe we're not as good as we think we are , but you know what, I want someone to be mean to me if it means that I want to be a better at something I love.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I've decided to add a new "feature" to my blog to get me to blog a little more about something I really love: movies. I'm going to do these reviews in three parts. First part I am calling "What I Liked," the second part is going to be "What I Didn't Like" and the third part is going to be a pseudo-analysis of what I can take away from the movie as a writer. So here goes....installment number one: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

So I stayed up entirely too late last night to watch this movie and I enjoyed it very much. Let's address the elephant in the room first. The novel The Hobbit is one of those books. It's importance to writers of fantasy is immeasurable. Without it, many of us are still looking for work, so to speak. I dare say, to me, that it might be more important than Lord of the Rings. As with adapting anything with that much love and importance, there is bound to be issues. With that understanding, here we go:

What I Liked
  1. Martin Freeman: To those of us of a certain age, Bilbo Baggins will always and forever be Orson Bean. (There's another blog post in me about Batman and Kevin Conroy, but I digress) That being said, Martin Freeman is pitch perfect as Bilbo. He brings all the right notes about the character to the screen while adding just the right amount of self-deprecation and humor. I really enjoyed Freeman in the terribly mediocre adaptation of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and he's perfect in this role, hobbit mullet and all.
  2. Erebor: Was this not the image of every Dwarven city from any D&D game, module, guidebook or novel that we ever read growing up? It's literally as if Peter Jackson reached into our collective geek minds and made everything we dreamed a reality. It was just stunning, from the entrance to the mines to the corridors and walkways. Bloody brilliant.
  3. Rivendell: It's easy to forget how stunning a place Rivendell is supposed to be and Jackson pulls it off. 
  4. The Dwarves: I always liked how Jackson approached the dwarves. Sure they were strong and stocky but like people, there are all kinds and we see that in this. And I always hated that dwarves are limited to using axes and hammers. It was nice to see some swords, bows, maces and even a slingshot thrown in there.
  5. The Riddle Scene: The most important scene in maybe the whole book and they nailed it. It was taut and well played. Andy Serkis owns Gollum and Freeman's Bilbo is threatening to Gollum as he is unsure to us. Unfortunately it's kind of overshadowed by some...wait, I'll get to that in a minute.
  6. The Dinner Party: Utterly brilliant and fun...from the raucousness of the dwarves to Bilbo's fretting over things and finally to Bilbo just throwing his hands up and saying he's not going on the quest. 
  7. Bofur: I liked him. He accept Bilbo from moment one and was truly disappointed when it looked as if Bilbo were going to quit. It was a nice moment without dialogue that told you everything you needed to know about the character and his relationship to Bilbo.
  8. Richard Armitage: He was Thorin Oakenshield and brought the right amount of intensity to the scene. You have no doubt that he is singleminded in his quest to win back his home. He's channeling Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn with more ambition, which I like as a theme. Does he want to lead because he's a great leader or because he feels he deserves to rule? I want to see how that plays out.
 What I Didn't Like
  1. The Goblin Chase: Someone, somewhere, either on Twitter, Facebook or on a blog posted how annoying it was that this scene was like one extended video game sequence. (I'm not doing justice to what they said, it was far more eloquent than that.) I'm not against a good action sequence, this just seemed like too much, as if they were just showing off what they could do with CGI and playing to the video game crowd. Didn't the movie DOOM teach us that doesn't exactly work?
  2. The Dwarf Analogy: Maybe I've become oversensitive in my older, more politically left leaning, inner city school teacher ways, but it felt as if Jackson was kind of hitting us over the head with the Dwarves are an analogy for the Jewish people, or at least of Jewish stereotypes. I'm basing some of this on something I read somewhere, so that's where the kernel of the idea comes from, but it really felt that way watching the movie, from the "people with no home" angle to their obsessing over money. Like I said, maybe I'm reading too much into it.
  3. Azog: He's the bleeping Darth Maul of The Hobbit. Seriously. He's an action figure they wanted to sell. That's it. End of list.
  4. Radaghast and the hedgehog: Okay, I get that this trilogy is more of a prequel to Lord of the Rings and you want to include him, great, but the whole scene with hedgehog was about 5 minutes of my life I'm not going to get back. And quite frankly, I don't need to see all the bird poop in the man's hair. 
  5. Kili: Okay, we get it, he's the "hot" dwarf, but there are a bunch of other dwarves there too. It gets distracting after a while that they focused on him so much.
  6. Awful Lot of Honkies In Here: Is Middle Earth the whitest place ever? I mean not one person of color in the whole movie. Come on. You're willing to make all these changes, why not do that with Papa Tolkien's vision? Well, except for the orcs of course...but that's another blog post. 
  7. F**king Eagles: Are the military minds of Middle Earth that dim? Why aren't they including these guys in their big strategy meetings? They've got these giant, flying eagles that can cover huge distances and chuck wargs around like cats do mice, yet no one in Middle Earth is bothering to see if these guys want to help out. 
  8. The Cheesy "I Was Wrong About You Speech." The whole speech at the end was cheesy and corny in every way, shape and form. It was awful.
What Can I Take Away As A Writer
I'm not going to spend any time on this. Without the book The Hobbit, I'm probably not a writer. So there's that.