Monday, May 27, 2013

Anime and Dark Fantasy Weapons

As you know, I pull a lot of inspiration for my stories from anime, especially powers, character features and weapons. I talked about powers and character features in Anime Powers and Writing Dark Fantasy. Now, it's time for weapons. I don't simply mean how they operate. I mean how they look. Anime has some of the most creative looking weapons and they usually have names and personalities.

1. Scythe

Scythes in anime are rarely just a long stick with a plain curved blade.

2. Sword
The swords can be as big as your body. The sheer details that go into them are amazing. For instance, in the first picture, this female's blood is the best weapon against these monsters. So, she has this sword (katana) with grooves along the blade. When she cuts her thumb on the top edge of the katana, while gripping it to draw blood, the designed grooves allow her blood to flow into the channel and become distributed throughout the katana. Now, she has a weapon with her blood in the blade. In the second book of my trilogy, all my characters wield a sword with varying degrees of skill. Some favor the weapon more than others. None of their swords look or operate like an ordinary blade.

3. Zanpakuto 
I talked about this one in the post I mentioned at the beginning. It's both a weapon and a power. I put this one in its own category because it's my favorite type of weapon. It looks like an ordinary sword but it transforms into something else, something more powerful. The race of beings in my series use their blades as way of channeling their power to attack their enemies. It's created from the power they keep inside themselves.

4. Guns
My characters use blades or their bodies as weapons. The humans use guns more but I had to include the one below because it's so anime. In anime, you have guns that don't look like guns and do more than just shoot bullets. This gave me the idea that, out of fear, humans would alter their weapons to be able to kill my non-human characters.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Mythical Creature: Tengu

Dark Fantasy novels usually have some sort of non-human or supernatural being. You always hear about the phoenix, dragons, unicorns, minotaurs, griffins, incubus,etc. What about the hundreds of other mythical beings? Every culture has their own creatures with their own stories.

Image Credit: Snowwhite_Tears

Image Credit: Lancha 

For some reason, I love wings, especially black ones. I've heard of the tengu before I just never knew what it was.

Tengu ("heavenly dog") are a type of legendary creature found in Japanese folk religion. They're also considered a type of Shinto god (kami) or yōkai (supernatural beings). Sometimes considered the reincarnated spirit of one who was proud and arrogant in life, they have human bodies with bird’s wings and red beaks with glowing green eyes. They're skilled in martial arts. They live in trees in mountainous areas.

They're mischief makers, prone to playing tricks on arrogant and vain Buddhist priests- punishing those who willfully misuse knowledge and authority to gain fame or position. In the past, they also inflicted their punishments on vain and arrogant samurai warriors. Many men try to seek out the Tengu to learn their secret martial arts, but many are driven mad by fear. 

There are many tengu such as Birdman, Karasa and Konoha. The earliest were pictured with beaks, but this feature has often been humanized as an unnaturally long nose, which today is widely considered the tengu's defining characteristic in the popular imagination.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: Star Trek: Into the Darkness

I'm not a Trekky and I don't usually go for hard sci fi but I loved Star Trek: Into the Darkness. The visuals were awesome. This was a movie made for the big screen or some super expensive TV. It was just so amazing to look at. I didn't see it in 3D but I'm thinking this one has some good 3D moments.

This is how a summer movie is supposed to be. I mean Star Trek had so much drama, so many explosions, so many fight scenes. You know the phrase "edge of the seat action?" This one had it times ten.  It even started with a visually stunning action scene. It definately workd the theartre's sound system. I could feel it everytime someone got punched. It didn't have one dull moment. And, it had a good story.

There was an over-arching plot but the story focused more on character motivations, friendship, loss, honor etc. And, it was funny. This movie is proof that good dialogue is so important to a story. I especially enjoyed any scene where Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto ) interacted. The back and forth between those two was always sharp. All the characters were amazing and funny. The character development was believable. I can't think of a single plot hole.

Star Trek was one of those movies where you had to love the villain. He was a bastard  but he wasn't a carbon cut-out. He wasn't mean just to be mean. He owned up to what he was- "a savage." Star Trek had another "villain." I didn't feel sorry for him. He was mean but, in his mind, he was doing something noble. The movie had the best kind of bad guys. They weren't black and white. They had depth just like any other character.

The last movie I purchased was The Dark Knight Rises. I may be buying this one when it comes out.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Appeal of Apocalyptic Stories

Reading Black Feathers by Joseph D'Lacey got me thinking about the growing popularity of apocalyptic stories. Think of all the summer movies. How many of them are either apocalyptic or post apocalyptic? The whole zombies taking over the world has become so popular there are even zombie apocalypse survival guides. Let's not forget Stephen King's TV Series coming this summer- Under the Dome. It's not a wide-spread event but the people trapped are suffering their own form of the apocalypse.

For some reason, we've become fascinated with end of life as we know it. You'd think we'd be totally terrified of an apocalypse event. So terrified we wouldn't want to think about it, especially given the nasty storms we've had. Even my trilogy- I hadn't intended it to be apocalyptic but that's how it turned out. Why are we so fascinated with apocalyptic stories?

1. Escapism 
This is the explanation I came across the most in my research.

"Perhaps much of the interest in the post apocalyptic theme is the fantasy of getting thrown into a time where life, although more precarious, is much less complex. So many people in the world are disgusted, angry and just plain overwhelmed with the the way the world is today. We long to have a society where things are far less complicated. After all, in the post apocalyptic world, there is no boss, no government, no mortgage, car or credit card payments.

We long to have a government that is free from corruption and is truly for the good of mankind. We are disgusted with the problems that we see in society, and want to rebuild it. It's not that we really want anything horrible to happen, but the post apocalyptic world offers us a fantasy in which, if we were to survive, there is a chance for renewal and a fresh start on both an individual and a societal level." (HubPages)

2. The Drama
"The biggest reason why we're so fond of stories where an unthinkable disaster is just around the corner is because it's good drama. It's the ticking time bomb — except the bomb is planet sized, and often you don't know exactly when the bomb will go off. The ticks are inaudible." (io9) Nothing gets the heart going like watching a character you like running from a wave as tall as the Statue of Liberty. Almost nothing invokes more shock and awe than seeing Times Square empty.

3. Inspiration 
 "It’s always fun to identify with the person who has nothing and ends up triumphant over those who have more." (SF Signal) The apocalypse takes away every comfort we'd ever known yet people in TV shows, movies and books find some way to fashion a somewhat comfortable life for themselves. More importantly, despite the world falling a part, someone survives in the end. 

4. The Gray Area

Remember my post about anti-heroes? We love them because they can get away with things we can't. You know that gorgeous apartment you've been eyeing or the big house you've been dreaming about moving into. During an apocalypse, you can live in them and pay nothing. And, how awesome would it be to roam the grocery story and just pile up on food like they did in 28 Days Later. They did look like they were having fun. We can go into an electronic store and haul out that massive television. 

However, apocalyptic stories may become like the vampire- done so often people start rolling their eyes. The question becomes how can I write an apocalyptic story that's original?

1. Know the Genre
There are tons of TV shows, movies and books around the apocalypse. Read them, watch them, study them. Here are some good apocalypse books on Goodreads. Know what's out there.What works and what doesn't? Understand that the world has been destroyed by every natural disaster known to man. Zombies have eaten their way through the world a million times. Every major city has been either blown up or taken over by aliens. Almost every type of scientist has created something that wipes out more than half of earth's population. How many times has the earth gotten angry with us and tried wiping us out?

2. Event
Although the whole sparkling vampire was so tragic, you have to give Stephenie Meyer credit for trying something new. You've heard the phrase "there's nothing new under the sun." If you want to do a natural disaster apocalypse, do it by adding your unique spin to it. We've seen the whole aliens take over the world theme a thousand times yet Dark Skies managed to do it in a different and entertaining way.

3. The People
Don't focus so much on the event that you forget about the people it affects. Why would we care about the world in your story if we don't have a character or characters we feel strongly about? You can have your story surrounding the most despicable person ever. People will hate them. They'll read because they may want to see if they fail. The readers live through the apocalypse and the rebuilding of society through your characters. If you create well-rounded characters- not cardboard cut-outs, they will carry the story, pulling the reader in. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Brand Development: Topics

Thousands of books have flooded the market. How do you make sure people buy your book over another author's? Book marketing efforts are a good way to go. But, what about after, what happens six months after your book has been released and you're still months away from releasing your next one?

You'll need someway to keep yourself in the minds of your readers. Some way to distinguish yourself from every other writer promoting their work. Developing a brand solves that problem. Focusing your brand around certain topics, a certain image, makes you identifiable. When people want certain information, they'll know to come to you.

1. List any topics you're an expert on. It could be cars, drawing, cooking, home improvement, plants.

2. List topics you are passionate about but aren't necessarily experts on. Since your brand is supposed to help promote your book, I suggest the genre(s) your book falls under should be in either this list or the one above.

3. What makes you truly unique?

4. Examine the three lists you just made and create three overarching words or phrases that describe you. For instance, my list is:
            # 1: writing, books, social media, anime, horror, searching databases, organizing information, evaluating resources
            # 2: new technology, Darkness, dark fantasy, world building, fantasy, Jung Shadow, sci-fi
            # 3: creative, video gamer, nerd, loves to solve puzzles, loves a challenge, explorer, adventurist, my two degrees, writing style.

This became creativeresearching, analyzing. With Search Engine Optimization in mind, it turned into Dark Fantasy Writerresearchinganalyzing. Me in three words became Dark Fantasy Writer, Researcher, Reviewer.  All the content I share is for promoting one of those three categories.

As you can see, those three topics are incredibly broad. That's on purpose. You can have narrow brand topics but I prefer broader ones because I get a little wiggle room. For instance, my passion for new technology can fall under any one of these topics. "Dark Fantasy Writer" means I can talk about all things horror since the genre is defined as mixing fantasy and horror. Reviewer means I can talk about that new action movie, or book, or article.

My brand happens to be genre related. It's fantasy, horror, sci-fi as it relates to those three topics. Your topics don't have to turn out that way. If you have a thing for Home Decor, have your content centered around that. But, as I said previously, you do want to be known for the genre(s) you're writing in, so it should be a part of your brand.

Brand development is especially important to unpublished authors. It can give you a following well before you publish your first book. It's not just about the topics you choose to discuss, it's your voice, the look of your webpage or blog, even your profile picture.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Review: Iron Man 3

For some reason, I went into this movie thinking it would be like Transformers. Great action, awesome tech and no story. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. Iron Man 3 had a great story.  I didn't like Iron Man 2. This one was much better.

The movie was more "Tony Stark" than Iron Man. Tony spent more time fighting outside of the suite then in it which is an interesting angle. It may also come off as counterproductive since the movie is called "Iron Man." It seemed to play off the question- Who is Iron Man-the suite or the man inside it? Not a bad angle. 

I felt so bad for Tony. He was beat up emotionally and physically. At one point, I was wondering what he was made of. I mean, how could he take such a beating and still walk away from it- not unscathed- but you get what I mean.

There were a lot of instances where Iron Man 3 didn't explan why things were happening. It gave you either a one sentence or a one scene clue. If you missed either then, you could be lost.  A lot of reviewers saw them as plot hole. One I would agree with was, in Avengers, Tony's armor held up against Thor's hammer. In the end of Iron Man 3, a bunch of super-humans were tearing his armor apart.

The movie didn't explain if the quality of the armor decreased or if these super-humans were really super. That being said, it didn't destroy the story for me. This wasn't something I thought about while watching the movie. Although, I would've liked a bit more backstory on the villain and how his fiery minions were created.

It did have those epic moments that had me grinning, especially at the end but if you're looking for Avengers 2, you might want to dial down you expectations. This movie was good but it wasn't as good as Avengers. It still had the character development and the humor but it didn't have the right cast to recreate the witty banter and awesome character interactions Avengers had. The battle at the end wasn't as grand as the one against Loki. 

From the reviews, I've notice people saying this one was a spit on the comics. I didn't read the original story so I have no idea. As with all book/comic turned to movies, we need to separate the two. Judge it for what it is and not compare it to the original. I understand how fans of the comic would be angry at a movie that messed up the story they loved.

But, as I said in another review, when is the movie as good as the original? When has it stayed true to the original? I usually left Harry Potter disappointed and annoyed. I had to keep telling myself this wasn't the book. Only then did I realize, they were good movies. 

People are talking about Iron Man 3 like it was the worst movie ever. I don't agree. The ending, though, was a little weird. Don't really know what to make of it. 

If you were already going to see the movie, don't let the reviews convince you to skip it. I was having a bad day on Saturday but after seeing Iron Man 3, my spirits were lightened. For me, that's one sign of a good story. It makes you feel better as if the story reached through the medium, grabbed hold of whatever was bothering you and magically lightened it. 

I know I usually talk about whether or not a move was worth a watch in 3D. This time, I couldn't shell out the extra bucks. I would say don't spend the extra money. I can't see how this movie would be better in 3D. 

A good start to the Summer Movie Season. Looking forward to Star Trek: Into the Darkness.

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