Monday, December 30, 2013

Don't Give Up

You know I had to do this. It's the last post of the year after all. We're going to look back at the top posts of 2013. After all this time blogging, I'm still surprised at which posts people like most. This year was full of surprises.

How this one became so popular is amazing. 

You know what's harder than building a world from scratch. Destroying it and then rebuilding it. I know, kind of a depressing topic but, I'm a dark fantasy writer. We gotta go there. 

This was shared... a lot.  Many blog posts on the same topic included a link to it. It was also included on a number of Tumblr pages. As you can see in the Popular Post widget to the right, this post is still running strong even though it was published in February. It is too surreal. 

How do you curse people out without swearing? Remember the song from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." That's how you do it.

Total, total, total surprise. I wrote this post thinking it would be something fun to share. This one took no time to write because I already had the information. The popularity of this post blew me away. A lot of people shared it. 

Horror is making a comeback! My favorite, favorite, favorite type of story is the haunted house tale. This is the epitome of subtle horror. I love it. So, when I found out they were actually releasing an old school haunted house movie, I was beyond excited. The Conjuring didn't disappoint.  

It is still amazing how popular this movie was. I mean, there was little special effects and gore, yet people loved it. There's still hope for this genre.

I had a total nerd moment when I first saw the trailer for Pacific Rim. It's like a live-action anime- only it doesn't look stupid! Every time I saw a movie poster or a new trailer, I got really happy. This is like the ultimate nerd movie. I mean come on, a major trope in anime is giant piloted robots being used to fight the world's problems. I seriously can't believe they actually made a movie like this. It's like a video game and anime in one!

You guys seem to like my movie reviews! This was the year of the nerds! They actually made a movie about giant monsters fighting giant robots and it wasn't a B-Movie. I am so glad they didn't mess this one up. That would've been so disappointing.

As if naming our characters wasn't hard enough. On top of that, we have to name lands, buildings, foods, cultures, mountains even treaties and wars. The list goes on and on. How can we possibly come up with so many?

Having a blog gets you thinking about how you write. For me, I just write. I never think about how I come up with things or how I keep track of every information. I just do it. I had to dig deep for this post. I am so glad you guys found it so helpful. 

For all you bloggers out there just starting out, remember, getting some traction takes time. It took me three years to get here. Even now, I still have trouble determining which posts will be popular. I got a bit discouraged this year because my blog posts weren't getting the pageviews I wanted. 

Keep at it and remember to have fun, be yourself and don't be afraid to experiment! There will be posts you work hard on, but still get a tragic response. Don't let it discourage you. 

Today's the last day to get Visible Through Darkness for free. If you haven't gotten it yet, check it out. For those who have read it, whether you liked it or not, I'd love to know your opinion. Please review it!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Fantasy Maps: Crops

Drawing your world map gets you thinking about placement of each continent as well as the climate for each country. This led me to a crop conundrum. In your world, or any made up world, one county is not going to produce every kind of crop your people need- unless you're creating a utopia. There will be a significant amount of trade going on.

But, you can't just list out your continents and say this place will have wheat and this place will have fruit because those types of crop may not thrive in those climates. Of course, history plays a great part in this as well. Some countries have certain crops because the people who colonized it brought the crops with them.

The best way to go about researching this is to know which crops are abundant in different areas of our world and the best times to plant and harvest said crops. Researching crops and climate is tricky because you'll get pages of content on climate change and crops. The below list gives you an idea on how to go about this type of research. And, it also shows you the type of crops available. You should at least know the major crops of our world because more than likely, they will be needed in yours.

United States Department of Agriculture: Major World Crop Areas and Climate Profiles
Knowledge Publishers: Major Crops and Their Producers
Wikipedia: Category: Crops by Country
Wikipedia: List of Food Origins
Northeast Nursery, Inc: Plants: A Complete List of Cool Season/Warm Season Crops 
Sunset: Cool-Season Crops
Sunset: Planting Warm-Season Crops
Image Credit: Bunge
Another way to research this is to use a crop list from the above resources and Google "Climate requirements for/of (said crop). Also, type in "crops by" in Google and explore the suggestions in the drop down menu.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Bleeding Heart Character

There are deer in DC. I'm in SE Washington, DC with my family for the holidays. We were coming home one evening. Four deer crossed the street like it was nothing. This is the city. DC. Where did the animals come from?! That was too bizarre. My parents told me this is not unusual. They saw a hawk feasting in the lawn across the street. A hawk. What is really going on?!

You know those B-movies where a mutant monster has been eating anyone and anything for like an hour? A small group of people finally concocts a plan to kill it and in comes the bleeding heart screaming for a way to stop the monster without killing it. I can't stand those types of characters. There must be a line between being realistic and being annoying.

I finished reading The Magic Wakes a couple of weeks ago. It was an interesting story. The world building was amazing.

(Spoiler Alert)

Aliens descended on a city, killing people. They were angry. They wanted to destroy everyone. Three people got together to discuss how to stop these aliens i.e. kill them. The female protagonist piped in saying they should talk to the aliens and convince them to stop. Seriously?! She had spent her life dreaming about these aliens killing her. So, of course she thought it would be a smart idea to walk up to them and have a conversation.

Up until that point, I found her tolerable. I didn't like her, didn't hate her. After she said she wanted to talk to the killing aliens, I was done with her. This jarred me from the story. I put the book down while I went on a mental rant about how stupid and annoying she is.

I mentioned another character like this in the post Annoying Protagonist Kills Story.

These bleeding hearts show up a lot in books, TV shows and movies. Why are they usually female?

I can't. I just can't. They irritate me so much. They're usually stubborn, judgmental and outspoken. You have to admire characters like that for sticking with their beliefs. Doesn't stop them from being irritating. Books with bleeding heart characters are ones I either don't finish or don't reread. I prefer my characters to be somewhere between sickeningly sweet and psychopaths. 

I'm curious. What do you think of bleeding heart characters? I'm sure they serve some purpose or they wouldn't come up so often. But, for me, they always ruin the story.

Mark your calendars. My book Visible Through Darkness will be free from from 12/26-12/30. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fantasy Maps: The World

You need to know every part of your world even if it's not in the story.

I started working on the world map- a digital version of this:

And, it did not turn out the way I wanted it to. I mean it is tragic. I won't even share it with you. But, making Jael was fairly easy.

I figured creating the world would be the same- just bigger. The difference is I knew where all the mountains, rivers and forests were in Jael. I hadn't thought about that for other places in the world. Although other landmasses are important, my story is never set in those places.

I know the name of each landmass and the countries as well as their roles in the world, but to make the map, I need terrain and I hadn't thought about that.

This Photoshop version of the world map is more for fun. I mean, the other landmasses are mentioned in book 2, but as I said before, the story is never set in any place other than Jael.

When you're creating your world map, I suggest your draw a rough sketch of each place before diving into your map making software. It's not enough to have the terrain in your head-at least for me. I'll be going back to pencil and paper to draw out each landmass. Should be fun!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fantasy Powers: The Rules

Everything has rules- even a power system. This goes along with the having a weakness aspect I mentioned in Fantasy Powers: Magical Beings. If your powerful characters can do anything without any consequences, they will be boring and unrealistic. For my series, I listed the rules for my beings. I wrote it like I was talking to them. This has become my quick reference guide. It's on my wall with the rest of my world building notes.

Making this list helped me wrap my mind around what my beings can and cannot do with their powers as well as the affects the power has on the body. You'll have done some of this when you fleshed out your magical beings.

The reason I created this list was because there were some holes in my power system and I couldn't figure out how to fill them. These rules laid out everything. I was able to solve that puzzle. Since, I have more than one magical being, this list helped me picture the difference between them- The Sciell and the Empty Ones.

Here's a sample.
  1.  Darkness is the body and within that body is pure Energy that, when mined and molded, can be used for any purposes. 
  2.  By pulling Energy into your body, you give it life. It becomes the Power. A part of it will weave into your skin and organs. 
  3. Storing Power means no outside forces can alter your body. No tattoos, no haircuts, no piercings, no hair coloring. 
  4.  The Empty Ones can negate this affect by expelling enough Power to render it inactive. The Sciell cannot. Your body needs the Power. 
  5. The Power is now a living being. It needs food- more Energy to sustain itself. If you do not feed it, you will feel hungry, but no amount of eating will fulfill this hunger. The Power will feed on its own. It only needs you if something prevents it from grabbing more Energy. 
  6.  You store the majority of the energy within yourself. 
  7. For the Sciell, you store Power in your core. The size of the core does not dictate how much you can hold. 
  8. For Empty Ones, your physical body dictates how much Energy you can hold. 
  9. Your strength is determined by how much power you can hold.
Check out the other posts in this series!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Writing Post-Apocalyptic Stories

I mentioned a while ago that I was getting another Masters. This time in Publishing: Digital and Print. Well, last week was finals. I had four and it was murder. That's the reason I only posted one time last week. Finals are over and I am never taking four classes again. I must have lost my mind.  Update: I'm finished with school. I got my masters!

In the post Writing Apocalyptic Stories, I briefly talked about the rebuild process. Let's go into that a bit more. The second book in my series is sort of post-apocalyptic. I've been struggling with how to realistically portray people living in this world. Here are some things to remember while writing your post-apocalyptic story.

Nothing is being made 
I wouldn't say nothing. But, there are no more power plants, no more factories. If people don't know how to make it with things they find laying around, it won't get made. Things will run out. No more metals, plastics, medicines or grocery stores. If your characters want clothes, they gotta make it themselves. Here's an infographic I shared before to help you with this. 

You can't live off paper anymore. Money will be useless. Instead of exchanging paper for food and supplies, people will exchange goods for goods. 

People are Insane
In a world with no law enforcement, people will be...well insane. Some will turn to a life of crime because they can or because they have to. Read Black Feathers to see how people react to the end of the world. 

Your characters will need some way to defend themselves. Even if they raided a gun store while the world was falling apart, those bullets will run out. They will need to make their own weapons. 

Safe Haven 
Your characters need a safe place to live. Where is it? Why is it safe? How do they live? Is this permanent or are they still looking for a better place to stay?

Where your safe haven is located is important. It is close to water? It should be. If not, why? If it is located in the middle of the forest, your characters can chop down trees for wood, go hunting, find berries and herbs. If they're in like some warehouse, they may not have access to a forest, but they may have more tools. 

Just because the big event is over doesn't mean the danger is. The safe haven could merely provide sanctuary from the elements. The people there could be mean. Your characters may have to watch their backs all the time. Or, the air outside could be toxic and people have to go out wearing special suits. Or, there could be monsters lurking about. 

There is no way your characters will live in a safe haven and be allowed to do nothing. They will have a job. They will do something to make sure this community keeps functioning. 

As the creator of this world, you should brush up on your herbs. People will get sick and more than likely, there will be no pharmacy for your character to raid.  They'll have to go to the earth for medical remedies.

Other Communities
Your safe haven won't have everything you characters need. But, other communities might have some useful things. What are these communities? What's the danger in visiting them? How do your characters find out about them? In Book 2 of my Merging Worlds Trilogy, each community specializes in making something whether it is growing vegetables, making herbal remedies or fabrics even paper. They have people who act as traders between each of these communities.

More tips:
Shalini Bolan: Writing Post-Apocalyptic Fiction - My Top 10 Tip
The Warrior Muse: Things to Remember When Writing Post-Apocalyptic
TV Shows
        If you have Netflix, check out The Colony. It gave me a lot to think about. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Johnny T's NYC Tourist Tips [Video]

It's Christmas time and tourists are flocking to NY to see our awesome decorations and to go shopping. NY knows how to do Christmas!

But tourist, watch this video first. We love you. We'll help you if you ask, but please know NY is like another world. We do things a little different. This video is hilarious. Loved the puppet with the accent.

My favorite line "get out of the way."

You know what' really)...about walking in NY? Walking on a crowded street behind a group of people who stop suddenly because they're lost. The ten of them (because tourists travel in packs) stand in the middle of the already crowded sidewalk while they figure out where to go. What's even more fun. A tourist walks through the turnstile to go in or out of the subway and stops- right in front of it- because they don't know where to go. Awesome.

Remember, New Yorkers walk fast, really fast and we will get irritated if you don't. If you aren't going to walk fast, move to the side. Don't walk in the middle of the sidewalk.

Another thing I keep telling people, you don't come to NY because you want regular food. Just because there's a McDonald's nearby doesn't mean you need to go there. NY has some awesome equally unhealthy and inexpensive food you won't find anywhere else.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fantasy Maps: Forests and Boundaries

You know those moments when you just feel silly and you're glad no one knew about your mistake? We'll I'm gonna share mine with you. So, I go in to work on my map in Photoshop. I chose a brush only, no matter what I do, nothing shows up- no color, no mountains, nothing. It's not working. I reset my brushed. That didn't work.

Since, I'm not a Photoshop professional, I start pressing random button. That didn't work. I Googled it. Came up with a bunch of forms and blogs. None of them helped. Then, on one form, it said make sure the brush color is something visible. So, I changed the brush color and that worked. Seriously. All that and I just needed to change the color. That's ridiculous.

Anyway, on the last post, Fantasy Maps: Mountains and Rivers, I created this with the help of the some tutorials.

Now, my map looks like this.

I have no idea how I changed the color. I clicked something and it changed. I liked this better, so I kept it that way. When you're first starting out with Photoshop, much of what you do will be the result of a happy accident.

Because I thought it was cool, here's a close up.

I used this tutorial to kelp me. I love this series so much.

I didn't include cities because the only brushes I found were of castles. My world isn't set in medieval times. It's like an alternative version of ours.  There are no castles in Jael.  I'm not putting in any images to represent cities. Instead, I included in the name- like most atlas do.  Jael is divided into territories, cities then wards.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fantasy Powers: The Origin Story

You're magical beings have been having their way with their powers and enjoying least until those side effect kick in. Let's take a step back, way back. To the beginning. Where did the power come from. Or, who did they come from. This goes beyond the magical beings in your story.

Why does power exist in your world? For example, I can say my characters draw power from Darkness, but why is there power in Darkness. Did it just appear one day? Was the Darkness a god cast out for being a bastard or because someone was jealous of it?

I wrote an origin story, well two of them. You should write your own origin story- however you want. My story is a bit rough. It's only supposed to help my world building. I didn't do much editing. I might publish it, eventually. Still don't know yet. You story doesn't need to polished. More than likely, no one will read it. It's for your notes. And, it's fun to create.

Here's an excerpt of mine.

Haylan Kahya returned to his physical body. His sister, Locktice, did the same. Because of Taxes,  the Gate took too much food- leaving little for themselves.

“Why do our bodies always knot up when we leave?" Locktice asked stretching her arms over her head.

She knew better than that. How many times have they asked the Elders about the Gate and received only that piercing look?

“Why do you ask that every time we return to our bodies?” he said bending at the waist to unlock his hips.

“Because, I am tired of my body acting like it’s trying to throw me out.”

An apt way to put it. More like the body got used to acting on its own and didn’t want them returning.

Frantic footsteps headed their way. Why was Manty running? He wasn't alone. Jontice and Tera RaiKall were with him. The RaiKall were similar to what humans called the cousin. For centuries, it had been the Kahya and the RaiKall’s job to rule E’Sully.

Manty swept his waist length white hair out of his eyes. Haylan’s had either long white or deep black hair. They all had black tattered wings that didn't work. The Elders said they were a status symbol. Haylan would've preferred something less obstructive.

“What is it?” Locktice asked.

Manty cocked his head. “You didn't bring enough human Darkness back.”

“I did,” Haylan jabbed his thumb behind him. “The Gate took most of it.”

“Then, you didn't get enough. The Tax has existed for centuries. You should've taken it into account”

Manty was younger than him by at least a century. Why did that child always talk like he was superior?

"And I told you, the Gate was taking more because some insect tribe thought it would be beautiful to make their woman have an army of children."

Manty folded his arms. "Who was supposed to stop them?"

The monstrous stone gate behind them was their only way into the human world to collect food. E’Sully's rule, sown into the soil, said they could only collect the Darkness from humans, not each other. The Gate was their only way into the human world. Going in, the Gate took their bodies, going out, it took half the food they gathered. According to books, The Gate fed the land while the Kahya and RaiKall fed the people. Moronic Taxes. The world would thrive while its residences died of starvation.

Check out the other posts in this series:

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Sallie House Haunting

Just saw the Paranormal Witness episode The Harpy. It was awesome. The last couple of episodes have been the best. That's saying a lot since I love this show. One episode was about these clawed demons racing through this man's house. My dog, with her claws, had picked an unfortunate moment to walk across my wood floor- nearly scared me to death. 

At the end of The Harpy was a note that this was based on the most haunted house in the U.S- The Sallie House. I'd never heard of it so, I did some research.

The Sallie House in Atchison, Kansas quickly earned a national reputation as one of the most haunted places in the U.S. The house was built between 1867 and 1871. For years, tenants of  508 N. Second Street have reported harmless happenings like electrical appliances switching on and off and pictures turning upside down as well as violent attacks that left victims with welts and bloody scratches.

There have been full-bodied apparitions and objects flying through the air. Items have moved, been misplaced or lost only to reappear or show up later or at another location. Phantom furniture has been heard along with thumps, thuds, knocks, scratching and the sound of animals and human voices. Although some voices have been heard with the naked ear, there have been a significant amount of EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) captured, further depicting the voices of men, women and children. Many have experienced extreme smells. 

The house was brought to national attention when Debra and Tony Pickman lived there from 1992 to 1994 and had many disturbing encounters, including physical attacks on Tony, which were documented by the Sightings television show. 
There has been physical harm to the occupants and investigators in the form of scratches, burns and cuts. Although the majority of these attacks have often been centered on Tony, there have been a few others who have also been the focus of the physical harassment.

It's called The Sallie House because the daughter of some previous tenants had an imaginary friend named Sallie and because of the vast amount of interactions between Sallie and live entities.

According to one legend, the first haunting began around 1906 after a small girl named Sallie was brought to the doctor for a severe stomach ache. The doctor determined that she was suffering from appendicitis, but Sallie panicked and refused to hold still which resulted in her dying on the operating table before the doctor could prepare her six-year old body for surgery.

Sallie's ghost has remained at the house throughout time, and for whatever reason, a host of other spirits have followed her there and remains with the young girl. The more dominant and darker spirits appear to zone in on the males living in the house and warn them to leave through direct contact from scratches to their bodies. Animals act in a disturbing nature by barking and howling at unseen forces. Each tenant has dealt with the contents of their home being turned upside down, and objects are often misplaced or disappearing altogether.

Investigations into this house continue, but it was initially investigated by the television show Sightings back when Tony and Debra Pickman lived there with their newborn son in 1993. Numerous psychics have entered the picture in order to help along the way, including Barbara Connor and the world-renowned Peter James who has worked on the haunting of the Queen Mary for many years. Paramount Pictures, the Travel Channel, KQ2 News out of St. Joseph, Missouri, Channel 4 News out of Kansas City, Kansas, the Discovery Channel and the Biography Channel have all been involved in documenting this story since 1993.

The Sallie House

Given the opportunity, I might check this house out. I'd get a good story out of it either way.  I'm curious. I don't believe or disbelieve in ghosts, but I wonder what logical explanations people have for The Sallie House

On a lighter note, hope you had an awesome Thanksgiving. I had a great time. Came home with a lot of food. I'll be eating good for at least a week.
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