Book Cover Artwork Update

After lots of re-writes and countless delays, we finally have our first color tests for the cover to my upcoming first novel, from our talented partner in crime, Joseph Buehrer. This sketch shows the deuteragonist of the story, the orphaned River, casting an admiring look to the story’s hero. It took us a while to reach this as the early color tests proved quite a challenge, but since we have a meeting coming up later, we should be able to wrap up River very soon.

Word is our leading man (or rather leading winged lizard) is in the till so you’ll all be seeing some work on him very soon.

Here’s the picture, and I hope you guys like it.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 1.13.47 PM

It has been a difficult year for my first book, and working on both the writing and the art has taken a toll on all involved. Still, my team of collaborators have stuck with this ship to keep it afloat, and I can assure you all there’s no way in hell I would have made it this far without them. When the product is finally finished, they deserve just as much credit as me. I’d like all to extend their hands to Cullen McCurdy, David Spada, and Joseph Buehrer. You guys rock, and I couldn’t have asked for better partners or friends.

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Never Heroes Chapter 1 Update

Dear gracious readers, it is with great pleasure that I present the latest version of chapter 1 of my fantasy/adventure epic, Never Heroes.

Never Heroes is an exciting oddity that tells of a selfish and malicious dragon known as Zhyx who is unwillingly pulled into an adventure by a brazen band of misfit adventurers. They blackmail the elder wyrm into joining them on a quest to destroy a great evil that only Zhyx, whom the characters nickname ‘Red’ has even a remote chance at beating.

This first chapter deals with Zhyx’s first brush with trouble, when as he’s sulking in his lair, a pair of unwelcome guests throw his life into upheaval.

I worked pretty hard making sure the lead character was softened up just a bit so he didn’t alienate the reader right out of the gate, as well as clarifying plot points and fleshing out the characters. I’d like to thank my editors, artists, and friends for helping this project come as far as it has, and hope you all think it’s a good read. Please put any thoughts you have have in the comments section below.

Read away, and be careful that our friend Red doesn’t burn you.

Chapter 1, The Great Red Wyrm

New Edits Forthcoming

Hello everyone. Well, as all the regulars know, it’s been an incredibly rough few weeks for me ever since my unexpected layoff at the studio. I should count my lucky stars that money won’t be a problem for me and my second job is keeping the bills paid.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know that some new edits for the first three chapters of my first novel, the fantasy adventure epic Never Heroes, will be posted here starting tomorrow. I’ll be post one chapter a day until Tuesday.

A number of things were tweaked and patched in order to make for a more enjoyable read, from softening up the main character a little bit, to better fleshing out character and plot points, and also just making the prose overall less clunky and more streamlined. This is still (probably) not the final edit before the search for an agent begins again, but it’s defiantly a step up from what was before, and I’m looking forward to hearing all of your thoughts on the updates come tomorrow.

See you all then.

Another Kick, Less Teeth

I’ve lived a sheltered life. I never really knew just how sheltered it was. I had a good home, a good parent, steady income, always plenty of food on the table, lots of fun things to do. I easily got into some of the best schools, got through college with my parents’ help, had commencement with no debt looming over me, and was practically handed my first internship in the world of cinema and storytelling.

The me in those days was ever the optimist. He always believed in the best out of people, stood by his convictions, studied hard and did well in school, and was best characterized by an unwavering belief in himself. He knew what his future would be, he was going to be a storyteller, and share his dreams with people the way others had shared with him. When I was that person, I wrote an entire book, I wrote script after script, and couldn’t stop. The keyboard was like the disco stage from Saturday Night Fever. I just wanted to set my fingers upon it and watch them dance.

I fell in love with words.

Those days ended back in August of 2014. I didn’t really know what the real world was back then because I thought, rather naively, that everyone had the things I had. These past two years I met a different kind of world, one where the basic commodities are hard to come by, promises are hardly kept, and writing becomes less a passion and more something to do to keep from going insane. For the first time I realized how lucky I was, and have been having a hard time trying to recapture that luck.

This week, I hit another failure, and with it a big part of me is now dormant. I almost escaped from the hardware store. It wasn’t much, just a movie theater job, but to me the thought of that job was like touching the sky. Every day, I’d be surrounded by stories in one of the best venues to experience them.

The interview was filled with smiles and jokes. I’d not been so confident in months, and upon leaving I was so sure it was mine. The HR person told me they would call me by a certain time if the job was mine. I waited. Ten minutes, twenty, by forty I knew it was done. Later I figured out there never was a phone call planned. That was just a way to get me out of the office.

All things considered, it’s not nearly as serious as I felt about it. People don’t pass interviews every day. You have no choice but to move on. This one, for whatever reason, hit me really hard. Perhaps it was because I really wanted to leave the hardware store, and such a small dream as working at a slightly better part time job didn’t seem like something so hard to achieve.

Yet I couldn’t even do that. To fail at something so simple as getting a job at a movie theater really hit hard, almost as hard as the layoff itself. I haven’t been able to write anything for my book for the past two days. Losing that spark, for however long, is like losing the ability to see, hear, touch, taste or smell, but somehow deeper.

I really don’t know how much longer I can take this. I’m not the kind of guy you want sitting in a room staring at walls with nothing to do. I’ve got to be out there living, not just surviving. Without living, the writing doesn’t come easy.

Adventures With A New Supporting Character

It’s been a rough few weeks seeking out the next film related job, but I’ve been trying to keep busy on the Never Heroes fantasy/adventure book series in the meantime.

Firstly, it looks like we’ve got a cover design to work with. After looking over some Struzan and Struzan-esque pieces, my illustrator and I touched upon a composition which seems highly appropriate for our first cover for this series. More on that shortly as our scaly lead is on the way.

Bigger news is how editing is coming along. In between my editor providing some wonderful feedback, I’ve been doing some polishing of my own, and stumbled upon a solution to something that was troubling me.

I had a character who originally was going to be introduced in book two, a  high ranking military figure. However, upon looking over the original manuscript, I could find no good reason for him to be completely absent from the first book’s events, especially considering those events were so important and he would be involved. So, during my run through, I’ve been finding places to insert him that seem most appropriate, though I’ve been careful not to overdo it.

The introduction of this character and wanting to flesh him out better may have actually worked to the story’s advantage, as there is a sequence at the act two break where the characters meet someone who gives them a much needed helping hand. This character is a lot like the ship’s captain in Raiders of the Lost Ark, they are never mentioned before, and never seen thereafter. Though in Raiders this was handled well, here it seemed a bit too convenient, and I couldn’t help but be troubled by it.

It is something that always bugged me in stories, someone coming out of nowhere and saving the day, but never being around when the characters needed them again. Sometimes that’s the way real life works, you meet someone who gives you a helping hand and go your separate ways, but I wanted these characters to be more than plot devices and rungs on a ladder for my heroes to climb. But, this little bit of poor writing may actually be a lifesaver.

It seems that character could be easily replaced with this military figure, giving them a much greater role in the plot and making them more than just set dressing, which is precisely what a character shouldn’t be. The first character didn’t exactly have a lot of individuality to begin with, so now it will be someone the audience already knows and can relate to much better. Honestly, the prospect of doing a re-write on this scene is kind of exciting, as it has solved one of my biggest problems faced when injecting this new supporting player into the narrative.

Just a little good news in an otherwise rough few weeks. Anyway, hope you’re all doing well and thanks for reading.

Making an Unlikable Protagonist Likable

Having a protagonist who is too perfect can be a very irritating thing in any work of fiction, from novels, to films, to video games. One of the reasons I never got into the Halo series as much as everyone else was the faceless hero of John 117 was too perfect. He was never mean, never made mistakes, and was an all around Mary Sue. However, there’s a much more risky type of character that, when done right can provide some of the best heroes you can imagine, but when done wrong they can turn your audience off before they even have a chance to redeem themselves.

Having a character truly change from one type to another is one of the joys of fiction, and an audience will generally want to see their protagonist change for the better, becoming more successful and also becoming a better person. Because of this, starting a story where your protagonist is not so great and watching them become just that is a great way to go. There’s just one problem. If your character is nasty, mean spirited, cynical or otherwise has such unlikable qualities, it can turn your reader off to them before they have a chance to become better.

How does one overcome this problem? There are a number of ways to make the audience get behind a character who they may not otherwise stick with. One method is to make them funny.

Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters is not a good person. The first scene with his character shows him using his status as a professor to flirt with a female student while simultaneously bullying a young man. He’s crass, greedy, and cynical. His dialogue however makes him very likable for the audience, because he knows how to tell a good joke and poke fun at his friends.

One such line is when his cohorts excitedly speak of a stack of books as proof of the supernatural, to which Venkman replies “You’re right. No human being would stack books like this.” This makes us get behind him in spite of his abrasive nature, because he makes us laugh. This approach has been utilized many times, including another Bill Murray film, Groundhog Day.

Another tried and true method is to make the antagonist even more unlikable. Take for instance Dirty Harry. Our protagonist is, in the first film, a pretty lousy person. He’s a racist, misogynistic, short tempered cop who often flies off the handle, uses excessive force, and generally has little regard for the people around him.

However, the person he’s after, the serial killer Scorpio, is much worse. The first scene of the film shows the killer sniping a helpless young woman as she’s bathing in her backyard swimming pool. From then on he murders a 10 year old child, and kidnaps and brutalizes a fourteen year old girl. Because of this, we’re more willing to put up with Harry in the hopes he’ll bring the killer to justice.

These are two methods that work well, but there’s a third, arguably more difficult method commonly known as the ‘Save the Cat’ method. In this method, we see a character who is generally unlikable or un-relatable do something that shows they have a more compassionate side beneath the surface. They key element to this method is timing. You must do it early on in the story, preferably in the character’s intro, in order to peak the interest of the audience.

There are several good examples of this. One is the Disney adaptation of Aladdin. The hero steals a loaf of bread, dodging guards, wrecking the square, and generally causing havoc while showing little regard for those around him. However, when he sits down to enjoy his spoils, he notices two starving children. In spite of all the hard work he went through to get his loaf, he hands it over to the children instead.

Another really good example, and you all knew this was coming, is Raiders of the Lost Ark. We don’t know much about Dr. Jones at this point, but shortly after being betrayed by one of his guides, he enters a dangerous temple with his other companion who is, at best, sketchy. In spite of this, Indiana Jones does his best to keep the man safe, getting some dangerous spiders off of him, preventing him from falling to his death in chasm, and stopping him from stepping into dangerous traps.

In spite of this man’s close association with the previous traitor guide, Indy gives him the benefit of the doubt and tries to keep him safe, perhaps because he really does value those close to him, or he’s so desperate for companionship that he’s willing to take a chance. This may be a little against type since Indy is a likable character, but it does show how to endear an audience to a character quickly so you can get away with a lot more later.

There are other methods to endearing the audience to an otherwise unlikable hero, but these three are a good place to start. Writing a Mary Sue protagonist is a misstep in many more ways than one, so your hero should be flawed, they should be troubled, so the audience will have more pleasure in watching or reading them overcome those flaws to become greater. Therein lies the risk, because people do want to see someone become better, but don’t want to follow someone who is too flawed. It seems like such a contradiction, and can be very disheartening for a new writer to try and find that balance. Remember, the duty of a writer is to communicate what we feel onto the page. We know why such a protagonist is worth following. It’s up to us to show our audiences why that’s the case.

Meet and Greet: 7/16/16

Hello everyone. Been a rough week for me, but I’m looking forward to meeting some new people.

Dream Big, Dream Often

Dream-Big

It’s the Meet and Greet weekend!!

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags.
  4. Feel free to leave your link multiple times!  It is okay to update your link for more exposure every day if you want.  It is up to you!

  5. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find new blogs to follow.

Now that all the rules have been clearly explained get out there and Meet n Greet your tails off!

See ya on Monday!!

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Sketching Red 3: The Final Conflict

It’s been a chaotic week in the life of this aspiring writer, and our Never Heroes fantasy adventure series had to take a brief break because of it.

These last few days have taken a toll not only on me, but those closest to me. I needed a lot of help to get back on my feet, but I’m up and running again, and I’m grateful to all who helped me through this. Lots of love to all of you.

Good news is some schedules look like they’re opening up, so we may be getting new content on the way very soon.  I’ll be doing my run through of chapter 9 tomorrow and finishing that up, and aim to finish a chapter a day this week on the Never Heroes manuscript up until Thursday.

Of course that’s not why you’re here. You’re all here to see my sad attempt at sketching the leading man, or rather dragon, in my novel, the fearsome crimson wyrm who has darkened Haiden’s skies for almost a thousand years, Zhyx, known by those close to him as ‘Red.’

I’m pretty happy with the face, but think the neck could have been a little better. Regardless, this came out very well for my first completed sketch in a while, and it can only improve from here.

Zhyx My Sketch 1 New

Anyway, hope you all like this sketch of our favorite dragon turned reluctant hero. More to come in the ways of writing and art. Next article will be up tomorrow.

Thanks for reading and you all have an awesome day.

This Week’s Kick In the Teeth

This has been a rough week, and what’s strange is last week was going so well. For the first time in a month, I had 100 views for a week’s work of posting. For others that may seem like pennies, but for me it’s pretty good news.

Some of you may be wondering why I’ve been so inactive this week. Allow me to explain.

This Monday I got some pretty bad news. Monday is a day I had grown to love because that was the day I left my retail job and went to my industry job. I had grown to love Monday and dread Friday. This Monday reminded me why I used to hate the day so much.

I was laid off.

Not fired, mind you. Just laid off for the slow period during the summer. It was unexpected and I had no prior warning. This didn’t do much to help my already existing depression, and I sunk into a pretty deep stupor that didn’t really start to soften up until noon yesterday.

These last four days, which are usually ones of work, have been devoted to the job search and the novel. I didn’t even get my sketch of Red done due to it not taking priority.

My condition makes these things hit me especially hard, but I was able to get through it with the help of family and friends, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

I was able to work in a pretty productive meeting with my editor and got some new edits done on the manuscript. I aim to wrap up my work on chapter 9 tomorrow, but we will see how that plays out. At the very least I should be able to finish my sketch of my leading man, or rather leading dragon.

I doubt I’ll break the 100 view barrier this week due to the slow period following Monday’s bad news, but will still try for it over the weekend.

That’s all for now. I’ll see you all later.

Happy Birthday Harrison Ford

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish one of Hollywood’s best talents, the amazing Harrison Ford, a happy birthday. To honor this occasion, I’ve posted links to some of my favorite pieces of art of my personal favorite role of Mr. Ford, the man in the hat, the good swashbuckling doctor Indiana Jones.

Words can never express how much this character and this series mean to me. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was one of my very first movies, me seeing it even before such essentials as The Wizard of Oz and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It has been a major influence on me, my fascination and pursuit of creative fiction, and is a spirit I try to capture in my adventure themed work.

Please enjoy these fine tributes by these and a host of other talented artists. Be sure to check out their work.

Remember, it’s not the years. It’s the milage.