Welcome Message

Welcome to my blog. Here, you will find information about my novels, life in Japan, as well as author interviews, discussions on writing, and more. Feel free to browse and if you enjoy a post, please comment. Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 30, 2014

A Blog Award!



Roar like a dragon. Be the dragon….My blog won the Dragon Loyalty Award.


I want to thank Allison Bruning for nominating me for the Dragon Loyalty Award. I feel so blessed. I had never heard of this award before. It’s a combination of the “Very Inspiring Blogger” and the “Versatile Blogger” awards. I don’t know who first started this award, but I’m pleased that someone thinks I’m versatile and inspiring.
The rules are simple.
1. Display the Award on your Blog.
2. Announce your win with a post and thank the Blogger who awarded you.
3. Present 4 deserving Bloggers with the Award
4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded.
5. Write seven interesting things about you
Seven Interesting Things About Me
1: My favorite drink is A&W Root Beer.
2: I was once bitten by a dolphin. 
3: I have interviewed my favorite Star Trek author.
4: I want to cosplay at San Diego Comic Con. 

5: I have seen Morning Musume in concert 9 times. 
6: Our cat’s name, Coko is from the CO in Cody and the KO in Yoko.
7: I like volleyball. 
Four Deserving Bloggers

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cosplayers And Fandom

Cosplayers are a special breed of fan. These are people who take their fandom to the next level. And I salute them for it. These are hard working people who spend a ton of time and their hard-earned money to showcase what they love.
If a man walks down the street dressed in a football jersey and matching pants and sneakers, we don’t blink twice and call him a fan. If the same man walks down the street in a Star Trek uniform, he is at best a geek and at worse crazy. Why is it socially more acceptable to be obsessed with a sports team than a TV show, movie, or book? I think it’s because they aren’t real but sports are.
Stories, however, are magical. Humans love stories and have been around as long as people have been able to communicate. Stories can change our outlook and our very lives. They can entertain, terrify, and inspire. They preserve history and culture, and transport readers to another world.
Can the same be said about sports? I’m not dissing sports or sports fans. There is something to be said for competition; not to mention the benefits that come from teamwork. Sports can also change lives, but it is usually for the person actually involved in them. Sports can give camaraderie to the people watching, bring a bar full of people together to cheer on the same team. As soon as you see someone in a jersey the same as your own or hear them root for your team, you know you have something in common.
But to me, sports don’t hold the same magic as stories do. So, I ask again, why is it socially more acceptable to be an obsessed sports fan than a TV/movie/book fan?
Cosplayers are willing to break that socially acceptable line. They are proud to show their support, and rightly so. Take a look at the photos from any of the conventions like DragonCon and San Diego Comic Con. For a moment, forget the characters. Just look, really look, at some of the costumes. Can you see the craftsmanship that went into some of these? Some of these are not well-known, common characters, so you can be pretty sure it wasn’t a $30 off-the-rack costume. Some cosplayers spend years and thousands of dollars to get their costumes just right. And cosplaying is not really a profession. The majority of these people have day jobs and do this incredible hobby in their spare time.
I’d love to cosplay. If I could afford it, I’d own a Star Trek: First Contact uniform, a Star Trek Monster Maroon, and a Battlestar Galactica commander’s uniform. I’d wear them for Halloween, and if i ever went to a convention. I’d even wear at them at home while watching the movies and TV shows. I would love to go in a full mask costume at a convention. I don’t know who as; but I think wearing a mask, not having anyone know who I am, would really give me the freedom and courage to really ‘get in character’ and enjoy myself.
Like sports fan wearing jerseys, fandom people should be proud of their particular show or book. If you can’t dress like Kirk every day, bring in a bit of your fandom when you can. Wear Starfleet insignia cufflinks. How about some TARDIS earrings? Use a sonic screwdriver ballpoint pen. Share your passions.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Where Did All The Pictures Go?

If you are looking at the archives, perhaps re-reading a favorite post of yours (most likely you’re not :( ), you’ll notice many photos are gone. I went through both versions of Resonant Blue, Tumblr and Blogger, and removed every picture that wasn’t mine or given to me by an author for blogging/interview purposes.
Copyright infringement and fair use is one of the biggest and longest-running battles on the Net. The basic rule is: if the photo doesn’t belong to you, you can’t post it. Which means that 99% of what’s on Tumblr and Pinterest is illegal. Almost everyone is breaking the law. It is so difficult to enforce this law. Most people feel they won’t actually get sued by the original owner of the photo, so they feel free to take what they need from Google, Flickr, and other places. Having pictures in your posts make a stronger reading impact, as well as placing your blog higher in search engine results. Search algorithms give higher priority to posts with pictures than without.
Sometimes, pictures are necessary. Gardening, cooking, and almost any how-to blog practically require pictures. And what about the cool cosplayers showing off their hard work and fandom? They need to showcase their stuff. People are visual, and like looking at stuff; the whole “1000 words” thing.
What are Netizens to do? I don’t know if this topic will ever be solved. I feel that some types of photos should automatically be public domain/fair use. Logos, movie posters, book covers, CD and DVD covers, and business advertisements I think should be fair game. Any blogger should be free to use the Starbucks logo any time they want, as long it isn’t being morphed and Photoshopped to be made into a different product. Photos of celebrities and public figures should be fair also. But that is where the situation can get tricky. A picture of Obama released by Getty Images should be okay, but a Obama picture taken by someone’s camera phone while the president is in a parade shouldn’t. That picture belongs to the owner. This topic has a lot of gray area of what belongs to whom.
Maybe technology can make things easier. Maybe an app, or even a built-in feature in phones and cameras can make an automatic copyright notice for every picture taken. For example, every time you set up a new laptop or smartphone you have to enter your name and all sorts of information. Perhaps a line that says “Property of___” can be something to fill out. Then every photo taken with that digital camera or smartphone will automatically be tagged with that copyright line. When it is posted online or shared electronically, that mark will be with it. But as soon as that technology is made, I’m sure someone will invent a way to strip it. It will be a never ending battle.
As a professional author, I need to be more responsible about what I post. Instead of using photos willy-nilly like I use to, I’ll post only selected photos. I will have to learn my way around Wikipedia and Creative Commons. Until then, the blog will look a bit more bland. But don’t worry, it will have all the great content that nobody is commenting on. :)
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

An Ambitious Plan

Most stories are their own self-contained little world. Sometimes authors reveal that many of their different books take place in the same shared universe. They have characters and incidents popping up in seemingly random stories but actually reveal connections to each other. Jeffery Deaver’s Kathryn Dance and Lincoln Rhyme series are connected because the title characters have appeared in the others’s books. That is something I am trying to do.
The term “shared universe” is becoming more mainstream thanks to Marvel Studios. Their Cinematic Universe is a shared universe, having the characters from various films make cameos in others. The term is well-known to geeks, but I am seeing it more mainstream press nowadays.
I have quite a few ideas for different novels, some possibly turning into series. I have a Japanese super heroine idea, a fantasy idea, a buddy cop action series, and others in mind. There is no reason all these stories can’t be in the same universe. I’m not talking intricately interwoven, but references made in one book about events in another, and characters doing crossovers. Like Stephen King did with Derry and Castle Rock, I may make my own fictitious city. The main reason to do this will be to give myself creative freedom. If I set my cop drama in Chicago, I will need to research the city because I have never been there. Think of it like Gotham City, Metropolis, or Central City. I can have whatever events, structures, and buildings I need without having to worry about if I “got it right” by setting it in a real city. I will try to keep my city consistent. Good stories and good story universes are internally consistent.
The difficulty will be laying the groundwork for my literary universe, but I’ll try to do it a little at a time. Plus, not every story will fit in this universe. I already have an idea for a stand alone story that wouldn’t fit in. I may not make a unified universe at all, but I think it would be fun to try. It’s just a preliminary plan but we’ll see how it goes.
Take care, everyone.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Household Roles

My and Yoko’s roles are well-defined in the house, I think. I do the laundry, wash the dishes, take care of Coko’s litter, vacuum, and organize the house. She cooks, does the cleaning in the shower/sink room and toilet room, and is in charge of the finances. We have our own bank accounts and one joint account. Anything technical, like internet and computers, is my area as well.
We split the chores based on what we like and are good at. Before moving in two years ago, I hadn’t had a dishwasher in over 10 years. Since Yoko has one, I have no problem doing the dishes. She hates doing dishes, so she was happy to give me the job. I hate cleaning but she likes it. So she got those duties. I read somewhere that couples shouldn’t split chores straight 50/50. Instead, try to match chores with the spouse’s strength. For example, if someone is good at the Internet and computers, have them pay the bills online. Yoko and I have basically done that. Since she woks 10-12 hours a day and about 4-6 every weekend, simple things like dishes and vacuuming are timesavers for her. They are just one less thing she has to worry about.
When I first moved in, I tried to do a lot of the cooking. But, honestly, Yoko and I just have very different tastes, and it is easier for me to eat what she cooks than vice versa. After a while, I slowly moved the cooking duties over to her. I’m not a great cook.
We are happy with our chore arrangement. Many of our Japanese friends are surprised at all of the work I do. Most Japanese husbands don’t touch chores. They work, come home, grab a beer, and plant themselves on the couch. When our friend Fujimoto-sensei learned I did the laundry, he asked if I did Yoko’s clothes as well. I said yes, of course. He was surprised. I was confused. After all, if I’m doing laundry, shouldn’t I do all of it? Yoko said that if Japanese husbands to laundry (and a that’s a big if), they will only do their own. I guess they leave the kids and wife to fend for themselves.
As always, thanks for reading. Check back tomorrow for another post.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Iwakuni Author Roundtable

Last year, I joined a writer’s group here in Iwakuni, Japan. The founder is Nikki Bennett, who runs Firedrake Books. I had thought of starting a writing group on the Marine air base here, but Nikki beat me to the punch by a week.
We meet twice a month. The first meeting is usually in the library on the base. There we talk about writing and publishing, what we are working on, and other topics. The second meeting is more informal. We meet at the coffee shop Tully’s ‘in town’ (Marine speak for not being on the base) and we critique pieces we are working on and have less formal chats.
I’ve met some great people. Nikki is a middle grade/YA author, her husband is an artist, Linda and Jessica are professional photographers and bloggers, and Jason is a fountain of book and movie knowledge. I am very happy to have this group. I always look forward to our meetings.
While Facebook groups are great (IAR has its own group), physical groups have an intimacy and immediacy you can’t match. You can bounce ideas off each other immediately and get instant feedback on stuff you’re working. I’ve made some great friends here.
Writers groups can be as loose or as formal as you want. You can set schedules for workshop activities and have organized events, or just sit around and chat. I believe the biggest hurdle is continuing membership. At first, everyone may be coming. But soon life interrupts and members drop off. As long as a few people are coming, the group can survive. Don’t get discouraged if this happens to your group. Just keep it going.
How about you, readers? Are you in any writers groups? Are you thinking about starting one? 
As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Digital Frustrations

I don’t usually rant on this blog but I thought I’d vent a little.
As most of my readers know, I’m an expat living in Japan. My Japanese ability sucks, but even if it didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy movies and TV like a native. Also, after a while, I just get a craving for TV shows and movies from back home. The Internet has made it possible to get content from all over the world. So why oh why are companies making digital media region-restricted?
To me, it seems companies are hurting themselves by not making their products available to everyone regardless of where they live. The iTunes Store requires that your credit card address match where you live. Since I have a Japanese credit card, I can’t shop at the US iTunes Store. Not all products are available in each country’s store. The Japanese iTunes Store carries no TV shows of any kind. All subtitled American movies are hard subbed with Japanese subtitles. That means the subs are always on, there is no way to turn them off. Ok if you’re watching on a big screen TV, not so great on an iPad.
Companies are limiting the reach of their products by region locking them. In this age of globalization, shouldn’t we be encouraging cross-cultural entertainment? If someone in Germany is interested in K-Pop, shouldn’t they be allowed to get media directly from South Korea? I think they should.
Region locking has also affected my viewing habits. I’d gladly buy a subscription to Hulu or Netflix in order to watch Arrow and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (a show I still have never seen) instead of doing torrents or waiting almost a year later for it to hit DVD rentals in Japan. Come on, they are only up to season three of Castle here! But because I can’t get those services, they are losing a customer. Yes, there is Hulu Japan, but it doesn’t carry the same content as its American counterpart.
Do we really need region locking? I don’t think so. It doesn’t seem to help in any way and is actually denying a portion of the population who live abroad that want some of the media from back home.
How about it, readers? Your thoughts and comments? 
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Trying To Recapture The Magic

When I was a kid, movies were magical. Davy Crockett really did grin down a bear, Spock died, and Gremlins were real. After all, how could an actor be playing C-3PO when he was clearly in pieces being carried on Chewbacca’s back?
As I got older and learned more about movies, I became interested in the science behind the magic. I began watching as many behind-the-scenes clips as I could. I didn’t care about celebrity news on Entertainment Tonight, show me the CGI of the T-1000 terminator!
When DVDs began to surface, I loved the ones loaded with extras. I’d watch as many bonus featurettes as I could. I learned about how green screen made Superman fly, blue suits turned Kevin Bacon invisible, and the Enterprise was a four foot model.
Now in my thirties, I’m regressing. I don’t watch the bonus material or listen to the commentary tracks. I feel a little saddened when I spot a green screen production photo. I’m trying to lose myself in the magic again, into the story, and characters. I’m trying not to see Tom Cruise and see Ethan Hunt.
Sometimes I come across a character so brilliant, I don’t want to see the actor in anything else. Case in point: Sherlock. Many people told me how good Sherlock was but I never got around to watching it. After all, I’ve seen Basil Rathbone and Robert Downey Jr. play him. But I really wanted to see Star Trek Into Darkness. After hearing that Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch was cast as Khan, I decided to give his BBC show a try. And I LOVED it! He is absolutely brilliant as Sherlock. In fact, I really don’t want to see any other work by Cumberbatch. I want to remember him as Sherlock. I want to link those two together inseparably. The same thing has happened to me with Doctor Who. I began watching it because I knew Christopher Eccleston from Gone In Sixty Seconds and G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra. But after he left the show, David Tennant’s portrayal of the tenth Doctor is my favorite. I want to remember him as the Doctor, not playing the Doctor.
So, now I try not to watch the science behind the magic. It’s hard, I often look up trivia on IMDB for movies I’ve just watched. But I’m trying to regain the magic, if even a little bit.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Beta Readers

Books have bugs. Like all consumer products, they aren’t perfect from the get-go. They take work: writing, tweaking, reworking, and all the other things that make good products even better. One way to help improve a novel is beta reading.
If you haven’t heard the phrase ‘beta testing’, here is a brief primer. Before a product (cosmetics, video games, what have you) goes to the final stage and is rolled out to the public, it is tested. This is called beta testing. A small sampling of the product’s target market are picked to test out the product, then give feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Does the perfume really smell like roses? Is it too light? Too cloying? Are the area bosses in the video game too difficult to defeat or too easy? All sorts of questions are answered, then the makers take the responses and tailor the final product to meet the answers.
Hollywood does this with movies. It’s called test screening, and movies will be changed depending on audience reaction. Darren Afronosky’s Noah is the latest controversy about test screening. Paramount Pictures tested several versions of the film to see which one played best. In the film Deep Blue Sea, the ending was changed after audiences hated the fact that the main scientist, responsible for turning the sharks into killing machines, lived. The final sequence was reshot so the character was killed.
Beta reading is just that: reading (i.e. testing) for books. After an author has written several drafts and worked out as many kinks as he can, but before he sends it to the editor, it is given to beta readers for a run through. Readers aren’t just looking for grammar or technical mistakes; they can point out unbelievable characters, ridiculous situations, and plot holes you can fly the Enterprise through. 
But isn’t that what editors are for? Yes. But it is better to give a book to beta readers before handing it to the editor. Editors are looking at the book from a writing standpoint, technically and creatively. But beta readers are readers. They are looking at it as the book-buying audience. They are looking at the characters and the story. They may not care about three-act structure and scene transitions. They want to be entertained when they read. By giving the book to beta readers, the writer is giving the editor a better product to go through. The more it has been vetted, the fewer mistakes the novel will have and that is less time the editor has to spend on it, allowing them to continue on to the next book in their pile.
Getting beta readers might be difficult at first. You should have around three to five trusted readers. For me, I ask four times as many readers as I need. You may have fifteen friends who say they would love to read your book but how many will actually do it, then give feedback? I figure only a quarter will. I sent Zero Sum Game (formerly titled The Super School Uniform) to ten people. I gave them a deadline of March 31, a month from when I sent it, to give me feedback. I expected three or four people to finish by the 31st. If you’re lucky, and a somewhat consistent or prolific writer, you may be able to build up a circle of trusted readers. These will be people who will read and give feedback on a regular basis.
Who should be beta readers? There is a lot of debate on this subject. To me, the most important is people who will actually do it. I think it should be a mixture of authors and readers, and one should be in, or enjoy, the genre your book is targeted to. If you’re a SF writer, have one SF fan/author read it. They will have knowledge of the tropes, cliches, and expectations of the genre. They can point out things you will miss.
As the author, you are perfectly free to ignore the feedback of the readers. But if all of them are commenting on the same thing, you might want to take notice. And does everybody need to send a book out to be beta read? No, of course not. But I think it is a great service and only helps make the story better. After spending weeks or months on a single product, you need a fresh pair (or three) of eyes to see what you can’t.
As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Morgan Freeman Finger Painting

I posted earlier about my love of Apple products. They are amazing, with slick user interfaces and great design.
One of the complaints of the first iPads was that they were great for consuming content but not for creating content. Steve Jobs wanted to change that, and with the explosion of app developers, this has changed. While it isn’t a full-fledged computer and there are things you simply can’t do that you can on a desktop model, there are still amazing things you can create on an iPad.
Take a look at this time lapse video. Artist Kyle Lambert created a portrait of Morgan Freeman using Procreate on the iPad Air. The app can record strokes which can be used later for playback. I believe Lambert said it took more than 200 hours and 285,000 brush strokes to complete. The painting was inspired by a photograph taken by Scott Gries.
As always, thanks for reading.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mobile Gamer

I don’t have a game console. No Wii, no PS3, no DS. I have my iPad and iPhone. I’m a mobile gamer.
For a while, I considered getting a console. The last one I had was a Playstation one. That’s right, I didn’t even upgrade to PS2. Just a lowly little Playstation. But I decided against buying one because I didn’t need another distraction in my life; I already watch TV and movies, and surf the Net too much as it is. I don’t need more things keeping me from writing, or making me play until the last minute before I absolutely must leave for work.
I like simple mobile games that don’t take too much time in a single sitting. I play Smurfs’s Villiage, Poko Pang, Valkyrie Crusade, and a few others. I use to play Candy Crush until I got too frustrated, and occasionally play Jewel Mania. Hidden object games are fun as well. I still play Angry Birds, and I have a lot of Garfield games.
I like looking for new games, and pursuing the Games category on the App Store. I usually don’t buy many, I look for free ones. I almost never do in-app purchases, although I have occasionally for Smurfs.
Mobile games are simple. fun, time wasters. I can’t get into massive online RPGs. Too time consuming and complicated. 
Are there games you enjoy, readers? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Where Have All The Good Intros Gone?

The TV landscape is changing all the time. Reality shows are taking over the airwaves and many shows are going to digital only. Even the way shows are being structured and presented is changing. Season-long arcs and serialized storytelling is becoming more prominent. Perhaps in the attempt to fit in more story time, a certain element of the show is being cut back: the opening theme and credit sequence.
I can barely recall a memorable opening theme song from a show in the last 10 years. It seems more and more shows are cutting back or completely removing an opening sequence. Arrow does a monologue and Lost had one of the worst, showing the title and about ten seconds of music. Whatever happened to memorable scores; like the openings from Star TrekThe Lone RangerThe Flash, and more? Opening sequences were an art in themselves, and often set up the tone and story for the series. I miss those things. 
Here is a list of ten of my favorite themes: The Flash, seaQuest DSV, Hercules, Jack Of All Trades, Cleopatra 2525, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Battlestar Galactica, The Big Bang Theory, Doctor Who, Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
I’d love to see the one minute intro make a comeback. How about you, readers? Any thoughts on the demise of the opening credit sequence? As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My Superpower

If I had a superpower, it would be super speed, like the Flash. I wouldn’t want telepathy, because people’s thoughts should be private. Mind control would be too much of a temptation to abuse. Flight is cool, but I’m scared of heights.
Super speed is useful in a very practical way. Obviously, I’d want to the ability to withstand the force such speed would generate, but it would be nice to be able to run everywhere faster than a car. You wouldn’t have to worry about being late, as it would take mere seconds to get around town. Preventing accidents like spills would be a snap with lightning-fast reflexes. Chores could get done in a snap, except for the ones depending on machines, like laundry. Imagine how many words you could write a day, if you were a novelist, if you could type like the Flash.
In the graphic novel Kingdom Come, the Flash’s power was always operating. He was stuck perceiving time in slow motion, like a movie stuck on 1/100th speed. In the 90s TV show, when the Flash ran, everything was a blur. I would want time to move normal for me, then slow down when I used my power. Sometimes there are things I’d like a longer time to look at, and it would be cool to speed up my brain so that everything seemed to happen slower. I could savor more details and experience the moment longer.
It would be wise to study up force and the effects of speed and acceleration. It might come in handy to prevent accidents related to super speed. And I’ll have to admit, I’m sure I’d use my power to play a few harmless practical jokes. As for becoming a superhero…
How about you, readers? What super power would you want? As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My Love Of Apple

I’m a Mac guy. Until I have kids. Then I’ll be a Mac daddy.
An incredibly lame joke, I know. I couldn’t resist. But I am a Mac fan. I have an iPad and an iPhone. Yoko and I share a MacBook, and she has an iPhone, iPad Mini, and an iPod. I’d love to get an iMac desktop model.
Macs were the first computers I used on a regular basis. One of my friends had a Windows or Dos computer (can’t remember which), and used it to play Oregon Trail and text-based RPGs. The school newspaper at Cody High School used Macs, way back on the System 7 OS. I joined the newspaper staff in my junior year and stayed until I graduated. I did page layout, using Adobe Pagemaker. It was my first experience using a computer for something other than classwork.
I later bought a refurbished iMac, back when they were in colors and egg-shaped. Macs are just easy to use. They are intuitive and designed well. I have never been a big computer fan, so having all sorts of options and upgrade features never really appealed to me. I just want a computer that works. I like that about Apple products. They just work.
The Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaccson talks about open and closed systems. Apple is closed, letting the manufacturer control the user experience. Microsoft is open, letting lots of different companies give options to the consumer. Both options have merits, but I like Apple’s system. The company is really in touch with customers and know how to blend art and technology.
I have faith Apple will continue to do well without Jobs. But I’ll miss him. I’ll always be a Mac guy.
Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Action Movie Cliches Part 2

While watching another movie the other day, I came across more movie cliches I don’t like.
Deadlines are an easy way to add tension to a story. After all, we face deadlines of one sort or another every day; like the start of work, assigned papers in college, or manuscript deadlines given by editors to writers. But when it comes to movies, I dislike the seasonal, and moon/sun/insert-celestial-body-here alignment. If the sacrifice or incantation has to be done at precisely the right time (and the hero usually knows this several days in advance) then really why battle them when all you have to do is stall them? And if the event lasts only seconds or minutes, it seems simply stalling the villains isn’t very heroic. It doesn’t feel like the hero really stopped them. Do you see what I’m getting at?
And if all this evilness is supposed to occur at a certain time, usually midnight, how is it every single clock and watch in the world is perfectly synchronized? Go into any building with more than two clocks and I’m sure they won’t match exactly. How about a movie where the hero fails because his watch was off by three minutes? And when is midnight? Is it Central Mountain Time? Greenwich Mean Time? If the man-beast transforms at the stroke of twelve, does it turn sooner or later if you take it to another time zone?
Another cliche is the evil creature/employee who turns good at the last moment when shown kindness earlier in the film. They also often come barreling in right when the hero or heroine is about to die. There is a lesson here, villains. Treat your minions with respect and they won’t turn on you.
Another one that bothers me is when direct sun/moonlight triggers something. Usually it is a transformation, like a werewolf, or something similar. Often, cloud cover reverses the effect. But really, if sunlight kills vampires, why are they okay in the shade, or somewhat dark buildings? Wouldn’t it sting even a little bit? This was somewhat averted in the Blade movies when they said UV light hurts vampires. If there is something special that is in sunlight that harms your creature, mention it. And don’t let cloud cover totally reverse the effect. If moonlight makes a werewolf, it will revert back to human as soon as he goes into a building. Just because the moon is covered doesn’t mean it isn’t there. If the rays are filtered, the effects should be filtered, not shown as an on/off effect.
There may be a part three to this post if I see any more cliches I don’t like. Do you have any that drive you nuts? Thanks for reading.

Friday, May 09, 2014

SAHH

What made you decide to be a SAHM, WAHM, working mom, etc?
I’d classify myself as a Stay At Home Husband, if I had to pick one. I don’t think I really am, since I have a part-time job. But maybe I am, in a sense. I usually don’t have to work until after 5pm, and then it is often less than five days a week.
There are many reasons for my choice. The biggest is that it’s difficult for foreigners to find jobs, even if they speak Japanese fluently. If they don’t speak like a native, their options are even more limited. Most foreigners here are either with the military or teachers. I was in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET Programme). After five years, it was mandatory that I leave the program. My job options were severely limited after that.
I took a couple of months off, then got a job. I promised my wife I’d work, even if it was limited. I wasn’t going to depend on her income. Finding a full-time job was almost impossible. As an aspiring (struggling?) writer, I also wanted some time to devote to my craft. Part-time work was the best. My job allows me to write during the day and work in the evenings.
Teachers in Japan work a lot. My wife often works 12-14 hour days. I feel the least I can do is take part of the household burden off her. I help clean, keep the house organized, vacuum, do the laundry, and the dishes. I did the cooking for a while, but Yoko and I have such very different tastes that it is just easier for her to cook dinner for us after work. But she has told me she appreciates all the little stuff I do to help run the house.
The arrangement has been good so far, giving me enough time to be a writer while also being a SAHH. 
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Drawing

An artistic talent you think about taking up or improving.
For quite a while I wanted to be a comic book artist. I took lessons at the Lion & Unicorn comic shop in Hoover, AL. My dad was an artist, mostly in pencil and pen and ink. He did portraits of country singers, like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. He was (and still is) very talented. Mom and I agree he really could have done something with it if he just had the motivation. He only did drawings occasionally and sold them for a lot less than he could have.
I’m largely a self-taught artist. I began by using tracing paper, copying photos and comic books. I then began changing the tracings, morphing the bodies into different shapes. Later, I began copying by eye, until I could eventually draw on my own. My favorite artists are: Jim Lee, Brett Booth, Rob Liefeld, and James Bama. Dad was even featured on a book about James Bama’s art.
Since becoming interested in Japanese culture, I’ve enjoyed manga, Japanese comics. The art style is completely different from American comics. One of my former students wants to be a comic artist (manga-ka) and she has the talent for it. Her work is outstanding.
I really wish i had kept up my drawing ability. I’ve stopped doing it since I’ve focused on writing. But maybe I should take it up again.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

2 Things Every Self-publisher Should Have

When I first self-published Adventure Hunters, I pretty much made every mistake a first-time author could make. I had no pre-launch promotion, almost no online presence outside of Facebook, a lousy cover, and no editor. It is the last two I want to talk about.
Self-publishing initially had a bad reputation.Part of it was because self-pubbing is easy. Write and upload. Unlike the movie and TV industry, there are no backstage shows detailing how a book is made. Novels don’t come with behind-the-scenes extras showcasing the writer struggling with a particular scene, or an editor brutally marking up the manuscript with a red pen. Most people think the book-making process is mysterious but at the same time easy. But that isn’t true. Sometimes books take years from inception to print. There are many steps in between.
Self-publishing and the digital revolution are changing a lot of that and taking out the middleman. In some cases, that is good. Some books that may never have seen the light of day with a trad publisher can be released. But one things that every trad published book had was an editor, and every self-pubbed book needs one as well.
Editing isn’t just about finding grammar and punctuation mistakes, of making sure it’s “They’re here” and not “Their here.” It is about content and story and character. It’s about making sure there are no plot holes, that the characters are believable, and that the story is smooth and consistent. It’s about making the novel the best it can be. In the music business, you wouldn’t put out a CD if you never practiced the songs. Hours of rehearsal and fine tuning go into the finished product. Why should you put out a book that hasn’t been through the same process? That’s what editors are: they are the producers who go through the work and try to coax it into being the best thing it can be.
The old saying “Never judge a book by its cover” seems to apply to everythingexcept books. Books are judged by their covers. It is the first thing readers see on the shelves, both the virtual and physical kinds. It makes an impact. The cover must be good enough to make them want to pick up the book. They may not buy it; maybe the blurb was boring or it just didn’t suit their tastes, or the book is too expensive. But if the cover got them to pick it up and at least look at it, then it served its purpose.
If the cover needs to look professional, then it needs to be done by a professional. There are websites devoted to terrible book covers. As an author, do you want your book there? It’s the literary equivalent of the Razzie Awards. And in this case, the original creator doesn’t always know best. Just because you can create the language of the Dark Elves doesn’t mean you know anything about cover design and composition. Give your ideas to a designer and let the professional work.
These two people, editors and cover artists/designers, are expensive. I know that, which is why I didn’t hire either of them for Adventure Hunters. I suffered for it. My sales have been dismal. But I’m getting a second chance with a pro editor and a pro cover designer. It may hurt you financially in the short run, but it will pay in the long run. Along with a writing schedule, try setting up a writer’s saving account. Put in a little bit of money whenever you can to hire editors and cover artists. Look at the other entertainment businesses. Would you buy a CD with a hand drawn cover and unrehearsed songs? How about a movie with a Photoshop cover and unedited material? If you’re unlikely to buy such a product, so are your potential customers.
Put something out you can be proud of.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Action Movie Cliches

I was watching the episode “The Lazarus Experiment” of Doctor Who. The main villain was played by Mark Gatiss, of Sherlock fame. At one point in the episode, he rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck. It was a cliche I hate in movies and TV shows. It is most prevalent in a action movies, I think. Usually the main character is about to go into battle, and to loosen up, their neck makes a cracking sound. Drives me crazy. There are a few other action movie cliches I dislike.
Final fights in the rain - Most of the time, rain has no place in stories. This cliche goes along with the ‘sad scene/funeral in the rain’, which I hate too. Unless the weather is directly involved in the story, most of the time these spontaneous rainstorms are frivolous. It worked in Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla. The reporter said it would rain all weekend, people commented on it, and it was fairly constant and consistent. Rain was unnecessary at the end of The Matrix Revolutions. Besides a few cool shots, the water was pointless. Fight rain usually does nothing to add an obstacle to the hero’s journey. 
The sidekick/minor character gets the final shot/killing blow - This happened inDie Hard, another-wise perfect action film. After killing Hans Gruber and reuniting with Holly, John McClane is about to go home. Up pops the supposedly-dead terrorist for one last gun blast. Is it McClane that puts a bullet in him? Is it the hero who has been shot at, beaten up, forced to remove glass from his feet, and ruined a white shirt? No. It was patrol officer Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) who kills him. If he gets the final shot, then why wasn’t he the hero of the movie. In The Dark Knight Rises, Selena Kyle killed Bane, which I was really disappointed with. And her bad joke. The entire setup of the movie was Bane versus Batman. He should have had the killing blow, not Catwoman. I have no problem with the sidekick helping the hero. I just hate it when they come in at the last minute. It always seems to me the writers wrote themselves into a corner and couldn’t figure out how to save the hero.
I’m sure there are plenty more I’m forgetting about but those are my major peeves. How about you, readers? What movie cliches do you hate? As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Once I Started...



Why did you start blogging?
That’s a fairly easy prompt to answer. I first started blogging in connection with being an author. I used it as a marketing tool to get my name out there and help promote the first edition of Adventure Hunters. (FYI, the second edition will eventually be published by Mountain Springs House). 
I keep doing it because it is fun. It’s hard finding new topics to write about, especially on a daily basis. I went months on my original platform without anything, then came back to it. I tried blogging once a week, but most social media experts say at least three times a week is good. I’m proud of the fact I have had 32 posts so far this year. I’m not sure if I can keep up this pace, but I’ll try.
I’ve enjoyed blogging much more than I thought I would. It’s fun, especially for people who have a strong interest or skill set. It is a great way to impart knowledge, give your opinions, rant (as long as it isn’t hateful or spiteful), and share your passions. It’s nice when someone ‘Likes’ your post, comments, or, the Golden Snitch, thinks what you have written is valuable enough to be shared and reposted somewhere else. (I haven’t got there quite yet).
Any fellow bloggers out there? Why did you start writing? Thanks for reading.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Canceled TV Shows

BRING IT BACK!! Have you ever screamed those words at TV networks when you heard your favorite show was getting canceled? I think everyone has at one point or another. Some lament the fact, then move on. Others  email the TV execs and start online petitions to return the show to the air. I usually believe such power is out of my hands and just try to enjoy the episodes that were. But here are a few of the canceled shows I enjoyed and  wish would return in one form or another.
Small Wonder - not many people remember this 80s show. It was campy but fun. The story revolved around V.I.C.I, a robot built to look like a ten year old girl. The inventor keeps her at home and tries to pass her off as a real girl. Domestic hilarity ensues. It lasted a few seasons but didn’t reach its full potential. This is a show that I think could be remade for today’s audience. With the technological growth spurt lately, a look at what it means to be human, done with a light touch, could work.
Cleopatra 2525 - One of my all time favorite shows. High on style, it didn’t take itself too seriously. From the team behind Xena and Hercules, it was a nice action-packed break from serious SF. 
Jack Of All Trades - I’ve watched all of this show, along with The Adventures Of Brisco County Jr. I prefer Jack. Stars Bruce Campbell. That’s all you need to know. And the greatest opening theme song ever.
The Flash - The most expensive show on the air at the time (one million dollars per episode), it is getting new life as a spin-off of Arrow. I’m looking forward to it. The original had a classic opening theme by Danny Elfman.
American Gothic - CBS didn’t know what to do with this one. Gary Cole plays the Devil who is the sheriff (and corruptor?) of a small town. He is attempting to persuade his son to join him. Not quite a horror show but not quite a straight drama. Lucas Buck is one of my all-time favorite villains. 
What shows do you miss? As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Do I Love Me?

Do you love yourself, as is? Do you wish you were more comfortable in your own skin?
I’m not trying to brag, but I think I’m an okay guy. I try to be kind to my fellow man, accept people who are different than me, and live the best life I know how. But if there is something I am uncomfortable with about myself, it is a lack of self-motivation.
I’m a big procrastinator. Always have been. That ties in to motivation. I believe I could accomplish more if I just put in a little more ‘oomph.’ But I don’t. Learning Japanese is one of them. I’ve been here for six years and barely speak it. Most of it is because my wife speaks very good English and is able to translate stuff for me, and I work as an English teacher where speaking Japanese is discouraged. The students need to hear native English.
Motivation also ties into time management. It is amazing how much time I waste. Almost every morning I have a list of things I will do. Maybe a quarter get done. It isn’t because I run out of time, I just end up wasting too much time doing meaningless crap. I’m trying to manage my time better, but it is an uphill battle.
But the question was: do you love yourself? For the most part, yes. I have things I need to work on, but now at 36 years old, I’m learning this is who I am. I’ll strive to improve, everyone does, but I’d rate my happiness with myself at 80%.