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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!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ukiyo-e

Sunday, Yoko and I went to a ukiyo-e exhibit at the Yamaguchi Museum of Art in Yamaguchi City. It was amazing to see the original works of pictures I have only seen in prints. I couldn’t believe that some of these were more than 300 years old.

Ukiyo-e means ‘pictures of the floating world’ and became popular in the 17th century. They aren’t drawings or traditional paintings, they are woodblock prints. Three people were often involved in the process: the artist who designed the print, the woodcutter who craved the wood, and the painter who inked and pressed the blocks onto paper. The most famous ukiyo-e print is Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Hokusai. I was delighted that I could see the actual original and not a reproduction.

These prints of the 17th century were aimed at the merchant class, who were experiencing great growth due to the Edo period’s rising economy. Common themes were of travel and scenery, beautiful women, plants and animals, and famous actors and sumo wrestlers. The actor and sumo wrestlers pictures were interesting, in that they are basically ancient versions of today’s pop star posters and trading cards. A ukiyo-e depicting famous actors in a play is like today’s movie posters.

There were many different styles represented. Some artists were bold and colorful, some vague and monochromatic. Some of the details were amazing, especially the depiction of kimono patterns. Looking at Hokusai’s sketchbook, I was amazed at the level of detail he did. It reminded me of comic artist George Perez, who was famous for squeezing as much detail as he could into backgrounds and such.

These works are housed at museums all around the world; I feel very fortunate I was able to see such an eclectic and historical gathering all in one place.
Ukiyo-e coffee at the museum cafe

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sequart

I’m now contributing to the site Sequart.org  It is devoted to promoting comic books (aka SEQUential ART) as a storytelling and visual art form. While the focus is on comics, many of the articles also focus on movies and geek culture. This isn’t necessarily a news site or a ‘what’s cool now’ site. Sequart tries to get below the surface and analyze comics from a multitude of angles. They also produce documentaries about comics and the people who make them. I highly recommend The Image Revolution documentary.

My article dealt with the much maligned film Green Lantern and how I felt its greatest flaw was a pair of weak villains. Check it out at the link below and leave comments.

http://sequart.org/magazine/43821/green-lantern-how-not-to-write-a-comic-book-movie-supervillain/

Monday, June 09, 2014

Book Review: Moonlight, Murder, and Machinery by John Paul Catton

This book is a alternate history/steampunk novel from the author of Voice Of The Sword. Here is the official synopsis from Goodreads: "Mary Godwin has a recurring dream of a young man and falls in love with him. She eventually meets him in real life. It sounds perfect - but the young man is one of His Majesty's Geomancers, and in the dream, she sees him shot dead in the line of duty... This is the year 1814 in the nation of Nova Albion, a land governed by Druidic law, powered by telluric energy from the national grid of standing stones, and under constant threat from the forces of the Thermidorian Convention across the Channel. Master Shelley is the youngest recruit to HMG, King James IV's counter-intelligence unit, and now the object of Mary's affections. He wants her to stay out of danger, but she wants him to stay alive - as he faces enemies of the Crown such as the highwayman Billy Barebones, the grotesque experiments of Dr. Andrew Ravenhill, and the shadowy agents of the Dodecahedron. Can Mary stop the events foretold in her nightmare from happening? Moonlight, Murder & Machinery is a Gothic re-imagining of the Frankenstein story, set in a Steampunk Regency England - where Steam has been outlawed 

I enjoyed this book for the world building and mystery. Nova Albion and the world it inhabits was well thought out and detailed. With out getting too technical or overly descriptive, Catton was able to explain how things worked. This was somewhat surprising to me. In an old world that is married to today’s technology, I thought the explanations would be boring or silly. But they made sense and seemed plausible. The environs of London and York were vivid. As an American, I wish I had known more landmarks, it would have been interesting to see how Catton’s London compared to real London.

 The characters were unique and well-rounded (I loved that Americans were called Colonials), and the monsters were creepy, as they should be. If I had one problem, it would be the romance between Shelley and Mary. I had no problem with Mary and Shelley themselves, but it seemed their blooming romance was very platonic. This may be because the two spend very little time together on the same page. After Mary identifies Shelley from her nightmares, she becomes quite concerned for his safety. She seems to fall in love with him, but when they are together, they act very proper. Shelley seems concerned for Mary when she gets in trouble, but it feels like military concern for a citizen, not a possible romantic partner. The dual story lines: Mary trying to understand her dreams, and Shelley’s investigations of the mysterious occurrences, don’t overlap until near the end. I’d like to have seen more time with the two together.

I’d like to see a sequel to this book, as there is a continuing war with the Thermidorians in France and enough solid world building to be engaging. This was an enjoyable read for an alternate history take on Frankenstein.

Click to purchase it on Amazon.

Check out other works by John Paul Catton.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Blog Tour - Queen Of The Loch

Today’s post comes from my friend Elizabeth Delana Rosa. Her newest novel will be released soon, and I’m helping with her blog tour. Her guest post is about book covers and I hope you’ll enjoy it. If you like what you see, support Elizabeth by buying Queen Of The Loch at your favorite book vendor and leaving her a review.

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About the Book:

COMING JUNE 13, 2014

Cover completeTitle:  Queen of the Loch

Series:  Children of the Loch Saga

Author:   Elizabeth Delana Rosa

Published:  Expected publishing June 13th, 2014

Word Count:  Approximately 42,000

Genre:  YA Paranormal

Synopsis:

Nineteen year old, Jaelyn Adena McDonnell, known as J.J. to all, just found out she is not who she thought she was. On her twentieth birthday, a handsome man shows up on her porch with a marriage edict and news that the grandfather she has never met, has died. Her world is about to change forever. J.J. must make the perilous journey to the Loch and take her place on its throne. With no idea, what is expected of her and dark forces closing in at every turn, will J.J. be able to accept her destiny or will she be stopped her before she can? Come join this first person account of a young woman’s journey to finding herself and those she meets along the way. Previously released as a free novella named Child of the Loch, this is a completely new novel based on the same premise with new characters, renamed characters and completely revamped story-line. The novella has stayed in the top 20 of Christian Fantasy and Science fiction Free Kindle since its publishing date in November of 2013. The expected publishing date is June 13, 2014. While it maintains a great level of clean reading and it references a faith, it is in no way preachy.

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Cover Art from Start to Finish…

When doing a cover, you first must identify the character. My character of choice was Jaelyn, I spent time searching through a variety of pictures from www.canstockphoto.com and found the perfect one, but she needed work.

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I trolled the internet’s vast collection flames, scars and plugged them into Photoshop. It’s important that all the elements come together.

[caption id="attachment_3187" align="alignleft" width="209"]Flame_STOCK_by_stuff_stock ©2010-2014 stuff-stock flame[/caption]

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Finally, I touched up the Color and added the lighting and Font. I won’t go into all I did but I will share the evolution of the cover with you.

13634963 Book cover COL Front Cover Final

 These covers are for the Novella. I released it twice but re-covered it 3 times.


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Bio:

Elizabeth Delana Rosa has always been a writer. When she first learned to write in Kindergarten, she wrote about pigs who “groo” wings and became “butterfys.” Elizabeth knew way back then that she would have a love affair with writing. It overtook her life and has been a constant companion. Now over 20 years later, that love flows over into writing blogs, reviews, poetry and fantasy novels. Lastly Elizabeth is a big nerd. She loves Fantasy, YA, Paranormal Romance, and Sci-Fi books. Her dream is to promote Authors and help them reach the highest level of Success, while writing her own YA and NA Fantasy Novels. She often says,

 I hope that my stories connect with people of all ages, genders and races. All it takes is a good story to unite people who wouldn't normally be on the same side.

Follow Elizabeth on Social Media:

Google+Author DB Service ListingAuthor DB Author ListingBook BlogsGoodreadsTumblrLinkedinPinterestLike Me on FacebookTwitterElizabeth on Stumbled UponChild of the Loch YoutubeKloutEmail Elizabeth

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Sauce And Salad Approach

I don't like Japanese food very much. That may be a shock to my readers, considering many of you know I live in Japan. And authentic, real-life Japanese food is very different from what is labeled Japanese food in America.

Sometimes my friends ask me how Japanese food is different from American cuisine. I often answer by stating what there isn't in Japan; like turkey, cold cuts, and chili. Most people understand that every country has different ingredients. But there was more to it than that and it took me a while to figure it out. So, I came up with the Sauce vs. Salad approach.

These two are a metaphor for how American and Japanese food are different. Bear with me on this. American food is Sauce. I don't mean it uses a lot of sauce for cooking, but the American style of cooking is like a sauce. Sauces bring together many different ingredients to create a new flavor. You combine tomatoes, herbs, spices, and other foods that, when finished, don't taste like one particular thing. The sauce doesn't entirely taste like tomatoes or herbs or spices. It is something new combined from all the ingredients. I think casseroles are a good example of this: many things coming together to create a new taste.

Japanese cooking uses the Salad approach. In salads, many items are brought together but retain their individual flavors. When you get a forkful of lettuce and tomatoes, you are going to taste the lettuce and tomatoes in equal measure. They are together, but not combined. They are their own flavors. Japanese cooking is like that. Dishes are made to enhance the natural flavor of the main dish. Tempura is great example. Although it is a fried coating, like fried chicken, the coating itself is flavorless and light. It is used to compliment the shrimp or pumpkin or whatever it is covering. The main taste isn't the tempura coating, it's the food itself. Dipping sauces and coatings are used to compliment the main ingredients. Thus, it is like a salad: many ingredients together maintaining their own flavor.

Which means, at least for me, many dishes taste the same in Japanese cooking. If you have five dishes that have shrimp as the main ingredient, and the goal is to enhance, not coverup or change the flavor, then you will get five dishes that taste like shrimp. Every food has a strong presence of the main ingredient. Since I am not a big seafood and vegetable fan, that limits a lot of Japanese food I like.

Most of the foreigners I've met in Japan fall into two groups: they love Japanese food or hate it. I'm in the middle. I'll eat it, but I prefer American food.

I hope my readers have found this post informative. Leave comments if you have them. As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

A Three-Year Adventure

After almost three years, I feel Adventure Hunters: Similitude, my debut fantasy novel, is finished. While it took nearly seven years from idea to printed form, it has taken almost three years to get to the point where I have to let it go and have it live on its own.

As many of my constant readers know, this book was originally published in 2012, and only in ebook form. It did ok, I got a few sales and a couple of reviews. Quite a few sample downloads on Smashwords, but nothing spectacular sales-wise. After I signed with Mountain Springs House, the book was rewritten, edited, and given a new cover and subtitle. But after numerous delays and other difficulties with MSH, which pushed back publication by almost a year, I left the company and re-released my book.

The first edition was only available as an ebook. This time, I have gone through CreateSpace and made a paperback version. The first time I held the proof copy in my hands, I was so excited. I did my geeky happy author dance. After correcting the errors I had found, and reviewing a second proof, I hit the “approve” button and sent the paperback version out into the market.

I feel that I can finally let go of this piece and move on. Of course I have been writing other novels, like the upcoming Zero Sum Game, but Similitude has felt that it was always on the back burner, trying to get out. Now I can move forward. I will always be marketing and promoting it, but there will not be any more changes or editions. I feel it is finished and needs to stand on its own. I wish it the best of luck.

If you read it, please leave a review at your favorite site, on the Similitude Facebook Page, or on this blog. The adventures of Artorius, Regina, and Lisa aren’t over quite yet. You’ll be seeing them again.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

A Media Tie-In Author

Being an author is great. And one of the greatest aspects of it is building your own worlds. In your stories, characters can do whatever you want them to do. You set the rules.
But you have to make all those rules, and sometimes it is nice to play in someone else’s sandbox. Many authors do this, writing books set in a franchise’s universe. This is called media tie-in. All those Star Trek, Star Wars, Resident Evil, and World Of Warcraft novels? All media tie-ins.
It can be quite a lucrative career if you’re good at it. If the property is popular, it can mean steady work. Sometimes I’d like to unburden myself with having to think out every detail and play by someone else’s rules. 
Here are a few franchises I’d like to write novels in, if I ever got the chance.
Star Trek. Pretty much a no-brainer, as I am a Trekkie. Either Enterprise era, a John Harriman Enterprise-B novel, or post-Nemesis.
Sukeban Deka. A Japanese franchise about a high school girl who works undercover for the police. Her weapon is a super powered yo-yo. Sounds like fun.
Silent Mobius. A favorite anime of mine. Some great SF.
Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040. Girls in battle suits fighting monsters.
Steel Angel Kurumi. My favorite anime. Not sure if I have the humor for it, but I’d try.
Star Wars. So many possibilities.
Batman movie universe. Novels set in any of the movie universes would be fun. I’d like to see Robin John Blake’s adventures after The Dark Knight Rises. Shumacher’s version would be a fun over-the-top universe to write in. The Tim Burton series is a nice mixture of the other two.
Are there any movies or TV shows you wished continued on in print form? Please comment and thanks for reading.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Album Review: Bad For Good by Jim Steinman

You may not know songwriter Jim Steinman’s name, but you know his music. "I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)," "Paradise By The Dashboard Lights," "Total Eclipse Of The Heart." Bat Out Of Hell is the number two selling album of all time and the only top ten album written completely by one person. His most successful collaboration has been with Meat Loaf, but he has also worked with Bonnie Tyler, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and many more.

After the success of Bat Out Of Hell, Meat Loaf and Steinman were working together on a follow-up. Meat Loaf lost his voice, and Steinman himself recorded the album. Many of the tracks on this album would be rerecorded later by Meat Loaf and other artists.

I love Jim Steinman’s work. His Wagnerian rock sound is so powerful, and his lyrics spellbounding. But while he’s a great songwriter, he isn't a great singer. I don’t really fault him. He doesn’t have a bad voice. Softer songs, like "Surf’s Up,” demonstrate this. It is just that his voice doesn’t match his songs. Steinman’s powerful songs require powerful voices, like Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler’s. His music needs the Wagnerian operatic vocals to convey the power of his songs. Bad For Good delivers the rock, but not the Wagner. At least, not vocally.

This album has grown on me the more I listen to it. Not all songs have been rerecorded, so this is the only place to find them. "Dance In My Pants" recalls the "duet of the sexes" of "Paradise By The Dashboard Lights" and is a fun, and funny, song. The title track is my favorite. "Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through" is a testament to the power of music

I'd recommend the Meat Loaf versions of the songs on this album, but if you like Steinman’s music, check this one out.