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Saturday, May 26, 2012

My Pipe Dream

Four years ago I started writing a short story for an upcoming fiction contest. The contest was to be held by Alderac Entertainment Group, specifically in the Legend of the Five Rings game. By the time the contest came around, my story was way to long to fit into their word count. I tried to condense it, that didn't work. So, I tried just sending in the first part that added up to their maximum. It didn't win, and I can understand. It was an incomplete fiction, just an introduction basically. I left it alone for a while, but the fiction kept running around in my head. I wanted to continue telling my characters story. I decided to pick it back up and continue with the next parts.

I have been playing Legend of the Five Rings for a long time now. One aspect of the game that intrigues me is that the game's central story is influenced by the actions of the players. Mostly through tournament wins, but also through side events and special situations, players have created characters, started wars, ended wars, and ultimately moved the main storyline in unique directions. As a long time CCG player, the idea of being able to have that kind of influence on the game really compels me. One small problem though, I am not good enough. I haven't won the ability to have that kind of impact, and I haven't been anywhere that I could partake of side events that would give me the opportunity. So, my goal has yet to be realized.

Knowing that I have little chance to win my way into this, I almost gave up altogether. But, I decided to give it one last try. I may not be the worlds greatest card player, but I am a decent author. I pulled out that semi-short story and fleshed it out. Then I went on with the storyline I had crafted to grow the characters and events. If I was going to create a character, I wanted to give him a life, a story. I wanted to make the readers want to know him, follow him, cheer for him, cry for him, laugh with him.

As I said, Legend of the Five Rings already has a pretty intense storyline. Crafted to cover an entire land, this game includes a role playing game that has helped develop the intricacies of Rokugans society. So, to keep it within reason for the players, I contacted the games head story writer with questions. He is a very nice person who is very willing to help, when he isn't chasing around his young son or teaching school. I also used many of their RPG books and a website for the RPG players to maintain the integrity of the storyline. I took a few liberties, and beefed up the characters of a few of the notable people of the main storyline. But, I tried my best to keep it believable.

While I wrote the story, I drew my character. The half lion half man person that you have often seen with my stuff, that's him. Asahina Miyagi, aka Ashinaga. I drew him to see him, to know about him while I wrote. Then, I started to draw him in the situations from the stories. I love to draw, and I do often, ( as seen in my previous posts) so this was not a difficult thing for me to do between writings.

So, after I finished the two stories and the character art, I decided it was time to present my proposal for a character. In my over-do-it fashion, I found good paper that looked like rice paper and printed out the stories with the art placed amongst the writing. It took me three days to slowly print it out with the right font and making sure the art came through looking good. I even had to sit back and do some hands on touch up of the art itself to make it come through alright. I boxed that up with a letter, and sent it off to AEG. Now it was time to wait.

I never got a response. I contact them, they had no idea what I was talking about. I contacted the head writer, he visited their head office, but did not find the box. I have no idea where it ended up, but it is lost to the void. I felt crushed. It was like the world simply doesn't want me to succeed.

After some time considering my options, I decided to simply post the story on the fan fiction forum, within the Forums for the game. To me it was more than fan fiction, but that is about all I could do. It has had many views, and I hope that a few people have enjoyed it. I still hope for the chance to craft my own character that sees print, but my hopes have dwindled. Right now, my sincerest hope is that someone liked what I wrote. That is, after all, the core hope that I have always had as an author. If you are interested, take a look. I remind you, without knowledge of the game, it will probably not make much sense.

The story is incomplete. Yes, it is a cliff hanger, don't kill me please. The final parts of this story will be rather intense to write. It will take time and a lot of effort. If the response to this is lackluster to nil, I won't see the reason to write it. In fact, my hopes were to have the storyteam help me write it, so that I am sure that it is within the reality of the game. Unfortunately, I have lived a life of pipe dreams and am trying to break that habit.

As a final bit of fun, I decided to make a video using the pictures I drew and some of the art from the game. It is the conclusion to the last bit of story I wrote.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Art

I love to draw. When I was younger, my father was a pastor in a small church outside of Stillwater Oklahoma. Being an ADD child, I needed something to do with my hands. So, I sat in the back of the church and drew. It really didn’t matter what I drew, so long as I had something to do.
                When I was in high school, an art teacher taught me about shading. That helped me understand drawing a little better. From there, I started to draw more. As I have mentioned before, I like to draw my characters. It helps me know them better, write their story better, and ultimately, understand them better. Sometimes the drawing tells the story, sometimes the drawing is done after the storey is written. Sometimes, the drawing is a humorous aside from the base story.
                In 1989 the Nation Geographic did a full article about the restoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. I was fascinated by the art. No, it wasn’t the naked ladies that interested me, it was the way that this man was able to paint people and make them look so real. Consider that I was seven at the time. From there, I became a fan of Michelangelo. My mother entered college when I was in first grade. She started in music, but eventually got into art history. That gave me a chance to learn more about art history and the art itself. I always wanted to draw, perhaps even paint like my favorite artist, Michelangelo.  To this day, I still cannot paint (other than walls), but I am always trying to improve my drawing.  
Yu: Courage: This was a piece I did for a Christmas gift. The piece is three feet tall, one of my biggest pieces.

Over the Great Wall: This is a piece I drew for a story I have been posting on the Legend of the Five Rings forum. It was drawn after the story was written, thus this did not drive the story, the story drove the image. It was drawn in one evening.
 Summer Fun: This is yet another type of drawing. It really contains two different things. One, the humor I like to play around with with my characters. Second, it was a request by the model who wanted to be drawn as a big cat. The character in this image is from a pseudo Japanese culture. A friend saw another image where he is wearing board shorts and said, '' if he is supposed to be from Japan, he would wear speedos" So, here he is.

A little about requests: I have done many drawings for people who wanted me to draw them as a character. They are the model in the picture, posing for me and letting me draw them. They get a furrier image of themselves, I get a new piece for my stories. I don't open this up for anyone, just those that contact me through a friend who is also a photographer. I am afraid that I don't have the talent or time to take all the requests that would come in if I threw that floodgate open.

One last note: I post my drawings for the same reason that I want to publish my books. I wanted to use my talents to make people happy, to give them something to enjoy. Artist have traditionally made life more colorful, happy, interesting, and altogether fun. Of course, earning a living is a nice side effect, but at this time, I doubt that is going to happen anytime soon. So, for now, enjoy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Embroidery

This is a doodle piece I did on monocanvass
As many of you should know by now, my current novel has a theme of stitching in it. The Crystal Needle, the actual needle itself is for embroidery. In the book it is a magical tool of incredible power that has only one equal, the Obsidian needle. If you want to learn more, read the book.

I didn't just come to the idea of stitching by chance, I have been stitching since I was young. As a baby, I didn't do much of the crawling. I was a get up and go kind of kid. This meant several things; I ran into a lot of walls, I was always being chased by mom or dad or both, and I did not learn some of the basic motor skills that children learn at this stage. You may not know this, but the stage where a child is crawling and using his/her fingers a lot is the stage that they begin to refine the skills that will help them develop hand coordination. Tying shoes was a challenge, as well as other small fingering skills. This was a serious problem because both my brother and I had this issue. Luckily a doctor informed my mother than teaching us to stitch could help develop those skills. So, by the time I was in Kindergarten, I was stitching. Plastic canvass and yarn were my first tools of the trade. By the time I was in second grade, I was beating my own mother at the county Fair's arts and crafts contests.

My brother did not carry on with his stitching and I dropped it for a few years. But, once we moved to East Tennessee, we got back into the craft. Mom more so that I, but we both realized that the love of stitching was still in us. So, we joined the Embroiderers Guild of America and have not stopped stitching since. One of our friends likes to say that this is the only legal needle addiction out there.
This is a dragon pattern that I altered and stitched using basket weave.
This is the same dragon pattern, in progress, done on linen fabric with a cross stitch


Mom is much more advanced that I, but I am learning. I am good at what I do, which is cross stitch and basket weave (which is a type of stitch.) .
I have told this story before, but I think it is a good way to help understand my new book. Back a couple years ago, our EGA announced that its regional conventions theme the next year would be Magic Stitching. Their ideas were more along the lines of stage magic; top hats, bunnies, Vegas style of stuff. But, it did get me thinking. I had wanted to incorporate embroidery into my stories and this was a prime opportunity. So, I set out to write a fantasy that would bring stitching and magic together. The story would not be solely about stitching, but it would be a major part of it. Thus was created the stitching witches and their magic needles. Once I had a location, a few characters, and some back story for the people, I just let it grow on its own. Then was born The Crystal Needle. You do not have to be a devoted stitcher to like the story, in fact you really don't have to understand much about embroidery to enjoy it. But, I do hope that those who read it will explore some of the concepts mentioned and learn about one of the oldest arts in the world.

The stitching has inspired the story. This piece above is one that my mother did a number of years ago. In fact, it has been hanging in my house as long as I can remember. It won her several awards and is an incredible piece to look at in person. This is what inspired my book to begin with. At the very end, when Elsabethe mentions that there is a map that must be found, this was the map that inspired that. Oh, and yes, that is all cross stitch by hand.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thanks.



Recently I posted a need on a Facebook page for indie authors. I needed reviews of my book and I was not getting any. I wanted them to be legit, no one just being nice and 'reviewing' the book with a false statement. I was pleased at the response. With a great big help from a friend, Wendy Siefken who is also an indie author, I got a bunch of people who took free copies of the book to read and review. Some haven't finished yet, or at least they have not posted a review yet. But, I did have a few who have and they were very nice reviews. They did exactly what I wanted, they reviewed the content with precise knowledge of the book and with personal opinions that reflect what they liked and why others might enjoy the book.

I cannot explain in words how good it feels to know that someone enjoys my work. I hope that their reviews will encourage other like-minded readers to pick up the book and read it. I did not write it for a few, but for many. Now, it is not just my word about my book being worth reading, but others who enjoy this type of book.

Thanks to everyone who helped out. It really made me feel better when I needed the encouragement.

I can say that I have not had a bad review of the book. And, unfortunately, I expect that sooner or later I will have one of the random review trolls show up to give my book a low rating and a scathing review for the sake of being mean. More than one author can tell the story of the person or persons who felt the need to spread random acts of unkindness. I hope that these trolls leave me alone, but there is little I can do to stop them if they decide to pounce.

What I can say is that I have written another novel recently. That novel was reviewed by a book club and they tore it apart. I felt that some of what they had to say had merit, whereas there was some stuff that was wrong. I smiled through it and did not lash out at them, as I was the one who asked them to give me their opinions. But, unfortunately it did leave me feeling rather bad. It was like my writers soul was crushed. So, as you can imagine, a few kind words really were a refreshing spring breeze.

And, yes, I have experienced the soul crushing, anger inducing, unfair attacks by trolls. My first novel was reviewed by several people, or really one person posing again and again under different alias'. I understand that the book needs some more work and that my publisher did not do me right by publishing it without really giving the editing it needed. But, the story is still sound and the attacks were overly cruel. What this person did to me left me scared to even try again for a few years. In fact when I finally decided to try and get my current novel published, I had a really hard time working through the fear of being attacked. To this day, I get a cold sweat and trembling stomach each time I look to see if any new reviews have shown up. So you can understand why seeing honest, good reviews effects me so. It isn't an ego booster, it is a justification in me that I am not as bad as I felt about myself for a long time.

So, I will say again, thank you to those who took their time to read my book and write the review. I know that there are millions of books out there that you have waiting to be reviewed. Taking the time to do mine was very nice of you.

For anyone who is scratching his/her head and asking, ''What book is he talking about?", here is a shameless plug. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0069DS694

L5R: Tsuruko's Journal

I have added quite a bit to the Tsuruko's Journal story on the L5R forum. If you are a Legend of the Five Rings player who enjoys the story, you might enjoy this one. If you have any questions about it, pleast post them here and I will try to answer them. Enjoy the read.

http://www.alderac.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=142&t=96881&start=25