"Welcome to Japan, folks. The local time is . . . tomorrow."
- from 30 Minutes Over Tokyo, The Simpsons, Season 10

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Weekends in Japan

Apparently, I haven't updated in a while. Oh well, here goes. This one's cross-posted at the Den of Shadows. For some reason, I have this habit of reading that message board, writing something, and then thinking, hey, I should post this at my blog.

Anyway, here's my weekend in Japan, and why I don't get as much work done on the weekends as I should.

While I haven't finished my synopsis yet, what with going to two different shrines so my husband could take pictures of the falling cherry blossoms and continuing with our weekend hobby of renting really bad movies. (And since there might be a sale at the rental place we might go back to get more today. Bad movies for 80 yen, how can you go wrong? Seriously, it's a bad thing. Because some of them are really, really bad. It's even worse when the Japanese covers make them look like they might actually be quality. Anyway. I'm thinking about starting a bad movie review blog so others can share my pain. Actually, I should say that I find watching bad movies to be fun, pain and all.)

On the plus side, I found a problem with the first draft of my story, and a fairly easy way to fix it. Originally I had my character get on this spaceship and then find out the the assignment she's supposed to do will also be using this spaceship. In other words, it was all very convenient. So when I was writing about this in my synopsis today, I was like, Well that doesn't make any sense. That's sort of convenient, don't ya think? But luckily I picked up on it so I can fix in my manuscript. And have her get on the ship because of the investigation she does before she gets on the ship. (Rather than staying on the ship because of the investigation she does while she's on the ship.)

Break time's over. I need to get back to writing my synopsis. (The sooner I get it done, the sooner I can go rent more bad movies for 80 yen. Yay!)

Actually another non-writing little rant, just because it'll interfere with my writing time. Why does it always seem to be bright and sunny and hot on the days I decide not to do laundry, but cool and drizzling on the days I decide to do laundry? (Also known as why can't the Japanese have dryers so I don't need to hang my clothes on the line. Seriously, you begin to appreciate the little things in American culture - like dryers and how simple it is to do laundry - when you live in Japan. But then, in America, you don't get random Japanese guys walking by your apartment and shouting, "Yo!" or "Bye-bye!" because they are the only two things they know in English. -- Okay, mini-rant over now.)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Angel Love, Demon Love Snippet 2

Here's another small snippet of Angel Love, Demon Love (cross-posted at the Den of Shadows message board). The location was a dead city.

Cortillya had never understood what her mother meant. Even if she had, she would have ignored her mother's warnings about The City being dead, and traipsed down there to visit Xander anyway.

But now she looked upon the city with a different light. After living with the demons, Cortillya knows that her mother's words could never be more true. The City was dead. Not only that, it was like all the humans who continued to live in The City had the very essence that made them humans sucked out of them until they were nothing more than empty vessels imitating life.

She finally understood why it was so important to save the humans, even when they didn't want to be saved themselves. Only one question remained. Was it too late to save the humans even if it was too late to save herself?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sentance Sunday - Kitsune, chapter 2, page 2

Here's an excerpt from page 2 of Kitsune, Chapter 2: Followed.

Background: After kicking an old friend out of her hotel room, Sombra Alara learns that someone is following her, and she's not one for sticking around.

Well, here it is.

I painted the stylized black and red lines of a butterfly on my face--my mask--then wrapped it in an illusion. Only those who could see through illusions would be able to see it, and I hadn’t met anyone like that.

Needing a disguise, I pulled the fishnet stockings, the micromini, and the sheer top from my bag and changed. As I zipped my boots, they lengthened to my thighs. I illusioned my long red and black-tipped hair to blonde and emphasized my Caucasoid features over my Mongoloid ones and changed my eyes to violet. Lastly, I picked up my bag, which now looked like a tiny purse and was out the door.

As I passed the front desk, the elderly receptionist looked up at me. I winked and stopped to caress his cheek and kiss the corner of his mouth. If anyone asked about me, he wasn’t telling. It would ruin his chances of me ever doing that again. I didn’t let it show that the thought of doing any of the things I promised was beyond disgusting.

A LiveJournal Update

Last July I abandoned my LiveJournal account. Then when I wanted to start Blogging again, I created this Blogger account. But today, I finally went through the effort of getting a new password (since I forgot my old one). So I should be updating both my Blogger and LiveJournal accounts on a regular basis, meaning starting today, the content will be mostly the same (whereas everything up to now has been completely different).

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Characters and Power

This is inspired from a discussion on character power at the Den of Shadows message board. Some of it may be cross-posted there.

I tend to like characters with a lot of power, but not too much power. The only problem is that it's a very thin line, and you can easily switch from having a lot of power to grotesque amounts of power. It's when the character gets to the grotesque amounts of power that drives me insane.

A problem I'm sort of having is that I've made Kitsu quite powerful. Because of her supernatural powers, her personality, her background, and the events in book one, she pretty much controls some of the most powerful men in the galaxy, and thus the galaxy. Even though she has this much power, she doesn't exactly take advantage of it. Even so I have to come up with more powerful villains to challenge her, and find believable changes to her personality. I just hope that when I finish her story (I want it to be a series), I'll have balanced her power with her responsibilities (or limitations to her power).

Actually, come to think of it, most of my main characters are quite powerful, I just try giving each one some sort of limitation so they don't seem too powerful.

First I should say, that in the Realm of Shadows, there are three things that contribute to a character's overall power level.
1. The age they first Awaken. The younger they are when they first Awaken into their powers, the more powerful they are.
2. The character's ancestry. If their parents were powerful supernaturals, then there's a good chance they are too. Though supernaturals don't have come come from two supernatural parents (there are full supernaturals, half-supernaturals, cursed supernaturals, and reborn supernaturals), and in fact the reborn ones (who come from two completely human parents) are something to look out for (but it's a good things they're pretty rare).
3. The individual's desire to use their powers. If a character doesn't want to use their powers, they won't, and they won't be powerful. But if someone has a strong desire to use, well, that can make up for all the other factors.

So now back to my powerful characters. Mostly, I'm just mentioning my main characters and not my villains since I'm still not entirely sure who some of them are and/or I don't want to give away any potential spoilers.

From my Hunter series.
1. Rose is a powerful witch-esper. She first Awoken to her powers when she was six years old and accidentally burned her house down. As a result, she bound her own powers and up until she gets to college and starts being hunted as a supernatural, she believes she is fully human, and that all things supernatural are *impossible*, so essentially, she has no powers.
2. Striker is a natural hunter. He first Awakens when he's fifteen and a werewolf is sent to kill him. Only the werewolf kills his family and he kills the werewolf. His power comes from his strong conviction, his desire to get revenge on his family and to make sure no one else has to go through what he went through. Striker is one of my few characters to get a re-Awakening, in which he actually loses his Conviction, and thus all of his powers.

From my Esper series.
1. Pai is a powerful witch-esper. Unlike her sister (Rose), she doesn't Awaken until she's in high school. Due to her destiny with an Ancient Korean sword, she has a lot of people coming after her. While she isn't necessarily strong enough to deal with them right away, she's too stubborn to back down from a fight (even when she knows she should). In addition to having a strong supernatural background, she also has a very strong desire to use her powers (though not for any reason as noble as Striker's).
2. Aiden is the last of the bird shapeshifters. Just being able to survive all the hunters makes him pretty powerful, but his determination comes from questing for the legendary phoenix who is said will be able to bring back the bird shapeshifters.

From the Forsaken trilogy.
1. Ayako. She meets the Forsaken, the most powerful vampire in existence.

Other characters from the Fox Chronicles.
1. Kaitou is a hunter. Unlike Striker, he specializes in Foxes. Due to his upbringing, Kaitou was force to semi-Awaken at a young age. He didn't fully Awaken until he was 15, when he killed his first Fox.
2. Sascha is a powerful telepath (esper). While he can't necessarily control his powers (like he can't turn them off), he's found a way to "deal" with them (which is blasting loud music in his ears 24/7 in hopes of not always knowing exactly what the people around him are thinking).

3. Natsuke's past self. (While he's not exactly in the Fox Chronicles, this is the best place to put him.) He is the only human supernatural (a witch/mage) to have such a desire to use magic and gain power that the gods themselves conspired against him.

Other characters.
1. Anubis. He is a jackal shapeshifter who's ability to (magically) heal people surpasses any other Jackal's ability except for the Anubis who lived in Ancient Egypt. The only problem is, he has no desire to use it.
2. My zombie (who's currently nameless). He somehow manages to rise above the other zombies and look beyond scavenging for his next meal. Then he learns that he has a ghost out there, who somehow managed to look beyond his immediate situation. If only the two could find each other.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Writing Goals

While I could have kept this post with my Clichés in Fantasy post, I decided to make a new one. Though this is really more just a note to myself of what I should be working on.

1. Finish writing, rewriting, and editing Kitsune, volume one of the Fox Chronicles. Write the synopsis, cover letter, bio, etc. for submitting Chapters 1 - 3 to the SHOMI Fiction Writing Contest by April 15. Type, rewrite, and edit during May and June (possibly July) of 2008. If SHOMI doesn't accept it, then I'll send it to agents and editors.

2. Rewrite and edit book one of the Forsaken trilogy, Like a Frothing Rabid Dog is Adorable. Rewrite the synopsis to match the edits made to the book. Once Ayako is suitably YA or Rabid Dog is long enough to be an adult novel, I will return to submitting it to agents and editors. (In a way, I'd prefer to keep it short and make it more YA.)

3. Start something new. This all depends on where I'm at. If I'm still in Japan when all of this is done, I have only the beginnings of novel ideas and plots that I started for the SHOMI contest (and ditched in favor of Kitsune). But if I'm back in Minnesota, than I have a whole slew of over books and novel ideas to go through.

a. Kerrianne May's story. I love the idea of the Intragalactic Fighting Tournament. And I think this story has a lot of potential. Also, I want to find out more about Lucius Ambrose.

b. I'm also curious to explore the new world of Aurora Dawn and Kala Black with gaias and ganas, and exorcists and revenants (their version of vampires).

c. Or I might return to the world of Whale Song and Dragon Rose, now that it seems like I've gained enough distance from the original messed up plots to pull them apart and reform them into something really good.

4. Admittedly, I would really like to skip #3 in favor of getting more than just four or five chapters done on No Leaf Clover. But that'll only happen if I'm in MN.

Clichés in Fantasy

I just remembered that Dragon Rose also had a talking cat, named Caabba, who, along with the help of the prince, helped my heroine realize her true destiny.

This has kind of got me thinking about why I stopped writing this book in the first place.

1. I had no plot for it. And what outline I had written, which I was certain would solve all of my story problems, was in some blue spiral-bound notebook that has since then disappeared. Of course, I tried writing a new outline, but it just didn't seem the same because it wasn't that outline.

2. It was about a 17 year old girl named Allokohottí (Alloko for short), who had no history prior to walking into the first scene of the book, which was a mock combat scene with the prince Doda. And for some reason, this lack of a background never bothered me, but there was no explanation for why she didn't have one.

3. Even though Doda was the prince, he couldn't stand politics, and would rather spend his time in the library reading history books. And then he found the book that would draw him into the plot. It was an unnamed book, but it talked about the true history of dragons, the birth of Dragon Rose, Dragon Lady (the woman who rescued her since she was a runt and most likely wouldn't have survived her first fight), Dragon Lord/Master (the human form of the dragon who trained her to be a good fighter), and the true identity of Dragon Lord/Master, who turned out to be one of the Keepers of the Old Ways and as such was forbidden to fall in love with Dragon Rose. This book also talked about the last days of the planet Dreyverzon and the secret history of how his people came to be on his own planet. So Doda sets off on this quest to help Alloko (whom he has a crush on) to realize her destiny.

4. As it turns out, Alloko is the reincarnation of Dragon Rose, cursed by Dragon Lord/Master all those years ago, all because he fell in love with a non-Royal dragon. Only, Doda discovers that Dragon Rose was in fact a Royal dragon, and the last remaining heir of the original dragon pair (so the only Royal alive).

5. There was something to do with the king being evil (which Doda was oblivious to), and some rebellion with the leader of some cult (because she liked the king, only he was unfaithful to his wife to be with her, and in the end went back to the queen). Yeah, I wasn't really sure where I was going with that.

6. Once Alloko and Doda and Caabba finally made it to the planet (as they realized that Dreyverzon is just one of its three moons), they only have a few days left if they want to break this curse. (It's an astronomical event that occurs once every couple hundred thousand years or something.)

7. When they finally break the curse, Alloko is transformed into her full dragon glory. And Kalidor's entrapped spirit breaks free to realize that the one he loved was really a Royal, and that he had only cursed himself for the last however long for not being able to be with his one true love.

8. Now, as a romantic at heart, and since I had subtitled this A Dragon's Love Story, I always wanted Alloko to be together with Kalidor (the Keeper). Only I felt that there would be a lot of feminist people saying, "Hey, that guy's a complete jerk. He curses her, doesn't do anything to try to make it right, and then she still agrees to be with him in the end, even though all that stuff happened in a past life." Which got me thinking (that, and when my husband read it, he said he always thought Alloko and Doda would be together) who should Alloko end up with?

Now, I think I could find satisfaction if Alloko ended up with Doda and left Kalidor to his misery (hey, he earned it). But at the time, I was so set on Alloko, after becoming Dragon Rose in all her Royal dragon glory, to just go with her dragon lover. And some how that didn't sit well with me.

But back to being cliché in fantasy. Aside from the plot reasons for why I stopped writing the book, there were also some cliché reasons for why I stopped writing, or at least what I felt was cliché with my story.

1. It was about dragons. Yeah, you can't have a story titled Dragon Rose: A Dragon's Love Story without it being about dragons. But I also thought dragons were really overdone at the time. At the same time, I hadn't read many dragon books because they just didn't interest me (either the author's writing style or the plot or something), which was why I started Dragon Rose in the first place.

2. (While I didn't think this at the time, I sort of think this now.) It also had a talking cat. Actually when I first wrote this story, I thought a talking cat was something new and original. Now it seems like everyone has a talking cat.

Though really, thinking back on all of this, I don't think these two things were nearly as cliché as I thought they were at the time. Yes, a lot of people write about dragons. Yes, a lot of people include talking cats in their stories. But that isn't enough to make the whole story cliché.

In a way, it makes me really upset with myself that I didn't stay with this story. Because looking at some of the other books out there, I see bits and pieces that tell me this story could have been popular. I mean, there are romance novels about dragon shapeshifters, and my dragons could shapeshift (well, only the Royals and the Keepers could). Plus, there seems to be a lot of people who like talking cats (though, there are also those who seem to hate them).

All I can really learn from this is to not stop working on Kitsu's story until I get it finished. Otherwise, in five years time, I'll feel the same way about Kitsu's story as I feel about Dragon Rose.

Novels and Anime and Manga

This one's cross-posted from the Absolute Write message board.

I think novels and manga and anime can mix, but before doing so, you have to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each form. I actually think of manga and anime as two separate forms, because while they are both more visual forms, anime has to show pretty much everything, while manga only captures the essence (by showing the picture that best represents the action, where as anime shows all the action).

The best example is Sailor Moon, mostly because of all the formats it can be found in (anime, manga, musical, live-action drama, and novelizations) In each episode of the anime, Sailor Moon and the other Sailor Scouts/Senshi have to fight the youma (or whatever the bad guy of the week happens to be). Each episode slowly advances the overall plot, but mostly it's about defeating the weekly bad guy. Then you get to the live-action drama (which is called Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon or PGSM), where most of the episodes are about defeating the weekly youma, but then as the story/plot advances, it moves away from fighting the youma to fighting the Four General who control the youma, to fighting Beryl and Metallia, Tuxedo Mask, and finally Princess Moon. But if you read the manga, there is no weekly youma to defeat. When Sailor Jupiter is first introduced, she wastes Nephrite the first chance she gets. (Note, however, that I have not seen the musicals nor have I read the novelizations. Yet.)

I have at least three stories that are heavily influenced by anime. The first was a magical girl story, much like Sailor Moon. I haven't wanted to unearth the novel since I wrote "the end", but I wrote a short story using the same characters and turned it in for a creative writing class. In it, my character had to fight an evil version of herself who was trying to take over her city (had it been set in Japan, she would have destroyed Tokyo, but she made do with destroying Red Wing, MN). And yeah, she and all the other characters used attack phrases, to which I got mixed results on. Some students in my class just didn't get it. One student said he thought the average American who does not watch anime wouldn't get it, and therefore I should take it out (when I never actually considered the average American to be my audience, since it was a YA novel about a 15 year old magical girl). Another student really liked that I used attack phrases because it reminded him of rpgs. And my teacher liked it because he tried to visualize what a "Shield of Lust, Bash!" looked like. Since then I've learned that a more or less direct translation of anime to novel doesn't work.

I have another magical girl story, only she's older (17), has some esper abilities, and uses a big sword to fight other supernaturals, including other espers, mages, mummies or "psychic vampires", constructs, demons, and shapeshifters (there're probably others, I just can't think of them at the moment.) I think she's more of a Devil Hunter Yoko kind of girl, but I don't know because I've never seen the anime (though it's on my list).

And the third story was inspired by watching a lot of the more boy/fighting anime (Bleach, Inuyasha, Naruto) where they would hint at a romantic relationship between two of the characters, but that's all they would do. So I developed a story around an Intragalactic Fighting Tournament that my heroine gets "invited" to. Every contestant gets a magical sword that they must fight with, but each sword has magical powers (that need an "attack phrase" to be activated). In addition to fighting all the other people in the tournament and learning about her own magical abilities (as well as those in her sword), she ends up falling in love.

I've probably rambled on quite a bit, but yeah, I think anime and novels can mix.

Also, I would check out SHOMI. Even though it's an "action romance" line, they're still striving to combine novels with romance, action, SF, and anime/manga. So at least someone in the publishing world thinks it can be done.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Early Works

In attempting to answer someone's question at the Den of Shadows, I started thinking about some of my earliest novels.

The second novel I wrote was a trilogy called Whale Song. (I wrote the novel over the course of three spiral bound notebooks and wrote "to be continued" at the end of each book.) Whale Song was about the alien world of Avvvingteesttia, and the Avvlings who came to Earth seeking help for their dying people. The main character was the eldest Avvling princess who, following in her mother's footsteps, came to Earth to request aid. Only when her mother came, she never returned. So along with looking for her two sisters, she also needed to look for her mother, but in the process of trying to save her people, she fell in love with a human boy.

It's actually kind of hard for me to make this story sound coherent since each notebook told it's own storyline, and then because I lost the first and third notebooks, but really wanted to try publishing the story, I tried delving into what the political life was like on Avvingteesttia with no queen, since it was a matriarchal society, and now that all the women of the ruling family where running around Earth, what was happening to their father? Some how in the process, I gave them an evil aunt who was a witch named Hexe. I don't know why, I just figured I needed a villain.

This is actually the most coherent this story has sounded, and thinking about it in these very simple terms (compared to the mess I made of the novel when trying to "fix" it), it makes me think that I could actually rework this story. The plotline would need some reworking since I only have part 2 of 3. And Hexe would be dropped.

Maybe like so many other writers, a part of me does actually want to see my "first" book in print.

The first book I wrote was called Running Water and started with the wonderful (note the sarcasm) opening line of "It was a dark and stormy night . . .". It was also my first attempt at writing a short story outside of school work, and it exploded into a novel. Yeah, Running Water has no chance of ever making it to my list of novels I want to go back to.

Though Running Water wasn't actually the first book I wrote. The first-fist book I wrote was in first grade, and I owe much of my writing to my first grade teacher, Ms Ann Hall, who helped me every step of the way, or at least when I had plot problems. And the second-first book that I wrote was called Lolo and Popo's Adventure, which I wrote in sixth grade. Originally I wanted to expand a short story I had written for the class into a book, but my teacher, Ms Nelson, encouraged me to write a new story. So I wrote one about sister chimpanzees who were trying to save their rain forest home, which just happened to be the Amazon because I didn't realize Africa had any rain forests, or that chimpanzees actually lived in Africa and not South America. Since then, I've learned to do research.

The third book I wrote was called Dragon Rose; A Dragon's Love story. It was only the prequel to Whale Song because they were set in the same world, though originally Dragon Rose was in it's own world. I decided to combine them to use shared world history. But Dragon Rose is set primarily in the ancient past plus some of the "modern day" of Dreyverzon. In a way, Dragon Rose explains Avvingteesttia's history, but I don't think that bit of history is important to modern day Avvingteesttia to be in Whale Song, especially since most of Whale Song takes place on Earth.

It was about the time that the Avvling princesses' mother had the spirit of a tiger and if they wanted to save their mother, they would have to save her tiger first that I realized I needed to figure out who these "animal people" were. While they still fascinate me, and I would like to give them center stage in a story, I haven't yet. Mostly, I became preoccupied with dragons and the legend and the curse, and how the history of Dreyverzon coincided with the history of Avvingteesttia. And then the story just puttered out. Though I have a friend who, every now and then, asks, How is that dragon story of yours coming along? To which I reply, You still remember that thing? And she says, Of course. I loved that story.

So maybe at some point when I want to take a break from the supernatural Realm of Shadows, I might get around to re-visiting the more fantastical world of dragons and shapeshifters, of legends and curses, and of the horrors of modern day science, and alien princesses falling in love with human boys. Theirs is a world that really is lighter and fluffier than the Shadows.

One thing that carries over between the two worlds is that they both have strong magic, not so friendly humans, and shapeshifters. Yes, I'll admit it, my dragons were actually shapeshifters, or at least the more powerful ones were (there were actually three types of dragons in that world - dragons, the Royals, and the Keepers of the Old Ways).

Angel Love, Demon Love Snippet

So over at the Den of Shadows message board, there's an Adding Depth thread in the Writer's Section. Usually I don't post there, but I've been procrastinating with Kitsu's story, while also really regretting not bringing my red Angel Love, Demon Love folder to Japan with me when I went home in January.

The location for this was supposed to be a castle, but I took a few liberties with the term, and used the Great Wall instead.

Anyway. Here's a small snippet from Angel Love, Demon Love.

Xander tried to force his head up, in an attempt to ease his suffering, but it only caused more pain. Giving up, his head flopped back down, a mere inch from the vast desert sands. He was just as his brother had left him, chained and bound upside down to a large barbed pentacle. Would the demon learn his lesson? Would he give up his rebellious ways and convert the angel Cortillya?

Not bloody likely.

He spun the large barbed pentacle around so he could gaze upon the Great City Wall one last time. Cartillya was still trapped within the City, awaiting whatever fate Abaddon deemed suitable for an Archangel's daughter. Xander dreamed of being the dashing knight of ancient legends and rushing in to rescue his princess from her prison as he passed out.