Luke Cage! I’ll binge-watch you soon enough.

luke-cage-netflix-premiereDespite the somewhat disappointing Jessica Jones and second season of Daredevil, I’ve been looking forward to Luke Cage. The trailer they dropped a while ago did its job hyping me up to see Cage become a Hero for Hire (and beat a bunch of bad guys up in the process). So much bulletproof awesomeness.

Still, I somehow managed to forget about the launch of the series until NPR, of all things, reminded me it was available for streaming TODAY. When I heard the piece on the radio (discussing mostly race, the creation and evolution of Luke Cage, and how his bulletproof skin brings up certain thoughts in relation to current events), I was in the midst of running errands. I was too busy to rush home and watch.

I’m about to go out right now, too, so it doesn’t look like I’ll  get through a single episode tonight. I’ll probably burn through half of the episodes tomorrow, though. Then, perhaps, I can find some time to share my thoughts about the Defenders shows (Cage, Jones, Daredevil). Hm—I also have to finish blogging about my previous travels before I start traveling again.

Eh, one thing at a time. Luke Cage!

Note: I enjoyed Daredevil‘s second season and Jessica Jones but they weren’t as good as the first season of Daredevil (I really liked it).

Mini life update: I’ve been fairly busy working on re-writing last year’s NaNoWriMo project; I signed up for a writing class with UCLA Extension; and I’m setting things up to work abroad in 2017.

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Need to Change My Writing Process

Given the time it’s taking to revise my manuscripts, it’s pretty obvious my process kind of sucks. I know some writers approach their first draft as the “junk draft” so they aren’t pressured to produce a masterpiece right away, but I’ve given myself entirely too much freedom to suck.

With my first novel, some drafts actually made its way to several agent desks, but it didn’t get much further than that. A handful of agents bothered to read the MS before they realized the hooks of my first paragraphs weren’t replicated in the following chapters. According to most of my test readers, the interesting bits are in the latter half. Though it’s a fairly obvious inference, superior plotting would probably have made the thing more consistently interesting (hence my current desire to revise the whole thing).

The more I write and revise, the more I believe I should go full Plotter and stop being an unholy Plotter-Pantser hybrid. That’s to say, my novels could benefit from having the major plot points laid out from the get-go.

Anyway, I’ve been somewhat busy—with my non-writing career(s), traveling up the eastern seaboard, and spending quality time with the people in my life—but I won’t pretend I haven’t been lazy in revising my novels (e.g., I’m writing this post instead of working on the MSS). I need more discipline, and I need a new process.

Any suggestions?

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What’s this WB Writers’ Workshop?

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I realize I’m setting myself up for an unnecessarily public failure by posting this, but last Tuesday I submitted an application to the WB Writers’ Workshop.

The WB Writers’ Workshop is a program which takes writers looking to get into television, teaches them pretty much everything about being a TV writer and ultimately tries to find staff writings positions for the program participants. As I understand it, the program gets over two thousand applications a year and only has ten seats; it’s highly competitive.

The central piece of the application is the writing sample. At minimum, they want one spec script of a show on their approved list; and, optionally, you can include a second script (i.e., either an original pilot or a spec of another listed show).

When I decided to apply to the program in April, I set forth a plan: binge watch the second season of The Flash and write a spec about the adventures of Barry Allen; and, simultaneously, consider other shows for my second writing sample.

Weeks went by, and thanks to work (and my one-hour-each-way commute), I’d only watched five episodes of The Flash and hadn’t written a single word. On top of that, I had yet to choose a second show. At the start of May, I looked at the program’s website again and realized the list had been updated.

Marvel’s Daredevil was an option.

I changed my plans. Rather than attempt to catch up on The Flash, I went with Daredevil, a show I enjoyed (well, the first season more than the second) and was entirely caught up on. Also new on the list was another Netflix Original, Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, and I had that queued up to be the subject of my second spec.

My first step in writing a Daredevil spec was re-watching the latest episode and reading up on the character’s comic book rogue gallery to find a proper villain. It took me at least a full week (again, thanks to work and other obligations) to finally decide on a villain. When it came to the weekend before applications were due, I only had ten pages of script: less than 25% of what I needed. So writing a second spec was out of the question, and I focused entirely on Daredevil.

Around 11:30 P.M. on May 30th, the night before the submission deadline, I had twenty pages done. As a break from writing, I logged onto the writing program’s submission page. There, the submission deadline was stated to be at 11:59 P.M., May 30th.

I was screwed. I had less than half my script finished, and only half an hour until the cutoff time. I gave up.

Within minutes, I received an email from my supervising attorney for whom I’m doing contract work at a fancy high-rise office in Downtown Los Angeles. He wanted me to come in the next day to handle a quick assignment. I told him I’d be there.

As I sent the email, I tried to reconcile the different deadlines on the program’s website. The login page said it was due before midnight on the 30th, and the information page said it was due at 5:00 P.M. on the 31st. I decided one of these was a mistake, and it was likely the earlier deadline was wrong. If so, I could sleep, go to work, and finish the rest of my script before 5 o’clock.

Sure enough, the next morning, I checked the program’s Facebook page which reiterated that the submission deadline was at 5:00 P.M. on the 31st.  I still had hope. However, I couldn’t start writing again until I drove from Orange County to Los Angeles and finished my work assignment. I got to the office at 7:00 A.M., did my job, and finally got back to my script.

Five or so hours later, at around 3:00 P.M., I had an unpolished spec script done. In order to submit my application to the program, though, I needed to print and sign a release form. And, in order to even print the form, I needed to upload my script. So I uploaded the damn thing as it was, emailed the release to myself and headed down to the nearest FedEx to print it. There, I was informed that this particular FedEx did not have a scanner. So then I had to run to the next nearest FedEx, two city blocks away in the Westin Bonaventure Hotel. After scanning the signed release, I picked up my first meal of the day from McDonald’s and went back into my office and submitted my application at around 4:30 P.M.

All of that, and I am 99% sure I am not getting into the WB Writers’ Program.

Yep.

My script is slightly shorter than average and barely more than a first draft, it would be a wonder if I beat out 2,000 other applicants. Still, I learned a lot about writing television scripts, and a valuable lesson: get $@#% done early. Time to plan for next year.

Happy Dyngus Day

happy dyngus day 2Like my crazy uncle used to say, there’s no better time than Dyngus Day to start posting again.

Dyngus Day is a Polish holiday celebrated on the Monday after Easter. I had no idea this holiday existed until a few days ago. If I recall my Wikipedia-research correctly, Dyngus Day is celebrated by boys throwing water at girls they like and proceeding to spank said girls with a pussy willow branch (girls do the same to the boys on Tuesday).  This sounds a lot like assault and battery to me, though, so you might want to consult a lawyer before you decide to become a Dyngus-participant.

Anyway, I’ve been pretty busy recently. Doing more attorney work, researching potential career paths, and spending time with the significant other and family—my schedule hasn’t been so packed since 2013. It’s been tough setting aside time for writing, and depending on where my career(s) take me, I might have to learn to better finagle my schedule to get some writing in (and more time to read other people’s blogs).

Despite being busy and whatnot, I’ve been slowly rewriting the horror/supernatural novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2015. I want to rewrite this entire supernatural project before I start another rewrite of my YA Sci-Fi (which may no longer be a YA by the time I’m done with it).

Wish me luck, and Happy Dyngus Day.

Soil-Man Release Party

soil-man coverI drove up to Northern California this weekend to tend to some personal business and, as part of a very long detour (2.5 hours each way), I went to Fresno to attend the release party for Oz Monroe’s debut novel, Soil-Man.

The event was hosted at Mia Cuppa Caffe and included dark angel-themed paintings by local artists and local musicians performing at the start and end of the night. Evidently, Oz brought the local cafe a new record for customers in one night.

As Oz intended, the event wasn’t so much for publicity as it was a celebration; a celebration of the novel’s release, of course, but also a celebration of art and love (the latter strongly reflected in friends and family gathered around).

I met Oz at the Southern California Writers’ Conference a few years ago. We didn’t talk outside of workshops and rogue critique sessions, but when we talked about writing and publishing, Oz struck me as intelligent and passionate. Both these qualities are evident in Soil-Man.

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A blurry Oz Monroe (right) at the Soil-Man Release Party.

I’ll wrap this up with the blurb on Soil-Man‘s Amazon page:

Jon Aesop, a man without religious belief, is forced to question everything when his family is tortured and killed by what appears to be an angel. Desperate to find his wife’s soul, he must survive murderous angelic forces while seeking answers to the afterlife.

Var is a freak to humanity and an abomination among angels. For centuries he’s hunted in the shadows, living a life of self-destruction, but obsessed with revenge.

What they both discover—hidden in the depths of hell—will change everything[.]

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Movie Review (with Spoilers)

starwarstheforceawakensmovieposterAlong with the rest of the world (except for droids, because “no droids allowed”), I watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens weekend. To put my opinion in a nutshell, the newest addition to the Star Wars Saga is enjoyable thanks to the compelling Star Wars mythos coupled with lightsaber action and a touch of humor, but the film is decidedly not great thanks to excessive parallels with the original. Read on for SPOILER-laden, geeky explanations.

Action hero humor a la Kasdan.

When think of the funnier moments in The Force Awakens, what comes to mind is Finn (John Boyega) bumbling over his lies, drawing a laugh from the entire audience. I found Finn to be some combination of Han Solo’s cool-guy comedic presence (though not as cool as Han) and Luke Skywalker’s boy scout heart, and it totally works for me.

Though it’s based on an shaky inference, I’d attribute these jokes to Lawrence Kasdan. Kasdan wrote Episodes V and VI of Star Wars films as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark which has similar humor delivered by Harrison Ford (of course, Ford and Boyega’s performances are vital parts of the formula; and maybe it was other writers or actors who wrote and improv’ed these lines).

Blasters, X-wings, TIE fighters, and lightsabers—hard to go wrong there.

The action, as expected from Star Wars, is fun to watch.

There was a hiccup for me when Finn picked up a lightstaber and started swinging away; the movie established Finn was a natural with shooting, but wielding a lightsaber without Jedi reflexes seems like it’d result in lopping off your own arm. If Finn ends up becoming a Jedi in a later film, that would explain his instant proficiency, so until then—

Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) skill with the lightsaber, on the other hand, was believable. She grew up fending off scavengers and thieves with a stick, and she is strongly in tune with the Force; it’s no surprise she can stand toe-to-toe with an injured and poorly trained Dark Jedi (who, notably, isn’t awesome enough to be a Darth).

Speaking of the wannabe Sith, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) stopping a blaster slug in midair was a cool moment. It seemed impressive at first ’cause I’d never seen any Jedi do this before, but then I remembered Darth Vader slapping blaster shots away like flies in Empire which makes Kylo Ren’s feat look like child’s play.

Gaps and loose ends.

The young characters are all somewhat interesting, but not developed much. We have a scavenger with abandonment issues, a Stormtrooper who’s too kind to shoot people (unless his target happens to be another Stormtrooper), and a Dark Jedi with an inferiority complex. That’s what we learn about them in the first third of the movie and that’s all we know about them by the end (well, we learn that Rey is Jedi material, but that’s an assumption 99.9% of the audience made before the opening crawl). It’s obvious they’re saving some major character revelations for the later movies, but I would have liked a tad more closure within Episode VII. Just tell us whose Rey’s parents are.

As for the returning characters, we’re given little of what they’d been up to in the last thirty years. It’s nice to know that they were happy for at least ten years—raising kids and training new Jedi, but there’s so much left to the imagination.

One thing we don’t have to imagine is that the heroes of the original trilogy, along with the other leadership of the New Republic, sucked at their jobs. After the fall of the Empire, the New Republic secures almost no peace or military dominance in the galaxy. The First Order just showed up and started slapping people around almost as easily as the Empire. It’s also weird that New Republic’s military is called the Resistance instead of the New Republic Navy or something less pathetic than the Resistance. I suppose the name helps the audience feel like they’re rooting for the underdog, but I don’t think it was worth sticking us with this name.

Han Solo: Gandalf (not dead) or Boromir (super dead)

My rule concerning deaths of beloved characters for any series: If you don’t see the body, there’s a good damn chance they’re still alive. This goes for Game of ThronesThe Walking Dead, and now Star Wars.

Considering Han Solo is impaled through the torso, falls into a bottomless pit of some facility, and said facility explodes into smithereens minutes, it seems a bit hopeful to think the notorious scoundrel is still alive. However, I can’t believe the director and writers would give Han Solo such an anti-climactic death. The emotion of the scene relies almost entirely on a sense of nostalgia built up over decades of being a pop culture icon rather than rely on the character development and pacing of the actual movies.

Speaking of nostalgia—

There were a bunch of moments which relied on nostalgia to make the scene interesting. Now I’m wondering how those scenes work if I were to re-watch the movie. Are there a awkward pauses when Han or Leia show up? Or does it flow naturally? I guess I’ll probably see in the near future.

Too much A New Hope, not enough new.

The Force Awakens goes out of its way to make itself parallel to A New Hope. There are, of course, substantial twists in the details, but the overall story arc is too similar. Rey, like Luke, is a mechanical engineering genius sensitive to the force. Finn, like Han, is a blaster-totting source of comedy who lies almost as often as he gets shot at. The youngsters are accompanied by Han Solo, a wizened father figure much like Obi-wan Kenobi in the original film.

The major plot points remain the same: Good guys hide secret data in a droid which flees to a desert planet; droid is found by a goody two shoe person sensitive to the force; said force sensitive person goes on an adventure with a father figure who tells them the Force is real, a comedic guy with a blaster, and Chewbacca; they get caught by the bad guys and escape; they blow up the bad guys’ planet-destroying weapon; high fives all around.

What changes the plot slightly is Rey. She takes Leia’s role as the woman in distress, but is capable of rescuing herself before anyone else lifts a hand (whereas Leia at least needed Luke to open her cell door).

Star Wars finally gets diversity and feminism (outside of video games, anyway)

The twist of The Force Awakens is that it’s politically correct by modern standards. The ranks of the Resistance are slightly more diverse with the pilots played by actors of various races and sexes, including ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, who’s of Guatemalan and Cuban descent, and seems to be the #1 contender as the new Han Solo). I also recognized two of the ranking Resistance officers as Ken Leung and Greg Grunberg from Lost and Heroes, respectively.

In line with recent popular novels and films, Rey is a female warrior who manages to save herself and other people on more than one occasion. What I find refreshing about her is that she seems to have 20 or 30 more IQ points than certain other YA heroines (not smarter than Hermione, though).

Kylo Ren brings to mind J.P. from Grandma’s Boy

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Kylo Ren and J.P.: Medium-length hair, long black coat/cloak, and nerd rage.

I didn’t notice this while watching the film in theaters, but it was pointed out to me soon after: Kylo Ren bears a passing resemblance to J.P. from Grandma’s Boy, primarily due to his hair and all-black outfit. He looks like a socially awkward guy in cosplay and, as such, he is the least menacing Dark Jedi to have graced the silver screen.

I’m assuming the social awkwardness was intended; Kylo Ren is supposed to be an angsty guy with an inferiority complex and father/grandfather issues, not a bad ass Sith Lord. Notably, rather than murder the subordinates who fail him like Darth Vader, Kylo Ren uses his (poorly made) lightsaber to destroy inanimate objects. Vader’s actions demand respect and fear, and all Kylo Ren manages to do is make the Stormtroopers feel awkward and walk the other way (giving the audience a few laughs).

Rather than having suffered through real loss and PTSD like Anakin Skywalker, Kylo Ren seems to have succumbed to the dark side simply because he wants power to compensate for his lack of self-esteem. Sure, his parents seem to have dismissive attachment personality disorder and probably weren’t very good at showing him love and support, but that’s no reason to become a Dark Jedi. I hope the later movies make him more sympathetic and somewhat justified in going dark.

Well, that’s my two cents on the mountain of pennies that is the internet. The Force Awakens is good but not great, and I have hope that the following movies are better.

Yes, I’m a NaNoWriMo 2015 “Winner”

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I didn’t plan on participating in NaNo at the start of the month, but decided to give it a try since a crap load of people from a local writer group were doing it and seemed to be enjoying the experience. Weeks passed by and, last night, I validated my word count and became a “winner” (I guess the NaNo people sat around one day and decided that “finisher” sounded too dirty).

Coincidentally, I’d been seriously brainstorming a new novel in October so I decided to use NaNo to push myself and churn out 50,000 words for that project. The quality is pretty damn iffy, and the plotting is bumpy as hell, but I think it will serve as a good “zero draft” which I can  springboard off of to create a proper first draft.

My writing this month definitely helped to flesh out character backgrounds and personalities, and create some semblance of a plot that I can work with. I look forward to the additions and revisions to come as I try to bring the quality up to a level that doesn’t make me want to punch you in the ass.