Sunday, September 28, 2014

Progress on "Chaser"

Things are moving forward with Chaser. I recently received a cover mock-up which had some good points but also some bits I didn't like. I'm waiting to see what the artist comes up with. I'm only obstinate about a few things, mainly my desire for the image of the protagonist to be suitably badass. I'm sure I'll be okay with the cover image as long as Boiler ends up looking imposing or dangerous. It's perfectly fine if she's attractive or sexy, but I just feel that shouldn't be where the emphasis is. I think a random person's first-glance impression of her should be along the lines of, "She looks like she can punch hard enough to crack open a cue ball."

I first created the character a long time ago, adding her into a series of stories separate from the novel's setting. I came up with her father (Jack Hammer, the main protagonist of my first two novels) the same way, and gradually figured out who they were. I made a few changes here and there when I decided to use them in my novels, but they remained basically the same.

Back then, one of my friends drew several sketches of Boiler. Here's one that should give a pretty clear idea of her physicality and personality.

So, I'm not looking for an exact match of this in the final version of the cover, but I'm hoping it'll capture the general look of the character.

I received an interesting request from the artist a few days ago. The artist wanted to know if I had any favorite artists I wanted him/her to try to emulate. There are many artists whose work I really like--Boris Vallejo, Bob Eggleton, numerous others including a ton of people posting their work on DeviantArt and other sites.

But oddly, when I think about the setting of this novel and my previous two, what comes to mind immediately is the last couple of Saints Row games. The areas of Neon City where the primary characters live are outside of the sleek, gleaming, high-tech places where the people with all the money spend their time. The images I have in my head of the places Jack, Corona, Taura, Boiler, and the others live and work in are partly inspired by sections of Steelport such as the industrial area that ends up overrun by zombies in The Third.

Granted, a subplot in Fifteen Minutes has Jack and the girls moving into a house in a fairly wealthy neighborhood, but they're not exactly at home in that sort of environment.

Anyway. One of the things I particularly like about those games is the lighting and shadows in some scenes, so I sent a few screenshots to give the artist a general idea of what I meant.

As a side-note, it took a while for me to get my player character to look the way I wanted. There were always little details that weren't quite right that I kept tweaking, some of which involved using mods created by fans of the games. Finally got her to look right in Saints Row: The Third...then Saints Row IV came along and I had to import a non-modded version of her. The mod I needed was updated, and then it took quite a bit of adjusting various settings, and I think I finally got it right shortly after the How the Saints Saved Christmas DLC was released.

And now I'm drifting off-topic, heh. So, anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing the Chaser cover image, and things are progressing. Hoping the book will be assigned an editor soon, which will take it another step closer to actual publication.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Recommended viewing

More things I let distract me today--in this case, a series of videos of GTA V Online gameplay. All of them are hilarious, but this one here has something special going for it....

Tank Rodeo.

And what sounds like a little kid's voice saying, "Uh-oh...SHIT!" :D

Just for chuckles

Hahah...the things I'm distracted by, when I should be writing instead. O_o

I've always thought Transformers Prime's Arcee had a magnificent Death Glare. I've referred to it as a Clint Squint several times. So that started me thinking, and I decided to try something:

 Hah! Maybe it's because I'm half asleep right now, but this is funny. :D

Just imagine these two meeting on a street or in a parking lot somewhere, and just sneering at each other. Or having a staring contest. The sheer awesome just might cause the universe to explode. XD

Sunday, September 21, 2014

On Writing Action

As mentioned in my recent blog post on the Chaser publisher's website, one of my friends asked me a while back to teach her how to write action scenes. Having never taught anyone anything before, I'm still figuring out how to go about it, and I'm just coming up with ideas and trying them to find out what works and what doesn't.

It's been a while since I've worked on this little project, since I've been letting lots of everyday-life things keep me sidetracked, but this afternoon I came up with another thing to try. I thought a look at how I get ideas and how I put a scene together might be helpful, so thought I'd post it here as well.

I started with this trailer for a new Saints Row IV expansion coming in January.

There's a bit showing a character named Johnny Gat fighting a random mook, and he pulls off a particularly nice move--sweeps the guy's legs out from under him and stabs him in the chest while he's still falling. This is good if you're going for over-the-top action like a lot of the stuff I put in my stories, especially ones like Freelancers.

So, I see something like this, and I get an idea. Then I add to it and expand on it.

Let's take a character...I think we'll go with Valeria Terakkis because it seems like the kind of thing she'd do, and I've been having tons of fun giving her stuff like this, anyway. Now, instead of fighting one guy, let's give her, say, three enemies to fight at once. They're only armed with knives, including Valeria. One of the goons closes in on her with a knife while the others hang back, staying out of arm's reach to avoid getting stabbed by accident. Val and the goon slash and thrust their knives at each other, block and deflect and dodge blows, and finally Val kicks the guy's legs out from under him. He starts to fall, and she plunges her knife into his chest while he's still dropping.

Now, here's where I really start embellishing. She rams the knife in, and with her other hand, at the same time, snatches the guy's knife from his hand. Before he hits the floor, she spins around and throws the second knife at one of the other goons. It could hilt in his chest or neck and he'd fall, and that would be that.

But if you're looking to crank the fight Up to Eleven, you could have him standing near a wall, or leaning against it, when the knife hits. The knife rams into his skull with enough force to go in to the hilt, with the blade coming out the back of his head...and embedding in the wall. Then his twitching body just hangs there, supported by the knife through his head.

Both kills happen in about one second. Valeria turns to face the third goon, who's still processing what he just saw. He starts to panic and backs away, gasping, starting to hyperventilate, maybe even starting to cry as he realizes just how screwed he is.

Then Valeria lunges at him, and he pisses his pants and faints. Val turns and walks past him, continuing on to wherever she's going.

So, that's the basic outline. Let's flesh it out into a full scene. Here we go:

"I'm here for your boss, not you." Valeria speared each of the three males with a brief scowl. One human, one krogan, one turian, none of them armored but each carrying a huge, serrated dagger. The blades were easily the length of Val's forearm. She was carrying a similar blade, still sheathed--so far. "Stay out of my way and I'll pretend I never saw you."
The three exchanged a glance and snorted. The turian stepped over to her and raised his knife.
"We know you're here to arrest him or take him out. Can't let that happen." He traced the tip of his blade over the side of her face and down the length of her left mandible. "Not that we can't have a little fun first."
Val swatted his arm away, head-butted him, and gave him a shove that sent him staggering into his buddies. She pulled her knife out while they regained their balance. The turian shook his head, focused his glare on her, and strode forward.
"Just for that, I get the first turn at you. Preferably while you're still alive, but if not, it'll take a while for your body to cool off." He tapped a control on his Omni-Tool. "In fact, I'll record this and send a copy to that pathetic human you married, so he'll know that his seed wasn't the last you ever had inside you. And then he can watch my friends take their turns. And then he can watch us kill you."
Yeah, that'll happen. Val prepared to strike and waited for him to make his move.
He lunged suddenly and thrust his knife straight at her. She deflected it with a swat to his forearm while dodging to the right. He recovered instantly and slashed at her. The blade hissed through the air and came within a centimeter of her throat. She twitched backward and pistoned her left leg into his chest. The kick sent him reeling and knocked her off balance. She threw herself back, picking a direction before she ended up in an uncontrolled fall. Her back hit the floor and she lifted her legs and brought her knees up to her chest. Then she kicked up and forward, the motion snapping her back upright, and landed in a crouch. Her feet planted firmly and she held her left hand out, ready to block another strike, and cocked her knife back, ready to thrust it forward again.
The human blinked, shook his head, and stared at her, as if unable to get his mind around what had just happened.
The krogan laughed and walked over to lean against the nearest wall. "I'm next." He reached down with his left hand and rubbed his crotch slowly.
Oh, yes, you are. Val kept her glare on the advancing turian. He growled and slashed at her again. She parried with her right arm, whacking it across his wrist and forcing his arm up and to the right, exposing his side. She drove her left fist into it and he staggered away again. He released a frustrated growl and lunged at her again. She knocked his arm aside and drove her foot into his knee. It bent sideways with a sickening crunch and he howled and slumped toward her. She leaped to the right, lashed out with her left foot, and swept his legs out from under him. He flailed his arms as he hung in the air for a split-second before gravity pulled him down.
Valeria flipped her knife over and plunged it straight down into his chest just as he began to drop. At the same instant, she yanked his knife from his right hand with her left, whipped it around so she could throw it, and spun to face the krogan. His eyes had just started to widen and his jaw drop.
She cocked her hand to the right, whipped it back to the left, and released the dagger. It spun through the air and drilled the krogan in the softer tissue behind his left eye. The blade punched clean through his skull, out the other side, and into the wall.
The turian's body hit the floor and he cried out and clutched weakly at the dagger in his chest.
The krogan's roar of pain faded into moans, whimpers, and incoherent muttering as his twitching body hung there, supported by the blade in the wall. Over the next few seconds, he stopped moving, let out one last breath, and dangled silently.
The human drew in a series of rapid breaths and backed up until he bumped into the wall behind him. His dagger slipped from his fingers and clanged to the floor.
The turian continued moaning, though each one was fainter than the last.
Valeria glared at the human, braced her left foot on the turian's chest, and ripped her blade out, tearing his carapace wide open and yanking one last scream out of him. She stood and focused her stare on the human. His face twisted up and tears flowed from his eyes as he scooted along the wall.
She took a step toward him and he whimpered again. One more step, and he sobbed and held his hands up.
She raised her dagger and lunged at him.
The human shrieked and collapsed. A dark stain spread across the front of his pants.
Val watched him for several seconds. He remained motionless, his breathing deep and steady.
Huh. He fainted. She glanced at the blood dripping from her knife and tossed it aside with a heavy sigh. They never learn. Why don't they ever have brains enough to just stand aside? Why does it always come to this?
She shook her head and walked on toward her destination.
So, that's something I came up with in about forty-five minutes. It'll need quite a bit of work, but I'll find a way to fit it into the story at some point. Might as well see if I can get some mileage out of it. XD

I'm planning to write up more posts about doing action scenes. Since Freelancers: A Personal War was written specifically to use as an example of action-writing, I've been wanting to do a breakdown of it and talk about things like showing your character analyzing her situation and working out tactics on the fly. So I'll probably be doing a post on that soon, and following it with other related topics.

Not sure if I know what  I'm doing when it comes to teaching, but trying stuff like this is fun. :D

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Blog entry on publisher's website

The publisher of Chaser has been posting entries from each of its authors in its blog to celebrate its anniversary, and today they added one I sent in.

Early Dose of Sci-Fi

Woo! After more than two decades of trying to get published, it looks like things are finally starting to click into place.

Monday, September 15, 2014

New cover for my first novel

I started thinking recently that my books might have a chance of selling more if they had decent covers, instead of the blank-space-with-text I've been using. Don't have the money to commission cover art or buy stock images, but I did find a stock-photo site that allows users to download one free image per month. Last month I picked out an image for Game Over so I'll have one on hand when the book is finished. And today I've updated the cover for Load:

I actually like the way this turned out. The picture was intended to represent engineering/technology concepts, but the image of a shadowy figure holding a city in the palm of its hand fits my overall concept of Neon City quite nicely. Plus, there's the tech angle and also the idea of information being held or transferred.

The changes to the book are processing now, and should be finished within the next twelve hours or so. When the processing is finished, the book will once again be available for purchase on Amazon's Kindle Direct, Smashwords, and Kobo.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Headline from my former hometown

Just have to share this real quick. I came home after work and found this story in my Facebook feed: Jessica Rocha Bites Woman, Calls it "Zombie Game"

That happened in the town I lived in until February 2013. And as frightening as my current financial situation is, I'm still glad I finally got out of there. That town is a bizarre combination of really boring and really fucked-up.