Monday, December 7, 2015

Closing the door on 2015

Now that the end of the year is coming up, I've been looking back over 2015 and thinking about what an absolutely awful year it's been for me, yet it's finally looking like I'll be able to end it on a positive note, with the store I work at getting a company car I can use for deliveries and thereby keep my job, and the publication of Chaser. Not that there haven't been any other good things that happened in 2015. There have been many. But overall, it's been overwhelmingly a net-negative, and I'll be glad when it's over. I understand that things won't automatically change for the better just because the calendar flips over to January 1 ... it's just kind of a psychological thing -- I'll be relieved to close the door on 2015 and hope the coming year is more good than bad.

Aside from the struggles I've been going through all along, which took a nosedive in the past few months -- having the engine in my car blow up, failing repeatedly to get a loan to cover the $3,900 it would cost to replace it (just my luck, there was only one other engine in the entire country that would go in that car), my hours at work being cut because I couldn't take deliveries anymore and having to let the car be repo'd because I couldn't keep making the payments, and nearly ending up homeless three or four times within a three-month period, only avoiding it by borrowing money from family to pay the rent ... 2015 has also been a year during which many icons of my childhood have left us. Leonard Nimoy, Harve Bennett, James Horner, Roddy Piper, just off the top of my head. It feels like pieces of my childhood have been taken away.

There's one other loss I thought I'd talk about here, because though he was probably less well known than the others, he had more of an influence on my own writing style: animator and total badass Monty Oum, who worked for several years on the Red vs. Blue web series and had just gotten started on his own creative project, RWBY. Early this year, he went into the hospital for a simple medical procedure, had an extreme allergic reaction, went into a coma, and never regained consciousness.

This freaked me out because it happened just days after I was in the hospital for hernia surgery -- a completely routine procedure ... but when I heard the news, it was kind of a jolt because, if something similar had happened to me, that would've been the end. That kind of realization is hard to shake loose.

As I mentioned, Monty Oum's fight choreography was a huge influence on how I write action scenes. Seeing his work started me thinking in ways that had never occurred to me before -- how the characters move, differences in fighting styles, how they can use their environment and nearby objects. I wrote the first draft of Chaser back in 2006, and rewrote it several times over the years, before Monty started working on RvB, so my writing style back then was very different. I've learned a lot from other sources, but his work on RvB had the biggest impact on me (and the comedic elements in the series overall affected my use of humor, as well). I think the action I write is much more dynamic now than it used to be. I think I wouldn't be writing such scenes as well, or having as much fun with them as I do, if I hadn't seen any of his work.

He also had a work ethic that makes me feel like a slacker no matter how much I think I've accomplished. He enjoyed his work so much that he never wanted to pause, even to sleep. From what his coworkers in the following video said, he didn't sleep so much as "power down"... sometimes he'd work on a project for thirty hours before finally falling asleep. And when he finished a current project, he immediately wanted to begin work on the next.

Anyway ... this stuff has been on my mind lately. Have a look at the video when you have time. If you've never heard of this guy, you'll be introduced to a truly awesome individual. And there are several things writers and other creative people can take away from this: Always be observing everything around you and taking it in -- for me, that means watching how people and characters move, and watching how people interact and getting ideas for conversations or little quirks for my characters.

Also, never take anything for granted, because you just never know when it might all go away. Accomplish as much as you can -- I stopped making New Year's resolutions a long time ago because I never managed to stick with them, but I'm going to make one right now -- write more, try to write better, try not to let various everyday-life setbacks get in the way, and finish more of my work in a reasonable time so I can get it published. My last novel, Project Revenant, took four years to finish because I kept letting myself get distracted. It should've taken one year, or less. So one of the things I learned from Monty Oum is that I really need to up my game.

And one other thing. Something Monty Oum said a lot: "Keep moving forward." Just writing a story or a book has the effect of generating ideas for new stories on the fly, which is awesome since I tend to write entire series of books. It can keep the momentum going, but it also results in so many ideas I'm often sure I can't keep up with them. But keep moving forward.


And here's a pretty good example of the choreography I'm talking about. The good stuff starts about 1:17 in, and bits of it directly inspired a car chase/battle sequence in Project Revenant.



Since I've finally gotten a book and a short story officially published, and the use of the company car for deliveries has prevented me from becoming homeless, things are finally looking up. I'm finally looking forward to the future rather than dreading it. Let's see what 2016 brings. I'll keep moving forward.


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