Monday, November 17, 2014

Breakout from Bongolaan Book Trailer II




For the past several weeks I've been working on Chapter 9 of my webcomic Breakout from Bongolaan, which I hope to post within the next couple of weeks.

During this time I also took a look at Breakout from Bongolaan's "book trailer," and decided some renovation was in order.

After spending more time tweaking it than I originally planned to, I posted it on my YouTube Channel.

Thank you for watching.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Review: Alan Moore's Writing for Comics


I can't recall reading stories by Alan Moore, one of the leading writers in the comic book industry. 

So I must confess that I picked up his 48-page booklet, Writing for Comics, because it was an inexpensive addition to my Amazon.com order. 

Hey, I've spent $5.95 on worse things. 

It's not that I think I wasted my money--but the booklet didn't exactly wow me either.  I guess my review will fit in with the eight other 3-star ratings other readers gave it.

The chapter titles make it sound like the aspiring comic book writer will be treated to detailed instructions on how to create a successful comic.  Instead, what you get are generic narratives that go off on tangents about the tepid state of the comic book industry. 

Chapter Four is an exception.  In this section, Alan Moore discusses at-length how he fit a Superman story into a 40 page comic. 

But then there's the Afterwards, written 18 years after the original articles.  This parting shot pretty much says:  Forget-everything-I-wrote-earlier-on-this-subject-and-write-whatever-you-want-any-way-you-want.

Oh-kay.

Anyway, the cover art, along with the 22 black and white illustrations by Jacen Burrows, are top-notch and eye-catching.  Unfortunately, they're not enough in quantity to elevate the booklet--originally articles published in a British fanzine--from decent to great.

Keep in mind, my feelings about Writing for Comic is in the minority.  Out of the 42 other reviewers commenting on Amazon.com, 28 of them rate the booklet 4-stars or higher.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Author Appearance: Patricia Cornwell


If you're a fan of crime fiction in general, and Patricia Cornwell in particular, and you happen to be in the Seattle area tomorrow (Friday, 14 November), then you're in luck.

She'll be appearing at the University Bookstore to give a reading from her latest book, Flesh and Blood, followed by a book signing afterwards.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saturday, November 1, 2014

New Title Page for Webcomic

After attending the How to Be A Nerd for a Living panel discussion at last month's GeekGirlCon, and my chat with Rebecca Hicks about webcomics, I'm exploring the idea of changing Breakout from Bongolaan's format.  

While I like Blogspot/Blogger, I think this template is becoming too unwieldy for a "space opera-sized" story of 242 pages--and counting.  

At this point I'm in the Research Phase, because I want any changes I make to be long lasting.

In the meantime, I'm making some minor improvements, like replacing the old title page with a better picture and font.  Since I have a stock of better pictures, another improvement I'm working on is revamping Breakout from Bongolaan's webcomic trailer.

These adjustments are being made while I continue working on the story itself.  Right now I'm in the process of arranging photos for Chapter 9.

More improvements and content to follow, so stay tuned! 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Corpse Bride - Victor Makeup Tutorial - Collab w/ Natasha Dubois




My high school friend's daughter is a makeup artist with a series of tutorials on YouTube.  Here latest--The Corpse Bride--is just in time for Halloween!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Book Review--Coruscant Nights I: Jedi Twilight


Last year, I acquired a taste for noir fiction after reading The Maltese Falcon, The Tough Guys and Femme Noir--The Dark City Diaries.  Then everal months ago, I stumbled across Michael Reaves' Coruscant Nights I: Jedi Twilight at a book store and was intrigued enough to buy it.  I finally took it down from my bookshelf and read it.

This tale takes place shortly after Palpatine's coup and the Great Jedi Purge.  One of the survivors, Jax Pavan, has been eking out a living among the denizens of Coruscant's underworld.  That is, until a dying wish from his former Jedi Master sends him on an urban quest to aid the budding rebellion against the new Galactic Empire.

The story involves a MacGuffin that Rebellion leaders and various crime bosses are scrambling to find.  Meanwhile, apparently above it all, Darth Vader has taken an interest in finding Jax Pavan.

I enjoyed reading the book, the first in a trilogy, but give it a solid 3-stars, instead of the average 4-star rating on Amazon.com.  Out of the 49 reviews so far, 37 readers gave Jedi Twilight either four, or five star ratings. 

The less-than-four-star raters complained about continuity glitches, a boring plot, wordiness in the narrative and stilted dialogue.  I didn't notice any of these specific problems--maybe because I do all my leisure reading while on a cardio machine, so I'm always appreciative of the diversion.

Seriously though, I thought Jedi Twilight was a noble endeavor to create a "Star Wars noir," but it fell short in evoking a noir mood.  I don't think this is entirely the author's fault.  Michael Reaves attempted to meld a noir story into the most famous space opera in science fiction.  And despite the detailed descriptions of Imperial Capital's crumbling foundation, the space opera mood prevailed.

Jedi Twilight also reminded me of what I like and dislike about reading a novel series based on movies and/or TV shows.  (I read a lot of Star Trek novels during my tween and teen years, but then only a handful of Star Wars books). 

There are a couple things I like about stories set in pre-established worlds.

First, we're introduced to new characters beyond what we see on the big or small screen. 

And second, there's a lot less exposition in a familiar series.  That is, the author doesn't have to explain what a Wookie, stormtrooper, Klingon, Romulan, or whatever are.  On the flip side though, the target audience for such books are the fans, or at least folks who are familiar with the original movies/TV shows.  Anyone unfamiliar with the setting could feel lost faster than the Millennium Falcon could make the Kessel Run.

Which brings me to what I don't care about expanded universe stories.

First, there's redundant references to the original show.  I swear every Star Wars book I read involving Han Solo and Princess Leia, they'd allude to their I love you/I know moment in every story.  It was an awkward scene to begin with in an otherwise great movie.  Some of us would like to issue a cease and desist order against beating dead tauntauns.

Even if the story isn't centered around one of the main characters in the original works, there seems to be a requirement that one of them has to be involved, even if only in a Six Degrees of Separation sort of way. In Jedi Twilight, Darth Vader's hunt for Jax Pavan is what keeps the tale firmly within the space opera realm.

I admit, these are my personal biases.  Other readers may feel differently. 

But biases aside, I enjoyed Jedi Twilight enough that I may consider picking up the sequels Street of Shadows and Patterns of Force

(Image from:  Wookiepedia)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

GeekGirlCon 2014 Panel Discussion #4: Ethics in Comics

(Image:  GGC Logo)
 
We now come to the last panel discussion I attended at this year's GeekGirlCon (GGC).  
 
Ethics in Comics was hosted by:
 
 
 
 
 
While the term ethics is often described as "moral principles that govern a person's or group's behavior," Reece referred to ethics as "the space between people."
 
That the differences between individuals will get in the way of respect.
 
(Image:  Reece, Rebeca, Tanya and Walter)
Comics are escapist entertainment, but there are few stories of heroines for little girls.

Which leads to what the panelists refer to as the Twelve Questions of Ethics, the first one being the concept of "skin."

The skinny on skin was led by Rebeca--

--Women's clothing looks like it's painted on.
--A female superhero's powers are related to her femininity.  Power Girl and Wonder Woman are prime examples of this...

(Image by James Denton)
(Image by Dan Oliveira)
--Women are drawn in poses that highlight the contours of their body, even when in combat.
--The orientation of a woman's image is based on the "male gaze." 
 
In case you're wondering, here's a reminder of a proper gaze when encountering women cosplayers at conventions, like GGC:
 
(Image by Alexas Rosa)
 
Now let's turn our gaze back to the Twelve Questions of Ethics, moving on to #2, the market. 

Walter, led the discussion on this--

--Most authentic are is like lightning, that is, it's fleeting and people try to tap into it.
--People will consume products, even art for the namesake, or brand loyalty.
--The market panders to an audience.
--However, artists can't make a living as artists without the market.
--Therefore, one must find a balance between creating art that's authentic, and art that's marketable.

Then the discussion veered off a bit into some tangential, but relevant subjects.  While we didn't get to the other 10 Questions of Ethics, here are snippets, which I'm sure relate to them--

--We tell stories to tell us who we are.
--Readers become invested in stories because they see a little of themselves in it.
--Pandering makes an audience feel betrayed.
--Try to find more than a single story for a character, otherwise you could be stereotyping.
--Art gets through people's psychological and emotional defenses.
--Art becomes a legacy that pushes the boundary of established perimeters.
--Art can assign values to life.
--You can't talk about an issue unless you acknowledge, or display the issue.
--When people become a symbol for a cause, then they stop being a person, even when they're a fictional character.  (Apparently, Batwoman caused a stir for being a lesbian who proposed marriage to her partner, only to have DC Comics put the kibosh on the wedding).

There was only time for a couple of questions at the end.

The first woman asked how the panelists could talk about race relations, when they're all Caucasian.  She was also irked that one of the panelists made a joke which she thought was sexist.  (I couldn't remember the joke/comment).

The panelist apologized and said the topic of ethics is something that is in a constant state of trying to improve itself.

Reece had a good response, in that as artists there will be people who will love your work, while there will be others who will hate it.  The question is:  What ethical choices will you make on what you create and can you live with those choices?

The second woman was also irked and asked:  But what if a woman artist wants to portray heroines in a sexy, alluring manner?  Not to mention the women cosplayers who dress this way.  She felt women "couldn't win" the Ethics Wars.

Before the panel could come up with an answer we ran out of time.

As you can see, we didn't solve any issues, such as racism or sexism in comics, within 50 minutes.  We probably couldn't if we were given 50 years.  But most the panelist have hosted ethical discussions in the past and plan on continuing their work.

This ends my GGC coverage.  I hope to make next year's con.  See you then!

Friday, October 24, 2014

GeekGirlCon 2014 Panel Discussion #3: If You Can Write, You Can Make Games

(GGC Logo)
 
Text adventures, or interacive fiction "...are one of the oldest types of computer games..." that are still being played. 
 
Jacqueline Ashwell's one-woman panel discussion during GeekGirlCon demonstrated that (and borrowing from her title) "if you can write, you can make games."
 
(Image:  Jacqueline Ashwell)
This is thanks, in a large part, to programming languages becoming more accessible.

Are you going to concoct an AAA+ game single-handedly?

No, because the "Gold Standard" studios have multiple teams writing code for their games.

But you can write a computer/text version of Choose Your Own Adventure.  You can find thousands of such games on Interactive Fiction Database

One of the simplest programs is Twine.  Since we only had 50 minutes, Jacqueline presented a short Twine game she created for her GGC, Walk in the Park. 

For more detailed instructions on creating a Twine game, see Auntie Pixelante

Other "Twine-like" code languages are available, such as:  Inkle, Choice Script and Lindum.  Then there's languages like:  Adrift, Quest, Hugo and JADS.

While these games are narrative in nature, as you become more skilled, you can incorporate images and music.  However, with Twine at least, players can't save their games.

If you're wondering who will play your game, that depends on how thoroughly its been beta tested.

So--

--Plan more time than you originally thought you'd need to develop the game.
--Try to cover all the choices a player could make.
--Get friends to check it out.

Some additional resources available that can help get you started or improve your game:

Jacqueline Ashwell's website

The Interactive Fiction Forum

You can even enter your game in any of these contests:

IntroComp

The Interactive Fiction Competition

Spring Thing

The XYZZY Awards

and Shuffle Comp

Good luck!

(Image by Robinson Wheeler)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

GeekGirlCon 2014 Panel Discussion #2: How to Be A Nerd for a Living

(GGC Logo)

My last GeekGirlCon blogpost dealt with getting a job with a gaming studio.  The second panel discussion, How to Be a "Nerd for a Living," was an interview with the five panelists on how they succeeded in the nerdy careers.

The panelists who made their nerdy dreams come true were:

Heidi Gaertner, Technology Director at Big Fish Games.
Jamie Cordero, CEO and "Glitter Jedi" at Espionage Cosmetics.
Jina Heaverly, Vice President and General Manager of PC, Mac and Cloud for Big Fish Games. 
Rebecca Hicks, Creator and Illustrator for the webcomic Little Vampires.
Susan Eisenberg, voice-over actress, best known as Wonder Woman.
Wendy Buske, Panel Moderator, Co-Founder and Marketing Director for Nerd For A Living.


(Image from left to right:  Heidi, Rebecca, Jamie, Jina and Susan, with Wendy at the podium)
Since there was only 50 minutes to discuss the panelists' career paths, the session focused on two main questions. 

How did you get started (in your nerd career)? 

Susan: 
I studied acting, but felt better in front of a microphone than a camera.
Jina: 
I graduated with a finance degree, but didn't want to be an accountant.
Jamie:
I went to school as a professional make-up artist.
Rebecca:
I loved comics and literature, then became a fan of comic strips and webcomics.  I self published a comic book in 2006.
Heidi:
I studied architecture in college, but diverted to engineering.  I've been in the gaming industry since 1996.

Some notable quotes from this question:

"No experience is wasted"--Rebecca.
"I got fired from every crappy retail job I had"--Jaimie.
"Retail is worse than fetching coffee for people"--Jamie.
"If your job is close to what you want to do in Life, you're probably in a good spot"--Heidi.

How do you get a nerd-type job?
Heidi:
Take classes in the subjects you are interested in.
Susan:
There are voice-over jobs available in every city.  Get a demo tape and an agent.
Jina:
The Customer Service Department is a good foot-in-the-door position.
Jamie:
Shadow someone.  There's a high up-front cost to being a make-up artist--$10,000 for your kit.
Rebecca:
The barrier for entry into webcomics is very low.  

Notable quote

"Follow your heart, but take your brain with you"--Jaimie

Notable Recommendation


Personal Notes and Observations

Sometime after the panel discussion I found Rebecca's booth and sought her advice on webcomics.  
I'm concerned that my main webcomic, Breakout from Bongolaan, is becoming unwieldy using Blogspot's template--if it isn't already.  Rebecca and her husband recommended a Word Press plug-in by Phil Hester called Comic Press, which I think means this product.

Anyway, I plan on doing a bit more research before I change Breakout from Bongolaan's format.  But my chat with Rebecca Hicks made the trip to GeekGirlCon totally worth my while.

By the way, I didn't get a good picture of Susan Eisenberg, because a cosplayer's Galactus helmet was in the way.

So here's another photo of the panel with a bit of fanboy fawning thrown in: