Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Politicians Dressed as Noknor

I've been photoshopping (or whatever the MSPaint version is) pictures of actors as they would look if they landed the role of Noknor, Scourge of Evil in the film version of The Quest Saga. Basically, I doctor photos of guys like Dave Bautista, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc. to see what how they would like in the green make-up. Here's a reference of what Noknor (the main villain of The Quest Saga) looks like:
Green skin, red glowing eyes, you get the picture.

I've went in a different direction with it, going from actors that have the right look to people that have the right mindset: politicians!

This is probably my favorite of the lot; that scowl is just so perfectly Noknor-esque!
Yeah, I know Noknor's a guy, but she pulls it off rather nicely, doncha think?

Goddess, I love this country!


Lately I’ve found myself battling a new yet somehow strangely familiar demon: scriptophobia. What is scriptophobia? The fear of writing, of course. Let me explain:
For about a month I’ve been suffering from a rather severe case of writer’s block. I had been traveling along of a rather swift and plentiful river of writing prior. I had been writing every day for a least a few hours at a time, I had a ton of ideas, and just in general I had been working constantly and consistently. Then suddenly I hit a dam and I hit it hard. I stopped writing dead, like one morning I woke up and I just couldn’t write. The Quest Saga, the side-projects (short stories, other novels and what not), website material, blog stuff. Everything. All of it. It was like I couldn’t think of anything to say. I would just stare at my computer blankly for about fifteen minutes shuffling between various MSWord windows before getting sidetrack by YouTube, Wikipedia, etc.
Of course I realized that I wasn’t writing and of course I began to explain/justify it. I told myself that I was exhausted from my job, which was true but wasn’t the reason behind my not being able to write. I said that it was because I didn’t really have as much time between work and family life, but that definitely wasn’t true as I certainly had plenty of time for YouTube, Wikipedia, etc. I ultimately decided that I was simply suffering from that aforementioned severe case of writer’s block. I figured I’d get out of it soon enough and went about trying to write but not.
Then one day I suddenly realized something: it wasn’t writer’s block at all. I was afraid to write. I was actually afraid to write. My heart was racing, but not in the good way. The keyboard suddenly became a gross, slimy thing I couldn’t bring myself to touch. That brought me to the blank, wall-eyed staring at the computer screen and subsequent internets surfing. Oddly enough, I didn’t come to this realization while sitting in front of the computer but instead miles away from one while I was at work. I often have time to get lost in my thoughts as I do my job and I fantasized the scene I am currently working on. I basically wrote the whole thing out in my head, start to finish. This was the third time in as many days that I did that, but like the other two times before I knew that when I got home and sat myself at MSWord, my mind would go completely blank. That was my moment of, as they say, clarity.
Now, I’m not really suffering from scriptophobia (which is something that actually exists; who knew?) per se. What I have is something a little more…let’s just say odd. I have a fear of success; I’m afraid to succeed. If you’re scratching your head at that one, rightfully so, perhaps it’ll make more sense to call it more accurately a fear of change. I’m not a person that does well with change, good or bad. Putting this into perspective: I’m the kind of guy who will buy a lottery ticket and dream of what I would do if I won, but never actually check the ticket because I am terrified of the prospect that I actually won. As awesome as that would be (or not), it would still be a change from my daily norm and an extremely radical one at that. The very idea reduces me to a quivering mess.
I’ve recently started to submit to literary agents once again. I love what I write. I love reading my stories. To me, my work is brilliant but I understand that such an opinion is very subjective. I don’t really care about that. If other people think my work is brilliant, awesome. If I’m my only fan, I’m content with that as well. That being said, what’s the point of being a writer, or any artist for that matter, if you don’t at least try to share your work with the world? Hence the attempts to find a literary agent to help me succeed as a popular writer.
There are the tinges of self-doubt. What if I suck? What if I can’t write for shit? I love my writings, but what if in truth I’m a talentless hack? True I write for myself, but it would be nice to find some sort of acceptance for all these years of hard work and dedication. More than that, I suppose, is the wonder if I’m just wasting my time and energy. Like all writers I am my own worst critic.
Then there’s the other side of that coin. What if I am really as good as I feel I am (on my good days)? What if I end up *gasp* actually succeeding? As we’ve already established, I’m not comfortable with change regardless if it’s positive or negative. Success is change and the looming threat of that change terrifies me. What if I find a great agent who finds me a great publisher who turns me into a best-selling author which turns me into the success I’ve always dreamed of? Frightful, for me at any rate, and this rationale leads me down a path of self-sabotage, albeit subconsciously; after all, I can’t be a successful writer if I don’t write.
Does all of this sound weird? I know it does to me. If you can’t relate to me at all and just think that I’m a friggin’ wack-job, well then let me say that you’re not far off. If you’re struggling with something similar then my best advice that I’ve been able to come up with for myself is this: realize the demon, recognize it, and force yourself to trample it. I’ve always thought that the old cliché “you have to admit you have a problem” was kind of…well, silly. However, it is absolutely true.
Realizing I had a problem (being afraid of success) and recognizing it (as a fear of writing) has allowed me to bring all out of the subconscious and now that I know what I’m dealing with I’m able to tackle it. It’s still not easy and success (positive change but still, you know: change) still scares the rabbit pellets out of me, but at least I’m able to write once again.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Indie Writer and the J-O-B

I haven’t written much in the past month or so, either blogging or novel/short story. I wish I could say that it’s been due to something exciting like secretly training to become a ninja assassin or being struck by lightning and granted superpowers instead of, you know, ruptured eardrums and heart/breathing problems. No, the cause of my writer’s purgatory is much more mundane: I got a new job.
Fun fact about Indie Writing: it doesn’t generally pay enough to keep you fed (if you make enough money from your writing to support yourself I’d say that you’re officially a Professional Writer). Regardless of how passionate you are about your writing, the truth is that as an Indie Writer writing still remains a hobby and is sometimes if not often shuffled aside for more practical aspects of life, i.e. a flippin’ job.
Ever since I returned back to the US from Beijing last September I’ve been looking for a job. I took advantage of this six month unemployment to focus on my writing and basically turned writing into a full-time non-paying job (whatcha call it? Volunteer work? Community service? Slavery?). I would wake up each morning at 6am and after a quick catch up of email and news, I would settle down with a cup of coffee and work on some writing project pretty much all day. It was great fun and even therapeutic but unfortunately it didn’t exactly lend itself to a sufficient cash flow into my coffers. As I did NOT win that billion dollar powerball jackpot a couple months back, I actively sought out employment. It wasn’t until about a month ago that I finally landed a real money paying job and I learned something. It’s something I’ve known for a long time and even realized before, but this was definitely a refresher course in the fact that having a “real” job wrecks hell on the Indie Writer life of writing.
Writing is one of those things that take a lot of time and even more energy. I have literally sat down to write and then looked at my clock to find that six hours has past, even going so far as to forgetting to eat. You know what else takes a lot of time and energy out of your day? A job. Kind of the unstoppable force meets an immoveable object scenario, neh? You need writing but you also need a job. One invariably must make room for the other and unfortunately writing gets shoved back. Toss in the requirements of family and just life in general and you’re not left with a whole lot of time to do something that is so exhausting.
Writing is indeed a very demanding mistress. It puts a lot of stress on you, but the good kind of stress (kind of like the whole good/bad cholesterol thing). When I write, especially when I get really into it such that I forget meals and sleep, I am exhausted after. Like literally heavy breath, lightheaded exhausted. Writing uses a lot of mental power which in turn translates into physical power. Any writer knows what I’m talking about. You sit down, write for six hours, your fingers pounding away relentlessly. Even though you haven’t moved much sitting in front of the computer all day, when you’re done your body feels like you just ran a marathon at full sprint. In short, you need a damn nap.
The job I found to pay the bills is extremely physically demanding, but not really mentally demanding. Now, I’ve had jobs that are mentally demanding but not so much physically. I’ve had jobs that are physically demanding but not so much mentally. I’ve even had jobs that are demanding both physically and mentally. Given these experiences I can say with utmost conviction that there really isn’t much of a difference in terms of a job’s affect on my writing. After working all day, you come home and the first thing you want to do is relax. Now, as writing is that good stress and relaxing, you’d think that it would be easy to slip into after a long day of work. Yeah, not so much. I’ve tried to write after coming home from work and it just doesn’t work. I need to unwind from the job, relax my body and mind otherwise I just stare blankly at the monitor with ever growing frustration. Unfortunately, by the time I’ve unwound enough to get the creative juices flowing it’s time for bed to start it all over again the next day.
So what to do, what to do? First things first, it’s very, very important not to lose sight of why you write and don’t just give up. As I said, the Indie Writer is indeed a writer and needs to write. Don’t allow your frustration to overwhelm you and abandon your writing completely. The best thing I’ve found in getting a necessary job and writing to coexist peacefully is to find little slots of time you can write, times when you’re not exhausted by the burden of work and the consuming (albeit still wonderful) requirements of family. For instance, I’m writing this post in the morning during the hour and a half I have before I have to go to work (if that sounds like enough time to write, just know that I’ve been working on this one for four days thus far). There are also days off. On your days off plan a schedule to write and stick with it. Set aside a few hours dedicated to writing and keep it consistent so that it eventually becomes a good habit. But above all, don’t allow yourself to give up and keep on writing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I'm still here

It's been a bit since I've made a post and I'd like to say that it's because I've been busy with great writing accomplishments, but the truth is simply I've been tied up with more mundane personal matters. As for the Giant Sized Kain Viccon Action Figure I spoke of earlier, I've kind of hit a brick wall with that but I'm currently in the process of breaking through said wall. In creating the figure's armor, I couldn't get my hands on Makin's Clay so I used a far inferior brand; well, the brand is great for making smaller, less complex objects but not so much for large scale things like armor for a 2 1/2 foot action figure.

Anywho, I'm getting through some stuff right now and I hope to be back on top of my game soon. In the meantime, please enjoy this concept art I did a while back for a short story/novella simply titled Casa de la Phantasma that I started and never finished. I'm starting to get back into my more supernatural/creepy writing style, so in between working on The Quest Saga I'll be working on some of my horror stuff too.

This here's a picture of Sally Zhang, the tortured soul phantom from Casa de la Phantasma.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Merchandising! Merchandising! – GIANT SIZE Kain Viccon Figure, 31 inches! HUGE!

Craft Project: GIANT SIZED Kain Viccon Figure! 31 HUGE inches! 

Time for another arts and crafts project, The Quest Saga style! Now, unlike the other custom made Quest Saga action figures I’ve posted thus far (Nancy Viccon, Kain Viccon, Noknor Mint in Box), this is not one I actually did a long time ago, but instead one I have yet to do. I will be posting the construction in real-time, explaining in detail my methods, tools, and so forth so you can get an idea of what really goes into these labors of love.
I’m really excited about this one. Once it’s done it should be really, really cool. It’s another Kain Viccon figure, natch, but taken to a more extreme scale: 31 inches! That’s 2 ½ feet of pure awesomeness! That may not sound so big, but trust me, the scale on this thing will be quite impressive. Join me, won’t you, on this grand journey of Quest Saga merchandising fun!
Okay, so let’s just start off with the very first step: the core figure. For this Kain Viccon I will be using a 31inch Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson giant sized WWE figure/statue from Wicked Cool Toys:
I actually saw this at Toys’R’Us and as soon I did I knew it would make an awesome Kain Viccon custom figure. As you well know by now (or if not, check this out) Dwayne Johnson is my #1 pick to play the role of Sir Kain Viccon in The Quest Saga film series, so obviously this 31inch Rock is perfect for my needs (take that as you will). Now, this figure is legitimately pretty cool. It’s colossal for a toy, has nine points of articulation (neck, shoulders, wrists, hips, & knees), and is amazingly detailed. Check out The Rock’s tat:

All that said, I don’t really see this as having too much playability. It’s actually pretty fragile and feels like the head or arms would pop off if you sneezed hard enough. As boys of all ages aren’t exactly know for their gentleness, I can’t imagine this thing would last long in a faux wrestling match. I’m thinking this thing was geared more towards the older collector market or perhaps something along the lines of a My Buddy/My Pet Monster; a stand-in friend for the kid to drag along everywhere much to the parents’ annoyance. The price goes a long way into proving my point. This badboy cost me $40, not a king’s ransom but much more than I’d usually spend on projects like this. Certainly that has to be more than what a parent would be willing to pay for something that’s going to lose its head after a powerbomb onto the coffee table.
I bought the last one on the shelf. Now there’s a whole slew of these HUGE 31inch figures covering everything from Star Wars to wrestling to superheroes. I don’t know how popular they are or how fast they are flying off the shelves, so I’m not sure if Toys’R’Us will get more in. I do see (as of press time) a ton of them for sell online for reasonable prices only a few bucks more or less of the $40 retail. I’m not sure how easy it would be to come across a second 31inch The Rock or even if I’d be willing to drop another $40+. Thus, I am going through this project with the notion that I’d getting one and only one shot at this. This one will take a while to complete, not sure how long but this will not be rushed job (famous last words). I simply can’t afford to let my impatience screw me over as it so often has in the past. Not only that, but I will be using a metric butt-ton of paint and polymer clay and all of that will take time to dry. Needless to say, this will be a long journey and I hope that you’ll stick with me on it. Any comments/questions are most welcome of course.
With that, I’ll collect all my supplies together and we’ll get started.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Merchandising! Merchandising! – Nancy Viccon 9in scale Action Figure

Nancy Viccon 9in scale Action Figure

Nancy Viccon is one of the main characters in The Quest Saga. She is the younger sister of Kain Viccon, the Grand General of the Army of the Kingdom of Arcainia. Nancy is fourteen years old and Arcainian/Chinese; her father Richard Viccon was Arcainian and her mother Hua Fang was Chinese, making Nancy and Kain half-siblings and Nancy and Hua Li blood cousins. Nancy is an adorable, fun teeny-bopper kind of gal, her cuteness balanced by the fact that she is a skilled and highly proficient fighter (how and where she honed these warrior skills at such a young age is something you'll have to find out about in The Quest Saga). As I said, she is one of if not my favorite character.

As for her action figure, I crafted this 9” scale at the same time that I did the Kain Viccon one. When I say the same time, I mean the exact same time as I went back and forth between them as I worked on both. Thus, the processes are more or less the same. Like Kain, I had wanted to make a Nancy toy for a long, long time but holding me back was the lack of a suitable core figure (a preexisting toy used as the basis for my figure). As I stated in my previous post, finding a core figure for Kain was difficult but as least I knew what I was looking for: a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson WWE figure. For Nancy, I was completely at a loss; not sure if you know this or not but there’s not exactly an overabundance of teenaged Asian girl action figures out there, much less teenage Chinese girl action figures. Making a Nancy Viccon action figure indeed seemed to be a nigh impossible feat.

One day I was shopping at Toys ‘R’ Us; I think it might have been the same trip that yielded my Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson figure that I used for Kain Viccon. While browsing about in search of anything that might be useful to me, I stumbled upon the action figures for the Star Trek movie, J.J Abrams 1st edition. Low and behold, a Uhura figure:

I had found my Nancy core figure.

Now Uhura was played by the incredibly lovely Zoe Saldana who is neither Chinese nor a teenager; although born in Jersey, her family is originally from the Dominican Republic and she’s a year younger than me (thanks Wikipedia!). Funny thing about her toy, though: I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s the scaling down and loss of details or whatever, or something about the sculpting, but this toy actually looks preeeetty close to how I’ve envisioned Nancy. I’m not the only one, either! Everyone I’ve polled has asked roughly the same question: Where’d you find the Chinese girl doll? So, while there’s no chance Zoe Saldana could play Nancy in the film (that honor would go to Chai Wei if I ever get that winning powerball ticket), her non-Neytiri figure certainly can. Perhaps because the Star Trek line is a smaller scale, maybe 6” or 8” scale, her height is completely in scale with the Kain, Noknor, and Li figures. Funny how these things work out sometimes.

Okee, so I have this Zoe Saldana Star Trek toy. How do I turn her into Nancy Viccon? The toy was dressed in a rubber Starfleet skirt and matching shirt, although the sleeves are molded plastic. I took the skirt off because Nancy wears pants in battle and found that Uhura wears Starfleet issued panties. How do I know her underwear is official? Because there were a bunch of Star Trek emblems raised up all over it. I knew it would show up on the finished product, so prior to painting her legs and underwear blue to act as pants, I had to file down the Star Trek emblems. You read that right: I spent the better part of an afternoon rubbing Zoe Saldana’s butt with sandpaper until it was smooth. Yeah, that’s not creepy or anything.
I thought I would save some work and clay and simply paint her rubber blouse, but unfortunately I quickly found that the painted just flaked right off as soon as it dried; you can kind of see what I mean in the picture. I cut the shirt off and discovered she was wearing a sports bra, but luckily no raised Star Trek emblems this time. Hmmmm, sports bra and panties? Playmates must have anticipated the creepiness of Zoe Saldana fans (I wonder if her Gamora figures have the same problem). Even though I knew the sports bra wouldn’t be visible under Nancy’s armor, I painted it blue anyway.
Just like Kain’s armor, I molded Nancy’s breastplate (chainmail and a thin steel plate sandwiched between heavy leather) from air-dry polymer clay, Makin’s Clay. I rolled out a flat sheet, cut out the vague shape, and then molded it around Nancy’s torso and trimmed the excess.
I painted it the same cobalt blue as her pants (and Kain’s shirt and pants) to give it a dry, dusty look. Like her brother, I gave her the crest of the Kingdom of Arcainia on her chest: a white star with an eagle battling a rattlesnake atop a cactus (in case you forgot or didn’t read it, here’s Kain’s action figure description which goes into more detail about that). I gave her a turquoise scrunchie by just painting the black band keeping Uhura’s black hair in a ponytail and gave her a manicure with turquoise paint for a little extra pizzazz.
Nancy has a few accessories, though not as many as Kain; no real reason other than she simply doesn't carry as much crap around as her brother does.
Her belt is leather cut to shape and glued on. I gave her a Makin’s Clay backpack with the same button clasp as Kain’s to allow it to easily snap on and off. She has a blowpipe (blowgun), basically clay rolled into a snake and painted silver. The backpack has a small eyehook where you can put the blowpipe for storage, although in the book Nancy carries it on her belt. She can hold the blowpipe in her hand, although with limited articulation in the arms, you can’t place it to her lips. Her Rajima steel sword is completely made from Makin’s Clay, blade, hilt, and handle all formed, painted, and held together with superglue. A thick needle runs hilt to blade tip for support.
I particularly like her silver faery shield; in the book, Nancy is given this magick shield by faeries and it is completely indestructible and will move on its own to protect her. I cut a circular piece of dried Makin’s Clay and then wrapped it with aluminum foil shiny side out to give it a silver mirror surface that I don’t think photographs well but really does look cool. I lined the edge with more clay, added a pewter faery and roses that were designed for charm bracelets, and covered it all in silver paint. Fun fact: I originally had painted the edge, faery, and roses gold. Shortly after, I checked in the book (my own book that I had written, mind you) and realized that there was no gold on the shield; it was supposed to be completely silver. Woopsie-doodle! That little FU cost me some time as I had to tear the shield apart and start completely from scratch. Luckily, I was able to save and repaint the faery and roses.

I considered giving her more, but like I said there’s not a whole lot to give her. One day I’d like to make a Barbie style toy with different outfits she can wear as described in the book. All in all, I’ve very proud of my work. I really feel like Nancy’s toy came out very well, capturing the heart of the Quest Saga toyline. Like the Kain Viccon and Noknor figures, this Nancy is detailed, articulated, comes with a bunch of neat-o accessories, and is totally playable.
How fitting that my 13th post on my 39th birthday would be for my favorite character.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Are you a real writer? Use this handy-dandy checklist to find out

Let’s face it, anyone can write a book. Just like anyone can learn how to play guitar but it doesn’t automatically make you a rock star. Being a writer is as much a state of being as it is actually, you know, writing. After a close, careful study of some of literature’s greatest minds, I’ve compiled a checklist to see if you have what it takes call yourself a writer:

You drink coffee +10

You smoke +5

You drink +5

You drink a lot +10

You’re drunk right now +75 if it's Scotch, -200 if it's chardonnay 

You’ve done drugs +5

Those drugs are cocaine and/or heroin +10

Those drugs are anything other than cocaine and/or heroin -75

You own a gun +5 for each, extra +25 if you’ve taken a selfie with it

You’ve died young +5

You’ve died old +5

You’ve committed suicide +10

You’ve been married/divorced multiple times +10 for each marriage/divorce

You’re married to someone much younger than yourself +10

You’re married to someone much older than yourself +10

You married/slept with a family member (2nd cousin and higher) +45

You’ve had a homosexual experience +20 for each one

You’ve had extramarital affairs +10 for each one (prostitutes & celebrities x2)

You’re a minority -100

You’re a minority, but your penname sounds white +101

Your friends and family label you as quirky +10

Your friends and family label you as eccentric +100

Your friends and family label you as batshit insane +150,000

You’ve been in the military +10

You’ve been in a war +25

You’ve been in a mental hospital +50

You’ve lived in a different country for any amount of time +15

You write while sitting in a coffee house +10

That coffee house is Starbucks -5

That Starbucks is located in a Barnes and Noble +1

You've ever told the Starbucks barista that you’re this close to finishing your novel -150

You’re secretly bitter towards your peers +25

You’re blatantly bitter towards your peers +125

You’ve won awards for your writing +5 for each, -5 for each you’ve given yourself

Your unappreciated genius is too great for stupid awards +105

You have accused another writer/Hollywood of stealing your idea +15

You have a website +1

That website looks like it was designed in 2003 by a 5 year old +51

You’ve lived in poverty at some point +15

Your family has more money than God +15

You’ve personally squandered your family’s fortune and now live in poverty +35

You own a dog +10

You own a cat +15

That dog/cat is named after a character in a book you’ve never actually read -35

That dog/cat is named after a literary great whose works you don’t actually own -135

Your name is Stephen King +375 (x25 if it actually is)

You've actually written something longer than three pages +100

_____Your score

_____Your real score

_____Knock it off! You’re not Stephen King! He sure as hell wouldn’t be wasting his time with this crap! Do it again and be serious about it this time

Finished? Congratulations! Here are the results:

You know, if you were a real writer, you would have gotten three sentences into this drivel, scoffed, and then went back to playing solitaire for three hours straight all the while yelling at anyone that knocks on your door that they are “ruining your writing process”