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Character genesis: Domino April 17, 2014

Posted by thejinx in enduring chaos, writing.
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Where does a character come from?

For me, often the main character determines the story, and so comes before anything else. Beyond that, a character usually arises out of the role I need them to play in a story. I can’t find a place for them otherwise, and alas, that means that I’ve generally been unable to recycle characters from other story attempts. From there, I develop the character’s backstory, personality, and goals, and everything after that point is determined by the character as they come to life.

But that isn’t always the case.

There is an archetype of character – specifically, of protagonist – in genre fiction that I have seen done many times: the Mistake. This character is a repentant sinner; they did something in their past that they sorely regret, often killing or hurting someone close to them, and the main point of their character arc is to come to terms with the crime they committed. Up until the character does come to terms with it, they have various methods of coping with the shame they feel from that action, whether it’s drinking themselves to sleep every night, constantly punishing themselves symbolically, or general angstiness (or sometimes/often all three).

The one thing these characters all have in common is the Mistake: they are always somehow tricked or coerced into doing the shameful action.

Of course, it’s easy to build a character that way, or to want to build a character that way. People don’t want to believe a good guy is capable of intentionally doing something evil, and it’s awfully hard to sympathize with one who did. Whereas if the character had to do the evil deed to protect something/someone(s) else or believed they were doing the right thing, it becomes easier for a reader to understand their plight and want them to move on.

But it’s been done. A lot. I think there were four or five examples of this in a single video game I played.

So it got me thinking, what if the repentant sinner actually did something downright vile?

This was the thought process behind Domino, a character in Enduring Chaos.

Now, I am not saying he just went out and attacked innocent people unprovoked – he had his own, albeit twisted, reasons for what he did, and the people involved were certainly not saints. But Domino has blood on his hands. A lot of blood. And it is all on him. No one tried to force or trick him into doing it; the idea and the blame are entirely his. What he did was inexcusable, and no amount of good he could ever do will make up for that black stain on his soul and reputation.

So what is his coping mechanism with the sins of his past? I wanted to avoid angst for several reasons: it’s been overdone, it either ignites annoyance on the part of the reader or sympathy – which demeans the heinousness of his crimes – and more importantly in this particular case, with his set of semi-normal morals it would be impossible for him to live with that level of guilt.

Instead, I took a different route – detachment. He feels nothing, never shows emotion, and rarely speaks or even comes in contact with other people. He exists rather than lives, wandering through the wilds and hunting and gathering his own food, trading pelts or found food and materials for any supplies he needs, completely apart from other people and even his own past and self.

Does he regret what he did? Of course he does. As I said, he still holds a semi-normal set of morals. But with his view on the world, it has no impact on him, neither the regret nor the morals themselves. They are part of a canvas he sees from the outside.

Does that mean he hasn’t faced the shame he holds, somewhere in the part of his mind he has closed off? Yes, it does. But it doesn’t matter to him.

Will he eventually move beyond that detachment? … Well, you’ll have to read Enduring Chaos to find out.

But that was the genesis of Domino.

Music Monday: Time Circuits April 14, 2014

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Testing the waters with a regular feature in which I highlight/share some music I really enjoy. Mostly, this will involve indie re-arrangements of video game music, because that’s how I roll and because it’s generally pretty easy to link to free, legal downloads for it. I’ll admit my music theory is weak, so I might not be able to describe the songs I feature in technical terms, but I love what I love, and if one person gets to enjoy a new song out of it, I will consider it a success.

For my inaugural post, I’m going to feature one of my all-time favourite songs: “Time Circuits”/”Corridors of Time” from the SNES classic Chrono Trigger. Clearly, I’m not the only one to enjoy this track so much, as it has been done over and over again. The bonus to it being so popular is inevitably that means there are several very well-done arrangements out there. This week I’m featuring a selection of my favourite renditions of this well-loved theme.

mv – Time Chill

“Time Chill” is at least ten years old now, but it remains a favourite. As the title might suggest, mv turned the tune into a somewhat jazzy rendition. What I love about this version is that despite taking a slightly different approach to the source, it feels like this is exactly what the original track was meant to sound like.

Ashane – Zealous Entropy

In this version, Ashane took the original ~90 second melody and turned it into a 10:29 rock ballad, starting off gentle and building as it goes. The questionably voiced lines from the part of the game when the source music plays might not be to everyone’s taste, but to me, those have become as much a part of the music as the guitars, bass, and drums.

Featured on playlist: Road trip, because nothing makes the time and miles go by quicker than listening to 3-4 songs and finding an hour has passed.

Captain Literal – Passage to Zeal

This ambient rendition goes all the way back to 2002; I found an updated version from a few years later while searching for the download link, but I prefer this original posting to RPGamer. It’s long, smooth, and mellow, and I still recall the first time I played it on the radio show I was part of around that time, when I was a bit uncertain about playing video game remixes, and this one was warmly received by crew and listeners alike.

Joren de Bruin, Tweex – Corrupter of Time

I originally discovered this song on a different website where it was titled “Corroder of Time,” a pun on the original title that still amuses me. Unlike other rock arrangements of the tune, this one turns the source material into a heavier song, despite keeping at least close to the original beat, truly turning the track into a hard rock remix.

Bonus final track comes courtesy of the Japanese band MintJam. They recorded an amazing version of “Corridors of Time” which I can unfortunately only link to on YouTube, as it was commercially released and therefore not available as a free download. I adore their rendition for the instruments and the depth they gave the original song, including an engaging drum beat and smooth vocals.

I hope you enjoyed this brief foray into my music collection. If you have any suggestions for other tracks, artists, or albums for me to check out, please feel free to comment. I always love discovering new music. See you again next week with a new feature!

Being an artist and a mother April 7, 2014

Posted by thejinx in art, life, writing.
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New parents live in the moment. The demands of such a tiny, fragile, and utterly dependent life form are so immediate and encompassing that there just isn’t an opportunity to think about the future. That’s why those early sleepless nights seem insurmountable – because it feels like there will never be anything other than that moment. That might be part of the reason post-partum depression hits so hard, along with inadequate sleep. I know it played a large part in my baby blues.

Of course, there is something to be said about the inspiration derived from the transformation of this helpless, squalling, troll-like armful into a sapient, problem-solving miniature human, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

This post is about time.

When I was pregnant, I tried to get as much done as I could, since I was pretty much giving up the idea of getting anything done until my daughter was going to school. I have always been far from even attempting to be supermom, but she only gets one chance to grow up and I wanted to do as best I could to help raise her to be a smart, disciplined, and loved little girl.

Consequently, I didn’t get much done. Sure, I managed some tasks – I completed and published Halcyon and, more recently, Enduring Chaos, and opened up Brain Lag for outside submissions – but plenty others fell by the wayside. Those five images I posted over the last month encompassed the entirety of completed (drawn) artwork I’ve put out since I gave birth to my daughter. Prior to the quilt square I decorated over a year ago now, I had done no art more advanced than a sketch since before she was born. Things like updating this blog and posting photographs of subjects not including my daughter dropped to occasional dabbles or ground to a halt. I chose to use what little free time I had to focus my efforts on writing and publishing, and I believe that was a wise choice.

2.75 years later, my daughter is well-behaved, getting much better at entertaining herself, and communicating her needs and wants (a very welcome development).

Does this mean I have more time to focus on my own things? No. Sure, I have naptime, and after she goes to bed I rarely have to do anything else with her. But then, that’s been the case for almost two years. And when she’s awake, despite that she can play by herself pretty well, I tend to get frustrated if I’m interrupted in a task/hobby I’m doing for myself, which is unfair to her. So I still have very limited time to do my own things.

But it’s not about how much time I have, is it? It’s about how I use the time I have. Budgeting time – that’s the key. And it’s not something I’ve been doing very well of late.

The problem is one that’s afflicted me for years: I dabble too much. I just enjoy playing around in too many different media and forms of entertainment, such as:

  • Art
    trapped damian-frozen
  • Photography
    dessert mew
  • Writing
    tumblr_static_writing450
  • Jewelry making
  • Learning guitar
    acoustic-guitar
  • Video games
    Arc-Rise-Fantasia_Wii_US_ESRB

And that’s just the hobbies I’ve dabbled with in the past month. That doesn’t include the ones I am still interested in playing with but haven’t tried in years, including various other media of 2D and 3D art, and those other things like “spend time with the family” and “six month old kitten.” This is why I refuse to attempt things like knitting or sewing: because I’m afraid I’ll enjoy it and it will be one more hobby clawing for my attention.

So how does one budget very limited free time among so many interests?

Well… the same way everybody else does, I suppose.

I’m not any worse off than anyone else with a day job or a child, and let’s face it, I’m a lot better off than many, given that I have only one child to handle and a well-behaved one at that. I guess the real issue is that I’ve never had to budget my time for my own pursuits before. I could just do whatever I felt like when the fancy struck me, evenings were longer and weekends meant something. I have much bigger obligations now than I used to, with a daughter to care for and a business to build.

But if I still want to do all these things that interest me, including those things I haven’t attempted in years like sumi-e paintings and sculpture, then I need to figure out a way to make it work.

How?

Well, only time will tell.

New art – Damian/Frozen March 21, 2014

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damian-frozen

Joke picture. This is Damian, star of my latest novel Enduring Chaos, which was released last fall. She is a young woman with a strange and unique power which she cannot control, exacerbated when she is upset, and for which she is shunned by others. Hence, a little wardrobe change for kicks. Costume design courtesy Disney.

New art! March 10, 2014

Posted by thejinx in art, enduring chaos.
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Well, hi there! Long time no write. (Of course, if you’ve been a viewer of this blog for very long, this should come as little surprise.) There is plenty that I should write about – like the fact that I never mentioned that Enduring Chaos is now on sale – but for now, I’m going to deflect attention by showing off some new art.

The latest, completed yesterday:

trapped

This one’s been a while coming, as I originally sketched it in 2010 or 2011, then updated the sketch, inked, and started colouring it last summer before finishing it over the past few days.

ffvi-quilt-square

Terra and Sabin from the video game Final Fantasy VI. For my friend’s wedding, her mother put out squares of cloth on a table at the reception with fabric markers for guests to write messages to the newlyweds, which she then planned to sew together into a quilt. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my plans to attend the wedding last minute, but the mother of the bride shipped me a square so I could contribute to the quilt.

2013-pumpkins

The Avengers, my jack-o’-lanterns for last Halloween. Original art not by me, I only converted the images to pumpkin format and carved them.

And some progress images from the cover art for Enduring Chaos:

enduring-chaos-back enduring-chaos-characters enduring-chaos

The complete background of the cover art, painted from a photo I took a few years ago; the characters, before effects and some fine tuning done after combining the two; and the completed front cover sans text.

SFContario and Enduring Chaos launch events November 23, 2013

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We are now officially less than a week away from the launch of Enduring Chaos! Plans are coming together for multiple launch events celebrating the release of this long-awaited book.

I will be at SFContario at the Ramada Plaza Hotel at 300 Jarvis St. in Toronto next weekend, November 29-December 1, where the official launch party for Enduring Chaos is taking place. Enduring Chaos will be available at the table for Brain Lag in the dealers room all weekend. I will also be sitting on two panels during the convention: Horror, Scifi and Fantasy in the Gardenview room Saturday at 1:00 and Strength of Characters in the Solarium room Sunday at 11:00.

The launch party for Enduring Chaos is taking place in the Courtyard room of the hotel Saturday, November 30 at 6:00 p.m. This event is open to the public so please come out and help me celebrate the release of the first book in the Sisters of Chaos trilogy with games, prizes, and more fun. RSVP not required, but if you do so by comment here or on the Facebook event page, you can have your very own custom-made SFContario badge for the party!

For those in the Milton, Ontario area, there will be another launch event happening at Recycled Reading at 171 Main St. on Friday, December 6 at 3:00 p.m. Come out to meet the author, get a signed copy, learn more about the book, and enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages! For more information, feel free to visit the Facebook event page.

Enduring Chaos cover reveal and giveaway! October 11, 2013

Posted by thejinx in enduring chaos, writing.
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Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present the cover art for my next book, Enduring Chaos!

enduring chaos front cover

Cursed with fearsome eyes and a dangerous gift, any chance of Damian Sires having an ordinary life was dashed the moment she was born. All her life, she has hidden her abnormalities and fought for acceptance behind the shadow of a veil and her respected merchant father.

When Damian’s power spirals out of control and casts her out alone into the world, she finds herself caught up in plots as old as the gods themselves. Bitter exiles, deposed nobility, clandestine knights, and a divine being with an ancient grudge all close in on the unstable power radiating from Damian.

Desperate to keep that power contained, she sets out with mysterious allies in an attempt to find someone who can help her in a world that fears magic. Yet the source of Damian’s ability is far more deadly than she imagined.

View Enduring Chaos on Goodreads.

In addition to the cover reveal, I am offering a giveaway to win a free e-copy of Ruins of Change by J. R. Dwornik, the first book in the world of Elderra! Simply comment on this post by October 25th and you will automatically be entered into the giveaway.

Word on the Street September 21, 2013

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Just a quick note to say that I will be at Word on the Street in Toronto tomorrow! Look for Brain Lag in the Fringe Beat section, just south of Wellesley St. on Queen’s Park Crescent East. Hope to see you there!

You have your entire life to write your first book, and six months to write your second September 2, 2013

Posted by thejinx in enduring chaos, halcyon, writing.
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Someone told me that quote once. I don’t remember to whom it is attributed.  It is undoubtedly a comment on output, as one will quickly lose readers, as well as publishing contracts, if one does not continually produce more books.

To me, however, it is a matter of completion. When you are an unpublished author, you can spend forever editing and tweaking your manuscript. Once you have submitted it and it hits the presses, however, it is final. It cannot be altered any longer.

Any good writer will constantly improve. As a result, likely many look back at their earlier works and see things they would have done differently. That is, if they don’t revisit older work with revulsion.

I recently reread Halcyon, possibly for the first time since publication. While I still enjoy the story and even felt better about my writing after revisiting it, I now see some things that I would change if I had the opportunity. It is inevitable and I am discovering more and more that distance is the key to seeing a work with some measure of objectivity.

Enduring Chaos is very much distant from its origins. It has been fourteen years since I began writing the first draft of this story. Aside from the core concept of the story and some of the main characters – in name and appearance, anyway, and even those have changed somewhat – nothing is the same from that original draft. The current revision is not even very close to the original third draft, which is how I have, increasingly inaccurately, been referring to this revision.

The ultimate result of so much time passed and so many changes to the story is that I am more comfortable with altering this story, even parts of it I like. I might also be maturing as a writer, but I am not crediting myself that much yet.

What I find interesting is that as I start on my final edits to the story, I find myself more willing to accept corrections and make changes after only a couple months of letting it sit while I waited for feedback from beta readers.

It is the distance. Distance is important. Do not be in a hurry to get your fresh new novel out into the world. Take a step back, let it sit for at least a few months, perhaps even a year or more, and it will be easier to look upon the manuscript more like a potential investment than as one’s baby. And you want to be able to do that, because of course, every writer wants to put out the best novel one can create.

Because once a novel goes out into the world, it is complete, and anything you might notice later is impossible to change.

Indiegogo campaign a success! July 30, 2013

Posted by thejinx in conventions, enduring chaos.
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Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to the fundraising campaign to create a live action trailer for Enduring Chaos. Thanks to your generous contributions, we surpassed our fundraising goal! I’m really looking forward to creating the trailer for my next book and seeing how it all comes out. I’ll be sharing progress updates here as it commences.

Also, one final reminder that I will be at the Pirate Festival in Milton, Ontario this weekend, Saturday through Monday. Look for Brain Lag in the Local Authors booth, or come out for a reading on the stage from 2:30-3:00 p.m. each day of the festival. I will be reading from Aurius on Saturday, Halcyon on Sunday, and I’ll be giving a new advance reading from Enduring Chaos on Monday. In addition, I’m very excited to say that I’ll have a sneak peek of the cover art for Enduring Chaos to share during the reading. So come out and have a look. Hope to see you there!

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