So here is what I plan on for the year 2016 for writing and life in general
Get into a place of my own
Promote published stories
Publish the following: Ravensrealm (Arc of Fantasy #3), Snow in Olympus (Twilight of the Gods #1), New Atlantis (Arc of Fantasy #4), Dragon's Rain, Frost Giants, and, if things go well, The Intergalactic Chase (Arc of Fantasy #5) and Book #2 of The Twilight of the Gods (currently titled Heat in Asgard - could very well change, depending on how the story goes).
Cover pictures for all facebook pages
Tablet to show cover art for people I meet
Convention/book "tour" in place
And that's just to start.
2016 is going to be an amazing, awesome year! Yes, I expect it to be filled with ups and downs. That's just how life is meant to go, but at least I can give myself things to work towards and look forward to now that I'm getting myself back on track.
I welcome 2016 with open arms and much excitement!
I've taken some time, consulted my best friend on the matter, and I've decided to make the return to Otakon. It's a bit further for a drive for me, but the pull of nostalgia draws me. And, no, I did not do "Eeny, meenie, miney mo" or "Bubblegum, bubblegum, in a dish" to make the decision. Nor did I draw the conventon's name out of a hat. (I'd have found some reason, I'm sure, to argue against the random chance-ness of the "winner".) I made my consultations, reflected on the matter, and decided with the information I had on hand.
I will be making a return to Otakon this upcoming summer. Right now, it will be attendee status only. Trying to get into Otakon's dealer and artist spaces are usually first come, first serve, and my server wages are just not enough to get that secured. With the exceptions of Tokyo in Tulsa and YoumaCon (final convention for 2017, unless I find one more after that to attend, and I have some major plans in mind for both), I'm more interested in attendee status for Shuto, Anime St. Louis, and Otakon. It gives me a little more freedom to attend some of the more interesting panels and allows for me to arrange meet ups with people interested in my work in original fiction and with the Star Ocean community (my biggest geek passion). Given what I've just learned about some of the latest happenings for Star Ocean, I'm about to geek out big time. It definitely makes me glad I'm cosplaying as Fayt for the conventions. It's a variant, for the moment, but that doesn't mean I won't be expanding on him!
I'll be working on getting the registration done for Otakon within the next month. Once I'm registered, I'll announce that particular confirmation. The same goes for YoumaCon.
As far as conventions go, I'm also aiming to conduct a panel or two at Tokyo in Tulsa and at YoumaCon. I need to solidify some ideas and present them to the convention organizers. When I know anything for certain, I will announce it immediately on facebook.
I'll announce times in which I'm available to meet people at ShutoCon. There are some panels and photoshoots I want to attend, and I will definitely have books and bookmarks on hand!
Of these movies, one is hitting DVD/blu-Ray in the next week or so if it hasn't already been released (Doctor Strange), one is in theaters (The Great Wall), and one is due out in theaters sometime this year (Ghost in the Shell). These movies are in some quite . . . spirited (we'll go with spirited) discussions. These discussions are centered on casting choices.
In Doctor Strange, the role of the Ancient One went to Tilda Swinton. The story put her as old (the one guy, when telling Strange about her, couldn't even say how old the Ancient One was, only that she was Celt), despite her youthful appearance. I went to see Doctor Strange in the theaters. That was actually discussed in the movie.
People have their knickers in a twist over this. The reasons for it have me, well, not happy. (Yes. We'll go with unhappy.)
People are upset that the Ancient One was portrayed by a WHITE woman. Please note the fact it isn't necessarily a woman in the role that has everyone upset but that she's WHITE. In a role allegedly designed for an Asian. Ironically, I feel quite certain some of those same people complaining about Swinton's casting would also be complaining about Hollywood stereotyping the role. Kind of a lose/lose situation. (Yet no one said anything about Idris Elba playing Heimdall, a historical figure in a work of fiction who happens to be the whitest white guy in the Norse pantheon, and Elba is African-American, obviously. No complaints about his casting on my part. He was actually a fantastic choice, but he does stick out in Asgard like a sore thumb. Onwards.)
On a personal and creative level, I find this outrage over Tilda Swinton's casting of the Ancient One and people screaming bull sh-t over Marvel's change of cannon (they own it, they have the right to change it) for the Ancient One's origins to be more than a little insulting. Not because they're screaming foul over what is perceived whitewashing but over their own stereotyping. By saying bull shi-t to the Celtic background, to me, implies that the only cultures who can have Ancient Ones, masters of sorcery and magic, are the Chinese and Japanese, maybe even the Koreans. Let's just lump all of Asia into that. It's an unintentional implication that the Celts didn't have pagan roots, that the Norse, the Germans, Egyptians, South Africans, and the Native Americans throughout North and South America were somehow inherently always Christian and thus never having these beliefs in magic and in being gate-keepers against the forces of evil that would destroy our planet.
As a writer, I do like to think of how a person becomes what s/he becomes, and, for Doctor Strange, I see the journey of the Ancient One as transcendental. Tilda's Ancient One learned from another Ancient One was probably Chinese or even Hindu. A person from Africa or from a Native American tribe could have made that same journey as the Celtic Ancient One and become the Ancient One. It is not a role one is born with but a role one acquires through who knows what.
So I personally feel it wouldn't have mattered if the Ancient One had been cast as George Takei, Tilda Swinton. or Rhiana. People would have found a reason to complain about this particular casting choice because the role would have been A - Stereotyped (Takei), B - Whitewashed (Swinton - already being said), or C - Done to be Politically Correct aka Another Token Person of Color Character (Rhiana).
I would love to have an open, civil discussion over the possibilities of the Ancient One from Doctor Strange with people who clam the role should have gone to a Chinese or Japanese actor. Because that is my question: Are you actually helping Chinese and Japanese actors land better, leading roles in Hollywood by saying they must be in certain types of roles at all times? Or are you generalizing and stereotyping based on something that's been done for years?
Second in the discussion of alleged whitewashing is The Great Wall. Don't worry. It didn't actually happen. Matt Damon plays a character that was actually meant to be white. Is there some white savior complex going on with this movie? Hardly. It's kind of one of those situations where he could turn tail and run but still face death anyway, or aid in the defense of a kingdom, especially defenders who have been stuck in one place for pretty much their entire lives. The writer of the story always had the role intended for a white person, Damon's a self-proclaimed fan of the director, and the director also wanted him on the film.
Like I said the other day in my updates entry, don't go expecting it to be an action flick because it has Damon. It is not.
Finally, I get to Ghost in the Shell.
I've never really been a fan of Ghost in the Shell. That's more my brother and sister and my best friend. I have, however, become acquainted with several different anime and manga series since my second year of college, when I started hanging out with people in their late teens, early twenties, compared to my mid-twenties. I've actually encountered a bit of variety in characters from Japanese pop culture, and one thing I have noticed is some of the manga-kas like to do unusual characters. Genjo Sanzo from Saiyuki is actually Chinese, but he has blond hair and violet eyes. His traveling companions are considered demons, and they don't look typical, either. Sha Goyjo is half-human, half-demon with bright red hair and bright red eyes. Cho Hakkai has the light brown hair and green eyes. Goku, our little monkey king, has brown hair and golden eyes, a sign of being a born heretic in the mythos of this story line.
Bear with me here. I have a couple more examples of the variety in Japanese mangas and animes before I get back to Ghost in the Shell.
I love Saiyuki. I love Trigun. Vash the Stampede has blond hair, blue eyes. My best friend loves Hellsing, which takes place in London, if I'm not mistaken. I love Gravitation and FAKE, both yaoi mangas. FAKE is set in New York, Gravitation in Tokyo with some parts in New York. In FAKE, everyone is American (obviously), and only one person has Japanese descent (Randy 'Ryo' MacLean - my apologies if I got his last name wrong. It's been a while). Gravitation, Eir 'Yuki' Uesugi is full Japanese but does not look full Japanese with blond hair and lighter eye color. (Tohma can be explained as possibly dying his hair blond and wearing contacts to make his eyes blue-green.)
Of course, there are the feudal style mangas out there, Inuyasha and Rurouni Kenshin. For Inuyasyha, Rumiko Takahashi has claimed that Kagome's dad was Canadian. That's why she originally had blue eyes, which is not a normal eye color for anyone of Japanese descent.
Now I'm not going to touch on the likes of Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, or even some of the video games I've played where the characters are obviously not of Japanese descent. Rather, I'm going to get back to Ghost in the Shell and the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Motoko.
While I'm not a fan of Ghost in the Shell, I have done my research. Motoko isn't even human. Motoko is an artificial intelligence, a cyborg, an android, and anything else you wish to describe her, but she is not human. She might have the memories of a human, but that doesn't make her human, at least on the flesh and biology aspect.
That expands the casting choices for Motoko. Motoko doesn't have to be white. Motoko doesn't even have to be Japanese. Motoko just needs to be female. And if people want to point to Motoko's name as proof of her Japanese-ness, I call b.s. on that logic, mainly because it presumes that only Japanese people have Japanese names. No. Japanese people do pick European/American names for their children. I'm certain there are a number of white Americans, people like me who are enamored with Japanese culture, who would name their kids Japanese names. I know female cosplayers who go by Japanese names, and they're not Japanese in the slightest. And, since Motoko's creator in the series is probably Japanese, s/he gave her a Japanese name. That does not make Motoko 100% Japanese. A cyborg is not 100% any culture. And to imply that there are no Americans or Canadians or other Europeans (or even Africans, South Americans, etc . . .) living in Japan is kind of foolhardy. I do feel like that is what people who are complaining about and judging Ghost in the Shell are doing. Whether that's actually what they're doing, I don't know. I admit it. I don't know, but text-based conversations do leave a lot of room to be desired.
From Wikipedia on Motoko: Since she has a full cybernetic body, she is not certain her "ghost" retains any humanity and speculates on the possibility that she is entirely synthetic, with artificially generated memories designed to fool her into thinking she was once human. Throughout the movie, she seeks to find answers to her questions and finally meets the Puppet Master, a rogue AI who became sentient and who is also looking for existential meaning. In the climax of the film, Kusanagi and the Puppet Master "merge" to form an entirely new entity that exists free of physical boundaries and propagate itself through the Net.
Now, those who are upset about the casting of ScarJo as Motoko can say whatever they want. I question how much they do know about Ghost in the Shell. I have the whole internet to use to find out what I need to know about a character for any given series. I do know people who do like tihs show, whose opinions on ScarJo's casting I would love to hear. I'm just not into condemning a movie I haven't seen based on casting choices.
Then again, I also have no problems watching Japanese and Korean horror films.
I found Uzumaki to be more funny than scary. A Tale of Two Sisters was disturbing. Hero, starring Jet Li, was amazing.
With all of that said, yes, I do want to see more diversity in films. And, with the internet, I know how to find it.
Thanks for bearing with me on this. I believe roles should go to the actors and actresses who can best portray the character. And in fiction (please note the word "fiction" here), pretty much anyone can play a given character.
Have a wonderful rest of the weekend, guys!
For sure, I will be getting myself registered for YoumaCon, which is in Detroit and is towards the end of October, the beginning of November. Unless I find a convention in December that appeals to me (always possible), Youma is the tentative last convention of 2017. I'm also eyeballing attending the Wizard World Comic Con, which will be in Oklahoma City this year and in October. The two that I'm currently torn between are GenCon, which is August 17th through the 20th and in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Otakon, which is August 11th through the 13th, and, as everyone knows, is in Baltimore, Maryland. I've been to Otakon before. I've not been to GenCon.
In fact, that's been a bit of a running theme with my current convention schedule. ShutoCon, which is next month, is a convention I've wanted to attend but never could after I'd learned about it. Money issues. Anime St. Louis, which is in May, is another convention I've never attended. Of the three, Tokyo in Tulsa is the only one I've attended, but it was late in the day and relatively close. In fact, for Tokyo in Tulsa, I don't even need to get a hotel. I live like five minutes away from the Cox Business Center, which is where the convention is held.
And both GenCon and Otakon have their draws. This requires some serious consideration on my part.
In the meantime, I'm going to get back to work on Ravensrealm. I'll announce in the next couple of days which of the two August conventions I'll be attending, but make no mistake. If there comes a chance for me to attend both, I will gladly take it!
ShutoCon preparations are still underway. I have to give a huge amount of thanks to my mother at this point. She and my stepdad have told me I can use their computer and printer to print off flyers, bookmarks, and excerpts, so there is a huge cost-save right there. My mom is also working on my cosplay coat for a personalized take on Fayt Leingod from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. The cosplay might not be 100% complete in the next month, but some of what I want to get will have to be obtained either at ShutoCon or through some online retailer. I was lucky that I was able to buy most of what I needed, material-wise, for this cosplay back in October. Whether I'll use the wig (purchased almost four years ago) or just dye my hair blue will remain to be seen. (I'd really love to dye my hair blue.) So much love for and huge thanks to my mom for helping me with the coat. She's told me it's giving her fits, but it's also her first time working with the material that I'd chosen.
The crowdfunding campaign is still underway. I'm reassuring everyone right now that all money raised for the GoFundMe will go towards to purchasing copies of my own stories for the conventions I'm attending throughout the year and not towards things like shopping at the conventions, food, fuel, hotels, and registration. That is not the campaign's purpose. It's to purchase books for sale and for the cosplay giveaway and for any other product that I am unable to do on my own (like ink pens and silicone bracelets - not a right this moment thing but an eventual thing). This is a business venture for me as well as an artistic and creative venture. Getting out there is part of the gig, something I'm late into doing since publishing Portal to Gaming nearly three years ago. Links for the crowdfunding campaign and for my books will be at the end of this entry.
ShutoCon will be my fourth appearance in public as an author.
My sister and I got to attend an early, free screening of The Great Wall. That was fun, but it also wasn't a movie I'd want to spend more than $5 per ticket for, mainly because I went in with the misconception that, because it has Matt Damon in it, it was going to primarily be an action-flick. It does have a lot of action, but it isn't the kind you'd expect to see Matt Damon in, at least in as far as I'm familiar with him as an actor. It is a good fantasy flick as well and a bit historical. It does make me wonder what would happen if such a thing happened in a current modern setting. Oh, the ideas, how they can flow to me at times!
Ravensrealm is coming along quite nicely, in my humble opinion. With the way everything is moving along, I'd say there are some nice surprises in store for the reader.
A publication date will be announced in the near future along with future public appearances.
Finding Sounding Boards
First of all, let's define what a sounding board is. For creative types, specifically authors, and problem solvers, a sounding board is someone to help overcome an obstacle in a given situation. For writers, this could be ideas on how to resolve a plot conflict, a character quirk (to either overcome or possibly add), or any other number of problems that they face with a manuscript. For me, my sounding board is actually my best friend when I find I'm in need of working through something that's stumped me (one of the pitfalls to being a pantser). It does help that she's a fellow writer as well (fanfiction - how we became friends in the first place) and so can offer me a more honest perspective than someone who doesn't write and doesn't want to feel like they're hurting my feelings by offering critical feedback. She does love what I do because I am good at what I do, but that doesn't mean I get everything right in the first go-round.
For writers, people who can act as sounding boards can actually be extremely helpful in the writing process. That outside perspective does come in handy.
Here's the thing: As writers (and sounding boards/brainstorming groups), we really should try to strive to find the right match. Every writing project is different and thus will have different needs. I feel quite fortunate that my best friend is quite versatile in helping me handle whatever happens to stump me. She's also great for hearing out ideas that excite me and helping me to enhance them. I just have to be sure to remember to tell her that I'm talking about my characters and stories, or I end up confusing her (because it can also be part of a conversation when this happens).
So how does one find a fellow person to brainstorm with? Writing groups are a great way to interact with others. This can help writers establish writing partnerships and readers. Talking to local librarians about setting up writing groups can also be a big help for those not in college or high school. Searching for writing workshops and online writing groups is yet another way to find someone to bounce ideas off of and to help keep a writer on task.
There is one huge thing, an important thing to remember when it comes to establishing this particular type of writing partnership.
Whoever becomes your brainstorming buddy/sounding board also has a life outside of assisting you, the writer, with your writing needs. That includes work, hobbies, friends, family, personal downtime, and, as much as I dislike to say it, medical crises and familial crises. They might also be writers working through their own writing issues. How you approach your buddy when you need help is key. How often you approach your writing buddy for ideas and for what kinds of ideas. Treat your writing buddy the way you want to be treated as a writing buddy, and that, in my personal opinion, will go a long way in helping you to establish healthy writing partnerships.
That's all I have for today. Links follow this.
Crowdfunding Campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/writing-produc
Books on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Elise-K.-Ras
Books on Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/%22Elis