Friday, December 31, 2010

NaNo and Me

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo for short, is a great annual event that happens in November. The premise is quite simple: write a 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month's time.

For anyone who's just started on the road to being a writer, like myself, 50,000 words is a lot to write in only 30 days. For some, it may as well be 50 million words. But I wanted to challenge myself and hopefully come out of the ordeal as a better writer. At least, that was the plan.

Most writers that join NaNo have at least an outline of the story before they begin the actual novel. I thought it would be more interesting if I just started writing with a clean slate and just jump in. That was my first mistake. Every story idea that popped to my head just seemed ridiculous and trite.

When I finally decided to write something it was too little too late. I had procrastinated so badly that unless I could average 5000 words or more a day I would never meet the deadline. So, I gave up.

It wasn't my finest moment. In the process, I learned to greatly respect all the participants and especially those that were able to meet the goal. They've more than earned their bragging rights.

I must be a glutton for punishment because I plan on participating again in 2011. Next time I'll have a better and more realistic perspective before I begin. I'm not saying I'll be able to meet the goal of 50,000 words but I'm going to give it one hell of a try.

I thought you may be interested in reading what I  actually managed to write for NaNo this year. Keep in mind that this is completely unedited and I was going for quantity and not quality at that point. Still, it did give me a plot idea and hopefully I'll be able to continue this story in the future. Well, here is the whopping 280-word beginning of my unfinished story:

He crouched down with his back up against the chimney on the rooftop, clutching his ribs. They may have been broken but all he cared about was trying to control the severe pain. His attacker was slowly searching the rooftop and it would only be a matter of time before he was discovered.

“Come out, mien freund,” stated the tall stranger as he slid the blade of a large sword across a ventilation duct, making a screeching sound much like running nails on a black board.

“You can not hope to escape. Face your death like a man.”

The huge flashing neon sign that was attached to the side of the building intermittently illuminated the rooftop on a very dark, moonless night. It was during those moments of clarity that the injured stranger peered around the chimney to view his opponent. He was a tall man over 6 foot tall and dressed in a German military uniform, perhaps SS. His build was that of strong man in the circus, overly muscular and the clothing was tight on him. There was a scar across the side of his neck that was quite visible and dramatic. His hair was blonde and his chiseled face showed signs of a harsh life yet strangely young in appearance.

The German’s holster was empty but he held a military sword in his hand that shined brightly against the orange neon glow, apparently polished to perfection. He began to swing it from side the side as if warming up for a fight.

“I’m waiting.”

Rockin' Santa

I was so tired of hearing Christmas music this season so I decided to draw Santa rocking out in protest. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas music but for some reason it seemed to be EVERYWHERE this year. I can only hear Rudolph or Jingle Bells so many times before my ears start to bleed. I like to imagine this Santa playing something by AC/DC or Iron Maiden before jumping on his sleigh.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hey look who's finally back!

I’ve been away too long.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to force myself into the habit of writing everyday. I enjoy writing but unless I do it on a regular basis I won’t improve.

I could come up with a million excuses why I haven’t posted anything for months but it wouldn’t change a thing and quite honestly, you probably don’t care. I apologize.

That being said, I’m going to try to post more often even if it’s not a long entry. I just ask that you please be patient.

I also want to thank all those that have been supporting me in my endeavors. You guys are the best.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Are movie superhero costumes for real?

You can call me a comic book fan, geek or fanboy. That’s fine with me. I’ve been reading comic books since I was 5 years old and my parents bought me a copy at the local pharmacy and I haven’t put them down since.

I think one of the biggest thrills for a fan is to actually see their favorite characters portrayed by real people. My first experience was watching the 1960’s Batman TV show in re-runs. Here was Batman and Robin out of the comic books and in the “real” world.

At the time, I identified more with Robin because he was a boy like me. I used to run around the house in my Robin “costume” which consisted of a dress shirt buttoned only at the collar for a cape, my mother’s leather winter gloves, a cheap Lone Ranger mask from the 5 & dime, and my underwear, of course.

As I grew up it became increasingly rare to see superheroes in TV or film. Then a movie came along that changed it all for me - Superman. Christopher Reeve’s Superman was amazing. No other movie had done such a great job at portraying a superhero. His acting was dead-on and he looked exactly the way Superman should look, strong and majestic. It was like he stepped right out of a Superman comic book.

The movie was a blockbuster that broke all kinds of records. It proved that everyone, and not just comic fans, was ready for superheroes on the big screen.

Since then there have been more superhero movies, some good and some not. Since Hollywood has a tendency to copy successful ideas there have been certain trends set.

Tim Burton’s Batman brought about the trend of molded costumes. No exercise needed, just zip up a costume with muscles.

Then the X-Men movies started the leather look. It wasn’t realistic enough to have them in a cloth costumes so every one wore leather. Each team member lost their uniqueness and they all became uniforms.

Spider Man started with the trend towards a more realistic look to the characters. Spider-Man’s web was now organic and the villain, Green Goblin, no longer wore a creepy Halloween costume. They put him in green armor with a goblin-like helmet/ mask. The Goblin looked more like an Iron Man villain.

With the success of current superhero movies many others are either being filmed right now or are in the planning stages. Of course, as much as the fanboy in me is excited about seeing comic book characters on film I’m also worried about how they will look.

With the internet few things can be kept secret. More and more photos have popped up and after seeing them I am not pleased. I understand that some costumes, even though they look cool in a comic book, don’t translate well to the real world. Some tweaking has to be done for the average movie-goer to accept these characters but why do they have to be so ultra-realistic.

I think when you lose all the fantasy factors to the costume it’s no longer fun. Here are some examples of upcoming superhero movies:

Captain America – The only thing I like about his movie costume is his shield. Gone are his blue chainmail, red striped shirt, red gloves and boots, and the wings on his mask.  Cap’s mask is now basically a molded blue helmet with eye slots, his costume is primarily leather, his gloves and boots are brown leather, and he wears a pouched utility belt.

My biggest complaint is the helmet and belt. He never wore a helmet even when he was on the battlefield and his primary weapon is his shield. He has no need for all those pouches.

Thor – Thor is an Asgardian god. He and his fellow gods are Vikings at heart. So why do all the costumes use streamlined leather and metal? Thor is dressed in black leather and with only his arms in chainmail. They kept his red cape but his helmet is gone. Thor always wore a winged helmet so not having him wear one is inexcusable.

The movie version of Thor bears very little resemblance to the comic book version. It makes you wonder if they even used the comics for reference at all.

Green Lantern – I’ve been a huge fan of Green Lantern since I can remember. So when I heard there would be a live-action movie I was thrilled...then I saw the image of the costume. The only thing that they kept from the original costume was his mask, the ring, and the lantern symbol on his chest.

His costume is very organic looking. It reminds me of muscle tissue and has a rubbery shine to it. Instead of green, charcoal, and white the costume is now all green. His mask looks like it was painted on his face. Oh, and did I mention that his costume is entirely CGI? That’s right, it’s not even real.

There was a story online of how the director didn’t like any of the costumes that the costume department had created for Green Lantern then the special effects department mentioned that they could just CGI the entire costume and make it look any way he chose. That sealed the deal.

Why does Hollywood feel the need to change the original look of a character so much that he bears little or no resemblance to the original? Why must all the fun be replaced with realism?

Maybe someone should send every movie executive a copy of 1978’s Superman to remind them of how you can make a blockbuster movie and still respect the original look and feel of the character.

Just don’t send them 1997’s Batman and Robin. They don’t need that kind of inspiration.


Monday, April 26, 2010

The Red Phantom and The Quiet Man in "Warehouse Battle"

Fantastic artwork by Scott D.M. Simmons

This is some fan-fiction I wrote using my friend Gabe's characters, The Red Phantom and The Quiet Man.

The Quiet Man was one of the most agile people The Red Phantom had ever met. And because he rarely uttered a sound it was like chasing the wind. Carrying a quiver on his back and a bow across his body didn’t slow him down at all. He leaped from object to object like a circus acrobat but instead of a trapeze he grabbed flag poles, exhaust pipes, or any other part of a building propelling him across the city.

The specially designed bow looked like it had been made from scratch and the quiver looked like any you would find at a sporting goods store except for the unique markings and a special hidden system that kept all his arrows from falling out even as he flew threw the air. Those were his tools of the trade.

The Red Phantom’s physical shape rivaled that of an Olympic athlete but it took everything he had to keep up with the stoic archer. At one point he had pulled out his revolvers in an attempt to stop the Quiet Man but it was to no avail since he moved way too quickly, many times dodging behind objects in a hap-hazard pattern. It’s no doubt that he could hit him but the Phantom didn’t want to take the risk of mortally wounding the archer. The Quiet Man had too many questions to answer.

When it seemed like the rooftop chase would never end The Phantom got the break he needed. They had reached a section of the city that was littered with abandoned warehouses. They reached the last warehouse which had only open yards to the right and left and the river was at the rear of the building. But as the Quiet Man raced across the old roof he suddenly dropped into a hole and disappeared.

The Red Phantom was mere seconds behind him and dropped into the same rooftop hole as he reached into his jacket and pulled out his dual pistols. As he landed on the rubble - covered floor below the only light was from the full moon outside as it shined through the old glass windows. Faint footsteps could be heard ahead.

The Red Phantom knew that something had to be done quickly or he would lose his quarry and he’d come too far for that to happen. He holstered one of his guns, reached into his jacket pocket a pulled out a small marbled stone with strange cryptic symbols carved into it. It gave off a strange yellowish glow. With his gloved hand outstretched he began speaking an incantation in Latin.

“Cut this darkness like a knife.
Fill the structure with the sun,
From the other side of the earth”

A beam of light shot out of the rune and engulfed first the room and then the entire building with sunlight. The Phantom could now see that he was in some kind of office that led to a corridor. The corridor opened into a balcony that over-looked the open storage area of the warehouse. The Quiet Man had just reached the balcony.

With one fluid motion the archer stopped in his tracks, pulled an arrow from his quiver, and fired. The arrow was heading straight for the Phantom’s head.

The Red Phantom dropped the rune and pulled out his second revolver but there was no time to fire. Instead, he crossed his guns together in front of his face and forced the speeding arrow up and away from him – a feat a normal person could never pull off.

Instinctively, Phantom fired at the silent archer hoping to disarm him but the bullets whizzed past the quiver as The Quiet Man leaped over the railing into the storage area.

Throughout the night, the Phantom was impressed by The Quiet Man’s fearless antics and this was no exception. Even as he raced towards the balcony The Red Phantom was ever cautious. Nothing could be taken for granted when it came to his foe.

Twisting in mid-air and facing the balcony he let loose with his arrows again. One entered the gun turret of The Phantom’s extended pistol and the other was heading for the opposite shoulder. The Phantom managed to twist his body to evade the second arrow. The arrow had found a home on the wall behind him as The Phantom felt a sharp pain.

“Damn it.” The Phantom whispered as he glanced at the aftermath of the arrow’s trail. The weapon had left a deep gash and was bleeding heavily.

Meanwhile, The Quiet Man had continued his fall and contorted his body again as he hit the floor. In a sort of ballet, he was able to roll away and use his momentum to get to his feet and ready an arrow in his bow. He focused on the balcony above pulling the cord taut.

The Phantom had braced himself against the wall, staying out of view. He looked across the warehouse floor and there behind The Quiet Man was a huge metal bin filled with coal and an access hatch in front. The Phantom aimed and fired a barrage of bullets at the padlock holding the hatch shut.

Once the archer had turned to find the target of Phantom’s shots it was too late. The hatch dropped down and released a sea of black stones engulfing The Quiet Man covering him up to his shoulders.

Pushing past the pain in his shoulder The Phantom leaped from the balcony and grasped a pulley cable hanging from the ceiling. Quickly he slid down the chain as he felt the friction burn through his gloved hands. He couldn’t afford to take the silent archer’s situation for granted.

The Quiet Man had managed to climb above the coal, frantically trying to pull his legs free. For the first time he had left himself defenseless and The Red Phantom was not going to let it pass. As he landed on a large crate next to the opened coal bin he quickly reloaded his pistols and fired. The lower portion of the archers quiver was blown to pieces as was all the tips of the arrows within.

The Quiet Man had finally reached the wall of the empty bin and launched himself into the air landing in front of The Phantom. With incredible speed he used his bow to knock the Phantom’s pistols away and into the coal followed with a hand thrust into the wound on his shoulder.

Blinded by pain The Red Phantom took several steps back while The Quiet Man just stood motionless. Then slowly The Quiet Man reached up and adjusted the red bandana that was always wrapped around his eyes maybe as an act of arrogance or something more. As he lowered his right arm a hidden knife slid out from his sleeve into his hand.

With a characteristic ratcheting sound The Quiet Man opened his navaja, a special folding knife made in Spain. Emotionless and determined the silent archer lunged toward The Phantom.

“I don’t think so” exclaimed The Phantom as he blocked the knife and followed with a punch to Quiet Man’s face. The archer rolled with the punch only to meet with another to his gut.

Dropping down, the silent archer tried to sweep Red’s leg but missed as The Phantom kicked down on The Quiet Man’s thigh. He grimaced in pain but never uttered a sound. Without hesitation, he countered with a slash across The Phantom’s stomach.

Another punch, this time hitting The Quiet Man’s wrist as the knife fell behind the crate. The Red Phantom looked down to find his tie cut in half and his jacket sliced. If he hadn’t pulled back at the right moment his guts would be on the floor.

The two combatants just stood facing each other as some sort of mutual respect. They were too evenly matched and they both knew it.

Just like a candle about to burn itself out the light in the warehouse began to flicker. The spell was never meant to be permanent and it’s time was running out. Realizing his time was short The Phantom had to end it.

“Thanks for the dance but you’re coming with me.” The Phantom cracked his knuckles and then put his fists up.

The Quiet Man simply shook his head slowly in defiance. The Phantom ran towards him as the archer reached up and ripped his bandana off. With a side-step The Quiet Man wrapped The Phantom’s wrist tightly and kicked his feet from under him.

While the Red Phantom wrestled to untie himself The Quiet Man reached down, grasped his bow and leaped towards the window facing them. The glass shattered as he escaped into the night.

The Phantom finally removed the cloth from his wrists and rushed the window as the spell finally ended and the warehouse went dark. Looking out the broken glass all he could see was the river below and the moon’s reflection on the water.

The Red Phantom looked down at the red cloth in his hand. “We’ll meet again, my friend” he proclaimed and then dropped the bandana out the window as the wind took it over the water.

The Red Phantom and The Quiet Man is copyright Luis-Gabriel Leal Ramirez

Friday, March 12, 2010

OZ or just NCIS?

I’ve always thought of TV and movie stars as these almost mystical people that lived in a magical world. They may as well be dragons and unicorns because they lived in a world that was impossible for me to be a part of.

With the coming of HD TV broadcasts not only has it left me in awe at the clarity and realism it brings but also shattering my illusions of actors. Watching HD TV makes you feel like you’re right there on the set and watching as they film it.

I could see actors with their imperfections that regular TV had kept hidden. What, celebrities with flaws? Preposterous! Yes, these are indeed real people who have worked hard at their craft. They weren’t grown in a test tube in a mad scientist’s lab or taken from a magical land of make-believe. They’re just humans not gods.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Looking at the Glass

I am an optimistic realist. There’s a constant tug of war going on in my head. Even though I look at the glass being half full I also know that there is the possibility of the glass tipping and it will then be completely empty.

Throughout my life I’ve dreamt of doing many things such as playing electric guitar like a rock star, being a professional artist with his own studio, traveling the world, and making millions of dollars. As the years pass and the older I get the dreams start to fade away.

When I was in high school I was all set to graduate and go to Art College to start my career as an artist. That dream was promptly shattered when my parents told me that I was a fool for thinking I could make a living as an artist and I should learn a trade like carpentry instead. They’re old-school Portuguese that respect hard work and supporting your family. As far as my parents were concerned, artists just didn’t fit that mold.

As I was continuing my education as an electrical apprentice I continued to buy art books and take various art classes trying to keep my dream alive. But, eventually I got impatient with my skill level as an artist and my passion for drawing died out. I did, however, become a licensed electrician. My parents were so proud.

I also tried taking guitar lessons but I couldn’t afford them for too long and quit after a short time. The sad part was that even though I learned only rudimentary stuff on the guitar I enjoyed playing very much.

As the years passed the opportunities to reach my dreams came less and less. I’ll never play in a rock band, work as a professional artist, be a millionaire or travel the world. That’s the reality and there’s no sense in dwelling in what I can’t do.

Even though my optimism has been constantly challenged by my realistic thinking it refuses to die. In fact, a strange thing has happened to me. Coming to the realization that my old dreams are gone just makes room in my life for other dreams which are much more attainable. I still want to be a writer, play guitar, and draw but I won’t make a living from it.

Writing is a passion of mine and I really enjoy it. I hope to possibly get published someday. Even if I don’t, just having my friends and family enjoy the stuff I write makes me happy.

The same thing goes for playing the guitar and drawing. I know that I’ll never reach the professional level but I’m doing it because I love it. If I only have time to do it occasionally it’s okay because I haven’t given up on it.

So, instead of looking at the glass half empty I’m just going to pour the water into another glass. Now where did I put my Looney Toons glass?

That’s all folks!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Changing Gears

I think its funny how when you start a project, like this blog, you have certain ideas in your head of what you’d like to do. Like most of the plans I make it is always subject to change. And it has changed.

I won’t be posting segments or details pertaining to the stories I’m writing. As much as I’d like your feedback I have to protect my work before anyone can view it. Even a novice like me occasionally comes up with a great idea and I don’t want anyone to swipe it. It may sound silly but even though my little corner of the writing universe is small it’s all I have.

I will, however, be posting reviews, opinions, and general stuff that happens to be rolling around in my head. Just bear with me since I’m not a professional writer, I just play one on TV. Just kidding.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

There’s a little secret that most professional writers won’t tell you about writing – you have to do research. Unless you plan on writing about an imaginary place with imaginary people you’re going to have to do some research if you want your story to be believable. I hate research.

I have quite a few story ideas. The most recent one involves characters entering a Mayan temple or tomb. I hate to tell how many hours I spent online trying to find photos and articles about the subject and only scratched the surface. I was so frustrated with all that research that I actually walked away and started building on another completely different story.

The more I get into the creative process of writing the more I appreciate all my friends who are writers that consistently put out great stuff and make it look so easy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I hate seeing talent wasted. I’ve met so many great people online who are talented beyond belief. Some are already established in the industry while others struggle so very hard to get that break that they desperately need and sometimes never get. I’m not stupid and I do realize that there are countless reasons some make it and others don’t.

There really should be justice in the universe where a person’s determination and hard work should be equal to his success. Those that don’t put the work into their craft shouldn’t get the free pass of being in the right place at the right time. Luck, can suck sometimes.

There are so many less-than-talented people out there who make movies, make comic books, write books, design video games, etc. How many times have I caught myself saying out loud, “My friend can do so much better than that”? Yet, those people are successful and my friends are working paycheck to paycheck trying to pay the bills and still keep their creative dreams alive.

There has to be a better way.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Who is this guy?

I’m not a professional writer or artist. I just happen to be an average guy who happens to have half a brain and is filled with the desire to create. Too many of the ideas in my head go unused and therefore whisked away to the void. It’s a shame. This blog is my small way of getting some of those ideas and thoughts into a place that can be saved and hopefully enjoyed by others.