Monday, October 25, 2010

Zierath: Lord of the Alliance

I have been working on this particular novel/storyline for about fifteen years. Originally, it was going to be three novels with each novel containing a dozen different character's point of view and following each of their adventures as they came up on the final battle.

As I put it into IUniverse, I was told that I have way too many characters with way too many points of view. I could certainly see where they were coming from. So I have taken what was three novels and split them up into nine or so smaller novels. Of course, for each of these smaller novels, I now have to create more material to more fully develop the characters.

The first of these new novels created from the original Castle Zierath novel is 'Zierath: Lord of the Alliance. It follows Zierath through the first part of the epic happenings.

I have been fighting, however, with my own communication problems, and I need help.

As I said earlier, I have been immersed in my world for at least 15 years. More actually. I first came up with the term 'Castle Zierath' 18 years ago. I know the world and the characters very well, and I can see them vividly. I need help letting me know when I'm not telling you the vivid picture. For instance, when I introduced the Stone Rook character late in the book, I just called him by name. I did not describe him, and this came as quite a shock to me. I had a vivid image in my mind, and did not pass it on. I'm looking for people to read it and tell me where I'm missing it.

Also, I am dealing with passive voice. I spent many years softening my tone in my one-on-one communication to the point of ridiculousness, and, unfortunately, I have brought the passive voice to my writing. The problem is, I don't even recognize it when I do it. I need to have people go through and help me see it and make suggestions on how to fix it.

I am turning to you, my friends, to help me. I will cheerfully email you a copy of the most recent draft and turn you loose on it. Please go through my novel. Fix things in red – either highlight or change. Point out or correct passive voice. Point out or correct bad grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Point out weak descriptions or no descriptions. I see it all vividly in my head, but I’ve noticed some places I haven’t described the characters or the setting. Point confusing or conflicting parts of the story.

An be honest; let me know what you think.

Thanks so much! I really appreciate it. It’s not easy to ask for help.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Getting a Head in the World...

Hey, all.

For my current class, I have been working on building a head in 3DS Max. It has been a good exercise, but I have had some issues with getting it all to work.

I chose to try to do a version of Ka'Senne of my Castle Zierath world. It's always a little dangerous to try to do a caricature of one's wife, but I thought I'd give it a try. (foolish, foolish man). I started with a hand drawn caricture as a base.

I need to work on consistency again. The side view isn't bad, but my front view did not live up to expectations. I was trying to do it too quickly (this was the second character - the first I had chosen was one I had worked on before. The professor wanted it to be a 'fresh face' and I hadn't tried a female character yet).

As I continued making faces, she started taking good shape. I'm still having some issues with high polygon count, and I'm not understanding the edge loops nearly as well as I should (which gives the smoothness - as you can tell be the lips and ears), but I am slowly getting it.

Here is where I am currently am on this project.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Avid Reading in September 2010

As part of my relaxation time and ways to keep my mind active, I do a lot of reading. I read stories very rapidly. With good writing, I disappear into the world and sometimes lose track of time and what all is going on out in the ‘real’ world. I’m going to try to give my impressions of the book and then give them a rating.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle. The third in her most famous series, L’Engel follows the adventures of the youngest character, Charles. The story is told half from his point of view and half from Meg’s point of view – who was the protagonist in the first two books. We get to see what happens to the various characters, and we get a deeper understanding of Meg’s mother-in-law. Charles goes with a winged unicorn on a mission to save the world from nuclear war by going back in time and changing a cyclical story that is based in Welsh history. It is an entertaining book with some fairly direct religious overtones. While not as good as the first book – A Wrinkle in Time – it is well worth reading. B.

X-Wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael Stackpole. I have to admit, I am a Star Wars affectioniado, so as I geek out to several Star Wars books, bear with me. X-Wing: Rogue fighter follows one of the minor characters from the three Star Wars movies. The book takes place right after the Return of the Jedi, and tells the story of the New Republic (as the Rebel Alliance now calls itself) is putting together a squadron of pilots that can do more than just fly. They are also a propaganda and a special ops unit. We are introduced to many characters who, in the expanded universe, become quite important. The novel is told from several different points of view, including Wedge, Corran Horn, a law officer turned rebel; Kirtan Loor, Corran’s old co-worker and nemesis. The novel has action, adventure, mystery, impending romance, all the things one needs in a space opera. I give X-Wing: Rogue Squadron an A-.

Hard Merchandise is another Star Wars book. It takes place in about the same time period. It is book 3 of the Bounty Hunter Wars. The story centers around Boba Fett and the some of the other bounty hunters seen in the Empire Strikes Back. A lot of the story is told in flashback, and it is sometimes hard to keep track of when a chapter is happening. There is a mystery element to the trilogy, but unfortunately the audience is not given all the clues so one cannot figure it out ahead of time. All in all, I found the Bounty Hunter Wars to be under par from what I expect from the Star Wars extended universe. I give Hard Merchandise a C-.

Truce at Bakura is yet another Star Wars novel. Yes, I was on a Star Wars kick for part of the month. Truce takes place immediately after Return of the Jedi (and before Rogue Fighter). Luke, Han, Leia, and the other main characters are all still at Endor when they receive a coded imperial message of a outlying Empire planet under attack by an unknown race. The Rebels decide to go help since they destroyed the Emperor and most of the fleet. Truce has a nice mix of the space opera elements. It expands the relationship and the negotiating the relationship of Han Solo and Princess Leia, and it explores Luke’s mastery of the Force as well as his dealing with his interest in a woman and falling in love for the first time. The ssi-ruuk, the antagonists, are a scary race and do create a worthy adversary for the remnants of the Empire and the New Republic to combine forces against. I give Truce at Bakura a solid B.

For my book club, I read Nation by Terry Pratchett. Nation takes place in a alternate dimension, and is set in the 1800s. Pratchett is usually an enjoyable read, but I found it a little hard to get in to. I finished about a quarter of it before our Alfheim book club meeting, and I was encouraged to read the rest of it. After about the first third, the story picked up and I had trouble putting it down. The characters developed nicely, and the story was engaging and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. While not Pratchett’s best book, I give Nation a B+.

I had not read Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson in years. I must have been in high school when I last read it. I remember enjoying reading it and relating to it, but now as an adult, it was painful to read and I really had to fight my way through it. Thomas Covenant, the main character, is not all that nice a guy. He is a leper, and understandably depressed by it, but he wallows in the fact that he is ill and sullen. Even when taken to another land where he has great power, he is still sullen and lets it completely define who he is. When he does evil to someone who had helped him a lot, it was never his fault; it was the fact that he was a leper that led him to act so. He does not take responsibility for his actions. Maybe because I spend so much of my time talking to my students about taking responsibility and being responsible that it struck such a negative chord in me. It’s like Covenant has immersed himself in teen-aged angst and refuses responsibility for it. I give Lord Foul’s Bane a D.

Speaking of teen-aged angst, let’s visit Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. I am a great fan of the Greek myths, and when I first saw this, I winced. I avoided reading it for quite some time. I then saw the movie, and I enjoyed it immensely. They actually did a good job with the mythology, as opposed to some of the other Greek myth material out there (the new Clash of the Titans, Disney’s Hercules [great message, lousy mythology], Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules [great entertainment, painful history and mythology sometimes]) I decided to read the book. I found that I really enjoyed the book. I am very happy that I watched the movie first; I would have been disappointed the other way around. The book has Percy younger than the movie, and the stories are deeper and more tied into the mythological stories. This is one of the best adolescent series we have. While not as good as the Harry Potter series, it is better than the Twilight series. Percy, as well as most of the characters, is a demi-god, and he is accused of stealing Zeus’s thunderbolt. The other main characters include Annabeth, the daughter of Athena; Grover, a satyr; Luke, the son of Hermes; as well as a great supporting cast including the gods of Olympus – Poseidon, Zeus, Ares, Hades, Dionysus – and the great centaur teacher Chiron. While the movie was good, the book was significantly better. I give the Lightning Thief an A-.

While I was visiting my brother-in-law, he suggested and then lent me a Star Trek book – Best Destiny. Best Destiny follows James T. Kirk’s first time in outer space. He is 16 years old and absolutely filled with teenage angst. He is furious with his father, who is a Star Fleet security officer and is very much absent from Jimmy’s day-to-day life. Jimmy is taken up to the Star Ship Enterprise, captained by Robert April, and of course, something goes wrong, and they meet some pirates who also have a teenager who is just as filled with teenaged angst as Jimmy. It is a well written book, and the writers of the new Star Trek movie read the book to really get a feeling for how to write Kirk for the new movie. Finest Destiny is one of the better Star Trek books, and watching Jimmy come to terms and become Jim Kirk was enjoyable. I give Best Destiny a B+.

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next Percy Jackson book. I read Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan. Riordan really delves into the mythology even further. He brings a lot of the elements of the Odyssey into the second book, including the Cyclops Polyphemus, Scylla, Charibdis, and the man-eating giants. We are also introduced to a new character Tyson, who has a special relationship to Percy. The primary antagonist of the series becomes more clear and powerful, and the danger to the protagonists becomes more pronounced as well. The Sea of Monsters is well written and just as good as the first. A-.

After so many sci-fi or fantasy books, I decided to take a full break from those worlds, and went back to a classic. For the first time since I taught it twelve years ago, I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It holds up. It is a double story of growing up and being curious about a mysterious neighbor, and the story of white racism in the South. The two stories seem very separate until they are tied together in the final two chapters. I cannot say enough good things about it. If you have never read it, read it. If you have never watch movie starring Gregory Peck, rent it and watch it. Both are brilliant. I give To Kill a Mockingbird an A+.

And those are the books I read during September of 2010.

Friday, October 01, 2010

3D Modeling

The last class I had was one on 3D modeling. I was very excited about this one; I was going to be able to create a bipedal creature of some kind from scratch, and then be able to pose it.

Now, when I say 'excited,' I really must preface with the statement that I was looking forward to the end product, not to all the steps that led up to that final product. That is an on-going battle that I have; wanting to skip the slow and steady steps. I thought I had this tendency under control.

I was wrong.

I spent more time this class wasting time by jumping in with both feet without really looking at directions and then having to start completely over because I messed something up. Three times I scratched what I did with this character's skin and to do it better. Twice I had to go back and fix the internal skeleton (which, by the way, you add AFTER you create the skin. Interesting, no?).

I also was not looking at the process as 'fun.' I do so much better when I can have 'fun' with it. I am now working at changing my attitude to make the whole thing 'fun.' My next class, another 3d modeling class, starts on Monday. I'm looking forward to putting what I have learned to good use. I think this time we make the characters MOVE as well as pose them. Can't wait.

Here is what my biped ended up looking like. I created one of my 'Castle Zierath' rpg characters. This is Corrin Tronk. He is a 14 foot tall brontosaurus man. Corrin purposefully acts slowly and methodically in an effort to get those around him to underestimate him. Because of his size, he lets people assume he is the big, dumb muscle of his adventuring group. In reality, he is truly a careful observer of what is going on around him, and is frequently the one with the plan to get his companions out of trouble after they blunder into it. He has been known to issue forth a deep, slightly annoyed sigh when they manage to do so. He is hard to get to know, but those who get past that dull shell are frequently delighted by the wry sense of humor the huge bronton man has.