How the Dinotopia Fantasy Book Series Saved Me

Breathe Deep, Seek Peace.

I know. I know. It isn’t Harry Potter, or Wheel of Time, or the Lord of the Rings, or the Dresden Files. It’s… dare I say… better?*

This post comes on the coattails of a delightful tweet where a class of students is reading Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, and one student’s reaction to an important part of the book. It warmed my heart so much to watch, and I immediately remembered when I was that age, or younger, and the series of books that hit me in the emotional space.

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The book series was called Dinotopia, written in 1992 by James Gurney, surrounding a fictional island in the 1800’s where intelligent dinosaurs and people coexisted peacefully. The series began with three books that artfully depicted delicious, crisp scenes reminiscent of 1950’s art, da Vinci-esque machinery, and vibrant clothes, all surrounding a cast that felt almost small-town in nature; salt-of-the-earth folks. The colorful books won Hugo awards, and were apparently super successful.

And, I didn’t own either of the three of them. I read the first two, piecemeal, at Waldenbooks (rest its soul) because they were too expensive for me to buy. I randomly came across them at friends’ houses, but was too uncomfortable mentioning it because it was fantasy, and fantasy was fake.

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On Black Panther and Symbols

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M’Baku. My favorite character.

 

Warning: there are a few spoilers ahead. Marked out for your easy identification.

Black Panther, as the rest of the world already knows, was brilliant. I had the good fortune of seeing it in the theater last night, and while it wasn’t a perfect movie (does every superhero movie require a BvS-style “Martha” moment? T’challa could have just said, Nope. I don’t recognize Killmonger as having a stake to the throne. Lock him up as an outsider.), it had so much awesome going for it, I’ll put it in my top two Marvel superhero movies EVER, and within the top five superhero movies ever (Behind Dark Knight, Batman v Superman, Blade, and Hellboy).

I feel a portion of what made Black Panther so successful was the importance of symbol-use, symbol-sets, and individual identity, and I’m going to talk a little about that in this post. Also, Claw had one of the greatest laugh moments in super villain history, and it was perfect.

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Witcher III Saved My Soul

witcher3_en_wallpaper_wallpaper_10_1920x1080_1433327726Maaaaybe I’m being a little hyperbolic with the title, but I’m kinda not. This game has me up until 3 and 4 am playing it–not because I feel the need to finish, but because I lose all track of time. And that’s not something that happens to me easily. This game immerses me. Every movement seems right, the layout and leveling seems dynamic, I am rewarded for the exploration of obscure areas, the magic fits and is well balanced, and I can kill creatures way higher than me with skill and cleverness.

But that’s not why I love Witcher 3, why it “saved my soul,” so to speak. Continue reading

It Might be Time for a Reboot

This is a writing blog. I haven’t written (much) in the past few years, so this blog has fallen by the wayside. And I’m about to pick it back up. It only makes sense that I don’t load a new pic for the post, since it’s a writing blog and not a mullet (Business in the front. Party in the back). I want it all to be a party, and bangs would just look emo.

I’ll start by greasing my rusty writing hinges; Hello, World! I’m ready to shaaare myself again!

The primary focus for this blog is professional updates on how I understand writing to be, in all its forms: literary and artistic reviews, updates on my work, and helpful hints along the way. I grew away from this professional blog due to (excuses) and now that I’m able to focus more on the often complex and changing needs of novel writing, I can also step back into this place.

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Jupiter Ascending is Twilight on Steroids

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I’ll start this post by saying I had a whole entry written up about being spoon-fed stories, and how tired I am of baby-stepped storytelling. I figured I *expletive deleted* too much, so I slept on it and decided to ruminate on the subject.

I found the best way for me to distill and digest my thoughts would be to read (or watch) something that doesn’t spoon-feed me a story. So I turned to a movie I’ve wanted to see for a long time: Jupiter Ascending. Given the Wachowskis don’t play by the rules when it comes to telling a story, I figured I couldn’t los anything by watching. 

It galvanized my thought process on the matter, and allowed me to step into a place to properly compare and dissect. The movie also got so little attention once released, and I heard so little about it, I figured it’d be a great, beautiful, luscious movie. I wasn’t wrong.

Spoilers contained within. Do not read if you want to watch and enjoy it as new. Continue reading

The Great Hunt, Leviathan Wakes, and Six-Gun Tarot

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I’ve been reading a lot more of late. Having begun Mark Twain’s Autobiography, Leviathan Wakes (Now A Major Syfy TV Series, The Expanse), The Six-Gun Tarot and the second of the Wheel of Time Series, The Great Hunt, I’ve had ample opportunity to cross check the writing styles.

For me, great writing stands alone. Back when Tolkien’s LOTR novels were being made into movies, there was an outpouring of novels with the phrase “Like Middle Earth but better!” on the backs, or “Greatest fantasy adventure since Tolkien!” The spinoff books–some very successful–all playing off the idea of his works (Like Terry Brooks’s Sword of Shannara series and Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series) had the same feel of Tolkien, only light. In fact, I’d call them Tolkien Lite. As a disrespectful term.

Now I see “Think Game of Thrones with Bocci Ball!” or “John Doe, and his family, has a coolness factor so high, it’s like Harry Potter had John McClane as a father, AND THEY WERE ALL LANNISTERS!” While this isn’t exactly what I’m reading on the back of boring old fantasy novels, I’m not being hyperbolic. I did see a similar phrase somewhere.

These people, while possibly successful, are not great writers. You can’t take a powerful writer and say, “This writer is JUST LIKE another writer, ONLY BETTER,” and get any respect. If ever I get picked up by a big publisher, and they say anything of the sort on the back of my work, I will straight-up drop the publisher. One of the books I’ll discuss today is touted as a Martin Lite, even though he’s nothing of the sort.

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Using D&D to Understand Story

I haven’t been around for a while, and for that I apologize. I’m trying for a resurgence to this site, and writing in general. So hello.

 

This post has everything to do with my very, very amateur status in the world of Dungeons & Dragons. After studying the 5th Edition rulebooks, I recognize a deep vein of development that has been present since, well, I was born.

I’m falling into the D&D Dungeon Master development in a way I didn’t expect: I find studying a campaign actually improves my inspiration toward writing, and understanding a well-developed story, more adequately.

This is both a good and bad thing. The good is I am forced to develop peripheral aspects in a unique and new way, and in applying this to my book-writing, I find the world more saturated with individuality. The bad is I’m forced to cast aside my previous style of writing, which was unconventional, different, unique.

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