RIP My Dearest Friend

RIP my dearest friend. There’s a special bond created with a pet, and a dog truly is a human’s best friend. Draco wasn’t just a dog. Or a pet. He was my oldest and dearest friend. My most loyal homie. He was cuddled beside me for every novel i’ve ever written.  For every good moment and bad.

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Getting Draco in 2004 was the best decision I’d ever made, but twelve years just doesn’t seem long enough. One of my friends explained it best the other day. This is one of life’s cruelest ways…to create and give the most loyal and perfect companion with too short a life to live.

If I’ve learned anything over these last 12 years, it’s that people can be cruel, selfish and just plain gross. A human bond whether by blood or by friendship is one that can be broken. A human can walk away at any time, but you know your furry companion will never abuse you, judge you, or leave you. An unconditional bond of love. And with that bond you always have the perfect companion, so even while the rest of the world is busy and moving, you are never alone.

Artists and writers can often find themselves in solitude. While the world sleeps, we create. Being an artist and writer often proves to be lonely, but an animal companion counters that feeling.

I’ve had other pets and met many other dogs throughout my life, but Draco was special in many ways.

When I was told his birthday was August 22nd, I knew he was meant to be my special little guy. My birthday is the 23rd, and we celebrated both days together every year.

His name was supposed Gryffindor, but he was a tiny lil black puffball with a solid white goatee. The tips of his paws were also white and a stripe down his belly. The white patches made me think of the Malfoys with their dark robes and white hair, so I switched his name. Draco is also latin for dragon, and he has his own constellation. So, a powerful name to counter the fact that Draco Malfoy was actually a cowardly jerk in HP.

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I called him my Little Pumpkin because I got him shortly before Halloween of ’04 and stuffed him in a pumpkin costume like three sizes too big. Adorable. I hope I can find the pictures. 😦

Draco didn’t lick anyone. Ever. Maybe he would if you had Dorito cheese or peanut butter on your finger, but the act was rare. He never licked anyone just to lick. Instead he would get close and give “sniff” kisses.

He never jumped. He’d paw at my shoe and let out one lil growl or “ruff” if he wanted to cuddle and watch tv. I’d scoop him up at bedtime, and since 2004 I never had to sleep alone. His little legs just never really made it far off the ground.

I probably had one of the only dogs who didn’t lick or like bowls. He was scared of bowls and would only drink out of certain ones. His food was served on a placemat of his preference. His last food mat was Star Wars because Draco was a geek like me.

Draco loved music. If I turned on music to clean or brainstorm, he would dance around and smack his paws on the floor until I grabbed a toy to play. He was a rocker dog and perked up most for Papa Roach and Disturbed. He also had a soft spot for Glee soundtrack mashups and I won’t let you judge him for that.

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Plushies were his favorite toy, and he loved to play fetch and a mild game of tug.

Even as a pup, Draco was well behaved and chill. He always knew which toys were his and which were not. You could leave anything in the floor and he wouldn’t touch it. Shoes, phones, or whatever. I’ve sat drinks next to me while sitting on the floor and walked away, but Draco never touched them. Most dogs I know would run over and start drinking.

I’ve never met such a well behaved dog, and I’m not saying that because I’m biased. I’ve loved other pets before, but none were as chill and well behaved. The only bad thing he ever did was pee on my bed once as a puppy, and who can really be mad at that?

He truly was the best in every way. He was the most loving lil guy with a big heart—apparently too big for his tiny body.

RIP lil man ❤ If there is an otherside, I hope to see you there. Twelve years could never be enough. If I discover a TARDIS, I’ll go back and we’ll become Time Lord and Companion.

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Real Talk, Growing As A Writer

Okay, real talk here.

After reading over my first draft of the Alliance #3, I went back to book one to fact check a few things for consistency. I cringed when I read parts of Bloodlines. I won’t say it’s terrible, but it’s my first book and will never be my best. I’m still proud. And, hey, the reviews are strong so people are still enjoying the story despite the imperfections!

When I decided to get serious about writing the Alliance, I was straight out of high school with little understanding of sentence structure. Sad and surprising, I know. I had an imagination and could be descriptive, but I never really learned or retained all the rules of writing. I pretty much struggled throughout high school. I scraped by with low grades, and honestly, I copied off a friend’s paper when I got too behind. I cheated myself out of learning because I felt I couldn’t catch up. I absolutely didn’t learn well in classroom environments.

I slowly improved my writing with the help of some grammar savvy friends. Plus, I read a lot and just paid closer attention to the way other authors wrote. I did my research and got critiques were I could. I kept learning. I’m still learning. I think that’s an important thing to remember regardless of what you’re trying to achieve in life. Never stop learning.

Almost every author I’ve ever loved and followed has said that the first book you write will be crap, so I already knew I couldn’t expect Bloodlines to be perfect. Regardless, I was still shocked at weak description and poor structure.

I’ve learned so much since writing my first novel. My structure has improved and my descriptions are stronger. Drakon is much improved, and I think book three will surpass them all. Hell, the first draft of book three is stronger than the final draft of Bloodlines.

It’s amazing what you can achieve if you don’t give up.

If you read Bloodlines I hope you enjoyed and will give Drakon a chance. The Alliance sequels may surprise you. Click here to see what readers are saying about The Alliance: Bloodlines on Amazon.

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The Music that Fueled the Alliance Part 2

Last week’s blog post listed the songs which helped me write The Alliance: Bloodlines. This week, I go into more depth with my playlist selection for Drakon. You’ll find lots of similarities here—it’s completely obvious rock music fuels my soul—and you’ll even notice some repeats from the previous list.

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For Drakon, I kept some of the fast and heavy songs which I like to play while visualizing a fight scene or action sequence. “Down with the Sickness” and “Bodies” are two of my top contenders for fight scenes.

“End of the World” is a song I always imagined being a perfect theme song if the Alliance had a TV adaptation. I think the song packs an emotionally fitting punch for the series as a whole.

“Hero” is a song that I find really suiting for Bailey and Jameson. I imagine their inner voices singing this.

“Get Out Alive” and “Animal I Have Become” are for Jameson’s story. “40 Miles from the Sun” is also one for Jameson’s flashbacks—specifically the demon dimension of Drakon.

I can’t help but to think of classics when I write scenes for Star. Jess is a fan of metal and classic rock so I feel he would approve of most of the full playlist below.

If you’ve read the series, i’d would love to know which songs you’d pick for a theme song or specific characters.

 

The Drakon playlist:

 

“End of the World” by Cold

“Hurt” Johnny Cash’s NIN cover

“Break on Through (to the Other Side)” by The Doors

“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Guns N’ Roses

“Come as You Are” by Nirvana

“45” by Shinedown

“Never Too Late” by Three Days Grace

“Animal I Have Become” by Three Days Grace

“Get Out Alive” by Three Days Grace

“40 Miles from the Sun” by Bush

“You Should’ve Killed Me When You Had a Chance” by A Day To Remember

“Hero” by Skillet

“Monster” by Skillet

“Awake and Alive” by Skillet

“Take Me” by Papa Roach

“Scars” by Papa Roach

“Change or Die” by Papa Roach

“So Far Away” by Staind

“Fade” by Staind

“Down with the Sickness” by Disturbed

“Stricken” by Disturbed

“Land of Confusion” by Disturbed

“Indestructible” by Disturbed

“Bodies” by Drowning Pool

“37 Stitches” by Drowning Pool

“Nightmare” by Avenged Sevenfold

“Numb” by Linkin Park

“What I’ve Done” by Linkin Park

“So Cold” by Breaking Benjamin

“I Will Not Bow” by Breaking Benjamin

“6th Avenue Heartache” By The Wallflowers

 

 

 

Why We Don’t Need a Black Widow Movie (Right Now)

Black Widow has been a strong female presence within the Marvel movies for quite some time, and I always see fans campaign for her solo movie. The movement also appears to be fueled with angst every time Black Widow ends up being left out of Avengers merchandising plans, and I totally get the frustration, but I think she isn’t necessarily the best option for solo female movie.

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Image from Marvel.com

My pick for a female lead in a superhero movie?

Ororo Munroe.

And the question I often get when I say that?

“Who’s that?”

*Insert facepalm here*

Oh-em-gee. It’s Storm from the X-men. Sadly, many who watch the comic book movies don’t even really know her name or where she comes from. Ororo Munroe is the descendant of a long line of African priestesses who all donned white hair, blue eyes, and harnessed the power of magic.

Many people might not know Storm spent part of her childhood in Cairo, Egypt where her parents were tragically killed. Or that she was trained in the art of thievery. Or how she came to join Charles Xavier and the X-men.

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Marvel’s Astonishing X-men #29 cover by Simone Bianchi

In a step towards diversity, I think it’s fantastic that a Black Panther movie is in the works and a Luke Cage show is prepped for Netflix. I also think the diversity needs to continue with LBGTQ characters and more people of color—females included. To give the spotlight to another straight, white hero would be a missed opportunity to showcase that comics do have marginalized characters with great stories to tell.

WARNING: Mild spoilery alert ** Agent Carter is doing a great job of showcasing a different Black Widow character within the miniseries. Everyone knows Natasha Romanova wasn’t the only Black Widow, right? Agent Carter’s character, Dotty, allows us to dive deeper into the origins of the Black Widow program. So we have one Black Widow going mainstream in Marvel movies and one lesser known Black Widow on television. I think we can cover another area of interest. **

So again, we have Peggy Carter and Jessica Jones repping the ladies with their recent lead roles. So why not go further and add Ororo? Yes, I know the whole Marvel and Fox movie rights over mutants creates an issue, and at this point in time a Storm origin movie would most likely be made by Fox, but I think it’s a movie well deserved to join the ranks with Deadpool and Captain America no matter which juggernaut creates the film.

I think Storm is a strong and well recognized character, but she’s someone who has an interesting backstory still unknown to many people outside of comic reading group. I mean, we’ve seen Peter Parker’s origin story so many times that poor Uncle Ben could use a break. Who better to fill the origin shoes than a female, POC badass? So I don’t think we need a Black Widow/Natasha Romanova movie right now. We need an Ororo Munroe movie more.

 

The Lack of Diversity in Comics and Who Gets It Right?

I grew up reading comics littered with straight, white characters—predominantly male heroes. The biggest diversity I can remember was seeing Storm and Bishop in X-men comics. The lack of diversity in literature definitely hasn’t helped the world’s struggle for equality. People need to see and read about the lives of all people and cultures and not succumb to one majority. I think by now many of us have learned that fear is created by what we do not understand, and how do we understand the marginalized groups if no one will give them a voice?

In fact, I personally struggled with this as a young adult because I lived in southern state crammed with religion and homophobia—a typical haven for “White America.” So I fought myself for years before I accepted my sexuality. The 90s weren’t nearly as diverse as 2016, and yet we still have so far left to go on the road to equality. So reading books and comics with those straight, white, male protagonists didn’t help my struggle because there was so much hate towards the LGBTQIA community and our voices weren’t recognized.

Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the first show I saw properly recognize LGBTQ characters, but we were still nowhere to be found in any literature I was reading.

So as I discovered Brian K. Vaughan’s comics as an adult, I was quite pleased to find much more authentic diversity. He wrote strong female characters, provided racial diversity, and gave me the LGBTQ characters no one else seemed to be writing. Hell, BKV was writing sundry characters before everyone else realized it was the right thing to do.

My heart melted when I discovered Karolina Dean’s sexuality in Runaways and followed her journeys through romance. She was the character I needed in comics when I was younger. She’s the character many LGBTQ readers needed. The entire Runaways series offered a diverse team with characters such as Alex Wilder as an African-American, Nico Minoru who is a Japanese-American, and Xavin who served as a gender fluid shapeshifter.

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Marvel comic series created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona.

Just like Runaways, Y: The Last Man stands as one of my all-time favorite comic series. The series might revolve around Yorick Brown, who is dubbed the “Last Man on Earth,” but my favorite characters were Agent 355, who was an African-American badass and Dr. Allison Mann, who was of Chinese-Japanese decent and also an awesome LGBTQ character. Honestly, Y: The Last Man had several same sex relationships, and I felt the entire series authentically depicted the craziness and diversity of society thrown into chaos when almost the entire male population dies off.

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Vertigo Comics series created by Brian K Vaughan & Pia Guerra. Cover by J.G. Jones.

 

Combine diversity with BKV’s witty dialogue—best compared to Joss Whedon’s writing style—and it’s easy to see why two of my all-time favorite comic book series are Brian K. Vaughan creations. BVK has earned several awards for his creations, including Saga and Ex Machina.

I look forward to reading the next BKV creation because I believe he will continue to create the authentic and diverse worlds more in tune with reality than many other stories offer. We must further diversify our stories if we wish to do break down the barriers which still prevent equality.