This weekend the newest Jason Bourne opened in theaters. I LOVE the Bourne movies (some more than others. I'm looking at you, Jeremy Renner) and I rank The Bourne Identity as one of my top 5 movies ever!
One of the reasons I'm drawn to Jason Bourne is because of the action. I geek-out over the fight choreography which feels to me like equal parts grace and power. Not to mention the improvisation! Who knew a pen, a rolled-up magazine, or a BOOK could be so dangerous?
I've always been drawn to action in movies. It's probably a by-product of growing up in the '80's and '90's and watching too many Steven Seagal movies (Hard to Kill = Awesome; Marked for Death = Not So Much). But I'm not a movie star or even a fight choreographer. I'm a writer . . . so how do I incorporate action into my writing?
When I was in middle school I read the novelization of another '80s/90's classic -- Willow! I loved the movie, but when I read the book, I walked away disappointed -- mostly because the epic sword fights in the movie were simply glossed over in the novel with barely a sentence or two of description.
In ANOM: Awakening I wanted the action to feel like a Bourne movie -- filled with power and grace. But how do I write that without droning on about every punch, kick, and bruise?
In the end, I tried to write my action scenes like a play-by-play sportscaster on the radio - creating a clear picture with my words, but not getting bogged down in too much detail because something else is already happening. I'll leave it to you, my readers, to judge the end results for yourselves, but when I read reviews that talk about the visual nature of my book, I think I must be onto something.
The other element that really helped me create action scenes was my recent involvement with Kenpo Karate. My wife and I started taking karate classes a couple of years ago, and as we've learned different self-defense moves and "basics" in class, it's become easier and easier for me to visualize my way through a fight. After all, if I can't see the fight in my own imagination, how will I ever describe it for the reader?
After Vanessa read my book she described it as "Captain America meets Jason Bourne." I hope that's true. And I hope that the new Bourne movie lives up to its reputation. And I hope one day I can see my fights from ANOM choreographed out on the big screen.
Until then, I'll just have to settle for Bourne.
Hey everybody! Today marks exactly one month since my incredible launch party at Alaura Kitchen and Candy. A number of you have asked how things are going with the book, and I wanted to take just a couple of minutes to give you all an update.
It's hard to tell exactly "how things are going" because I've never done anything like this before. I can say it feels like ANOM: Awakening is starting to build momentum. Yesterday, we sold the most units ever and we matched it with the most Kindle Edition Normalized Pages read in a day (KENP is how Amazon tracks pages read through Kindle Unlimited). The book is currently hovering around the top 50 of Amazon superhero e-books (and reached as high as #40 yesterday).
Of course none of this would be possible without all of your support! Thank you!!!
Here's what some of you had to say about ANOM: Awakening . . .
"The story telling is well balanced and engaging with interesting characters and an exciting plot." -- Not So New Mom
"It's never boring! Every chapter some questions are answered while new ones are raised." -- Kristel C.
"The author is a wonderful storyteller and provides such a vivid picture that you feel as though you're watching the action unfold in front of you." -- Allison
"This novel grabbed my attention on page 1 and left me wanting more!" -- Amazon Customer
"The author has a thoroughly delightful manner of describing action that paints a vivid image in the mind and yet somehow still leaves enough up to the imagination." -- Curtis
So it finally happened . . . I got my first bad review!
A part of me understands that this was inevitable. There's the old maxim about "You can't please all of the people all of the time." Then there are the stories about mega-successful artists facing rejection (see: Beatles, Dick Rowe). And finally, most importantly, it's part of the job! Writers get criticized. I know that.
But then there's another part of me. This part doesn't care about your maxims or your history lessons or your advice. This part hates logic. And this part takes criticism very, VERY personally.
I wasn't expecting this second reaction - this vitriol I now feel for my new critic. Maybe that was me just being naive. When you see professional artists (famous people) being criticized, it's easy to dismiss their reactions. After all, they're famous! Surely they must know that a majority of people find their art amazing!!! Why would they ever care about what some no-name critic has to say? If it were me, I wouldn't care about the critics!!!
But then it happens, and I DO care. The criticism may not be personal, but my writing (the target of this criticism) is incredibly personal. How can I not care?
I tried to go through the critique line by line and evaluate for myself if I think the criticism is legitimate. A bland main character? I happen to think Jeremy Cross is compelling. Over describes useless details? I thought I was putting you right in the action. Shifts the timeline back and forth for no material reason? IT'S ONLY THE KEY TO THE WHOLE DAMN STORY! Got about halfway through this one before I gave up. Seriously?!?
Finally I realized, it doesn't matter if I think his criticism is legitimate. I don't have to agree. It's enough to say he didn't like my book. And that's okay. I'll survive. I'll live to write another day. And maybe that's the real lesson.
It's not about ignoring your critics or hardening your skin so you don't care anymore. Instead, acknowledge your critics, weigh their words for yourself, and ultimately, keep doing what makes you happy
I started re-watching Chuck this week on Netflix with the kids, and I almost forgot what an incredible show it was! I'm not sure it technically qualifies as a "creative influence" when it comes to my own writing, but there are definitely motifs running throughout the show that I see repeated in ANOM: Awakening.
First, a quick review. . .
If you've never seen an episode of Chuck, do yourself a favor and go binge-watch the entire first season. I can wait.
For the rest of you, I'm sure you remember that Chuck is a show about a normal guy (Chuck Bartowski) who gets the contents of a top-secret government computer downloaded into his brain. Mayhem ensues as Chuck helps the CIA and the NSA keep the world safe from evil . . . all while maintaining his cover of hapless, mega-computer store, "Nerd Herd" employee.
Needless to say, the magic of Chuck lies almost entirely with its titular hero. Watching Zachary Levi (in the role of Chuck Bartowski) straddle these two disparate worlds makes the show fun to watch. He is "us", with all of his flaws, insecurities, and mistakes. He can't save the world with his Kung-Fu, but he can save the world thanks to his best friend's intricate knowledge of Call of Duty.
Chuck is a normal guy making use of his limited skills to do the best he can. . . and that theme is universal. That's all of us, everyday!
So how does that translate to my book?
There is no "Superman" in ANOM: Awakening. There is no Swiss Army Knife kind of hero capable of doing everything on his own like a James Bond super-spy.
Everyone in my book has weaknesses -- sometimes dramatic weaknesses. Weaknesses that stop them from being the heroes (and sometimes even the people) they hope to be.
They're just normal people making use of their limited skills, trying to do the best they can. Just like the rest of us. Just like Chuck.
It finally happened.
June 25th. It was the day I had been waiting for since I launched my website back in January. June 25th -- the day I had been waiting for since I started writing my novel ANOM: Awakening three years ago in August 2013. June 25... in some ways it's the day I've been waiting for all my life.
So now what?
As the clock struck midnight and June 25, 2016 rolled away never to be seen again, that question felt all-consuming. June 25th, the day I launched my first novel ANOM: Awakening into the world was supposed to be my turning-point, a watershed moment that would change everything forever. It had come and gone, and everything felt pretty much the same. So now what?
My launch party was awesome. I don't want to take away from that at all. Everything I always pictured... that's what it was and more. The turnout, the support, people lining up for my autograph in my book . . . the ice cream!!! It was incredible. I couldn't ask for a better day.
But June 26th... that was a disappointment.
I understand that it makes no logical sense to expect your life to flip upside down overnight. There was no way my book would become an overnight sensation. I know that any success at this writing game will take time - lots of time.
But talking about your life's dream has a way of defying logic.
I realize that what I'm waiting for -- what I'm searching for -- is external validation. The metaphorical pat-on-the-back from the hand of authority to say, "You made it." But isn't that what we're all hoping to find?
The Wizard of Oz realized that much. The Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and the Cowardly Lion solved all their problems through external validation. The Scarecrow wanted a brain. He got a diploma. "You made it." Problem solved.
So what would external validation look like for a writer? A big-time Hollywood movie deal optioning my novel to become the next Hunger Games? Not a bad start. Breaking into the top 100 novels selling on Amazon? That might work. Signing my very own novel at my very own launch party? That sounds pretty good too.
And so I realize... that external validation I'm looking for may never come. Maybe it's a chimera -- the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow always moving farther way the closer we get.
I'm reminded of a line from Cool Runnings. Near the end of the movie, before the last race, John Candy's character Irv says, "A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you're not enough without one, you'll never be enough with one."
And my question is the same one asked in the movie, "How will I know if I'm enough?"
Irv answers, "When you cross that finish line tomorrow, you'll know."
I'm afraid life doesn't wrap-up its loose ends quite as neat as a Disney movie. There is no finish line waiting for me tomorrow. And so I'm left waiting, but the answer will come and I only hope that when it does, it's the right one.
I love to write -- I've been saying that for a long time now -- and I hope that's enough. If my validation never gets here, I hope that passion is enough. And if I get my movie deal someday, I hope my love of writing is still enough. Only time will tell.