House of Rats (Part 2) is now available to read!

The latest installment of my web serial, Adventures in Viktorium, is up now for your reading pleasure here =)

I have to say that it’s going in a couple unexpected directions, but that’s the beauty of writing; nothing is final until you type it down (or use a pen, if that’s your chosen method…I almost miss using them). Though you may plot it perfectly and have characters planned out to a tee in your head, sometimes they just do what they want to do and reveal what they wish at different times. It’s interesting to me how the visual is a constantly evolving thing as well. I started off looking at the maze of the city environment, knowing where everything was. Suddenly there are canals and bridges and statues popping up in the most unexpected places, and building floor plans have changed. But that’s okay, because I don’t think I’ll be providing a map for readers (as of yet…I’ve been experimenting with different web applications, but I haven’t found much that satisfies me yet).

Lucien is going to end up being one of my favorite characters, I can see it already! Crafty bastard, that one. In addition, I’ll also be including some scenes with characters who up until now have been background voices, i.e. Benoit Laurent and Constance Renou. The mayor will also make an appearance soon.

I adore my cast of characters.

This web serial is probably the single greatest thing I’ve ever done for my writing productivity, ever. I used to struggle to pound out 1,000 words per day and now suddenly I’m cramming in 3,000-4,000 on average on my days off work. That is so far beyond what I would have previously expected of myself. I’m learning to be a confident writer, it’s awesome!

Anyway, it’s my bedtime. But if you haven’t yet, please do check out my web serial and give me some feedback on it! I’ll need it because I’m planning to launch Kindle versions of it in the near future with maybe a few extras included, not 100% sure yet.

Also, I promise I’ll try to post on this blog more. I know I’ve been pretty lazy with it, but I’m trying more to keep up with Adventures in Viktorium.

Later for now!

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House of Rats – Part 1

“House of Rats, Part 1” from my web serial ‘Adventures in Viktorium’ is now available. The story has officially begun!!

Adventures in Viktorium

Maxwell Ferrier took a deep breath and steadied himself by the third floor window of the abandoned villa, taking care that his face was still covered. He abhorred sneaking out of the city. Not that he feared getting himself into trouble; as an elder of the Barreau Orphanage boys, he was no stranger to that. But forming a temporary alliance with the most feared gang west of Cavarice seemed to be the only way to get their hands on Dispatcher technology. Such devices could fetch thousands on the black market. Since the orphanage received little funding from the government to keep its doors open year-round anymore, it was a necessary evil.

Outside, the sun shone hot across the deserted golden wasteland. Harsh gusts of wind kicked up dust and debris now and again. The villa itself provided little shelter from the elements as most of the doors were ripped off…

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My web serial “Adventures in Viktorium” has just launched!

Hey everyone! So there’s this great-big-massive-huge project I’m working on which for some reason I don’t think I’ve mentioned here before, but I will now.

Viktorium is actually many things. It will be a group of serial novellas (or novels, I’m not sure yet). It’s a web serial. It also involves characters interacting on Twitter. Basically, I’m trying my damnedest to create this insane steampunk world, because I love the idea of it so much that I want to share it with people and encourage active fan participation to expand the world as far as it will go. That includes (but is not limited to) artwork, fanfiction, RPGs, etc. So I’m spreading it around the internet like a virus and hoping it might catch on. Crazy idea.

Anyway, the basic premise is that a scientist named Charles DuPont discovers this other frequency (a parallel dimension) which is exactly like Earth’s reality, but it’s unpopulated. What he does know is that souls of people who died show up there for a short time, but they don’t seem to stay. He resolves at first to turn it into a vacation spot or tourist attraction to test it out by building machines to cross over. It fails miserably at first, but eventually he produces technology to reroute the souls of everyone who dies to this new land, which he dubs Viktorium.

Fifteen years later, a coup is staged and he’s exiled. Political corruption runs rampant and everyone in positions of power line up for the throne, constantly sabotaging each other and allowing the general public to suffer because of their greed.

To that end, I’ve created three fictional Twitters so far of some characters who are basically there to discuss what’s going on in Viktorium, though they play minor roles in the Adventures in Viktorium series:

Benoit Laurent – @BenoitLaur
Constance Renou – @VFranceTransit
Nikola Tesla – @DPSteamworks

I should clarify that Adventures is solely a web serial which takes place just prior to the events of the books I have planned, which are called The Dispatchers Chronicles, in which Christophe and Vitalie–the children of Charles DuPont–travel to Viktorium in search of their father, whom they barely knew.

More is coming soon, and incredibly exciting things are happening! I’ll talk at greater length perhaps later, but for now it’s long past my bedtime (don’t ask, I’m on a horrible schedule!)

Be sure to check out the first post of Adventures in Viktorium here!

Justin Bieber is naked, you say? Thoughts on Privacy and #NotAskingForIt.

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a Justin Bieber fan, and I likely never will be. I don’t particularly care for him. I may not like his music or his fan base, or the fact that I’ve had to hear about him being young and stupid and acting like a nuisance, just as I was once young and stupid and acted like a nuisance (face it, we all share that in common with him at least).

Maybe he’s a player, or maybe he’s just really misunderstood and has a lot of heart. Or maybe he’s as vapid as they say. The fact is, no matter what you personally think about Justin Bieber, he is still just as much of a human being as you or I. He still has the same right to privacy, to personal autonomy, to feel safe no matter where he is, especially in his own home or back yard or yes, even on his deck in Bora Bora. Those are undeniable, fundamental human rights. We all have them. The UN even has a formal declaration on them.

And so last night when nude photographs of him taken by a paparazzi suddenly surfaced on Twitter and went viral with the snarky hashtag #WhatDoYouPeen (a wordplay on his latest single, “What Do You Mean?”), his human rights were in clear violation. Those were not photos he himself took, nor approved for release (as far as we know), nor was probably even aware of the existence of.

“But heck,” you might say, “who even cares?” This is nothing new, obviously.  It happens all the time to even the most thick-skinned of celebrities, right?

And, well, that right there is precisely the problem.

We in America have deluded ourselves with the misguided belief that just because someone makes a living out of constantly being in the public spotlight, they  must have forfeited all rights to privacy from the moment they signed a recording contract, joined the Screen Actors Guild, or was born an heir or heiress to a large fortune. From the moment they wake up until the moment they go to bed, these people are treated as nothing more than porn objects by gossip magazines and those who starve for the next juicy detail.

Everyone thinks “oh, they’ll get over it”. Or they’ll just go crazy and people will laugh as if they’re circus animals, because of course it’s always easier to blame the monkey in the cage for wanting to attack us when we get too close than it is to own up to the fact that we put more pressure on them than we ever do on ourselves, and we should probably get a life and do something worthwhile instead of waiting for their next meltdown so we have something interesting to talk about. Celebrity gossip can be an addiction for many people.

What is most disturbing to me about this concept is the pervasive reality that they can and have been photographed literally everywhere they go, largely without their consent, their images consumed en masse by addicts who follow their every move right down to the nanosecond. Now these are known artists and entertainers who are followed for their merits, but imagine for a moment that they were porn stars; does such a fixation really seem natural or healthy? Or if they were your neighbors, just everyday average citizens, there would be no question about it. All that stalking and taking pictures would land you in a jail cell.

So what makes a person’s celebrity status any different? Don’t even get me started on the creep factor when they have kids. There’s something so incredibly disturbing about strangers wanting to take pictures of your children. I don’t care what the reason is behind it, there’s no way in hell it’s justifiable. But it’s good to know that they can at least fight back about that:

Another thing that grinds my gears is that I’ve even heard some say that because of what they do, celebrities are “asking for it”. They’re stars, they like the attention and the best kind is free, and they love having their faces plastered everywhere. Nudity or sex tapes are good publicity. And if they don’t want to be photographed (and they rarely do as they go about their normal day, so god forbid the paparazzi don’t get a paycheck), suddenly they’re prude or horrible or whatever else. I’ve literally seen videos of paparazzi guys acting like that. You know who else uses that argument? Rapists and domestic abusers.

But their status as entertainers is no rationale, and even being naked, as many people seem to think, is not any indication of “asking for it”. That goes for any kind of unwelcome advance, pictorial or otherwise. If you don’t believe me, take a look at nudist colonies and those living the naturist lifestyle around the world. Crimes are practically nonexistent among their communities, yet they’re naked, and none of them are asking for anything, least of all unwelcome sexual advances. Speaking of which, I find it odd, too, that in America we have this view that nudity in and of itself must always be sexual in nature. If someone wants to be naked, heaven forbid they don’t face ridicule, slut-shaming, or an avalanche of inappropriate commentary.

Fans with prurient interests come crawling out of the woodwork whenever this happens.

Looking through the mess on Twitter, I was pretty disappointed.

Look, I get it. People lap up scandal all the time in America, and we’re a bit of a historically prude country who never seems to outrun its Christian influence in everything from politics to interpersonal relationships. People are clamoring to see each other naked, especially celebrities, because we idolize them and I guess the fantasy is a pervasive thing (so much sometimes that many have resorted to creating fake nudes of them).

But it’s when we let that pervasiveness take control and turn a blind eye to the pressure they face that it becomes a dangerous thing. And this has crossed so many boundaries in so many ways, it’s not cool or funny. It never was.

If you truly appreciate the talents and hard work of your favorite entertainers and celebrities, please respect their right to privacy and remember to think twice before jumping on the bandwagon with things like this.

Respect others’ rights to privacy and take care of yourself.

Coming next week will be a post about self-neglect and the perils of American consumerist society 😉 Stay tuned!

Thoughts on the Umpqua Community College shooting.

I am outraged. Actually, that’s putting it quite mildly. Livid is a more accurate sentiment of my mood right now. I’m dead furious and extremely upset. I’m upset because this happens way too often in my country, and it shouldn’t anymore. I get nauseous just thinking about it, and not even the occurrence itself, but our reactions to it as an American society.

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I remember the very first time I heard about a school shooting and was old enough to grasp the gravity of it. The date was April 20, 1999, and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold—two young boys whose names are so burnt into my memory now that I didn’t even have to Google them—had just shot and killed 13 people and wounded 24 others before killing themselves.

I was twelve years old at the time,  and I was honestly horrified. I began to wonder what it would be like if that ever happened at my school. I was scared to go back. I just kept envisioning my school every time I heard about it. When I walked through the halls, it didn’t feel the same anymore. I found myself scoping out areas I would be able to hide if such a thing ever occurred. I was more scared of the boys who bullied me than ever before. What if one of them was plotting to kill me?

For a child growing up in a country where firearms are glorified, that’s not a fear that ever really goes away once you experience the reality of it. You can bury it as far down as you want. You can make jokes about it, play violent video games to relieve stress, because as long as it exists in some fictional or not-so-serious way, it doesn’t feel like the concrete reality that it truly is. It’s something that maybe happened in another part of the world, far from the shores of a country which only about 250 years ago was conquered and claimed and founded by the use of such weapons. America was built by firearms. It’s ingrained in our collective psyche, we feel safe and secure so long as we only use them for a good purpose (though that purpose does change and is justified in any manner of ways depending on who you’re talking to).

But once it happens in your own country, on your own soil, in a town not too dissimilar from your own? That’s when it gets all too painfully real, and firearms suddenly turn from a measure of solace, security, and protection into a dark, malicious saboteur.

An infiltrator. An enemy. A time bomb  ticking down. And that’s largely the problem.

We as Americans have failed to respect such power. We have deluded ourselves into believing we all want guns for a good and justified purpose. But in that endeavor, we have failed each other, we have failed ourselves, we have lied, and worst of all, we have failed and lied to our own children.

The real enemy here is not the firearm itself, but the pervasive, utterly shocking, blatant disrespect for the power these objects hold. They are death machines plain and simple, and it’s ludicrous to call them anything else. That is what they are, that is the only purpose they were built to serve and the only instruction they will ever carry out. Their endgame is destruction no matter where they’re pointed, that’s all.

And at the very core of my being, I am disgusted and appalled at the way we as Americans have evolved to deal with scenarios like this. We are shocked for a while, people talk about it a few days, impassioned rants are exchanged between gun rights lobbyists and gun control proponents alike. Then, in failing to generate any sort of logical compromise that would pave the way for enacting policy to deal with our gun problem, the aforementioned tragedy is promptly swiped under the carpet and everyone goes on with their lives with a “never forget” and a “sure hope this never happens again”.

Then a month later, we find blood leaking out from under that same carpet and swipe a few fresh corpses beneath its fraying threads and weave another statistic.

What we should be asking ourselves is how many more deaths does it take? How much more disrespect, lack of proper safety training and education, how much longer will we justify the use of these weapons as a means of protection no matter how many times that intention backfires before we do something? We owe it to our children and to our fellow citizens. Most of all, we owe it to the victims of these tragedies and their families.

The Newtown massacre should have been the END OF THE LINE, NO EXCEPTIONS.

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And it’s completely baffling that even that—the senseless slaying of 20 innocent kindergarten students and 6 school staff members—that was not enough to push tighter gun control legislation. Really?

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Excuse my language here, as I try to abstain from the use of obscenities on my author blog, but…ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME.  How can we, as Americans, continue to live with ourselves as we do nothing to make our schools and other public places safer in the wake of such  horrible tragedies? Especially Newtown. How can we even be so selfish as to think about protecting firearms rights for ourselves when our children are being shot at on a monthly basis? Do those rights trump the rights of the victims and their families to feel safe just going to school, malls, or the movie theater?

I’m sorry, but the old adage in this case holds true; the road to hell is definitely paved with good intentions. I understand people’s motives for owning firearms when it comes to protection, but I must respectfully disagree to that end. Guns are used far more for attack than they are ever used for defense, they cause more problems than they solve, and sadly there are never any concealed or open-carry heroes to come save the day when mass shootings do occur.

We are already a culture bred and molded by fear, and that fear is what is crippling us as a country in a web of so many interconnected issues that we’re beginning to implode from the pressure (I may talk more about that later, but this post is primarily about gun violence). In my opinion, fear is what has directly contributed to the vast majority firearms sales over the last 25 years, and thusly, to gun violence itself.

The fact that school shootings are such a common occurrence in the United States is horrifyingly poignant.

Just the other day, a friend of mine was shocked to find out what her son was learning:

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We should not have to drill kids on how best to hide from an intruder with a gun in their school, ever!  Should they even have to grow up and live with that fear? Should any parent, just because gun organizations and lobbyists seek to place their firearms rights on a pedestal far above human life (and most disgustingly of all, above the human lives of innocent children no more than 6 or 7 years of age)? You are advocating for your continued right to possess and operate deadly weapons. It is your responsibility to make sure you respect those devices and any manner of harm and destruction that may come as a result of their use.

If gun organizations such as the overwhelmingly loud National Rifle Association and their lobbyists want to fight for the freedom to own guns, the very least they can do is campaign for firearm safety and education, and help to enact new legislation that would keep our schools and public campuses safe from those who would abuse their power. Who else will step up to the plate, if not responsible gun owners? And how about if they say “that’s not my job”, then say goodbye to your firearms license. Because you cannot ethically campaign for gun ownership without also affording the same dedication to fighting for the rights and safety of those whose lives such weapons have impacted, because that would show you have no respect for a right you clearly do not deserve, to say nothing of respect for basic human rights.

And that blatant disregard for life itself is what angers and enrages me most of all as an American citizen.  People have succumbed to their fear in the worst ways possible. This is most evident in our films and media culture. Guns and gun violence are viewed as toys and a means to an end, rarely promoted as a defensive tool, but as something which is meant to kill what we don’t like or what we are most afraid of, and what we are most afraid of is that which we do not or even outright refuse to understand—ourselves and each other.

It’s time for this epidemic to end. It’s time for us to open our eyes, before the dead force them open for us. It’s time we listen to the voice of reason. It’s time we start showing respect, even if it does cause a bit of inconvenience. Because for God’s sake, these are human lives and if you respect nothing else, you should respect both the power in your hands as well as the rights of others to live in a country where they are free from fear, and where they don’t have to worry about being killed in school because of your inaction.

I’ll leave you with President Obama’s poignant speech on the matter.

It’s been a year. Let’s get dangerous!

Hello everyone! Wow, this is strange. I haven’t been on here for quite some time obviously. I wish I had more exciting news to report. Unfortunately, I am incredibly ashamed to say that I have not been writing much in the way of stories for the past couple years. No lie, I have not finished writing a book since 2011 at least! So what have I been doing with my life all this time? Well, putzing around, mostly. Arguing with strangers on the internet about social issues. Visiting people only so I can pet their cats. Doing my best to overcome my random bouts of anxiety, insomnia, and wildly unhealthy addiction to pizza. Trying to get out more instead of making excuses for why I hate everything and everyone (the quarter-life crisis is so real). Working a job I hate and using all my free time for escapism. That’s the sad, curmudgeonly truth.

But I actually have been working quite a bit on music, more than I realize. I downplay it a lot, though I suppose it’s actually a fairly big deal at this point for me, because I am currently composing music for indie film director Ivan Noel’s latest film, Rodillas Quemadas (Burnt Knees).  In case you can’t figure what was going on in the trailer (some of my friends said they didn’t get it), it’s a modern-day take on Henry James’ famous ghost story, The Turn of the Screw.

That’s my music in the trailer and I’m working on quite a bit more. It’s been a bit of an ongoing unorthodox process for the past year, since I’ve basically been coming up with pieces I think might fit and emailing them to him as I finish (he’s based in Argentina). But I am officially the composer for this movie, and that’s honestly been a dream come true for me (hopefully the first of many), as he is one of my biggest indie film idols. In case I didn’t mention this elsewhere on my blog, yes, I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to indie and foreign films. I find the cinematography, stories, acting, and music to be imbued with so much more beauty, heart, and soul than your typical Hollywood nonsense. They can throw away the budget, easy. But when it comes to indie films in some cases, people have given up damn near everything to produce these works. More often than not, it definitely shows. I’ve read about some who sold their house to do it!

As it is, it seems Ivan has had quite a trip in producing this film. There was a massive flood where they were shooting, he was held at knifepoint by a drugged-out owner of the house they were shooting at, and one of his actors who’s an alcoholic refuses to finish the film because drinks are obviously more important *sarcasm*.

Anyway, it’s sort of been on hold lately from all that craziness, so I’m taking this opportunity since I have a bit more free time to actually get back into the swing of things with……*drumroll*…..WRITING!

I’m actually super-excited and pumped about it too, because I’ve been slowly but steadily working on a series of novellas entitled The Dispatchers Chronicles, which is about a brother and sister in the 1920’s who stumble across an alternate dimension on Earth called Viktorium, and they discover everyone who dies in our reality shows up there. There were originally machines built to allow ghosts to travel back to the land of the living, but when too many people crowded in, the machines malfunctioned and their souls were blasted apart and scattered across multiple dimensions, resulting in hauntings. So together, the brother and sister (Christophe and Vitalie) become ghost hunters of sorts, traveling between various dimensions to find and deport wayward ghosts. Christophe also has to work at repairing the ghost machines, since they threaten to tear apart the fabric of Viktorium’s dimension.

Next month, I’m starting up a web serial (my first ever!) based on it entitled Adventures in Viktorium, which will be a tie-in series of standalone tales separate from the novellas and will involve a few minor characters who are also featured in the main books. The intention is to give Viktorium a bit of necessary back story and introduce readers to the world and some of the characters they’ll encounter at different points throughout the main series, though you need not read one to read the other. I’m also trying to write it so that anyone interested could easily start with either the serials or the books and not get confused.

The reason I’m writing both rather than a full-blown novel series is because I wanted a tighter, shorter format, and I also felt it gave a nice aesthetic touch to hearken back to 1920’s-era fiction by giving it a more serialized feel. Plus you can never go wrong with being in two places at once (though that’s not particularly a good thing when it happens to Christophe a few times in the story, hint hint)!

Anyway, I feel my creative life is more or less starting to come together finally. I’m happy for once even though this year hasn’t been perfect, I’ve learned a lot, and now I’m incredibly excited to introduce readers to the world of Viktorium next month. I’m back on my A-game, everyone! It’s never too late to turn things around.

Hope you all have a great day and rest of the month =)