Posts Tagged ‘Game of Thrones’

I’ve mentioned plenty of times before on this blog how much I love manga and anime. I’ve even written before how writers should check it out for a boost to their creativity. Well today, I’d like to talk about my favorite manga series, Red River by Chie Shinohara, which ran in Japan from 1995 to 2002. I absolutely love this series, and have since I discovered it prior to entering college seven years ago (and for numerous reasons, it took me nearly that long to get each volume and read it). I’m actually rereading it now, and I’m still in love with the story.

With the awesomeness of this series, it’s one I actually don’t see a lot of people talking about, so I thought I’d do a review to spread the word a bit. I don’t know if this post will get a lot of reads, or if the review will get a lot of people interested in reading the manga, but you never know. So without further ado, let me tell you about Red River:

The manga follows Yuri Suzuki, a Japanese teenager who finds herself pulled through time and space to the Hittite Empire in ancient Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). She’s been brought there because Nakia, the current queen and the emperor’s third wife, needs to make sure her son, who’s rather low in the succession order, attains the throne and a special sacrifice is needed. Yuri is meant to be that sacrifice, and narrowly avoids being killed thanks to the intervention of Prince Kail, the third Hittite empire. Together, they try to find a way to get Yuri home, while also circumnavigating not only Nakia’s schemes for power, but the schemes of others who would do them and the Hittite Empire harm, and at the same time finding something in each other they couldn’t find in anyone else.

This is a story of the same stripe as Game of Thrones: struggles for power in a grand empire, magic, history, battles with swords and chariots, romance, an exotic setting and a rich culture, and some great characters whom you grow to love and root for (and somehow remember a lot more easily despite the Mesopotamian/Biblical names).  And the characters are the best part:

First off, there’s Yuri, our heroine. I love this sort of character. While she starts off as a damsel-in-distress, she grows throughout the story, showing strong nerve, cleverness, and a desire to do what’s right, which allows her to save herself from difficult situations and gain several followers along the way. Prince Kail, based on the historical Mursili II, initially comes off as a playboy prince, but over time reveals a young man with the weight of the empire on his shoulders. He’s a brilliant politician and tactician, occasionally rash and impulsive, but above all loyal to those he loves and will go out of their way to help them if he can. And Queen Nakia is the villain Cersei Lannister aspires to be: while she’s beautiful, she doesn’t rely on her looks. Instead she uses a combination of magic, political power, brains, and manipulation to accomplish her goals. She doesn’t necessarily even need Yuri’s death to accomplish those goals, it’s just Plan A. And believe me, if she sees an opportunity, she’ll develop a Plan B, C and D.

A full-color shot from Red River.

The storytelling is also phenomenal, taking actual historic events and people and weaving them seamlessly into a story that also manages to balance intrigue and romance very well. In addition to Nakia, there are other enemies, usually enemy states and their leaders, who attempt to conquer the Hittite Empire or just to the characters themselves. Throughout the series, suspense is kept high with a variety of plots against the characters, as well as numerous twists that keep readers on their toes. And the romance is never too sappy or idealistic, but often shows how the leads have to struggle not only to make their relationship work, but also to make it legal in the eyes of the Hittite Empire (politics, am I right?).

And finally, there’s the art style. It’s meant to be quite appealing to readers, with characters having proportions similar to what they might have in the real world. There’s also plenty of attention to detail when it comes to locations and attire, which one would expect for a series like this. It all comes together in a visually pleasing package, which is what manga artists go for, so good on that.

Sadly, Red River never had an anime produced, but the manga is available in the United States and Canada (I think, anyway). If you want a story that encompasses ancient Middle Eastern history while filled with intrigue, magic, and romance, this may be the story for you. Check it out, and dive into what could definitely be called a whole new world.

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Reborn City, my first published novel

Reborn City, my first published novel

One hot summer day eight years ago, a young high schooler was walking home from the library with the plan to stop by Dairy Queen and grab some ice cream. While he was walking, he was listening to a new CD he’d picked up from the library, the soundtrack to a movie he really liked. And while he listened to the first track, a rock/hip-hop style song called “Stoopid Ass,” he found himself thinking of another movie he’d seen recently and really enjoyed, Freedom Writers. He loved that movie, about how gangsters were inspired by a teacher to be more than what they and others thought they could be. The high schooler thought about how the song he was listening to might have fit well on the soundtrack for that movie as well. And then, very casually, he thought to himself, “I should write a gangster story.”

And like that, ideas started exploding like fireworks in his head. He began thinking of ways to make it more unique compared to other gangster stories, where to set it, what sort of characters there should be. He spent the rest of the afternoon thinking of his new story and what kind of story it could become. The very next spring, he started writing it, making a few notes in a notebook before creating an outline on a laptop in his mother’s basement, which was his usual writing space in those days. Over two years, he wrote and wrote, until about a month before he graduated high school, he finished his new novel, Reborn City, a story about street gangs in a dystopian future and the trials they face while trying to find a life better than the ones they’re currently living in.

In college, he edited and edited, and had a friend help him make sure he missed nothing with the final draft. Because he wasn’t having that much luck finding an agent or a publisher, he took advantage of the growing self-publishing industry, and published Reborn City on November 1st, 2013. Some months later he finished writing the sequel, Video Rage, which he’d begun writing over the previous summer, and which he published in June 2016, the day after he moved into a new apartment to be closer to a new job. And today, on November 1st, 2016, he’s going to start the final novel in the Reborn City series, Full Circle.

Video Rage, the second book in the RC series.

Video Rage, the second book in the RC series.

Switching to first person, I’m very excited that I’m finally at this juncture at this series. The Reborn City series has been a labor of love for so long, about seven or eight years worth of sweat, blood and tears. And it’s been worth it. A lot of people–some of whom are not related to me and obligated to read my books, surprisingly–have discovered the series and enjoyed reading it. Nobody’s told me yet that the series has changed their lives (I hear that’s rare anyway), but they’ve told me how they identified with the characters, or how imaginative the world of the story is. And one person told me that some of the themes in the book–racism, Islamapohobia, terrorism, urban violence, etc.–make the series pretty relevant to today’s problems, which I feel is quite the compliment.

And tonight after work, I’ll be starting the final book, Full Circle. Honestly, I’m a little surprised that I’ve made it so far. Even after Video Rage came out, I kind of felt towards Full Circle like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin probably thought about the end of the millennium: it’ll happen, but it’s so far away, why even bother thinking about it?  And now I’m about to start work on it, on the same day I published the first book in the series. Boy, did it creep up on me.

You know, in a strange way, I feel like I’ve come full circle, just like this book’s title. When I published the first book, I felt like I was starting something really big, even if the book never sold a million copies or was well-reviewed. And now that I’m starting the final book, it feels like I’m starting the beginning of the end of something, in more ways than one. It’s really exciting, and I can’t wait to see where it brings me.

So, what can readers expect from the last book? Well, I’ll keep the spoilers away for readers who haven’t read the books yet and might want to, but I’ve got some fun stuff planned for Full Circle. For example:

  • I’ve got a great line-up of antagonists. I always knew for the final book, I wanted bad guys like nothing seen before in the series. And I’ve come up with those villains. As a group, they’re called the Navagraha, which is a Hindu form of astrology revolving around seven gods and two demons, and they’re going to push the main characters in ways they’ve never been pushed before. You’ll also get to see an old foe of the main characters, Jason Price, transformed in ways that make him even more evil than he was before. I’m going to have fun exploring his character in this new role for him.
  • New revelations and challenges. In addition to the Navagraha and the challenges those guys pose, the main characters will have to deal with some changes that they never saw coming. Our male lead Rip will learn things about his past, a past that he thought was lost to him. And Iori will find herself in an unimaginable position, and what she decides to do once there will affect her in so many different ways. Not to mention, finding herself in this position brings about new choices for the main characters, new paths they can take on the road of life that they thought closed to them.
    I know, sounds very vague. But I’ve been setting some of these things up since as far back as the first book, and I’m looking forward to writing them. When you, dear Followers, read them, I hope you find them just as enjoyable.
  • I’ll be doing my best George RR Martin impression. By that, I mean I’ll be killing off a lot of characters, including ones that readers may really like and be attached to (you thought that I was going to have lots of politics and gratuitous sex, didn’t you? Nope, not that kind of series). I really don’t want to kill off some of these characters, but I feel like it’s best for the story if I do. So get your tissues ready. I’m wielding an executioner’s axe with my laptop, and it’s about to rain heads.

That’s all for now. As it’s National Novel Writing Month, I don’t know if I’ll be very active on the blog this month. You know, trying to get as much of fifty-thousand words in a month written as possible. But I hope you’ll still continue to support me as I work hard to finish this series and bring the final book to you guys. In the meantime, if you would like to check out Reborn City and Video Rage, I’ll post the links below. If you end up getting a copy, and you like what you read, please let me know what you. Positive or negative, I love feedback from readers on my work, and I would love yours.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

Reborn City: Available from Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & NobleiBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Video Rage: Available from Amazon, Kindle, CreatespaceBarnes & Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, and Kobo

About three years ago, I wrote a post on in media res, a plot device often utilized across various media of fiction. I’d like to revisit the subject, because I’ve had some thoughts on this particular writing tool since then and I wanted to write about them. And since I’m running this blog, talk about it I shall!

So if you’re not familiar with in media res (Latin for “into the middle things”), it’s a plot device in literature where the story opens in the middle of the action, rather than beginning with exposition. Background information is usually filled in through dialogue, flashbacks, or having a nonlinear narrative. An example of a story that starts in media res is Raiders of the Lost Ark: you don’t get a Star Wars screen crawl, or an opening narration, but you just hop into Indy heading into a temple to get a famous statue. Another great example of the usage of the plot device is A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin. No history on the Seven Kingdoms, just getting plopped into a patrol with three brothers of the Night’s Watch, and some Others attacking them.

I’v used this device in a lot of my works. Reborn City starts out with Zahara and her family going out to dinner, with backstory and world-building reserved for Chapter 2. Snake begins in a church, with information being dropped through exposition and flashbacks throughout the book. My short story Travelers of the Loneliest Roads literally starts on the road, and a lot of works that I’m working to get out to you, dear Followers, start out this way.

Overall, I feel it’s a good way to start a story. In fact, it might be my favorite way to start a story. Rather than doing a bunch of backstory, like “Forty years from now, the war on terror spirals into a chaotic Third World War that leads to a bunch of new countries and city-states. In one city-state, Reborn City, which is ruled by the Parthenon Company, there’s a powerful gang called the Hydras. Now onto the story of Zahara Bakur,” we start with Zahara and the events that lead her to becoming a Hydra.

However, in media res has to be done delicately. I realized this as I was editing a short story of mine last night.The story started out with the protagonist running for her life, then flashed back rather quickly to how she ended up running for her life, and then went back to her running her life. I was like, “Why did I think this was a good idea in the first draft?” I actually had to go back and rearrange the story so that everything goes into chronological order. The story moves much better now (though I may nix that beginning part and have it start in the meat of the story. We’ll see after the second draft’s done).

So with that in mind, I thought I’d list some tips to starting a story in media res and doing it well, with the hope other writers might avoid some of my mistakes with this plot device:

  • Make it easy to slide in for the reader. When I first read A Game of Thrones, I had to go over the first chapter twice just to make sure I understood what was happening. After a bit of examination, I understood what was happening a bit better, though I still was a bit confused. Not a good way to introduce me to Westeros, but the rest of the novel made up for that.
    Point is, when starting a story in media res, make sure that all readers, whether they’re expecting one thing or another thing or nothing at all, that they can dive into the story without wondering what the heck they’re reading or if they missed something. You don’t need to be overly-simplistic with your language or story, you just have to make it easy to follow so that readers have a good idea what is happening while they’re reading.
  • Don’t move too quickly into the information. Remember that short story I just mentioned? I had a quick beginning, and then I dived right into a flashback. Made no sense on a second look. Wait for a moment where it won’t throw people off, and then try and make the segue into the flashback make sense.
  • Whatever’s happening has to hook the reader. By definition, in media res starts a story in the middle of the action, so you want to make sure that the first line is catchy. It doesn’t have to start with running for your life, gunfights, or anything like that, but it has to be somewhat catchy. This could be something as ordinary as a girl walking into a classroom with soda in her hair (my own short story, Tigress Lizzy), as long as it’s interesting to read. How you do that depends on language and skill as much as what is happening in the story, though with practice you can get very good at it.

However you want to begin a story, the point is to hook your readers so that they’ll read the rest of the book. In media res is just one way to do that, but it’s a fun way to do it. And with time and experience, you can get better at it. You might even learn a thing or two in mid-edits.

How do you feel about in media res? What tips do you have for doing it well?