Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Indie Artists Week #4 - Rachel Hardy (MUSICIAN)

  Today's feature is with a totally different kind of artist than I have yet covered - our first and only musician of Indie Artists Week - Rachel Hardy!

  I say that I know Rachel personally, to a certain degree. We have never met in person but our grandparents got together and chatted about us and we got each other's contact info and became a sort of penpals. Since Rachel and I have quite a few similar interests it was pretty easy for us to hit it off. I've truly enjoyed seeing Rachel's music career develop over the last few years, she has a beautiful voice and a real talent for music!

Here is a little bit about Rachel:

Rachel Hardy is a 19-year-old composer and songwriter. She has received a professional certificate from Berklee College of Music and is currently in her second year of University studying Music Composition. She hopes to one day write music for film and television.

You can find Rachel on...

 Her website
 Her Facebook Page
 Her Youtube Channel
 Her Patreon

Q: When did you first start singing/playing and when did you first start taking it seriously as a career?

A: I wrote a few piano pieces when I was 8 or 9 and my parents and friends really encouraged me to keep writing. I got my notation software in grade 10 and fell in love with writing for orchestras. I’ve always been obsessed with film scores and would say that a lot of my inspiration has come from composers such as John Williams, Alexandre Desplat, Howard Shore, John Powell etc. I composed a lot all throughout high school, and really started considering studying it as my grade 12 year came to an end. After completing my certificate with Berklee, I just knew without a doubt that I made the right choice to pursue this as a career. It will for sure be challenging, but I’m doing what I’m passionate about.

Q: What do you consider your epiphany moment, where you decided this was something you wanted to do?

A: My first assignment when I started my certificate program was scoring for a trailer. (It was the trailer for “Troy”, they had just stripped the original music out of it.) I had so much fun writing music to line up with the events on the screen; it was like solving a really exciting puzzle. I remember feeling so confident with the finished product, and showing it to my family. I think we all just kind of knew at that point that this was what I had to keep doing. I think that’s when my mind shifted from thinking of composing as a hobby to wanting to pursue it as a career.

Q: Do you have a process when it comes to composing? How do you usually begin a project?

A: Composing for film takes a bit of planning ahead. I usually create a cue sheet, where I write the timecode of important on-screen events that would require a musical ‘hit’. (E.g. a change in the drama, or a notable climatic moment like a punch). I also have to watch the scene a number of times to decide what feeling or emotion I want to portray through the music. After establishing where the musical hits have to be and the feeling of the sound I want to capture, I start to structure the rest of the cue around those things. There is a lot of trial and error… it usually takes a handful of ideas that don’t work to find one that fits.

Q: What kind of tools do you use as a musician (computer programs, websites, specific instruments, reference books, etc)? How do you use them? Do you recommend any of them for other musicians?

A: I’m the kind of composer who likes to hear how something will sound. I am more hands-on than technical, so I tend to do a lot of midi-editing through what are called sample libraries. These are computer programs that trigger very realistic-sounding digital instruments, which I control through a keyboard. This way, I have everything I need -- strings, woodwinds, brass, soloists, percussion, etc -- at my fingertips. I use a number of sample libraries, but a few of my favourites are Spitfire Albion, True Strike, Symphobia Lumina, the Giant, LA Scoring Strings, and Action Strings. I could talk forever about the strengths and weaknesses in each of these programs, but maybe I’ll save that for another day.
I also have a book called “The Study of Orchestration” by Samuel Adler which is the bible of composition. I would recommend it to anyone interested in composing. It answers every question about what each instrument can and cannot do.

Q: What would you say is the key to the success you’ve seen in your growth as an artist over the years?

A: When it comes to composing, for film or just in general, connections are so important. The more people you know in the music industry the better. If there are people out there who believe in you and your work, jobs are more likely come to you. I think confidence is also a big necessity. I know it can be difficult for artists to show others their work -- it requires vulnerability. But you have to be confident in what you have to offer in order for others to be confident.

Q: You do both covers of songs and write your own music. What got you into composition? Do you prefer one over the other? Why?

A: Singing covers is a hobby of mine. I find it fun and YouTube provides me with some money for me to invest back into my music. I don’t really prefer one over the other, but I am studying composition because there is more of an industry there and I think I would enjoy it more as a job.

Q: What are some of your favorite things about writing your own music vs. making covers?

A: Writing my own music requires so much creativity. It is really hard, exhausting work, but it really pays off to be able to hear something I made completely from scratch. Covers are a bit tricky. I enjoy recording them, because who doesn’t like singing… but all the mixing and editing and filming is very, very boring. I have hundreds of covers recorded, but only so many make it to YouTube because I just hate the editing process.

Q: What is one thing (or several!) you would like to see change about how the creative community is treated when it comes to working as a musical artist, especially an independent one?

A: One thing that I have really noticed, surprisingly, is the lack of confidence film directors and crews seem to have in female composers. I’ve always wondered why the number of working female composers is so incredibly low, and after reading study after study, it seems that people subconsciously assume that females cannot handle the stress of the tight timelines of film composition as well as males can. I think this is absolutely stupid.

Q: Do you have any degrees/certificates in your artistic field? Or are you pursuing any?

A: I have completed my Professional Certificate in Composing for Film and Television at Berklee College of Music online. I am now pursuing a degree in music composition.

Q: Have you taken any music courses or classes in the past? Were you self-taught?

A: I grew up taking piano lessons, but was self-taught when I started composing. I spent hours listening to film soundtracks and tried to imitate similar sound combinations in my own music. In the past few years I’ve been a full-time music student and have learned so much more about the more technical aspects of composition.

Q: What are some things you did to develop your skills as a musician over the years?

A: I’ve really learned how to keep an open mind. I’ve had to study so many different kinds of music that I would never have otherwise listened to on my spare time, from Gregorian chant to music so abstract I didn’t even know what was going on. Even if they’re not all my cup of tea, each style of music has so much to offer. There’s always something to learn.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring young musicians? What is the best advice you’ve received?

A: Just go for it. Work hard at the things you love to do. And really pursue your own style. Many composers -- myself included -- have felt like their music had to sound like other successful composers’ in order to be successful. This isn’t true. Your individual styles and ideas are what will make you really stand out. One of my professors told me it takes a thousand mistakes to come up with a really great idea. He taught me that making mistakes and coming up with no-good ideas are okay and that that’s how we really learn.

Q: What is your favorite and least favorite part of music and music composition?

A: My favourite part is the reward of creating something from nothing. My least favourite part is the creative block. One time I didn’t write for months just because I wasn’t inspired. It was awful.

Q: Who is someone who inspires your musical career?

A: Beethoven. That might sound weird. But that guy kept writing music, even when he couldn’t hear it or enjoy it. My goal is to have that kind of drive to do what I love.

Q: Do you have a favorite musician/song that has really influenced your own work?

A: There are so many composers that have inspired me so much of the years, but I think one of the most inspiring has been Alexandre Desplat. I think my style of writing is most influenced by his style.

Q: Where do you see/want to see your artistic career in five years?

A: I’d love to be attending a film festival of some sort, seeing a film I got to compose for shown for the first time.

Q: Aside from music, what are some of your other hobbies/talents?

A: Acting, archery, photography, blogging, watching movies, and making crafts.

Q: Do you have a particular piece you consider your best work? Why?

A: I don’t think I have a favourite. Each piece I write has something in it I’m proud of and usually something I’m not as proud of.

Q: I understand you have done/do modelling as well as music. What got you into that world and what do you enjoy about it? Is there anything about it that you find has benefitted you as a musician?

A: I got into modelling when I was in high school because I needed a job. It’s been such an interesting experience. It’s always changing, which I really like. I also love to work with other people. Modelling has done wonders for my confidence talking to new people; I used to be incredibly shy, and I’m definitely not anymore. I took a year off after high school to travel, model, and work on my certificate program online, and it was an incredibly inspiring and rewarding experience.

Q: How have you managed your time to effectively create while still being able to do other things you love/hold a job/go to school/etc?

A: It’s really hard. It’s difficult to balance music I don’t really enjoy (like theory homework) with music I do enjoy (like writing and listening). Sometimes all the different kinds of music activities I have to do blend together to the point where I’d just rather nap and forget about music for awhile. I usually function best when I schedule different tasks into different days.

Q: What is something you would like to see change in the creative community?

A: I guess I wish there were more opportunities for artists (especially locally) of all kinds to join together and collaborate in new ways.

Q: Do you ever have times of self-doubt and worry that you find hard to get through concerning your creative career? Do you mind sharing about them?

A: Absolutely, all the time. Going to school for music has been a really tough thing for me, because you’re surrounded by people who have similar goals and dreams, many of whom just know a lot more than I do. Sometimes I find myself feeling really behind. I don’t know as much about music theory or classical composers and pieces as many other music majors. The best I can do during these times of doubt is to just keep pushing through and trust in my strengths. But yes, there sure are days where dropping out of university sounds tempting.

Q: Where/how do you gather the most inspiration for music?

A: A lot of my original pieces are fueled by what’s going on in my life at that time. Life is full of all sorts of experiences and feelings to find inspiration in. That’s the vulnerable part of composing… sometimes you’re in love and sometimes you’re heart-broken; sometimes you’re on top of the world and sometimes you’re just downright depressed. That all comes out in some way or another in my music, and although that vulnerability isn’t always comfortable, I believe it’s necessary in creating something really special.

Q: What is your biggest dream relating to your creative career?

A: In a perfect world I’d want to be a composer for Disney or Dreamworks.

Q: What do you feel has been a defining moment in your career so far?

A: I can’t think of one right now, but hopefully there will be a few someday soon.

Q: What do you feel is the hardest part of being an independent artist?

A: Finding work and self-promotion/networking is quite hard for me. That’s something I’m still getting used to. Staying motivated is also really difficult, especially when doing projects for free to build a portfolio.

Q: And what is the most rewarding?

A: Again, hearing that finished product is always worth the hard work.

Q: Finally, where do you see your career heading in the near future? Any big changes or excitement ahead that you’re looking forward to?

A: I hope to be working on a few small local film projects in the upcoming year. Right now I am focusing on school, but I can’t wait to get out there and do what I’m passionate about.

  Thanks for your participation, Rachel! I hope you guys enjoyed hearing about the ins and outs of being an independent musician! Are you going to check out Rachel's Youtube channel to hear her lovely voice? Please do, and let me know how you're enjoying Indie Artists Week in the comments below!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Indie Artists Week Feature #3 - Aimee Meester (WRITER)

  We're back again today with yet another totally awesome indie artist for you to learn about! On this fine Monday morning I am featuring fellow writer and blogger, Aimee Meester!

  Learn more about Aimee through her personal bio...

Introductions are lame and I'm not very good at them.

Which is a great way for me to introduce myself to you, isn't it? "Hi, nice to meet you, I really hate doing this." But I've always felt that it's impossibly difficult to sum yourself up in a few nice paragraphs on the internet in a way that interests people. You might have already clicked away from this page. I don't really blame you. I have some more interesting things in other corners of this blog. Unless you just clicked away from this blog entirely, in which case I still don't blame you, I just think you're missing out, because occasionally I have things to say.

Anyway. This is me. I write lots of words. I read lots of stories. I consume even more stories, because Netflix is a thing, which is unfortunate for the writing lots of words part of me. My favorite genre is "weird" or just flat-out sci-fi. I have Opinions about probably everything. I'm running out of things to say. I like cats. Also, chocolate.


You can find Aimee on...

  Her website.
  Her blog.
  Her Twitter.

Aimee is the writer and producer of the Bright Eyes podcast, which you can learn more about and listen to by following this link.

"For nearly fifty years, the Athena Institute has remained faithful in its mission to expand the boundaries of the known universe and better the human race. State-of-the-art programming and rigorous training combined with a unique application process result in a generation of humanity's finest pilots, military leaders, and researchers devoted to excellence. Graduates remain highly esteemed and highly successful. 
The final test of this education finds itself in THE BRIGHT EYES PROJECT. 
Painstakingly created to challenge our students, this year-long final project revolutionizes the concept of teaching through experience. Aspiring-graduates will live out a carefully-simulated version of the life they can expect among the stars, ranging from mock assignments to curated emergencies.* This high-pressure experience offers a chance to apply training and take risks within the confines of Institute-controlled space, before they step out into the real world beyond. Successful graduates find themselves confident, prepared, and eager to step out into a future career, serving both the public and the Institute in our quest for higher learning." 

  I highly recommend you check out and support this independent project! It's fantastic!

  Keep reading for my interview with Aimee below...

Q: When did you first start writing and when did you first start taking it seriously as a career?

A: It sounds cliche, but I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember! I remember working away on never-finished novels at around age 10, and I know I did little stories before that. As for considering it as a career... I’ve always played with the idea of wanting to be an author when I grow up, but it’s only in the past year or so that I’ve realized I could actually realistically make it happen and that I have lots of options for that. It’s been a wild ride.

Q: What do you consider your epiphany moment, where you decided this was what you wanted to do?

A: Wow, I’m not sure I could pinpoint it to one moment! But it was definitely significant for me when I started to receive feedback from some professional people on my work, and I realized that I maybe had what it took to make this thing work. That gave me a lot of confidence and the ability to visualize some professional next-steps I could take toward achieving what I wanted.

Q: Do you have a process when it comes to writing? How do you usually begin a project?

A: My process mostly leans toward “get the darned thing on the page already” more than anything else, honestly. I almost always begin by sitting down with something I’m excited about and slapping a first draft onto the page. It’s never really good, but I have to get all the junky aspects of the idea out before I can start fleshing out the good ones, and I love  that first-draft rush of creation without worrying about editing yet. I’ll let myself get an unfiltered draft out there, and then I’ll come back to the beginning and usually re-write all of it with a more specific vision in mind this time.

Q: What kind of tools do you use as a writer (computer programs, notebooks, reference books, etc)? How do you use them? Do you recommend any of them for other writers?

A: Most of the time it’s just my computer and Google Docs! I’ve always felt that fancy writing programs or tools can be fun, up until they start to get in your way and distract more than they help. The only tool you need for writing is something to write on, whether that’s Google Docs, Word, Scrivener, whatever else you want to use. I do all of my planning and drafts and such on Docs, but for random scribblings I like to use notebooks. When I do novel planning or outlines, it’s almost always on white printer paper, not notebooks or lined paper or anything, oddly enough.

I’d recommend something to write on more than anything else. Specific, I know.

Q: What would you say is the key to the success you’ve seen in your growth as a writer over the years?

A: FINISH THINGS. Sorry to use all caps, but it feels necessary here. So often I see writers my age or younger bouncing from one project to another, getting way ahead of themselves, posting early drafts online as they write them, and so on, and I sort of cringe internally a little bit. It’s hard to persevere and finish, especially if you’ve been at it for a while and the project isn’t fresh and thrilling anymore, but you’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t learn how to sit down and pound something out until it’s done. You can’t work with or improve on a work if you don’t have it in the first place. Learn how to finish things, learn how to push aside distracting new ideas, learn how to focus on what you’re doing in the moment.

Also, don’t post early drafts of things online. Just… don’t, guys. Save yourselves the self-loathing later on. It’s easy to get sucked into needing validation to want to continue what you’re doing, but it’s not worth not putting your best work forward first.

Q: Though you have mainly written novels, you have recently taken to writing scripts, specifically for your podcast “Bright Eyes”. What got you interested in script-writing?

A: I love scripts! I’ve always been inspired by movies and TV a little more than novels (as much as I love reading books) and it’s something I’ve wanted to delve into for a while now. I’m fascinated in original ways of creating stories and formats different than just words on a page. Scripts come with their own challenges and perks, and require a different part of your brain, and I love that challenge. With podcasts specifically, I started listening to a lot of fiction ones and realized that this kind of audio format allows for a totally new kind of storytelling. I wanted to see what it would be like to bring a story to life using only audio.

Q: What are some of the challenges in writing scripts vs. writing novels?

A: It really does use a different part of your brain and creativity! You don’t want to bore your audience to tears by writing down ALL THE DESCRIPTIVE THINGS, and with something like a podcast, you’re not going to have visuals, so the challenge lies in giving people a coherent picture of what’s happening and where you are while still letting it sound natural. You’re also working with people who aren’t you, and writing dialogue that someone else is going to say out loud, so it’s important to know who you’re writing for and how they talk so you can adjust. Audio dialogue reads much differently than dialogue that’s meant to be read.

Q: What is one thing (or several!) you would like to see change about how the creative community is treated when it comes to working as an artist, especially an independent one?

A: It would be great if we could recognize the importance of paying people for the things they’re creating, you know? Creating anything — art, music, stories, podcasts — takes an incredible amount of time and effort, even if it seems like we’re just pumping it out effortlessly (I wish), but so often people expect us to be able to churn out content that we’ll provide for free. Art is for people to enjoy, yes, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to hand it out for free. It’s a job like any other and a service like any other and as such, it has value. By all means freely admire the art we put out there for everyone to see, but if you want something specific from us, you’d better be prepared to compensate us for it.

Q: Do you have any degrees/certificates in your artistic field? Or are you pursuing any?

A: I do not! And it’s not a popular thing to say, but I don’t intend to even go to college, so pursuing any sort of English/writing/etc degree isn’t something I think about. Lots of people have done that, and it works for them, but all artists are different and we all learn in different ways, so I don’t believe that a college class is what’s going to work for everyone. I’ll be pursuing writing all the things and learning that way, for the most part.

Q: Have you taken any writing courses or classes in the past? Were you self-taught?

A: I’ve attended courses and conferences in the past that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed! For the most part, though, I’ve learned by consuming art and making art and consuming art and making art and getting art critiqued and learning from that and consuming art and so on and so forth, in that infinite cycle. (It sounds boring when I type it out, but oh well.)

Q: What are some things you did to develop your skills as a writer over the years?

A: I sort of said this earlier, but I’ve persisted! I’ve forced myself to slog through things I didn’t want to finish and come out stronger for it, even if that particular work didn’t go anywhere after that or turn out to be a masterpiece. I’ve been working at teaching myself self-discipline and the value of doing things even when you don’t want to, and that’s improved my writing incredibly.

I’m also big on the value of trying new things! That could be a different medium, a new format of storytelling, a different writing style, a genre you wouldn’t usually attack. Do something you’re not comfortable with doing and try to get fairly good at it. Practice. Push yourself.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring young writers? What is the best advice you’ve received?

A: Consume ALL the art. There’s this Stephen King quote that essentially goes “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time to write” and I believe that’s true. Don’t just write, READ. Watch movies. Watch shows. Go to plays. Listen to music. Whatever field you’re in, consume a lot of it. Not just the good, but the mediocre and the really bad, too! Don’t spend all your time on Netflix and say you’re writing, but learn how to recognize stories and devices and tropes. Learn what works and what doesn’t, and why it does or doesn’t. The more I consume other content, the better I am at my own, I’ve discovered.

Q: What is your favorite and least favorite part of writing?

A: My favorite and my least favorite are both everything about writing. Not gonna lie.

Q: Who is someone who inspires your writing career?

A: I don’t know that I can name a specific person, somehow. There are lots of authors and creators that I admire, and there isn’t a specific one who’s inspired me in a special way.

Q: Do you have a favorite book/books/author that has really influenced your own writing?

A: Again, I don’t think there’s just one or two things that I could point out… I’ve been a huge reader for as long as I can remember, and I think it’s that kind of habit that’s influenced me more than anything else. (That being said, the works of Neal Shusterman, Pierce Brown, and a lot of classic literature have inspired and influenced my writing style lately.)

Q: Where do you see/want to see your writing career in five years?

A: I would love to be working in some capacity in TV — I don’t know if that will happen in five years, since it’s a tricky business to get into, but that’s a career I’m working towards at the moment and I would like to see myself at least closer to that goal. Obviously I want to be a better writer, and someone who’s still persisting and writing lots of things even when it’s hard. I’d like to be better at discipline, too. That’s a struggle at the moment.

Q: Aside from writing, what are some of your other hobbies/talents?

A: I do martial arts! I can’t say I’m the best at it but it’s something I enjoy quite a lot. As of late I’ve dabbled in boxing, too.

Q: Do you have a particular story you consider your best work? Why?

A: My Bright Eyes podcast is something I’m proud of story-wise, though I can’t take all the credit for that one. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever put together. Novel-wise, I have a steampunk mystery novel I’ve been working through for a few years now that I think is genuinely good at this point.

Q: Do you have an absolute favorite comic book villain? Why are they your favorite?

A: You really can’t get any better than Magneto, can you? He has so many fascinating moral layers and grey areas, and I’m always interested in characters that aren’t so much black and white villains as they are sometimes-antagonists-sometimes-almost-heroes. (His powers are also objectively the BEST MUTANT POWERS EVER, don’t @ me on this.)

Q: How have you managed your time to effectively create while still being able to do other things you love/hold a job/go to school/etc?

A: I’ll let you know when I figure that out.

Right now I’m juggling my senior year of high school and a part-time job along with all of this creative nonsense, so I’ve had to learn how to prioritize and use my time wisely. I don’t watch as much Netflix as I used to. (A bummer that no one wants to hear, but there you have it.) I don’t spend a lot of time on Pinterest. I give myself breaks so I don’t burn out. I break things up into manageable chunks instead of trying to fit ALLL the things into one day. Cramming and hustling constantly isn’t cool, it’s unhealthy, and it’ll burn you out a lot faster than giving yourself some grace to get things done at a slower pace.

Q: What is something you would like to see change in the creative community?

A: We like to have this attitude of intellectual superiority over others, like our art is important and world-changing and we have the responsibility to educate all these non-artist-people who don’t know what beautiful things really are. I think we need to step down from that and realize that we’re not going to save the world, and when it comes down to it, it’s a job, isn’t it? That job is to entertain. To write good stories. It’s NOT to preach and tell people what the right thing to think is.

You’re not important. You’re just someone with a talent.

Q: Do you ever have times of self-doubt and worry that you find hard to get through concerning your creative career? Do you mind sharing about them?

A: I mean, this is probably true for every single artist ever, isn’t it? (If you don’t worry about this, I’m a little worried for you.) For me, however, I spend a lot of time worrying that I’m not pretty enough - I don’t have that #aesthetic, y’all. I don’t have a nice desk space where I sit down and write. I don’t write poetry. My writing style is more blunt and to the point than it is lyrical. And that’s okay, even though most of the time, it doesn’t feel like it. But it’s hard to push through the idea that it’s all right to have my own style, and people are going to like it even if that doesn’t seem like that’s what popular now. I can’t force myself to do someone else’s thing just to get attention. It’ll come across as fake (and rightly so), which is the opposite of helpful.

Q: Where/how do you gather the most inspiration for writing?

A: TV shows! I’m a huge reader, but I also love TV quite a lot, and I’ve seen a good amount of it in a wide variety of genres. It’s easier to find shows in the genres I enjoy for whatever reason, and something about getting visuals helps my brain work in a way that reading words doesn’t. If I need inspiration, I’ll find myself going to a show I love (Firefly, Star Trek, LOST, etc.) and binging for a little bit, to get my brain jump-started again.

Q: What is your biggest dream relating to your creative career?

A: It’s been a goal of mine for a while now to be able to write/direct a movie. (Hopefully both at once but I’d take one or the other, too.) Filmmaking intrigues me in so many ways and it would be just the coolest to try my hand at it.

Q: What do you feel has been a defining moment in your career so far?

A: Launching this podcast of mine! It’s the first thing I’ve done that has been really professional and promoted and put-out-there, and the first project I’ve pursued further than just writing it. I’ve collaborated, managed something, and turned it into a real thing I can be proud of, and that’s sort of made it click that I can do these things for real.

Q: What do you feel is the hardest part of being an independent artist?

A: Not worrying about what other people think. We want validation — I want validation constantly — and we want people to love our stuff right here and right now, so it’s a challenge to step back and realize that you’re not in a rush and you should focus on your work. Not getting sucked up into that takes time and I still have yet to perfect it.

Q: And what is the most rewarding?

A: Getting to create! I don’t know if there’s anything that feels better than the simple act of playing around with stories.

Q: Finally, where do you see your career heading in the near future? Any big changes or excitement ahead that you’re looking forward to?

A: Obviously the podcast is getting exciting results, and that’s the big thing right now. We have some *coughcough* exciting developments coming on that front…

  Thanks for being with us today, Aimee, and thank you all for checking out this third installment of indie artists week! Be here tomorrow for #4!

  How are you enjoying the series so far? Did you check out Aimee's podcast? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Indie Artists Week Feature #2 - Jonah Anderson (ARTIST)

  Today I'm featuring a literal artist on the blog and the only male to grace this week of indie artist showcasing. I know Jonah personally through my local church, through competitive dodge-ball games at youth group, and through being co-workers at summer camp (where he is aptly named "Sketch"). As an artist myself, I always enjoyed seeing Jonah working on his various drawings while sitting in chapel or during youth group Bible study and I love his style of art. For mine and Jonathan's wedding he made us this beautiful painting that I am uber excited to hang in our house when we finally put up some nails. Right now it generally sits on our kitchen table and I see it every morning. He also did the self-portrait above. ^

  You can find Jonah on...

  Facebook and Instagram and view more of his amazing art.

  You can check out our interview here below...

  Q: When did you first start drawing and when did you first start drawing seriously?

A: I’ve really been drawing for as long as I can remember. My mom still has pictures I drew when I was four or five, so for most of my life I guess. I always enjoyed art and drawing, but it wasn’t until around grade 7 or 8 when I really starting doing it as a regular thing instead of just an occasional hobby.

Q: What do you consider your epiphany moment, where you decided this was what you wanted to do?

A: I’m not sure if there was really a specific moment when I decided. I think it was more of a gradual thing. Probably if there was a moment, it was when I started to seriously consider my future, and creating art was really the only thing that realistically came to mind. It’s the only thing that I can see myself doing, not that I couldn’t do something else if needed.

Q: Do you have a process when it comes down to making art? How do you usually start projects?

A: I’m not too sure if I have much of a process really. It depends on what I’m creating. Random doodles and sketches will often turn into a finished drawing, but paintings or more serious drawings usually require planning out for them. When starting a project, I’ll usually think of what I want the finished product to look like in my mind, then put on some good music and just kind of let it happen.

Q: How much time do you generally take on any given piece of work?

A: It really depends on what I’m working on. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, which means that in my opinion I usually take way too long on the project I’m doing. Sometimes it really pays off and I really like how it looks, but sometimes I get too into it, and after all the time I sunk into it, take a step back and realize all the mistakes I made which I couldn’t see while working on it. At that point, I have to decide if I want to take the time fixing it, or just scrap it. Conclusion is that it’s usually too long. For drawings it’s usually around 5 or 6 hours, while paintings maybe 10-15.

Q: What would you say is the key to the success you’ve seen in your growth as an artist over the years?

A: Really, just practice, practice, practice. When I started, I didn’t consider myself a good artist, and in some ways I still don’t. I think it’s constantly a growing process and you should always be challenging yourself. I look back at even stuff I made from a few months ago and can pick out so many things I don’t like and have already gotten better at doing. Basically, don’t ever be satisfied with where you currently are. Always be shooting for something better.

Q: What are your favorite materials to use? What are some tried and true brands you depend on or can recommend?

A: I’m not exactly rich, so for the most part, I tend to buy cheaper supplies that maybe aren’t considered very artistic. For the past several years I’ve almost exclusively used ballpoint pens from Dollarama. I’m kind of returning to using pencil now mostly because of art college, but it is better really than just pen. I very much enjoy acrylic paints and what you can do with them. As for specific brands, I really like Prismacolour markers for colouring inked drawings, but other than that, I usually go with whatever’s cheapest.

Q: What is one thing (or several!) you would like to see change about how the creative community is treated when it comes to working as an artist, especially an independent one?

A: I think just to be taken more seriously as professionals. That’s something that’s changed a fair amount in today’s culture, but I think there is still a degree to which artists aren’t quite given the respect they deserve and may be seen as slackers.

Q: Did you take art lessons when you were younger? Or were you more self-taught?

A: I was always in art class in school, but I consider myself more self taught. I don’t think I learned too, too much in art class until later on in grades 9-12, which is after I considered myself an artist.

Q: Do you have any degrees/certificates in your artistic field? Or are you pursuing any?

A: I don’t have any. I’m currently in art college, hoping to major in Character Design, with a minor in Comics.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring young artists? What is the best advice you’ve received?

A: Really, just practice all the time. Pay attention to your mistakes and always work on them, because if you don’t, you’ll end up an art college student who can’t draw feet.

Q: What is your favorite and least favorite part of art for you?

A: I really enjoy doing the lighting on objects/people, so basically shading. I think my least favorite is when I discover a huge mistake I made and having to figure out how I’m going to fix it.

Q: Who is someone who inspires your artistic career?

A: I have several, hopefully that’s ok if I list a few of them. I’ve always really enjoyed reading different comics like Jeff Smith’s Bone, Stephen Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine, and more recently, Hirohiko Araki’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. As well, I really like the various artworks by Salvador Dali  and Roger Dean.

Q: What is your favorite style of art to work in? What is your favorite medium?

A: I usually work in a fairly realistic style. I’ve been trying to get better in other styles that are a little more cartoonish recently. I really like acrylic paint, but the meium I use the most is just pen and ink.

Q: I understand you are a fan of classic rock, do you have a particular favorite band or bands?

A: That’s hard to answer because there’s so many I like, but my top choices would be Pink Floyd, CCR, ELO, Fleetwood Mac, and ABBA.

Q: Where do you see/want to see your career in five years?

A: I’d like to see myself in a stable job maybe working with a gaming company doing character artwork, or illustrating my own, or someone else’s comic.

Q: Aside from art, what are some of your other hobbies/talents?

A: I played the piano for roughly 12 years of my life, I do enjoy it, but I haven’t been able to play much recently. I also play video games a fair amount. A talent I have is being able to whistle and hum at the same time, though I don’t know if that’s a fairly common talent.

Q: How have you managed your time to effectively create while still being able to do other things you love/hold a job/etc?

A: To be honest, recently art’s been more of a side thing while other things like a job and things at home have taken centre stage. I have been known to be fairly bad at time management, leaving project’s until the night before, etc, so hopefully I can change that.

Q: What is something you would like to see change in the creative community?

A: Modern art. I understand that nowadays art is less so about the visual appeal of the art and more about the ideas behind the art. I know and agree with the point that art needs to have a idea or driving force behind it to convey the artist’s message, but in my opinion certain modern art projects are just piles of trash. And I do mean that literally. Maybe I’m too literal to get the idea behind the art, but I do believe that some modern art nowadays is random things thrown together and called art, which I really hate.

Q: Do you ever have times of self-doubt and worry that you find hard to get through concerning your creative career? Do you mind sharing about them?

A: Yeah, pretty much all the time. Wondering if I should’ve gone to a college for something more stable, for what I don’t know. Art is my passion is really the only thing I can see myself doing. I also compare myself to others constantly, which in some circumstances is good, and a way to better yourself, but it also can negatively impact you and make you feel inadequate, which I do a fair amount more than I should.

Q: Where/how do you gather the most inspiration for your art?

A: Unfortunately, I’m not the most creative person. So a lot of my inspiration comes from the things that I enjoy and from the people I look up to. Whether it be a comic I like or a game I’m into at the time. I’m trying to work on myself to change that.

Q: What is your biggest dream relating to your creative career?

A: I think it would be super cool to work somewhere like Nintendo, designing characters or locations for the games I love playing.

Q: What do you feel has been a defining moment in your art career so far?

A: 2 years ago, in grade 11, my school put on a huge production called The Music Man. Unfortunately, the art class had to give up our entire year to paint the sets for the play. That really sucked, but one good thing came out of it. The school got the art class to create the poster for the play, and all the students created one. Mine was the one that got chosen as the official poster for the play, which I feel was a really big step for me. Also get to somewhat learn Photoshop while doing it, which was cool!

Q: What do you feel is the hardest part of being an independent artist?

A: I’m not sure if I’d consider myself an independant artist yet. Like, I’m not working for anybody, but I’m not exactly selling artwork on my own either. I’m doing it more for fun and to better myself right now. Although, from what I’ve seen, I’m thinking the hardest part is getting your name out there and being known.

Q: And what is the most rewarding?

A: I’d think it would be getting an artwork exactly right, either to what you foresaw it being, or just what the consumer wanted.

Q: Finally, where do you see your career heading in the near future? Any big changes or excitement ahead that you’re looking forward to?

A: To be completely honest, I’m not too sure where I see it going. I kinda know what I’d fields I’d like to go into after college, but I know that a lot of people at ACAD find something else that they love and start doing that, so I guess I’ll just go through it and see where God leads me.

  Thank you, Jonah, for your participation, and thank YOU for taking the time to check out another indie artist. Please take a look and some of Jonah's work through the links above and let him know what you think. Also be sure to leave a comment, especially if you have any more questions! See you tomorrow for the next feature! :D

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Indie Artists Week Feature #1 - Abigayle Claire (WRITER)

  To start off the Independent Artists Week stretch is my good writer friend, Abigayle Claire! I have been cyber-friends with Abi for over a year now and have loved getting to know her through the writing community. Abigayle self-published in a similar style to me (through Amazon and Createspace) twice and is the author of Martin Hospitality and Andora's Folly. I have read both her books and enjoyed them tremendously! Abi opted to do the interview in video format which you can check out below.

  But first, here is a little bit about Abigayle and places where you can find her and find her books.

Abigayle has been a writer ever since her mother taught her how to hold a pencil. However, she devoted more time to reading words with her green eyes than penning them with her left hand. Inspired by a crazy dream at the age of sixteen, she set off on a journey to self-publish her first novel, Martin Hospitality. Since then, Abigayle has devoted herself to sharing what she has learned through the mediums of freelance editing and her blog theleft-handedtypist.blogspot.com ... when period drama films are not calling more loudly. None of her successes, including winning a Readers' Favorite award, would be possible without the support of her Savior, large family, and online community.

Website/Blog: https://theleft-handedtypist.blogspot.ca/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/abitheauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/abitheauthor
Instagram: https://instagram.com/abitheauthor
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/abitheauthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/abitheauthor
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1a2mB0YvhJkw7Abh5NmLeg
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+AbigayleClaire

Her first book, Martin Hospitality, is available HERE

"Gemma Ebworthy is eighteen, pregnant, and alone. Now that she's been evicted, she finds herself sleeping in a barn, never dreaming that tomorrow could bring kindness of a life-changing magnitude. The Martins aren't a typical family—even for rural Kansas. With more kids than can be counted on one hand and a full-time farm, Gemma must make a lot of adjustments to fit in. But despite their many differences, Gemma finds herself drawn to this family and their radical Christian faith. When Gemma's past collides with her yet again, she must begin revealing her colorful history. With every detail Gemma concedes, she fears she will lose the Martins' trust and the stable environment she desires for herself and her unborn child. Just how far can the Martins' love and God's forgiveness go?"

and her second, Andora's Folly, is available HERE.

"A Pandora's Box retelling

Andora is a beautiful young woman with insatiable curiosity. Raised in splendor, she is spoiled by her privileged life. When a love letter is slid under her door, her life takes a drastically unromantic turn. Nothing makes sense—her arranged marriage, the gifts her parents bestow on her wedding day, or her new husband’s temperament.

As Andora begins to unravel the mysteries around her, she ignites a chain of events that have the power to sabotage her entire village forever. Only her new-found wisdom as a desperate peasant's wife can save her from her folly."

  And now, here is my interview with Abi! She gave some great answers and advice for fellow young and aspiring authors.

  I went back and added a question to the end of her interview which she did not get to answer so I've included it below:

And yes, I did realize after I finished filming that I didn't ever go back to answer the "Which artist inspires you?" question! My answer to that would be J.K. Rowling (for writing just because it was an outlet that literally kept her alive and blowing the minds of the fantasy world) and C.S. Lewis (for not being afraid to write different genres and writing with purpose).

  I hope you enjoyed the first installment of my Independent Artists Week! I will be posting every day into November with a new artist to feature so keep coming back and checking up! Also, please take a look at some of Abi's pages and follow her social medias, or - even better - go buy one of her books! 

  How did you enjoy this first post? Do you have any questions for Abi that I didn't cover? Post them below, or send them to her yourself! :DD

Friday, October 27, 2017

Indie Artists Week Kickoff Post

  Hey everybody! Today is the kickoff post for Independent Artists Week, a week I created to celebrate, talk about, and learn from indie artists of all different crafts and mediums. I got the idea for this week during summer camp this past year and was super excited to get it up and running for October. I've been talking to and interviewing some of my friends and acquaintances across all different mediums of art (from writing to music) and I'm really excited to share all of it with you!

What is an Independent Artists Week?

  Simply put, this is a week where I am featuring six different individuals who identify as independent artists (artists who are self-employed as of now). Each day I showcase a new person with examples of their work, an interview with tons of questions, a professional bio, and links to their social media.

Why are you doing this Indie Artists Week?

  Originally, cause I thought it would be a cool idea. But more than that, I am really passionate about art, and about creating it, and about independent creators. I wanted to give back to the artistic community and to my friends in this way by giving them the promotion that I believe they deserve as talented individuals.

Any particular reason for October/November dates?

  Nope! Just that it fit with my schedule somewhat.

What are you hoping to accomplish with this?

  I'm hoping for three things: one, that those I'm featuring will get the attention I believe they deserve. Two, that other young independent artists in these fields will feel inspired and glean answers and insights to questions they have. Three, that those completely outside the realm of indie artistic field will gain a new appreciation and understanding for the work we do and why we believe it's so important.

How many/what kind of artists will be featured?

  This week I will be talking to six different individuals about their artistic careers, ranging from writer, to artist, to photographer, to musician.

Will you do this again?

  Absolutely! I'd love to make this a regular yearly thing on my blog, maybe even have it take off as a whole blogging idea? That would be really cool to see happen. But yes, I'm definitely doing this again next October, next time with hopefully more artists to feature. If you would be interested in either joining me in hosting a week or participating as a feature, don't hesitate to let me know!

  Hopefully that answers some of your questions about the goings on here at the blog this week. I hope you're intrigued and itching to stick around for the next six days and learn more about some really cool people. Stay tuned for the first showcase tomorrow: Author, Abigayle Claire! :DD

  What do you think of this week's idea? Is there anyone you think would be a great future feature? Is this something you'd like to get in on? Let me know below!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

What I'm Working on for NaNoWriMo - The Wandering

  Hello gang! It's nearly that time of year again, the month where writers the world over start to slowly lose their minds madly trying to meet a ferocious daily word count and write a novel in 30 days. I will not technically be part of that lovely event this year (because life is crazy and I have a hard enough time getting things done as is) but I am planning to make a goal for the writing month of November. And seeing as you've stumbled into my little corner of the blogosphere, you are going to have to hear about it today.* Huzzah!

*unless of course you click away, but that would make me quite sad

  So for NaNoWriMo this year I am aiming to finish Part One of The Wandering, the sequel to my first fantasy novel, The Awakening, and second in a large series. How large you might ask? Something like ten-ish books. Possibly more. Fantasy worlds are hard to control, okay. Oh, and I also just realized while writing this blog post that I've been working (on and off) with this series for nearly a decade. A FREAKING DECADE. Guys, that makes me feel super old and it's not okay.

  I'm using Cait and Sky's Beautiful Books linkup for this post and I highly recommend you swing on over and check out the list of other upcoming NaNo novels and maybe even add your own?

What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

  Well, as aforementioned I've had this idea for almost a decade now so that pins me down at about 11 years of age when the beginnings of this world began to leap into my psyche. Granted, they were a LOT different back then, practically unrecognizable aside from a few names, but the roots of my fantasy world of Bayalaa were born in my backyard playing imaginary games with my friends that included a lot of drama and death. I was homeschooled.

  I've been seriously working on these books since 2013-ish when I was about 15/16. I finished the first one The Awakening, in June of 2015 (my very first finished novel *squeal*) and started the next soon after though I have been working on various other projects since that time and haven't gotten past the first seventeen chapters. 

Describe what your novel is about!

  Hoo boy, this is the question of the day. It is an epic series spanning multiple generations, continents, cultures, etc. Basically a summary of my existence as an overachiever. But it is my baby and I adore it. Overall it's the story of three family dynasties warring over one kingdom while ignoring the real problems bleeding into their countries day by day. My synopsis' aren't any less vague but they are a bit prettier...

  The Awakening: In the fractured nation of Bayalaa, a tentative alliance is being formed between the houses of Lord Tulon Rogoth and the king, Sahl Reddarke. Tensions arise when history, prophecy and politics collide, leading to civil war in a country already balancing on the brink of destruction.

  The Wandering: The North and South of Bayalaa has exploded into an all out war, battling for justice and for control of a country surrounded by enemies and in the shadow of death. While two kings contend for the Bayalaan throne, another power is rising in the Far South, determined to take Bayalaa back as his own. But oblivious to them all, there is a Darkness settling over the bloodied land…

  Also, I'm a weirdo and started writing in the midst of the series, which breaks down like so below...

SERIES TITLE: The Bayalaa Saga
SERIES ONE: The Growing Darkness
SERIES ONE, BOOK 1, 2 and 3: The Whisper, The Uprising, The Enemy
SERIES TWO: The War of the Three Crowns
SERIES TWO, BOOK 1, 2, 3 and 4: The Awakening, The Wandering (YOU ARE HERE), The Revenge, The Promise
SERIES THREE: The Last Shadow
SERIES THREE, BOOK 1, 2, and 3: The Light, The Battle, The Fulfillment

  Yes, I understand that was probably supremely confusing. I also understand I will be writing these books in my grave but this story is basically my guilty pleasure and I don't even care if it sees the light of day or not I just love it to bits.

What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

  My Pinterest has an entire messy board dedicated to this but it's hard to have a specific aesthetic for an entire world so I apologize for all the different, clashing things going on here.

Introduce us to each of your characters!

  HA HA. Well, I could keep you guys here literally forever (there are like, 500 characters in these books, no joke) talking about each of my characters but I'm a good person sorta and I'll only bother you with the main three that feature in this particular book.

  Falaroy Rogoth: Is I guess the *true* MC of this portion of the series.* He's an idealist and heir to the northern lordship of Bayalaa with a crippling fear of public speaking, failure, and hurting the people he loves. Also a bit of an arrogant jerk on the side, but kinda lovable anyway. At least for me. Mainly trying to do the right thing and avenge his family even though life is kinda getting in the way.
  Ragon Velantys: Dragon prince and drama queen with no time for your sass. Wants "what's rightfully his" and does shady things to get it. Like murder.
  Jonathan Reddarke: Sweet, bastard-born cinnamon roll whose king-father is a psycho and whose step-family is jealous, murderous and even more psycho but he tries to do what's right and love them despite how awful they all are and he doesn't deserve any of the crappiness he gets.

*but do you truly have just one MC when there's 500 characters? nah bro.

How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

  With this book whenever I'm working on it I try to finish one chapter a week (cause they are long and complicated normally) and do so by working a little bit first thing every day. There is also a LOT of outline. Probably more outline then you've ever seen in your life for anything ever. My computer will crash soon for all the outlining documents I have.

What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

  Honestly, I love that things just get worse and worse for literally everyone in this book because I'm a sadist at heart and writing without angst for me is like drinking lukewarm water - just not satisfying. People die, wars happen, relationships are broken, new characters come into play, darkness intensifies and everything just gets more awful. It's great fun.

List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

  Well, my novel has a wide array of settings and narrowing it down to three things is kinda difficult to say the least. But here it goes...

  1. It is a medieval fantasy setting.
  2. The world (Eoar) is divided into four different continental groups: Wyleria (the West), Sudar (the South), Evardi (the East) and Nitariath (the North).
  3. There are multiple cultures and races, but predominantly humans run the show.

What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

  Basically the three warring dynasties all want the same thing (kingship of one particular country) and they all are standing in each other's way so that's a little awkward.

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

  Since this is mid-series, all of them are kinda more messed up than before? I dunno, the character arc's aren't exactly "arc-ing" at this point in the game. More like careening violently down a steep slope into pain, death, angst and trauma. I think though, on a more serious note, that each of them come to the end of the book with eyes a little more opened than before.

What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

  My book has a ton of different themes, but it's overall a story about good vs. evil and navigating the murky gray area inbetween all of that. It's about families going through some really intense stuff, friendships being strained and strengthened, trust and betrayal, honor, decency, the meaning of leadership, the trials of life, the hardships of wearing the crown, and stepping up to forgive those who have wronged you. I'm aiming for a story that will inspire some of what books like Lord of the Rings and Narnia do in people, the nobility and the hope that good fantasy series inflame in their audiences.

  And there you have it, guys - what I'm working on for NaNo this year. Along with my rewrites of Faithless of course because that needs to be ready for betas by December. But before you scatter off and click away from this lengthy post, I've got a cool announcement to promote for next week on the blog. It's my Indie Artists Week feature and I've got a really cool lineup of independent artists of all sorts of mediums (including writers) that I'm super keen to introduce and showcase. Take the button and spread the word and be sure to visit the blog on October 27th!

  What are you working on for NaNo this year? I'm always kinda embarrassed when I share about this series, what did you think? What's the longest you've ever worked on a story or series? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

5 Struggles of Being a Graphic Novel Fan

I am a graphic novel fan. I'm sure that comes as no surprise if you've ever taken even a peek at my Goodreads because I like to up my Yearly Reading Challenge by taking 25 minutes to rip through the odd comic book. I'm not sure if it's cheating or not because it's so short and easy...but that's beside the point! If you are also a fan of the graphic novel, I'm sure you understand both the joys and the struggles of taking your stories in pictural format. On this blog, we like to focus on NEGATIVES so we're going to talk about the struggles.*

*honestly, it's more just cause complaining is fun


  Seriously people, I don't have $30 to drop on every single volume of a ten-part series. Especially when the reading time I actually get off said volume is like, fifteen minutes? I mean yes, it's a great fifteen minutes, and yes, I could probably try to read slower so it lasts longer haha jk but still. I don't even have $30 to drop on a book that will actually take a decent chunk of time to read. I'm a writer, I'm poor! Why do you think half my books have stickers from the used bookstore on them? Give a girl a break!


  This one kind of goes hand-in-hand with the reason above: you don't get very much bang for your buck when it comes to graphic novels. They are so freaking tiny 99% of the time. Like, I've held newspapers thicker than this, let's get it together guys! Even though such a short read makes me feel super accomplished it is a hollow victory because there's basically nothing there. I need MOAARR book.


  I hate when I really want to read a comic series but the art is just blargh and it kills the desire on the spot like the time my sister took a sharp stake and speared a gopher through the nose and...okay, maybe this is a bit graphic for a blog post...*ahem* I also hate the alternative, when a book has the coolest art on the planet but the lamest story in the galaxy and you have to walk away from the bookshelf shaking your head. Why writers/artists? Why can't the good people work together and the bad people work together, don't team up and drag others down!


  I looooovvvveeee comics and if I had the money and the time of an undead vampire I'd read them all but even then I probably wouldn't because where in the heck do you start when you're trying to get into Spiderman and there's approximately 1045202343924328478324892734 different series/versions of said character, nevermind how many actual comics there are! I need someone to find me a really thoroughly comprehensive guide so that maybe I can make a slight dent in these massive collections.


  This is totally a legitimate reason. It's always good to question one's marital choices or to make sinister plans to become a trophy husband/wife in order to suck the life blood of your rich spouse's bank account to fill your dream library's graphic novel section. This is totally normal and you should probably be rethinking your life if you haven't yet committed to such a relationship.

  And there you have it, my 5 struggles of being a graphic novel fan. Can you relate to any of these? What are some of your favorite graphic novels? Did you have the good fortune to marry into money? Let me know below!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Anti-Advice for Writers

  Writers get an awful lot of advice from just about everywhere. Some advice we never even ask for, amiright? As a profession we are pretty bombarded with how-to's and why-you-should's. Which is awesome. It's great that as a creative community we share tips and tricks and help one another. So I don't want to be here pedaling out another how-to list. It's SO much more fun to rant and yell about things that we need to be doing better! So, the topic of today's post is Anti-Advice (Advice that goes against every writerly instinct in your bones) for Writers. Enjoy my raving! :DD


  We writers really like to glamorize/romanticize/cutesify unhealthy behaviors - including consumation of a very large amount of caffeine. Personally, I am not a coffee-drinker, but I am a lover of junk food and when you're absorbed in finishing that chapter today or doing your editing or just GETTING THINGS ACCOMPLISHED WHOO-HAH then you're bound to make some unhealthy food choices. I know I do. All the time. Cause I'm terrible. But here's a call-out to NOT be like me, to get some good, wholesome food in you, to take a meal with the people in your life. Trust me, you'll feel better.


Honestly, we should probably read more books than we write, but since writing has become so serious to me in the past few years, my once thriving reading career has taken a sharp nose-dive to the point of embarrassment. My mother reads more books than me now! My MOTHER! *sobs forever*


  Says she writing a blog post instead of actually writing. *sheepish grin* But seriously, folks, it's really really really easy to get caught up in the black hole of social media marketing and get totally pulled away from your real work and mission. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, particularly when you are in the middle of an actual book-marketing campaign. But that bookish instagram post can probably wait until you finish that word count for the day, hun.


  I am passionate about this one because outside is the bomb and it's where you get to feel really alive. Also, it's hugely inspirational. Back when I lived in my beautiful country home and wasn't rotting away in the middle of the city *dramatic sigh* I would take walks down the lane and through the pasture to stimulate my creative senses, stretch my legs, and dust the cobwebs from my brain. So, go for walks, guys. LOOOONG ones. Or a bike ride, or swimming, or ride a horse (my fav). Bonus points if your adventure takes you so deep into your imagination that you start...
   a) talking to yourself
   b) pretending to be your character(s)
   c) shedding tears as a character
   d) running/jumping/falling/swordfighting dramatically on a hilltop*

*yes I do this and don't judge it's awesome - except not in the city cause ugh, people are watchinggg


le gasp! Yes. I said it. Here's the truth, guys, sometimes there are more important things in our lives than writing. I know that can be hard to believe when our imaginations have us entangled in some grand adventure and all that reality is offering is a workload of school or chores. But don't get so caught up in your work (whether you're a writer, chef, carpenter or doctor) that you miss all the beautiful little moments of life all around you. The world is so full and amazing and there's so much to see and to do, just think of all the things that there are - all the lifetimes and adventures to fill an eternity. Sometimes, we just need to take the time to enjoy what we have, what is real, what is right in front of us, before we finish editing that chapter. Trust me, this is super important.

  I know, that last one was pretty scandalous, I apologize if you fell out of your chair. What are some things you feel like writers need to be doing differently? Doing better? Some of the things we maybe take too far? Let's talk below!

  By the way, have you heard my SUPER COOL announcement concerning my end of the month showcase? Check it out on my Facebook page and spread the word, it's gonna be super awesome! :D

Monday, October 2, 2017

Why I Appreciate the Female Characters in The Dark Knight Rises

  Before this year I hadn't delved much into the Batman universe. I had always been a Marvel fan, particularly and especially a Spiderman fan. However, while Batman is far from my favorite hero, he does have a fantastic set of villains in his comics, and the Christopher Nolan movies are really good. I read The Killing Joke and Death of the Family graphic novels and thought they were amazing. I had previously watched The Dark Knight and then finally on our honeymoon finished the series with the other two movies, but what struck me most about The Dark Knight Rises was the two female leads and how well they were written and portrayed.

  There has been a lot of talk in the last few years about writing the Strong Female Character, the girl kicking butt and taking names without so much as a shimmer of sweat on her forehead. And that's all fine and good, I really really enjoy seeing female action and super heroes. BUT why are they always portrayed SO BADLY? And why is that the ONLY OPTION for female characters to be worth something? The real danger of this Strong Female Character trope is not the empowering of women to be truly strong, or brave, or dangerous. It's when people write them to be just like the male characters. Why is it that we feel like females are only valuable in action movies when they can hold their own in a physical fight against any villain, hero, or anti-hero they happen to come across? Why is the standard of strength totally masculine? There are other ways to be strong.

  Of course there is a difference when dealing with female characters like Wonder Woman, whose power gives her great strength and abilities. It makes sense then that she would be able to go toe-to-toe with some very strong and dangerous villains - and it is only plausible for the plot of her story. I'm certainly NOT saying that her character is badly written or portrayed. In fact, I think Diana is quite well-constructed as a female with many different kinds of strengths, not just physical ones. And I'm definitely not saying that women can't be physically strong. That would be dishonest of me to imply. Today I'm looking to mainly address the problem with EXCLUSIVELY portraying females in action movies this way, and how I believe The Dark Knight Rises really got it right.

  NOTE: I'm going to be talking about these characters (Selina Kyle and Miranda Tate) as they were portrayed in the film and NOT the comics, so don't get uppity if it doesn't line up with DC comic canon. Please and thank you. :P

"Do you think this is gonna last? There's a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you're all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us."

  Let's start with Catwoman, AKA Selina Kyle. What struck me immediately about how this character is portrayed is that she is SMART. She doesn't storm the castle, do a few fancy flips, dodge a punch and win the day. She constructs a careful, well-thought out plot and executes a take-down that is brilliant simply because it is clever, not because she's relying on being able to punch her way out of it all the time. She's careful, she's slow. She deals in schemes, not street-fights. The best example of this in the film is the scene in the bar below. It shows how forward-thinking she is, how she can stay calm in a dangerous situation, how she manipulates those around her to feel sorry, to think her weak, and then makes her strike. If you take a look, you'll see what I'm talking about.

  I love how she uses the Congressman as leverage through the whole exchange, without her enemy even knowing. I love how she thought through every possibility, including being double-crossed, and pretended to be giving up in order to make his defeat more secure. She uses the Congressman's phone to spring the trap and keeps herself clean by using Dagget's hand on the gun so her prints wouldn't be on it. Then she cries out and screams in fear when the SWAT team comes rushing in, so that they will overlook her as a frightened bystander, thus allowing her to make a quick, clean escape. This scene really exemplifies for me how a woman can be strong, not just in punches thrown, but in her orchestration and manipulation of events, people and circumstances. When you use your weaknesses as strengths, it is much harder for them to be used against you.

honestly, what a great performance though
  That is one of the reasons I so enjoy this portrayal of Catwoman. She isn't just there kicking butt, she's actually actively working to come out on top of situations she probably couldn't otherwise. Honestly, this is so much more impressive to me then when people dress up a female with a bunch of powers or abilities or get skinny actresses to throw a couple punches and take down a whole host of thugs. This is so much more believable and enjoyable, it makes me believe this is something I could actually do, a feat I could perform if given the skills, and that is so much more empowering.

  Selina Kyle has trained more than her body to respond to situations and think of solutions to problems, she has also trained her mind. In one of the gifs above we see her take down Bruce with a simple flick of her heel, having noticed the heavy way he is leaning on his cane. In the gif below you can see her shut down an officer by handing him her hat and blocking his view of her punch, allowing her to make a clean hit without fear of being blocked.

  Both of these moves impress me with her quick thinking. And I absolutely love that it is totally accurate to the character's skills, experiences and profession as a very talented thief. Audiences aren't expected to swallow that this small woman is taking down a whole mob of men who are literal punching bags with just her fists, but we get to see her use actual methods and opportunities. We get to see her use REAL strengths, not just those of the biceps. DC and Christopher Nolan got this so so right here.* It all makes for a character much more rounded, much more legitimate, much more honest. Isn't that what we want in our characters?

  *Honestly, DC has such good females and villains but their main male heroes kinda suck, as far as interesting characters go.

  I should also mention that she's allowed to have actual FEELINGS and MOTIVATIONS that make sense and are consistent with her character. She's from the bottom of Gotham's totem pole and wants a better life, resenting the rich upper class who have such a hold over the rest of the city. She wants to upset the balance of power, she wants to see big change in Gotham. Yet, when she sees the change her actions have inevitably led to, she realizes that what she wanted for Gotham and the way she went about it maybe isn't exactly what she bargained for.

  She's allowed to make mistakes, to feel for things, for people. She's allowed to realize she was wrong, allowed to help. She's part of the story, part of the plot, the catalyst and one who helps end the conflict. She gets to be all of those things, she gets to be a GOOD FEMALE CHARACTER. Really all that it took was the writers allowing her to be real. How easy is that, right?

  Let's move on to our second subject of the day, Miranda Tate AKA Talia al Ghul.

  "Innocent is a strong word to throw around Gotham, Bruce. I honor my father by finishing his work. Vengeance against the man who killed him is simply a reward for my patience. You see, it's the slow knife...the knife that takes its time. The knife...that waits years without forgetting...then slips quietly between the bones. That's the knife...that cuts deepest."
―Talia al Ghul

   Honestly, knowing nothing about the film going into it, I've gotta say I was totally taken off guard by the reveal of Miranda Tate as the villain, the instigator. The story, writing, and filmography was orchestrated so well. I had never for a second suspected Miranda of being "the Child" spoken of. Here again the audience is given a great example of a female using other strengths to her advantage. Talia is smart, she is cunning, she is patient. She has laid such a trap for Gotham through years of watching and waiting while sitting right under everyone's noses. I love that this character has no grand fight scene, no reveal of fancy martial artist skill. Despite being the leader of the League of Shadows and likely being a well-trained fighter, she does not rely on muscle to execute her conspiracy against Gotham. Her tactics are simple, but far from straightforward. Layers upon layers of deception, of careful acting, of manipulation and years of patient work pay off for her. It's not about swinging in and pulverizing Batman in one fell swoop, but taking true vengeance, playing it smart, and waiting.

  Ultimately, what I really like about this character is the fact that she so obviously does have some great physical abilities but it is never taken advantage of. Having grown up in the prison known simply as the Pit and making the impossible escape by scaling the walls and making the leap across the chasm, and being the daughter of R'as al Ghul, leader of the League of Shadows, and training under him, it stands to reason she should be a formidable physical opponent. It may seem weird, but honestly, I love that the writers don't use this skill. I love that she works through Bane in the physical sense, but deceives her way into power and into Bruce Wayne's heart, enabling her plot to have a really solid foundation.

talia escaping the Pit
  As shown with Catwoman, Talia is also a REAL character allowed to have motivations, feelings, and aspirations. She is a woman with a story not driven by a tragic romance. She wants to bring balance through destruction, a similar mission of her father's, she wants to avenge his death, fulfill his dream. She loves Bane, her protector and friend. Even as all she has worked for hangs in the balance she takes time to help him, to say her goodbyes. She is given something to feel and care about aside from just having an evil plot to mastermind. She seems like a real person rather than a cookie-cutter female antagonist. 

  I know I keep spouting off about characters being REAL but man, this was honestly so cool to see in this movie - easily the best part for me. That these two female villains/anti-heroes, were written so  brilliantly. It wasn't about them going toe-to-toe with "the boys", it was about them forging their own methods of destruction, of leadership, of winning.

  So, as writers, readers and consumers of characters, here are a few things I believe we can learn from these two women and how they were written for the movie:

  • THERE'S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO BE STRONG. Intellect, organization, cunning, patience, harnessing fear, motivational drive, deception - these are all skills and strengths, all methods of successfully fighting a battle. Remember, women can absolutely be physically strong but there is so much to be said for these other strengths and many more. 
  • WOMEN ARE PEOPLE TOO. You'd think this goes without saying but action movies seem to tend to forget this vital piece of information. If you want to have meaningful, interesting characters, make them be like real people. That means giving them strengths, weaknesses, normal emotions and feelings as consistent with their story, giving them goals and aspirations. It's a really simple formula - just take a look at literally any real person.
  • BEING FULLY CLOTHED IS FUN. Though this movie didn't have a perfect record on this front, it was refreshing that both Miranda/Talia and Catwoman/Selina were fully and normally dressed for pretty well the entire movie. They weren't using their bodies to sell the movie, but they did both use their charms and sexuality to manipulate the men around them on a couple of occasions. I feel these were justified in keeping with the characters, and weren't just "eye-candy" scenes for male audiences. There was actually a point to it, and that at least is refreshing.
  • WOMEN CAN MAKE GREAT VILLAINS (WITHOUT A TRAGIC ROMANTIC BACKSTORY). This one was kinda huge for me. It seems that whenever female villains are written, their current villainy has something to do with a boyfriend hurting them and making them evil. This is lazy, stupid writing and I am so glad to see the opposite with the two women villains in The Dark Knight Rises. Guys, let's give women characters - villains or otherwise - actual motivations for their actions, something interesting and not a rehashed cliche. 
  Ultimately I just wanted to praise this movie and the writers for doing such a good job in portraying these characters. I really appreciated watching them unfold on the screen - even if I watched this movie like, five years after it's release. :P But hey, good writing is good writing, no matter how old.  

  So, what are your opinions on the portrayal of female characters in The Dark Knight Rises? Do you agree/disagree with my assessment? Let's talk about it! I can literally talk about fictional characters all day. 

  (Also, there's a snowstorm here where I am so I'm trapped indoors all day - alone. :P It's kinda sucky, so brighten up my day with hypothetical conversations maybe?)

  ((Also, also, check out my Facebook page here for the cool news I've been hinting at the past couple weeks! :DD))