It’s like watching a movie being written, directed and produced in my brain

51130757_Psionic_BowmanI find writing to be very visual, from my point of view. As I’m writing the story, I see it play out like a made-for-TV movie. It helps me work through dialogue and setting the scene as if I was directing a stage play as the performance played out in my head.

I even place some of my favorite actors and actresses in these roles as the story progresses. It’s like having my own private movie theater inside my head, just no popcorn.

That being said, being a visual writer has its good sides and bad. While it helps me see the story, it also hinders me when I get stuck with writer’s block. The scene plays itself out over-and-over again. It reminds me of a scene from the movie Chaplin, where Charlie Chaplin is directing his first wife through a restaurant scene where she has to eat beans again and again through numerous takes. That’s what it feels like when I get writer’s block and it makes it hard to move on.

As writers, we have to set the scene, but in reality, we’re creating an entire world. When you write fiction, whether it’s fantasy, science fiction or another genre, you creating a world different from the one we live in. Sure, there are elements and places similar to the world we live in, but there are some unique aspects to the world created by the writer.

I think a great example of this is when you look at Marvel Comics and DC Comics. Marvel relies on the world we live in today as settings (New York in particular) with a few additional new countries like Latveria and Genosha. DC has created cities that don’t even exist, like Metropolis, Central City and Gotham City, and countries like Khandaq and Bialya.

World building is an essential part of writing. When I started writing Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides, I had to stop myself and actually draw a map of the magical island to ensure my bearings were correct when I was writing about the many different locations all around the island. I never knew that being an author also required navigation skills.

It’s quite daunting creating an entire island from scratch. You have to look at topography, placement of mountains, rivers and forests; and it all has to make sense. Add into that roads, cities, bridges and other assorted plots and you have your own little world.

I feel that I could make a religious anecdote about playing God but I don’t consider it godlike to do something like this. World building in a story is really using one’s imagination for putting together a puzzle. If the pieces don’t fit right, the puzzle is incomplete and makes no sense.

Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.

Navigating the maze of a writer’s mind

mazeistock_000018139778smallJ.K. Rowling said, “I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book!” I think that’s why I enjoy writing so much.

Writing is a very difficult profession to get into. Many famous writers talk about the difficulties they’ve experienced in their career, but they always end that with how much it was worth it.

That part I have to agree with. Writing has its ups and downs. There are times I find myself trapped in a writer’s block that, to me, resembles the hedge maze in The Shining. Then there are times when an idea hits me and, as soon as I get it written down, I am flooded with an overwhelming sensation of joy. The hard part, it seems, is navigating your way through your ideas and putting it down on paper.

I spent my formative years dreaming about being a comic book artist, the next Jack Kirby. I was okay but there were many others better than me. Even after one year of art school, I never improved so I left. I switched from artist to writer when I joined the Navy and became a Navy Journalist. That’s when I really got the writing bug.

I’ve written constantly for more than 30 years, in one form or another. I get excited about what I’m writing, whether it’s a press release on an event on base or another chapter in my next book. What makes it so exciting, on the very of pure exhilaration, is to see your words in print. I will never forget the day I opened a box from my publisher and held my book in my own two hands. It was, as J.K. Rowling said … magical.

Like in other areas of the arts, like music, art and acting, writing is a gift. Some have the ability to take ideas from deep inside and turn them into words, weaving stories that resonate to anyone who reads it.

The ebb and flow of writing can galvanize a writer; it makes us want more. I think the same feelings of elation and disappointment can be found in many professions. One year, Halle Berry earned an Academy Award nomination for her role in the 2001 movie Monster’s Ball; then, a few years later, she wins the Razzie award for worst actress in the 2004 movie Catwoman. Through it all, it didn’t change her as an actress or the roles she received.

Now, I’m no Pulitzer Prize author, by no means, but that doesn’t stop me from working on my craft daily. I may be 51-year- old, but I’m still learning and developing my writing style. I can see the changes within my writing from when I first started all the way to today.

If you are a writer or want to be a writer, you have to work on it every day; and no, texting doesn’t count. To me, texting has ruined the English language, but I’ll save that for another blog.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you believe in yourself and what you’re writing about, then don’t let anything get in your way. Find your niche, that genre that works best for you, and stick to it. Remember, if what you write brings magic into someone’s life, it’ll be worth it in the end.

A “pop culture” guide to King Arthur and the legend of Camelot

kingarthur1By many accounts, the legend of King Arthur and the historical facts about King Arthur vary from country to country. Though there are countless stories written from the 6th Century to today, written in every European language imaginable, the most definitive stories on the “King of the Britain’s” is Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory and The Once and Future King by T. H. White.

King Arthur has found his way into modern “pop culture” from movies, television, comic books and anime. He has been portrayed by Sean Connery, parodied by Monty Python, entertained as a Broadway musical and animated by Walt Disney. He even has his own brand of flour!

There are more than 50 movies  and television series dedicated to his story. He has been portrayed in Japanese anime, DC Comics and even on Nickelodeon. Here are, what I consider, the best representations of King Arthur in all forms of media.

Camelot_3000_1Camelot 3000, DC Comics (1982-1985) Written by Mike W. Barr and penciled by Brian Bolland, Camelot 3000 tells the story of King Arthur’s reawakening to save England in the year 3000. With the help of Merlin and reincarnated Knights of the Round Table, he faces off against an alien threat and Morgan le Fay. This is a great series, combining fantasy and sci-fi through a well-written story that includes elements of the grail legend mixed in with the traditional Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot love triangle.

OTD-March-14---Monty-Python-and-the-Holy-Grail-jpgMonty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) I know this is a comedy and not a true representation of the Arthurian legend, but you have it admit, it’s freaking hilarious. You can’t go anywhere and talk about Brave Sir Robin, the Knights of Ni or the “Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch” without someone breaking out in laughter. This is, without a doubt, the epitome of King Arthur pop culture wrapped up into one movie; and if you disagree with me, “your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!”

merlin__121126104412Merlin, BBC Television (2008-2012) This BBC television series focused on a young Merlin (Colin Morgan) and his relationship with Arthur Pendragon (Bradley James). It took some creative licence with the characters and the story of Camelot, but it was masterfully done. The fact that magic was outlawed, Merlin had to protect the future King Arthur because he would restore magic to the kingdom. The series only lasted five seasons but it has a loyal following that keeps it alive in syndication today.

sword-in-the-stoneThe Sword and the Stone, Walt Disney (1963) One of my favorite Disney movies that tells the story of young Arthur as Merlin teaches him things about the world through a series of misadventures from shape shifting into a fish, a squirrel and a bird. The wizards duel between Merlin and Madame Mim, who in my opinion is far worse a villain than Morgana le Fay, is the best part of the movie. The cartoon image of the Arthur pulling the sword from the stone is something everyone can recognize.

p20989_p_v7_aaQuest for Camelot (1998) I realize that I’ve put two animated movies in a row, but this one counts more as a musical to me. I never really got into “Camelot” so this counts as a musical for me. It tells the story of an adventurous girl, a young blind hermit and a goofy two-headed dragon who race to find the lost sword, Excalibur, and to save King Arthur and Camelot from disaster. Great music including “The Prayer” sung by Celine Dion and a duet between comedy icons Don Rickles and Eric Idle as the two-headed dragon. With Pierce Brosnan (as in 007 James Bond) voicing King Arthur, this is a wonderfully entertaining movie.

I have to give honorable mentions to Excalibur (1981) which has, what I think, is the first on-screen sex scene with a knight in full armor; King Arthur (2004) with Clive Owen and Kiera Knightly, who shows meaning behind the term “less is more” in costuming; and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949) starring Bing Crosby because you can’t outdo the original (i.e. Black Knight starring Martin Lawrence).

I would love to hear some of your favorites I may have missed here. Feel free to include them in the comments below.

Did you know Superman is vulnerable to magic?

Marvel's version of the sorceress Morgan le Fay

Marvel’s version of the sorceress Morgan le Fay

With the constant rush of superhero movies coming out regularly, filmakers are trying hard to bring the heavy-hitters to the big screen. The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are just the beginning of the now steady diet of comic book-based films and TV shows. Magic and medieval fantasy in these genres are often forgotten and mostly ignored.

NBC tried to bring the supernatural side of the DC universe to life in Constantine, fans loved it but it fell flat in ratings. Marvel is planning a Doctor Strange movie with Benedict Cumberbatch and DC has Guillermo del Toro helming Justice League Dark to add to his long line of magical fantasy-based movies.

Sorry, I digress … I don’t want to talk about the could have/should have but rather what comics have done with medieval fantasy over the years, specifically those characters from Arthurian legend. I think Marvel, DC and other independent comics have put their own unique spin on these classic characters and even integrated them routinely into their world. There are so many to pick from so I’m just gonna hit the highlights.

Morgan le Fay was introduced in Marvel Comics in Spider-Woman #2. She has been associated with Doctor Doom on more than one occassion but I think the best use of her character was in the Avengers where she used the Scarlet Witch’s reality-warping powers to turn the world into one of magic where she ruled with the Queen’s Vengance, a twisted version of the team. Seeing medieval versions of the Avengers (Captain America as Yeoman America for example) was great.

My favorite has to to be Iron Man “Doomquest,” a two-story arc where Iron Man and Doctor Doom are flung back to Camelot where Iron Man teams up with King Arthur to fight Doom and Morgan le Fay. In the end, the two have to work together to get back to their own time. It was made even better with a “What if” issue where Doom left Iron Man in Camelot and Tony Stark eventually became King Anthony of Camelot.

I would also like to mention Merlyn (as they spelled it) and his association with Captain Britain, Dane Whitman aka The Black Knight (an Avenger) and the Pendragon (a source of the magical power of England) just to name a few honorable mentions. Marvel has truly embraced the Arthurian legend within its pages.

Morgaine le Fey and her son Mordred from Justice League Unlimited.

Morgaine le Fey and her son Mordred from the TV series  Justice League Unlimited.

DC has had a bonanza of magic and fantasy, but mostly around the Greek gods (i.e. Wonder Woman) but Morgaine le Fay (as she is called in DC) and her son Mordred have both played a part in the DC universe. I always thought it was interesting that, besides kryptonite, Superman is also vulnerable to magic. That has played out in the many dealings with the immortal sorceress.

Morgaine was introduced in DC in Madame Xanadu #1 where she is revealed to be the sister of Madame Xanadu and the Lady of the Lake, three survivors of ancient Atlantis. Morgaine is also tied to one of most unique characters in the DC universe … Etrigan the Demon. The pet demon of Merlin was bound to a human Jason Blood, an ally of Morgaine, as penance for his betrayal. This puts Etrigan at odds with the sorceress for centuries to come.

One of the best stories from DC with Morgaine has to be “Kid Stuff” from the animated Justice League Unlimited series. Mordred betrays his mother by stealing the Amulet of First Magic and banishing all adults from the world. Morgaine turns to the Justice League for help but has to turn them all into kids to return them to the real world and stop Mordred. The rest is just a roller coaster of fun watching Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern (along with baby Etrigan) fight Mordred.

There are many others I could mention here … Lady Pendragon from Image Comics, Camelot 3000 from DC, even Excalibur from Marvel, just to name a few. They all have ties to Arthurian legend and magical fantasy. You may not see them translate to the big screen like the Avengers and Superman, but they have their place in comic books.