Finding Something Real

March 3rd will forever be engraved on my memory as a very special day. I attended Emerald City Comic Con. However, this is not what made it special. In fact, I’m not much of a convention goer and though I’ve been to numerous sci-fi and fantasy conventions over the years, it has always been as a performer or vendor, never an attendee. As I walked around, there was all the glitz, crazed excitement and fantasy one would expect from such an event. Make believe becomes reality – a concept that gave me reason to pause.

It’s easy to get caught up in the play and it begins to feel that nothing is as it seems. But amidst the overwhelming sense of stepping into an alternate reality, my heart was touched by a moment of undisguised truth. It started weeks earlier when I learned, much to my incredible delight, that my favorite actor would be appearing at the convention – Jeremy Renner himself! The excitement soon turned to anxiety over how to act appropriately in front of him (not wanting to appear like some hero-worshiping nut case). The nerve-filled days ticked by until I found myself at last standing in front of him to get an autograph.

Though there were several great pictures to choose from for autographing, I had decided to ask for an autograph in the very first printed copy of my very first novel (Night Hawk). It is a book I reserve for the names of those who are very special – those that have touched my life and inspired me in some way. My parents’ names, of course are there, but now it was Jeremy’s turn. Out of respect I didn’t launch into an explanation and instead stood with heart pounding as he looked at the open book. “Night Hawk.” Yes, he noticed and mentioned the title and in as poised a manner as I could, I told him why I wanted him to sign the book.

For years I have viewed Jeremy Renner through an alternate reality – through the make believe that makes up the movie world. I saw through a screen different characters – portrayals of other people – and for all the brilliant work in giving depth and soul to these characters that first drew me to Jeremy’s amazing talent, none of it was as special as when the characters were stripped away in my mind and I saw the genuine human being behind all I admired. In that brief moment, I could see in his eyes that my honest words of respect had touched him. I saw the soul of someone caring and real.

I spend so much of my life in the make believe. As a writer, my mind keeps me partially living in a world of my own creation alongside characters outside reality. At times it’s exciting but it can also be lonely. Night Hawk is filled with fantasy but, like many of Jeremy Renner’s characters, amidst all of it there is a heart and soul that is very real. I have experienced how storytellers – whether actors, writers or filmmakers – can be easily thrown by the audience into the alternate reality of their characters and stories they share. But I hope people remember the true person behind each portrayal. There is a soul behind every story. I consider myself blessed to have been given the chance to see without screens, lines and characters, the simple beauty of the real person of Jeremy Renner.

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A Storm Is Coming

Each novel written possesses its own unique challenges. Night Hawk’s fourth book, Storm Front, is no exception. No longer are the simple matters of war at the heart of the conflict. Like Hero’s Dawn before it, Storm Front takes on the more secretive political and covert battles as the planet of Telamier begins the slow process of rebuilding. As a writer, the challenge of keeping everything moving forward without losing logic and intrigue keeps me ever on my toes.  For me, quality is everything, and I refuse to publish something I am not fully satisfied with.  Consequently, the goal of a summer release was not realized, but I hope readers will, in the end, appreciate a story carefully thought through.

Of course, the challenges of keeping a strong storyline are not the only ones faced by this newest book. Storm Front truly has gone through the storms of personal life issues, making me keenly aware of David Malard’s own struggles. The unexpected is always just around the corner; sometimes good, sometimes bad.

One such storm I face, and one that is responsible for the hold on Storm Front’s release, actually brings ‘winds of fortune’ despite an underlying sense of terror as one moves forward. For years my ultimate dream has been to own a film company and in October of 2016, that dream entered the world of reality. I find a lot of connections forming between David and me. There’s the elation of success (for him the end of war, for me the beginning of a dream), though with it comes new challenges and the apprehension over whether one can succeed. David faces the constant battle of those wishing to destroy the rebuilding of his world. I will face the battles of situations that attempt to derail the film company’s success. We are both learning to face these challenges with decorum and courage.

Luckily, both David and I are not alone. It’s this support network and strength of community that grows us. With the devotion of his friends and colleagues, David can continue moving forward with confidence. With the same devotion of my team, I am confident in weathering my own storms. And there will be plenty of them – ones in the real world and the ones Night Hawk’s readers will journey through in the books to come, but regardless of the ferocity, it will be quite the ride!

Yes, a storm is coming. Are you ready?

Fathers

We might take the time to celebrate the fathers in our lives, but on Telamier, there is no such day for this. For David Malard, it would not have mattered growing up. Sadly, the relationship with his father was less than ideal. Benjamin Malard was a hard-set, focused businessman with little time for the father-son connection. As an only child, it left David withdrawn and uncertain about himself.

Luckily other people entered his life to fill the role. His best friend, Keven Arzen, enjoys a loving family life, and his parents were quick to “adopt” David during his young adult years. General Kyler Riechet later took the role of father in his devotion to David, care and wisdom for his training, and the respect he both gave and demanded simply through his honorable actions. Though an adult when meeting General Riechet, David was given a sense of a true father’s care in his superior officer. It is an understanding I hope we may all know through the fathers in our lives.

We all hope to have General Riechet type of fathers, though sadly some people speak of growing up with the Benjamin Malard type or even no father at all. However, my wish for those people is that, like David, they may know the care and wisdom of someone who comes into their lives to support and lead by example. For those (like myself) who are blessed with biological fathers who are caring and supportive, may we take this time to truly appreciate the impact they have on our lives. And for those who do not, don’t forget that a father can be more than the biological one – say thank you to the father figures in your lives!

And for all the men out there, I hope that a positive role model has allowed you to understand what it really means to be a father to someone – pass it on. We all respect you for it. Thank you.

Actors of Night Hawk

In light of the recent Academy Awards, I’d like to take a moment to discuss the wonderful world of actors and the movies they play in. I’ve had people ask who I’d want to have portray the different Night Hawk characters in the movie – and, yes, I have every intention of seeing Night Hawk all the way to movie form. While you might think my passion for film would make assigning actors to characters something I could answer without a second’s thought, the truth is, I have no idea who would play who. In fact, no one I’ve seen in Hollywood (save one – we’ll get to him in a minute) has proven a match to the characters.

My real passion is to see Night Hawk become a new breed of independent film, proving the “low budget” crowd has the same talent as those in the major studios. This isn’t going to be easy, but what a story it would make if a bunch of no-name artists got together and produced a film at the same level as Star Trek and The Avengers! My greatest desire is to cast Night Hawk with actors no one knows… yet… and let them really shine. After all, if people love the story and characters, it doesn’t matter if the movie is filled with big named stars or not. The Lord of the Rings is a good example of that. While it did have its share of notable names, many are now famous because of the trilogy.

Of course I’m not entirely without an idea as to some of the casting. I’ll admit, I’m Amber. It’s always been this way for me and always will be. And, yes, I do have training as an actress. Furthermore, I’d be hard pressed to hand over the voice of Darkracer to anyone other than my dad. Yes, he, too, is a trained actor so this isn’t a case of just throwing random family and friends into the roles. In fact, the audio books of Night Hawk and Night Hawk: Battle Cries feature him as the wise Candonian. I do admit I have one Hollywood actor I’d love see play a role in Night Hawk – and for those that know me, no, it’s not Johnny Depp.

While none of Night Hawk’s characters are designed around any specific person, I can’t help but notice the wonderful match Jeremy Renner has been to Keven Arzen. Though not an intentional “casting”, it’s now hard to see Keven in any other way. And while Keven is not designed off Renner, the actor did help flesh him out by providing a visual in my mind’s eye. Let’s just say if by some crazy miracle Jeremy Renner ever approached me wanting to play the role, I can’t see myself objecting.

Overall, I have no idea who would play the different Night Hawk characters – especially David, whom I have yet to see the likeness anywhere. (And believe me, I look.) Some actors may come close in one way or another. I admit Liam Hemsworth is close in looks, though still not a match. So when it comes to casting Night Hawk, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

 

That Love Thing

Has anyone ever watched a movie (especially action films) where the main character – usually a man – meets a girl who by the end of the show is the love interest for said main character? It doesn’t even matter if the entire story takes place in only a day or even a few hours. It’s becoming a very predictable scenario. So where’s the romance in Night Hawk? Sorry, I killed it in the beginning.

This is a war story, not a love story. While it’s true I have a man and a woman playing the two leads, I’m not interested in going with stereotypes. What I want is realism. What would actually be going on emotionally during this time in the characters’ lives? As far as I can see, it wouldn’t be romance. So if it’s not realistic for these characters to be falling in love, it’s not going in the book regardless of how popular the mold.

I’ve been amused by people catching the fact that David’s response to the opposite sex is rather naïve, regardless of any flirting that may take place on the part of the female. This is intentional. David is suffering from the loss of his fiancée. Yes, he does understand love and can be very romantic under the right circumstances, but at this time in his life, he doesn’t really want to think or deal with the emotion. Furthermore, David suffers from an incurable sense of humility. He honestly doesn’t realize what an incredibly attractive man he is, which often makes him all the more desirable.

On Amber’s side, I’ll admit she’s attracted to David but knows her place and her duty. The front lines are not the place to cultivate a romantic relationship, especially for someone in her position of leadership. She understands this and is not the type to compromise lives for personal pursuits. And while there is attraction, I can’t necessarily say it’s romantic love. She cares deeply for him, but is not fantasizing about him at night.

Will romance play a role in books to come? Yes, but perhaps not in the way one might expect. That doesn’t matter to me. Love can come in many ways and often surprises people. If that’s how it is in life, why should it be different in the book?

Night Hawk and Star Wars

With Star Wars being the undisputed hype right now, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about it in relations to Night Hawk.

I often get asked what inspired Night Hawk and to be honest, there is an origin, but not Star Wars. In fact, Star Wars played a very small role in the inspiration/influence of Night Hawk. I do admit there is probably some subconscious connections since I was a Star Wars fan since I was four. (though I haven’t been as big a fan nowadays) However there are a few blatant similarities between the two series.

First, the genre. If you want to get technical, Night Hawk is a fantasy – same as Star Wars. What? Yes, fantasy. Fantasy plays to our myths and legends (think dream lands) usually within fantastic worlds. These can be ancient, modern or futuristic. Most people think of aliens, spaceships and other planets as science fiction, but a true science fiction means to have a theme based around a scientific principle. For example, Jurassic Park (DNA extraction, cloning) and Outbreak (viruses and pandemics). Yes, science fiction can go into outer space such as Gravity and The Martian. However, these are based on solid, known scientific fact. Star Wars and Night Hawk are based in other worlds with fantastic creatures whose stories are based around epic character journeys. While science “gadgets” are used, they are not the theme of the stories.

I know there are those who will argue this point of fantasy vs. science fiction. The truth is, genre is a loose term that is often changed on a whim depending on each individual’s perspective. Aliens and their highly developed, livable planets (which  are not scientifically proven – as of yet) are so commonly mistaken for science fiction that technicalities have fallen away. The term I hear more often is science fantasy, which I personally like better than describing clearly not science based stories as science fiction. So Star Wars and Night Hawk share the same genre – science fantasy.

There is another thing they share – world building. Over the decades, the fantasy/science fantasy series that have stood the test of time have often been rich with information about the worlds they are based in. People love going deeper into the stories they enjoy. In the case of Star Wars, the information appears endless, from encyclopedias, galactic maps, even blueprints on various ships and weapons used within the series. While Night Hawk is nowhere near the depth of detail as Star Wars… yet… it continually grows bigger and deeper. (After all, Star Wars has had decades to build and there are many people involved in the creation.) For Night Hawk, Telamier and its diverse cultures, languages, cities, landscapes, flora and fauna continually grow. For years I’ve developed what the Human region of Earthenia is like along with full Human population genealogies, city maps and businesses. Yes, whenever anyone in the stories mentions anything along these lines, there is a back story and/or logical explanation for them. There’s also a growing wildlife encyclopedia detailed straight down to scientific names (Human based, of course). This and more I hope to eventually have available to readers.

As for other connections to Star Wars? Movies, television, merchandise, games… why not? The sky – or in this case – the stars are the limit.

Facing the Storm Front

Here it is again – November. For novel writers around the world this is known as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers’ Month). As a self-proclaimed procrastinator, I have come to value the event to keep me on task and write. In fact, both Battle Cries and Hero’s Dawn were written during November 2013 and 2014 respectively. Now for the next big challenge – Storm Front. Yes, that’s the title for Book Four. And this year it truly feels like facing a storm.

Every book has its challenges. With Battle Cries, it was essentially taking the last two chapters of the original Night Hawk (Book One) and expanding it into a full 133,000-word novel. With Hero’s Dawn, trying to hold an engaging action series together while developing political drama proved particularly difficult. Now it’s time to ramp it up while holding together all the pieces that have been building thus far… Yes, I know where the story is going, but that doesn’t make it easier.

I’ve learned that while some things become easier as you go along – character development, world building, cultures (most of which are now set in place and don’t have to be invented), other challenges arise. For me, I’ve found Battle Cries set the bar at a rather high level, making the books coming after it particularly difficult. There’s a real trick to balancing action, intrigue, humor and realistic progression of the characters’ lives, a trick I am learning but refuse to admit complete mastery of. Hopefully I have enough prowess to move forward while keeping my audience engaged. So if you’re thinking, “I think I’ll write a series. How hard can it be?” my response is *burst of laughter resulting from knowing otherwise*. However, it can and is frequently done, so wish me luck as I dive into the storm.

Oh, and if this isn’t enough of a challenge, a March 1st publication deadline throws a bit of hurricane winds into the mix… Onward!