New Years Bring New Books: Presenting Graphic Novel Blades of Hope’s First Book Trailer

20131231-093834.jpg

Book trailers, not so new for authors and avid readers, particularly in the young adult sect. Do a google search and you are bound to find a plethora of trailers for books soon to be released.

In 2014, Jabal Entertainment will bring to you book one of the graphic novel “Blades of Hope”. Complete with intelligent and strong female characters, fraught with martial arts skills, “Blades of Hope” is not only geared towards female young adult and adult readers but all gender readers who are not yet accustomed to reading comic books or graphic novels as well.

But fear not, avid comic books fans, the creators of “Blades of Hope” have also kept you in mind.

Though we have not yet released artwork from the book, we have put together our first “Blades of Hope” book trailer/teaser for your viewing pleasure, until we release our official book trailer later this year.

Until then we present to you our first teaser:

Happy Merry! My Somewhat Secular Life

20131226-103843.jpg

Religion.

Just by typing the word I feel like there are already some people becoming uncomfortable reading this blog.

I’ll be honest. I’m kind of uncomfortable writing it.

The way I see it, however, when people become uncomfortable in any given situation, the wheels of stimulation are turning in their heads and that is good enough for me.

I’d be lying if I said my thumb isn’t considering hitting the delete key on my phone. But I’ll resist (for now).

After all, it’s discomfort that can create truly deep conversations, providing all parties involved are showing mutual respect towards one another.

The inspiration of this blog actually happened because of two encounters at toll booths on December 25.

The first toll booth I pulled up to hosted a woman wearing reindeer antlers and a blinking light necklace. Obviously, I knew when she handed back my change a “Merry Christmas” was sure to follow. When she placed the money in my hand and gave the obvious greeting I replied with my standard greeting, “Happy Holidays!”

The second toll booth I pulled up to hosted another woman wearing a Hawaiian styled shirt. Our exchange was nothing but “Have a nice day!” and my reply “You too!”

Let me clarify, I am both a religious and spiritual person with a deep faith in God. Like everyone else, I have my views of life and a structure to which I live.

And for me, I’m not one to engage in religious discussions unless I’m specifically asked and the ground rules for mutual respect are firmly placed.

Typically, my religious thoughts and views stay in my mind and in my home. To me there is no compulsion in religion. Meaning, I don’t believe that anyone should be forced to follow any specific religion.

That being said, I’m not certain as to when any holiday greeting, religious or otherwise became offensive.

Now, I say I live a somewhat secular life because, as stated before, religion and God are very dear to me. At the same time secularism is as well.

Living and being born in America, I have been blessed with a nation that hosts all cultures, colors and faiths.

Living in America, I’ve thankfully been given the opportunity and have taken the important steps of going out of my way to meet and form bonds with people of all cultures, colors and faiths because what I hear and read on the news doesn’t cut it for me.

I’m a person who must experience things first hand, from reliable sources, before my thoughts on any given subject are formed.

And because of my willingness to do so, I’ve gained respect for those around me and an understanding that even though we all have differing views we can still understand one another, without having to agree with one another, in very peaceful ways.

That being said, I prefer life outside my doors to be completely secular. Not only for my sake but for the benefit of others.

Do I get offended by the use of “Merry Christmas”? Absolutely not. I understand the intent behind the greeting just like I understand those expressing it are expressing their beliefs even if they are assuming I am right there with them.

Do I prefer the use of “Happy Holidays” instead? Absolutely, because I prefer people don’t assume things about me. (Though I’ll admit guilt to making a plethora of assumptions about others myself.)

The use of “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” will always be a staple in my life, for all those around me, because I respect we are a nation of so many differences through and through.

I believe in being inclusive in my well wishes particularly since we are, fortunately, a country that claims to be inclusive.

If we truly are a nation of inclusion, people of any faith should not be offended when various religious greetings are used around them.

My hope is that those who wish a “Happy Hanukkah”, “Merry Christmas” or “Ramadan Mubarak” at one time of year truly don’t get offended when hearing “Happy Hanukah”, “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Merry Christmas” another time of year.

For me, it’s all (faiths respected) or nothing.

“Merry Christmas” may come from
Christianity.

“Ramadan Mubarak” and “Eid Mubarak” may come from Islam.

“Happy Chanukah” may come from Judaism.

And many other greetings, that I’m admittedly ignorant about, come from many other religions.

Providing you are not Atheist, we all have one thing in common, belief that we all come from God.

Regardless of who you are, where you are from, and what you believe, my stance remains that all human beings deserve love, inclusion and respect.

Until, we are a nation that comfortably accepts that we are different, believes in true inclusion and genuinely respects one another it will always be “Happy Holidays” or another variation from me. And know when I say those words they come straight from my heart.

So, Merry Happy to everyone.

Now where’s that delete key?

“Insta” Gratification: QUICK! Read this NOW!

20131223-143602.jpg

Like most, I’ve become accustomed to the speed with which information is gathered, dispersed and received.

Technology has boomed so rapidly that it’s become second nature for me to constantly have my phone at my fingertips.

Even when I’m not using it practically I’m tapping it’s screen out of habit, and maybe even comfort, because I find the new iPhone OS to be quite airy and soothing.

Just looking at the apps “float” on the screen relaxes me especially when I choose an ethereal background image.

So yes, I’ll be the first to admit that I love my phone. I’ll also be the first to admit that I’m addicted to it too.

Certainly, it has it’s benefits with accessibility and functionality. It comes in quite handy when I’m on road trips and for that funny Facebook moment I just have to update about…immediately.

Even more importantly, I’ve sadly justified that my phone has proven to be beneficial while walking through parking lots because I’m always ready to wield my phone as a weapon if need be.

So, yes, there are many benefits to technology, granted, some unconventional ones like the one listed above or as Stephen Colbert once pointed out, using an iPad to chop salsa.

Any way you look at it, being “connected” is a double edged sword.

On one hand a pro is that I have the world and all of the people I know right at my fingertips. On the other hand…I have the world and all of the people I know right at my fingertips.

Currently, I’m using my phone to blog and listen to a playlist on Spotify while my brother is driving us to the beach. A text message notification from
a friend just flashed at the top of my screen only moments after I took a photo of everyone in our car that I texted to my father.

All of the above may be good and well but really when I think about it, my God, what a waste of time.

Instead of writing about the palm trees zooming past my window I should actually be looking at them.

Instead of talking about the music I’m listening to I should actually be listening to it.

Instead of blogging about the pictures I’m taking of my family I should be in the center of their universe engaging them in conversation.

Unfortunately, addictions are a bitch.
But admitting it is the first step.

So on that note, rather than enjoying the airiness of my iPhone I’m going to shut down my phone, roll down the windows of my car, breathe in the fresh air and soak up some real sun…right after I tweet about.

Martial Arts and Method “Acting”: Journey to a Black Belt (Part 1)

MartialArts2

 

It’s amazing how opportunities present themselves.

Sometimes, connecting the dots of instances that happen in our lives is difficult to understand. Eventually, hints are left here and there, like scattered breadcrumbs, leading us to exciting ends.

For me, the first breadcrumb that lead me to being invited to script and co-create graphic novel “Blades of Hope” was signing up for a six week “Ultimate Self Defense Class” at a local martial arts school (Insert Olson’s Martial Arts Shout Out here).

I always wanted to get out there and try something like martial arts but my introverted self and dedication to others kept me in the shadows as I watched others train.

But one day, long story short,  I said, “Screw it!” and dove right in…to the parking lot…of the dojang…where I sat for twenty minutes in my car, contemplating whether or not to go in.

Wait…actually…no…I’m lying. I didn’t sit in the parking lot for twenty minutes. I circled the parking…twice…before I decided to park and then I sat there for twenty minutes. As a matter of fact, if I didn’t invite an old friend of mine to join me (Insert Shout Out to Angela here) I’m not sure I would have ever gotten out of my car to venture through the front door to begin with.

But my friend showed up and so did I.

When I walked through the door I was incredibly relieved to find other women taking the class, feeling just as awkward I as was, or so I like to think.

In my defense, it had been years since I had really done anything remotely active, aside from my stints of sitting in a gym parking lot with a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in one hand and a muffin in the other, again debating whether or not to go in. So the fact that I committed to a six week, twice a week “Ultimate” Self Defense Class was quite a big step for me, especially, since the class’s advertisement read something to the effect of “You will leave class sweaty” (Which might I add was humorously accurate).

Thankfully, the class started off slowly but in no time we were punching and kicking bags and targets like nobody’s business. And each time I went to the class, the butterflies in my stomach turned from ones of nervousness to ones of excitement.

It wasn’t until the last week that the class’s true crescendo hit. Two instructors waltzed in and offered up the chance to elbow and knee strike them as hard as we could for a couple of minutes. This offer, terrifying me since I had never hit anyone in my life, sent me running to the back of the line in hopes of ducking out the back door at any chance I could get.

Unfortunately, I made no escape.  

My name was called and like a switch was hit an exhilarated beast, that apparently had been hiding within me, was unleashed and within those two minutes, I was able to tap into a version of myself that I never quite knew I had.

In those two minutes,  I hit my “targets” as hard and as fast as I could.

In those two minutes,  I unloaded years of passiveness.

In those two minutes, I released years of physical and mental stress.

In those two minutes, I felt great!

It wasn’t until one of the instructors, a Master of Taekwondo, hunched over from my knee strikes to the chest started laughing, that I realized that I should probably stop.

I’ll shamelessly admit, finding out that I had knocked the wind out of the instructor was not only amusing, it was satisfying.

So when we were asked if anyone else would like to have one more go at it, my hand went quickly up, albeit a different instructor but equally as entertaining. And I’m not embarrassed to say I even went a third round.

I had such a fantastic six weeks and was sad when it was over.

But it didn’t end there.

We were all invited to try out a real Taekwondo class. I was incredibly hesitant, for several reasons.

Reasons included but were not limited to:

I wasn’t a fan of wearing uniforms.

I wasn’t crazy about performing any martial arts forms.

Sparring just wasn’t my thing.

And performing what little skills I had, in front of an audience, during color belt graduations was a total nightmare.

And yet the following day there I was… awkwardly…in my very stiff, stark white, Taekwondo gi complete with white belt standing next to my friend in our first class.

I’m still not sure how it all happened. I never thought in a million years that I’d be training in any form of martial arts just like I never thought I’d be loving it.

Then entered breadcrumb number two.

Coincidentally, in my first month of taking Taekwondo, I was approached to write graphic novel “Blades of Hope” with strong female characters skilled in martial arts.

I’ve always agreed with the philosophy of “write what you know” and the timing of taking Taekwondo and being asked to incorporate it into my script could not have been any better.

So, in the past eight months, not only have I completed my first real graphic novel script, I recently graduated to an Advanced Green Belt in Taekwondo.

Thus far, the journey has been amazing. My confidence has grown in both martial arts training and in my writing as has my skill in both. And because of the fantastic and passionate instructors, I have been able to understand both the art and practice of martial arts in a way that only helps my storytelling and writing.

In addition, I fortunately had the opportunity to sit down with a 5th degree black belt in Taekwondo and instructor in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (Insert Shout Out to Keith Olson here) who graciously helped me tap into the many forms of martial arts, not only in practice but in the connection and emotions that come with true martial artists adding yet another level of breadcrumbs to my journey.

Life is full of vessels of surprises and vistas of opportunities. We just have to decide whether or not to dive in or walk away after a short taste on the perimeter.

My journey to a black belt coincides not only with me personally but the journey of my story and the journeys of my characters.

Like me, my characters are working on their personal growth, physically, mentally and emotionally. They are working on their strengths and their weaknesses. They are looking for solutions to conflicts. They are working on their patience, their anger and everything in between.

But most of all, like all of us, they are looking to find and maintain hope.

(“Blades of Hope” will be released in 2014).

To Thine Own Self(ie) be True

Lincoln Selfie

 

“Trust your self(ie). Create the kind of self(ie) that you will be happy to live with all of your life. Make the most of yourself(ie) by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” – My edited social networking version of a Golda Meir quote.

Selfies. Selfies. Selfies.
There I said it. Selfies.

First and foremost, I am capital G.U.I.L.T.Y. of the dreaded “Selfie”. Secondly, there are several words in life that I despise and “Selfie” is one of them. (Might I add that the word “Selfie” does not come up as an error in autocorrect and to be honest I’m not so sure how I feel about that.)

It wasn’t until recently that “Selfies” started to create quite a stir in the world of social networking. My Facebook newsfeed was littered with both comments by “Selfie Haters” and posts by “Selfie Players”. I saw “shares” of posts entitled things like ‘Top Ten Worst Selfies’, ‘Best Selfies of 2013’ and even ‘The Most Dangerous Places to Take a Selfie’.

Then one day, a private message from a friend, asking me not to be offended by the posts she wrote about hating “Selfies”, showed up in my inbox.

Next, on my newsfeed posts from people emphatically trashing people who take “Selfies” were woven between actual posts of “Selfies”.

And finally, discussions, compliments, insults, and in my opinion way too much time thinking about “Selfies”, started popping up everywhere.

That being said, my opinion of “Selfies” has been shelved in the back of my mind for quite sometime.

It wasn’t until a couple of days ago that the drama of opinions about “Selfies” actually made me think about taking the time to blog about them.

Essentially, a non-social networking friend of mine was stunned when the topic of “Selfies” came up. Said friend made a jab/joke about me taking a “Selfie” (or two…or three…) and the person he was with at the time had a difficult time grasping the fact that my friend had done that.

Though I wasn’t actually present during the conversation, it was my understanding that my friend was told that the joke about me taking selfies was a huge insult.

But in my world, I didn’t give a @&$^.

Self portraits have been made by civilizations since the earliest of times. For me, Self Portraiture started many moons ago, way back when, in the ancient world of the 90’s.

Repeatedly, throughout my years in Art School, I was assigned to make collages, take photographs, draw, paint, sculpt, write about, film, sketch, animate and create three-dimensional expressions of my external and internal self. Thinking about how I “looked” inside and out was a very basic and average subject when living a life studying the arts and the concept of “self” seemed even more important when obtaining a degree in Counseling. After all, if we don’t truly know ourselves and aren’t comfortable in our own skin, how on Earth can we know others.

Yes, one can argue that what I described above is art while snapshots from a smartphone is simply a snapshot of arrogance. But who are we to decide what is art and what isn’t?

Maybe the guy at the gym with his bulging biceps thinks his abs are canvas worthy. Maybe the tired mom, who has been taking care of five kids, finally had the time to get a haircut and some rest so she decided it would be a good day to snap a shot of herself before the bags under her eyes come back to haunt her. Maybe the person at a stop light had a really bad day and in that fleeting moment she finally felt good about herself because someone smiled at her before she got in her car and she wanted to capture that moment.

Perhaps the teenage girl in high school finally escaped a barrage of name calling, insults, verbal or physical abuse and sadly can only feel good about herself when her friends click a “like” button. The reasons behind a “Selfie” are endless.

For me, my personal self expression journey, via social media, started when I signed up for Facebook years ago, asking me for my name, location, movies I like, books I read, favorite quotes, interests, am I single, am I married, when was I born, where was I born, where am I now, who am I with, when did I graduate, where did I study, what did I study, do I have a job, am I still at this job, am I at a new job, what do I do at that job, how long have I been at that job, who am I friends with, who are they friends with and what’s on my mind? (To name a few).

And all of those questions were presented and answered way before a profile photo even came to my mind.

The way I see it, Facebook and all avenues of social networking are a form of self indulgent “Selfies” through and through.

When posting a link we assume people care. When we update our status we assume people care. When we talk about the successes of our families, their illnesses, births, deaths, graduations and pregnancies we assume that people care.

What’s the weather like where I am? Am I cold? Am I hot? Am I hungry, tired, having fun? Who’s with me? Did I have fun with you?

Here’s a photo of us having fun. Here’s a photo of you not. I’m at this store. I saw this movie. I liked it. I hated it. I passed a test. My kid scored in soccer. My daughter got married. I got divorced. I agree with this political view or maybe I don’t. I’m right, you’re wrong. The list of how social networking is all about us goes on and on…

So when my profile has my name on it and my profile knows more about me than I probably do, I see no harm in including a self portrait/snapshot to visually represent the me I currently am.

I mean you did just read that I was shivering in the cold, eating a turkey sub, while my sister was giving birth to triplets in room 405 at the hospital and since no one’s around I’d better document myself to go along with it. After all wouldn’t you rather see a picture of me than what’s currently digesting in my stomach and preparing to come out.

Agree with me or not, (feel free to post your opinion on Facebook in the off chance that someone actually cares) the way I see it, if someone else takes a picture of me and I post it online, it’s nothing but a “Selfie” taken a few feet away. All that matters to me is whether or not the person posting pictures of him or herself online treats others with genuine kindness and respect.

So “Selfie” away my friends because Lord knows that a great deal of people in this world care only about themselves anyway, whether they take pictures of themselves or not, probably because they are spending far too much time in front of a mirror.

The Facebook Culture: How It’s Ruining My Life Because I’m Ruining Yours

Image

Facebook.

A guilty pleasure.

An avenue for cynics and sarcasm.

An ego booster.

A stalking platform.

A way of monitoring others.

A platform for prayers.

A platform for insults.

A place to vent.

A place to be insulted.

A psychological support group.

A motivational hate group.

A place to attempt change.

A place to persist.

A place to laugh.

A place to offend.

A place to brag.

A place where people feel connected while being disconnected simultaneously.

Whichever way a person views Facebook,  there is no denying that it has it’s own culture with it’s own rules and norms.

Unfortunately, everyone has their own rules and norms for this one common platform, making it difficult to balance or even understand one rule of etiquette from another.

It wasn’t until recently that a friend told me that I viewed Facebook “differently” than others.  Now valuing said friend’s feedback I was lead into thinking about the culture of social networking.

For me, Facebook has been a place to be positive.  A place to connect with people and the people that are presently involved in their lives. A place to kick back and not take things too seriously but when I do, make sure I’m being forthright.  A place where I can be true to my darkly humor filled self and not worry about how others take it.

Everyone I added, in the beginning of my relationship with Facebook, was someone I had some sort of past connection with who I knew, for the most part, would not take my posts on Facebook too seriously…unless I’m being totally serious…in which case for some may be difficult to decipher.

That being said, the social networking side of myself was comfortable and confident in knowing that the people who were on my friends list…”got me”.

Then, insidiously, the safety net of social networking evolved.  I didn’t notice at first but gradually rules…that felt like secret rules…were established.

Was there an etiquette to follow? Did it even matter? Should I add someone? Will they be offended if I don’t?  Why do they want to add me? What does it mean to be Facebook friends? If they add me virtually shouldn’t they have had a conversation with me face to face at some point and if not shouldn’t they kinda have a virtual conversation with me now? Should I send them a friend request? Will they accept it? Should it even matter if they do? Should it matter if they don’t?

If I “like” this photo will they be happy? If I “like” their photo will they delete me? Which has happened. (Note: “like” in this particular sentence is not a typeo…but “typeo” certainly is.)

If I “like” someone else’s photo and that person is friends with a person who secretly (or at least they think it’s secretly) hates me will the second person get pissed off?

It may seem crazy but we all know deep down inside these kinds of Facebook Phenomenons exist.

Just like the “OMG, He/She Didn’t Like My Comment So I’m Going to Delete It” Phenomenon.

Or the “I’m Posting an Incredibly Vague and Nondescript Facebook Status Update that Honestly isn’t About Anyone in Particular but for Some Reason I’ve Highly Offended Somebody” Phenomenon (which I’m certain will happen with this post).

And just like everyone else,  I admit guilt to many of these phenomenons.

So after putting thought into the etiquette of Facebook I’ve concluded that there is no etiquette to Facebook.

The only way to approach Facebook is the way you approach your life. There will be times when you offend people just like there there will be times when you commend people.  There will be your sincere “friends added” just like there will be the “Facebook Stalkers” that fall through the cracks. There will be the ones who wish you well on all of your endeavors just like there will be the ones that check your profile regularly waiting to see if you’ve failed.

Facebook will have it’s fair share of love, it’s fair share of hate.  It will have a plethora of jokes and it’s balance of sadness.  It will promote good. It will promote evil.  It will make people happy. It will make people sad.  It will build relationships and it will break them.

And whether or not you agree with the above analysis one thing is certain…Facebook is nothing but a tool, we are the ones responsible for fueling and evolving it’s culture and it’s our minds and our fingers that do the handiwork.

So, “Facebook Responsibly” my friends it’s a crazy virtual world out there.

I’ll be looking out for a “page like” from you to analyze soon.

https://www.facebook.com/thewritepaige

 

 

 

 

 

What is “Blades of Hope”? Martial Arts and Morality

Samurai woman

My last post, Why Blades of Hope? Women Aren’t Accessories, They Just Wear Them, touched on the roles of women in comic books causing me to reflect on a woman’s role as a human being.

A woman’s role as a human being is the same role as everyone else’s, to fulfill certain obligations, it’s simply a matter of whether or not a person decides to follow through.  Granted, everyone has their own version as to what one’s role is in life,  just like everyone has the ability to decide whether or not they want to commit to that role. And it is with great certainty that the equalization of all people is something everyone should strive for.

With equalization comes honor, with honor comes humility and with humility comes morality.  Once all of these are achieved, not only within ourselves but towards our fellow human beings, we all gain a sense of value.  All of which I felt needed expression, within female characters,  in today’s rapidly growing comic book world.

While scripting Blades of Hope and creating the main characters, I focused first and foremost on the way they act, the way they carry themselves, the way they treat others and the way they handle the struggles that life gives them and the struggles given to those around them. I spent days putting myself into each character’s worldview to tap into their weaknesses and how those weaknesses could eventually translate into strengths. I spent hours submerged in each character’s obstacles in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the emotions and drive that would come from such situations.

Regardless of what I was doing throughout the day, the main characters were always there tagging along in the back of my mind. As I acquainted myself with each, one thought continued to surface, “How can I make these female characters women and girls of honor, self-respect, and inner and outer strength?”

From day one, I decided not to approach writing the graphic novel in a way that was common for comic book readers.  I was going to do the opposite and write it specifically for women and girls in mind, particularly those who aren’t (yet) comic book readers.

That being said, I also decided not to approach writing this graphic novel from the typical stance of avid young adult novel readers either.

My approach was based on one thing, the characteristics of honorable people with a focus on independence, intelligence, emotion, empathy and love for our fellow human beings instead of the love found in a love triangle.

The lead characters in Blades of Hope are all strong female characters who fight for the greater good and justice just like you would find in any superhero comic book.  What sets them apart from average super heroes (aside from their clothing and humility) is the realism that is woven throughout this apocalyptic fantasy creating a deeper personal connection with the reader rather than only the standard “good vs. evil” comic book issue at hand.

Blades of Hope is a journey where the main character walks beside you through the story, from a narrative perspective,  allowing the reader to see and feel her weaknesses and motivation yet at the same time watch her exhibit her resilience and her desire in helping others grow.

Though Blades of Hope is a character driven novel, it’s safe to say that action and fantasy, through well-developed martial arts, play an equal role in the development and drive of both the story and it’s characters.  One can even conclude that the book itself is honoring the skills and talents of any devoted martial artist.

Bottom line, whether you are male or female, Blades of Hope is a martial arts journey about the growth of struggling characters and how they fight to balance their honor in times of darkness.