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

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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:

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

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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).

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

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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.

Why Blades of Hope? Women Aren’t Accessories, They Just Wear Them

Women Aren’t Accessories, They Just Wear Them

The Write Paige

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Whether you call them comic books or graphic novels they often have something in common, women.  It’s no secret to most that comic books have a habit of objectifying women regardless of their hero status.

Rather than truly focusing on physical strengths, many comic book artists and writers have a tendency to focus on a female character’s physical assets instead, making it a point to have a woman’s super powers permeating from the curves of her chest rather than the  intelligence of her mind.

It’s safe to assume that the comic book industry is heavily populated with a typical male mindset, leaving most female characters in compromising positions and outfits.

The comic book industry has always stirred strong emotions in me due to the vast negative portrayal of women that pollute many comic book pages.

Knowing that male readers, young and old, are soaking up the myth that women are…

View original post 263 more words

Why Blades of Hope? Women Aren’t Accessories, They Just Wear Them

20131208-121317.jpg

Whether you call them comic books or graphic novels they often have something in common, women.  It’s no secret to most that comic books have a habit of objectifying women regardless of their hero status.

Rather than truly focusing on physical strengths, many comic book artists and writers have a tendency to focus on a female character’s physical assets instead, making it a point to have a woman’s super powers permeating from the curves of her chest rather than the  intelligence of her mind.

It’s safe to assume that the comic book industry is heavily populated with a typical male mindset, leaving most female characters in compromising positions and outfits.

The comic book industry has always stirred strong emotions in me due to the vast negative portrayal of women that pollute many comic book pages.

Knowing that male readers, young and old, are soaking up the myth that women are nothing but sexual objects, even while saving the world, certainly is upsetting but realizing that young girls and women are continually fed this inaccurate phenomenon is even worse.

When I was met with the decision to sign a contract with indie comic book publisher, Jabal Entertainment, as the author and co-creator of a new series targeting the female audience, I was both honored and taken aback.

At first, I thought Jabal Entertainment approaching me was a joke.  Why would they invite me to attempt a comic book series when I made my stance on the comic book industry with Jabal’s head honcho, Sohaib Awan, quite clear? 

When I realized he was serious I decided to bite, mostly out of pure curiosity.

Granted our conversation started with some ground rules from his end and mine, but what pleased me the most was the fact that for the first time I was hearing a male back me up on my stance of the portrayal of women in comic books.

Immediately, I felt refreshed and excited.

My decision to accept the offer to write Blades of Hope (2014) was based on the fact that I was graciously given the opportunity to not only create an exciting fantasy world with strong female characters but the opportunity to accurately portray the mental, physical and emotional strengths of women and girls and the true honor and humility they possess within.

Change can only happen if one decides to turn thoughts into actions and when such an opening was presented to me, it was definitely my obligation to take it. 

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How I Fell into Writing a Graphic Novel

(Achtung!: The beginning of this blog may seem bleak for avid comic fans.)

Comic books, didn’t like ’em.

As a matter of fact I’d go as far as to say I actually hated them. My two older brothers on the other hand not only loved them but were obsessed with them.

Now I know, obsession can be a strong term to use, but if I’m on vacation in Florida and instead of digging my toes in the sand at the beach my brothers land me in a stuffy, old newspaper smelling comic book store for three hours against my will, I’d call that an obsession or possibly even abduction.  Regardless, it definitely wasn’t the happiest place for me to spend a Wednesday afternoon on vacation, that’s for sure.

Even when we were home, my brothers wouldn’t even look at me for hours, much less play with me.  Why, because they were pretending to be superheroes, talking about superheroes or reading about superheroes.

As a matter of fact, I blame some of my own oddities (past and present) on comic books.  Not sure if it’s because my brothers heavily infested my life with comics or because I actually made it a point to avoid comics, either way comics made an impact and were destined to be a part of my life whether I liked it or not.

Fast forward some twenty years or so later and I find myself sitting at my desk that is covered with notes (the desk itself since I often handwrite notes directly on my desk), an array of sketches and panel layouts.

Looking at my organized mess I wondered how I ended up putting so much energy and effort into something I loathed so much as a child.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit to making mistakes but I can’t really say disliking comics was a mistake.  Rather, disliking them became a motivator for me to delve deeper into the trade and figure out what comics are really all about.

I’m not going to lie; it took me a very long time to figure out and only after research, letting my guard down and putting my ego aside I admittedly realized that comic books are not just a bunch of juvenile fluff.

As a matter of fact, comic books are far more than that or at least they can be.

After completing a BFA and later a MA in Counseling, I decided to try my hand at writing Young Adult fiction, short stories and children’s picture books full time.  Don’t get me wrong, I really love counseling and illustrating, however, there comes a time in a person’s life to explore and follow through with other options and well that time, for me, has arrived.

Fortunately, having close contact with the creator of Jabal Entertainment my life was not only surrounded by comic book fans but the actual process of producing them.

I was intrigued by the fact that so many people were heavily involved in one issue.  Authors, script assists, art directors, artists, editors, character designers, colorists, and letterists, to name a few, all leave their mark in one book coexisting peacefully to produce a beautifully illustrated and written piece of storytelling.

The respect I gained from that alone was enough to inspire me to try my hand at scripting an issue or two. Two issues into a series I created and I was sold.

This condensed yet detailed way of storytelling was so much more than simply writing a story. Scripting a comic is like directing the lives of fictitious characters into a world that is completely fabricated yet can be totally real. It’s an opportunity to create characters that are not only fantasy driven but at the same time could be your next door neighbor, your best friend, your enemy, a family member, a stranger you saw on the street or even you. It’s a chance to take the emotions and feelings from your own or other’s lives and project them into a world that you wish did or even didn’t exist. Scripting a comic is an art, a creative venue to tap into the many conflicts and resolutions that are strewn about in our world, a venue that can be used as an outlet for those who need a break away from reality and depending on the story even an opportunity for those who want to connect more deeply.

Bottom line, comic books are like any other medium of art. And like with any form of art it’s the creators behind the work that make the work shine. It’s the creators that breathe life into a world that doesn’t exist. It’s the creators that create a sense of emotion and connection with the characters that you miss at the end of each issue and can’t wait to see again when the next issue is out.

So, when I was approached to co-create (with Jinnrise creator Sohaib Awan), script and art direct Jabal Entertainment’s newest series, Blades of Hope, to be released in mid-2014 I was sold!

That being said, my first two self-created issues may never hit the shelves or the public eye but I will always cherish them for helping me open my eyes into the  talented world of comic books and graphic novels.

After all, it’s not the medium of art itself but rather how it’s used that matters.