The Secret Origin of Gina Beale

I’ve written my first novel.  Well, it’s not really my first.  It’s the first one I deemed good enough to unleash onto the public.  Gina Beale: Into the Fire has been several years in the making.  I certainly didn’t think it was going to take that long when I started it.

Since working on The Flying Turtle Show and a handful of comics starting in college, I’ve focused on writing scripts.  It made sense, since it was a love of comic books, film, and sketch comedy that first interested me in writing.  Plus, I’ve always been drawn toward collaborative projects.  Anyone who knows me can tell you I thrive on getting people together to work on something.  It’s a big part of why I make a living in recruiting.

Unfortunately, things just weren’t panning out.  I’d gone through a series of aborted projects because neither myself or the people involved could give them the focus they needed.  I sometimes blamed it on unreliable collaborators, but I wasn’t any better.  We were all adults with kids, jobs, or other responsibilities that didn’t allow us to get together regularly or for enough time to make things work as well as they should’ve.  A short film was never completed.  A comic book only got half done.  You get the idea.

I decided I needed to focus my creative energies in a direction where it would just be me, working on my own schedule, and on my own ideas.  That meant I was going to switch to prose.

It wasn’t like I didn’t have ideas for books.  I’d just been putting them aside for another day.  When ideas come to me in the form of images, I know I’m cooking up a comic or film script.  When they come as characters and concepts, it’s probably going to be a novel or short story.

One issue: my prose writing stunk.  My dialogue was sharp enough, as I’d been working on that for years.  I think I had a good head for character arcs, plot, structure, etc.  The problem was the only descriptions I’d written for several years were in scripts, where you only have to worry about communicating directly with your collaborators.  Sure, you need to get all the details in, but they don’t have to sound pretty.

Starting with short stories would’ve been smart, but I come from the “go big or go home” school of thought.  I dove right into a novel idea I’d had for years, with characters based on my friends from high school.  I called it Me and the Guys.  It was a dark comedy about estranged high school friends whose reunion goes off the rails when one of them is accused of murdering an old classmate.  There’s some good stuff in it, but after a third draft there was no getting away from the fact that it just wasn’t coming together.  I couldn’t get the tone quite right and the end result wasn’t much better than what I was showing to my fellow students at WMU my sophomore year.  Trust me, none of them thought they were reading the work of the next great novelist.

It was heartbreaking to put Me and the Guys aside, but the writing was on the wall.  I followed it up with a book about a small community going through the recession, which shifted the point-of-view from chapter to chapter.  That came out better and while I couldn’t make the entire book connect, some of those chapters became short stories that showed real progress.

I was a bit flustered by this point.  I had these grand, ambitious books in mind but they died as I put them on the page.  That’s when my wife came in, like she usually does.  She suggested I just write something to have fun.  Maybe the end result wouldn’t be the novel of the decade, but it would be at least good enough to show people.  She pointed to the “romantic thrillers” she’d been reading, telling me I wrote at least as good as those guys.

I spent that night rolling her advice around in my head, thinking it might be fun to write something that drew on a lot of the interests I’d accumulated for years (mythology, ancient history, hero stories, etc.).

Then, with no effort whatsoever, Gina popped right into my brain.  I instantly knew everything about her personality, that she was descended from ancient gods, that she had a career in Human Resources, her ethnic background, that she’d been adopted, and that she fought monsters with a table leg.  It felt less like I created her than she’d been sitting in an undiscovered corner of my brain waiting for me to find her.

By the way, I still don’t know why a table leg.  You’d have to ask her.

So, I had this great character, but what was she going to do?  Once again, it all came tumbling out of my head with almost no effort.  She was part of a group descended from ancient gods that fought monsters from mythology.  Her boss would be Athena (my favorite member of the Greek Pantheon), she’d be trained by the Maori god, Tu, and the antagonist would be Marduk, the patron god of ancient Babylon.  I also knew that the organization she belonged to would be well past its prime.

There were a couple other elements that became important.  First, I knew Gina would not fit in well with her fellow, male colleagues.  It’s become clear to me over the years that a blunt, sarcastic woman is not as appreciated as a man with the same personality.  Also, I knew there wouldn’t be any love interest.  There was no place for it in the story.  Frankly, there shouldn’t have to be, but even breakthrough female hero characters like Buffy the Vampire Slayer had romantic problems as a main theme.

It struck me the former point could be part of what made the book stand out.  Counter programming can be a good thing.  It’s why I went with the tag line I did (“No vampires. No love triangles. Just a woman beating on monsters with a table leg.”).

It was an odd time to write a book, as the following years turned out to be the busiest in my professional and personal life.  I’d finished the first draft in about a year, and reworked it over the following year.  The next steps were arduous, and took much longer than they should’ve.  I managed to line up a good editor, Carol Davis, who really understood the genre and gave me great feedback.  A couple friends saw the end result around this time, and they had good things to say.  In the end, I felt confident enough to slap a cover on it and get going.

Then 2014 happened.  I’m not going to get into the details, but I’ve never been so happy to see a year end.  I spent a good part of 2015 getting myself back to square one, but Gina never left my thoughts.  By the time 2016 was starting up, I was ready to get going again.  I did my research on cover artists, finding James T. Egan (of Bookfly Designs), who knocked my socks off with the cover you see on my book today.

So the book is now off my desk and in the world.  I’m happy with the end result and I hope a lot of people decide to try it out.  The marketing push is just starting, and in a lot of ways it’s more intimidating than any other aspect of this journey has been.

It’s okay, though.  I trust Gina to beat the odds.  It’s what she does.

 

GINA BEALE: INTO THE FIRE is now out on Kindle and in paperback.  Check it out:

https://www.amazon.com/Gina-Beale-Into-Dan-Trudeau-ebook/dp/B01NBN2E0N/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487289311&sr=8-1&keywords=Gina+Beale

 

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The Force Awakens, and the End of the Star Wars Cannon

On October 30, 2012, George Lucas announced he was selling Lucasfilm to Disney for over $4 billion.  Many fans, unhappy with Lucas’s recent management of the franchise, met the news with relief and excitement.  The prequels were always going to hang over his head.

Shortly after the acquisition, Disney announced they were continuing the core film series (no surprise).  They also declared the Expanded Universe was no longer considered cannon (meaning part of the official Star Wars story) in any way.  For those not in the know, the Expanded Universe encompassed all the licensed books, comic books, and games set in the Star Wars Universe.  This was met with outrage by fans of said books, comic books, and games, but, frankly, the Expanded Universe stories were never cannon.  Lucas had made that clear many times.  Fans of the EU derided Disney keeping things like Jar Jar Binks, but disregarding the cool stuff they’d invested in.  The thing is, determining cannon has nothing to do with quality.  Trust me, I would rather read Heir to the Empire five times in a row than sit through The Phantom Menace again, but only The Phantom Menace counts.

Disney shortly announced a new series of books, comic books, games, spin-off movies, and TV show (Rebels) that would be part of the Star Wars cannon.  If they produced a book about what happened between Episodes V and VI, it was something that officially happened.

This has been more or less accepted by fans of the series, including those who felt their love of the Expanded Universe had been dismissed.  The thing is, none of it is cannon since Lucas parted with the property, including the main films.

Now, Lucas was never the sole author of Star Wars.  Film is a collaborative medium, after all, and even the films he wrote and directed himself (Episodes I-IV) had input from others.  That said, he was the final decision maker on the six original films (and the Clone Wars TV series), and nothing went into those movies without his thumbs-up.  He may not have been the sole author, but he was the final decision maker on what was and wasn’t going to be the characters’ stories.

Fast-forward to pre-production on Episode VII (The Force Awakens).  Lucas had given the new creative team his outline for the film, but they decided to go with another approach and tossed it aside.  Now they were well within their rights to do this.  Lucas sold the property to Disney without any requirement to use his outline.  Also, Abrams and company were probably correct in determining that Lucas’s story wasn’t the best direction for the series.  The ramification of this decision, though, was that the new films will now be in the same category as the Expanded Universe.

Imagine thirty years from now, Disney has a crisis and has to sell Lucasfilm to another company.  That company announces they have Lucas’s outline for Episodes VII-IX, which they’ll use to make new films.  Also, all the Disney supplementary works will be set aside, like the EU, and they’ll be putting out their own spin-off films, comics, TV shows, etc.  Since they’re working from Lucas’s notes, they’ll declare their Episodes VII-IX will be the real entries in the core film series, unlike Disney’s.

But that won’t be ironclad either.  Lucas’s original outline for The Empire Strikes Back involved Luke finding his father and sister in exile.  During the pre-production process, the whole thing was simplified into making Darth Vader Luke’s father and writing the sister out (before making her Leia for the third film).  Those changes were made while he worked on the script with others.  The filmmakers of the hypothetical films would still have to hammer their own scripts out, probably making similar changes without Lucas’s sign off (I’m assuming he’ll be gone).  That would be enough to claim that they’re not totally in-cannon either.

At the end of the day, the rock-solid, cannon story of Star Wars will be Episodes I-VI and the Clone Wars TV show.  Everything else will be elements future owners of the property can use or ignore based on their own plans.  It doesn’t matter how good or bad Disney’s material is.  We may all have a great time watching it, but it’s all fan fiction from this point forward.

 

Don’t forget:  My book, Gina Beale: Into the Fire, is on Kindle now and can be purchased HERE.  It’s a great read, but only if you like great reads.

 

 

Gina Beale Unleashed

Miss me?  It’s been a while, but my blog will be up and running again in the weeks ahead.  So what have I been doing instead of writing posts for this?  I’ve been writing a book, and that book is now available on Kindle, with a print version to shortly follow.

 

I’d like to introduce you to Gina Beale.  Once upon a time, she was a Human Resources Representative at a Chicago medical tech firm.  That was before a run-in with an ill-tempered ifrit (think like a genie, but scary) revealed her to be descended from ancient gods.  That’s when Gina took on her new career with the Collegium, an organization of said ancient gods who keep mankind safe from old threats (monsters, rogue gods, etc.).  It sounds much more fulfilling to Gina than corporate work, but she finds out she doesn’t exactly fit in with her alpha-male colleagues or boss, Athena (Greek Goddess of Wisdom).  She’s going to have to get past that, though, as Marduk (Patron God of Ancient Babylon) has set out to make the world pay for forgetting him.

 

That’s okay, though.  Armed with her trusty table leg, Louie, Gina’s ready to beat the snot out of anything he can throw at her.

 

So, look out for new postings here and in the meantime, order yourself a copy of Gina Beale: Into the Fire HERE on Amazon.

 

Goodreads Review: Straight Man (Richard Russo)

3 Stars

As much as I enjoyed Straight Man, I wanted to like it even more. The humor was rooted in character, as opposed to the author constantly straining to prove how clever he is. While things were inflated a bit beyond reality, it was never to the point that it felt fake. Most of all, the lead character’s observations about the world around him felt true.

What keeps me from giving this four stars, though, is the lead character, William Henry Devereaux, Jr. I appreciated Russo giving us a character who kept the world, and his responsibilities in it, at an ironic distance, but it also kept me from caring as much about what happened to him. This is the opposite of what I felt reading Empire Falls. It doesn’t kill the book; it just kept it from being an all-time favorite.

I Will Return

I’m about to jump back into blogging.  I didn’t even look to see when my last post was.  A long time ago, I’m sure.

 

This blog will be focused back on culture, entertainment, and history.  I might even write about my quest to become a “real writer.”  Whatever the case, I’ll be working my best to bring enjoyment back to the tens upon tens of people who once read my work here.

I was in a car chase once…

I’ve never been in a gun fight. Ninjas have never jumped out of the shadows to attack me. Not once has a mercenary hit team tried to take me out only to have me turn the tables on them with my lethal skills. I have been in a car chase, though.

It happened while I was staying with my dad outside of Houston, TX. That’s appropriate, because almost everything insane/cool I’d done in my teenage years happened there. I washed cars with future NBA players, broke into private docks with my dad to repo offshore racing boats, and once had a picture taken (at age fourteen) with about twenty exotic dancers. Somehow that picture never made it into my mother’s hands.

The said car chase happened the summer after my junior year of high school. I spent much of that trip hanging out with my step-cousin, Brandon. Brandon and I got along just fine though we were wired in very different ways. Despite the things written above, I was laid back and didn’t like to cause waves if I didn’t have to. Brandon, on the other
hand, had a wild streak in him. It wasn’t constant or I wouldn’t have hung out with him for more than a day or two. When the mood hit him, however, it could cause problems.

I was seventeen at the time and he was either fifteen or sixteen without a license, as I drove us everywhere in a red Duster off my dad’s lot.  We went out almost every night for a week.  On each of those evenings, Brandon would partake of his favorite activity: hanging out the window, sticking up his middle finger at a passing car, and screaming “Fuck you!”

I can’t put into words the joy doing this brought him. I wasn’t so enthused but tolerated it.

One night we go out to some theater close to Houston proper to see The Last Action Hero.  We headed to a Whataburger (a Texas fast food chain) afterwards. After we sat down to eat, Brandon noticed something behind me and his eyes went wide.

“What?” I asked.
“There’s a gang in here.”
“A gang?  As in a real gang?”
“Yes.”

I tried my best to look behind me without looking like I was looking behind me, which is impossible. It didn’t matter, as I was well beneath the notice of the five or six young men who were hanging out in the seats against the back wall. I’d never seen a real gang before but because of movies like Colors, I expected them to be color coded. They
were and the color was black. Most had black ball hats and I remember one had a black bandanna around his head.

I may have spent a good deal of time in Houston but I was still a Marine City kid. Being that close to a gang was both cool and scary, which is a feeling you love at that age and avoid in adulthood. By that point you’ve lived long enough to not care about cool and know it’s scary you should pay attention to.

They left before we did and I finished eating without giving them much more thought.  As we pulled out of the parking lot into the wide, four-lane road, Brandon spotted a car coming the other way and started rolling down his window with a big grin on his face. He hung half his body out, flew the finger, and yelled “Fuck” with great gusto followed by a weak “you”.

“That was the gang,” he said as he flopped back into the seat.

I looked behind me to see their car pull a fast U-turn and accelerate right at our rear end, flashing its brights. This is how I learned to pay attention to scary.

“Floor it!” Brandon yelled and I did with no further prompting. I hoped they just wanted to scare us and laugh while we fled but they hit the gas and stayed right on us.

I didn’t know the area at all but Brandon did and he yelled directions to me as we darted down streets and around blocks without losing our pursuers. The whole thing is a blur to me now but I have a clear memory of flying down a service drive behind a Kmart plaza with their headlights bobbing behind us. We eventually wound up back on
the road we started from.  

Brandon pointed to the expressway on-ramp in the distance and I gunned it, hoping maybe they’d give up if they saw we were getting the hell out of Dodge. I started down the curving ramp and saw they were still after us.

“The other side,” Brandon said, pointing a frantic finger at the off-ramp curving the opposite way. I yanked to the left and went over the wide curb separating the two. As I pulled back onto the road, I saw them continue down the on-ramp to the expressway and away from us.

The experience was everything Brandon could’ve hoped for. He laughed the whole ride home. Part of me wishes I could say that I, as the level headed one, realized how close we’d come to serious trouble and shamed him. That would be a lie. I felt the same surge of triumph and we talked about it constantly for several days after, though never in front of my dad.

I don’t know what would’ve happened if they’d caught up with us. I don’t even know if they really were a gang.  Again, as a Marine City kid I’m not an expert on these things.  One thing I do know is the story could’ve ended as a cautionary tale. The fact that I got away still makes me smile, even though I should know better.

The following October, my dad shipped up the same red Duster for me to drive, not knowing how I had already broken it in.  It was my car through college.

The Wind Through the Keyhole (Quick Review)

From Goodreads:

I’m a Dark Tower fan, even enjoying the later books better than others, but I wasn’t chomping at the bit to read this book. As far as I was concerned, the story of Roland’s ka-tet was over. I’d closed the cover on the last book and moved on.

What I’ve learned reading this book is though I’m not interested in hearing more “what happened between the books” stories about Roland, I’d love to get more stories that take place on his world. The story of Roland and company surviving a starkblast is really just a framing device for two other stories.

The first is another from Roland’s youth. He and a fellow young gunslinger travel to a distant town to investigate deaths related to a skin-man, which is like a werewolf on steroids. That story is entertaining but slight.

The second story, which gives the book its name, is the real meat of the book. It’s about a boy, Tim, who lived in Mid-World’s distant past. After his father dies, his mother remarries her husband’s partner, who quickly turns abusive. After a brutal attack that leaves her blind, Tim is set on a quest to find the wizard Maerlyn deep within the woods his town borders. Like the early Dark Tower stories, it’s a mix of old-fashioned fantasy with modern sensibilities. It makes the book.

I’d give this 3.5 stars if possible because while it isn’t really a four star read, three stars seems too slight.