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A Frog, Food, and Cajun Culture: A Trip to Louisiana

Originally posted on my Contingency Writer’s Blog

I arrived home at about midnight this morning after a 10-day trip in Louisiana. The primary reasons for my visit were to see family, and to work on a romance novel and the third Detective Games entry; although it became a great deal more.

Instead of a linear progression for this blog post, I’d like to try out bullet points!

  • I tried my hand… er, legs, at Irish dancing. My cousins had been Irish dancing for years, and I had come along to support them. Their instructor welcomed me to join in as well. My fencing instructor had always said I should go dancing, and about a year apart from his remarks, I was clumsily thumping across a multipurpose ballet studio.
  • Trekking through Jean Lafitte National Park, I wished I had first put on some bug spray, with the presence of a multitude of mosquitos. But the beauty of the marsh and swamplands were incredible, and afforded the opportunity for many pictures.
A tiny tree frog

A tiny tree frog

A young alligator surfaces near a walkway

A young alligator surfaces near a walkway

  • We visited Destrehan Plantation and took a tour of the grounds, with its grand trees covered in Spanish moss, and learnt of the vast history, including the day to day lives of the household owners and the enslaved, as well as the construction process and architectural functions. At the end, a blacksmith with a heavy cajun accent, demonstrated the use of his forge.
  • The food. Oh boy, the food. The delicious simplicity of red beans and rice, messy po’ boys, savory gumbo and jambalaya, fun flavors with stuffed snowballs, and the mandatory beignets (from Café du Monde) I had to have on a daily basis.
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Beignets and powdered sugar! Yum!

Savory gumbo!

Savory gumbo!

  • The French Quarter was a fun experience, with sights to see, a banana smoothie in hand, and trinkets to be had in the market.
DSCN1329

The Jackson equestrian statue

The Serialization of eBooks: The Rationale Behind The Unknown

Originally posted on my Contingency Writer’s Blog

Charles Dickens (Public Domain)

Charles Dickens (Public Domain)

In 2014, I conducted a poll inquiring what readers thought of “book serializations.” Out of a varied group of 41
respondents, 31.7% indicated that they did not know the meaning of ‘book serialization.’ 26.9% indicated a relatively neutral attitude,19.5% had a negative outlook, and 14.7% were positive towards book serializations. The opinion of the remainder was dependent upon factors such as the genre of book serializations, and the format (e.g. comics, manga) [1].

Being only a group of 41 respondents, it isn’t a representative sample of the general readership. However, it did provide a measure of insight – these reactions were mixed or unestablished.

The meaning of ‘book serialization’ varies. Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote serials, although they varied in length. In general, a book serialization entails a story begin broken up into parts, and then published in a periodical or in eBook form, rather than the entirety of the story begin published in a novel.

The question to ask may be, ‘why serialize in the first place?’ Unless the traditional format is such (e.g. comic books), why serialize mainstream genres?

The answer for me was a multi-faceted one. Firstly, why not? The fact that it’s a relatively unseen medium in novel-dominated genres does not indicate that it is unsuccessful. Could it not open up an untapped market? I thought of myself. I used to be an avid reader of novels. From my elementary into early high school years (primary to secondary), I was frequently looking for new books. As my schoolwork increased, and I was given assigned readings, however, I found that my desire and ability to recreationally read decreased. I began to shy away from 300+ page books. Yet, if a story was short enough, I would be more likely to read it. For I still loved to read. Now, there are readers who make time no matter the workload. They’re ravenous readers year round. There are also readers like myself who enjoy reading, but find it more challenging to make time, and for which serials could be a fantastic prospect.

Writing Cubism

The Trials & Tribulations of Writing

Secondly, serials are great when there’s little time to spare on the writing. I had written about three novellas before I became interested in serializations. These novellas generally took a couple of years or more to develop, and I saw my writing style mature over the course of each project. However, I did not believe these novellas to be worthy of publication. I saw need for improvement. I then wrote two short stories (“War at Our Doorstep” and “400 Years of Silence”), which would become my first published eBooks. I felt fairly confident in my writing style, and the reviews I received were generally favorable if not exceeding my expectations. Shortly after, I had the idea for my current Detective Games series. The setting would vary across the world, and the character roster would be expansive. It would be a hefty project, and certainly take me beyond 300+ pages. But I wasn’t ready to write another novella, much less a novel. I was (am) in college and the coursework didn’t allow for as much free time or mental energy as I would require. So I wrote my first serial, and often found greater motivation than I had for my longer projects.

Thirdly, serials can be great for testing the market and trying out new ideas without fully committing to a novel. The idea of the Detective Games wasn’t an ordinary one. Detectives across the world linked by a common villain? Exploring the journeys of each detective, in each region (thus far the United States, France, England, and Ireland have been utilized. My vision is to include South American, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, African, and Asian countries with detective adventures as well) and then uniting them all in a finale? I wanted to get more feedback than could be offered by beta readers. Publishing serials could provide the feedback I needed (as indicated with the feedback I received with short stories), without requiring me to travel the globe and finish the novel first. Likewise, it could be beneficial to the readers who, as aforementioned, wanted shorter stories to read.

Design #2

The upcoming second installment in The Detective Games series.

Finally, it could gradually provide resources and exposure. Over time, readers could discover the series as it was being released, as opposed to releasing a single colossal book or trilogy. It could generate more exposure through the additional releases, revenues to continue supporting the series (rather than potentially waiting for years, or even never earning enough to cover the costs of time spent), and allow for the series to be cancelled if the reaction was overly negative. The alternative being years upon years spent on a dismal book. Readers couldalso contribute to the series as it progressed by providing feedback and speculation – establishing a collaborative environment – rather than an author or editor calling all the shots. And it could be fun!

As it stands, the Detective Games has one installment. I’m receiving a great deal of feedback, and have finished the next installment and am having it beta read. Although the revenues are very small at this point, that’s not the point. I’m engaging readers and learning along the way. Revenues can come as the series progresses and gains greater exposure. In my experience, serializations are a worthwhile endeavor. In addition to benefits separate to author and reader, they may also serve to bring both groups closer together. That’s ideal in establishing a lasting impact.

Side Notes

  • I’ve been utilizing Write On by Kindle, Goodreads, and WattPad to gather more feedback prior to publishing serials, and I’ve received a great deal of constructive feedback!

The Cuban Sandwich (et frites)

On November 8th, 2009 I made one of my first posts, and it was about a Cuban Sandwich. Yet I had never thought to take a picture!

The remedy for my terrible grievance is finally here:

100_6354 (JPEG Image of Cuban Sandwich)

For your viewing pleasure, the Cuban Sandwich. Mustard, meat, pickles, cheese… some seem to be unlikely combinations, but they work so well. The finger making its debut in this photograph was used to prop up the sandwich. It’s intentional. Not one of those, “whoops! Stuck my finger in the photograph again!” moments.

Bon appetit.

Adieu.

 

Query Craft: Step One

The novel is complete. By all means this is a great relief, and now the journey continues in its publication.

100_9867 (JPEG Image)

“Taking each element of the book and compounding it into a few compelling sentences may be a challenge, but it is one I relish!”

Having decided to forego self-publishing in preference for traditional means, I find myself in need of a captivating hook for my story. The name, Labyrinth of Cosa Nostra, may raise an eyebrow but the catch must raise awareness.

The 2012 Guide to Literary Agents has been a fantastic resource in formatting the query letter, avoiding various greenhorn faux pas, and, without which all prior would be rendered ineffective, identifying particular agents of interest.

My novel is a rollicking, fast-paced adventure that is stripped down of unnecessary embellishments, yet remains an artful piece of literature. Suspense is the key element, as each chapter renews the reader’s interest with further complications, almost in the fashion of a serial. Characterization becomes more involved as the story proceeds, deepening relations between guests to the world of LoCN and its denizens.

Characters span a variety of cultures, as the novel absorbs the whole world in its conflict. There is Jake, Michelle, Lucio, Domenico, Inahka, Chun, Izo, Owen, Renfort, Kabu, Cніr… despite their numbers, they each hold a great significance in the scheme of things, and some even garner some extra spotlight with appellation repartee (for example, Cніr means snow. She is also a cold character).

Taking each element of the book and compounding it into a few compelling sentences may be a challenge, but it is one I relish!

(“The Labyrinth of Cosa Nostra” Novel ©2012 Zechariah Barrett – All Rights Reserved)

Polls! Polls. Polls?

The polls page has long been dormant, with only 89 views (44 votes were cast, with 13 options on one poll which could allow a user to vote that many times) since its instatement on Oct 29, 2009.

To mix things up, I’m going to alter the polls weekly and monitor traffic. If it remains a dead zone, polls will be enter the beloved WordPress trash bin.

 

The Avengers (2012): Movie Review

Marvel’s The Avengers is a box office hit, topping The Dark Knight’s midnight premier

The Avengers (2012 film)

The Avengers (2012 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

records and emerging as #1 opening weekend at $207,438,708 [1] in the United States and Canada alone. However, is this highly acclaimed film worth the hype? Or is it simply another blockbuster blown out of proportion? Even many of the staunchest critics agree – The Avengers is a superhero masterpiece.

Incorporating elements from the previous films, The Hulk, Iron Man, Iron Man II, Thor, and Captain America, The Avengers embodies a fantastic medley of the Marvel Universe’s greatest heroes and villains, all the while, paving the way for the next installments. It is highly comedic and intensely action-packed, superior to the Transformers series which attempts a similar plot-line in Dark of the Moon.

The Avengers opens up with a most ominous, alien voice, rambling on about some plot which entails the power-hungry Loki, banished of Asgard, like something produced by Garage Band’s “deeper vocals” voice modifier. Following this singular introduction, we find SHIELD agents and scientists (some from Thor) working diligently at unlocking the secrets of the divine Tesseract, a source of seemingly ultimate and limitless power. Albeit, as one might expect of the suspenseful setting, their experimentation goes terribly wrong. The Asgardian device suddenly reacts with a violent burst of light and generates a portal, which may be likened to the destructive force which presumably annihilated the Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger, sending forth the vengeful Loki who is bent on conquering Earth with an army given him in return for the Tesseract. The available SHIELD agents surround the self-proclaimed “god,” albeit are disposed of by a few blasts of Loki’s newly acquired staff. Nick Fury arrives on the scene, shooting a few rounds in vain, whilst Loki uses his staff to mind-control the mercenary Hawkeye and Dr. Erik Selvig to aid in his escape. The next few moments are without respite – the SHIELD complex sinks underground, collapsing inward as a maelstrom, due to the effects of the Tesseract. Fury and company give chase, although lose their quarry and are forced to flee.

On less dramatic grounds, fan-favorite Tony Stark and his girlfriend Pepper Pots, are debating who deserves the most credit for Stark Tower – a top of the line, self-sufficient complex inspired by the reactor core. Amusing quarrel aside, SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson -promptly arrives with a briefing for Iron Man, in preparation for the “Avengers Initiative” – it would appear the world is once again in peril and only the aforementioned team of heroes can save it.

In another part of the world, Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), after dispatching with a Russian general, is sent to extract Dr. Bruce Banner (The Hulk), and Director Fury introduces Steve Rogers (Captain America) to the Initiative. The team slowly comes together as the peril grows greater, and there is much dissonance among the members, as they fight to recapture Loki, and then amongst themselves (Thor vs. Captain America & Iron Man) to retain him. All the while, the preparations for Loki’s army is nearly complete… will the team be able to come together and save the world, or will the alien apocalypse fall upon them?

The Avengers is a barrel of fun, with enough intrigue to keep the audience guessing until the end and a good portion of comedy to provide the necessary balance. It introduces [to the series] the developmental process of a team, rather than a single protagonist. The villain is likewise in control of a massive army and it is evident another power is pulling the strings at the start, adding depth. In this way, it separates itself from its superhero predecessors outside of the animated realm, attaining the claim by some that it is “the best superhero movie ever.”

Family Perspective

This time around, the violence gets a little bloody, with the death of a great number of characters (as opposed to those scenes which are given little reflection), some more evident than others which are merely suggested.

Language is fairly minimal, albeit a few curse words are used in the course of the film.

Natasha Romanoff, portrayed by Scarlett Johansson, remains a source of eye-candy, albeit not as overt in as in the Iron Man films and much more of an independent protagonist. Her top, during the Russian interrogation, is low cut and gratuitous during fighting scenes, yet the “buck stops there” so to speak, in that the female form is not exploited for the vast remainder of the film (note: at the beginning, Pepper Pots wears “short-shorts,” she, however, plays a minor role in the film and takes up only a small fraction of screen time), aside from the skin tight suits.

The Avengers is better suited to teen and adult audiences, especially on account of much more mature conceptions and visuals.

Notable Quotations

“Earth’s mightiest heroes type-thing. / Yeah. Takes us awhile to get any traction, I’ll give you that one. But let’s do a headcount here. Your brother the demigod, the super soldier living legend who kind of lives up to the legend, a man with breathtaking anger management issues, a couple of master assassins, and you, big fella, have managed to [anger] every single one of them.” -Tony Stark to Loki

“You miss the point, there’s no throne. No version of this where you come on top.” -Tony Stark to Loki

“I’m in the middle of an interrogation, this moron is giving me everything.” -Black Widow

“I’m bringing the party to you. | I don’t see how that’s a party.” Iron Man | Black Widow

“How desperate are you? You call on such lost creatures to defend you. / It burns you to have come so close. To have the tesseract, to have power – unlimited power. And for what? A warm light for all mankind to share, and then to be reminded of what real power is.” -Loki

“Well, let me know if real power wants a magazine or something.” -Nick Fury

Christian Perspective

The Avengers delves deep into what it means to be a hero, as clashing egos and selfish motives are put aside for teamwork and integrity.

Captain America, Steve Rogers, stands for traditionalist, Christian America, when, after a remark is made about Loki and Thor’s “godhood,” retorts “I mean no disrespect ma’am, but there’s only one God, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that!” All the while calling for team to unite and realize their duty.

References are made to the macro-evolutionary theory, as Loki jokingly states he had thought “humans were more evolved” than they were behaving. Loki, furthermore, observes the depravity of man and the hopeless nature therein (without a remedy).

Un Parc à Paris: The Enchantingly Tranquil Tower

100_4711-AW (PNG Image of Paris)

Depicted within this photograph is a beautiful tower situated in a prime corner of Paris, occupying a tranquil aclove filled with trees and various shrubberies. Within stands a stoic scholarly figure, unchanged but for some mere wear which comes with time, observing all who pass through his domain.

The video I mentioned last week is finally complete, which eliminates a portion of my work load, and provides me with extra time to blog (and finally post my review of the Hunger Games series as a whole).

The Lion, The Pigeon, and The Fantastical Manor (witch and wardrobe not included)

100_5623-AW (PNG Image)

In a previous post entitled, "The Lion and the Pigeon House (no wardrobe this time)" I shared a cropped version of this photograph in a romanticized format. This time, however, c'est vrais (it's true - no alterations). "While travelling in Europe I had the pleasure of staying in a pigeon house, which was much more hospitable than would sound. It was remodeled by a British couple, and the only indication of what it once was were the shoe-box sized holes dotting the curved walls. (The pigeon house in this photograph is the cone shaped building)." The manor (center) is for guests who are willing to pay extra for luxury and meal accommodations - we, however, did fine at our quaint (and superbly comfortable) pigeon house, crafting our own scrumptious repas with local ingredients.

Le Roi-Soleil: Louis XIV

I took this photograph while visiting Versailles - it has been altered to accentuate the statue and enhance its coloring slightly. Upon the slab which it stands is inscribed these words and figures: "Louis XIV. 1638-1715. ROI DE FRANCE ET DE NAVARRE. 1643-1715."

Omaha Beach: Forever Hallowed

Inscribed upon this monument, located at the heart of Omaha Beach, is the following text: "THIS EMBATTLED SHORE, PORTAL OF FREEDOM, IS FOREVER HALLOWED BY THE IDEALS, THE VALOR AND THE SACRIFICES OF OUR FELLOW COUNTRYMEN" (1)