Thursday, May 1, 2014

It's The Writer's Voice!

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Dear Writer's Voice Coaches,

In a modern-day Paris, where fearsome beasts of legend are not only real but forced to live in human form, 12-year-old Zahra Tanzer is the only one who can’t keep her wings under wraps. Zahra is a Phoenix, able to morph into a giant flaming bird that can set all of Paris ablaze. And since she can’t control her changes, she lives in fear of reducing her human family to a smoldering pile of ash.

Her only hope for a cure is to hunt down the fabled mutation serum that turned all the beasts into humans 200 years ago. All except the Phoenix, that is. After she's attacked by a flesh-eating Manticore, Zahra realizes there are more creatures out there like her. Except these creatures don’t want to bond, they want her blood.

Now hunted by humans and beasts, Zahra seeks refuge in a commune of “creants” – the mutated beasts in human form. Her new friends help her find clues to the serum’s secret formula, but the closer she gets to a cure, the harder her beast side tries to break free and take over. When the commune is attacked by more supposedly extinct monsters, Zahra must figure out why they’re after her Phoenix blood—and fast—or she’ll lose her friends, her family, and her chance to become a human for good.

UNFORTUNATELY PHOENIX is a 50,000 word middle grade fantasy with sci-fi elements, similar in tone and style to THE UNWANTEDS by Lisa McMann and THE PECULIAR by Stefan Bachmann.

I am an actor/producer/writer living in Los Angeles. The indie comedy I co-wrote, produced and starred in, has secured domestic distribution. I am also a member of SCBWI.

Below are my first 250 words. Thank you for your consideration,

Amy Mills

Trouble on the Train

The greasy-haired man on the Paris Metro stared at Zahra, horrified, as if she had magically sprouted wings. She patted down the sides of her jean jacket to make sure she hadn't. It had been two weeks since she last changed shape, and she had almost convinced herself that she was just a normal girl.
A high-pitched squeal rattled the glass as the train took a sharp corner. Zahra gripped the edge of the seat to steady herself and repeated in her head that she was safe. She had never morphed in public, so the greasy-haired guy couldn’t possibly know her secret.
Yet the giant sign by the Metro door taunted her with its admonishment, written in six different languages so there was absolutely no misunderstanding:
Attention! This is a human-only train. Any Creature Mutant (CREANT) found in violation of GACCO regulation 3.21a will be removed. Report any abuses immediately.
As if everyone didn’t know there were only a dozen places in the city where creants were allowed.
Worse, at the top of the sign were two pictures: one was a little girl, blonde pigtails, all smiles, with an arrow pointing to her bare neck. To her left hunched an old man with a bulgy nose, bushy hair, and an even bigger arrow pointing at the seven-digit tattoo that crawled down the left side of his neck. The creant mark.

Zahra shivered. She wasn’t marked, but she definitely was something that had no business riding on a train with legit humans. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

My First Date with a Shiny New Idea

So I've been spending a lot of time lately brainstorming new ideas. Not that I need something new to write, but I want something new. The idea of writing a new idea fills my stomach with spastic butterflies. But a shiny new idea for a story is like a first kiss.

All that anticipation leading up to an event that isn't as great as you imagined.

Not that I have problems coming up with ideas. I've got dozens of 'em running through my brain every day. The problem is chasing down one of those ideas and seeing if I can do the hard part - turn that idea into a story.

Stories are much bigger than ideas. Stores take a fluid, boundless idea and attempt to shape it into something concrete. They require developed characters that have wants and needs that are then thwarted by a problem. They require work.

And that is where the shiny new idea loses its luster. Work. Fun work. But work.

So yeah, ideas are like kisses. Exciting when in your head, but not quite as exciting when they become real. Because after that moment of plucking the idea out of my head and placing it on a page, I have to flirt with it, date it, and then ultimately commit to it - or set it free while I continue to search for "the one."

So who am I to my story ideas? A loyal girlfriend? Or a commitment-phobe?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Science or Fiction?

Science Fiction. Those two words strung together define my "genre" of writing. Well, along with Young Adult, but that's an entirely different post. :)

As I work through revisions of my book, I find myself examining what it means for my manuscript to be labeled science fiction. It's definitely fiction, but does it really have enough science? I mean, how much science needs to be in science fiction - and does that science need to be sound? If I use wormholes for space travel, must I explain what a wormhole is - or just assume that people will take my device and run with it? (I am really hoping for the latter. After all, wormholes are still just theory, not an fact unless I'm completely out of touch with the scientific community).

I suppose one must find the fine line between wishful thinking and hard fact. I wish we could travel in spaceships across the galaxy without taking hundreds of years. Right now, that's not fact. But in my fiction, it is. I must take that ability and ensure it is not only logical, but possible. Well, maybe along with a dash of suspension of disbelief.

Now this is where those two other words Young Adult come in. Do teens care about the theory behind laser jet propulsion? Or do they just want their characters to get to the planet already? Perhaps it is my responsibility to present a world based on scientific probability and not fantasy - my responsibility to pepper in the science in  my fiction. Good thing my dad's a science nerd!

Anyone who's out there: What does science fiction mean to you and do you lean towards science or fiction?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

To Tell Or Not To Tell

To Tell Or Not To Tell

Revising a novel is tough. Revising a sci-fi novel, even tougher. Although, I wouldn't really know the difference as this is my first novel ;)

What is tripping me up is the fine line between giving too little information and too much. With my novel, I've created a new world. Actually, 132 of them  - all under the framework of an alien realm. Okay, so we don't really get to see all these worlds in the book...actually only 2 of them...but how much of the whole do I need to reveal to the reader? I'm pretty sure no one picks up a YA book wanting a history lesson on a new society. And even though I am way too excited about playing God, not everyone will be as excited to learn the inner political workings of an alien government. Snore.

I suppose all the hours and hours of research and mapping and creating is really for my benefit. And maybe, maybe, it'll seep through when necessary. Assuming, of course, I know when it is necessary.

There is the rub.

As I go, I find myself deleting more and more informational tidbits because they detract from the story - my MC's journey. In their stead I focus on character thoughts and feelings. I guess that's what it really is about, or else I'd be writing adult sci-fi. And I'm not.

I sometimes wish writing were as simple as connect-the-dots. But then, we'd lose the joy of creating. Journey, not the end, right? Let's hope so.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Science-Fiction versus Fantasy

Genres. What I have discovered on my trek to getting published is that the "industry" likes to categorize things. Makes sense. We all categorize. But what leaves me somewhat confused is the blurred edge between many of the literary genres. For instance, Fantasy and Science-Fiction.

On the surface the distinction seems simple. You've got wizards, dragons, fairies? You're Fantasy.

Got robots, spaceships, Jedi? You're Science-Fiction.

I once heard the distinction stated as "science-fiction is what is probable and fantasy is improbable."

Wait. What? One is real and one is not? Not all science-fiction that I've read (or seen) is in any way probable. Are you telling me the Force is probable? No. That's why some consider Star Wars a Fantasy. But it has robots! And spaceships! So what, exactly, is the true definition? Is all Science-Fiction hard Science-Fiction? Relying on scientific fact and/or scientific probability? Or is there some deeper reasoning?

I ask because my YA novel is currently being categorized as Science-Fiction. But there's not really any science. Sure, it's in space. But it's a fun adventure in space and I didn't spend 5 years researching the physics of space travel. And I'm positive it's not in any way probable. So what is it...Fantasy? Since there's no vampires, witches, magic or swordplay then I bet the "industry" would balk at that title. Space Opera? Not widely accepted, I think. And so far, to stand out you need to fit in a box.

But what if we started having robots in the Middle Ages alongside wizards, and dragons in the future on spaceships? Would heads explode?

(Sigh). I shall have to do more research. Let the genre wars begin.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

George Lucas and Walt Disney Tie the Knot

My two absolute favorite visionaries of all time are now one! Well, not really. But figuratively. I know, I'm a bit behind the boat on voicing my two cents here. (Hey - I was neck-deep in book revisions when the news exploded). But I have to comment - I just have to. STAR WARS is my childhood, my teen-hood, my adulthood. It has shaped everything I do creatively. So why not chime in? (Besides, I'm sure my 6 followers really want to know ;)

First - I am actually thrilled Lucas chose to hand over the reins to Disney. I LOVE DISNEY. No Mouse House hater here. I don't care what you say about their commercial sell-outness or their behind-the-scenes Death Star-style working conditions. The company has made classic fairy tales a permanent part of my psychosis. So who better to take on the movies we WISH Lucas had made instead of the prequels. Right?

Speaking of the dreaded New Trilogy...Now that most fans are angry at Lucas, I think it is wise that he is publicly stating he is keeping a very distant role in the new films. According to him, “[If the filmmakers ask],‘Who’s this guy?’ I can tell them. I mean, they have a hundred encyclopedias and things, but I actually know a lot. I can say, ‘This is this and this is that.’ Basically I’m not — I don’t really have much to do.”

Yeah, we'll see if that holds. Hiring Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) was a big positive sign. In fact, I will now be stalking him on Twitter to see if he lets slip any 140-character clues about the script (which I doubt). So fingers crossed that my favorite, favorite story of all time (well, a close tie with Pride & Prejudice) will get the star treatment it deserves. And maybe, just maybe, I can be a part of it. Here's wishing!

Monday, December 3, 2012

The QUEEN is back! 

Yes! I see evil resurfacing in Regina's future, and I couldn't be more happy. Don't judge, but evil characters make me all giddy inside. Maybe because they get to live selfishly and I haven't been able to live that way since the little stick revealed a plus sign. Regardless, Regina is at her best when she does her worst, and although I can appreciate a character who wants to change and love like the other goodies, we need our baddie!

But apparently, last night's ONCE was a "winter finale" as in, they didn't want to shoot any more shows to take us to the holidays. So now I've got to wait a month to see the Mother/Daughter reunion we've all been waiting for.

Last thought - what's up with Captain Hook? I've been somewhat ambivalent about him this season. Is he good? Is he bad? Is he enjoyable to watch? This guy doesn't have...swagger. Captain Hook, at least the one Disney introduced us to, is as flamboyant as he is dastardly. He's got flair. This guy, so far, is lacking some flair. I won't make a judgment yet, but so far I'm not feeling the love for the Hook.

Guess I'll have to find some other topics to chat about now that my show is on a winter break. Hmm...Time to hit Red Box for some inspiration.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Bar For Geeks

Paris is calling my name. Not just because it's the most romantic city in the world. Or because I live for cheese and fresh croissants. But because now, there's a fun little bar where it looks like I might feel right at home. It's called Le Dernier Bar Avant La Fin Du Monde (aka - The Last Bar Before The End Of The World). In case the claim is not to be believed, there's a giant clock just inside the entrance that counts down to the Mayan Apocalypse on December 21, 2012. Guess that means I need to book my trip to Paris asap.

Now, supposedly this bar is a "no violence allowed" type of establishment. All light sabers, powerful one-rings and magic wands must be deposited before hitting the bar for a drink. But once you enter the bar, it looks like Geek Heaven. Every genre seems to be represented, from the wall-mounted Millenium Falcon, to the stacks of comic books and novels begging to be read. There are also scores of games available to play - so you can bring a group along and spend the better part of the night. I want to go now!

The bar has clever naming of areas, THE SINGULARITY leads to a second bar and TARDIS denotes the lowest level that can be reserved for private parties or game-play. But just looking at the decor alone could possibly entertain me for hours. Every inch of wall space appears to be covered in science-fiction themed movie posters and other bits of memorabilia.

Happening upon this little gem on the internet leaves me quite thirsty. LA needs this type of dive! But if per chance anyone makes it to Paris before I do, stop by Le Dernier Bar for me and take a few pics. But you'd better go soon. Once December 21 hits, we'll all be out of luck.

Le Dernier Bar Avant La Fin Du Monde
19, avenue Victoria 75001 Paris

Friday, October 12, 2012

Arrow – Another Dark Knight
Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/Arrow; CW; Wednesdays 8/7c
I suppose it was only a matter of time until the superhero universe once again made a bid for TV viewership. Past attempts have proven fatal (dare I mention Wonder Woman). But seeing as how Christopher Nolan's Batman exited the screen leaving the fans yearning for more, the CW has decided to capitalize on our love for the dark anti-hero. Enter Green Arrow – or as CW has reimagined him – Arrow.

Now, I will readily acknowledge that I don't avidly read comic books (sorry). I am one of those fans that enter the comic universe via film. However, I have yet to commit to a superhero TV show since watching reruns of Lou Ferrigno's The Incredible Hulk. But after being bombarded by billboard after billboard of a shirtless hunk holding an arrow, I decided to give Arrow a chance.

I am not yet sure if that chance has paid off.

What I both like and dislike about Arrow is its use of reliable stock characters, even though here they seem like recycled copies from other successful ventures. The billionaire playboy turned vigilante. The out-for-justice but by-the-books love interest.  The friend who begins to suspect the truth. The parent who may or may not be the villain. The tortured cop who must hunt down the vigilante despite the fact said vigilante is doing "good."

Yawn. This was all done rather well in Batman Begins. But I have come to find that comics, too, tend to copy one another. Green Arrow was a response to the popularity of Batman. Green Arrow is a royal Robin Hood operating under the cover of night – a great companion for those who responded to Batman's dark mythology. Except CW's Arrow seems to enjoy killing the bad guys. That aspect of his character actually turned me off. I liked Batman's moral conscience. After all, killing makes you equal to the bad guys, not above them.

Nope, not Tom Hanks
CW also missed an opportunity to build Arrow's driving purpose. We really have to begin as a character straight out of Castaway? I have seen this before, CW! So if you want to remind me of how five years of isolated island living can change a man, then at least throw in Wilson.

But the regurgitation aside, the reason this superhero formula works is that the formula itself is a strong piece of storytelling. A boy who becomes a man, who then seeks to right past wrongs, is always riveting. And I like that the theme is not revenge, but atonement. So there's hope here. I just hope the show can veer into new territory with Arrow – not keep revisiting scenarios I have already seen play out countless times on the big screen. This is a show, not a movie. So let's hope that Arrow can steer us into some uncharted waters.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Star Wars Sing-A-Long

Got me laughing this morning...

For anyone who's ever yearned to stretch their lungs and sing along to "Duel of the Fates" from Star Wars (New Trilogy) - Here is your chance!

YouTube Duel of the Fates (sing along)