A.D.M. Was Here: Japan (日本), Part Two

Before going to Japan I purchased a JR rail pass which basically allows you unlimited rides on JR trains all over the country, including many of the “bullet trains” (shinkansen/新幹線). I think two or three rides on a high-speed rail already equals the cost of the rail pass (of course, I did this six years ago, so things may be different now). The pass is available only to foreigners and can only be purchased while outside of Japan, so plan ahead.

Anyway, toward the end of my time in Japan I activated my rail pass and finally ventured away from Tokyo—

Kyoto

Kyoto Imperial PalaceBefore the Meiji Restoration which put the Emperor of Japan back in power, Kyoto was the capital of Japan. The city’s home of one of the Imperial Palaces (yeah, there’s more than one—the other one’s in Tokyo) as well as a whole bunch of iconic Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. With my limited time in Kyoto, I did see the Imperial Palace in the rain and also visited a few shrines and temples.

Kitsune StatueKeeping in mind that this was in the summer and I didn’t bother going to a hot spring (definitely on my to-do list for my winter trip), my favorite place in Kyoto was the Fushimi Inari-taisha—an Inari shrine located up on a mountain (Inari Okami is the Shinto spirit of foxes and, generally, prosperity). This particular shrine requires you to hike up a mountain for about two hours to get to it and, really, it was the hike that made the experience awesome. On the way, you pass through countless orange and black gates, and other notable monuments.

Inari Shrine Gates

CatBeing awesome, I got lost on the way down and ended up passing by a cemetery where a handful of cats started following me around.

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A.D.M. Was Here: Japan (日本), Part One

Long flight, long subway ride, getting lost for a bit—still fun

Two years after I graduated from UCLA, I went to Tokyo to do stuff (super secret stuff—don’t ask). Aside from going to Canada as a kid, this was my first time out of the country, and it was pretty exciting. It was probably a good thing that my anime-nerd phase had ended about four years prior to this trip. Otherwise, my head might have exploded from all the awesome.

I undertook my first fourteen-hour flight with Korean Air. This was pretty much just before the major airlines started providing screens for every passenger, so my choice of entertainment was limited to whatever they had up on the large-ish screen up front (I’m pretty sure the TV I’m sitting five feet from is larger than the screen they had—higher resolution, too—ah, the past and its crappy technology). They started with an American movie, then switched to a Japanese one, then a Korean one. If I recall correctly, the last movie had no subtitles and no dub option on the headphones, so I had to actually try to sleep for a while. It sucked.

Somewhere in Tokyo

Is this Shibuya? I forget.

Being a cheapskate, I opted to be on the subway as much as possible making my way from Narita Airport into Tokyo proper—all while dragging my luggage around. I got off at the Aoyama-itchome Station and proceeded to wander for an excessive amount of time looking for my hotel—and, yeah, still dragging my luggage around. Locals watched me and pitied me as I backtracked two or three times (marveling at the tiny cars that hadn’t yet become abundant in California) until I finally got my bearings and found my lodging. It even started to rain a bit near the end of the ordeal.

The first of many acts of idiocy abroad . . .

Still young and charged from being on my first international excursion, I didn’t let the rain stop me from venturing outside. I checked Google Maps for a place to eat, borrowed an umbrella from the front desk, and wandered over a few streets to a little ramen shop.

Well, in Japan, some of the cheaper eating establishments have you order through what I would describe as a vending machine. It’s a box near the entrance that you put your cash into, press the buttons for what you want to eat, and then it gives you a ticket with your order on it. Then, you’re supposed to hand that ticket to the cook-person who prepares and/or fetches your grub.

Being a noob, I totally bypassed the vending machine thing and just sat down and had my first experience in which a local tried to explain stuff to me in English because I couldn’t be bothered to properly learn the language of the country I was visiting.

Yeah, that wasn’t embarrassing at all.

Obnoxious American-ing: convini hopping

In Tokyo, it’s legal to walk around with an open alcoholic beverage in your hand, so long as it’s not a glass container (like Vegas, I guess). Notably, local Japanese folks generally don’t eat or drink anything while they walk from place to place.

Being Americans, my friends and I (and sometimes a random person from another country) had no qualms about walking around and getting sloshed (of course, being politer than most, we didn’t cause any trouble aside from calling attention to ourselves by simply having drinks in our hands). What we’d do was decide on a destination to walk to and intermittently stop by convenience stores for more drinks until we got there. The journey was definitely more important than the destination. Continue reading

Awesome Character #1: Milhouse Van Houten

So, I was playing The Simpsons: Tapped Out on my phone and was getting close to unlocking Milhouse when thought to myself about how awesome a character he is. Now, thanks to that random thought, my blog followers will be subjected to a series of posts concerning individual characters from whatever work of fiction I happen to like.

So, here’s the first character of this series: Milhouse Van Houten.Milhouse Van Houten - The simpsons

The way he’s drawn alone sort of screams funny (and adorableness), and the comedy bits that revolve around Milhouse poke fun at his misfortunes. Perhaps it’s because his life sucks so much that I find him so much more likable. Milhouse evokes sympathy and buffers it with comedy, and those two things are what I look for in fiction.

One of the most iconic Milhouse moments is where he’s playing a video game and enters his name as “Thrillhouse.” Thanks to old school games only allowing so many characters for your name, however—well, you can see what happens in this clip:

While searching for more Milhouse awesomeness, I came across this beautiful song by Allie Goertz which captures the hilariousness and sadness of the character with references to many of his scenes:

Milhouse Mystical Journey Continue reading

Waiting for Agents, Revising the Manuscript, and Milking Cows

Waiting for Agents . . .

Waiting for agents to confirm that they hate my book (or not) has been somewhat stressful. As I wait for those who have my partial/full to finish partying in Frankfurt (there’s a giant book fair thing over there right now) and read rejections from other folks, I grow more doubtful of my manuscript and query.

Not fun.

It’s popular advice for writers with novels out on submission to begin working on another projecttheir next book, short stories, poetry, or whatever. Aside from getting your mind off the wait, it also prevents you from altering the manuscript that’s currently out on submission. You know, just in case the agents you’re waiting on actually love your MS and would be appalled by changes (because that totally happens).

Against this advice and my earlier wishes not to revise, I’m going to begin outlining and implementing major revisions for my novel.

Revising the Manuscript . . .

The plan is to condense, combine, and excise entire scenes; save the awesome, and replace everything else with more awesome. The current ending will be altered to become part of the rising action. Then, I’ll add a new ending which I came up with while listening to music in my car (a scene of unprecedented awesomenessyou can verify this claim after you put some money in my wallet).

And, well, I could always revert back to an older draft if an agent actually likes it.

Milking Cows . . .
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Pitching Fiction without a High Concept

One Does Not Simply Meme High Concept VS Low Concept Fiction A.D. Martin

Thanks to the recession and other factors in recent years, many literary agents and publishers now have a more vocal preference for novels with a high concept. High-concept work, to put it simply, is work that’s easy to pitch effectively.

To define high-concept less simply . . .

To be high-concept, a work must be: (1) highly original; (2) widely appealing; (3) easy to visualize; and (4) easy to sum up in three sentences or less while demonstrating the first three elements.

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First Agent Responses

Success Baby Meme Manuscript RequestSince I started querying agents who take my genre last Thursday, I’ve had requests come sandwiched by rejections: rejection, partial request, rejection, full request, rejection.

Unlikely as it may be, I’m hoping the trend continues, because that ratio would be pretty darn good.

As you’d expect, the requests made me feel like the Success Kid (see the meme I’m sticking in this post), but the rejection letters reminded me I’m not an adorable toddler with sand on his chubby fist. Rather, I’m an adult with a novel that, statistically speaking, has a very low chance of landing an agent. So, I sent off the partial and full manuscript as requested, but I’m trying to stay grounded by focusing on my “day job” and continuing my efforts to polish my manuscript.

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Cool-ish Actors, Annoying Characters

Frodo Skyler Anakin Julie Deadpool Regina

Some actors suck. That’s just a fact. However, there are times where actors, through no real fault of their own, get a bit of flack because of the roles they play. Here are six actors who I’d say are at least pretty good at their craft, but are somewhat marred by the personalities and actions of their characters.

Anna Gunn as Skyler White

Skyler White Breaking Bad Anna GunnSkyler White is a fairly intelligent and strong woman who happens to be married to a teacher-turned-meth dealer. She loves her children, supports her husband more often than not, and generally tries to do the right thing. Yet, because of the few times she doesn’t stand by her meth-cooking husband, many Breaking Bad fans grew to hate her. Some weirdos who didn’t seem to appreciate the fact that Anna Gunn was simply playing a role in a fictional television show actually redirected their hatred toward the actor. Ms. Gunn wrote about this unfortunate phenomenon as the show was wrapping up in 2013.

Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker

Anakin Skywalker Hayden Christensen Star Wars Revenge of the SithI believe the most annoying things about Anakin Skywalker were written into the character. It wasn’t so much Hayden Christensen’s fault as it was the intent of the writers to make Anakin a whiny teenager. While it’s true that Christensen hasn’t really shown us super great talent outside of the Star Wars movies, I don’t think his acting is as bad as people make it out to be.

I liked Christensen in Takers and Vanishing on 7th Street. Yeah, neither movie is great—the former lacked in character development, and the latter had an ending I didn’t care for—but, they’re okay, and it wasn’t Christensen who brought them down. If anything, he helped make those movies better than they would have been without him.

Aimee Teegarden as Julie Taylor

Aimee TeegardenFor whatever reason, after the first season of Friday Night Lights, the character of Julie Taylor becomes incredibly annoying: she becomes selfish, unreasonable, and never seems to learn from her mistakes. Well, I suppose she does learn one thing: she’ll never do better than the awesome Matt Saracen.

Before her final good decision at the end of the show, Julie Taylor pulls some pretty obnoxious stunts. She has an affair with a married teaching assistant her first semester at college. Then, to avoid going back to school, she intentionally runs her car into a mailbox and lies to her parents about it.

Yeah, I haven’t seen Aimee Teegarden in anything aside from Friday Night Lights, but from FNL alone I get the feeling Teegarden’s pretty good with the acting thing and probably no where as near as annoying as Julie Taylor (also, she’s adorable, so she’s got that going for her).

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