aaronchumbris

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Homepage: https://aaronchumbris.wordpress.com

What I’ve Been Doing Lately

Anyone who has been following my work for the past few years knows I’ve been writing YA novels for my Nanotechs and Animus Saga series.  Lately, however, I have taken a break from that—aside from trying to find someone interested in representing the latest one—to work on my other long-term writing project: an original drama pilot for television.  Focusing on the era of the Opium Wars in China, the script grew out of my interest in that period that began with Lin Zexu’s “A Letter to Queen Victoria,” which I assigned to my Academic Writing students.  I joined the Black List website and ran my script through several evaluations, rewriting and revising, discovering how much I really needed a professional opinion to make my work stronger.  And that brings me to my next point.

If I choose to release The End Starts Here myself, it will only be after a professional editor has a chance to evaluate it.  I previously released three novels without much professional oversight, and in the end I regretted certain aspects of each book because of it.  As I’ve grown as a writer over the past few years, what I once saw as the best I can do no longer seems adequate, so I have to set them aside until I can once again be proud of the finished product.  Proving Ground is a notable exception; aside from recent tweaks to make it work as a sequel rather than the first in the series, I remain confident in its quality.  I just need its new lead-in to measure up.

So for those of you still waiting for the next Nanotechs book, please have patience as I take time to revamp the series.  I take the quality of my work very seriously and I want to ensure my readers receive the best books I can create.

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Nanotech Series Update

For those of you waiting for the next installment of the Nanotech series, there is good news and bad news. The good news: I have passed 20,000 words on the new book (Proving Ground is 82,000 for comparison). The bad news: that book is not the sequel, Silver Maiden, but an untitled prequel.

Why would I stop working on Silver Maiden to jump backward? Well, there’s the creative reason and the practical reason. The creative reason is that I always envisioned Proving Ground as a pre-dystopian story that showed how oppressive regimes were created. While I still feel this is the case, I want to show how Quinn’s quest for power really began and the path Leon was forced onto as a result. I also wanted to show what Byron was like before he became a Nanotech without resorting to a long flashback that would likely disrupt Silver Maiden‘s narrative flow. The practical reason—and this is the one that really pushed me to write the prequel—is that I have spent over two years trying to find an agent who would take Proving Ground on and find it a home in the publishing world. Dystopian and dystopian-influenced YA books have so overwhelmed agents that despite some early interest from a few agents, everyone ultimately passed on representing my book. While I’m grateful to everyone who has supported the book in its self-published form, I really need to find this series a publisher so I don’t have terribly long gaps between books as I struggle to find time to write. I also think some professional guidance would benefit the series and ultimately improve the reading experience for my fans. All of this had led me to the conclusion that if I want the Nanotech series to stand out from the crowd, I need to begin with a book that is distinctly not dystopian but rather contemporary sci-fi action centered around a teen love story.

For those disappointed by this news, please give the new book a chance. Many of Proving Ground‘s characters make an appearance and you will learn new things about them. I also believe you will like the newcomers, as I have really enjoyed writing Delia so far. For those of you excited about this news, thank you and I will work hard to make it worth the wait.

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Silver Maiden Update

Anyone who has read Proving Ground knows that its sequel, Silver Maiden, was supposed to be released in 2013.  That was my projected date for completion and release, but it was a bit shortsighted because I actually write two YA series: the Nanotech series and The Animus Saga.  Book II of The Animus Saga took quite a bit longer to finish than I predicted, thus pushing back the release of Silver Maiden.  I apologize for the inconvenience and I hope to have the book done by the end of 2014.  Whether or not that happens depends on a number of factors, some of which I cannot control.  If you loved Proving Ground, please spread the word and share the love and stay tuned for more updates.  Thank you for your support.

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Silver Maiden Preview: Donning the Armor

(The following is taken from the first draft and may differ from the final version)

Inside was the armor I seemed destined to wear, suspended by thick cables like a puppet on strings. The overhead lights reflected brightly off of its silver skin, so clean and perfect it was practically a work of art. The face was beautiful, though the expression looked a little sad. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for.   My chest suddenly seized with anxiety.   What if I screw this up?

“I’m a little jealous, actually,” Leon said as we stopped in front of Silver Maiden. “If you believe what my father says, you have the better armor. Faster, stronger, more durable. He’s supposed to be making me a new one, but with resources split between several new ACSs, I’m sure it’ll be awhile before I see it.”

“How many more?” The prospect of more ACSs was both intriguing and frightening. After all, we were preparing to fight one. What if the new ones are used against us?

“We have two more under construction, another half-dozen in development. My father insists on making improvements for every model, using every step forward to guide the next.”

I smiled. “Yeah, well, I don’t want any complaining when I beat you.”

Leon gave me a confident smirk. “We’ll see.”

I inspected the armor. “So . . . how do you open this thing?”

“It’s already programmed to recognize your specific pheromones. Just turn around and step back into it.”

That didn’t sound like it would work, but I figured he knew what he was talking about. I turned around and stepped backward, hearing a burst of whirring and clanking noises until I felt the armor close around me. I could still see Leon clearly—the visibility inside the armor was excellent—but I suddenly felt very claustrophobic as the interior of Silver Maiden squeezed every inch of my body. I began to feel like I was being crushed. Panic set in. “I can’t breathe, Leon. I can’t breathe.”

“You can breathe just fine, Lacan. You just have to relax and let your nanomachines sync with Silver Maiden’s.” He didn’t sound worried, which made me relax a little.

I took a few deep breaths and let my anxiety fade away.   The squeezing sensation eased as well.   Within a few moments, I felt completely normal. That was a little scary. I hope that doesn’t happen during a real fight. “I’m okay. I just freaked out a little.”

“It’s normal. I nearly had a panic attack myself the first time.”

The idea of Leon panicking was entirely foreign to me. I couldn’t even imagine it. Is he just saying that to make me feel better?

“Can you move?”

I moved my right hand in front of my face, flexing my fingers, doing the same with my left hand. “This isn’t nearly as weird as I thought it would be.”

“Not at first. But the more you move around, the more you’ll see how much the ACS augments your abilities. If you thought you were strong before, you’ll be amazed by what you can do now.”

I followed Leon down the ramp and into the vast expanse that was his front lawn. “So let’s go already.” I was excited to test my new limits, but cautious of the mistakes I had made after my nanomachine injection. Don’t overdo it this time. Slow and steady—

Leon leaped forward and planted his foot into my torso, launching me through the air like a cannonball. I landed on my back and flipped over backward, landing facedown on the grass.

“What the hell, Leon?” I pushed myself up and stood, waiting for another attack.

“I need you to know how it feels to take an attack like that inside your ACS.”

“It hurts. Shocker.”

“Are you injured?”

Aside from the pain of the impact, I didn’t seem to have any injuries. “No.”

“The ACS will not make you invincible, but it will keep you alive and in one piece, assuming you use it correctly. You are impervious to bullets and most explosive weapons, but with enough force an explosion will leave you flat on your back with a very bad headache. I learned that lesson the hard way from a tank in Los Angeles.”

“You’re about to learn another hard lesson after a cheap shot like that.”

He assumed a fighting stance. “Then show me what you can do.”

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Better Sequels Through Chemistry

With the recent talk of yet another Die Hard sequel, possibly reuniting Bruce Willis’ John McClane with Samuel L. Jackson’s Zeus Carver, I found myself hoping it turns out to be true.  In my mind, the third film is the only great sequel in the franchise and by far the most deserving of an extension.  That hope is tempered by the reality that, without the right writer(s) and director, even a reunion of McClane and Zeus will end up just another missed opportunity.

The recent Die Hard sequels seem to be knee-deep in the Hollywood philosophy that bigger, flashier, and more expensive is the proper path for a franchise.  For superhero, epic fantasy, or sci-fi franchises, this may lead to success, depending on how it’s handled.  For action franchises, however, this path usually leads to louder, dumber, and completely implausible.  Instead of dialogue people still quote over two decades later and scenes that give the audience the vicarious thrill of an everyman surviving the worst day imaginable, we see McClane falling from heights that would kill the hardiest thrill-seeker and smashing through obstacles that would break, cut, mangle, or otherwise decimate him into an early grave.  We see action sequences so full of over-the-top CGI nonsense that the audience has no reason to buy into the experience and thus care about anything happening on the screen.  We also get McClane repeating tired and inane lines I hate to even label “one-liners” because it denigrates that proud action movie tradition.

If 20th Century Fox wants people to reinvest in the franchise, they need to scale it back to what made it great to begin with: brilliant, articulate, bad-ass villains who also serve as McClane’s comic foil.  Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons as Hans and Simon Gruber embodied all of that.  A new film would need an actor with that kind of gravitas and sheer power of presence who can convey more menace with a look than most people can with a verbal threat.  If McClane is going to have a partner, it needs to be someone with whom Willis has obvious chemistry.  Jai Courtney had that kind chemistry with Andy Whitfield on Spartacus, but he had none of the necessary father-son dynamic with Willis in A Good Day to Die Hard, making the bad dialogue even worse.  And while I find no fault with the inclusion of Timothy Olyphant in Live Free or Die Hard, I wish he had been McClane’s partner rather than his adversary.  Anyone who has seen Olyphant’s performance as Raylan Givens on the TV series Justified knows he oozes charisma and has a talent for subtle but potent intimidation laced with dark humor, all of which would have made him an interesting contrast to the more blunt and vulgar McClane.  The Willis-Jackson chemistry has already been established and the groundwork laid, so if the two actors do reunite, a big piece of the puzzle will already be in place.

Otherwise, audiences may be inflicted with Die Hard and Be Reborn Even Harder, watching their beloved John McClane fight robots inside a space station on a collision course with New York City.

No one deserves that.

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An Animus Bestiary: Draiads

DESCRIPTION:

Close relatives of naiads and alseids, draiads are green-haired humanoids with wood-like skin.  They are native to large forests.

NOTABLE MEMBERS:

Driope, member of Garuda.

CREATION:

As with naiads and alseids, I found the nature nymph varieties interesting and decided to add them to my imago races, adding males to the all-female mythology.

NAME ORIGIN:

In Greek mythology they are call “dryads,” but I altered the spelling to show their close relation to naiads.

LANGUAGE:

Draiads speak Panglossa and Akhai.

NAMES:

All draiads have Greek names.

CULTURE:

Like alseids, draiads make their living by farming, but unlike their green cousins they are ferocious in battle and have strong command of Animus-based abilities.  They live in small villages far from civilization and the encroachment of human development.

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An Animus Bestiary: Alseids

DESCRIPTION:

Close relatives of naiads and draiads, alseids are green-skinned humanoids native to forests, open grasslands, highlands, and other unspoiled verdant areas.  Like naiads, they appear beautiful to humans, but their natural allure is not as strong.

NOTABLE MEMBERS:

Agraulos, a traveler Heidrun met in his youth.

CREATION:

I wanted to avoid the most commonly used figures from classical mythology and I found the idea of closely-related, nymph-based races interesting, given their different elemental associations.  As with naiads, I expanded alseids to include males as well.

NAME ORIGIN:

The name was taken directly from Greek mythology.

LANGUAGE:

Alseids speak Panglossa and Akhai.

NAMES:

All alseids have Greek names.

CULTURE:

Alseids are an agrarian people and lack the offensive Animus-based skills found in other imago.  Consequently, they are looked down upon by others and are perceived as weak and cowardly.

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