Why Philadelphia?

So why would I choose Philly of all places to hold the setting for a superhero book?  Were Philly cheese steaks dancing in my head?  Am I an Eagles fan?  Did I watch too much “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”?  None of the above actually.

I decided on Philadelphia for two reasons.  One, it’s a city rich in American history.  And two, if super heroes were real do you think they’d ALL live in New York?  Come on now, that’s just silly.  Obviously super powered people need a large playground with lots of people, and Philly fits the bill.  I thought about Chicago, LA, or even Dallas.  The thing that put it over the top for me is that I live on the east coast myself, so it would probably be better to stick to what I know.

Now, I’ll admit that I’ve never been to Philadelphia.  My research was done through Google, talking to people who live/have visited there, and Parking Wars.  Yes, I said that part of my research was Parking Wars.  Keep in mind that it didn’t exactly give me a TON of information, but it was decent idle entertainment.

By jamiebworth

Character spotlight: the leader and the wallet

While trying to brainstorm interesting and unique characters, I hit on a fun idea.  What if a character’s sole power was the ability to use any weapon proficiently just by laying hands on it?  Then the idea branched out from there.  Let’s make the character female, and kind of a cross between Punisher and Captain America.  Sure, that’s kinda cool, but how do we make it more interesting?  A cool robot friend that can transform.  Wait, that’s kinda hokey.  Let’s make it a robot BOYFRIEND with an interesting hook!  Sound kinda weird and/or lame?  Let me explain.

Hania and Malware

Hania (meaning spirit warrior in the Hopi Native American language) is an intense, and highly skilled leader.  She’s trained in numerous forms of martial arts since she was an adolescent.  Tragedy and circumstance led her down the warrior’s path long before her power began to bloom.  I don’t really get into Hania’s back story at all in this book, as I have plans to get to that in the second.  She does have trust issues after all.  I focus little on her ethnicity (half Native American) and instead try to highlight her personality, skill in battle, and the relationship between her and Malware.  Ah yes, how could I forget Malware?  I LOVE writing him.    Where is the best place to start with him?

Okay, Malware’s power.  He’s one of the most intelligent supers in the world, but unfortunately he died a few years ago.  Let me clarify that a bit.  He and Hania have had a deep and trusting relationship for many years, and she refused to leave his side as he lay dying from the inoperable cancer plaguing his body.  He always maligned about how he didn’t focus on medical knowledge, and didn’t have the time needed to take care of his cancer, then it dawned on him…who says that medical science is the cure?  He spent his remaining time feverishly working to transfer his consciousness into his beloved machines.

He was definitely successful.  He was able to upload himself to a hack proof server, and from there built an immense fortune and arsenal with the increased computing power granted by being a living computer system.  It didn’t take him long to learn how to download his consciousness into various creations of his, the favorite of the bunch being the transforming motorcycle robot pictured above.  He’s inept at combat, but he never goes into battle without Hania, and charging in with a holographic happy face displaying on his windshield with a cry of “For Gondor!” on his robotic lips is completely within his character.  He bankrolls the entire super group he belongs to, and spoils Hania and every chance.

An excerpt:

“After what you’ve just told me, I feel that you can be trusted Dennis.  My name is Hania.  Let me introduce you to our group.”  She rises from her chair, strides to the closed door, and knocks three times.  Broot and the navy blue robot saunter through the doorway.  “Broot, Malware, this is Dennis.  He’s going to need our help, and we’re going to need his.  So get used to seeing him around.”  Well that’s news to me.

The robot’s gruff holographic face immediately changes expressions to one of happiness and excitement as he quickly strolls to me and vigorously shakes my hand.  “The name’s Malware!  Nice to meetcha!  I’m so excited to have someone new on the team!  Oh boy I’m excited to work with you!”  I didn’t realize it was possible for robots to be socially awkward.

“Malware, calm down.  Come here boy.” Hania seems to scold him, but he’s unfazed.

“Arf!” Malware’s holographic face changes to that of a golden retriever, and he gallops back to Hania’s side.

“I know my boyfriend is hyper and easily excited, but I love him and couldn’t ask for a better companion.” She plainly states.

“Boyfriend?  Didn’t realize humans and robots could fall in love.” I hope I didn’t offend, considering the word “boyfriend” sputtered out of my mouth in disbelief.

“I wasn’t always like this.  Not too long ago I had flesh, blood, and other icky things.  Cancer was set to rob me of that, but I showed cancer!  Being super intelligent usually lets you focus on a few fields of interest, but uh…biology and medical tech was not one of mine.  Inoperable really means inoperable.  However, I figured out a way to download my consciousness.  My organic body died, but I actually live in an extremely secure server back at my home base.  I download myself into various machines I’ve created, but this awesome transforming motorcycle is by far my favorite.  Hania came up with the Malware nickname, and it stuck.”  He talks a bit faster than I’d like, but he seems genuine enough.

“So how do you two…ya know?” I’m honestly curious.

“We don’t talk about it.” They both say in unison.  That was totally worth asking.  Even the robot seems to blush.

And another one dealing with combat:

I was about to open my mouth for a witty retort when a number of supers tear their way around the corner to us, and a couple descend on wings from the building Broot was just thrown from.  The flying ones are intent on taking him down.  Screeching tires on pavement enter from a nearby alley, which signals Malware and Hania entering the fray.  Hania jumps from Malware as he begins to transform from a motorcycle into a fighting robot.  She hits the ground feet first and goes into a combat roll.  A split second later, she’s on her feet with dual pistols in hand.

Malware is in full combat mode, submachine gun barrels extending from his metal forearms.  He’s firing wildly at the oncoming supers.  Hania, on the other hand, empties both of her pistols into the flying supers, hitting only non-vital spots.  When her pistols are empty, she drops them on the spot and pulls two more from her military grade flak jacket.  She slowly walks forward while firing off round after round at other encroaching supers.  She empties two more guns, and pulls two more from her jacket.  She doesn’t stop, she doesn’t miss, she doesn’t blink.  Hania is a finely honed machine.  Ironically Malware, who is an actual machine, seems like a bumbling idiot in comparison.

After emptying six different pairs of guns, the fighting is upon us.  Hania’s shooting thinned the group by about a quarter, but there are still close to two dozen of them.  Even Malware’s wild firing brought down one unfortunate cloaker who got in the way.  Hania unleashes a fan of throwing knives that were attached to her pants, and follows that up by firing throwing spikes from specialty arm guards that were custom made for her.  At least ten more supers are now disabled or very, very angry thanks to her.  She wastes no time in brandishing her favored gleaming tomahawks.

By jamiebworth

Just one of many fascinating characters

I thought I would take a moment to highlight one of the characters with some artwork I had commissioned a couple of months ago.  So please enjoy this drawing by a talented artist by the name of Mark Huffman, as well as Bio information for this character.

Maestro

Maestro has power over artwork.  Simple pen and ink can be turned lethal in his hands.  Activism and art are his passions, and he combines them at every chance he gets.  I reference a time that police were breaking up a protest he was involved in, and how it was quickly turning into a riot.  When cornered by policy, he reaches for his sketch pad and quickly releases a fearsome tiger from its pages to protect him.  What is depicted in this particular artwork is him pulling out his last resort.  Maestro has had his entire body tattooed with weaponry, from simple daggers or swords, to guns and various throwing weapons.  He can dislodge the artwork from his skin to use with deadly force if necessary.  Please enjoy this short excerpt from the book, involving Maestro:

With one last heavy sigh, I heave the lower half of my body into the darkness, then release the vent and allow myself to drop.  The landing makes little noise, but I surmise I’m in an empty room with some kind of wooden flooring.  At that moment, the entire room lights up, and I’m struck by some of the most beautiful and twisted art I’ve ever seen.  The ceiling is adorned with varied and changing weather patterns, the floors have all manner of elements, mountains, animals, and vegetation.  The walls are covered in very odd and abstract art; there are flames, fists, winged creatures, wind, and all manner of things I can’t even begin to describe.  Everything around me is in motion.  The painted animals go about their business, flames move and crackle, wind blows through painted trees, and the sun shines down on me, illuminating everything.

I can feel the heat from the sun, hear the sheep bleating in the meadow, and smell the warm pollen-filled air.  The entire scene strikes me of what it must feel like to be in the middle of a Virginia meadow on a warm spring day.  As the breeze ruffles my hair, I close my eyes to absorb everything and I’m greeted by the whistle of a rumbling train and the rustle of leaves as it passes by along the wall to my right side.  When the sound of a rushing river reaches my ears, I open my eyes again to locate it, and the gathering clouds overhead cast foreboding shadows over the landscape.  I reach down to grasp the grass in my hands, but only come into contact with the hardwood floor.

“Convincing isn’t it?” I’m jarred back to reality by a voice I’ve only heard through a television.  I slowly look up to see Maestro looking at me, backed by an incredible forest fire.  His lengthy, dirty blond hair seems to flow in the breeze created from the heat, and the shifting sun glares from his wire rimmed glasses.  I swear I can even see deer fleeing the forest behind him.  “Art made real.  Paint given life.  I put my soul into everything I create, and my heart into every task I undergo.  My creator has endowed me with the ability to do what you see before you, and I’m not one to squander what has been given.”

 Come back tomorrow for two more characters!

By jamiebworth

My inspiration to begin writing the book

So a common question I get asked, well, I guess I should say I was asked this once and wish I were asked more often, is “What was your inspiration for writing this book?  Why did you decide to write this as your first book?”  Then I say “Well me, that’s a good question to ask myself.”  Then I take my medication and everything is okay again.  Alright, just kidding.

It’s actually a fairly long and drawn out answer.  I’ve always enjoyed writing, but the twists and turns that I’ve taken in my life has never allowed me to write anything greater than a couple thousand words, if that.  Dirty limericks and short stories aside, I’ve never actually sat down and written anything substantial.  Then things changed.  I found myself with a lot more free time, and the world of super heroes was drawing me back in.  Now, I’ve never been a big comic reader, but I did collect for a time.  However, a friend of mine invited me to play in this pen and paper role playing game he made up.  It involved developing super powers for your character, and he created an immersive world, and I got sucked right in.

This was all well and good for a while.  One of the last nights we played, I had finally gotten to the point of the reveal I had planned for my character.  I had been sweating over all the details for a month with the DM, and in order to really go about my important plot point I had to pick a fight with a particular party member.  So I start to get into character, and I’m laying into this other guy, and I start to go into all this back story for my character, and when it comes time for the other guy’s response, what do I get?  “Uh…dude, I don’t have a back story.  I’m a freakin’ robot ninja without a personality.”  That’s when I smashed my face on the table out of frustration.

So if we flash forward a few more weeks after that, I was reintroduced to the game of Heroclix, and my love of super heroes was fully rekindled.  I was also reminded of the stark differences between the Marvel and DC universe.  DC in particular seemed so gimmicky that it was ridiculous.  Don’t get me wrong, I love all the different lanterns, and Wonder Woman is one of my favorite comic characters.  However, all their characters are named by either picking an adjective (or noun) and a gender, or a color and a noun.  That’s not to say that there aren’t some truly interesting and stand out characters in the universe (Nightwing, for example), but DC has never been particularly ground breaking.

Around that same time, I voraciously devoured the Hunger Games trilogy.  I fell in love with the characters, cherished the story, and the first person style just stuck in my head.  You’re obviously fairly limited when writing from first person, but at the same time you’re free to tell every aspect of how a character interacts with those around them, and what thought process they go through.  If you’re intent on telling a story about a generally played out theme (a.k.a. super heroes), you need fresh ideas and you need to really flesh out characters and what makes them different.

That’s when this book popped into my head.  I wanted to make a snarky, joke-filled super hero romp, starring a character who had super powers, but hated super heroes.  I planned for all kinds of different things, but I eventually landed on a different theme.  I got to writing, and managed to eke out a few chapters before I started to run out of gas.  My girlfriend was always reading behind me and offering criticism appropriately.  Then she said the magic words to me: “Kylie seems just TOO good.  You need to do something to make her interesting.  Make her a bad guy or something.”  After that, everything started flowing.

Once I established that Kylie wished ill for Dennis, it was easy to develop an interesting villain, then flesh out an engaging story revolving around a super powered love triangle.  Once that was established, what’s the proper thing to do next?  Put the main character through absolute hell.  I figured out what to do with that, but what does any good super hero story need?  Super groups.  Thus the motley crew of Hania, Malware, Broot, and all the rest were born.  How could you not like a band of loveable losers who only end up contributing to the very thing they try to stop?

With this book, one thing just snowballed into another, and before I knew it I was halfway done.  I laid awake some nights just thinking about where to go next, or how to write this scene properly to convey the emotion I’m looking for.  I would dream scenes and struggle to express them properly on paper.  My goal was to make sure the reader could picture the scenes exactly as I saw them.  I felt the fight with Maestro was the catalyst for me writing better scenes.  Most of all though, what spurred me to continue to write were the reactions I was getting from people reading.  Everything was positive, and I even hastily sent off the first few chapters to a publisher.  They declined, but the response was so overwhelmingly positive that I KNEW I had to keep writing until the book was absolutely polished.  It’s not quite there yet, but that’s what Kickstarter is for.

By jamiebworth

Superpowered blog is go!

Welcome to the blog for my new series of novels “Superpowered”.  The book is finished, but is in the editing state.  Let me rephrase that.  The book is in the “Kickstarter for extra funds for editing and all necessary expenses” stage.  I’ll update this blog every so often with what’s happening with the book, as well as where I’m at in the process with the next one.  There’s not much right now, but please check out my kickstarter, read the first chapter, and enjoy!

By jamiebworth