Archive for March, 2014

Spotlight Week Giveaway Winner

It’s the last day of March and I’d like to thank all of you for allowing me to share my love for Filipino Martial Arts with you these past few days.

In line with my Martial Arts Month, I featured Jay Noel and his Steampunk Samurai Novel DRAGONFLY WARRIOR on my Spotlight Week.

If you missed it, you can check out my review of DRAGONFLY WARRIOR here, and my interview with the series’ awesome author JAY NOEL here.

To cap it all off, I held a giveaway for a Kindle copy of DRAGONFLY WARRIOR.

DragonflyWarrior ebook modified

Now it’s time to announce the winner of the said giveaway.

Congratulations, Maurice!

I’ll be emailing you in a bit to tell about how to claim your very cool prize.

As for the rest of you wonderful people, I hope you have a happy and productive week!

Tomorrow, April 1st, the annual  A – Z Blogfest begins. Good luck to all those who have answered the A-Z Blogging challenge! I’m sure all of you will do great!

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

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Filipino Martial Arts: Sinawali

As you might have gathered from last Monday’s post on the Basic Eskrima lessons, stick-fighting is the most important (and most recognizable) component of Filipino Martial Arts.

One of the coolest things you’ll learn if you do decide to take up FMA, is the Sinawali, or double-stick fighting techniques. You’ll see it used in TV shows like Arrow and movies such as Mission Impossible 3, Hanna, and I, Frankenstein.

Watch the short clip of Arrow’s Oliver Queen performing Sinawali below:

Sinawali is a set of double stick drills practice by two eskrimadors. Sinawali means “weaving, and the term refers to the intricate weaving patterns created by the sticks during the double-stick drills.

Simple mechanical repetition is at the core of Sinawali drills. These exercises provide eskrimadors with the basic skills to respond to a two-weapon attack, and help them develop form, improve motor skills, and program response time and muscle memory.

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Many fundamental Eskrima skills are learned through Sinawali drills, including the following*:

*body positioning and distance relative to an opponent,

rotation of the body and the proper turning radius,

proper elbow positioning while swinging a weapon.

recognition of one’s center of gravity, eye–hand coordination,

target perception and recognition,

 increased ambidexterity,

recognition and performance of rhythmic structures for upper body movement,

muscular developments important to the art, especially, the wrist and forearm regions.

* Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eskrima

 

Grandmaster Dong Cuesta and Guro Gary Gabisan demonstrate the basic Sinawali drills below:

 

Michael Janich has a more extensive post on Sinawali here.

It’s  a thrill to be able to wield two sticks with speed and force. So eventhough the movements are repetitive, I never tire of practicing Sinawali drills.

Filipino Martial Arts is a multi-style system so there are many more components to it than Sinawali. If you do decide to take it up, you’ll learn empty hand techniques, knife techniques,  as well as Filipino-style boxing and many more.

Martial Arts Month is almost over and I thank you for allowing me to combine two of my passions: writing and martial arts.

Though I only covered Filipino Martial Arts, I hope you learned a few things that might help you in some way–whether its by giving you ideas for fight scenes in your novels, or by giving you a few new tricks to defend yourself with.

 

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TWN WWW 300

Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them  share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome ML Swift, writer and blogger at mlswift.me.

 Welcome, ML!

mike

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Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?

MikeBabyPic (116x160)

As you see, I was born in the period when black and white photography was still the norm. Sure, color had been invented, but who could afford it except the very rich? Then Polaroid introduced instant color film to the masses and before you knew it, the entire world was snapping pictures, much like we are today with the advent of cameras on cell phones. Of course, we’re doing it a thousand times more and instantly sharing with the entire world, but ahh…technology…don’t you love it? It’s a blessing and a curse.

BugleBoy

It’s been a trip getting to this place in my life—you know, the writing aspect of it. Before moving here to the panhandle of Florida, I was living in Sunny San Diego and lovin’ every minute of it. The Navy took me there; the weather kept me. After my discharge my jobs varied, but I eventually settled into a nice position as a buyer for a men’s clothing catalog.

I was also an unofficial copywriter—that is to say, I wrote all the copy for my stock but didn’t get paid for it. While other buyers gave brief descriptions of the garments to the copywriters for identification, that didn’t fly with me. Call me a critic, but I didn’t like the garment and color names they’d choose, and the descriptions didn’t thrill me enough to grab the phone and order the shirt or slacks or belt or shoes or whatever it was. So when I handed my inventory over to the photographers and copy personnel, I also included the names and descriptions I wanted in the catalog. They liked it, it stayed, and my stuff sold. Everyone was happy.

But all good things must come to an end. The fine folks at Hanover House bought us out and consolidated the catalog, which laid off hundreds of folks, including me. My portion of the catalog—clearance and close-out items—was discontinued altogether, swallowed up by the individual departments to which the garments belonged.

That’s when I felt a call on my heart to be closer to my parents, who had relocated to Florida. Good fortune and investments allowed me to semi-retire, and I bought a small place on a couple acres in a little town south of Tallahassee. Although I hated to leave California, the move seemed to happen just in the nick of time; my mother’s health began to decline and she developed Alzheimer’s Disease.

MagicMike

Until her passing in June of last year, I was her caregiver, and although Mom and I were always close, this strengthened our bond even more. During some of the most difficult moments, I began to write—to journal the events—which led to my decision to pen a book on the experience.

And that’s how this shaky venture into the writing world transpired. The book about my experience as an Alzheimer’s caregiver is yet to come, as I’ve needed to create different worlds with different characters…someone else to trudge through life’s hazards for awhile. I’ll participate vicariously from the sidelines.

I have no idea what genre I “belong,” but when I look back at my writing style, it has a literary fiction feel, with works more character-driven than plot-driven. Although the plot is just as important to me, I simply reveal it differently. I guess that’s why I don’t feel a belonging to any specific genre, but many, for my stories can be tailored to children, young adults, and old adults alike—whichever way the story wants to be told.

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Other than writing, I love to garden, and studied landscape architecture in college. I’m a true Virgo, the earth sign, and live up to that stereotype: meticulous and detailed, grounded and practical. I love all things to do with the Fine Arts, and can usually be found singing or acting in my spare time, even playing Jesus Christ on a couple of occasions.

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

 

I used to have a room I lovingly called my office, but I began to lose that five years ago, when my twin sister moved in to help with my mom. It was nothing special: a door lying across two file cabinets that served as a make-shift desk, a bookcase from the thrift store, a love seat for visitors, and to keep in shape, a weight bench. Sis moved in, and although I could still use the desk, the rest of the room became her bedroom and walk-in closet.

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In April 2011, two weeks after I began my research into the publishing industry, my nephew moved in. His “just a couple of months” lasted two-and-a-half years and my office was officially lost in the process.

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I resigned to my bedroom  where my 1907 cast-iron bed became my workspace. On the bright side, it hastened the purchase of my Lenovo E530 Thinkpad! There’s actually a beautiful quilt under that awful yellow blanket, otherwise known as the dog blanket. My two boys, Buster and Rameses, like to lay with me while I work, and even with a bath a week, they’re dirty little critters. They’ve provided much love and comfort during my recent difficulties and I’d be lost without them.

 

2.  Where did you get your desk?  How did you go about arranging your work area?

After Mom moved in, followed by my sister, followed by my nephew, all of my stuff was displaced, boxed up, and crammed into a corner of my bedroom. I hesitate to even show you:

mess

My nephew finally moved out in January, and since then, I’ve been on a remodeling quest—and getting rid of the clutter!  It’s been a job, with many life distractions along the way.

Mom left me an exquisite Victorian Parlor Set which will finda a new home in the old office, and rather than keep the “door-desk” (which I really loved all the desktop space) I splurged and bought a BRAND NEW Magellan Series from the Office Depot: an espresso-colored L-shaped corner desk and hutch, tech station, and bonded leather task chair—the works! After I complete a couple more projects, I’ll make a video of the remodel and post it on my own blog, but for now here are a few stills of the process:

carpet

 

 

measuring wall

 

desk parts

 

 

desk assembly 1

 

 

desk assembly2

 

And the completed product, minus a few finishing touches:

workspace1

 

3.  What are some important things on your desk?  Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

 

My older sister gave me a Shoebox Teddybear years ago that I’ve always kept on my desk, no matter the job, and I like to be surrounded by inspirational quotes, with several hanging on the walls. My twin sister gave me one a few Christmases ago: “May you live as long as you wish and love as long as you live,” as well as this one during the remodel:

 

frame quote

 

4.  What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

Other than the fact that it’s BRAND NEW (can you hear my excitement?), I love all the cubbyholes, drawers, special compartments, and especially the espresso finish. I’m a natural lover of earthy colors—the greens, golds, maroons, and browns—a veritable palate of the transition of the seasons. The espresso finish is a perfect accompaniment to my dark wooden veneer dresser and highboy.

 

workspace2

The tech station comes in handy as a storage and charging spot for all my technoware. I’m ecstatic, and haven’t treated myself to something like this in years. Add to that the new 32″ flatscreen I received for Christmas and I’ll never have to leave the room.

I’ve also always had a soft spot for this dragon mug given to me by friends almost twenty years ago. It’s never held coffee, only pens and paperclips, and is currently the home of a lucky hawk feather that lit upon me one afternoon while musing in the backyard.

dragon mug

 

5. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

Coffee, coffee, and more coffee. Is that too stereotypical of a writer? Well, tough; it’s the truth. I awaken rather early and toss back a few pots to get the day started, then mainly sip it as a beverage until noon. After that, it’s usually water until dinnertime, when I have a Dr. Pepper or sweetened Iced Tea. I’ll have an occasional Pepsi or Sprite, but only if there’s no Dr. Pepper or tea. I also drink herbal teas and love the Yogi brand.

writer umboxed

 

On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author?  Who inspired you to write?

Oh goodness—fave author? How can I limit it to just one? I was raised on the classics and of course love the greats: Shakespeare, Dickens, Poe, Twain, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, C.S. Lewis, Louis Carroll—the list is endless—but I love just as many women authors, except they seem to be more contemporary (Stein, Walker, Angelo) or humorous ( Flagg, Bombeck, Stockett).

My inspiration to be a writer came from two of my high school teachers, Joan Pawloski and William Groves. I was fortunate to have inspirational teachers in each field of study, but Mrs. Pawloski and Mr. Groves went above and beyond any others in the Language Arts department. I had Mrs. P. for English in the 10th and Journalism in the 11th grade, as well as adviser to the newspaper staff, and Mr. Groves for both Spanish and 11th grade English. He was a remarkable man, a polyglot who spoke seven different languages. They each took great care in nurturing my creative spirit.

 

2. What’s your typical day as a writer like?  Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

As I said earlier, I awaken at an ungodly time of day, usually rousing in the 4:00 hour and finally rising around 5:00, but I set the coffee for 3:45, just to be on the safe side. When I get up—and I don’t need an alarm—the routine is always the same. The house is dark, save the dim light over the stove, and through cracked eyelids I feel my way to the coffeemaker, pour my first cup, and feel my way back. I’ll drink that first cup with my eyes closed and the lights out. After that, I turn on the bedside lamp and get another cup, which I enjoy with my first cigarette. Then and only then does the day begin.

typewriter

 

3.  Do you write every day?  How many hours a day do you spend writing?  What are some of your worst writing distractions?

Yes, I write a little everyday, whether it makes it into something or not. I keep a list of lines I like, phrases, words…whenever I hear, read, or think of something, I’ll write it down. I have so many parts of stories going, it’s not even funny, but a lot of these have turned into characters or scenes that I use elsewhere. I never throw anything away. NEVER.

hospital

When Mom was with me, she required a great deal of care, none of which I regret. It was difficult getting this venture off the ground being a full-time caregiver. Now that she has passed, I thought things would ease up a bit, however, two months later my twin sister was diagnosed with a severe form of breast cancer and we’ve been dealing with that. Life has a way of…complicating things.

Since September of last year, we’ve been making trips three times a week to various doctors, surgeons, labs, etc. in the ongoing battle for her life. She has two more chemotherapy treatments before surgery, and a double mastectomy is being considered. A BRCA test she took yesterday will determine for sure whether she carries the gene, and if so, the double mastectomy will happen as planned.

My other two main distractions are my boys, who like to snuggle against me and put their paws on the keyboard. “That’s enough for now, Daddy,” they tell me. Most times I can’t help but put the work aside and love on them for a bit.

dog

 

4. Why do you write?

I write because if I didn’t, I’d probably go crazy with all the stories piling up in my head. There’s always a conversation taking place up there; sometimes too many! Add to that some seriously exciting moments and terrible heartaches I’ve experienced, and it makes for good story. I want to pen these down, whether it be in fictional form or non-fictional creative writing.

I try to make sense of it all. I think God has put these experiences in my path and the desire to write about them in my heart for a reason: to share them with others, to instill a sense of strength and hope within the stories to help those in similar situations get through them. I write to promote a better sense of self.

desk decor

 

5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?  How about a favorite writing quote?

I’ll end with this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which was the same quote I used as my yearbook affirmation in my Senior year of high school. It’s from his essay, Self-Reliance:

“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.”

If you’ve followed me at all, you know what a believer I am in being true to yourself and in being true to your story the way it wants to be told. Forget trends. Forget hype. And forget success—it may never come.

Remember who you are and from where you come. Write about that, either fictitiously or realistically. That will bring you the most satisfaction and ring truest to your readers.

Peace,

ML Swift

MikeBeachGritEdgeML Swift is a writer of Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult fiction, although he dabbles in many genres.

An Alzheimer’s caregiver for the past ten years, he has published several articles on The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the largest online website catering to that community, and plans to write a novel about his experience in caregiving.

He resides in Florida with his dogs, Rameses and Buster, attempting to reclaim his side of the bed.

 

ML Swift | M.L. Swift, Writer | About.me

Twitter @mlswift1 | Facebook | mlswiftwriter@gmail.com

 

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Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your writing life, ML!

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.

 

 

 

 

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So far during this Martial Arts Month, you’ve learned a lot about Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) including:

The History of Filipino Martial Arts

Modern Masters of Filipino Martial Arts

What Exactly is Filipino Martial Arts

Now we get to the juicy part. Today you’ll learn some basics of Doce Pares Eskrima Stick Fighting.

 

REGULAR & FORMAL SALUTATIONS

The first thing we’re taught is to show respect to instructors, classmates and opponents alike. There are two types of salutations: the Regular Salutation used during every class, and the Formal Salutation, used in more formal or ritualistic occasions, as a sign of respect for the top ranking masters and grandmasters.

In the video below, Supreme Grandmaster Dionisio Canete shows the formalities and salutations.

 

 

TYPES OF GRIPS & HOLDS

Now that you know the salutations, you’ll need to know how to hold the stick. There are four types of grips and holds:

  1. Under Thumb
  2. Side Thumb
  3. Overlapping
  4. Reverse Grip

 

SGM Dionisio Canete demonstrates the types of grips and holds below:

 

BASIC STANCES (PARAMUG)

Holding the stick is one thing, but you’ll also have to learn how to “hold” yourself in a fight. There are 9 Basic Stances in Eskrima.

  1. Natural/ Normal
  2. Attention/Close
  3. Forward
  4. Deep (forward)
  5. Diagonal
  6. Back
  7. Cat
  8. Hook
  9. Straddle

 

Master Dong Cuesta and his students demonstrate the Basic Stances below:

 

TWIRLING (AMARRA/PATUYOK)

One of the things that separates Doce Pares from other schools is its focus on twirling. Twirling/Amarra combines speed and accuracy. It allows us to hit our opponents in the same spot several times in a matter of seconds, thereby inflicting maximum damage.

SGM Dionisio Canete demonstrates Amarra/Twirling principles below:

 

 

The video below shows the 12 Basic Strikes along with some of the basic defensive blocks and parries.

**note: Despite the misspelled words in the video, the moves are pretty solid.

There are also Basic Defenses to these Strikes. Although the video only shows 7, there are actually 15.

 

BASIC DEFENSE: BLOCKS & PARRIES

11 Basic Blocks:

  1. Inside Block
  2. Outside Block
  3. Double Block
  4. Semi Double Block
  5. Low or Downward Block
  6. Reverse Low or Reverse Downward Block
  7. Umbrella (payong block)
  8. Augmented or Reinforced
  9. Rising or Roof
  10.  High X Block or Cross Block
  11. Low X Block or Cross Block

 

4 Basic Parries

  1. Inside Parry
  2. Outside Parry
  3. Low Parry
  4. Reverse Low Parry

 

And there you have it– the most basic lessons taught in Eskrima. Hopefully it’s given you an idea about what Filipino Martial Arts is about. Next Friday, I’ll talk about some of the more advanced lessons–including some knife drills.

 

 

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Spotlight Week Giveaway: Dragonfly Warrior

This week the Spotlight was on Jay Noel and his exciting Adult Steampunk Fantasy DRAGONFLY WARRIOR, Volume 1 of the Mechanica Wars Series.

DRAGONFLY WARRIOR was the perfect book to promote for my Martial Arts Month. Not only does the book feature Zen, a Samurai warrior, but there’s also a scene where Zen goes into full stick-fighting mode–which is the main weapon of choice in Filipino Martial Arts. Talk about perfect alignment!

If you want to know more about DRAGONFLY WARRIOR you can read my book review here or watch the amazing trailer below:

Also, check out my fun interview with author Jay Noel.

It’s the end of another Spotlight Week, and today, I’m giving away a copy of DRAGONFLY WARRIOR.

In the interest of being green, I’ve decided to give away a KINDLE copy instead of the usual paperback copy.

DragonflyWarrior ebook modified

To win, just leave a comment below and tell me why you’d like a copy of the book.

I’ll put all your names in my magical drawing box and pick the winner.

I love encouraging people to unleash their imaginative and creative sides, so the more creative your answers are, the more chances you have of winning. If your comment/answer tickles my fancy, I’ll add another slip of paper (or two) with your name on it to my drawing box.

Also, if you tweet about this giveaway, or share it on Facebook, I’ll add more 2 slips of papers with your name on it.
AND if you FOLLOW ME on Linky OR on Facebook’s networked blogs, I’ll add 6 more entries with your name into the drawing bowl.

The contest is international and will run until March 28, 2014.

 

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Jay Noel is one of my bloggy buddies and though I have yet to meet him in person, I feel like we would get along quite well. We both share a Filipino heritage, a love for steampunk and martial arts—and cookies.

Here’s his author bio:

After doing some freelance writing and editing for more than a dozen years, Jay decided to stop procrastinating and pursue his dream of being a novelist. He’s been blogging for over eight years, and even had a comedy podcast syndicated all over the internet. All of that was fun, but all the steampunk-inspired stories in his head just wouldn’t leave him alone. Jay spends his days working in medical sales, but he can be found toiling over his laptop late at night when all is quiet.

He draws inspiration from all over: H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Shakespeare, Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams, and Isaac Asimov.

And Jay loves cookies.

Jay Noel’s website: www.jaynoel.com

Facebook

Twitter

Without further ado, I present the unstoppable Jay Noel!

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The Unstoppable Jay Noel

1. Tell us three random, unique, or weird facts about yourself.

1. I have the exact same birthday (month, day, year) as actress Alyssa Milano

2. I have a fear of heights

3. I played NCAA Division I tennis

2. What books and movies inspired your love for Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Would you ever consider writing in another genre?

My very first book that I loved as a child was Ma Lien and the Magic Paintbrush, and that started my love of mythology. I also grew up reading H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Robert Cormier, S.E. Hinton, and Shakespeare. Like most kids born in the 70s, I have to say that Star Wars was a HUGE part of my childhood.

 I’d definitely love to write in another genre, as I’m drawn to Young Adult Contemporary books.

 

3. Are you a full time writer, if not, what is your current occupation? What prompted you to take your writing seriously?

No, I’m not a full time writer. I’m a medical sales rep in the optical industry. It’s fascinating stuff, as I love science and medicine. In 2005, I started writing about the funny and strange side of science, and it rekindled my love for writing. Throughout my life, I had started and stopped…queried and got rejected…and blogging brought me back to it. So in 2011, I decided to change the format of my blog and really dedicate myself to writing.

 

4. Tell us about your path to publication.

In 2012, I received a contract for Dragonfly Warrior from a small press. It was a monumental victory for me, but alas, things didn’t work out. The publisher shuttered its doors, and I was back into the “query-world.” But I was offered a contract by another small press, and after my manuscript was about 75% done by the editors and getting cover art for my book, the publisher started going through some pretty huge financial issues. So I asked for my rights back (I had contracts for Dragonfly Warrior and its sequel, Shadow Warrior), purchased the cover art from them, and decided to go full-on indie.

It’s been a long road for sure, filled with bumps and bruises, but it was such a learning experience, I have no regrets about my journey to publication.

5. What is the coolest thing about being an indie author?

I mostly enjoy the autonomy that goes along with it. I’m writer first, business owner a close second. Being indie allows me to really experiment with what I do and change things at a moment’s notice if something isn’t working. I love the flexibility and the freedom.

6. Where did you get the idea to write DRAGONFLY WARRIOR?

Back in 2007, I was day dreaming while waiting to visit with a doctor, and a vivid action scene popped into my head. I wondered if I could write a novel around that one little spark of an idea, so I wrote it out. And I knew I had something special.

I wanted to write something different, yet something familiar enough to resonate with readers. I love science fiction and fantasy, so I decided to combine the two. When I first started drafting the novel, I had no idea that there was a word for the genre that I was writing in. When I learned that my story was totally steampunk, it was like seeing the face of Elvis in the desert…it was a huge epiphany. The world opened up, and I was relieved that there was an actual market for what I was writing.

7. The world in DRAGONFLY WARRIOR if full of mythical influences, most notably Asian in nature. What inspired this setting, and how did you go about building this world?

Like I said, world mythology was one of my very first influences, so I drew from the stuff I love: Asian, Greek, Norse, and Arthurian. I wanted to combine all of this, all wrapped up in a steam-powered world at the height of its own industrial age. I wanted to really explore the social and political implications of such a wonderful, yet terrible time in history. The reader will easily catch many of the historical references I make in my alternate version of the 19th century.

There’s enough of the fantastical to call Dragonfly Warrior science-fantasy, but there’s some underlying messages there harkening to the real world.

Dragonfly Warrior is very much an epic story much in the style of the classics I love so much like The Odyssey and King Arthur, but with a strong Asian influence.

 jay noel

8. DRAGONFLY WARRIOR is the first book in your MECHANICA WARS TRILOGY. When do the other two books come out? Do you plan any other books in the world of Zen?

The second book, Shadow Warrior, is scheduled for publication on June 5th of this year. Iron Warrior, the third and final book of this “Warrior Trilogy” will come out before the end of 2014. So yeah, I promise to not make my readers wait too long after reading the first book.

I have plans to write another trilogy set in this world, tentatively titled The Cloud Hugger Chronicles. I’m excited about continuing to push steampunk into the realm of multicultural literature.

9. If you could spend one day with any character in your series, who would it be?

If I could have assurances that I wouldn’t be maimed or killed, I’d love to hang out with the gruff, but likeable pirate Zapitoni. He was supposed to be just a minor character, but all my beta readers LOVED him. So Zapitoni comes back in Shadow Warrior, and he plays an even bigger part in Iron Warrior.

10. If your trilogy were optioned for film which scene from THE DRAGONFLY WARRIOR would you be most interested in seeing live on the big screen?

Wow. Great question. It would have to be when the raiders, led by the renegade Cheng, attack the native tribe’s fortress. I can imagine a steam-powered locomotive just barreling towards the massive wall during the attack. That was so much fun writing, and it’s so visual, that I’d have to see that on the big screen for sure.

11.  What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing-related rituals or quirks?

Since I don’t write full time, my writing time is regulated to late at night when all is quiet. I often write to music (instrumental only). I enjoy movie scores on Pandora. Helps get me in the mood. The amount of writing I do varies. Sometimes, I’ll pump out a thousand words or more in a day, other times, just a couple hundred. I’m an active participant of NaNoWriMo, and that helps keeps me productive during a very hectic time of year.

12.  What do you like to do when you’re not writing?  Any hobbies, sports, or crafts you like to spend time on?

I just took up cooking. It’s amazing, because I was the kind of person that feared the kitchen. But I decided to make some big lifestyle changes and improve my health, so I’ve been forced to get in there and prepare my own meals. So these days, I’m always on the hunt for healthy recipes.

After a long hiatus, I would also like to step back onto the tennis court. Although I long to compete, I’d like to play just for fun and to stay active.

I have three kids, so I’m pretty busy with all of their activities too.

13.  Are you currently working on any other projects?

Other than my Mechanica Series, I’m also working on a YA paranormal/horror novel with Miranda Hardy. It’s been awesome collaborating with another writer, and we hope to have it published just in time for Halloween.

14. What tips or techniques can you give writers who wish to write in the Steampunk Genre? How about writers who wish to write a series?

I think reading as much as you can in both the classics (H.G. Wells) and the newer stuff (Cherie Priest, Scott Westerfield) will help. What’s great is that the genre is ever-changing and growing. Steampunk is not a fad, and it will continue to evolve – especially beyond Victorian England.

15. What advice would you like to give to writers on the road to publication? What advice would you give to writers who wish to follow the indie path?

I’d say the best advice, other than the typical “keep writing” recommendations, is to grow thicker skin. Rejection and heartache is not fun, but without all that PAIN, I don’t know where I’d be today. So many writers these days take shortcuts, and the self-publishing platforms available make it so easy to just hit publish. Seek beta readers that are NOT your friends and family. Get your work professionally edited. Blow up your manuscript and rebuild it.

This business can be cruel, and I see a lot of writers whine and complain. Whether it’s criticism from a beta reader or negative reviews of their novel, writers just aren’t as “tough” as they used to be. Those who have been able to handle all the years of rejection seem to be more resilient.

It might hurt now, but it will make you better in the end.

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Come back this Friday for the final part of the Spotlight Week, where I give away a copy of DRAGONFLY WARRIOR.

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This month’s Spotlight Week features Steampunk novel DRAGONFLY WARRIOR by author and blogger Jay Noel

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Dragonfly Warrior (The Mechanica Wars)

386 pages, Paperback

Genre: Adult, Steampunk Fantasy

Published on December 21, 2103 by 4 Wing Press

ISBN-10: 0991235606

ISBN-13: 978-0991235605

 

First Line:

Prince Kanze Zenjiro knew his mother was going to die one day from the illness that robbed her of her usual vitality

 

Synopsis:

At the age of twenty, Kanze Zenjiro’s bloody footprints mark the bodies of those who stood in his way to protect the throne of his beloved nation of Nihon. Now, the tyrannical Iberian Empire is bent on destroying his kingdom, and they are sure to send their steam-powered giants and iron spiders against him. Zen embarks on a quest that takes him on the most dangerous journey of his life. To succeed, Zen must live up to his nickname, the Dragonfly Warrior, and kill all his enemies with only a sword and a pair of six-guns and somehow survive a test of faith and loyalty in a world so cruel and merciless, it borders on madness.

 

My Review:

 

In main character Zenjiro’s world, there are airships and pistols, but there are also samurais and fighting tribal clans.

Zenjiro is a prince, but he is also a Samurai. When he goes into a battle, he also goes into a state called Ishen which gives him laser focus, amazing speed and allows him to deal death to his enemies swiftly and efficiently. At the young age of twenty, his battle skills and prowess as a warrior are already well known throughout the land of Nihon.

In hopes of uniting the eastern lands under Nihon rule, Zen’s father sends him on a quest to retrieve the Sky Blade, an ancient sword of legend. But since the quest is also a spiritual one, Zen is not allowed to bring anything but the barest essentials and must somehow track the sword using his own wits and strength alone. With only a medallion cut from the same stone as the Sky Blade as a guide, Zen goes off on his quest.

Although Zen is the story’s central character, I was able to get a peek into the other characters perspectives as well, thanks to the novel’s multiple POV. It was great to see Zen come to life through his own thoughts, but also through the perspective of the other characters around him. He’s a good person who has flaws just like everyone else. What struck me about Zen was his strong love and respect for his mother. Years after her death, he still heeds her words and pays tribute to her memory. It was refreshing to have a warrior character show that very vulnerable side of himself.

Aside from Zen, DRAGONFLY WARRIOR is filled with other fun characters whose lives are so fascinating, they could probably have their own books. There’s Zapitoni, the pirate whose rough exterior hides a kind heart, Neva, the woman warrior who is out to save her son, and Enapay, the tribal man whose love for technology took him far from his homeland. Their individual storylines somehow weave in with Zen’s own journey to create a memorable story that spans many lands.

I love that Zen’s adventure allowed me a glimpse into his story world. It was easy to imagine places like Nihon, Koreya, Iberia and Francia not only because the names were derived from the real countries, but because the settings themselves were described so visually.

There were moments when the narrative seemed to drag on, but the action-packed scenes more than made up for them. Aside from the fun characters and well-imagined setting, the plot itself was full of intriguing twists and turns. And I love that all the steampunk details—a submarine, an airship, pistols and goggles were all set amid the backdrop of Eastern mythology.

DRAGONFLY WARRIOR is Steampunk Samurai. It breaks away from the usual steampunk novel set in Victorian England and takes readers on an adventure-laden journey into the wild East. It was truly an enjoyable read, and I can’t wait to see where Zen goes next.

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Tune in again on Wednesday for an interview with the awesome Jay Noel.

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What Exactly is Filipino Martial Arts?

Arnis, Eskrima, Kali – these all mean the same thing: Filipino Martial Arts. But what exactly is Filipino Martial Arts and how is it different from other martial arts?

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Image from EA Doce Pares , photo by Spiros Politis

1. Filipino Martial Arts is a Multi-Style System

Taekwondo and Karate are empty-hand styles of martial arts, which means that they use focus on punches, blocks and kicks.  The Japanese Kendo and European Fencing focuses on sword-fighting. Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) combines a whole range of fighting systems into one martial art.

FMA teaches both armed and unarmed fighting techniques:

Empty-Hand Techniques (Mano-Mano)

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Master Erwin of LA Doce Pares teaching empty hand techniques

Filipino-style Boxing

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G Force Martial Arts, image from aboutmyarea.uk

Knife-fighting

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Knife drills, photo by V. Rosario

Sword-fighting

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Master Dave Green (Doce Pares UK),

image from http://www.fight-cancer.co.uk/pages/events.htm

And of course, Stick-fighting

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Stick-fighting drills, photo by V. Rosario

Fighting with staffs (bangkaw), spears, whips and even darts and bows and arrows are also taught by some schools.

 

2. Filipino Martial Arts is Predominantly Weapons-Based

Most people familiar with martial arts will automatically equate Filipino Martial Arts with stick-fighting. Although this is our most recognizable weapon of choice, we are actually trained to use a variety of weapons. Knives, daggers, swords and sticks are all part of the curriculum.

The first thing they did when I started learning Filipino Martial Arts was put a stick in my hand. On my first day, I learned about the 12 striking angles, and was taught how to twirl the sticks for more impact. But as I progressed to higher levels, I was also taught how to use and defend against knives, daggers and swords.

Because Filipino Martial Arts is predominantly weapons-based, it gives students an edge when it comes to actual fighting. FMA trains students to be mentally and physically prepared to face opponents armed with anything.

 

3. Filipino Martial Arts is a Practical Art

Filipino martial artists are known for their ability to turn ordinary items into lethal weapons.

In the movie BOURNE IDENTITY, there’s a scene where Jason Bourne battles with an assassin using only a pen. You can watch the short clip below:

In today’s modern world, nobody walks around with katanas, or fencing swords. Knives, guns, even machetes and club-like weapons (bats, steel pipes, etc) are weapons one might encounter on the streets. FMA is a practical art because it teaches students how to translate one fighting form to another. We are taught to understand that weapons are merely an extension of our limbs. The techniques we learn from stick-fighting can easily be translated into knives and daggers and empty hands.

Improvisation is a part of FMA training. We are always encouraged to do a lot of freestyle sparring using both empty-hands and weapons because instructors want us to be able to automatically respond to whatever dangers we might face using whatever skill sets we have learned.

 

4. Filipino Martial Arts is Used in Hollywood Films and Military/Law Enforcement

Owing to its versatility, Filipino Martial Arts has had global impact in both law enforcement and in the world of Hollywood films.

Below, you’ll find a video of movies which used in FMA in their fight choreography:

 

I’m not sure if all of these really use FMA, but I’m pretty sure Denzel Washington trained in Eskrima for BOOK OF ELI as well as Aaron Eckhart for I, FRANKENSTEIN.

 

As for its military application, both the Russian Spetsnatz (Special forces) and the US Army and the Marine Corps actually use FMA in their combat training. Both the US Marine Corp field manual and the US Army field manual actually contains strikes, blocks and knife drills found in many Eskrima classes.

Sgt. Jim Wagner, a law enforcement officer and Army vet explains how Filipino Kali is alive and well in the Military and Law Enforcement in his article here.

 

5. Filipino Martial Arts is Constantly Evolving

As previously mentioned, improvisation is a big part of FMA training. Some Filipino Martial Artists are also trained in other forms of martial arts and they adapt their varied background into teaching FMA.

Many Filipino martial artists who form their own schools actually develop their own methods and techniques, so the art is constantly evolving.

 

Filipino Martial Arts is all these things and so much more. It’s a practical, versatile and deadly martial art with many real life applications, and one that I am blessed to learn.

 

 

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Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Becca Puglisi

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Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them  share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome  Becca Puglisi, co-author of the amazing Thesaurus trio of books, and blogger at Writers Helping Writers.

Thesaurus Book Trio

Welcome, Becca!

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Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?

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Author Becca Puglisi

I think I can safely call myself a writer, though I’m a stay-at-home mom first. I write for the YA market—fantasy and some historical fiction. I also co-author nonfiction books for writers with the fabulous Angela Ackerman. As for hidden talents, I have none; when I’m good at something, I make sure the entire world knows ;).

 

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

Well, I’d love to work on the back patio, where there’s “scope for imagination” as Anne Shirley would say, but I need to be within calling distance of my son. Since I’m an orderly person, I almost always work here. All my stuff is in its place, where I can reach everything when I need it. There’s also a nice view from my desk, which is great, considering the amount of writing time I spend staring out the window.

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Becca’s workspace

2.  Where did you get your desk?  How did you go about arranging your work area?

I wish I could say someplace cool. Sadly, I ordered it from Staples. It gets the job done.

 

3.  What are some important things on your desk?  Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

I doodle and make a lot of notes when I’m thinking, so I always have a notebook and one of my favorite pens. Also, as I mentioned, my nonfiction work is done with a co-author; I’m in charge of the business side of things, so I need certain office supplies within grasp: highlighters, stapler, stamps, post-its, etc.

 

4.  What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

There’s nothing really special about my workspace, but I love it because of what it’s become. My daughter just started kindergarten this year but my four-year-old son is still at home all day. Writing time is hard to come by, so I have a dedicated block of time in the afternoon. That time has become sacred—time when I get to do what I love and am good at. Not only do I do my writing here but I also take care of family business, make appointments, organize school stuff, etc. I get things done here, which gives me a sense of peace. I love this spot.

As for special things, first and foremost is the Dragon Triumvirate, who watch me work and keep me on track. The green one is a candle that my parents gave me in high school when I first read Anne McCaffrey and fell in love with all things Dragon.

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Becca’s Dragon Triumvirate

But writing has to be fun, too, which is where Olaf comes in. Cutest Disney Sidekick EVER.

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Olaf

And lastly, my bulletin board. It holds inspirational writing quotes and mantras, Bible verses, friends’ prayer requests, and Angela’s and my business plan. That last one is especially important for me to keep in view; when new opportunities arise and I’m unsure whether to say Yes or No, I check our plan to see if the opportunity aligns with our goals for the year. It keeps me balanced.

 

5. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

Oh, Mountain Dew, all the way. I’m so addicted that I’ve had to cut back recently, so I can write without it. But I’d rather not :).

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Becca’s favorite picture of her beautiful family

On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author?  Who inspired you to write?

Robin McKinley has to be my all-time favorite. Her world-building and attention to detail are mind-boggling. I also love Tolkien and Garth Nix. And when it comes to sheer creativity, I have to give a nod to Rowling. When I first started writing, I was reading the Harry Potter books for the first time, so those were a huge inspiration for me.

2. What’s your typical day as a writer like?  Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

Well, as I mentioned, I have a preschooler at home. My time with him is quickly dwindling, and I want to make the most of this stage of life, so I limit my writing to a two-hour block in the afternoon, when he has established activities to do. This time is constantly interrupted with requests for snacks and Mario Brothers and how-many-minutes-until-Quiet-Time-is-over, but I make it work. I always have a candle burning (right now, it’s hazelnut coffee) and music playing. I’m not an easily-distracted person, but writing is something that requires intense focus for me, so I can’t listen to music with words. Because of this, I listen to a lot of movie soundtracks. E.T., the original Harry Potter film, and the Star Trek Into Darkness albums are favorites right now. But, really, anything by John Williams will work.

 

3.  Do you write every day?  How many hours a day do you spend writing?  What are some of your worst writing distractions?

I try to write every day, but it usually ends up being 6 days a week, two hours per day. Because my time is so limited, I’m not easily distracted from it. But these two are my biggest distractions ;).

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Becca’s two adorable distractions

4. Why do you write?

This is an interesting question. I’m not one of those people for whom writing is as important as breathing. I took a three-year break from writing when my first child was born so I could have babies, and I was so busy (and sleep-deprived) that I honestly didn’t miss writing. The reason I returned to it, and why I love to do it, is because it’s something I’m good at. Writing gives me a sense of purpose and a boost of self-esteem. I truly believe God has given me this ability and, as with any gift, it’s my responsibility to hone it and share it. That’s why I write.

 

5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?  How about a favorite writing quote?

My current favorite writing tip write is one by Shannon Hale that’s making the rounds. I just finished my own NaNoWriMo in the month of January. It’s the first book I’ve planned and drafted since having kids, so I was a little terrified, and when I started, I was appalled at how bad my writing was. Then I found this quote, and it totally resonated with me:

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Becca’s favorite quote by Shannon Hale

This gives me permission to write badly—just get the words down on paper and pretty them up during the revision stage, which is my favorite part, anyway. Everything Shannon Hale does is beautiful, so this is advice I’m happy to follow.

 

Thank you for having me here today!

 

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Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your writing life, Becca!

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.

 

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Filipino Martial Arts: Modern Masters

Much like Filipino culture itself, Filipino Martial Arts evolved by adapting to the changes in current society. FMA incorporates elements from both Western and Eastern martial arts and because of its flexible and adaptable nature, you’ll find many schools teaching different FMA styles.

Thanks to modern masters such as Cacoy Canete, Dionisio Canete, Dan Inosanto, Venancio Bacon, Mike Inay and brothers Ernesto and Remy Presas, FMA has increased in prominence globally.

Cacoy Canete is the last surviving member of the original Doce Pares club, which was formed in 1932. He is a 12th degree black belt, and was instrumental in spreading the popularity of eskrima in the Philippines by spearheading the campaign to create unified sport rules to use in regional and national tournaments.

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Grandmaster Ciriaco “Cacoy” Canete, Cacoy Doce Pares

His nephew, Dionisio Canete, initiated the formation of the Cebu Eskrima (Arnis) Association. He effectively helped end the widespread in-fighting among the different FMA schools and masters, and unified FMA as a sport. (*He is currently the head of the martial art school I belong to)

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Supreme Grandmaster Dionisio Canete, Doce Pares

Venancio Bacon  or “Anciong” as he is known to many, was a veteran of many death matches in Cebu–back when Arnis/Eskrima was more streetfight than sport. He founded Balintawak Eskrima in the 1950’s in order to preserve the combative nature of Arnis, and developed many single stick techniques.

AnciongBaconGrandmaster Venancio “Anciong” Bacon, Balintawak Eskrima 

(October 15, 1912 – 1981)

Balintawak Eskrima heavily influenced Remy Presas, who is known as the father of Modern Arnis. He instituted a ranking system to identify each student’s level, taught his art via seminars and camps all over the Philippines and in the US and also published several books and videos on modern arnis.

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Grandmaster Remy Presas, father of Modern Arnis

(December 19, 1936 – August 28, 2001)

His brother, Ernesto Presas, founded the Kombatan school of FMA and helped revive the art by teaching seminars in the Philippines and abroad.

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Grandmaster Ernesto Presas, Kombatan Eskrima

(May 20, 1945 – November 1, 2010)

Mike Inay founded Inayan Eskrima and was instrumental in promoting FMA in USA’s west coast. He co-founded the West Coast Eskrima Society in Los Gatos, CA and became known in the law enforcement community  when he started teaching FMA all over the US and in Europe.

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Grandmaster Mike Inay, Inayan Eskrima

(December 11, 1944 – September 27, 2000)

Among all the masters, perhaps the most well-known is Dan Inosanto.He and martial arts icon Bruce Lee were very good friends. Dan Inosanto taught Bruce Lee FMA, particularly the use of the nunchaku, which Bruce Lee used in his famous film, “Game of Death”.

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Grandmaster Dan Inosanto

Dan continues to promote Filipino Martial Arts through his school and the Hollywood scene. Dan has many famous students including Denzel Washington, who had to learn FMA for his role in the Book of Eli; and Damon Caro, stunt coordinator and fight choreographer who worked on films such as the Bourne series, Watchmen and 300.

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Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto

These men are only a few of the trailblazers in the world of Filipino Martial Arts. I’m sure there are many FMA masters and grandmasters, whom I have failed to mention, but these men were the ones whose names and legacies I encountered during my training in FMA.

While Grandmasters Cacoy Canete, Dionisio Canete and Dan Inosanto are still continuing to promote FMA in their own circles, most of these other Grandmasters are no longer around. Although they are no longer with us their legacy has been cemented in Filipino Martial Arts and their lessons continue to influence many Filipino martial artists today.

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