Aside from my plans to start blogging again, the upcoming Pitch Wars makes this a good time to reintroduce myself! Pitch Wars is an online contest hosted by Brenda Drake where published authors/editors each choose a writer to mentor in order to help them polish & prep their novel for querying agents. Now that I’ve got Into The Black in a good place, I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring! This post is part of the #PimpMyBio blog hop, an unofficial way for contestants to get to know each other.

Hello all! My name is Brian Work, and this is my first Pitch Wars. I finally have a finished manuscript that’s gone through a few drafts, and I’m looking forward to taking part, getting feedback, and meeting some cool people!

About My Book

Into The Black (YA Fantasy)

Blurb:
Sydney grew up idolizing his mother, a former bandit turned sheriff. Unfortunately, he didn’t inherit her fighting skills, and his magic is only useful as a nightlight. After bombing his evaluation for the Petrichor Martial Academy, Sydney lands a coveted spot because an old family friend needs a student on the inside he can trust. He tasks Sydney with a secret mission to unravel a conspiracy to eradicate non-humans. Sydney may be ill-equipped for the job, but he’s not going to pass up the chance to follow in his mother’s footsteps.

At Petrichor, Sydney befriends Lanei, an aspiring knight running from a life she never wanted. Lanei has spent her life watching knights turn their backs on anyone who isn’t human. She’s also witnessed firsthand just how dangerous magic and unchecked power can be. While Sydney struggles to survive his classes, Lanei conducts her own investigation into the anti-magic cult. But the deeper Lanei gets, the more her past becomes a liability.

When a fellow student is murdered, all signs point to Lanei. Now she and Sydney must work together to prove her innocence before someone else is killed.

Themes:
Into The Black deals with equality, and the notion that nobody should be discriminated against because of how they look or how they were born. It’s about standing up for what’s right, even when you know it’s going to end badly for you. And it’s about family, specifically the family you choose that may not be related by blood.

I’ve made an effort to assemble a diverse cast of characters, in large part to reflect the diversity that I see in my classrooms. From speaking to my students, I know how much representation matters to teenagers, and I want to create characters they can see themselves as.

Origin:
Into The Black started as a webcomic back when I was fresh out of high school. My artist (Marissa Trudel) and I only posted 10 pages before life got in the way and it fell apart. Over a decade later, the characters of Sydney and Lanei called out to me again. I scrapped everything except the most basic ideas about who they were and started from scratch, creating a new world for them to inhabit. I’m incredibly fortunate to still have Marissa as one of my biggest supporters and most enthusiastic beta readers, supplying me with incredible concept artwork (as seen above.)

Playlist:
Music is a huge part of my inspiration. My playlist for Into The Black has over 400 songs on it, but here are the top 10 tracks that get me in the mood for this story:
– Art of Dying – “Best I Can”
– Butch Walker – “Into The Black” (the inspiration for the title and one of the main themes)
– Butch Walker – “Take Tomorrow (One Day at a Time)”
– Fozzy – “Unstoppable”
– Halestorm – “I Am The Fire”
– Imagine Dragons – “Warriors”
– Jack’s Mannequin – “The Resolution”
– Lindsey Stirling feat. Lzzy Hale – “Shatter Me”
– Sixx:A.M. – “Life Is Beautiful”
– We Are The In Crowd – “Long Live The Kids”

About Me

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember (starting with stories about Snoopy or Mario on my mom’s old typewriter.) After discovering Suikoden and Final Fantasy VII in eighth grade, I made a video game website dedicated to them. Over the next five years, IcyBrian’s RPG Page grew to be the largest website on the internet for RPG fanfiction and fan art. It’s long since been abandoned, and now remains as a testament to my poor naming decisions.

My background is in theatre and film. I’ve been performing for 15 years at theatres in Atlanta, Chicago, Florida, & North Carolina. I spent three years in Chicago doing improv and sketch comedy. I’m back in Atlanta now, but absolutely loved my time in Chicago. Despite the freezing winters, I find myself in a constant state of wanting to move back.

I’ve always had a soft spot for romantic comedies. A play I wrote, Once Upon a RomCom: The Bill Pullman Story, was produced at a theatre in Chicago. In it, Bill Pullman falls into a deep depression after playing the “other guy” in numerous 90s romcoms, believing he’ll never find true love. It takes the help of his fairy godfather, Jeff Goldblum, to pull him out of his funk. The coolest part of the experience was when Bill Pullman mentioned the play on NPR and even sent us flowers!

For years my dream was to make a feature film, but I kept talking myself out of it. I finally decided that if I didn’t do it now, I never would, so I threw caution to the wind and wrote, directed, and produced Uncommon Law, a romantic comedy about two best friends and longtime roommates who, after years of bailing each other out of bad dates by pretending to be married, get a notice from the government that they are now common law married. It took me four grueling years to complete, but it’s finally out there for people to see on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Amazon Prime.

Since moving back to Atlanta, my creative efforts have shifted to writing fiction and teaching high school theatre. I love working with students who are passionate about theatre, helping them believe in themselves and accomplish feats they didn’t realize they were capable of. Out of everything I’ve done, teaching is without a doubt the most rewarding. The students I’ve worked with are truly remarkable and continue to inspire me. I push myself to succeed every day so I can show them that, with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read this! I look forward to connecting with you all throughout Pitch Wars. I love talking to people, so don’t hesitate to hit me up on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Cheers!

2016 In Review

Despite the eternal struggle that was 2016, it was an extremely productive year for me professionally.
– After 5 years, my first feature film, Uncommon Law, is officially complete & available on digital, DVD, & Blu-Ray!
– Completed the first draft of my debut novel, “Into The Black.”
– Directed two plays: “Much Ado About Nothing” at Parkview High School and “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” at Collins Hill High School.
– Taught high school drama for three months at Collins Hill.
– Shot the video portion of a found footage YA horror novel I’m working on.

All in all, a successful year! No time to slow down, because my goals for 2017 include:
– Editing “Into The Black” and querying agents.
– Writing & editing the found footage novel.
– Finishing the three screenplays I’ve got in various stages of completion.
– Resuming work on my urban fantasy novel.
– Making more regular blog posts on here.

Time to get at it!

This past March I was given the opportunity to direct a production of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at my old stomping grounds, Parkview High School in Lilburn, GA. I’ve worked with the students there several times before, including a 24 Hour Play Festival I ran for them back in December, however this was my first time directing a full play over there. But when your favorite teacher from high school asks for your help, that’s what you do!

I was only getting half the class for my show, and the class had significantly more girls than guys. I already knew the teacher was going to need a lot of the guys for hers, so I decided to go a non-traditional route with mine. As much as I love Much Ado, it suffers from an unhealthy dose of misogyny, being a product of the time in which it was written. I’m an unabashed feminist, so I decided that the overarching theme of the production would be “screw the patriarchy.” Rather than gender bend characters, I opted instead to maintain the genders of the characters and cast women to play the members of the patriarchy as pants roles. It created a dynamic that wound up working extremely well, changing up the power structure and highlighting the misogyny in the play. It’s so commonplace in media to see men making sexist remarks to women that it’s easy for those occurrences to skate by. When you have women making those same comments to other women, it shines a light on the absurdity of it. In the end, we did the show using only three male actors (for Benedick, Claudio, & Borachio.) As for the style of the play, we went with steampunk because I wanted something that was close to our world but different enough that it created a little separation. Also, I just like steampunk, and the kids jumped at the chance to make their own steampunk costumes.

I made some cuts to the script, both for time and because I needed to get it down to 16 actors. I condensed the non-Dogberry portion of the Watch down to Verges & Seacole, and cut Antonio entirely, giving most of his lines to Balthasar. The only doublecasting was with Ursula/Sexton, and the only full scene to get cut was Act I, Scene II (between Antonio & Don Pedro.) The majority of the other cuts were to remove lines that referenced older myths & legends, and other things that would have been completely lost on today’s audiences and didn’t do anything to further the plot. I also edited a couple of the problematic (read: racist & anti-Semitic) lines. “If I do not love her, I am a Jew” became “if I do not love her, I am a fool,” (borrowed that change from Joss Whedon’s version) and “I’ll hold my mind were she an Ethiope” became “I’ll hold my mind, e’en were she uncomely.” Just in case anyone is interested in using my edit of the script, I’ve made it available to download here. And if you use it, please let me know! I’d love to know how it works out for you.

This was my first time directing Shakespeare, and it turns out I was in good company because most of the kids had never performed it. They were understandably intimidated, so a big part of my goal was to help them feel comfortable with the language. We spent the first three weeks of rehearsal in the classroom analyzing the text and going through it line-by-line so they knew the meaning of every single word they said. It was a given that a lot of the language would be lost on the high school audience, so it was extraordinarily important that the actors knew exactly what they were saying so the meaning would come across through them. We also did a lot of work on physicality, because I’m a big fan of physical humor and wanted to inject a lot of that into the show.

I’m happy to say that the students absolutely nailed it. From watching them, you never would have known it was their first time performing Shakespeare. They were funny as hell, and by the time we got into dress rehearsals I was getting goosebumps every time we got to the dramatic scenes. I don’t think I could have been any prouder of them if I’d tried. I can honestly say that I’d hold this production up against any college Shakespeare performance I’ve ever seen, as well as a good bit of the professional Shakespeare I’ve watched.

I was blessed with a fantastic cast and crew who made my first experience directing high school theatre such an amazing, rewarding, and unforgettable experience. Watching them get it, really get it, made my day every single time it happened, and it happened a lot. And after it was over, having a student come to me and tell me how much my belief in them made a difference in their life… Well, that meant the world to me. That right there is why teachers do this. Sometimes I wonder if students know that the whole time you’re making a difference in their lives, they’re making a difference in yours as well.

Much Ado Banquet