Life’s Subtle Snaps

We are two weeks away from the due date for our baby boy to join us.  The wait has been both fast and slow depending on the day.  My wife and I are anxiously being patient.  I feel like bragging on my wife a bit (I enjoy doing so whenever I can).  She has been amazing throughout the whole pregnancy.  Not only has she not experienced any morning sickness and barely any nausea (I keep my hard-boiled eggs far from her, hahaha!), but she has maintained a continuous healthy lifestyle throughout.  I have not made any midnight runs to Taco Bell or Baskin Robbins (honestly, if you know her, it would be the end of the world for her to even have the slightest bit of temptation for these things).  Besides her being too hot at night and eating all of our almonds and cashews, there have been no problems.  She’s been amazing in every way.

We think we’re as prepared as we can be all things considered.  The nursery is mostly put together and I still need to assemble the bassinet and install the car seat in the car, but we’re getting close to the finish line.  Life is good and this new season for us is strictly reserved for devoting ourselves to being the best parents we can be.  Everything else is taking a bit of a backseat on the priority list.

Even in this though, I need to maintain sanity and peace.  I find these best in doing the things I love.  Books, movies, and music remain my points of solidarity.  Writing is in there too but you all know that.

I’m currently reading a few books that may or may not end up on my April Newsletter (sign up if you haven’t yet).  Included in this list is Nicolas Eames’s Kings of the Wyld, which is a fantasy book I can only describe as part grimdark and part humor.  Eames does some interesting things with the genre and my lack of details should tell you it will more than likely be reviewed in full in my newsletter.  Other than that, I’ve gone through a few audiobooks that were okay but nothing that blew my hair back.  I do have an audiobook that I am extremely excited about called Cardboard Gods and deals with the author’s telling his story through his collection of baseball cards.  If you don’t remember, I have been collecting sports cards most of my life and I have a great desire to listen to his story.

For movies, I’ve still been trying to watch several films from 2017 that have gotten a lot of attention during the awards season.  I haven’t seen very many that I thought lived up to the acclaim.  One I did recently watch though that I thought was an amazing film was Wind River.  It is not an easy film to watch and recommend you be aware that the content is for adults.  The acting is superb by all the actors and the cinematography is exquisite.  If you like crime drama/thrillers, I highly recommend it.  Other than that, my wife and I have been revisiting movies from our youth.  Steven Spielberg’s Hook brought us back to childhood bliss and we quoted the movie, recalling how much Robin Williams was a master at what he did best: bringing joy and laughter wherever he went.

When it comes to music, I am all over the place.  Sometimes, I get pulled into a particular genre or artist and do not stop listening for weeks.  Recently, I’ve been glued to Haim’s “Something to Tell You” album as well as anything X Ambassadors puts out (I am counting down the days until their new album “Joyful” is released).  I can never pin down what in music captures my heart.  Believe it or not, I don’t think I could ever review a song or album, which I’ll simply explain is due to my lack of music theory understanding.  I like what I like.

Other than all this, I’m staying busy with my day job and various other things.  My wife has been good about keeping me patient and encouraged with my book, reminding me that I shouldn’t put pressure on myself to do things that would prevent me from being present with her and our son.  I agree and will continue to work, being okay if my plans get pushed out.  I still have time.

Call to Action:  Just a reminder that I will be stepping back from writing after this month.  I will do posts every five days with the first coming on the 5th of the month.  However, I will be taking two weeks off from writing anything when the baby is born.  So, if the baby is born April 4th (his actual due date), I will not post until the 20th.  Make sure to sign up for the newsletter though.  I fully intend to send that out April 30th to subscribers.

Sunday Levity: Book Store Signs

posted in: Books, Life, Reading, Sunday Levity | 2

I’ve decided if I ever own a business, it will be a bookstore. I may even look at investing in a bookstore when I retire.  If I do, it will be vibrant with sarcasm, puns, and general book humor.  You know it will.  Put it in the ground, pour water on it, and let the sun shine, I will own a bookstore when I retire.

Also, I will have a coffee bar, writing corner for writers, and plenty of reading nooks and couches.  Invest now!

Godless Review: No Spoilers

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 0

I have a strange relationship with westerns.  I didn’t grow up watching them and would probably consider Kevin Costner’s “Wyatt Earp” (a whopping 3 hr film) my first real exposure to the genre (I still have a love for this film that most people don’t.  I blame it on the fact that Tombstone was rated R and therefore I was not allowed to watch it back in the early 90s).  Over the years, though, I’ve watched more westerns and grown to enjoy the genre as a whole, but only if it has a few key elements.

Netflix’s “Godless” encapsulates everything I want as a viewer.  It has grit and grime of what I consider a great western.  Sometimes, westerns don’t feel right to me.  I expect and imagine frontier life was not clean or easy.  Sometimes, westerns feel too…shiny.  Instead, I want to feel every piece of granule of discomfort that I believe life was back during that time.  Few luxuries could be found.  “Godless” delivers on all fronts.

Set mostly in New Mexico back in the late 1800s, we are introduced to territory that is for lack of a better word, godless.  The law is sparse as the military is spread thin over the west and outlaws run rampant.  The most notorious is Frank Griffon.  With a group of twenty plus men, he is searching for Roy Goode who betrayed him and stole a great deal of money from the group.  Frank is injured and forced to hold off his search while Roy runs.

Most of the story takes place in the small mining town of La Belle where the population was cut in half a year prior when all the men who worked in the town’s mine died due to an accident.  Made up now of mostly women, children, and a few older men, the town is struggling financially.  We are introduced to a great many characters who round out a strong cast.  Aside from the beautiful cinematography and great casting, it’s the weight of the conflict that drives the story.

Every major and even some of the minor characters are fleshed out very well.  You sympathize with several (good or bad) and find yourself engrossed in what will happen.  The show takes several twists and turns, leaving you shocked that what you expected of a western is not the case.  Like I said, I want to feel every granule of sand and gunpowder and “Godless” throws it at you.  The action is felt more than just watched.

As for inspiring me as a writer, there were small elements for character building that I latched onto.  Just small details that I noticed and even if I pointed that out as something that is perfect for characters development, some people might look at me like I was a nerd (and I am but that’s besides the point).

I would be absolutely fine and satisfied with only one season of “Godless” and it ends in a manner that closes out the show in a satisfying way.  However, I would not hesitate to watch more of this unforgiving world.  If you are a fan of shows like Deadwood or Hell on Wheels, you’ll enjoy this one.

Call to Action:  I’m looking for beta readers for my book.  If interested, please let me know.  If you know of anyone who has done good work as a beta reader for other writers, please pass the word along.  It helps if you are well-read but you do not necessarily need to be a huge fan of fantasy.  Thanks!

Bitter Truths: Self-Editing

Just as it has taken years for me to learn and find my writing voice, it takes just as much time to find the self-editor’s touch.  I wrote a post last year about my editing process and as I’ve gotten further into the process, getting closer to looking for an agent, I’ve learned a few things that expand that process.  Sometimes, I forget that it’s never as cut and dry as I would hope.

I know what it is to pay a professional editor to put their hand on my writing but when dealing with a manuscript of 250k+ words, you can easily see why financially, it’s near impossible for me to take that course.  The cheapest editor I found was cents per word.  It adds up quick (trust me).  So, I have to trust my own abilities and also that of the few beta readers I’ve been able to work with.

Besides just the grammatical issues a writer has to deal with (run-on sentences, comma splices, split infinitives, etc.), I have to focus on consistency throughout the story and its three major viewpoints.  I have close to 50 secondary characters who speak (a rough guess on that number) and maybe double the number of tertiary characters who are mentioned by description and limited dialogue.  Not only do I need to make sure all of these maintain their descriptive elements, but there’s also the customs, history, and societies that have to be consistent.  As you can imagine, this is time consuming when editing.

Hence, my delay and taking longer than expected to begin sending out my query letters.  Not to mention the arrival of our first born in less than a month.  By the way, I’m not complaining about any of this.  I just wanted to make clear why things are moving slower than I had hoped when laying out my goals at the beginning of the new year.  It’s tough but not heartbreaking, hahaha.  I’ll adjust and get to these writing goals when I can.

It’s not crazy or even hard to admit that once the baby joins us, I will re-prioritize.  He will be number one and he should be.  I have waited a long time to be a father and not even my dream of being published would interfere with my heart and desire to be a capable and good father.  In fact, I trust that timing and seasons are always meant for my well-being and growth.  Entering parenthood now (so close to finishing and being satisfied with my novel) will have an impact on me as a person and therefore on me as a writer.

Call to Action:  I finally finished the show, Godless, on Netflix.  Check it out!  Highly recommended.  In fact, I think my next blog post will be a full review.

Forever Re-watchable – When Harry Met Sally

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 2

When Harry Met Sally is a film I never watched as a kid (for good reason since it’s subject matter is best reserved for adults).  All I knew about it was the infamous restaurant scene (you know the one).  So it was never on my radar growing up but I eventually found it when I got older and once I did, I have faithfully watched it at least 2-3 times a year.

Let’s go over the premise.  Two newly graduated college students who don’t know each other but are moving to New York City to pursue very different career paths wind up driving from Chicago to the Big Apple.  Along the way, they realize they are very different and do not foresee any chance of a relationship.

Over the next several years, they cross paths, catch up on life, and separate once again.  After they both have failed long term relationships, they cross paths in a bookstore (there is no better place to meet people) and begin spending time together, letting a friendship grow naturally.  There’s a mutual understanding that neither is interested romantically as they each pursue separate relationships.

Well, as fate (and a bit of natural biology) would have it, things change and love blossoms.  Honestly, if this a spoiler, it’s your own fault that you haven’t treated yourself to this gem of a film.  Love comes and we see these friends we’ve been rooting for the entire film finally end up together.

I can’t remember my exact age when I watched this great movie for the first time but I’m sure it was during my film revival era (see my previous post O Brother Where Art Thou?).  I remember being captivated by the characters and their journey to love.  The acting by stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan simply make this film work.  The direction by Rob Reiner and writing by Nora Ephron are just as superb but without the chemistry of Crystal and Ryan, this movie doesn’t last and maintain its longevity.

On rainy days, this is the movie my wife and I turn to.  For whatever the reason, the setting of New York City always seems like Fall.  This aesthetic is like a secondary character.  The colors of Autumn lead us along the advancement of Harry and Sally’s long season of friendship.  All you need is a blanket and a hot beverage (preferably coffee) to cuddle and laugh.

Quotability.  This film is rife with quotable lines.  If you know me and spend any long amount of time with me, then you know I love to quote movies (I’m not the greatest at the quote game but I love to play).  From the obscure quotes like, “You know, I have a theory that hieroglyphics are just an ancient comic strip about a character named Sphinxy,” to the best known, “I’ll have what she’s having”, there are too many moments to mention without just putting the movie on.

Call to Action:  If you haven’t seen When Harry Met Sally, I highly recommend it.  If you have, then I highly recommend you watch it on a rainy day.

Blog Changes Announcement

After giving it some extended consideration, I’ve decided to make some changes to my blog post schedule.  While I’ve enjoyed providing roughly ten blog posts a month, that number will be cut in half starting next month.  The simple reason is I will have a newborn and I cannot quite determine or guess what my schedule and capacity will be for producing posts on a regular basis.

So, starting in April I will be posting every fifth day of the month (5, 10, 15, etc.).  Nothing else will change.  You all will continue to get my musings on writing, storytelling, films, and so on.  The Shoals to the Hallowed flash fiction posts will continue to be posted on the last post of the month.

Also, with the end of April fast approaching, I will be working on the first newsletter of the year.  You can definitely expect baby news in that one, hahaha!  And at least a dozen pics of cuteness!

As for my book, life and its interruptions have slowed my plans.  Often, and other writers can attest to this, our schedules are somewhat cracked and tossed about like a ball by the unexpected.  My last bit of editing touches have taken longer and some minor additional fixes need to be in place before I’m satisfied with it.

The goal for the year remains to be agent querying and I am working at getting there.  My wife and I have even bought a desk for the living room where I plan on seating myself in order to focus my mind.  I’ve noticed I struggle to stay focused if I remain on the couch while trying to work.  Even if the tv is off, I think I associate that position with fixed relaxation rather than active creation.

I’m continually thankful to everyone who reads, comments, and encourages me as I pursue my dream of publication.  You help me push forward.

Call to Action: Seeing as how there will be fewer bits of content in the future, I am pushing my newsletter more.  There may be more meat in it seeing as how I will want to make it more appealing.  So, if you haven’t signed up for it and want to get exclusive book reviews and Shoals to the Hallowed short stories that specifically to fill the gaps in the flash fiction, please sign up!  It’s easy and free!

Black Panther Review – No Spoilers

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 0

Every year, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) expands further and deeper.  We are currently in the thralls of Phase 3 with the end of that phase, Infinity War (Part 1 and 2), fast approaching.  Since Iron Man hit theaters in the early 2000s, we’ve received new characters with unique and interesting back stories, conflicts, and victories each new year.  Some of these stories delve heavily into the Infinity Stone arc, which will act as the finale of Phase 3 and toss us into Phase 4 (however it all ends, who can say?).

Black Panther is the most recent of the MCU titles and we are launched into a fascinating world that has not been seen but has been alluded to.  In Captain America: Civil War (or Avengers 2.5 as I like to call it), we are introduced to T’Challa who is the son of the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda.  T’Challa’s father is killed in an explosion and we get our first look at the Black Panther as he pursues and looks to apprehend the man responsible for killing his father.  We don’t get much else of a backstory for Black Panther but the introduction does what it needs to: get us excited and interested in the new character.

My wife and I took in Black Panther opening weekend and we both really enjoyed the film.  It was not so much an origin story as it was a continuation of what happened in Civil War.  We were introduced to a beautiful and vibrant world in the Wakanda setting.  Several tribes of distinct peoples allow us to see the inner workings of the history and culture.  We see technology that has been widely kept secret in order to keep the countries resources from being spread to the outside world (mainly for military purposes).  Finally, we are exposed to a power struggle of self when a new king is forced to make difficult decisions and question whether or not the way of the past is the right way to proceed into the future.

Visually, the movie is stunning.  We get both strong and conflicted characters (male and female are equally portrayed, which is always a pleasure).  The action is fast and visceral.  Humor falls in place when needed and does not feel forced to add levity when it’s not needed.  The villains are memorable and just as conflicted as the heroes.  My only gripe has to do with the CGI.  Sometimes, it does not feel as seamless as you would hope in the final cut of a film of this caliber.  Maybe a bit nitpicky but I did notice it a few times)

Overall, I really enjoyed the film and messages it conveyed.  The importance of family and fathers was especially poignant.  Just like last year’s Coco, I cannot help but be drawn into a story that explores the need for family and remembering where you came from.  As we gear up towards Infinity War with stories focused on broader levels, it is always refreshing to see these more condensed stories.  We need more of them and I hope they continue to be made and shared.

Call to Action:  You know what I’m going to say here!  Go see it!  Judge for yourself.  Don’t be led one way or another on films just because of critics.  If you’re initially drawn and interested, take a friend or loved one to the cinema for a few hours.

Flash Fiction: Shoal Cursed

Cursed.  There could be no greater punishment than to be Shoal cursed.  The Shoals were an enigma even after centuries of use by the Wielders.  Books were written and burned, corrected and ink-blotted.  Some claimed the Shoals could not be properly studied or analyzed due to their volatility.  None, not even the most elder and strongest of Wielders in history dared spend more than a few minutes in their Shoal for fear of madness, death, or worse.

Therefore, the practice of Shoalways and cuts–the smallest openings necessary to wield the harbored power–were all that was allowed.  Not even the maddest of Wielders would dare risk oblivion to the world by creating a rift in the fabric between realms.  Shoals themselves were volatile and treacherous yet somehow, for some reason, the Hallowed allowed such interference.  Was there an answer to why?

Oran sat in the alleyway with his back pressed into the jagged stone wall, alone in the early morning, quarreling with himself over this matter.  His mind was a stall of angry bulls kicking and gorging wherever they could to come out the victor.  His clothes were little more than tatters after weeks of running and hiding from enemies.  His stink was enough to make the dogs sniff and leave him alone.  Food had to be stolen unless he risk returning to his home.

The streets of Breshtk carried no truths to the whereabouts and condition of Queen Erise.  Rumors dripped with uncertainty and dubious details.  She was seen alive in the village of Bolle or dead, executed by a mob of angry farmers on the Trader’s Road.  One rumor even claimed she returned to the palace accompanied by a small cadre of Wielders, killing everyone due to Shoal madness.  Oran deciphered no truth from any of the stories.

He had to find her.  The Wielder, Delya Glasene, could not be trusted.  He convinced himself of that now.  His duty called him beyond this impasse.  Destiny demanded his action.  He stood, looking out into the busy square.  None so much as glanced his way.  To their uncaring eyes, he was another beggar.  Not the Breshtk Battle Lord, Oran Ki’Tanil.

The rumors needed to be sifted through.  He needed viable information to move beyond the uncertainty.  He flexed his hands, stretched his arms, legs, and back before considering his lone belongings.  Bundled in scraps of firewood, his named swords lay in wait despite his fear of touching them.  Shoal-cursed things should not be handled carelessly.

In Search of a Quiet Place

Why is it so hard to find a quiet place, absent of all other people of the human race?  You’d think I could find a spot where I can sit down with my book and read it out loud without another soul within listening distance.  Alas (yes, I use this word often), it seems forever unattainable.

You might be asking why this is so important to me.  Seems kind of silly to be obsessed (your word, not mine) to find a place of seclusion.  Well, it’s part insecurity on my part and part the need for peace as I audibly dissect what I’ve written, only ever hearing it in the echo dome of my head so far.  Hearing my story out loud is just another step towards polishing it before sending out those inquiry letters to agents.

The next question one might ask is what my ideal location would be to endure this endeavor?  I’ve been thinking about this for over a week and I think the best I can come up with is a space with sunlight, quality air flow, a kitchen, and as much coffee and donuts as I can stomach.  Okay, okay.  No donuts.  I don’t need those delicious morsels of self-hatred (that’s my special name for donuts whenever I succumb to their temptation).  I keep thinking a basement or office space would work for my reading needs but that’s only because I don’t have access to a cabin out in the woods (too many horror movies prevent me from going in search of such a place).

So I’m still working on it.  I can’t do this in the peace and quiet of my own apartment because I have a neighbor above us who finds it his sole purpose in life to watch tv all day and speak in volumes usually reserved for professional sporting events.  Oh, and he has a lady friend who is equally loud to which every time I hear her laugh I ask what’s that sound and my wife says, “Those are the shrieking eels”.

I’m open to ideas.  If anyone has a basement, attic, and/or guest house they don’t mind me vacating for free for a few hours at a time, I would be forever grateful.  Tell you what, I’ll offer you a once in a lifetime Amazon gift card for your graciousness too.  Only caveat is you have to buy a book(s) with it.  HA!

Call to Action:  If you have any other suggestions for me, feel free to share.  I’m not quite desperate yet but I’m fast approaching!

So Long Rut!

See, it goes away sometimes faster than it comes.  The writing rut has dissipated and I’m back to feeling productive.  Unfortunately, I have been hit by a minor cold, so I’ve tired and going to bed earlier than normal.

The final touches on my current draft of my book are taking longer than expected (big shocker there).  My wife and I have been putting baby things as priority one and they need to be.  Preparing for the baby’s arrival continues to require more planning and preparation than I expected but I think it’s been good for us.  We’re making room and getting ourselves mentally prepared as well.

We started birth classes and I’ve been learning a ton.  Like, seriously, birth is more than what the movies and tv show you (another shocker, I know).  We’ve got to make a birthing plan, get furniture, clothes, and all the other baby accoutrement as well.  It’s a not a simple endeavor, which I guess doesn’t surprise me.  This little person is introduced to the world and we are tasked to make sure it survives, grows, and strengthens until it can be a self-sufficient entity.  No pressure, right?

I also had the fun experience of watching childbirth videos last week.  We are planning on doing a natural childbirth at a birthing center and after watching the differences between a hospital birth and birthing center birth, I get the appeal.  To each their own, I’m just surprised the more I learn about the process and benefits of one over the other.

So we’re a few weeks away from our new roommate’s arrival and we’re getting more and more excited.  I am preparing as best as I can for being elbows deep into diapers, vomit, and lack of sleep.  I’ve wanted kids for a long time and at 33, I’m ready to say hello to parenthood.

Call to Action:  I watched Shape of Water in my pursuit to watch the more recognized and acclaimed movies of 2017.  Yeah, I didn’t get this one.  It was a somewhat original story.  The aesthetics were probably the best part while the acting was good as well but I don’t see the Best Picture there.  Anybody else see it?  If so, help me see where I missed it.

Reading Goals for 2018

posted in: Books, Fantasy, Reading | 2

Aside from my writing and life goals for the year, I also have a reading goal.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I use to track the books I read for the year.  It’s an amazing site and provides so much great information on books.  I can get lost looking through the recommended sections because they provide many suggestions of books that are not bestsellers or mainstream titles.

This year, I’ve dropped my goal from 50 books to 30 books.  But I don’t want to just read 30 random books.  I want to expand on the quality of books I’m reading.  No matter what, I can read fantasy.  It’s not even hard for me to find books in my preferred genre but I continue to think and encourage myself to read more outside of my comfort and preference.

Last year, I was happy to explore more contemporary fiction and biographies.  I was pleasantly surprised by some of the books I read and if you are signed up for my newsletter, you saw many of those reviewed and recommended.  (Also, you should sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t yet.)

This year, I’d like to include some classic literature into my reading.  There are tons of titles to choose from so I will have quite a few to pick through.  Whether it’s Dickens or Hemingway, I’d like to read books from eras I’m not familiar with and see what I can glean from them as a modern day writer.  What lessons can I learn?  What can I learn from their use of language?  Can I find something to implement into my own writing?  These are all viable questions and I think there’s a sense of honoring those who came before me that I’ve never taken advantage of before.  It would be a crime not to dive into the pages of the classics just because I might believe there’s nothing to be gained, which is unabashedly not true.  With a little opening of my mind, I think I can come away appreciating the history of fiction.

Call to Action: Throw a recommendation at me!  I promise you, I haven’t read much when it comes to the classics besides Shakespeare’s plays.  I’m open to everything!

Nothing to Say Here

posted in: Editing/Revision, Life, Writing | 0

Sometimes I run into a wall and struggle to write.  I don’t think it’s writer’s block.  Instead, it’s a lack of inspiration or desire to write.  This is not the first time and it won’t be the last.  For whatever the reason (one day, I’ll figure out the cause and give it a good kickin’) I look at the page whether it’s blank or full and just say, “Meh…”.

Now, I’ve come across other writers on social media who describe this similar phenomena.  It’s nice to know I’m not the only one and there are quotes upon quotes of encouraging words out there to lend a helping hand to writers struggling to do what they love.  Sometimes these words help me but sometimes they leave me unmoved.

I don’t know if there’s any sure way to push through the funk, but I’ve found that I personally need to let it run its course.  The moment of inspiration will come and I’ll feel propelled, set afire to get to typing.  Until then, though, I’ve learned to simply let myself be okay with not being the typing terror (worst super villain name ever) that I’ve been the last few months.  The mind and creative muscles need a break and I think it’s healthy to allow a little reprieve now and again.

This does affect my editing plans a bit but blogging helps me micro-stretch my writing muscles.  I’m reading and listening to music and podcasts in the meantime, hoping inspiration will come.  I also wonder if my mind is preoccupied with other things (a mere seven weeks away from our new roommates arrival!).  The goal remains the same for the year but I’m not one to think I need to lay down strict red lines (aka deadlines) to meet those goals.  Sure, sooner rather than later is important but I also need to be aware of my need to take breaks and rest in the writing process.

Call to Action:  Don’t forget to do your taxes (bet you didn’t expect that one!).

Keeping Focused Through Busyness

posted in: Film/TV, Life, Writing | 2

Yes, it’s February and I’m “behind”.  I need to be better about not saying I want to have X finished or done by X.  It doesn’t seem to work for me and I feel like a fool afterwards.  I should simply state my goals without dates attached.

I am still working on my book and finishing up the final polishes while preparing my list of agents to query.  Everything is moving forward on that front and I’m still going through the “read out loud” stage of the book but it’s a slower process than I realized (shocker, I know).

Other than all that, I was a bit busy towards the end of the month helping relocate my grandparents from my hometown to Vegas.  This was not emotional at the time (I had the mindset of it needing to be done and I wanted to help my parents out as much as I could, which called for me to go to Vegas).  Now, it is a bit more emotional as I look at their house (the only one I’ve ever known) stripped of everything that was them.  All the furniture, wall décor, etc.  I might need to do a separate blog post about my relationship with my grandparents.  That one will be even more emotional and would require some personal details (no promises, but maybe).

The move went smooth but it also meant my wife and I were not able to work on the apartment purge and preparation we’ve been working on for the baby.  Speaking of the baby, we are two months away!  Whoa…  How?

Have I mentioned yet that getting everything you need for a baby is a daunting task for first time parents?  All you parents out there are nodding and saying, “Just you wait.”  I get it!  Well, we are having a heck of a time with this but I trust in our ability to prepare.  My wife is an amazing researcher and very good at finding the best quality (seriously, why would you not want to find, get, and hope for the best for your kids?).  I admit, I’m not the best when it comes to researching for products.  I look at consumer reports and I get a headache pretty quickly.  But I’m baby stepping (pun!) through this process.

The baby shower is also fast approaching, which will be fun.  Then my sister will be coming into town at the end of the month and that’s always a good time.  The obligatory Nacho Libre quote comes to mind:  “My life is good. Real good.”

Call to Action:  While in Vegas, I found the time to watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.  It’s up for Best Picture and seems to be a frontrunner for the award.  It’s a rough movie at times but very well done.  Beautiful and graphic.  I get why it’s getting praise and recognition.  I would not put it in my Top Ten of 2017 Movies list but I will say it was an amazing film with powerful performances.

Another Superb Owl Watched

posted in: Film/TV, Life, Music, Sports | 1

I’ve been a fan of sports ever since I can remember.  I have vivid memories of watching Michael Jordan and the Bulls winning the NBA Championship in 1993, the 49ers (my favorite football team) winning the Super Bowl in 1995, and the Atlanta Braves winning the World Series in 1995.  I’ve followed all the major sports at one point or another in my life and depending on the decade, have a ridiculous amount of sports trivia logged away in my brain where math and science should be stored.

I watched the Super Bowl this last Sunday and found myself feeling okay with the outcome either way.  This was mostly because neither team is the 49ers so I’m not invested.  The game was exciting and I enjoyed the commercials (more funny and apolitical make for better ads in my opinion).  I drank 805 and had some very tasty chili a friend of mine made (I’ll happily mention she requested my own chili recipes for guidance).  What’s better than that?

I haven’t talked much about sports on my blog, focusing mostly on writing and storytelling but I want to branch out more this year.  I’m fairly certain those of you who come to read my blog posts won’t mind if I stray into other topics.  As I’ve said before, to know me is to read me.  I don’t think you can know me unless you understand sports have a special place in my heart.  I played basketball in a city league and in school most of my life and while basketball was my preferred sport, I have strayed more to football and baseball in recent years.

I love talking sports with others.  I take pride in my ability to understand the rules, history, and cultural impact sports have in our lives.  I’ve often joked that there is nothing more divisive in the world than religion, politics, and sports.  You know them.  Those people who are such die-hard fans that they ooze fandom, secreting love for their team and vitriol for every other team.

I admit, I was one of these fans a few years back when the 49ers became very prevalent and had a great team again.  I have apologized to my wife since then because I was quite the turd if my team lost and far too emotionally invested in their success.  After a few bad years recently, I’ve realized my unhealthy fandom and hopefully righted the ship.  That is until they’re good again…and they might be this next season (Jimmy GQ!).

What I find so interesting is how sports shape us.  As children, the game is fun and we learn how to be team players (hopefully).  We get to run around outside and compete and learn some valuable social skills in the process.  In adulthood, many of us realize we will probably not play professionally and we live vicariously through our favorite players and/or teams.  For me, sports can serve as more than entertainment and I hope to teach my kids that once they’re old enough to make a decision to play sports or not.  Until then, I

Call to Action:  Those fricking Tide ads won the Super Bowl.  Watch and enjoy one of my favorites!

Forever Re-watchable: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 2

I love talking about movies (if you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you’ll have guessed that).  One great thing about movies for me is how re-watchable they are.  There are some that I can watch once (looking at you Fight Club and every Tarantino film ever) and be fine with never seeing it again.  Then there are those others that are gems in my eyes.  I can always watch them.  It doesn’t matter my mood or the day, throw it on the flat screen and I’m willing to lend precious hours of the day to it.

This kind of post will likely become a new monthly staple because I think the movies that are your favorites say a lot about you.  The movies that are most re-watchable for me can be for any number of reasons and it’s not limited to popular comedies or action movies.  If you were to look at my movie collection, you’d nod in agreement, shake your head in bewilderment, and want to smack me at the sight of too many Michael Bay films (13 Hours is a brilliant film that I will never apologize for having in my collection).

As you already know by the title, “O Brother, Where Art Though” is one of the most re-watchable movies for me.  It might surprise you though that I avoided it when it first came out in 2000.  There were multiple reasons for this.  I was a freshman in high school and truly lacked any sensible taste in movies, I was not a fan of George Clooney who I had only previously seen in the nightmare that was Batman and Robin (holy bat-nipples Batman!), and I didn’t like the “Man of Constant Sorrows” song (my taste in music was up there in my taste of movies in the year 2000:  Sour and bitter, lol).

So, it wasn’t until after high school circa 2004-05ish that I finally saw the film.  I was at my grandparents’ house while a bunch of extended family was in town for a holiday (probably Thanksgiving or Christmas) and the decision was made to watch a movie.  Now, my grandparents didn’t have many movies.  In fact, I am fairly certain they possessed two movies in my entire lifetime:  Fantasia and O Brother, Where Art Thou?.

The latter movie was picked and I grumbled under my breath because I was a punk (sour and bitter).  The movie’s going and I realize pretty quickly that I’m actually enjoying the movie a lot.  The dialogue is quick and fluid, the humor is subtle and on point, and the music is unlike anything I had really heard up until that point.  What was happening?  Well, I was acclimating to a brilliant film.

The Coen Brothers are masterful storytellers.  I will eventually write a blog post just on them as filmmakers but for now, I have to sing their praise for just this single film.  I know it’s strange but I truly do believe that they had a hand in what I will call my cinephile birth.  Thinking back now, I can truthfully pinpoint this experience with “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” as the moment when I began to appreciate film for more than just entertainment value.

For me, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” is forever re-watchable.  I love the pace, the quotability , and cinematography equally.  I think you have to love every aspect of a film in order to be able to always be in the mood for it.  There has to be this sense of, “I will feel better if I watch this.  It will make me happy and last with me the rest of the day”.  And this film does this every time.

Call to Action:  Let me know what you think of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”  If you haven’t watched it before, I highly recommend you do so now.  Is it a favorite or one that’s just okay in your book?

Flash Fiction: Old Wolves

Bramble crunched underneath the wagon wheels of the merchant train.  No rain had touched this part of the world in months.  The city of Rastome was still days away according to the mile markers painted on heavy rocks set alongside the Sael Highway.

In the days since leaving the capital city, Charun, Barston kept to himself and followed orders.  He along with the other hired guards were mostly ignored by their merchant employer whose name was Lavan Pahl.  It was Pahl’s partner, Freilas Atruam, who bore the signs of a former soldier giving most of the commands to the hired men.

Barston found himself drawn to Freilas as if he knew the older man all his life.  Thin but strong, bearing dark skin and stony eyes, he moved as if the world could not contain him.  A deadliness inhabited him as well.  Adept with a bow and sword alike, he did not waver when the first group of road bandits attacked the previous day.

They lost two of the hired guards during the scuffle while two others had to be put on litters much to the chagrin of Pahl.  Freilas had a way of explaining and calming his partner, which the guards appreciated after realizing Pahl played to loose and free with his mule whip.  Barston believed there to be a great story behind Freilas’ life and wanted to know it.  Was their shame?  Dishonor?  If so, he had found peace.  Barston cared little for such a gift for himself but to see it in Freilas made him curious.

When Freilas came alongside him all of a sudden, Barston forced himself to relax.  The older man did not engage in private conversations unless a reprimand was coming.

“The men say you did not draw your sword yesterday.”  Freilas’ voice was like ice sliding against a boulder.  Up close, the smell roasted red root was undeniable and was the obvious reason for the man’s voice.  Smoking the crushed pieces of red root was not kind to the throat.

Barston swallowed.  “I didn’t need to draw it.  My dagger did just fine.”

Freilas gave him a sidelong look.  “You don’t happen to be one of those pit fighters back in the capital, are you?”

The smile could not be kept away.  “No,” Barston said.  “Just one who knows when a dagger’s reach will suffice.”

“Hmm.  Lavan wants me to have you punished.  Don’t worry; it won’t happen.  You may be reckless but you managed to gut two of the road rats with that short steel.  Make sure you don’t hesitate to draw the long blade next time.  I’ll be watching then.  You can’t be blade shy these days.”

He separated from Barston and quickened to the front of the train.  The exhale of breath did not leave Barston feeling better.  His eyes darted about the countryside, hoping to the Hallowed they would not be attacked again.

Collector at Heart

posted in: Life | 0

As my wife and I prepare for the baby (April is fast approaching!), much of our preparation is making space.  We’ve lived in our apartment our entire marriage and that’s years of acquiring stuff.  However, as would be expected, a purge is needed.

I admit, I’m not the best at de-cluttering.  Much of that comes from my dad who is the same way.  We have similar mindsets of “I don’t need this now but I may need it in the future”.  Not an excuse for our behavior but just a way of thinking that not everyone else has (my wife being one of them).  I’m thankful my wife is not like me in this way because we’d have a heck of time getting rid of stuff.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this though.  Much of my behavior comes from being a collector.  I’ve collected sports cards since I was probably seven years old.  While cards have been my most consistent item of preference, I have collected everything from comics to pogs (showing my age with that one but yes, I was a major pogs nerd).  Later in life, I’ve come to add movies, records, and books into the mix.  These later items however do not hold the sentimental value that cards do for me.

Bless my wife for putting up with me.  The purge is happening and I know I need to make some tough decisions.  I’m writing about this because I don’t know what makes me this way.  I can’t figure out what pushes me in this direction.  When it comes to cards, I collect what I’m most interested in.  I’m not the type that goes after quantity but instead, what I will call selective quality.

I think I do it because it’s a stress reliever and maybe keeps me from boredom.  Now, I don’t think this necessarily always a good thing because I can easily waste my day away searching online, organizing, cataloguing, etc. my collections.  Since I’ve been married, I’ve had to make conscious adjustments to how I spend my time and sometimes that’s been easy while other times, it has been a little less easy.  I know and I’ve been telling myself for months now that I need to make more conscious effort and prepare myself when the baby is here because he will require a lot of my attention.

If I were a more selfish person, I might fight this but if marriage has taught me anything, it’s that it’s not all about me.  So, maybe my five plus years of marriage have actually been preparing me for this aspect of parenthood more than I ever realized.  My collecting habits won’t likely stop but I will adapt.

Call to Action:  Check out the show Godless on Netflix when you get a chance.  I’m a few episodes in and it’s very good.  Well-written and acted by all accounts and for some reason I love gritty westerns.

Disappointment: The Twists and Turns of Life

posted in: Life | 1

I’m sure you’ve all heard it before: “Life is full of disappointment”.  It’s like history’s first pessimist spread a virus, passed on from generation to generation.  We all get to hear the words and consciously or subconsciously accept it as truth.  Now before you think I’ve been struck by some kind of head trauma, I’m not saying disappointment is some mystic force jammed down our throats.  No, I’m saying we approach disappointment wrong.

Is disappointment inevitable?  I definitely think so but I’ve decided that I don’t want to live as if it is soul crushing when it happens.  Relationships, finances, career, society, etc.  All of these can cause disappointment in our lives.  A lot of times, it’s based on factors you can’t control or maybe choices you’ve made unaware of the outcome.  It comes and we face it.

I’m even beginning to wonder if disappointment is a reaction we’ve been “instituted” to have when life’s turns and twists take place.  If it is just a reaction similar to excitement or anger, then can it controlled?  If we have a choice in the matter, can we actually will ourselves to step back and not let the negative emotions that come with disappointment affect our outlook of the situation?

I don’t claim to have an answer (sorry, this is not a post with answers…just reflection).  What I can offer is my own battle with this.  Recent financial happenings in my life have gone in directions I did not anticipate.  I admit, I got down for a moment but I also know I can either wallow in the dust or stand and press on, in hope, believing victories will come.  It’s not always easy but doable.  If you are person of faith, then you would put that hope in God.  If not, then you would put that hope in yourself or maybe significant others in your life.  Either way, you are moving forward without letting disappointment convince you there is nothing better.

Too often we witness people we know either intimately or simply as acquaintances falter under disappointment.  Depending on the level, this can cripple dreams or make people look for help in various arenas.  My hope would be that we all stop responding to the unexpected in a way that would blind us to the opportunity to try again or make any adjustments needed to set the course right again.  For myself, I don’t want to miss the better parts of life because I convince myself something can’t be done or that I’m incapable of having an attitude and outlook that would see me above the trial.

Call to Action:  Look back at a recent disappointment (I’ve got a fresh one for myself) and seriously take a moment to examine it.  Write it all out as well and see if you can find the positive opportunities.  Sometimes we need to dissect the twists and turns to see other possible doorways.

Sunday Levity: Parenthood is Fast Approaching

posted in: Life, Sunday Levity | 0

Okay, so I was just surfing through Pinterest and found these.  I needed a good laugh and got it.

I have yet to find a way to prepare myself for the pee, poop, and puke smells I will be inundated with once the baby is here.  Maybe I should go to bars…

I need this mug as a simple reminder.  This is one thing that keeps my mind active every day.  I pray, “Dear God, please help me keep the baby alive.”

HAHAHA!  Yeah, I’m not prepared for when this starts happening.

So, I read this and lost it.  My wife was watching a video that was very much on the serious side and I had to apologize and explain why I suddenly fell into a laughing fit.  Try reading that and not using Liam Neeson’s voice in Taken.  So hard not to!

Call to Action:  Hope you all are having a great Sunday.  If you can, thank your parents for somehow maintaining enough self-control and not locking you in the bathroom for an hour’s worth of peace and quiet.

The Greatest Showman Makes the Top Ten List

posted in: Film/TV, Music, Review | 2

Well it didn’t take long but I’ve got to amend my Top Ten Movies of 2017 list.  My wife and I took in The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman and an amazing, talented cast this last weekend and I came away extremely happy.

Musicals were not my thing growing up.  I was never a fan of Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, or The Sound of Music.  After thinking about why that is, I came to a somewhat simple conclusion: I didn’t like show tunes.  My tastes in music were never great as a kid.  Like most kids, you listen to what your parents like because they have control of the stereo and tape deck (yep, antiquated) in the car.  I have memories of country music, Amy Grant, and Paula Abdul.  Straight up.

It wasn’t until I got older that I started exploring music and finding what I liked.  I’ve got some truly cringe-worthy periods of music in my younger years (I’ll still argue that Creed’s first album is a great post-grunge alternative album to this day).  But, I digress.  Back to musicals.

Every once in a while, I did run into some musicals that I liked and could tolerate thanks to my sister.  Newsies being one of them.  Nowadays it’s a bit different.  I watch Grease and don’t hate it.  I watched the most recent Les Miserables and I didn’t hate it.  I’m intrigued by other musicals like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen.  Then there’s films like La La Land, Sing Street, and Begin Again.  I’m drawn to music and when it’s combined with film, I am like a moth to the flame.

So, The Greatest Showman was amazing and captivating.  I found myself smiling throughout the entire film and appreciating the production, acting, singing, and choreography throughout.  Man, do those songs stay in your head days after too!  I kept hearing the positive reviews and became more and more interested in seeing it.  So glad we went (we almost didn’t due to an already busy weekend).  Like I said, this has entered my Top Ten Films of 2017 and means something has to come off the list.  At this point, I don’t know which movie is being bumped but it’s got to be done.  Err…  Sorry, Gifted…  You’re being moved to the Runner-ups.

Call to Action:  Other than saying you should go to see The Greatest Showman, I’m curious which musicals people enjoy.  Film or stage doesn’t matter.

On This Day: 15 Jan 1985 – Ender’s Game First Published

posted in: Fantasy, On This Day, Reading, Review | 0

I’m not a big science fiction reader.  If you’ve been following me over the last year, I’ve made that pretty clear.  I don’t have a good reason for it except to say while I enjoy watching sci-fi movies, reading sci-fi is a struggle.

However, there is one sci-fi book that I love and cherish: Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.

I read Ender’s Game my freshman year of high school (this might have to do with my love for it since this is when I fell in love with reading in general).  My friends encouraged me to read it and I couldn’t put it down.  It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before and did not bore me to tears.

Andrew “Ender” Wiggins is the youngest of three children in a future where only two children are allowed per family.  All children are born with an implanted monitoring device, which is used by the government to pick out children they deem worthy of going to Battle School.  The children selected for such an honor are monitored and trained by the International Fleet (IF) in hopes to create new generations of soldiers to fight in an ongoing war with an alien race referred to as “Buggers”.

At Battle School, Ender makes friends and enemies as he tries to rise through the ranks despite his young age and small stature.  He is faced with challenge after challenge by the IF to see if he can withstand the pressure.  We follow his mistakes and victories (there are plenty of both) as he struggles not only physically but psychologically to be the best.

I continually find myself returning to this book.  I’ll often listen to the audiobook or watch the movie (this is not the greatest of adaptations but decent and worth watching) because I can’t help but engage in Ender’s story.  It’s a story that is complex without being overly complex.  I would argue it’s a grounded sci-fi, offering new ideas and advanced technology without inundating you with so much, you feel like your head will pop.

Call to Action: I highly recommend the book.  It’s not a long read and you’ll fall in love with Ender and some of the other characters.

Remiss to Reminisce

posted in: Life | 2

I turned thirty-three almost two weeks ago and I’m beginning to notice something as I get older (no, this won’t be a gripe session about unwanted ear hair).  I reminisce a lot.  And I mean more than I ever have before.  I’m sure this is a natural occurrence as we age but I do it especially with my long-time friends.

Recently though, I have been doing it on another level.  First, some background.  I grew up in a heavily Pentecostal church (with a brief stint in a non-denominational one) and was indoctrinated into the 90s church pop culture.  Yes, that’s a real thing.  This came with a bevy of things like no wearing hats in the sanctuary, not being allowed to listen to secular music (but we could watch secular movies), attending youth group, Sunday School, and Vacation Bible Schools in the summer, etc.  You get the picture.  It was a community and culture centered on religious practices of following the Bible.

Now, I am not bashing this.  I can honestly say that as I’ve gotten older, I have enormous appreciation for this experience as a kid and teenager.  Those long-time friends I mentioned before are ones I met at church.  I’m forever grateful for these friendships for many reasons.  I also have an appreciation for charity, community, music (church is what got me into playing drums and remains one of my greatest passions in life), and potlucks that I otherwise wouldn’t have.

I am thrust into the pool of reminiscing because my wife and I were recently turned onto a podcast called Good Christian Fun.  This podcast explores specific topics in Christian pop culture from music to movies that I grew up very familiar with.  So many of these have been like digging through my childhood.  Side note: the podcast doesn’t try to push you towards or pull you away from Christianity.  It simply explores the things of that time and their influence.

For the last two weeks, as I listen to these podcasts, I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood and how I have been shaped by those church experiences.  I’ll be honest, there are good and bad things.  I won’t delve deeper into that right now (maybe in the future but no promises) but it does have my wife and I exploring how we will raise our kids.  You want to learn from your mistakes and even from your successes and use that when practicing parenthood.

As I reminisce, I get the profound notion that doing so will pave the way towards helping me be a better husband, father, and person in general.  I have embarrassing stories up the wazoo that make me cringe to this day because I made decisions based on feelings or misgivings rather than knowledge and wisdom.  As a parent, I don’t want to follow that road.  Sure, there will be mistakes made along the way but I think I can avoid some by simply considering the past.

Call to Action:  Seriously, if you grew up in the church bubble in the late 80s, early 90s (I mean the days of DC Talk, Michael W. Smith, Left Behind, etc.), then you should check out the Good Christian Podcast.  You’ll laugh and shake your head many a times as you hear the references.

Rewriting the End…Again

Starting a story is easy for me.  I don’t know why but it just is.  The end?  Not so much.  I have yet to know the end of a story (I mean in the novella or novel form) before I start from the beginning.

For most of 2017 I have been working on my rewrite/edit of my book, So Speaks the Gallows (if you’ve been keeping up with my blog and/or are subscribed to my newsletter, then you know this already).  As I near the end of this endeavor, it’s interesting to find I have probably put the most work into the beginning and end of the book.  I think this is good because of two reasons: the beginning is what I am banking on the reader to be gripped by (to keep reading) and the end should be satisfactory as a whole but also urge the reader to want to continue on this world.  For the ending, I’m definitely more satisfied with the changes I’ve made.

Once my edit is complete, I am not finished (you never truly are finished with a story).  I have both beta reader and personal notes that I need to go back through the book and apply.  These are minuscule in size.  Some are basic fixes like making sure I mention a detail about a character or place.  Others might be a consistency issue.  Now, some might think this trivial but I always think about the world needing to be lived in.  It’s those small details that help add shades and tones, seeing the richness of everything.

I’ve been working on this book for a decade and I continue to be surprised when I come across a section or passage that makes me cringe.  My eyes roll over it so easily now that I know I need to move slower from page to page.  After all the editing is done, I will read my book out loud (alone without another soul within a hundred yards).  The reason for this is to make sure what I read flows and doesn’t read clunky.  I’ve got the future audiobook to consider!

So, I’m progressing with this wonderful story that I love to immerse myself into.  I know the world and characters so well (I better after so many years!) and I continue to want to do them justice.  I can’t get complacent or sloppy.  Not now.

Call to Action:  Anyone have any book recommendations?  I realized I don’t ask this enough and I’m always looking for new books to add to my “To read” list.  Fiction, non-fiction, autobiographies, etc.  Let me know!

My Top Ten Films of 2017

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 2

I always see top ten lists of films at the close of the year and I thought it would be fun to do the same.  Granted, I haven’t seen every major release so I can’t give those a rating or even consideration.  For example, I haven’t seen “Get Out” or “Split” so I can’t include those, though I have heard great things about both films.

My taste in movies can be odd at times.  Sometimes, I will fall in love with a film for a very simple reason, which stands out and makes a lasting impression in my extensive film mind-vault.  Lists are subjective, so if you disagree or think I’m plain crazy, that’s cool.  Send me your list and I’ll give it a read and tell you why I think you’re crazy.

Note: I’ll avoid spoilers with each blurb.

10. It

A horror movie is in my top ten?!  Yes.  Yes it is.  Let me explain.  Despite being a genre that I don’t prefer, this was a very well-done film.  The acting was great, especially considering the child actors who were the heartbeat of the story.  Without their amazing performances, this would have flopped hard.  Pennywise, the villain, is not enough to make this a top ten movie.  He’s there, he’s the antagonist, but it’s how the kids band together to defeat him that makes this work.  You can check out my full review here:

9. Gifted

To be honest, Gifted did not seem to be on a lot of people’s radars when it came to movies in 2017.  From the trailer, we see a precocious little girl being raised by her uncle who has a knack and ability to solve difficult mathematical equations despite her age.  It’s not really an original story idea but the reason why it made my list (besides just being heartfelt and well-performed) is a particular scene in the middle of the movie.  As the little girl is having a difficult time adjusting to the attention she’s getting for her genius, her uncle takes her to a hospital and they’re waiting and waiting (she doesn’t understand why and neither do we, the watchers) when a new father comes out to the waiting room and announces the birth of his child to his family who has been waiting for hours.  Excitement ensues and the little girl joins in.  Seriously, this kicked me in the feels and tugged the heart strings.  Check this one out if you haven’t yet.

8. Logan Lucky

Under-rated and under-the-radar.  Logan Lucky is not only fun but has great, subtle moments that you miss upon first watch.  It’s directed by Steven Sodenberg who directed the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy.  This has a similar feel but involves West Virginia, NASCAR, and Daniel Craig with a hilarious accent.  How this movie was ignored by people, I don’t understand but it is absolutely worth your time.

7. War for the Planet of the Apes

I never cared for the older Planet of the Apes films.  I was an 80s kid but only saw the first and it didn’t grab ahold of me like other sci-fi properties.  However, I have been a huge fan of the newer films.  The motion capture technology plays a big part in the performances of the “apes”.  Andy Serkis is a Mo-cap master.  Just look into his career and it’s impressive.  This is the third installment and surprised me on many levels.  Not only does it progress the story, which leads into the original PotA movie but it brings true depth to the Apes and their will to survive and find peace.

6. Coco

Vibrant and beautiful.  Coco is a stunning film with so much heart, you can’t help but walk away feeling like you did not waste your time.  It’s visually amazing as the animation continues to push the bounds and it has an amazing message of family and honoring those from the past and those in the present.  Check out my previous blog post for more:

5. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Tobey Maguire was good.  Andrew Garfield was okay.  Tom Holland is perfect.  Yes, in my mind, this version of our friendly neighborhood Spider-man was and is the best of the roster we’ve seen in films.  Keeping Spidey in high school is a must.  Not rehashing the origin story is the best decision of the story.  Having Michael Keaton as the main villain brought weight and actual conflict to the plot.  Hands down, I am most excited to see where this franchise goes more than any other Marvel property in the cinematic universe.

4. The Big Sick

This was a pleasant surprise.  I watched the trailer and thought to myself, “I have to see this movie”.  For those unaware, it’s based on a true story of how the main character met his wife.  Some things were changed for the flow of the film but the basic plot is the same.  It’s a pseudo-rom com that focuses more on how the main male protagonist sacrifices his time to be near the girl he cares greatly for while she’s in a coma (not a spoiler if you’ve seen the trailer).  What I loved most about the film is the relationship formed between him and the girl’s parents in the middle of this horrible situation.  It has heart and humor by the fistfuls.

3. Wonder Woman

I don’t know what more I can say about Wonder Woman than I already have in my previous blog post review, which you can read here:

This movie gave me chills.  The No Man’s Land sequence is probably my favorite of any movie in the last few years let alone 2017.  Gal Gadot is mesmerizing and embodies the character of Wonder Woman perfectly.  Even though I did not like the climax (#bossfights), I would still give this film a high score and I can’t wait to see what they do in the sequel.

2. Baby Driver

Surprise film of the year for me.  I saw the trailer and thought it was worth watching.  Could be good.  I like director, Edgar Wright, who did Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  Should be a fun watch.  What I got though was a fast action caper synced to the second thing I love most behind storytelling: music.  Action, comedy, and drama.  All of it is there.  Throw in slick editing and production and you’ve got what might be a universal top five film on most lists.

1. Logan

My favorite movie of 2017 is hands-down Logan.  Confession time: I cried during the trailer.  That two and a half minute video soaked in the age and conviction of Johnny Cash, covering “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails just broke me.  And yes, I did tear up during the film itself as well.  The reason, though, that Logan was my favorite movie was the finality of the character and his struggle through life.  In my opinion, there is no more tormented super hero than Logan aka Wolverine.  For almost two decades over several films, Hugh Jackman brought the titular hero to life.  Due to the nature of the film industry, it’s inevitable to see someone else don the adamantium claws but I remain convinced that Jackman brought the depth needed so we got a legitimate Wolverine and not some campy nonsense that left a bad taste in our mouths.  Go here for my complete review:

Runner-ups: Thor: Ragnarok, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Free Fire

Call to Action: This list is prone to change since there are about a dozen movies I still need to see: The Shape of Water, Hostiles, Downsizing, The Greatest Showman, I, Tonya, The Disaster Artist, Blade Runner 2049, Battle of the Sexes, etc.  If I do make some updates, I’ll make sure to let you all know by a blog post.  I have a feeling the list could be impacted.

A New Year to Embrace

posted in: Editing/Revision, Life, Writing | 2

What will happen in 2018?  I know I can’t be the only person to ask this question as we enter another new year (yeesh, as I get older, I lose the enthralling alacrity of what that means).  Obviously, my hope and prayers are that we suffer no losses, come ahead in our bank account statements, come out even or ahead in taxes, etc.  On a grander level, I’d sure love to see some social media climate change.  The vitriol every day definitely got old and I fear for the sanity of anyone who took delight in seeing the onslaught of drama and pettiness exhibited through social media streams every day.  Maybe it’s just wishful thinking and I should aim lower.  How about Deadpool 2 being better than the first?  Oh, and I’d love it if Avengers: Infinity War doesn’t take a nap.  I’ll set my expectations low.

Personally, I’d like to be kinder and gain some patience.  Come April, our baby boy will teach me a lot about myself.  I told my wife the other day that I want to make sure we not only prepare ourselves for his arrival and addition to our lives but also make sure we get rest, find time to relax and read (very important for new parents, I think), and be intentional about having time together.  I have this sense that as new parents, we will need to make necessary adjustments (an obvious statement) but also make sure we don’t burn out and let our emotions beat us down or each other for that matter.  And don’t tell me, “Oh just you wait, you’ll be crap-deep in diapers, crying, and baby puke” as if that’s all it is.  I kind of refuse to settle for that kind of attitude.  Our baby will not be a burden but a joy!  (If I’m wrong, you can take it to the bank that I won’t come back here and admit it to all of you.)

We went through a lot of changes and shifts in 2017 (still talking about myself and my wife. No political commentary here).  Job changes, pregnancy, financial decisions, etc.  I think we needed to make those choices last year in preparation for this year, which I foresee to be more stable.  There will be surprises (some good and some bad) and we will have to be ready and act as everyone must in order to keep the unexpected from keeping you on the ground.  What I want, though, is to learn and grow in each moment.

To gain wisdom is what I want most in 2018.  As a husband, father, brother, son, professional, writer, musician, and however else I might describe myself, I want to come away, and exhale accomplishment.  Maybe I’ll do that by the end of 2018 here on the blog.  In fact, here we go, on 27 December 2018, my blog post will be a look back on the year, but also an inspection of this first post of the year.  We’ll see if I accomplished what I wanted to succeed in.  Wisdom is what I’ll be chasing in 2018.

Call to Action: What would you like to see in 2018?  Doesn’t have to be a personal goal but let me know what you’d like to see or experience.

Flash Fiction: Faces and Places

The falling dust mesmerized Teelee as she watched wide-eyed.  It was her favorite part of helping Master Shotra.  She was not to call him the Twig any longer as they traveled together.

Settled against the wet canvas, her eyes ran along the dust-covered surface, reading the words written.  No, they were not written like one would see on a sign or a piece of parchment.  These words were different, though she did not think she could describe it to anyone if they asked.

“What do you see?” Master Shotra asked.  They had stopped off the side of the road along the countryside, heading for a place called Duggin’s Hill, which Teelee had read on a previous canvas.

The day was bright and warm but Teelee kept one eye on the gray clouds in the distance.  She did not like rain.  That would mean coldness and it would also mean she would be soaked through.  Her brother had punished her by making her sit underneath the leak in the roof after she “stole” his place with Master Shotra.  She told him it was an accident but Dag did not care.

“Girl,” Master Shotra said, poking her in the ribs.  He pointed at the canvas.  “Pay attention.  You’ll not be returned home until we’ve completed our task.  Now,” he pointed at the canvas again, “read.”

Teelee could not help looking at the clouds again before turning to the canvas.  “Delya.”

Master Shotra stiffened and winced.  “And?”

She let her eyes roam over the canvas until she found another word.  “Glassene.”

“Hallowed harbor me,” Master Shotra slumped, dropping to a sitting position on the dusty ground.  “Of all the…  You’re certain?”  She nodded and he spoke on, saying things she did not understand.  “Of course it would be.  Always the loyal hound to the Holds…  This is just punishment.  Penance for my errors.”

Teelee ignored him, uninterested in the canvas now that she finished her job.  She moved to the mule that pulled their wagon.  Master Shotra said it had no name so she had decided on one for him on their first day together.

“Hello, Apple.”  The animal’s love for the fruit was indeed the leading factor for the name.  “I hate rain.  I hope we stay dry for the rest of the day.  Today’s my birthday but I don’t think Master Shotra knows that.  Mother would have given me honey this morning…”

Master Shotra was pacing now, still talking to himself, oblivious to the world.  Teelee leaned in close to Apple’s ear, “Don’t tell him but I saw something more this time in the dust.  It scared me, Apple…  I don’t want Master Shotra to die.”

First Year Retrospect

Crazy.  That’s my best-word choice and thinking when I consider the last year.  I took to starting a website and blog with the idea that I wanted to write more and establish a platform as a writer.  I had some ideas and believed I could begin to have a voice in a world full of voices.  After a year, I think I made a dent but not a full impact.

While the website could use an update (I’m in the process of looking at my options), the blog has been the bigger surprise.  I started by writing about writing, especially my own thoughts and experiences with the craft.  Looking back, this was a much needed release because I had things I wanted to say but did not have an outlet.  The blog gave me that and now I feel ready to go beyond those topics.

I like themes and scheduled topics.  Sunday Levity, On This Day, and Flash Fiction posts allowed me to do this and those have been extremely fun and rewarding.  Each will continue moving forward and more than likely be a staple of my blog.  The posts in between will likely change and shift focus.  I loved being able to do my Stranger Things Season 1 Review and Rewatch in October.  With Season 3 green lit, you can expect the same treatment for Season 2.  There will be less in terms of “writing” posts but you’ll continue to get my thoughts from a writing perspective as I encounter new stories and even go back and explore old ones.

Outside of the blog and website, my life has taken unexpected turns.  Come April, my wife and I will be arms deep in parenthood.  How this will affect me as a writer, I cannot begin to know or guess but it will bring an adjustment.  That baby will be priority number 1a with my wife being 1b.  They will be my focus.  Then I’ll have work and then writing.  So right now it’s a matter of preparing and putting any notion of selfishness aside.

What I’m not worried about is the time to write.  I will find it.  My plan is to finish So Speaks the Gallows and find an agent remains.  Those updates will be shared and even if I get rejection letters, I will share those with everyone.  Obviously, my hope would be to receive a letter stating an agent would love to represent me but the more I follow other writers on social media, the more I see that rejection letters are more common than acceptance letters.  Maybe 2018 will be my year of querying.

When it comes to the newsletter, I’ll stick with it and hopefully get more sign ups.  It makes it easier for me to devote the time (it is time consuming) to provide more content if I know I’m reaching more people.  However, I do understand if people have too many newsletters arriving in their inboxes.  The more you have, the less time you have to read them all.

Other than that, I have some other personal goals I’d like to see accomplished but I read somewhere that not all goals should be made public.  Apparently, that can sabotage your chances of finding success.  Not sure if I believe that but I’ll keep them close to the chest for now.

I hope you all have had an amazing year!

Call to Action: The final call to action this year is to sign up for my newsletter.  Seriously, why haven’t you done so yet?  You get some fun book reviews and an exclusive Shoals to the Hallowed short story, which you won’t find anywhere else.  There are things happening in the story you won’t know about unless you sign up.  So do so.

The Last Jedi: Quick Thoughts (No Spoilers)

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 2

After avoiding any potential spoilers for The Last Jedi, I was able to watch it at the end of last weekend.  There will be no spoilers here but I will make references to key plot details in a vague manner (no exact details).

Overall Plot Direction.  TLJ definitely surpassed my expectations when it came to the plot and moving things forward in this Skywalker Saga.  I had read and heard some popular theories about what could happen in the new chapter and while there were hints of these theories coming true, the story went in various directions that were both surprising and refreshing.  There were key moments that I thought to myself, “Yes!  That’s great writing!” and then there were things I had to process after watching and say, “Okay, I like that and I’m curious to see where it goes from there.”  Now, there are also elements that did not work, leaving questions and making many people (I’m sure you’ve seen the bad reviews from people you know) unhappy with the direction of the plot.

Star Wars Spectacle.  Star Wars as a property is synonymous with Jedi, Sith, The Force, etc.  It’s very much a fantasy set in space (something I’m sure that has been covered, debated, and discussed in the past by many a fanboys).  There are aspects to the Force in the film that enrich an enhance what the Force is and how it can be used as a power/weapon.  It’s very much a magic system that doesn’t always have defined lines or rules but that is why the balance between the light and dark side are so important as thematic elements.  How far can one go to either side before being able to come back?  I am excited to see more with the characters who can use the Force.  There should be some fun to be had with our Force users.

Characters.  Character motivations can make or break a story.  Too often, it feels as if a character’s choice is only meant to push the story forward.  Where TLJ works for me is the characters make choices throughout the film where their motivations are clear (after some extra thought and contemplation, there are some instances where this is not true but I’m focusing on the majority).  There is desperation and a time limit in play.  This makes the characters act and do so sometimes recklessly.  However, it felt right and there were consequences to those choices.  My writer brain was once again saying, “Yes, that worked”.

I get some of the points of dislike and contention.  There are viable gripes to some of the plot points that may not land for some.  However, it’s not enough for me to give this film a bad review.  It’s not a perfect film but it’s better than most.  Where The Force Awakens came up short, I feel like The Last Jedi exceeded my expectations.  I felt the weight of the conflict and did not mind the smaller sillier moments (Porg nation is real).

Overall, I put TLJ in my top five Star Wars films (1. The Empire Strikes Back, 2. Rogue One, 3. Return of the Jedi, 4. The Last Jedi, 5. A New Hope).

Call to Action: I’m curious to see what others think of The Last Jedi and how it stacks up against the other films in the series.  Please DO NOT post spoilers in the comments.

Christmas Movie Guide

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 0

We have a rule in our house: no Christmas movies until December.  For my wife, this is easy but for me, I could throw on one of my favorite Christmas movies any time during the year.

We have our favorites that we watch every year leading up to Christmas and then we have some that we watch every other or few years depending on how fresh they are in our mind.  Last, there are the movies I watch by myself because my wife doesn’t care for them (totally fine, not complaining).

As I mentioned in my previous post about traditions, Christmas movies have become a staple for me during the season so I’m looking forward to these films both as entertainment but also as a means for evoking memories.  Rather than listing all the movies on “watch list”, I just want to call out a few that I always recommend and love.

The Santa Clause

I grew up watching this one (like many others).  I was ten years old in 1994 and Home Improvement was always on in our house so I was familiar with Tim Allen and his brand of humor.  To this day, I can always watch the sitcom.  The Santa Clause is solid both in humor and the importance of faith, believing in what cannot always be seen.

Home Alone 1 and 2

More of what I grew up watching.  Kevin McCalister was quite the brat and I remember thinking every time I watched the movie that if I said or did the things he did, I would be grounded for life.  Other than the ingenuity of his traps to take down the witless house burglars in both films, it focuses heavily on the importance of family.

Scrooged and The Muppet Christmas Carol

It’s unlikely you’re not familiar with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  It’s a classic and has many films based and influenced by it throughout cinema history.  I put these two together because one is for kids and one is for adults.  We were Muppet fans growing up and I maintain there’s solid humor in any Muppet’s production.  And how can you go wrong with Bill Murray as “Scrooge”?  Kindness and compassion towards others pokes you in the feels for these.

Christmas Vacation

For me, there is no better quotable movie than National Lampoon’s holiday treat.  This is also the reason why many people love the movie but are okay if they don’t watch it every year.  Not me.  I want to watch this movie at least three times during the holidays.  Sure there’s a message in this one too but it’s just so dang funny that I’d watch it even if there was no inspiring lesson by the end.

Love Actually

This is the movie my wife and I adore every Christmas.  Ever since I introduced it to her during our dating years, it became a staple.  It’s essential to our viewing pleasure because it’s pretty much a perfect Christmas movie that focuses on several different people and their struggles during the holiday season.  It hits the spectrum of holiday cheer and will forever be a part of our Christmases (the kids won’t be allowed to watch it until they’re 18 though because it is rated R).

Honorable Mentions: Elf, The Family Stone, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, The Family Man, Serendipity

Call to Action:  Share with me!  What Christmas movies are staples for you?

Reading Goal Accomplished!

posted in: Fantasy, Reading, Review, Storytelling | 2

For the second year in a row, I’ve achieved my goal to complete my reading goal on Goodreads.  Last year, I was ambitious and did 25 books.  This year, I lost my mind and doubled that, thinking I could do 50.  I did it, but it was not easy.

Let me first say that while I reached 50 books read, the majority of those were audiobooks.  To be honest, I’m not a fast reader so audiobooks definitely help me both on my commute and while at home if we’re keeping the TV off.  Now, I learned some very valuable lessons when approaching these reading challenges and finding success: don’t over-extend yourself.  What I mean by this is I got to the point where I realized I could reach my goal but only if I read or listened to shorter books.  The problem here is I had books I really wanted to read but felt they would take too long to finish.  Obviously, I knew by the end that I needed to rethink my reading goal.

So for next year, I am giving myself some leeway and going to shoot for 30 books.  I’ll very likely read more than 30 but I hated feeling the pressure of finishing a book just so I could keep on track.  Reading in general is essential for me to not only learn but keep my mind active, not depending on stimulation by screen only.  I’m not proud of it but I am one of those people that can always have the TV on.  It doesn’t bother me to have it on just for background noise (this drives my wife crazy and is why we institute “no TV nights” in our house).

If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter then you are unfamiliar with my book reviews.  I like to  write three reviews for my favorite books I read for the last four months (Newsletters are released at the end of April, August, and December).  Below you will find some recommendations not included in any of this year’s newsletters:

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The first book of The Dark Tower series has been around for awhile and was on “To read” list for years. I finally got into it and really enjoyed the book. It’s not a tough read and establishes interesting characters in an even more interesting world. Action and conflict are not lacking here. For fantasy lovers, it’s a must.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

This was a fun listen since Anna reads the book. She’s the Pitch Perfect girl if you’re unfamiliar with her. She’s also full of spunk and her personality comes through as she reads. I was not aware of her background and her journey to acting and becoming an Oscar-nominated actress so this kept me interested and made me laugh a lot.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I did a longer review of this one a few months back but with the movie adaptation coming out soon, I wanted to highlight it again. It’s a fast-paced virtual adventure with loads of geek-speak and 80s references, which is definitely trending again with Stranger Things Season 2 fresh in our minds. Check this one out even if you’re not a gamer or geek aficionado.

Call to Action: I encourage you to sign up over at Goodreads and take your own reading challenge for 2018.  It’s a lot of fun and if you’re like me, setting a challenge for yourself might get you to set aside time each day to put your nose in the pages.

December Update/Christmas Traditions

posted in: Film/TV, Life, Review, Storytelling | 0

My plan is to keep the normal schedule and format for the blog this month. 
The next flash fiction for the ongoing Shoals to the Hallowed series will be released on 30 December (this also happens to be my bday so I expect high praise in the comments section. If you don’t want to give that, I accept Amazon gift cards).  The third and last newsletter of the year will be released on the 31st.  If you want to sign up for that, please do so when prompted on the website or send me your email address and I’ll add you to the list.

For the month in general (we’re half way done already!), you’ll see a lot of Christmas themed posts.  I’m a big fan of Christmas.  The season (I prefer cold to hot always), movies and music (there’s just so many good options), food and drink (nothing like carbs, coffee, and whiskey to keep me comfortable), and traditions.   It’s these last that I want to explore a little today.

I can only speak for myself and my heart goes out to those who don’t care for the Christmas season for whatever the reason. 
I understand and get it.  However, I have pretty much nothing but good memories of the weeks and days leading up to Christmas.  My family never did anything crazy or outlandish (far from the Griswold experience).  We did the tree and lights.  Maybe a few other decorations around the house.  What I remember best was going to my grandparents’ house Christmas Eve to eat dinner and exchange gifts.  My grandpa would read the Christmas story from the Book of Luke and we’d all go on our merry way (no pun intended).  Christmas morning was getting up way too early (I was one of those kids who could not sleep no matter how late I stayed up), getting into our stockings first and waiting the appropriate amount of time before waking up my parents so we could get to the good stuff.

After we made a mess of the living room, we would eat breakfast and get ready for the day.  Usually we were out the door after noon and heading to the gift exchange locations with friends and families.  Dinner was usually at my grandparents’ house again with or without other family members who came in form out of town.  We ate, played games, and had the 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story playing in the background.  All in all, it was an easy traditional holiday season that I have fond memories of.

Now that I’m married, my wife and I have our own traditions that we’ve put in place and hope to carry on the rest of the way.  Our children will grow up with these and even have a part in adding to our family’s plans and activities from December to December.  Traditions are one of those things I really enjoy and Christmas allows for them to be focused and anticipated every year.

I’ll leave you with some do’s and don’ts:

Don’t spike the eggnog

Don’t stand under icicles

Don’t sit on Santa’s lap in an alleyway

Do spike your coffee

Do bundle up if it’s snowing

Do watch Christmas Vacation with a room full of friends and strangers (if you can)

Call to Action:  My hope is that you all have a great Christmas this year.  Even if past ones have not been worth remembering, I hope this one is.  Be with the ones you love.  Make sure to let them know how much you appreciate their being a part of your life.

Good Emotional Health

posted in: Life | 2

I watch and observe more than I react and speak.  As a writer in the social network culture, this is probably the antithesis to many others.  In fact, I think it is true.  I follow a lot of other writers on social media and I often get a clear idea of where they stand on a number of issues.  I don’t fault them whether I agree or disagree.  It’s their platform and their voice.  I hate the “stick to (fill in the blank)” attacks people get from detractors.  It’s kind of a juvenile response if you think about it.

For myself, I try to keep any views I have on specific issues regarding religion, politics, social issues, etc. off of my social media timeline.  This is just a personal choice.  I believe those things should be discussed in a safe place setting where both parties can respectfully engage in productive conversation.  If we know anything about the current climate of social media, those conditions do not exist.

I have delved into some of these topics here on my blog where you can read my thoughts and struggles as I try to understand and come to a rational place that best fits my experience and convictions.  There are some areas where I stand firm and others where I am not quite sure.

Something I know I need to be always aware of is my emotional state.  I’s so easy to get angry and react when coming across something that I think is unjust or a horrifying display of humanity.  You could ask my wife (she gets to hear the unprocessed sputterings when I’m annoyed or ticked off at the world).  These are not everyday occurrences but they do happen.

Emotional health is key and very important to me.  I hate being reactionary based on my feelings when disturbed by others.  Too often I see people speaking and arguing based on their feelings.  I would suggest not engaging these people in the first place (especially on social media).  They cannot be rationalized with.  When our emotions are turned up to eleven, you’ll have better luck convincing a dog it’s a cat.

Also, I just believe you are generally more approachable in life if you are known as someone who has a grip on your emotions.  I would never want my family or friends to tiptoe around or avoid me if they feel like they can’t talk to me about the harder topics of life for fear of me popping a gasket.

So if you don’t see me addressing hot social topics on any of my social media profiles, it’s not because I don’t have opinions or concerns, it’s because I don’t think that’s the platform to have honest, safe discourse.  I can always be private messaged and you’ll get an honest, direct response if you want to know what I think or where I stand on something.

Call to Action: Let’s all practice emotional health.  Slow to react and not letting our feelings drive us to speak in anger.  Remember also that your opinions are your own.  If someone disagrees with you, it doesn’t mean they’re the enemy.  Common decency is something I’d love to see returned to our rhetoric and discourse.

How Pixar and Disney Help Me Appreciate Different Cultures

Let me start by saying I don’t come from a distinct cultural background.  As far as I know, my families on both sides came from European immigrants (that’s really a best guess).  So I don’t have much to work with when it comes to traditions or heritage that I use to identify with.  What’s interesting though is I have a continuing growing interest in different cultures.

Writing fantasy is the perfect outlet for me to be creative and create new cultures and peoples, coming up with languages, cuisine, fashion, traditions, holidays, religions, etc.  All of these require some foundation of how cultures develop and evolve over generations.  Some are forgotten while others are passed on from generation to generation with little change occurring.  For example, language in the United States is constantly evolving through pop culture and technology.  A hard drive back in 1940 is not necessarily the same thing as it is now.  However, in Iceland and other countries, language has remained mostly unchanged (see

My interest in cultures (both fictional and real) has been bumped by Pixar and Disney’s recent push to explore times and places otherwise not touched in their expansive catalog.  We have Brave and Coco (Pixar) and Frozen and Moana (Disney).  I’m going to be honest here.  I really enjoy all of these films (most of all Moana, which my wife likes to tease me about).  Why do I like them?  Because you can tell the filmmakers truly wanted to explore the cultures of these peoples and introduce them in a celebratory way.  I can’t help but be drawn to this aspect of storytelling.

In my own writing and those of fantasy books I enjoy, I love how cultures (mind you made up ones) add a layer of reality to the story that pulls me in and keeps me engaged in the story.  There’s beauty and intrigue to be shown.  As we often see in the Pixar and Disney examples, it’s heritage and tradition that drive the protagonist to see their goal completed.  A theme I often explore is identity and there’s a great focus of pride in identity when it comes to these characters and where they come from.

For a guy (myself) that feels left out when it comes to heritage and culture, I love to immerse myself in these places and peoples who have vibrant traditions founded by their ancestors.  I love seeing these stories celebrated and shared with greater audiences because the diversity of the world is worth noticing.

Call to Action: It should still be in theaters, so I encourage everyone to go see Coco.  It’s a great film about family and the importance of remembering those who came before us.  You can’t go wrong.

Sunday Levity: Christmas!!!

posted in: Life, Sunday Levity | 0

Tis the season!  Ho ho ho!  Ah nuts!

It’s Sunday and you all know I put on the relax and rest machine.  Decided to share some stuff that made me laugh and hopefully it does the same for you.

I really want to do this at work…

So many great quotes from Elf.

The Santa Claus is one of those movies that I appreciate more as an adult because the jokes land better when you’re older.

One of my favorites is Scrooged.  Bill Murray at Christmas is the best.

Christmas Vacation is my favorite movie to watch and I can always watch it (though everyone else seems to be done with it and wants a longer gap between viewings.  You had eleven months!  You want more?!)

Call to Action: The season is all about being with loved ones and letting them know how much they mean to you.  Not through gifts but through time spent.  Play games, watch movies, sing carols (if that’s your thing), and enjoy it!

Flash Fiction: A Boon of Opportunities

Old sweat and bubbling stew filled the abandoned farmhouse with their potent presence as the circle of mercenaries let a lull step between the lines of discussion.  There was a third scent and Chasiel, the Bloody Dove, could practically bite into it.  Anticipation.

“So,” said the lean and gray-haired man to her right, “you think it’s likely?”  Half his face bore the scars of a burning accident when he was a young man.  Whatever his real name was, Chasiel did not know it.  He had only ever been called Crisp to her knowledge.

Crisp’s question was not directed towards her but to the bull of a man across from her.  Feller Crowne held the honor of longest tenured among the miscreants making up the dozen or so Shivering Souls.  “Without question,” Crowne said in his high voice, famously unexpected to those who first met him.

Fenroe, to Chasiel’s left, was next to speak.  “Breshtk is broken.  Good opportunity to get our fingers in there and feel around.”

Chasiel smiled, knowing Fenroe could not help himself and his knack for using colorful phrases in any situtation.  He would try to make his grandmother blush if given the opportunity.  Chasiel took the small piece of kindling and set its end into the flames of the cook fire, eyes mesmerized by the flickering flames.

Crowne coughed.  “I care more about seeing who comes out alive once the dust of this hell storm settles…  The Holds may turn on Breshtk but it’s not weak.  Not in the least.  As long as Wielders live and Ki’Tanil, bastard fool that he is, breathe, Breshtk can come out of this mess.  Chasiel,you’re too quiet?”

She had kept silent, biding her time.  The constant talk of Breshtk and whatever nonsense the kings and queens of the Holds were bickering about had gotten bland on her tongue.  What did interest her however were opportunities to go unseen where otherwise eyes would be watchful for sell swords.  The sound in her throat preceded her words.  “The Silver Way had the contract and now we have it.  This noble of Teras expects mercenaries.  We can mimic that stupid symbol of the Silvs and do what we please once we’re sent on our merry task.”

“A boon of opportunities,” Fenroe said before whistling.

Crisp took the handle of the stirring spoon in the cookpot and blew on the creamy meal.  Crowne rubbed at his eyes after some smoke invaded the brown orbs.  “A boon perhaps but still a damn risk.”

Chasiel agreed but preferred to think of it as more than opportunities to take gold out of the pockets of the Teras coffers.  No, for her, she saw a window to hamstring the noble bastards who continued to play their privileged game.  After she inhaled the segda smoke from her pipe, her namesake throat sound followed, serving as the reminder of her rage.

Reviewing the Punisher

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 2

Gut punch.  That’s what it felt like to watch and experience Netflix’s The Punisher Season 1.  Before I go into my review and impressions of the show, I need to say this is not a show for everyone.  Definitely not for kids and probably not for some adults.  If brutal scenes of violence are not your cup o’ tea, then don’t drink.

We got our first dose of the vigilante antihero of Frank Castle aka the Punisher in Netflix’s Daredevil Season 2.  He’s a mysterious figure fit with an arsenal befitting a small army who crosses paths with our friendly blind lawyer Matt Murdock aka Daredevil.  The latter doesn’t kill, feeling morally and spiritually convicted by his choices to fight crime whereas the Punisher pulls the trigger first, contemplating morality after the fact.

Actor, Jon Bernthal, gave a performance as Frank Castle that took everyone by surprise.  There have been previous feature film adaptations of the Marvel skull-symbol wearing badass.  Those have been somewhat true to the source material but lacking in impact.  Bernthal gives us a full drenching that embodies the Frank Castle of the comics.  He’s a US Marine vet whose family is murdered as collateral damage depending on the origin story of the comic run.  In all though, Frank’s birth as the Punisher is consistent.  He loses his family, battles the guilt and pain of losing them, and takes on a personal code to eliminate those responsible and any other scumbag who may cross his path.

The themes in the Punisher (I’m talking both broad and in the Netflix show) center around vigilante morality, PTSD, grief, etc.  The show does this extremely well.  The first season fully features Frank as he searches for those involved in the deaths of his family after he learns that the CIA is behind some shady practices involving drug running and assassinations.  All throughout his mission, he is faced with questions of right and wrong, family, healing, and justice.  His interactions with friends and allies help ask questions and explore these themes, making the viewer question if rooting for Frank is just or not.

I’ve watched all of the Netflix Marvel shows up to date and the Punisher is by far my favorite and I think the strongest entry in the growing catalogue.  The acting and plotting are superb and where I think the other series’ wane and struggle is weight and believability.  The Punisher is visceral (such a good word).  You feel the impact of every emotion, punch, and bullet impact.  There are no “superpowers” in this show which helps it immensely.

As I said before, this show is not easy to watch.  The violence goes where other shows do not.  It’s rough but true to the comic and character of Frank Castle.  What the film, Logan, started is a trend to see these superhero properties move from a place of PG-13 action to one that makes us feel the weight of the choices and lives of these people.

Call to Action: So while I highly recommend this show, be advised.  Try out the first few episodes and see if it’s something you can handle.

Holidays Are Here!

posted in: Life, Writing | 0

Maybe it’s cheesy but I have to give some thanks (and seeing as how Thanksgiving was yesterday, it seems appropriate).

This has been a year where I have no reason to feel sad, frustrated, or bitter in any way.  New job, baby on the way, writing going strong.  What’s there to complain about?!  I am extremely thankful for this time in my life.

I am hard at work on the final newsletter of this year.  Please sign up if you’re interested.  I release three a year with news, book reviews, and an exclusive short story, which is set in the Shoals to the Hallowed world.  Make sure to read up on the the latest flash fiction posts too to keep up to date.

Aside from that, my wife and I learned we are having a boy.  I was certain we would be having a girl but I saw the ultrasound picture and there seems to be little doubt.  Having a boy has made my mind begin envisioning who he will be and the greatness he will embody.  He, being our first, will no doubt shape us in new ways as we learn to be parents but I cannot express how much joy and anticipation I have, knowing this little guy is going to have amazing parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents on both sides.  They will all have an immense impact on his life.

Not to mention, I can’t wait to teach him about sports, video games, history, philosophy, and the various other subjects I enjoy myself.  I learned a great deal from my dad, uncles, cousins, etc.  If I have any apprehension at all, it’s knowing I’ll make mistakes and have to apologize to him for my shortcomings.  I can’t imagine any father wants or enjoys such occurrences but I hope that my realization of it now will prepare me when it comes.

Call to Action: I hope everyone had a great holiday and has many things they are thankful for.  Make sure to share those positive thoughts with others.  It does the heart good to do so.

To Doubt is to Progress

Let’s dive in.  As I get closer to finishing my recent revision of So Speaks the Gallows, the creeping whispers of self-doubt interrupt the process.  These are not words of castigation but instead subtle pricks of critique that make my hands pull away from the keyboard and seriously consider the words on the page.

Revising is difficult.  You think just writing a full novel is hard, try going back over what you’ve spent years shaping and being excited about and then questioning why entire sections come across as borderline tissue paper in strength.  You wish it was more than single ply but instead, you get this thin sheet that could disintegrate at the first sneeze.

No, I have not given up and I have not put my toes over the ledge to look down into writer’s oblivion.  (It would take a lot for me to reach that point of disappointment.)  I think I’ve simply come to a section of the book where I’m not impressed with the writing (granted it’s my writing).  I know I am more than capable of girding up the paragraphs and dialogue where it suffers most but I find myself wondering about the strength of the writing as a whole.

What if the beginning is strong but it begins to wane and lose its clout the further we go to the right towards that back cover?  It’s an honest question and, I think, a natural one to explore.  Maybe it’s strong enough in the beginning to hold up any weaker sections.  Maybe an agent will get to these weaker sections and say, “Well, this needs to be reworked but I think you’re more than capable of doing it.”  These are the questions that like to poke at my confidence each time I return to revise.

As I’ve said, I’m okay with rewriting entire chapters (I actually did rewrite the first five chapters and feel they are extremely strong now) but I wonder if I should do it now or simply try to fix the weaker prose as is.  Either way works to be honest.

All this is to say doubt is a very natural and, I think, healthy emotion to go through as an artist.  For me, it keeps me in check and forces me to look back at certain sections of my book and ask questions like, “Can this be better?”  Most of the time the answer is a big fat “Yes!” and so I need to be willing to strip down the prose and rework.

So to any of my fellow artists who lay awake or stare blankly at the page or canvas, do not become bitter or agitated.  Embrace the pain of being mediocre (only at times, not always) and let creativity fizzle and reset.  I have no idea if this is sound or good advice but I know it works for me.

Call to Action:  Here’s a fun exercise to consider when in doubt, ask some simple questions and answer as truthfully as possible.

1)  Why do I have this sense of doubt in my work or abilities?
2)  Is there truth to this?  If not, what is the lie behind it?
3)  What can I do to strengthen confidence in myself again?

Try these out and see where it gets you.

On This Day – 18 November 1985 – Calvin and Hobbes First Published

My first exposure to Calvin and Hobbes came when I was probably around thirteen years old at my grandparent’s house.  My grandpa had recently received or bought one of the collection books and had it on the living room table.  I picked it up and was pulled into the world of the precocious six year old and his imaginary best friend/stuffed Bengal tiger.

Suffice to say, Calvin and Hobbes will always remind of my grandpa.  I have great memories of growing up and creating outlandish scenarios with him (his imagination was just as a vast a child’s).  This coincides with my love for Calvin and Hobbes because the comic strip is more about imagination than it is about a misbehaved child.  Just peruse the examples I’ve included in my post.

As a thirteen year old (I’ll remind you I was not reading a whole lot during this time of my life), I naturally gravitated more to the pictures and art of comic strips to understand Calvin’s current escapade.  As I grew up though, I began to read beyond the more minimal scenarios and found a great intellect and wonder in the kid.  His alternate personas (Spaceman Spiff, Tracer Bullet, and Stupendous Man) exemplified my own imagination as I played with action figures and created several different characters and worlds faced with conflict (a precursor to my days of writing).
We’ve been blessed with ten years of Calvin and Hobbes by the great Bill Watterson.  I continue to revert back to the comic strip whenever I need a quick laugh.  In my mind, there is no better cartoon strip for children and you can bet my kids will be introduced to it at a young age.
Call to Action: What are your memories of Calvin and Hobbes?  I’d love to know how others first encountered the strip and how it has affected them in life.  Also, check out the great documentary, “Dear Mr. Watterson,” if you can find it.  It’s a great exploration of the comic and its creator.

Success Measured by the Spoonful

posted in: Life, Writing | 2

As I mentioned back in my blog post on 03 November, for myself, success as a writer is to have my book in hardback/paperback form sold on the shelves of a bookstore.  Pretty simple, right?  I think so, however my wife and I recently had a discussion about success in general and then success as an artist.  I cannot speak for everyone (yeesh, could you imagine that kind of nightmare if you could?) but I know for myself, I would consider it a huge accomplishment to have a book written and sold to the general public.  No bestseller accolades or movie deal needed.  I’m good with the one book.

Now, come on, you know I don’t mean I want to write a single book and only one.  I have way too many stories floating around in my head to stop at one.  The purpose of writing stories is to share them.  Why else do it?

This came about because I was telling my wife how even if I did get published and was capable of writing full time and able to support us financially through those means, I would still work my day job.  More than anything, it’s a personal decision (also, I think I would get super bored otherwise.  I need to leave the house for a day’s worth of work in order to keep myself sane).  I do not fault anyone who chooses the opposite.  My hope would be you are able to fully support yourself, your family (if you have one), and maintain a level of content and happiness that lets you sleep easy every night.

Part of our conversation led into the idea that our culture does not adhere to a way of thinking that encourages artists to do what they love to do and survive by doing only that.  I asked her if our society ever did this?  Without doing research (I just don’t want to right now due to the rabbit hole I’d most likely fall into), I find it hard to believe that a writer, painter, sculptor, etc. could pay all the bills and plan for the future and retirement just by royalties earned from their works (notice how I didn’t mention actors or musicians. They’re a bit different).  If I’m wrong, please shoot me an example.  I’d love to read up on examples.

This is all not to say there were outliers but I just wonder if success comes in the form of finding time to be creative and still provide by keeping a day job.  Like I said, this is just me and my mind wanders to these sorts of things every once in a while.  I guess I should add a caveat and say that if I were able to live off of royalties from my books, I think I’d still work part time.  Retirement is really the only stage in my life where I don’t want to go to an office every day, sit in a cube, and support a project.

If I’ve discovered anything about myself since starting this journey of writing stories, it’s that I simply love to create.  Being able to do so whether I’m paid or not for it doesn’t affect my attitude in the process.  And I wonder if my attitude towards writing would change if I woke up everyday and knew if I didn’t make a deadline or my next book sales are poor, I might struggle to pay the bills.  Would that affect my joy and passion?  Just something I think about…

Call to Action: I was serious about examples of a time period where artists could survive financially solely on the earnings from their art.  Let me know!

Sunday Levity: The Swanson Way

posted in: Film/TV, Sunday Levity | 4

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Sunday Levity post so I jumped at the chance to offer one.  There are an abundance of tv characters that I enjoy but none is quite like Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec (may it rest in peace).  Whenever I need some humor to bust away at the drudgeries that like to cling to me, all I need is some Parks and Rec.  Enjoy these small examples of the Swanson Way at work.


Call to Action: What are your favorite moments from the show?  Please share!

Truth of Evil

posted in: Life | 2

I’ve been struggling for about a week now thinking about how to proceed with this blog.  It’s my blog and I can’t say for sure who reads it all the time (aside from family and close friends).  However, I am very conscious about what I want to write about and how to provide content that I think is worth posting and reading.  If I had it my way, I’d love to stick to writing tips, movie/tv reviews, etc.  That would be fun and hopefully entertaining to not just me.  Unfortunately, I am very present in the happenings of the world and cannot continue to keep those things from my thoughts and furthermore from my blog.

Now, I have stated in the past that I have no interest in debating or converting based on my personal views.  They are “my” personal views based on my experiences, beliefs, and understanding.  This also means I do not think I cannot learn more and have these views changed based on evidence and conviction.  Let’s jump in the heap!

Evil is very real.  In fantasy, we have great extremes manifested in forms like Sauron, Voldemort, and for you Wheel of Time fans, the Dark One.  All of these represent the deepest of antagonists to our literary heroes: Frodo, Harry Potter, and Rand al’Thor (again, Wheel of Time reference.  I am purposely avoiding the Game of Thrones example, ha!).  These forces represent the main conflict and must be destroyed in order to assure peace to not only our heroes but the world they live in.  This puts a lot of weight on the story and we as readers only want to see the evils defeated by the end.

A common element in fantasy right now is the use of grey characters who have both vice and virtues equally.  These are men and women we can both trust and revile depending on the situation.  Part of me enjoys these characters because I think they are complex and better represent real life people.  No one can say they are completely good, having no drop of selfishness, anger, hate, etc.  And while these kinds of characters can be fresh and enjoyable to read due to their unpredictability, I personally expect to see consequences for their choices.  Otherwise, we’ve run into another issue entirely.  Consequences whether good or bad represent reality and realism should be woven throughout the tapestry of the story (even more so in fantasy).

Coming back to the reason I am writing this post, I do not think I should be silent on the evil seen in the last weeks of various independent acts throughout the States.  Las Vegas, New York, and Sutherland, TX.  I am not going to go into the details of each situation.  If you’ve paid attention even a little bit, then you know the basics: men took it upon themselves to kill innocents.

My heart is broken at the moment.  I take days to process the full weight of these things because I don’t find it healthy to react instantly.  My heart breaks for those affected.  Families and friends have lost loved ones unexpectedly and for reasons they cannot fathom as they grieve.  There’s been a lot of hubbub about people offering prayers and thoughts to these people whose worlds have been turned over. I sincerely say and express these words because I sincerely believe there is power in prayer and thought directed at the healing of pain and grief.  If you don’t, that’s fine.  I would not hold that against you and would hope you would not hold my beliefs against me.

What we’ve witnessed is evil (plain and simple) and if we can draw anything from these recent horrifying events, it’s that no matter the method or tool used, evil will find a way to exact its violence and chaos.  I’ve been asking myself what can be done to keep these things from happening but after days of contemplation I am truly not convinced legislation cannot stop it.  So long as evil’s influence and madness can burn in the hearts of people, methods and tools can be improvised upon (gun, knife, vehicle, they all do damage).

For myself, at this moment in time, I come to a place where I think more than ever, we need to be vigilant about being aware of evil.  How?  By the signs it effuses.  If you’ve ever taken any kind of Active Shooter Training for a workplace environment, then you are told what to look for.  Changes in behavior are often there.  Now, I know there are likely outliers (there always are) but all too often, evil and its signs can be seen and recognized.  But we have to be willing to pay attention and speak up when noticed.  More and more, after these horrifying acts of evil and violence, we learn after the fact that there were “red flags” and yet no one acted.

I understand that many will say this is not enough and that legislation needs to be implemented to prevent further incidents but I am not convinced of that yet.  I’m not saying some legislation could not help because I think it could, but I have to posit the question: can legislation prevent evil from being enacted?  No.  It just can’t.  Time and time again, those who wish to do others harm will do so in any which way that they can.  History testifies to this.  Good standing citizens, however, can and are more than capable of interceding and preventing evil if we are willing to pay attention to those within our communities.

I am demanding this of myself.  It’s obvious safe places no longer exist.  Churches, concerts, sidewalks.  If these horrible acts of evil can teach us anything, it’s that we need to be paying attention to the world around us more.  Take an interest in your family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances.  I have to hope that doing so will in some way prevent more evil from being carried out.

Call to Action:  Don’t react out of emotion when these horrible acts of evil happen.  I only say this because I see it every day.  So many react without taking a moment to ask questions.  Reach out and talk to someone you trust and work through whatever emotions have stirred up.  Adding to the vitriol does nothing to propel us forward, instead setting us back.

Stranger Things Season 2: More of the Same but Better

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 0

I did not expect to be disappointed by the second season of Netflix’s Stranger Things and I can honestly say I was not in any way, shape, or form.  To be honest, I’ll probably do a rewatch/review like I just finished for season 1 and do the same for season 2 before season 3 comes out.  So, knowing that, I will do my best to keep this blog post “short” and focused.

Without going into specifics and not wanting to spoil the season in any way, I’ll keep my thoughts vague and limited as best as I can.

Everything about Stranger Things Season 1 that gripped me as a fan, writer, nerd, 80s kid, etc. continued in the new season.  There were references so on the nose that you just find yourself smiling when you catch them and then there were subtle ones that poked at your memory and made you trace back through childhood until you found the source.  All of these were present and added, never diminishing the story and/or characters.  I found myself calling out references to my wife as she watched with me and realized by episode 6 that I should tone it back.

I’m always paying attention to characters in these shows and I found the perfect amount of expansion of growth, knowing the events of the first season could not leave a lasting affect on these people.  Then you have new characters who either have suspicions or do not know what happened in Hawkins a year earlier.  All of these have to handled delicately in order to create believability.  Once again, I was not disappointed by the directions the characters went in.  They made choices (both good and bad) and found consequences for those choices.  For me, if these characters had not been handled well, it would have ruined the season for me.  On more than a few occasions, I found myself saying, “Yes, that is exactly how I would have written that response or character’s choice if I were writing this show.”

While the references are there, the world of Stranger Things is its own and we were introduced to an expanding world, making it feel more real.  The Upside Down in itself felt more fleshed out and not just a shimmer or shadow we get only glimpses of like in season 1.  By the end, we know that the Upside Down is as important to the progression of the show as the characters themselves.  It is the antagonist for it seems bent on connecting to the real world.

Nothing felt forced.  This is important with any sequel.  Think back to movies that had sequels you just didn’t feel were as good as the first film.  The magic that was captured in the first one could not be expanded on but seemed duplicated and shoved right in your face.  There are too many sequels to name that do this.

The latest example I can think of is the recent Kingsmen movie.  My wife and I loved the first film and its new world and originality.  We were excited by the idea of a sequel but after watching it, we walked away more disappointed than anything else.  Where Stranger Things succeeded and Kingsmen failed is the ability to trust the audience.  Nothing felt as if it were an exposition dump for us.  Instead, it felt as if the Duffer Brothers (Stranger Things creators and show runners) trusted their audience to remember elements from season 1 or to be able to connect the dots by simply being observant.  Here is where successful shows/movies set themselves apart.  A storyteller should be able to trust in the intelligence of their audience without patronizing.

Not wanting to stretch this too long (and not wanting to kill my love for the show by over-analyzing), I’ll leave my thoughts to this: Lost is no longer my favorite show.  Stranger Things has taken the lead at the top of my short list for favorite tv shows.  Superior writing is the kicker here.  While Lost was great (in my eyes), it did have too many instances of bad writing whether related to the plot and/or characters.

My great hope is that Stranger Things continues this strong until it’s finished.  Last I heard, the Duffers are planning and mapping out 4-5 seasons.  I think that as long as this show keeps moving in this right direction, it will easily sit safely atop my list.

Call to Action:  Let me know what you thought of season 2!  Please don’t include any spoilers.

News of Life

posted in: Life, Writing | 2

Having completed my Stranger Things month, there’s quite a bit to share and provide updates on.

Also, it’s my wonderful, amazing wife’s birthday today!  So, I wish her a happy birthday filled with rest, good food, and fun.

First off, I recently accepted an offer for a new job that will remove me from technical writing and editing.  This does not mean my technical writing and editing skills will no longer be needed, rather it means I will no longer provide support solely on these grounds.  My new job will allow me writing and editing opportunities but I do not think they will be as often like before.  I’ve come to grips with this change and find myself at peace and satisfied.  New doors will open with this position that otherwise would be blocked off from me and these new doors will be needed since my next bit of news (the best bit of news) will call for a higher salary.

My wife and I learned that she is pregnant with our first child!  Baby on the way!  This has rocked our world in some ways but as each week passes, we have become more and more excited at the prospect of adding a new addition to our family (that sounds so cliché but still true).  With this, I realize that my life will be drastically changed.  I’ve always wanted to have kids and have wondered what I would be like as a dad.  I’ve proactively begun to envision circumstances and situations and prepared myself as best as I can for each, envisioning myself as a calm, cool-tempered patriarch who knows how to handle any given situation (in reality, I’m going to have those days where I just want to throw in the towel, find a bag of chips and lock myself in the bathroom for a good salty ten minutes).  Alas, I am going to be a father and I’ve been trying my best to prepare myself for what that means.

I should also forewarn everyone that my blog posts will include these fatherhood anecdotes and what not.  While my wife and I are fairly private, I will include things about our journey because it will likely be unconventional (we’re not the run of the mill sort and bit weird at times).  I am a writer but I am also a person of questions, fears, joys, preferences, and opinions.  To know all of me as a writer, is to understand the wanderings of my mind in everything.

When it comes to my writing, not a whole lot has changed.  The biggest thing I want to share is I have set a goal to finish my current revision by the end of the year.  I want to have it finished, polished to a shining reflection, and begin the agent querying phase in January.  So I’ll have quite a bit to share over these last months of 2017 and more so in 2018.  I realize that while I can bide my time and keep a consistent but comfortable pace with revising So Speaks the Gallows, I need to put a note on the calendar and make that a reasonable and attainable goal.

I saw a tweet a few weeks ago asking writers what they consider to be their ideal success as a writer.  I thought about it and came to the truth.  I do not care if I ever become a bestselling author (I won’t turn away the accolade either, I should add).  Success in my mind, the fulfillment of my heart, looks like this: to have my book in hardback/paperback form sold on the shelves of a bookstore.

That’s it.  If I can do that just once, I will have met my dream as a writer.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I will meet this goal more than once (multiple books) but at the very least, to hold my book in my hand is my measure of success.

Call to Action:  I wanted to leave a break between Stranger Things here on my blog and in my mind (LOL) so I think two posts is good enough.  Make sure to watch season 2 and watch for the next blog post where I breakdown the new season and give my overall impressions and thoughts.  (Don’t worry, there will not be any spoilers.)

Flash Fiction: A Search for Light in the Night

A wildfire in the heart of a great forest was a dreadful power.  For Damrin Graeves, that was the only comparison he could equate to the breaking of the Wielder’s Council.  Rogue Wielders had never been an uncommon occurrence in the world but the number of those allied and bound to the Shoal Oaths kept those flames from spreading.  Now, however, there were too many flames and they were being fed by pride, promises, and the Hallowed knows what else.

His options were limited.  He could not reach out to Wielders he called friend.  Since Kesree’s betrayal–his closest of allies–he had to select his movements more carefully.  Too much use of his Shoalway, Qorum, and he would likely draw attention.  Wielders could detect the power from a fair distance away but they could not be everywhere.  So, many Wielders had trained and hired agents tucked away in all sorts of corners and pockets of the Holds, waiting to feel the stinging sensation in their teeth.  Sensors, they were called.  Damrin had refused to employ such people for he had no need to keep eyes and ears on his brethren.

It had taken longer than he wanted, but he reached his room, held by the grimacing innkeeper, Goel Begeen, after traveling by foot.  It had been the first time in three decades since he walked such a distance without touching his Shoal and it had been arduous to say the least.  The village of Nemeck in the Teras Hold had been one of several hiding places he kept secret.  Only Kesree had known of his corner room in Goel’s inn, The Commoner.

Days of rest had been needed after his journey.  Once there, he had removed the collection of manuscripts, ledgers, and maps hidden away in the ceiling.  His eyes moved over one such map where he made notes and drew symbols based on a personal cypher not even Kesree had known about.  Some secrets had been kept.

The list of names and affiliations on the narrow piece of parchment was complete and thorough but he needed to know which of those names still drew breath and which way they leaned in this ominous war.  For Damrin, he needed to find an ally and quickly.  Too many were dying and fresh rumors sprouted from the earth as Wielders killed each other and kingdoms fell.  Truth slipped from his fingers but a net could succeed where his hands failed.

Stranger Things: Rewatch Final Thoughts

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 0

I won’t go into further rehash of the first season of Stranger Things (I’ve exhausted that enough, I think).  I apologize if those first few episode posts were too play-by-play also.  I wanted to avoid that but felt I needed to call out a lot of important moments and details as we moved deeper into the story.

With the first season finished and moving into season 2, I think this show was primarily successful due to several factors.  The nostalgia and call backs to our favorite 80s pop culture memories definitely act as a foundation but I think to recognize the direction, production, acting, and storytelling of the show is equally important.  The show never feels like a parody of the decade but instead, it’s a heavy hitter in its own right that could have been developed and given to us by Spielberg himself back in 1983.

Much like the recent IT movie, the child actors kept this experience grounded.  They are not only great actors but they represented what early 80s preteens were (based on my memory of older kids).  I feel that I could safely argue that without their stellar performances and believability, the show would have been sub par.

Looking forward, Season 2 has a lot to live up to but if we are to go by the trailers and clips released, I think this show will continue to be strong (I’ve also heard good things from people who’ve seen early screenings of the first few episodes).  It will delve deeper into the characters and their struggles having to adjust to the incidents and experiences of the first season while opening ways into more mysteries and oddities that we love and cannot wait to experience.

Part of me is curious as to how they will keep up the nostalgia without touching upon the same ones they’ve already referenced.  Some that I noticed based on the info we’ve been given, we can expect Ghostbusters, Mad Max, Dragon Lair (the arcade game), and even Michael Jackson (Thriller primarily) all to come into play.

What to expect from me regarding Season 2 is most likely a review after I’ve seen all the episodes.  Whether or not I do another rewatch for next year (as far as I know, there will be a season 3), I haven’t decided yet but I’ll definitely consider it.

In all, this was a fun month of blogging.  A bit exploratory and experimental but still enjoyable.  I’m not sure there’s another show I would want or be able to this type of rewatch/review with to be honest.  Netflix has a great format for their tv seasons, keeping episodes at a low number.  Thank you for sticking around and reading.  Hope you enjoyed it and if you did (or didn’t), make sure to leave a comment.  I’d love to see more activity here on the blog and interact with everyone!

Call to Action: Check out the awesome Season 2 trailer below!

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 8

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 2

The Upside Down


We’ve come to the last episode finally!

Joyce and Hopper find themselves separated and questioned by the Lab folks.  Brenner does his best consolable routine and Joyce ain’t buying it.  Meanwhile Hop is getting the less than cordial treatment and gets the business end of a tazer.  Hop has a plan though.  He makes a deal with Brenner and makes it so he and Joyce can go into the Upside Down to rescue Will.  Brenner tells his people he doesn’t expect them to live and we find out Hop’s deal included telling the Labbies where Eleven is so long as the boys aren’t hurt (not cool, man).  He’s putting a lot of trust in these people but I guess it makes sense so they can get to Will.

Nancy and Jonathan are at the Byers house going full Monster hunting, rigging up traps and preparing for the encounter.  This has shades of Nightmare on Elm Street again as the teens realize they have to pull Freddy Krueger (the Monster) into the real world to defeat him.

While Joyce and Hopper are in the Upside Down, we get our best view of the alternate dimension of Hawkins.  We also get flashbacks of Hop with his daughter, Sarah, and his ex-wife, finding that Sarah got sick unexpectedly and that has taken a traumatic toll on our cop Hop, making him the man he is today.

Nancy and Jonathan draw blood to gain the Monster’s attention and guess who shows up?  Stevo.  Oh, Stevo, do you have the worst timing ever.  He’s there to apologize to Jonathan for being a royal douche and is surprised to find Nancy there too.  Stevo forces his way inside, totally confused and not sure what to make of what’s going on especially when Nancy pulls the gun on him, urging him to leave.  The lights start going crazy and the Monster breaks through the wall.  This is such a great sequence because we get Stevo’s freaking out while Nancy and Jonathan are keeping calm and trying to kill it so Hop and Joyce can navigate through the Upside Down without encountering the Monster.

The Monster leaves but not for long.  Nancy tells Stevo to leave and he does but at his car, he hesitates.  The Monster attacks again and pins Jonathan to the ground, getting a decent supply of Demagorgon saliva on him.  But, we get a great surprise as Stevo returns grabbing a bat with nails pounded through the end.  He swings away and this is when Stevo becomes Steve, redeeming himself completely (at least to me).  The Monster ends up in the hallway, caught by the bear trap where gasoline has been poured.  Jonathan throws in a lighter and the Monster gets roasted (or so we think).

While all this happening, the boys and Eleven are waiting in the middle school.  Dustin continues his win streak, finding hoarded chocolate pudding (isn’t that always the case).  Mike and Eleven share a kiss (awww) but the calm tender moment is short-lived when the Brenner and his cronies show up.  Everything goes full red dawn and the kids are running for their lives.

Back to Joyce and Hop, they are on their way to the Byers house (Upside Down version) when they cross the path of some very ominous egg-like things that look as if something has hatched from them (yep, Aliens reference here.  Thank God there are no facehuggers running around).  They find Will’s fort empty and we get another Hopper flashback that shows us Sarah had cancer.

The Monster is injured from its confrontation with the teens and leaves a trail of blood.  This leads to the middle school in the Upside Down where they find Will cocooned to a wall with something in his throat (gross).  Hopper pulls it out and it looks like some kind of worm/snakelike creature (nope!).  Between more flashbacks where Sarah is dying and attempting to being resuscitated by the doctors, Hopper is doing the same for Will.  The whole sequence is intense but after Will breathes to life, we not only get the great reunion between Joyce and her son but there’s this triumph for Hopper, finding closure and not losing another mother’s child.

We’re not done yet though.  Things intensify at the middle school as the Lab folks catch up with the kids.  Eleven saves them by making many of the baddies die by brain scramble or something (they all bleed out of their eyes and noses).  However, lights flicker and the Monster is drawn to the school.  It shows up and attacks killing many of the remaining Lab folks, including Brenner.  Eleven is extremely weak and the boys take her to a classroom.  The Monster finds them and the boys do what they can as Lucas uses his wrist rocket (again, reminiscent of the Losers Club wounding Pennywise in Stephen King’s, novel, IT ).  As it gets closer, one of Lucas’s shots sends the Monster flying back into the chalkboard.  The boys are surprised and then realize Eleven made that happen.

She holds the Monster against the wall as it fights against her.  She says goodbye to Mike and screams (which my guess is intensifies her telekinetic strength) before the Monster disintegrates into flecks and “ash”.  However, Eleven disappears while this takes place and we are left to wonder what happened to her.

In closing, we get some resolution to the strange events in Hawkins.  The boys are back to playing D&D, finishing a new campaign that may or may not hint at Season 2 happenings (remember the name Thessalhydra).  Will returns to the normalcy of life as “the boy who lived” while Mike is sad, missing Eleven.

Hopper is a hero but it looks like he has dealings with the Lab, though we don’t know to what extent yet.  He takes eggos into the woods, making us think Eleven may in fact be alive.

Steve buys Jonathan a new camera and has Nancy give it to him.  It’s strange to see Nancy and Steve together again but we have to wonder if in the future things change.  It’s hard to imagine Nancy and Jonathan not ending up together at some point.

Will is the boy who came back to life.  But things are not as they seem.  During a Christmas dinner, he goes to the bathroom to wash up and he coughs up smoe kind of slug-like thing into the sink and the environment around him flashes to the Upside Down, leaving us to wonder…

Things are in fact NOT back to normal…not at all.  But we won’t find out anything until October 27th!!!

Reaction: Lots to say about this episode but I’ll keep it short and concise.  Any time we get a final episode of a season, we know there are character resolution, answers provided, and possibly new questions offered.  We get all of that in this episode.  The biggest questions however are, I think, the most important things we’re left with.  First, is Eleven alive?  And second, what is happening to Will?  The latter is key to the future of the story because the tear into the Upside Down has obvious affects on Will since he was exposed to it for so long.  What does that mean for him?  What does that mean for Hawkins?

80s Refs: Aliens, A Nightmare on Elm Street, D&D, IT

Call to Action: I hope you enjoyed this month of returning to Season 1 of Stranger Things.  I enjoyed writing these posts a lot and hope my format was pleasing to readers.  My CTA is to rest and get ready for season 2 which will be released on the 27th.  I have a final thoughts post coming that day as well.  Keep on the lookout!

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 7

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 0

The Bathtub


We get a sweet moment between Mike and Eleven, finding there are growing feelings there.  Then comes Dustin to ruin their preteen romance in hilarious fashion.  No time to laugh though as they hear Lucas frantic on the other end of the walkie talkie.  They can’t figure out what he’s saying until they finally hear him say the bad men are coming.  Out the window, Mike and Dustin see vans fast approaching.  On their bikes they flee with Eleven and while we get some great action and tense moments, you can’t help but think that infamous sequence in E.T. when Eliot and his friends are riding their bikes to keep E.T. out of the hands of the government.

Then as they think they’ve escaped capture, another van turns the corner in front of them, blocking them off.  Then Eleven makes their bikes fly over the van!  Except she doesn’t!  No, instead we get our expectations subverted and Eleven launches the van over them, making it land upside down on the street to block off the pursing vans.  Another great iconic moment from this show!

The boys and Eleven get to the junkyard and hide out. Lucas joins up and apologizes to Eleven. Friends again!  As helicopters fly overhead, Lucas tells them what he saw at the Lab and they determine the gateway to the Upside Down must be there.

Hopper and Joyce show up to the police station to get Jonathan, learn from the bully whose arm was broken that Eleven is with Nancy’s brother and the group comes together.  Jonathan and Nancy explain why they have the monster hunting gear.  They all go to the Wheelers, see the Hawkins Lab folks there and then go to the Byers house to locate the boys, grabbing Will’s walkie talkie and reaching out.

We get a good moment of Stevo tired of his goober friends, ditch them, and go to the theater to help wash off the marquee.  Good on you Stevo!

Nancy makes contact with Mike on the walkies and after some back and forth, Hopper does enough to convince them to tell him where they’re at.  Somehow, Labbies show up with tranquilizer guns and just as they are about to find the boys and Eleven hiding out in a bus, the Unstoppable Hopper shows up with his fists of fury!

Everyone’s finally together (whew! It’s taken awhile) at the Byers house and after they catch each other up, Eleven tries making contact with Will or Barb in the Upside Down.  It doesn’t work and she eventually realizes she needs more than a walkie talkie.  She needs water.

Dustin comes through again when he calls Mr. Clarke, who is on a date watching John Carpenter’s The Thing (another 80s horror/sci-fi classic!), and asks about sensory deprivation.  Getting the details, they all head to the middle school to set up a kiddie pool and fill it with 15,000 lbs of salt.  Yay science!

Eleven goes in the water, floating and entering the blackness.  There, she finds Barb’s body and then finds Will hiding in his fort in the Upside Down.  After she returns from the blackness, Hop has a plan to enter the Upside Down to find Will.  Joyce goes with him where they get instantly caught by the Hawkins Lab security after getting onto the grounds.  Meanwhile, Nancy is saddened by Barb’s death and tells Jonathan she wants to finish what they started and kill the Monster.

The boys and Eleven hang out at the school and before the episode is over, we see Will in his fort and hear the Monster close by before the wall explodes and we’re left wondering what happens.

Reaction:  Another solid episode that really rides the emotion of our main characters all finally coming together.  The van launch by Eleven in the beginning is definitely a high point.  We want to see our “heroes” succeed and find Will.  Barb’s death is one of those series deaths that bummed out a lot of watchers.  She seemed to have become an instant favorite despite not being in the show very much.

80s Refs: E.T., The Thing

Call to Action:  I want to say The Thing should be revisited.  It’s a weird, crazy sci-fi flick that is in a lot of ways iconic.  I saw it as a teenager and while the practical effects don’t hold up in many cases, for the time, it was a very well done film.  Totally up to you if you want to watch it but if you’re a fan of 80s classics and haven’t seen it, you should set aside two hours, turn off the lights and chomp on some popcorn.

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 6

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 0

The Monster


We pick up right where the last episode left off with Jonathan looking for Nancy while she crawled into the Upside Down.  Their calling out to each other, voices all weird and distant, while Nancy is hiding from the Monster.  Just as Jonathan comes across the hole in the tree, Nancy’s hand bursts out for a pretty good jump scare that got me (I feel like I should have called out some of these jump scares in previous episodes.  My bad).

Stevo and his gang of jerks are driving to Nancy’s house so he can see her but upon looking through her window, he sees Jonathan on the bed with her and jumps to conclusions.  Nancy is definitely traumatized by the experience in the Upside Down and the Monster so she asks Jonathan to stay and we get some funny awkwardness between them (I seriously have to ask where her parents are at because this is twice that she’s had guys in her room at night).

In the morning, Jonathan wakes to find Nancy looking at a kids book of animals–predators to be exact.  She tells him how she thinks the Monster has predatory tendencies and makes the connection between the it and being drawn by blood (we’ve known this since Barb was taken but the injured deer gives further proof).


Hopper shares his findings with Joyce and when he mentions the kid’s room in the Lab, Joyce asks if a drawing on the wall was “good” because we’ve seen in some flashbacks that Will’s got a decent artist’s touch.  Hop eventually comes back to the story he read about Terry Ives (remember her?) and that she claimed to have had a daughter taken by Dr. Brenner.  More investigative work and Hop gets an address.  He and Joyce drive to Terry’s sister’s house to talk to Terry but find she is not all there after years of drug use.  Some background information from her sister reveals that Terry was pregnant when she was a test subject for Brenner.  We get a direct mention of Stephen King from Terry’s sister, which makes me think of Carrie or Firestarter, which are two stories about girls with telekinetic powers.  They leave without much else to go on.

There’s a quick scene with Mr. Clarke being visited by the lady who killed Benny back in episode 1.  Don’t worry.  Our favorite science teacher is not harmed but we know the Hawkins Lab folks are on the trail of the boys and Eleven.

Dustin is the voice of reason, doing his best to bring peace between Mike and Lucas.  As boys do, they fight and make up.  At Lucas’s house, he listens to Mike and Dustin but he’s not willing to search for Eleven ahead of searching for Will.  So while Dustin and Mike set out to find Eleven, Lucas goes on a solo mission, looking for the gateway to the Upside Down to find Will.

A flashback of Eleven going back into the sensory deprivation tank, assured by Brenner she can’t be hurt, is cut off when she wakes in the woods.  She goes to a nearby grocery store, steals some eggos and causes a scene as the store manager tries to confront her.


Jonathan and Nancy are at a surplus store and buying all kinds of supplies including: gasoline, ammo, and a bear trap (all the things you need).  They tell the clerk they are going monster hunting, which is such a good line and moment.  As they’re leaving, someone drives by telling Nancy they can’t wait to catch the movie.  Nancy rushes to the nearby theater and finds that someone spray painted her name and a less than cordial term.  She finds the perpetrators, Stevo and his cronies, in an alley and confronts them.  Jonathan shows up and eventually a fight between him and Stevo ensues.  Jonathan is the clear winner and we get a great Karate Kid moment where one of Stevo’s friends tells Jonathan that Stevo’s “Had enough, man!” (Cobra Kai!)  The cops show up and Jonathan and Nancy get taken to the police station.

This episode finishes strong.  Lucas is off on his solo adventure only to come to the fence line of the Hawkins Lab where he sees military personnel on the facility grounds.  Meanwhile, Mike and Dustin are on their bikes, come across the grocery store Eleven just made a scene at, and immediately figure she had something to do with the cops there.  The mouth breathers (the bullies) show up and the boys are forced to run, eventually ending up at the quarry.

One of the bullies has a knife and catches up with Dustin (this reminds me of Henry Bowers in IT and the horrible act he commits against Ben).  The bully tells Mike to jump off the ledge and into the quarry lake or he will hurt Dustin.  Mike complies because he’s just a good friend.  He jumps, shocking them all but when they rush to the ledge, they find Mike suspended in air.  He rises up and we find that Eleven has come to save the day!  She knocks one of the bullies over and breaks the arm of the knife wielding mouth breather (so satisfying…is that bad?).


As Mike, Dustin, and Eleven have themselves a group hug, she tells them she thinks she’s the Monster and we get a flashback where she finds the Monster in the blackness facing away from her.  She approaches it from behind and eventually touches the Monster, drawing its attention to her.  Everything in the lab goes crazy and we realize that this action caused the rent in reality.  Her making contact opened the gateway in the lab basement! What?!?!

Reaction: A solid episode once again (I don’t think there’s one that’s not necessarily fast moving, progressing the story).  I remember the revelation of Eleven’s touching the Monster in the blackness causing the gateway to be very satisfying.  I just liked that it was that simple.  Brenner was playing with fire and brought this phenomenon to the real world.  It’s a solid story plot element that doesn’t “reach” and the fact that Eleven thinks she’s the monster is heartbreaking and a great character moment for depth.

80s Refs: Carrie, Firestarter, Karate Kid.

Call to Action: Just because, go back and watch Karate Kid.  Such a classic.  Sweep the leg!

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 5

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 0

The Flea and the Acrobat


We’re half way through season 1!  I really consider this episode to be the turning point.  At least for me, it was here that the show took a turn that I wasn’t anticipating and it was for the good.

Hopper breaks into the Hawkins Lab accompanied by some epic synth. You kind have to wonder what his background is before Hawkins because he’s got a knack for sleuthing about.  Security eventually catches up to him at a locked door but you can’t stop the Hop!  He punches his way to gain access through the door and finds himself in a quarantined area where there’s a room that’s clearly a kid’s room.  Security is on his tail though and he takes the elevator down in to the basement where he gets a big eyeful of the portal on the wall before being knocked out.


Joyce is being “comforted” by Lonnie and we can quickly tell this guy’s up to no good.  He tries telling Joyce she’s grieving from Will’s death and she’s delusional.  Jonathan comes home to find the house in more disarray and Joyce’s recent axing of the wall doesn’t shake him as we might expect now that he’s leaning towards believing her.  We get a quick exchange between Lonnie and Jonathan where Lonnie tells Jonathan to remove an “Evil Dead” poster from his wall because it’s “inappropriate” which I find humorous and poignant as it’s a classic film about evil crossing into the real world.

The boys and Eleven are back in Mike’s basement discussing what they heard Will say over the ham radio.  Two distinct descriptive things were that he was in a place “like home” only it was “dark”.  Eleven tells us what that means by saying “upside down”.  Still confused, Mike recalls Eleven flipping the D&D board and placing Will’s wizard figurine and the Demagorgon on the black field.  Dustin, whose much smarter than people give him credit for, calls it the Veil of Shadows and gives us an explanation of a bleak and desolate place that mirrors the real world (sound familiar?!).

Will’s funeral takes place and then a wake and while the majority of the attendees are sad and grieving, we see all our main players putting on a show because they know or at least are convinced Will is not dead.  Jonathan and Nancy are especially not interested in the event, steal a gun from Lonnie’s glove compartment, and prepare to search Mirkwood, believing the sightings of the monster will lead them to find “something” that will help them locate Will and Barb.

We get my favorite part of the episode when the boys find Mr. Clarke and ask him about alternate dimensions.  Always willing to teach, Mr. Clarke explains to them the metaphor of the flea and acrobat, explaining how an acrobat can only go backwards and forwards on a tightrope.  A flea, however, can go along the sides and upside down (wink wink) on the rope.  The boys ask how they can do what the flea does and Mr. Clarke explains that a lot of energy would be needed or in this case a doorway or gateway would need to be opened in order for them to access that point of entry.  Such a portal would mess with the gravitational field of the real world and the boys have their lead!

Hopper wakes up in his place, not knowing how he got there.  He goes full paranoia and begins searching for a surveillance bug, breaking, ripping, and cutting his way until he finds one in the ceiling light.  His deputies show up to tell him more people have gone missing in Mirkwood and that Barb’s car was found at the bus station.  Something stinks like last years gym clothes…

Joyce finds some legal paperwork that looks like Lonnie wants to cash in on suing the quarry company for negligence and Joyce’s suspicions are confirmed.  She kicks his butt out of the house.  Hopper shows up later, telling Joyce to say nothing.  They check the Christmas lights (all of them apparently) and find no bugs.  After the all clear, Hop tells her he’s being watched. He tells her he went to the morgue and “Will’s” body was fake. She was right the whole time!  Hop’s on the scent.


The boys try to explain the flea and the acrobat to Eleven but she doesn’t know where the gateway to the Upside Down is.  Led by Dustin’s testing of compasses, they set out in Stand By Me fashion, following train tracks as they follow the compass.  During this time, we get a flaskback where Eleven is fit with a diving suit and descends into a water tank that reminds me of James Cameron’s Abyss.  Back to the present, Dustin says they made a loop, cutting through a junkyard and Lucas blames Eleven of sabotaging their efforts, saying he saw her wipe her nose.  Fresh blood on her sleeve confirms she was messing with the compass with her powers and an all out fight ensues between Lucas and Mike.

Eleven uses her power by screaming (eh what?) to keep Lucas from hurting Mike, launching him backwards and hurting him.  Back in the sensory deprivation chamber, Eleven finds herself in a strange place that is all black with water on the ground (not the Upside Down but I’ll call it the blackness).  She finds the man she’s supposed to find for Dr. Brenner and his words transmit into the lab. Next, Eleven hears the Monster, knowing she’s not alone and runs, waking in the water tank.  Lucas comes to and he’s extremely pissed off, storming off.  Mike and Dustin notice Eleven has disappeared and we see our group fractured.

Nancy is in her garage swinging a Louisville Slugger around (choke up, Nancy!) when Stevo shows up.  He’s trying to make amends and asks about Barb but Nancy’s in no mood as she prepares for her and Jonathan’s plans that night.  Not even Stevo’s saying he looks like Tom Cruise and singing Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock n Roll” will make her budge.

After Jonathan shows us he can’t hit the broadside of a barn with the gun and  Nancy can shoot the wings off a fly, they go off into Mirkwood with some kind of a plan (I’m still trying to figure out what their goal was even if they found Will or Barb).


Night has fallen and they come upon a deer that looks like it was hit by a car.  Wanting to put it out of its misery, Jonathan aims the gun but before he can pull the trigger, the deer is ripped away into the brush (one of the better jump scares in the show).  They follow the blood and look around before they get separated and Nancy notices what can only be described as a hole at the base of a tree.  It’s got some oozing grossness happening and like an idiot, Nancy crawls in (watch a horror movie, Nancy!).  Bad idea.  She finds herself in the Upside Down and comes across the Monster chomping away at the deer.  She steps on a branch and the monster jerks around opening its face which is reminiscent of a flower’s petals opening.  But this isn’t your traditional daisy.  No this things got rows of teeth!  We end on that chilling note.

Reaction: This is probably one of my favorite episodes.  The flea and the acrobat metaphor is one of those iconic things about the show and something I think will be relevant throughout the series.  I can’t help but think characters just do dumb things though.  Nancy crawling into the opening at the tree base into the Upside Down is one of those brainless things writers have characters do to move the plot.  I would have written it different. I haven’t had any moments of that so far but this one makes me mad as a writer.

80s Refs: The Evil Dead, The Abyss, any teen horror slasher, All the Right Moves with Tom Cruise

Call to Action: Watch Mr. Clarke’s explanation of the flea and the acrobat.  Such a great moment! (Sorry about the spanish subtitles…)

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 4

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 0

Episode 4: The Body

Recap:This is a sad one because we fall into the emotions of Will’s body being found in the lake at the bottom of the quarry.  Hopper does his best to deal with Joyce and her continued downfall into supposed insanity.  She remains convinced she’s talking to Will through the lights.  He uses the loss of his daughter as a means to assure her that she’s grieving and should do so.  The addition of saying the monster with no face coming through the wall (there’s no evidence of this as it looks like the wall “repaired” itself) does Joyce no good either.  Once the cops leave, we see Jonathan dealing with everything in his own way (trapped in music like teens often do) while Joyce is grabbing an axe from the shed, ready to protect herself if the monster returns.

Mike is grieving in his own way down in the basement, pushed further into anger as Eleven sits off in her makeshift tent, messing around with his walkie talkie.  Things change rather quickly though when Will’s voice breaks through the static, singing “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”.  Eleven’s nose bleed suggests her powers go beyond just the telekinesis.

Mike stays home yet again (good thing he has such understanding parents) and reaches out to Lucas.  After some effort, Lucas agrees to get Dustin and bring him over to Mike’s who knows Will’s alive.

Police Chief Hopper is at the morgue and discovers state police performed the autopsy on Will’s body which doesn’t fit and prods his suspicions.  Joyce and Jonathan are there too to identify the body.  Jonathan gets sick and leaves while Joyce asks about a birthmark.  Hop and Jon talk a bit about Joyce and her strength before she storms out, screaming that that “thing” on the observation table is not her son.  We see a heated argument between Jonathan and Joyce out in the street (for all to see!) and they’re at definite odds about the body and what to do next.

The boys are altogether and listening for Will on the walkie talkie as Eleven tries locating him again.  Dustin compares Eleven to Professor X (this kid’s the best with his moments of levity) as she tries to connect to Will but as she’s unsuccessful, they form a plan to take her to their school to use Mr. Clarke’s ham radio.  Paying homage to E.T. once again, we see Eleven dress up like a “normal” girl with a blonde wig and dress in order to break her in.  When Eleven looks in the mirror, you can see the joy in her face as she says she looks pretty, a compliment she gave when first seeing Nancy’s picture.

Things go Poltergeist yet again when the Hawkins Lab folks send one of their own, a guy named Shepherd, into the fungal portal in the basement.  Fit with a retractable steel wire get-up, he goes in and things get weird fast as he runs his hand over the portal opening, tearing away the “gunk” only to see it reform on its own.  He goes through, loses communication with Dr. Brenner on the other side, only to finally report in, be attacked by something, and we never see him again.  All that’s left is the bloody harness at the end of the wire as it retracts.  This sequence also kind of reminded me of Dallas going into the venting system of the Nostromo in Ridley Scott’s “Alien”.  I think if we could have seen Shepherd in the portal dimension, we could have got some good old fashioned suspense!Nancy tells Stevo about seeing a guy with no face in his yard, to which he’s more concerned about the cops investigating and finding they had booze at the party (way to go with those priorities, Stevo).  Nancy leaves him angry and unable to concentrate in class when Hopper’s deputies question her about Barb.  Nancy’s mom is there too and tries to get more information out of Nancy afterwards.  Full meltdown sees Nancy confess she and Stevo did the deed but the more important matter is Barb.  Alone in her room, Nancy puts the torn picture of Barb on the diving board back together and notices something strange behind Barb in the photo.

Copper Hopper puts on his detective garb after talking to the Hawkins mortician about the state police showing up to do Will’s autopsy.  He notices a state trooper on tv giving an interview about finding Will’s body.  Hopper finds the guy in a bar (not sure how but he’s a small town cop with big city cop skills) and strikes up a conversation, gathering info before going to far and spooking the guy.  Outside the bar, Hop uses his fists to get straight answers before noticing a suspicious car nearby and driving off once he goes to confront whoever is in the car.

The boys and Eleven make it to school but can’t get into the ham radio room before Mr. Clarke shows up and promises the boys can use the radio after the school assembly taking place in light of Will’s body being found.  Mike is not happy about the bullies making fun of the situation and confronts them afterward, growing a pair and pushing one from behind.  Before retribution can be delivered, the bully freezes in mid-stride.  Humiliations galore follow when the kid pees himself so the gym full of students can laugh at him.  Mike turns to see Eleven wipe blood from her nose (straight up gangsta!).Jonathan is alone picking out a coffin when Nancy shows up.  She shows him the picture but he’s not sure what the form is standing behind Barb.  She tells him about what she saw at Steve’s place.  Jonathan asks what he looked like and as she struggles to explain, Jonathan completes the description by saying he didn’t have a face.  Connections happening!

They go to enlarge the picture of Barb in the darkroom at the high school and we get some angsty awkwardness between them.  The picture shows the monster and Nancy says that’s what she saw at Steve’s.  They think if Will’s alive (based on Joyce’s claims) then so is Barb.

The boys and Eleven are at the ham radio.  Cue a flashback and Eleven is being told by Brenner to locate a man and relay what the man is saying.  To Brenner’s surprise, the man’s voice comes on over the PA system in the room.  Her nose bleeds yet again and the lights start doing weird things.  This girl just gets the raw end of a childhood, doesn’t she?

All the while, Joyce is blasting The Clash and calling for Will to talk to her.  This is intercut with Eleven doing her thing and Will’s voice coming through the ham radio. The boys call out to him but he doesn’t hear them as he’s talking to Joyce.  She tracks Will’s voice to one of the walls in the house, pulls back the wallpaper and tada!  Will is there behind some pinkish translucent wall.  He says he’s home but its dark and different (different dimension theory coming more and more true).  He runs when he hears the monster is coming.  Joyce goes full Jack Torrence from “The Shining” and takes the axe to the wall but there’s no Will on the other side.  Just daylight.  So, Will’s alive and Joyce and the boys know it to be true.Jump back to Hopper and we see him punch his way to the morgue room where Will’s body is.  Conflicted and maybe somewhat sickened at the idea of cutting open the body, Hopper touches the body, finding something wrong.  He cuts into the chest and finds the body is stuffed with cotton.  Conspiracy alert!  Can’t stop the Hop goes to Hawkins with bolt cutters and begins to make his way through the fence when the episode ends.

Reaction:  There’s a lot happening in these episodes now and you can easily get lost in the craziness.  For me, this episode showcased great emotional performances.  From Eleven’s seeing herself dressed up to Hopper’s struggle to cut into fake Will’s body.  Nothing has to be said in these scenes.  Read the characters and you see so much happening internally.

80s Refs: Poltergeist, The Shining, Stand By Me based on Stephen King’s novella, “The Body”, Alien, Professor X.
Call to Action: The title of this episode, “The Body”, is the same title as a short story written by Stephen King.  Four friends hear about the body of a kid hit by a train and go out into the wilds to find it.  Sound familiar?  Well, it would since it’s the amazing film, “Stand By Me”.  You can find many similarities in the boys of the movie and those in Stranger Things.  There’s this idea of adolescence lost and friendship strengthened that speak volumes.  Revisit it if you have a chance!

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 3

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 2

Chapter 3: Holly, Jolly


Poor Barb… We start off with her in a place that looks like a gloomy nightmare, reminiscent of what the xenomorphs do to the colony in James Cameron’s “Aliens”.  There’s strange fungal, creeper vegetation all over like what we see in the basement level of the Hawkin’s Lab.  What’s more is, we can clearly see that she’s trapped at the bottom of an empty swimming pool.  Let’s recall she was taken by the monster while sitting on the diving board of Stevo’s pool.  Interesting…

Something is there with her and we get our first full look of the monster for a brief moment.  Cue Barb’s survival instincts and she does all she can to escape her nightmare situation.  Meanwhile, Nancy is losing her religion to Stevo with Foreigner serenading them.

Again, I say poor Barb because the last we see of her is trying to climb out of the pool and being pulled back in, screaming for Nancy and for help.


Jump to Jonathan waking up the following morning and he hears his mom talking to someone, which he thinks is Will.  What does he find instead?  His mom talking to the lights in full belief that Will is communicating with her similar to the adults talking to the little girl through the tv screen static in Spielberg’s “Poltergeist”.The boys got a plan, thinking Eleven knows where to find Will.  Lucas goes on the offensive with supplies, most notably the wrist rocket, which calls back to Stephen King’s IT (the novel).  Dustin, however, is quite the practical one, gathering food supplies, providing some levity in a show that could use quite a bit.


We get more levity from Dustin as he asks Eleven to make a toy Millennium Falcon float in the air (reference to Luke Skywalker making the X-Wing levitate in The “Empire Strikes Back”).  She does but only after the boys leave for school.  Alone in Mike’s house, Eleven begins to snoop about, which is what any of us would do–let’s be honest and truthful here.  She goes to the tv and we see her exposed to President Reagan, He-Man, and a Coke Cola commercial that triggers another flashback, showing us her ability to crush a can with her mind but also causing her nose to bleed.Eleven continues to explore and finds herself in Nancy’s room.  There’s a lot happening in this moment as Eleven looks at the life of another “normal” girl.  Lots of emotions are taking place.  She has no idea what it is to be a girl in the real world.

Nancy at school reveals she’s somewhat self-conscious about her night with Steve and also worried about Barb after she doesn’t show up for class or school for that matter.  Jonathan is developing film from the party night, gets caught by another student, and runs off with the pics.  That, however, doesn’t stop Stevo and his friends from finding out, confronting Jonathan and breaking his camera.  Nancy shows up during this, tries to stop it, but fails only to find a picture of Barb on the diving board and taking the ripped pieces, leaving Jonathan to mourn the loss of his camera (maybe don’t be a creeper taking pics of Nancy while she’s changing… yeesh).

Hop the Cop and his deputies go to Hawkins Lab to see what’s going on there.  Hop does the cop thing and gets in to talk to the head of security.  They assure Hopper there’s no way Will came through a drain pipe to access the grounds.  Security cameras show nothing but Hop is suspicious after the video feed does not show the storm of the night they searched for Will.  He knows they’re lying and gets his investigation on.  He goes to the library and goes through old newspaper clippings looking for leads on the Hawkins Lab.  He gets the names of a Dr. Brenner (white-haired Matthew Modine) and a woman named Terry Ives.  More on those two later.

The boys collect rocks at school but not before getting bullied; Mike is tripped, cutting his chin open on the ground.  They catch up with Eleven after school where she learns a new term “mouth breathers” for the bullies who hurt Mike.  Before she leads them to where Will is, Eleven has another flashback after seeing a cat that shows us the Lab folks were trying to get her to kill a cat with her powers.  She refuses, gets hauled off to the dark room but manages to hurt one of the orderlies and kill the other (mental neck snap!), which garner her some affection from Dr. Brenner, which just makes us all hate the guy.

A lamp just isn’t enough.  Joyce decks the inside of the house out with Christmas lights in order to better communicate with Will.  Mike’s mom shows up with a casserole (WHY IS IT ALWAYS CASSEROLE!!!).  And things get creepy as Mike’s younger sister, Holly, walks around the house, following the lights and gets super close to being swiped by the Monster through the wall (that Freddy Krueger in the wall effect is crazy!).  I did not like watching this part.  Too freaky!  But nothing happens to Holly, thank the Lord.

Nancy ditches Stevo and finds Barb’s car where they left it.  She checks Stevo’s back yard–just in case, I guess.  She doesn’t find any sign of Barb but she does get a nice glimpse of the monster before running away.  She’s convinced now more than ever that something horrible happened to Barb.

Coming to the end of the episode, we get a lot of cuts between story lines.  Hopper gets a call while in the library and he hurries off.  Eleven takes the boys to Will’s house leaving them confused while she says he’s hiding there.  They see and hear the sirens of the cops and follow on their bikes.  And Joyce is talking to Will again through the lights (great call back to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the communicating through lights in the Spielberg classic).

She fashions an alphabet on the wall so Will can spell out words to her and we come to my favorite part of the episode.  Joyce’s talking to Will with the alphabet is one of those things that becomes iconic to the show.  He tells her he’s “RIGHT HERE” which confuses her and then when she asks what she should do, he tells her to “RUN” and she does after the monster manages to burst through the wall this time.  Such a great suspenseful moment!!!

The episode closes however on a very sad, heartbreaking note as the cops and the boys get to the bottom of the quarry to find Will’s body being fished out of the lake.  Mike is furious at Eleven, believing she lied to him while Lucas and Dustin can only try to console their friend.  Hopper is just as defeated as he looks upon the body and knows things have changed dramatically for them all.

Reaction: So I don’t think I can talk about my reaction to this episode without talking about the beginning and end.  Barb’s situation and apparent demise is one of those sequences where you just want more.  She’s in this crazy place that looks like a nightmare inverse of the real world and I want to know more about it.  Then at the end, I have to go with the tragedy of Will’s body being fished out of the bottom of the quarry.  At this point, you want to believe Joyce is indeed talking to Will yet here is his body.  You can’t help but push play to watch the next episode.

80s Refs: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Poltergeist, IT


Call to Action: I want to recommend revisiting Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  I was too young to “get” this movie as a kid but I think if I watched it now, I would appreciate it so much more.  I’ll see if I can track it down online.

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 2

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 0

Chapter 2: The Weirdo on Maple Street


The boys bring Eleven out of the rain and into Mike’s 80s kid’s dream room basement.  The interaction is full of humor as the boys try to talk to Eleven and learn what they can.  While Dustin and Lucas think parents need to be brought into the loop, Mike has the decency and good sense to hold off on the notion, directing them all to the possibility that the inclusion of parents would get them all confined to their houses (isn’t it always the case) and no longer able to search for Will.

Also, we should be asking, “Why does Eleven have the tattoo of the number?  Are there ten others who have similar markings?  If so, where are they?”

The next morning Mike snags some Eggo waffles for Eleven, which becomes a staple for her and slightly reminiscent to E.T. and his love for Reeses Pieces.  Most of these interactions with Eleven early on are similar and pay tribute to E.T. with more to come in later episodes.  Mike’s plan to have Eleven sneak out and ask for help is shot down once Eleven convinces him that bad people are looking for her, making the universal gun hand sign very clear to him that she must remain hidden.

This leads to Mike staying home from school where we once again get some great moments between him and Eleven as their friendship grows.  He introduces her to the norms of life and she struggles to understand.  Mike shows Eleven his awesome 80s action figure collection.  These were the best growing up.  Quality, lol, and I was a fan of 80s action figures.  Don’t judge.  When Mike’s mom shows up, he hides her in a dark space which she’s not a fan of and leads to a freaky flashback of her in the Hawkin’s Lab hallway dragged and thrown into a dark room with no explanation while a white-haired Matthew Modine looks on.

Poor Jonathan.  You really start to feel for the kid as Joyce falls deeper into hysteria and what some might call frantic frenzy.  Our favorite Police Chief, Hopper the Copper, shows up with no Will and no belief that Joyce actually heard Will on the other end of the zapped phone.  Tensions rise when she jabs him with another reference to his deceased daughter that hits him hard.

Good Jonathan.  He takes it upon himself to go to his estranged father’s house in search for Will, not wanting the cops to show up, knowing Will could bolt if he sees a black and white pull up.  But first, he goes to school to put up some posters.

Nancy and Barb are at the school and get invited to a party (always a bad sign in 80s slasher flicks) by Stevo.  He and his friends notice Jonathan and prove their cliché douchery by making fun of him while he puts the posters up.  We’re all thinking it: “Let Stevo and his goons be the next victims of the monster!”.  Nancy, however, has a heart and goes to assure Jonathan that everyone wants Will to be found (duh, Nancy, duh).

So, is Jonathan the “Weirdo on Maple Street”?  You get that sense throughout the episode though I missed whether or not the Byers house is on Maple Street or not.  Yeah, he’s awkward and totally shoulders the brunt of responsibility helping his family with finances, going to school, and helping take care of his little brother.  We get another flashback where he is showing Will the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go”.  Once again, this show (if you haven’t noticed so far) does a great job of establishing characters and their relationships.

Meanwhile Joyce will not be swayed.  She heard Will on the other end of the phone before it was zapped and will do everything she can to make the connection again.  She goes to get a new phone and we find out the Lab folks have been eavesdropping on phone call and get a lead to go to the Byers’ residence where they do shady government work in their trusty HAZMAT suits and are led by Ghostbusters technology to the shed to get positive readings.

(Yeesh… there’s a lot that happens in this episode!  Almost done)

Hopper the Copper and his deputies find Benny’s body in what looks like an apparent suicide (shady Lab folks pulling no punches!) but Hopper’s not convinced Benny would off himself.  After some interviews, he finds that some kid was found stealing food in Benny’s diner kitchen and automatically wonders if it was Will.  It’s inconclusive but Hopper seems convinced Will was there and things just got more drastic.  Eventually, the search party leads them to Hawkin’s Lab.

Back to the boys and while they think Mike is nuts for believing Eleven, they realize she’s more than what she seems when she closes a door with her telekinesis.  Freaked out now, they decide to tread lightly around her but do explain to her what friends are as she continues to try to understand the norms.  This all leads to what is my favorite part of the episode.  She goes to the table where the D&D board sits with their figurines scattered about.  She flips the board over and places Will’s wizard figurine on the black surface of the board and then places the figurine of the Demagorgon alongside Will’s.  I can’t explain the significance of this yet but we will be getting there.

The great intensity and creepy factor of this episode comes full throttle as we return to Joyce, having installed a new phone, gets a call from who she thinks is Will again and is confirmed when he says, “Mom?”.  But then the dang phone gets zapped again!  The Clash goes on full blast in Jonathan’s room which leads Joyce to do what you don’t do in horror movies: investigate the strange thing or sounds coming from another room in the house!  All the while, lights are going nutty in the house and once in Jonathan’s room, something presses against a wall and we’ve got a Freddy Krueger moment!!!  She freaks and runs outside, ready to drive off, but when the music starts up at full blast, Joyce goes full crazy mom and heads back inside.  Fate unknown (for now).

Nancy being the great friend that she is convinces Barb to tag along to Stevo’s totally rad party (come to think of it, there’s only five people at this party so…not really a party).  Shenanigans take place with what you would expect.  We’ve got loud music, shotgunning beer from cans, and jumping in the pool fully clothed.  These 80s good times draw Jonathan to the unfenced yard of Stevo’s house while he is out in “Mirkwood” looking for Will with his camera (why he has a camera in the dark taking pictures, I’ve yet to figure out but you know, be the weirdo, Jonathan.  Embrace it.).

Barb is not having the time of her life and cuts herself badly while taking part in a shotgunning of her own.  Nancy is drenched from the pool and decides to go upstairs with Stevo and partake in some underage coitus.  Jonathan exemplifies his weirdo creeper vibe by taking pictures of all this (why, man, why?!).  Barb is alone and sitting on the diving board of the pool, still dealing with the cut she suffered.  A droplet of blood hits the water which is far too reminiscent of Jaws for my liking.  Something approaches from behind, the Monster, and snatches Barb away.  Jonathan is messing with his camera while this goes down, hears a sound but doesn’t see Barb anymore.

This show is going to end on creepiness every episode, isn’t it?!

Reaction: So my reaction to this episode was vamped to an 11 (no pun intended, lol).  So many great moments for the characters and understanding them better in light of the tragedy of Will’s disappearance.  More mystery enshrouds Eleven, the Hawkins Lab, and whatever else is happening in rural Indiana.

The moments with Joyce and Barb at the end of the episode totally freaked me out.  If you’ll remember from my “Why I Watched IT” blog post, I’m not drawn to horror but man there were some scary intense moments in this episode.  Things pressing against the wall, trying to push their way out are not something I want to see.


Best 80s References: Title similar to The Nightmare on Elm Street, Eleven is like E.T., The Clash send us a message.

Great Storytelling Moment: The moments with Eleven and Mike were my favorite in this episode.  Her innocence and naivety are done so well by Millie Bobby Brown and you see the world through her eyes in a way that tugs at the heart.  She has no one and you want to see her protected, while at the same time wondering if she can protect herself with her telekinesis abilities.  She needs friends and family.

Call to Action: Go back and watch E.T.  I admit I haven’t seen it since I was a kid and I need to revisit it.  I do remember the relationship between Elliot and E.T. and the love between them.  True friendship!

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 1

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 0

Chapter 1: The Vanishing of Will Byers

Oh happy day!  We’re here in October with Fall on the horizon and Stranger Things happening.  So here’s how it will go down through the month here on my blog.  I will give a recap of the episode that should not read like a play by play but a “what’s going on here” portion with plenty of my thoughts mixed in.  Then I’ll give an overall thought of the episode followed by a list of my favorite references and maybe even some trivia if its warranted.  The Call to Action will be the last bit of the post.  Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading!


We start with some “no namer” running through a creepy lab/hospital-like hallway which makes me think of a scene from Joh Carpenter’s “Halloween” where masked-killer Michael Myers is casually in pursuit of one of his victims.  Our “no namer” gets to an elevator safe and sound about to get away from whatever he’s running from.  We learn quickly what this show is going to be when we hear creepy sounds of what makes me think of gremlins above him.  Then…no more “no namer”.

Strange and creepy.  Here we go!

Meet the boys.  They’re the Goonies, the boys of Stand By Me, the Losers Club, etc.  Except not.  Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will are in a basement playing Dungeons and Dragons.  Now, I was not allowed to play D&D growing up.  By the time I could even conceivably sit at a table surrounded by Coke and Dorritos for twelve plus hours rolling dice and collecting hit points, D&D was of no interest to me.  As I grew up, I was told it was forbidden to play for “religious” reasons.  I don’t blame my parents for this line of thinking.  It was pretty common if you were a church-goer in the 80s/early 90s.  (That’s okay, my role playing experiences came later with RPG video games and I preferred those to any game board experiences I’ve had as an adult.)

However, the use of D&D in the show is essential which we will see throughout the series.  There are elements that act as allusion and metaphor but we’ll pause on that for now.  Just remember the name, “Demagorgon”.  It’s important.

This first episode introduces a lot of characters and sets up relationships.  I’ll try to hit on all these as best as I can without becoming droll.

Keeping our focus on the boys (they don’t have a name like the Goonies so I’ll be calling them “the boys” throughout these posts).  The D&D game ends without a resolution to the attack by the Demagorgon and they all leave Mike’s basement to return home for the night.  Things get creepy as Will takes a route home through the woods the boys call “Mirkwood” (Lord of the Rings reference!) but he doesn’t encounter Legolas or some other elven character.  Instead, something tall and lithe is in the road and causes him to crash his bike and run for home.

Whatever the “thing” is, it follows Will and a whole bunch of creepiness happens.  Lights are affected by the presence of the thing (let’s just call it a monster) and Will does the only thing a twelve year old boy should do in this situation: run to the shed and grab a rifle.  However, the monster gets in somehow and the next thing we know, Will is gone.  No scream or nothing.  Just gone.

Cue perfect title sequence! (The synth music here is reminiscent of Carpenter’s iconic Halloween theme.)

More introductions happen after this.  We get our favorite police chief. Hopper. who shows us plenty of things: he likes pills and beer in the morning.  We also get to meet Will’s mom, Joyce (Wynona!), and brother, Jonathan, who realize Will’s gone and that’s not good.  Mike’s older sister, Nancy, and her best friend Barb (#savebarb) let us in on the high school scene and all those fun instances of angst and conformity (I blame the clothes and hair styles personally).

We also see that Nancy, the smart girl, is in a budding relationship with Steve Harrington (whom I will call Stevo), the popular boy, reminding us of John Hughes and most notably “Sixteen Candles”.  More or less, we get a pretty picture of fictional Hawkins, Indiana where things are peachy keen until strange things start happening.  Typical but nostalgically amazing!

Nefarious dealings are happening in the lab we first see at the beginning with the “no namer” as we go back to the Hawkins Laboratory.  HAZMAT wearing dweebs (these guys are always at fault) go to the basement and find spores in the air and nasty, gross fungus-like growths on the walls.  One of these is extra big and pulsating looking far too much like an infected wound.  Gross.

Police Chief Hopper does the appropriate police work and begins to investigate Will’s disappearance at the frantic request of Joyce (she and he have obvious history together).  It takes a while but Hopper eventually realizes this is not a kid who ran off and is hiding somewhere.  He’s gone without a trace.  The search commences and the town begins to band together to find Will.  Also, we are told Hopper had a daughter who died but that remains a mystery.  Joyce and Jonathan do their best to console one another and when the phone rings, Joyce hopes for good news.  Instead, she hears weird sounds, which includes breathing she believes is Will, but before she can get an answer, the phone gets a level-10 electric zap.

And now your star of the show arrives walking through the woods shoeless and in a hospital gown.  Eleven!  This girl’s got spunk.  One kid vanishes and another appears.  We know things are not good for her as she steals food and can unabashedly stop an annoying floor fan with her mind.  Telekinesis powers is always bad-ass.  I don’t care who you are, it would be an awesome super power to have.  Suffice to say, someone, Benny the diner owner, tries to help her and dies in the process but at least she gets away, forced back into the woods while the appropriate 80s cliché of a rain storm hits the night.

Back to the boys and they want to find Will, thinking like boys do, and wonder if the previous night’s D&D game had something to do with his disappearance.  Will had a choice to cast a protective spell against the Demagorgon or cast a fireball.  He chose fireball but his di roll was inconclusive.  This comes off as strange but this is how boys think (trust me).  They go full Goonies and hit the night, enduring the storm on their bikes to look for their lost friend in “Mirkwood” where they eventually run into Eleven!  Episode over.

Reaction: I remember first watching this episode last year and being gripped by it immediately.  There was so much of my childhood wrapped into those 50+ minutes that I had to keep watching.  Also, the music is perfect.  You have to watch the episodes a few times but you truly appreciate the tone of scenes when you focus on the crazy synth sounds produced.

Best 80s References: X-Men 134 (First appearance of the Phoenix that takes over Jean Grey who is a telepath like Eleven), Mirkwood, Goonies, Sixteen Candles, E.T.

Great Storytelling Moment: It won’t come into full affect until later episodes but the use of D&D in Stranger Things Season 1 actually plays important roles as a foreshadowing device.  As a writer, these are the things I love to see utilized and done well.

Call to Action: Here’s the first 8 minutes of the episode for your enjoyment!  If it’s not your cup of tea, then I’d advise against watching the show but you can definitely keep reading my episode rewatch posts!  Far less creepy but plenty strange.

Flash Fiction: “Guarded Offerings”

The melodic voices of the unmarried women of the Ajjuun beat against the outer walls of Hijeneva’s maiden hut.  Per tradition, her peers circled around her dwelling as she sat in silence, examining the gift offerings provided by the unmarried men of the tribe.  They sought to woo the celebrity born from the triumph of collecting the bones of a deceased god.

Baskets lay before her on the collection of cow skins that made up her hut’s floor.  In each of the twenty or so bend-wood woven containers were weapons, supplies, and armor crafted by the men who hoped to be her husband.  The quality of each marked each young man’s value.  She did not know whose name was attached to each basket of gifts.  The anonymity leant itself to the expected surprise of a worthy mate.  So was the Ajjuun way.

Too often, her mind strayed to wonder if Imko was the owner of the basket gift but the tragic death of her friend breached her forgetfulness to give sting to her swollen heart.

Despite the proposals before her—a grand example of her value to the tribe—she was drawn more to the laid out items taken off of the corpse she managed to pilfer in the clearing weeks ago.  The body had been burned and the ruined clothes buried but it was the other items she now possessed that grasped her awe and curiosity.

She did not touch the items but used iron prongs belonging to her father to take each and place them in her hut.  Inside a finely crafted box upon a polished stand, placed in a row were the four shining coins, an armlet fit with a dull gold-colored stone set in it, and a small hand mirror made of silver.

From several feet away, she could sense the power imbued in each item.  The functionality or level of each had not been discovered yet but she would learn the secrets they possessed.  She considered each basket and wondered if the one she chose would serve in the discovery.  Would a potential husband be willing to risk his life to earn her proposal?  The thought gave birth to a smile and a growing plan.

Stranger Things Are Coming

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 0
We’re almost there!  We’re a month out from Stranger Things Season 2 and I have been so excited!  I figured I would take a moment to explain how this is going to work.  Here’s the schedule:

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 1 – 03 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 2 – 06 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 3- 09 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 4 – 12 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 5 – 15 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 6 – 18 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 7 – 21 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch of Episode 8 – 24 Oct

Stranger Things: Rewatch Final Thoughts- 27 Oct

Each post will cover my impressions of the episode from a few perspectives: as a nerd, 80s kid nostalgia, and a writer.

I’ll say here that I love this show.  It hit me in so many ways and I truly felt it was a show made for me and my generation.  I was born in ’84 but watched so many of the movies and tv shows referenced that I completely related.  I remember the technology, music, and culture of the US.

What’s funny is there are elements to the show that I did not understand or experience in that time period growing up but was later drawn to just because I naturally drifted towards those influences by some way or another.  I’ll go more in depth in the episode reviews, of course.  You’ll learn more about me from these blog posts.  That’s for certain.

If you have not watched Stranger Things, then I encourage you to give it a try.  It has some creepiness and definitely crosses into horror/sci-fi at times but overall, the show is a cross between The Goonies/E.T./Alien with many shades of other 80s films.  If it’s not your bag, I don’t blame you.  To each their own.

Call to Action: Brush up on your 80s pop culture!  So many of the references in the show depend on that (at least in my opinion).

Why I Watched IT

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 2

I will start by saying this is not an open endorsement to go and watch Stephen King’s “IT” in theaters.  Instead, I want to explain why I had the desire to watch it.I watched the 1990 miniseries (more like two made-for-tv movies to be honest) back when I was probably close to ten years old.  At the time, it was creepy and definitely had moments that scared me.  However, this was back in the time when tv would edit out a lot of mature things, which is no longer the case.  Nevertheless, the miniseries still had its moments.

The book of “IT” is extremely violent and has some very mature themes that could not be put on tv.  Looking back now, the miniseries has various levels of campiness and the acting is subpar save for Tim Curry’s performance as the iconic clown, Pennywise.  His performance has remained a staple of his career and also in the horror genre.

Twenty seven years later, we are introduced to the film adaption of the novel and it is more true to the book despite many liberties being taken.  The horror and gruesome imagery in the book translate to an R-rated film much easier and the director, Andy Muschietti, did not hold back.  Believe it or not there are scenes in the book that even by today’s standards could not be filmed and put on the screen.  I won’t go into the details but King introduced some troubling things and to this day people are not keen to (as well they shouldn’t).

Now, why did I want to watch this film?  I am in no real way a horror fan.  I have tons of memories of scouring the tv as a kid and finding horror movies (all edited for general viewing, of course) and daring to watch them even though I was not allowed to.  Why?  Mostly because I was curious.  I never had nightmares from doing this but those images do stick with you.  Part of me definitely did it to get the rush of adrenaline one gets but I’m not a junkie for that sort of thing.  I’m more a fan of suspense than horror.

For “IT”, my draw was partly due to nostalgia because I remembered the mini series and I also remember reading in-depth synopses of the novel (I never dared to read it) so I was curious as to how this film was going to turn out.  I paid close attention to the trailers and tv spots whenever they were released and watched them on YouTube and I even watched the breakdowns of these clips.  Again, all out of curiosity more than anything else.  After listening to reviews from multiple critics, I gauged their response to the film as well and the high regards for it tugged at my interest more.  If they had all said it was crap and not worth their time or money, then I’d probably be like, “Eh, maybe I won’t see it then.”  Alas, that was not the case.

When it came time to watch the film, I was apprehensive but knew plenty about the source material and even heard some spoilers that I felt prepared.  Hahaha, I know, I know.  Why watch it then?

I have to say the film is well made and the acting performances by the young actors are spot on great.  Bill Skarsgard’s portrayal of Pennywise the Clown was different than Tim Curry’s previous portrayal and every bit intense and scary.  A very good job.  The creepiness factor is there throughout and at times so subtle that I only knew what to look for because of some of the reviews I listened to.  Some seemed specifically aimed at the theater goers.  Was it scary?  Yes and no.  Was it violent?  Yes and yes.  Was it worth my time?  I think so.

Let me explain why.  As I’ve done this whole writing thing, I’ve been drawn into storytelling no matter the medium.  Whether its movies, television, comics, video games, etc.  If there’s a great story with even better characters, I am interested.  It doesn’t matter the genre either.  I kind of equate my experience watching “IT” to my experience of playing “The Last of Us” which I reviewed in a prior blog post.  “The Last of Us” was an intense experience!  There are so many moments where the intensity of the environment and situation have my adrenaline up and flowing.  If you’ll recall, I loved the experience of the gameplay but even more so the characters of Joel and Ellie.

For “IT”, the kids make the movie.  Yes, Pennywise and all of his eerie creepiness are more spectacle than anything else because he’s a shape shifting other worldly entity of evil that feeds on the fear of children.  What they fear, he becomes, which as you can imagine produced some frightening things.

I think what draws myself and audiences to “IT” is essentially the kids and their banding together to beat this evil that adults cannot see or even sense.  And this threat is very real since we see at the beginning that it preys on children, feeding on them once their fear meets its needs.  There is a very real sense of danger to them and we cannot help but root for their survival and defeat of evil.

Call to Action: Don’t watch “IT” unless it’s your brand of entertainment.  I can honestly say that while I enjoyed the film for some reasons, I don’t feel the need to see it again.  One and done until the sequel comes out (yeah, I forgot to mention it’s a two-parter film as well).

On This Day – 22 Sept 2004 – Premier of Lost (TV)

posted in: Film/TV, On This Day, Review | 1
Wow!  On this day, thirteen years ago, I sat in front of a tv at my parents house and watched the Lost premier!  Amazing how much time flies by.  I can’t believe it.  If you want to read about my review of the series of Lost, go here:

What I didn’t know at the time was what Lost would become: a phenomenon.  All I knew of the show was that it was about a plane crash and the survivors were stuck on a strange island.  Below is the promo trailer:


I wish I could say I was hooked from the beginning but I quickly forgot about the show and didn’t watch it again until the second season began to air.  From there, I never missed a week, and I became a bit obsessed with the theories of the show and all its mysteries.  I remember so vividly as I was right out of high school and taking classes at the local community college.  I worked in the computer lab and had several websites I would visit throughout the week to read about theories or go over screen caps of things showcased in the show, hoping these items like numbers, historical events, and books would shed light on the secrets.  Let’s just say I was a committed fan.

I remain a fan to this day and while there are plenty of things wrong with the show, I choose to love it for the good things it did.  Many great characters and fun, memorable moments, twists, and surprises keep me enthralled by the awesome show.  Many other shows have come and gone trying to recreate the enthralling experience of Lost.  They all fell short.

For myself, Lost opened some doors in my own creative mind that has definitely paved the way towards story structure.  As I said before, there were many times in the show where it seemed like the writers were writing as they went, answering questions but then opening the doorway to two or three more mysteries.  This was not the best method because by the end of the show, some of the answers to the mysteries were not truly satisfactory.

However, I believe that the serial structure of the show is far more superior to the otherwise opposite procedural in that continuous story lines help keep characters grounded but also available to grow.  I’m not saying a procedural cannot bring character growth (many do) but these lingering story lines help us look back at the beginning to see how far the character has come once they reach the end.

Case in point, Jack Shepherd (played by Matthew Fox) is one of the main protagonists in the show and the focus of the pilot episode.  The show opens with his eye opening (a common theme in the show with many characters) and he finds himself surrounded by trees in a jungle.  He then proceeds to discover the plane he was on has crashed and he has to act instantly (that’s the doctor in him) to start helping the other survivors.  That’s his sole goal throughout the first season and onwards in the series: to help people.

I won’t spoil it but to consider the character of Jack from the beginning and to see his journey until the end of the show (minor spoiler but, yes, he survives the entirety of the series), you can truly appreciate the writing.  There were missteps along the way but my love for the show can easily be captured in the overall arc of Jack who is a tormented, broken man but one of quality and ability that supersedes his faults.

Call to Action: To watch Lost is an endeavor.  It’s a long show with all kinds of twists and turns and highs and lows.  I still think the two-part pilot is one of the greatest episodes of television to date and always recommend watching it.  Do you agree?  Tell me what you thought about Lost when you first saw it.  I can always talk about it and watch it no matter what!

Dealing With Plot Holes

Have you ever been watching a movie, tv show, or even read a book and thought, “Wait what about (blank) or what happened to (blank)?”?  For example, did you ever wonder about why the eagles didn’t just take the One Ring to Mordor and drop it into the lava from on high?  Did you ever wonder why Marty McFly’s parents didn’t recognize him in the present after he impacted their lives back in the 50s?  Oh, and what about Buzz Lightyear freezing like all the other toys when humans come around?  I mean, he thinks he’s a real space marine yet he acts like a toy!  Childhood ruined…  Do these instances drive you crazy?  I can keep going if you’d like.

As a writer, this is something I often have to consider and pay close attention to while I plan, write, edit, and revise.  Early on, it’s easy to write yourself into a corner or come up with a convenient climax to force your main protagonist into success.  This is just another example of growing as a writer to be honest.  Lessons learned is the best way but you won’t get there unless you have some astute beta readers looking for these faux pas.

Thankfully, I’ve managed to find some very good beta readers myself.  In fact, I would actually encourage (I know this is weird but track with me) you to write into your story small and large plot holes (or inconsistencies), making sure you are aware of them and see if your beta readers come across and puts a big giant “?!?!” next to them.  If they do, then I think you’ve established finding a beta reader worth keeping around.  Plus, you can trust they will find the plot holes you’ve glossed over yourself.

Caution/Warning!: Make sure you go back and fix those deliberate mistakes before you send your story to an agent.  Trust me, they will pick up on it and if it’s especially glaring, they will chuck your query in the waste bin faster than a dog scarfing a burger tossed in the dirt.

How do you fix a plot hole?  By writing of course.  It may take some passes but the solution will eventually come to you.  The best thing to do is not feel overwhelmed if it takes a while.  Be willing to sit on it for awhile, letting your creativity go to work while not sitting in front of the screen.  In fact, grab a notepad and write down the plot hole.  Let yourself do some manual writing for a change and see what comes.

I ran into a minor but glaring plot hole in the first chapters of So Speaks the Gallows after my main beta reader brought it to my attention.  I actually had to talk it out with him in order to find the fix.  It was actually a simple solution that didn’t require too much rewriting but it did need to take place.  I’m glad it did because it actually allowed me to add a layer that otherwise would never have been there.  (I’ll reveal what this was later down the road once the book gets published.  I’m planning on releasing some behind the scenes/commentary posts in the future but you’ll have to wait for that.  Hopefully, not too long of a wait.)

Consider plot holes, mistakes, inaccuracies, etc. to be somewhat a natural occurrence if you’re a storyteller.  It will happen because the more complex your story is, the more likely you will forget to consider a plot, setting, or character aspect that will lead to your audience giving you a big red “?!?!”.  Try not to get upset or discouraged by these instances.  Shrug it off and begin the search for the solution.  Once it’s there, insert and revise accordingly.

Call to Action: If you want to seriously treat yourself to some fun plot holes in movies and tv shows, simply go to Youtube and search “plot holes”.  You will not be disappointed.  Avoid the Disney videos though because these will inevitably ruin future watching of your favorite animated films.  But if you’re a diabolical glutton, watch with and then test your children to see how smart they are once they watch those same movies.  See if they have the beta reader/critique knack.

Book Thoughts: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Something I rarely do (pretty sure I’ve never done it in fact) is finish a book of decent length in a week.  It helps to have 16 hours of driving shotgun from Colorado to southern California though.

Initially, getting in to Ready Player One was easy.  The main protagonist, Wade Watts, introduces himself in first person and quickly begins to describe the world in which he lives and his personal struggles.  Not to get into the weeds of specifics, he lives in a dystopian future that has resolved itself to log into a virtual world called the OASIS.  Here in this virtual world, people forget the trials and hardships of their real life and become whatever they want by creating an avatar and remaining anonymous by using an alternate user name by which celebrity can be attained.

Wade or Parzival (a play on the name Percival), is what is called a gunter (fun word), which stands for egg hunter.  Already, you’re thinking, “Does that mean he’s some kind of chicken farmer in this virtual world?”  No, unfortunately, that is not what he is.  Gunters are those OASIS users who are searching for three keys (copper, jade, and crystal) which will open three gates that will eventually lead them to the Easter Egg hidden within the vastness of the OASIS by its creator.  Whoever finds it, inherits the creator’s wealth and more.  The problem is, it’s been years since the contest to find the Easter Egg was announced and no one has made headway to discover the location of the first key (copper).

There, I have to stop because otherwise we get into spoiler territory.  Honestly, the book is a fun read with plenty of sub context our society can grab a hold of as we become more advanced in our technology and move into this virtual otherworld.  VR technology for video games is getting better by the year and soon enough, I would not be surprised to see us “plug in”.

A major plus in the book for me is the references to late 70s and 80s pop culture.  The creator of the OASIS was a teenager during the 80s and therefore his difficult home life was medicated through the movies, music, video games, and comics of that decade.  I was born in the mid-80s but I have held onto that decade more than I did the 90s when I was an adolescent/teenager.  So many of the 80s references in the book hit home for me.  From classic arcade games to Rush lyrics, I found myself trying to decipher the clues to the keys and gates, thinking of the 80s and what they could mean.

Ultimately though, the characters were spot on.  Wade and his friends were strong and fun to go on the adventure with.  Anonymity is a huge theme in the book.  People perceive avatars through the OASIS but personality comes through despite appearances.  Wade learns this along the way.  There’s this desire to know who his friends are in reality but the fear that to do so might affect their relationships after being “exposed”.  How much do we see in our society today people striving to fix imperfections and form their identity by any means possible?  Identity is a major theme in the book and by the end, I really felt I understood it and was able to think about it on a deeper level.

In closing and here’s your “Call to Action”, give Ready Player One a read.  If your a fan of the 80s and all things pop culture, you’ll get a kick out of the references.  Plus, Steven Spielberg is directing the film adaptation and I can’t wait to see how the movie turns out!


posted in: Life | 0
I’ve had this topic for a blog post on the schedule for a while now but kept pushing it back because I didn’t know how quite to approach it.  I think I’ve processed it enough and the recent real world events have allowed me to form some thoughts.

There’s a huge difference between sympathy and empathy.  Feeling sorry for others is (in my opinion) the lesser of the emotional responses.  But to be put in the place of another’s tragedy, pain, or loss progresses the human connection.  To empathize with others is to embrace what they are experiencing, to understand their position.  Why is this better?  Because to empathize is to be human.  Again, just my opinion.

I want to approach this with sensitivity.  I originally wanted to write about empathizing with characters and how that allows for a greater reading experience.  I could still write towards that end and believe it wholly important for a writer to understand and write with conviction.  However, in light of the recent hurricane tragedies, I’m being led down a different path.

I’m going to be completely honest with all of you.  I struggle with empathy.  On a personal level, I really do have a difficult time putting myself in the shoes of others who are or have suffered.  This is not to say my heart goes out to those in pain and suffering; I do in fact have a heart.  I just mean I don’t easily put myself in the shoes of others.  I don’t know why this is but it is something I’ve been aware of and trying to process through as I get older.  I should add that this is not just difficulty empathizing with strangers but even with family and friends!  My apologies to any if I’ve ever seemed unaffected by your loss and/or pain.  I promise I’m not some stone-hearted, cold-souled jerk.  I’m not (I can be a bit of a jerk at times but that’s due to my sarcastic nature).  The important thing is I’m conscious of this vice in my life and working towards correcting it.

I have to ask why I struggle to empathize and really dig deep.  Is it because I’ve never experienced loss or pain?  I’d argue that’s not true.  I’ve had family members pass, lost friends, gone through difficult emotional trials, etc.  I’m not immune to those natural occurrences while going through life.  None of us truly are unless you live alone, devoid of human contact, which is unlikely.

I think I struggle with empathy because I don’t jump into the pool right away.  My wife can attest to this best but I need time to process things.  I am not reactionary.  Things come at me and I step back, weighing the toll and consequence.  I would argue this is emotional maturity, however, if I deny myself immediate empathy, then do I risk denying human connection and relationships with others?

We want to feel loved.  To love and be loved back is the greatest human experience.  But with the good comes the bad and sometimes difficult things that cannot be planned for.  My journey in life is about people.  I’ve always known that.  As a writer, I need people.  I need to understand them and know what makes them who they are.  It’s essential.

I don’t write any this to say I do not empathize with those in need of help.  My heart goes out to them and I pray daily that they receive whatever they need.  I’ve watched plenty of recovery coverage and it actually stirs my heart to see people helping each other.  There’s no question of race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc.  It’s a matter of helping because they can.

If I were closer to those affected by the hurricane, I’d like to think I would be there, helping wherever I can.  I went with the youth group I was helping with to Galveston, TX, after Hurricane Ike struck years ago.  We spent more than a week helping where we could, joining with another church ministry.  It was a great experience for me.  It taught me to be selfless and compassionate to those affected by tragedy.  While I struggle to empathize, I do not struggle with compassion.  My heart aches and I pray and hope that those in need find joy restored and pain healed.  My prayers are that the country will come together and provide and give ceaselessly to see those who lost their homes find restoration to what was lost.  To see the hungry fed and families reunited.

Little can be done by writing a blog.  I understand that but my hope is people will find it in their hearts to help wherever and however they can.  To do so showcases the true heights of humanity.  Our ability to put others before ourselves should restore hope.  We’ve done it as humans on more occasions than can be recorded and remembered.  It’s in us to prevail.

Call to Action: Donate wherever and however you can.  Look online for charities if you can’t physically go and help those affected by the hurricanes.  Simple.

A Writer on Vacation

posted in: Editing/Revision, Life, Writing | 0
This is a bit reactionary as a blog post.  I am writing this based on on my week-long vacation here in Colorado.  Sometimes, I think I can look at 7 days away from normal life and get a whole bunch of writing done, finish my revision, and start my agent querying letters!  Alas, I cannot… This morning (Friday) was the first chance I got to sit down and revise for more than an hour (which isn’t that long anyway).

While unfortunate, I think I need to be okay with getting little writing done while on vacation.  I’m sure other writers have different methods and can get work done but I think for myself, the pressure to try to write/revise even an hour a day is a little too stringent.  I’m around family and we like to get out of the house and go see the area and not be cooped up.  So, I’ve decided I need to make different goals while on vacation.  If I can write, I will but if I can’t, I won’t let myself be disappointed.

Instead, I think getting a lot of reading done is more feasible.  I love setting a reading goal for the year through Goodreads.  It helps me track, search, review, etc. books easily.  No muss no fuss (what even is muss?).  I finished one book on the drive to Colorado and had another ready.  My hope is to get this other book, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, finished by the time I get home Sunday (while you’re reading this, I’m probably getting close!).

Side note: Ready Player One is almost the perfect book to read before I start my re-watch and review of Stranger Things Season 1.  For those who did not receive the latest newsletter, I announced that I would be re-watching Stranger Things in preparation for the release of Season 2 on October 27.

The purpose of vacation is to get away and relax.  I’m not sure how many people are able to do this and actually relax but I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Colorado.  I did a lot and definitely feel as if I didn’t sit on my butt (which I have done on other vacations unfortunately) the whole time.  So, I hope to return home and to work refreshed and ready to get back in the grind of life.  Hope you all have had a great week wherever you’re at.  Talk to you soon!

Call to Action: If you get the chance, watch the following movies: Logan Lucky and The Big Sick.  The latter might not be your cup o’ tea but both were fun watches with great writing and characters.  My wife and I watched both while here and enjoyed them a great deal.

Release the Newsletter!

posted in: Life, Newsletter, Writing | 0
The second newsletter has been released and I feel relieved!  It’s not a super stressful process or task but it is one I try to begin at least a month in advance and have finished before the release date so I have time to sit on it and make any last minute changes .  For those who received it, hope you enjoyed the news, book reviews, and short story.  There’s so much potential for this Shoals to the Hallowed world that it does become difficult not to get ahead of myself and let it blossom beyond the flash fiction and short story structure.  Patience and self control are needed as a writer.

As I said in the previous blog post, my wife and I are in Colorado for a much-needed vacation and escape of the 100+ degree weather of the Mojave Desert.  I drove over with my dad (something I actually looked forward to) and she flew out with my mom.  Should be a great time with our family who lives in the area.  Particularly, I get to see my sister whom I seem to miss more and more the longer we don’t get to hang out with each other (she’s amazing and infectious to be around).

What I love about long road trips is the opportunity I get to read.  My plan is to read the bestseller and soon to be movie blockbuster “Ready Player One”.  I’ve had this book on my radar for a while now and after seeing the trailer for the film, I want to dive into the book’s pages.  Expect some thoughts and impressions to come soon since I plan on getting through it during the vacation.

While we are here in Colorado, I fully expect to get some rest, eat good food, drink great beer, and go on several hikes (there will be some writing sprinkled into the mix as well).  It will be amazing.  I’ve tried to take pictures and share on Instagram and Twitter.  Follow me on either if you want to see the fun!

Also, I got to see my favorite baseball team, the San Francisco Giants play the Rockies on Monday!  They didn’t win but it was still great to see my team play.

As announced in the newsletter, my Stranger Things project (re-watch, review, and prep for season 2) is underway. I’ll be prepping and putting all that together this month as well.  Look for a explanation/preparatory blog post on September 27th for the details and schedule.

Call to Action: Feel free to send me some feedback on the newsletter if you got it.  I’m always curious to read what people think, liked, disliked, etc.  If you signed up for it but didn’t receive the newsletter on August 31st, please let me know and I’ll shoot your way.  Thanks!

Sunday Levity: Just Relaxin’

posted in: Reading, Sunday Levity | 2

Hello all!  I’m here in beautiful Colorado surrounded by a big blue sky and the Rockies (not the team, that’s tomorrow).  Today’s a relaxing day.  After two days of driving, I am excited to be here, enjoying the weather and out of the Mojave Desert heat of hell!

I came across some things that made me laugh and wanted to share.

I’m a weirdo.  I’m OCD about very little but when it comes to book series, I want them all to be of the same cover style and even backing, which means I hate having a mixture of paper and hardback books of a series.  It’s a pet peeve.  I want them all to be the same size and design.

I don’t think I’m alone when it comes to this.  Even if I am reading a book I don’t particularly like, I have to finish it.  I will muscle through a multi-hundred page book no matter what!  Once I finish, I exhale, grab a new book from my “to read pile”, make some coffee and read.

I need this mug.  If you are a friend and want to buy me a congratulatory gift, this is it.  Nothing else.  Just.  This.  Mug.

Alright!  Hope you enjoyed the quick read today.  Be on the lookout for funny stuff like this.  I’m such a word nerd and love these kinds of things.

Flash Fiction: “A List of Knives”

One name remained to be added to the list before Oran Ki’Tanil, Battle Lord of Breshtk Hold, general to Queen Erise’s armies, would allow himself to attempt sleep that night.  The small piece of parchment on his writing table mocked him.  Of the eight names written in his own hand, not one was a man or woman he would share a meal with let alone trust to carry out a portion of the plan meant to bring balance and justice to the field.  None of the collected killers were trustworthy and yet he had been tasked by his queen to compile them.

Duty and conviction did not always share a marriage bed together.  A cold, coarse sheet lay between them.  Oran rarely believed he had a true choice in the matter of either.  A Battle Lord was sworn, life held in chains, to his Hold.  Orders were never to be questioned unless asked but he wondered if those were truly orders then?

He pressed the wet nib of the quill to the parchment, deciding between two names that would be the last to go on the list of knives.  The Holds had their fair share of trained assassins.  Those beholden to any true code were not included on this list.  He raised the quill, leaving a pooled mark of ink, and reached for his cup of wine, drinking the sweet nectar of the Hallowed, hoping it would dull his convictions.  It did not.

His thoughts shifted to the adamant disapproval of the Wielder, Delya Glassene.  Little could be sifted through the mere presence of the woman.  Her oaths were questionable and motivations obscure.  Anytime Oran looked into the gray eyes of the Wielder, he felt as if nothing could be rightfully gathered, but tumbled like dice in a cup.

However, her push for Queen Erise to abandon her plan was all but stringent, giving no care or worry for protocol.  Her agreement only came after Oran raised his voice and threatened the Wielder’s life–a less than proud moment.  Doing so hammered the nail in the wall between them if such a wall could exist.  He preferred the obstacle; a Wielder could not and should not be trusted.  The Shoals could twist and curse the world if they remained open too long.  A Wielder was the only line of defense.  He knew too little but had begun to desire to learn more simply out of caution, which was his nature.

Oran Ki’Tanil had one choice in the matter.  He must finish the list and add a name to make the nine killers final.  They would be collected by Delya and set loose on Queen Erise’s enemies.  “Hallowed forgive me…” he said under his breath, setting the quill back to the parchment and writing the last name, his head a fog from the wine and his guts twisted in anguish.

The Big Yellow One is the Sun

posted in: Life, Newsletter, Writing | 7
Was I the only person who was unimpressed with the recent eclipse?  That’s how I feel after seeing the reactions and coverage of the event on the 21st.  I don’t know…I just didn’t get the hubbub.  It’s rare and happens only after x amount of years (I think the next one is in the 2040s timeframe when I’ll be in my 50s).  I just…meh.I find the switch of focus and interest in our culture interesting (I’m not mocking millennials but kind of, yeah, I probably will by the end of this).  I’m always watching and paying attention to the world as it does its thing.  The good, bad, ugly, evil, kind, weird, and “huh?” moments are on my radar.  Sometimes, I think I’m off in some room standing behind a one-way mirror observing like a researcher, trying to figure out behavior.  However, I collect my findings, form my opinions, and go on my merry way.  It’s just how my brain works.  I observe and process before I act or speak.

That kind of leads me to ask myself now, “When will I act and speak?”  To be honest, I have no idea.  I don’t think I’m completely finished processing.  I’ll let you all know once I do though.  That should make for a heck of a blog post.

I’ve shared a lot on writing and my writing process, history, inspirations, etc.  I kind of feel like I’ve laid the foundation.  I haven’t covered everything but I have written dozens of blog posts focused on writing.  I think I need and want to veer to the middle for awhile (maybe for the foreseeable future) and write about other things.  What exactly?  No clue but it will be written about.

I’ve tried to thread my personality into the previous blog posts and sometimes I’ve done so well and other times, it feels like I went through the motions.  To know me is to get a full wash of my absurd thoughts and takes on whatever the heck I’m processing through (my wife knows this very well).

I never wanted to blog just to be that guy who carries around business cards with website and blog info on it.  I knew if I fell into that trough of douchery, I would put out more swill and slop than worthy content.  I wanted to blog to simply create a platform for my writing, which I’ve done and continue to improve upon.  I’ve kept away from looking up the analytics of my website because I don’t want to care or be moved by the numbers.  People who come to read the blog should not be expected to prop up my ego.  I’m not in it for that.

From the beginning, I stated that I would evolve as a writer through this blogging process and I still believe that.  I think I’m transitioning to a place where I can enjoy and have fun with the blog.  That’s the point.  Writing should never be a job or “have to” for me.  Once it does, I’ve sacrificed it to the gods of mundane and stupor.  Don’t expect that any time soon.

Call to Action: Just a few more days to sign up for the newsletter!  Make sure to do so for the Shoals to the Hallowed short story, “The Queen’s Gamble”.  Here’s a link to go back and read all the flash fiction stories and get caught up:

Shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.  Thanks and happy reading!

Plot Twists

Something we often look for (it’s probably been ingrained in us ever since reading fiction became a favorite pastime) in a story/plot is the twist–the unexpected.  We love them as an audience.  Our brains and imaginations begin to search for them both on the pages and on the screen.  Why?  Because we love to be surprised.

Warning: There could be potential spoilers in this blog post but they’ll likely be of an “older” period.  So if you see any examples that spoiled the twist, I apologize but have to wonder why you denied yourself the joy of these great stories and then ask why at least your friends and family did not expose you to the light.  Just saying.

A plot twist is an unexpected revelation.  It can be a character moment, setting, theme, etc.  All of these can be stand as the twist but more often than not, it is character-based.  For myself, the essentiality (I wasn’t sure if that was a word or not when I typed it) of a plot twist is necessary in terms of keeping the reader on their toes.  I have read several books over the years that are straight forward and don’t offer any real twist or surprise but rather a simple telling of the story presented that focuses more on the characters and the things they do and learn.  This is fine.  Nothing wrong with it and quite effective.  One that comes to mind (very random but it popped in the ole noggin’) is that of Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carole”.  There’s no real plot twist by the end of the story.  Scrooge just experiences some existential trips and learns that this “humbug” ways lack happiness and joy.

However, the big plot twists that we’ve come to enjoy over the years somehow enrich our experiences as partakers of fiction.  The Twilight Zone series is consistent when it comes to twists and people flock to it to see if they can guess what is coming by the end.  Then we have what is probably the most famous cinematic plot twist in that Darth Vader is in fact Luke Skywalker’s father and not just the Sith Lord bent on destroying the Rebel Alliance.  What?!  (If I spoiled that for you…well, it’s time to crawl out of the dark hole and join us sunny folks).

I say all of this in that I personally believe and feel a plot twist should only be employed for the sake of enriching the story of the characters.  A great plot twist is one that shocks the characters we are following as they navigate through their conflicts and goals.  If the protagonist is shocked and undone, then even better is the reader who shares in the revelation!

For myself, I think I write knowing that things will be revealed in due time.  I don’t think of terms of wanting to set up a huge twist.  There has to be natural progression to the story in order for these reveals to work as they should.  I could give some great examples of fantasy authors I respect and feel inspired by but I’d have to play the spoiler.  I’d hate to deny people that joy.  Some really good twists that happen in fantasy can by found in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series (I reviewed the first book a while back).  Sanderson does a great job of setting things up and pulling the rug just when you think something obvious is going to take place.

All of this s meant to enhance the reading experience.  There are so many aspects to great storytelling.  Many writers attempt to get there and the opportunity is always there to be grasped.  However, it is a learned art.  Like with so many aspects, including twists and reveals unexpectedly to the reader is not an easy task.  What is disappointing though is when a cheap twist is introduced.  I aim to not utilize this type of trick on the reader.

Call to Action:  Let’s see if I can get a boost of newsletter subscribers.  I’m a few days away from releasing the new one so tell your reader friends.  Thanks!

Story vs Plot: Significant Others

posted in: Fantasy, Storytelling, Writing | 0
Sometimes, as I write, I get lost between the story and the plot I’m telling.  What are the differences between the two?  Are story and plot synonyms to each other?  If not, how do you tell the difference?

I’ll do my best to explain how I view the two and how I approach both as a writer (watch it will be simpler than I expect it to be).

For myself, I view plot as the overall arc of the narrative being told, and the story is the individual journey of each character.  Yep, that’s simple.

We can easily think of a series of stories, told from the perspectives of characters–major and minor–forming a greater plot.  The challenge is always balancing the rises and falls of each smaller story and how it affects the plot.  Characters should have victories and failures (otherwise we fall into the “perfect hero” cliché).

The best thing to develop as a writer is the ability to plan enough of the story(ies) to know the ending but also give enough leeway so as not to strangle the possibility of shifts to the stories or plot itself.  These can often lead to surprises that otherwise could not be planned out.  Sometimes, these surprises are amazing and other times a bit disappointing.  Early on in my writing, I noticed that I could start the story well but without a clear plot, I did not know where to go with the characters.

It’s important not to view the characters within the narrative as plot devices themselves.  Just because their stories make up the plot does not mean they are solely in the service of serving the plot.  Yes, their decisions should add context and even provide obstacles along the way but to have characters conveniently act so the plot comes together as it needs to by the conclusion is a bit a cheat and disservice to the reader.  (Hint: twists, turns, and surprises keep the reader engaged and always questioning what could be coming next.)

I believe it’s a slight slap to the readers if they are able to figure out how the plot and/or stories will conclude.  Sometimes, this is inevitable.  How many actually thought the Lord of the Rings would not end with the one ring being destroyed?  The genius of the plot is how Frodo and Gollum’s stories take turns that affect them as characters.  What are the consequences of their handling of the one ring?  This is story whereas the plot of the one ring being destroyed to destroy absolute evil can only be done by the journey of the characters involved in the common goal.

As I write and create complex characters in worlds of equal complexity, I often have to remind myself that the plot is “x” but the variables of characters (a, b, and c) make up the equation (I’m crap at “advanced” math so if I did that wrong…well, it just goes to show why I got A’s in English and Literature and C’s in algebra and all the other evil math classes I had to take).

Call to Action: Try looking at your favorite books or movies.  Can you spot where stories and plots are different?  Are there bad examples and good examples?  Share your findings!

Also, sign up for the newsletter if you haven’t yet!  The Shoals to the Hallowed short story has a title: The Queen’s Gamble.  Really excited to share the story with everyone.

Creating an Editing/Revising Plan

I try to keep my blog informative and fun but sometimes I definitely want to write more towards fellow writers or even to those who are considering taking up writing.  Whichever you are (and maybe you’re neither but still like to come by and read my beautiful words), I hope today’s post will be beneficial.

If I had to estimate, I would say 40 percent of my writing experience is creating new content.  The other 60 percent is editing and revising.  I can often come up with new ideas quickly and hash out that first rough draft quickly with all the burrs and nicks.  In my experience, editing and revising are essential steps in the process of polishing a story to be ready to read.  Big rule for writers: Don’t let anyone read your rough draft.  Just don’t.  I know you’re excited to share your recent story and want someone else to love it as much as you.  Unlikely.  Just being honest.

In reality, your rough draft is not going to be good.  It may have parts that work really well but there will be wordiness and clunky dialogue more often than not.  Unfortunately…this goes beyond the rough draft.  For the love of all things sweet and shiny, I am seeing horrible mistakes in my fourth revision of my book!  Sometimes, it takes a few attempts to really chisel, sand, and polish before your story is ready to be read by another person.

I’ve been thinking about a system for myself and my own writing when it comes to editing and revising.  What would work best as I go through the process of making it worth reading and not come away having to answer a hundred questions of why this is that or what does that mean?  After a few questions like this, you start to question whether or not you acted prematurely in your earlier years.  So, I’ll preface this plan by saying I have not followed this yet.  This is merely my plan going forward with future books I write.  (Note: This is prone to change as I go through the process.)

Start: The rough draft is the beginning–the blank canvas.  That’s blank pages being filled in with whatever the writer’s mind is creating.  Notes and little ideas of setting and characters are implemented here depending on your level of preparation.  If you outline, then it’s easier but if you prefer the “go and flow” method, then the rough draft will have a definite coarse feel to it.

1st Edit/Revision: This should be done after you’ve finished the whole story.  Beginning and end have to be in place (write down any notes of things you want to change and plan to add, adjust, or delete after the story is done).  Resist the urge to go back and make corrections to page 10 when you are on page 230.  Until then, those changes you thought of while writing the rough draft should not be implemented.  Look for any grammatical errors as well.  Do not skip these.

2nd Edit/Revision: By this time, you know the story very well.  You could probably recite the whole thing to someone.  On this pass, I start looking at details.  Look for descriptions (characters, world, culture, themes, etc.) and make sure these are consistent throughout the story.  You are layering now.

3rd Edit/Revision: Step back and don’t look at or work on the story for at least a month.  If you are on a deadline, then I recommend some look-ahead planning.  When you come back to your story, you will see things you don’t like and will want to change.  Have at it!  One thing you may notice is wordiness.  Be willing to cut where it needs to be.  Rearrange some sentences if you need to.  Make it flow!

4th Edit/Revision: Read out loud.  I’ll be honest here.  I have not done this to a great degree but as I progress forward in my own writing, I have a plan to start reading my stories out loud to myself (not another soul in earshot!).  Why do this?  Because you will notice things.  Word flow will read bloated or stuffy.  You want flow.  Whether read in your head or out loud to a room full of listeners, you want your words to be silky smooth.

5th Edit/Revision: (I know, I know.  Almost there.)  Now, you might be tired of your story.  In fact, you are going to have doubts about it.  Before you convince yourself it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on, take a breath and relax.  You’ve put in the work and it should be ready to be read by others.  Find readers.  I would recommend friends and family who will be honest with you (not always easy to do but you should have some).  Make sure to tell them they need to be honest.  They do you no favors if they tell you you’re writing is the second coming of Tolkien, Dickens, or Milton (it likely won’t be).

Finally, take whatever feedback you get and apply those changes where you deem necessary.  Sometimes, you won’t always agree with the suggestions and that’s okay.  Preferences in readers is not gospel.  Don’t let it be.

There it is.  This is my editing and revising plan for myself.  There are other details but seeing as how this is a long blog post, I’ll leave it there.  Writing requires patience, effort, discipline, and the will to finish.  Being creative is not enough.  I did not know this when I first started and discovered it along the way.

Call to Action:  If you’re a writer or want to write, I’d suggest tucking this post away for reference.  There are plenty of other writers out there with different methods and probably even wrote books on the topic.  Find what works for you and stick with it.  Make changes along the way if you need to.  If you’re another writer and stumbled over here and have different methods, please share!  I’m always looking for ways to improve.

Writing Likable Characters

posted in: Fantasy, Storytelling, Writing | 2
As I’ve stated many times, characters drive a story.  How well the characters are written can bring life to the world and the narrative.  Elements like setting, themes, plot twists, magic systems (for fantasy), etc. are all great but cannot effectively drive a story.  Readers become attached to the characters in the world in which they’re reading but if the reader struggles to care about the characters, it has to be asked if they even care what happens by the end (assuming they even reach the end)?

I’m going to take two examples of two “main” characters and delve into their likeability.  For me as a reader, I’m immediately judging whether or not I care about the character whose journey I am following.  Their personality is being revealed to me slowly, peeling away until I see the inner workings.  What are their motivations, passions, desires, fears, weaknesses, shortcomings, etc.  If I can relate in anyway, then I am definitely hooked early on.  If not, then I am reading in search of qualities I can gravitate towards and maybe empathize with.  If the character has obvious faults (selfish, conceited, proud), then I am reading in hopes that they find redemption and become a changed person whom I’m happy to see the maturation and growth of.

I’ll start with Quentin Coldwater of Lev Grossman’s book, “The Magicians”.  Quentin is a young man, looking to graduate high school and make the next step in his educational career.  He discovers that he has been selected to take a test that would–if passed–enroll him into a secret school for young magicians to learn magic and excel in the “arts”.  It’s not a unique story in itself and Quentin is somewhat the typical main protagonist.  There’s just one problem…he’s a bit of a jerk.

Now, he has not come from a loving family; his parents are often out of the country and having no real relationship with him and that seems to be the cause for much of his attitude towards others and the struggle he has to form relationships.  In this, Quentin makes friends but he really does struggle to have healthy relationships.  Most of this is the basis for his selfishness and insecurities.  Where he does excel as a character is his believability.  I know people like him.  I’ve seen them over the years and treat others as he does, followed by having to face the consequences of his choices and more often his mistakes.

I personally struggled to like Quentin throughout the first book and series (though I did finish it and even now cannot remember if his final moments mattered to me).  He has some redeeming qualities over the course of his story but his angst and “woe is me” attitude (all brought on himself by the way) drove me crazy at times.  So often I just wanted to speak to him and tell him he’s acting like a petulant child and needs to be better at life and treat others with respect and value.  (Of course, I could not do this and therefore read on, shaking my head in continual annoyance.)

Next, let’s take Tyrion Lannister of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. Martin or “Game of Thrones” for TV watchers.  To put it simply, he is quite the character.  There is depth to him that is revealed in such a way that you’re continually finding yourself liking him more and more despite some of his less than admirable qualities.  He’s a lecher and drunk but loyal to his friends and family despite the latter continually regarding him (sometimes quite openly) as being only of value because he bears the family name.  You sympathize with him because you recognize his ability to possess passion for others who have endured horrible hardships.  He abhors cruelty and is not prone to hurting others (cough, cough), often believing he can use his status, knowledge, and wisdom to get the upper hand.

Tyrion goes on a whirlwind of a journey that sees him rise and fall but always remaining who he is.  Specifics would lend way to spoilers so I’ll stray from those but as a storyteller and fan of a good story, Tyrion is one of the best out there in my opinion.

The more I read, the more I recognize these characters like Tyrion who I find enjoyable and surprising despite what I might personally regard as vices in their lives.  Do the virtues outweigh those vices?  In Tyrion, I actually do think this.  He has a propensity for getting out of difficult and sometimes life-threatening situations without comprising his established character.  His sometimes heartless reactions to situations make sense and not out of left field for someone of his capability.

As a writer, I am continually thinking about my characters more than the grand plot.  Do I want to make them likeable?  Yes, but I also want them to feel real to the reader.  They cannot be perfect in every way otherwise where’s the risk and danger?  Even if the reader has a sense that some character(s) won’t die, there still needs to be this burden of wonder that something bad or even horrible can happen to them either by way of outside forces or as a result of their choice whether that choice was honorable or not.

One thing I like to ask beta readers is whether or not the characters were complex, relatable, etc. or the opposite.  Getting that feedback helps me as a writer.  As I revise, I take the time to examine every thought, word, and action of the characters to make sure they are not simply doing something for the sake of the plot.  Rather, everything they do should be based on their reaction and/or response to what is happening around them.  Writing likable characters is forever an exploration and process of becoming a better writer.

Call to Action: Are there any examples of unlikable characters you’ve read?  Or maybe ones you did like in the beginning of a book and then did not by the end?

Managing Yourself: A Simple Principle

posted in: Fantasy, Life, Writing | 0

NOTE: In light of the events in Charlottesville today, I wanted to say I wrote this blog post weeks ago.  I want to make sure that none of the language used in the my writing could be mistaken for today’s events.  I will speak to the events here and say I am appalled at the racist hate displayed and in no way condone it.  I also am surprised by some of the responses on social media as well.  To think such things do not exist shows a lack of paying attention to the space in which our country has assembled.  I am not surprised and do not condone such actions but also am not scared or worried because a small number of hateful people decide to rally.  The small number of participants should remind us all that there are far more who do not stand with the hateful.  Those of us who choose to love our fellow men no matter color, culture, political side, and/or religious beliefs far outnumber the few who embrace hate in their hearts.

As strange as it is and this being my blog, everything stated is my own opinion and based on my experiences, convictions, beliefs, and research into various topics.  I know, you read that first sentence and think, “Oh boy, where’s this going?”  I try to keep this blog grounded in writing and whatever influences I have in my journey.

However, I have noticed something in recent months that has me somewhat concerned but not apprehensive in my pursuit for traditional publishing.  Just some thoughts I’ve been wanting to share.

Twitter is quite the social media tool/outlet to connect with all kinds of people from all kinds of walks of life.  I’ve been able to follow, interact, and have discussions with unpublished and published authors, editors, agents, and others in the book industry.  This has been a fun experience for me and allows me to ask questions, find resources, and even form acquaintance-like relationships.

In spite of all this, though, I also come up against some things that flash warning signs.  Now, I’m approaching this carefully because I don’t want to offend or stir anything.  If this blog post leads to anything, I hope its respectful dialogue.  I have no interest in debating or converting for any purpose.  I want to share some concerns.

If you are unaware (I seriously don’t know how that could be) but there are a lot of dividing lines right now in the US.  Politics, religion, and even sports produce some really nasty things “said” about and to people who may not share the same views.  Now, I could unfollow those who have these different views from me but I honestly like to read what people are saying so I understand where they’re coming from.

My chief concern though when it comes to the writing industry is will I be ignored or attacked if I don’t share the same views so openly expressed?

I do not get political or even religious on social media.  I follow many people who I share different views than and read things every day I do not agree with.  However, I have and hold to a position that I cannot manage anyone but myself.  It’s not easy but it’s a great discipline to have.  Others are very open about their anger and sometimes hate of other people and this makes me wonder if I will be “denied” opportunities if I disagree with those who hold the keys.  I think it’s a legitimate concern for me to have but at the same time I trust that my writing and storytelling abilities will supersede any disagreements.

If I could offer any kind of advice (totally up to you if you want to follow it or not; you won’t offend me if you don’t or call me a name), it would be that I think people need to be careful of vitriol espoused on social media.  Not because you’ll offend someone but because people like me will wonder, “Can I have any kind of relationship with this person if they find out I don’t share the same views as them?”

The writing community is a unique place in that there’s usually a lot of support and few “rivalries”.  When writers announce their successes, I see way more support and congratulations than the opposite.  There may be jealousy but that drives a lot of writers to believe they can be the next one to sign that book deal contract.

However, and I’ve seen this a lot in recent weeks, there are writers and agents that are extremely hostile and sometimes plain disgusting with what they say in response to something outside of writing that they are upset over.  I get it.  There are things that drive me up the wall and boil my blood as well but I don’t think it’s worth my time or effort to say anything on a social platform (part of me doesn’t think anyone cares anyway).

Obviously, I am not saying this sort of behavior should be stopped.  Far from it actually.  Speak and be heard but I know there are consequences for saying things.  For me, I never want to jeopardize future relationships because of a quick response born out of anger or offense.  As I stated before, I can only manage myself and I want to always be mindful of how my words affect not only others but myself in the grand scheme of things.

Call to Action: Now I don’t know if my concerns are legitimate or not but I’ll probably share stories once I get deeper into the agent/publishing levels.  Until then, sign up for the newsletter!  (Yes, you’ll see this push throughout the month.)

On This Day: 09 August – Book Lovers Day

posted in: Fantasy, On This Day, Reading | 2
I was doing some research and found that today is Book Lovers Day.  Well, how could I resist doing a blog post about that!Apparently, the day encourages people to relax with a book and reading to your heart’s content.  Unfortunately, this day falls in the middle of the week and so I’m at work.  That does not mean I will not go the day without reading (I have a personal goal to read 20-30 pages a day and usually meet it).

So, my encouragement to everyone today is to take the book you’re reading or maybe find a new book to read and take some time in a quiet place, get some coffee or tea, and read in peace.  Go a step further and put your phone on silent and in the other room.  Remove distractions for a decent hour at least.

I admit, sometimes I wish our connectivity through technology could be set back a decade or two.  Since that’s not possible, it comes down to our having to be proactive and turn off the connectivity manually.  I mean to do this more, especially on the weekends.  There’s something about reading a book (not an ebook) that is comforting to me.  I think it’s important not to lose this odd connection of immersion into fiction or nonfiction (whatever your preference).

Call to Action:  Do yourself some good peace and quiet and enjoy a book today.  Don’t feel pressured to read a certain amount of pages or chapters.  Just read to your heart’s content.  Share with me what you’re reading too!

Sunday Levity: Pun Fun!

posted in: Sunday Levity | 2

I’d like to dedicate this Sunday Levity post to my sister-in-law.  She’s a punner.

Puns nowadays can almost seem kitsch.  Dad jokes are soaked in them yet there seems to be this continual employ of them in our water cooler circles.  Sometimes, they can be funny and unexpected.  Sometimes they are clever and earn the slow clap treatment.

Whatever your feelings towards the play on words, I hope you are having a great Sunday and surrounded by people you love and love you back.

Enjoy the video I’ve attached!  It’s punny!

2nd 2017 Newsletter Coming Soon!

posted in: Newsletter, Review, Writing | 0
Shameless plug time.  The second newsletter of the year will be sent out the 31st of August.  If you haven’t signed up, I hope you will.  Like last time, it will follow the same format sharing where I’m at in the progress of the Ravanguard series, book reviews, and best of all: a short story from the Shoals to the Hallowed series.

Just to reiterate, if you’re caught up on the Shoals to the Hallowed flash fiction posts at the end of each month, this short story will take place in the same timeline.  It will feature the Wielder, Delya Glassene, who was introduced in the “Binding Sleight” flash fiction post back in February.  As I write the short story, I am excited to say that it will give some context to the world and main plot points.  I’ve enjoyed writing these stories and plan to continue to do so for all of you.

If you know others who might like the series, then feel free to share the previous posts.  It won’t take long to catch up and there’s plenty of time to sign up and receive all the content so you don’t miss any of the story.  I make no promises to release the short stories from the newsletter any time soon.  I’d like to keep and maintain some exclusivity.

So, if I’ve intrigued you at all, hopefully you will sign up when prompted on the website.  You can also go to the contact form and request to be added to the newsletter list there.

Another quick little tease for you.  I will be announcing a big thing I’ll be doing with the blog for the month of October.  Let’s just say it will be strange but an awesome thing for me to write about for that month that will require preparation but full of good stuff.

If you did not receive the first newsletter but signed up, please let me know and I’ll get that out to you.  As always, thanks for dropping by and reading!

Call to Action: For anyone who has received the first newsletter, feel free to leave a comment here if you have any feedback.

Flash Fiction: “Healed but Broken”

Scars serve as vicious reminders.  That pink, puckered skin where a blade lacerated either shallow or deep let the wearer remember the mistake or drop in guard everyday.  It could be concealed but always felt underneath cotton, silk, or armor.  For Barston, however, his scars were underneath the skin.

Scars of the conscious were just as bloody as the day they were incurred.  Never forgotten unless you were dead and pressed in by the earth from all sides.  Only then did peace prevail and true rest commence.

The merchant was close, waddling along the dirt floor of the loading lot of the capital as he inspected the men who showed in response to his request for guards.  The roads between the Holds were no longer safe, not since the murder of the princes of Breshtk.  Barston did not cry anymore for both Jarun or Dovam.  Those tears had dried up days after his banishing.

Gray-bearded, heavy set, and smelling of wine even in the early hours of the day, the merchant came face to face with him.  A squinting eye peered deep into Barston’s face.  “You seem the soldiery type,” he said, breath a warm, sour cloud.

Barston felt the eyes of the other hired men fall in unison upon him, checking to see if they could determine what called for the merchant’s comment.  He felt the itch to speak.  “No longer, sir.”  It was not truly the correct response and awkward once he heard the words leave his mouth but it was all he could muster.

The merchant’s squint did not dry up.  “You’ll do.  I see the dagger in your boot.  Your sword?”

Hoping not to have to share his shame, Barston reluctantly took the hilt and pulled it slightly out of the scabbard revealing the blade.  He said nothing.

“Good.”  The merchant stepped back to address the group of eleven hired guards.  “We leave in an hour for Rastome; take care of what you need to.  I don’t have to emphasize the dangers as the Holds continue to unravel.  You damned well better be ready to draw and defend these wagons.  Go on.”

Barston ignored but noticed the other ten guards shaking hands in congratulations for the employment and setting out to put their affairs in order.  He did not extend his hand or leave though.  He already possessed all that he needed.  No salutations, supplies, or urges were necessary to fulfill on his part.  All that he needed was in tow.  He tested his leg, healed by a Wielder, denied the scar he deserved.  But, the searing reminder of shame and guilt of his failure could not be healed.  Nothing would deny him that scar.

Wordiness:  Too Many Too Few

As I revise, I am becoming more aware of the things I do wrong as a writer.  Some of this is chalked up to my first draftiness (ah, fun word play) but as I work on my fifth revision, I have to consider my growth and maturing as a writer.  Today, let’s talk about my being too wordy.

First drafts (in my experience) are serious word vomit sessions where I seem to just pour it on and on because I’m still telling myself the story.  That’s what first drafts are: the writer telling the story to themselves first.  Each subsequent draft of the story should be less of this.  Those drafts need to be approached with the attitude of, “Now I know what the story is so I need to whittle it down for others.”  When I use the word “whittle”, I do not mean to dumb it down.  Far from it, since I believe when revising, the story should be sharpened.  Each sentence should be put to the whetstone until there’s a fine edge.  No burrs or dullness.

For myself, I am revising my book to the point where I am making sure redundancy and over-description are being removed.  I am looking weak verbs like: are, was, is, etc.  Why say someone is running when saying they ran or rushed is stronger?  I am looking for word flow.  As I mentioned in my previous post about word count, I can honestly say my book is not lacking in the word count department, but to cut away the fat is necessary.

C.S. Lewis said, “Don’t say it was delightful; make us say delightful when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, ‘Please will you do the job for me.’”  This and other quotes about writing and being a functional wordsmith continue to linger in my mind.  Writers should strive to evoke and stir the emotions of the readers, remembering to show them what is happening in the story.

Call to Action: Newsletter plug time!  If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, definitely do so.  Not only will it have exclusive info about myself since the last newsletter and some book reviews, but you will also get the Shoals to the Hallowed short story that will close some gaps and provide context to the flash fiction series.

Happenings: Life as a Writer

Hello all!  Life continues as it does without giving so much as a moment’s break.  I’ve been actively keeping up on all of my projects and won’t rehash any of it here (busyness is a real thing for a writer).

I do have a slight announcement to share.  I am featured on another writer’s blog in an interview that you can click over to read here:

Hope you enjoy that little bit of a tidbit.  It was a fun experience and I hope to do more in the near future.  Yes, that was an actual excerpt from “So Speaks the Gallows” and a great deal of fun to finally share.  (I think I’ll share it here on the website as well over on the So Speaks the Gallows page.)

I am working on the second newsletter set to be released at the end of August.  If you haven’t signed up yet for it, I highly encourage you to do so.  It will contain a “Shoals to the Hallowed” short story that will fill in some gaps and provide additional information to everything what has transpired so far.  I know there’s a propensity to provide exposition but I really try to avoid this while writing.  The information is there but lines do need to be made.  I trust you all as readers to do that.

Also, I wanted to take today’s blog post to recommend a movie to all of you.  Baby Driver (the title of the film may be the only thing I don’t like about it) is such a great film and done so well from a direction perspective.  I know I mentioned it in a previous post but I cannot stop promoting it!  You’ll find today’s Call to Action devoted to a video that dives deeper into the filmmaking that I found fun to watch.

Game of Thrones started back up, so I’m watching that as well as other shows.  Some are guilty pleasures but not things I recommend for their storytelling.  I will say, though, that I’m always looking for new shows.  I avoid procedurals like the plague and really only like those in comedies.  For drama, I love a good serial that has twists and turns.
I’m still behind in my Goodreads reading challenge but trying to catch up.  I find myself in a weird place though as I’m listening to an audiobook of Christopher Moore’s “Lamb”, which is the fictional story about Jesus and his best friend, Biff, as they travel in search of the three magi who delivered gifts to Jesus as a baby.  They go on quite the adventure that is absolutely speculative fictional, not always…kosher.  And, I’m reading the book, “Good Omens”, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, which has a rather satirical take on the apocalypse with the coming of the Antichrist but things are not quite going as planned.  Very strange dichotomy of reading that I did not plan but both stories have crossed over.  I’m not quite sure I’d recommend either book at this point.

Not a main writing focus for today’s blog post but I like to pause and share the things I’m doing and enjoying.  All of these affect my writing in some form or another.  I’m not one of those writers who is always writing/editing/revising or working on my projects.  Breaks are good for my sanity, which is essential for writers to maintain (though, I guess there are some writers out there who would argue the opposite).

Call to Action: Watch the video and enjoy!

Stretching and Testing: Exploring Other Genres

posted in: Fantasy, Storytelling, Writing | 2
While at this time in my life as a writer I am focusing on fantasy, I often wonder what it would be like to sit down and try to write a story (at whatever length) that moves away from my preferred genre.  I dabbled in this in the past with short stories for classes and while they were definitely not fantasy, I always approached them with the desire to explore different characters who had secrets or qualities that were not revealed until the very end (I may have to dig these up and consider revising).

I blame this blog post of a rabbit trail of creativity on my attempt at reading non-fantasy books.  As I’ve stated before, I am looking for different kinds of books to read to help stretch my writing muscles.  So far, I delved into biographies and a few contemporary fiction novels.  I’ve enjoyed these books for various reasons but I can’t help but wonder, “If I were to write a satirical novel or maybe something considered horror, what kind of story would I write?”

So often, I see motivational and inspirational quotes, encouraging writers to write what they love.  I wholeheartedly agree with this but I can’t help but think there’s value in trying new things.  Obviously, my time is taken up by my devotion to my fantasy series but what’s to stop me from taking a few hours and try to write something that takes place in the late 20th century or more recent?  Nothing really to be honest.  It could serve as a simple creative exercise and there are benefits to that practice.

At this time, I think if I played with any kind of new idea, I’d have to keep it to a short story word count.  If I were to stretch myself too thin, I think I could easily become overwhelmed and that could affect my writing commitments.  This would not be good for myself in the end.  So, a short story would have to be limit.

I think writers can sometimes become distracted by fresh ideas, neglecting current stories that are further along.  I kind of attribute it to being like a new pair of shoes.  You love them when you buy them, wear them everyday, and tell yourself you don’t need another pair for years.  Then, you’re browsing online or at a store and boom!  You spot another pair of shoes that convince you immediately your current shoes are worn down too much to be worn much longer.  I would encourage all writers to watch out for this situation.  You are the best judge of your stories but do not trash something that you cherish just for the sake of something new and fresh.

Call to Action:  Does anyone have a good recommendation for a book of short stories?  I think I need to read more to get a better feel for their length and convention.

On This Day: 17 July 2006 – Mistborn: The Final Empire First Published

posted in: Fantasy, On This Day, Review | 3

This month’s “On This Day” post is one I’ve been looking forward to writing for awhile.  I learned of Brandon Sanderson back when I was living in Seattle and going to school.  I learned that my favorite author Robert Jordan had succumbed to his life-threatening sickness and passed on.  While it was horrible news and I felt the pain in my heart at such a tragedy to the fantasy and literary world, I also learned that another author would be finishing Jordan’s grand fantasy masterpiece, The Wheel of Time series.

I reviewed the first WoT book, The Eye of the World, back in January for my first OTD post if you recall or are new to my blog.  Jordan managed to write up to book 12 of the series before he passed.  He wanted to write one more book to close the series but it was quickly realized that final book would need to be three books to do the end justice.

After learning Sanderson would be taking the helm and finishing the series based on in depth notes provided by Jordan and the aid of Jordan’s widow who served as his editor for decades, Sanderson undertook the great effort.

This allowed me time to get to know the unknown writer who would be finishing what I considered the greatest fantasy series ever (part of me still believes this).  So, I went to Sanderson’s book, Mistborn: The Final Empire, and was thrust into a world that I could not step away from even if I tried.

The brilliance of Sanderson’s writing and skill is often found in the originality of his magic systems which I will be focusing on for this post.  Without delving into spoilers for the book (yes, if I went into the fullness of the magic system, I’d be spoiling things), I will cover the basics.

In Mistborn, the main magic system explored and focused on is called Allomancy.  Here’s how it works: men and women, called Mistings or Mistborn depending on their ability, can use types of metals to enhance themselves physically and mentally.  Below is a table with a basic description:

PHYSICAL Pushing Pulling Pulling Pushing MENTAL
External Steel

Pushes on Nearby Metals


Pulls on Nearby Metals


Enflames Emotions


Dampens Emotions

Internal Pewter

Increases Physical Abilities


Increases Physical Senses


Hides Allomantic Pulses


Detects Allomantic Pulses

ENHANCEMENT Pushing Pulling Pulling Pushing TEMPORAL

I understand that just looking at this is difficult to understand, which is why I would highly encourage reading this book.  The best I can explain it here is that an Allomancer uses small amounts of these metals (kept in glass vials) and swallows the contents.  Depending on the type of Allomancer and what metal they are able to utilize, they can internally “burn” the metal inside them and carry out any of the functions listed in the table.One great example in the book is the pushing and pulling of metal.  Mistborns are able to launch themselves up into the air by pushing on a piece of metal on the ground and then pull themselves to another piece of metal like an iron bannister of a balcony.  The image truly allows for some amazing action sequences.

I truly do not know if I can do it justice in explanation but this type of magic system upon first reading was mesmerizing.  The creativeness involved (remember, I am simply going over the basics of the system) and the deeper layers explored by Sanderson through the characters inspires me as a fantasy writer.

Magic systems are one of the main attractions for readers of the genre.  Some are extremely creative while others are more arcane and not completely explored as a whole because they serve almost as ancillary roles in the main narrative of the story.  What Sanderson offers (he has a bevy of books, novellas, and short stories to his name now) is a well-thought out system that affects the culture, economy, and other ways of life.  This is not always the case in most fantasy books but Sanderson follows this model in such a way that you cannot help but be entertained by how it’s used and plays a role.

Call to Action: Give it a read!  The world is rich and the action is fast and engaging.  Best of all are the characters who I did not spend any time exploring in this post but they are just as in depth as the magic system.

Keeping Track: Importance of a Glossary

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 0

Since I’ve started to focus on revising “So Speaks the Gallows”, my blog posts seem to be centered around that process and things I’m encountering along the way.  That should narrow into specific topics from time to time or at least I hope it does.  Obviously, some specifics will be avoided or omitted for the sake of keeping details under wraps but hopefully the main points of what I’m blogging about will come through.

I know I’ve mentioned it before but my wife has repeatedly expressed amazement and awe (the latter is more my word than hers, lol) that I am able to construct a diverse and enriched detailed world that I’ve spent a great deal of time developing and getting just right.  World building has its merits along with adventurous intrigue, but I would be remiss to say its a simple exercise of the creative mind to keep track of everything.

As much as I love world building, a greater aspect of doing so is recording and keeping a detailed file of everything specific to my fantasy world.  Now, when it comes to the main characters, some supporting characters, and their descriptions, I could throw those out easily.  Even places, cultural details, magic-related items, etc., I can describe those in length and thoroughly.  However, there are smaller aspects I cannot for the life of me always remember.

What was the name of that village/town by that small river where my main character interacted briefly with a traveler whose name I can’t remember and they drank wine from a vineyard and ate a type of cheese whose names allude me…  You get the picture.  Not everything can be stowed away and plucked to the forefront of my memory.

Detailed notes are best kept in a separate file I’ve titled Master Glossary.  It’s this file that has saved me lots of time when researching and going back looking for a bit of information I’ve forgotten.  I would encourage all fantasy writers to do this but somehow I believe they already do.  If they didn’t in the beginning, they definitely did once they had a couple of beta readers point out embarrassing mistakes.

I mention this for today’s blog post because I’ve been trying to polish up my Master Glossary as I’ve gone about revising SStG.  Unfortunately, and I know this set me back some hours, I haven’t even begun to include the many characters, places, and things I’ve written for the other novellas and books rough drafts yet.  That will be quite the undertaking but necessary.

I know for a fact that agents could be very interested in book one but if my world building and tracking of this world is messy and unkempt, they could have reservations about trusting in my ability to see the story continued and wrapped up.  A glossary and detailed note taking is essential to my tightening the writing and making sure consistency is found throughout the narrative.

Call to Action:  Hmm, I don’t have a post-related CTA today to be honest.  I’ve toyed with a few things and came up empty.  So let’s go the charitable route.  If you have the chance, look to help a family member, friend, or even a stranger today.  Even if it’s offering to pay for someone’s coffee, consider doing so.  The world is ugly at times but we can still be courteous and decent despite the atrocities.

Steady Pace: Writing Action Sequences

I’ve recently worked on a long action sequence in “So Speaks the Gallows” and the effort made me think it was a good time to blog about writing action.  This is based on my own experience and in no way a “must follow” instructional.  Just some thoughts, ideas, and practices I’ve found myself able to explore over time.

Writing action scenes is not an easy endeavor to say the least.  When thinking epic fantasy, the images of epic battles similar to what can be found in the Lord of the Rings movies comes to mind.  Visualizing these sequences for the screen has its own set of difficulties (see the Appendices of the movies for further detail).  For novel writing though, it’s a bit different.  The action has to be described in a way that holds and maintains the reader’s attention without inundating them with any confusing language or unnecessary details.

This is a difficult part of writing.  I did not understand this in the beginning and actually prefer smaller scenes of action than large scale warfare.  There are writers that do both very well.  Brandon Sanderson (via the notes and direction of Robert Jordan) was able to do this in the final book of the Wheel of Time series, A Memory of Light, which is a massive final battle that has so many moving parts and elements that it’s amazing to read.

For myself, action sequences need to be treated in a way that moves and does not stall.  Characters are engaged in often life and death situations and have to act in order to survive.  Their choices should reflect this and if they make a mistake, then there should be consequences.  For myself, I don’t like it when the “heroes” are untouchable.  Emotions should be tugged on throughout action sequences both in the characters and the reader.

Something I try to keep in mind while writing action is forward progress and the toll taken on the characters.  Long fights where neither side gets tired is unrealistic (unless we are dealing with superheroes and/or ridiculous fights in the Matrix).  Two guys with swords fighting to the death are not likely to last more than a few minutes.  The best training in the world does not mean the body does not lose energy and grow tired.  And if and when one side suffers an injury, that has an affect on the body as well.  Loss of blood forces the body react in a way to compensate for the wound.  This is something I personally pay attention to while writing any kind of fighting scene.

Let there be a cost.  This is sort of my mantra whenever things turn violent in anything I’m writing.  Violence is a means of entertainment we find in all mediums but we are far removed from any ideology that the good guys never lose.  It’s difficult for me to write an action sequence and write the deaths of characters I know very well after so many years with them but they are not and cannot be untouchable.  There is a difference between killing characters off for shock affect and characters dying because they were bested and/or caught in the crossfire.  This is difficult to pull off and while I could justify the killing of a character (whatever their role in the story), some readers could easily say they feel cheated by the death, arguing it was unnecessary.  It’s up to me to make it justifiable in the end.

Action should pull on the reader in several different ways.  It takes years to practice and become good at it.  My recent revision of the long sequence I mentioned previously revealed a lot about myself when I first wrote it.  Too often, I ran into paragraphs that simply did nothing to push the action forward.  These stilted moments were amateur to say the least and I am pleased with the revision.  There’s a flow–a pace–to writing these scenes and while I continue to test myself and improve, I believe I’m closer to applying my writing style and voice to these difficult scenes.

Call to Action:  So, we recently watched the movie “Baby Driver”.  I whole-heartedly recommend viewing this fine film.  Not only is it fun and original, but it does something for action sequences that is not only entertaining but strikes the creative chord (pun intended).  How?  The director, Edgar Wright, syncs the soundtrack of the film to the action.  Trust me, you’ll love it.

Sunday Levity: What Not to Say to Writers

posted in: Sunday Levity, Writing | 2

Sorry about the smaller pic but I thought this was a great list and definitely worthy of the Sunday Levity post.

I have heard these many a times but I’ll go over my favorites and give my best sarcastic answers.

2. Must be nice not having a real job.

It really is!  I just wake up each morning at whatever time I feel like, make some coffee, watch some Netflix, eat lunch, and then if I feel like it, hash out a couple thousand words and send them off to my agent.  Then, I eat dinner and watch more Netflix and finally go to bed whenever I feel like it.  The best part is, I just let the money role in from royalties as I’m counting sheep.  Ah, the good life.

7. Can I be a character in one of your stories?

Oh, but you already are!  Trust me, you’ll be happy once you see yourself but I have to warn you, I’m not responsible for the things that happen to you.

10. You’re writing a book?  Tell me everything.

Well, you see, there’s this guy and he does this thing and this other thing happens and this guy, you know, the one I mentioned before.  Well, you see, he has to do this one thing, but that turns into this other thing, and then he finds out he did it all wrong.  So, well, you see, he has to go back and correct his mistake just he can get to the end and find true happiness.

LOL.  Honestly, I’m not this snarky in real life and probably wouldn’t answer these questions that way but I cannot help writing sarcasm.  Scathing and biting are the most colorful in the sarcasm tones.  Have a great Sunday everyone!

Word Count: Does It Matter?

posted in: Fantasy, Storytelling, Writing | 6
Often, writer’s (especially with their first book attempts) just write, trying to finish the book.  That’s the primary goal with dreams of publication on the horizon.  What happens (and this is my experience) is that writers begin to do research and find information on length of the book and how that may or may not affect the book being bought and published for the general public.

When I was younger, this terrified me because I realized that my first book was very large.  Mind you, I’ve decided to love and write epic fantasy because I like a good storytelling challenge.  Now, if you do any kind of quick searches for epic fantasy novel word count, you will find what is quite the endeavor.  Anywhere from 175K to 225K words seems an appropriate average.  This translates to several hundreds of pages both in hardback and paperback, which is quite the commitment for a reader.  It’s even more so for a publisher though who is putting up the money to pay for a wide release of what they hope will be a bestseller.

Publishers are in the book game to make money.  That has to be realized.  Agents are in the book game to make money as well.  They are looking for writers who write something they believe they can sell for a book deal to a major publisher so that the book will hit the shelves at Barnes and Noble and the virtual shelves at Amazon.  Writers are in the game to write.  Sure some look to make money but I’m of the opinion best selling writers have both the skill to write a great story that other people are willing to pay for to read, but also the ability to tell the story in a way only they can.  We’ve got it in us to put the words on the pages.

In the beginning, I wanted to write, get published, and make money.  Not much of a confession since I was 18 and had no idea what else to do with my life at that time.  Now, 32, I want to write and get published.  If I make money in doing so then that’s just an added bonus.  What does this have to do with word count, you might ask?  A lot actually because I cannot sacrifice my story for the sake of believing it can only be published by a major publisher if I get it under 125K words because that might be what the publisher prefers.

From a cost/profit position, I get it.  It’s not easy to sell a new epic fantasy book that stretches several hundred pages and expect a profit all the time.  It happens but there’s a lot that goes into the effort of the agent and publisher to get that money.

For me, I cannot get hung up on length when it comes to my book.  Is it long, yes.  Admittedly so, it is long.  But that is because it is epic fantasy.  It’s the nature of the beast.  My goal is to write, edit, revise, and polish it to the best of my abilities.  Not only that, but it needs to be the best it can be in order for an agent to believe it enough to invest their career, reputation, and time into it.  It’s no easy task but doable and I believe in my writing and storytelling abilities to reach this goal despite the word count.

To all other writers who may venture to read this blog post (are you out there?  I’m not quite sure to be honest), I would encourage you to tell the story from beginning to end as you see fit.  Be prepared to have to cut and revise if your beta readers make suggestions.  Be prepared to spend more time revising sections if an agent believes it will benefit the book, which will lead it to being sold.  If there’s a section that you disagree needs to be cut/revised for whatever reason, make an appeal and state your reason why.  Trust in yourself.

Call to Action: I’m curious to know if book readers turn away from books based on length.  Do you have a preference?

Recommended: The Last of Us

I’m not the biggest gamer nor would I consider myself well-informed on the great selection of games out there nowadays.  That’s not to say I haven’t wasted many a days staring at a screen and directing an avatar through a dangerous, violent adventure pursuing the ultimate goal or an achievement/trophy.  I won’t be going into a lot of detail about my experience with video games today but I do want to shine some light on a particular game that has impacted me the most in my 20+ years of playing video games across many consoles.

The Last of Us is in my opinion the best narrative of a story in video game form (based on what I’ve experienced; there could be others).  I won’t be getting into gameplay or mechanics of the game itself because I know some readers will not be familiar with that aspect (so let’s keep it general).  However, I think everyone can admire and stand with me when it comes to enjoying a well-told story.  The Last of Us does this.

The game follows Joel–one of our main protagonists–in a future that is decimated by a disease that affects people’s brains and bodies, leading to eventual violent tendencies.  He’s a survivor, suffering demons from the first days of the outbreak.  This leads to his eventual goal for the game.  His task is to escort a young girl, Ellie, to a location across the country where she can be safe from would-be antagonists who seek to do her harm.

Without going into spoilers (just in case any readers have yet to play the game and are planning to), it’s not the most embracing of relationships as Joel is worn down by the world and carries the pain of losing his own daughter years prior.  Ellie is a girl who was born into a broken world and her wonder about the world lost leads her to ask Joel lots of questions and be what a teenager might be in those circumstances: curious.

From setting to setting, the game pits Joel and Ellie against enemies in various forms and they have to do whatever they can to survive and find safety.  Woven throughout this drama and the intense gameplay, you as the player are privileged to be part of the relationship that grows between them.  Joel is a father without a daughter and Ellie quickly becomes the potential surrogate despite his wanting to be done with the mission at hand, struggling to bond with what he thinks might be stolen away from him yet again.

My love for this game comes from the dynamic between the two characters.  I have a soft spot when it comes to stories that involve a parental figure and a child who rely on each other and come out changed for the better in the end (see my review of Logan).  By the end, both Joel and Ellie are different, experiences real growth.  I can admit, but there’s a point in the game that is so emotional that I definitely teared up a little.

A minor narrative detail throughout the game is when the game slows down and Joel and Ellie are going from one place to another (or from conflict to conflict).  Here is where the casual conversations take place.  Ellie will see something or you can direct Joel to look at something in the environment and Ellie will react, asking questions that explore her thoughts, Joel’s thoughts, and end with the two talking as if the world has not gone toes up.  It’s a small detail strung throughout the game but adds a layer no other game has taken advantage of to my knowledge before it.  It’s a genius character element!

Yes, The Last of Us is a video game and while a great many lack in great storytelling, this one sets the standard.  It was funny, I found out a friend of mine recently started the game and I told him I would come and watch him play to witness his experience with the game.  It’s something I cannot go through for the first time again but I love that others can.  Even if they do not feel the same way as I do about it, to me it’s worth experiencing just as much as I think some films or TV shows should be experienced.  It’s storytelling done right and I will always be drawn to those examples.

Call to Action: It’s not a simple, “Oh you should go out, buy a Playstation and the game, and play!”  No, that’s not feasible.  Instead, I’ve attached a non-spoiler review video for your viewing pleasure.  There’s some in-game language and violence in the video so you’ve been warned.

Flash Fiction: “Trust in the Dust”

Red and orange dirt rose in the air, forming a cloud of fire gently falling to the wet cream-colored canvas tapestry laid on the stained floor.  The motes showered along the surface in a pattern unlike any other.  It was the practice of a dust seer, using the fine granule sands found in desolate parts of the Navastle Desert.

Teelee stared in wonder as she kept pressed into the corner of the dust seer’s hut.  Her older brother stood alongside the old seer whose white robes had long since collected flecks of the fire sand, making the man a story unto himself.  She tried not to stare at the seer’s robes whenever she tagged along with her brother but struggled, which often earning the ire of the seer, whose name was Shotra the Twig on account of his slim, bony stature.

“What do you see, boy?” the seer asked.  Along with his robe, his leathery hands and arms were just as stained.  His long nose curved down and slightly to the side.  All hair that remained were wisps of white strands collected at the base of his skull.  Sweat shined along his pate and taut face from the sunlight piercing through the gaps of the boarded walls of the hut.

Teelee’s brother, Dag, bent down as the dust settled in the shades of fire along the tapestry.  His cheap shirt and trousers collected the fire dust as well but their mother’s incessant washing faded the stained material.  He hummed something of uncertainty, trying his hardest to continue on as Shotra the Twig’s apprentice.  If he failed at this apprenticeship, he would have to find another which likely meant having to join the other boys his age water seeking.

“Come now!” Shotra the Twig barked.  “What does the dust say?”

“What’s a Shoal?” Teelee asked.  She had not realized she moved away from her corner, unseen by either her brother or the seer, and toward the canvas as words on the tapestry became clear to her.

Shotra the Twig twisted around to castigate her but stopped short.  He turned back to look on the tapestry himself.  Not speaking directly at her, he said, “What do you see, girl?”

She hesitated, finding Dag staring a blaze of flames at her but the dust seer looked on the verge of grabbing her.  “Disruptions,” the word was strange on her tongue, not entirely sure of its meaning.

“Disruptions in the Shoals.  Violations.  Welders–”

“Wielders,” Shotra the Twig corrected.

Teelee did not know the word or context but trusted him.  None made sense to her; the words laid there on the tapestry, swirled and jagged, but clear and concise.  “Wielders violate the constructs of the Shoals.”  She smiled but her brother, whose eyes filled with tears, made the emotion of excitement die away.

Shotra the Twig turned to look down on her, ignoring her brother who pouted openly.  “Hallowed be praised…  Boy, leave.  Girl, you will stay.”  He readied the tapestry, pouring water across the cream surface for another reading.

Teelee sniffed and sneezed into her hands, excited but terrified of the anger growing in her brother’s eyes.  He would find a way to hurt her; she knew it, but she could not resist reading the dust.

Dag left and Teelee watched as the new batch of fire sand rose in the air by Shotra the Twig’s exaggerated motion, a fresh jubilant air about him.  Her eyes watched the dust floated down, streaks of fire settling, forming words.  Some were the same as before and some were new.

On This Day: 27 June 2006 – The Lies of Locke Lamora first published

posted in: Fantasy, On This Day, Review | 2

This month’s OTD post will focus on Scott Lynch’s “The Lies of Locke Lamora” which is the first of the “Gentleman Bastard Sequence”.  It’s a novel that follows the main character, Locke Lamora, who alongside his best friend, Jean Tannen, get caught up in a caper-like story that they must survive after would-be allies turn on them.

As always, no spoilers will be found here.

While the characters and action are captivating, I want to focus a bit more on the setting.  The story takes place in a Venice-like city called Camorr.  Lynch does an amazing job of thrusting the reader into this new and interesting place.  The world feels expansive beyond this one city but unexplored beyond minor mention.  The layers of world building can be felt in the dialogue/language, history, and religions.  The weaving of these elements are everything a fantasy story needs.

As I’ve explored in past blog posts, fantasy can be a difficult genre to write both in creation and holding a reader’s attention.  There is little familiarity except in more generic of terms.  Elements of culture and society have to be infused within the narrative through observation and understanding possessed in the point of view offered.  Some writers are vague in this exploration while others like Lynch dive deeper in the ocean of world building and succeed!

More to the story itself, Locke and Jean belong to a lesser, smaller gang of thieves surrounded by danger at every turn.  This takes the form of secret police and larger gangs that all have collective agendas of their own.  Throw in the threat of a Bondsmage (a warlock for hire) bent on killing them and you’ve got quite a thrill ride to enjoy!

What I enjoyed most upon reading this book is that it is actually pretty straight forward.  I kept expecting crazy twists that knocked me backwards but instead, there were subtle actions that were consistent and reasonable within the world.  There’s absolutely surprises and double-crosses that will keep you reading but you truly stay engaged in the story because you want to see how Locke and Jean will make it to the end of the book.  Each are skilled in their own right but neither possesses magic or has an ally that does.  They must rely on their wits and knowledge of the culture and city to survive.

It’s a rich world with so many interesting ideas that are fresh.  The technology is advanced to a point where chemistry serves as an almost societal magic embraced by all where the more mystic of arts has to be purchased as I stated before.  For a fantasy novel, it does not have an epic magic feel and those who actually practice magic–the Bondsmage–serve as more a background entity.  It’s a controlled approach that doesn’t spread across the entirety of the narrative.  This is a very cool idea and one I enjoyed.  It put constrictions on what to expect from a fantastical stance.

Totally recommended.  I’ve read the first three books of the series so far and enjoyed each as they explore new places and characters, expanding the world in a way that I really enjoyed.  My only gripe (I realize I probably don’t do that enough in any of my reviews of things) is that I felt like some of the exposition was unnecessary.  I get why Lynch added it (as a fellow writer, exposition is tough to navigate and probably more of a preference thing on my part).  However, in this instance, it’s hard to go into more detail without spoiling anything.  So, I’ll leave it at that.

Call to Action: Read it of course!  (Click on the pic of the book above to purchase.)  Or let me know what you thought about it if you have read it.

Layers Upon Layers: Revising Tips

I’ll get to the topic of this blog post shortly but I wanted to speak a little to the Shoals to the Hallowed flash fiction pieces posted at the end of each month.  To clarify, these are not connected to the Ravanguard series and have remained a writing exercise/foundational laying of the future series.  I apologize to anyone who wishes there was more.  I’m exploring the best way to give you more, which leads to a thought I had but will require an adjustment of sorts to the newsletter cycle.

In a previous post, I had created the main protagonist of the next Ravanguard-related short story for the second newsletter slated to be released at the end of August.  I think I will put that on hold for now (apologies to those who contributed to the character building exercise we shared).  I will come back to it but I think I’d like to use the newsletter as a means for writing a short story for the Shoals to the Hallowed.  You, the subscribers, will receive more context into the world and it will hopefully connect some dots as well.

Also, my previous plan to have 12 POVs is now being cut to 6 so that means in July, we will be returning to one of the characters you’ve all previously been introduced to.  I may even try to squeeze in two flash fiction posts from time to time but it all depends on my schedule.  Thank you for reading and continuing to support me.


Onto the post!

The more I do it, the more I think a first rough draft of a story is simply pushing from beginning to end.  There’s so much that can happen along the way and the writer can plan and outline and still come away after that last page is finished and be surprised by some twists and turns.  I actually enjoy starting a story and not knowing where it will end.  It allows for growth and space.  When I’m surprised by something that happens, I know the reader will be too.

I could easily go on and on but I wanted to bring to light revising tips I’ve accumulated over the years.  There is no true rule or standard for revising.  It’s simply polishing the rough edges of the manuscript.

One thing I look for as I revise the flow of words.  Is there one?  Or does the paragraph or dialogue read congested or even constipated (bad imagery I know).  There’s a rhythm to language that can and should be utilized in storytelling.  Sometimes, it can be rough but that usually falls in line with a particular character, mood, or tone set before.  Sometimes (in my experience), this requires some adding or removing of words or even rewriting the paragraph or dialogue altogether.  Either way, it’s about not putting the reader in a place where it’s difficult to keep reading.

Another thing I look for when I revise is detail.  Is there too much or too little?  This is a bit of a chess game between me and the page to be honest.  It’s not a simple, “Oh, I forgot to say what color that woman’s dress is.”  No, it has more to do with whether or not the scenery/character/conflict is lacking in any way.

I’ll often find that I use words improperly that I mean to have a specific connotation in relation to the colors or sounds in the scene.  Appealing to the senses is essential as a writer.  We want the reader to be immersed in the action taking place in front of them.  If I fail to provide a detail even as minuscule as the sound of footsteps approaching or the creak of a door when someone unexpected enters a room, I’m denying the reader an experience.

These are just a few of the things I look for and are mindful of when revising.  It’s difficult but when I look back at the early scenes/chapters I wrote for “So Speaks the Gallows”, I have to remember that much of the world and characters were not fully fleshed out at that time.  I wrote the first chapters almost ten years ago now.  So much has happened since then and I’ve grown as a writer, able to look at how I write now to those first rough drafts of chapters and it’s truly gratifying to know I’ve grown and not been stagnant.

Call to Action: I haven’t said it in awhile but you should sign up for the newsletter when prompted on the website.  Maybe the promise of a Shoals to the Hallowed short story will be more enticing to some who have resisted so far.

Urgency for Agency: Search for an Agent

Plans change.  Most often, they change because a previous thought or idea can be influenced by new information.

I recently listened to a Q&A with a literary agent and there were some preconceived ideas I had about the process for publishing for myself that were shattered.  This has opened my eyes and my mind to make some changes.  I’ve sat with it for a few weeks now and I’m willing to say I’ve been approaching my goal the wrong way.

While not going into the deeper specifics, I’ll simply say that I had previously planned to self-publish the first novella of the Ravanguard series and use that as a means for attracting an agent.  In my mind, this was a great idea that showed initiative and forethought.  While I think this is partly true, I think after some processing and reflection, my approach was also in due part based in fear that my writing would not be good enough to attract an agent based on the writing of book 1.

This is the kind of fear every writer deals with.  My wife is gracious enough to help convince me that it’s a fear that I do not and should not worry about.  I agree.  I believe in my writing and the story I have to tell.  I’ve simply suffered a flat tire in the journey but thankfully, the spare is on and I’m on track again.

So, my plan has shifted.  I will not pursue self-publishing “Dim the Veil”.  It still serves as a companion to the series and is canon and will likely be published in the future but book 1 of the Ravanguard series, “So Speaks the Gallows”, is the top priority from her on out.  This is the vehicle for the series and I mean to see it as the selling point for gaining an agent.

Currently, I have been moving through book 1 with a friend, who has graciously offered his time, to fine comb through the book.  Seeing as how this book is over 450 pages, it has been a long process.  However, I’ve decided to refocus my revision efforts based on the feedback and discussions and I will make this final polish before searching for an agent.

Finding an agent is a process in itself.  It requires patience.  I will likely receive rejection letters but I do believe the right agent is out there for me and it will be a person I can partner with for the future.  They don’t make money unless they successfully sell the book to a publisher.  I learned a great deal through the Q&A session I listened to and will likely listen to it a few more times just to make sure I’m fit with the knowledge needed to move forward.

My wife has actually encouraged me to look for an agent for a few years now and I fought it in an attempt to convince her my plan was the right way to go.  It’s never fun to eat crow but everything is better with BBQ sauce (hickory and sweet, not spicy).  It’s an adjustment and those are never easy to realign to but I believe now that this is the route I need to take.

While I am revising book 1, I will also be preparing my query letters for agents and making sure those are top notch as well.  It’s an art in itself.  There are some rules that stretch across the board but a lot of agents have some differences in how they want to be queried.  The list of agents is growing and I have hope that he or she who decides to invest in me is in that list.

Call to Action: Despite these changes, I will continue on as I have been.  The next newsletter is still set for an August release.  Sign up if you haven’t.  Definitely expect a bigger update on book 1 and searching for an agent at that time.  I’m going to limit how much I discuss it here on the blog (if I can).

Sunday Levity: A Father’s Pride

posted in: Life, Sunday Levity, Uncategorized | 3

Just as I did for Mother’s Day, I’m going to give equal love to the guy who is my dad.  He’s amazing and we are very much opposites.  He’s analytical and I’m not.  He’s got dad jokes up the wazoo and I’ve got biting sarcasm that got me in all sorts of trouble as a kid.  He likes all the Transformers movies and I’m more ambivalent about them.

Where we are alike is in our creative minds.  He’s an inventor at heart, always thinking of ways to expand technology in the world.  I can’t go into details but I’m pretty sure he could create a teleportation device.  He has a wealth of knowledge that I continue to draw from to this day.  Rather than telling me to go look it up on the internet (which is my default all too often), he will do his best to show me and teach me.

I’ve learned a great deal about the sacrifices a father makes for his wife and children through my dad.  He didn’t do everything right along the way but he’s made a substantial effort in keeping relationship with my sister and I as well as adopting our respective spouses, going out of his way to make them feel part of the family.  His example helps me to look forward to when I’m a dad myself.  He’s awesome and amazing in his own right and he should be proud to be my dad.

Wonder Woman: Thoughts and Impact

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review, Writing | 2

I’m juggling and shifting my blog post schedule around to bring you all my take on the film, Wonder Woman, which Leesie and I went and saw this last weekend.

This is not a review but rather an initial impact on me as a writer and storyteller.  Have no fear, there will be no spoilers shared here!

I went into the movie expecting it to be good based on reviews I’ve come across.  I have not been the biggest fan of the DC comics movies so far (I enjoyed the first halves of Man of Steel and Suicide Squad) but I have held out hope that the trailer I saw for Wonder Woman would hold up for the entire film.

We watched the movie and my first comment to Leesie afterward was, “I am amazed that it took until 2017 for us to get a movie like that.”  Now, what I meant was, “Holy crap!  Why have we not had a movie centered on a woman super hero?!”  Seriously, I loved the film.  It had so much good in it that I’m still processing everything to this day.

What’s more is I truly loved hearing Leesie’s take on it.  In case you all don’t know, I’m a straight white male and that has…interesting connotations in today’s society (let’s leave that ditty for another day though).  My wife’s opinion means a lot to me as a storyteller and I often expose her to movies or shows that impact me as a writer and I want her take on it.  This doesn’t always go over well though because she doesn’t see what I see but that’s not really a bad thing.  I’m just a nerd who gets inspired by things not everyone else does lol.  So, not a knock on her, I just really like to hear her reaction.

But for Wonder Woman, I absolutely wanted to hear her reaction.  To listen to her talk about how it evoked emotion in her to witness a woman who was both powerful and compassionate lead the charge (not a spoiler since it’s in the trailers but that “no man’s land” scene was one of the best I’ve ever seen) tore at me.  As a man, and I like to think I value women pretty well (all thanks to my mom), I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman.  I don’t know how women feel or think.  I don’t know what their experiences are in the workplace and other social constructs.  I just don’t but I love that I can talk to my wife and listen to her talk about these things that are inspiring to her and for different reasons than they are for me.

One other aspect she brought up to me (after reviewing this blog post) was the fact that Diana did not devalue the men she encountered (for the first time mind you) but came alongside them, learning about them as people and valuing what they had to bring to the table.  This idea of co-value is what seems to be missing in a lot of the discussion between men and women’s roles in society.  We are different.  Biologically and mentally there are differences but in action we can carry out the same goals.  I am always thinking about this as a writer and even putting it up against other stories in any medium of media.

Already, my mind is going back to the female characters of my stories.  I’ve never wanted to write ones that feel inferior for the sake of a plot device.  I truly don’t want to tell the story of a damsel in distress who can only be saved by the knight in shining armor.  It’s been done to death and it’s not an interesting story to tell (at least not to me).

As I write and revise the first book of the Ravanguard series, I’m reassessing my main female protagonist’s scenes in which I explore her thoughts and actions in the conflicts she faces.  Yes, she has help from both male and female counterparts but I truly desire to write her stronger than I previously had.  Will she make mistakes?  Yes, because that’s believable and makes her grow as a character but I don’t have to write her into corners or the tallest, darkest tower with way to escape lest their be some chiseled Fabio chump to scale that tower to free her.

Wonder Woman was an amazing film to experience and I highly recommend it to everyone.  I came away extremely impressed with the direction of the film by director, Patty Jenkins (keep an eye on her as a director) and Gal Gadot’s performance as Diana aka Wonder Woman.  Gadot was mesmerizing and embodied a hero with a clear vision of purpose and power.  Ignore the naysayers and pompous twits who feel the need to gripe over sensitivity issues (most of these are results of their own biases).  Form your own opinion and let that be enough.

Call to Action: Go see it.  In fact, if you’ve already seen it, go see it again.  I don’t often watch movies twice in theaters but I would absolutely jump at the chance to see Wonder Woman again.

Pressure Tester: Meeting the Content Quota

posted in: Fantasy, Flash Fiction, Life, Writing | 0

I took the Memorial Day weekend as an opportunity to conduct a little experiment.  Since I started this blog and launched my website, I knew I needed to up my game and produce content.  I knew I needed to have more of a presence on social media (Twitter primarily because of its format, features, and links to other writers).  What I didn’t know though was the amount of time this required of me.

I’ve done enough research to understand how marketing myself as a writer on the interwebz is important as I pursue my dream of publishing my stories.  The blog was a great opportunity for me to write and share.  The benefits have been great (I’ve already shared that to some extent and won’t regurgitate it at the moment).  I’ve tweeted and interacted with other writers as opportunities allowed.  Overall, the experience has been good but… To put it bluntly, I’ve run into a bit of a wall.

Let me explain (No, there is too much.  Let me sum up).  Being that active on Twitter has been time consuming.  I got into a habit where I always had a tab open to Twitter and would continually keep an eye on my feed.  I wouldn’t tweet something every hour on the hour but I tried to so throughout the day because all the research I did told me I had to be a continuous presence in addition to adding content.  Other than tweeting, my blog posts every other day have been the majority of my content.

A little vulnerability I’d like to share with everyone: it has been a bit a let down but only because I think my expectations were too high.  I get way more spam comments (all of these I have to go through and mark as spam behind the scenes of my website) and I see no real evidence that I am gaining consistent followers.  This could be for a number of reasons (everyone’s got a blog nowadays, especially writers, so I get that there are a lot of options) and the one I keep coming back to is I’m still at the beginning stages of this season of being “present”.

This is not to say I do not appreciate the comments I do receive from real people.  I love being able to read them and respond.  If I don’t respond, I apologize.  I am trying to be better about it.

Even on Twitter, I’ve come to this hovering number of followers and wonder what I’m doing wrong.  Am I tweeting the wrong things?  Am I hash tagging wrong?  Am I focusing too much on writing and not other interests I have?  If I tweeted more about sports, music, food, etc. would I risk losing the followers I do have?  These are questions I continually wrestle with and have yet to find an answer.

Please don’t take this blog post as a rant or complaint.  It’s not.  I’m processing my actions and the steps I’ve taken over the last five months of going all in.  I trust that I am very much in the early stages of this leg of the race and need to merely slow to a steady pace whereas I was sprinting and have started to hit the wall (I carbo-loaded on the Twitters).

In my mind, the experiment during the last holiday weekend was to see what it “felt” like to unplug.  I decided to step away and not have my laptop in front of me with a Twitter tab open the entire three days.  It was difficult at first because there’s this odd sense that I will miss something by not staying connected.  But then, I have to ask myself, why do I feel the need to stay connected at that level?  It was ultimately draining and I suffered from something I truly don’t want to fall under the pressure of and that’s always being connected through social media.  I can easily let my posting habits become more organic than forcing myself and putting myself on a strict schedule.

If not, then I will burn myself out.  I’ve done so in other areas and through different seasons.  Trying to constantly put out content and interact through social media is too much for me.  I have so many other interests and priorities that I don’t want to let slip away.  These “others” are what fuel me and give me joy.  Constantly tweeting and trying to come up with content that would attract readers and followers is exhausting and it’s not how I want to live my life.  What I want is to write and share the stories I have in me with the world.  Writers have done that for centuries before we ever got to this place of instant-connectivity.

This is not to say technology and our current culture of content intake is bad but I think I need to take a step back and refocus.  I can do both but I cannot sacrifice my relationships, writing, and interests for the sake of building my brand when I’m not quite there.  At least not at the rate I have been trying to.  It’s too much weight and I’ve been putting it all on my shoulders.  I think once I have “Dim the Veil” ready for release or leading up to the release, I need to step back.

Call to Action: No, I’m not going to encourage you to step away from your devices today, lol.  We get that from all over now.  While I do think it’s healthy, I want to encourage everyone to simply consider what they’re putting out there.  What’s your involvement?  What content are you pouring out?  Is it about sharing your life and being encouraging or dumping your trash for the world to see?  We should strive to be better than the negative ninnies out there.  Let’s be better.  Let’s be uplifting, honoring others wherever they are at in their journey.

Pulp Diction: Writing Dialogue

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 0

I cannot tell you how to write dialogue.  There are some standard rules and basic principles attached but in the long history of writer’s writing dialogue for their characters, there is a spectrum of style and usage.  This is not an instructive attempt by me or “how to” post.  Instead, it’s more about how I have come to learn to write it.

A story without dialogue is…well, let’s just say not impossible to write but in my mind difficult and not really necessary especially in fiction.  Readers dive into fiction to experience the lives of the characters in the narrative.  The best way to do that is through the dialogue (external and internal) and actions of the characters.  I cannot for the life of me think any modern story would be a fun read if dialogue were removed.

(Actually, something tells me Tolkien could have done this but the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings would have been a fantasy history rather than an epic.  See the multiple appendices for Middle Earth for reference.)

When I started out, my dialogue writing was less than stellar (as it should have been by an eighteen year old with no experience).  It has taken years for me to learn the discipline to do so.  And I’m far from being what I’d like to be when it comes to dialogue.  I think my current venture into writing the film treatment/screenplay for my movie idea will help since dialogue plays a huge role in the telling of the story (no interior monologues included and all visual storytelling methods are used).

It’s easy for me to say all my characters in the beginning of my writing journey sounded the same (that’s just an easy way to describe it).  What I mean by this is, I did not understand how to write the “voices” of different characters very well but that’s because I did not have the practice or skills of diving deep into the characterization of each speaking person.  In my mind, this was not an important element.  Back then, I just wanted to write and create new worlds.  Start at the beginning and work my way to the end to see what I come up with.  The voices of characters was sort of tossed in the side bin labeled “consider adding later”.

Characters who do speak in the story have to be differentiated by a number of things.  Where were they born?  What were their experiences growing up?  What was the culture like in which they lived?  What is the extent of their education?  What religion, if any, did they practice?  What are their dreams?  What are their fears?  Did they suffer from any abuse or disabilities?  All of these factors shape people into who they are!

Now, you can go over those questions and easily say, “A writer has to know all of those for each speaking character in order to write dialogue?!  That’s crazy!”  Yes.  Yes, they do and yes it is.  Maybe this is why non-writers are so mystified (I embellish a bit by using that word) that writers (especially fantasy writers) can create so much and hold of it in their heads and write full epic stories from start to finish.  We’re not wizards ourselves, I assure you (or are we?).  What we possess is a strength in creativity that is just different.  I can easily admit I’m mystified (I do mean to use that word in this case for myself) at the creativity and ability of artists who paint, sculpt, sketch, compose, etc.  It’s something I envy and wish I could do!

When I start writing the main point of view character and begin to have them speak, I learn so much about them.  I wish I could explain it in a way that is academically profound but the truth is, I learn who they are as I write the words coming out of their mouths.  How they speak to others is just as enlightening!  Developing a relationship between them and family, friends, strangers, and/or enemies is part of the magic.  It’s writing interactions between my characters that gives me the most joy.  I could not write scenes upon scenes where dialogue is absent.  Some writers can and I applaud them but I need to write dialogue for the sake of keeping my characters and their journeys progressing forward.

Differentiation between characters and giving them their own voice in the story is difficult and takes practice but it can be done well and in a way that stands out to the readers.  This is important and I stress that to anyone who wants to write or has recently tackled the art of storytelling.  I cannot tell you how to master this but I can tell you it’s worth mastering.  There are plenty of resources out there that can help and I encourage looking for them, studying them, and putting those methods to use.  Stories should be vibrant in their descriptions and in their use of dialogue.

Call to Action: Listen to people and how they talk.  Pick a few you know and really keen in on the differences from you and from those you know well.  It’s amazing the little nuances people have in the way they speak that makes them an individual.

The Benefits of Writing Flash Fiction

My experiment of writing flash fiction since January has been one of invaluable joy.  While it started out as a way to flex the writing muscles and provide additional/different content through the blog, it has turned into something that I believe will thrust me into a sea of possibilities in the future.

I hope you all have enjoyed the flash fiction posts at the end of each month.  The next is fast approaching and I truly enjoy writing these little glimpses into the Shoals to the Hallowed world.  (Side note: My goal is to provide several viewpoints–a new one each month–and then continue on in those viewpoints by next year.  So that means you’ll have twelve distinct viewpoints introduced this year and next year, I’ll be continuing from those twelve.)

My never delving into flash fiction was a result of not really having a platform to explore and release those kinds of stories.  The blog opened the way for me and I’m glad I took those steps.  The benefits have helped me in many regards but I want to focus on one single benefit for this blog post.

Flash fiction forces the writer to value each and every word, choosing only the ones that matter most for the current story told.  What I mean by this is, I try not to exceed 550 words in a flash fiction story.  Some that I have written over the last few months have been too long and I had to whittle those down.  Parameters aren’t always a bad thing when telling a story.

This practice forced me to pick and choose, editing finely, so that the story could be told in full without what I like to call “fluff”.  This makes the story in its glimpse form edged and to the point.  Too often when writing in larger word counts, the propensity for fluff leaks through.  I chalk this up to the desire to add detail in a first draft more for the sake of the writer, setting reminders for themselves, more so than for the readers to need at that time.

As you can probably imagine, I notice the fluff as I go through the revision process with the longer works like book 1 of the Ravanguard series.  Both good and difficult at times, I definitely struggle with knowing what is sometimes fluff and what is important to the details of the narrative (that’s the continued process of becoming a better writer).

The flash fiction stories serve multiple purposes for myself as I continue to write and gain experience.  You all are involved in the experimental process I’ve set in front of me.  I know there are other lessons I’ve learned but being able to take notice of detail in word count forces my hands (ha!) to be patient and considerate whereas in past cases I’ve acted very loose in how I frame the narrative and each scene within.

Call to Action: It may be years down the road, but I do plan on compiling all the flash fiction stories for the Shoals to the Hallowed.  I’ve even started planning and thinking about the bigger picture for the series though it may be many many years down the road.  I’m curious to know what people think so far.  Let me know because I’m interested in getting feedback.  Thanks!

The Bolder the Better

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 3

There’s this desire within me to be bold as a writer.  I have to ask myself what that looks like and after some reflection and processing (that will take place as a I write this blog post), I’ve come to a few conclusions.

Bold doesn’t necessarily mean crass or of high opinion to the point where I am obstinate.  Let’s say courage instead.  I think there’s a measure of courage needed to be the writer I want to be.  When I first started (here’s a bit of transparency), I thought I had to be a type of writer and write to a certain audience who shared the same religious views as I did.  Yikes!  (I’ve come a long way since then.)

This is not a bash to my beliefs (my convictions and beliefs are very much my own and I hold to them still but I have no interest in forcing them onto others).  No, rather, I realize now that I was a young, very green writer who did not know how to write without inserting this part of my life into the story.  As I look back, this is not in my opinion bold or the example of courage.

My train of thinking has definitely shifted since then.  A writer’s courage does not necessarily look like inserting ideals and doctrines of belief (whether they be religious, political, or cultural) within the narrative of the story.  No, in my mind, courage is knowing your beliefs but willing to explore the alternative options or opinions that others might have.

For example (I think I could write several more blog posts on this topic), I believe in a single God who created and loves humanity and wants a relationship with His creation.  Very basic description.  Yet, in the Ravanguard series, I have multiple religions (quite different from each other in some instances) that are important to the development and growth of my characters.  I cannot (in good conscious) write a character who has a belief in a monotheistic deity similar to my own and treat them in any superior manner over another major character who believes in a polytheistic system of religion.  Neither can I try to have one character convert another to deliver some subconscious agenda!  If I do so, I’ve made the story something (or at least the interaction of those two characters) that I don’t wish it to be.

I hope that makes sense and my words are coming out clear.  It would not be bold for me to treat my writing (this particular fantasy series especially) as a means of forcing my personal convictions down the throats of my readers.  There’s a different kind of book one could write if that was the intention.  Rest assured, my friends, this is not my heart in reality or in fiction.

For me to be a bold writer, I have to be willing to explore ideas (through characters and cultures) that don’t line up with who I am and what I believe.  This should not be a scary endeavor but a vulnerable and mature one that in my mind makes me a better writer in the long run.

Call to Action: As I was writing this blog, I thought about the current model that Pixar is utilizing in their movies.  My wife and I watched Moana and man we loved the movie and its exploration of that culture.  It was different from what we believe in terms of religion but the beauty in it could not be denied.  I think its worth celebrating these different cultures and in no way wrong to want to learn more about them.  Honor looks like loving others no matter their differences.  I encourage everyone to do this!

Flash Fiction: “The Bloody Dove”

Chasiel stopped and stepped backwards to look down the narrow street deep in the Weavers Ward in the city of Khamda.  Night cast shadows all about the mottled-stone corridor but she could see the two men easily enough.

Smoke from her exhale curled around her face, pipe bowl glowing as she sucked in soon after.  A hum of sound in her throat followed.

The men faced each other, one slapping at the other in obvious intimidation fashion.  Chasiel would never think to intervene in such a common scene in the gloomy wards of Khamda but the slapping man’s attire drew her attention upon recognition.

Smoke continued to drift from her mouth and caress her face as she approached the abuser and his victim.  The sweet scent of the sigda leaf filled her nostrils.

“Help!” the bloody-faced man cried, hands raised to protect his face from further injury.  Common by his appearance, he did wear at his waist one of the leather kits used by runners to keep writing supplies on hand and ready at a moments notice.

With a twist, the other man turned to see who approached, as Chasiel did not change her footing to a quieter step.  Dark hair and beard hid his features but the three intersecting silver rings sewed into the sleeves of his jerkin marked him a mercenary belonging to the Silver Way Band.  “What’s this–”

His question could not be finished as Chasiel lashed out with a combination of punches to his lower back, aiming for the kidneys, and finishing with a grab and throw technique she had recently learned from Fenroe who would receive a well-deserved “thank you” the next time they saw each other.

The bruised runner trembled in shock at witnessing his attacker being bested by a woman no doubt.  Once he came to his senses, he began to sputter thanks.

Chasiel waved him off.  “Give me whatever contract he had been offered.”

The man winced.  “What?”

She blew smoke in his face, ignoring his coughing.  “The contract.  Give it here.”  She snapped her fingers at him.  The humming sound in her throat followed and the runner’s eyes widened before dropping to her throat where he finally noticed her choker and the pendant that rested cold against her skin.

“Damned whore,” the Silver Way mercenary growled as he rose to his feet, still in pain but reaching for a dagger at his waist.

Chasiel reacted in kind, pipe stem pinched between her teeth, as her hands shot for the hooked blades sheathed behind her back.

Dead men screamed, grunted, and/or pissed themselves when the clutches of the Hallowed seized their soul.  Men of the infamous Silver Way were no different.  Blood flew from her slashes and pooled on the old cobbles at her feet.

“The Bloody Dove,” the runner whispered.

Chasiel nodded.  “I’ll have that contract.  Then you can go.”  Placed in her outstretched hand, she unrolled the thin paper and read, finding the details both interesting and enticing.  “Hallowed be Praised,” she said through smoke and leaving the runner alone with the dead.

Assimilating Adulthood

posted in: Writing | 2

I blame today’s blog post entirely on my listening to too many biography audiobooks.  That’s the excuse for this somewhat offbeat exploratory topic.

My listening to these audiobooks leads me to often think (and sometimes answer questions aloud in my car while I’m driving to and from work as if I’m being interviewed) about the chapters I would include in a biography or memoir if ever I were to write one.  I’m not convinced I’ve done enough to warrant such a work.

So this is what I will call a pseudo-chapter if I were to write one (big “if”).

Adulthood.  How the heck do you know when you’ve entered into it?!  I seriously don’t know.  I’m thirty-two years old and I don’t feel (sometimes I barely consider myself) an adult.  I thought maybe after high school I’d feel like one.  Nope.  Or after college.  Nada.  Well when I get married, I’ll definitely feel and know I’m an adult.  Strike three!

How am I supposed to constitute being an adult?  Job, stress level increase, pay bills, etc.  None of those things have set in motion and finalized with a searing seal my understanding and loathing apprehension of taking on the persona of adulthood.  Still waiting.

Kids!  Yep, that will absolutely do the trick!  But what if it doesn’t?  What if I just feel like a kid with a kid?  Do you see my dilemma?  Is it a dilemma or am I just asking an age-old question that cannot be universally answered like 2+2?

Then, I also need to ask, “Well, Adam, why do you still not view yourself as an adult?”  Great question!  I think I’d answer because I don’t feel like I’m not able to do the things I love in life.  That’s not to say I viewed adults as being older people who were joyless drones counting down the days until they could dirt nap into eternity to make up for sleep lost.  Not at all but that seems to be a cliché for the ages (get it).

Hear me out.  Maybe I just answered my own question on accident (this happens a lot when I engage in active processing through writing).  What if adulthood is just an abstract thought/idea we (our society) use to placate children and youth with in order to usher in some kind of off-brand nonsense of responsibility?  (Did I use placate correctly in that sentence?  I think so.)

What if it’s not about feeling like an adult?  What if it’s more about not losing the love of life and the things that make you happy?  Responsibility is a byproduct of maturity, not adulthood, so I’m not saying the “R” word should be avoided.  I’m a big proponent, in fact.  If I was stripped of being able to write because of (fill in the blank), then I could guarantee my dronedom taking affect.  So maybe in all this, I’m simply stating that adulthood is a state of joylessness.  Best to be avoided for the sake of your sanity.

Do the things you love.  If work, relationships, circumstances, or anything of the same ilk have you dreading waking up, maybe we need to reassess.  How many of us care enough about our lives to make drastic changes in order to feel at peace?  This is in no way an easy decision to make let alone come to but I wonder if monikers like adulthood are a crippling bondage chain forced upon us?  Kind of like how Valentine’s Day is meant to remind us to be romantic and considerate of our significant other (hint: this should not be the case).

Call to Action: Am I alone in this?  Do any of my peers think/feel the same way?  Do any of you actually feel the opposite and view yourselves as an adult and have a definition and/or revelation you want to share?

Strong at Five

posted in: Life | 2

Today’s a treat.  My wife and I have been married five years today and I couldn’t be happier to call her my best friend and super awesome spouse (I’m having the t-shirt made #copyright).  I’m all about honoring other people when I can (and I hope to do so in future blog posts but she get’s first dibs).

My wife and I met back in 2010 (I have this nagging feeling that I’m getting that date wrong…she’ll correct me in the comments, I’m sure).  I was her youngest brother’s drum teacher and she was a soon to be graduate of high school.  Friendship materialized and then we had the DTR (define the relationship) talk.  Suffice to say, the feelings were mutual and we embarked on the beginnings of what is now a wonderful marriage.

These five years have not been easy and at times difficult.  I won’t divulge the more personal details (do you really care or just nosey?) but here’s a highlight of what will test newlyweds.  I lost my job a few months into our marriage and while she had a full time job and we did receive unemployment benefits, this was not easy, especially for me as I felt the timing could not have been worse.  However, we never struggled financially.  We were able to pay our bills and we never had to ask our parents for help financially.  That’s not to say generosity took the form of dinner invitations several times a week but I like to chalk that up to our parents simply wanting to see us now that we were out of our respective houses.

This experience though never materialized to anger, fighting, or fear on our parts.  We trusted God to open doorways and He did after six months where I was able to get an amazing job that has led to where I’m at now.  Other hardships have come by way of our learning to live with each other and having to make decisions in areas where our lives would be affected both short term and in the long run.  We’ve stuck together.  No matter the circumstance.  We’ve both made mistakes, displayed selfishness and failed at communicating.  However, there’s always been trust and honor between us.  She sees my faults and calls me out and I do the same for her and we know and are thankful that we compliment each other in this way.

I always feel that I am learning since I’ve been with her.  I learn about myself, about her, and how to navigate through any given situation.  We laugh, cry, love, tease, and live well together (there’s your Hallmark card!).

I’d like to say Happy Anniversary to my wonderful wife, Leesie, who is my best friend.  I love your guts!

Call to Action: This one is for myself.  She will be gone this weekend spending time with friends, so I am going to clean the apartment and get that spare room cleared out.  I’ve never moved a futon by myself.  Should be fun!

Suffer Long for Patience Paid

posted in: Writing | 0
If there’s anything that is both beneficial and frustrating at the same time for a writer, it is the practice of patience.  My own experience has been a bit of a roller coaster of rises and falls.  Hopefully, this can bring some comfort to other writers and/or creatives while at the same time help me push through my own bit of frustration (it’s just one of those days).  But, there is a payoff to it all.

When I started out writing, I was the fat kid at the buffet line–wide-eyed and salivating.  My mind was full of new ideas that needed to be put down on “paper”.  But first I needed to consume all that I could to help me learn to write well.  It was beneficial in so many ways but I vividly remember thinking I wouldn’t have to wait long to have my name out there in the world (jaded to the max!).  There was patience back then in the sense that I had to not only come up with all the elements necessary to tell the story but write and write and then finally, write some more.  Editing never crossed my mind.  I had friends and family read what I wrote and good on them for not laughing in my face and shattering my dreams.  To think I was ready back then after my first go just wasn’t feasible.

Over the years, I definitely learned patience.  You don’t write two failed novels that don’t meet what I now consider to be a standard of quality and excellence and think I’ve succeeded.  I measure my success in this current season by believing I finally learned the skills necessary to write a quality novel/series.  My patience to write the bad until I found the better story in my imagination came at a high cost.  I think a lot of writers just starting out do come into the game jaded, believing they’ve got the next big thing on their hands.  It might be that way for some but the majority (myself included) have to slog through the mud of years of bad writing to reach the end of the track, building the muscles necessary to push through and come out on the other side of the bank.

I’m thankful for my journey.  I used to compare mine to others and think I had to switch things up in my life in order to find success by the same route.  I hope I can convince other writers that it’s far more beneficial to your character (not your characters) and legacy to blaze your own trail to find success.  I’m not convinced there is true joy and satisfaction in your writing if you don’t exercise the patience required.  If I have to wait another twenty or thirty years before my stories are published and released to the world, then I know it will be worth it.  That’s true patience!

Call to Action: I recommend checking out the bios of writers you enjoy reading.  I don’t mean the small blurbs at the back of their books but look for interviews where the writer actually gives a detailed story of their journey.  It’s fascinating how different one is from the other.