Give the Reader 2+2. Not 4

posted in: Storytelling, Writing | 0


I’ve brought up my love for the Coen Brothers and their films a few times on my blog and came across a video on YouTube that made me think a little about storytelling.

The concept of giving the reader/viewer 2+2 and not 4 comes from WALL-E and Finding Dory director, Andrew Stanton.  In a TED Talk, he explains the importance of trusting the audience to be intelligent enough to put things together in order to discover the answer on their own rather than spoon-feeding it to them.  This falls in line with the “show don’t tell” method writers are often encouraged to use.

I constantly come up against this when writing any story.  Sometimes, though, I wonder if I don’t give enough.  What if I’m working this equation: 2+6-4 but leave out one of the components?  Beta Readers obviously help in this because they are pretty good at calling out a missing component but there’s still this lingering question.  My hope is always to give any reader the benefit of the doubt that they will see the answer without me having to spell it out.

There’s also this urge to answer a reader’s question about the plot or a character by providing a clue.  This can definitely be a trap for a writer.  Best to practice and figure out what works best.  I try to take every comment as a grain of salt.

The moral of the post is to give the reader/audience credit for being keen enough to take the components and come to their own conclusions.  Enjoy the video!

Flash Fiction: Blistered Feet on Shattered Steps


A man begging for his life when he truly knows it can be taken from him will say anything.  Truth or lie, his mind will find the way to safety and empty into his mouth until the words flow like sour milk.  Oran Ki’Tanil listened with a cringe as he watched the balding man weep and drool for mercy from the three men standing around him in the empty courtyard.  It was heartless on his part to set the men loose but Oran needed information.  Whatever the cost, he needed it.The men barely noticed him slip out of the shadow he hid in and one was down on the filthy ground unconscious before the other two knew what had happened.  With two of the thicker sticks he kept in the bundle to hide his swords, he struck and whacked the standing men until they were bloodied and down.

The balding man stared wide-eyed unsure what to say or think.  Fear had crippled him, turning his legs to mush.  As he blubbered, Oran returned his fighting sticks into his bundle and grabbed the man, dragging him away from the scene.

“Shut your teeth, Erol.”

“Eh…”  The man stopped his whimpering.  “Ki’Tanil?”  His efforts to be free of Oran’s grip doubled.  “No, no ,no!  Let me go!  Hallowed burn you!”

“He has,” Oran grumbled.  No need to request a second strike.

Finally a few blocks away, Oran threw Erol into a brick wall.  “I saved your life and now you’re going to repay me.”

Erol shook his head, pulling his lips in and keeping them pressed together.  The smell of cheap wine and even cheaper smoke made the unkempt man a step above a beggar.

“You will, Erol, or I’ll deliver you back to those three.  How much did you owe them?”

When Erol would not answer, Oran brought his knee up into the man’s groin.  It would delay the discussion but the fool needed to be aware what Oran was capable and willing to do.

“Speak, you tick!”

“Of what?” Erol said through a weeze as he lay hunched into the wall.

“Queen Erise.  Or whatever else you know about the attack.”

Erol sputtered and spit.  “I’ll never have children now.”

“You’ve got six or did you forget?  Now tell me what rumors I should ignore.”

Erol sniffed and groaned.  “All of them…”  He let out another groan.  “No one knows where she is.  They think her Wielder…that Glasene woman is with her.  If she’s anywhere, she’s probably disguised and attached herself to the collective of nobles meeting outside the city to determine who will challenge the King’s Court.”

Oran doubted the fool’s scenario.  Not even Glasene would chance exposing the queen to throne-thirsty nobles.  He did not doubt the meeting though.  The vipers and rats of Breshtk’s lords and ladies would absolutely move to strike a treaty with the King’s Court.  It was not what he wanted from Erol but it was a path to take.

“Drink and smoke less, Erol,” Oran said, readjusting his bundle, finding steps leading out of the area, and leaving the fool in the dark.

Newsletters and Go-Getters

posted in: Newsletter, Writing | 0

Lots going on right now as I finish up the August Newsletter and prepare for the Lost Season 1 re-watch.  Staying busy without straying too far over the edge to being too busy is a fun tightrope to walk (says no one ever).

I’m seriously contemplating shifting my blog schedule to every fifth day of the month once the Lost re-watch is over.  We will be getting close to the holiday season by then and I think I need to explore “less is more” when it comes to my blog.

Also, I just think I can better focus and put out better content if I give myself more time to plan.  There are some long-form posts I would love to do but never feel I have the time to work on.  Remember, I’m a new dad and have a full-time job on my plate.  If anything is going to get cut, it has to be writing related.  It’s a good way for me to write and practice, to exercise the creativity muscles, but I can’t very well cut my hours at work or neglect time with my son or wife.

If I do decide to do this I will make a formal announcement and share what the monthly schedule will look like.  I appreciate the continued support and enjoy interacting with those who leave comments.  It continues to be fun and beneficial to me and I don’t want to abandon it entirely.

I think I originally said at one point the newsletter will be sent out on the 30th but I think I forgot August has 31 days.  So I’m going to give myself another day and say those of who who have subscribed (to so if you haven’t) should be seeing it in your mailbox Friday afternoon.

Little side note, I’ve been watching the show, Castle Rock, on Hulu and have found it quite good.  It’s inspired by several Stephen King stories but not an adaptation of anything in particular.  The setting and some characters are references to some of King’s works.  It reminds me a bit of Stranger Things in some ways but completely its own in others.  It’s more creepy than scary and has a compelling story with great characters.  Check it out if interested.

I will be releasing the new Shoals to the Hallowed flash fiction piece on Thursday, the 30th, so look for that!  Have a great week!

When a Fantasy Writer Plays Dungeons and Dragons for the First Time

posted in: Fantasy, World Building | 1

I mentioned my not being allowed to play the table-top role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons, back in my Harry Potter post.  Well, what I have not shared is that I recently agreed to play a campaign with some friends mostly because I just wanted to hang out with them (and partly because I wanted to try it out).  Let me just say it’s been interesting…

First, I don’t think DnD is at all what I was told it was back in the early 90s.  Honestly, I love me some Final Fantasy (video game series for those not familiar) and I don’t see the difference.  Same role-playing principle is involved.  DnD is more social than Final Fantasy.  I didn’t have any friends who played DnD when I was younger, so I don’t think it needed to be hammered into me so hard that it was the devil (I just think of Adam Sandler’s “Waterboy” whenever something is said to be the “devil” nowadays and now so will you!).

I like the whole create your character aspect and going on a quest or campaign.  That’s fun.  The creativity involved in the game is fun and I think a great outlet to work as a group and explore whatever world the Dungeon Master (that’s the person in charge of the campaign) has come up with.  Good times.  Throw in laughter and drinks and it’s just another game night.

Here’s where I struggle with DnD and I blame it solely on my being a writer: it’s a bit limiting and constraining.  For example, say during the campaign an opportunity comes where you’ve got quite a few enemies you need to get rid of.  Well, what if I come up with a plan to “remove” said enemies but my plan requires something of an explosive nature.  Can I just go and buy some materials?  Nope.  Not a chance.  Apparently, I have to roll a certain number-sided dice (don’t get me started on the dice) just to see if I have the ability to be comprehensive about said explosives.  Huh?  This is where I struggle with the game.  Why can’t I just have that knowledge in the first place?

The idea that my character is limited in knowledge of something bugs me.  Now I admit, I can see why this is because the game is all about stats and building up your characters but come on.  It’s not enough for me to never play again.  The more times I played, though, I did find myself more entertained with the campaign itself.

All in all, I understand the draw to DnD.  Getting together with friends to play a long-form game that involves rolling dice to determine actions and progress can be quite fun.  I think best of all is the social aspect of the game.  If there’s one thing I will gladly partake and promote, it’s community.

Finding Harry Potter Late in Life

posted in: Books, Fantasy, Film/TV, Reading | 0

We discover things at various ages in life.  Where I discovered Star Wars at a very young age, someone else of my same age may have discovered it in their twenties or, God forbid, their thirties (what a tragedy!).  However it happens, we experience things differently.  For me, I discovered Harry Potter later in life (my mid-twenties) and even then, my child-like wonder was opened to the magical world as if I were a kid again.

You may ask how this happened.  Let me tell you!  Being a 90s kid, you’d think I would have been exposed to Harry Potter as soon as it was released.  Well, not so.  I was absolutely aware of it but due to my upbringing in a religious home, Harry Potter was viewed equally as Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering (I’ll toss in Pokémon too though I’m failing to see why at this moment).  These were all viewed as bad things for my young mind to consume.

Now before you think I had horrible parents, I’m going to come to their defense.  If you grew up in the late 80s through the 90s and were part of any evangelical Christian church, then there was a constant stigma on anything that had to do with magic or witchcraft.  Churches believed these things could lead children and teenagers down paths deemed hazardous for their lives.  My parents agreed with this, believing that certain morals and/or standards could be threatened.  It was the culture of that time and I don’t blame them one bit for exercising that parental check.  Having a son now, you can bet I will be very in tune with what he watches, reads, and listens to.  (Note:  I wasn’t keen enough to argue that Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia were okay.)


Jump back to my mid-twenties and I can’t recall what led me to finally watch the first Harry Potter film but I did and while it was obviously geared towards a younger audience, I was intrigued.  This led me to watch the next films one after another pretty quickly (yeah, I binged them hard).  All of a sudden, I found myself completely mesmerized by this world.  The last film, The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 had not been released yet but I was determined to get more.  This led to my reading the books pretty quickly as well, using any free time I had outside of work and other obligations to finish Harry’s story.

What also helped provoke this wanting to consume this world is my own writing of fantasy.  As an author, I was able to learn from J.K. Rowling’s ability to craft a complex story.  She was able to weave a tapestry of plot and subplots that interconnected in ways the films could not fully weave.  I actually consider my reading of Harry Potter the main contributor to the way I outline and plot my books.  I look for the layers.  Books do not have to be a simple, single layer cake but more like baklava: layers of flavor, texture, and ingredients.

In my mind, the books and films stand up well on their own.  I find that enjoy both for some of the same but also different reasons.  More than a few times now I’ve considered returning to the books.  There is a true magic to how stories can impact our lives.  I actually think Harry Potter is responsible for making many kids in the 90s readers (I see and interact with many of these on social media).  There’s a good reason the books have sold in the millions in worldwide.


While I came to Harry Potter later in life, I find it a great joy of fiction and story to immerse myself into.  My wife and I try to do a full marathon every other year (though I’d be okay with every year) and we look forward to sharing these books with our kids when we deem them old enough to handle the subject matter.

You Are Getting Sleepy

posted in: Life | 2

Sleep training has commenced!  What a week and a half of staring at a baby monitor and holding our breath any time the baby shifts after we’re convinced he fell asleep.  It’s a whole new animal to tackle for us first time parents.  I would say it has started off strong and we’re not going backwards but there are adjustments we seem to be making.  Is putting him to bed earlier than later better?  Is there any guarantee to him staying asleep for more than 4-5 hours?  There’s no clear answer but we’re doing our best.

We’re also getting treated to more baby sounds and we could listen to them all day.  All day!

How could you not when it’s so dang cute?  I’m beginning to look ahead and wonder what it will be like once our little guy is running around, speaking without a filter.  For one, I’m going to laugh anytime he asks a silly question or says something funny.  I just won’t be able to help myself.  He already seems inquisitive so I don’t know why that would stop once his little brain wants to know the answer to why about everything.

I don’t really have a topic for today’s post.  Sometimes my mind just doesn’t focus in like I want it to.  So this is going to be a mixture.  Enjoy!  (No, please come back!)

Here’s a funny story.  My wife bought a salad mix from Trader Joe’s for dinner last week.  There was a packet of what I thought was bacon bits and since she didn’t use it, I thought I would add bacon to my egg breakfast one day this week.  I could just imagine those salty pork chicklets with each bite.  How could I not treat myself?!  Well, disappointment struck… It turns out that those were not bacon bits but dried apricots!  Talk about a let down!  Now I just want bacon…

Bummer news came when I found out Stranger Things Season 3 has been delayed until a 2019 Summer release.  UGH!  Really?  Well that’s a kick in the shin.  I might need to think of something fun to do in place of my season 2 re-watch.  I’m open to suggestions.  I could do a month of my favorite 80s flicks (all of which I grew up watching too many times).  That might be 80s overload.  I could also look at doing an episode by episode re-watch of another show.  I’d love to devote several weeks to my favorite show, “Lost”, but that could require some major dedication.  Still…it’s an intriguing option.

Other than counting down the days until our high temperatures get back down into the 90s, life goes on.  Writing continues.  I am working on the Shoals to the Hallowed short story for the August Newsletter and its turning into something quite fun to write and explore.  My goal is to still update my website.  No target date as of yet but I’ll keep you all updated.

Make sure to sign up for my newsletter on my website too.  Three free newsletters which includes news, book reviews, and the Shoals to the Hallowed short story.  Don’t shy away from showing your support.  It means a lot and I pour quite a bit of time into this whole adventure.

(Psst…get in close.  No, too close.  Okay, there.  Yeah, I’m going to do a Lost Season 1 re-watch.  So get your Apollo bars ready, Losties, because we’re got to go back!)

Flash Fiction: Betrayal’s Cost

Reluctance bore itself deep into Barston as he realized the journey to Rastome was almost complete.  Only one other instance of attempted robbery against the merchant train occurred and he had avoided Freilas’ threat only because he had been sent ahead with one of the other hired guards, whose name was Bilkin, to survey the road as they came to a bend notorious for its ambushing opportunities.

For all the chaos Breshtk suffered due to the rumors of Queen Erise’s disappearance, Barston could not help but think he would find a new prosperous opportunity in Rastome.  Surely, there was something that could be gained in one of the larger cities of his home hold.

Freilas screamed at him to get his attention and handed over a large bundle of empty water skins.  “I can hear that brook has turned into quite the stream off the road.  Climb down there and fill these.”  The quiet days on the road left him surly and tasking Barston with extra tasks.

Barston skid down the steep incline, keeping his balance with his hands full.  The water of the unnamed stream was cool against his skin, relieving the heat of the day.  Bugs swirled around his face in the deep shaded area, undeterred by his swatting.

He heard the approach of someone, thinking they came to help but upon turning growled once he saw the blade aimed for his ribs.

Quick hands allowed him to block the strike with the tied water skins.  His eyes kept on the blade but a moment’s look revealed Bilkin was his attacker.  Barston’s feet plunked into the water as he moved to avoid the next strike.  Bilkin bore an angry expression, sweat dripping from his bearded face, and reached for another smaller knife meant to be thrown.  The earlier incident on the road proved his prowess at throwing the double-edged blade.

Bilkin reached back ready to throw and Barston did the only thing he could do.  He grabbed his sword hilt and pulled the blade free.  Bilkin’s eyes widened in shock.  In that brief opening, Barston lunged forward and swung his blade downward.  Bilkin’s chest opened despite steel not touching it.  His shock lingered as he fell back to the ground.

Barston breathed heavily, unable to take his eyes from his broken blade—his Shoal-cursed blade—as steel rose only inches above the hilt.  His eyes searched for others but either Bilkin acted on his volition or was the only one sent to betray him.  Barston let his eyes run over the clean blade of his sword, shattered by the attack that left him alive but his princes dead months ago.

The water skins floated down stream while Barston crossed the water and began his quiet flight from the train up towards Rastome, not caring to confront what may be awaiting him at the train.

 

Fresh Eyes Find Cracks: Importance of Beta Readers

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

Comic Con San Diego 2018 has come and gone and I am left deflated… No Stranger Things Season 3 updates.  None at all.  I guess I’ll just be patient and hope the release date announcement doesn’t leave me scrambling to get my re-watch and blog posts done in too much of a hurry.

Until then, I’ll keep my focus on all my other projects.  As you know (I don’t know how you could miss it), I have been getting really good feedback from several beta readers.  From everything to grammar mistakes to needing clarity on characters’ motivations and even geographical confusion, I’m running into lots of great comments and questions.  I already felt like my story was strong but this process just further girds up its loins (lol, girds).

There’s always some sense of uncertainty in the things you create (babies included).  You have doubts to its ability to stand up on its own.  Does it make clear the themes I am exploring?  Are the characters relatable and if not at the beginning, can they grow on the reader over time?  There are other equally important questions I have and hope to get answered.

These fresh eyes of beta readers are not jaded like my own eyes.  I actually prefer to see more “red”, that is comments and errors marked, than not.  As much as I think my book is near perfect after so many revisions and years of working on it, that’s not the truth.  My flawed eyes pass over these mistakes because I’m far too familiar with the writing.  The truth is, I can’t be the only reader before sending it off to an agent and/or publisher.  I’m so glad I’m getting this feedback because I was very close and willing to start querying last year but thankfully, I didn’t rush the process.

I so appreciate the people who have agreed to read my book.  It’s dense and requires dedication.  They will absolutely be getting gift baskets if and when my book does get published (I’ll do that even if it doesn’t to be honest).  So, to my beta readers, I thank you immensely for your help and time.  You give me more confidence in my writing and push me forward.

What’s Coming Up

I feel like I have quite the pile of projects going on and I don’t do myself any favors when I start getting new story ideas.  Even so, I still try to write these ideas down so I can return to them at a later time.  I definitely stay busy with writing and blogging and it helps me to keep all of them on track by providing occasional updates in my blog posts.

I announced a few weeks back that I joined a writing group.  We have had two meet ups so far and both were fun and successful.  I’m already seeing the value in the group and hope it continues for years to come.  I am sharing my book, So Speaks the Gallows, and implementing the group’s suggestions and critique as well as my beta reader comments.  Everything called out seems to be character motivation related, clarity issues, or small gaps in the story.  This is reassuring and makes me believe the story is strong, needing only minor tweaks here and there.  Again, the goal is to query an agent or two sometime this year.  Being July already, I can only hope I meet that goal.

I’m working on the newest Shoals to the Hallowed short story for the upcoming August newsletter and finding it to be an exploration of a genre I’ve not dabbled in before: horror.  I risk bringing this up because those of you subscribed may read it and say, “that was horror?”.  Well, it felt horrific as I wrote it.  Hopefully, it captures the tone and mood I was aiming for.  If I don’t nail that aspect of it, hopefully it was still enjoyable for the reader.

I am also trying to get my website updated.  It’s about time I give it a facelift and hope to have that done soon with the help of my friend who helped me set up the website last year.  If it goes to plan, it should not only look different but be easier to navigate through.  Credit must be given to my wife also because she has an eye for what looks good in a website.  Much of the changes will be coming based on her suggestions.  Be on the lookout for that.

Comic Con San Diego is this weekend so hopefully we get news about Stranger Things Season 3.  Again, I plan on re-watching and devoting a month of blog posts to Season 2 in preparation for the new season.

I hope you’re all staying cool wherever you are.  This summer has been brutal to us desert rats so far.  What I wouldn’t give for a week-long stretch of summer rain right now (minus the humidity).

Flash Fiction: Flakes of Ash

White flakes fell from the sky like wild flies.  Teelee watched and stared, mouth agape.  “Shotra!  It’s snowing!”

“Fool girl,” the Dust Seer grumbled from his sitting position under a leafless tree.  “That’s not snow… There’s no bloody cloud in the sky!”

Teelee realized the truth in his statement but waved her hand in the air to catch one of the floating flakes.  More wordless grumbling came from Shotra the Twig.  He had left her with Apple and their wagon back in the town—she could not remember its name—and returned injured and strange, scaring her as screams came from all around.  So many people were running past her.  Apple almost ran from her but she managed to calm him as they waited.

She thought back to that day—several had passed since then and Shotra’s injury seemed to be worsening.  He refused to see a healer.  She should have been scared but Apple’s cries forced her to tend to the mule.  She could see in his large eyes appreciation for her.

“Aha!”  Her exclamation earned her a rude glare from Shotra but she finally secured a flake in her hand.  Upon looking at it, she realized a grey streak in her palm resulted where she would have preferred the cold nip of a snowflake.  Her eyes jumped to the canvas and dust she read for Master Shotra earlier in the day.  Some of the ash had fallen on the surface.

She brought her hand to her mouth, stifling the gasp.  Her eyes roamed over the changing of what she read.  “Master Shotra,” she whispered.

“Damn girl,” he hissed.  “What?”

“We need to leave this place…”  Yes, it was plain and clear.  The ash flakes gave a stark warning.  “Something is hunting.  Something of the Shoals.”

Shotra stood and limped towards her, favoring his left leg while crossing his arms over his stomach.  His face seemed to have grown paler since the morning.  “Say that again, girl.”  He was often nice to her when she read the dust, which she liked.

She pointed at the canvas.  “It changed with the ash.”

He peered at it.  “I see…  What does it say?”

A single word came to mind; an urgent command from the dust and ash.  “Run,” she said through a deep tremble.

Writing Group Announcement

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 3

I’ve got a bit of news today that I’m excited to share.  I’m active on Twitter and have been for a while now as I move more and more beyond just a casual writer.  I’ve made contact with other published authors, editors, and agents able to interact with them in both a professional and casual manner.  Getting history book recommendations from or sharing a joke about ketchup preferences with established fantasy writers remains worth bragging about from time to time.

So, the news (the title spoils it to be honest) is that I recently came across a tweet from another writer looking to start a writing group specifically comprised of fantasy writers.  I saw it and replied almost instantly telling him I was interested.  From there, we both tweeted out the writing group inquiry and within a day we had three other writers join us!  So, we are working out the details and figuring out how we are going to do this.

Let me expound a bit on the importance of this.  There’s been this jealousy I’ve had of other writers who have been part of writing groups and make mention of their appreciation for the group in their journey to publishing.  By no means do I consider this a sure thing for getting published (there’s more legwork to do on my part) but I do think it will be invaluable to have four more people read my work and give me advice and suggestions that serve only to improve the story as a whole.

Since I’ve been rewriting the second half of my Ravanguard novella, I think that will be the first of my stories to put through the group’s hands.  I will absolutely be giving casual updates on how the group impacts me too.  Hopefully, it is something that becomes a stable resource for me.  I also look forward to establishing relationships with these other writers who I know will impact me in a positive light.

There’s no Call to Action today but I will say this: God bless every parent who did not throw in the towel when their newborn decided it wanted to be fussy for hours on end.  Our little bundle of drool and grunts has decided he will do as he pleases and me and my wife try to figure out the best ways to get him to sleep (bouncing, rocking, shushing, etc.).  Pray for us, lol.

To Write is Right

I had no idea what my writing time would look like with a newborn.  It definitely takes adjusting to but there are pockets to be found (sometimes it’s less than you hope for and sometimes you look at the clock and think, “dang… I need to go to bed”).  So as I’ve adjusted and made sure my son doesn’t go neglected, I’ve been breaking up my writing time but getting things done.

Obviously, the blog gets time (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this).  I don’t plan as far ahead as I’ve done in the past, leaving me to write a few days ahead of the schedule so I can edit and revise accordingly.  It makes for a more “on the fly” approach.  When I first started, it was easier to plan ahead because I had several topics I wanted to write about.  For this season though, I am more in the “what’s happening now” mode.  We’ll see how this goes as the months progress.  With Stranger Things Season 3 on the horizon, I will absolutely need to plan ahead.  I might even get a jump on those posts this summer seeing as how they took quite a bit of preparation to write along with re-watching season 1.  (I just checked and there’s no official release date for season 3 so I may have quite a few months to prepare.)

My book, So Speaks the Gallows, is currently being beta read.  I’m being patient, leaving me to spend time on a few other projects.  One of which is the Glossary I have for my Ravanguard series.  It’s extensive (that word might be an understatement) and has gone through so many revisions of its own over the last ten years.  Every place, group, and character is captured with details important to me as the writer so I can go back and reference the eye or hair color of a character.  To be honest, I’ve even considered going entry by entry and making sure every mention in the book is consistent.  Is that too much you might ask but one of my biggest concerns when writing such a large book is that there will be glaring inconsistencies that should have been caught beforehand (you’d expect as much with so long to write and polish the book).  I don’t know…  It’s a tough one to add to my already “thick” to do list for the book but I want and feel the need to get it as perfect as I can.

In addition to this, I am also revising the first novella of the Ravanguard series, Dim the Veil.  It is currently too long by novella word count standards.  To be brutally honest though, I’m not happy with the second half of the story.  I read it now and it feels…forced.  I wanted to implement some things that I thought I could make work but I continue to feel the story doesn’t fit.  Rather, it lacks what So Speaks the Gallows has embodied and consistency should be found not only in a single story but from story to story in a series.  This is why I’m going back through and giving it a proper scrub and tuck.

As you can see, I’m busy with plenty of things on the writing table.  Throw in my day job and my family and I am doing my best to balance everything.  My respect goes out to all those who do this well.  Again, I am astounded by my wife who does so much each and every day.  She’s amazing and I cannot imagine being a parent without her.  Truly, she is a rock and nearly perfect partner.  Watching her with our son brings me great joy.

No call to action today.  I don’t have anything to be honest and I’d rather not force something unless there’s one to offer.  Look out for my next blog post on the 9th.  It will be another “Forever Re-watchable” post.  Here’s a hint: “I said good morning, Gill.”

Flash Fiction: An Odd Thing

She pressed her finger and thumb together, squeezing the blood between each, before separating the connection.  The sticky stretch of wet redness between each finger mesmerized her in a way that shouldn’t.  Not unless she was a child.  Perhaps, her mind fell back into the days before she fought for coin.  Back before the men and women in her life found her suitable to abuse and belittle for their own enjoyment and profit.

Was it her blood or that of the bald-headed, bearded man she killed earlier?  Who could say?  It looked the same no matter the owner.

“You shivering bastards…”  A man staggered by, catching sight of her as she pressed her back against a low stone wall.  The cool air of the early morning made both of their breaths misty.

Chasiel bit back the cooing sound in her throat, ready, and surprising the ugly fool who belonged to her rival mercenaries, the Silver Way.  He stepped in, short sword raised and ready to hack at her, but Chasiel’s instinct and will to live could not be undone even by her childish lapse.  Her dagger blade sliced open the man’s thigh.  He screamed but could barely get the sound out before she twisted the blade upward into his throat.  More blood.

She fell back to the cold, hard ground as the man toppled over, shaking slightly as life slipped away.  Her body ached in pain.  Her cuts and the stab wound to her lower back were beginning to burn.  She could see her reflection in the fresh pool of blood now.  How could it reflect like a mirror?  Truly, it was a considerable quality to reflect back the reflection of the one who killed its master.

A voice came in the distance of the manor’s grounds.  Fenroe.  He lived.  Chasiel let the coo finally slip from her grasp of it in her throat.  The Silver Way set the trap for them.  Somehow, they knew of Chasiel’s attempt at taking their contract.  Crisp was dead and she saw her captain, Feller Crowne, take an arrow in the chest.  Maybe he lived.  Maybe he didn’t.  Others fell as well.  How many of their numbers remained?

An odd thing blood was to be so important for life, she thought.  Yet in death, it was trivial.  Lose some and you live.  Lose too much and you die.  There she was again, mesmerized by the red fluid.  She preferred the days before she saw so much blood.  Days of seeking food and shelter only.  There was no need for blood back then.

“Chas?”

Fenroe again.  She let the cooing sound come from her lips and heard him curse, hurrying towards her across the yard, likely searching behind the structures and stalls of the wealthy merchant.  Chasiel wanted to sleep.  Her eyes grew heavy.  She did not think she lost too much of her own blood.  Not yet at least.  Such an odd thing, though, for her life to be leaking slowly.

Marvelous

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

When you’re a late 80s/whole 90s kid, you are very much shaped by what movies, cartoons, music, video games, and even toys were popular during those years.  I have an affinity for Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe, Transformers, The Goonies, Indiana Jones, Nintendo, and comics.  This latter one is what I want to talk a bit about today.

With all the Marvel films and shows coming out every year (mainly the MCU and Netflix shows), I wanted to talk a bit about how I’m more of a fan of Marvel Comics than DC Comics.  Honestly, it comes from the FOX Kids X-Men animated series that ran from 1992 thru 1997.  I loved this show growing up and watched it every Saturday morning (it has quite the kick ass theme music by the way).  Much of my education about the characters and world created by Stan Lee and others came from this habitual watching experience.  This extended into comics and while I was busy spending my allowance on basketball cards rather than comics, I did buy a few (there were only a few I was allowed to buy and it depended on the level of weird and violence depicted on the cover; parenting 101 won out every time back then).

As I got older though, I read and got into other marvel characters like Spider-Man, Darkhawk (there’s a deep cut), and the Fantastic Four.  X-Men continued to be my first love though and while I’m lukewarm on most of the movies (Days of Future Past still remains my favorite), I have dived deeper into the world and mythology over the years even as an adult.  X-Force and X-Factor were extensions that introduced more great characters like Deadpool and Cable (I’ve seen Deadpool 2 twice now! So good!).  For whatever the reason, I loved this imagining of heroes and villains differentiated between abilities they were born with.  As a kid, I had no idea mutants were a parallel allusion to civil rights born back in the 60s.  To a kid, they are colorful customers with superpowers.  That’s all you need!

All I know is we love what we love.  Nowadays, there’s no shame in being a nerd and comic fanboy.  For that, I am grateful.  Who knew that in 2018, you could get away with wearing a Marvel-themed t-shirt and not be ostracized.  Even in grade school, I don’t think I ever wore a comic book-related t-shirt (nor did I own any to be honest).

This is not to say I hate DC Comics and it’s brand of characters.  In fact, I’ve always loved Batman.  Whether it’s Tim Burton’s “Batman” or the “Batman: Animated Series”, I’ve always thought Batman was one of the better super heroes out there.  As I’ve gotten older, the complexity of the character and his inner demons make him even more captivating to me (you all know I’m a sucker for a conflicted character).

I’m excited to see where the future goes with all these Marvel properties, though.  So far, I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed many of the recent adaptations.  Go back and check out some of my reviews to get more in depth looks.  It really is refreshing to see the care to detail the film industry puts towards these characters I grew up with and devoted a great deal of time and money towards.

Call to Action:  If you have a chance, find interviews of Stan Lee (there are several on YouTube) and listen to the pride and joy he has in his creations.  It’s amazing the success he had on writing and drawing masked and costumed characters.

Missing Sleep

posted in: Life | 1

When I think of sleep and how I miss it, I hear Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” in my head.  No, I was not disillusioned enough to think I would still sleep after having a baby.  I’m dim when it comes to some things but not that.  By the way, mad kudos to my wife because she’s been super gracious to me, allowing me to sleep during week nights when I have to get up early for work.  That’s not to say I told her to wake me up if she needs help with our little man while she feeds him every two hours.  She’s amazing.  I don’t know how she does it.  There truly is a magical power when it comes to mothers and their ability to care for their babies.  It’s a beautiful thing and has been a great delight of mine to witness.

I admit, I am writing this blog post the day of.  Usually, I’m ahead by a few days so I can tweak and edit my post before releasing it.  Today, though, it’s different.  We had a long weekend and I didn’t feel like writing on any of my days off.  So there.

It was a great weekend though.  My sister and brother-in-law were in town and they got to meet their nephew.  I saw Deadpool 2, which is not for everyone (seriously, if you saw the first one on purpose or by accident, the sequel drives the violence and vulgarity to 11).  We watched the series finale of one our favorite shows, New Girl, not knowing it was the finale until the very end.  I’m still coping with that too…  I love that show.  I might have to do a tribute post to honor it.  Overall, a great weekend.

Other than that, I’ve been getting some feedback from my beta readers and that’s been encouraging.  Looks like minor fixes so far.  Really looking forward to getting all the comments.  There’s a level of anticipation I am keeping tight reins on at the moment.  I don’t have a bevy of patience so it’s all about keeping myself occupied with other things.  I am revising the first novella of the Ravanguard series to keep my skills sharp.  I think I’ll provide more info on that and my process later this week or the following week.  So keep an eye out.

Hope you all had a great weekend and were able to rest and spend time with friends or family.

Call to Action: Where are all my yanny people at?! (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look up “yanny vs laurel”.)  Apparently, what you hear has to do with frequencies.  It’s science.

Avengers: Infinity War (Part I) Review w/ SPOILERS

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Writing | 1

This is your first and only warning that the following post contains SPOILERS for the latest MCU film, “Avengers: Infinity War (Part I)”.  If you haven’t seen it yet, run away!  Actually, go and see it and return.  That’s it.  Now let’s continue.I feel the need to point this out from the start because I’ve heard too many people make a minor complaint after seeing the movie.  This is part one of two.  Of course it ended the way it did!  There’s more coming next May.  Rest assured, you didn’t just watch half of your favorite heroes “mist” away forever (hint: just check Marvel’s film forecast for the next couple of years).

Rather than writing a long-winded re-cap and critique of the film, I want to focus on what made this film of great magnitude work in a somewhat up and down film franchise.  Not all MCU entries have been pristine (let’s be honest with ourselves).  For every “Captain America: Winter Soldier” (2016) or “Black Panther” (2018), there is a “Thor: Dark World” (2013) or “Iron Man 2” (2010).  Some are very good and some seem to have missed the mark wide left.  Many times (in my opinion; that’s all it is) the downfall or lacking element of these weaker films is the villain.  Go back to my post last year about antagonists to see what I look for in a believable and compelling villain:  http://adamhenderson.net/2017/02/08/vilest-villainy-vowed-to-venture/

“Avengers: Infinty War” is about Thanos.  Plain and simple.  It’s not about our huge lineup of heroes.  They are secondary.  What “A:IW” did and quite well was establish a villain we first got wind of in the post credit scene of the first “Avengers” (2012) film.  That means we’ve had six years of anticipation and minor mentions in the films leading up to the big showdown.

Who is Thanos?  We need to know this in order to feel the full weight of the character.  What drives this galactic entity to attack Earth?  Well we don’t really know until we step into this film, which starts with Thanos and his Black Order after they’ve attacked and killed half the people on Thor’s ship after the events of “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017).  We learn that Thanos has a tragic past, seeing over population destroy his home world of Titan.  From that, he has sought to bring balance to the universe by going from planet to planet, wiping out half of populations to establish peace.  This is his goal and if that was all it was, then I would say we are dealing with another one dimensional villain bent on destruction.

Nay nay!

Thankfully, this is not all there is to him.  In order to accomplish his goals of ushering in the same balance and peace to Earth, Thanos has to fight Earth’s mightiest warriors.  Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and so many of the heroes we’ve been introduced to and following since the first “Iron Man” (2008) film band together and take on Thanos, his Black Order, and lesser minions.  Thanos has faced defeat already and he knows he needs more to combat Earth’s heroes.  Enter the ultimate McGuffins of the MCU: the infinity stones.

To wield all the stones (space, time, reality, mind, soul, and power) and become truly invincible, he needs something to contain and harness each power.  That containment cannot be accomplished unless it be forged from a dying star, much like Thor’s hammer.  Hence, the Infinity Gauntlet was made and Thanos is able to place each collected stone in the gauntlet.  The film follows his collecting said stones and every time he manages to add one to the gauntlet, we feel the impending doom, hoping he fails.

Alas, he does not fail.  Thanos collects every stone but there is a cost and this is where the film convinced me and made me proud as a storyteller.  While most of the stones seem to be “easy” for him to gain, one in particular is not.  The soul stone has been elusive and hidden from everyone (even from us in the audience because there have been no clues as to its whereabouts).  One person does know however of its location and that would be Thanos’ adopted daughter, Gamora, who we were introduced to in “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014).  Sent on a mission by Thanos to locate it, Gamora knows where it is and is forcibly persuaded to tell him the location.

Once there, Thanos learns he must trade a soul for a soul.  In the most poignant, humanizing scene I could have hoped for, Thanos tragically sacrifices the life of Gamora for the soul stone.  My heart twisted as I watched the pain and tears in Thanos as he did so.  There it is.  There is the moment I didn’t even know I wanted.  Give me an antagonist I can sympathize with and you’ve given me a character with depth.  Thanos pays the ultimate price and even confesses at the film’s ending that in order to accomplish his goal, it cost him everything, revealing that his love for Gamora was real.

So, yes.  Our heroes not only failed (another important part of this story because we need to see heroes fail in order to be reminded that they are not invincible) but they are greatly weakened and diminished as we see Thanos destroy half of the universe’s population with a snap (literally).  Remember, this is part one.  Part two should bring everything back around and I think I can most assuredly postulate that we will see the atrocity of Thanos’ actions against the universe be righted or at least partially restored.

In conclusion, “Avengers: Infinity War (Part I)” is about Thanos and his main conflict.  His rise and fall moves the story forward and we are treated to a villain I actually found myself liking as much as I liked the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”.  For different reasons, of course, but it’s all the same.  Give me an antagonist who is more than a surface-level psycho and I will be engrossed in the complexity of their conflict and goal.

Call to Action:  Seriously, I shouldn’t have to say go see it but if you did and didn’t notice this aspect of Thanos, I encourage you to go see it again.  Do not think of it as a movie about our heroes but about the tragic character that is bent on bringing balance to the universe, unaware that to do so will cost him everything.

Flash Fiction: A Legend’s Call

Kesree’s cottage slept as Damrin approached on foot, thankful to finally feel his feet and legs strong and not aching after a day of walking.  To the west, the great cliffs, the Brutes, split by the waterfall called the Silent Mother’s Tears roared.  Snowfall had been generous in recent months for the stream to be so high while he crossed over the foot bridge built by Kesree himself.

Inside the cottage there was nothing.  Hints of Kesree remained.  Touches of his brilliance when it came to his ability to trap the power of his Shoal, Temzda, and contain its affect on things both living and not.  Damrin did not mean to begin rummaging so freely and disrespectfully but in minutes, the floor and every other surface was soiled by his angered search.  Books and papers rained while writing apparatus spilled and stained.

The Shoalway opened outside and Damrin had little time to react, reaching but not touching Qorum.  At the window, he looked out to find an armor wearing Wielder just as their Shoalway closed, swirl of glass forever left on the ground.  Damrin recognized but did know the gray-haired man whose hatchet nose hooked down and beard was cut into a sharp square.

“Come out, Damrin Graeves,” the older man called.

Unblinking, dumb-founded like a small boy seeing a Wielder for the first time, Damrin stopped in the doorway until waved forward by the legend that is Barat Bladeveil.  “Sir?”

Bladeveil, the living legend among all the Holds, did not smile, jaw set in the most-earnest of manners.  He was the last living Shoal Sword, the knights of old—long gone from the world.  “Set aside whatever allegiances clasp your wrist.  Our oaths bind more than the feeble war tantrums made by the Hold Kings currently engaged in.  Our duty is to this world, to protect those who face threats they cannot hope to counter.”

The speech was delivered in such a way that Damrin found himself on his knees before the hero of old, forgetting why and what he came for in Kesree’s refuge.  “You want me?” he asked.

Crouching with ease, body not touched by time’s sting, Bladeveil reached out and touched Damrin’s shoulder.  “A Shoalway breach took place days ago and I need your help.  I know you by your reputation.”  His gray eyes looked past him at Kesree’s cottage.  “Kesree confided in me not two months ago.  You, he said, were one who could aid in dire times.”

The swell of pride in the words and request took the slightest cut as the threat registered in Damrin’s mind.  A breach?  If true, and he had no reason to question Barat Bladeveil, then his fury at Kesree did indeed not matter.  This war between the Holds grew small in his mind.  He had a duty to the Holds and he was going to stand alongside Barat Bladeveil, the last of the Shoal Swords, to see it through.

Flash Fiction: A Morning for Mourning

After long days of rituals leading to her choosing a husband, Hijeneva awoke to the screams, mistaking them at first to be the ceremonial raised voices of the women of the Ajjuun.  She stirred herself, rubbing sleep from her eyes, unsure of the hour.  In two days she was expected to put her suitors through the trials.  The items taken from the dead god were ready to be tested and she was ready to see the truth behind each.

The screams told her something horrible was taking place in the witching hour.  The soft gray glow of the sky from her maiden hut window suggested the sun was less than an hour from waking the rest of the world.  She pushed herself up from her sleeping mat, dressed, and grabbed her shield and spear.  She considered the god’s items for a moment.  Should she risk it?  Perhaps it was an attack by the Shygua.  If so, her people needed help.  Due to the dead god, the Ajjuun had lost too many of their young warriors.  No, she resisted the urge, fearing the unknown could kill her just by touching the items.  More screams pulled her to the early dawn.  Outside, she found chaos.

Running past her drowsy vision and fighting in the shadows, the Ajjuun were in disarray.  Hijeneva stepped forward but stopped when her foot fell further than she expected.  She crouched, hand touching the print.  Three toes she counted but something else—a swishing mark, suggesting a heavy tail—stamped the earth with a weight suggesting great size.  What could have made the print?

Out of the corner of her eye, Hijeneva reacted in time but still bore the brunt of the strike.  Something heavy clipped her shoulder but found its full impact in her hut’s wall.  Pain broke her fall as she slid against the earth.  Her shield twisted her fingers, breaking at least two.  Her spear was gone.

Something moved in closer from where the flung object struck her.  Frantic and in pain, she moved her shield to her other hand, ready to defend.  Her dazed eyes caught the outline of a gray, slick form with too many eyes to be real.  A sound she thought was high-pitched, sinister laughter interrupted her pounding ears.  Nearby torchlight touched the blade of a tiil inches away from her.

The creature advanced, revealing two legs of three clawed toes and a balancing tail at its rear.  Hijeneva rolled, threw her shield like an over-sized bowl, and took up the tiil, recognizing its distinct quality and stabbed greedily at the flesh of her attacker as it swayed in recovery from her shield striking it.  Her screams of pain and anger ripped through the new day in what would surely be a morning for mourning.

What to Write?

I’ve been watching the writing business from afar for a few months now (like fifteen+ months if I’m being honest) and I’ve been keeping close eye on the fantasy genre.  Mostly, I do this because I’m curious as to what is coming out.  I’m especially curious about the kind of fantasy getting published.

I guess the risk in this is being influenced to touch a specific kind of fantasy or subgenre just to be relevant or “buy worthy”.  I never wanted to do this as I grew as a writer but anytime you write a genre, some of those traditional or cliche elements bleed through.  It happens and there’s balance that I have to find.

For myself, I love the genre but have always followed the advice, “Write what you want to read,” first.  I admit wanting to explore other genres but I find myself encouraged and excited to hit the keyboard every day.  If nothing else, I think I need to keep on that path.

Little side note, I was working on my book yesterday and finally put in some much-needed fixes for my magic system.  For nine years I have sort of known about this problem and overlooked it.  Not because I just waved it away but because I trusted the solution would present itself.  I didn’t know it would be so many years but it finally came.  There’s a long exhale that comes when something glaring in the whole story finally gets fixed by your own hand and not by someone you’re trying to impress, hahaha!

Things are sharpening and shapening up.  A few more things on my list to do.  It’s a marathon that I plan to finish.  I’m a bit slower than I hoped but I hold steady.

Call to Action:  Whoa dang… we are a week and a half away from baby time.  I’m asking for prayers and encouragement for patience these last few days.  Go ahead and include my wife in there too.  She’s ready for this baby boy to be out!

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.

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.

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!

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!

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 Goodreads.com 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!).

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.

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.

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: http://adamhenderson.net/2017/09/24/why-i-watched-it/

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: http://adamhenderson.net/2017/12/06/how-pixar-and-disney-help-me-appreciate-different-cultures/

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: http://adamhenderson.net/2017/06/15/wonder-woman-thoughts-and-impact/

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: http://adamhenderson.net/2017/03/06/logan-reaction/

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.

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.

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 https://theculturetrip.com/asia/india/articles/the-10-oldest-languages-still-spoken-in-the-world-today/).

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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

Recap:

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

Recap:

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

Recap:

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

Recap:

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

Recap:

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

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Chapter 2: The Weirdo on Maple Street

Recap:

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

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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!

Recap:

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

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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).

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!

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!

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.

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.

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!

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.

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: http://jamie-marchant.com/blog/

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!

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

Iron

Pulls on Nearby Metals

Zinc

Enflames Emotions

Brass

Dampens Emotions

External
Internal Pewter

Increases Physical Abilities

Tin

Increases Physical Senses

Copper

Hides Allomantic Pulses

Bronze

Detects Allomantic Pulses

Internal
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.

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?

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.

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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).

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.

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!

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.

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.

There’s Nothing Romantic About War or Writing

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 0

Something that I think is misconstrued about being a writer is that it is a glorious affair in which the heavens rejoice over poignantly illuminated prose writing.  As if all existence can be summed up and shared with the world in a way that would eradicate hunger, sow peace between rival nations, and/or make immortality attainable.  This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Writing is romanticized much like war was during the times of the Greeks in epic fashion.  For example, Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  This is probably one of the most romanticized ways of describing writing if ever there was one.  I’ve done it from time to time too.  Neither writing nor war are romantic.  I’ll be speaking to the former here (I don’t think anyone is disillusioned when it comes to the horrors of war in this century).

Here’s the truth.  Writing is both easy and hard depending on the day.  I’m not sure it is romanticized like it was in past eras when books and plays were all the rage for entertainment.  I kind of wonder if there is maybe a growing eagerness in the younger generations to write because there’s a belief that it’s a lost art (though it’s not) or that it has been raised on a pedestal in society to be another way to have your voice be heard and recognized among the masses.  (Just some random thoughts I’ve had.)

What I want to convey today is that for me, writing is difficult–but also easy.  Life does not sit back and say, “Tell you what, I’ll pause for a bit–take a siesta–and let you have a few hours to attack that scene you’ve been thinking about for the last two weeks.”  Ha!  I wish that were the case except I don’t.  My writing itch would be like one of those medical monitors that tracks heart rates.  Up and down, up and down.  That incessant beeping must stop!

Take this last week.  I started working on the film treatment for the movie idea I’ve had clattering about in my mind.  I’ve worked on it and felt good about it (so far…) but I’ve struggled to keep consistently working on the revision of book 1 of the Ravanguard series.  I would love for my desire to work on both to be of equal fervor but that’s been a bust.  And often is to be honest.  The creative juices go tepid from time to time and I’ve had to learn to be okay with it.  Sometimes I grumble and sit in solitude but I roll with it.

All this is to say that writing is fluid and should be recognized as such.  Maybe there are writers out there that can be disciplined to monk-like standards and write whenever they want and produce exactly the content they want but they are few and far between.  The biggest challenge for the rest of us (whether you write blogs, articles, poems, short stories, novels, screenplays, technical manuals, etc.) is to find a balance, give ourselves grace when it’s needed, and by Jove, continue to have fun!

Call to Action: Find that happy medium when it comes to feeling overwhelmed by things.  Take a walk, garden, cook, watch a movie, play music or even just sit back and read.  These pastimes should be integrated into life.  I know a lot of people who are not writers but would love to write something.  I always encourage it to be done but definitely don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the thought that it is too big a goal.  It’s really not.  You sit down and bleed on the paper.  Ha!

My Cup Runneth Over

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

Couple of things to go over first before I get into the trappings of my mind today.  This is going to be kind of subject to subject type of post but a good overview of the happenings in my fun-filled life.

Business first.  There may be some changes coming to my blog posting schedule.  If you’ve paid attention, I post on every even day of the week (2nd, 4th, 6th, etc.) unless the “On This Day” post lands on an odd day.  Roughly, that means I’ve posted about 14-15 posts a month.  After five months of this, I’m beginning to wonder if I can keep up that kind content production for the foreseeable future.  So, starting in June, I’ll be switching it up.  My plan is to begin posting every three days instead of every other day.  That means blog posts will likely be on the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and so on of every month.  There will be variances of course depending on when the “On This Day” post falls (maybe that will be a bonus post for the month).  Everything else will stay the same though.

Still nothing on the book art for “Dim the Veil” but I’ll let everyone know once that happens.  No progress on the method for savings towards the professional edit either.  I’m going to be looking into some options soon though and hopefully come to a decision.  Again, I decided against gofundme and kickstarter because if someone decides to give anything over $5, I fear that I cannot offer them anything in return besides the novella once I release it and I don’t believe that’s ethical.

Viewing pleasures.  I recently watched the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and I have to say I truly enjoyed the film.  It did not quite go in the direction I expected and I was pleasantly surprised by the more sentimental parts and its focus on family.  It hit the heart strings on a few occasions.  And the music was awesome of course!  No other movies I can think to bring up but I am watching the new seasons of Better Call Saul and Fargo.  Both are great television shows that continue to hold strong in their narratives and character explorations.  I’ve wanted to get into the American Gods show based on Neil Gaiman’s novel but I haven’t had the time yet.  I can’t say I loved the book so I’m not uber-drawn to the show.
Soothing Sounds.  As both a writer and musician, I’m naturally drawn to music.  My musical journey has been interesting to say the least.  I may have to do a separate blog post on that soon because I’ve gone from genre to genre over my life and settled recently on pretty much a place where I didn’t think I would.  One of my favorite bands is Cold War Kids and their latest album “LA Divine” has been a constant whenever I have music on in the background (heads-up, I’ll be working on a blog post soon going over some of the lyrics from that album in a sort of semi-review).  Also, freaking Paramore (probably one of my top-five bands ever) has released their fifth album “After Laughter” and that will be played out in no time between myself and my wife (her favorite band).

Bookworming.  Recent reads include a bevy of books.  A couple of fantasy tomes were “Heroes Die” by Matthew Woodring Stover and “Shadowmarch” by Tad Williams.  Both were good for what they were but did not blow my hair back.  “Heroes Die” was more an original idea with sort of a pseudo-sci-fi element to it.  “Shadowmarch” reminded me of “Game of Thrones” and some of the other books of that ilk.  I also finished Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” which I will probably review in the next newsletter.  Definitely a fun “read” as I listened to the audiobook.  I’m a little behind in my reading challenge over at Goodreads so I need to get on it and read some shorter books I think.  It’s these 500-600 page fantasy epics that really slow me down :/

Fun Stuff!  So, we’ll be going to Colorado to visit family in September and I was lucky to find that my baseball team, the San Francisco Giants, will be in Denver playing the Rockies while we are there.  So, I jumped on the chance to see my team play  for the time live and bought tickets for one of the games!  Super excited!  I haven’t been to a baseball game since I was in my early teens.  Should be a great experience with my dad, uncle, cousin, and brother-in-law.  The great thing about baseball games if that they don’t cost an arm and a leg to go.

And that concludes your quick update of my life.

Call to Action: I’m curious to know if anyone has any thoughts on how often I post blog posts.  One every other day was really a challenge to myself to see if I could do it but also provide enough content to gain readers.  I can’t say for sure if this has really gained people interested in reading my content though.  I don’t get much feedback besides from friends and family (am I even doing this right? lol).  Maybe switching it up will help.

True to Self

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 3

Something that I continually come up against each day (I’m sure you do too if we’re being honest) is staying true to self.  This extends beyond my writing.  Everything I’ve given since starting this blog has been my genuine voice.  Thoughts are legit, lessons learned are still gripped tightly, and humor is straight from my wacky brain and how I view the world.  I admit, I hold some things back but for the most part, I keep it level.

I know I’m not alone in this because I see so many people everyday whether in my day to day or on social media expressing these practices of self.  Sometimes, you can tell people are still not all the way there but inching closer to understanding who they are, what they believe, and what their purpose is.  One thing I’m forever grateful for is my own journey in this regard.  To look back at my life just ten years ago, I get a little embarrassed knowing what I did and said to others and even what I thought about myself.

You can’t go back but you can learn from mistakes.  It’s only by these mistakes that I am able to shake my head and thank God I’m not there anymore.

(At this time, you’re probably saying, “Oh, it’s one of these blog posts.”  Yes, it is.  I dare you to keep reading!)

How this relates to writing is simply you have to write what you know and like.  I’ve tried writing stories set in another genre but not even I can push through the struggle.  Now, I don’t think I will forever write fantasy (I truly hope not) because then I’d be limiting myself.  My hope is that I can get these stories that are fresh and inside me out and off to the world, making way for others that might stray to different audiences.  A great example is Stephen King.  Love or hate him, he actually has stories that are not horror/thriller.  Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile are both his and wonderful stories!

If I wanted to have success in the literary world (or just a better chance at it), then I’d chase whatever fad is happening at the moment.  I tend to joke that I may do that just to see if I can get published faster but I’d feel too bad for selling out.  (No vampire meets werewolf gets locked in a game to the death dystopian future will be found in my books.  Ha!)

Again, in order for me to be able to push outside the boundaries (and comforts) of writing fantasy, it will require me to expand myself in new ways.  I don’t know what that looks like at this time or even how it will come about (probably naturally since that’s how most major changes in my life take place).  My climb out of the places of immaturity and naivety in my early twenties took quite a while (they do say boys take longer to become men and there’s definitely truth to that).

Perhaps a lot of people struggle with or are not willing to admit to their shortcomings or falls in youth but I love that I can share that journey.  I’ve had the opportunity to do so a few times with others and it’s therapeutic to be genuine and honest about that part of my life.  Even now, I have this sense of peace being a bit vulnerable and transparent with all of you.  I write and I consider myself a writer but if I cannot be true to myself in that aspect of my life, how could I expect to anywhere else?

Call to Action: If I did write the vampire meets werewolf after getting locked in a game to the death dystopian future story, I’d call it “Fang Games”.  Uh oh… I might have a fun little tongue-in-cheek story prompt I should throw out there to the interwebz.  By the way, if you are one who wastes time on Pinterest (I say that light-heartedly of course), then follow my writing board where you will no doubt be entertained by my pins of what I enjoy and find inspiring to my writing.  Find here: https://www.pinterest.com/adamhenderson49/my-writing-board/

The Disposition of Exposition

If there’s anything in writing fiction that needs to be done well and balanced throughout the arc of the story, it is exposition.  The inserting of background information for the sake of explaining characters, history, setting, culture, etc. is tricky for first time writers.  As with many literary devices, this is especially difficult in fantasy.

In works of fiction set in the real world, in real places, during real eras, most of us can draw from our education and/or experiences to fill in the gaps.  If I’m reading a book set in the United States during the 90s and certain people, places, music, and events are mentioned, it is very likely I’m able to draw from my time growing up in the 90s (I was born in ’84, so I’m well-aware of the decade).  Yes, I was a freshman in high school by the end of the 90s but as the years go by, I know more about the global conflicts, major historical events, sporting events, etc. (lots of etcetera’s in this blog post, right?).  I think you all get my point.

Fiction set during this era doesn’t need a lot of exposition.  If you grew up or were starting a career or nearing retirement during the 90s, then you knew the culture.  If you are reading a book (let’s say a John Grisham novel set in this time), I guarantee you don’t need much background explained on a national level.  If we are talking about Grisham’s “The Runaway Jury” then we are looking at Mississippi in the 90s.  Exposition here would focus on the setting the story takes place in and the region and those cultural nuances that would be prevalent.  That’s very little to expound upon to the readers because one would be able to presume the majority of readers in the US would be familiar with the time period, social issues, etc.

Now, let’s jump to fantasy.

In fantasy, you are being introduced to an entirely new world with its own history, society/culture, foods, religions, conflicts, and more!  One thing I’ve run into when speaking with people who are not the biggest fans of fantasy is that they struggle to immerse themselves in a world that they are so unfamiliar with, filled with ideas and things that are not explained in detail.  I get this.  So much in a fantasy world needs to be revealed in order to understand the roles and complexities of the world the plot takes place.  However, we as fantasy writers (I being one of them) run into a problem if we try explaining every new thing that is unlike something in the real world.  We slow down the action of the narrative if we do this.

The problem in doing so takes the reader out of the story and they are forced to read paragraphs of information that almost acts as a pause button.  I’ve seen fantasy writers tackle this problem of exposition a few different ways.  The first is a glossary or primer (I’m a fan of this method) that usually can be found at the back of the book where people, groups, events, etc. can be explained and defined.  The second way (I’m not a fan of this) is adding footnotes at the bottom of the page.  I have struggled reading books using this method because I always feel I have to drop my eyes to the bottom of the page when I come across that footnote letter or number within the prose.  It’s very inconvenient.  I’m curious to know how many readers prefer either method or could care less.

My preferred method in my own writing when dealing with exposition is looking for ways to explain background information either through the dialogue or inner thoughts of the characters.  The problem with this method however is that the reader has to wait for it and be on the lookout.  For example, in the “Shoals to the Hallowed” flash fiction series I post at the end of each month (I hope you all are enjoying them and my promise to create a primer is still in the works) I am giving you all very little information about the world due to lack of writing space.  Flash fiction in its desired format limits the amount of words I can provide, so my goal (and this is a bit of an exercise for me) is to give you hints of things, reinforce them from time to time in each new story, and allow you to make important connections.

It is my feeling and belief that if I just explained the Wielders and the Shoals they are able to access and harness the power of, I would be denying you the joy of the small windows of story provided.  Now, maybe that’s my own ignorance and you all are just like, “What the heck is going on here?!  Just tell me!”  If you are, there’s your call to action, hahaha!

Seriously, though, I understand the struggle to not have exposition in new, unknown fantasy worlds.  I truly do and my hope is that I can give you the answers in ways that do not slow the story or act as a distraction.  It’s my belief (and preference to be honest) to learn as I read and trust that the writer will explain things naturally without inundating me with info dumps every other page.  I’d like to think I’m not alone in that.

Call to Action: Show of hands.  Who’s completely lost in the “Shoals to the Hallowed” flash fiction stories and would like a future post or a working primer to be added to the website so some things can be explained?

On This Day: 04 May 2006 – The Blade Itself First Published

posted in: Fantasy, On This Day | 0
I hope you’ve all enjoyed the OTD posts I do each month.  They are a lot of fun and let me work different writing muscles.  First, today is Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you) but that would be too easy.  I decided today’s post would be about a book I have come to love and refer back to whenever I think about how fantasy can stray away from the clichés and tropes we too often see in the genre.

Joe Abercrombie’s “The Blade Itself” is the first of the First Law Trilogy and my introduction to the subgenre of “grimdark”.  The agreed definition of grimdark is usually one of realism in tone, setting, and violence in the story.  Think: gritty.  Few things feel clean and there is this sense throughout the world that characters are gray more than anything else.  Heroes with shining swords are not found here.  They are more the antihero type who have vices that are magnified and they do not come out of the fight unmarked in some way or another.

“The Blade Itself” is such a novel.  The main viewpoints follow a cursed warrior, a conniving torturer, and a selfish nobleman who has bought his position as an officer in the army.  None of these characters are your Frodo, Aragorn, or Gandalf type.  They’re characters caught in a violent world of webs of conspiracy.  The world of the book never feels warm or inviting.  The settings are often cold and dark and truly realized through the arcs of the characters as they traverse through the plot, never guaranteed the next day.

Depressing, right?  Well, I don’t mean to paint a murky picture here but what Abercrombie genuinely does is make all of these characters worth your time and interest.  They are compelling despite their grayness.  Each of them realizes they have choices to make and they can either fight to live or let higher powers manipulate them into servitude.

You all know how much I enjoy well-rounded characters (at least I hope you do after these last four months).  This book is where you get some of the best.  Plus, no one is quite what they seem.

Another reason Abercrombie has gained me as a fan is the fact that he purposely sets up what you, the reader, thinks will be common clichés and tropes and he awesomely twists and turns to surprise you from page to page.  This is more realized as you read the entire trilogy but enough so in the first book that you can’t help but smile once you realize what had happened.  He crafts the narrative perfectly.

I recommend this book and series to everyone who asks me but I must warn that it is not for everyone.  Grimdark is like whiskey straight.  It punches you in the mouth at first taste but the more you sip, the better it gets and you truly appreciate the writing you’ve immersed yourself into.

Call to Action: Read it if you dare.  If it’s not your preferred order when it comes to reading, then I definitely don’t fault you.  I actually have not delved into other grimdark books because they are difficult to read.  I personally think Abercrombie provides more than the gray characters and violence but has paved the way for other writers of the genre, exploring new worlds and ideas that color outside the lines.

Update Time!

Some quick updates.  Nothing received on the book art front yet but I know that will be coming in due time.  I heard from my friend who is helping me and things are moving forward.  There is no rush at this point simply because I think for now I’ve decided against either starting a gofundme or kickstarter option to put together the money for the “Dim the Veil” edit.

Without going into the details, I’ll just say that unless I can offer more than a “free” copy of the ebook of the novella, I don’t feel like I can justify asking people to donate or invest more than the cost of the novella itself.  Going with either of those crowd funding options would have (in my mind) required me to offer a gift/reward of equal value.  At this time, if someone decided to donate $10-20, there is nothing I can think of practically to offer in equal exchange for that amount of money.  Not at this point at least.

The downside of this is that I will not be able to get the novella edited and released in the timeframe I had originally hoped.  It will take time for me to put together the amount required to pay for both the line and copy edit.  At this point, I could not in good conscious release the novella without taking that step.  Quality is so important to me as a writer.

I’m thankful I encountered this realization and do not look at this as a defeat or setback in any sense.  I’ve been doing this long enough to know that while I’m a writer and storyteller, I am not (I wish it weren’t so) a professional fiction editor.  I’ve invested time and resources in getting better at self-editing but there is a skill set that I don’t necessarily possess in comparison to the editor, Victoria, I’ve since worked with.

I do plan on getting better though, having asked Victoria for feedback on any repetitive mistakes she may have noticed in the short story provided in the newsletter (I hope those of you who signed up and received it enjoyed the story!).  I have her redlines and comments and I will make it a priority to study and understand the corrections and changes so that I can fix any bad habits I’ve developed over the years (it happens…).

One other positive is that I will be working on the short story for the second newsletter, which will be released at the end of August for all of you!  Yay!  I will have Victoria edit that short story as well and it’s format will be different than the last.  My hope is that I can continue to offer up quality content and still learn to write more better (I did that on purpose, ha!).

Call to Action: While I won’t be starting a crowd funding option to save towards the “Dim the Veil” edit, I will be looking for an alternative way just so I can set aside money and be able to track my progress.  If for any reason you do want to invest in me and my writing, I will not turn away the compassion.  Contact me on my website and we will discuss the details.  This will be beneficial to anyone in the long run.  You will get exclusives and when I am able to, gifts worth the amount you gave.  I thank you all of you for continuing to come here and read what I have to say.  It means the world to me!

Flash Fiction: “Separate From the Sorrows”

 

Gasping breath invaded his stinging lungs, feet slipping on the glass-formed ground where the Shoalway opened for him to exit the harsh environment of his Shoal, Qorum.  Always, the elements of the other realm challenged his body and mind–still in ways the scholars and Wielders did not fully understand.

His wounds required attention.  Cuts stung, slashes needed sutures and burns demanded salves.  The Wielder, Damrin Graeves, surveyed his body wherever the pain emitted from, revealed by the rips and singed parts of his once fine clothing.  The fight had been unexpected.  His hands shook, fingers clenched into hard fists.  Tears streamed from his eyes down his cheeks, stinging throughout their trails.  Not from the pain–no–but from the betrayal he had just survived.

There in the abandoned courtyard of stone and overgrowth in the dead city of Hasselor, Kesree baited him repeatedly like a man mad with deceptive intent.  His vile words, lined with poison, echoed in Damrin’s mind.  His friend…one of many years since they first encountered one another in the Wielder’s Congress.  How had it all unraveled like frayed rope?

Damrin dug his fingers into the dirt of the field outside the capital city of Talloe of the Hold, Teras.  Birds sang beautifully around him, mocking his heartbreak.  Kesree had managed to slip away to his Shoal but he could not have lived.  The wounds he had suffered were far worse–fatal to the body.  Passing through the Shoalway to wherever he ended up in the world was a desperate risk.  The Shoals did not coddle or pity the Wielders able to bridge the world by their power.

Losing his dear friend would leave a wound that would never heal but the confrontation between them was a slow-moving agony.  The betrayal drove his thoughts to consider the turn of events.  If Wielders were turning against one another, then war was surely churned up in the garden of peace.  He had to seek out allies, but knew the chance of further deception was likely.  He needed his mind and body to be healed completely, forcing himself to be ready in an instant.

A small opening to his Shoalway appeared before him, earth melting to glass underneath.  He gazed into the portal, able to look through the haze of power to an atmosphere of peril.  Even a small opening was large enough to let out some of the most dangerous threats that dwelled within Qorum.  But he needed it open.  Only then could he draw out the current of power, healing his wounds.

Developing Characters

Short of being able to properly and coherently write sentences, characters are by-far the most important aspects of your story.  I’ve wrote on this to some length over the last few months and wanted to get into some specifics.  This will be a post about developing characters and I’m going to do it in a way that I hope makes things fun for you the reader.  How?  Well, as I write, I’m going to develop a brand new character for you!  (This character will be in a future short story–maybe in the next newsletter!)

Have at it!

Alright, there are “aspects” I want to consider first and you’ll just have to roll with me as I do this.  I want to create a character who is distinct.  What does that look like?  Well, I need to decide a few things that will be both somewhat general and differential when it comes to others.  (Just as a heads-up, all of these characteristics we’ll be developing are subject to change but I am going to try to keep everything the same so that when you come across the character in the short story, you will feel like you know them!)

Back to the distinctity (yeah, I know, not a word but it is fun to write and say!).

Let’s say the character’s name is Avroes Toal.  That’s a random name if ever I came up with one but let’s roll with it as we move on.  What will make him distinct.  Let’s say he is younger but has early signs of graying hair, making him self-conscious with the ladies.  One lovely lady in particular (this is a bit of a plot element so we’ll leave that alone for now).  Who is this man named, Avroes?  If he’s self-conscious about his hair, how else would that affect his personality?  I imagine him as being a bit of an over-compensator.  He looks for opportunities to prove he’s not older than he is and therefore has adopted more childish or immature ways.  This also affects his relationships both personally and professionally.

How are we doing?  Are you staying with me?  Good!  Onwards!

So, Avroes Toal is a young man (mid-twenties) who has prematurely graying hair and over-compensates this by acting out in ways to prove he is young and not old.  We’ll stray away from specifics because we don’t want to get too close to plot points.  Let’s also throw in some other details to round him out.  He likes the outdoors and would prefer pursuing a profession that allows him to see the world (cliché a bit, I know), but let’s say he wants this because his father and grandfather were both men perfectly fine with living their lives as scholars, devoted to studying and page-turning.  This is not Avroes the Gray (poor guy has a nickname he hates too!)

He’s a man looking forward and beyond the confines of a study or library, wanting nothing more than to see the world and prove he is not like his father and grandfather who have paved the way for him to have a good-paying occupation that will allow him to marry, have children and carry on the Toal legacy of ink stains and paper cuts.

Also, he hates heights and the library he would have to spend all of his days in is at the highest story of a building with many stairs and no banisters.  He seizes up anytime he actually has to approach a tall staircase, afraid his footing will give way and he’ll stumble to his death.  In fact, let’s say his grandfather fell and died and his father fell and lived but became crippled by the horrible circumstance (a little too tear-jerking for you? Misery is drama, ha!) and Avroes has to take care of his father.  Even better dramatic tension!  It’s so sweet, it drips.

There are many more (is that correct grammar?) things we can do to round out who Avroes Toal is and maybe that can be explored in the short story (guaranteed it will) but this is just to show my process for creating a character somewhat on the fly.  Who are they, what do they do/want/hate/love/etc.?

Call to Action:  Anything we can add?  Seriously, throw out a detail!  It doesn’t have to be too precise and can be a bit vague.  What’s his favorite color, food, idiosyncratic ticks, bad habits, etc.?  I’ll be able to add that into the short story and you’ll be able to say you had a part in it!

No Naturals Here

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 0

While I don’t necessarily like long road trip drives, I do enjoy them so long as I am with someone who’s enjoyable to talk to.  My wife is one of these wonderful kinds of driving companions.  We truly do find the hours a great time and opportunity to talk and discuss a bevy of topics.  Some of course are private (you won’t get access to those) but we do talk about music, writing, and art a lot of the time.  We’re creatives and are able to explore are our likes and dislikes pretty easily, encouraging each other along the way on the highway of asphalt and lines.

Something she said during our most recent drive home was that she boasts about me being a writer (a nerd writer to be precise, lol) and that led to her talking about how impressed she is that I can do what I do and she feels nervous writing anything and letting me read it.  I do the thing where I tell her she doesn’t need to be nervous and that she’s a good writer herself (she really is) but that led me to think about something I’ve encountered a few times: perception of writing abilities.

Let me be brutally honest and a bit transparent for a few seconds.  I really am not a natural talent.  If I was, I wouldn’t have two shelved novels that no one is allowed to see.  I’m not sure if there’s a misconception out there about writers as a whole or something else.  Our ilk is one often labeled with fine descriptions of neuroses, depression, inebriation, etc.  You know, those darn clichés.  Yes, I like sipping whiskey and I own a pipe but I’ve never used it (not yet and probably not ever).

In my experience and what I’ve been able to glean over the years is that if ever there was a “natural” when it came to writing, the closest specimen might have to be ole Bill Shakes-the-speare.  Even then, there are many who believe the persona of WS was fabricated and that his great plays and sonnets were in fact written by another’s hand and mind.  Could be, I don’t know.

My point is that writers are just like any other who is or becomes proficient in their craft.  They work at it.  Practice and exercising the appropriate muscles are a requirement in order to find any semblance of success.

I think where there’s any natural talent is just in the imagination gears of the minds of writers.  For me, to be able to create a vast world (fantasy definitely lends to being able to create more and bend some rules) filled with characters, nations, cities, cultures, flora, fauna, magic systems, and all the other little nuances that make the world come alive is purely by imagination.  I did all this as a little kid playing with action figures way before I was able to put words to paper.

Where others may be intimidated to show me or other writers their own writing, just realize I would be completely wrecked to try to play drums or bass with a bunch of professional musicians.  I would be a knot of nerves so tangled together that it would take way too long to undue.

Everything worth doing well takes time, experience, mistakes and maybe a hundred other things to get it right.

Call to Action: Just to continue with the topic, I would encourage you to keep at whatever you love to do when it comes to your creative outlet.  It’s absolutely worth it once you reach a level of proficiency.

No Dragons, Dwarves/Elves, or Dreams/Prophecies: Access Denied

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 0
Something I continually encounter when telling people I’m a writer and they ask, “What do you write?”, is I have this sense that they have preconceived ideas when I answer, “Fantasy”.  I can see it in their eyes.  “Oh, so dragons, elves and magic.”  Not a question but a definite statement.  To which I silently in my head respond, “I should have said fiction…”

I don’t blame people for this assumption.  I get it.  All you have to do is look at the main cultural references we have in our society.  Lords of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, and most recent, Game of Thrones.  These big ones have set the stage and have planted the seeds one would expect from fantasy.  (Wizards, dragons, and elves, oh my!)

Unfortunately, I do not have the means or assignment to correct people on how vast and wide the fantasy genre has come since Tolkien laid the modern foundation.  I wish I could have that job, trust me! (King of Correction!  Hear me!)  Alas, I do not have that honorable title, but thankfully, I have a blog and I can voice my knowledge and experience in the genre to better help people who may not be big nerds like myself.

Three tropes or elements you will not find in my writing: dragons, dwarves/elves, or dreams/prophecies.

I’m going to dissect each of these somewhat quickly.  These are not tropes like my previous blog posts on magic but rather ones I have intentionally avoided because I choose not to employ their function in any of my stories.  None of these are intrinsically overdone in the genre and I often enjoy them when done in a new way in the books I read.

Magical creatures and or races in the traditional sense simply do not play any significant role in the worlds I’ve created.  If you’ve read any of the series I recommended in my fantasy reader’s guide post, then you know that I have a preference for worlds and stories that read more “human” in nature.  This does not mean there are not other kinds of races in these books (Stephen Eriksons Malazan series is chalk full of different races that are awesomely imagined) but there’s a bit more creativity and imagination involved.  For myself, I’ve created races that seem familiar to the reader but in the end are their own.

I’m actually not big on books or stories involving dragons as major characters and/or plot elements.  There are plenty out there but I’ve truly never been a fan.  Smaug in my mind is one of the best examples of a dragon in fantasy.  Robert Jordan does not use dragons but actually calls his savior-of-the-world main character, The Dragon, which I really liked because it called to the fantasy element instead of including it in the Wheel of Time series.

Dreams and prophecies are elements I have avoided on purpose.  I could easily throw these into the narrative of the Ravanguard series but I consciously did not because I did not like the idea of using them as a crutch, which I think some series utilize to that advantage.  These are seemingly always used as a means of foreshadowing and installing the hero as the savior to all mankind (again, a bit overdone in the genre).  I prefer to use foreshadowing without these because I find that it’s more difficult and a challenge.

George R.R. Martin actually does this very well despite his use of dreams and prophecies.  He explores foreshadowing by use of language and visuals, which is what I have tried to emulate in my own way.  In fact, if I were ever to use dreams or prophecies as a literary device, I’d probably try to do it in a way that has not been done before.

For anyone who is looking forward to reading my stories, I hope this is helpful and lays out what to expect or in this case “not expect”.  Fantasy is not restricted to these few common/popular elements.  If that’s what you like, there’s plenty of options out there!  Trust me.  The vast coffer that is the fantasy genre overflows with different worlds and subgenres that have their own mix of devoted fans.  Sometimes, I wish there was another way to describe what I write but my use of limited technology, magic and swords kind of puts me in the barrel.  That’s probably why enjoy the genre so much: it’s not constricted but goes as far as the writer’s imagination can stretch.

Call to Action: I admit, there is one series of books that involve dragons that I am interested in reading.  Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series is an alternate history fantasy that has dragons in the Napoleonic Wars.  That just sounds like a fun read.  If you’ve read it, let me know what you think!  If not, then it may be worth exploring.

Working With an Editor

I’ve just completed my first experience with an editor for the short story that will be included in the newsletter.  Just to lay out some first impressions and give some general thoughts on the process, I thought I’d share.

It’s a new experience to actually communicate with and hire an editor for their services.  It did not really hit me right away but I think I’ve been able to marinate in it for long enough now that I can actually express my joy and sweet release of held breath.  Mind you, this was just for a short story but to receive the manuscript back and see the redlines (corrections) and read the comments included is almost victorious.  Obviously, I have a long road to go.  The novella, “Dim the Veil”, is the big goal–the true launching point (more on that in a bit).  But there is this overwhelming sense of, “Wow, what just happened?  What does this mean?”

I have no satisfying answer except to say I recognize the road I’ve been walking for several years and feel I actually know the destination it leads to.  I do not measure success by signing a multi-book deal with a major publishing house.  While that would be a dream come true and very much still in my aspirations, I feel that success is writing and completing this Ravanguard series.  It started as a few pages of three characters in a tense situation and has now become a short story (with more to come; I’m already thinking about the next one), multiple novellas and just as many books.  If anything–if I am able to accomplish one thing as a writer–I want to see the Ravanguard series finished.

And I assure you, those stories will be released in one form or another.  I know the cost of editing now and while it may be a slow process, I will absolutely see them all released as ebooks.  I’ve told my wife that to hold an actual printed hardback and/or paperback book of my story in my hands would be nothing short of amazing, I have long since been willing to settle for digital formats if that’s my only option.  I’m okay with that and I know, so long as the story keeps progressing until I put that final period in place on the last page, I’ve reached my first goal.

Back to the option of starting a gofundme option for the editing price of the novella, I think I’ve been leaning in a slightly different direction.  There are plenty of options out there for crowd funding projects.  Plenty of people do it and find success.  After talking to my wife about this at length, and I think she has raised some very good points, I need to consider more than the simple funding of an edit.  There’s this question of “then what?” after I get the novella back, edited and polished, to my satisfaction.  Well, there’s this thing called marketing that I have little to no experience or knowledge in.  Apparently it’s important and requires money.  Yay…

Hahaha, I kid.  But seriously, it’s a viable and essential step.  Sure, I could post on social media that I have a novella for purchase over on Amazon but is that truly effective?  I don’t know to be honest but I have a sneaking suspicion it might not be.  So, I’m now thinking of doing a kickstarter that would actually enable me to raise the funds for launching not only the novella but my brand as a writer.  I have no interest in being hasty (words of wisdom from Treebeard if ever there were some) and I don’t want to be slow either.  This is simply more to consider and requires some additional research and preparation.  Wish me luck!

Call to Action: I recently finished a book worth reading, especially if you like witty writing that’s quite meta if you enjoy literature.  It’s called “The Eyre Affair” by Jasper Fforde.  Very good and clever.  Check it out!

Doubt and Fear

Being that April 10th was National Encourage a Young Writer Day, I have continued to think about my time when I first started writing and some of the negative thoughts I often had, believing I might not have what it takes to write something worth sharing to the world.  Some transparency is coming at you today (jab, jab, upper cut!).

What I struggled with the most early on was this belief that I could not come up with anything original.  Mind you, I was focused on epic fantasy from the start and if I were to look back on my first attempts at a story, a lot of what I wrote could easily have been clones of some other element in the books I was reading back then.  In retrospect, this makes sense to me now.  It also makes sense why I had to write two “bad” novels before I found my way to the projects I’m currently working on and excited about.

Doubt in myself was an all too familiar face I stared at or found looking my way as I would sit down and do my best while typing away.  That’s what I did: my best.  I think for young writers, they need to make mistakes and struggle along the way before they find their footing.  I have experienced this kind of grind and forming of ability in another area.  Playing drums.  Those first years had their very own level of difficulties and growing pains.  The same can be said of writing.

There were some years that I barely wrote at all because of this struggle.  I was going to school and working but as I’ve said, writing has to be made a priority in order to find success.  I’ve battled with bouts of depression and none were so bad as when I was living in Seattle going to school.  I could easily say it was because of the weather (a little cliché but there is some weight to that but strictly from a lack of vitamin c).  To be honest, I just didn’t like myself and what I was doing with my life.  I was there for school at a legit university and I struggled to find motivation to go to class just about every day.  I ate poorly, gained a lot of weight and barely slept because of horrible restless leg syndrome.  Not fun.

In all this, I kept trying to write despite not really knowing why I was writing.  I think at that time I was editing my second book, which has since been shelved and only returned to when I need a good laugh.  Trust me, it’s not good.  It was too much like trying to be something you’d find in a Final Fantasy game and honestly, it just wasn’t genuine.  I restricted myself too much because I didn’t trust in my abilities and mirrored a lot of characters and world elements to these popular games.

However, in all this I tried to find motivation and inspiration where I could.  This ended up taking the form of finding writing quotes and putting them on my bedroom wall so I could see them all the time.  One quote in particular has to this day stayed with me and really is one of the seeds that kept me going (blowing on those embers otherwise buried in ash).

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” C.S. Lewis

This quote from the great C.S. Lewis gave me one simple direction to set my course towards.  Truth.  Now, this does not mean I all of a sudden had an epiphany and began to change my bad habits and fix what I was doing as a young writer. Would that it were so simple (Hail Caesar!)  My wife will laugh at that one.  Bernaners.  No, I had a new adventure to take!  What is truth?  I won’t go into that long tale at this time, but I did embark on that journey and it took a few more years before I eventually began the Ravanguard series.

To finish all this up in a neatly tied bow, young writers, I implore you to not be chained down by doubt or fear.  Embrace the bad writing because then you’ll have an example of the bad to return to and know you have eventually found success.  If good writing is simply telling the truth from your perspective, then search for truth and let that be your compass (cue the cheesy after-school special music!).

Call to Action: We’re only a few days from the newsletter being sent out!  Woohoo!!!!  I have sent the Ravanguard short story, “The Vain King and Taboo Coin,” to my editor contact and it is polished up for your enjoyment.  Sign up so you can read it!

Fun with Foreshadowing

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 1

Let me start by saying I love the literary device of foreshadowing and as I revise and edit, I have thought about it more and more.  Some writers are big on allusion or theme or even setting.  I commend those who frame their writing with these aspects (really, I do).  For me though, it’s about the foreshadowing threads interwoven in the framework of the plot(s) tapestry.

By definition, foreshadowing is hinting at what is to come.  This can be subtle and apparent depending on the use by the writer.  For example, a writer could use an object noticed or used by a particular early on and then have that object play an important role later on (usually in the final act or climax of the story).  One example I continually see used as an example is if you were to see a gun on a mantle or one placed in a desk drawer. It’s very likely this element could come into play to impact the outcome of the plot.

In my opinion, the two best examples of foreshadowing used effectively in an epic fantasy story can be found in Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” series and George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series.  I know… I know…  I reference these two a lot in my blog posts and I’ll try to discuss other works in the future but for now, these are the two that I return to whenever I think of the proper and effective use of foreshadowing.

I could use examples here but I won’t because the nature of a foreshadow is to allude to something in the future, which in our current culture is notably called a “spoiler”.  I wish I could!  But I won’t.  All I can do is recommend you read these series.  The best foreshadowing in epic fantasy is usually presented in the first book and does not come to pass until the last and towards the end of the series.  Some big payoffs definitely add to the fanfare of readers.

What has happened with me in the Ravanguard series has been beneficial when it comes to these deep details.  My method for writing the series without stopping has allowed me to see where the story has gone and then as I edit and revise, I can recall a “future” event happening in book 2, 3 or 4 and go back and then see if there’s a place for foreshadowing to work.  There’s one key though: it has to make sense within the prose.  There is a balance and trust me, I do not look for spots to drop in foreshadowing just to be cheeky (well, okay, sometimes I do but those are more for the readers who are paying attention).

I think one could argue my approach to foreshadowing is somewhat cheating but I would argue it’s just fun writing.  Sometimes, these foreshadows are quite clever and subtle and sometimes they’re right on the nose.  Both are fine and my hope is that my readers would simply consider it good storytelling.  There’s a sense of intrigue to be added too because you as the reader (and I do this too whenever I’m reading a new book.  I pay close attention to details, thinking it could be a bit of foreshadowing) are more invested in the these details.  I could never be a speed reader because I fear I would miss what I love most in the writing.

Another fun aspect I’ve run into in my own writing is that I have sometimes stumbled onto a moment of foreshadowing accidentally.  Seriously!  I have been planning the story arc of one of the next books, thought of an idea for a character and been like, “Wait, didn’t this thing happen back in book 1?”.  I’ll go and check and boom!  Slap my feet and call me Chip, I inadvertently set up a foreshadowing moment!  Now, it’s probably coincidence but I actually attribute it to my advanced internal, subconscious understanding of the world and characters.  Almost as if I know it all before I should.  (I know, you’re not buying it.)  Truthfully, though, the readers will discover in due time that I have foreshadowed some things that I hope brings delight and maybe a little shock.

Any literary device used is meant to add to the enjoyment of the reading experience.  When used properly and not in abundance to the point of distraction, these practices are worth getting better at.  I definitely encourage looking for these in the books you read.  Train yourself to look for it and see if it pays off.  Happy reading!

Call to Action: See below a video of foreshadowing in popular movies.  Obviously, there are possible spoilers so here are the movies in the top ten list:

 

Medieval Gardening Tips

Remember in my very first blog post back on January 1st?  When I said, “…I’ll be revealing more about who I am with each blog post.  Topics will include writing, books, comics, movies, video games, music, food, weather, medieval gardening tips…”  (See, I did say it.)  You probably thought I was just being sarcastic.  Well, I was but also being a little tongue in cheek with an aftertaste of meta.

The following quote comes from author, George R.R. Martin:

“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.”

I’ve written a prior post on outlining and the value of doing so in the short and long run of your writing.  I’m more of a rough outliner now than I was when I first started the Ravanguard series.  It came out of writing a minor scene found in the first book and I liked it so much, I decided to expand on the idea, developing characters and ideas until I had a general sense of where to start.

However, as I’ve been revising a lot these last couple of weeks, I’ve come back to this idea of being an architect or gardener, which is a term I heard a few years back when listening to one of my preferred Game of Thrones podcasts.  The phrase was discussed a bit and I looked for Martin’s quote.  Back to the present and I very much consider myself a gardener despite my attempts at thinking ahead and outlining subsequent books in the Ravanguard series.

I’m currently revising chapters 6-10 in “So Speaks the Gallows” (Book 1) and I’m reading through each paragraph, cutting, massaging, polishing, etc. with forethought and understanding I have now that I didn’t have back when I first wrote these chapters.  My point (and I do have one) is that I’m able to approach this revision process with a much-needed advantage I otherwise would not have had if I only tried to outline the future books.

Years ago, I had very rough ideas of where these plot arcs were heading.  Now that may sound a little chancy and reckless (it is actually) but I had enough faith in my writing to steer the story where it needed to go.  So, the gardener writing method was at full play in the beginning but as the years and subsequent books and novellas came into existence, I can now return and trim the dead branches and dig up the weeds, able to have a bit of foresight.

All of this encompasses my writing style.  I am not convinced this is the perfect way to write an epic fantasy series and I bet I could write a counterargument that even I would be convinced of.  But I cannot shake that this is my method.  I’ve worked at this for over a decade and found many things that work and don’t work, still adapting as I edge closer and closer to releasing the first Ravanguard novella to launch the series.

My medieval gardening tips are just that.  If you are a gardener more than an architect, continue to process and write in a way that works best for you.  Be careful of comparing yourself to others.  Writers are quirky folk.  Get too many in a room discussing process and method and you’ll have a real kerfuffle on your hands.

Call to Action: I’ll be pushing my newsletter throughout this month as we move closer to the end.  April 30th is the day you will be receiving the newsletter.  So if you haven’t done so (and I don’t know why.  It’s for free), please sign up when prompted on the website or go to the “Contact” form under the “About Adam” tab above ^^^  Just make sure to include your email address and in the comment section that you’d like to be added to the mailing list.

Women and Their Value in Fantasy Literature

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 2

Today I’m exploring a topic that I’m continually conscious of in my writing and the writing of others in fiction.  How are the role(s) of women in the story, society and culture in which they live portrayed?  I’d also like to stress the value of women and whether or not they are used (I say that word lightly) in a cliché way or not.

Some background first.  I started reading more in high school and the book that hooked me (as I’ve stated in previous posts) was Robert Jordan’s “The Eye of the World” where women play a prominent role in those areas I stated.  What always intrigued me is how Jordan (being a man) was able to write such strong female characters who were all very different and distinct from one another.  As a high school freshman, this was new for me as were most aspects of storytelling.  Years down the road, I’ve come across many bad examples and good examples of women in fantasy.  Jordan did what I consider a very good job of depicting women whereas (I definitely have another well-known fantasy example that I could insert but…screw it) in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series women are often treated horribly and victims of despicable men.

(Side note: I only read the first book all the way through and part of the second but couldn’t finish the series.  If you’re a fan and you disagree, that’s fine but I’ll continue to stay away from that series.)

For myself, though, I never wanted to write women in a way that was cliché or in a way that would depict them as a means to the end for the masculine hero.  I never wanted to pack any of my characters into a box or tower so to speak to be rescued by a man.  We all know the story cliché (prominently featured in fairy tales) where a princess is the prize for the hero.  I have made it a goal of mine to avoid this at all costs and have changed plot arcs if it looked like this was to be approached.  Now, this doesn’t mean my female characters are never aided or helped by men.  They are but I make sure that is not the sole goal of the men and often have my women characters show they are just as capable of being heroes.

I planned on this post over a month ago but wanted to take a new approach.  I asked a few women close to me in life (all of whom I respect and value a great deal) what they want to see and read in fiction when it comes to women characters whether they’re protagonists, antagonists or supporting characters.  The following responses are great and will serve as references to me as I continue to write.

“Strong female character in fiction: I’d like to see a woman who is realistic. She is strong but insecure.  She is smart and loves learning and acquiring new knowledge and skills.  She is funny but an introvert who only opens up to a select few.  She has a good heart and great intentions, but can be flaky and selfish sometimes.”

“Historically, women who are strong are seen as arrogant, aggressive, or evil.  This is in both pop culture and literature (for example, Cersei in Game of Thrones).  The other end of the spectrum usually involves a very insecure woman who has been oppressed and almost ‘accidentally’ is thrust into a role where they save the world (for example, Vin in Mistborn series or Lirael in Garth Nix’s books).  For me, a strong female character that goes beyond these clichés would be a woman who has faced oppression (lets face it, it has happened and still happens) but instead of becoming self-deprecating, goes on a journey to discover that she isn’t what others have made her believe she is.  A truly strong woman has had doubts and trials, of course, but instead of constantly believing she isn’t worth it or disbelieving that she is the ‘chosen one,’ she recognizes the strength she has and continues to build on her strengths.  She becomes the wise woman who speaks up when needed and is respected as a wise woman.  She has her own hang-ups, for sure, but they aren’t that she is ‘too much,’ aggressive, insecure, or power-hungry.  Her hang-ups are that which we all suffer, to stay strong in the face of temptation, to connect with those we love on an authentic level, and to stand up for what is right in spite of opposition.”

“I want to see more female characters that aren’t the cliche trope of ‘needing’ men to help them. I want to see women that know their strengths and can be self-reliant but are also not afraid to lean on the strengths of the people around them. They are so self confident and secure in themselves that they are able to see the value in others. I’m tired of reading insecure women who feel like they have to hide their weakness and  prove themselves to the world. I want to read about women that let their biggest weakness become their greatest asset.”

I love these!  I’m gonna be honest with all of you.  I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman.  I know!  Shocking.  However, I have no delusional miscues that women are essential to the progress and benefit of society.  To limit or cast them in any role that would be lesser than would be to grant us all a great disservice.

It’s coming but I’m going to dote on my wife a little here.  I have often said that in marriage, every day is about learning for me.  I am constantly aware of who she is and the way she views the world, which is very different from me in many respects.  Her interests and passions travel along lines that I don’t always follow or have a grasp of but I make it a goal to show interest because its what she loves to spend her time doing and learning about.  I’m not always good at this and I often have to process things before I’m able to share in her enthusiasm (thankfully, she forgives me for this delay in response) but my desire is to know her better.  This is the same for the women in my stories.  I want to know them better so that their story is one worth telling.

My wife asked me on one occasion if I based any female characters on her.  I had to chuckle because there’s an adage in writing that says to never base a character on any people you know in real life.  It just doesn’t turn out well.  What I told her is I base all my female characters on women in my life whom I admire.  Their qualities can be found in each of the characters you will read about in my books.  Even the so-called “villains” and that’s not a slight.  Far from it because I don’t write antagonists from a stand point of being solely evil.  The best villains are those that are complete, having desires, fears, experiences, etc. separate from any other character.  Their motivations are based on these factors (see my prior blog post on writing believable villains).

I’ve had several beta readers who are women and I’ve gained a great deal of feedback from them about my women characters that has been beyond beneficial.  I loved being able to read their comments, converse when I had questions and taking their suggestions to heart.  Plus, I learned a butt-load of things about women I did not know and I’m all about learning when it comes to people and what makes them who they are.  Understanding the value in someone breaks away any misgivings or misconceptions and as I do that in real life, I can do it even better in fiction.

Call to Action: This one’s for the guys.  Whether it’s a friend, sister, mother, girlfriend or wife, I recommend talking to them.  Ask them questions.  Don’t be inconsiderate or selfish and seriously talk to them about what they think of things in our society.  Take it from me, you’ll learn something and that’s never bad.

Don’t Start at the Beginning

posted in: Writing | 2

Today I’m focusing on where to start a story.  I think about this often, especially now that I’m working on flash fiction every month.  Due to the length of these stories being anywhere between 300-550 words, I have to approach them in a way that instantly grabs and holds the attention of the reader.If I started one of these flash fiction stories in a place just before the action, giving you only the lead up and then cutting it off…  Well that is precisely a cruel tease by definition.  That’s not my goal though.  My goal is to offer you a gripping glimpse into a space of conflict.  Obviously, the limitations in word count force me to get to the nitty gritty of the story of the main protagonist.

Hence, my approach is to give you, the reader, a short, concise scene of intrigue and information.  I do have the advantage of working within the confines of a series (see Shoals to the Hallowed) where I am progressing a main narrative but by providing small vignettes instead of robust chapters of detail, theme, dialogue, action, and plot.  All of these are given to you of course but not to the degree you might prefer (that’s coming.  Trust me).

Starting a story in the middle of conflict is (in my opinion and that of many others) the best way to grab ahold of the readers by the eyes.  For myself as a reader, I’m not interested in being thrown into a story where it’s a slow build up to the first bit of action.  I often come across advice encouraging writers (especially new ones) to begin at the middle of the first bit of conflict.

Immediate conflict reveals a great deal through the eyes of the main and supporting characters.  How they react and respond to whatever the current trial is, opens the reader to who they will be spending a great deal of pages with.  Go back to some of your recently read books.  Where do they start?  Does that work or would you rather have seen it start before or after?

As a writer, I want to present every story with the promise that if you keep reading, you’ll continually be turning the page because there’s more forward progress coming.  I think there was a time in literature where a slow burn approach worked and paid off but the trend has definitely shifted.  How many stories start with some form of misdeed, violence or realization that instantly affects the life and belief system of the main character?  I’d argue quite a bit.  It’s in these places that we want to begin a story and go until resolution if offered.

Call to Action: We’ve reached April!  That means the newsletter is coming at the end of the month.  As a reminder, this is the first and could evolve over time but you’ll be getting lots of good stuff that I don’t necessarily share or expand upon here on the blog.  At the very least, you will be getting an exclusive Ravanguard short story I wrote especially for the newsletter.  Sign up if you haven’t yet!  You can do so when prompted on the website or jump over to the “Contact” form under the “About Adam” tab above ^^^  Just make sure to include your email address and in the comment section that you’d like to be added to the mailing list.  Thanks again for stopping by and reading!

Dim the Veil Updates


For today’s blog post, I wanted to give some updates on the first Ravanguard novella, “Dim the Veil”, which will act as the launch vehicle for the series and where I’m at in the process moving forward.  Some developments over the past week are worth sharing and I feel like the more I talk about it, the more you all will be intrigued to read it once it’s released.

First, I recently reached out to a professional editor and inquired about their services.  Through some dialogue, I was able to get an idea of what to expect by a sample edit of the first two pages of the novella and I absolutely loved the feedback from the editor.  Their expertise was so impressive that I now know I need to get the novella professionally edited before I release it.  There’s a level of scrutiny involved that I miss despite being a writer and one that I cannot expect from my beta readers (whom I absolutely appreciate in every regard and love getting feedback from).  That’s not a knock but professional editors look for specifics when it comes to sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, narrative consistency, etc.  While a writer does so with a pen, an editor commits to their craft with a blade.  Ink and blood (how’s that for an image?).

Due to the cost of such services, this could potentially push my plan to release the novella later than anticipated.  My plan was to shoot for a summer release but in all reality, I could be looking at a fall/winter release.  I am okay with this because I want the novella and anything I put out there for purchase to be the best it can be.  So, expect updates on this process in the near future.  It’s not cheap, which means I’ll be setting money aside every month until I have enough to take this big leap.  However, I may consider starting a gofundme option but only if I can assure anyone who donates that they will receive some free gifts (I’ll explore this a little bit more and hopefully I can make this an option).

Update number two!  I met with my friend who has offered to create a cover for “Dim the Veil” as part of a school project.  We had a great sit down and he was able to provide a rough mock up of the cover while we met and I’m excited to see what he creates!  That old adage of “you don’t judge a book by its cover” is long dead.  We absolutely judge the quality of a book by what we see.  I do this every time I go into a bookstore.  Eye appeal draws the potential reader in and I want to have the best cover possible.

We are working to create something subtle in design (this is my preference) that captures the essence of the main character and his affiliation to the Ravanguard.  I wonder now if I can come up with something “art” related to offer if I do in fact pursue a gofundme for the professional edit.  Show of hands, who would like me to do this?  In fact, let’s make that the CTA for today’s post.

Call to Action: Who would like me to pursue a gofundme page to get the novella professionally edited?  Those who donate would absolutely be given a free download of the novella when it’s released.  Maybe…even the Prologue to Book 1 as a bonus?  Hmmm, intriguing to say the least.  Let me know by commenting!

Flash Fiction: “God’s Bones”

The smoldering corpse lay just outside the center of the destroyed thicket.  The melted ground a foot from the body’s collapsed position revealed it to be a man or woman possessed prior of great power.  The Ajjuun had no name for these things but the whispers of “gods” did come from time to time.

Hijeneva ground her teeth while waiting in the humidity.  Signs of the early morning duel could not be ignored.  The trees and vegetation bore singed ends and deep cuts from unfamiliar weapons. She watched the young man–brave and bold–begin his attempt forward.

Imko’s first few steps boasted courage, produced by confidence none of the young warriors in the thicket lacked.  Why would they not?  The bodies of their dead brothers, sisters and friends who had tried to approach the corpse at all different angles did not find death until they crossed an invisible threshold some few feet away from the looting opportunity.

Nine had died so far.  Imko would be the tenth though none would warn him to avoid the fatal fate.  To do so was against the ways of the Ajjuun.  Bravery was never questioned aloud but in her head, Hijeneva begged him to stop.

Perhaps it was bravery that made Imko refuse to stop at the line and consider another option.  Perhaps it was his desire to impress them all and secure a wife for his next name day.  Perhaps, it was the will of the fallen god.

Imko stopped in mid-step and his body jerked violently until he spasmed so hard an audible snap of bones drowned out his scream.  Far before he fell to the ground, the tenth of them died.

Hijeneva’s heart tweaked in pain, the loss of another–a friend–was never as simple as the death itself.  Her aversion to look upon the fresh corpse of Imko drew her gaze upwards where she could see the overhanging branches of the hosta tree.  Strong and able to hold a grown man’s weight, they extended all the way to where the god lay.  A wall could not be pushed through but it could be cleared.

The fathers and mothers who waited back in the tent grounds did so in anticipation.  Did they know or fear their children died within the crucible?  Would there be crying?  Or would the way of stone be practiced even then?  She could hear the names of their own gods being cursed for their cruelty, unafraid of being stricken with sickness or drought.  The Ajjuun may be considered primal by many in the world of the civilized Holds but they were not denied the capacity to challenge the highest of powers that governed their loyalty and worship.

Hijeneva spoke a prayer in the waning silence.  Someone would announce their intent to follow Imko and she knew it had to be her.  To save the lives of those remaining, to scavenge what could be potentially invaluable to their survival in the days to come and–least important to her–to attract the eyes of a suitable husband.

“I’ll go,” she declared, plan barely formed but knowing her attempt might be what was needed to collect the god’s bones.

On This Day – The Name of the Wind Published

posted in: Fantasy, On This Day | 0

This month’s OTD post will focus on a work of fantasy that really enraptured me as a reader.  I had heard of Patrick Rothfuss’s book, “The Name of the Wind” for a while but I was reading other books from my stack of “to reads” (you know that pile of fresh hard/paperbacks without the spine crease and that pleasing aroma of untouched paper).  It was a book I knew very little about but saw it recommended a lot of places.  I want to say I finally got around to reading it in 2011 during a six-month period where I was unemployed (I read a lot of books during this time).

I love to read.  Honestly, if you’re a writer but you struggle to read or find time to read, drop some time-wasters and make this a priority.  Stephen King famously said, “If you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have time to write.”  This just harkens (such a great word) back to my previous post about time management.  Priorities are key in our lives.  Reading should be up there near the top if you’re a writer.  If you’re not a writer, then reading should still be something you do because studies have shown, you are smarter by doing so.  A post of quotes coming at you.  Mark Twain said , “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”

There are few books I’ve come across that kept me fully engrossed in the pages.  I love my sleep but every once in a while, I come across a book where I’d happily forego sleep to keep reading.  “The Name of the Wind” was such a book.

I’d love to give an in depth review of the book as a whole but I never want these blog posts to become long-winded and full of smoke.  And just like my first OTD post about Robert Jordan’s “The Eye of the World”, I want to focus on one aspect of the book and share how that has impacted me as a writer.  Here we go! (Dang…the “Raising Hope” theme song is stuck in my head.)

Language.  Yes, language is what still lingers with me whenever I think about “TNotW”.  Rothfuss has a great story about the years he spent crafting this book that would introduce him not only to the fantasy genre but literary world as well.  There is what I can only describe as a lyrical flow to his writing that makes the book easy to start and urges persistence to finish.  Music is a theme throughout the book and every bit a part of the main character, Kvothe, as his wild red hair and quick wit.

How has this affected me as a writer?  Well, I think the obvious answer would be, I learn from what I admire.  I don’t write like Rothfuss but I appreciate his ability with words, which lends itself to my own writing.  Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time with what I wrote years ago.  Doing so has been an “experience” to say the least.  I can easily take those old words and rewrite/massage and find a better flow because I’ve been far enough removed that I can recognize stale sentence structure better than before.  It’s not Rothfuss’ writing alone that has helped me grow but also time and maturing as a storyteller.

Clunky writing is distracting.  Anytime you’re reading and just get stuck on a certain sentence because you can’t understand what’s being said is usually because the words chosen don’t work or fit.  Rough and early drafts often have these problems.  The best thing to do is consider revising.  Obviously, those sentences have to be flagged or called out.  Beta readers are the best option but you have to find one who pays attention to detail and doesn’t gloss over these alarming sentences.

Writers depend on words.  We take what’s available and construct them in such a way that the reader comprehends and envisions the characters, world and conflict with ease.  That should be our main goal.  You can have a great idea, character, magic system, etc. but if you fail to construct a coherent framework of sentences, paragraphs and/or dialogue you will not attract readers.

Rothfuss is an avid learner and student who spent a great deal of time at university, tutoring and teaching.  This translates to his writing because he actually treats his readers like students.  He wants to teach you about the characters and world they inhabit.  All of which are fleshed out very well.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a vast world introduced and mythos that serves as the main mystery and conflict that drives Kvothe in search of knowledge.  It helps that Kvothe spends a great deal of time at a university himself and takes classes from the very best of teachers.  Flow of phrase within the prose and dialogue come through in all of this in a way that you’ll be surprised when you read twenty to thirty pages without noticing.

I highly recommend this book to everyone.  Even if you’re not fond of fantasy.  You’ll enjoy the flow of the story and Rothfuss’s ability to pull you into the current.  I wish I wrote more like him to be honest.  I feel that my writing can get clunky at times and therefore requires me to spend extra time revising, but I’m satisfied with my style as I’ve matured and polished my voice, hoping I can solidify myself as a respected author.

Call to Action: Come on.  You know what I’m going to say here.  Read “The Name of the Wind”.  You won’t be dissatisfied.

Recommended: Lost

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

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42

Never trust the numbers, ha!

From time to time, I’d like to go back and give you all some of my recommendations when it comes to movies and TV shows.  You’ll definitely be getting book recommendations but because I’m a bit of a film nerd and a lover of great storytelling, I want to share my thoughts on my favorites of the screen.

This is all subjective, of course, and I don’t expect everyone to agree.  That’s totally fine.  You have the right to my opinion.  I would even say these are not for everyone.  Some are a bit on the edgy/grim side when it comes to content.  To each their own.  Everyone has their limits and preferences and I respect those of you who would rather not invest their time in something they choose to abstain from.  Good?  Great!

Onto the show!  Lost.  Such a divisive show now that we’re years removed from its run.  From 2004 to 2010, this show was number one.  For those not initiated, it involved a mixture (a potpourri if you will) of plane crash survivors who ended up on an island in the South Pacific.  The first season focused a great deal on these survivors doing all that they could to survive and hope for rescue.  If you read that and you’d never heard of the show before, I’m sure you’re saying, “Oh, so it’s Gilligan’s Island but with drama”.

Not so.

Throw in the wrinkles of strange things happening on the island and the fact that each episode focuses on one of the survivors and presents flashbacks to the days before the crash and you’ve got compelling stories about individuals and their interactions when faced with a horrible dilemma like being stranded on a mysterious island with a bunch of strangers, not knowing how quite to adjust.

So here’s the thing…  I watched the pilot episodes (it was a two-parter if memory serves right) of Lost back in 2004 when it first aired.  I remember thinking it was interesting and a fun new show.  Then, I didn’t watch it again.  It’s been over a decade since then so I can’t say for sure why I stopped.  Jump a year into the future (so 2005, not 2018) and I was working at Hollywood Video (ah, remember the home rental experience?  That sweet sweet memory) and I had free rentals as an employee perk.  The first season was out on DVD (Blu-ray was not there yet) and the second season was either going to start soon or had already started.  Well, I was always looking for something to watch and I came across the first season while putting recently returned rentals back in their proper places.  I thought sure why not see what happened.

And that’s how I became a “Lostie” which is the dumbest name for fans of the show but what can you do.  I missed the day where we all voted on that one.

To talk about the show in any kind of great detail would be to give away a lot of the greatest parts of the show so I won’t be doing that.  What I will do is tell you why this is and remains one of my top three favorite shows ever.  If you’ve been reading my blog since I started, you’ll probably be able to guess or at least not be surprised by why I love this show and barely care that the entirety of its run divides a lot of fans.  I love this show because of the exploration of people.

Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Locke, Charlie, etc.  These are the people that were introduced in 2004 and whose lives were so well written in six seasons that I still go back and watch this show from time to time.  Most are tragic characters who lack any kind or semblance of happy upbringings, yet they grow throughout their time on the island and become favorites who grow, mature, love, win and so much more.

I could take any one of the characters listed above and go into a long dissection of the character beats they go through both on the island and in their flashbacks.  Without them, the show would have fizzled out really fast.  Yeah, I know all about the problems with the show and some of the writing when it came to the plot.  I don’t disagree.  I hate some of those directions and choices just as much as the detractors.  I get it but there is absolute satisfaction in watching these characters find redemption and closure at multiple points throughout the series.  This is what makes the show better than the problems.

Call to Action: It would be easy to encourage you to watch the series but its quite the endeavor nowadays.  We’re talking hours upon hours.  I guess I would encourage you to try out a little at a time.  So, instead, tell me who your favorite character is.  NO SPOILERS!  I’ll delete your comment (I’m making my serious face) if you do.

My Essentials for World Building

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 0

World building in fantasy is almost like writing a full story in itself.  All fantasy authors I’ve researched and read about on this topic usually have the same process.  You have to do it.  In order for a full-fledged world to come alive in the pages, the reader has to believe these are real places that the characters live in.

I’m going to go over a few essentials that I highly recommend all writers develop, especially in fantasy.  All of these are aspects I’ve written extensive notes on and should not be overlooked or put to the side.  You’ll actually be surprised how much your story rounds out when these details are included.

1. Culture

What is it that makes the country/nation/island/region what it is?  History, customs, holidays, government, religion.  These are musts.  Think about whatever country you live in or are native to.  How did that country come into being?  What foundation was laid and at what cost?  Did it face conflict in order to maintain its statehood (is that the word?)?  What has each generation brought and caused to evolve?  I would not say you need to write an entire history book but the most important details should be explored and be a part of the characters.

1a. Religion

This is a big one that I never paid too much mind to in my early days.  I usually left it to a monotheistic deity that encompassed a wide range of belief or unbelief.  Honestly, I was a bit lazy and didn’t think it was worth exploring further.  Now, in the Ravanguard series, I have five dominant religions that are very different from each other (with the exception of two that are closely related but different in some respects).  I found after fleshing these out and applying them to characters that they were much more interesting and their choices were reflected according to their beliefs, which is very much what we do!

2. Landscape

This kind of seems like an easy one.  Oceans, rivers, mountains, etc.  All needed to give the appearance of a convincing natural setting but there’s more than these staples.  Bays, copses, ravines, hills, etc. to name a few.  Study these.  Look up pictures to get a good grasp of what they look like and how they form.  THEN, look at how they are utilized by civilization.  Boom.  Full circle.

2a. Ruins

Are there ruins?  Would there be historical sites?  What significance do they play?  Not everything has to be to the level of an Indiana Jones adventure but unless its a new civilization, there are usually signs of prior populations where artifacts are left behind and/or preserved.

3. Dialogue

Maybe there’s a fantasy or just fiction novel that uses no dialogue to tell its story but I’ve yet to run into it.  We speak just as characters should to reveal who they are and their understanding of the world in which they live.  Giving characters their own voice can be a challenge especially if you have a large number of speaking characters within the story.  If I had to make a rough estimation of speaking characters in “So Speaks the Gallows”, then I’d have to say there are anywhere between 60-80 characters who speak.  Those who speak more than a sentence or two shaves that list down quite a bit but I’m still writing the voices of a large number of people who I am telling you, the reader, is an individual and has their own history, experiences, beliefs, convictions, humor, dreams, etc.  Try handling all that and remaining sane!  I do and as I’ve spent time with these characters (some for the better length of three novels), their voices are as clear as crystal.

3a. Dialect

As I said with the religions above, that also means I’ve developed multiple forms of dialect, which includes vocabulary and slang.  This takes practice.  When I started out, all my characters talked the same as if they were all born from the same village.  It has taken years of writing and years of practice writing dialogue to be able to distinguish the speech of individuals from the place they came from.  I wish I could say I studied and did research to a great extent but I didn’t.  I’ve done a little but most of any differences you will find in speech between regions, nations, etc., is purely organic on my part.  I have those places and the people in them developed enough that they speak in a manner that I know how they would be differentiated.  The hope is that it translates onto the pages.

All of these elements are important in fantasy literature.  From Tolkien to the more modern writers, we can find great examples of worlds given great consideration.  Even in the fantastic genre, readers want to believe the world is real enough to be lived in.

Call to Action: Are there any other world building elements you think are just as important?  I’m sure there are.  I’d like to eventually write blog posts devoted to some of these and my experiences with them, especially since in my three major series that I have in the works, there are vast differences in the worlds.  Those may be in the writing queue.