Lost Season 1 Re-watch: All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues

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The episode picks up where the previous one left off.  Jack and Locke rush out of the caves in search of Claire and Charlie, eventually finding Claire’s bag.  Locke thinks they were taken judging by the tracks. Jack struggles to understand why they were taken while Locke tries to keep an open mind.  Jack wants to keep searching while Locke would prefer to return to the caves and put together a search party.


Flashback:  We find out this is Jack’s second centric episode as he’s performing surgery in what appears to be an intense situation.  His dad, Christian, is there and as the female patient can’t be resuscitated tells Jack to call the time of death. Angry, Jack tells his father to call the time of death and walks off.  Turns out Jack was notified by a nurse that his dear old dad might have been under the influence of alcohol while performing the surgery on the woman. Christian denies the allegation and maintains that the car accident the woman was in was the cause for her death.  The friction between father and son surgeons is quite apparent.

Locke returns to the cave and is joined by Kate and Boone to catch up with Jack and search for Claire and Charlie.  Michael wants to help too but is told by Locke he’s not needed. Michael doesn’t appreciate the dismissal and says he’ll organize his own search party.  Locke and group catch up with Jack and Locke tells Jack he blames himself for not noticing something off about Ethan. Locke hunted with him and despite his abilities to track and hunt, Ethan is better, implying they are dealing with a superior foe.


There’s not much Plot B in this episode but we do get interactions between Walt and Hurley where both play backgammon and Walt mentions his dad, Brian not Michael, saying he’s the luckiest person he’s ever known.  Hurley can’t believe his losing streak while they play and we find out Hurley owes Walt 20 grand by the time Hurley finished playing. Walt also interacts with Sawyer, providing the scuttlebutt of Claire and Charlie being taken.  Sawyer doesn’t believe him and Walt tells Sawyer to go ask Sayid who has returned. This provides a tense moment between Sawyer and Sayid but Sawyer seems to consider the reality that there could actually be other people on the island.


Ripping apart a red shirt to mark their progress, Locke loses the trail but assures Jack he will find it again.  Jack’s not happy about playing second fiddle to Mr. Locke and Kate notices it, calling him out on his stuff (thank you, Kate).  It doesn’t help that Jack feels guilty for not believing Claire’s being attacked. Locke calls out and he finds one of the pieces of tape Charlie wrote the letters for “LATE” and placed on his fingers.  Kate pipes up and says it could be a dummy trail left by Ethan, revealing she’s got some tracking knowledge as well. Locke and Boone head in one direction and while Jack and Kate head in the other.

Boone and Locke shoot the breeze as they search for the trail.  Boone mentions Star Trek and the “red shirt” crew members (brought up because they’re using a red shirt to mark their trail) who die in every episode.  Locke seems unfamiliar with this and says they must be led by a “piss-poor captain”. An apt view. Boone asks Locke about his job in the real world and Locke reveals he was a regional collections supervisor for a box company (yep, they make boxes).  He then predicts it’s going to rain in a few seconds and it does further proving Locke has some kind of connection or understanding of the island no one else does.


Raining now, Jack and Kate eventually get separated.  Jack slips down a hillside and finds Ethan standing over him.  Jack gets a jungle beat down and Ethan threatens to kill Claire or Charlie if Jack doesn’t stop following them.  Despite the beating, Jack keeps going after Kate catches to him.

Flashback:  Jack meets his dear old dad in private and is asked to sign a report that describes the surgery and death of the car wreck patient.  Christian does a bit of manipulation and convinces Jack to sign the report despite Jack holding that his dad was not of sound mind to perform such a complex surgery.  During an inquiry with the hospital top dogs, Jack learns the woman was pregnant and in that moment says he has to speak against the report, which could very well be the thing he did that cost his dad his career and drove distance between them.


Jack and Kate happen upon a horrifying scene of Charlie hanging from a tree by his neck.  They cut him down and Jack refuses to let up on resuscitating him. Honestly, I can’t do this scene justice.  There’s so much emotion and in my opinion a powerful moment and performance by Matthew Fox as a man bent on saving a life.  While Kate tried to tell Jack Charlie was gone, Jack persisted and went back at it, using his fist in a CPR method probably not recommended.  Charlie jerks back to life and once back at the caves tells Jack “they” only wanted Claire (ominous…).

The episode ends with Locke and Boone in the middle of the night still searching for Claire and Charlie.  When Boone wants to head back to camp, Locke tosses him a flashlight and it hits something loud on the ground.  They investigate and it sounds like something hollow is underneath. Locke tells Boone they are going to find out it is.

There are a few episodes of Lost that tug on my emotions and this is one of them.  Jack trying to bring Charlie back from death is heavy on me. So good and then we have this “Others” possibility and this metal thing in the jungle to investigate and I think this is where the show opens up.

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Raised By Another

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We get our motif of an eye opening to start things off.  This time it belongs to Claire who we have yet to really get much information about besides the fact that she’s Australian and pregnant.


She wakes in the caves and quickly realizes she’s not pregnant anymore, hearing a baby crying in the distance.  Right off the bat we should assume this a dream unless it’s a time jump which would be a first. She heads off into the jungle, sees a light source and walks towards it.  Turns out it’s Locke sitting at a table with some strange paraphernalia including a deck of cards. Claire asks him what’s happening and he tells her it was her responsibility but she gave him away.  He lifts his head and he has different colored eyes: one white and one black, reminding us of the backgammon pieces. She leaves him and goes back into the jungle, following the baby cries, eventually finding a crib.  She searches through the blankets inside until she finds nothing but blood. She’s ripped from the nightmare screaming bloody murder and Charlie is there noticing her palms are bloody.


Flashback:  Claire and her boyfriend, Thomas, are waiting on the results of a pregnancy test.  Once it reveals positive, Claire has doubts that they can raise a baby but Thomas thinks they can.  A friend takes Claire to see a psychic and everything is hunky dory until the psychic ends the session abruptly, giving Claire her money back without explanation.

Jack asks Claire questions about her pregnancy and how she’s feeling, saying everything checks out and she’s probably just stressed.  He finds Kate on the beach and tells her Claire’s baby is coming soon. Charlie expresses concern for Claire and tries to console her eventually expressing wanting to be more than friends.  She rebuffs him and Charlie assures her it’s alright though we all know he wants more.


That night Claire is asleep in the caves again and a hand slaps over her mouth.  She’s screaming like crazy (let me just say that the actress who plays Claire has got a scream that unnerves me like no other; she does not hold back).  Everyone is up of course, consoling her or looking for whoever attacked her but there’s no sign of an assailant. Hurley approaches Jack and makes it clear that they need to figure out who’s who in their group, making a point that they don’t who is at the caves and who is at the beach.  We also learn Hurley’s real name is Hugo, but this doesn’t seem to be a Sawyer situation. Just a nickname.

Jack is not convinced someone attacked Claire, believing that her condition is making her hallucinate.  Charlie is not happy about the diagnosis and is at odds with Jack. Hurley’s collecting names, other personal info, and reasons for traveling to Australia, getting some info from characters like Locke, Boone and Shannon, and Ethan.  He also learns that his job would be easier if he had the flight manifest from Sawyer, which gives us a funny exchange between the two including Sawyer’s less than affectionate nickname for Hurley: Staypuft.


Flashback:  Claire gets an unexpected surprise from Thomas who decides he doesn’t want to be a father now (he’s a real douche) and leaves her.  Claire goes back to the psychic in hopes to learn whether or not Thomas will return to her. The psychic tells her that her child is surrounded by danger according to his previous reading and tells her the child must be raised by her and no other.  Claire tells him she’s putting her baby up for adoption and he urges her not to make that choice. Later in her pregnancy, he calls Claire in the middle of the night the day before she goes to meet the adoption agency and parents. He tells her he has a plan but she still denies him.  At the meeting she’s unable to sign the paperwork due to no pens working (uh, weird). She takes it as a sign not to go through with the adoption and leaves, contacting the psychic again where she’s given the ticket on Oceanic 180 where parents await her arrival in Los Angeles.

Jack wants to give Claire a mild sedative and she realizes he doesn’t believe someone attacked her.  She storms to go to the beach and Charlie follows trying to convince her not to leave the safety and only doctor on the island in light of her late-stage pregnancy.  Claire stops once what looks like contractions start happening. Charlie runs to get Jack and crosses path with Ethan who says he’ll go get Jack. Charlie returns to Claire and once the contractions fade away, she tells him about the psychic and Charlie poignantly points out that maybe the psychic knew about the plane crash, knowing this was the only way Claire could raise her baby (whoa, crazy twist).


Sayid returns to the caves and tells Jack he found the French woman and also that they’re not alone on the island.  Hurley arrives in a panic and reveals that somebody he talked to wasn’t on the manifest. Shift back to Claire and Charlie and we get a creepy staring Ethan finding them without Jack.  Not good.

I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of this episode.  Claire is not a character I ever gravitated towards. The true gold in this episode is the revelation that a potential “Other” has assimilated into the survivors’ group.

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Solitary

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Sayid’s left the group due to his guilt for very nearly killing Sawyer by severing an artery in his arm.  Jack saved him but shame plagues Sayid and he’s off on his own now sitting on a beach and looking at the picture of the unnamed woman.  He looks off to his left and notices something sticking up in sand. He investigates and finds a rather large cable that goes out into the ocean (strange…).  He grabs the cable and follows it into the opposite direction: the jungle.


Along the way, he finds a tripwire and steps over it only to spring another trap that grabs his leg and pulls up in the air upside down (I’m not sure what the proper name is for this kind of trap but now I really want to research traps).  He catches a broken branch in his leg and is left to hang there for hours until nightfall. He hears someone approaching in the dark and is cut free only to pass out once he’s on the ground.


Flashback:  We get Sayid in uniform interrogating another man in what we can surmise is the early 90s, due to our knowing he served in the Republican Guard during the Gulf War.  He talks to a superior officer as a woman prisoner is led by guards past them. Sayid meets her eyes and there’s some recognition there. Why? Because she’s the woman in the picture!  We find out her name is Nadia and she and Sayid knew each other when they were children but went on different paths. She’s being accused of a crime and Sayid is tasked to get information that could lead to arrests of her affiliates.  She refuses even though she knows Sayid is going to hurt her.

Plot B is a fun one in this episode.  Jack’s doing his best to keep everyone alive and healthy while stress and other anxieties begin to take their toll on everyone.  Kate blames Jack for Sayid’s leaving so they’re a bit on the outs. Sawyer gives Jack-o a new nickname: Dr Quinn (I laugh every time) and their triangle with Kate continues to build steam.  Hurley takes it upon himself to find some kind of de-stresser. When Locke and a man named, Ethan, return in the night with plane crash findings, Hurley gets excited upon finding something we’re not shown quite yet.


Michael shows Jack a drawing of a water filtration device, which will divert their supply to washing and drinking stations.  We learn Michael was an artist along with being in construction. They both eventually get summoned by Charlie to go and meet Hurley outside of the caves and we learn Hurley found golf clubs and created a two-hole golf course (even we in the audience needed this reprieve from the craziness of the island).  I’ll also point out that Walt feels left out and bored, eventually going off to find Locke who’s practicing his knife throwing skills.

When we get back to Sayid, he’s shackled to a metal bed frame confused and being asked by a woman in the shadows where someone named Alex is in several different languages.  Sayid tries his best to figure out where he is and who has him strapped to the bed. But his inability to provide sufficient answers earns him electric shock treatment. The woman reveals she’s the French woman who made the distress call (yep, she’s alive).  We learn her name is Rousseau and was part of a scientific expedition who’s ship crashed on the island after their instruments stopped working (because of the island?). She and her crew did their best to survive but she claims her fellow scientists, which included her beau, Robert, got sick and were not themselves.


There’s a lot of back and forth discussion between Sayid and Rousseau as they learn about each other, trust being earned when Sayid offers to fix a broken music box of hers.  What I would say is the most intriguing part of the information learned from Rousseau is that there are other people on the island she appropriately calls, “The Others”, who she seems to think Sayid is until she’s convinced otherwise.  Apparently she hasn’t seen these Others but has heard them. When they hear a roar outside her underground shelter, she claims it’s one of the bears. Sayid breaks free from his restraints, grabs supplies, a map of the island, and a rifle but forgets Nadia’s pictures.

Flashback:  Sayid is told to execute Nadia and he plans to release her, not fleeing with her because he knows his family will be killed if he does.  His superior officer shows up and is shot by Sayid. Nadia pleads further for him to run but he shoots himself, staging her escape to protect himself.  She gives him a letter and the picture of her as parting gifts.


Sayid sneaks up on Rousseau and when she raises her rifle at him, he pulls the trigger finding the firing pin has been removed.  Rousseau declines his offer to go back to his group and tells him to watch his people and be wary of them. Sayid asks her who Alex is and we learn it was her child.

The episode ends with Sayid returning to his group and suddenly stops as the wounds of whispers surround him (creepy…).

I always feel like this episode has a fair bit of levity in it with the golf scenes.  Sayid’s moments are important to his character and introducing us to Rousseau while also signaling to possible other people on the island.  We’re still in the “all killer” episodes at this point. So many great moments!

Lost Season 1 Re-watch : Confidence Man

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Kate’s walking along the beach and finds Sawyer’s clothes and favorite book, Watership Down, bundled together.  He arises from the shallows and proceeds to flirt with her as we’re accustomed to seeing. In this quick opening, we’re reminded of Sawyer’s affinity for Kate, which is important to the episode.


Flashback:  Sawyer’s in bed with a woman in a hotel room and he’s told the time and freaks out, saying he needs to get to a meeting.  He grabs a briefcase and it opens revealing stacks of cash. The woman, Jess, asks about the money because any sane person would and Sawyer proceeds to tell her he has an investment opportunity for oil drilling but only has a portion of the money.  His meeting that afternoon is with another potential investor. Jess makes a play and offers to be his partner investor using her husband’s money (aha, the plot thickens).

While traipsing (I love that word) through the jungle, noises alert Sawyer and he finds Boone going through his stash.  Uh oh.

Jack is tending to Sayid’s head wound in the caves, learning about how Sayid’s plan was sabotaged.  Boone is brought in all bloodied up from getting a beating by Sawyer. Boone explains to Jack that he was looking for Shannon’s asthma medicine in Sawyer’s stash believing the medicine was there because Sawyer was reading Boone’s book, Watership Down.

There’s no real Plot B storyline in this episode besides Charlie and Claire getting closer.  They talk about food they miss and Claire reveals she craves peanut butter. Charlie promises to find her some and goes to Hurley, implicating Hurley might have a hoard of food, which is presumed because Hurley is what might be described as hefty.  Charlie apologizes for the bad form and eventually settles for bringing Claire an empty jar and make believing peanut butter inside. It’s cute and definitely shows the progression of their relationship but otherwise doesn’t propel the story forward.

Back to the good stuff!

Jack shows up to Sawyer’s tent and begins rummaging through things telling Sawyer to give him Shannon’s medicine.  Sawyer doesn’t appreciate it and before they can throw down Kate shows up. She tells a storming off Jack that she can get the medicine from Sawyer because according to him they a connection (whatever that means).


She asks and Sawyer says he’ll hand over the medicine for a kiss.  Kate declines of course and begins to tell Sawyer she knows he’s putting on a front as a guy who’s the enemy of the people.  She mentions the letter we’ve seen him read on multiple occasions and he hands it over, telling her to read it out loud. The letter is written by a kid saying he knows Sawyer slept with his mother and got his father to give him his money.  The kid reveals his dad killed his mother and then himself, blaming Sawyer for his parents being dead (woo, heavy…).


Sayid’s on his mission to determine who sabotaged his mission and confronts Locke, asking his whereabouts.  Locke says he was skinning a boar and couldn’t be accounted for but tells Sayid that someone who wanted to sabotage a rescue would be someone who is benefiting and profiting off of their current circumstances.  Locke implicates Sawyer but Sayid claims Sawyer had an alibi, setting off Kate’s bottle rocket which was too far for him to get to Sayid.  Locke says a delayed fuse could have been made using a cigarette and hands over a knife just in case there’s a next time (that’s foreshadowing if I’ve ever seen it before).

While Jack continues to try to help Shannon, he and Sayid form up to take Sawyer and make him give over the medicine.  Sayid reveals while in the Republican Guard, his training involved getting information from the enemy.


Sawyer wakes up from a nap to see Sayid before getting knocked out and is dragged into the jungle.  Kate tries to intervene but Jack shoots her down. Once awake, Sayid shows Sawyer the carved bamboo shoots he plans to press up under his fingernails (I still cringe every time I watch this scene).  Sawyer refuses to speak despite Sayid’s efforts and when he’s threatened to lose an eye, he tells them he’ll only tell Kate where the medicine is.

She arrives and Sawyer tries his luck with the kiss payment, which she obliges much to her chagrin.  Afterwards, he tells her he doesn’t have the medicine. Kate gives him a nice strike against the face and tells Jack and Sayid that Sawyer doesn’t have the medicine.  Sayid confronts Sawyer again and the two tussel as Sawyer breaks free from his constraints. Sayid uses his Locke-given knife to stab Sawyer in the arm severing an artery.  Jack jumps in and saves Sawyer even though Sawyer tells Jack to let him die and that if the tables were turned, he’d let Jack die (harsh, man…harsh).


Flashback:  Sawyer meets with Jess and her husband, David, to go over the investment opportunity.  David is reluctant not trusting Sawyer. Sawyer offers to let David handle his half of the money overnight, earning trust.  Next we see Sawyer in a bar where he’s explaining his plan to the actual owner of his half of the money (happening to be 160K).  Sawyer gets threatened and told he better deliver all the money come tomorrow. The next day Sawyer is finalizing the deal with his marks but is conflicted once their son shows up.  Sawyer has a change of heart and calls the deal off even though he’s likely going to be putting his life at risk (no bueno, man).


Sawyer wakes up and finds himself stitched up.  Kate’s there and tells him she’s been reading the letter and figures out from a stamp that it was actual Sawyer who wrote the letter as a kid.  Exposed, he tells her a confidence man named Sawyer conned his parents which led to their deaths. As he got older he needed money quick and figured out how to con a man and woman assuming the identity of the man who ruined his life.  Talk about tragedy.


Jack returns to the caves and finds Sun (with the help of Michael) has located eucalyptus leaves to help Shannon’s breathing.  Sayid announces what he did do Sawyer was something he vowed never to do again so he decides to self-banish himself away from the group.

Another strong episode and one that I think makes Sawyer a far more sympathetic character than originally laid out for the viewers.  He’s multi-layered and this will come out in later episodes. The more I watch this show, the more I realize how much he grows as a character.

Flash Fiction: Following the Dead Trail

Shade lions concealed their presence better than any creature in Breshtk, proving the most-difficult predators the Ajjuun dealt with throughout the grasslands.  Small traces of their kills had to be dug up in order to track the animals.  Even then, trails could take hours to find.

Hijeneva crouched a few feet from the mess of entrails piled before her, looking past the gore and able to see the direction of her target’s path.  One of the other-worldly creatures—a demon from the Agony—but a second had left just as much death and destruction in the village.  This one had escaped Ajjuun justice.

Chatter from behind forced her jaw to clench.  Her three suitors crouched a mere few strides behind her but struggled to maintain any sense of composure.  These three had earned her favor, chosen to prove themselves if they wished to wed her.  Their pale faces masked in ash blinked in waiting as they noticed her gaze.

Unconsciously, Hijeneva touched the leather pouch at her waist which held the god’s relics.  Soon, they would all be tested.  Soon, her suitors would face her ultimate test if they were to be worthy of her maidenhood.

Saying nothing, she continued along the dead trail, hearing the near silent movements of her suitors.  If any of the three lacked that simple ability of quiet pursuit, she would send them back to the tribe in shame.

Laughter pulled her eyes back to the dead trail.  Within a copse of trees, the bloody line led straight into the wooded shadows; the bone-chilling sound dared her to advance closer.  Rising from her stance, heart racing and anger twisting in her chest, she reached for the leather pouch.  The time for her suiters to prove their worth had come.

Hijeneva motioned the men forward, opened the pouch, made the contents available and waited.  All the while, the mocking laughter continued.  One by one, they took the pieces, not questioning her or the origin of the items.

Dagal, the tallest and thinnest of her suitors, hesitated by rubbing his unshaven chin where dark stubble curled.  His dark eyes caught hers and he reached in grabbing the armlet with the dull gold-colored stone.  Hijeneva watched, not daring to blink, to see what influence the stone might have on him if any.  Nothing.

The squat but solid, Bjuno, reached in without waiting and took the silver hand mirror, looking into the reflection for longer than she would have expected.  He did not show much care for his appearance before but she could say nothing when the third suitor, Malistin, reached in and took the four coins not waiting for her to offer the pouch.

Malstin raised one of the coins and held it to the sun.  “A shining—”  His voice stopped abruptly and so did the laughter in the trees.  His gaze turned to the three coins in his other hand.  Steam or smoke rose from his half-clenched palm.  He began to scream, waving his hand to free his flesh from the coins but nothing fell away.

Laughter from the trees started again but it moved out and to the group’s left, drawing fearful eyes.  The black oily form of the creature moved casually but its path was a closing circle.

Hijeneva reached for her tiil in time to hear Dagal curse and raise his bow as the creature advanced.  Screams and laughter filled the air.  Blood and more blood marred the land.  The world stilled to see if a survivor would remain.

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: The Moth

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(Side Note:  I am unable to upload new pictures at the time. Sorry about the delay.)

We get to Charlie’s first centric episode and he’s in a bad way.  We’ve had the luxury of seeing a lot of who Charlie is from the first episode.  He’s a drug addict and been getting his fixes whenever the need strikes.  Locke knows his secret and has stepped up personally to provide a way for Charlie to find help.

Dealing with his withdrawals, we get to see Charlie feeling out of place, wanting to help around the cave but not needed, which he doesn’t appreciate.  Locke tries to help him and in doing so uses Charlie as bait for a boar (very messed up, I might add).  Charlie makes a request for his drugs, revealing Locke’s in possession of the last of Charlie’s stash.  Locke tells Charlie he’s stronger than he thinks and Locke will give him three times to ask for his drugs before finally handing them over.


Plot B of this episode goes back to Sayid’s plan to find the French woman’s distress call source.  He’s somehow manufactured three antennas to triangulate the source.  One problem is he needs a battery to power the transceiver.  Kate knows where to find one and that involves including Sawyer in the mix (always a fun interaction when Sawyer’s involved; pure snarkiness).  Using bottle rockets to provide signals once the antennas are all in position, Sayid, Kate, and Boone put the plan in motion.


Flashback:  Here we get to see Charlie’s progression into “rock stardom”.  He’s on the verge of quitting his band, Driveshaft, due to things getting a little out of hand with the ladies (full salacious conviction offered to a priest) but Charlie’s brother, Liam, has a recording contract in hand and convinces Charlie to keep going with the dream.  Charlie obliges but makes Liam promise that if things get out of hand, they walk away.  What could go wrong?!


Feeling unappreciated, Charlie confronts Jack in a separate cave from the main one where everyone is living and raises his voice a little too loud, causing a cave-in.  Charlie makes it out but Jack is trapped.  A rescue attempt takes place led by Michael who turns out to be experienced in construction.  Feeling responsible, Charlie goes to Locke and asks for his drugs again.  That’s two.  In an attempt to leave Charlie with some wisdom, Locke shows him a cocoon explaining it belongs to a moth.  Locke says he could use his knife to help the moth break free from its cocoon but to do so would make the moth weak and unable to survive (Mr. Locke handing out life lessons!).

Sayid and Kate are out in the jungle, going to their prospective antenna locations and they discuss the plane crash.  Sayid is convinced the crash was not normal saying the plane broke apart in midair and their section of the plane crashed on the island with over forty survivors.  That should not have happened according to him.  Sawyer shows up to tell Kate about Jack but when he’s met with a bristling Kate, he negates to follow through and offers to help them (pretty shady).


Flashback:  Driveshaft is in the thick smoke and sweat of stardom and things have gotten a bit out of hand.  Liam has taken charge of the band and is openly becoming a junkie.  Charlie gets to the end of his rope and tells Liam they are walking away but gets rebuffed by Liam, leaving a distraught Charlie to contemplate what’s happened.  Jump forward to an undisclosed amount of years and Charlie’s in Sydney to track down a clean and sober Liam who has no interest in returning to the band to make a comeback.  He and Charlie have switched roles and Charlie actually blames his brother for his junkie state.


Charlie offers to climb into the cave where Jack is after Michael and the group make a small opening.  Another collapse takes place after Charlie gets through and efforts to free them have to continue.  Jack realizes Charlie’s in withdrawal and offers to help him (if they ever get out), telling Charlie he’s not worthless and an asset to the group.  Charlie notices a moth flying around in the cave and finds another way out.  He and Jack escape the cave surprising everyone and Charlie’s praised for his heroism (hugs all around!)

Bit of a backtrack because these plot threads are woven together from time to time and don’t make for an easy recap but Boone ran off to help with the cave-in and left Shannon in charge of his antenna.  Sayid left Kate and Sawyer with theirs as he climbed to higher ground to set up his antenna.  While they wait for Sayid, Kate and Sawyer are bantering, obviously at odds, and Sawyer lets slip about Jack’s situation.  Kate leaves him to help free Jack and we’re left to wonder if Sawyer will follow through with the plan.  Sayid launches his bottle rocket and we see Shannon and Sawyer launch theirs.  Sayid turns the transceiver on but before he can get a clear signal, he gets hit in the head from behind by an unknown person.  Not good.


The episode ends with Charlie going to Locke and asking for his drugs for the third and final time.  Locke is apprehensive but follows through.  Charlie throws the last of his stash in the fire and I don’t know about you but it’s an awesome moment that hits all the right beats for this character who continues to grow on me.

Again, another strong episode.  Charlie is one of those complex characters in the show that I don’t think got enough recognition at times.  His journey so far is so great to watch.  Locke continues to be an even stronger force on the show (probably why actor, Terry O’Quinn, won an Emmy for this role).

Next we get Sawyer’s first centric episode.  If memory serves right, it’s equally strong and might be one of my early favorites.  Just a reminder that this will be posted on October 3rd.  The last post of this month will be the new Shoals to the Hallowed flash fiction story.

Lost Season 1 Re-watch : House of the Rising Sun

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We get our first Sun-centric episode and we know it’s Sun-centric because the episode opens with her eye opening and as we know, this is Lost’s signature motif in these first season episodes.  We don’t know much about Sun and Jin, getting very little of their relationship except that Jin seems to be a very controlling husband.

Flashback:  The flashbacks consist of Sun and Jin’s relationship starting with their early days before marriage where we learn Sun comes from a wealthy family and Jin does not.  We see them together at a party but in different roles.  Sun is attending and Jin is serving as a waiter, revealing himself to be kind and loving, giving her a flower, which will come into play later.

Plot B of the episode focuses on the survivors collecting water from the cave Jack found.  We get a whole lot of Jack and Kate flirting and Jack’s wanting to bring the survivors to the cave and water instead of making water hauling trips multiple times a day.  Kate and Sayid are not that interested for fear of missing a chance to signal a rescue from the beach.

Things get crazy when out of nowhere Jin attacks Michael and beats the crap out of him.  The language barrier proves to be just that as no one can get answers from either Jin or Sun for the cause of Jin’s sudden violence.  This all makes sense though as we see more flashbacks.

Flashback:  Not knowing the time jumps of each flashback (there are several and woven throughout the episode) when they occur, Jin talks to Sun’s father offscreen and tells her that he has earned the right to propose to her but he has to devote a year to working for her father.  She’s not happy about that but Jin is adamant that it’s the right way to do things.  Months later, Sun gets home and finds she has a present from Jin—a dog!  Months later again, the dog is much bigger now, Jin shows up to their home with blood all over his hands.  Sun confronts him and he says he does what her father asks of him (sounds like Sun has a “Father of the Year” nominee as well).  Obviously, Jin is not the same man he was when we first saw them together and he’s become someone Sun doesn’t know anymore.

In what I’ll call Plot B-a, while the water group of Jack, Kate, Locke, and Charlie get to the cave, Charlie decides it’s a great time to take a hit of his drugs but is caught by Locke who warns him not to move when Charlie somehow didn’t realize he was standing on a beehive (yes, a beehive on the ground).  Charlie moves, breaks the hive, and the group has to get away from the flurry of bees.  Jack and Kate end up finding two bodies—a man and woman—in the cave.  Jack claims they’ve been dead for 40-50 years and finds two stones (one black and one white—that’s familiar now isn’t it to Locke’s backgammon pieces).

Jack and Kate take the water back to the beach and Locke stays to help Charlie look through wreckage.  Locke recognizes Charlie from Driveshaft and asks about Charlie’s guitar, which he checked on the plane.  Obviously missing it, Locke asks Charlie if he wants his guitar more than his drug telling him he will see his guitar again because the island gives people their heart’s desire.  But, they have to be willing to give something in return (apparently, Mr. Locke has become the all-knowing Oz of the island).  Charlie hands over his drugs and Locke tells him to look up.  Low and behold, his guitar is caught in some vines above them.  Charlie’s reaction is priceless.  Such a great moment!

Flashback:  Sun meets with an interior designer but it turns out the woman is actually behind a plan so Sun can escape Jin and her old life.  Looks like she wants to runaway and disappear in Sydney, faking a kidnapping, and eventually her death.  Things with Jin have gotten bad.

A small moment between Walt and Michael reveal Walt’s mother never talked about Michael.  They start to banter and start asking each other questions to see if they know each other, which they don’t besides some very basic info.  Michael heads off into the jungle to cut some firewood and Sun follows him and boom!  She speaks English.  What?!  Who saw that coming?  She says Jin attacked him because Michael is wearing a watch he found in the wreckage that belonged to her father.  Also, Jin doesn’t know Sun speaks English making things more complicated.  Michael cuts Jin free from being handcuffed to the piece of plane debris now understanding why Jin attacked him but he’s not ready to make amends with Jin.

The survivors are divided (locationally) as Jack takes those interested in staying in the cave while Sayid, Kate, Sawyer, and others stay on the beach hoping to signal a rescue.

Flashback:  In the Sydney airport, Sun gets ready to disappear from Jin, obviously conflicted about the decision.  She’s about to leave when she makes eye contact with Jin and he shows her a flower which is what he first gave her before they were engaged.  She sees the man she fell in love with, past the hard exterior made from working for her father.  She joins him and stays with him.

Definitely a good episode as we get more information on characters.  I’ll be honest, my favorite part of this episode is Locke and Charlie’s interaction.  There’s something about it that hits me in the feels every time.  I do like the complexity of Jin and Sun’s relationship and look forward to how that shapes up in the coming episodes.

Next is Charlie’s first centric episode!  It’s a good one!

Lost Season 1 Re-watch : White Rabbit

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

We get another “eye-opening” opening (there’s our official motif for this show) of a young Jack being told to stay down on the ground while some older bullies beat up on another kid.  Young Jack-o doesn’t listen and gets popped in the face before older Jack’s name is being called out while staring out into nothing on the beach.

Jack realizes someone is calling out for help in the water and he dives into action (pun uh-thank you).  Once he gets out deeper, he goes under water and comes up with Boone.  Starting to swim back, Boone says he was trying to save her and Jack sees a woman further out calling for help.  Alas, Jack gets back to shore with Boone and goes back out to save the woman.

Turns out a woman named Joanna went out for a swim and couldn’t stay above water pulled out by a riptide.  Jack tells Kate he didn’t try hard enough to save Joanna and while he’s talking to her he sees the man in the suit standing out in the water, waist deep.  Kate can’t see the man though.  So creepy.

Our Plot B storyline focuses on the dwindling water supply and the group’s need to find drinkable water.  We get some minor moments worth calling out:  Sun and Jin continue to be on the outs due to the language barrier; Claire and Kate gab a bit (I hope that’s not insensitive to say; I’ll use it for all genders just in case); Shannon tries to bargain with Sawyer for insect repellant (side note:  Sawyer’s reading Watership Down; books are a big part of the show and appear from time to time with the plot of the book having some kind of influence on the show).

Jack is inundated with people looking to him for leadership and he’s struggling to embrace that role.  Hurley and Charlie get the ball rolling by asking about the water supply.  Add in a brooding Boone telling Jack he could have swam back on his own and Jack should’ve gone after Joanna and Jack’s close to the edge.  The man in the suit appears again and Jack runs into the jungle to confront the creepy apparition.

Flashback:  We’re with young Jack again and he talks to his dad, Christian, who is a surgeon (a son following in his father’s footsteps) and tells Jack he doesn’t have the stuff to be a hero after Jack tells him what happened with the fight at school.  Dad of the Year award nominee right here.  Shift to adult Jack who is told his father’s gone by his mother and is asked to locate his father’s whereabouts.  They haven’t talked for two months due to a falling out, which Jack is alluded to being responsible for.  Where is his dad?  Australia.  Aha!  Jack gets to his dad’s hotel room in Sydney and finds out he hasn’t been there for three days.  There’s plenty of medication bottles and liquor bottles in the room along with his wallet.

Jack reaches the man in the suit who turns around, falls onto the ground, and says, “Dad?”  Uh wut?  How is that happening?  A very creepy-staring Christian says nothing turns around and walks deeper in the jungle and Jack gives chase.

Claire collapses and while Charlie runs to get water, he realizes the stash has been stolen.  After Kate and Sayid take over leadership duties, determined to find the stolen water, Locke offers to go find Jack saying he knows where to look. Sawyer becomes the prime suspect because he’s determined to be the most-hated person in the group.  Kate follows him to where he has his stash of looted goods hidden but discovers he wasn’t behind the water pinch.

Jack’s running like a crazy man in search of his ghost-like dad until he slips and nearly falls to his death off a cliff, grabbing a tree vine for dear life.  Lucky Locke shows up to save him just in time.  We get a great exchange between Locke and Jack here which I’ll try to recap though it’s better on screen.  Jack doesn’t want to be the leader, saying he doesn’t have the stuff to succeed.  Locke asks why Jack’s out in the jungle and finds out Jack is chasing after something to which Locke mentions the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland (our second literary reference!).   Locke says the island is special and different and they all feel it but won’t talk about it.  He says he’s looked into the eye of the island (whatever that means) and he saw something beautiful.

Left to contemplate his predicament, Jack hears the sound of ice clinking in a glass, runs in the direction of the sound, and comes upon a cave where there’s running water and what appears to be items from the plane crash.  Surprising enough, there’s a coffin which happens to be belonging to his father, which he identified in Sydney.  Jack opens it and finds it empty which only extends the mystery of his seeing his father in the jungle.  We  know the island healed Locke’s spinal injury but did the island bring Christian back from the dead?  Difficult to say at this point.

The episode closes out with Claire getting water from Boone of all people and he’s caught by Charlie.  The group starts to turn on Boone, realizing he stole the water but not to be a jerk, instead seeing it as an opportunity to take charge seeing as how it was left out in the open.  Jack shows up before the mob can string up the noose (not really of course) to tell everyone Boone risked his life for Joanna that morning and now they’re ready to crucify him.  He tells them he found water and shelter.  He delivers his famous, “If we can’t live together, we’re gonna die alone,” speech and assumes his role as leader, somehow coming to the conclusion that he does have the stuff to lead.

A very solid episode and one I really like.  The mystery of the island expands and we get more character beats that help define who these people are.  The Jack and Locke interaction alone make the episode strong.

Next we look at Sun’s first centric episodes.  I originally thought I would cover two episodes in each of the following posts until we got to the end of the re-watch.  This isn’t likely to happen unless I want to extend my capacity and write three thousand word posts.  So, I’ve decided to do one episode a post until the end.  That means I’ll be writing about Lost until the end of November.  Hope you’re in it till the end with me!

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Walkabout

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

Things start with another eye opening (one more time of this and we got ourselves a motif!).  This time it belongs to our backgammon-loving bald man, John Locke.  We’re back on the beach with him during the first minutes of the crash on the island.  Locke seems perplexed by the situation and pays special attention to his foot for some reason.  We’re pulled back into the present at night with some kind of ruckus taking place in the camp.  Turns out the island has a boar problem and now the survivors have to deal with it.

After four days of no sign of rescue, Jack leads the discussion of burning the fuselage along with the bodies of the dead inside.  He gets some push back from Sayid who believes it would be disrespectful to the dead to treat their remains in this way but Jack is not swayed knowing the boars will continue to be a problem along with the bodies getting nice and rotten inside.  Burning them and the fuselage seems to be wise both for health reasons and doing so at night makes for a very large fire that could be seen from the ocean.

Things are getting bad in the group as the food supply has run low save for peanuts which Hurley and Sawyer are arguing over.  We get a fun exchange and while Sawyer takes a seat in some plane seats, a rather large knife flies into the seat next to him.

Turns out, our good friend, Locke, has checked a case of more large knives and managed to recover them from the crash (that’s lucky and convenient!).  Locke reveals he’s got quite the bevy of knowledge about boars and how to hunt them which leads us to believe he’s quite the hunter/adventurer.

In what I’ll call “Plot B” of the episode, Sayid has a plan to set up antennas to triangulate the source of the French woman’s distress signal.  He believes there must be a significant power source in order for the signal to be playing for 16 years.  Kate agrees and wants to help him so she offers to go with Locke on the boar hunt.  Jack makes an observation that Kate doesn’t appear to like to stay in one place too long which makes sense from what we know of her life before the island.

Michael joins the hunt in order to get to know Locke better since Walt has taken to calling Locke his friend.  Michael asks Sun to watch Walt in a pretty comedic way of using hand gestures and talking slowly hoping she’ll understand.  The rest of the survivors are collecting what they can of the wreck in preparation to burn the fuselage.

Flashback:  Locke answers a phone and talks with another person as if they are involved in some kind of military operation.  He is interrupted by what appears to be a supervisor and we see Locke is actually sitting in an office cubicle that appears very common.  Locke and a co-worker are playing a Risk-like game during their lunch break and the supervisor from earlier, whose name is Randy, shows up and mocks Locke, asking what a “walkabout” is after taking a brochure from his desk.  We learn that Locke has scheduled to go on a walkabout in Australia and Randy questions his ability to do so.  Locke tells Randy, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do” which will become a motto for him in episodes to come.

Locke talks to a woman named Helen on the phone and he invites her to go with him to Australia but we learn quickly that Helen is part of some kind of call service and Locke pays $89.95 an hour (yeesh, that’s costly) to talk to her which apparently he’s been doing for several months.  She refuses his invitation and we’re left with a bereft Locke and a man who seems to have very unhealthy relationships (as far as we can tell).

Some very minor threads are taking place on the beach in which Claire asks Jack to speak some words while they burn the fuselage but he refuses, Sayid gets a letter and pictures of a woman he thought were lost in the crash, Shannon tries to prove she can fend for herself and manipulates Charlie to catch her a fish (we also get a great comedic scene of him recruiting Hurley to help him), and Boone asks Jack to go speak to Rose, the woman he saved on the beach, as she sits off in the distance staring out into the ocean.

Locke gives Kate and Michael a lesson in boar hunting.  We learn Michael wasn’t a part of Walt’s life until two weeks prior when his mother passed away (this explains the lack of relationship between the two).  They are surprised and attacked by a boar.  Michael gets wounded while Locke is on his back in shock before he looks at his foot again (okay…why?).  Kate tells Locke they need to stop and get Michael back to the camp but Locke continues, giving us his favorite line, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do.”

Kate and Michael stop so she can put the antenna up in a tree but drops it when the monster roars and notices the trees moving in the direction of Locke (I swear this thing is a dinosaur).  Just as Locke comes across the boars, the monster arrives and while we don’t see it (sneaky sneaky show.  Not cool), we do see Locke’s bewildered reaction to it (such a tease).

Obviously wanting to stay away from the fuselage and people’s requests, Jack spends time with Rose and while he thinks she can honor her husband who was on the flight but in the tail section that broke off midair, Rose denies her husband being dead.  Jack struggles with this but they agree to head back to the others as the sun sets.  In the distance, Jack sees a man in a suit off in the distance watching him.  Freaky…

Kate gets back with Michael but believes the monster got Locke.  The antenna is broken and Sayid is frustrated but willing to try again.  While talking to Kate, Jack sees the man in the suit again and runs into the jungle but he finds a blood-covered Locke instead who has bagged himself a hefty-sized boar (bacon in the morning!).

The fuselage is burning and the group honors the dead the best way they can (mostly saying names and sharing whatever info could be found in their luggage).  Michael asks Locke if he saw the monster and Locke says he saw nothing (such a liar!).

Flashback:  Locke is in Australia and being told he cannot take part in the walkabout.  He argues and is told he neglected to speak of his condition and cannot take part in the experience.  As the bus leaves, Locke turns around in a wheelchair.  WHAT?!  He screams about destiny and “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”  Shift back to the plane crash on the beach and Locke is somehow healed of whatever injury confined him to a wheelchair.  Amazing!!!

Okay, I love this episode.  Please watch it if you haven’t.  My recap and review don’t do it justice.  We get a great introduction to an amazing character who has an interesting backstory and while his previous life has some questions that need answering, we also learn that the island has somehow healed Locke.

Next episode focuses on Jack and we get some info on the man in the suit.  Feel free to watch ahead and remember to leave comments about your favorite moments in the episode!  Thanks!

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Tabula Rasa

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

Before I get started with the episode breakdown, I wanted to point something out.  This show has a lot of characters and a lot of plot lines.  Throw in the Flashback scenes which come and go, interwoven throughout the episode, and there are a lot of things to cover and call out.  I am going to play with how I format each episode depending on the focus character, which in this episode is Kate, and the other sub-storylines.  I want to avoid a play-by-play format (I know I did this for the pilot episodes but that was intentional to introduce characters) and make the post an easy read.  Onto the episode!

As I said, this episode is Kate-centric.  We know she’s a criminal of sorts being handcuffed on the plane and being escorted by a U.S. Marshall.  We get some answers but are left in the shadows a bit as well.  Jack is told she’s dangerous by the marshall who is in a bad way due to his injuries.  Told to go through the marshall’s pockets, Jack finds a mugshot print out and Jack’s got some obvious conflicting feelings towards Kate.  Hurley finds the mugshot because Jack is the worst hider ever and warns Hurley that it’s none of their business and not to be worried (oh those feelings are gonna bite you, Jack-o).

Kate’s still with the hiking party and as darkness falls, they decide to set up camp.  These scenes were good for character dynamics as we see Sayid try to make sense of where their island might be in the world.  He’s a smart guy and also knows that if they share what they discovered, they could erase the hope of the survivors which could be detrimental in the long run.  Sawyer on the other hand is more concerned with what the French woman’s distress transmission means.  He also aptly gives Kate a new nickname: Freckles (we’ll see that Sawyer has an affinity for nicknames and some are not so nice).

In the middle of the night while everyone’s asleep, Boone decides he’s going to take watch but makes a mistake by taking the gun off Sawyer and the bullets off Sayid.  Bad blood brews and Shannon suggests Kate should be the one to hold both gun and ammo (remember, none of them know what we know about her being a criminal).  Quick note:  We also learned Oceanic flight 815 was bound for Los Angeles, which isn’t that important but good to know.

Flashback:  This episode’s flashback reveals Kate was nowhere near Sydney (where flight 815 took off from) and sleeping in a sheep pen.  The farmer, Ray, gives her a job and a room to help him work the farm, which she does for an undisclosed amount of time.  Kate isn’t the type to stay in the same place for too long and tries to leave in the middle of the night before Farmer Ray offers to drive her to the nearest train station.  It’s a ruse though as our good friend the U.S. Marshall shows up during the drive.  Turns out Farmer Ray couldn’t pass up a $23,000 reward for turning Kate in.  Kate grabs the wheel of Farmer Ray’s truck and they wreck.  She could have got away from the scene but Kate saves Ray, gets caught, and we’re left wondering how bad she could be for doing such a selfless act.

When the hikers arrive at the beach, Sayid tells everyone they need electrical equipment to boost the signal of the transceiver.  He takes charge and begins to organize groups to collect water and ration food.  Kate feels the need to tell Jack the truth about the French woman’s transmission and he gives her a chance to come clean about her outlaw life but she doesn’t give in.

Still focused on saving the marshall, Jack goes into the fuselage to search for stronger antibiotics.  While in there, we get our first one on one interaction between him and Sawyer who was looting for what he thought valuable: cigarettes, alcohol, and other accouterments.  This exchange is valuable because we see something between both men and Kate.  There’s a dynamic there that offers up a noteworthy love triangle in the making.

Some of the minor threads of the episode focus on our other survivors.  Claire and Charlie seem to be forming a bond.  Jin shows affection towards Sun, which is surprising given his previous moments with her.  Michael and Walt continue to have their issues which Walt attributes to Michael’s inability to find his dog, Vincent.  Probably the most interesting thread though is Locke’s carving a whistle (that’s some ingenuity right there), calling Vincent to him, and then letting Michael get the credit for reuniting a dog and his boy.

The end of the episode intensifies as Kate confronts the marshall, he wakes up, and tries to strangle her.  Jack arrives just in time to stop the struggle and tells Kate he saw the mugshot.  Kate presses Jack asking him to put the marshall out of his misery but Jack refuses saying he is not a murderer and off-handedly insinuates to Kate that she is (a curious implication since he doesn’t know for sure what her crimes were).

Hurley warns Jack he saw Kate strapped with a gun and Jack rushes to the tent but finds Kate walking away.  However, a gunshot rings through the night, which is followed by Sawyer leaving the tent, making it clear he did what Jack wouldn’t.  Then come the sounds of the marshall coughing inside.  Sawyer failed Anatomy 101 because while aiming for the marshall’s heart, he missed and the poor man is suffering worse than before.  Jack, thankfully, ends the marshall’s suffering and man was that heavy drama.

The episode closes out with Jack telling Kate that their old lives don’t matter.  They all have a clean slate (tabula rasa) so to speak.  That’s a curious statement because if a rescue comes, you can be sure she wouldn’t be suddenly forgiven of her crimes.

All in all, I liked the episode.  We get some answers about Kate and we see relationships building.  No real mysteries were raised or solved.  A solid episode nonetheless.

Next time we get our first Locke episode “Walkabout” and it’s by far one of my favorite episodes of Lost all time.

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Pilot Part 1 and 2

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

Eye opening!  We see a man in a suit waking up in a jungle, surprised by a labrador (golden retriever?) who eventually runs off.  Obviously confused and likely injured, the man in the suit moves his way out of the surrounding jungle—the camera stays ominously on a single shoe hanging in a tree.  Creepy.

Once out of the jungle, the man in the suit finds himself near a beach.  Screams and the sound of an engine draw him to a scene of chaos where part of the fuselage of a plane has crashed on the beach.  Our unnamed hero goes into action helping those he can including a pregnant woman and another woman who’s not breathing.  After quite a bit of action and an explosion we learn the man in the suit’s name is Jack.  (Side note: while we learn the names of characters throughout the episode, I’ll be naming them as we get to their scenes and interactions.)

Jack searches for needle and thread and heads off away from the other survivors as things calm down a bit.  Pulling a little bottle of alcohol from his jacket, we see Jack’s got himself a nasty cut along his ribs.  A woman—Kate—stumbles out of the jungle and he asks her for help.  They banter a bit and she helps sew Jack up.  Dare I say a romance could eventually bud between the pair?  We also learn Jack’s a doctor but this seems obvious after he talked to the pregnant lady and saved the woman not breathing.

Kate mentions to Jack that he doesn’t seem afraid and Jack tells her about how he messed up a spinal surgery during his residency and fear crashed into him as he realized his mistake but he decided in that moment to give fear only a few moments before counting to five and fixing the surgery mistake.  How can you not like Jack after this?!  We got ourselves a natural leader.

We are introduced to more characters next as Sayid is building a signal fire and asks Charlie for help.  Charlie writes F-A-T-E on pieces of tape around each of his fingers and Sayid mentions a rescue should have come by then as night falls.  We are also introduced to Boone and Shannon where the former thinks they could be on the island for a while and the latter mentions the plane having a black box and a rescue will arrive at any moment.  Next comes the lovable Hurley who gives food to Claire, who is the pregnant woman.  Finally, we meet Michael and his son Walt, followed by Korean husband and wife, Jin and Sun, with Jin instructing Sun not to interact with the other survivors.

Jack is examining a wounded man whose unconscious and has a gnarly piece of shrapnel in his gut.  Kate mentions that he was sitting next to her in the plane.  Jack talks about the turbulence and blacking out before waking up in the jungle but Kate describes how the plane broke apart in midair.  Jack tells Kate that he’s thinking about going to find the cockpit to find a transceiver.  Kate says she saw smoke deeper into the jungle and a mission is afoot!

As the survivors wait in the dark, a loud, alarming sound comes from within the jungle and yeah, it’s a freaky sound.  Trees are moving and automatically it’s hard not to think of the T-Rex from Jurassic Park.  What’s stranger about the growls though is that it sounds mechanical at times.  (Side note:  There were commercials for the show seeing as it ran on ABC so it definitely takes advantage of stops and starts.)

We get our first flashback (coming out of the commercial break) and it takes place on the plane before the turbulence hits.  Remember, flashbacks are a big part of this show.  Jack is interacting with a flight attendant getting his buzz on with those little bottles of alcohol (he got an extra one from the flight attendant which might have saved his life as he put that one in his jacket pocket and later used it to clean his rib wound).  He gets up from his seat and Charlie moves past him rather quickly while being pursued by the flight attendants.  Jack talks to the woman, Rose, he saved who wasn’t breathing.  Next, the plane goes all shaky shaky.  People fly out of their seats and this flight is going down.

Back on the island the next morning, the survivors are discussing the scary jungle sounds and whatever the “monster” is that was making them.  Jack and Kate are getting ready to leave to find the cockpit but first Kate has to collect shoes from the dead.  She gets a very creepy smile from another survivor who smiles with an orange peel in his mouth (more on him later).

Michael is sitting around with his son Walt joined by Charlie, Shannon, Boone, and Hurley.  The group is talking about random things before Hurley brings up doing something about the bodies of the dead which he hilariously misspells to save young Walt from the horror of the dead.  Jack and Kate show up and mention their mission and ask the others to keep an eye on the wounded while he’s gone.  Charlie mentions his going with Jack and Kate, not wanting to sit about all day (what else is there to do on a beach waiting for rescue?).

Our three heroes head off and Kate recognizes Charlie from somewhere where he reveals his being in a band called Driveshaft, which has a well-known hit.  Jack’s less impressed (he doesn’t strike me as the rock music listening type).

Back on the beach with the others, a downpour occurs and the trees start moving again, announcing the monster is back.

Jack, Kate, and Charlie find the cockpit propped up against the trees during the downpour.  They investigate and find the pilot alive who tells them they were off course and any rescue attempt is looking in the wrong place.  The pilot tries the transceiver but it doesn’t work.  We also learn there were 48 survivors and they’ve been on the island for 16 hours.  Just to call out a point of interest, numbers are a big deal in this show.  They show up often and act as references and connections, which we’ll see more of as we get deeper into the show.  I’ll do my best to call these out when they happen.

The monster arrives, making its strange sounds and in a very gruesome way, the pilot is killed, ripped from the broken windshield as he (stupidly) climbs out to see what the monster is.  Jack, Kate, and Charlie make a run for it (Jack wisely grabs the transceiver) and get separated (a recipe for certain death in any horror movie).  Kate hides in a tree and counts to five before trying to find Jack and Charlie.  She finds Charlie and they see something in a reflection of a puddle after the rains stops.  Jack arrives and says its the pilot and they see the pilot’s bloody body has been left up high in the trees (not Predator style but pretty close).  Gross.  But at least they have a transceiver!

Except it doesn’t work…

End of Part 1.  Onto Part 2!

Jack, Kate, and Charlie are returning to survivor beach, seeming to be in no real rush which is odd considering what they just encountered with the monster killing the pilot.  To each their own, I suppose.  Kate asks what Charlie was doing in the bathroom (I failed to mention this happening previously) while they were in the cockpit and he says he got sick and was a bit of a coward.

Flashback:  In the plane before the crash, Charlie is acting very antsy and not looking all that great, sweating and fidgeting.  He sets off some alarms in the flight attendants and he proceeds to the bathroom where he moves past Jack (remember when we saw that last episode?) and crawls over Shannon and Boone in their seats as well.  Once in the bathroom, Charlie removes his shoe and grabs a baggy of something.  Drugs (good job TSA!).  He gets his fix just as the turbulence strikes.

To the present, Shannon is sunbathing (because why not) and her and Boone argue about helping around the “camp”.  Claire is there and we find out Boone is Shannon’s brother.  Claire mentions she hasn’t felt the baby move since the day before (bummer…).

Jin is fishing for sea urchin (is it still considered fishing if he’s just collecting them from shallow pools?) while Sun watches.  Michael shows up asking if they’ve seen Walt.  Sun speaks in Korean and Jin says something to her and she buttons up the top button of her shirt.  This marriage dynamic is raising a few flags.  Walt is out looking for his dog, Vincent, and finds handcuffs (uh oh! that’s not good!).  Michael finds Walt soon after and we get a good look at their relationship and there’s some contention there between them (the show does a good job of introducing these character relations and providing answers slowly rather than all at once).

Sayid and another survivor—Sawyer—are fighting (fisticuffs in action).  Bad blood  between them is due to Sayid  being blamed for the plane crash by Sawyer because he is of Middle Eastern descent (reminder, the show started shortly after 9/11).  Jack and Kate get in the mix and Michael tells them about the handcuffs and Sawyer accusing Sayid of being the one handcuffed. Jack and Kate tell everyone they found the cockpit and the transceiver omitting the part about the pilot being alive and then killed by the monster.  They ask if anyone can fix the transceiver.  Sayid says he can and Sawyer is quick to question trusting him.  Hurley talks to Sayid away from the group and we learn Sayid was a communications officer with the Iraqi Republican Guard during the Gulf War.

Kate and Sayid talk next and he shares that the transceiver needs to be used on higher ground.  Queue the adventure music as they look to the mountains of the island, knowing a hike is in order.

Kate checks with Jack about the man with shrapnel.  Jack knows time is running out for the man if they don’t get rescued.  She tells Jack that a hiking expedition is going to take place and Jack tells her to run if she hears or sees anything (probably referencing the monster).

We get a brief moment between Jin and Sun and see Jin’s quite the jerk to her.  There’s still a sense of mystery involving them, which we will get answers to soon.  Jin takes prepared sea urchin to Hurley as food.  Hurley refuses leaving us with a comedic moment (Hurley provides a great deal of comedic moments in this show).

Walt is looking through a comic book (looks like a Justice League comic with a polar bear in it) but can’t read it because it’s written in Spanish.  Michael approaches and tries to have a conversation and tells Walt that they can get another dog when they get home and Walt takes off (it’s sore subject).  Jack is searching through some baggage and asks Michael about Walt and we find out that Michael isn’t so sure of Walt’s age at first (interesting…).  Michael mentions the dog and Jack says he saw it in the jungle.

Shannon and Boone get into a fight and Shannon decides she’s going to go on the hike with Sayid and Kate to prove she’s not worthless to the group.  Boone tags along and so do Charlie and Sawyer who we see is reading what looks like a letter of some sorts before joining (more on that later).  Cue the adventure music!

Walt comes across the survivor who smiled at Kate with the orange peal in his mouth (remember him) playing backgammon (somehow that survived the crash).  The man’s name is John Locke and they have a conversation where we learn Walt’s mom died (we also learn that the plane was traveling from Sydney, Australia).  Locke tells Walt about backgammon and how it’s the oldest game in the world.  Locke explains that there are two players and two sides—one light and the dark.  Finally, Locke asks Walt if he wants to know a secret.  This exchange comes off creepy at first but trust me there are no ill intentions here.

In a small moment, Jin continues his offer of urchin to the other survivors and Claire agrees to eat some.  This causes the baby to kick!  Yay!  Jin has a priceless reaction too.

Jack asks Hurley to help him find antibiotics and also lends Jack his help with the man with shrapnel.  We get some more comedic moments with Hurley when Jack pulls the shrapnel out and Hurley passes out.

Back with the hikers, an argument ensues in the jungle and the group is interrupted by a very loud growl.  Is it the monster?  Doesn’t sound the same but something is coming closer to them and at a fast speed.  Everyone runs except Sawyer.  Gunshots sound off and everyone discovers that Sawyer killed a polar bear.  Yep, a polar bear in the jungle.  The shock of the dead bear wears off as Kate asks Sawyer where he got a gun.  Sawyer reveals he took it off a U.S. Marshall.

Sayid thinks Sawyer is the prisoner on the plane and while he’s distracted, Kate takes the gun.  She asks how to unload it and Sayid instructs her.  Kate gives the gun back to Sawyer and he grabs her saying he knows her type—girls just like her.

Flashback:  Kate and the passenger—shrapnel man—sitting next to her are talking but not as friends or even acquaintances (she made it sound like they were strangers to Jack).  Big reveal!  We learn that Kate was handcuffed and shrapnel man is the U.S. Marshall.  Turbulence starts and we see the plane break apart in midair.

The marshall comes to while Jack is working on him, grabs Jack by the collar, and asks “Where is she?”

The hikers finally turn on the transceiver and get a transmission that blocks them from sending anything out.  It’s a recorded message with a strange robotic voice saying “iteration” and then a number followed by a French woman speaking.  Shannon knows some French and translates the message as a distress call saying everyone’s dead, something killed them, and the French woman needs help.  Sayid does the math and estimates the recorded message has been on a loop for 16 years.

Charlie aptly asks, “Guys, where are we?”

End of episode!

Okay, so if you watched the episodes or are familiar with them, there are very memorable moments, which I try to call out in the pics I use.  I’ll be doing this quite a bit because these are also things that become symbols and/or motifs in the show.  Very important as we explore the mysteries of the island.

The mysteries are big.  What’s the monster on the island?  What happened to the French woman?  How has her message been playing for sixteen years?  Then we have the mysteries with the characters.  What’s Kate’s story?  What’s the story behind the contentious relationships between Michael and Walt and Jin and Sun?  Mysteries are important to the show’s appeal and the characters themselves.

Let me know your thoughts and please remember to keep these posts SPOILER FREE.  I’ll remove your post quickly if you let anything slip.  Focus your comments on the episode itself.

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.

Lost Season 1 Re-watch Schedule

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 1


As I prep to re-watch season 1 of Lost, I want to give a layout of what it will look like.  The first post will cover the two-part pilot and be released on September 12th.  The next three post will cover a single episode allowing us to focus on learning who some of these main characters are and their “back stories”.  From there on each post will cover two episodes until we get to the two-part season finale, which will be separated.  The last post for the re-watch will be on October 27th.

The structure of each post will look much like my Stranger Things Season 1 Re-watch posts last year.  I’ll talk about the characters and plot and call out interesting choices and mysteries about the island.  Don’t get thrown off by the lack of answers to these mysteries.  It’s season 1 and some answers don’t come until later seasons.  (If I succeed, you’ll be chomping at the bit and watching season 2 and onward on your own.)

I’ll also be calling out many references, easter eggs, and connections.  These are the fun things about the show.  If you watched it while it was still airing, there were whole websites devoted to solving the show.

I will do my absolute best not to spoil anything.  I feel that I’m familiar enough with the show to abstain from spilling the secrets of the show.  This means I’ll leave quite a few things vague and also probably play devil’s advocate in a few instances just to be punk.

How you all enjoy the re-watch and my musings.  Lost remains a favorite of mine despite my love for other shows since.  It truly was a phenomenon when it released in 2004.

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!)

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.

20 Year Anniv: Saving Private Ryan

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 0

Sobering is the best way I can define Saving Private Ryan for myself.  Usually, I write about films I enjoy and find entertaining but to put those words to SPR seems off.  It’s a film that showcases the horror of war and also the humanity of soldiers.

It’s been 20 years since the release of SPR and I was not allowed to watch it in theaters seeing as how I was fourteen when it was released but I wanted to without truly understanding it.  I can’t say for sure when I finally watched the film but I actually think I saw it in a history class I took as a junior in high school.  We watched it in parts, discussed, and did an assignment to discuss WW2.

From what I can remember, the film’s infamous opening of the beach landing in Normandy struck me as horrifying.  There was no glory.  There was no sense of patriotic pride either.  It was a depiction of war, showing the true limits of the human body when bullets and explosions are inflicted upon them.  Fathers, sons, and brothers endured the immense hammer that was the war.  They did so out of duty and service to their country, families, and each other.  There are no greater heroes than those.

I don’t think it can be argued that SPR is one of Steven Spielberg’s top films.  For message and filmmaking, it has few equals.  He brought to life fictional characters thrust into one of history’s greatest conflicts and depicted real people faced with continuous trials and trauma.  Again, sobering.

It’s easier to consider the film as I’m doing now and critique it from a storyteller position when I’m not watching it on the screen.  I can explain how I appreciate the characters and their relationships amidst chaos and death while carrying out a mission to send one of their own home after his three brothers were killed elsewhere in the war.  I appreciate the storytelling Spielberg was able to portray through the film but I would be remiss to say this film is enjoyable to watch.  It wasn’t the first time I saw it and hasn’t been any other subsequent time I’ve watched it either.

Spielberg did not look to entertain his audience with SPR like he has with say Jurassic Park or more recently Ready Player One.  Much like Schindler’s List or Amistad, Spielberg cares more about portraying a story difficult to watch but important to experience.  His message is, “this is a difficulty of our history but there were good people thrust into the horrors humanity can inflict upon one another and it’s these people who should be recognized and honored”.

I found this video recently and loved the dissection of Spielberg’s brilliant filmmaking.  Enjoy!

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).

Forever Re-watchable: The Goonies

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 0

There are those movies you grew up with and then there are those movies that made you grow.  “The Goonies” came out in 1985 which means I did not see it until I was at least seven or eight years old in the early 90s.  My earliest memory of the movie is it scaring the crap out of me.  Thanks, Sloth, for the nightmares.  As I got older, though, I found the movie to have a strong affect on me as a lover of storytelling.

If you are unawares of the plot of “The Goonies,” it follows a group of four friends (Mikey, Mouth, Chunk, and Data) in Astoria, Oregon searching for the pirate treasure of local legend, One-Eyed Willy, to stop the foreclosure of their homes.  Adventure ensues once the Goonies come across a family of criminals who pursue the kids after they learn of the treasure hunt.  Throw in hijinks (that’s a fun word to type) and the theme of friendship strengthened by conflict and you’ve got a quality film that is memorable and has become a cult classic from the 80s.

Mikey is the every man we can all relate to; Mouth is the sarcastic butthead who provides the laughs; Chunk is the chubby kid who is scared of everything but finds courage by the end; and Data is the techy of the group who has an affinity for gadgets that don’t always work but when they do, they prove useful to the group.  None of these characters feel trapped in a box but have depth that is brought out in their actions and dialogue throughout the film.  It’s this friendship that I admire.

Getting our first looks at Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee!) and Josh Brolin (Thanos!), I always feel like we get introduced to the foundation of things to come for “nerd” culture in cinema.  “The Goonies” is one of the influences for “Stranger Things” and if you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know how much I love that show.  There’s also a Spielberg touch to the film even though it was directed by Richard Donner.  You can’t help but wonder how much Indiana Jones was an influence.  Iconic continues to be a word I come back to.

My appreciation for this film came much later in life especially after I realized it isn’t as scary as first experienced.  Getting past that, I found the humor within the dialogue to be there and quite memorable.  There are physical humorous moments as well (slick shoes!) and these play more to younger audiences (like myself when I first saw the movie).  It’s in the dialogue that I think the film holds up beyond the “children’s appeal”.  It’s a dark film that I think I would hesitate to show my son until I deem him old enough and able to handle the content.  I would not hesitate however to watch it with him and get his thoughts on everything from the sense of mystery/adventure, the scarier elements, and the friendships of the Goonies themselves.  I look forward to this day, in fact.  He may never appreciate it as much as I do, but I can hope, hahaha!

Call to Action:  Seriously, I don’t know how you could not enjoy this film if you grew up in the 80s.  But if you hear the word “goonies” and you wretch, I hope you’ll clean up and check it out again with some friends.  You never know, your tastes may have changed.

Imagination Indoctrination

posted in: Books, Life, Reading | 2

Sometimes you don’t know things about yourself until you encounter a new scenario.  There are the extremes like what would you do when faced with an emergency or crisis and then there are the somewhat moderate instances like what I plan on discussing today.

I have some rather vague memories of children’s books from when I was wee lad.  I don’t remember having children’s books of my own but I do remember my grandparents having several Dr. Seuss books.  My sister and I would “read” these though I think we were drawn more by the pictures than anything else.

My wife and I asked our baby shower guests to bring children’s books for our little boy because we have a strong sense of reading to him even now (with full sarcastic commentary that he won’t appreciate until he’s older).  Our hope and desire is to instill a joy and love for reading from a young age.  This is not going to be a “screens are the devil” post but I am conscious of how much our lives move with screens readily available.  They can’t be escaped unless you’re willing to go off the grid (watch the movie “Captain Fantastic” to get an idea of what this would look like).

Instead, we have a sense for what has proven valuable to our own lives.  While it took me until my high school years to appreciate and become an avid reader, my wife was always in a book from a very young age.  The story seems to be she memorized children’s books before she could actually read the words.  There’s intrinsic value in reading.  Most of all, I believe reading launches the growth and developing of the imagination.  And if there’s anything I want for my son, it’s a wild imagination.

Why is that?  Well, because I attribute my imagination to my self-confidence and joy of life.  Maybe it’s just me (maybe someone else can contribute in the comments) but I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without my imagination.  Ugh, it would be horrible!  I personally think an imagination expands one’s life.  I can’t wait till my son begins to play because I have this vision of him including me in this wide world devised of colors and scenarios that only he can think of.  And I firmly believe reading will be the catalyst to this imaginative wonder.

Call to Action:  Does anyone have any children’s books recommendations?  We have a small assortment right now but are looking to expand.

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.

2017 Film Watchlist Update

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

Over the last few weeks, I managed to watch a few of the movies from 2017 that I put on my “To watch” list.  Let’s go!

“I, Tonya” is an interesting film that explores the life, career, and downfall of ice skater, Tonya Harding.  If you grew up in the 90s, you know about the infamous story of Harding’s fellow ice skater, Nancy Kerrigan, being “knee-capped” by some stranger after a practice session.  Tonya was implicated in the attack and the whole world witnessed an infamous case of jealousy and personal vendetta that jumped over the line to criminality.

The film has an interesting structure, “interviewing” many of the main players like Tonya, her abusive mother, equally abusive husband, and several others.  Tonya’s tough upbringing is explored while spliced with these interviews sometimes making us wonder if we’re dealing with multiple unreliable narrators.  There’s a lot of he said/she said moments that bring about comedy and tragedy making us feel for Tonya.  There are many historical moments captured from her performances and the most impressive is her landing two triple axel jumps in one competition, making her the first female figure skater to ever accomplish such a mark.

All of this however takes a drastic fall into chaos as Tonya feels the full weight and pressure of her success overshadowed by the more “likeable” Kerrigan.  The film doesn’t stray from the infamous clubbing of Kerrigan and makes no excuses for Tonya’s role in the plot carried out by her husband and his friend.

What struck me most in the film are the performances.  Each actor and actress embodied their role.  Margot Robbie as Harding is memorable.  Many times, I forgot I was watching the same actress who brought Harley Quinn to life.  Robbie did an amazing job and I kind of feel like she was over-shadowed by Allison Janney who played Tonya’s mother and stole every scene she was in.  Vindictive and downright cruel, I can see why Janney took home the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.

While hard to watch at times, the film definitely superseded my expectations.  It’s not one I would add to my personal Blu-ray collection but worth watching at least once.

If you’ve never heard of Tommy Wiseau and his feature film, “The Room”, which has been dubbed by everyone who’s ever seen it as the worst film they’ve ever watched, then don’t feel bad.  I’ve never seen “The Room” myself but I’ve known of its existence for awhile and seen quite a bit of footage that I am quite familiar with it’s “quality”.

“The Disaster Artist” is the film that chronicles the unlikely friendship between Wiseau and Greg Sestero who met in an acting class in San Francisco and eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting careers.  They do so and fail to land any jobs before deciding to write their own film.  Wiseau writes, produces, directs, and stars in the film.  “The Disaster Artist” film directed and starring James Franco takes much of its lead from Sestero’s memoir which chronicled the making and production of “The Room”.

Once again, the performances are what make this film.  Tommy Wiseau is for lack of a better word, “interesting”.  No one knows his true age or origin.  He has what many believe is an Eastern European accent but says he’s from New Orleans.  The other mysterious thing about him is his wealth.  He paid for the entirety of the film from equipment, production costs, and actor’s and crew salaries.

Based on the memoir, it’s hard to believe Wiseau is the real deal and not a grand conman.  Watch any interview with him and you’ll be convinced he’s not real.  It’s been long enough now though that it’s very likely he is who he is.  He continues to make films and has a cult status in Hollywood.

Back to “The Disaster Artist”.  James Franco as Wiseau is outstanding.  He could have very likely won the Best Actor Academy Award if not for sexual abuse allegations made against him.  All you have to do is compare Franco’s performance to that of Wiseau (the film does this during the end credits) to see his full range of dedication.  You do not have to watch “The Room” to enjoy this one.  You will ask more than once if this guy is for real.

Call to Action:  While these films are dramas, you will laugh while watching both.  I recommend both but just know these are not “normal” films.  They both approach storytelling in different ways than other biopics out there.

Always Be Learning

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

When you start out as a writer looking for any and everything that could give you guidance and help, one thing you consistently see is, “Read, read, and read more”.  This can be bothersome for some or at least it was for me because I wanted to respond, “But I want to write…”.  What should be added to that direction is:  Read, read, and read more because you will learn how to write.

Cognitive absorption (I have no idea if this is an accurate term or even used properly but I like the sound of it and it’s my blog so…yeah) through reading is how I like to think about my ability to read different kinds of books be it fiction, nonfiction, biography, etc. and subconsciously collect sentence structure, characterization, inclusion of theme, setting tone, and several other important literary practices.

I always want to be learning.  Whether by reading, listening, or being observant of the world around me, I cannot be the best storyteller I can be if I already think I know what I need to know.  To this day, I find myself stashing away nuggets of info I come across.  I’ll notice descriptions in a book about a people, places, or things and think, “That’s really good. I need to remember that detail or method”.  I’ll be listening to a podcast and a topic will weave between two speakers and I’ll pick up on conversational threads that I think can be implemented between my own characters as they talk to one another.  I’ll see something in a show or movie and make a note of the shape, color, and/or texture.

The notion of always learning can seem daunting and might make you feel overwhelmed.  Learning doesn’t have to be reading historical tomes of 1500 pages one after another.  Find a subject and explore it by whatever means.  Books are not the only option.  Podcasts, articles, and documentaries are all great mediums to absorb whatever it is you’re interested in.  There is no test at the end, so go your own speed and remember you learn what you want to learn about once you’re out of school.  Focus on those and you’ll enjoy it far more than when you were cramming for a test the night before.

Call to Action:  I want to encourage two sources that I love learning from.  The first is Joe Rogan’s podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience”.  He talks with all sorts of people about all kinds of subjects from entertainment to deeper philosophical issues.  The second are the shows “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown” by the late Anthony Bourdain.  The passing of Bourdain last week came unexpected and is tragic.  His traveling shows have been consistent staples for me because I always learn and find his approach to people through food a rare art.

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.

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.

Coming-of-Age Thoughts/Lady Bird Review

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

There are certain stories I’m drawn to (more so in movies than books in this instance) where a young person’s journey from adolescence into adulthood is magnified.  They be best described as “coming-of-age” stories.  Usually in these films, we get a glimpse into a select moment and are shown who this young person is, what they desire, what they fear, etc.  These have a way of grasping my full attention for reasons I’ll explain if you so choose to keep reading.

The most recent experience I had was with the film “Lady Bird”, directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Saoirse Ronan.  The film takes place in Sacramento, CA in 2002.  Normally, I relate more to coming-of-age stories of boys (see “The Way Way Back” and “Boyhood”) but I found myself enjoying watching this young woman going through her senior in high school and preparing to go to college.  Mainly, my enjoyment has to with the fact that I was a senior in high school in 2002-03 in southern California (not Los Angeles) also.  Much of her struggles with school, classmates, and parents felt very visceral to me all the while the war in Iraq had just started and was often playing in the background of settings.  I remember those days so clearly.

Suffice to say “Lady Bird” gripped me instantly and since it was on my “Movies of 2017 to Watch” list, I was able to look past the immaturity of the main character and pick out subtle things I loved.  Most of those were references to the time and culture but they were enough to keep me engaged.  I don’t know if I’d recommend the movie to be honest.  It was okay but not grand (it absolutely reeked of whatever it is the Academy Award’s consider award-worthy).  I think 2016’s “The Edge of Seventeen” was far-superior film and much funnier (also having a female lead).

I don’t know why these kinds of films draw me in.  I don’t consider my own “coming-of-age” experience to be all that impressive.  I went to high school, graduated, went to college, delayed graduation by slacking and feeling uninspired, and then met my wife, finished my degree, established a career, and now have a baby.  It’s all very simple yet fulfilling.  These films however have much better highlights that involve conquering fears or making decisions not to be part of the status quo.  Then again, a film of my life would not attract much of an audience so I understand and appreciate the screenwriters who add drama and tension in order to push the main character a little closer to adulthood.

I think that’s the reason I am drawn to these kinds of films.  I enjoy watching the maturation of an individual especially when they realize adolescence is such a small part of life and the horrors of high school fade quickly.  Experiencing life is sweeter when stepping out from the social constructs of narrow expectation.

Call to Action: I threw out the names of a few coming-of-age films I like but I also recommend these as well:  Stand By Me, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Kings of Summer, and my favorite of all time:  The Breakfast Club.

Blog Reset

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

I’ve been off from blogging for a month now and ready to return.

My wife and I welcomed our first child into the world on April 16th at 8:02 in the AM.  He was 6 lbs 13 oz and is completely healthy much to our excitement.  We’ve settled into the routine of feeding, changing diapers, and figuring out how to sleep.  So far, we’re only fatigued every other day or so.  Also I have yet to be peed on but I have had the wonderful honor of pulling off soaked onesies more times than I can remember (I’ve even got some small rashes on my hands form washing them so much lately. Fun times!).

I’ve been off from work for three weeks now and wonder if I’ll be able to assimilate back into the workforce after spending so long away (I make it sound like months don’t I?) and I’m curious to see how it works out.  I can’t even get my head around parents who are able or have to go back to work the week of or even a week after a child’s birth.  Seriously, how?

I sent out the newest newsletter this week.  I’d love to attract more subscribers but I’m struggling to do so, often wondering if people are signing up but the plug-in I use is not informing me.  It seems to be having problems hence my sending the newsletter later than I wanted to.  I don’t know.  I need to look deeper into it.  Then again, maybe I just fail at marketing myself (there’s like a 50/50 chance this is the issue…).  I need a PR person who will work for free and just do it because they want to see me succeed.  (Send all resumes to my personal email if interested.)

I’m also trying to find more beta readers but having no luck so far.  Apparently, it’s not easy and for good reason.  I think about people having time to read and critique a book that is 200k+ words and I understand the lack of interest.  I’d like to get at least 2-3 more beta readers feedback before sending out my first agent query letter (at this rate, I’ll be looking at five to ten years from now).  I just really think I need more feedback on the story as a whole.  I still wonder if there are things that either don’t make sense or parts that need to be simplified.  So we will come to the CTA.

Call to Action:  If you are interested in being a beta reader for my book, So Speaks the Gallows, or if you have any resources that you could point me to, please feel to do so.  There is no waitlist.

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.

Godless Review: No Spoilers

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bitter Truths: Self-Editing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forever Re-watchable – When Harry Met Sally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog Changes Announcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Panther Review – No Spoilers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flash Fiction: Shoal Cursed

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Search of a Quiet Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Long Rut!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading Goals for 2018

posted in: Books, Fantasy, Reading | 2

Aside from my writing and life goals for the year, I also have a reading goal.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I use 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!).

Keeping Focused Through Busyness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

December Update/Christmas Traditions

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Don’t spike the eggnog

Don’t stand under icicles

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

Do spike your coffee

Do bundle up if it’s snowing

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

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

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.

Reviewing the Punisher

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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 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

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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.

Why I Watched IT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Plot Twists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story vs Plot: Significant Others

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating an Editing/Revising Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing Likable Characters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Stretching and Testing: Exploring Other Genres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Word Count: Does It Matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended: The Last of Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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).

Pressure Tester: Meeting the Content Quota

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pulp Diction: Writing Dialogue

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 0

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

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

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

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

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

Characters who do speak in the story have to be differentiated by a number of things.  Where were they born?  What were their experiences growing up?  What was the culture like in which they lived?  What is the extent of their education?  What religion, if any, did they practice?  What are their dreams?  What are their fears?  Did they suffer from any abuse or disabilities?  All of these factors shape people into who they are!

Now, you can go over those questions and easily say, “A writer has to know all of those for each speaking character in order to write dialogue?!  That’s crazy!”  Yes.  Yes, they do and yes it is.  Maybe this is why non-writers are so mystified (I embellish a bit by using that word) that writers (especially fantasy writers) can create so much and hold of it in their heads and write full epic stories from start to finish.  We’re not wizards ourselves, I assure you (or are we?).  What we possess is a strength in creativity that is just different.  I can easily admit I’m mystified (I do mean to use that word in this case for myself) at the creativity and ability of artists who paint, sculpt, sketch, compose, etc.  It’s something I envy and wish I could do!

When I start writing the main point of view character and begin to have them speak, I learn so much about them.  I wish I could explain it in a way that is academically profound but the truth is, I learn who they are as I write the words coming out of their mouths.  How they speak to others is just as enlightening!  Developing a relationship between them and family, friends, strangers, and/or enemies is part of the magic.  It’s writing interactions between my characters that gives me the most joy.  I could not write scenes upon scenes where dialogue is absent.  Some writers can and I applaud them but I need to write dialogue for the sake of keeping my characters and their journeys progressing forward.

Differentiation between characters and giving them their own voice in the story is difficult and takes practice but it can be done well and in a way that stands out to the readers.  This is important and I stress that to anyone who wants to write or has recently tackled the art of storytelling.  I cannot tell you how to master this but I can tell you it’s worth mastering.  There are plenty of resources out there that can help and I encourage looking for them, studying them, and putting those methods to use.  Stories should be vibrant in their descriptions and in their use of dialogue.

Call to Action: Listen to people and how they talk.  Pick a few you know and really keen in on the differences from you and from those you know well.  It’s amazing the little nuances people have in the way they speak that makes them an individual.

The Bolder the Better

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 3

There’s this desire within me to be bold as a writer.  I have to ask myself what that looks like and after some reflection and processing (that will take place as a I write this blog post), I’ve come to a few conclusions.

Bold doesn’t necessarily mean crass or of high opinion to the point where I am obstinate.  Let’s say courage instead.  I think there’s a measure of courage needed to be the writer I want to be.  When I first started (here’s a bit of transparency), I thought I had to be a type of writer and write to a certain audience who shared the same religious views as I did.  Yikes!  (I’ve come a long way since then.)

This is not a bash to my beliefs (my convictions and beliefs are very much my own and I hold to them still but I have no interest in forcing them onto others).  No, rather, I realize now that I was a young, very green writer who did not know how to write without inserting this part of my life into the story.  As I look back, this is not in my opinion bold or the example of courage.

My train of thinking has definitely shifted since then.  A writer’s courage does not necessarily look like inserting ideals and doctrines of belief (whether they be religious, political, or cultural) within the narrative of the story.  No, in my mind, courage is knowing your beliefs but willing to explore the alternative options or opinions that others might have.

For example (I think I could write several more blog posts on this topic), I believe in a single God who created and loves humanity and wants a relationship with His creation.  Very basic description.  Yet, in the Ravanguard series, I have multiple religions (quite different from each other in some instances) that are important to the development and growth of my characters.  I cannot (in good conscious) write a character who has a belief in a monotheistic deity similar to my own and treat them in any superior manner over another major character who believes in a polytheistic system of religion.  Neither can I try to have one character convert another to deliver some subconscious agenda!  If I do so, I’ve made the story something (or at least the interaction of those two characters) that I don’t wish it to be.

I hope that makes sense and my words are coming out clear.  It would not be bold for me to treat my writing (this particular fantasy series especially) as a means of forcing my personal convictions down the throats of my readers.  There’s a different kind of book one could write if that was the intention.  Rest assured, my friends, this is not my heart in reality or in fiction.

For me to be a bold writer, I have to be willing to explore ideas (through characters and cultures) that don’t line up with who I am and what I believe.  This should not be a scary endeavor but a vulnerable and mature one that in my mind makes me a better writer in the long run.

Call to Action: As I was writing this blog, I thought about the current model that Pixar is utilizing in their movies.  My wife and I watched Moana and man we loved the movie and its exploration of that culture.  It was different from what we believe in terms of religion but the beauty in it could not be denied.  I think its worth celebrating these different cultures and in no way wrong to want to learn more about them.  Honor looks like loving others no matter their differences.  I encourage everyone to do this!

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!

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/

More Than a Writing

posted in: Writing | 0

I’m writing a lot.  And I mean a lot.  I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks now as I move into the fifth month of this blogging venture (I always hear a pirate’s voice in my head when I type that word…).  While it has been a challenge and beneficial to my writing muscles (buffing out!), I am not one of those writers who works well at scheduling a “writing time” every day.  I thought I’d kind of use today’s blog post to explain how I remain sane and not burnt out.

Some writers have put themselves on a strict schedule in order to keep writing and finish what they set out to do.  I commend this discipline and think it is of great benefit to finish whatever story you start.  Kudos amigos!  I, however, am in a bit of a different canoe than these folks.  I have finished novellas and books and have added short stories and flash fiction pieces to my mantle.  I’m very proud of this but I’m discovering that I work best by scheduling my writing with some slack.

I strongly recommend writers (this applies elsewhere too) to find a hobby or two that is not related to the art and/or creative outlet they partake in.  I definitely used to play video games as a hobby or pastime but that has since become difficult for me for reasons I cannot nail down quite yet (if I do engage in the old Playstation and/or Xbox break, I can only play for an hour at most otherwise, I feel I’ve wasted too much time of my time).  For me, I’ve found that playing music not only helps me be creative (drumming especially allows me to be creative) but keeps me entertained just as much as videogames.  Also, and not many people know this about me but I’m a sports fan and a collector of sportscards and have been for most of my life.  It’s a hobby I enjoy and allows me to take breaks when necessary, being part of a distinct online community.

This is all not to say I don’t have a schedule for writing.  I do but it’s fluid.  I work on blog posts every day, writing or revising, and planning ahead but I also work on upcoming flash fiction, short stories, and the Ravanguard novellas and novels.  I like to have this wheel of projects to choose from because I don’t feel bogged down.  However, if I was working on the first novella or novel of the Ravanguard series, then I’d be focused completely on that.  I’m further along in the process, so I don’t feel the rush or need to devote all of my effort on that one project.

Sanity is key.  I believe in pace when writing and I believe in letting yourself have other interests otherwise you will get burned out.  I’m not convinced that if I did it differently that I’d be the same writer I am today.  To each their own but my own is a way of marathon runner.  I applaud sprinters but I wave as they pass me by.

Call to Action: Let me take a moment to talk about the newsletter sent out.  I hope everyone who has signed up enjoyed it.  I’ve received a little feedback so far and appreciate the kind words.  If you signed up but did not receive it, please let me know.  There’s always a chance I messed up the list and I want to make sure everyone who signed up gets what was promised.

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?

Recommended: Breaking Bad

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Writing | 4

Vince Gilligan’s “Breaking Bad” is by far one of my favorite television shows ever.  But not for the reasons people might think.  So, let’s jump into it.  I should note that this is not an effort to convince people to watch the show.  It is wonderfully written, acted, and produced in so many ways but it also deals with some very difficult subject matter.  I’m simply explaining why I enjoy such show.

For those who are unfamiliar or only slightly so with the show, I will try to provide a basic rundown.  It follows the transformation of chemistry high school teacher Walter White to the notorious meth cook, Heisenberg, who is diagnosed with lung cancer and sees the end of the tunnel, which would leave his pregnant wife, unborn daughter, and teenage son without much once he’s gone.  Working a car wash job in addition to his teaching gig, Walter is put up against a horrible situation and is desperate to not only pay for treatment but leave his family with more than debt and hospital bills.

By chance, his brother-in-law, a DEA agent, shows a video at Walt’s birthday party where the DEA has busted a meth lab where the evidence gathered reveals a stash of cash to which Walt instantly wonders about.  It’s this event that eventually leads to Walt’s being on a ride along with his brother-in-law to bust another meth lab where he sees one of his former students, Jesse Pinkman, avoiding arrest.  Yada yada, Walt and Jesse join together to go into business and embark on a whirlwind of danger that affects them all in sorts of ways that have them constantly making choices that would keep them safe and out of jail.  Unfortunately, they do not come out unscathed all the time and suffer both physically and relationally throughout.  Whether its the DEA or rival drug lords, Walt and Jesse have to trust each other and their wits to keep ahead of the danger.

Suffice it to say, this show is never dull (even the bottle episodes are great).  It explores characters and the transformation of said characters in ways most shows avoid or don’t know how to execute.  Obviously, no spoilers here but you will often be conflicted, not knowing who to cheer for from season to season.

The reason I love this show and recommend it purely from a storytelling aspect is that Vince Gilligan and his writing team are famous for stating that they purposely wrote Walt and Jesse into corners just so they (the writers) could find a way out for the pair.  Storytelling is the best part of the series while the characters are a close second.  (Aaron Paul’s performance as Jesse is amazing.  He is my favorite character throughout the show.)

Again, this is not an easy show to watch.  It deals with very real subject matter from family drama to the high cost of drug usage.  I do not take these things lightly and never want to insinuate that.  I have spoken with friends who have actually dealt with others in this regard and it’s sobering to hear the stories.  I am not disillusioned by this to say the least.

In my mind, compelling stories are best when they deal with true and difficult aspects of life.  Sure, a lot of the scenarios of “Breaking Bad” are embellished for the small screen to be dramatic and hold our viewership but in reality, life is not easy and we face difficult decisions every day.  I pray it not so for everyone but things happen and livelihoods are put to the test.  Walter White’s livelihood and that of his family are tested so much so that you truly wonder if his choices were worth it in the end.  He makes his choices in order to see his family taken care after he is diagnosed with cancer.  However, his dive into the criminal underbelly costs him a great deal and affects his personality in ways that make you wonder about his overall psyche.

There’s a quality of storytelling here that provokes me as a writer to not just be the gardener but push more towards being the architect when planning and writing my books.  Honestly, I’m drawn to great writing and it’s hard for me to stay away or ignore it when it’s in the form of a show like “Breaking Bad”.

Call to Action: If you’re willing, check out the pilot episode of the show.  If you get through it and are kind of interested to see where it will go, I’d recommend trying another episode and so on.

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!

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!

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.

On This Day: April 10th – National Encourage a Young Writer Day

posted in: On This Day, Writing | 0

#EncourageAYoungWriterDay

Another “National Day” is upon us and as I will focus on this from tim to time for the OTD posts, they will be writer focused.  I’m really excited about this one though.  I still remember much of my emotions, story ideas and thoughts when I first started writing.  There was a new joy that I stumbled into and could not be stopped from advancing into the arena of storytelling.

Being self-taught in many ways (I was decent at English/Literature classes but nowhere near scholar level), there’s a great deal I learned and want to use this post as a lessons learned  for younger writers.  My hope is to provide some things I’ve experienced and come to value over the years.  All of this based on my own experience and I know I’ve touched upon these in previous posts but here’s more emphasis.  When you start off writing, you truly do tread unknown waters.  There are no dangers swimming underneath you, but rather, treasures that can be found if you know exactly where to dive and search.

These are the top words of encouragement I have for young writers in no particular order:

1. Finish what you start

Depending on your level of writing, you will no doubt (it’s more than likely but not definite) write something that’s not very good.  This is not a knock on you or your capacity to be a great storyteller.  Very few have likely had an idea, formulated the characters, settings, themes, etc. and produced a product that is instantly picked up by a publisher and released to the world without much revision or editing.  Has it happened?  Probably but I can’t tell you of any I’ve ever heard of (not unless you’re Bradley Cooper’s character in the movie, Limitless, and in that case, you should ditch the mind-opening drug.  It didn’t end well for him).

I was there.  I wrote my first book, thinking it was the next best thing.  It wasn’t.  I wrote my second book and thought that was better and would surely be my launching point!  It wasn’t.  Lol.  I’ve written my third book and only now am I convinced I’ve written a well-thought out story that only I can tell.  It takes time and patience and you have to be willing to fail a few times before you find success.  So, finish those stories.  Don’t touch them for a few months and return.  If you still feel they are worth your investment, begin editing and revising.

2. Don’t neglect doing your research

This is a big one and requires discipline.  It doesn’t matter what you’re writing.  Fiction or Non-fiction.  Biography or History.  Fantasy or Mystery.  All of these require a some level of research not only to be accurate but most-importantly: believable.  When I started writing my first fantasy book, I researched everything from characterization to culture.  Clothing, agriculture, and architecture.  None of these could be ignored because as I wrote, I ran into these aspects and knew I couldn’t use modern terminology or technology.  The lack of these were an obvious sign to my being an amateur.  Readers want to be immersed in the world but if there are obvious mistakes and/or inaccuracies when it comes to the time period and setting the story takes place in without reasonable explanation, then they will not keep reading.  That’s the opposite of what you want!

3. Read

No, seriously.  Read.  You cannot write well if you do not read.  Why?  Because there’s something that takes place in the brain when you read and consume content professionally edited.  You brain picks up patterns and conventions that you may know from school (elementary to high school English classes only to so much) but are denied later in life without practice and exposure.

One thing I wish I had done more of during my early years of writing is read more.  I probably only read a dozen books a year back then.  This is not enough.  I recently joined Goodreads.com and I recommend you do so to.  They have a yearly reading challenge that you initiate for yourself and are able to update and track your progress.  I only learned of this last year but I challenged myself to read at least 25 books.  I read 36.  That’s huge for me!  This year, I set my challenge to 50 books.  I have no idea if I can do that but that’s the point of a goal.

Also, read genres you wouldn’t otherwise read.  If you’re writing horror, then try reading romance or sci-fi.  Subject yourself to styles you’re not familiar with.  I could read fantasy at any time but it’s a chore to find something more dramatic or set in modern settings.  I’m purposefully doing this more and more because exposure to these other genres helps me break away from that fantasy box.  Non-fiction is a great starting place.  Find books about people or times in history that interest you.  When you understand real people and what motivated them or real historical periods/events, how they were influenced and how they impact the future, this transfers into your own writing.

Call to Action: Do all of these things!  In fact, if you’re not a writer but love to read, you can easily do number 3.

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!

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.