A Progress Report

Because what’s a journey without milestones?

This week’s started slowly for me, which is good. I’ve had the chance to give my story a final revision, and the feedback’s been positive. It’ll be ready for press within a couple days.

I’ve also had a chance to finish another read-through of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Look forward to that post—I’ve dug a bit deeper than I usually tend to, with hopes of discovering things other readers haven’t. Harvest has been scarce but fruitful, nonetheless.

So then, what’s next? As much as I enjoy writing short fiction, I’ll be giving my novel the attention it deserves. The dust on its cover has layered, and it’s been patient for three years, begging for a rewrite.

There’s something else to report as well. This is something that I don’t usually like to do. But I’ll do it now, and I’ll do it shamelessly: I’ve recently published four works exclusively on Kindle. They’ve been included in Kindle Unlimited, so if you’ve already paid for the website’s subscription services, you can read them free of charge.

I’ve waited to reveal the plug for nearly a month because this week, they’ll be on sale for the holiday. If you don’t subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can pick the following works up to half off:

  • KokoShadow: A Local History and Comparison of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana—This was originally a portfolio submitted as my senior capstone in attaining my bachelor’s degree. The story of the KKK in is told through various poems, and several connections are made between their politics and the politics of today.
  • Hindrances—This is one of my short stories originally published in Field: A Journal of Arts and Sciences, but as the second edition of the magazine is out of print, it is exclusively available through the Kindle store. It follows Shannon, the losses she experiences, and the changes in her they ultimately cause.  
  • The Wild Divulge—Another collection of poetry, this portfolio includes original and group-oriented works ranging from sestinas to sonnets. Subject matter varies. (This was my first real attempt at taking any sort of poetry seriously, aside from what I’ve written for leisure.)
  • Banning the Blind: A Marxist and Foucauldian Analysis of Jose Saramago’s Blindness—Another work originally published through Field: A Journal of Arts and Sciences, this essay explores Jose Saramago’s Pulitzer-winning novel and analyzes the implications of societal structures and the power they hold over the average citizen.

If you decide to download them free of change, no hard feelings. I do this for the love of writing, not for the doll-hairs. When I’ve got something good, I want to share it. But a guy’s also gotta eat.

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For the Sake of Beauty: A Review of King’s On Writing

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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King, Scribner, 2010

By far, the hardest part of the Writing Process is sitting down to write, isn’t it? Getting the actual words onto the blank page. Or am I alone on this? Some days I sit down and write for hours, and the words seemingly spring from my own fingertips—days when the stories write themselves. On other days, though, I can’t even find the motivation to sit down, and if I do, I don’t write more than 1,000 words; what I do usually regurgitate on those days is crap.

How then, searching through limitless writing about writing, am I supposed to follow everyone’s advice: write every day? Walter Mosley, Joseph Finder . . . Hell, even Stephen King—all their insight is the same. Write. Every. Day. It’s all fine and well if they say it. They’re getting paid. Of course they’re going to write daily.

So what about the layman? The writer who is working another full-time position to pay bills? If I could count the amount of times I’ve heard the words “If there were only more hours in a day . . .”

Let’s face it, folks. As much as we wish for things to change, which as writers we do all the friggin’ time, the book isn’t going to write itself. Yes, I’m going to batter in what all your Middle-School English teachers tried to beat into you. You have to put in the work with Language Arts. It’s not some second-hand hobby that can be picked up and tried on. If that’s what you’re looking for, take a trip to your local Goodwill. Developing skills in writing is one of the hardest things you can do, and it takes constant practice.

If you want to be a successful writer, there are things you must do and discipline you must lay on like butter, or, as some people prefer, mayonnaise. More so than your morning sandwich. If being a successful writing is something you want to achieve, you need to be willing to put in what it takes. You want the discipline dripping from the sides.

 I finished On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King last week. Yes, it was the second time. (That’s becoming a theme of this blog, isn’t it? Second read-throughs. We’ll have to see if we can change that.) Insightful at the very least, King provides his background in writing—a kind of primordial recipe for his success—and his insights on the writing process. Or, at least, the process that has worked for him.

I gathered five main points:

  1. You need to read, and you need to write: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut” King (145). The reading, I think, shouldn’t be a problem for most of us. The writing, however, presents some problems. DO IT EVERYDAY!
  2. You need to find a place to return to, a place where you can write and produce your best work. Two months ago, I found a desk at an estate sell. You can’t imagine how excited I was; it was the sort of desk I’d been looking forward to owning my entire life. Do you know where I go to write every day? The public library. There are way too many distractions for me at home.
  3. Once you’ve found your place, write with the door shut. I.e., write your story for the story’s sake, your character’s sake, or for your sake. But DO NOT write it for your audience yet. Yes, King talks of writing with Ideal Readers in mind, but do not write it for them. Once your story is finished, read and revise your story with the door open. This is when you’ll imagine your audience’s and reader’s reactions. This is where you’ll polish your turd.
  4. Narration, Description, Dialogue, & Vocabulary—King has some good ideas here, but it’s all related to his style, and everyone writes differently. It is worth taking a gander, though, because whatever he’s doing is working.
  5. In all that you write, make sure you are telling the truth. This is the thesis of his book, the point that he hammers in again and again: “. . . you are breaking the unspoken contract that exists between writer and reader—your promise to express the truth of how people act and talk through the medium of a made-up story” (King, 186).

These, of course, are insights that belong to him, which makes them subjective. Not every publisher is looking for the same thing, and there will be times when you will want to lie in your work. Not for the sake of lying, but for the sake of doing something beautiful, something that breaks all understood conventions of the craft. By breaking certain expectations. You can’t do this if you’re telling the truth all of the time, but for the most part, yes, I agree with the King.

If you haven’t had a chance to read through On Writing, I would highly suggest it. It’s written well and moves quickly. And King is successful, so it makes sense that he knows his shit. After you finish it, don’t just think about what he’s said. Write about it. Everyday.

The Midas Touch: A Review of Lackey’s Dragon Jousters

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Alta, Mercedes Lackey, Daw Books, Inc., 2004

Mercedes Lackey is a machine, isn’t she? The amount of material that she pumps out amazes me, and what’s more, most of what I’ve read of hers has been . . . I’m hesitant to say the word good because I ground through her work when I was still in youth—harder to judge work when you’re a child and know nothing of actual work, and all that.

As a child I would have used the word amazing. I first fell in love with Joust. The story of an orphan serf captured slave and dragon boy, only to be presented with means of escape. I was enthralled. I read through the pages twice, more eager for the second run than I was the first.

It’s only natural, then, that I would pick up the second book in the series—I hadn’t even realized it was a series until a friend of mine informed me of that nugget in eighth-grade government class; it was period two. On my way home from my next trip to the Peru, Indiana Public Library, I flipped through my newly-rented books. Alta, the second book in Lackey’s dragon-jousting series (Yeah, it’s exactly what it sounds like), was not among them.

I can’t tell you why I waited so long to read the second installment, but I’m invaluably grateful to myself that I did. My 14-year-old mind would have adored it by mistake, just by proximity to the first book alone.

There is so much wrong with Alta that I set it down. I doubt I’ll get around to picking it back up. For starters, the author rips away the main character’s identity, giving him a new name. This isn’t a good start for former readers. I understand that, as a serf, Vetch had been freed from bondage. And it makes sense to give him a new name—Kiron; it helps for his development. However, in Alta, there isn’t any lead up to it. No description or recounting the first book for it to make sense. There is no development, just a new identity.

In Joust, the MC has an entire story arc, from farm boy that loses his family to freed slave willing to fight for his home country. In Alta, he seems to be a sixty-year-old in an 11-year-old’s body. (I think he’s eleven. Lackey says he’s not sure but has to be close to other characters’ ages.) He knows or guesses things that no prepubescent teen would. About the history of the town. Based on the shape of the city. Let me repeat that. History of a town based on the shape of a city. He’s eleven. There isn’t anything for him to make connections between, especially since he hasn’t received an education, yet he still makes the connection. And then there are times he seems like he’s six. I don’t understand it. There isn’t any carry-over.

What I do understand is that the book is arguably for young adults, and they aren’t as harsh critics. That being said, if you’re going to write for young adults, don’t fill their heads with nonsense. They are so easily molded. Give them treasures instead of trash, of which I feel, and I’m sure most would agree, authors write just for the Benjamins. It seems a little cliché, but if you want to see the world a better place, put better work in. A system can’t produce gold if you’re pumping in shit.

I gave Alta a 1-star rating on Goodreads.com. And I don’t feel bad. She’s published so much. After all that, there really aren’t any excuses.

Lethargic Liturgies

I don’t have a whole lot to report today. I’ll start packing for Indiana soon–this entire situation still has me dumbfounded. I do intend on sticking to my schedule, which I am posting to the blog today, of new posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I have finished On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. The review will probably make an appearance on Friday.

That being said, I’m not going to be the type that posts something telling you that I’m not posting. Ha! Kind of a waste of words, right? Waste of everyone’s time, anyway.

Jessi and I have had numerous opportunites to adventure this summer, and I’ve collected a lot of photos. I’m going to post a couple below. They’ll provide a sense of the summer I’ve had so far. (We haven’t had the chance to go through our camping pictures yet. I know! An entire week? What are we waiting on? Well, they’re still on her waterproof camera. How’s that for suspense?)

Keep in mind, these photos are not copywritten, so smuggle them sneakily:

Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium
Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium
Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium

And, yes, I lied; the next are from the camping trip but weren’t on the waterproof camera. Alas, they don’t show the grit of what we did last week.

Racoon Creek State Park, PA
Racoon Creek State Park, PA
Racoon Creek State Park, PA

And the Seventeen-year Cicada. The cute, little buggers covered everything:

Racoon Creek State Park, PA
Racoon Creek State Park, PA

Lemons

I’m finally back in civilization. The camping trip went as expected. The sun smiled for two days, and the skies opened. But it’s not camping if you don’t fight the rain. And Jessi still got camping for her birthday.

I didn’t get any writing done. I don’t know why I thought this trip would be any different than the rest or that writing longhand would be viable–we left our phones in the cars for the trip–so needless to say, I only got one journal entry down. Though, it wasn’t for lack of inspiration.

Luckily enough, 2019 became the year I dwelt with periodical cicadas. Emerging only once every seventeen years, the brood provided a unique, lifetime experience. Many times, however, I found it hard to concentrate on the little buggers or their incessant roar, which filled every nook and cranny of the forest with its constant reverberations.

Not half a mile on the highway, eagerly heading to the woods, I received a phone call from my eldest brother.

“I have bad news,” he told me.

Not again. When his calls start like this, the week becomes intolerable.

Jeffery Williams, a longtime friend of his, and who consequently grew to be a brother to us and a son to our parents, had been in a car crash. His young daughter had already passed, but he was somehow holding on through his hemorrhaging.

“He is in Columbus,” Jacob continued the onslaught. “The doctors aren’t hopeful. His family are on the way there. I can’t get off work.”

I think, looking back on it now, I’m still slightly in shock. He became our family, had fit in snuggingly since the first day Jacob brought him over from school. On Saturday afternoons completely lost in Ocarina of Time‘s forest temple, reeling from my 11-year-old’s lack of comprehension, I could call Jeff and ask for his advice.

“How do I kill the flying, blue skull things?” I’d ask him.

“They’re called Skulltulas,” he’d respond, “and you have to use your hookshot.”

Offering this kind of help anytime I asked, Jeff effectively anchored my flight forward. He pulled me from darkness many times. A few times, even talking me through sleepless nights, letting me know he was there for me.

Eighteen years later, these are the things I thought of during my trip. How he had stayed close and helped me through so much darkness, and how he lay there in a hospital bed in a coma, barely long enough for his friends and family to say “Goodbye.” All I wanted was to be able to pull him from his own darkness, there in that bed, but I was powerless. I knew I couldn’t go to Columbus and see him like that, or if he would register I was there if I did.

His funeral is scheduled for next Wednesday, and I won’t miss it for the world.

To: Zee-Dwop, a Prompt

June 7, 2019

“You’re an extraterrestrial who’s been dropped into the human body you now inhabit. Wiggle around a little bit. Flex and stretch. Looking at your body from the POV of an outsider, compose a letter to your alien family back home telling them how you’re getting along in this new ‘suit.’”

My loving Zee-Dwop,

The experiment was a success. I’ve made it, and the body feels so . . . alien.

I haven’t learned much yet. I’ve just woken up days ago. My sincerest apologies for waiting a touch to write. Living in this body, I can’t quite describe it.

It’s nothing at all like having our tentacles. The arms and legs feel so stiff due to the skeletal structure. They don’t even move of their own accord or spare one thought! How dull it is already to be human.

The centralized mind is boggling. For thoughts to come from one place! It’s nothing like you’ve ever experienced. The effort needed to move the fingers alone to type this message. Ah, my sweet blorp, to have fingers. To grasp things, to have to grasp things. And to have to move the fingers with the mind!

Moving with this body does lack Octine grace, but it comes with a certain satisfaction. The movements are more distinct, more obvious to the eyes.

And o! the eyes. You wouldn’t believe such colors existed. Enough to shade every letter of this correspondence with differing hues! As soon as the technicolor conversion techniques are enhanced, I’ll send you images. Unfortunately, you’ll have to visit the laboratory and use the tentacle helmets to short shift your consciousness to me, but, my Bleep, you’ll adore them.

Anyway, I’ve got to Scurp. Or run, as my fellow humans say—though I haven’t come close to even walking yet. There’s so much to learn!

Eagerly awaiting your response,

Dinger Dzwar

A Review of Rothfuss

Ah, Patrick Rothfuss, a master and connoisseur of fine writing, or so I’ve thought for most of the years I’ve read his work. I fell in love with his writing style when I first encountered it. Who couldn’t? Readers can find more lore, detail, and character building in his worlds than most others have accomplished throughout their career, and he hasn’t finished his first trilogy. (What’s taking so long, Pat? We want it!)

I’ve read the Name of the Wind and the Wise Man’s Fear twice, just finishing both for the second time this year. Being rather young on the first go-round (I was barely into my third cell phone in 2011), I was in complete awe of the worlds he built. After the first time finishing, I closed the cover, tears rolling from my eyes, and consequently didn’t read anything else for a week. It was a book hangover of the worst kind. The second time I finished, I found myself closing the cover, tears rolling from my eyes, again wishing for more. Fan boys the world over eagerly await the third installment and the film production(s). (Praise Tehlu it’s in Miranda’s hands.) I ended the second reading, however, with  more awareness than I did the first, and with less stars in my eyes.

Yes, Rothfuss is a master at writing. I just can’t give the second reading as much praise as I did the first. His word usage, espeically toward the end of WMF, gets incredibly repetitive and his grammar becomes lackluster at best. Especially in the (SPOILERS) Interlude sections of the book, the writing seems lazy, even in supposed page-turning, action-heavy areas. I suppose this will be imitated in parts of the Doors of Stone, the trilogy’s next installment, as the style felt somewhat related to the plot and certain foreshadowing.

The biggest snag for me in the books was the utter convenience. I could be wrong here–I don’t have nearly as much experience as Rothfuss–but whenever he had certain convenience to wrap us parts of the plot, he did. The lead up to things that haven’t been mentioned in several hundred pages is missing, and sometimes, these events, items, or whatever they tend to be, are referenced in passing. It’s almost like Rothfuss remembers that his story asks unanswered questions, so he throws the audience a piece of stale bread for its patience.

There’s also the “Ahem,” (SPOILERS AGAIN), Deus Ex Machina of the Draccus in the end of NotW.

I understand he’s dealing with deadlines, and editing something as large as his second installment in the Kingkiller Trilogy is a nightmare in itself. He’s also very active in the community and his career doesn’t revolve around writing. So we can’t spend all our time picking through the story. If he’s doing more, we should be too, right?

I can’t willingly give The Name of the Wind or The Wise Man’s Fear anything less than Five Stars. I’m a little biased, and I’m not the only one. His fan base is growing. I stand at the forefront, clutching my signed copies of his books, impatiently waiting for Doors of Stone. I highly recommend checking out the series if you haven’t. And if you have, there are countless discussions over at Rothfussians on Goodreads regarding his books. There are some pretty good theories about his worlds too, and some of them are eerily accurate. Check them out if you have time.  

Setting Sail

Welcome, all, to the first post of the blog! I hope you’ll find what you’ve come looking for. There is treasure here, after all. I’ll be posting, as the blog states if you hadn’t noticed yet, original prose, poetry, and photography, along with some reviews of books I finish. My currently reading Goodreads shelf can be found below, so there’s somewhat of a map to follow.

I’m just getting things started, so please be patient. I’m a crew of one, as are most seaworthy authors, and content takes time. I will, however, keep things updated as often as possible.

There’s not much else to say besides “Beckon amid-mast and ahoy.” Everyone grab a bottle, smash it against this here ship, and let’s be off.

A note on criticism: I am keen to hear any and all criticism, but if it’s out of ill-spirit or will, the words will be taken much less seriously than out of an eagerness to help. I will have no troll mutinies aboard my ships or these waters.

Now then. “Hrmph.” Here’s a little something I’m working on at the moment: a bit of a novella that’s shaping nicely, though it’s still rough draft form. I finished this passage this morning–a meager biding of time by our protagonist. He hasn’t much choice but to wait:

           

            The bulk of his youth passed miserably for Lowry. At the closest city, a port on the eastern side of King Davos’s recently acquired lands, his captors relinquished him to an ambassador for the state, who had, in his turn, sold him at auction. A ship’s captain bought him and Lowry spent a short season on the waves, where his pudgy body, mutated hand, and his constant sickness proved him more than useless. After letting slip he had a fondness for the kitchen, the captain appointed him ship’s cook, though the young boy’s constant vomiting steered most of the crew’s appetite toward the fresh fruit bulked on board. The captain sold him at the next port.

            They traveled into the wet, northern lands, where a farmer bought him to harvest his crop, though Lowry couldn’t fathom where he might have gotten enough gold to afford a slave. Two hours among the opium fields drove all doubt out of his mind.

            At harvest, Lowry had some experience. His limited knowledge made him somewhat useful in the field, and through that autumn and the following winter, he contented himself with the reserve existence his new life presented. He had hay and a blanket in the barn, food enough to keep him fed—even if it were the meagerest of scraps available—, and work enough to keep him busy. After a particularly good haul in the field, his master, a stern but gentle man, congratulated him and asked him if there were anything he wanted.

            “A book to pass the time, if it’s possible,” Lowry responded. His eyes were lowered. The utmost submission, for Lowry missed reading almost as much as he missed his family. The farmer had laughed a hearty laugh and tossed Lowry a fresh apple.

            “That’ll have to do,” the farmer had replied, still chuckling.

             Lowry’s body underwent a constant change through these seasons. Not once growing up did he go to bed hungry. His mother had been kind in that regard. But his new life didn’t offer him the same luxuries that having a loving mother does, and as each day passed, he became more lean. Exasperating work in the field rounded his arms and buffed his chest. His hand, while unfamiliar at first, fell back into its natural ways, and as a musician must learn to play with one less string at the worst of times, his hand surmised that a finger is just a finger. And as in poker, four can still make a hand. His mind, however, had more trouble with his surroundings.

            Lowry was grief-stricken; even after long days of bowing his head to gather the plant processed to ruin so many lives, his eyes still stuck to the ground, seemingly unwilling to comprehend most of their surroundings. Geoff, his parents, Doan and Lyra. His heart lurched. Mom. He knew nothing of what might have happened to his little sister, Lyrica. Yenna’s own angel, his mother used to call her. Though Lowry had sometimes grown bitter at the constant tears of the weeping angel, he missed them now, terribly. He missed everything, terribly.

            A four-fingered hand swatted fleas from his face as Lowry drew small figures in the dirt of the barn floor. He was nearly numb to the moisture in his eyes or the sound of the rain on the roof, giving life to the drugged fields he had lost hope of escaping. The only thing his mind did pay notice to aside from his grief were the coals of anger his circumstances were slowly breathing to life.

And here we are, companions! Our first day of travel is complete. We’ll talk soon.