“Love, Simon” vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Hey there friends and fans! A handful of months ago I wrote a review of the YA novel Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, linked below. I absolutely loved the book, as I said, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the chance to check out the film version, Love, Simon. I finally got my chance over the holiday weekend, and I feel inspired to write this short follow-up post for anyone interested in watching it.

Love, Simon is a great cinematic piece of art. The story, of course, is the same. Simon, our beloved protagonist, is coming to terms with being homosexual in a climate that is still quite unforgiving, and trying to, frankly, learn how to “be” gay. The whole thing really starts with a post on a local social media page, where one of Simon’s classmates professes to being gay – anonymously, of course. Simon, also anonymously, responds with his own confession, leading him down a journey of self-discovery that we’re brought along for.

Simon’s tale is not one for the faint of heart, and certainly not one for the closed-minded. One of Simon’s classmates realizes his secret and uses it for his own benefit. This sends Simon reeling as he tries to cope with not only the demands of his classmate but his own attempts at connecting with the boy he now feels he’s falling in love with.

One of the things that I was really impressed with was the way the movie stayed in sync with the novel for the most part. I really feel Simon’s story, although slightly altered for the screen, was still true to its book counterpart. I think the actors were well selected, Nick Robinson doing a phenomenal job as the main character.

One of my personal favorite parts of the film was the attempt to show that Martin, the unfortunate antagonist, was not your typical high school bully. Rather than being the biker, the jock, or the general rough and tough kid in the halls, Martin was actually kind of the stereotypical nerdy loser character. Mascot on the football team, avid lover of graphic tees and magic, Martin was the kind of guy most people love to hate. His affinity for blackmail didn’t make it hard to dislike him, either.

Simon’s struggle with finding a way to tell his friends and family his secret was well described and heartfelt. In his attempt to be himself and find the best way to be himself he posits the question why straight is the norm. Why it’s only homosexuals who have to “come out” to their loved ones. Which is a strong question in and of itself. Rather than assuming everyone is attracted to the opposite sex, maybe it isn’t that difficult for us to stop assuming and allow our loved ones to tell us their preference in their own time. However, that would require the world being a much less judgmental place.

Of course, Simon’s secret does get leaked and he has to come to terms with everyone learning he is gay in a way he had no control over. Which, for me, was one of the most heartbreaking parts of the film, and led to one of the best lines and best deliveries in the film. Martin apologizes after seeing what damage he caused, and Simon, for the first time, truly lets go.

He tells Martin that no apology is good enough. He took something that was Simon’s, ruined his chance to let people know of his sexual preference in his way. In essence, this scene made the tone of the film for me. Apart from everything else that happened, this scene really showed the pain and anxiety that can be brought on by coming out – and even more so the pain that can come from not being able to make the decision yourself. Robinson’s performance here truly brought Simon’s struggle home for me.

Needless to say, this is a YA work, so there was a definite form of happy ending, which I won’t spoil, although that wait for the mystery poster was something that really brought the anxiety game to a new level.

Overall, I thought the film adaptation of Simon’s story was a great movie. It didn’t stick with what I felt were some of the more interesting or important areas of the novel – the focus on music, for instance (although there was a very prominent Elliot Smith poster), but it was a great movie. If you are at all interested in this movie, I urge you to give it a watch. If you liked the book, again – watch the movie. If you haven’t experienced either, I recommend both. I personally liked the book a little better, but that’s my natural go to.

What about you? Have you watched the movie or read the book? Which did you prefer, and why? What was your favorite part of either? Let me know in the comments. Also, check out the link below to see my review of the book if you haven’t already.

As always, thanks for reading and subscribing. There’ll be a new podcast soon, and plenty of new words written before year’s end. Stick around for the journey to stay updated on everything! Thanks again, and Happy Holidays!

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

What do you want?

Last night I was having a typical scroll through social media when I stumbled upon a question that got me thinking a lot about my work. It was a simple enough post from a publishing group I follow, but it held a weight that I hadn’t let myself feel in quite some time. It asked “what is the biggest goal you want to achieve as a writer?”

You know, typical question people often ask writers, especially ones who are just jumping into the game. Most of the time we have a typical answer to go with it. I want to get my book published. I want to break through writers block. I want to write a bestseller. And, of course, those answers came to me, too. But my brain refused to stop there. As you all know, I love literature. I read almost constantly and have been having a very sordid affair with the greater world catalogue for my entire life. To say the written word is my passion would be a hopeless understatement. It is part of the very fabric of my being, as God meant it to be, and I love every minute of it. So could I really be satisfied with such generic answers to such a pregnant question? Of course not.

The ideas ran faster than ever as I sat down and really thought about it. What do I want out of my writing? What is my biggest and most hopeful goal? Sure, I want that bestseller. I want to have my book sold in local bookstores. I want people I know to see my book and be able to buy my work with memories of me in mind. I want to have unique and interesting books. But it goes so much deeper. After I thought about it the answer flowed easily. I want to be great.

I want people to feel my work. I want it to stand the test of time and change the world. I want to build on the face of literature like the greats of past generations and tear asunder the ideas of stagnance and convenience. I want, in essence, to be truly great. After all, if we cant be great, what’s the point?

This realization, although admittedly daunting, is also immensely liberating. I have, once again, come to terms with my purpose, my desire, the very reason I wake up in the morning. I will stop at nothing to achieve my goals and realize my dreams. They wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t make it happen, right? Right.

So the journey goes on. I’ve entered what I hope to be the final content edit for Maverip before I hit agents with my queries, and I’ve found my second wind. I will make it happen, and I’ll take you all along for the ride.

But now I want to know what you guys think. What does this question mean to you? Let’s not even just limit it to writing. I know some of you are painters, musicians, and artists of various caliber and medium, so apply it to yourself. What is the biggest thing you want from your craft? Is is an idea of greatness? Is it just to overcome that next big project? What are your goals? But more importantly, what are your dreams? Never limit yourself. Let yourself dream. But, I could speak on that for hours. In the meantime, let me know what you think, what you dream. Leave me comments or shoot me messages. And, no matter what comes up, never let your dreams die. Fight for them tooth and nail. I know I am.

November Announcement

Happy November, everyone!! I apologize for this post being a bit later than normal, but such is the strife associated with NaNoWriMo! I hope you all enjoyed last month’s read, as well as the short break you’ve gotten here. 

This month, I’m going to return to one of my tried and true authors, with a twist! I will be reviewing Stephen King’s newest work, “Sleeping Beauties.” This book is a collaboration King wrote with his son, Owen,  which makes it even better. The novel explores what happens in a small West Virginia town when women all over the world fall into a strange sleep that sees them wrapped in a strange cocoon. When waking the women proves deadly, men are given few options, while the women who have not yet fallen asleep will try nearly anything to stay awake and keep from knitting cocoons of their own. Can men find a way to come together and put an end to the Aurora sickness before it’s too late?

Admittedly I’ve already started the novel and I have to say I’m hooked. The book is set in the Appalachian Mountains, in a fictional county that would be around an hour from where I grew up. The idea of that setting had me quite excited when I realized exactly where fictional Dooling County was positioned on the map. 

I won’t say much more, because thisnisnt the review yet! Since it is so late in the month I think I will plan to post my reveal on December 4th, to give everyone a few extra days. This book falls in at 700 pages, so it’s not a rapid read, but it’s not grueling either.  I look very forward to discussing it with you all! 

For a quick update on my NaNoWriMo progress; my plans were changed a bit. I had hoped to finally bring Maverip to a close in October, but unforseen circumstances put a damper on that. Some of you may have noticed my originally planned work entitled “Last Christmas was replaced on my NaNo profiled by Maverip. I have decided that the time has come to really place the challenge on myself wholeheartedly. Part of me is terrified to finish this novel, as it is one book on my queue right now that I feel most compelled to push forward, and it is one that I have put a lot of pressure on. But this month will see it completed. I won’t let myself or you guys down any more! I look forward to sharing the completed work with you all ASAP, and as always, if anyone is interested in being a beta reader, just let me know! 

We’ll talk all things “Sleeping Beauties” in a few weeks, and from there we’ll examine a Christmas-themed work, so get some suggestions ready!!! 

Bridge to Terabithia

Happy Banned Books Week! I’ve always been a huge fan of celebrating banned books, partly to stick it to the ridiculous censorship-loving administration, but mostly because I find that the books that people don’t want you to read can often offer you the most. This book is definitely a part of that list. I absolutely LOVE it. My first experience came from the movie, but I was immediately enthralled. For the last ten years I have adored the movie and the book. It is actually one of the inspirations behind my own decision to move forward with my desire to be an author.

One of the greatest things about this novel, for me, is the fact that it points to the total liberation of mankind via the imagination. Being written in the 70’s, it was kind of published in that time when kids were first being encouraged to let their imaginations guide them through portions of their lives, and this book captures the cusp of that idea. Jess’s family and fellow students represent those who feel imagination is not something to be given in to. Jess’s parents, consistently burdened with the challenge of feeding the children and running the farm in the fragile economy they live in, can be seen as the old style of shunning imagination and things that aren’t ‘real,’ where others – Leslie in particular – represent the new and liberating views of allowing imagination its place in life.

Leslie’s introduction into Jess’s life really allows him to open up and be who he is meant to be. She doesn’t act or think like the rest of the kids, or even the adults (with the exception of Ms. Edmunds) that he is used to, and that makes him feel more free than he ever imagined. When Jess and Leslie create Terabithia I truly resonated with his description of the mythical magic of the place. He allows Leslie to bring him into this magical realm, but he still has his doubts. Many times he says that he can’t do it without Leslie, or can’t think of it the same as her. His love for Leslie and Ms. Edmunds is what allows him to embrace the creative side of his own life. After Leslie’s death Jess is obviously devastated, particularly considering the fact that his day had been spent further embracing his own love of art and imagination.

I love the way Paterson brings Jess to reality while allowing him to avoid everything involving Leslie’s death. He adamantly denies that she is gone, so much so that after he runs away and is brought home he wakes up almost completely convinced that it was all a guilt-ridden nightmare because he didn’t invite her to the museum. When he is forced to confront the fact of her death he reacts in much the way a child would, destroying memories of her in anger. Once he calms down he begins to instantly doubt himself again. The inspiration and freedom that Leslie brought him threatens to leave. When considering Terabithia he is terrified that he won’t be able to make the magic happen without Leslie, even worries that the make-believe kingdom won’t be there if he goes without her.

The fact that he is able to make the magic happen is, to me, a testament to the amazing power of love and imagination and creativity. Jess is able to keep the magic he and Leslie created, is even able to be in touch with her memory as he reflects on his friendship with her. I love that. I feel like it is a huge representation of the strength we all possess, even in the midst of a tragedy that threatens everything we hold dear.

Another thing I loved about this book is the way Paterson makes Leslie and Ms. Edmunds strong female figures who refuse to fall into the social norms. The feminist themes that offer these two strong female characters a whole other kind of freedom were both embraced and feared when this book was published (and still are today). I find it very important that there is so much emphasis on Leslie and Ms. Edmunds breaking the norms and being their own women, without holding to social construct or listening to “girls can’t do that.” It is a huge testament to the nature of the piece and its deep running themes of freedom and exceptional behavior.

Of course, this is one of the things that has lead to the book being challenged. The language and the obviously difficult ending are two others. The fact that Paterson wrote such a strong and impactful book 40 years ago, that still stands the test of time today, says a lot about the topics and her own prowess as a writer. Putting my own hatred of literary censorship aside, I find these reasons to be abhorrent for shunning such an awesome work of literature. When children can pick up a book and see that their creativity and imagination should be embraced, find out that it is OK to be different, even see someone their own age faced with and learning how to handle death, that book is a treasure. To push it out of libraries, schools and off of reading lists is a real travesty and I shudder to think there are parents out there who think otherwise.

But I’ll get off my soapbox. I don’t have many faults with this book. I would like a little more explanation of why Jess’s father doesn’t show affection to him the way he does the girls. Granted, this was 40 years ago and many people, particularly in rural America, were still under the impression that showing too much love to boys made them ‘soft,’ I think that knowledge is lost on a lot of youth and they may come away with the impression that the father is just a jerk. Which is harmful to an overall interpretation of the text, I think.

Overall, this book will always have a huge place in my heart. Aside from being a piece of YA literature that truly has the means to empower kids, it is an easy-to-read work that is educational about real-life issues. I love it. I hope you all enjoyed it as well. But what are your thoughts? Do you agree with its challenged/banned status? Tell me your thoughts! And be sure to give me your ideas for the best horror novel we can cover in October!!

You Know Your Work

This has been a bit of a crazy week on the writing front. I’ve been doing this for quite some time, as you all know, and it still has the ability to absolutely blow me away. The unexpected can be both good and bad, and this week I had both. I stumbled across a really great contest offer on Wednesday, and by the time I found it I had less than nine hours to format and publish a novel through a particular service.

Of course I tried it. The only real regulation was that the piece had to be at least 24 pages in print. Not too difficult, and easy to do. I went through the formatting process, created a book cover and was ready to go through with it, when the service pinged a message back my way telling me that my novel was three pages short of being able to have my title fit on the spine. Three pages. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a problem, but for some reason it got to me.

I’ve worked on that particular title for more than a year and have gone through edits at least three times. I felt so great about it that I’d been querying agents with it and trying to look into the best way to get it on the market. But after all that time and work it still came up three pages short of being able to be identified from the side. I know it sounds silly, but it really got me discouraged. I’ve never been one to really worry about how long a piece is. I write and listen to the characters and the story itself and let them tell me when the end is coming. That’s what feels natural to me.

Don’t get me wrong here, the novel was well over the limit for the contest, and it’s not too short overall, but it does fall short of the generic industry length suggestions for the type of novel it is. As much as I  hate to admit it, that hurt a bit. I’ve written in the past about how easy it can be to get discouraged if you set yourself up to follow strict industry guidelines. Not to say that you shouldn’t listen to your agent and at least make an effort to make your book match length and style guidelines, but if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work. I had to remember that the hard way.

I beat myself up for hours. I could have gone ahead and pushed through the issue and given myself over to the possibility of ridicule (or winning), but the whole situation really made me look at the book and at myself as a writer. I felt like a bit of a failure. I spent over a year on this book, telling this unique tale that I was so proud of, and it came in at only 97 pages in print. How could that be a good book when the industry standard is at least 150 for most similar pieces, and usually at least three times that (if we’re looking at Stephen King up to ten times that length)? I stopped the formatting, stopped the editing and let the contest timer run out. I spent the rest of the day considering what it takes to be a writer, what the industry standards really mean, and whether or not my work is worth the effort. I honestly felt lower than low for a little while.

Then it hit me. I am a writer. I always have been a writer. I was meant to be a writer. What does it matter how long a book is? Can a standard formality really tell me that my work isn’t worth as much as a book that may have an extra 50 or so pages of material? If my story only calls for 97 pages to run itself through and wow an audience (my beta readers have seemed to enjoy it), then should I allow someone else’s book length determine the worth of my work? The answer isn’t just no, but Hell no. I was put on this earth to be a writer. I eat, sleep, drink, breathe and bleed literature. It is one of the biggest parts of who I am, and I don’t see that changing. So who has the right to tell me that my book is too short, or too long for that matter? The industry standard says that a book shorter than 70,000 words is too short ( my own comes in at just under 69,000) and any longer than 100,000 is too long. To clarify and put a bit of a spin on these numbers The Great Gatsby comes in at right around 50,000 words – 20,000 words less than “industry standard”, while Stephen King’s The Stand comes in at more than 470,000 words – four times the length that is considered the cutoff.

So tell me, if two of the greatest and most well-known pieces of writing of the last 100 years don’t fit “industry standard” how can my work be considered lesser quality for the same fault? Who is to say that any novel less than or greater than a certain length has less worth than others? Granted, I understand industry standard also has just as much to do with economic printing costs, etc.. It’s a harmful restriction to put on someone who is trying to get their writing to the world. When self-publishing is not the option you want to use, and agents won’t look at your work if it’s outside of their span, what options do you have?

For a new author trying to come on the scene, being told that you have to adhere to a certain length requirement can be devastating. Speaking from experience, it’s a bit of a shock to find out that a piece of work is in some way restricted based on its length. But that’s ridiculous. No one on this planet can tell you that your book has to be a certain length. When you are writing a work and you feel it flowing from you, through you, and it tells you its done – or it tells you to keep writing – that’s it. It knows. YOU know what is best. You absolutely can’t let anyone out there tell you that they know your work better than you do. That’s not to say you can’t accept constructive criticism. If someone tells you they think you could add this or add that, or take this out or take that out, it probably pays to at least momentarily consider it and not get upset – that’s the point of beta readers after all. But that doesn’t mean you have to do what is suggested. Again, no one in the world knows the story like you and no one else on the planet can tell the story the same way you can. The same goes for any type of art. When it is ready, you’ll know. There are literally people out there who have sold blank canvases as a statement – and they are loved for it. You know what a piece should be.

As an artist you are endowed with power over your work that no one else has. The idea came to you. The story is coming from you. The characters are developing within you. Without you none of it would be possible. If you ask me, that’s pretty darn special. So follow your gut, follow your heart. When the story feels done, maybe it is, even if it could fit on the back of a Cracker Jack box. If the story tells you it’s not done, but you’re looking at a piece that would put Gone With the Wind to shame, listen to it. It knows how long it should be. Never let industry standards or the expectations of others discourage you or make you feel any less incredible. You have the power of the story with you. It is entirely in your hands. If changes are suggested and you think they work, give it a shot. If you don’t agree with them, stand your ground. It’s your masterpiece. Any given piece can be your Mona Lisa. Treat it as such. Hell, what if someone had told da Vinci she should have been  blonde, or should have had glasses? Can you imagine one of the world’s most famous paintings looking any different than she does (except the Mandela Effect’s smile issue; but that’s another post).

Be happy with your talent. Use it to the best of your ability and don’t ever allow anyone else to belittle it. Your book might not fit what others expect, but isn’t that part of the point? No one can say how long a book should be. No matter how hard they try. It doesn’t work. Be confident in your ability. Don’t ever give up. I won’t say don’t get discouraged, because I know it happens, but understand why it happens. Figure out what is bothering you and figure out how to overcome it. That will help you improve more than you can imagine. The world deserves your book. There are 8 billion people on the planet, all with different personalities and desires. If someone out there is waiting on your  book to be published in exactly the way you first write it, is it fair to deprive them of that? Just do you. Be yourself. Follow your own desires and your own instinct. You won’t regret it in the long run.

What discourages you? What advice would you give others? Have you had a similar experience to mine? Leave comments and share this with others to help give someone out there the encouragement they need to do something great! Look for the review of “Powers of Darkness” on May 29! Enjoy your weekend and keep up the good work!

“Horns” by Joe Hill

Here it is, everyone, my first book club book review of the newly revamped club. I understand I’m a couple days late, but Thanksgiving schedules got bumped, so I’m doing it on a Monday. I’ll share it again a couple of times in case anyone misses it. But, without further ado, I’ll jump right into my review.

First and foremost, I have to say that “Horns” was in no way what I expected. I went into the book fully expecting to enjoy it and find it an interesting read. What I actually got a mind-blowing, pseudo-noir, absolute gold nugget. I LOVE this book. The storyline alone is just so skewed and out-of-this-world that I felt myself get lost in the piece every time I started reading. I actually yearned for the next page, the next word, the next section. I felt like I HAD to know what was going to happen. In the end, of course, I felt (mostly) satisfied, even though Hill left the reader to sort of develop their own reasons for why things happened. Most of the time in a book like that, I’ll feel a bit annoyed that the author didn’t explicitly lay out that “this is what happened, this is how and this is why”, but with this book I didn’t even care.

“Horns”, of course, is the story of a man who wakes up and finds that he has sprouted horns. Literal horns that, when anyone looks at them, cause people to divulge their greatest secret or sin. Ignacio is forced to use these horns to uncover the truth about what happened to his girlfriend a year after her murder, and the journey to the truth is one that will blow you away.

One of the coolest things about the book, for me, was the imagery. Seeing Ig transform from this almost hipsterish (in my head) character, to a literal devil was fascinating. When Hill talked about Ig grabbing the pitchfork and putting on the rotten skirt over his red, burnt skin, I could almost picture that classic image of a dancing devil with cloven feet and a bifurcated tail. In all honesty, I think I added those last two elements in my head and found myself a little surprised that it didn’t happen in the book.

Lee Tourneau was one that I just loved to hate. Or hated to hate. Regardless, I was glad to see him finally die. I loved the slow reveal of his sheer sociopathic insanity. It almost reminded me of the slow reveal of such classic characters as Norman Bates, who was always a little off, but was thrown right in your face in the blink of an eye. To see Lee progress from a little weird, to smash a cat’s head in really sunk the image home for me. Until that point I had been leaning toward Ig’s own brother, but I stopped doubting myself right then and there.

Ig’s family and their showcase of support really made me think about just how often people will tell each other lies in order to avoid confrontation. When Ig’s mother tells him the truth that is on her heart, I felt the despair and anger that was rising within him. I knew in that moment that there was no going back for Ig. They say that no matter what happens, the one place they always have to take you in is home. That is in no way always true, and I love that Hill pointed that out. Ig’s entire family, except Terry, basically all but told him that they wished he’d get out of their lives. Terry’s guilt rising to the surface was an incredible sequence as well.

The horns themselves, able to draw the most sinful confessions out of anyone who looks at them, are a bit of thematic genius that I like to think were inspired at least somewhat by The Silence from Doctor Who. Granted, I like to see Who references in most things, that may just be my inner nerd coming out. I was very intrigued to see just how far Ig could push those around him to get them to reveal what he wanted to know and was astounded by the uncanny love snakes suddenly had for him. The horns, along with his goatee presented an image that I don’t think I’d be able to forget. Yet that’s what happened, time and time again. Everyone who looked at Ig just couldn’t remember anything about the encounter minutes after speaking with him. I found that element of the story mesmerizing. It almost calls to the idea that we avoid thinking of our own sin so much that even being forced or coaxed to confess them is not enough of a jolt to make us remember it all.

Now, when we come to discussion of “Horns”, one can never leave Merrin out of the loop. In my opinion Merrin is the best and worst character of the entire book. For a long time we see Merrin as a total victim, a murdered damsel who did nothing but love those around her to the fullest of her ability. But we find out later that this may not have been the whole truth. Hill reveals to the reader that Merrin had broken things off with Ig, had encouraged him to find other women to sleep with, had generally broken the heart of the man we have watched all but fall apart. Many things are insinuated for much of this book, including the possibility that Lee’s delusions may have some weight. We are left to consider the possibility that Merrin may have had another man in mind when she was asking Ig for this separation. In all honesty, there were even times that I thought Hill was trying to insinuate the possibility that Merrin had a thing for her roommate (and speaking of the roommate, what was up with that puzzle thing?). In the end we find out that Merrin had actually broken Ig’s heart for the simple reason that she didn’t want to break his heart. She knew she was likely to die – albeit not by having her head bashed in – and didn’t want Ig to suffer like her parents had. That’s very noble, of course, and kind of puts me in mind of a Nicholas Sparks book (don’t judge), but ultimately is a decision that I think Ig should make for himself. I think we all know he would have stayed stateside, and likely would have married her had she told him about her illness, but I truly think that should have been his decision. I think Merrin should have told him the truth instead of kill his spirit the way she did. Does this also make her a villain? Does this make her just as responsible for what happened to Ig as anyone else is? Personally I think the answers here are difficult. I wouldn’t call her a villain, but I’m certain that, had she told him the truth, she and ig would have had a lot less pain in some ways.

Now, there honestly wasn’t much that I didn’t like about the book at all. One thing that I did find that I didn’t think fit was the fact that Merrin’s cross protected Lee from the horns. I understand the whole concept of the horns being a satanic gift (I see you and your treehouse L. Morningstar) and the cross is a religious symbol, but Lee was basically evil personified. It was like Ig, who was good at heart, had to take on the mantle of evil to fight an evil being lurking behind a symbol of good. I know that description may have lost some of you, but that’s my brain. Personally I feel that’s something Hill could have altered. I think in a world where we can accept the mystical possibility of sin-revealing horns sprouting from a man’s head, then we also should have been able to accept the fact that the cross would be able to see Lee’s evil and not protect him. Of course, there’s the possibility that we look at that element and say it was suggestive of evil people hiding behind a religious symbol and being able to avoid persecution. Personally, I like the idea that Hill may have intended something along these lines. Historically there have been many people who have hidden their evil and evil motives behind a religious symbol, and it’s definitely not above Hill’s history to suggest that.

Of course, I couldn’t make this post without making a slight mention of Hill’s parentage. For those that don’t know, Joe Hill is the son of none other than Stephen King. In my opinion, this makes him uniquely qualified to be an author of this magnitude, and I think that it shows in some aspects of his writing, particularly his subject matter. Over all I think this book was a bit of sheer genius, with few flaws. I very much enjoyed the subtle nuances and ‘easter eggs’ placed throughout and I feel the project was very excellently executed (no pun intended). I would love to have been a neuron in Hill’s mind and have a first-hand look at just how this idea came to be. But what did you guys think? What questions did the book leave you with? Was there anything that you particularly loved or particularly hated about the book? I really hope you guys will weigh in here and share this with anyone and everyone you know. Book clubs are a great way to interact with people and have a potentially intellectual discussion on many topics.

Finally, I want to know what you guys want to read. What book do you want me to do for December? I’ll try to have my decision made by the 3rd, so I’m hoping to hear a lot of good answers. Like I said before, if I get more than one suggestion for a certain title, or more than one person commenting on that title it will hold precedence. Of course, if I only have one suggestion, a number of people who make one suggestion with no response, or (God forbid) no responses, then I’ll make the decision and let you all know what it is. So jump in, dig your feet in and get into the discussion. I want to hear the most detailed idea possible about these books and I really want to have some in-depth discussions! I look forward to it, so let the comments begin!

Novels are coming…

NaNoWriMo is coming fast. I know for some people the idea of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days is quite daunting – for others it seems just next to impossible – but it can happen! I’m living proof that perseverance with this contest can really pay off in the long run. I had tried my hand at Nano around 5 times before last year, with college always bullying me away from writing for pleasure and forcing me to focus on school work. Granted, I guess that’s what I get for doing an English major with a communications minor and (almost) an education certification. It was tough.

But the weight was shed last year, allowing me to blow Nano out of the water. I had a new job at a library that allowed me to have time on the side to write while enjoying that awesome career choice. By utilizing every spare minute I had within the first couple of weeks in November, I not only won Nano, I wrote a 68,000 word novel in 18 days. That is an accomplishment that I will always be proud of.

This brings me to the real question for this article. Are you participating in the competition? I’ve heard a lot of people say they feel that Nano is just garbage and that a good novel shouldn’t be written under a “challenge.” Personally I say that’s codswallop. It doesn’t matter if your novel is written in 30 days or 30 years. If it’s a novel, it’s a novel. I’ve read (and written, let’s be honest) some really terrible pieces of work that took weeks and months and years to finish, and I’ve read pieces that were literally written overnight that blew my mind.

For me it often comes back to the old saying that “Your first version will be shit.” There are tons of articles and books written on this idea, which suggests that it’s really the editing that makes a novel great. Now, I’m not saying it’s necessarily always the case, but I do think it holds weight. In my own stories and books I think I make a much better product after I’ve taken it through the editing rigmarole, but with others I think the author may hit gold the first time (not usually, but positivity is key, right?). For me that’s why it’s difficult to understand the opinion of those who are so against helpful challenges like NaNoWriMo. I think it’s always good for an artist to challenge themselves, and we all know I’ve written and spoken about deadlines a few times. It’s important. That’s the bottom line.

While you definitely may not be able to produce a masterpiece by giving yourself only 30 days to produce a brand new 50,000 word piece of literature, you can certainly get a start on it. For me it’s not so much about the type of work that I see on November 30, but how far and how fast I can produce the piece through the month and what I have to work with after December starts. Sometimes that’s the most rewarding, really. To know that I have a good idea to work with to start the new year, and that most of the writing has already happened is honestly a bit of a relief. That’s why, after finishing my work last year, I jumped on the first edit and had the piece ready for beta readers in December.

This year, though, who knows what will happen. I have a new, more demanding job which also requires me to write for a living. Not to mention the fact that I have multiple ideas floating around in my head and I haven’t quite hammered enough out about them to be sure of just how long they are going to be. Of course, I don’t necessarily know that I believe you can ever be sure of that. I’ve had many pieces that I thought were only going to be a few hundred words that ended up with thousands before I was finished. It’s something, for me, that the story decides. Or rather, that it knows. You see, nothing knows a story like the story itself. We’re just a conduit for the reveal. But I’ve written about that a number of times, and I’m sure I will again.

For now I’ll leave you with the question I’ve already asked; Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Have you before? Do you even know about it? Feel free to answer these questions or ask your own in the comments or in a personal message. I love seeing interaction here and I love talking to you guys! Keep up the work and enjoy the approach of the holidays!

 

Plans

Unfortunately plans don’t always work out. That’s something we learn from a young age, if we’re lucky (and find out the hard way once life gets its claws in us if we’re not). It’s basically just a fact of life. Just as people say rules are made to be broken, plans are, unfortunately, made to be unkept.

I’ve had some first hand experience with that, lately. I had some big plans for the first week of October, if you may remember. I was determined that I would get a novel sent to a publisher by no later than the tenth. Well, it’s the tenth and no publisher has seen my novel. Granted, the reasoning behind this change isn’t necessarily bad. Last week was my one year anniversary, and I obviously spent the day with my wife and didn’t focus on anything else. I wouldn’t have had that any other way! After that I spent the week researching as much as preparing my novel, as I went through my new copy of the 2017 Writer’s Market looking for the best place to send my work.

So far, I have found dozens of agents and publishers that could be helpful to me and my potential future in the literary world. That being said, I have developed a new plan; Pinpoint the best of the ones I have found that would work for me and begin making contact. With this plan in motion I hope/”plan” to have at least one novel out for consideration by the end of October.

Which brings me to the ultimate point of this blog post. It is always a great idea for an artist to set goals, make plans, have a set idea about where you want things to go and when. But it does not have be set in stone. In fact, most of the time, you’ll find that, no matter what plans you make, something is almost always going to change. I’ve often heard something to this regard that I think makes more sense than anything; “If you want to hear God laugh tell Him your plans.” To me it describes life perfectly. We can try to make our lives happen exactly how we want, but there’s no guarantee it will go our way.

Our end goal may come out the same, but the journey almost never is what we expect. The point is that you can’t give up. No matter how you come to the final stage, no matter what you have to go through to get there, it doesn’t matter as long as you keep trying.  Whenever the plan you make doesn’t work out then you make another one. Keep your end goal. Keep your passion. Life can throw anything at you at any time and will almost certainly always try to keep you on your toes. Sometimes it may seem like life doesn’t want you to succeed, but I’m not sure I fully believe that. I like to think that, for the most part, the world doesn’t care whether or not you succeed, but it want to make damn sure that you give it your all either way.

Success is not always a matter of luck, just as it is not always an impossibility, but more often than not it only comes after very hard work and dedication. So, no matter what it is you  are after, you have to be willing to make it an act of passion and determination if you truly have hopes or expectations of success. What goals do you have for your craft? How do you plan to make sure they are fulfilled? Furthermore, have you  had any experience with plans falling through like I have described here, and if so, how did you come back from it?  Comment, contact me, interact and enjoy, everyone. If you have anything you’d like me to discuss, feel free to chip in and make a suggestion. Best of luck with all of your plans, and I hope you’ll all take this message to heart!

Changing Seasons

Writing for a living and writing for pleasure are still proving to be quite difficult, but the urge to write is increasing by the day. The reasons for this are a bit varied; I’ve seen a lot of inspiration lately, but it is stronger today than it has been for quite some time. And I absolutely know the reason.

For the first time in a long time there has been a familiar cooling in the atmosphere and a wonderful scent started filling the air last night. It is the smell, of course, of Fall. That incredible time of year when Summer begins its slow retreat to the Southern Hemisphere and the land begins to get drowsy as the air chills.

Soon the leaves in these beautiful mountains will flash their incredible, fiery colors before making a quick descent to the ground and being covered in a blanket of refreshing snow. Not to mention the holidays that see us dressing up our faces and our houses to ward of the evil spirits that will surely walk the earth before the freezes lock them in their world for another year, and the warm feasts that put us together with our families in front of the hearty fire.

In other words, my absolute favorite time of year. Not that I don’t love the whole year, but there is something particularly magical about the end of the year. For me the combination of the end of the year magic is combining with the absolute thrill, charm and history of our new location. Living in Abingdon is adding to the usual thrill of the incoming seasons and making me NEED to write. I have three new story ideas that I am brainstorming, with big expectations.

My hindrances, of course, remain a bit of an issue, but after this weekend I think things should lighten up a bit. I have to work on Labor Day, but beyond that I expect the approach of Autumn should combine with my own ability to open doors in a major way and allow me to break the slight writers block I have been dealt recently.

One thing that I am so far unsure of is what I will do about NaNoWriMo. Last year I was able to write a 68,000 word novel in around 18 days; an accomplishment that I’m incredibly proud of. This year, with a full time job that sees me writing all day, going to late night meetings and working a shift that isn’t always predictable, I’m not sure what November will hold for me. I look to my fellow reporters on occasion and think that I may be able to still handle the pressure of NaNo; it only calls for around 1,700 words a day, after all. With the altered schedule my wife and I are currently on, I typically have at least four hours from the time I get off until the time she gets off, which should be plenty of time, right?

One way or the other I plan on making a serious effort to get something big to a publisher by the end of the year. Granted, I’ve said this since at least March, a lot of things have put some holds on that, not the least of which has been an unfortunately lackadaisical attitude by most of my beta readers which hasn’t exactly helped moral. But no excuse is a good excuse. Either way, I am making serious headway with some ideas that will lead to some excellent local color pieces for my area (if I do say so myself) and I will be setting aside some time every day to write if possible and I expect it to make a big difference.

Is there a particular time of year that any of you all feel more inclined to write? Is there anything that makes those switches inside of you flip, all of those lights coming on at once and leading to an influx of inspiration and writing? Let me know in the comments and keep up the good work!

Always keep working

I have been a terrible blogger lately. Life, it seems, can often get in the way of writing and blogging. Of course, the irony of that is that I write for a living. I was told before accepting a full time job as a reporter that if I wasn’t careful that writing for work could very easily replace writing for pleasure. I didn’t believe that, and to an extent I still don’t, but I do see the point  behind it and the truth in the statement.

I must begin my explanation for this by stating that I do, in fact, love being a reporter. I very much enjoy my job (although on a hard day I tend to complain about it as much as the next person, but that’s life), not least of all because it does allow me to write words that hundreds, if not thousands of people see on a daily basis. This is very gratifying and will certainly be good experience for the future, but the work does sometimes spill over into my free time.

Of course, such is the life of a reporter, but what some don’t understand is that when you write all day it can be very challenging to come home and write all night as well. Not only is the work writing in a very different format than novel writing, but it can be very hard on the hands, eyes, and brain to do both all of the time. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; writing is what I was made to do. It is literally what I was created for.

So the question remains; how does one manage this?

The answer is just as hard as it is easy. You have to maintain conviction, passion, and determination. As it is currently, I work around 45hours a week (getting paid for 40, but again, that’s life), come home and spend at least that much reading, watching a little television, and spending time with my wife. Somewhere in the midst of all of this I also have to find time to sleep and write. The break down makes the issue seem much more simple than it is, of course. What brings the complication in is finding motivation.

So how do you find the inspiration to write at night after writing all day? By pressing on as hard as humanly possible, of course. Personally I do my best to make time for everything, but it honestly can be hard, as I’m sure many of you know. Personally I have let the inspiration that still so frequently shows up unexpectedly to have full reign of my mind when it comes. Granted, it sometimes is fleeting and likes to toy with various ideas without settling on one, it still leaves me with a fair amount of new material.

One of my most recent accomplishments is a short story that I was able to completely revamp and elaborate on so I could send it to a journal for consideration. Even if I don’t make it into that particular publication, I can honestly say that I’m much happier with the current version of said short story than I was with the previous one. But the thing that I may be most involved in right now, aside from editing Maverip, is a new story that I have been inspired to write that (at least so far) has a very elaborate plot with a story spanning centuries. I don’t want to say much more about it currently, as the idea is still very fresh and I’m toying with plot lines, but I have decided to include a small sample that really excites me. I would love to have any and all feedback you all have on this piece. I would also love to hear how you all balance writing, motivation and everyday life. Leave me comments or send me messages, however you would like to communicate! I hope you all enjoy the small sample!

“Jonas woke suddenly, breathing heavily and sweating. He stared into the dark, waiting for his breath to slow. He felt himself drifting off to sleep when the image rushed back to his conscious. He saw the women, aged and wrinkled yet somehow vibrant, covered in blood and nothing else. Fire blazed in the middle of the clearing, filled with a shadow that made him scream aloud in the night. Looking into the fire Jonas was certain that he had looked into the very eyes of the devil himself.”