C. G. McGinn

Writer

Ramblings about Books and Writing

Filtering by Category: Writing

Ravencry: Book 2 of the Raven's Mark by Ed McDonald

When I finally put all my ducks in a row, get published (self or otherwise), and get on the scene, my first order of business will be to befriend Ed McDonald and talk shop over pints of thick strong stouts, porters, and ales of the chest-hair growing variety. I get the sense that he’s a pretty cool guy. I’m following him on Instagram, so it’s a start. Maybe when this post goes live I will make mention of it on the “Insta”—something I should do more often anyway. Based on one of his more recent posts, I’m pretty sure we share a similar writing style—the difference being he has 2 books published with a 3rd coming out in June while I have a series of rough drafts ranging in degrees of roughness similar to grades of sandpaper. He obviously has the discipline in which I lack.

I enjoy his writing style and the 2nd book of the Raven’s Mark series, Ravencry maintains the hard and sharp edge introduced in his first book. The character of Ryhalt Galharrow is what you get when you take Ian McShane’s, Al Swearengen and throw him into a magic-fill, apocalyptic fantasy, where he is able to swear and murder his way through all matter of monster and conspiracy. Galharrow drinks profusely, swears excessively—if not poetically, and cares very little for how he presents himself to the nobility.

Two Ian McShane “Swegen” posts in a week. Time to re-watch Deadwood!

Two Ian McShane “Swegen” posts in a week. Time to re-watch Deadwood!

And yet somehow, he is a character with heart, who cares for others—not necessarily society as a whole but perhaps just those closest to him. And those people—few and meager as they may be, he does not want to see them eaten by what may crawl out from the Misery—a seemingly endless stretch of land plagued by magic, more radioactive than ethereal.

As for my second order of business: Revenge. Swift and brutal revenge. Or Creme Brulee.

Creme-Brulee-2957.jpg

Revenge

A dish best served with caramelized sugar and a butane torch.

The Vicious Circuit: A Series by Robert Brockway

There should be a name for the genre of bizarre sci-fi, modern-fantasy, horror that the likes of David Wong, Robert Brockway and their ilk hilariously bestow upon this unsuspecting world. I like reading these books for a number or reasons, which I will list right now, in no particular order:

The main characters are hapless lay-about who don’t give many shits about anything, let alone the cosmic nightmares they have been thrown up against. They are often found stoned or drunk…or both.

The Dude abides.

The Dude abides.

However, said main characters are often assisted by a strong female counterpart who saves them from both monsters and their own stupidity on several hilarious occasions. These characters range from bookish to bad-ass.

AmyPond.jpg

And now that you mention it, stories that involve cosmic nightmares and untold horrors of a Lovecraftian nature are often the tea in which I gingerly pour into my ornate and chipped cup.

Thanks Nick the Rat

Thanks Nick the Rat

The dialog is raw and real with a lot of cursing. Not the Shakespearen pros you’d get from an episode of Deadwood, but rather the, punch-in-the-face gutter-speak heard after a night of heavy drinking…in which the drink of choice is gasoline with a spritz of ginger.

al_swearengen_by_thegeef.jpg

"Act averse to nasty language and partial to fruity tea."

~Al Swearengen

Where David Wong's books take place in, Undisclosed middle America, Brockway takes us into the often traveled streets of New York, London, and the far from glamorous L.A. scene. In Undisclosed, we suspend belief because, after all, this could all be some cruel aliens simulation in some unheard of town. But when the landmarks are found on our SnapInstaFace feeds when the monsters arrive is all the more unsettling.

Both writers also write for Cracked.com, which makes me wonder what the hell is in the drinking fountains over there. It's some pretty potent stuff! 

Keep writing these types of books and I'll keep reading them.

And now that I think about it, a Lovecraftian-themed show, staring Karen Gilliam, Jeff Bridges as The Dude, and Ian McShane would be something incredibly awesome. We’ll call this tale of horror, It Came from the Deep, or The Waking Gods, or The Big Lebowski 2. Co-Written by CGMcGinn, David Wong and Robert Brockway. I’d get top billing though. I wrote this post and found the pictures on the Inter-webs.

 

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock

A few weeks back, my editor posted a link to a blog looking for writers. It was a paying gig, which involved writing about reading. What discouraged me was that they specifically stated that they WERE NOT looking for book reviews. I guess that's what I do. I don't know. I think I give you enough to make a decision whether or not you should try out a book. I don't like getting in depth on the plot or development--sticking more to what struck me as unique. At first glance I guess this could be misinterpreted as a review.

Needless to say, I didn't apply for the job. Maybe I'm selling myself short. Who knows.

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors is what happens when you give Alexandre Dumas tickets to a Steampunk convention, then lock him in a room and tell him he won't be let out until he writes a book about it. This is a steampunk, swashbuckling tale in the sky, with healthy doses of palace intrigue, magic, magical technology, and more twists in the plot than...something, something...M. Night Shyamalan.

Biography.com

Biography.com

Steampunk as a genre seems hard to get out into the mainstream. Masques and Mirrors certainly isn't pure steampunk, but there's enough of it in there to get one's cogs off...whatever that means. In fiction, I think it's best used when describing a certain aspect of the technology. When it's used too much--encompassing the plot, the dress of the characters, the way they talk, it breaks the story and turns into, well, a steampunk conversion. I guess the same could be said about any quirk of world-building, but right now, steampunk seems to be the lightning rod for such criticism. If there's a pun in there, it was only partially intended.

Change'n. The Times. They are.

I re-read The Waste Lands by Stephen King--which is said to be the best book in The Dark Tower series. I tend to agree. The last time I read it was in college, which was a long time ago. *I pause to contemplate the passage of time*

It was a very different read the second time, and many years around, and my memories of events and characters were very different. The scene in the Tick-Tock Man's lair was rather simplistic in my young college mind. The setting was more trash-strewn hovel than trash-strewn missile silo. Did my memories filter out the details or where they never there to begin with? The lead up to that confrontation was also very different. I don't remember all the trap-filled, underground passageways. The character of Roland, the iconic gunslinger, was also more human, less full of angst, and, at times, even funny. We project a lot on our protagonists and perhaps my Freshman mindset painted a very different picture compared to my current, more refined pallet.

Or perhaps I'm just full of shit and wasn't paying a damn bit of attention the first time around.

If my wife, in-laws, and the doctor are to be believed, I have a kid now. Life as I now know it has changed...forever...and ever...*sigh*...and ever....

He's a goofy kid. I was going to add, ...'just like his old-man', but it would have sounded cliche. It's weird. Whenever I talk about him, I feel like I'm sounding cliche. I guess all those 'change my life forever' sayings really hold true in this case. It's a weird, strange ride, but I don't think I'd change even the late nights and crying. Not when he cries, and not even when I cry either.

The writing has taken a backseat to baby. I'm just beginning to get back into it. It's been a 2 month dry spell. But this blog, and some notes I've made are pushing me ever forward. I've started my final read of Hidden Mountain before it goes out for submission. It starts off slow. Not sure if it's too slow to the action. Once the action happens, it becomes a very 'hit-the-ground-running' until the end, kind of story. Not sure if The Editor should take another pass at it, or just throw it to the mercy of the submission process and see if I get any feedback.

At the library I work at, I've begun compiling what I like to call, The C.G. McGinn Collection. This is all a precursor to the C.G. McGinn wing, which they will build in my honor after all the money I donate to them once I become rich and famous. Here is what currently resides within this most prestigious--be it a bit pretentious--sub-library within the library proper:

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

The Gentleman Bastards series by Scott Lynch

14 and The Fold by Peter Clines (14 is a must read)

Somewhere in Between by Katie Li

More to be added in time.

 

 

How about I give you the finger...

...and you give me my phone call.

Apple released new emoji's today. Now you can give your friends the finger. Ladies, that jerk from college who to this day manages to drunk-dial you, can now be met with a close-to-real-life retort.

I watched that fanedit of the 2nd and 3rd Matrix movies mentioned in my last post. I liked it. I feel it addressed some of the main complaints Samson and I had about those films. It certainly isn't perfect, but it may be my go-to when the Marathon Matrix bug hits me. For me the only way to watch The Matrix series (not the movie but the entire franchise as a whole) is to watch in this order:

1. The Second Renaissance

2. A Detective Story

3. The Matrix

4. Kid's Story (Optional)

5. Final Flight of the Osiris

6. The Matrix Revolutions: The Epic Edition by GeminiGod

Note: I have another fanedit that incorporates the the live action scenes from the Enter the Matrix video game into the 2nd and 3rd movies. I haven't watched it yet, though the gist of it is similar to the above fanedit. It's possible this version may be better and take the Number 6 spot. Only time will tell, though you should expect a rebuttal to this post either way.

The Editor will have my manuscript for Hidden Mountain by this time tomorrow. It goes without saying that I hope she likes it. But moreover, I hope she beats the hell out of it. I know it needs work. I've done all I can for it. It needs a fresh set of eyes and a head full of ideas.

I started reading, Gail Simone's Batgirl. It's dark and fits in well with Scott Snyder's Batman. Yeah, I know I'm a little late to the party. Sue me.

I'm not proud to admit this, but I never read V for Vendetta. This also goes without saying but it's so much better than the movie.

 

 

Current Enjoyment

What I enjoy:

1. The first cup of morning coffee

2. "Cat's Cradle" by Kurt Vonnegut

3. The Fratellis latest album, "Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied"

4. My office

5. Bubba Burgers

Less Superficial Enjoyments:

1. The Wife. Because.

I read Cat's Cradle again. It's a good book but you have to be into Vonnegut or else you're not going to get it. There was a lot more happening after the big thing that happens than I remembered. The audio version even had a nice interview with the late KV, which was also good. Totally different generation of writer. Very refreshing.

I have an Editor for the novella. I met her at the Author's Expo last month. Full disclosure: I saw her name on the list of editors at the expo and researched her with the All-Mighty Google to see if she was legit. Turns out, she is. So when the expo finally came around, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Tanya -her name is Tanya- seems really enthusiastic about the novella -a trait I associate more with agents than editors. I suspect this is a good thing though. Up until now, I and a select few were the only people who gave a damn about what the hell I've been doing with my meager free time. So it's really cool to have a professional editor get into it as much as I do.

I have some time before turning over the manuscript. I'm going over the notes from my beta-readers and putting together notes on the series, characters, plot -stuff she's going to need. This is more than just copy editing. When all is said and done I hope to see exactly what works and what doesn't.

Inside Baseball

I made a small outline of the series in its entirety. I don't have all the details. A lot of what I have planned in my head is subject to change as the characters develop. I'm not going to force my initial outcome if a particular character no longer feels or acts the way they did when I first came up with it.

That being said:

Anthology#1: 5 Novella's. By the end, all the main characters will be introduced and the reader should have a fairly good idea of the universe, its rules, etc.

The Novels: 3 Novels. The first one picks up right where the last novella ends. These 3 books will cover a specific story I've been wanting to tell for several years now. 

Anthology#2: The jury is still out on this one. I've got a great big world here and I want to be able to explore other areas that perhaps branch away from the main story. This 2nd collection will probably take place between the events of the novels, but again, nothing is set in stone just yet.

A lot of this probably sounds like something only I'd be interested in. But hey, this is the process, my process anyway.

Not since April

I'm still here.

The last post had some announcements. But I sorta jumped the gun.

I did some soul searching and decided to throw my hat into the ring of more 'traditional' publishing. I thought about self-pub. Self-pub may very well be in my future. But I want to explore all possible options. I think my work is good enough to be mainstream and the worst thing I can do is not make the attempt.

I'm going to be at the NE Authors Expo this week. It's a great community. I have no 'wears' to sell, but the goal is to support a friend and make some connections.

Finished my first novella while vacationing on the Cape. "Hidden Mountain" is the tale of a submarine captain and her first mate. It's the first story in a series of 5. All 5 tales make up the Ice Bible Anthology.

I've received some feedback from beta-readers on Hidden Mountain. Much of it has been positive. I have to make some of the concepts of the story more clear, and adjust the pacing. Several of the readers haven't had me talk to death the intricacies of the universe I've created. So it's been great to have an outsiders perspective on what the hell I'm trying to make here.

I've also begun work on the second novella, "Of Black and White Doors". It's still in 1st Draft form, so the overall story hasn't been completely fleshed out just yet.

Look for me at the New England Authors Expo. I'll be sharing a booth with Chris Samson.

Short Stories & Burgers

Big news in the world of writing. You'll notice a new Projects section on the site.  Currently it links to 2 different pages: The Lighthouse Series, and Short Stories. The Lighthouse Series is the title of the novels I'm currently writing, which take place between two very different worlds. I've been asked by a few people what the story is about so I'll be posting a book synopsis of the first book, Dark Nexus soon.

At one point, I didn't think this story was going to become a reality. History has proven that I've not been one for finishing what I've started. But I've moved passed the doubt of  whether or not I have something here, and the doldrums of only writing when I feel inspired -whatever the hell that means. The novel will be finished and will see the light of day one way or another.

Keep checking the Short Stories section. Check is religiously. Better yet, check it every single day. I'm in the process of finishing a short story that takes place in the world of the Lighthouse Series. I'm also updating the 3 stories currently available on this site: Five Years, Coffee Shop, and Outer Heaven. Not to pull a George Lucas or anything, but I'm updating them based on current technology that wasn't available in that primitive time we look back on as 2012 . No. When those were written it was long before the world of the story was fully realized. It was before the characters were fully developed. So the 2.0 versions of these stories will fall in line with the novel. Five Years and Coffee Shop are considered backstory, but a story none the less worth telling. They follow a young Aryel Lessard as she learns how to enter the Dream. Outer Heaven will be expanded and will probably fall in the timeline a few years prior to the start of Dark Nexus.

My plan is to have the 4 short stores finished very soon. How soon? Long before July 29th. That's rather specific. I know, right! I will be at the New England Authors Expo, sitting at a table with Chris Samson. If I get the stories up on my website, for sale, in a single anthology, I will be hawking my wears at the expo and talking up Dark Nexus. If I don't get the stories up, I'll be hanging out with Samson and help promote his current projects -which are awesome, by the way! 

Since I'm a raving egomaniac, this is all very good motivation for me to get these stories completed.

So keep checking this site for an update and keep July 29th open on your calendar. It's in the middle of the week so put in the time off from work now. That's what I did. 

In other news, Bubba Burger had replaced the mundane grilling burger of old, since my awkward years in high school. They truely make a tasty burger.

The other day my wife discovered that Double B's (that's what all the cool kids are calling it...I think), make a Cheddar and Bacon burger. I can't even begin to describe the joy  and wonder that is this burger. However, I would recommend only eating just one at any given sitting, in part because people will look at you as the fat kid, and also, it's CHEDDAR CHEESE and BACON!!!!!! Treat these babies the way you would a really expensive cut of steak, or a fine sipping whiskey. Treat them with respect. Because if you don't respect these burgers, they will probably stick around long enough to cause you the most egregious and merciless pain.

Thanks for reading,

CGMcG

Welcome to my lair...not that I'm some sort of animal...

...Or maybe I am...

Breaking the format for this entry as it's been a while and I need to get back into the swing of things. 

Books worth reading:

Masters of Doom by David Kushner

Skip the audio version. All things nerd-culture have a raging hard-on for Wil Wheaton. I, thankfully, do not. Tips for reading a non-fiction book: No, it's not OK to put on a British accent when quoting something from the Guardian. Yes, I realize it's a British newspaper. It doesn't matter. Would you put on a stereotypical Japanese accent when quoting something out of Yomiuri Shimbun? No, no you wouldn't. Also, don't put on a Joseph Lieberman or Bill Clinton voice when quoting them either. It might also help not to sound like such a damn fanboy when reading the rest of the pros. Just few tips from me to you.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

It was on sale so I picked it up cheap. I'm a fan of the Dark Tower series, especially the first 4 books. King went back and updated the Gunslinger in 2003 and the end result was a really polished piece of work. I read an interview with him not long ago. Turns out the Dark Tower books were never edited. O.o I know, right! If you're looking for something from King that isn't hard horror, and more dark fantasy/sci-fi, then give this one a solid read.

3 books by JD Robb

Ok, so the Wife got me into this. I didn't think I'd like them, but they're pretty damn good. For those of you who don't know, JD Robb and Nora Roberts are the same person. No, I haven't started reading romance books, at least, not yet. The "In Death" series takes place in a Blade Runner-esk future New York City where drugs and prostitution are both legal and corporations buy planets and build fancy space station resorts. The main character is a detective. The books are mysteries. Since the author got her success in romance, the sex scenes are well done and pull no punches. Where some authors might 'fade to black' or gloss over the sex, Robb/Roberts dives right in, and it makes for both good storytelling and something different in what can be a formulaic genre.

 

What else is going on:

Got one of the main characters from my novel preserved for posterity. Here's another great piece drawn by Ben Dunn. He did a great job! I really like how the pic came out. He'll have my business for quite a while and if he's up for it, there are 10-plus characters in the novel who would look great next to this one, in my office.

And speaking of my office

Here's mine!

Here's mine!

My Father-In-Law is the best. He realizes that sometime I just need to get away from the Wife, and now I can! (However, what you don't see in the picture is that the wall behind me is only half-finished, so I won't be doing much hiding).

Seriously though, it's good to have my own space, for writing, for gaming, to just chill. When the computer was in the living room, it was easy for both me and the Wife to zone out on the computer/tv. With the office, it helps us appreciate the time we spend together, in-part, because there's a clearly defined border for the time spent apart. I don't know if I'm making much sense, but, bottom line: it's a good thing.

"Shift" & "Dust" by Hugh Howey

Book Book

It's a double-whammy tonight! I picked up Shift by Hugh Howey, for the beginning of the year. I like the book because I'm a sucker for the nitty-gritty back-story of a story. I think that's why It's taking me so long to write a damn book, because I'm all about the back-story. Shift was a prequel to Wool and explained how things got the way they got. 

Dust was the thrilling conclusion of the Silo Trilogy. It tied up a lot of the ends from both Wool and Shift. As a complete set, the trilogy was good, with Wool as the dominant book. Wool was very character-driven. You couldn't help but develop an attachment to the majority of characters, including the jerky head of IT. Shift and Dust were more about telling a story based on events. It wasn't bad. It just wasn't as emotionally stirring as the first book.

I like Howey's writing style and look forward to reading more of his stuff.

Errr...Write Write

A lot has happened in the writing world.

1. It took some hair-pulling, head-banging, and tears, lots of tears, but I was finally able to create an outline of the novel. I also figured out how I write: I create a first draft by just writing the shit out of things. I do best when this is done in a notebook. Sometime, usually between these pen-and-paper sessions, I'll put what I wrote into the computer, and during this time I'll expand on the ideas scribbled in ink and develop the story. We'll call this, Draft 1.5. Once the story is written, from roughly start to finish, I'll do myself a huge favor and outline the damn thing. The outline, in this instance, is my road map, something to keep me on track. By this point it's a game of fill-in-the-blanks. The outline helps me flesh out the plot and what I've missed, and where to include what information. After that, re-write, revise, proof and polish. It's probably not the way Stephen King does it, but shit, I'm not Stephen King.

2. Because the outline wasn't done I got into a rut. I'd been in a rut since Christmas. But that's all over. The outline is done and I'm writing strong again. I hammered out 2 major scenes over the weekend and snow days. 

3. Contacted Ben Dunn, and gave him a overly detailed character sketch for my main character, Aryel. For weeks now I had and idea of how she should look. And at the last minute I scrapped this idea for something 1000 times awesomer! Both The Wife, and Samson approve, so the commission promises to be kick-ass. Ben is unbelievably awesome, so I know the pic is going to come out looking great.

4. I want to start a simple D&D campaign that doesn't involve a lot of stats and number crunching, focusing almost entirely on the story, and taking place in the universe of the novel. I think that'd be really cool and would help me further build the world. Player's would create unique characters, not characters from the book, and they'd get lost in this crazy dream world. I don't know what kind of interest people would have for that, and I'm not the best DM, but hey, it could be fun. Any takers?

 

"The Ratman Forgive You, this Time."

Read a Book

That's right, we're reviewing Stephen King's The Stand! So dust off your Blue Oyster Cult CD, and give Kareem Abdule Jabbar some serious consideration for a Golden Globe, because we're kicking it back to 1994 with The Stand TV miniseries!

No, I'm kidding. My thoughts on the very long book instead:

I first read The Stand in high school. For a slow reader I think I read it into my freshman year of college. Probably not, but I'm sure it took me a while. The book gave me nightmares about dead people. At the time, dead people were still a scary thing, probably because I hadn't been to too many funerals, and I was still somewhat scarred from watching Stand by Me at an age much younger than whatever the appropriate age for watching Stand by Me is. Dead body's were scary shit for a little kid and I'm still a little unnerved by them even today. 

I made the mistake of watching the 4-part miniseries before reading the book, so character development took a back seat to the Girl from the Breakfast Clubthe dude who would later go on to have no legs in Forest Gumpand the former basketball star who received top billing and a spot on the cover for his portrayal of the 'king of the minor characters'. 

The re-read presented an aspect of The Stand that my still-developing teenage mind would have scarcely grasped.

Everyone dies. Sorry if I just ruined the book for you. The world is wiped out by a flu-like virus doctored up in a government lab. Spoiler Alert!

King is known for his pop-culture references. It's part of his style that makes him so widely read. He throws in these nuances and the reader is ushered into his world by the connection to real life events. Simply by playing David Bowie on a character's radio, King has put your into his world, which is not unlike our own.

In The Stand, King does something diabolical with this use of pop-culture. Simply by referencing George H.W. Bush, Madonna, the Rolling Stones, and others, -putting the reader into this all-to-similar world- conjures up a much darker, deeper level of horror. Without explicitly saying it, the reader infers that these people, these famous, well-known people have all died of the plague. Tragedy always hits the hardest when it happens to someone you know, and the band, the politician, and the, whatever the hell Madonna is, are all known enough by the masses to bring the tragedy right to the doorstep of the mind. It makes for great writing when you can pull the reader into your world.

I'm glad I was able to appreciate The Stand now that I'm older and hopefully a little bit wise. 

Write a Book

Taking a break from the writing to gain some perspective on the story as a whole. Working on a rough outline and figuring out pacing. As one who does not like to outline, this was a discouraging process. But I think I've found what works best for me. And that's the great thing about this whole writing thing: there isn't a magic formula or set of steps that must be followed to the letter in order to make this work.

I've started scribbling out the main points, not chapter-by-chapter but in a rough mix between scenes and changes to the settings. I'm keeping myself from getting hung up on details and just sticking to character development and major events, and how they connect to one another as the story unfolds. I've also thrown out some ideas that turned into obstacles as things progressed.

I'm sure one day this writing section will be exciting, maybe even enthralling to read. For now, well, you'll just have to settle for the mundane. 

There was one exciting bit of writing news that I can add here. Daniel O'Malley, author of The Rook heard about me awarding him with Best Read of 2014 from my last post. He had this to say:

So I think that makes me an official member of the fan club. I'm going to have to learn the secret handshake, and hope the rites of initiation don't involve paddles.

Hey Dan, I'm honored to have a place in  your pool room!

NanoWrimo 2014

So I haven't written here in a while. November was insane and a huge part of it had to do with the annual National Novel Writing Month that I felt compelled to enter. I'm a sadist.

I've been averaging 2000 words a day and thought that it would be a breeze. How wrong I was. It's difficult to write when you're under the gun. And with NaNoWriMo, it's like chasing a speeding train and every time you stop to catch your breath, ie, get caught up at work late, get home late, and then sit down to try and write, you've created a much larger gap in your word count and have to write that much more to fill it.

Anyway, it's over. I am both exhausted and thrilled to have seen it to the end. It made the frustrations of the months seem worth it.

What did I write about?

Funny you should ask. I set out writing Book 2 in the Dream series. Book 1 is being revised and going through re-writes. I put that on hold to attack Book 2. I now have a halfway revised Book 1, and a really really really rough rough draft of Book 2.

When I*m ready to pick up Book 2 again, in a non-NanoWrimo setting, I'll be able to further develop the stuff that worked and refine it into a more concise story.

NaNoWriMo is a great exercise for writers and people who have toyed with the idea of becoming writers. What established authors say all the time is if you want to be a writer, you have to write, and read, A LOT. And it's true. No denying it. And what they mean when they say write a lot, is, you need to get into the habit of writing. You need to write beyond when you feel like it. You have to write even if the scene you're working on sucks hard and isn't going where you expected. You need to write even when you'd rather play on the computer, surf the web, or watch The Blacklist, which is the best show on television and you're un-American to think otherwise.

Writing everyday flexes that invisible, magical muscle that puts you in the writing mindset, and trains you to be able to write even when you're not inspired or in-the-mood. It also makes it easier to accept that not every session is going to be epic or riveting. Some sessions may be downright boring. But that's what editing and revisions are for: to fix or throw out what doesn't work. Even if you're writing is below par, you can feel good that you're doing it, that you didn't put it off, even for James Spader.

So start writing damnit! And mark the 1st of November 2015 as the day you commit to writing your ass off for an entire month.

Wool: A Story about a Sheep Herder in Nuclear Winter

Reading:

Wool by Hugh Howey is -in a word- awesome. In fact, stop reading this right now, go to your closest book store, or Audible and buy like 10 copies of the book. Don't worry, I'll wait.

wonka

I did a report about the reinvention of the publishing industry in a digital age, the emergence of indie authors and new exciting business models like Kindle Direct Publishing, and the stuff Scott Sigler was doing on his podcast. I don't remember a whole hell of a lot from the report, but I do remember talking about Hugh Howey. This was a ballsy move on my part, seeing how at the time I hadn't read Wool, and was basically going by what I had heard from others. Still, I did get an A on the report. Well, I don't know much more about Hugh Howey than I did before, but I'll tell you this:

He self published his story on Amazon Kindle Direct, people loved it, and he became a successful author. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

There's a reason why people love Wool. And that reason is: It's a freaking awesome story! It's 5 parts. Part 1 really sets the tone for the story and it only builds from there.

What stuck out for me was how Howey subtly created sympathy for the antagonist, without doing a complete 180. You don't stop hating the 'bad guy', but you understand his motives.

A few books from now I'll be writing about the sequel, Shiftfollowed by Dust.

Writing:

I've started writing a series of vignettes, each centering around one of my 3 main characters. It takes place very late in the story so I guess now I have a goal to write up to. The 3rd part of the book was very rough in the 1st Draft, so I have a feeling there will be several iterations before I get it right.

In other news:

I started watching Gotham and I've been pleasantly surprised. I was a skeptic but the first episode really brought me around. I suggest you give it a shot, even if you're not a Batman fan.

The Gerard Way concert is a week from Sunday and I'll be getting my tickets tomorrow. One truly hasn't lived until they find themselves excited for Brit-Pop 10+ years after the fact. 

And tomorrow is the wife's birthday and this big lug has a dinner to plan. 

"The Target" by David B and the Eclectic Lemonade Orchestra

Reading is Good:

David Baldacci will forever hold a place in my heart for two very good reasons: The Camel Club and the Will Robie series'. I'm not a big Mystery/Thriller guy, but I do make the exception for these two ongoing stories. The Camel Club is basically about a former CIA badass on par with Robert McCall from the 1980s tv show The Equalizer. In a similar vein of badassery, Will Robie is a CIA assassin who is paid with our US tax dollars to kill ruthless dictators and other ne'er-do-wells in a cold and calculating way that only one such as he can do so well.

The Target is the 3rd book in the Robie series and though the main story involves a plot by a rogue nation that could bring about the end of civilization as we know it, there's a very nice subplot that involves the wholesale killing of a bunch of neo-Nazis. If that's not a recipe for success than I don't know what is.

It's not all killing though. Baldacci puts a human face to his ruthless characters, which is a good thing because otherwise this would have been a really depressing book. Like the other 2 books in the series, this one was pretty good. Not the best, but it answered a lot of questions that came up by the end of book 2.

After trudging through American Psycho this was a much needed pallet cleanser. I went into it knowing it wouldn't be a heavy read and since it's part of a series, a successful series there wasn't a lot of fear that any of the main characters would be killed off. I hope that doesn't come as a spoiler to anyone and if it does, well...oops. 

Up Next: A really exciting retelling of Wool by Hugh Howey. I suggest you all read it before the next post.

 

Can We Start the Story Now:

Not to bore the hell out of you but I'm still still still revising Chapter 2.

When I'm not doing that, I've been playing Dues Ex: Human Revolution. It's a dark sci-fi game with androids, or humans with robot parts...something like that. It takes place in the future, in Detroit. It's good to know that Detroit is still around in the future.

'merican Psycho

Books:

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis is the story of a really really angry man starring the man who is Batman in the film adaptation. The later has nothing to do with anything pertaining to the book, I just like to mention Batman whenever possible.

*Warning* This post could possibly contain spoilers. I'm not sure yet but you've been warned.

Patrick Bateman has got to be the angriest Wall Street investment banker to ever make Scrooge MacDuck amounts of money, in the 1980s. He's so pissed off that he literally gets off by murdering prostitutes, coworkers, total strangers and the occasional ex-girlfriend in the most graphic possible ways....or does he? It's a tricky story. Part of the appeal with American Psycho is that the violence and sex is so over the top that your mind is forced into asking the question whether or not what is happening is really happening. It taps into that part of the human psyche that makes us angry when we're cut off on the highway. Most of us keep it together and drive on our merry way. Some of us act out in the so-called heat of the moment and those people tend to end up in jail. However all of us will not hesitate to conjure up some kinda of insane scenario in our minds where the wrong-doer is harmed in some fatalistic way. I can't be the only one who things this way, right? I'm not the crazy one, am I? Anyway, Bateman either takes this mental roleplay to the extreme, or he's killing people willy-nilly in a world without competent law enforcement. It was the 80's after all.

I enjoyed the book. It was a good read, a change of pace to anything that I've read lately. Can I recommend American Psycho? Kinda. If you're squeamish in any way, you'd probably do well to leave this book on the shelf. The murder scenes often come out of nowhere, OR they are staged so well that the suspense is built up to a point where you can almost stick your finger through it, like a squishy piece of red velvet cake soaked in blood....orange juice.

If your survived Event Horizon, or happen to watch it annually at Christmas time, the way I watch It's a Wonderful Life, then Bateman's antics might seem tame to you and I would seriously consider keeping away from other people for the betterment of society. But if you do OK with gore, then I suggest you pick up this book. It's important to know your history and how Yuppies and Hippies are pretty much the same tiresome species, only one tends to bath more and wears designer clothing.

Writing Them:

2 entries in 2 days! I'm making up for lost time. I read a lot of books and wanted to get caught up before finishing another one. Not a whole lot has gone on between now and the last entry. Since I haven't done this yet, I just want to thank anyone who's reading this, and who checks the site from time to time. I don't have a huge following but it would appear that the number is growing. That's cool. I really appreciate it. One day, when I've got something worth reading I'll post it here so it'll be exclusive to those who were here from the beginning. Then you can be all hipster and say how you knew me before I was famous. Anyway, it's great that you're here and I hope that I'm writing something interesting enough for you to keep coming back and reading it. 

The Martian

Books is Books

The Martian by Andy Weir was recommended to me by one of the writer/hosts of Writing Excuses, a podcast about, well, writing. I'm going to give you the same pitch I got from the show: It's a science fiction Robinson Crusoe story.

That's all I really remember from the pitch. It was a long time ago, before I traded podcasts for audio books during my commute to work. Advertising for Audible can be dangerous for podcasting. Though I highly recommend Writing Excuses if you're even remotely interested in the craft. One day when I've written a wheel barrel full of books I hope to give a little back as well.  

The Martian is about a man who gets stranded on Mars. He wields the power of science to keep himself alive. Will he survive? Or will he die, tragically of starvation, exposure, or -dare we even think it: martians of the little green variety?

Read the book.

Despite being overly saturated with hard science, it was a very exciting read and you really felt for both the main character as well as everyone else. In a way I was reminded of Armageddon, only without the meteor, Steve Buscemi, or terrible acting from the rest of the cast.

Writing is Books

I spent the weekend feeling anxious about the progress of the novel. My wife thinks I'm being too hard on myself. I probably am. I want to get this revision done. I've had a lot of trouble reworking Chapter 2. Sunday was spent restructuring it. Part of the problem has been that there isn't any good action happening at the beginning of the story. I think I may have fixed that by putting an action scene in Chap 2. We'll see how it goes. I have some writing to do, but I'm working off of a foundation, stuff I had written that needs to be tweaked here and there to fit into the chapter. Once those changes are made, and a few more chapters written, I should have Parts 1 and 2 complete. On to the rest of the story!

The State of Nature: The "Glass-Half-Empty" Kind

On Reading:

If Thomas Hobbes has taught us anything, it's that people are assholes and left to their own devices will lie, cheat and kill you if it would work out to their benefit. I'm paraphrasing. He was a real uplifting guy.

I'm reading two books, given to me as gifts, by Chris Samson, that take two popular story concepts, throwing them into Hobbes' State of Nature. I don't know if Samson recommended these books for this reason, or if I'm just in a rainy-day mood, but the parallel is definitely there.

The first book was, Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson, which takes the popular superhero genre, and asks the question: What if all superheros were self-serving bastards who kill without thought or remorse and do nothing but feed their own wants and needs? Steelheart is the first YA book that I've read since the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld. It's written in the first-person from the eyes of one who has suffered great loss at the hands of, Steelheart; and extremely powerful super human known as an 'Epic'. He's basically Superman under the influence of Red Kryptonite, in a world where this is no other kind of Kryptonite to fall back on. The story establishes a pecking order between humans and epics. Steelheart is at the top of the order, ruling over a city that was once Chicago. Humanity has become a subservient class to the epics. The story makes it clear that there are no good epics.

 I enjoyed the book. I got somewhat bored halfway through, however the ending made up for any lull in the middle. Great payoff.

The 2nd book takes the whole magic school for wizards and fantastical lands of magic tales, and gives it a raw and gritty edge. The book is, The Magicians, by Lev Grossman. This first book in a 3-part series seems to parody/pay tribute to The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, while taking a number of relentless jabs at the Harry Potter series. Here's a text I sent to Samson after getting about an hour or so in: 

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Despite how "dark" and "edgy" the Harry Potter books might appear, even in the later half of the series, they're essentially modern day fairy tales with the same kind of whimsical disregard to issues people face in the real world. What Grossman tries to do (and succeeds), is take the school of magic trope, and melds it with the life of a typical college kid; from sex, infighting within their respective clique, recreational drug use, and binge drinking. Oh, and there's magic too. The story goes out of its way not to candy-coat anything in an otherwise 'family friendly' sub-genre.

The very end of the book was anything but satisfying. Some of this can be forgiven as it's the 1st book in the series, but I felt the author was reaching for some sort of surprise ending that was supposed to leave the reader both guessing and wanting more. Instead it felt somewhat try-hard and artificial. But I cannot judge The Magicians too harshly as I was entertained throughout the book, and despite the bad ending, I was left wanting more, glad to see 2 more books in my future.

On Writing:

The App Store had this game as their App of the Week, called Deemo that I picked up for the iPad. It's sorta like Rockband, with the only instrument being a piano. You tap the notes as they fall from top of the screen to bottom. It's a way for an instrumental illiterate like me to feel like hot-shit playing a piano. The game samples from real composers, so through it I discovered V.K. a Taiwanese pianist.

I've been listening to his music during writing sessions and it's both calming, and inspiring. I generally listen to something while I write. Most of the 1st Draft of this story was written to My Chemical Romance, primarily Black Parade and Danger Days. The 1st Draft was written with a lot of raw emotion, which was murder for my beta readers, but helped me get the story -broken as it was- out there. Now that I'm in the revision stage, I have a lot more that I need to think about, so losing the vocals but still having music to focus me, helps in this process.  

Jonathan (Dr.) Strange and Mr. Norrell

Reading the Book:

Thanks to being poisoned at a very young age by comic books, whenever "strange" is used in relation to a person's name, my mind immediately arrives at, Dr. Strange. I'm not even going to begin to explain how little sense this makes or how it would even tie into Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

The story takes place during the Napoleonic Wars. It could be considered historical fiction were it not for the presence of magic. What sets the story apart from other books about magic, was the distinction between those how use magic; practical magicians, and those who simply study the history of magic; theoretical magicians.

While reading I was reminded of The Count of Monte Cristo for two reasons: Both stories take place in and around the time of Napoleon, and both Dumas and Clarke include historical figures as characters, some of which are instrumental to the plot. I have a very deep fondness for The Count of Monte Cristo. It's a great story and the movie version starring TV's Jim Caviezel has reach epic re-watch-ability status. In fact, while writing this, I feel like spending a good part of my morning setting up the old xBox and dusting off the DVD of Monte Cristo.

Much of my reading is done in the form of audiobooks. I'm one of those people with the audacity to think that listening counts as reading. I read this way because, well, I have a long commute to work. But also, there would be a significant gap between blog entries were I to read all these books the old fashion way, because I'm a terribly slow reader. And a book like Jonathan Strange was not a quick read, even for a fast reader. It's not shy on content, and several times it runs the risk of losing the reader in anecdotes, -though interesting- that causes one to question how it pertains to the overarching story. But you need to stick with it! Like Tolkien, it's more about the world than the adventure. However unlike Tolkien, you're not stuck in some weirdo's cabin for hundreds of pages, or arguing about the price of ponies while the f-ing wraiths are at your back door.

But back to reading in a more traditional sense for a minute. I picked up some books these past few weeks that I'm excited to read but since I am a slow reader, I thought I'd talk about them now, and then really talk about them later.

Off the freebie cart at the local library I grabbed a hardbound addition of The Damnation Game by Clive Barker. Hooked me from the first sentence.

Went to the New England Author's Expo and connected with a lot of fellow indie authors. I met some really cool people who I hope to stay in contact with. It was really encouraging to meet cool folks who are in the same boat I'm in...or perhaps they're in somewhat nicer boats with engines and a lido deck, while I'm still trying to figure out what the hell to do with these paddles.

But I also reconnected with author, Vlad V, and picked up all 3 of his books. I'm currently reading The Button, which is Part 1 of a 2 book series. I suggest you look him up and buy his stuff, Yorkic, and Brachman's Underworld. He's linked here and on this site's main sidebar.

Also got The Big Book of Genre Stories by Dale T. Phillips, which looks to be a little bit of everything and I can't wait to start it. Dale's a cool guy and he gave me a mention in his blog so I thought I return the favor. Check him out.

I'll be talking more about these at a later date but I wanted to put them out there because they're from some very cool people who love what they're doing probably a little more than I do. Also, there's Clive Barker to, so, ya know.

Writing the Book:

I wrote some lore. I think lore is important even in a story that is set in the "real world". But when you're building a unique, unexplored world from scratch, it's a necessity. I tend to think a lot of this lore, this world building will be in the finished manuscript, but it's also helpful to write such things in order to help one understand the world they're trying to write. It may be the stuff of history text books not appropriate for the story, but it's required by the author to flesh out ideas and create a consistent universe.

I write chronologically. I start at Chapter 1 and go up from there. At least, that's what I've grown accustomed to doing in the world of First Drafts. During this revision phase, I seem to be all over the place. Not sure if I like that. Currently I've gone back a few chapters and am fleshing out scenes that are either non-existent, or lacking. Revisions are like washing a car. In the first draft you've sprayed it down, going over it with soap and a sponge. The car is clear, but now all the little imperfections are easier to see and it's time to start buffing them out. Often this process takes longer than the initial write. At least that what I'm finding.