C. G. McGinn

Writer

Ramblings about Books and Writing

Filtering by Tag: Stephen King

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.

 

 

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:

Master 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!

The Forest for the Trees

A while back I came to the conclusion that if I'm spending time reading books about writing when I could be writing, then I'm doing something wrong. Yes, the information in these books are important, and the successful authors who write these kinds of books are doing so in a way to give back and to inspire a new generation of writes. I get it. But I think it can be very easy for the unproven writer to do nothing but merely study the craft, never putting what they learn into practice. 

I don't know. For me, so much of what I do is discovery and you can't discover anything until you go out and explore and take risks. Write! Write with no expectations. You're not going to discover the Lost Ark during every writing session. But relish in those moments when you make a major breakthrough, and except that a big part of exploration is getting from Point A to Point B. Even Indiana Jones had to get on a plane and fly for hours before reaching Nepal. 

I've made one exception to my stance on books about writing. I've almost finished reading "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft" by Stephen King.

My rational is that if I'm going to read about writing, it might as well be from one who has clearly been successful at it. Plus, I like the way he writes. Plus, having read most of the book, I've discovered that the way I write, my process, is very similar to the way he does it. That's not me being egocentric. I was just as surprised to find out as you.

I don't want to go into a big thing about the little similarities I've found between writing style blah blah blah. It's there and I'm happy about it. That doesn't mean I also have the same writer work ethic, or self discipline as Mr. King. I could very well be a hack writer the same way Seth Macfarlane is a hack whatever-the-hell-he-does. 

In other news, I've begun to read and edit Draft 1 of my completed story. When I announced this on Facebook, I got a lot of Likes. I'm going to go ahead and assume that the Likes were because of the writing and not because I was at Buffalo Wild Wings drinking Long Island Ice Teas. It felt good to see the support, you have no idea just how thankful I am, seriously.  

I think I have the title, but I'm not going to share it just yet. I think I ALSO have the title and a rough idea for the next book in this series. Oddly enough the title I came up with is also the name of a song by U2. I'm going to start writing it out in longhand and making notes for this next story while I edit the current one. Not sure if I'll be putting any of it into the computer until the first project is done. But who knows. This whole process has to have room to change. 

I'll leave with this:

Strange Verses own Chris Samson and I hung out yesterday to do what all aspiring writers like to do: Eat Mexican and watch old episodes of The Critic. In between that time, we drank coffee at the local coffee shop and gave each other writing challenges. Each of us took a turn describing a setting in a very general sense. For example, one of mine was simply, "A Wake in a funeral home". From there, he and I wrote two very interpretations of that setting. His involved a futuristic UFC-style fighter who died due to his power-armor being too heavy for his body to carry. And mine was about a conspiracy where the closed casket at the wake was in fact empty and the spouse/girlfriend of the diseased was tormented at the thought of who besides she knew about it. Two very different ideas formed from the same setting.

All-Time Best Books or All-Time (in my opinion)

Ok. Been away for a little while. I didn't leave town or anything. Just couldn't write. Anyone who works with me will tell you that the first two weeks of school are probably the most difficult. There are no winners, people! Whether you're a teacher, a janitor, or a lowly member of the IT Department, you're pretty much going to double-down on a Marine Corps Hell Week. This year was unusually rough compared to other years. 

On top of that, my last post left a rather unflattering image of a seething Comic Book Guy and perhaps alienated the geeks in the audience. To this I say, "Nerds, my people, lend me your ears! For I do not loath all of you! I merely ask that you relax when it comes to the things you're passionate about. Life's too short. "


Anyway, down to the meat of it.  

Had a great conversation about books with a coworker today. Her daughter is currently reading Misery by Stephen King and it sent me back to when I was a young impressionable 13 or 14 year old, when I brought The Stand, another awesome book by King, to youth group and got an ear-full from the youth pastor. I read a lot of King back then. The Stand is probably my favorite of his work, but The Dark Tower Series comes in a close second. If I were to group Stephen King books in order of CGMcGinn awesomeness, it would go like this:  

1. The Stand

2. The Gunslinger (Book 1 in the Dark Tower series, duh.)

3. The Wasteland (which is book 3 in the Drk. Twr. series) 

4. The Green Mile (I read it first in a serialized form and had to wait each month for a new section of it to come out. The suspense that came from waiting was insane). 

5. Wizard and Glass (Drk Twr. 4)

6. 11/22/63

7. The Shining

8. Cell

That's just books by King. You have to be in a Stephen King mood though, to read Stephen King. The Stand gave me crazy nightmares when I read it. I think if I read nothing but Steven King, I'd probably have the same feelings I have toward George RR Martin's "Game of Thrones" books.

And while we're on the subject, A Game of Thrones is definitely on my list of great reads. All the well written prose, the suspense and surprises, and character development found through the entire series can be captured in his first book. A Game of Thrones really could stand on it's own. Everyone should read the first book. They can probably skip the rest if it isn't their cup 'o tea. I can sum up the rest of the series by saying that, a lot of shit happens, a lot of people get the shit end of the stick, and a lot of people, good and bad die. 

Favorite "Sci-fi/Cyber-Punk series about a dystopian future where people live in cramped squalor, and hackers travel through cyberspace hacking a ruling class of corporations, gangsters, and artificial intelligence demigods".  Obviously it's William Gibson's Neromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. If you have not read these books then you are a sad and pathetic individual and should feel the shame I am sending through the interwebs directly to you, yes you...sitting there, waiting for a hotpocket to finish in the microwave. I see you. You disgust me! You also need to read Neromancer and all shall be forgiven.

Fav 'hard' sci-fi would be Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I have a feeling that Ender's Game is on a lot of peoples lists. It's sort of a big deal. 

Other books that are kind of a big deal and should be read are: 

1984

A Brave New World

Flowers for Algernon

Philip K Dick wrote a lot of stories and books that became big movies that you've probably seen. He wrote Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck, and more recently, The Adjustment Bureau, (just to name a few). Another book that he wrote that also became a movie, though it did not receive the critical acclaim as Blade Runner and Minority Report, was A Scanner Darkly. Keanu Reeves stared in the movie version, (not the book), along with a drugged-out Robert Downey Jr. (who probably wasn't acting at the time). I enjoyed the movie and I absolutely LOVED the book. Dick was heavily influenced by the drug culture of the 1970s and A Scanner Darkly was a unique look at an interesting fusion between the culture and science fiction. 

This is running long, so I'll end with Kurt Vonnegut Jr's "Cat's Cradle" and "Slaughterhouse 5", as well as "Breakfast of Champions, " which was adapted into a horrible movie starring Moonlighting's, Bruce Willis.

I'm sure I missed a lot of other great reads that are also in the collection. Should a discussing happen to occur below, I'll probably share more.  

 

Winter is Coming

I was never one for the hype while the hype was at its peak. When Harry Potter was at the height of popularity, I was disinterested. In all fairness I did have to wait for the final books to come out. But I was definitely not the hipster, "I liked them before they were popular" of Harry Potter. 

I was also not the Song of Ice and Fire hipster either. And I'd like to think that I didn't buy into all the hype that spawned when HBO made the fantasy series into a show. I watched season 1 only after is came out on DVD, and currently I'm reading book 1, "A Game of Thrones" via audio book. In fact, I'm currently listening to it while I type this. It's hard to do these two things at once. Had I not seen the show first, this would have been very confusing. 

All the major spoilers of the past 3 seasons of the show, and I'm assuming this is the case for the first 3 books, have been revealed to me thanks to the Internet and my own curiosity. The 'shocking' moments feel forced to me. It's as if Martin took the most shocking and sensational path for the sake of being shocking. It leaves a strange taste in my mouth. It doesn't seem wrong, but it feels cheap. It reminds me of how Stephen King will shock his readers by killing off endearing characters in the most gruesome and sudden ways imaginable. These characters are often female, young, and play a key role in the story up until they are hideously disfigured and often dispatched. Two examples would be Cell and 11/22/63 come to mind.  

That's not to say that I'm not enjoying Martin's work. The intrigue and character development is some of the best I've read. And the characters feel real. They are flawed just like real people. There is no Hollywood glamorization to them. Martin is to Tolkien as Deadwood is to a spaghetti-western. I'm looking forward to seeing where the stories go beyond the show.