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Time is too precious to waste on boring books. (Opinion)

I don’t write editorials, but this is still an opinion piece. I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve tried to read some books and been incapable. There are just some books that for whatever reason may not actually be worth your while to read. I imagine someone out there could disagree with me about that. I do know there are people in the camp of reading something through to the end simply because they bought it or they are into self-torture.

However, it’s ok if you’re not masochistic with the books you accumulate. If you’re reading physical books and find yourself unable to get past chapter 1, it’s not a waste. You can donate to libraries or your friends or your fireplace during cold winters neighbors. If you collect ebooks you doing have to worry about them taking up space. I also look at reading like this: just because I can’t get though something now, doesn’t mean I won’t circle back around to it at some point in the distant future. When I’ve already read all the other good books. I also hold the notion that I could end up pleasantly surprised.

But sometimes books are just terrible. And they have no redemptive qualities that you can imagine. I’ve actually deleted some books from my kindle library having never got past a few chapters in because they were so bad that I knew it wasn’t something I could ever condone.

Life is short, read the good stuff and don’t worry about the rest.

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The Trilogy On Hiatus

Whew, it’s been a while. So much for my attempt at hand-writing posts. Oh well. And in that vein, I want to say that it is with a heavy heart that I am putting the Owen Hunter on a permanent (well, we’ll see how long) hiatus.

This isn’t one of those serials that’s doing anything. I have rewritten the 3rd installment over 4 different times, and each version just seems to lose the thread more and more. So, after all these years, we can lay Owen Hunter’s trials and travails to rest. I have to move on, much as it pains me to leave all that in the dust.

I left the 2nd of the 3 books on a real cliff-hanger, and well…it’ll just have to be like that. I’m sorry. I can’t tell you what happens, because each time I’ve tried to push the door open into that world again, I’m led down false corridors, boring scenes, and unsatisfactory character developments. I might be able to push on at some point before I die, and if I do I might even rewrite the entire book the way I thought it should be from the outset. But most likely not. I want to concentrate my efforts on other, better written, tales. Namely that of The Chronicles of Ionor which is in edit mode now. It’s also just one book. Think about the Sherlock Holmes ‘series’ which is not linear in nature, add high fantasy to modern everyday life, and you’ll start to get an inkling of it.

I’m excited about this upcoming book. I’m finally learning how to write (better, anyway) and there’s no use in keeping out a story that not only isn’t doing well in terms of reach and sales but that I can’t focus on well enough to end properly.

I knew you’d understand. And if you don’t, let me know about it. Tell me if you think I’m wrong to do this. Otherwise, I’ll take your silence as tacit agreement.

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How I Get My Ideas

I think the big question everyone has in mind for their favorite author is, “How did you ever get the idea for that story?”

I’m not saying I’m anyone’s favorite author. But I will tell you how I get my ideas for a story.

Usually the idea arises from a confluence of emotions and thoughts born out of context, memory, wishful thinking and a little imagination.

Imagine you’re driving to another state. Let’s pretend that you only have the radio to listen to (instead of your iPod, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes etc.) and when you cross the border your radio station of choice fizzles out. You tune the radio until you find something you can enjoy (or at least tolerate) but here’s the catch (there’s always a catch): it comes in short bursts of clarity followed by static and cross-interference from other station where you hear other voices too briefly and faintly to discern well.

That’s kind of how stories arise in my own mind. They come from witnessing my mind and the world around me. Both are broadcasting different things and sometimes they simply get jumbled up together. The fragments of static are usually the places I go looking most carefully.

This is pretty much how The Wizard & The Jewel came about. All I remember was reading the beginning of someone else’s book about a witch, a mystery cozy and it got me to thinking about Harry Potter and then I was thinking about Superman and next thing you know I was in a tizzy about our political system. Voila, the seeds for my next novel were planted.

Out of that jumbled mess is growing a fine tree of fantasy that I never in a million years would have guessed I would be writing. I can’t wait to share it with you all.

I’m willing to bet that other writers go through something like this in their own world when seeing the glimmer of their new novel in the rough so to speak.

One last thing. What I started out writing has changed a good bit from those initial pieces. But the core of them are still the foundational background.

Are you a writer? How do you get your ideas? Sound off in the comments below.

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The Fresh Unknown

Once upon a time I held a larger audience spellbound with the kind of work I used to do. At that time I was big into auras and healing. I worked with that large audience mostly one on one. I cultivated a small following and got by on my entrepreneurial spirit and mystique.

Fast forward 10 years and things have changed. I’m not the same guy I used to be in that regard anymore. In fact, I’ve retired from that line of work altogether. I still sell the book, and sometimes I even pick it up and learn something about myself by reading it. But I’ve moved on. I’m interested in different stuff. I’m much more pulled to telling fictional stories.

That’s where I’m keeping my focus. I used to believe in fixating myself ‘as such and such’. It was an identity thing.

Many of us will go through identity crises in our lifetime if we’re lucky enough to. You might believe you’re this or that, but honestly in this world you’re really whoever you want to be. And with that sense of freedom comes a great responsibility and duty to find out what works for you for now, for a time. Maybe you’ll be doing the kind of work you’ve always dreamed of and it will be great until the day you die. But for many of you out there, it won’t work out like that. We’ll end up doing the stuff that has to get done whether we like it or not, and if we’re really lucky, we’ll pursue our dreams in our spare time. We’ll refer to our dreams as hobbies, craftsmanship, passion, or whatever else. That’s amazing.

The other day as I was barreling down the highway to meet with my sister it occurred to me that real artistic expression can take years. This led to another realization: art takes years in a society that values expediency and immediacy over quality much of the time. This isn’t to say that a quality product isn’t deeply appreciated by the masses, but it is to say we might not (collectively speaking) have the patience to wait on it. We’re on a never ending train of forward motion watching things pass by, getting fed up with the new thing and waiting for the new-new thing to come along instead.

Instead of speaking to the inner workings of this malcontent attitude of modernity I can instead say that old phrase in all earnestness: good things come to those who wait.

I’m still working on a couple of books. They’ve taken me a couple of years. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to rewrite from scratch the 3rd and final installment of the Owen Hunter Trilogy, even though I’ve written it twice already now.

The Wizard & The Jewel : The Chronicles of Ionor is currently in edit mode, and I may need to an a chapter and definitely get some kinks worked out before its released. It could be middle of next year before it makes an appearance in virtual bookstores.

For the first time in my life my audience has dwindled down to a bare nub. I’m fine with that. Hey, I’ll even encourage you to sign up for my newsletter. It’s over there on the sidebar near the top (a link to it is) and I’ll be so happy to know someone wants to read my works if you subscribe soon. I actually won’t send anything out until I have a new book release. So there’s that to comfort your inbox woes.

My life as a writer is ‘the fresh unknown’. I don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. And you don’t know much about me as a writer. Take a look here, here, and here for places where my books are sold. You might find something you’ll like to read.

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About a short story I just wrote

Yesterday after work I took a nap. When I woke up and sat on the couch for a bit I surfed YouTube and found a brief Interview with Stephen King about short stories. I’ve written short stories before, I have a steadily building collection of them, in fact, but something the man said struck me.

“Writing short stories is how I started out. Sometimes I’d write what I thought would be a short story to discover it actually turned into a novel. Misery started out as a short story.”

He also went on to say that the ideal length of a short story was around two thousand words, or maybe just a tiny bit over. But any longer than that and it wasn’t a short story anymore and it wasn’t a novel. That is when you introduce the novella.

Well, for some reason I was inspired. I don’t, as a rule, take naps all that often. I have too much I want to do in life like many of us do that precludes napping.

I wrote a short story that just burst out of me. For now I’m calling it “The Bone Tired Hero” but I’m sure the title will change when I’m done editing it. When I’m done it will go into a collection of short stories and maybe, one day, it will get published somewhere. Or, I might–if prompted by you nice folks out there–publish it here for all to download for free as a PDF or something. It’s short, a touch over two thousand words.

It’s a suspenseful short story and it really grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. I like the twist near the end, in fact there are a couple of twists. It looks one way as you’re reading it, and then it’s revealed that something else is going on.

Also it speaks to our times in the #metoo movement (of which I support fully) and which is fresh in all our minds.

I can’t find the meme now, but I read something to the effect of: “Studies show that relationships last longer when the man isn’t a total douche-bag.”

I’m still laughing at that one.

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To kill a character

Or why it’s taken me 3.5 years to write the 3rd installment of this series.

Death in fiction is an end to a cycle. Sometimes it can serve a purpose beyond its face-value. The main villain finally dies. A hero is made because he or she dies in the service of making sure someone more important lives, that sort of thing. I’m working with an interesting concept in which someone must die in order to make a difference in something called The Astral Realm. I’ve italicized that because this is only a notion that works well with the book I’ve already written. The context has been set up well in advance. It’s also something readers may or may not see coming. I’m not going to give it details here because if there are other people who have read the Owen Hunter Series (the first two available books anyhow), I don’t want to provide a spoiler before the book is even out.

Even in my writing, I don’t take the death of characters as light subjects. If it can’t really further a purpose, move the storyline along well, or just seems gratuitous, I tend to skip it. Often times the characters in my books do get hurt quite badly but would make it out alive, if maimed for life in some cases. 

Here’s what I think. By and large, we are resilient creatures. Sure, we might be worried our loved ones could die of X while doing Y at any point. Everyone deals with life-and-death scenarios playing out in our heads (or is that just me?) every day. Sometimes it is truly justified–like if a loved one has type 1 diabetes for example or some other life-threatening disease that’s not curable–but most of the time our worries are just that. Most people can walk down steps on an icy winter day without incident. Oddly enough more people don’t get run over in parking lots, and very rarely do terrorists attempt to hijack the grocery store for money, fame, or some other reason we can’t know. 

Most of the time we make it home without crashing our car, falling off a bike to be crushed by an oncoming motorist, or poisoned by an ex-lover at a gala…you get my drift. 9 times out of 10 we’re alive and well despite the seemingly insurmountable odds against our very survival.

So when I do kill off a character in a book, or a series as the case may be, I want it to really count for something in the end. And this time I do have that justification. Here’s a hint: it’s someone crucial to the plot, someone, you won’t expect, and it may even be more people than you expected it to be. It all serves to save the world in which Owen Hunter and his friends live. 

I haven’t really been asked why its taken me so long to get this book out. The short answer: I must get this right. The slightly longer answer is this: I have to ensure that there’s coherence in this 3rd and final book in the series. The conclusion to this very long book has to not just make sense, but it has to evoke a feeling from me, its author. And as I approach writing scenes I don’t particularly want to write I know it’s because it is pinching a delicate nerve in my soul to do so. I’m going back to writing a scene right after this post, as a matter of fact, that I think will make me shed a tear or two. Who knows what you’ll feel when you read it?

I’m hoping that happens soon for you.

 

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A tumult of a constantly shifting lens.

If you look up the word ‘tumult’ in the dictionary it paints an image of an angry crowd of people all milling about close to each other. Perhaps the day is hot, and everyone’s talking over each other, shouting, disoriented and confused. That’s a tiny snapshot of the world at large. An increasing number of people now have access to computing platforms (phones, tablets, and actual computers) that give them the capacity and opportunity to share their views. Right and wrong are moral judgments based on subjectivity, the same as good and evil. The art of discernment is requisite in this unfolding era of ‘Babble’. I’m adding to the noise.

Who are we listening to and why? We all want and need the better deal, the most affordable price with the highest quality product. Our right-hand doesn’t recognize that we’re eating our left hand. In this self-cannibalization, we cry out in pain and confusion, not knowing why we do it really. Have you been told that you cry in your sleep, or awoken to find yourself this way? Maybe upon scant self-reflection, you chalk it up to your workplace or something you watched before bed that disturbed you a little. I bet you it’s deeper than that. 

Imagine a dense and dirty fog settling over the lands like a great shadow. The malaise can last you the rest of your life if you’re not careful–the shadow and the light dance side by side, but never leave each other. If you find that it’s much easier to look at the fog than at the light, you’re not alone. But recognize this: it’s a decision. And that decision isn’t necessarily your own to make.

All the items you prop yourself up with each day–your computer, your phone, your friends, your TV, your books, your media in all its forms, also prop up the people you surround yourself with. Whether that’s at work or at home. Many of us in the developed world are surrounded by influential voices. Popular TV shows, Facebook, Twitter, and even Youtube–these media conglomerates are informing you and everyone else you know. If you’re lucky, you are influencing these media in your own way, hopefully with an eye for a better change.

Because we are by nature adaptable creatures, and because we have so much surrounding us on all sides, we are adapting to the influences of everyone else’s thoughts. If left alone for a while you might notice that your thoughts run in new cycles every three months or so. As new information becomes available, that information gets processed over and over again on cycle in your mind. 

You’re also influencing yourself by what you seek out. If you’re looking for specific information, you can find it. And it is changing who you are when you do discover it. Doctors inform other doctors, as well as patients via the web–same with health coaches, scientific studies, and all the rest. All of this leads to a necessary fragmentation of mental resources and personal identity issues. The breaking down and building up of character is a lifelong process involving you and the millions of people you are now connected to.

I submit then, that when we say we want to ‘find ourselves’ we might cast a loving glance backward to a different time. A time when people didn’t have access to the same level of information or groups of people’s influences. A time when people had only their families and their towns or small groups of people to be influenced by. Simpler times, maybe, but mankind has never really been all that simple. Because of adaptability, we’ve been evolving to this very point. We’re seeing the world through a constantly shifting lens. 

There are so many questions this raises, of course. Write down all your questions and submit them to yourself for deep examination and self-reflection. See if you can answer just one or two of the questions that arise. It’s an exercise in personality and character to do so. 

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Taking Shape

Have you ever written an essay for high school, or worked hard to finish a paper for college? I bet you’ve done one or both and received feedback that you didn’t like. That negative feedback often (not always) pushes us to learn from our mistakes and create something better next time. You might blame your teacher for how you’re feeling (crummy, let’s bury our head in a pint of ice cream), but your teacher is just relaying the facts. Putting words together is a skill. This kind of skill isn’t meant to be easy. I posit that if writing were easy, its value would be significantly decreased. As it is, reading is starting to seem like a disappearing act. I’m grateful for everyone who still picks up a device, looks at a screen, or blows the dust off a book and scans their eyes over words!

My own books and stories have gone through a similar arc over the years. I’ve gotten feedback from my editor when my writing is particularly shitty. There’s a vehemence about how bad it is. Luckily this occurs because my editor believes in my writing prowess and knows when I’m phoning it in. My fingers practically fly over the keyboard and when I’m just downloading the raw bits and pieces of a scene or a whole chapter, I (being the human that I am) leave significant parts out. I change the way a character would do, say, or react in a situation that’s not to be believed. I don’t do this consciously. This simple faux pas comes down to my not being truly present with the material. I’m so intrigued by the scene, or I’m so rushed by my ‘need to get the word-count’, I lose sight of the real picture. In other words, I don’t take my time. When that happens, the words lose their meaning and the whole train comes to a crawling, lumbering slow-down.

With the 3rd book in the Owen Hunter Series, that has happened over the last two years. I’m doing everything in my power to go back over the manuscript I originally thought was brilliant, leading to a perfect conclusion, and am having to see how I botched it. In my need to rush through, I made things much worse. The new manuscript is taking shape. 

In the years since I launched into my writing career, being green, not knowing how this whole thing worked, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned how to be patient with feedback and take it to heart. There’s no easy way to admit when you’re wrong, just dead wrong. I’ve had to do that and go back to the drawing (writing) board often. It’s a character building experience. The more you write, the better you get (in theory), and the more you stay focused on the structure, the easier it is to not make so many mistakes in the first place. 

Speaking of taking shape, I’ve also learned an enormous amount about making my own book covers. I’ve designed and redesigned them over the years and there’s been an evolution. At first, I relied on the talents of people I paid. Recently I hit a new level of understanding in design (thanks to the help of people over at kboards, with keen eyes, and generous feedback) and have taken that to new levels. I’m going to work hard to continue taking artwork (in written and visual form) to new levels. 

I’ll keep you up to date as I get nearer to pushing the publish buttons on the 3rd and final installment of the Owen Hunter Series PREVAIL. And keep a lookout for my new book The Wizard & The Jewel due to be out late summer or mid-Autumn.