Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year!

It's been a strange half year since I started this blog for things that strike my fancy. Sure, I haven't been able to keep up my original schedule, but considering most blogs flame out in the first two months I suppose I'm doing okay. Even if I don't have much traffic, that doesn't bother me. I'm more of an introvert, anyway.

Of course, if everything goes as planned next year, I probably will have even less time to write here. But, who can really tell what the future holds? Maybe I'll have more time.

Nonetheless it was an interesting 2014, and here's hoping 2015 is more fruitful not just for me, but for you, too.

Happy New Year!

Lyric time!

Sometimes, I think the lyrics speak for themselves.


If I Had My Way
By: Robert Randolph, Joseph Burnett, Steven Krikorian, Blind Willie Johnson
 

If I had my way, I'd tear the building down
If I had my way, I'd tear the building down
Tear the building down
Tear the building down

Down with Daniel in the lion's den
Wondering where have you been
Like Delilah fine and fair
Diamond eyes and coal black hair
Like Delilah putting me out
So much sorrow, so much doubt
Love is painful, love is blind
Never know what you're going to find

If I had my way, I'd see your face again
If I had my way, I'd see your face again
See your face again
See your face again

Down with the Daniel in the lion's den
Trying to make it out again
Everybody in the world
Trapped here too or so I've heard
So much sorrow, so much fear
Got us all fouled up down here
Oh, but if I get my way
We'll be leaving soon today

If I had my way, there would be no suffering in this land
If I had my way, there would be no suffering in this land
Suffering in this land
Suffering in this land

I say Daniel tell me true
Will your God take care of you
Daniel, he say, that's a fact
We'll soon be leaving won't be back
We'll bring this building down with fire
Lift us all up, get me higher
Keep on dreaming, keep the faith
Someday soon you'll have your way

If I had my way, I'd burn this building down
If I had my way, I'd burn this building down
Burn the building down
Burn this building down

Down with Daniel in the lion's den
Thinking how the world might end
Lion say you'll be mine
I say no, I still got time
Lion laughs and bears his teeth
Door swings open and I go free
Daniel says you lying lion
Gonna burn you up like fire

If I had my way, I'd burn this building down
If I had my way, I'd burn this building down
Burn the building down
Burn this building down

If I had my way, I'd see your face again
If I had my way, there would be no suffering in this land
Suffering in this land
Suffering in this land.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

To anyone reading this, be sure to have a happy and fruitful Christmas! Stay safe, gather with the family, and celebrate!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Friday, 19 December 2014

A Good Story

For those who enjoy a good story, and a holiday appropriate one, should check out the A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast run by Julie Davis and Scott D. Danielson, where they talk about "It's a Wonderful Life" and what lies beneath the surface. It's already my favorite podcast, but this seasonal episode deserves a link of its own.

If you're a fan of good storytelling, you might want to catch this discussion. Chances are it'll be more than worth your time.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Goodbye Sky Harbor

By the band Jimmy Eat World. Though I have grown out of a lot of the music I listened to when younger, some still stick with me. This is one. It is the final track from the band's breakthrough 1999 album, Clarity, and one of their most famous.

They were a pretty big deal in the late '90s and early '00s, but since the pop world is so fickle, there's a good chance no one in that scene listens to them anymore. I have been to concerts where bands with well crafted songs and engaging themes are not as warmly received by the audience as the newer flash in the pan bands (and I mean flash in the pan, I looked up some of the bands I mean and they haven't done much in years), but some manage to keep marching regardless of how fickle their audience might be.

The lyrics on this album are probably the best the band ever put out, and this sixteen minute song (!) is one of the best of the decade. Seek it out if you can.


Goodbye Sky Harbor
Written by: Jim Adkins, Rich Burch, Zach Lind, Tom Linton and Thomas Darrell

Is tomorrow just a day like all the rest?
How could you know just what you did?
Like all the rest, how could you know just what you did?
So full of faith yet full of doubt I ask . . .

Again, I shall ask you this once again:
He said, "I am but one small instrument"
Do you remember that?

Time and time again you say:
"Don't be afraid, don't be afraid!"
The only voice I want to hear is yours.

Again, I shall ask you this once again:
He said, "I am but one small instrument"
Do you remember that?

So here I am above palm trees so straight and tall,
You are smaller, getting smaller . . .

But I still see you.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Great Endings

Here is one of my favorite endings of any book I've ever read. I'm not going to tell you the author or title in order to avoid spoilers, but it is incredible.

Without further delay:

“She shut her eyes and saw the pin point of light but so far away that she could not hold it steady in her mind. She felt as if she were blocked at the entrance of something. She sat staring with her eyes shut, into his eyes, and felt as if she had finally got to the beginning of something she couldn’t begin, and she saw him moving farther and farther away, farther and farther into the darkness until he was the pin point of light.”

Thursday, 4 December 2014

“I wonder when in the world you’re going to do anything, Rudolf?” said my brother’s wife.*

Advent, for those who know the basics about Catholics, is about waiting. Waiting for the baby Jesus to finally be born, sure, but about waiting in general. That is a big theme of the fourth Joyful Mystery in the Rosary about Joseph and Mary presenting the baby Jesus in the temple. They waited their whole life for that moment, they had to be patient and trust in God, and they were rewarded.

Stories are the same way. The main character and the villain both want something. The main character, the protagonist, is usually distinguished by willing to wait to get what he wants and getting the opportunity given to him or being impatient and setting on his own to find it for himself and ends up stumbling into it. While the hero might foolishly blunder ahead, he usually has virtues on his side to make up for his imperfections. A good hero is one you can root for. The villain is ALWAYS characterized as selfishly claiming what he wants for himself without regard for anything regarding patience, let alone temperance, fortitude, grace, or love. The villain should never be pictured as more noble than the hero, because a villain has no interest as such a thing and is always, in the end, out for himself in one way or another.

Life is about making choices, good ones and bad ones, and stories are a reflection of that daily battle we all face. But sometimes, we have to wait for our questions to be answered and our choices to be rewarded. We aren't always like heroes or villains and making the right or wrong choices so explicitly. Sometimes we refuse to even make choices for fear we might get what we actually want, or maybe we won't get anything. But life is about making choices, and sometimes those choices are not rewarded on page one-- sometimes they only get rewarded on the last line.

Be patient.

Have a happy December and a fruitful Advent.

*The first line of "The Prisoner of Zenda" by Anthony Hope

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Done!

I hit the 50,000 word limit of NaNoWriMo AND I reached the ending! All within the limit!

So, yeah, just thought I'd report it.

It was a fun experiment, and I'm glad I did it. But, boy, was it tough! Maybe I'll give it a go next year, but for now, I'm glad to be done. Oh, for anyone who wants to know, I think it turned out really well. I'm really pleased with how this will most likely turn out. That's one competition down, nonetheless.

See you in December!

Friday, 28 November 2014

NaNoWriMo Closing In

I'm tipping on 45,000 words at this point. Nearing the end. I'm not exactly sure if I'll make 50,000 or reach the end first, but, either way, I should be done by this weekend. I would have been done by now, if so many things didn't fall into my lap this month, but what's done is done. The end is near, either way.

This isn't the first time I've written something of this length, but I felt like giving the challenge a shot this year. Every now and then it's nice to try something new.

Speaking of new, I used this opportunity to try something different than my usual thing as I've said before. So far it's turning out to be better than I was expecting. Even for a first draft it's looking like a style I'm going to keep pursuing. But let us wait and see exactly how it plays out.

Oh, I also think my novella is on sale on Kindle today.

Otherwise, I'll see you in the next update!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Random Inspiration

Do you ever have that moment when you're out on the town, or alone in your home, or maybe in a group with friends, or possibly a gathering with family, when something inside of you clicks? When something that wasn't obvious to you before now becomes plainly obvious? That might have happened to me yesterday night.

Now, I'm not going to say I was thunderstruck with ideas, or that angels whispered truths in my ears that changed everything-- just that it arrived out of nowhere. Inspiration is a strange beast.

I go for a walk every night. Not a long one, it usually only takes about twenty minutes. Sometimes I say a Rosary, sometimes I think about where the world is heading, sometimes I think about mistakes I've made, and sometimes I just enjoy the walk. It's one of my favorite times of the day, or night.

Picture, if you will, a small town, empty streets, and only the cold of the fresh winter blowing upon you. No sounds of traffic or distant barking dogs, but only the wind howling and blowing raked streets of thin snow across the barren roads and onto the sidewalk. The silence says everything, even as the world sleeps, showing how everything just works whether you're around to see it or not. It's gorgeous.

How one could fail to get inspired by such sights is beyond me. But then, we live in a world where modern "art" runs rampant that glories in pointlessness and terror. Sometimes it's easy to forget the world we live in doesn't really fall that way, and all it takes is a single gander at nature in its simplest form to remind yourself that we have the tools and the know-how to do better than revel in such pointless depression. Life is a series of surprises, but it's really surprising where they can come from.

Anyway, I just thought I would post my experience. It was only a small one, but it's the small ones that matter.

Silence is everything.

Monday, 17 November 2014

NaNoWriMo Report

I am currently up to near 38,000 words. Should I keep it up, I will hopefully be done before the due date.

As for what I'm writing, well, it's a bit different from my usual stuff.

When I grew up there were a lot of stories about heroes transforming into powerful warriors to do battle with the forces of evil. When it wasn't episodic (as in, every week the good guys would defeat a new bad guy, but no plot would ever develop) the storyline always pulled me in with the twisting actions of the characters. I don't tend to see that too much anymore.

Sure there are TV shows and books for kids that feature good triumphing over evil, (or sometimes, regrettably, losing to it) there are few done in the style I'm speaking of. So, yes, this one aims broader with my audience intent, younger protagonists and all, but it still contains the type of story I like best. If I can ever get it done, I hope others will like it too.

Have a good Monday!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

11/11/14

By Mr. John McCrae.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Neck Deep in NaNoWriMo

Yes, I decided to take the challenge this year since I'm inbetween stories.

So far I'm over 12,000 words in and still raring to go. This story is really jumping out of me and I'm still having ideas pouring out. This is the most inspired I've been in a while, so I'm hoping this turns out as well as I think it will. Needless to say, my updates will be brief this month.

Happy belated Halloween and All Souls Day, and have a good November! Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends if I don't get to it by then, as well.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Fall Cleaning

Expect a few short posts in the nearby future. Around here we're dealing with "Fall Cleaning" to prepare for the upcoming winter and making sure we aren't tripping over clutter when we're snowed in.

In other news, I've been watching CW's new Flash series. Great stuff. I'm really hoping this makes it to Arrow's level soon enough.

Well, until next time!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Odd Thomas & The Long Walk


When we last left Odd Thomas, his life wasn't going very well. Sure, he saved Pico Mundo from a horrible disaster and prevented many deaths, but it cost him dearly in the end. Forever Odd is in many ways an epilogue to the original novel and an expansion on the original concept, making it an overall better book.

Not only dealing with his "success" from the original book, Odd's life is falling apart. After not succeeding in saving everyone from the last story, he is haunted with his failures further when his best friend is kidnapped after the step-father is murdered, and it might be his fault. See, Odd is something of a celebrity now, which means he attracts all kinds of unwanted attention.

This builds the concept of this very welcome sequel that is also quite different from the original.

You see, each Odd Thomas book is not quite the same as the one before it. They frequently involve different elements of different genres with the only real constant being Odd Thomas himself. In Forever Odd, we find Odd acting more like a sleuth (think MacGuyver) in order to foil a kidnapper's plot and save a friend's life. It's not as big a threat as the one from the original, it's far more personal, but one that is very effective, nonetheless.

One aspect about this story that was done very well were the villain characters. Koontz never explicitly tells you what their deal is, but as the story goes along it is quite clear they aren't human, and by the end it is confirmed.

That's probably my favorite aspect of this book. Most everything not mentioned in the main plot is implied through dialogue or character action and the story flows from there. It is a neat touch that really sets it apart from the original novel.

What deserves mention is the ending. Odd finds himself at his personal worst in this book, continuing on from the first book, and ending in a rebirth of sorts by the end. This rebirth coincides as the plot draws to a close and Odd makes one last decision which will end up changing his life and, if futurue books are to be believed, the world.

If you've read the original, give Forever Odd a read. It's even better, and points the way to better things ahead.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Odd Thomas & His Delightful Band of Bodach Bashers


I'm sure if anyone reads mainstream fiction these days (a growing rarity), they are familiar with author Dean Koontz's most popular series based on the lovable fry-cook and battler of creatures both seen and unseen, one Odd Thomas.

There's little I can add to the appeal of this work except that I'm surprised a series that does the opposite of what most mainstream fiction revels in, manages such a level of popularity. With book shelves swimming in depressing gore-fests and hateful main characters, Odd Thomas is something else entirely. It really is remarkable that a series centered around a gentle young man who strives to do the right thing despite overwhelming odds, and never backs down on his principles, remains so popular in a genre swimming with anti-heroes, glorified bad guys, and anti-traditionalists that hate the very society they claim to be predicting.

But more than just the character himself is the variety of stories Mr. Koontz has managed to tell with his young fry cook.

I don't read a lot of conventional thrillers not for any reason other than I like downtime in my stories and thrillers typically offer the opposite of the pacing I like. That said, there are exceptions. I can enjoy a good comedic thriller, one with a large cast of characters to keep track of, or one that manages to shake up a genre that can easily be the most predictable out there. Odd Thomas varies between all three of these, but never fails to be engaging the whole read not just through the original, but the rest of the books.

There are to be seven (technically eight) books in the series, though the last has yet to be released. I'm probably going to spend a post on each of these and why I enjoyed each of these books as much as I have and how they have turned my on to Mr. Koontz's more recent work. For now, though, let's look to the very first book.

The first of these is the one named after the title character, Odd Thomas. Dean Koontz apparently got the idea for this story as a flash of inspiration while writing The Face and wrote the first chapter entirely out by hand without editing it once. I'm sorry to say, it shows.

Most people tend to like this jarring first chapter, though I have a friend who does not. He finds it ricochets around a bit too much and forbids the story from truly firing out of the gate, but then the first book is his least favorite. I do agree that the beginning is a bit too long-winded, but think it gets going rather quickly after this early hump.

I quite enjoyed the home grown terrorism plot with a supernatural bent and the tour around Odd Thomas' town of Pico Mundo, but do agree that it takes a while to truly nail down the direction. For a standalone novel, this is understandable, but seeing as how it ended up being a series, some of it ends up being redundant, especially as we never see some of these characters in later books.

Odd (Yes, that's his name) is able to see the lingering dead, though they cannot speak to him, and spends most of his time either trying to help them "move on" or avoiding the ones who won't or have no plans to. Then there are these strange black creatures he calls "Bodachs" that appear when death and destruction on a large scale is nearby. These creatures are invisible to everyone except him, and they don't seem to notice that he knows of their existence. In this story, he has to deal with both these creatures and the undead. What ends up happening is a plot to destroy his very town and all those in it, and it is only with his power that bridges the living and dead that he can get the edge he needs to stop his town from becoming a mass graveyard.

What holds this story back to me is how similar in execution it is to the author's older thriller stories. For instance, in Fear Nothing, most of the exposition and plot is given out as the main character wanders through town at night and meets people who give him cryptic hints. In this story, most of the plot is dealt out the same way as Odd visits certain people throughout the day and night. Now, this is the only book in the series (though another one comes close) that does this, but it does tend to make the world-building more interesting than the story most of the time. Not always, but it happens.

One of the elements of the series that does warm the heart is Odd's devotion to his love, Stormy, which flows throughout all the books. He clearly and truly loves her and wants nothing more than to be with her, though the job keeps him away from her, his affection for her never fails to delight even in the darkest moments. But that's real love, right?

That's the best way I can describe this book and series. It is a shining light in the current darkness of our world, and Odd himself is a glimpse of the person we can hope to be when the darkness becomes too much. More than anything, I believe Mr. Koontz succeeds at this above all and it is completely invaluable advice we rarely get too often anymore in this world of villains disguised as heroes and a growing obsession with shock over substance.

As a whole, it's an enjoyable tale, not my favorite in the series, but a good start. It's easy to see why it became so popular and spawned such a reaction, though not so clear why a character that is so normal in ideals is seen as an odd character in the mainstream world (YES, PUN INTENDED!) when not very long ago he would be our ideal hero in fiction. He is the type of character we all strove to be more like. If anything, Odd Thomas is a sign that we want more normal people as protagonists who try to be better than they are, even if they are fry cooks who see the lingering dead.

Here's hoping the tide turns before Saint Odd, the final Odd Thomas book, releases in 2015.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

8 Settings I Can't Resist

I was just musing a little while ago about how there are certain settings in stories that never fail to attract my attention. It's like a good tune on the radio (remember those?) that you hear in the background which changes your mood. If I read the back of a book or movie box and see the following settings, I'm more than likely going to give the story a shot.

Exceptions, of course, include horror movies where the setting doesn't matter at all so I'm still quite unlikely to see them and war movies where the setting is usually incidental to the story.

So let's get this started!


#1 - Empty Streets

I guess this might be obvious due to While You Were Dancing, but there's something about a normally flooded area rendered empty that catches my attention. And how rare is it that you see empty streets outside of midnight in a shady area of town? More than not it ends in an interesting plot seeds to sprout.


#2 - Camping Sites

Not including horror, as I said before, there's something about getting away from it all and leaving your comfort zone that speaks to me. There have been few stories that don't involve camping scenes or begin in a camp that don't attract my attention. Unless it involves some sort of killer, I never turn away from a good camping scene. . . unless it takes up a third of the book, that is.


#3 - Small Towns

Small towns tend to focus their stories on community and personal relationships on a scale that interests me. All the more because they also tend to feature a lot of nature which never fails to attract me. About the only exception is when the story ignores the potential playground of character interactions to focus on a romance of some sort. There's a world out there to explore, so let's see it!


#4 - Cyberpunk Cities

Cyberpunk can get a bit too nihilistic or ridiculous (corporations running the world are a bit too unrealistic too imagine) but the setting of a dirty, overstuffed, and technologically advanced setting is a great place to start a plot. Where it goes is hard to tell most of the time, but it is a fascinating launching pad for a story.


#5 - Airships

I don't think I need to explain this one. It is a ship that is flying instead of sailing. What more is there to say?


#6 - "A Faraway Land"

Whether a fantasy like Prydain, Middle Earth, or a Galaxy "far, far, away," a new land filled with no rules is likely to get me excited. Of course, it's not enough for it to be a stock fantasy world that's LOTR-lite like a lot fantasy post-Tolkien. It's in how the land and people work that interest me.


#7 - The Mountains

There's something oddly disconcerting about the mountains and their relative emptiness that can lead to good atmosphere in a tale. That said, it has to actually use the terrain to be successful-- just because it takes place in the mountains doesn't mean its okay to use them as window-dressing. The characters are essentially heading toward the top of the world. There has to be something there worth going into.


#8 - Hidden Bases

This is pure '70s spy / space opera here, but I have such a strange thing for hidden or underground bases in stories. Like the characters have discovered the secret evil pocket and hiding place of evil in the world. The good guys will have no relief or back up, and the villains have the home-field advantage. As out heroes enter the endgame, will they be able to survive the villains and save the world? Keeping reading to find out.


So those are my favorite places to set a plot. How about yours? There are, after all, an infinite number of possibilities. Here's hoping we get more stories with settings like the ones listed above. I never get tired of them and I doubt I ever will.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb

This is going to be a really odd choice. I used to be a big listener of alternative rock from the 90s (before I got sick of the depressing lyrics) and still do enjoy the strange sounds such bands can play around with. For some reason, this song from the band Tripping Daisy (whose lead singer went on to form The Polyphonic Spree, who are far more well known) from their excellent album "Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb" released in 1998 when the mainstream was done with rock bands that didn't sound like third rate Nirvana rip-offs.

The album is not religious, despite its title, but the title is very apt for what the album feels like. An alternative rock explosion of positivity and whimsy stuck somewhere between child-like wonder of the world, typical '90s teenage irreverence, and the ultimate acceptance of growing up. The best way to describe it is a bomb of life. The lyrics are pretty hard to decipher if they're not being outright silly, but there are a few gems in there that point to more than the obvious.

One song in particular still comes to me so many years since mainstream music has flat-lined, and that is the opening track. Unfortunately, the album is out of print, the band no longer exists (the guitarist died after their following album-- praying he's with the Lord now), and the world forgot about any alternative rock not made by Nirvana. But these guys were way better than Nirvana and were quite overlooked. Check these lyrics out and see if you can get from them what I do so many years later.

The second half of the song, especially, when the song hits its peak, I think the excitement of the unknown really shines through bright and strong.


Field Day Jitters
(Music: Tripping Daisy, Lyrics: Tim DeLaughter)

Wondering jets inside of me.
I've got the field day jitters-- wet matches and a bottle of Mr. Clean.

I'm a nervous wreck in the shape of a test
I figure it's all about giving.
 Causing all of the brain to slip into frame
and visit the space that it gives me for sleep.

Wondering jets inside of me.
I've got the field day jitters (jitters, jitters) . . .

I'm an open nest, a paper address
I can get lost in just living.
Blowing thoughts of regret, you'll never forget,
the feeling of falling and breaking.

This is me, your glue gun's dream.
A map of every road.
A friend that drops his nose.
But this can't be.
I'm a cracking machine!
My will is to hold, and my creed is to be the unbreakable me.

Now it's time to fill up the cracks in me
(no stopping, no stopping, no stopping)
It's what I want, it's what I see,
that I'm unbreakable, capable, breakable.

Now it's time to fill up the cracks in me
(no stopping, no stopping, no stopping)
It's what I want, it's what I see,
that I'm unbreakable, capable, breakable.

Bye-bye.
 
Never any doubt in me
(no stopping, no stopping, no stopping)
It's what I want, it's what I see,
that I'm the unbreakable, capable, breakable me.

Bye-bye . . .


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Failure of advertisement

Yesterday I saw the movie "The Maze Runner" based on the book (which I never read) for young adults that carries with it several problems I'd like to discuss. Of course, anything I speak of can only refer to the movie, so if the book explains something the movie doesn't then I have to apologize because there's no real way I can know that. So, on to the movie.

The story begins with a young man riding an elevator to the top of an open field where other boys and young men like him are looking down at him as it comes to a stop. He is frightened because he doesn't remember anything and the others don't seem interested in telling him.

After a night of celebration he recalls his name and learns what is going on. They are all trapped in the center of a large maze, whose doors close at night, and are traveled by maze runners during the day to find the way out. Meanwhile, the rest of the young men tend to "The Glade", the center of the maze where they live. Soon, things begin to happen, and their small world begins to change . . .

And that's the set up.

Now the good points of the story are a few. The maze has a good set up, is really well designed and looks pretty cool. There aren't really any unlikeable characters which modern young adult stories are usually swimming with either. Finally, the sequences in the maze are exciting, well done, and would have made this excellent.

Which leads me to my problems. The main one being, the maze takes up probably about twenty minutes of the whole movie. The majority of it takes place in young adult cliche land which I would like to call The Glade. Had the movie fully used the maze concept (puzzles, moving walls and sections, dangerous obstacles, and rest stops) it would have been far more interesting and original. As a result, most of the movie ends up so highly predictable that I couldn't help but lament at the wasted potential this concept had.

The Glade takes up most of the movie and it is simply not interesting in the slightest. If you have ever read a modern young adult story you can already guess the cliches coming.

Character that blames the main character for everything and is staunchly traditional in staying in The Glade (the character's actions at the end of the movie are so highly predictable and pointless that the story would have only improved with his absence), characters that do nothing but sit in The Glade and talk over and over again about stuff that ends up not mattering, and a girl character who might as well not even be there as her only characteristic is "the girl". Then there's the ending that everyone saw coming by the first dream at the beginning of the movie-- highly cliche and predictable, including a character death that was entirely unneeded and an escape that might as well have not happened because of what ends up happening next. Then there's the state of the world . . . needless to say, I tuned out by that point. I'd seen it all too many times.

There are also holes all over the place.

If you want to be pedantic, considering the "rules" of the maze, there are things that seem out of place. The Grievers, for instance are really superfluous to the story, and only seem to be there to add conflict. Considering the reveal at the end, they seem even more silly to have been put there. There's also a way they regain their lost memories which is quite silly, honestly. All in all, I really didn't see much point for them to be there except for the characters to have something to get killed by. Considering they're obviously made to test strength and none of the characters can even penetrate their shells on a basic level, they seem even more over the top.

When I said earlier that the story would have been better without the YA tropes, I meant it. A story about a group traversing a maze and testing their wits and skills is a great recipe for an adventure story. But because this is YA we have to have grimdark settings, lots of gratuitous death, a betrayer character (does anybody like these characters?), lots of arguing and angst, commentary about society to mirror the extremely boring Glade (its commentary that you've already heard hundreds of times by age twelve), and a "twist" ending that shows how horrible the world is and how the YA protags are the special ones to change it.

None of that was needed and stifles a potentially interesting story and smothers it in cliches. Maybe I'm just sick of post-apocalyptic grimdark stories, but I can't remember the last time I've seen an exciting one not marred with the same stock messages and telegraphed plot turns. A simple adventure story starting with a maze would have been a far better bedrock to build a potentially interesting story from, but I guess I should be used to not expecting much in the way of creative settings when YA dystopia sells too well now.

Despite my complaints, it was a solid movie. Well directed (could do without shaky-cam, though), well acted, well cast, and has engaging cinematography, The Maze Runner is not bad. You could do a lot worse in the YA world right now, and at least this one isn't obsessed with sex all the time. I would give it a go if you're a YA fan or like dystopian stories. Not so much if you're a fan of mazes or adventure stories. You don't get much of either here.

Give it a different title and I'd be more pleased with it. Unfortunately, there really isn't much maze running to be had.

All in all, solid movie.

Friday, 19 September 2014

I hope I haven't failed the city

No one will ever accuse me of being with the times. I don't watch much television outside of for background noise such as when I'm doing something like writing.

But recently, there have been two shows I've been keeping up with because of strong word of mouth from people I really respect and general impressions. The first of these was Person of Interest, which I already wrote about. The second is Arrow.

You can't blame me for being skeptical, can you? I've always been a Superman fan, but Smallville had nothing about what I enjoy about the character. From all early impressions, this looked like it was going to be more of the same, but "gritty" (now there's a buzzword I can do without) and "modern" (another word that means nothing) while staying in plot purgatory for nine seasons where maybe something might happen.

I'm only halfway through season one, but wow. I was entirely wrong.


So, it does start the way I figured. Oliver Queen becomes a dark anti-hero without any regard for life or even bystanders outside of his simple-minded quest for revenge after being stranded on an island for five years without hope. His family and friends are spoiled rich kids without any real problems and their lives are fairly boring on top of it. The plots are pretty simple, Green Arrow chooses a name on his list, robs the target blind or threatens them, kills a bunch of nameless thugs, then disappears into the night.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Been a bit

I've really been getting into the Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander recently. It's one on the series I never got around to as a child, but one I always wanted to. Like most every boy in the '90s, I loved fantasy and action from the '70s and '80s (we didn't think older stuff was "uncool" or whatever), so I knew about The Black Cauldron  movie Disney made. But, I hadn't been the biggest Disney fan at the time, so I never got around to it-- plus, I mean, the Disney Vault thing was tougher back then without online shopping so I missed a bunch of them.

That said, the Prydain series is one I would have devoured as a boy. Full of adventure, wonder, honor, love, and the forces of good over evil, it is a marvelous fantasy. The five book series is a pure joy to read, and definitely one I will be rereading in years to come.

Starting with The Book of Three, we meet young Taran, an assistant pig-keeper eager for big things. He sets out to find his lost charge, the oracular pig Hen Wen, and along the way encounters many new friends and foes, growing much in the process. Taran is an orphan and unsure of his place in the world, and in his adventures learns that his place may be where he least expects it. In my opinion, it's a classic.

The second, The Black Cauldron, is a bit darker than the first. Taran is involved in a plan to destroy the evil lord Arawn's cauldron that can create soldiers from the dead, disturbing the natural order. This time he learns what true honor and self-sacrifice means, as well as how easy it is to fall from your path. Paired with the previous book, it is another classic adventure, and one no fantasy fan should miss.

Then there's The Castle of Llyr, and I'm going to be honest-- it was my least favorite. It's the shortest of the books and as a consequence, the least amount happens, and with this one it almost feels like the series will fall into a formula (that it thankfully does not) and has a plot that feels more like a side-story. That said, the climax is truly strong and events do tie in to the last two books, so it is worth your time. It is merely my least favorite of the five.

Taran Wanderer, conversely, is another classic adventure. Taran wishes to finally move forward with his life and propose to a girl he's liked for a long time, but before he does that he needs to confront his past and where it is he comes from. This is a pure adventure tale where many lessons about life are learned, tragedy and joy are dealt with, and many questions are answered while more are left unsolved. It might be the best book in the series, but it's hard for me to choose.

Last there's The High King, which I'm currently about halfway through. This is the culmination of everything else in the series and has so far not disappointed one bit. I would like to say more, but it would involving spoiling much of the rest of the series, and I really don't want to do that.

Needless to say, if you're a fantasy fan or have younger siblings or children who are into the genre, then this series really shouldn't be missed. It is definitely one of the best I've ever read. Is it on par with LOTR or Narnia? I can't say, as it is a very different sort of series, but it is worth your time as much as they are. Where else would you get to journey across the land with an assistant pig-keeper and his strange band of friends?

Now, to get back to The High King . . .

Monday, 8 September 2014

This Week

Hey out there. I'm gonna start shaking it up around here.

On Mondays I'll have a short little anecdote post and by week's end I'll try to have a bigger one out there. This is mostly because I'm going to run out of things to say at this rate, and I don't have as much free time to think of multiple topics to write about. This should simplify things.

That said, I don't know if I'll have another post out this week. I'm kind of in the middle of a few things right now. But the week is young, anything could change in a matter of days or moments.

So have a good week until next we meet!

Friday, 5 September 2014

What I'm Watching

Yes, it's been a pretty busy week up north. A lot of things have gone through, are still going through, and won't go through. In the meantime I thought I would share something I have just recently started watching from the beginning and hope you agree with me on the show's quality.

You see, I don't watch a whole lot of television outside of reruns. Mostly because of two reasons. The first is that I forget when shows are on and always miss chunks of the story. The second is that I simply don't care for most of the shows airing on TV nowadays. That said, there are a few really quality shows out there some of which are pretty excellent. This is one of them.

Today I'm going to talk about a show I just started watching and has already become one of my favorites. That would be CBS's Person Of Interest.

Monday, 1 September 2014

This Week

Hope you had a good weekend! Looks like we're jumping out of the summer vacation season and on our way to fall. I'm going to be a bit indisposed this week, so I'm not sure if I'll have another post out. Thanks anyway for clicking and checking, though. It's always appreciated.

Here's hoping September is a good month for you. I'm praying that it will a good month for all of us.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Free E-Book

Big surprise! My novella is now on sale for the reasonable price of free! If you want to read a weird story that is part coming of age and part plain odd, here's your chance!

Get it here!

If you want to know more about it, click on the "Works" tab and check out my past articles on the story. It might be a bit fun, who knows?

See you next week, and enjoy!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Trigun

"My name is Vash the Stampede. I have been a hunter of peace who chases the mayfly known as love for many, many moons now. There is no rest for me in my search for peace. I meditate diligently every morning. The subjects are life and love. I quit after 3 seconds." ~ Vash the Stampede


I promised I would do an entry on the very show that gave my blog a title, so here it is. I'm not certain when I'll be able to regularly make regular entries again so now would be the best time to explain my choices. As most are well aware this is an anime that was released in 1998, based on a Japanese manga (comic) and was a bit of a hit here. I was only about 15 at the time, probably too young to watch it, but considering where my life was at the time, it was fairly tame compared to other things I would dive into. Still, it ended up being a very positive influence in my life, its moral center struck out at me even when I was losing everything else and my grip on absolutes.

Trigun is a space western in the old style. It was released the same time as two other popular anime, being Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star which are affectionately known to anime fans as the Space Western Trilogy. They aren't related otherwise, though of the three Trigun is the most western while still retaining a science fiction core at the same time. It also the most serious and deals with the toughest themes.

It takes place in the desert on a distant planet in the far future when the human race is dying out through a series of deathly decisions. Nearing the end of their existence, two forces arrive to claim hold over the destiny of the survivors. The first, is a megalomaniac who calls himself Knives, a being nobody is convinced exists, yet he is able to control the fates of many from the shadows with only his silver tongue to help him. He manages to convince many bent individuals that what the human race really needs is to be cleansed from the purity of the universe. The second, is the man mentioned in the quote above, a wandering pacifist known as Vash the Stampede.

Trigun starts out as more of a comedy with an action bent, to the surprise of anyone who first watches. Vash bumbles through every situation, and seemingly by accident, manages to get through scrapes without anyone dying (sometimes they still get hurt) often doing little but inspiring pure hope in the townsfolk that their fate is much more than dying in the wasteland. Eventually we find this comedic approach is needed to break the tension of the world they live in, as even Vash is very well aware of what lies out in the wilds waiting to strike. As the story goes along, we start to understand more about who this man is, and it isn't anything natural, it's actually supernatural.

Monday, 25 August 2014

This Week

I've got a lot going on this week, so instead of an entry on Friday I will have a special surprise. I wish I could be more specific than that, but when you are dealing with other people's decisions and awaiting them, there isn't little you can do but wait.

I will try to put out something new on Wednesday, but, again, that will depend. Either way, I hope you have a good week ahead.

See you later!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Lyric Break

Because my Friday is going to be a bit packed, I thought I would post another lyric break. Sorry, I just don't have the time.

This time I chose lyrics from one of the most oddly overlooked famous bands, The Beach Boys. I know about everybody knows the big hits like Good Vibrations, I Get Around, or Wouldn't It Be Nice, but few ever mention this gem of a song.

Sail On, Sailor is a song written by the team of Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, the team behind the legendary Smile album. It was later passed around and given so many facelifts by different people (including the group's manager) that it's amazing the final result as good as it is. A rarity among Beach Boys songs, the lead vocals were preformed by Blondie Chaplin, who delivers a marvelous effort. It was released in 1973 as a single and more or less flopped, to the surprise of nobody, because 1973 was a terrible year for music, so it doesn't surprise me that nobody would pick this to listen to when there were so many terrible songs to listen to instead. After all, it isn't a meandering mess of a song, it gets to the point, and is beautiful, which is something music from the '70s rarely is.

Over the years it has gotten to be a cult favorite among fans, but I truly believe it should be better known. But, hey, that's what the lyrics are for. Give these a read and you can judge for yourself. See you next week!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Ten Things About Modern Novels I Like

I thought I would try being positive this time. Sure there are a lot of reasons to dislike modern novels, but what about the good side? There is a good side, right? Of course there is.

While my other two lists were more negative, I'll try to make this one a bit more positive. After all, it's not like the writing world is in as big of a pit as the music industry or as predictable as the movie industry. In fact, there's quite a lot of good stuff out there.

So here we are, a list of ten things about the modern novel I like, which can translated as things I think the industry is doing well. This was a bit harder to put together as I tend to be pessimistic when it comes to sectors of the entertainment industry, but the positives really are positive. If you asked me to put one through for any other medium, I would probably be eternally stuck at two list entries. There just isn't a lot to say about them as there is for the writing world.

Without further ado, here it is:

Monday, 18 August 2014

This Week

Good day! I got a lot of reading and writing done this weekend. So far I've been really blessed this month with free time, I can only hope I still have it in the weeks to come!

This week I'll be writing a new list and continuing my YA series, so I hope you'll be interested in reading them. Hopefully I can get the posts up a bit earlier this week, but that will depend on how things go.

God bless and see you next time!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Boy Meets World


"Friendship for example, is a real gift. It's given with no expectations and no gratitude is needed, not between real friends." ~ George Feeny

 Here's a secret about me that everyone knows: I am nuts for sitcoms.

While I can get along fine with any genre when it comes to books, movies, plays, or whatever, on television it is the sitcom I enjoy the most.

Why? Maybe because the set up is basically like a play broadcasted to millions of homes at the same time, where we all get to watch the same stage show at the same time. Or maybe because it is the only genre of television that can vary from being hilariously dumb (Married . . . With Children) or uproariously smart (Frasier), and appeal to the old (The Golden Girls) and the young (Boy Meets World) alike. As far as I am aware, there is no other program format on television with as wide of an appeal of potential as the sitcom.

So you may be looking at the title and thinking I've gone mad. "That's a kid show!", "Let me guess, Saved By The Bell reruns are hard to come by?" or "I am over the age of 40. What is this madness I see before me?" are all variations on the same comments I'm sure to hear when this show is brought up. If you're wondering why I've chosen to write about this family sitcom from ABC's forgotten (except by sitcom fans) Friday night TGIF block, then prick up your ears, friends.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Ten Things About Modern Novels I Can Do Without

Most people don't read nowadays, it's true. There are several reasons for this and there are several groups who have their own theories. The literati don't care as the common man is beneath them, the YA crowd think their novels aren't dark enough, and the genre fiction people tend to specialize in their chosen genre to the exclusion of outsiders who are clueless. They don't all do this, of course, but rarely do they appear to have much concern with the fact that their chosen profession is shrinking in size.

I know some people who don't read and while there are many reasons for it (usually because they're rushing from point A to B all the time), there are certain peeves about books nowadays that instantly turn them off, as they do me.

The following is a list of both the things I dislike about modern books, and what others I've met seem to dislike about them. This isn't an all-encompassing list, obviously, but a few of the more annoying parasites in the written story world that just won't go away and in fact seem to be getting worse every year. As always, prepare for strange tangents!

Monday, 11 August 2014

This Week

Most of my weekend was spent reading, writing, praying, and watching Big Trouble in Little China. Safe to say, it was pretty inspiring.

This week my entries might be up a little late, but then, that isn't much different than usual. I'm doing  a bit of furniture moving this week, so I might not have the time to devote to these entries that I would normally like.

I'll be continuing my YA theme this Friday, though, of course, I'm not certain what the topic will be. I'm sure I'll figure something out.

Have a good week.

Friday, 8 August 2014

The Goonies [1985]



There are several surprising things about the legacy of The Goonies. The first is that a silly adventure movie has managed to last as long as it has in the public conscious, the second is that despite releasing in the middle of the 1980s, the height of commercial tie-ins, it has never really been a particularly milked franchise. It's a movie the resonates with people of a certain age and younger, that adults who were already grown up by the time it came out, just don't quite understand.

The director would go on to make more popular movies such as Home Alone and Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone, yet this is the work he would always come back to. Steven Spielberg, who has made more classic films than you could shake a stick at, has even tried several times to spearhead a sequel of some kind, but has never managed to get the feel he was looking for. It never felt right.

So why does it hold up? What makes this film stand out?

The plot is simple. The writing and acting isn't award winning. Yet, it's beloved by about everyone born later than 1980.

The reason it is considered a classic to a generation of kids being passed down to their kids is because it has something lesser movies like Monster Squad don't. It is a pure adventure story where the reward is understanding childhood and growing up.

The Goonies succeeds because of its simplicity.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

King of the Hill


"Bobby, you go pick something from the adventure section . . . anything about a boy with gumption should be fine." ~ Hank Hill

Man, is there anyone out there who isn't a fan of King of the Hill? Simultaneously a satire and love letter to small town life, and full of larger than life characters, King of the Hill is one of the few "adult" programs I watched when I was a kid (Yes, I was that kid) that I still find enjoyment in now.

Why is that?

Well, if you've seen the show, then you know why. If you haven't, then I'm not sure how to explain its appeal. But, I guess I'll try.

"Gun's don't kill people. The Government does." ~ Dale Gribble

Monday, 4 August 2014

This Week

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy this weekend, it was quite a lot of fun. It's probably a bit too intense for younger viewers, but for the older audience, I would say it is worth the watch.

So, continuing with my theme last week, I'll be trying another post in the same vein as that. As for my second post, well, I'm still unsure. I appear to work better working off the cuff and waiting for the last minute.

Have a good week!

Friday, 1 August 2014

"The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton



 “Things were rough all over, but it was better that way. That way you could tell the other guy was human, too."

I've mentioned her enough so far that I think it's only right to do a post on this misunderstood book, her first and still most popular. I'm not the only one who has been influenced by this book, as basically the entire young adult genre was created simply to classify this novel (and keep it away from "real" novels for "proper" people, no doubt) which has continued to misrepresent not only the book's intent, but the author's entire body of work.

You see, Mrs. Hinton wrote this book when she was fifteen, which, of course, meant that it was aimed at children since you can only write for people the same age as yourself. It also features violence that is not gratuitous, but since it features it at all, that means that it is an inherently immoral book. The main characters are also children (late teens, mostly) with an absence of adult characters which, somehow, means that it is a screed against parental authority.

Oh yes, and because certain kids drink (mostly the older ones, again) and smoke, that it advocates those things instead of pretending they don't exist or dealing with the issue. Basically, this book is full of anarchy and revels in sin, making it the worst thing a child could ever possibly read.

The problem with those assertions? None of them are true. They all emerge from people who have never read the book.

More after the break.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Lyric Break

This is going to be a short post today because I wanted to do something simple. Song lyrics you might have missed. This is a song from Brian Setzer's first solo album that has all-but-faded from public memory called "Breath of Life" which is, well, great. It really is a shame that the album is out of print, because songs like this, "Three Guys", "Barbed Wire Fence", and "Radiation Ranch" feature some really good lyrics.

These are a bit different from his usual songs about rockin', cars, and being cool (always fun topics), and is about something a bit more. So, I decided to post them for, hopefully, greater appreciation.

I'm not going to force my interpretation of it, I think it's fairly obvious what it's about, but they are well written lyrics and will probably leave you smiling for a while. Hopefully, long after you first read them. Next time, I'll try for a longer post but I think its nice to take a break like this every now and then.

So without further delay, here they are.

Monday, 28 July 2014

This Week

Boy, that was a quick weekend, huh?

As July comes to an end and kids have to endure those painful back to school ads popping up everywhere, I think I'll center my posts around more juvenile/young adult material this month. If only to show my support for the poor children.

Won't somebody think of the poor children, they say? Well, I'll try!

Friday, 25 July 2014

While You Were Dancing - The Placement & The Meaning

*Sorry for the lateness of this post, I've had a rather complicated day*

 
 
This is it, the final entry in my series. This week I'll be focusing on the overall direction of my stories and how it relates to what I was trying to do with this novella. Feel free to skip this one if you aren't interested in the extraneous details and only want to know about the novella. If you do, simply read the other posts in the series. If not, read on!

"While You Were Dancing" is, in essence, the beginning of an ongoing story. It's not the first story chronologically,  nor does everything that happen here directly relate with others, but it still is part of a series. If you're confused about what I mean, then I'll try and explain it a bit better.

First, this is not a situation where I'm setting up a prologue for a trilogy or a series of standalone adventures like you see so much these days. It's not the elaborate. What I'm attempting is much simpler than that.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

"Songs From Lonely Avenue" by The Brian Setzer Orchestra


 Tracklist
  1. "Trouble Train"
  2. "Dead Man Incorporated"
  3. "Kiss Me Deadly"
  4. "Gimme Some Rhythm Daddy"
  5. "Lonely Avenue"
  6. "King of the Whole Damn World"
  7. "Mr. Jazzer Goes Surfin'"
  8. "Mr. Surfer Goes Jazzin'"
  9. "My Baby Don't Love Me Blues"
  10. "Love Partners in Crime"
  11. "Passion of the Night"
  12. "Dimes in the Jar"
  13. "Elena"


Now, it's no secret to anyone who knows me, but Brian Setzer is probably one of my favorite musicians. Early rock n roll music is my preferred style of music from rockabilly to blues, and Brian Setzer has pretty much covered the gamut.

And the album I want to talk about is one of the best, not only one of the best albums, but uses of storytelling in music I've heard in quite some time.

The man is known to span the genres. Rockabilly, swing, jazz, blues, instrumentals, even mainstream rock, he has even done a big band album full of classical music entitled "Wolfgang's Night Out" which is quite as strange as the album I'm about to tell you about. The point is, the man has tremendous respect for the roots of music and is an excellent songwriter to boot.

Monday, 21 July 2014

This Week

I'm currently in a bit of weird place right now regarding real life and waiting for specific phone calls and e-mails, so I haven't had much time to think of a topic for the blog this week outside of my Friday post. Weekend was kind of hectic so I didn't get much of a chance to think of anything, but I'm sure I'll be able to post something. I just have no idea what it'll be.

See you on Wednesday!

Friday, 18 July 2014

While You Were Dancing - The Sight & The Sound



I have so far explained the influence that went into much of its construction, but I have yet to explain the images and sounds in my head that helped get it all into shape. Yes, that's a bit of a trickier explanation to get across, I admit, but I'm still going to give it a shot.

You see, I was born in 1984, and as such, there are certain stories that have influenced me more than others, just as there are for those born in the 1970s or 1990s. The difference is that the images put in my head when a story starts to bubble up there is much different than one born in another era might expect. I grew up on "Unsolved Mysteries" and not "CSI", on "Rocko's Modern Life" and not "Spongebob Squarepants", on S.E. Hinton and not Stephanie Meyer, and on "Akira" and not "Avatar" like the current generation.

When a story comes to my head, it tends to be filtered quite a bit differently than several stories of similar styles. I simply don't come from that place. You won't find the common element in suspense stories nowadays by lingering on a build up for a dozen pages in my stories, you'll find action sequences that slide out of the background and into the forefront that might catch you out of nowhere and end as quickly as they began.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Ten Rules For Authors

*I got the idea for this post from author Declan Finn's "A Pius Man" blog and the entry "Ten Rules I want Writers to follow" which can be found here. Be sure to check his blog out and read his books if you're interested in fun thrillers that Dan Brown wishes he could write.*

We all have certain storytelling niggles that send us into a black rage with constant use. There are some rules that make for good storytelling that some authors just can't seem to follow and that others outright reject either purposely (the more annoying) or ignorantly. I had recently come across writer Declan Finn's list of his own rules that I basically agree with, but wanted to expand on some more of my own.

When reading books I have strange tastes, but I still wanted to give making this list a chance.

Now, these might seem either strange or pedantic, I can be that way, or straight up odd depending on who you are, but I'm going to try to be specific.

So, enjoy.


Monday, 14 July 2014

This Week

Not much to report after a boring weekend, except that a new week has begun!

Friday will be my next post on my novella, but as for Wednesday . . . well, I'm not sure. Unfortunately there are so many choices to go through and I'm just not sure what to go with yet. Still, I'll most likely have something up on Wednesday. We'll see.

Have a good week out there!

Friday, 11 July 2014

While You Were Dancing - The Who & What



John Henry "Two Tone" Fisher is the main character in "While You Were Dancing" and, despite his name, is not based after me. I'm neither of average height, nor do I have naturally white hair, and his name actually comes from two important Catholic figures in Blessed John Henry Newman and St. John Fisher. I wanted to give him an important name that actually has meaning to which he has no inkling of, which goes with much the rest of the story.

If you know much about this story, then you probably have noticed something very apparent with the names. That being, what is with the names?

I find we have a big problem in this society with calling something what it is. We make up stupid slang all the time, we deal with political correctness on a daily basis, and we change terms to match whatever we want at any given moment. If words are ultimately meaningless to these people, then why wouldn't names be, too? After all, that can be changed, too.

But life is about more than just what we make of it. There's plenty out there we don't think about, see, or hear on a daily basis.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

"Monster" by Naoki Urasawa

"When you're in the darkness, you only sink deeper into it. Keep the light shining." ~ Dr. Kenzo Tenma

Oh boy.

This is probably going to sound biased, but "Monster" is of my all-time favorite stories and a modern classic of the genre. I'm going to be upfront and say that this is probably my favorite work to come out of the manga (Japanese comic) genre and one of the best works to come out of Japan. If you want a fast-paced tale of good vs. evil on both an external and internal plain, and a plot that twists itself into probably the greatest ending of any Japanese work short of "Silence", then this is for you. No lies, it's excellent.

I told you, I'm biased.

Naoki Urasawa has established himself as one of the best modern storytellers in Japan, and it's a shame his work isn't more well known worldwide. His characters are frequently engaging as his good guys struggle to the right thing in an upside-down world, while his bad guys tend to choose the wrong thing and it ends up destroying themselves along the way. He tends to tackle evil in a more classic way—that is, its a choice and a temptation. It grips you and squeezes the life out of you until there's nothing left but a shell of who you once were. It's not a psychological defect, or a misunderstood personality trait, but an active and consuming force that can only be fought with the force of good.

Good, he portrays, is a lot more complicated and difficult than just being nice. There are hard choices to make and, by story's end the characters will end up having to deal with all of them.

This story is one of his earliest Seinin (adult) works and, in my opinion, remains his best.

Why? Well . . .

Monday, 7 July 2014

This Week

I'm still not quite sure what to write about on Wednesday, but there are plenty of choices. Since I chose some movies and a book, maybe I'll choose a TV show.

We'll see.

On Friday, I'm going to do another post on "While You Were Dancing", my first novella. Last week was about how it came to be, and I think this week some character descriptions would be fun. There aren't that many, since it's a short novella and all, but since I enjoyed writing them all, I want to give them all a chance to speak for themselves.

Should be a fun week! Have a good one!

Friday, 4 July 2014

While You Were Dancing - The Why & How

*NOTE* In celebration of the start of this series, the novella will be free on July 5th, should amazon decide not to randomly mess me up with delays again. I originally wanted to do it for today, but, again, it just didn't work out that way.

Today, as promised, will be the first in a series of posts about my first published novella, "While You Were Dancing". Today I will discuss the "Whys" and "Hows" of the story and why it even exists at all. More after the jump!



Wednesday, 2 July 2014

"From The Corner Of His Eye" by Dean Koontz

"He had lost a part of his own physical being: He was hollow inside, as though the very meat and bone at the core of him had been torn out and replaced by a void, black and cold. Horror and despair racked him, and he was tormented by thoughts of self-destruction.

But then he felt better.

Not good, but definitely better."

I can already hear the mutterings from here. Dean Koontz? Really? There's probably a group thinking things like, "What, the horror guy?" and another wondering why the title doesn't read "Odd Thomas". From my experience, Dean Koontz gets a variety of reactions when he's brought up in conversation. But I'm going to try to ignore all of this and focus on a certain novel that is frequently overlooked both by Koontz fans and his detractors as quite possibly his best book. That would be the simply grand "From The Corner Of His Eye" released in the year 2000.

It was the novel that changed his career and lead him through much more well-known works down the road like "One Door Away From Heaven", "Life Expectancy", the "Frankenstein" series, and "The Face", not to mention his aforementioned "Odd Thomas" series. Because this is the book where he went from primarily a thriller writer to a storyteller of a different sort where characters are after more than getting through a single tight situation. This is the book that even the author admits is the one that really pushed him forward to new ground. Yet, it's not very well known despite it. 

So, you might be wondering, what exactly is it about? The answer is a bit hard to go into in a single post, but I'll try. There's something strange about the way this book was received and it has to do with the way it was advertised and presented.

Monday, 30 June 2014

This Week

Welcome to the new week!

This week I'm going to talk about a book I suspect no one will see coming by an author who no one will see coming, and a new release novella by a writer nobody has ever heard of. The first will be up on Wednesday (God willing) and the latter will be up on Friday.

Since we're entering July, I thought I would vary the format for this month. Every Friday in July I will be making a post about my new novella "While You Were Dancing" in a pretty lazy attempt at publicity on a blog nobody really reads. What can I say, I'm an introvert with no connections. This Friday will be the first of four posts on the subject, so be ready to be sick of it before even reading a single sentence.


But before that, on Wednesday will be a fairly different book by a much more prolific author that I don't believe gets much of any discussion. I will try to explain why I think it deserves discussion then, but for now this is all I've got to post. Soak it all in, because next time we speak will be the middle of this new week.

Have a good few days and (hopefully) we'll meet again.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Quick Update

I just wanted to say that I've been enjoying the format I've had of a simple update on Monday, a big post on Wednesday, and a small aside on Friday. It's easier to manage, and it gives me thing to write when I'm otherwise drained. All in all, it's a solid format.

I think I'm going to keep it this way.

See you on Monday!

Friday, 27 June 2014

Intent

Before I start I just want to mention that my first novella is now for sale at Amazon! I've been working on it a long time, so if you have the time to at at least read the "look inside" excerpts, I would really appreciate it. Thanks!

Today, I wanted to talk a bit about intent. Mostly, the intent of the writer.

There's a lot to talk about, but first I wanted to bring up an incident that happened to me not that long ago. It's fairly mundane, but it sticks with me like most mundane things do.

I once read the forward to a rather popular book that struck me a bit odd. The author was commenting on "Turn of the Screw" by Henry James and how the ending of the story fascinated and changed the way the person saw literature, in fact helping to inspire the very book I was holding in my hands. There's nothing wrong with all that, but here's the thing:

The ending was taught to the author by a college professor on how the narrator was a villain and really the monster of the piece. Now, that's a very valid interpretation, but, there's a problem with teaching such an interpretation as being exactly what James intended. That problem being, we don't know what James intended.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Commitments


This week I'm going to take a look at the film "The Commitments", directed by Alan Parker, and released in 1991. It is one of my favorite films and has still endured to this day despite how much has gone in in the years since I've first seen it, and I know many others still connect to it even so many years later. Though I'm not sure a lot of people really know why. It still works today just as well as when it first released.

Back in the early '90s, this film sort of came out of nowhere. Based on a fairly good book of the same title by Roddy Doyle, no one was really prepared for this film to become as popular as it did or touch people the way it did. It's a fairly straightforward plot that has been done before, but what is it about this particular film that has helped it endure over the years when so many others have been forgotten?

There are a few reasons, I think.

I think a good bit that helped it is how timeless much of it is. I first saw the film around 2000 or so and had absolutely no idea the film was over nine years old at the time. The references to music and pop culture are all over the place, and both the dress, style, and atmosphere could be almost any period, it's quite a remarkable feat and the production staff deserve much credit for it. But what really puts it all over the top for me, more than the excellent soul music throughout, is how universal everything about the film is.

Monday, 23 June 2014

This Week

I think this week I'll be spending a long post on a favorite music-related movie of mine and an additional smaller post on comparatively smaller issue. We'll see.

As it is, I've had another bloated weekend of things not quite going the right way, but I will, with God's Grace, hopefully pull through some of the issues soon enough. Nonetheless, compared to some of the crap going on out there, I guess it could be worse.

Anyway, I'll hopefully have the next post up by Wednesday.

We'll see!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Violence In Stories

On Fridays, I think I will try to make a short post on a subject that I think needs covering. Today, I will cover violence in narrative.

Chances are, most stories will have a violent confrontation of some kind.

Well, it happens sometimes in life.

Chances are, someone will either be injured or worse.

Sadly, it also happens in life.

Chances are, some stories will go a bit too far in describing the confrontation or the result in a sickening detail.

... That's when I feel we have a problem.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm



For my first proper post I thought I'd start on one of the first stories to really make an impact on me in my life. And what better place to start than with Batman, one of the most famous superheroes of all-time? In an age of Michael Keaton and two fairly boring films that were more about the villains than Batman himself, there was one story that nailed it better than any director that had attempted the character before.

That movie was the 1993 animated film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

It was suspenseful, it was well written, it was well-acted, and it was probably the best Batman movie of the whole decade. . . in fact, some still argue that it's still the best Batman movie. They certainly have a case, as it is a phenomenal piece of work.

There's drama, high action, romance, suspense, mystery, and it's Batman. What more could a fan of good storytelling want? Mask of the Phantasm has it all and is well worth watching for anyone who enjoys a good film.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Thinking About Things

I've been thinking of doing two updates a week, as sort of a loose schedule. One big update on a story I really like and one smaller one as a more random musing. Of course, I might also do random posts like this in between. Who knows?

Tomorrow I'll be posting on one of my favorite superhero movies to get this ball rolling, and maybe after that I'll do a smaller post by the weekend.

We'll see.

The sky's the limit, after all, right?

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Why the title?

As you've no doubt noticed, this blog has both a peculiar title and an odd image at the top.

What is that all about?

Well, there are several reasons and I'm perfectly willing to do a post dedicated entirely to it at a later date, but for now I'll give a simple explanation.

The image is from an anime titled "Trigun" produced by Japanese studio Madhouse based on a Japanese manga by Yasuhiro Nightow. The title of the blog is from the same and is from the eighth episode of the show when the story radically changes. Now why would I choose this as the general theme of my blog? Again, there are many reasons, so I'll give the short answer for now.

The title is one of many aspects if Trigun that is about more than what it appears on the surface. Episode titles include "Murder Machine", "Sin", and "Under the Sky So Blue" which have multiple meanings for those have seen the show in question. The title to the episode my blog title was taken from has a bit of history to it on top of the multiple meanings.

At the end of every episode one of the characters would narrate a short preview for the next episode and the one for this particular episode struck me hard.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Hello!

Welcome to my blog which should be about the same as any other blog. My name is JD and I like to talk about stories, which is what I will try to focus on. I will attempt to look under the surface a bit to see if there might be a deeper meaning along the way. Storytelling is one of the greatest gifts we have been giving, and I always wanted to do something to celebrate it. This is the best someone like me could think of doing.

Topics can include anything from song lyrics to movies or books and graphic novels. If it's a good story, I'm interested.

Keep in mind that I am a Catholic (and rather orthodox about it), and while I won't be talking theology or comparing notes with the Catechism, I just figured this would be put up front to chase off anyone who might be even slightly interested in what I might have to say. Trust me, it won't be anything profound. But who knows? Your mileage may vary.

I will run the comments quite harshly, however. I don't take kindly to arrogance, hatefulness, or insults of any kind. This blog is about stories and how they can affect us, it is not about how much we hate *insert thing here* because of *insert reason here*, okay? There are enough holes on the internet for such tiresome discussions. Just keep on topic and everything should be fine. (I'm assuming anyone is even reading this.)

With that said, I don't know how this blog will be run or how often it will be updated. More news will (hopefully) come later.