Thinking About… Stuff… and Things – My Writing Process Part 1

Welcome to part one of my wacky writing process. Thinking about stuff… and things is a very important and technical part of every writer’s process… probably… maybe. Brainstorming might be the technical term for it, but I like to stab technical terms with a rusty spoon! The real first step for me is to get inspired which is mostly about keeping yourself open to be inspired. It is the spark that could originate from anywhere or anything. The example I am going to use is an idea that was sparked by a song I heard once on Pandora. The song was Secret by The Pierces. I will continue to use this story as the example for my writing process blog posts going forward. You can watch the video below.

This gave me an idea for a story based on a girl that doesn’t have any friends. She is new to the school and has been isolated for months, and then a new girl joins her class. They become best friends, but don’t have any other friends. Her new friend has a secret though. So what kind of secret does she have? The secret will be an important focal point of the story and will also bond the two girls together. I will refrain from giving away spoilers to this story as much as I can which includes keeping this secret.

Now that I have a base to paint this story on, what do I want the overall themes to be? What kind of story do I want to tell? For this one I have chosen a darker theme, one that is about the corruption of a young and mostly innocent girl. I also want this to be a slow burn thriller type of story, so the corruption will come in stages. Perhaps starting with cursing, then pranks, then cruelty to animals, then move on to revenge on those who reject them, and so on and on gradually escalating. This gradual build up will fill the middle pages of the novel in a way that will build up to the ending.

Most of my writing revolves around the motivations and wills of the characters involved. Sometimes they surprise me, but more often than not I know my characters well enough to see any obstacles to the story I am beginning. So who are these girls and what do they want? The girl wants companionship and a friend. Perhaps her parents won’t allow her any pets. Are they disciplinarians? or perhaps it is a broken home? I don’t have to decide this now, but it is something that I can begin to think about. How involved are her parents going to be? How involved are any other relatives or friends of the family going to be? The new girl’s motivations are to corrupt this girl for her own nefarious purposes. She also seeks companionship, but she wants to drag the girl down to her level. She has done all of the things she is going to try to get the other girl to do. She wants a kindred spirit that will share in her corruption.

Now I think about all the other characters within this story. Teachers, other kids in school, custodians, the school administration, and other encounters she might have while at school. Does she have any outside of school activities? Maybe piano lessons with Ms Vernor down the street. Family is always important to think about too. Mother, father, siblings, pets, cousins, etc.. Each character will have to be documented and I will have to figure out what kind of role they have in the main character’s life. Make a list because the next step will make use of it.

In this initial stage I am thinking about all of the exciting possibilities and what I could potentially have in this idea for a novel. I would encourage you to write down every idea that excites you about the story while you are brainstorming because every great idea will float away like a bubble if you don’t write it down before it pops. The temptation to write the actual story instead of just the idea of the story might hit you while brainstorming. I try not to jump in so hastily because I tend to throw out nearly everything I write in this initial phase. Ideas morph and change as needed, so the characters you have in your mind might be completely different by the time you reach the middle. Also if you have no middle then it could be like running into a brick wall when you reach that point of the story. This is why I was unable to finish anything until I came up with this process.

I hope you enjoyed this first installment of the guide to my writing process and to those future authors out there, I hope as this guide is built that there are some tidbits that will help you along the way. Always remember that the writing process is highly subjective, so what works for me might not work for you. The trick is to find what does work for you and cut out any part of the process that doesn’t. In the next part of the guide I will go over building a character sheet for each character. Until next time, *insert catchy tag line here*.

Mile 22 Review

Mile 22 follows a group of specialized troops known as Overwatch. They are the ones who step in when negotiation and the army is unable to fix things, or so they say in the movie. One of their informants gives them some bad information and then shows up at the embassy. The informant says they have the information needed, but won’t give it up unless he gets out of the country.

I get why some people will love this, some will hate it, and the rest of us will just kind of shrug and move on. The story in this film is lacking substance. There is a lot of action, but it is hard to tell what is going on because of horrid cinematography. The shots jump cut around while zooming in so close that you think there might be a fight going on, or at the very least some very aggressive hugging.

The story is very simplistic, but it does have a nice twist at the end. Wahlberg has a few scenes where he rapid fire talks about issues and ideals aggressively, but those tirades don’t make a plot or substitute for a story. The plot holes are just as rapid fire. Enemies show up without rhyme or reason just so they can show more aggressive hugging. It’s like the filmmakers think aggressive hugging should be an Olympic sport. The film also jumps around in time, but doesn’t set up the scenes well and it can be confusing for some. There are scenes where Wahlberg is being interviewed about the events in the film or maybe he is narrating for a book he is writing or maybe talking to his dog about it? They don’t really add anything to the film and it is a bit of a mystery why they weren’t left on the cutting room floor.

In the end Mile 22 a below average action film. For as many problems that this film has, there are moments in the film that are enjoyable and show what the movie could have been. Still there is a section of America that glorifies gun violence who will hold this up as a fine piece of cinema while another section of America will condemn it for similar political reasons. I am not looking at it as a political commentary, but rather as entertainment. As a piece of entertainment Mile 22 falls short.

Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians follows Rachel Chu who is in a serious relationship with Nick Young. He asks her to come with him to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding and she agrees. When they get to the airport people begin to treat them like royalty. She then finds out that her boyfriend’s family is rich. Now she has to survive his scheming crazy family that are watching her with judging eyes and contempt.

This film, if you go by the script only, is a generic romcom. It hits all of the familiar tropes and notes that any other romcom hits. What sets it apart is that it does almost everything extremely well. The comedic moments are extremely cute, but not overly funny. There are parts where it could have gotten over the top or cheesy, but gets reigned in enough to make the characters believable. The comedy serves the purpose of making the characters endearing rather than making you laugh out loud. Constance Wu does a fantastic job of being charming and making you want to root for her. Michelle Yeoh is also very good in her role as the disapproving mother.

Romance and drama with a little comedy sprinkled in make Crazy Rich Asians very enjoyable. It rises on the back of a fantastic performance by Constance Wu. Nearly every supporting character is memorable even in their much smaller roles. The script itself is slightly above average, but when everything else comes together like this you get a pretty good result. I would recommend this to anyone interested or who enjoys romance movies. I wouldn’t say it is a great romance film, but it is the best I have seen in a good long while.

Review of Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark, #1)

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Carve the Mark follows the main characters of Cyra and Akos. Akos is a Thuve who was kidnapped at an early age by the Shotet along with his brother. His sole goal in life now is to get his beloved brother back and escape from this place. Cyra is the sister of the maniacal leader of the Shotet who holds a secret over her to force her to do his bidding. Many of the characters have fates that are cryptic bits of foreshadowing. The leader of the Shotet spends most of the book being cruel and doing whatever he can to avoid his fate.

The world and mythos surrounding this novel is rich and deep. I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of mysticism and science fiction elements. The current stream reminds me of the Force in Star Wars. It is a part of everyone, but only certain fated people will receive a current gift in the form of some kind of power. Every power is different and unique to that person.

The story mostly revolves around the relationship between Cyra and Akos although there is so much more to the novel. Their races or peoples are mortal enemies who are only separated by a field of poisonous plants. Their Romeo and Juliet tale drags in spots as they find their way after being forced together because their current gifts complement each other.

As well done as this novel is, it still feels like it is lacking something. It doesn’t contain anything that I haven’t read about in other novels or seen in science fiction movies. The story is very straightforward and is missing any kind of surprising twists. I enjoyed the Divergent series for what it was although you could tell Roth was rushed to finish it. This novel doesn’t feel rushed, but could have been tightened up a bit. The world feels robust and filled with life while the story is rather bland by comparison.

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BlacKKKlansman Review

BlacKKKlansman follows Ron Stallworth who is the first black police officer on the Colorado Springs police force. He starts off in the mail room where he is harassed by some of the other officers. He then asks to go undercover and gets rejected because he is still new to the force. Later they ask him to spy on an activist that they are trying to run out of town. He then decides to give a call to the local KKK to tell them how much he hates minorities. After making contact he is able to infiltrate the organization with the help of another officer who takes on his in-person role.

Spike Lee is a master of experimental drama. The cinematography and colors used throughout are beautiful. Spike hasn’t always had the most entertaining of scripts to work with and he tends to refrain from cutting his films as much as they probably should be. This movie along with Inside Man are the two most entertaining of his films, but it does drag in spots. The acting in it is decent, but none of the performances are especially noteworthy. John David Washington in the lead is a bit over the top, but is charming in his role. Spike Lee’s greatest triumph in this film is how he blends phrases and rhetoric that are still in use today. It turns the film into an important social commentary that can be eye opening. It is entertaining, but at the same time depressing because you see very clearly how little progress has been made in the United States.

In the end BlacKKKlansman is an entertaining film that I would recommend to anyone that is interested in seeing it. The ending to the film is a sobering gut punch that brings you back to the reality that this is based off a true story. I know this is a dramatization that doesn’t present the facts exactly as they were, but the way it is presented is quite powerful. While there are some humorous parts, don’t go in expecting a comedy because the humor only serves to break up the tension and make the message have a greater impact.

The Meg Review

The Meg follows a crew of underwater exploration scientists who are exploring a deep trench in the ocean that they believe may be deeper than what is currently accepted as the maximum depth. They send an exploration submarine down and it pushes through a membrane that separates the larger ocean above and a patch of warmer water that has not been explored. They find to their delight that the area is teeming with life. Something large attacks the submarine and now the crew of 3 inside are trapped at the bottom. Jason Statham plays a character that has run rescue missions before at that depth and also encountered something large and unexplained. They decide to call him in to save the day. Of course it ends up being a megolodon that is causing all the ruckus. That pesky shark!

Statham gives his usual action film performance which can be entertaining to watch. He does manage to dominate the action sequences and does an adequate job everywhere else. Li Bingbing is the one that brings most of the charm to the pedestrian script. If not for her and some of the excellent work by some of the other supporting actors, most notably Winston Chou and Sophia Cai, this film would have ended up being your average action film with a shark. Instead it has a bit of charm and is an enjoyable experience if not a very profound one.

The marketing campaign made me feel like this would be a camp-fest, almost like a melding of Jaws and Sharknado. While there are a few humorous moments, the campiness I was expecting was non-existent. The film still has its charms and could be a bit of afternoon fun if you are a fan of Statham. Don’t go in expecting much as this is a film you can enjoy for the moment, but easily forget soon after.

Christopher Robin

Christopher Robin is a live action Winnie the Pooh movie. That is the best way that I can describe the movie. It follows Christopher Robin who has now grown up and has a family of his own. Unfortunately he has forgotten the lessons he learned from Winnie, Eeyore, Tigger, and crew. Winnie awakens in the 100 acre forest where he lives to find all of his pals to be gone. He then seeks out the adult Christopher Robin to help.

The film captures the essence of each character from the original material in a way that book to film adaptations rarely get right. The whimsical nature of Pooh, the exuberance of Tigger, the defeatism of Eeyore… they are all captured perfectly. The special effects that animate each old stuffed animal only adds to the charm of it. It also adds a fragility that makes you feel that at any moment Christopher Robin could wake up from this hallucination and the stuffed animals would simply fall limp. Just like the fragility of a childlike imagination that can easily be lost in the day to day shuffle of adulting. Pooh by far is the star of the film. The bear’s charm is undeniable and his Confucious-like logic is something of a revelation.

Christopher Robin is the type of magical family movie that you almost exclusively see from Disney. Even for a Disney movie this is a cut above, and ranks up there as possibly one of the best movies they have ever made. Let that sink in… the studio that made classics like Bambi, Sleeping Beauty, Alladin, Cinderella, The Lion King, Big Hero 6, Frozen, *insert loads of the best animated films of all time*… and this could be better than many of those films. That means you need to grab your family and go see this film. You can thank me later.

The Spy Who Dumped Me

The Spy Who Dumped Me follows Mila Kunis who was dumped by her longtime boyfriend right before her birthday. Her best friend, played by Kate McKinnon, texts her ex letting him know that they are about to burn a box of his stuff. As they are doing the deed her ex calls telling them not to burn his stuff and that he will be back to explain everything. The next day she is kidnapped by the CIA who want to know all about her ex. Apparently he has disappeared and was a spy for them. Shenanigans ensue after that.

Halfway an action movie and halfway a comedy it doesn’t really manage to be either. The action scenes are decent, but they tried to make them comedic by having the two women scream like they just saw a bug crawl across the floor. Unfortunately Kunis and McKinnon have all the comedic chemistry of a fish flopping around on concrete. There are still a bunch of mildly funny scenes. The story has a few twists that begin to get a bit ridiculous by the time the movie concludes.

Even with all the negatives this movie manages to be entertaining somehow. It’s not stellar or worth going to theaters for, but if you are a fan of Kunis or McKinnon then I would recommend checking this out when it comes on Netflix/Hulu/etc.


Blindspotting follows Collin during his last few days of probation. He just needs to not screw it up or he will find himself back in jail. At the same time his best friend Miles, who has supported him and stood up for him since they were both little, has a very short fuse and is not the brightest bulb in the box. It seems like every event is conspiring to put him back in jail. He witnesses a police officer execute a black man that was screaming “Don’t shoot”, and all of his friends bring their unlicensed firearms around him.

While there are some amusing scenes, most of which revolve around Miles trying to hustle for money, there isn’t much to laugh at in this film. I’m not sure why it is listed as a comedy. The social commentary and dramatic sequences are what truly make this film shine. The comedic scenes only serve to ensure the drama doesn’t become too tedious. The problem is that the comedic scenes are cartoonish while the dramatic scenes feel very serious. They both clash with each other and also somehow make the film feel real.

This movie, like in real life, has a bit of everything mashed together. It is hard to pin down a message that the movie is trying to push while it pushes several at you. Ultimately Blindspotting will be a film that critics enjoy much more than audiences will. It alternates from being silly to being overly dramatic with both sides undermining the impact of the other. I enjoyed the film for what it was, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if the director or writer had chosen the type of movie it was going to be and stuck with that through the entire run of it. As it is the film asks you to take it seriously while it refuses to take itself seriously.

Stick To It!

Stick To It!

Hello everyone! I know it has been several months, but I want to assure you all that I did in fact survive the Care Bear Apocalypse. I haven’t been very active lately due to all the work my new house has needed. Instead of writing here I have been building bookcases, fixing sinks, wrestling goats, and trying to kill bugs with a toothpick crossbow. For a while there I was also without internet. Not completely without internet, but the wifi at my house was so jacked up that I couldn’t even check email. I called the interweb plumbers to clean out the tubes and it seems to have worked! Huzzah!

Anyway I just wanted to make a quick post to inspire you all and to also talk about my plans for the future. I realize that if I want to make this writing thing work then I have to take it seriously, and I do. It means a lot of hard work and constantly pushing to improve. It means stepping up toward ever increasing goals. It means tackling guys who wear football jerseys because they are asking for it. It means making or begging someone to make fudge brownies for your book signings, so you can eat them all… or maybe share them with people who come to see you.

On my original blog I had the phrase “chasing my dreams and then writing them down”. When chasing dreams you need the best running shoes because they are elusive. Persistence is how you achieve those goals. You have to stick to it! Keep trying new things, keep what works, discard the rest. Some things that work for others may not work for you. Try them anyway. If you are trying to sell anything, any piece of marketing you put out there is helping. You may start small, but if you are consistent and keep pushing your message then you will get there. I have found that people will say no in their head or out loud or shouting it at you in the parking lot many times before they will say yes. Be persistent, but not spammy. It’s a fine line we all have to walk between keeping people engaged and running up to them all frothy mouthed saying, “HEY YOU, I HAVE A THINGY THAT I WANT YOU TO SEE YOU MUST GO GET IT NAOWWWWWWW!!!!” Seriously, keep chasing your dreams. The only way you can fail is to quit. The only thing keeping you from success is time. Keep doing the work! DO THE THING! PUSH THE BUTTON!

So I have a few ideas of things I will be trying in the future. If you like the ideas I am about to share then please let me know or forever hold your genitals.

  • Night Reads – I really want to bring back Night Reads, but I have to change the focus of the program. I mean, book readings are boooooooring. Watching those old videos may cure insomnia, but sleep is for the weak! Instead I want to transform it into a kind of video book club where I read a book and then talk about it briefly every month. YAY BOOK CLUB THINGY! I will post more details the closer this comes to being a real thing that I am definitely doing.
  • Writing fiction stuff on the blog! – Yes! I want to write stories right here on the blog. I used to post fiction on Wattpad and I may still do that, but I will be more likely to post it here first! The sequel to The Cursed Armor will be among the stories I plan to write on here. Most of them will be shorter stories or novellas, and they will all be first or very close to first drafts, so if you are expecting perfection then you likely haven’t read this far anyway 😉
  • Newsletter – I haven’t sent out a newsletter in a while, but I want to begin sending out one regularly. Especially when I have events that are coming up, or places I will be appearing. If you want to stay updated on that sort of thing for stalkery reasons then I will save you from having to do all the researching! I have had a bunch of charity events recently that I haven’t done as much as I could to promote and I want to change that going forward.
  • Guides – I will also be posting guides on this blog. I am really good at graphics, or at least sometimes if the planets align I don’t completely suck at them, so I will post guides aimed at authors and bloggers alike on how to create their own graphics. I will also post guides on the writing craft and possibly a guide on silliness too.

I’m not sure on a timeframe for these plans, but I have a plan and I’m gonna stick to it like gum to the bottom of a movie theater seat! Make your plan and stick to it as well!