The Importance of Reading

Hello everyone! Today I want to profess my love for dead tattooed trees again. The written word has been one of the most important inventions in history, and some of the greatest inventions in history have been in relation to words. Pencils, pens, the printing press, paper, PEZ dispensers, computers, the internet, social media, and on and on. Each of these important inventions all help spread ideas and thoughts using written words, but each takes a different form and has many uses. You can read for knowledge, to connect with others, for pleasure, or for many other reasons. I want to address how important reading for pleasure is.

No matter what you like to read for pleasure, it is a good time to reset things. You don’t have to worry about what is going on in your life. You can relax and not think too much. Just lose yourself in what you are reading. On the other hand you can also use that time to collect your thoughts without the pressure of having to do anything else with them at the moment. Are the Titans in Attack on Titan representative of the top 1%? Do dogs have existential crises? Does Godzilla ever regret… anything? I do a lot of reading during my lunch break at work which is the perfect time to take a second to relax before having to deal with all of the day job things.

The book is almost always better than the movie. I know it is more convenient to go see the movie and doesn’t require the time investment that a book does. A movie cannot cram all of the content from the book into the 90-120 minutes of a feature film. They are two drastically different forms of media with the written word relying more on the reader’s imagination. This being an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. An advantage because it personalizes the story for the reader as they can consume the characters and construct them as they want in their mind. It is a disadvantage because it requires the reader to think about a scene where a movie allows them to focus on other aspects of the story. I can count on one hand how many movies I have seen that were better than the book. Forrest Gump being first and foremost on the list. However, the number of books that are better than the movie would be a more difficult number to calculate.

Books push ideas. No matter what you read there are always ideas within a book to captivate your mind. Sometimes it is speculation on where we are going with Science Fiction. Many times science fact is figured out later, but they are pushed by the ideas in science fiction. That sense of “what if” that pushes our curiosity and makes us question what might be possible. Sometimes the idea is social in nature questioning why things area certain way and suggesting a better direction. For non-fiction or historical stories it helps to see the successes and mistakes, so we can repeat the success and avoid the mistakes of the past. These are the kinds of ideas that can push us forward into a more positive future. They can inspire us to create new and exciting things, like Pikachu hats that shoot lasers. Seriously, I need one of those.

Stories also provide social opportunities. Every time I am walking with a book in my hands someone asks me what I am reading and if it is any good. Even people who don’t read are curious about what secret knowledge you may have received from the mystic dead tree scribblings. Talk about it with your friends and family! Join a book club! Join my book club! Seriously…. join my book club. We’re reading Only Ever Yours by Louise O’neill. We will be talking about it all month on Goodreads:

Get Inspired

The Muse can be a fickle kitty when it comes to writing. Some days they are dancing and playful and others they disappear without warning leaving writers lamenting their lack of good snacks. Where did all the popcorn go?

So how do we summon the muse and get inspired to begin something new? It is hard enough to build something completely original considering that throughout human history we have written more words than you can count. Every idea that has ever been thought has most likely been thought before by someone else. It is very difficult to come up with something that is truly unique. We have to build upon something old to make something new.

Since we have to build something new off of ideas that have come before, to be able to formulate a new idea we have to familiarize ourselves with old ones. This means immersing yourself in content that meshes with what you are trying to do. For writers, look at the content that is being put out there in the medium that you want to create for. What is the premise of each piece? Do any of them call to you? Is there any tickle in your loins?

If you find something of interest, something you have knowledge about, or most importantly something you can write about then that is a good start. Think about how you would structure it. How would your version of this stand out? Twist things around and make it your own. Maybe this will lead to new ideas that have nothing to do with the subject at hand, or another related subject that was ignored in the content you just absorbed.

Of course inspiration can come from anywhere at any time, so one of the most important parts of getting inspired is simply being open to it. Always look for new ideas. Anything old can be made new. Any song, idea, or social media posting can be transformed into something longer. A smudge on a street sign can be the inspiration for a murder/mystery. How did that smudge get there? What is the smudge? Could it be blood? This is also why I love and hate writing prompts. I constantly come up with new writing ideas, so I have a plethora to choose from. Writing prompts always give me up to five new writing ideas. They are vague ideas just begging to be made whole.

I end up having to pick and choose the ideas that most excite me for what I write. It is hard to find the time to write every single idea that you come up with. No one else wants to write your idea unless you are paying them to do it. It is hard work. It is important that writers pick the idea that most excites them. Those are the ideas that readers will enjoy most.

I am inspired by movies, TV, music, dreams, and almost anything else I come in contact with. So what inspires you? I would love to hear it in the comments!

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!

Molly’s Game

I want to preface this post to profess my love of the game of poker. It is one of the very few games in a casino where you can play against the other players rather than against the house. If you are playing any game against the house chances are that the odds are stacked against you. You can play a lot of those games in a way to give you more favorable odds, but almost none of them will give you over a 50% chance to win. When you play poker you can often tilt the odds in your favor if you know what you are doing. Many times even if you statistically only have a 30% chance to win, you can tilt those odds in your favor if your opponent will fold to a good bet.

I’m not going to go further into the details of the game as Molly’s Game doesn’t. The film throws around a lot of the terminology, but doesn’t expect anyone to know what they mean. It’s a poker movie that isn’t heavy on the poker. The movie is more about Molly and how she built the game rather than the game itself. This is good and bad for various reasons. Poker is a complex game that could turn off the casual moviegoer, but for people who take the game seriously glossing over the actual poker feels like a cop out. In this case it doesn’t take away from the film, but as an aficionado of poker it is disappointing.

Molly’s Game from a storytelling perspective is an interesting film. It mixes interesting characters with a lot of drama and a seedy underworld. A lot of exposition is used to cut through much of the back story for the various characters. This would usually be lazy storytelling, but for a movie it has to be done to keep the film under 8 hours. The twists in the story were also quite interesting.

Typically true life stories don’t have this kind of entertainment value or the twists that this one has. Those are usually reserved for fiction. True to life stories will usually have something outlandish and crazy in a “life is stranger than fiction” kind of way. Molly’s Game has a story that lends better toward film than most true to life stories. Jessica Chastain is also one of my favorite actresses, and her performance is nearly flawless. Go see this film. I can’t wait to see it again. I have also ordered the book and hope it is as good as the movie is.

Update 1/6/18

I know I haven’t been updating here as often as I should. Perhaps that should be a New Year’s resolution for 2018? I am also house hunting, so it is hard to do everything that I am supposed to do within the time frame that it is supposed to be done. I have gone to see every new movie that came out over the holidays. So let’s talk about a few of them.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – This movie is about what you would expect. It loses some of the charm of the original, but it is a worthy sequel/update for the next generation. It captured some of the same magic of the original, but it is more for people who didn’t see it.

The Shape of Water – This is a beautiful and weird sci-fi/monster movie/love story. It is one of Guillermo del Toro’s better films although Crimson Peak is still my favorite. If you like Guillermo’s style and weird love stories then this is definitely for you. I also absolutely loved Sally Hawkins performance.

Darkest Hour – Gary Oldman captures the enigmatic Winston Churchill as I have never seen before. This story is more compelling than it has any business being. I went in thinking it would be an interesting biopic of a British icon that was worth seeing from a historical perspective, but I was surprised at how entertaining the film was. Oldman deserves consideration when awards season comes around for this magnificent performance that would make Godzilla clap. Of course Godzilla would then eat Oldman.

All the Money in the World – There has been a lot of buzz about Christopher Plummer’s performance, but I didn’t think it was any different than any of his other performances. Plummer is a fantastic actor and this is a role that fits his style perfectly. He just wasn’t as big of a character in the story as the trailers make him out to be. Otherwise it was an interesting story with a decent cast that provided some good entertainment.

I also went to see Molly’s Game today and planning to see the new Insidious film tomorrow, but I’ll write more about them tomorrow. I also have a couple of book reviews I am working on, so I should have more updates coming in the near future. Stay tuned!

Currently editing Virtual Wars: Running on Page 11 of 88

The Last Jedi

I went to see the new Star Wars event movie yesterday and it was very very good. If you haven’t seen it yet then what are you doing reading this????  Where are your priorities at? GO SEE IT ALREADY.

I do have a few thoughts on the film from a writing perspective. There are always some campy moments in Star Wars, but they only seemed natural with the original cast. The new addition of bird creatures added a couple of moments of comic relief, but they kept shoving them in the audience’s face where they served no purpose other than as a marketing tool to sell merch.

The Last Jedi begins with what seems like a large time jump after The Force Awakens. At the beginning of the new films the Empire is dead and the Republic is hunting down the last remnants of The First Order who are in hiding. At the end of the film you get the sense that The First Order are a threat to the Republic and have dealt a massive blow, but both sides are maybe on equal footing now in the battle to come. At the beginning of The Last Jedi it is more like the tiny resistance is trying to fight off an overwhelming force led by Commander Snoke. So what happened in between? Maybe I need to watch both movies again?

The writers also tried to do too much within the confines of one film. They did a great job of tying everything together, but it might have worked better if it had been broken up and parts of this film were used in the next one. Many times when writers do this you end up with parts feeling rushed or they just don’t make any sense (Batman v Superman). With The Last Jedi you get a feeling of it being rushed, but it is so awesome that you don’t really mind it too much.

Now I want to talk about the good stuff. The original trilogy of Star Wars was great because of the underdog nature of the films and the moments that they build up that cause you to watch with your mouth agape like HOLY SHHHH… Moments like the first time you see the Death Star blow up, Vader’s confession that he is Luke’s father, Vader turning on Emperor Palpatine. These moments were for the most part missing from the prequel films, although seeing Yoda fighting with Dooku was epic. The Last Jedi reminds us of why we love Star Wars, and it has several of those amazing moments that will stick with you. This is why The Last Jedi will be considered one of the very best Star Wars movies. I can’t wait to go see it again.

Share This!

Lady Bird

I went to see Lady Bird today, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Saoirse Ronan is a fantastic actress. It seems like she is only getting better with each subsequent film. Lady Bird is a coming of age film that captures the angst and generational gap that we all feel at that age. The drama isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but it is done very well. The biting sarcastic dialogue and relationships between the characters are what make the movie. It isn’t exceptionally great at any one thing, but it is good at nearly everything. The one thing that stuck with me about the film is that you cannot make anyone do what you want them to. They are going to do what they want to. It’s a theme that continues throughout the film and it rings true to life.

One of my writer friends asked an open question on Facebook asking how to build a story off an ending and a vague idea of a beginning. My answer was to develop the character in your head then figure out how their motivations would lead them toward that ending. The steps in a story become easier to write if you understand the motivations of your characters. Each one is going to do what they want regardless of what you (the writer) want them to do. If you force them to do something out of character then it will not feel authentic and your readers will notice.

Writing Update

I just got back from seeing The Disaster Artist film. What I found amazing about it was how ridiculous the story was, but then at the end you realize that the actors pretty much nailed the characters they were playing. The film is based on true events and proves that life can be stranger than fiction. I wasn’t expecting the film to be as good as it was, but was pleasantly surprised. Oh, I guess I should include a writing update here as well. Weeeee

Currently editing Virtual Wars: Running on Page 5 of 88

Writing Update!

This is where I will be sharing news updates for upcoming events, writing updates, and other things to look forward to. Today’s update has me really excited. I have been working on the sequel for Virtual Wars: Initialization since last November, and I just finished the first draft. The first draft of Virtual Wars: Running weighs in at 50,064 words. To give you an idea of how long that is, Initialization was around 58,000 words in its final version. Now time for the super fun time known as Editing. Godzilla would be scared of editing. Just saying…