Thursday, October 8, 2009
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
The Lost World by Michael Crichton
Bad Twin by Gary Troup
Lisey’s Story by Stephen King
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Hard Times by Charles Dickens
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
The Fall by Albert Camus
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
A Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
Insomnia by Stephen King
I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Paradise Lost by John Milton
The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Divine Comedy Vol I, II, III by Dante
The Iliad by Homer
The Odyssey by Homer
The Aeneid by Virgil
The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel
On Writing by Stephen King
Jesus Under Fire by Michael J. Wilkins and J. P. Moreland
The Bible Jesus Read by Philip Yancey
Candide by Voltaire
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti
The Oath by Frank Peretti
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Refresh, Refresh by Benjamin Percy
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
(and no, I haven't finished The Deathly Hallows yet)
Monday, September 28, 2009
Soon he started to sweat.
“Leave me alone, bitch,” he told one of the female baristas after she asked if she could help him. He didn’t shout, but he threw an empty paper cup at her. No one else saw it.
When he started getting gruff with customers, the manager threatened to send him home early and not pay him for the day. He didn’t respond any further than pushing the manager out of the way with his shoulder as headed to the restroom again.
The sweat was running down the sides of his face and catching in his beard. A snotty, Gucci-wearing woman advanced on the register and complained to him that her latte was not in fact soymilk, but skim. At this he picked up the glass tray holding the last remaining bagels and threw it. The tray narrowly missed her head and shattered against the opposite wall.
“Then go somewhere else,” he said calmly as he cocked his head to the side. Everyone in the coffee shop was silent. All eyes were on the bearded employee, who stood like a rock. The woman stormed out and when the manager grabbed his arm to tell him to leave, he punched her in the face. She staggered backwards, her face instantly swelling around one of her eyes.
“Call 911,” she said through tears to the other employer, whose earpiece was slowly sliding off his head. “Call 911,” she repeated louder.
He began to stagger and flail, knocking as much off the counter as he could. Pastries flew about while the unruly employee laid waste to the store. He even tried to over-turn the espresso machine, but it alone stood up to him. Another barista, the only other male inside at the time, confronted him, but he took a pot of steaming water to the face. The doctors would later tell him he would never look the same again.
Having moved into the lobby of the coffee shop, he began over-turning tables and chairs. He kicked at one particular table that would not topple the way he wished and as he did so, he slipped and fell backwards. His head struck the edge of the counter and he did not get up again.
“I’ll need to see the tape,” said an officer as he pointed to a security camera in the far corner of the store. The employee lay dead at the officer’s feet, a ring of blood haloing his lifeless head. He nudged the body with his boot but felt a sensation not like that of flesh. The officer bent down and pulled a nearly empty flask out of the dead employee’s pocket.
Monday, September 21, 2009
He turned and smashed a canvas on the wall with his fist. Back outside he toppled the trash bin and dug around. The man pulled out a to-go box with half of an old salad inside, covered in mold and slime. He threw the salad at the front door and smeared long streaks as gravity pulled it down. And thus he marked them for what they are.
(I want to say thank you to The Who for inspiring the title. I'm back at the blogging gig, and hope to stay that way. I know I've said it before. But I'll try.)
Friday, July 10, 2009
I just read "Idols" by Tim Gautreaux in the June 22 issue of The New Yorker. One of the most powerful short stories I've read all year and it follows almost the same plot structure as my story, "Red Truck" (not that I'm bragging). Obviously his was done first, and certainly more powerful than mine is considering mine is still in the draft stages. The main character is torn down by his obsession and effectively alienates his only hope in friendship and help. Its beautiful. Depressing, sure, but beautiful in the way well-written stories are. Read it and revel in its greatness.
So, now, what do I do? Do I sit and wallow in the fact that my basic story idea has already been done, and most likely better than I could pull it off? Or do I use this as inspiration to make mine better and more powerful? It's daunting either way you look at it.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
We're all grappling for a place, a significance. I think this economy is sobering up the nation. Our over-spending has caused a return to the bare necessities. We can't all have the impact and the image that we strive for; this fact is hitting us hard. Still we try, it's part of the human condition.
I believe that we should all try, at the very least, to have an impact, a positive indentation in the lives whom we can reach and be content with doing so. What you say, do, create and share with others does have an impact on those who receive. Some may even be touched, in the most sentimental meaning of the word, by you. So, you might not feel that what your doing has any purpose, but it does.
For me, I might not have the job I want or yet be a published fiction author, but the friends and family whom I share my words with are changed because of it. No matter how visible your impact on them may be, you've had one. Always remember that. Without you, or me, or the funny looking bearded man across the coffee shop, this world would not be the same.
I apologize for being away for so long. I've been busy muddling through what feels like failed attempts at writing. Job applications happen here and there. Still no luck. I hope to have a story completed in time for the Esquire magazine fiction contest (due Aug. 1), but plot details evade me. I've been reading, also. Go about your surfing in peace and hopefully I'll be writing here again soon.
Monday, May 25, 2009
The first book up for an "On-The-Go" review is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print by Renni Browne and Dave King. I had seen this book mentioned and praised on other blogs, and seeing how I'm editing myself at the moment, I decided to pick up a copy. An intro and three chapters in, I'm not entirely impressed. In general, I find their advice and explanations to be over-simplified. Occasionally they'll strike a chord and I'll have one of those, "I haven't thought of it that way before" moments.
Browne and King have a nasty habit of taking a classic like Lonesome Dove or The Great Gatsby and suggesting 'better' ways certain passages could have been written. Maybe this is to make the young writer feel less over-shadowed by the greats. Maybe this is to simply use well-known examples. Or maybe this technique rose from over-grown editor egos. (Disclaimer: I love editors, have served as one myself, and believe many great journalists and writers had brilliant editors.)
Chapter One, "Show and Tell," focused exactly on what you might think it. You've got to show the read what's happening rather than tell it to them...at least most of the time. Of course some narration is necessary. This is their point. It's a great chapter to open with, because it's a problem we all deal with and definitely something that beginning writers might not even think about. If you've taken any creative writing classes you're not missing much by skipping this.
Chapter Two, "Characterization and Exposition." It's almost a continuation of chapter one and therefore its logical successor. Again, minimal help here for those who've had training, but it did hold some nuggets. The writers do a good job of stressing that characters should be defined and described mainly through their actions, rather than an introductory narrative description.
Chapter Three, "Point of View." Browne and King stress that the only points of view that need to be discussed or even considered are first, third and omniscient. I have always been taught that you should find a point of view (first, second, third) and a distance (how omniscient) and stick with it all the way through. Sure, there are great examples where authors broke this rule; Faulkner did it in As I Lay Dying, where each chapter was presented from a different character's perspective. However, these editors seem to say that as long as you don't get too confusing or intimate with one POV than another you can jump around. Sounds dangerous to me.
More general details and brief chapter reviews to come.
On that note: I have completed small revisions for the second draft of "Red Truck." But, having read it over a couple times and discussing the few others who have also, I have decided to re-write the whole thing in third person rather than first. I've only dealt with the intro couple of pages and things are already looking up. This story might have a future after all.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Today, however, I have yet to pick up the manuscript. But, I've been busy. I followed up on two job applications and am hoping/praying for a call or two. I did a bit of a recap on all of my submissions of "Gullible Jack;" I found out that one journal rejected me without notification and I sent a query to another that has taken its time. I have six submissions still pending. Also, I heard back from Benjamin Percy who had some good advice to give. It's encouraging to talk to published short story authors. On that note I also have attempted to contact an old fiction professor of mine in hopes that she will be willing to help me edit "Red Truck."
In other, somewhat related news, I came across the blog Words on the Page written by Lori Widmer. She has declared tomorrow, May 15, as Writers Worth Day. The goal is to express that the work writers do is worth more than the little, if any, compensation they are given. Low pay pay for news, reporting and freelancing is a problem that the journalism and publishing communities are facing now more than ever. Going beyond raising awareness, Lori is posting career tips and information for writers all month. Please check out her blog and show your support as well.
Now, I'm off to do some editing, maybe a little reading and then hitting the hay.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
There is a lot in this writing blog community of ours about self-editing and revision like this post at The Blood-Red Pencil. I think this will be my process of editing for now:
1. I will get my wife and maybe one or two others to read it and have them give me their honest thoughts on the story as a whole.
2. Print out the manuscript and mark up the hard copy with micro-editing and notes on larger issues. I might even lay out pages at a time on the floor to get a bigger-picture view.
3. Take notes in my notebook about scenes and details that need addressing.
4. Read and re-read the hard copy.
5. Begin making changes.
But first, I think I'll take the rest of the weekend off and give my brain a break from the story. How do you self-edit and revise? I'm interested in any tips or suggestions.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
A use of subtlety that I'm most interested in is foreshadowing, a common technique in mystery fiction. I was reading the short story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" by J.D. Salinger last night and was struck by the simple, but impacting construction of it. He made it clear early on that something bad would happen. Then mid-way he stilled my fears by a delightful, heartwarming scene. But the third part happened quickly and made me feel foolish for forgetting about the first scene. It was a "how could I not see that coming" moment. While this is hardly the best or most complex example, it still worked.
The key is to not trick the reader. This should not be a deus ex machina. There should be an element of shock to the reader, but also an "Ah HA" aspect as well. They should then remember past elements of the book/story and realize that you planned this. "Bananafish" would not have worked had the first scene not been there. There would have been no reason for the end to happen the way it did. (I'm trying not to give away too much, but everyone should find this story and read it.)
That kind of foreshadowing is what I'd like to be able to produce in "Red Truck." Actually, I'm trying for two types of the subtlety. In parts, I want the reader to be aware of things that Margie, my tragedy, is not and later her feel foolishly for not seeing it. In other ways, I want the traditional type of foreshadowing, where I leave hints here and there to lead up to the end. I'm going to try to keep my eyes open for this kind of subtlety in my reading here on out.
I'm so close to finishing the first draft. I'm quite a slow writer. I think I'm thinking too much about revision to finish. There is just too much going on: job applications, working, magazine reading, other reading. Hopefully, the next post will be about the finishing of the first draft and the beginning of revision. Oh, how I love revision!
Monday, April 20, 2009
Allow me to rant for a minute: A friend pointed out the irony of the title of my blog with the nature of my degree, as he implied that journalism is often fabricated. If only people knew the lengths to which reporters and editors go to ensure the accuracy of the story. Of course there are those who abuse their power of information sharing. There will always be bad seeds. Just don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. And people complain about the media constantly, but do you know anyone that actually stops paying attention to news and current events because they say it's all made up or slanted? No. Journalism will always exist. There is in an inherent need for it.
Sure, without a doubt, the media has somewhat of a liberal slant (in some mediums and outlets more than others). But, as a professor once said addressing this statement, it's in the nature of the business. The profession is that of watchdog and activist work, and therefore those practicing share the liberal, social mindset.
And now I make a connection between the blog and journalism. I believe, hope, that my training in journalism will help me to see what fiction needs to be written. The best fiction relates truths, thereby becoming a form of journalism. I hope that my knowledge of what goes into a good story, the details that need to be looked for, will inform and aid my journalism profession once it starts.
I came across a story in the LA Times through Newspaperproject.org. It shows that while journalism is in a slump, there is still hope. Now, I just need someone to put their trust in my abilities and hire me.
Monday, April 13, 2009
I think I'm realizing one of my weaknesses as a writer, not including my A.D.D. I have a hard time providing enough background and, for lack of a better term, psychological evidence for what is taking place in the story. Apparently, I tend to focus too much on the here and now of the piece. I will keep this in mind as I wrap up the first draft of "The Red Truck" and go through the editing process.
A question for you writers out there: How do you write a first-person narrative without using "I" in almost every sentence? Right now that's what it feels like is happening to me.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I find that when I write it helps me to listen to music that corresponds to the mood of the scene. When she's angry I listen to foreboding metal. Creepy soundscapes help me shape the scary moments. At Margie's moment of romantic downfall The Used helped out with the song, "Poetic Tragedy." I get excited about what I'm writing. Hopefully I'm connecting more emotionally with the words than the music playing in the background.
I suggest you try the same. It's like adding a sound track to your work. It helps me. Maybe it will help you, unless you're the type that needs silence when you write.
Here's a sample:
The next week followed a similar pattern. I played the zombie at work. Cathy hardly spoke to me, and I definitely didn’t spark any conversations. Jay never came in. At home I hardly read anything more than my email. Food was uninspiring. The snow continued to fall meanderingly.
And the red truck remained.
I did nothing about it. I did my best to ignore its existence and began parking on the side of the building almost out of instinct. The truck, well, the truck haunted me. While I tried to forget about it, it didn’t forget about me. It was my nightmare to my dreams of Jay.
All I really did think about, though, was Jay. In a way, the thought of him possibly coming into the store is what got me out of bed each morning. I loved his perfectly manicured blond locks and his exquisite posture. I constantly daydreamed about him holding me tight, close enough that I could smell the source of his cologne. When the coffee woke me in the mornings, I imagined that it was he pouring my cup. My lax reading fueled this growing crush; in the past the books I read kept my mind busy during the day as I looked forward to going deeper into the mystery.
Sometimes, my daydreaming went further than morning coffee. My thoughts became physical, lustful. Hands on thighs. Lips on necks. Bodies on bodies. Like a scene from a romance novel, I wanted him, needed his touch more than ever.
A week and a day after my tantrum, my priorities changed.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Seeing his studio was inspiring to say the least. I wonder how much they would charge me to let me sit at his table, in his chair, and write just for a day. I imagine that I would be very productive to write in his huge, beautiful home on Key West. Coming home, found me getting back to my part-time job, unpacking and road noise. It feels like there are too many distractions. The grass is always greener, isn't it?
I've tried working on a schedule for my writing, get so many words done each day, each week. But I'm having trouble disciplining myself. I want to write, I enjoy writing, but some days I'm just incredibly A.D.D., getting distracted by blogs, news and crappy television.
All that said, I have made some progress this week on "Red Truck." I also had an interesting experience a couple days ago that needs make its way onto a Word document for use later in some unforeseen capacity.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
The day the red truck arrived I was too tired to care. I had been at work, unloading new reams of fabric since 8 a.m. Two customers forced me to waste a total of thirty feet of cloth because they couldn’t make up their minds. The blonde girl said she was student at the nearby design school. I know more about fabric than she ever will. All in all it wasn’t too bad; Jay came in.
The next morning I awoke to the smell of coffee wafting into my bedroom. Sometimes I imagine waking to find a man, shirtless and in pajama pants, in the kitchen pouring a hot cup and saying, “I was just about to bring this to you.” But really I had set the pot’s timer for 6:30 a.m. I poured a cup for myself, topped it off with heavy cream and sat in front of the television for my morning dose of news. The weatherman promised snow for my area starting that night; it could total ten inches over the next couple of days, he said.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
Last Thursday I met author Benjamin Percy. He is a tremendous modern, young writer and I recommend his short stories to anyone looking for a good read. I went to a reading he did. I had never been to a reading before. Definitely an experience, one that you should not pass up.
I'm taking a step back from "Unreasonable Seizure" and am starting a piece tentatively called "Red Truck." A squirrely bookish woman has a red truck with an enclosed bed park in her spot at her small apartment complex. It doesn't leave and she makes it her goal to find out whose it is and why it is there. Strange events ensue. Once I have something substantial started I'll post it.
Monday, February 2, 2009
I'm trying to sell my short story "Gullible Jack" to various journals. Out of 12 submissions I have received three rejections so far. It's a tale of a very confused small child. Jack believes that if he eats a roadkill squirrel, he can become one. It's sad, gruesome and downright weird. I like to consider it an homage to Kafka. Due to it's odd and disturbing nature I'm not surprised it's being turned down. I just need to find the right journal or magazine for this type of story.
Hopefully I'll have some new material to post here soon. Thanks to those of you following me early on in my blogging life.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Slowly and steadily he walks into his room. Closing the door quietly behind him, he turns to face the darkness. There is no one inside. He is... This feeling strikes him even though he was expecting it. He knew the whole time that he would be by himself. The boy walks deeper into his room and pauses again. He is still... Now what? He looks at his computer and his heart sinks. I could talk to someone, then I wouldn’t feel so... As he sits down he begins to click on the screen-name of an old high school friend. It’s pointless. I’ll still be... He stands up and faces his room again. With determination the boy reaches toward the clothing that lies on his bed. No longer feeling or thinking, he drags the clothes off the bed and lets the fall to the floor. Am I watching myself? He has just received the notion that he is having an out-of-body experience. It’s like a movie; a very depressed person has just realized how much is missing from his once happy life. The boy curls his fingers around the bottom of his shirt and slowly raises his arms. Once his head had been ejected from his shirt he holds it and stares. The shirt hit floor. Desperate for more freedom he removes his shorts. No one is here. No one cares. Now standing in his underwear he looks around the room once more. Slowly turning his head he searches for something, anything. Nothing. In a sudden revelation he grabs his phone off of his desk and turns the ringer off, denying company. Having given up on finding someone to hold he slowly puts himself on his bed, stomach first. He reaches behind him and pulls the sheet and comforter (How ironic. It’s bullshit) up to his neck. Burying his face in his pillow he finally releases. Pillow soaked, he drifts away and loses consciousness, alone.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
And so they did. The two thugs tucked Rod in like a sick child and all but kissed his forehead. They rushed around the house straightening knocked over lamps and replacing furniture. The place was already such a mess that they really hadn’t done much damage beyond what was already there. Returning to their van, they grabbed their guns again.
“Not much dark left,” said Mike. “Let’s make this quick. No names.”
“No names,” Tom repeated.
At midnight on an average Friday night on an ordinary suburban street, a typical 28 year old exited a normal yellow taxi.
I am an aspiring fiction writer with aspirations beyond blogs, but would like to use this as a tool for feedback. I also am a young journalist, recently graduated, looking, searching and hoping to begin a career. For the time being, however, I will write what I can, and see what I can't get published.
What will happen here is I will publish short-shorts, sentences and excerpts from current projects. Perhaps once I have a fair amount of readers, I will run ideas by you. You will provide comments and feedback. Loads of it, please. I don't care if you hated every word, I want to know. I want to know what felt right, what didn't work, what you wanted more of or less of. I promise to try my best to be error free in both content and grammar. Please forgive me, as you are my editor.
My hope for this blog is that it will bring criticism, excitement, hope and encouragement to my seedling career.