Monday, February 17, 2014
I was mildly disappointed in the lack of a Randall Flagg reference, which easily could have been applied. I thought that was a missed opportunity.
I really liked the idea of Abra. Thought the naming convention was a little trite and ironic, but I have been known to indulge in similar naming conventions (my Jake Monday series titles, for one). But, as a character, Abra is not as well-drawn as Danny. I imagine it would be difficult for a man of King's age (and sex) to do a character like Abra justice. I say that, realizing of course, that he did a wonderful job of that in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.
Adult Danny got on my nerves a bit at first. This was perhaps the part of the novel I liked least. Tearing him down to the lowest point is a common fiction convention, and certainly in character considering his father, but the low was not as low as his father. It fell a little short of that. Not that I want Danny murdering someone or beating his child or chasing his wife with an axe. It just felt over-blown. I found it interesting that when Dan Torrance finally opens up about it at the AA meeting, the audience there has the same ho-hum attitude about the story that I did.
One thing about this criticism, if I look at it objectively: we often are more harsh on ourselves regarding our redemption and deep, dark secrets than others might be when they compare our deeds or or lack of action to their own experiences. For every person who feels awful about themselves, totally disappointed that they neglected their aging parent, there is someone who shot a kid while cleaning their gun, or hit their child in anger, or hit a woman while driving drunk. It is all relative. Not that it expunges each of us from the guilt we feel. This guilt is a cleansing thing, a reminder that we are fallible and must try harder, strive more for peace, love, and serving others--change the way we act and think.
I think that is the deeper message King is sending in Doctor Sleep. He explores it with the night clerk, Torrance's AA mentor, Abby's grandmother, and even the True Knot. We are responsible for our actions and how those actions impact those around us.
All-in-all, this is a book I will highly recommend. Not as good as 11/22/63 in many ways, but a healthy reminder that King is only getting better at this writing thing. I think he might be famous some day. :)
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
I wrote this review on GoodReads and on Amazon. I highly recommend that when readers finish a book, they review it at least on the site where they purchased it.
My Review of Blue Like Jazz:
I read this book after having read two books by Eldredge and one by Francis Chan in the last 30 days. It is odd to see the similarities among these books. Especially the references to pop culture. One thing he added was his apparition of Emily Dickinson. I don't think any Christian writer in his right mind would actually tell that tale. It was the beginning of his redemption for me, though. It was when he first began to be "real" as he puts it.
Nothing about culture validates philosophical thinking, religious beliefs, or human suffering. This is perhaps my biggest problem with his writing style. He elevates a progressive-thinking anti-religious think-tank, a hippie commune, a bachelors-are-us retreat, and an on-the-edge church as morally and spiritually more pertinent than the Midwestern "Republican-supporting" churches of his youth. It revolves mostly around the lack of structure, the value of not being judged, and the name brands of their clothes, the social consciousness of the music they listened to, the authors they knew, the quality of the coffee and beer they consumed, and the lofty intellectual relevancy of their conversations.
Christianity, or "Christian spirituality" as he puts it, is not made more pure because one is socially conscious. I think sometimes this is a misconception that is spread by mainline Christianity's fear-induced hatred of people we see as opposed to our values, our choices, and our love for God. We DO care about other people. We give. We battle our own prejudices. However, in the process of Don Miller's accusations about the Christian experience, he committed the same sin he was pointing towards. The speck of dust he was trying to remove from their eye was in his own as well. By midway through his book, he sounded....judgmental. Unforgiving. Unloving. The only causes that were worthy were the ones that made him appear "socially conscious."
In the end, as I have said, he recants. Repents. The truth is that we all have to struggle to be less selfish. We must all learn to die to self, and to live in love. This delicate balance of acceptance--of God's Great Gift, of each other as made in His image--and sacrifice is the key to living as God designed us.
On marriage and relationships, he was rather hysterical and clueless. These two qualities are intertwined. His friend, Paul, was actually more insightful.
On the topic of the metaphors of love being metaphors relating to economy: that was pure genius, and admittedly not his own idea. I think there is a book title there, something maybe I will pursue: The Economy of Love. Maybe use math symbols and NYSE symbols on the cover. My idea. No one take it, please.
On the topic of loneliness: probably his most lucid writing. I think this is because the topic was near his heart and wired to his life.
On the concepts of serving self: he began the book with this and then spiraled into its net. Even the "Confession Booth" scene was all about him, really. His own need to feel forgiven. To feel a part of something bigger than himself.
On the subject of his father: I think many of his problems actually stem from this loss, this emptiness in his life. His lack of intimacy, his living life like it is the radio station, "K-Don, All Don, all the time," and his need for acceptance comes from this loss. I am possibly playing the Monday-Night psychiatrist here, but I think I am on to something.
I have rambled long for a book I found only mediocre.
In the end, his deliberate cleverness, his way with words are compelling, but his theology is skewed. At the same time it is raw and real, personal and genuine. These qualities overcome his immature theology, his hypocritical liberal bias, and his sloppy scriptural references.
Friday, September 6, 2013
I am at a crossroads in my writing. I have tons of ideas and limited time to write. I have even less time to promote, market, and directly sell my books. I have practically no presence on social media. My current books are languishing in the basement of the Amazon store. Even sales of new releases are non-existent.
I am confident that my novels are fit for public consumption. I just have not found my audience yet. When I do, I would like to have a large amount of product from which they can choose (or buy it all--I won't mind). To that end, I am compelled to write more. Some would say that having eight titles (3 novellas, a collection of novellas, 2 full length novels, a short story and a collection of shorts) out in just over 18 months is prolific writing. Considering that I am writing part time, perhaps it is. My goal for production is much more aggressive, though. I simply have not found the time or the rhythm to meet that rate.
My secondary concern is that in search of my audience and in order to build my brand, I would like to prioritize what I am writing. I have struggled with deciding what to write next. I have a two-month hole (Sept-Oct) which represents about 7 weeks now that the first week of September is gone. In 7 weeks, I can write approximately 50,000 to 60,000 words. This would be equivalent to two novellas. Or a short novel (perhaps in the thriller genre). It could also be a novella and three short stories. Or perhaps two devotional books (non-fiction, religious).
What happens in November? you ask. Well, November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. It is a month in which I will partake in the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Actually, I am aiming at about 60,000 words and 30,000 more in December. I will write the next three novellas in the Jake Monday Chronicles. Then, I will spend January, and February editing the fourth book in the series, release it in March, rinse and repeat (so releases in March, April, and May).
So, my writing schedule is typically constant. In spurts. For example, I finished a fantasy novella Sunday. I edited it on Monday, Labor Day. I have not written since. Except for this blog. However, my writing is always more productive if I have a plan.
So, I want you to help me make my plan. Tell me what you want to see. Here are my novel ideas (pardon the pun):
1)Built in a Day--Re-telling of Roman history. Grand tale that focuses on the Romulus and Remus story and uses it as a device to fictionalize history. Imagine: Tudors meets Game of Thrones.
This one requires some intense research of history. I want to make it series, perhaps 3 full-length novels over three years or 9 novellas, with three installments each year, packaged as a set of 3 in each for Christmas.
2) All Roads Lead Here--a short story (about 10,000 words) set in a Kindle World: Wayward Pines by Blake Crouch. Kindle Worlds are a separate store on Amazon where authors can download what essentially is "fan fiction." I want to write this story and perhaps 2 more. I want to do it more for the exposure and fan reach than actual sales. Priced at 99 cents, I will probably never make a lot from this one, but Blake has a medium-sized following and a new release coming out this month that perhaps I can ride the momentum. That was my philosophy, anyway.
3)Transforming Souls: Diamond, Steel, Clay & Glass--a devotional book. It will be organized to be used as a book for Adult Bible classes. I plan on writing a sequel to it for teens as well at some point. It can also be a good personal devotional book. I have an outline for it and some great ideas. This is the one I am tempted to start this week. My soul is sort of calling for it.
4)Almost Heaven--a "Love Story" in the vein of Nicolas Sparks. It is about a lawyer from West Virginia who decides to represent a young woman who has been given custody of her autistic niece when her sister dies. The biological father (who had never before seen the child or supported her) is suing for custody and the rights to the inheritance. I plan on writing this one in a pen name. I already have 18,000 words written and it is almost half finished (the goal is 40,000 to 45,000 words, or about 200 pages--a short novel, like the old Harlequin romances from the 70s). I plan for it to be the first book in a series with a connected narrator. The second book in the series is the next one.
5)The Nightengale Effect--a "Love Story" in the vein of Nicolas Sparks. It is about a male nurse who falls in love with a patient. She is a famous local newscaster whose family is involved in politics. She is also addicted to drugs, which is why she is in the hospital. The novel is about how powerful love is, even in the face of addictions and betrayal. This is supposed to be the 2nd in my series (I am thinking of calling them American Heart or something like that) with the connected narrator. It will be 40,000 to 45,000 words (short novel) and written in a pen name.
6)Grey Guards of Avignon--this is a series. I have just finished the rough draft and first edit. It is in the hands of 10 Beta readers and the editor. I hope to publish it next week. However, I plan on writing four novellas in this series. It is a fantasy story about an elite group of body guards (think 3 Musketeers or US Secret Service) who find themselves compromised in a kingdom that is totally corrupt. It is about making moral choices when none exist. Epic fantasy. The first novella was 38,000 words or so (about 170 pages). Although I really enjoyed writing the first installment, I have some reservations about continuing this one too soon.
7)The Man Under the Mountain--another short story set in Wayward Pines. I want to wait until I purchase the 2nd book in the series and read it before I write this one. It could go down in October, if all goes right. As far as marketing and competition goes, I anticipate that Blake Crouch's friends will be writing several books in this world: JA Konrath, Crouch's brother, Scott Nicholson, and even Barry Eisler. Maybe even Ann Voss Peterson. This could be good or it could be devastating.
8)Bald Knobbers--working title. A novel (sort of a western) about the vigilante group in Missouri who were a cross between the KKK and Sons of Anarchy. Their bikes were horses and their moral compass was questionable. They sought justice at the expense of bigotry and corruption. I want to focus on a single character who is working within the group but seeks to disband them. It is a thriller/western feel. About 40,000 to 50,000 words (think a short Max Brand book or Louis L'Amour). This idea was given to me by a young friend, Reese Crawford.
9)The Lonely Ziggurat--a fantasy novel with steam-punk (or "gaslamp") tendencies. I am interested in fusing genres. I like the idea of incorporating some devices of steam punk (think of the game Bioshock or Dishonored) into the setting of fantasy (swords, demons, magic, and dragons). I want to also bring back some of the concepts of my favorite comics growing up--Xmen and Fantastic Four. I think it would be cool to have an "Underground City" ala The Underdark in Forgotten Realms but more like the Morlocks. It is a common theme running through steam punk but I want to insert it into fantasy in a cool and impactful way. I have about three pages of notes on this concept but no real direction for the plot. Just world-building. World building is fun, but it isn't words on paper production. That is what I need right now.
10) My Hand on the Hammer--a short devotional book about our responsibility in the death of our Savior. It will be about 20,000 to 30,000 words (about 100 pages). It was an idea that germinated from Mark Lee's Lord's Supper Thoughts one Sunday. The idea is very dear to my heart and I think there is a place for it as an uplifting reminder to God's people and maybe even a book that an unchurched person might find inspiring and come to know Jesus.
11)Worth More Than Sparrows--Short devotional book about understanding how special we are. It is about developing self-esteem, purpose, and direction in our lives. It is about accepting our roles as servants in God's Kingdom as Ambassadors, Conquerors, and Children. Again, about 20,000 to 30,000 words (about 100 pages).
12) Walk in the Park--A full-length thriller novel about a young man with a unique power. Without warning, on occasion, he is given a message that predicts the death of a particular person within 48 hours. This "gift" has haunted him since he was a teen. His justification has always been that these were people he did not know. What could he possibly do to save these strangers? Why was he responsible?
Sometimes he will see the message in the newspaper. Sometimes in a text. For years he has ignored the messages. When he gets a message about a former friend who lives about an hour away, he decides to (for the first time) intervene. He discovers that this power comes with great responsibility.
This book has elements of science fiction melded with a fast-paced story. It is essentially a novel that explores our tendency to be selfish and wrap ourselves in concern for only ourselves. It is a social novel (and a spiritual one, although God is not mentioned, He is there). I have about 4,000 words or so of this one started. I actually had written about 12,000 words, but lost them in a bad hard drive on an old laptop. Needless to say, I was disheartened and put it away.
13) Children of the Mountain--Sequel to Dark Mountain. My original plan was to write this one in the Spring of 2014 and spend a bit of time on it. It is a horror novel that follows two characters from Dark Mountain. I only have it sketched out a bit. No outline yet or list of characters in the novel or anything. Have not even totally settled on a setting. Debating West Texas with Northern Arizona or Southern Colorado. Having problems deciding. Needs to be somewhere scary. Probably Colorado. I hate to compete with Blake Crouch, but I need to stay in the mountains. :) This book has been requested over a dozen times. I am dragging my feet. I do not know why. Dark Mountain is still my best selling book to date.
14)Monday Bloody Monday--the final installment of the Jake Monday Chronicles. With it, I will also produce two more titles: The Monday Collection Volume 2, and The Monday Chronicles Complete Collection, Collector's Edition. This one I cannot write until I finish the other three (which I will write this winter). So, although it is in this list, I will not write it yet.
So, which book suits you best? Or which story? I am aware that I am genre-hopping. Is that a problem for anyone? I know that it waters down my brand. The thing is, I want to write in all these genres. I read all these genres, including the devotionals. Let me know what you think. Give me some feedback. I may just be able to be swayed.