Author Influences

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Someone asked me who my writing influences were yesterday, and they were surprised by my answer.

If I had to list my Top 3, they’d be “in order of appearance”

  • Harlan Ellison
  • Lloyd Kaufman (of Troma Entertainment)
  • Zora Neal Hurston

Harlan is a master of dark and twisted writing. If you’re in the mood to feel gross and awful, go read I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. It delivers what it promises.

Lloyd is responsible for helping to create films like The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High. His movies with their over-the-top stories, violence, and social satire irreparably inspired/damaged me during my youth.

Zora is the curveball. She’s always the one who makes people say “Wait, who?”If you went to a public high school you’re probably familiar with Their Eyes Were Watching God. It’s her most celebrated work, but there is more to her story than just one novel.  Author, notorious liar, political critic, and alleged voodoo initiate. She was heavily criticized by many for creating unapologetic writing. As a writer and a human being, she was fascinating.

Honorable mentions also include:

  • Stephen King (a master of horror)
  • Kurt Vonnegut (a, maybe THE?, master of satire)
  • Rob Zombie (hit or miss, but always with great aesthetic)

I find myself influenced by a variety of media. Books, movies, video games, and music all inform my writing and story telling in different ways.

Do you have author influences that are unexpected or others find surprising, and do you find other art & media besides books having an influence on your writing?

Let me know down in the comments. I’d love to hear about them!

Book Giveaway

 

Book-Giveaway

Hey everyone,

I was browsing my local used bookstore yesterday (I feel lucky to have one so close to where I live) and had an idea for a contest.

I want to do a book giveaway, but I’m not going to try to schill and give you anything I’ve written. Rather, I’m going to select a book from my own collection that I loved, and pay it forward to someone.

Much like the books at the used store, they have a history, which you can become a part of.

UPDATE:

Congratulations to Tony on winning the copy of Neuromancer. You’ve been contacted to have it shipped!

Giveaway Details

  • Sign up for my mailing list
  • I’ll choose a book that I own to pass onto someone on my mailing list
  • At the end of the month, someone will be chosen at random to receive the book. I’ll reach out to you privately through email (hence being on the list) and ship it to you in the mail. (US subscribers only at this point. Apologies to my international readers.)
  • BONUS: As long as you remain subscribed, you’re automatically in the running for future book giveaways. I plan to keep doing this as long as there is interest.

I feel like this will be a fun way to connect with you, and might help you discover some books you might not otherwise have read.

Plus, everyone loves getting packages in the mail! They are so much better than bills or junk fliers.

March 2017 Book

Neuromancer by William Gibson

A seminal work of cyberpunk by one of the masters of speculative fiction. William Gibson, like many other SF authors, was nearly prophetic in his prediction of how humans would utilize technology in the future.

I bought this particular book when I was in college for a course, but I had already read it. I loved the cover artwork enough to re-purchase it.

Sign up and you could be the proud owner of this science fiction masterpiece!

REBLOG’s and SHARE’s are totally appreciated if you know someone who would be interested!

 

 

Creating A Writing Space

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I recently discovered the Write Now podcast hosted by Sarah Werner. It’s inspiring and the host’s positivity is infectious, so this is my suggestion to check it out if you need something to listen to during your commute or workout.

As I was cherrypicking old episodes, I found this one about “Creating A Space For Writing”, and it struck a chord. I realized that I’ve been without a true place dedicated to writing & creating for almost a decade now. I aim to fix that.

If you’re anything like me, being a “writer” is constantly under siege by work, family, and social commitments that burglarize precious hours from the day. I mean, is it too much to ask that real life pauses so we can sit around writing our next novel?

Anyway, this means we have to write when we can, and where ever we can. For me, it’s on my laptop during lunch breaks, or scratching ideas in an old notebook while lying in bed at dawn. I rarely have the opportunity to sit down and collect my thoughts in a place dedicated to my craft. Even as I write this, I’m sitting on my couch with my laptop.

I now realize part of the problem is that I haven’t created a comfortable place to actually GO to write.

So my goal is to convert my “office” (junk room) into a study/writing space. I’m slightly, mildly, handy enough to be dangerous at DIY projects, so I’m going to fix up the room over the next year or two (I’m being realistic) to ensure I have a dedicated area to write. I feel like the investment of making a comfortable space will also help me to keep a more regular writing schedule.

This started yesterday with de-cluttering (I owned a LOT of empty cardboard boxes), and beginning to save for something I’ve always wanted; a writing desk. I have an old desktop computer with Scrivener, but it’s sitting atop a cheap “computer workstation” I’ve had for the past 15 years. I’m surprised the thing held up as well as it did, considering how many times I’ve moved.

Kudos to you, Staples.

Does anyone out there have their own dedicated writing space? Is it a home office, break room at work, or a specific table at your local coffee shop? I’m curious how many other writers feel that need for a dedicated place to create, and whether it helps their productivity and creativity.

Maybe you’re just existing like me right now, and using any old place to scratch words down when you have the free time?

 

 

Your First Draft Stinks

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It’s a nasty title, but it grabbed your attention!

I was discussing first drafts with a colleague yesterday; bemoaning them. This led to me wasting time on the internet lurking around writing subReddits. The copious internet lurking led to this blog post, since I’ve wanted to write about first drafts for a while now.

I’ve come to the extremely general conclusion that there are two types of writers. The ones who HATE their first drafts, and the ones who LOVE them.

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Bird Box Review

Bird BoxBird Box by Josh Malerman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bird Box is one of the best speculative/horror novels I’ve read in the past year.

It’s a tale of survival as a woman named Malorie and her two children travel blindly (literally) through the wilderness. I suppose this could be classified as “post apocalyptic” as it contains elements of that sub genre, but similar to “The Road” it is far more about human behavior and how people manage to cope with extreme situations than the cause of the actual events themselves. It was an interesting idea to take one of the major senses away from all of the characters in the story, and provided for some tense moments.

Malerman’s writing is direct. Short, punchy sentences keep the action moving as the story flips between present and flashbacks. This was a quick and entertaining read. Concise, well written, and frightening, not much more I could ask for when it comes to a horror book.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Politics in Writing

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For a creative writer possession of the ‘truth’ is less important than emotional sincerity.

-George Orwell

 

So much of the current landscape in the United States (and the world) is being dominated by politics. The constant, overwhelming media barrage seems to be exhausting and polarizing people at an incredible rate.

It is also inspiring writers and artists.

I’m not surprised by this, since most creators are informed by their worldview, which is reflected in their work. I am curious how many other writers include personal politics in their work, intentionally or not.

A large amount of my work is satirical. For better or worse, I attempt to make light of real world events and situations (to varying degrees of success) and that includes politics. While satire can be “on the nose”, I’ve also caught myself designing characters that tend to reflect my own personal views in writing that had no intended political message.

I’m interested to know whether other writers create characters who express their own views, whatever they may be. As a writer, have you found the increasingly political modern landscape seeps into your writing? Or do you explicitly go out of your way to avoid any political statements in your work, overt or otherwise? Maybe your protagonists uphold your beliefs, or a an antagonist holds opposing values to yours.

No matter what your viewpoints, creativity is a valuable outlet. I believe the world would be a better place if more people expressed their emotions through art.

Have you found that your personal politics have an effect on you as an author?

 

Stop Using “Thought” Verbs

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I wanted to share this essay from LitReactor by “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk because it struck a chord with me. The idea of forcing yourself to no longer use verbs that act as “shortcuts” to what your characters are thinking and feeling is a very direct way of making the writer unpack better descriptions that allow the reader to draw those conclusions.

Thinking is abstract.  Knowing and believing are intangible.  Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing.  And loving and hating.

After I finished it, I looked back through some of my own work and realized I was totally guilty of what our friend Charles talked about. I practiced on a few sentences, and it made a huge difference in the level of immersion I was injecting into the scene.

This is one of those simple technique shifts that can make a world of difference, but might not be obvious to writers as we’re furiously scribbling away. You may want to take a few minutes to review your own work and see whether this is some advice you can apply to improve your writing style.

When Do You Write?

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I write best early in the morning.

It seems counterintuitive that my brain would conjure up words out of the fog of sleep, but then maybe it’s because morning is when I have the most freedom for creative inspiration (and coffee).

Juggling a career, family duties, and all the other things that come up in a day; mornings are when I can really focus on getting words down or revising. I’ve tried numerous times to write in the evenings, or even mid-day during lunch breaks, but it never works for me.

Maybe the stresses and responsibilities of the day expend too much mental fuel from my tank?

This isn’t a product of age or evolution either, from what I can tell. Even in high school and college I was always a morning person, and got my best work done in the early daylight hours.

When are you the most creative and productive with your writing? Hopefully you’re one of those lucky writers who can just knock out great ideas around the clock whenever you have the free time!

Writing Tip: Don’t Hate Adverbs

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Adverbs get a bad rap.

If you’ve ever taken a writing course, perused writer’s forums, or heard soundbites from Stephen King, you’ve likely encountered adverb hate.

The thinking goes like this –

  • “Adverbs are largely unnecessary.”
  • “Adverbs belittle your audience.”
  • “Adverbs are for amateurs.”

The internet writing community has generally come to despise adverbs, and I think that is unfortunate. Like most things, if used properly and in moderation, the lowly adverb can be a great tool that adds flavor to your writing.

That’s some intense paraphrasing, but you get the general idea. The below tips argue in favor of leaving at least some adverbs in your work.

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A Writer’s Guide to Persistence Review

A Writer's Guide to Persistence: How to Create a Lasting and Productive Writing PracticeA Writer’s Guide to Persistence: How to Create a Lasting and Productive Writing Practice by Jordan E. Rosenfeld

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I usually just copy and paste these reviews in from my Goodreads profile, but I wanted to quickly preface this one. I’ve been having some difficulty finding the time and energy over the past few months to persevere in revising my current novel while working on other projects. This book was exactly what I needed to give me an important perspective shift and realize I can continue accomplishing what I set out to do. I highly recommend it to anyone who might be questioning themselves and their writing. It can be a bit on “new-agey” in parts, but the core message it delivers is honest and sound.
An excellent read to help inspire authors and give some firm but fair advice on creating a long lasting writing practice. Jordan Rosenfeld does well in re-framing a lot of common problems that writers face, from rejection to self-criticism, and gives solid advice getting through those issues with a positive attitude. There are exercises (both physical and creative) at the end of each section, so the reader can take action on what the author is advising.

For what it’s worth, I enjoyed Rosenfeld adding a chapter that “de-glamorizes” self publishing, and makes the reader ask some important questions of themselves prior to diving into that world versus the traditional publishing route. People are quick to push their work out to Amazon these days, and I like her thought process on why writers should be a bit more mindful prior to clicking the “publish” button.

Definitely a more personal and storied tone than many writing advice books. It’s not a sterile technical manual (looking at you, Strunk&White). If you’re looking for something akin to “On Writing”, but without as much autobiography, this would be a solid addition to your repertoire.

View all my reviews on GoodReads