Friday, March 28, 2014

Alternate Universes and Time Travel and Witches, Oh My!

I  pretty much stopped reading children's and YA fiction when I discovered Lord of the Rings at the age of 11. Then it was all Epic Fantasy and Science Fiction and American Classics and Gothic Romance and even a little Kurt Vonnegut. 

I, like everyone who actually peruses these posts, was reading "at a college level" (whatever that means) before I hit puberty, and I had very little interest in fluttering back to the YA nest once I had spread my wings.

I read Anne of Green Gables when I was in my mid-teens, but other than that, I can't recall one children's or YA novel I read between the ages of 12 and 30. Sure, I'd peruse an Edward Gorey or Shel Silverstein book here and there, but none of the fantastical kid's novels I'd enjoyed as a child.

Then J.K. Rowling came along and ruined everything. Heh. I tease. She made everything awesome again. Much as my experience watching Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time in the theater shot me straight back to the unadulterated thrill I got when I first saw Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harry Potter made me feel like I was 8 again, reading under a bedspread tent with the aid of a flashlight. (Lumos!)

I devoured the Harry Potter series; I adored them; I speculated online, between books, about where the plot was going; I read them again and again - even out loud, twice, to friends, in their entirety. But then they were done, and I could never read them for the first time again.

 Eek! Expelliarmus! Stupify!

So, I started searching for Harry Potter Withdrawal Novels. I found some good ones too, among the best - Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy, and To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. (The former is considered YA, the latter is not)  But years passed, and the more I tried to dive into an exciting YA series, the more disappointed I became. The Hunger Games was 'meh' to me, Twilight was unreadable.

I was almost ready to give up, when I discovered Diana Wynne Jones. The mistake I'd been making was looking for new fantasy fiction. Diana Wynne Jones wrote a lot in the 80s, and once more, it's clear that she was a very strong influence on J.K. Rowling.

(Also, Jones wrote Howl's Moving Castle, which was made into a lovely film by Hayao Miyazaki.)

The first books I read of Jones's were the Chrestomanci Series. The order in which you're supposed to read them is not the order in which she wrote them. Here's a handy guide:


You could actually read any of the books in this series at any time - they are each stand-alone novels, essentially, but the whole picture becomes clearer if you read them in order. And why wouldn't you? The series takes place in multiple, parallel worlds, so each of the books inhabits very different settings. The one character who appears, to some degree or another, in every book, is the Chrestomanci himself, an extremely charismatic, powerful, and dandy-ish enchanter.

And that's all I'll say, except her books effortlessly balance some very complex ideas, and at the same time they're funny and charming. Also, she captures the awkwardness and awe of adolescence very well. But the original cover art is often atrocious. What can I say - YA fantasy in the 80s.*

Since the Chrestomanci series, I've read The Homeward Bounders and A Tale of Time City, both good. I just checked out 6 more of her books from the library today.

Packing them into my backpack, I felt that thrill of being a kid again.

*The art for newer additions, however, is lovely.

Monday, March 24, 2014

More recommendations

Hello friends,

I've been a bit remiss with my contributions here at the Scribblerati blog lately, unfortunately--or maybe: Yay, me!--I've been too busy with my own writing to have much to say on the actual subject of writing. I still don't have much to say on the actual subject of writing honestly, but in an effort to pick up the slack a bit, here I am. And I've brought along a few recommendations for you.

I've done this before. 

I've recommended some comics. I've recommend some books, some movies and some TV. Over on my own personal blog, I've recommended a pretty cool short story by a very handsome individual and I'm currently keeping track of some films I am looking forward to. It's a nice fall-back topic when you need content. Plus, who knows, maybe some of you lovely people out there will come across something here that interests you. That's my hope, at least.

So, what will I be recommending to you today?


Sure. Why not?

1. Black Science -- Grant McKay is a member of an anarchist collective of scientists and the creator of something he calls The Pillar. With this device, he has punched through the walls between realities and has traveled to alien dimensions, on the hunt for unknown truths and amazing new discoveries. Unfortunately, the only thing he finds is terror and chaos, and now he and his team and his children are lost in the multiverse, cast adrift on a sea of infinite and unimaginable worlds, desperately trying to get home again alive. 

Written by Rick Remender, with art by Matteo Scalera.

Sounds pretty classic, right? It's definitely very rooted in pulp sci-fi, that's a big reason I was initially drawn to the comic. I am a sucker for alternate dimension stories, after all. Another big reason: I was kind of a fan of Sliders, but I was a huge Voyagers fan back in the day, but hey... who wasn't, amirite? Anyway, I was drawn in by the premise, but I have stayed for the story. And if you know me and my buying habits (which you probably don't), this would be kind of surprising, because I haven't been a big fan of Rick Remender's stuff. His Marvel stuff, while hitting some interesting notes, just doesn't quite work for me. The characters are too shallow. This might not make sense to some of you, but they seemed too much like DC characters to me, too much mask and not enough man behind the mask, y'know? Maybe not, either way... here, he not only gets to stretch and be crazy, but his characters seem much more unique and real. They're quickly identifiable too, despite the series starting in media res, which instantly plunges them into danger, so the story moves. It's fun and exciting and full of twists. What more could you ask for from a dimension-hopping adventure? Giant turtles with cities on their backs? Well...

The book is soaked in pulp sci-fi tropes, but it's setting is a modern one, and it hints that Dr. McKay's original dimension is probably not our own too. It's not what you would expect, which is a big part of the fun, and it's still early in the series, only the first 4 or 5 issues are out, so it's a good time to jump on. Also, if tracking down the back issues seems like too much work, a trade paperback collection will be released after issue 6. Take a look, it's a good-looking and good quality book.

2. Deadly Class -- It's 1987 and Kings Dominion Atelier of the Deadly Arts is the deadliest high school on Earth; it's where the world's most powerful governments, richest corporations, and top crime families send the next generation of assassins--their children--to be trained. Here, the classes are murder and the hallways are even worse. Marcus Lopez is wanted by the police, he's an orphan and currently homeless, and he has found himself suddenly enrolled. He's the new kid, and just like in any school, that's something that puts a big target on his back.

Written by Rick Remender, with art by Wes Craig.

Holy crap, TWO Rick Remender comic books? But... but... I thought you weren't a fan, Jon? I'm not. Or at least, I wasn't, but what can I say? The guy has a damn fine pair of comics here. Never let it be said that I am not open to re-evaluating previously set opinions based upon new output. The fact of the matter is, Remender has done a really good job with both of these titles. I am now looking forward to each new issue. I know, shocking. I trust if anyone out there decides to pass on my sudden change of opinion to the man, they will first take a moment to make sure he is sitting down. So anyway, right off the bat I liked this book for two reasons. 1. I love the style. It looks great and I'm a fan of the skate/punk ascetic. And 2. One of the things that's always stuck with me about Harry Potter was that, during the Goblet of Fire, you didn't see the American School of Magic. Why not? But then I thought about it and realized that we probably weren't invited because the American School of Magic is most likely filled with crazy assholes, dangerous idiots, and outright criminals... we would have totally ruined that whole Goblet-tournament thing. You think a bunch of trashy Americans give a shit about Voldemort? We're a hundred times worse than Voldemort. Fuck Voldemort, stupid no face having jerk... So what does this tangent have to do with anything? Well, this book is basically all about the American School of Magic, with all the killer assholes and dangerous idiots intact, only... without the magic.

There are only two issues out so far, so right now is the perfect time for you to swing on into your friendly neighborhood LCS (local comic shop, natch...) and check it out. The art is fantastic and Remender does a great job of introducing the cast and setting while keeping the story moving. I'm very interested in seeing where this book goes.

3. Jupiter's Legacy -- In a world where WWII was headed in a very different direction than in our own, a group of explorers discover an uncharted island and receive strange gifts that changed their world forever. Now, the children of the world's greatest superheroes struggle under the pressure of that incredible legacy. Can they ever hope to equal their parents or do they have plans of their own? 

Written by Mark Millar, with art by Frank Quitely.

The Utopian and Lady Liberty are the leaders of a group of superheroes, they are the greatest among them. They are good Americans, they believe in the system. Hugely powerful, nearly Gods, they love their country. They respect it. They have saved it, and the world, many times over. But in the years since, their children have grown up to be spoiled, drunken and nearly-invulnerable celebutants with the ability to fly and punch through mountains. And that's not the worst of it, either. With no super villains left and with the Utopian refusing to allow any of their number to interfere with the day-to-day operation of society--fearing what a person with so much power might become--the super-powered population has grown bored and restless. That boredom has led to a seething resentment, a fire stoked by a jealous rival until it flares up into murderous betrayal and open rebellion. During the chaos, the daughter of the world's greatest heroes--a fallen super powered former party girl now pregnant with the child of her reformed super villain boyfriend--must go into hiding, on the run from the unleashed rage of the vengeful superhumans. It's pretty great so far. Quitely's art is, as always, amazing. It's written by Mark Millar, who can often be problematic, douchey and/or incredibly terrible, but occasionally he ignores his stupid shock-tactic bullshit and does something good. I think this is one of those titles... so far.

Like the previous two, this book is also early in it's publishing schedule. Only four issues have come out, so its bandwagon is primed and ready to be jumped on. The only problem is they're a bit slow with the delivery of this one. It's supposed to be every six weeks, but they were late on a couple--a ridiculous and disappointingly common issue with some comic book companies--so some of you out there might want to wait for the eventual trades. I wouldn't, but some of you might want to.

Okay, so there's three new comics to check out, if you're so inclined. Who knows where they'll go from here, but for now, I think they're showing a lot of potential. I know I'm going to stick with them. Plus, as an added incentive, they're all still new and relatively stand alone, so you don't need any pre-loaded comic knowledge if you want to check them out. And you should, because they're good.

Questions? Comments? General unrelated nonsense?

Let me know,

Friday, March 7, 2014

5 Writers on: Inspiration, Rituals, Writing Tools, Fav Authors, Advice for Beginning Writers, Characters like us...

It’s been a while since we’ve done an update on what we’re all up to with our individual writing. Mark decided to take it easy this month and interviewed the 5 writers who make up the Scribblerati—their answers wrote this blog. It's a long post, but we hope it's worth you while. For you fellow writers maybe there is even some shared wisdom here you can use. All is revealed--thanks for reading!

Our Current Writing Projects
Claudia Hankin: I’m still struggling through the 3rd draft of my novel, Ursula Evermore and the Case of the Man Who Wasn’t.  At this point, sadly, there are more hash marks in the ‘challenge’ column than the ‘enjoy’ column. I just want to be done and onto the next step (finding and agent, a publisher). I think every author goes through this, or a version of it. I have so many ideas for new projects, but, I’m stubborn.  As Neil Gaiman advises - “'Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finish...” The question is, when is it time to let go?

Shawn Enderlin: I’m currently working on two projects: finishing up my final round of edits on To Kill the Goddess and working on the first draft of the sequel, which has a working title of Moon Sister. Both are exciting in different ways. On the one hand, I can’t wait to be finished with To Kill the Goddess! On the other I’m having fun exploring and tackling new challenges.

Jon Hansen: I've started a new WIP that I'm about a third of the way through on the first draft. I've got another one waiting for me to start its 2nd draft and a third on the backburner while I think about the intent of the story, plus its goals, purpose, and approach. Right now, at least with the new WIP, I'm really enjoying the freedom and the focus. It's flowing really easily. I have a good idea what I'm going to do for the whole thing and a pretty good half-formed idea of what I'm specifically doing at the end that I'm letting simmer for now. All in all, I'm feeling confident about the final product. I anticipate having a 1st draft done by summer. The most challenging part is just the usual stuff right now: Specific words and a general fear of whether or not it will all come together. (Jon)

Lisa Bergin: I'm working on a series of related short stories that I think of a post-apocalypse utopia. They are my response to a common philosophical position I hear from students: that people are at core egoistic and just out for themselves. I've never really bought that view and this is my attempt to explore it, putting people in a bad situations and thinking through what decisions they would make. And they are always making decisions based not (only) on their own well-being, but the well-being of others.

Mark Teats: I am balancing the polarity of being an MFA creative writing student and being an independent writer these days. The thing I'd most like to work on is my vampire-apocalypse novel, Sunlight. It’s not getting as much attention as I’d like these days. Simultaneously I’m also working on a new required short story for my class, working title Encounter. This has been fun/challenging/different because each week so far we have been asked to rewrite some aspect of the story (including doing a complete re-write from scratch without looking at the original). It’s being both fun and challenging. It’s making me think a lot about aspects of story and how to approach a story differently than I might usually.

Where We Find Inspiration
Other art. Any kind. It all inspires me to make my own creation. (Shawn)

I just like to do it. I also don't wait for inspiration, I think it's a trap. Dedication and discipline are more important, I think. I believe that if you want to get it done, you just have to get to it. Some days are harder than others, sure, but mostly I just sit down and start somewhere and sometimes it leads to something and something it doesn't. Other times I see/read/hear something that I liked the idea, but not the execution, so I try to write my version. (Jon)

This series started with a dream. So that's one place. Also: other stories, science reporting on NPR. I think I often find inspiration just in the act of writing from the perspective of a character. (Lisa)

Lately, reading lots of really phenomenal short stories by other writers (lots of class reading). (Mark)

Claudia: Many sources. I once wrote a play based on a dream. Another play came from a chance encounter with a transvestite. I am a huge movie and TV buff, and even when I see a bad film, I like to rearrange it in my head and make it better. With good movies and television, I pay attention to the writing - I’m not often surprised, but when I am, I take note.
I also am the administrative manager for a theater company, The Moving Company (for you Twin Citians, it’s made up of former members of Theatre de la Jeune Lune). It’s inspiring to being around people who are that powerfully talented. They’ve been creating art so well and for so long, that making something extraordinary is the least of their worries. It’s hard to wallow in Writer’s Blockdonia when you’re around that kind of energy.

On “Sacred” Writing Spaces and/or Ritual(s)
No. Sometimes I write at the dining room table. Sometimes at this little TV table in front of the TV. Sometimes at the coffee shop. Mostly I just need to be left alone and sit at a table/counter comfortably, then I'm all right. (Jon)

Not sacred so much - but I'm usually sitting cross-legged on my couch with my laptop.
Tho' when I'm first trying to find my way into a story I often have to write with pen and paper.

Sacred is too strong a word, but I do have a bit of a ritual. I like to write in the mornings, which means I start out by making a cup of coffee and then sequestering myself away in my room, with my standing workstation, iTunes banging out some good house/trance, and my voice translation software listening to me ramble away – and doing the typing for me! (Shawn)

Not really. I flit around. Maybe I should get myself one of those! (Claudia)

My writing space is in my man-cave, nick-named "The Fortress of Solitude." Most Friday and Saturday mornings are mine for writing, so on those days I head to my writing desk (framed in by walls of books, fantasy arts and loads of D&D and other gaming figures), light some candles, incense and write in the dark with all but my computer and a couple desk lamps turned on. If I'm editing/re-writing sometimes some heavy metal music is needed to set the tone.

Favorite Writing Tools We’d Recommend
voice translation software. I loooove not having to type! (Shawn)

Laptop (Jon)

Scrivener! (Lisa)

... computer? (Claudia)

My Mac computer, a paper notebook I keep near me at all times, and for managing larger manuscripts, Scrivener. (Mark)

Authors We Admire
I love Joe Abercrombie's imagination and storytelling. I love Cormac McCarthy's prose and descriptive powers. I love Stephen King's easy flow. And I love Truman Capote. But then, I try not to emulate anyone in particular. (Jon)

I default to my favorites, Ray Bradbury for his poetic descriptions, Dean Koontz for his pacing and Stephen King for his ability to write characters that I want to know and spend time with. Harlan Ellison can craft some damn fine sentences and short stories with loads of attitude. (Mark)

F. Scott Fitzgerald is kind of the gold standard for me. His use of language is exquisite- but honestly, I’ve never aspired to be the Great American Novelist. I love authors who effortlessly  ground the fantastical in solid characters and stories. I’m fond of wit. Jonathan Lethem, Connie Willis and Michael Chabon leap to mind. And P.G. Wodehouse makes me laugh until I snort. True confession. (Claudia)

There are a lot of authors I admire, but none I really want to write like. I want to forge my own style and my own way, to have people like my writing for itself, not because it reminds them of someone. However, if I may be so presumptive, I like to think my writing style is most like a blend of Dan Simmons, Judith Tarr, and Stephen King. That sounds totally snobby! (Shawn)

Ursula K. LeGuin. I've been reading a lot of her lately. I've always liked authors who on the surface write very sparsely and without a lot of flourish and yet manage to convey more depth than seems possible with that seemingly spare language. (Lisa)

Something That Advanced Our Writing We’d Recommend to A Beginning Writer
Writing group! Just doing it. Reading great fiction. (Lisa)

The thing that’s most helped my writing in the last few years is hiring a professional editor – hands down. But I wouldn’t recommend that to a beginning writer. What I would recommend is sharing your work with other writers, to get their feedback. It’s tough to learn how to see your own flaws, much less accept them. (Shawn)

Take some classes and some workshops and interact with some successful smart writers in real life. Find a supportive and healthy writing group. Learn to listen to criticism. But mostly: sit down, shut up, pen to paper, repeat. (Jon)

Classes at The Loft are great, if you live in the Twin Cities.  If nothing else, it’s a terrific way to meet other aspiring authors, and start a writing group, which I can’t recommend strongly enough. The Scribblerati is the best thing that’s happened to my writing. (Claudia)

Form a critique group. Having to submit my writing to a group of like-minded peers and also reviewing their work regularly has helped me grow a lot as a writer. Also (as a student) I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't say, “Take a writing class” or attend a writing conference. The Loft is great. All these things have helped me grow my writing skills. (Mark)

Which (of our) Characters We Are Most Like:
I'd like to say Black Magic Jack, but Noelle Easter's sarcastic voice is probably the closest to my own. Also, I'm expecting Bill the Minotaur might hit a little close to home. (Jon)

All of my characters are a part of me, but I can’t say that I’m really most like any one of them in particular. (Shawn)

Because of my cancer thingee I guess I'd have to say I'm most like my character, Clayton Jaeger. Granted, he has brain cancer vs. my neck/throat cancer, and I did write him years before I ever got sick. But getting sick really made me question a lot of things in my life and made me come to terms with what it is to be mortal. I think this is a big part of Clay’s character. Unlike Clay I have not started to see angels. Yet. (Mark)

Hmmm. I think I'm like them all. Especially the protagonists. I think I'll have matured as a writer when I can stop doing that. (Lisa)

Hmmm... The first play I ever wrote had two main characters, and they really represented two sides of me at that time. Confident, cynical wit; and  shy, romantic doormat.  I think as my writing matures, my characters become less like me. I wonder if that’s true for most writers. Of course there’s a piece of me in every character, even the nasty ones. (Claudia)

When Not Writing, We’d Rather Be…
Fishing, reading, seeing an action/fantasy movie. (Mark)

Listening to live traditional jazz. Watching movies, reading, playing games. I’m crazy about any group game that utilizes intelligence, creativity and humor. (Claudia)

Reading a book or watching a movie. I like my stories. (Jon)

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing, at work, or hanging with the Lovely Leann. But I’ll go with drinking beer at Republic or Dangerous Man, or going to a Minnesota Golden Gopher football game. (Shawn)

Reading, doing yoga, crafting, cooking, working in my garden, (those are the g-rated answers....) (Lisa)

Why You Should Check Out Claudia Hankin’s Writing and Characters
She’s the berries. Everyone’s going to say MacGreggor, aren’t they?  All of my beta readers liked him a lot. I’m thinking he’s going to need more scenes, to keep up with his fan base. I hope it doesn’t go to his head.  (Claudia)

Her vocabulary (that's mostly just a joke). She's got an amazing handle on humor and dialogue. Ursula of course - time-travelling, dixie-land jazz aficionado. (Lisa)

Claudia does a fantastic job of blending the old and the modern. (Shawn)

Claudia has done some exceptional research to make her 1920's setting come alive. From clothing, music, terminology, she provides enough details--and the fun, interesting details--to create a world that I believe and want to hang out in. Her vocabulary and word choices are superb--even if I do give her grief about that, sometimes. I think Ursula is my fav character of Claudia's: tough, sexy, funny and quirky in just the right ways. (Mark)

Claudia has a great sense of humor and scene and can really draw distinctive characters. Ursala is my favorite. She's a classic hero. She's both smart and quick and capable, but she often ends up in situations a bit over her head because of her own stubborn nature and fiery temper. She's fun to read. (Jon)

Why You Should Check Out Jon Hansen’s Writing and Characters
Jon’s writing is clean and to the point. Most of his stories have a "gritty" quality combined with humorous observations. He brings the horror and the visceral reactions. His main characters are great, and often his secondary characters are just as much fun and easy to visualize. “Noelle” from his Gunslingers’ novel is my favorite of Jon’s characters. She’s witty with lots of spirit. She copes well with the tough and terrible world around her. (Mark)

Jon’s writing is vivid. You can see everything as if you were standing there yourself. (Shawn)

Oh man... so many to choose from. He's my favorite writer, so I don't know if I can pinpoint any one thing, all I know is: That guy is pretty awesome. And he has impeccable taste. Good kisser too. (Jon)

Jon’s descriptions: working with all 5 senses and his characters, all unique yet recognizable.
Favorite character is hard with Jon - he's got so many great ones - of the recent ones, I really liked Juniper Silverbell. (Lisa)

Jon is a superstar. He’s great at description, and uses sound really well - also, funny. Very, very funny.  Perhaps my favorite thing is that he writes terrific female characters, which sadly seems to be a rare gift in a male sci-fi/horror writers. I like the combo deal of Jack and Noelle, from his zombie novel. They have a believable and touching relationship, very down-to-earth, lots of clever banter in the midst of, you know, the apocalypse. (Claudia)

Why You Should Check Out Lisa Bergin’s Writing and Characters
Lisa's writing is very lyrical and smart. Plus, she has such a unique imagination, but such a clear and consistent vision. I really enjoy the way she'll decide to portray things. Beryl is an easy choice for favorite, a close second for me, but my favorite characters are the three philosopher kids: Tommy, Momo, and P Boy. They were good stuff. (Jon)

Lisa makes you think. It’s not just the obvious allusions to her philosophical background, but rather the style and tone, which challenges you to pay attention to something altogether special and different. (Shawn)

Lisa is the Queen of voice. Her characters all sound unique, and use words, terms that show (not tell) what is going on in her world(s). This is more apparent than ever in my favorite character of hers, Beryl, the girl lead in her novel, Once We Were Bears. Beryl has a charming voice that is both endearing and thoughtful in the way she approaches a world of humans that she is trying to understand. (Mark)

Lisa has an incredibly unique voice. I couldn’t emulate her folk tale/fairy tale/post apocalyptic style if I tried. Her stories are very warm, but take place in very harsh worlds. Her characters at first glance are very simple, but ultimately are nothing but. I love the animal characters from her books. She captures what a goat, bear, chicken and squirrel would say, what they’d sound like, their senses of humor (or not) - and it all somehow makes perfect sense. (Claudia)

Why You Should Check Out Mark Teats’ Writing and Characters
Heart. Mark’s writing has heart, even when the subjects are thousands of years old demons. (Shawn)

Mark was my first fellow writer I met who shared a similar vision/interest and was also going through a lot of the same situations as I was. I like how Mark's writing usually concerns darkness and horror and blood and all that, often in some pretty cool ways, but it is also full of heart. For all of its edge, there's still a classic sense of good and evil. I like that. My favorite characters are probably Blackheart and Noel, especially when they're together. I love their chemistry. (Jon)

His skill at pacing - and making sure the reader always knows what's at stake -
Blackheart, because he gets built back from death by creature's carrying his bits in their mouths - he's invulnerable, and yet is dependent on these tiny animals. (Lisa)

In my latest writing class people critiquing my work said that they thought I was imparting a lot of data in short, descriptive sentences, and that I was clearly a genre writer. I was happy with this summary. In the past I've always felt some of my descriptions have been "too thick" (I've been working on it) so maybe I am making progress? Blackheart is hands down my favorite character. I think I've spent the most time with him. He is probably the toughest yet most sympathetic character I have. When I write him I can always hear his voice. (Mark)

Mark has a way with a turn of phrase, he rocks at the similes - and he creates striking visuals. One of my favorite of Mark’s creations is the Psychopomps. When his main character dies, whatever little creepy creatures happen to be around - scorpions, crappies, etc., travel to Hell to retrieve his flesh, one little nibble at a time, and reassemble his body.  Horrific and terrific.
My favorite character of Mark’s is Blackheart, definitely Blackheart. Cursed for eternity in a human’s body, unable to die - a character worthy of his own Dark Horse Comics series.

Why You Should Check Out Shawn Enderlin’s Writing and Characters
Shawn is a great world builder. He is not afraid to take on a huge host of characters, and a vast world (worlds!) with a long history. His mythology and use of magic are excellent - he takes some of the great tenets of high fantasy and makes them his own, as well as adding to the genre.
I love Kaytlyn in To Kill the Goddess. She becomes possessed by an evil entity, and her struggle to free herself is very intense. What she becomes after the struggle is even better. (Claudia)

Shawn thinks big and complex. His stories are epic. I like how he balances lots of different plots--all full of interesting characters and all in their own exciting stories--and how he keeps them all moving and brings them together. I also like the way he mixes science fiction, horror and fantasy. He has a lot of good characters, but I think Cassondra and Colt are my favorites. (Jon)

My favorite thing about my writing is that it is so fucking much better than it ever used to be. Way to go, me! (Shawn)

The scope of his work - spanning worlds and multiple points of view. It’s a lot to balance and he's done impressive work at it. I’ve always had a soft spot for Tea Leaf - even tho’ she's a minor character. I’ve always loved her - I think her name really clinches it for me. (Lisa)

Shawn is the King of world building. Faeries, unicorns, saurians, druids, lasers, elves and space travel all in the same story? Shawn does it and does it well. Mana-use in his TKTG series is awesome! My vote for his best character is Katelyn (who has to deal with some dark shit, like being possessed by and alien being). She is compelling and convincing (a great female character written by a male). Second place goes to Tea Leaf the faerie. Best. Faerie. Ever. (Mark)

Thank you!
If you made it this far, you're our number one fan. Thanks for taking the time.

~ Mark/@manOwords on behalf of Shawn, Lisa, Jon and Claudia
aka The Scribblerati

Friday, January 31, 2014

Dream Journaling

I love dreaming and dreams.* Are they—

Omens? Portents?
Some psychic link to the spirit world?
The subconscious delivering messages to the conscious?
A way for your resting brain to blow off steam?
Merely random neurons firing in pretty patterns?
Something else?

Whatever they are, they are awesome.

On two occasions I’ve had vivid dreams that became scenes in my novels.

Many authors use their character’s dreams to show us a different aspect of their character(s), or perhaps past memories that wouldn’t otherwise come up in the storyline. Some books rely heavily on dreaming to carry the entire story. One that comes to mind for me is Stephen King’s Dream Catcher. Here is GoodRead’s list of dream-related books. I also notice on their list Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven—I’ve never read the book but it was a great sci-fi PBS movie in 1980. I’ve included the link to it, in case you have a couple hours to check it out.

Do you want to cultivate dreams and your ability to remember them?
Keep a dream journal/notebook next to your bed.
Each night before going to sleep, tell yourself: I will remember my dreams in the morning.
When you wake up, grab for the dream journal and write down whatever you can remember.
I find the more I do this, the more dreams I remember and the more detailed my recall is.

My latest dream(s)?
Something about a child running from a werewolf in an abandoned home, being unable to order one additional beer at a new bar I was checking out because the bartender got into an altercation, trailer park vixens and talking with my father who was wearing thick coke-bottle-lensed glasses (he’s always had great eyesight). Interpretations? Yeah, maybe dreams are just random neutrons firing in interesting patterns.

What is your latest dream?
Do you have a favorite dream-based story?
How do you incorporate dreams into your life or into your writing?

~ Mark

PS> An honorable mention to the late Dr. Charles McPhee:

Just because: Mama Cass

*I know I've blogged about dreams here before, thanks for indulging me

Friday, January 17, 2014

What Resides in the Gap between the Thought and the Word?

The most recent in my working my through Ursula K. Le Guin's Hainish novels was City of Illusions.

In the Hainish tales many Hilfs (highly intelligent life forms) bespeak: they have the ability to mind-speak and/or mind-hear. And integral to this way of communicating is the collapsing of thought/speech such that lying is not possible. Between the thought and the spoken or written word there is a gap. And in that space a lie can be placed. But to communicate with just the mind, there is no gap, and thus no lie.

The Shing, the enemy of the novel, rule the very sparse population on Earth, perhaps because they may have the ability to lie even when bespeaking. They have one law: Reverence For Life.  Le Guin writes in the introduction that every novel offers the author a chance to do what they could not without it. And the Shing allowed her "the chance to argue inconclusively with the slogan 'reverence for life,' which by leaving out too much lets the lie get in and eat the apple rotten."

These explorations on communication, lying, and gaps also connect up nicely with an observation Le Guin makes in the introduction about the difference between the novel as conceived in the mind, the novel that one is finally able to produce, and how the two never merge.

I'm guessing that every writer feels that gap between the novel as envisioned in thought and the novel that gets written as those mind-scenes travel through the fingers (or through the vocal chords if you use a speech recognition program to write). But I hope we don't always feel that in that gap there resides a lie.

I hope our bodies also have a great deal of wisdom that they offer us as our thoughts move through us on their way to becoming physically present in the world.

I hope there is some electric something that allows the author's words to bridge the gap between their own mind and the minds of their readers, a sparking, sparkling arc connecting us.

I hope there is magic in the gaps. In the gaps between thoughts and words. Between people. Between worlds.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Eleanor and Park

I recently read the cutest book ever.

The lovely Leann and I were packing for our two day trip to Houston – to watch the Gophers play Syracuse in the Texas Bowl. I was all ready to go and was flipping through the Kindle, looking to see what was there that I hadn’t read. (I rarely find time to read anymore, so I was looking forward to sinking my teeth into something good.) There were a few things I had downloaded a long time ago and couldn’t remember what they were about, so I decided to check out what was on the Amazon store. I was thinking it might be fun to read something sci-fi, but then I saw the editor’s picks section and began to scroll through that. It was lots of literary fiction, and I was kinda meh, but then one cover caught my eye.

So simple. A boy and a girl tied together by their headphones. It hooked me, and after a cursory look at the back cover blurb, I saw it was consistently receiving four and five star reviews. And with a Kindle price of $7.99?


So there I was an airplane, an incredibly tiny airplane that was three seats across, too short for me to stand up in, and with a disconcerting steward who sounded exactly like a Transylvanian vampire (I vant to suck your blauhd). I put in my earplugs – because, loud engine right next to my ear – pulled out my Kindle and started reading. And couldn’t put it down. I was reading every spare second, right up until finally finishing it around 1 AM on the day we left.

Eleanor and Park is a beautiful and sweet book that tugged on every single one of my heartstrings. It takes place in Omaha Nebraska, in the mid-80's. Park comes from the perfect family, is good-looking, but his half Korean heritage makes him an outsider (it is the 80's, you know, before that was hot). Eleanor comes from a completely broken family and is a bit on the chubby side.

The book is all about how they fall in love – over music and comic books and of being outsiders. It’s not just first time teenage love, but the real deal kind of love – head over heels soulmate love – with all the ups and downs you to expect, and quite a few you don’t.

It’s a gripping, lovely read.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

57 Things I Thought While Watching 47 Ronin

Here are 57 things I thought while watching the movie: 47 Ronin

Before the show
1.     A small soda is 32 oz. and costs $5.
2.     They made a movie out of Mr. Peabody?
3.     47 will be a lot of ronin. Or is it ronii? #ThePluralofRoninIs?
4.     So far the ronin outnumber the audience 5:1.
5.     I’m wearing white socks with black pants and shoes. Oh.
6.     Polar bears are now sponsored by Coca-Cola
7.     Why would I attend an opera “live” at a movie theatre? If I want to sleep, I’ll do it in an Opera House, thank you very much.
8.     Score! No kids in the audience.
9.     Why is it the last two couples to walk into this practically empty theatre have to sit down directly behind and next to me? #crowders
10.  The woman next to me cracks her knuckles. A lot.
11.    Similar looking previews: The 300 sequel; Pompeii in 3D; Hercules. The worst of the lot looks like Hercules. A story about a man named Hercules who has nothing in common story-wise with the legendary Hercules. #RIPKevinSorbo
During the Show
12.   Hey, Neo’s in this movie. I hope he’s the chosen one.
13.    So far there’s only one ronin. #ripoff
14.     What’s has horns, antlers, feathers, scales, prehensile whiptail and six eyes? I don’t know but it’s trying to kill Keanu. #gobeast
15.     The beast is dead. I wonder what it was? #IVoteForKirin
16.      Why go to the trouble to have your main character marred by scars, to have the scars on his head beneath his hairline. #ChicksWantToSeeScars
        17. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as the main Shogun. #FlawlessCasting
18.     The Shogun’s hat looks like a cooking pot spray-painted gold. #NiceHat
19.     The Shogun rides a cow? #HorseArmorWithHornsEqualsCow
20.     Everyone is being a dick to Keanu. Is that part of the Samurai code? I can get behind that.
21.     Fight! Fight! Fight!
22.     That was over quick
23.     The Shogun is a dick. He has no tolerance for sleepwalkers or love, but he’s okay with witchcraft and other evil shenanigans. #ExecutionTime
24.     CGI ogre fight!
25.     That was over quick. These ronin don’t mess around.
26.     Now there are 3 ronin
27.     Now there are 6 ronin
28.     Now there are 12 ronin
29.     I’m sensing a theme
30.     I got to get me one of those smiling, two-different-eye-colored foxes. #BeatsACat
31.     The witch chick has a significantly sleazy vibe going on. #HeyNow
32.     Octo-hair! I can’t even use a pair of chop sticks correctly with my hands, let alone feed someone else using chopsticks with my dreadlocks.
33.     Waiter, there’s a hair in my sushi.
34.     Keanu was raised by unattractive owl people. #spoiler
35.     Magic swords are awesome.
36.     That was a good sword joke. Well played, overweight ronin.
37.     Fat ronin bathing are funny. #PerTheAudience #Jiggly #IDon’tGetIt
38.     My eyes, my eyes! Full frontal on the tubby ronin getting out of the bathing pond. Thank goodness for the samur-diaper. #ClothingIDon’tKnowTheRealNameOf
39.    The overweight samurai is one of the six ronin who have a personality. #HeIsGoingToDie
40.    It’s a trap!
41.    They killed the overweight ronin. At least Keanu had time for one more fat joke.
42.    It’s Long Duk Dong and he’s helping the ronii. I hope he uses his catch-phrase at the wedding.
43.    Entertainment at samurai weddings blows. #FriggingPuppetShow
44.    Shoot arrows at the bride! #WhyAreTheyTryingToKillKeanusLoveInterest?
45.    Finally, 47 ronin and they are kicking ass! #ThisPartIsPrettyGood
46.    Q: How many ronin does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None. 47 ronin show up and kick major ass. The lightbulb is screwed by default.
47.    Magic swords are still cool.
48.    A dragon with dreadlocks? Someone involved with this movie really loves animating hair. Just sayin’.
49.    Dragon’s are powerless in the Matrix. Go Neo!
50.    Hurray! It seems like the other 46 ronin survived with no casualties.
51.     Shit. The main Shogun is back, dispensing justice. “The bushido code was followed,” he says, “Soooooo, you all get to kill yourselves.” #WorstShogunEver #KeanusBadDay
52.    For a movie that ends with 45 or so suicides, the ending wasn’t nearly as depressing as it could have been. #NotAHollywoodEnding #CanILeaveNow?
53.    This is based on a true story. Even the parts with the Kirin, Ogre and Dragon? My reality just got better. #ProbablyChÅ«shingura
After The Show
54.    This movie was filmed on location just about everywhere BUT Japan. The most common name in the credits: Attila
55.    Are Ken Watanabe and Gedde Watanabe related? #ItTurnsOutNo
56.    Award for best Caucasian in a samurai/ronin movie goes to…. Keanu Reeves? Tom Cruise? Richard Chamberlain? #TheJurysStillOut
57.    What, no gag reel?

Mark enjoyed the movie, despite the 57 thoughts above. No ronin were killed in the writing of this blog post. Mark is not a ronin, samurai or even a kirin. Any similarity is completely coincidental.

Happy New Year!

~ Mark