Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My pseudo-review of Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me

Disclaimer: this isn't a real review, hence the pseudo. It's also spoiler free. I've tried doing a couple book reviews, but as a writer, I feel all kinda queeby about it. I'd rather just tell you all what I like, and what I thought was interesting and what my writer brain latched onto while reading it. So here goes…

Shatter Me, in my mind, has two very distinct sections: the first three fourths, and the rest. I'll speak about them both individually.

The first three fourths of Shatter Me is a dystopian nightmare. It depicts a horrible not too distant and entirely plausible future where our hero, Juliette, is imprisoned in solitary confinement and is going insane. It is shocking, terrible, and gutwrenching.

But having said all that...


By chapter 2 I was hooked and I didn't leave the couch for three hours. I finished it in two more sittings. This is UNHEARD OF for me.

But back to the book. As the story progresses, Juliette gets a visitor, and that's where things really start to get interesting. I'm not going to go into all the details, I don't want to spoil it, but suffice it to say that along the way we learn things about Juliette, and her visitor, and the world in which she lives and, oh yah, did I say I couldn't put it down? Because it's AMAZING!

The last quarter of the book caught me off guard. Again, no spoilers here, but Shatter Me took a real drastic change in tone and direction. I've never listened to any interviews with Tahereh Mafi and so I don't know this for a fact, but it seems that this was done to set up the sequel's. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but it was unexpected and I don't think I would have wrote the same ending. But maybe that's what she intended all along and I don't know what I'm talking about. Entirely possible!

So now for the big question: will I buy the sequel? Abso-frakking-lutely! I wouldn't typically buy a book of the genre set up at the end, but Shatter Me is such a tour de force that the writer in me wants to know what Tahereh Mafi is going to do next.

And don't tell anyone, but I may have a little bit of a fan boy thing starting up here. :-O

PS - more later on Shatter Me and YA in general.

Friday, November 25, 2011


On this friday after Thanksgiving, I'm honoring someone I'm thankful for. Thankful that she exists and writes and draws and helps others to find their creativity. Thankful for her character Marlys. Thankful for her honesty. 

Lynda Barry - Self-Portrait

Dan Kois in the New York Times Magazine (Oct. 27 2011) article, "Lynda Barry Will Make you Believe in Yourself," writes: "Narrative, Barry believes, is so hard-wired into human beings that creativity can come as naturally to adults as it does to children. They need only to access the deep part of the brain that controls that storytelling instinct. Barry calls that state of mind “the image world” and feels it’s as central to a person’s well-being as the immune system."

I've been noticing lately how even when I'm not working on Once We Were Bears, I'm creating story. In telling friends about how I'm doing, I'm telling a story. I don't mean by this that I'm making things up; instead I'm arranging the everything-ness of daily life into a narrative. When I'm planning out a course syllabus, I think of that course as a story with a narrative flow. When I imagine how my life might now change as I live out the break up of a 15-year relationship, I'm fashioning stories. Stories, stories, everywhere.

I'm also thankful to my fellow Scribblerati for their story advice and trusting me enough to offer up their own creativity for critique. Cheers.

If you don't know Lynda Barry, read the New York Times article. Read What It Is. Read One! Hundred! Demons! Read Cruddy.

Your life will be better for it. 

And may you always have access to your image world.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chuck Palahniuk

The Scribblerati had an e-mail conversation going on recently about “how dark is too dark?” when it comes to writing. It seems like no coincidence then that this week I got to go see Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club) read from his latest book, Damned about a 13 year old dead girl in Hell. If Chuck Palahniuk’s writing has a color, I know it’s dark.

Chuck Palahniuk, to me, seemed intelligent, thoughtful, and witty. His pauses between questions and answers were long, his mind working, as if searching for the best stories, the funniest punch lines. He spoke a lot about death, writing and Paris. Based on one of his stories I recommend that if you are ever in Paris at night you make the extra effort to get to the Eiffel Tower exactly two minutes to midnight and look up and keep looking up (I won’t tell you why, it’ll ruin the surprise).

Here are a few tidbits of wisdom on writing and life from Mr. Palahniuk (filtered through yours truly—so my apologies if I’ve botched any of the quotes):

• Don’t give the audience something to like, give them something they’ll remember.

• Listen. Go to parties and listen to other people’s stories.

• Ways to seize your reader’s attention: Make them laugh, shock them, give them something to remember. This is how you, the author, take control.

• On writing and music: “Every book has its own sound track. As a writer you give up so much of your life, sitting and writing instead of doing other things. So put on music. Make it seem like a party. Even if you’re only the only one who shows up.”

• He told a good Stephen King story (told to him by a friend, Kim Rickets, I believe), of how King at a book signing where 1,500 people showed up wanting his autograph, asked for bandages when his fingers started to bleed from all the signing. Some kid in the crowd heard this and shouted, “Don’t bandage him until he bleeds on my book!” Supposedly King good naturedly smeared blood on the pages of all the books he signed that day.

• “Really drunk people are honest people.”

• “The writer’s perception of their characters is just as erroneous as the reader’s.”

• “Writing is tricking yourself into looking at something inside you that no sane, happy person would look at. Trick yourself and you’ll trick others.”

• Theme is discovered only years after you’ve written your book(s).

• If you are knocked out, stripped naked and sewn into a dead horse, after that no matter how many puppies and kitties die on your shift, it’s still better than being inside that dead horse.

• He says he re-reads Jane Eyre every year, and almost as much, The Great Gatsby

• “Of course the dead miss the living.” (from his new book, Damned)

• “Don’t write until you are 33. Go out a lot before that. People living fun, story-generating lives are out.”

• In most great literature there are three main character types: The Martyr (dies by suicide), The Rebel (destroyed by someone else), and the Witness (who may learn something from the other two types and be better for it)

• Nietzsche is not his thing

• His inspiration for Hell in his latest book? The “Author’s Suite” in fancy hotels that cater to touring authors.

• Someone in the audience asked about his research methods for all the great clinical descriptions in some of his books. The answer? At age 13 he did 1,000 hours of service in a hospital as a candy striper. He described himself as being “Forever marked by the love of Percocet and blood.”

• Mr. Palahniuk says he writes only one short story per year… but then he writes it so that it’s got to hurt people. One such short story is “Guts.” It is a story that makes people throw up and pass out at some of his readings. I’ve included it here, but be forewarned. It’s NOT for the lighthearted (and NOT appropriate for the workplace) to say the least. Click at your own risk: Guts

I have read Fight Club and enjoyed it. Probably would have liked it more had I not seen the movie first (although I like the movie). I also read “Guts”—and although I did not pass out or vomit, and I tend to like my stories dark, this one was not my cup of tea. I will remember it, but I can't say I liked it. Afterwards I was craving a story about cute bunnies or unicorns—or anything else.

I do now have an autographed copy of Damned and am looking forward to reading it.

The Official Chuck Palahniuk Website

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Almost Forgot...

Happy birthday, Jon.

You old fart.

Monday, November 14, 2011

WIP Update: Jaskaran's Tale

Okay, I'm not gonna lie, it feels pretty damn good to sit here and write that I've completed the first draft on my second story. Count it, that's two, baby!

*dances wildly*

Yes, I'm pretty impressed with myself right now. I know it's only the first draft of a novella, not a complete book, and there's still a ton of editing ahead of me, but it's still pretty darn cool to know that within the matter of a few months I should have two different stories ready to be sent out there.

So you want deets? The novella is tentatively titled Jaskaran's Tale. I know that title doesn't reach out and grab you from the front of the shirt like To Kill the Goddess does, but I think in this case that simple name serves my purpose well. Jaskaran's Tale is a companion story to To Kill the Goddess. It's a tragic, YA-ish love story that follows the exploits of Jaskaran, a female character who plays a minor role in To Kill the Goddess. My original plan for To Kill the Goddess was for Jaskaran to be one of the major characters, but it soon became apparent that her story was tangential to the rest of the rest of the novel and so *shredding noise* I ripped her out.

Fast forward a about a year and a half, to sometime in late September. I was sitting in Common Roots, drinking a beer – as I am wont to do before Scribblerati meet ups – and working on plotting out the broad arc to To Kill the Goddess’ sequel when I flipped the page in my notebook and wrote Jaskaran's name on the page. One Surly later I had the shell of her story mapped out and now I have just a hair under 15,000 words completed.

My plan for the next month or two is to edit the heck out of Jaskaran's Tale and have it ready for the Scribblerati to review sometime January-ish. After that? Well, I'm not sure.
Jaskaran's Tale and To Kill the Goddess both exist in the same world and in the same timeframe so I thought about using one to help sell the other. But do I put them out at the same time? Put one out before the other?

Yeesh. Marketing. Now I have to figure that out too!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Blogger, Google+, Tumblr, or Honey Badger?

Blogging is hard. Seriously. Not like writing a novel hard, but still, it takes thought, planning, editing, and the most difficult part of all: a theme. Blogging, at least for me, isn't something I can do on an everyday basis. I mean, I probably could, but then there would be less time for writing, or my lovely wife, or I'd have to give up my day job, etc. and I'm not really thrilled with any of those options.

But on the flip side – I kind of have a lot to say. Or at least, a lot I would like to say, and most of those things really don't lend themselves to a full-length blog. A lot of times it's little stuff like hey I found this article that I thought would be cool to pass along, or so-and-so tweeted this and I'm sure you'd like to know, and so forth. Kinda like what I started doing on our brand spanking new Google+ stream.

Unfortunately, I feel like there are a lot of similarities between Google+ and the tree that falls in the forest. I really like Google+, but nobody's really using it yet. Tumblr, on the other hand, tends to attract a lot of people and it also lends itself to the type of shorter form posts I recently put on Google plus. Although I'm not sure of the extent to which people can comment on Tumbler... Oh, and Facebook is out because their Terms of Service state that they own everything you post.

So I put this out there to you fellow Scribblerati and fine readers: would you rather see short form posts here on Blogger, or on Google+ or Tumblr? Or maybe you, like the honey badger (NSFW) just don't give a [BLEEP]. That's a valid response too!

Monday, November 7, 2011


Yo, The Scribblerati is now on Google+

Add us to your circles and we'll add you back!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sale: "Harris" by Jonathan Hansen

Saturday was a good day for me.

Why, you ask?

Because I made my first sale!

I know, right? Awesome.

So, the sale was a short story entitled Harris. It's about a group of survivors scratching out a life, scavenging among the rubble of downtown Minneapolis in the aftermath of an alien invasion. It's supposed to be a nice little action piece about regular people in a wild setting with insane obstacles and a simple motivation.

I sold it to a local short story anthology called Cifiscape, Vol. 2 (pronounced Sci-fi scape). The 1st volume is pictured below and you can get your very own copy here. The good folks behind the book plan on having a website up soon. When they do, you can rest assured that I will post it here... probably more than once. In the meantime, the book is published by Onyx Neon Press, a small press out of the Pacific Northwest, I gather. In my opinion, they all seem like lovely people, so feel free to check them out, maybe even pick up a copy of Cifiscape, Vol. 1, if you want.

Cool, right? But I know what you're thinking: When is the one with my short story in it coming out?

I don't know.

Probably next year, as the whole editing/book/blah-blah-blah hasn't even started yet. I am told, however, that process will start this month and so... probably next year. When I have a date, I'll let you know... alot... most likely. The really crazy part is that when it comes out, it will be a new frontier for me. I'll exist. Out there. In the world. People will see it (hopefully). People I don't know, even (hopefully). It's strange to think about, exciting to imagine too, but weird. A little scary, maybe. I mean, what if...

Hmmm... Well, time will tell, I guess. Stay tuned, faithful masses, more information will be disseminated as it received!