Where did I go?

This blog has been shamefully dead for several months, despite my frequent promises of returning. Suffice to say, I believe I’ve disappointed many people, myself included.

The past year or so has been difficult for me. A down-turned economy means there’s lay-offs everywhere, and the few jobs in my field are seeing fierce competition. I started 2016 off unemployed. got a new job, and ended up having to quit after a few months due to the conditions there. While I was able to get another job straight away, I felt like I was back at the beginning, and that I would never get anywhere. That I had let everyone down.

My writing has suffered. I have not worked on anything personal in months. The inspiration I once received from the Steampunk community I was part of dried up after too many elitist encounters. The manuscript I had written no longer appealed to me. I started to make moves to improve it, but stopped somewhere along the way.

I’ve been living my depression in distractions. Finding ways to write that, while fun for me, are not working to further what I want from life. I just stopped trying.

But in recent months I’ve made a choice. I’ve taken steps to improve my mental health. And I feel they have worked. Slowly, my depression has alleviated. I feel more motivated to do things. I’m applying for more jobs, going out more.

But my writing is still lagging behind, this neglected blog being a testament to my own failure.

I can’t be a failed writer before I’ve even gotten started. If inspiration will not come, I will make it come. I will start here, returning twice a month with more writer’s thoughts and advice for my readers. I will return to my research, to create a more believable world for people to get lost in. I will look back to the things that had inspired me before and see if they can’t do it again.

Most importantly, I will stop hiding.

Categories: On Writing, This is my life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Review: The Book of Life (2014)

As I was asked to be a guest reviewer by a friend of mine, and this was the last movie I saw, enjoy my thoughts on The Book of Life.

GOO Reviews

the_book_of_life_1 All Images belong to Reel FX and 20th Century Fox

I remember being as a young teen, I was absolutely in love with Halloween, which eventually led me to research its origins and try to discover similar holidays. It was during one of these fateful Wikipedia searches that I learned about the Day of the Dead. Thus, to understand the movie I’m about to review, I’m going to give the unaware a basic idea of what the Day of the Dead is about.

Mostly celebrated in Mexico and regions with high Hispanic populations, the Day of the Dead is a holiday about remembrance. The purpose of the holiday is for family and friends to gather to pray for and remember the family and friends who have passed away. People build private altars, visit their loved ones graves, and bring them gifts of sugar skulls, marigolds, and favored food and beverages…

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The Difference Between Engaging & Boring First Person in Three Tips

When writing fiction, there are several points of view an author can take. Omniscient, limited omniscient, first person—the choice of which to use is the author’s. Sometimes it depends on the genre, or the way the author intends to write the book. Sometimes point of view is obvious. Sometimes, not so much.

One point of view I’ve always struggled with was first person, both as a reader and a writer. It’s a very character dependant point of view, not only in terms of how fleshed out the character is, but in how active they are as well. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in the head of a boring, inactive protagonist.

So, how can you prevent a boring, first person narrative?

Tip 1: Make sure you’ve got a strong protagonist.

This is a very obvious point, but it’s extremely important. It doesn’t matter what kind of point of view you’re taking or what kind of story you’re writing, you need a compelling protagonist to carry it. Some narratives, if we don’t like one character, will allow us to at least enjoy other characters, either co-protagonists or important secondary characters. With the first person perspective, we are constantly inside the head of one character. If that character is uninteresting or unlikeable, we’re going to just end up putting the book down. A good character is key to holding interest, even if the story isn’t what one might call ‘action packed.’

Tip 2: Consider the type of story you’re telling

Certain styles are meant to be in first person. Travel writing, memoirs style, journal style, autobiographical pieces, whether fiction or non-fiction, you want a first person perspective for these pieces. General fiction has more leeway for points of view. If you have multiple characters who you want to take points of view from, first person would not be recommended. Sometimes, you may have to try writing a few pieces with a first person view to decide whether or not you think it works. It’s all very subjective.

Tip 3: For the love of all that is literary, have your first-person character actually do stuff.

Many times have I read a first person story where the main character is surprisingly inactive for most of the story. If something exciting happens, they hear about it second-hand. Obviously, what dictates activeness in your book depends on the genre; romances are going to be less action-packed than adventure novels, after all. The best kinds of characters for first person are the kinds that are always in the action, either because they throw themselves into the situations, or because the situations find them.

Now, this doesn’t mean that your first person protagonist should be in the action all the time. Every books needs breather chapters, or chapters to analyze discoveries. Good pacing is important in any novel. It’s when your character is experiencing nearly everything second-hand that first person becomes a problem.

These cover my general issues with the first person stuff I’ve read, and disliked. Boring protagonists, more worthy characters to focus on, and a bout of general inactivity have all made me put the book down or give up the written series in favour of a television adaptation. That being said, I’ve read a lot of good first person works as well. These tips just encompass the differences I’ve seen between the first persons done well, and the ones done not so well.

But sometimes, it just comes down to what’s written and who’s writing it.

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The Short Story Struggle

I’ve never been exceptionally good at short stories.

In many of my more creative writing classes, we were advised to get published on a minor scale—short stories, poetry, and such—before aiming for something like a novel. It’s a more mundane version of having 3-5 years of experience in a field when applying for a job. It looks good when you have professionally published work to bring up when heading into the next leg of your writing journey. I also want to be able to offer my readers some short fiction on my blog, at least for a time.

Outside of school assignments, I’ve just never been very good at writing short fiction. Anything I do manage to finish feels like part of a larger piece; a prologue, or a chapter from a book. I can come up with scenarios that seem simple, but they end up being rather long winded. Any time one of my peers brings a short story for us to workshop, I can’t wrap my head around how they can simmer down an entire plotline to less than 5000 words and actually have the plot come to a conclusive end.

I feel like I’ve only been successful in my attempt once.

So, why do I have so much trouble writing a short story? Maybe it’s my reader’s mindset. I’ve always read novels for fun. Short stories were strictly something I was forced to endure and painfully analyze in school. I didn’t start reading short stories in my off-time until recently, and even now I still gravitate towards novels.

Maybe the ‘short’ part of the short story is my problem. Part of the reason I prefer longer works in that I get engrossed in the story’s world and characters. It takes quite an impression to make me love a character I’m only going to be with for a few thousand words. I enjoy the long hours I can spend being lost in a novel. So, whenever I create an idea for a short story, I usually spend too long developing the characters, and then little aspects of their world become expanded upon until I’ve created a setting and cast for a whole novel (or two) but have no plot to go along with it.

It’s a habit I’m trying to learn to break, partially because I want to publish a few short pieces to get my name out, but also because I think it’s good to try writing things I’m not good at or comfortable with. The only way you learn to do something even somewhat good is to try, get critiqued, fall over in frustration, and then try again.

Until I can do it with no problems, I’ve got a few anthologies and some recommended writer’s self-help books to check out.

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Good Prose Makes You Doubt Yourself, And That’s Totally Normal.

Have you ever read a book you enjoy so much that after you’ve finished it, you briefly want to give up writing forever because you will never reach that level of prose?

You’re not alone. It’s just one of those things we writers have to deal with.

I recently started reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch after it was recommended to me by a friend. While I have yet to finish it, I’m already blown away by the world and descriptions. There’s nothing over-used about Lynch’s prose and his world is so engaging. There’s clever little bits that you might not catch on to during a first reading—like how the city of Camorr is based on Venice (which is obvious), but how the characters send secret messages to each other through hand signals while talking about something else, in a clever usage of the stereotype of Italian hand-talking.

It’s stuff like this that had me pained and thinking of my own prose as barely worthy of children’s books after reading the prologue.

I had a similar reaction after I read Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. After finishing the book, I mournfully told my mom that I would never write anything that awesome.

She told me I was a dork.

I wonder if this is just a beginner thing. Perhaps it’s a lack of confidence in our own prose combined with our admiration for these other authors that makes us feel so inadequate in the face of our favourite books. I’ve been told we can’t judge an author’s skill solely on his finished product. We have to take into account all the work that went into it. An author may have written an amazing book, but it may have taken him six years and twelve drafts to do it.

It’s a matter of remembering that every writer has a different style and a different process.

And if that doesn’t help, you can always read a book that you think is absolute garbage (I won’t name any titles) and remember that if this managed to get published with its plot holes and lack of action and terribly repetitive descriptions, then you at least have a chance.

Categories: musings, On Writing, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Coming to You Live From Phoenix

Yesterday, my mom and I touched down in Phoenix, Arizona. For the next ten days, I’ll be enjoying the kind of weather Edmonton only sees in the summer. And cacti. Lots of cacti.

We were slightly worried aboard the plane when we saw that we’d be travelling with not one, but three babies, one of whom was seated next to us with his mom. One baby near the front of the aircraft started crying before the plane took off. The second was less a baby and more a toddler, so he didn’t cry at all. The baby next to us, however, was probably the best behaved baby I’d ever seen on a flight. His mom made certain he was comfortable for the three hours we were in the air and I didn’t hear a peep from him until we had arrived. Which is awesome, because his ears must’ve been popping as bad as mine, and I’ve seen too many people just ignore their kid when that happens.

We’re staying with my mom’s friend and she’s basically taking us everywhere, which is really nice of her. We’ve all got plans to check out the Grand Canyon on Thursday, which will be great.

Other than that, we’ve got lots of shopping to do. I’ve already started buying for Christmas.

We went to a little frontier town after lunch yesterday and went exploring the shops around there. My mom needed to get some hot sauce for a guy at work, so we popped into this little store that sold such gems as:

–        Ass Reaper

–        Day of the Dead

–        Tears of the Sun

–        Red Rectum

–        Colon Cleanser

–        Iamsofuckingstupid

–        Hot Fucking Sauce

–        Just One Fucking Drop (which came with an eye dropper because they were serious about that heat)

My main struggle now (aside from blowing too much money) is making sure I still get some of my school hours in while on this trip. I promised myself “two hours in the morning, two in the evening.” We will see how that goes.

Admittedly, we had tried to plan this trip around PureSpec back in Edmonton, which happens this weekend, but this period worked best for my mom. Shortly after the trip was planned, my Steampunk Group announced that they were going to host a ball for PureSpec. I was slightly disappointed that I couldn’t make it.

But now all I have to do is look out the window and remind myself that travelling somewhere warm when winter has belly-flopped upon my hometown was worth it.

Categories: This is my life, travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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