Tag Archives: literature

Thursday Afternoon Ramblings – 2/9/17


Someone asked me recently what’s the one historical event I would like to witness. For me, the moment I would most like to experience is the birth of the printing press. In my mind, this is the most significant event in human history. Prior to this point, information was centralized in the hands of an elite minority, and populations were controlled through this lack of access to knowledge. The printing press, however, changed the balance. Suddenly, as the mode of production for written works became more efficient and less expensive, a broader spectrum of people were able to participate in the exchange of ideas. This phenomenon gave birth to the Reformation and Renaissance, which in turn gave birth to the democratic revolutions of the 18th century.

The control and dissemination of information are the most powerful forces in the world. Opinions are shaped, trends are controlled, and markets are manipulated through the flow of information. With enough propaganda and misinformation, millions of people can be convinced of any number of falsehoods. Political careers rise and fall in this manner, and with the internet, the spread of false information can take on staggering proportions. Today, we see once again the centralization of information in the hands of an elite minority (just look at how few corporations control every media outlet in the world). However, much like before in human history, diversity of voices can be the panacea for tyranny.

As a side note, there are actually two moments I would like to witness in terms of the birth of the printing press. One, of course, is the Guggenheim Press in 1439, one of the most widely known and celebrated inventions in mankind’s history. However, two hundred years before that, faced with invasion by the Mongols, Korean religious scholars invented their own printing press in order to preserve sacred texts that the Mongols had been destroying. I would love to witness both events and have an opportunity to observe the similarities and differences between the processes of each invention.

Tuesday Night Ramblings – 1/25/17

I was asked by a fan to put together a list of the top 5 things that inspire my writing, so here goes:

5) Movies/TV Shows – At heart I’m a sucker for a good story, so movies and shows that offer a solid plot and compelling characters inspire me to work harder at my craft. My favorite TV series of all time is probably Breaking Bad. I love the way Hank and Walt evolve through the course of the story arc. House was another show that inspired me. The witty dialogue and parallel plots of each episode, along with the seasonal and full series story arcs, are clinics on how to write a serial. I love far too many movies to narrow it down to one or two, but I will say here (and might retell the story soon of how) that The Two Towers actually inspired me to begin work on The Brotherhood of Dwarves series. Most recently, Rogue One stirred me deeply. It was everything I had been wanting in a Star Wars movie since A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.

4) Books – I could do a dozen lists on the books that have inspired me, but for the sake of space, I’ll limit it to the one book that has inspired me more than any other in the last couple of years. Once and Eagle by Anton Myrer is quite simply one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. It follows the career of Sam Damon, a career American soldier who serves in both of the world wars and then during the early days of Vietnam. The writing in this book is superb–colorful descriptions, provocative metaphors and similes, exquisite use of POV, and memorable dialogue. His depictions of battle (drawn from his own experience as a Marine in WW II) are hands down the best I’ve ever read, invoking all of the senses to immerse the reader into hellish landscapes that show the horrors of war. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

3) Nature – Anyone who knows me knows that I love the outdoors. If I had unlimited income, my life would be spent finding outdoor activities to be involved in. I love little more than the feel of my hands in the earth and sweat on my brow. Working outdoors, whether it be cutting wood for my stove or tending a garden or clearing brush, recharges my creative batteries and allows my mind to forget the day-to-day distractions that hinder my focus on composition.

2) Music – I love music in most of its forms. I have a playlist that I listen to while I write that varies from Traditional Country to Jazz to Techno to Rock. These songs inspire my creative process and create a buffer between myself and the outside world. In terms of individual artists, I am most drawn to the works of Chris Whitley, Jeff Buckley, Waylon Jennings, and recently Otis Gibbs. I can’t place enough value on the role music plays in not only inspiring my creativity but also in soothing the wrinkles of my soul.

1) My Children – I’ve written before about the role my oldest son played in inspiring me to write again. In fact, my children are the primary reason why The Brotherhood of Dwarves series exists at all. I have written it to share with them a piece of me and to give them a story of heroism, camaraderie, sacrifice, and redemption. Each book in the series is inscribed to them at the beginning, and those inscriptions are my attempt to tell them the roles they have played in my life. In terms of writing, my children make me want to tell better stories and remain true to power of language without reverting to tawdry tricks or fashionable gimmicks. My primary goal as a writer is to write books that one day my sons will point to and with pride in their eyes say, “My father wrote this.”

Friday Morning Ramblings

The other day, I wrote on here about the 2011 Readers’ Choice Awards through Tor, and how there has been major backlash against independent writers for openly requesting their readers vote for them, to the point of accusations of impropriety.  Yesterday, it was brought to my attention that the backlash had spread to another website, where several “professional” writers were openly and viciously denigrating a close friend of mine, insulting everything from his prose style to his professionalism to his ethics.  It took a considerable amount of restraint on my part to restrain from joining that thread and defending my friend, but I recognize that no good could come from arguing with elitist fools in their arena.

So I’ll post my thoughts on the subject in mine.

Reading their comments took me back to graduate school and reminded me of why I had such a terrible experience there.  In the name of defending the gates of the literary world, these so-called professionals publicly and truculently assaulted not just his writing but his very character, all without knowing anything about his works or him as a human being.  That was what I witnessed and experienced throughout graduate school, a level of pettiness and vindictiveness that is truly sickening.  Anyone who claims to know “the right way to write” is completely full of shit.  In literature, the only right way to write is what appeals to your audience.  If enough people enjoy your writing style, you get to keep doing it.  If enough don’t, you fade into oblivion.

And here’s my biggest problem with those particular literary snobs.  Yes, on a technical sense, they may be talented writers, but most of the writing they produce is geared to impress other writers with their skill and style, not to reach a broad cross-section of society.  Then, those writers complain about how dumb the masses are for not “getting” their work.  Whenever someone comes along who does appeal to the masses, those same jackasses rip into the populist writers for not being as technically skilled as they are.  I’ll admit that to some degree I’ve had that reaction to a work like Twilight because I see it as superficial, but guess what?  I’m not the target audience for that series, and Stephanie Meyer has tapped into her audience in a way that engages them on a deeply emotional level.  While I may disagree with her themes, I recognize and respect that she knows how to reach them.

The literary snobs would have you believe that they and they alone know what “good” writing really is, and that the masses are just mindless hordes feeding on bubble gum.  Well, I say that when a writer such as John Grisham or Stephen King can engage millions of readers and keep them riveted through several hundred pages of a book in a time when TV and movies are a much easier and convenient option, maybe, just maybe, populist writers know something about writing the snobs don’t.  And that something is first and foremost, fiction writing always has been and always will be about entertainment, and there is a vast audience out there starved for good literary entertainment.  A good story isn’t always about having perfect POV or a perfectly stylized narrative voice.  A good story is about touching people’s lives in a real and tangible way that makes them want to read more, about giving them either an escape from the drudgery of their daily lives or hope that maybe one day good will triumph over evil.

And one more point about this contest and the backlash against the independents.  It’s called Readers’ Choice not Writers’ Choice for a reason, so to anyone and everyone out there who believes that an independent writer doesn’t deserve consideration, maybe you should take a long, hard look at your own career and ask yourselves why you don’t have an energized and enthusiastic fanbase that will take the time to vote for your literary masterpieces.  When the Writers’ Choice Awards are being voted on, then you can have your say, but until then, shut the fuck up and listen to what real readers in the real world are saying.  If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll learn something.