Blazing Frustration, Still Fresh

Est. Reading Time: 5 minutes

I wish to expel all of this frustration as quickly as possible, so I am starting this post after 11PM, which is usually when I am settling in for the night. It is both a specific and general frustration with the work of independent authors. My specific frustration is with the series I have just completed, a three book series offered on Amazon by Ernie Lindsey, the Warchild series. The books are titled, in order, Pawn, Judas, and Spirit. I’ll expand on my general frustration periodically in the middle of explaining my current disappointment.

I was drawn in by the first book, read through it quickly, and posted a short, but glowing review on Amazon about it. I couldn’t wait to read the two following books to see how the story progressed and resolved. Herein lies my first general frustration and it is one that I know and understand is driven by the necessity of returning readers for independent authors who don’t get five and six figure advances to write a new book. These same authors don’t get to command normal book prices like traditional authors, so they are compelled to create book series to try and make up the difference between what they might make on a single book, if they were traditional authors.

What this leaves the reader with is the realization that a complete story will not be contained in a single book, regardless of its length, and that to know the whole story arc, they will be committing to a book series anywhere from three, which seems to be the minimum, to six or more volumes. Some of these individual “books” are merely continuity materials to get from the end of one major part of the overall story to the beginning of the next. Nothing truly impactful or story-driving happens in some of these individual sections. The fact that they cost as much as the volumes containing the meat of the story arc is frustrating (to me).

Back to the current frustration. I read plenty of independently authored books, and I have learned (little by little, with my teeth grinding together) to let slide the errors and mistakes that an independent editor would correct in the text. I understand that an editor is a luxury most independent authors cannot afford. This one certainly can’t. Therefore, small mistakes are a part of the package. In this case, however, a fairly important factual error was made in the second and third volumes concerning an event in the first. The end result was the same, but the images and impact of how the event happened in the first book versus what the main character remembers in the following two throws the reader (at least this reader) out of the story to the point that I had to go back and make sure I didn’t read it wrong. And I didn’t. It was an egregious error and I’m surprised that the author has not bothered to correct. This series is at least eight years old.

Another minor frustration was the cover art. This is not the first time that cover art has been unrepresentative of the books, but this, again, was egregious. The initial cover art (which I can no longer find anywhere) was just the face of an obviously female child or teenager. It was consistent with the contents and actually convinced me to initially start reading the book. The cover images for the second two volumes and the replacement cover image for the first book my electronic reader picked up after I bough the series, in no way represent the content of the books. They show the back of a blond female, obviously older than a teenager, dressed in body armor, armed with weapons the main character held only briefly in the story, walking through various post-apocalyptic scenes. It’s like the author gave only the title, the sub-genre of the book, and a poor description of the main character to the cover artist and just went with what they produced. I understand that this is yet another curse of independent publishing, the lack of a dedicated cover artist, but this is probably the worst misrepresentation of the content of books I’ve run across in my exploration of independently authored books. I believe it contributed to my next and final direct point about the series.

It’s the end. I didn’t think I would ever run across an ending more terrible than the last season of Game of Thrones, but I believe I have now. I won’t spoil it for anyone and I still recommend reading the series, as the story craft, aside from the issues already mentioned, was exceptional. I got the same feeling reading the end of this as I did watching the last six episodes of one of the greatest series ever put on screen. It’s like the author simply gave up. There were issues he couldn’t fix and problems he could not resolve and he just finished the story and stuck a “The End” on it. There were so many problems and issues left unresolved and he employed a plot-convenient deus ex machina to end the final confrontation and it left this reader with a bitter taste of lost potential. It’s like none of the sacrifice and loss suffered by the main character (and others) mattered anymore; he (the author) was out of words and just…stopped.

This was not the first book series to do this to me and I know it won’t be the last. Each author has a story and it begins, develops, and ends, hopefully with some internal consistency, as they write it. It is not my place to say it should have ended another way. I’ve made this argument before-it was in defense of the prequel trilogy of Star Wars that so many love to hate. Were there annoying characters? Yes. Were there plot turns and twists that didn’t happen how I (and others) thought they would? Sure. It was George Lucas’ story to tell. He just did it in a screenplay, rather than a book.

Last thoughts…

Did I like the Warchild series? Again, yes I did. If you like post-apocalyptic stories, it is a good read and has some familiar themes-extreme poverty versus comfortable lives, technology versus mankind, war as a necessity, humanity dealing with the results of excesses of the past.

Did I think the end had far more potential? Absolutely.

In the end, I feel that reading this series has somewhat galvanized me to do differently. I feel I should offer a complete story in one volume, although that is highly impractical in the world of independent publishing. I still feel I should aspire to present a complete story arc in one setting, while allowing readers to follow (hopefully) beloved characters into other adventures, not drag the reader along for three or more volumes to get the whole story. To borrow a line from Star Wars, that’s probably a “damn-fool idealistic crusade”, but it is where I am. I just hope I can now take this frustration and pour it into my work, and that you, dear reader, can one day enjoy it.

Featured Image:

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Here We Go Again…

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutesIt’s October 30th as I begin to write this and if you’ve read many of the articles here on my site, you know what is coming next…National Novel Writing Month otherwise known as NaNoWriMo.

Yes, the mad dash by thousands of people to put 50,000 words into a book in 30 days is back!

I was VERY hesitant to participate this year. I was the Municipal Liaison for two years for my area and I was seriously considering not even writing, much less taking on ML responsibilities in this time of COVID-19. I had long let the opportunity to ML pass me by back in late spring. I didn’t even start to consider writing until this week. It’s all the result of a NaNoWriMo email, so I completely blame them for this.

I saw the email.  I thought about what it took to write those 50,000 words every November. It was hard work. It was early mornings, which I hate. It was late nights, which make me hate the mornings even more. It was weekends planted in front of the computer making up for the words I didn’t write during the week. It was writer’s block at the worst time. It was working around (and in addition to) everything else I’m supposed to care about in these crazy times. Masks. Social distancing. Washing hands. Disinfecting. Presidential elections. Violent riots. Peaceful protests. Disinformation. Blatant lies. Social bubbles. Zoom meetings. The list could go on forever.

I considered what I could write about in the midst of all this. I didn’t want to do any kind of contemporary action thriller novel, as I felt compelled to consider this stupid virus as a contributing factor in the narrative. I’m so DONE with this virus. I’m in a vulnerable population and I’m to the point that I can barely care about it. So anything contemporary was out.

Science fiction was an option, but my head is currently filled with too many conflicting storylines. I took advantage of a trial for the Peacock streaming service to watch their rendition of Brave New World. Good stuff. Nothing like the book past a couple of characters, settings and plot devices, but really good stuff. I may do a reaction (NOT a review) post later…after November.

I also dug into the vaults of my TV series collection and I’m rewatching Revolution from back in 2012 and PaInkiller Jane from even further back in 2007.  Both of these series were cut way too short. Not as bad as Firefly which I also watched again recently, but still, too short. Revolution was one of the most well-written, interconnected storylines EVER. Just sayin’, connecting all the dots on this show was akin to figuring out Lost, which I don’t think was ever accomplished, even by its own writers…

The thought of writing about people with hidden, “super” abilities caught my attention (and my fascination, thankfully) and I finally decided to try and complete my 2017 NaNoWriMo project Apocalypse. Fifty thousand words is just scratching the surface of this story. I may do another 50,000 this November and still not be close to done. I have a glimmer of understanding as to why George R. R. Martin has such a hard time finishing his fantasy books. There’s so much story to tell. Nothing can be assumed. These are totally different realms from our world and the ideas clamor to escape the mind of the author. I get it, in my own limited way.

So, here I go again, trekking toward 50,000 words in a mere 30 days. My project is officially/unofficially named Apocalypse Part 2 and I will post my word count updates, my highs, and my lows here as the month progresses.

21 Days of Posts – Day 20 – Connections Between People

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutesHello to all who have decided to follow along as I post for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. As you can see, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1, then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks for being brave enough to join me.

Welcome to Day 20! In this post I want to talk about connections, mostly connections between people.

Most humans crave connection to other humans. I say most, not all, because there are people out there who would rather connect with their dog, or cat, or pet python than deal with the chaos of connecting to other people. Connecting to other people can be messy and complicated, as everyone brings their own baggage into a relationship, any kind of relationship. It doesn’t always have to be messy, but more times than not, messy is the operative description.

We crave connection with other people for a variety of reasons. Security. Looking for a kindred spirit. Someone to share experiences with. Love. Some things in life are just better shared with other people. Food. Music. Excitement. Laughter. Pain. Sorrow. Heartache. All of these are generally better when shared with other people.

But how do we make these connections in the first place? I could copy and paste both previous lists right here and be mostly right again. Shared likes, shared dislikes, pain, trauma-all are ways that we connect. Some experiences are more binding than others. If all we ever did with our friends was go out to eat or to a concert, we would develop connections with them, but not as deeply as if we were to experience intense joy or deep sorrow with them. Intensity of experience factors in heavily when we discuss the strength of our connections with others.

Another key component of making strong connections is dealing with unexpected circumstances. This can be as joyous as playing a new game for the first time with a group of friends, or as tragic as losing a loved one, family or friend. When unexpected things happen, bonds are formed that are tough to break. Ask anyone who goes through a traumatic experience with a group. Ask a military veteran how deep the bonds with his or her unit are, especially if they’ve seen combat.

Connections between people make the world go ’round. The saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is so true in so many circumstances. We find that unfair at times, but just as “luck favors the prepared”, so too can we say “luck favors the connected”. People get jobs and find opportunities all the time because of who they know.

High-dollar, luxury item salesmen know the power of connection all too well. If they can make a connection with a potential customer, that customer is more likely to decide they really do need that giant TV, extravagant boat, higher-priced car, or totally useless memorabilia item. Not making a  connection will tend to result in no sale unless the customer had decided what they wanted before they walked into the store.

Not every connection we make is going to be life-changing or even cause us to think twice, but there are three connections we all should make that WILL make a difference in our lives. You know what they are…connection to God, connection to people, and connection to purpose. Sound familiar? I hope so. How are your three connections doing? What do you need to do today, tomorrow, next week, or next month to make those connections stronger?

Thanks for reading to the end! Only one more blog post to go! Join me tomorrow for one last post in this series, then please follow me as I continue to post throughout my journey to complete a book. That series will most likely be weekly, not daily, and will be interspersed with other posts on various topics. More details to follow!

 

Photo Credit – Photo by Mario Purisic on Unsplash

 

21 Days of Posts – Day 19 – Why I Write About Broken Characters

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutesHello to all who have decided to follow along as I post for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. As you can see, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1, then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks for being brave enough to join me.

Day 19 and I’m writing about writing again. Specifically, I’m writing about why I include broken characters in my works of fiction. It doesn’t matter if the character is a good guy or a bad guy in my stories, they can be broken.

Again, duh! That’s why we love our favorite stories, to see our broken characters overcome their brokenness or, conversely, see how broken the bad guy can be. Sure, that’s true. We love the antiheroes, the down-on-their-lucks, the once-was-bad-but-now-see-the-light conversions. It’s what makes many stories work. It’s the bread and butter of so many action movies, love stories, sports chronicles, and crime dramas. There are entire TV networks that wouldn’t have any programming if not for the shows about really pretty, but broken characters.

The real question is-why? Why do we love these characters? Many of them are violently altered, psychologically damaged, or are just the unluckiest people (characters) alive. Because we love it when things get fixed. We love it when characters mend. We’re tickled by serial character arcs where the good guys become the bad guys, then return to goodness again, or not.

I generally rip things away from my characters “off screen”. I introduce my characters already broken and sometimes let the reader get a glimpse of how they were before. Not that I don’t rip things away from them during the events of the story, but they generally start out missing something. Whether that something is the entire point of the story, or I put them back together as a bonus for completing whatever quest I send them on will vary from story to story.

Their brokenness will invariably be based on things that I gravely fear – the loss of a spouse, severe bodily damage, the loss of a job or livelihood, and more, are on my list of “things I never want to experience”. So I write about them. I don’t know exactly why, but I suspect it is an attempt to comprehend the tragedy without actually experiencing it. With my characters, I can write their reaction, then if I feel it isn’t right, I can rewrite it. You can’t do that in real life, at least not easily.

It’s a challenge to realistically show the development and healing of a character. It forces me to really dive into a character, to ask that character dozens of questions, about their likes, dislikes, family, temperament, and all manner of other probing questions. The nice thing is they can never get angry, or clam up, or change the subject. If so, I would have to ask myself why this character, who owes their existence to me, is acting up…

It’s simple really. Characters drive stories, and whether we can relate to their tragedy or simply be glad we haven’t experienced it, broken characters have the ability to pull us into a story, make us feel the emotions and reactions and cause us to take an interest in what happens to each of them, even the bad ones.

Thanks for reading to the end! Only two more days left!

 

Photo Credit – Photo by Aimee Vogelsang on Unsplash

 

21 Days of Posts – Day 18 – Why I Listen to Billie Eilish

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutesHello to all who have decided to follow along as I post for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. As you can see, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1, then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks for being brave enough to join me.

Day 18! Closing in on the end of this 21 day project! Thanks for sticking with me!

This post will expound on my appreciation for the work of one Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell, known by fans as Billie Eilish or just Billie. She splashed onto the scene in 2015 when she dropped Ocean Eyes on Soundcloud much like a previous artist I wrote about back on Day 14, Marshmello. She collaborates and performs shows with her brother Finneas, who produced Ocean Eyes for its publication on the previously mentioned music website.

Why, oh why, you ask, do you like this odd, unpredictable, earthy teenager’s music? It can be so problematic, so disturbing, so…odd.

Yes, I say, to all of that. Her music can be problematic. She sings about topics many would prefer not to hear about, for a number of reasons. The songs that are free of these disturbing and definitely odd topics are generally incredible. I’ve mentioned before that I not only sing bass, but love to listen to it and Billie’s songs provide that bass groove in spades. Deep, intricate, and imaginative bass lines are a hallmark of her music, as is her breathy, some say ethereal, voice. Oddball rhythms, ambient noise, passionate, but flexible choruses, and probing, intimate lyrics all combine to make some great songs.

I’ll skip any more introduction of the artist. If you’ve heard of her, you’ve probably already checked out her official page and her Wikipedia page. If you haven’t and are interested, the links are right there. I’m going to jump into the recommended tracks portion of this post.

First, the uptempo tracks. You Should See Me In A Crown, Bellyache, and My Strange Addiction all have interesting bass lines, quirky vocals and lyrics, and have a slightly dark overtone to them. The broodiness in the lyrics is countered by the vocal delivery. Watch and its remix &Burn are a little lighter in tone, and both still sound great, whether you like the “rapless” Watch or the “rap enhanced” &Burn. They all will work your speakers hard to reproduce the bass lines.  They’ll get your head boppin’, particularly one infectious bit of the chorus in Bellyache.

Now for the really impressive tracks. These are all downtempo and lot more contemplative. Still quirky at times. I Love You, When The Party’s Over, and Six Feet Under are rich in plaintive narrative about love, relationships, and loss. Billie’s breathy vocals on I Love You, plus the ambient noises and hints of confusion and chaos make it one of my favorite tracks.

Which leaves just a few more tracks that are in the middle between these two extremes. HostageOcean Eyes, and Lovely, a duet with Khalid, are all very atmospheric and experimental at times. They each have interesting lyrics and paint great sound pictures with the instruments. Indeed, Ocean Eyes, with its lush sounds, is the song that started the whole giant swell of notoriety for Billie.

Does her music have issues? A few, yes, but the gems mentioned here are exactly why I listen to her often, as long as I have a good stereo system available. Unless you’re sporting $300 Beats headphones, these tracks will not sound anywhere near as good as they really are. Even then, once you hear these songs on a good system, feeling the bass right in your chest, headphones don’t do them justice anymore.

Thanks for reading to the end! I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe found a new artist you like.

Three more days of posts to go! Come back tomorrow to learn more about my writing style, then we’ll finish with two articles on relationships and faith.

 

Photo Credit – crommelincklars – Billie Eilish @Pukkelpop 2019