@RAMriverside Please share and help me celebrate these amazing women! #writing #stories

I took my wife and son down to the Riverside Art Museum over the weekend for Mother’s Day, almost on a lark.  I’ve been with my wife for twenty years now (married for 12) and my son is 10; that’s twenty years’ worth of conventional valentines gifts and 10 solid years of conventional Mother’s Day presents which, after a while, kind of lose their impact.  This time around, I wanted to do something out of the ordinary and take my family to see something beautiful.

typwriter project

Cindy Herrera (left) next to her contraption while my wife and son chatter away behind it.

We arrived at the same time as the woman here in the above photo.  Her name is Cindy (or perhaps Cindi) Herrera.  She’s a local and seems to spend some of her weekends riding about on a bike outfitted with a cart that happens to be loaded up with three typewriters.  Three clunky, ancient, impossible to efficiently use typewriters.

Immediately, we were drawn in.  For some odd and wonderful reason, my kid (in an era of tablets and Youtube and other various wastes of time) is nearly obsessed with typewriters; every time he passes one in an antique store he wants to run his hands all over it and press the keys to see how they work.  He has an incredibly mechanical mind and something about being able to see the physicality of the typebars raise up out of the machine to strike the paper at the press of a button demands his attention.

I asked her what it was all about as my son investigated.  She offered a lovely smile and said that it was a little project she was working on.  She would set up shop somewhere likely to get some good foot traffic, write various questions at the top of the paper on each typewriter, and ask passersby to come respond to these questions.  The questions could be anything.  “Tell me something important from your childhood”, or something similar.  She said, “You don’t get to delete or revise what you write.  Whatever you set down is what it is, forever, typos and all.”  Apparently, she was compiling everything she collected into either an art exhibit or book, but I regret to say I can’t remember what the ultimate finished product would be.

I have since tried to find some kind of social media presence for Cindy or her project but have failed to get anything remotely close outside of a similar project being run in New York.  I’d love to know more about what she’s doing and what the finished product will be.

Ultimately, I’m hoping you who read this will share this around, perhaps help it to go a little viral (at least among the locals in Riverside, CA), and get a response from Cindy herself.

I loved the idea behind what she was doing and assured her that we would be coming back out to contribute after we had gone through the museum (she wasn’t finished setting up when we arrived and needed time to get everything situated).  She thanked me and waved as we passed through the door.

After the museum (which was delightful yet had nowhere near as much impact on me personally as the typewriter project, as you’ll see) we came back out to meet with Cindy.  All of her prompts had been established and she was already seeing some healthy foot traffic.  There was a man and woman standing in front of one of the typewriters on the left side of the cart.  The woman was typing out a passage clumsily, using only her index fingers.  I can’t recall the details of her face, only her teeth, which were bright and gleaming in the sun as she smiled.  The man, who I assumed to be her husband, stood behind her, smiling as well but more reserved.

In the meantime, my wife, son, and I looked at some of the other prompts to see what the subject under discussion was.  On the center station, a question read, “What can we do to improve relations in the local community?”  This was a generic question as far as I could tell; my son and I both rattled something out, equally generic and not worth mentioning.

I looked back up at the station on my right and saw that the woman and man from before were replaced now by my wife, who was looking down at the sheet.  The two who were there before her had gone without me noticing.  My wife only stared, not moving to write anything.

I came to stand by her and read the question on the paper.

“Describe something from your history that had a major impact on your life.”

Under this was the following.

“Dear cancer, you saved my life and made me enjoy the things i

have in my life.

What are you grateful for?”

– Unknown Survivor

Both of us felt as though we couldn’t get enough air.  My wife took a few steps back, put up her hands, and said, “Well, what do you write after that?  I got nothing.”

I couldn’t take my eyes off the paper.  It just sat there looking back up at me; challenging me.  I’d forgotten what the original question at the top of the paper even said.  I just kept re-reading that last line.

“What are you grateful for?”

I put my hands on the keys; took them off.  I blanked my mind, put my index fingers on two keys, and then wrote the first coherent though I had.

“She said ‘Yes’.”

Thanking my newest readers #writing #books #grateful

SaluteYou all know who you are, and because of all the fancy sales tracking and analytic reports offered by the various distribution sites, I know who you are too!

Well, okay, I don’t know who you are.  But I do know that you’re out there, and I see every purchase that comes through.  I feel it’s important to keep repeating how gratified you all make me feel when you decide to invest a little time and money into a story I’d like to share with you.  You didn’t have to do that but you did.

The point is that there’s a guy on the other side of that book you’re reading that hopes he hit all the right marks and made you feel satisfied when you get to that last page.

If you’d like to check in with me, ask me questions about the book after you’ve read it, ask me questions about the upcoming book (getting closer to done every day), or just talk about writing in general, I’m easy to track down.

You can come hit me up on goodreads, or like the page on facebook, follow me on this twitter thingy (all the kids are using it, I guess), or come try out this new mighty networks thingy that I set up and yet currently seems to be swarmed with manifest chirping crickets (I’m not sure this thing is going to take off, you guys).

Or you can use the contact form on this site.  All of these avenues filter back to me in the end and I make it a point to answer everyone.

Review: Arisen Series @michaelstephenf @audbks #books #review

Arisen: CarnageI’ve recently downloaded Carnage, the 12th volume in the massive Arisen series (originally by Glynn James and Michael Stephen Fuchs but now just by Michael exclusively – more on that in a minute) and am in the process of tearing through it.  As the overall story has been refreshed in my mind, I thought I’d write a little about it here for anyone who may want to check it out.

Synopsis

The first thing to understand is that I’m covering the series and not just a single book.  This series is a modern day incarnation of the old school serial; it’s pointless to try and pick out a single book in the set.  There are certainly books that stand out among the rest but, really, the only way to consume this beast is to start at the head and work your way down to the tail a piece at a time.  If you try to get on the bus in the middle of the trip, you’ll have a leg ripped off.

The broad strokes of the series are as follows: the zombie apocalypse has already wiped out the vast majority of the world’s population.  Humanity has made its last stand at Fortress Britain (the British Isles are completely surrounded by water and, since the virus originated down in Somalia, they’ve managed a good job of keeping the virus out).

The entire series focuses on the efforts of a multitude of soldiers, sailors, marines, troops from other branches, and a small collection of surviving civilians to complete a single mission: find the cure.

In their quest, they must contend with challenges of ever increasing difficulty, ranging from constantly evolving zombies, the fact that resources are running out and what is actually left is mostly held together with duct tape (sorry; 100 mph tape) and tie-wire, and the brutal, antagonistic intervention of rival nations.

Spoiler-Free Review

This series is comprised of non-stop, shit your pants action.  Anyone interested in introspective naval gazing need not apply.  That being said, I don’t want to give the impression that there is zero character development happening; there is.  It’s just that between the reality that the vast majority of the characters in these stories are already at the very top of their game (and thus don’t have a great deal further to go by way of growth) and the fact that the author doesn’t really take his foot off the gas once he gets you rolling (except for some recuperative sequences that are few and far between), there just isn’t a great deal of opportunity to take a character from A to Z.  This is especially true towards the end of the series (which, I need to add, is not yet completely written), where entire books become an exquisite, play-by-play breakdown of some of the most intense running gun battles you’ll ever read.

Character development is actually happening in points; you certainly see it earlier on in the books when the author(s) is doing all the heavy lifting of introducing you to all of the different characters (and there are a ton of them).  Group dynamics and friction are a major factor in these times.  Internal struggles also come into play (characters tend to spend time second guessing their own motives, wondering if they’ll be able to make the tough calls, and so on).

The main target audience of these books (it seems to me) are unabashed lovers of zombies, military action, naval warfare, aerial combat, and spec-ops teams at the top of their games killing the hell out of each other.  If any of this is your cup of tea, jump into the series.  Now.

Ratings

Note that, given the content involved, I’ll be employing a slightly modified ratings system for this series of books.  Whereas you’ll typically see some form of star system, I find myself forced here to utilize the 5.56×45 NATO system.

Writing

5outof5

Easily five out of five head shots.  Even if you’re a run of the mill civilian (like myself), you’ll find that the author presents all of the military information, acronyms, and concepts in such a way that you can keep up with the story and, over time, you’ll discover that you’re even learning a few things.  The saltier characters (especially Gunny Fick, who ends up standing out early as a series favorite) are a joy to behold, having elevated the practice of vulgarity from competency to a form of artistic expression.

Story

4outof5

The only thing that keeps this arrested at a four out of five head shot rating for me is that the series goes on for so damned long (it’s not the actual length here; it’s the mileage).  The longer it runs, there are more opportunities to produce content that cannot possibly please everybody.  There are certain things that are happening in this book (things which I’ll get to in the spoiler section if you care to go there) that I don’t consider to be a big deal when they occur once or twice.  Now that the series spans 12 freaking books, with a 13th well on the way, there have been more chances for these little niggling items to pop up and annoy me and, frankly, the more I have to think about them the more I’m bugged by their existence.  Even so, I feel that I should emphasize that 1) the things that are bugging me won’t end up bugging the vast majority of the intended audience for this series, and 2) they aren’t bugging me enough to impact my enjoyment of the story.  These books make it really easy for you to just accept them for what they are and roll with it.

Characters

4point5

Four head shots and a punctured kidney.  These books are packed cover to cover with an ensemble cast of incredibly strong characters.  And I mean that: they are all incredibly, ridiculously, unbelievably strong.  This is something I’ll discuss below in the spoilers.  Now, the personalities of these characters are one thing – they are distinct, enjoyable, and easily identifiable, such that you can tell them apart easily by their behaviors and mannerisms.

On the other hand, everyone in these books ends up being so much of a bad ass (even the random civilian characters who have received no ultra-uber death commando military training) that your basis of comparison kind of flattens out over time and you start becoming numb to how awesome they are (a state of being about which you will be reminded frequently by the author).  It kind of reminds me of the old Homer epics like The Iliad and so on.  Every new hero that got focused on in those stories ended up being the GREATEST X that EVER Y’d!

You kind of get that sense here in the Arisen series as well.  It creates  a problem of unrealistic expectations as you work through the story.  You spend a ton of time seeing examples of these people pulling off unbelievable feats of skill and endurance; and yet later on when you see them behaving like humans (making mistakes, basically), you wonder what the hell caused them to brain-fart so hard.  This is compounded by the fact that you’re constantly being reminded that these guys are all hyper professional and the very best in the world at what they do.  It causes one to ask questions like, “Well, okay, but what about that last chapter when Professional Pete got into a pissing contest with one of his team mates over stupid shit?”

For a guy like me (a guy who tends to overthink this stuff), it makes it hard to decide what I’m witnessing: am I looking at characters who are flawed or an author who has painted himself into a corner by repeatedly insisting that the characters are basically god-like while having to deal with the reality that perfect characters are boring?

This is a tough one.  For a book to hold your interest, there has to be some sort of drama going on (I mean in the classical sense, not the high school variety).  If the characters are going to be flawed, that’s cool.  Thank god they’re human; I can relate to them easier.  Certain choices are still hard to work my head around, though, as I’ll describe below.

As stated, this won’t ruin the story for the intended audience and it certainly hasn’t ruined it for me.  It is there, though, and it is noticeable.

Performance (Bonus)

5outof5

This section is relevant only if you consume these books in audio format.  Once again, I’m discussing a book performed by R. C. Bray.  I promise not all of my reviews are going to be Bray books; I just happen to be listening to the latest in the series right now.  He’s actually the reason I picked it up; I tend to go on Audible and just scroll through the list of titles he’s performed until I find one that grabs my interest.  For those of you who are already fans, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Bray really, really has his work cut out for him in this series and he attacks it happily.  For one, there’s a huge amount of characters to contend with in this series (it’s like Jarhead War and Peace, seriously), and Bray’s subtle nuances of character and delivery are a major help in keeping everyone straight; I feel like I almost need that additional reinforcement to keep everyone firmly set in their appropriate bucket.  I’ve never been good with names but faces and voices are never forgotten.  Honestly, if I didn’t have the narrator holding my hand on this one I’d probably be having a harder time keeping up.

I’ve been through the whole series two or three times now (advancing like waves a little further up the beach each time, as new volumes are released) and the only thing I might be able to pick out is that I think one or two characters might have gotten modified accents along the way but it’s hard to be sure.  One of the characters in Alpha team, Alli (I’m going to assume I’m spelling it correctly here because I’ve never actually seen her name in print; only heard it spoken), I believe starts the series with a feminine no-accent early on and morphs into a more pronounced clip as it becomes clear in a later book that she was originally a native Somali.  It’s hard for me to tell, though, because if this did happen it’s very subtle; if this is the case it would indicate a bit of error correction after the fact, which is cool with me.  Actually, it would kind of impress the hell out of me, as it suggests that Bray is bleeding that in carefully over time so that it’s under the radar.  That’s kind of a jaw dropper if I’m right.

Another item that I’m even less sure of is that I think one of the Marine characters shifted from an American to English accent across a couple of volumes, although I’m seriously shaky on that one; don’t hold me, the narrator, or the author to it.  The only reasoning I can come up with behind this, if it’s actually true, is that Bray saw Marine in the earlier volumes and figured American Leatherneck and was perhaps corrected by Fuchs later, informing him that the character is a Royal Marine (the character spends all of his time in Fortress Britain).  Again, no clue if I’m right or not; I don’t even remember the character’s name at this point and, having only the audio copy of these books, it’s hard to go back and look it up.  Again, over the span of some 13 or 14 freaking volumes (however many the series ends up being), hiccups like these are to be expected and I don’t hold them against anyone.  They in no way impact my ability to enjoy these books.

Spoiler-Laden Review

While this isn’t the best series I’ve ever read, I’m going to classify it as a perfect series (perfect in that it does exactly what it sets out to do).  Now, I’m going to make some assumptions about the author(s) just based on how the series progresses.  I want to make it clear up front that I don’t know the guys, have never spoken with them, and I haven’t spent a great deal of time reading up on the behind the scenes info regarding why the series goes the way it does.  Everything I’m about to write is based on my experiences as a reader and what I’m able to intuit from the writing and the progression of the story.

First of all, Glynn James was involved as a co-author in the first eight books in the series.  He dropped out after that due to time constraints and commitments to other projects.  To my knowledge, there was no falling out between the two authors; James simply couldn’t keep up with Fuchs’s pace and didn’t want to slow him down.  So that’s One.

Two: James is primarily a sci-fi/horror writer, with some healthy bits of fantasy added in.  He cites writers like HP Lovecraft, Clive Barker, and Stephen King as major influences.  This is important.

Keep the above in mind, now, as I point out that, from what I can tell, Michael Stephen Fuchs is a military fiction writer.  He does action/thriller stuff.  It is especially evident in his writing; he really digs the military, you guys.

Consequently, we see throughout the series, a hard turn away from the zombie horde as the primary antagonist, just a bit after book 9.  It is around this time that the zombies fall into the background as a forgotten threat and the new primary antagonist is firmly installed: The Russian Spetznaz forces.

None of this is necessarily a bad thing.  I will say that if you come to this series wanting to see the very finest of the combined military forces of two of the world’s greatest nations engage in a slobberknocker with literally millions of Zeds, you’ll absolutely get that.  You can, however, expect a tapering off of this activity in the latter part.  In the last two books that I’ve read thus far (11 and 12), zombies haven’t even been a thing worth mentioning, having been completely supplanted by the Russian aggressors.

I think it possible that Fuchs may be feeling some zombie fatigue at this point, honestly.  Keep in mind, it isn’t just the books in the main timeline that he’s produced; he’s written a prequel and intermediary episodes as well; the dude is a writing machine.  I think he’s either just finished the 13th book (or he’s getting very close to doing so) and I don’t think he’s showing any signs of slowing down.  Specifically, I think he sees the end in sight and, if anything, is ramping up the pace to drive that final coffin nail home.

You can’t blame him, either (or at least, I can’t).  These books have done some pretty amazing and imaginative things with our friend the zombie over their many volumes; things that, I believe, have breathed new life into the genre.  He’s examined disease mutations, tidal horde behavior, and has executed massive, continent-wide battles in print that are outright fucking page turners the first time you encounter them (I’ve been through the series a few times now).  All that being said, how many volumes of this story can we reasonably expect the guy to keep turning out brain-eating behavior that is fresh and unique?

I believe this is the reason we see such a hard shift from zombie fighting to top-tier spec-op fighting late in the series.  For a guy like me, who didn’t come for the zombie action only, this is no big deal.  If you happen to be interested primarily in zombie action for your reading pleasure, I regret to inform you that this is going to drop off to nil towards the end of the books.  They are not finished, of course; there’s a good chance he brings them back – Britain does still have to be saved, after all.

All that zombie/non-zombie stuff aside, I’ll say here that there’s some character stuff going on that I think is starting to get a little clunky, due mostly to the fact that I’ve been reading about these characters for so many books now.  I’ve been listening now to twelve books of Handen doubting his ability to lead his team effectively.  Twelve books of Alli and Homer being stupid in love but resisting each other for the good of the team.  Twelve books of Hanough being a pain in the ass.  All of these things are fine for a couple of books, and these are pivot points around which some of the best character development happens in the series.  On the other hand, after getting twelve books in, I’d really like to see some of these get resolved already.

One of the plot points I had a really rough time with revolved around the Sarah character (who, for some reason, appears in my mind’s eye as T2-era Linda Hamilton).  Without taking up a lot of space to do a deep dive, she’s this series’ version of Lori Grimes from The Walking Dead.  It’s totally plausible that her husband gets chewed up into corpseburger and she’s cool with it.  The author even does a good job of explaining why that is later in the story and you find yourself disliking her husband right along with her.  But…her kid, man.  It’s been a while since I read this specific book (it’s early in the series) but she first watches as he’s eaten and then again sees him get plugged later on by Homer, if I have it all right.  A few days later, she is not only jumping into the sack with Handen; she’s also reveling in her new found freedom and actively flirting with all the testosterone factories on the carrier (yeah, she starts out somewhere in Michigan and ends up on an aircraft carrier off the East Coast later on – look, a lot happens in these books).  The unfortunate eventuality of all this (plus what I’m going to discuss next) is that she ends up being unsympathetic, if not downright unlikable.

And, this brings me to the Hanough->Sarah->Handen high school drama triangle…

There’s a lot of baggage, here, but the main point is that Sarah’s banging Handen, Hanough and Handen don’t like each other, and Sarah ends up being friends and flirting with Hanough later on, which Handen walks in on (of course), becomes intensely jealous over, which effects his ability to work effectively with Hanough, which Hanough uses to get under Handen’s skin, which further increases his own self doubt, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Did I mention that these guys are ultra professional, top tier operators who are the very best in the world at their game and won’t let anything get in the way of them completing the mission?

Oye.

Look, I’m cool with flawed characters.  They’re interesting and complex.  But when I see some shenanigans going on between characters who are supposed to be the biggest hardasses in the series and all of those said shenanigans resemble an old episode of Dawson’s Creek (it was a teenage drama TV show from the 90’s for you younger readers), I have to start asking questions about just what the hell is going on.  The inter-team drama between Hanough and Handen (without accounting for Sarah) is fine, by the way.  All of that is well set up in the beginning of the series with Ainsley and the fact that Hanough holds allegiance to him.  The friction  between Hanogh and Handen in this regard is well earned.  I just have a rough time swallowing these love triangle dramas between seasoned, capable adults.  You’ve established that they’re the best of the best.  That’s awesome.  Don’t turn around and hand me a scene where they’re acting like tipsy interns at the office Christmas party.  That undermines the whole best-of-the-best thing you just worked so hard to set up.

I probably sound overly harsh on these issues, and maybe I am, but it just seems to mar and otherwise flawless series for me.  All of the above aside, the series is absolutely perfect for what it sets out to do.  It is clearly written by a person who is deeply passionate about all things military, and that focus comes out wonderfully in every word, to the benefit of the narrative.

There are certainly cheesy things going on in these books.  There are a whole force of Russian Spetsnaz who are comically evil (seriously, half the fun you have in these books is listening to how screwed up Ivan is).  This is just fine for a series of zombie books, and yet I’m pretty sure that the real life Spetsnaz forces aren’t a bunch of torture loving Bond villains running around murdering everything in sight for the sheer joy of blood lust.  I’ve done some research into these guys out of curiosity; it turns out they’re soldiers a lot like ours.  They’re people of all ages from all walks of life who enlisted to serve their country and made it through a rigorous selection process to climb to the ranks of one of the top combat units of their nation.

Even so, I don’t care.  It’s a freaking zombie book.  Let the Russians be cartoonishly evil.  I’m accepting a wave of animated corpses sweeping across the globe, I can certainly deal with a bunch of Russians with Daddy Issues.  As I said; they’re fun.

I’ll also take a minute to note at this point that our protagonists run into gear drops like they’re playing Call of Duty.  Every time they turn around, it seems like they’re running into a hidden pallet of the best X gear ever to have been conceived.  The author himself even gives a tongue in cheek nod to the reader in one of the later books where a security team stumbles upon a whole locker full of bite proof, fire resistant, riot gear just in time to run a critical mission into a zombie-infested Middle Eastern city; all of which would have come in super handy in earlier books.

The characters in the book end up chalking the whole event to the evils of basic bureaucracy, inefficiency, and stupidity all around, while in real life, you can basically hear the author saying, “Give me a freaking break, okay?  It’s a zombie book.”

Ultimately, I give the dude a break.  For any of the flaws that I happen to pick up along the way, the stories more than make up for them in sheer, page-turning, popcorn-eating, high octane fun.  These books are just fun, okay?  That’s all they should be.  That’s all they’re really meant to be.  Go get in there and have some fun with them.

Why Audiobooks? #reading #audiobooks #books

audibleWhen I was young, I was convinced that audio books were for bone heads.  I had all these prejudices and beliefs around what made a “respectable reader” (never mind the fact that I never could get through a paragraph alive without spellcheck).  You had to hold a physical, paper book in your hand or it didn’t count as reading.  The books had to be from certain beloved authors or they were of little to no merit and were thus to be hidden in shame.

I had a lot of other really stupid ideas, too.  I was a kid, what the hell do you want from me?  Kids are dumbasses.

Even so, one of the conceits of my youth that held on a lot longer than it should have was this idea that listening to an audio book does not equal reading.  Okay, technically, it’s not reading, I get that.  But outside of the fact that you are not using your eyeballs to read and interpret letters from a page, there isn’t a whole hell of a lot of difference.

When you read a book, are you consciously aware of the act of reading or has it become an autonomic activity that you don’t have to think about?  Are you able to just focus on the story?

Using your little socket peepers to consume a book should be the last damned thing that gets in the way of you enjoying a good story; it’s actually the dumbest reason I can think of to discount a book.  What are you going to tell blind people?  Do they not read?

Or so I should have been screaming at myself, years ago.  I was forced to turn to audio books by necessity.  I spend about three hours in the car every day (100 mile round trip) commuting to and from work.  I work really, really hard.  At night, there is a literal stack of books on my bedside table, but I can only read them for fifteen minutes at a time before I pass out.  My adult professional life was jacking up my ability to read, which I used to do voraciously.

Aside from all that, I detest drive time radio.  I hate the music stations, the talk radio, the commercials, the endless cacophony of mindless, wall-to-wall noise that vomits out of the speakers no matter what station you select.  My wife, who had been listening to audio books for a very long time (evidently, she was born with her head in the right place, whereas I had to undergo years of painful extraction to remove mine from my anus), suggested I try them for my daily drive.

I thought, “Oh, fine.  How bad could it be?”

A well performed audio book can be every bit as enjoyable as the original print form; it can surpass the original with a gifted narrator, elevating the experience to some hybrid of reading and movie-going.

I downloaded The Martian to my phone from Audible, plugged the phone into my car’s stereo system (yay, AUX!), and hit the play button.

And was instantly shown by one of the best performances the platform has to offer just what a weapons grade moron I had been.

Audio books have been a lifesaver for me over these last short years.  They have allowed me to get my book intake back up to an acceptable level (acceptable for me, anyway), they give me the ability to multitask (I can actually be getting something done in traffic), and they’ve opened me up to a new world of entertainment possibilities.  A well performed audio book can be every bit as enjoyable as the original print form; it can surpass the original with a gifted narrator, elevating the experience to some hybrid of reading and movie-going.

If you have limited your literary intake to print exclusively, I highly recommend that you expand your horizons.

How to Finally FINISH Your Novel #writing #books

I was fourteen years old the first time I started writing a novel.  The first time I finished a novel was a couple of months ago.  I’m thirty-eight.

As you might guess, I have some experience with running out of steam.

Now, the first thing to understand is that I didn’t just live through twenty-four years of continuous attempts and failures to complete a novel.  That was twenty-four years of attempting to write a novel when I became inspired to tell a story (I’m bolding “became inspired” for reasons I’ll explain shortly).  My best guess lands at five or six distinct stories that I tried (and failed) to complete over that time line.  A lot of these occurred early on; very few of them in later years.

Having never completed a novel, I began to accept the idea that some people are writers and I simply wasn’t one of them.  I was a good communicator.  I was certainly skilled at writing my thoughts down.  And yet, whatever bit of internal wiring is required to tell a cohesive, 70K+ word story was apparently a gift with which I had not been born.  Without any great deal of regret (I didn’t really know what I was missing out on), I stopped trying.

Let’s fast forward a bit to now, where I’ve published my first novel, it seems to be getting pretty well received, I’ve signed an audio book deal, and I’m well on my way to completing the second book in the series and starting up the third soon after.  What the hell changed?

It’s actually pretty simple but the answer was so far removed from storytelling that I didn’t even realize it until fairly recently.  The pursuit of two activities literally gave me all of the tools I needed to complete a novel:

Power lifting and software development.

These are two vastly different disciplines that have a couple important parallels: namely, they take a long time to do well and you will definitely not enjoy every part of the process.

The problem I had with writing was that I was pursuing it as a leisure activity, to be done only when I was “in the mood” or “feeling inspired”.

Developing software is a part of my day to day job and, if you’re going to produce anything remotely useful outside of a miniature test app or school project, it takes a lot of time.  It takes time to first build an idea into a working platform and then it takes a significant investment of time to support that software and keep it from going stale (software of any moderate complexity absolutely will degrade and break down over time).  I certainly enjoy developing software, but I don’t enjoy all of it.  I like tackling difficult or unique tasks like developing TCP socket based command-response protocols, writing flight simulation software, or automating complex systems.  Mundane crap like file IO, serialization, and GUI design are the pits; to be classified as the painful, repetitive garbage that I have to slog through each time I want to develop a new thing from the ground up.  We design for code reuse and inheritance to mitigate this, but there is still always a point where you have to put a button somewhere or write the code to read a file.  It’s mind numbing and I hate it.

But, if I want to enjoy the finished product, I have to plow through that ignominious work.

It was the same story with power lifting.  If you’re of the inclination (not all of us are, which is cool), pulling a double body weight dead lift for the first time is an exciting, heady experience.  Getting to a point where you can do that is a never ending, punishing, mind numbing slog unless you learn to love the grind.  Power lifting is ALL ABOUT the grind.  You make no progress; you see no improvement whatsoever unless you get your work in every day, you’re consistent, and you stick to the program.  There are literally months of work invested for the sole purpose of accomplishing a lift that might take a total of ten seconds.  The first time I hit a squat for 380 lbs, I spent roughly 8 or 9 seconds under load, followed by racking the bar, feeling fairly good about myself, and then walking out of the gym to the amazement of no one at all.

Nobody cared but me, which is as it should be (I don’t compete).  All that aside, you need to understand that I trained for roughly three months to get to that point from my previous max (which at the time was 350, I think).  Those three months were not fun.  There were plenty of times where I would have been just as happy to stay in bed and sleep in rather than get up and go train.

In these examples, you learn that the days on which you aren’t feeling it are the most critical days of all.  It’s not about what you can accomplish when you’re feeling inspired.  Inspiration is bullshit.  Inspiration is enough to get your ass moving…and that’s about it.  By the time you’re looking at coming anywhere near the finish line, your fickle friend Inspiration is long, long gone (probably sleeping around on you, by the way).

When Inspiration has left, there is only The Grind.  And what you do during The Grind determines whether you achieve your goal or fall short along with everyone else who quit at those most critical of moments.

Writing a novel is no different from pulling 500 lbs off the floor.  That one act (i.e. publishing) is preceded by months of dedicated effort which must be spent whether you’re in the mood or not.  The days where you simply aren’t feeling the drive are absolutely the most critical days.  These are the times where you have to sit down and write no matter what.  When you’d rather be sleeping, rather be playing video games, rather be watching some show on TV, rather be out with your friends; these are the moments where you’ll be able to tell if you have a snowball’s chance in hell of finishing what you set out to accomplish.  If you can sit down during these times consistently and just write (even if that writing is shit), you have a good chance of finishing.

You’re not going to love every minute of writing your book.  Get over the fantasy and learn to love The Grind.

Josh

[BONUS] Read and Review: COMMUNE by JOSHUA GAYOU @JoshuaGayou #BookReview #Dystopian

A very big thank you goes out to Judith at readandreview2016.wordpress.com for her incredibly thoughtful review of my book. Glad to see she enjoyed it and also got some good stuff to consider for future efforts.

ReadandReview2016

  • Title: Commune
  • Author: Joshua Gayou
  • Published: 2017

Commune: Book One is the story of one small group of survivors who must adapt to a primitive, hostile world or die. As they learn the rules of this new era, they must decide how far they’re willing to go to continue living, continually asking themselves the same question daily: is survival worth the loss of humanity?

My Photo [Commune]

When I started reading Commune, I noticed a couple of minor technical issues. There were some grammatical errors, and the narrative occasionally swapped tenses by accident. Also, some words were written with excessive letters or punctuation, like thiiiiiiis????!!!! As a reader, I urge writers not to do this. It may look as if it expresses deeper meaning, I assure you it does not; I read it as this? or this! regardless of how many extra letters or punctuation marks have been added.*

*I covered these…

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5 Star review for Commune Book One “Clear, concise, believable and sets the hook from the beginning.” #books #postapocalypse

A lovely 5-star was left for me this morning on Amazon:

Love Joshua Gayou’s style. Clear, concise, believeable and sets the hook from the beginning. Love Billy and Jakes relationship and cant wait to see how Amanda’s path crosses theirs. Sure hope Mr Gayou has sequel ready for publishing. Really looking forward to the whole series.

I can’t describe how gratifying it is to hear feedback like this.  Above all, I set out to entertain when I started writing this series.  Hearing from folks that this has been accomplished makes my whole day; there is simply no other way to describe it.

As I’ve said before, I’m aware of how much content across diverse media platforms is out there competing for your attention.  Everyone’s time is limited and I take yours very seriously.  Chief among my concerns is writing something into which you’ll feel good investing money, time, and energy.

Should you be interested in picking up a copy of the book, you can find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo in ebook and paperback formats (click here for various purchase links).  You can also preview the book and decide if it’s the kind of thing you want to dive into from any of these sites or just click the picture of the book on the right bar of this site.

Should you be interested in discussion or asking questions about this book or any other things in general, you’ll find numerous methods of contacting me here on this site as well.  I’d love to hear from you.

Josh

Solitude #audiobook Blog Tour @justjuliawhelan @deanmcole @audbks @AnAudiobookworm

SolitudeAuthor Dean M. Cole is doing a really cool thing that I wasn’t even aware was a doable practice in this game; a virtual blog tour!  He’s going to be feature alongside the narrators of his latest book, Solitude: R. C. Bray and Julia Whelan.  This looks like it’s going to be a really cool feature for a guy who is already drumming up a lot of buzz in the independent and audio markets.

For those of you who run your own book blog, this is your chance to get in on the action (CLICK HERE).  There are a number of dates open in which you can submit to host these folks over at your site.  This is a good thing for everyone involved; it means traffic for them and it definitely means new traffic for you.