As I Lay Dying Review

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As I Lay Dying was, honestly, like wading through an ever changing current of words. Faulkner’s ear for dialect is as keenly tuned as a master violinist’s toward the reverberations of his instrument. That being said, however, Faulkner’s writing style, when expressed in the stream of consciousness ramblings that fill this book, is…well to say “confusing” would be an understatement. The book is well worth the read if you enjoy reading for the sound of a character’s voice. There are some unique voices here. If you’re not one for meandering monologues on life’s meanings and odd sentence composition, then I’d suggest you leave this one on the shelf. If you choose to read this book, opt for the audiobook as the various readers help to make better sense of the unbroken style of Faulkner’s prose.

An example of when Faulkner gets confusing: 

“In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep, you are not. And when you are filled with sleep, you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know that he does not know whether he is or not. He cannot empty himself for sleep because he is not what he is and he is what he is not. Beyond the unlamped wall I can hear the rain shaping the wagon that is ours, the load that is no longer theirs that felled and sawed it nor yet theirs that bought it and which is not ours either, lie on our wagon though it does, since only the wind and the rain shape it only to Jewel and me, that are not asleep. And since sleep is is-not and rain and wind are was, it is not. Yet the wagon is, because when the wagon is was, Addie Bundren will not be. And Jewel is, so Addie Bundren must be. And then I must be, or I could not empty myself for sleep in a strange room. And so if I am not emptied yet, I am is.

How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

An example of when Faulkner gets it right:

“He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like those others: just a shape to fill a lack that when the right time came, you wouldn’t need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear.”

and…

“I notice how it takes a lazy man, a man that hates moving, to get set on moving once he does get started off, the same as when he was set on staying still, like it aint the moving he hates so much as the starting and the stopping. And like he would be kind of proud of whatever come up to make the moving or the setting still look hard. He set there on the wagon hunched up, blinking, listening to us tell about how quick the bridge went and how high the water was, and I be durn if he didn’t act like he was proud of it, like he had made the river rise himself.”

3 TV Shows You Should Be Watching

As an author, I love good writing. I love it in every shape it takes: music, theater, literature, movies, TV, and even video games. I devour good stories and savor exquisite dialogue. There’s a lot on TV, however, that just isn’t worth the time, and I appreciate any list that helps me procure those truly exceptional shows. So, here’s three that are on my list (not in any order). Feel free to add any of your favorites as well. As a fair warning, some of these shows are a bit rough–some, but not all. For those that are, I’ll let you know what to watch out for, in case colorful language, copious amounts of blood, or some “tasteful nudity” turns you off.

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Parenthood- A show that’s really just about a family that has to deal with all the normal stuff that your family has to deal with. This show sets the bar for television dramas. The thing that I like most about Parenthood is that it feels authentic. They don’t overreach with bizarre plot lines. They don’t hyper-manage the dialogue so that it every moment is a hallmark moment. People talk over each other and you only catch bits of the conversation at points, but that just feels like a family conversation around my dinner table to me and I like it. It’s a show that thrives on subtlety, and subtlety is the watermark of confident, mature writing.

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Hannibal
- Like the juxtaposition? This show is gorgeous. That’s an odd compliment to give a television show that has literally been banned from certain channels because of it’s gore and “violence”. I put violence in quotations, because the actual violence in Hannibal is not anything that you wouldn’t see on CSI or 24. It’s the display of the victim’s body that can get to you if anything. In Hannibal, the human form and psyche is art. Bodies are displayed as icons, symbols of deeper psychological meaning, so that the detectives and grasp the mind of the man or woman who killed them. A human mushroom farm, blind justice, and people used as antler ornaments are just a few examples of the show’s creative displays of dead human bodies. It’s not the artistic rendering of crime-scenes that draws you in, though (it certainly stuns you into paying attention). It’s the exchanges between the show’s characters and the maestro of human manipulation, Hannibal Lecter. An ominous energy charges every episode, because you know exactly who Hannibal is but no one else does. He works his web around people psychologically unsettling both them and you, until he is, at last, ready to devour them. Most every episode ends with my jaw on the floor at the brilliance of this villain and the unexpected turn that the plot has just taken.

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Ripper Street- Ripper Street is what you would get if CSI got together with Downton Abbey and had a lovechild who could speak like Shakespeare and throw a punch like Mayweather. Set around the time of the Jack the Ripper murders, the show’s main protagonist is a duty-driven detective in Whitechapel who’s deductive prowess make him something of a Sherlock Holmes, though he’s not so self-assured. The crimes center around the consequences of advancements in technology, medicine, and entertainment, like moving pictures, electrified railways, the stock market, and lobotomization. Caught up in this world of greed and murder are the detective’s American surgeon, who is a carousing, substance-addicted fugitive, though very handy with in brand-spanking-new field of forensic science, and an ex-military man who is the muscle to the detective’s brain. The characterization and crimes are very intriguing, but the main draw of this show is the dialogue. Almost every line is so eloquent that you could read the script at a wedding, graduation ceremony, or even a friggin’ funeral and receive a standing ovation. As a heads up, there is a very slight amount of nudity in Ripper Street (mostly in the form of cadavers laid out on an examination table, but the first episode does show a bit as well).

How about you? What shows would you recommend for their writing?

 

 

Happy “Get Horse-Faced and Talk Like a Leprechaun” Day!

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Celebrate Saint Paddy’s day this year with a pint and a good book.

Hindsight is set in Ireland with vivid descriptions of the land and “humorous and unerringly human [personalities], full of all the quirks and flaws that make a great character”. It boasts a white-knuckle plot with visceral action that hinges on old grudges and buried family pain. Best of all, it’s only $2.99, which saves you plenty of money to pay the bartender or to get that ill-decided shamrock tattoo.

Pick up Hindsight here for a perfect toast to Ireland without the crippling hangover.

Review: Odd Thomas

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A story of a young man in a nowhere town who can see the dead. I won’t give you much more of the plot. You can read the description on the book for that if you’d like.

Koontz’ Odd Thomas series has become something of his flagship work. I’d seen it a number of times, but never given it a chance. A few years ago, I read The Face. The two books have similar qualities. Koontz’ natural narrative voice is full of sensory detail, making every spoonful of ice-cream or juicy bite of an apple into a mouth-watering moment to savor. He makes note of the complexities of the human condition, juxtaposing the mundane with the extraordinary or the wicked with the benign. What I most appreciate about his work, however, is his ability to carry a metaphor all the way through a chapter. This might seem tiresome at first glance, but Koontz weaves the metaphor so skillfully throughout the narrative that you don’t want to miss a word, because each turn of the phrase brings out some new nuance to his metaphor that welcomes the reader into the deeper meanings of the tales. In The Face, I found myself intrigued by the villain, Corky Laputa. Odd Thomas, by contrast, is so full of unique and colorful characters that they all perk your attention when they pass through the frame.

Odd Thomas, himself, is as likeable, quirky, and complicated of a lead character as you are like to find in a popular novel these days. The story, told from his perspective, tints the world in the hues that only he can see. There’s an undercurrent of melancholy to his tone that is lightened throughout by his extreme hopefulness, humor, and knack for noticing the idiosyncrasies in the people around him. Of course, this novel is not solely about character and paces quite nicely into darkness and bloodshed. The horrors that the reader experiences, however, are always mediated by Odd’s philosophizing, trying to make sense of a life so full of death. Some readers might find this irksome, but I enjoyed it. I only wish I hadn’t finished the book while in a public place, because the end leaves you needing to sit down and take a moment.

Hindsight $.99 Sale

I’ve gotten some good love from reviewers lately. Lines like this one keep my fingers pounding out the pages on the keyboard, “Surprisingly for a novel in this genre it is more importantly unpredictable in its twists and turns, and this kept me turning the pages until I finished the book.”

You’re here for this reason, though. Kirkus Reviews has called Hindsight, “A high-stakes suspense novel with a breakneck pace and strong voice.” They have selected the novel as one of their Indie Books of the Month. It’s for this reason that I’m going to give some love back to you, my reading friends. This week till Friday, I’ll be dropping the price of Hindsight to $.99. At less than a movie rental, you can enjoy a whole weekend of “a staccato beat of furious double-crosses, stunning revelations and gritty action.” Just follow the link here, and be sure to leave me a review or drop me a comment letting me know what you think of the novel.

Kirkus Calls Hindsight, “A high-stakes suspense novel with a breakneck pace and a strong voice.”

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Kirkus Reviews has published the review of Hindsight and it’s stunning. The good news doesn’t stop there. They’ve chosen Hindsight for the “Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection,” which you’ll be seeing mid-March.

“A debut novel about an Irish-American ex-con combines the appeal of the thriller and noir fiction genres in a style similar to that of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books… Featuring some insightful character development and pedal-to-the-metal pacing, this novel gets its real power from its gritty narrative voice, which is simultaneously jaded and principled… A high-stakes suspense novel with a breakneck pace and strong voice.” – Kirkus Reviews

Click here to purchase Hindsight on Kindle for the low price of $2.99. If you’re a part of the Amazon Lending Library, then you can pick it up for free.

Busting Writer’s Block

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There are plenty of tips to breaking up writer’s block. They are all good, but here’s my favorite. It’s my favorite because it makes me feel in control of the act of writing, lets me stop feeling satisfied and start with plenty of new ideas to bring to the page. You ready for it? Okay, here it is. Real simple: don’t finish.

When we’re writing–especially when we’ve struck a vein and the words are gushing–there is this drive to get it all out before that vein dries up. Number one, that mentality is a problem. By thinking you’ve got a limited supply of ideas and they only really come in spurts of inspiration, you lock yourself into a mindset of inspirational poverty. That’s not the case. The words are always in you. It’s just about your mind making connections between concepts. When you put a full stop on an idea with a period, you sever those connections. If, however, you stop writing in the middle of a sentence, you keep that connection open. What’s more, using the analogy of the vein, you let those words keep flowing when you walk away from the computer and soon you’ll be swimming in them. Your subconscious will keep making connections, and bursts of insight will hit you while you’re pulling the milk out of the fridge, the car out of the garage, or your head out of your ass after a fight with your spouse.

Number two, if you know how a sentence, or a scene is going to end, then you come back into the act of writing with at least half a tank of fuel to get you going. Writing out a full chapter till you can’t think of what comes next leaves you dry, with little motivation to sit back down and start, since you don’t have that enough juice to get things moving.

So, how do we put this into practice? Easy. If your goal is to write a chapter a day, write a chapter and a half, or just three-fourths of that chapter. I don’t typically stop conversations if they are really crackling, or a description that I have just the right words for. I do, however, stop right smack in the middle of a sentence if the point of the sentence is the character performing an action or moving from one place to another. I know where it’s going and it’s not critical to say it just right (not yet at least). To get into this practice, all you have to do is call off the voice of that asshole overlord in your head that tells you to finish the sentence and stop right in the-

How’s that? You’ve got that urge to finish the sentence, don’t you? Good. That’s what I’m talking about. Now try it out for yourself. But before you go, why not share some of your own ideas on busting writer’s block?