Dark Fiction, Author Anxiety, and Personal Judgment

The lady and I recently watched Netflix’s The Staircase, a docu-series about the novelist Michael Peterson who was charged with murdering his wife in 2001. Similar to Making a Murderer, it’s another fascinating investigation of the American justice system. I highly recommend both of them.

A bit of a disclaimer, though: these are not mystery stories. They are not about whether the suspects did or did not murder the victim (I realize the marketing image I chose to plop down to the right of these words poses that very question, but it’s the most compelling way Netflix could find to sell you on it).

These docu-series put the American justice system on full display, exposing its flaws. They will make you question your faith in the fundamental tenet of American justice that a defendant should be considered innocent until proven guilty, and they will make you question our very humanity, especially given the context of the cruel times in which we live. If you watch them, they will anger and sadden you because the reality they portray is not one we confront often, or maybe because it’s one which we are increasingly forced to come to terms with.

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I Survived A Writer’s Worst Nightmare, And All I Got Was This Stinkin’ Blog Post

Today, I recalled that I survived an author’s worst nightmare. I gave it some consideration, smiled off a painful memory that became bittersweet in context, and moved on with my thoughts before yanking myself back to ponder it some more. I thought maybe the experience could be useful for another writer. Therefore, here we are.

In college, I was on the selection committee for a student-run literary mag run. I also submitted a poem for consideration. You may already see where this is going.

Setting aside the amazing ethical conflict of being allowed to sit on a submissions committee and submit, there’s a much more practical reason this shouldn’t ever be allowed. Continue reading

D.C.-Local Author Panel at Awesome Con

This Sunday, at Awesome Con in Washington, D.C., I’ll be on a panel of local authors at 11 a.m. I thought a lot about how to get people as interested in coming as I am in participating, and I realized the best thing to do was provide the basis for why I’m excited to hang out with five other D.C.-local authors: they’re all intriguing writers and people that you should get to know, and I think if you know a little bit about them, you may decide to come hang out with us.

So, please humor me while I say some nice things about my friends.

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‘The Will To Survive’ Is Available Now, Proceeds To Charity

If you’re friends with me on social media (or you’re that damned stalker I almost caught in the tree outside my office that one time when my wife said, “it probably was just a couple of squirrels making that rustling sound,” and I said, “I know what I saw,” and she said never you mind what my wife said), you may have seen me mention this anthology, “The Will To Survive.”

If you’re not friends with me on social media, that’s fine, I guess. *kicks rocks

But this isn’t about us, friends, non-friends, and frenemies. This is about an anthology for hurricane relief.

I know last fall seems like ages ago, but it was, in fact, mere months, and if you recall, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria pounded the Southeastern United States, Virgin Islands, and Caribbean in rapid succession. Damage estimates are in the billions of dollars, and still, five months later, parts of Puerto Rico’s electric grid remain down.

In case you need a translation on that, those are U.S. citizens who don’t have basic utilities five months after a hurricane.

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Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Before I picked up Neverwhere, I’d never read any Neil Gaiman. I know. I couldn’t believe it either.

I went for Neverwhere because American Gods seemed like too much of a commitment (but I’ll get to it), and it intrigued me as an archetypal urban fantasy novel, a genre I’m trying to get more into.

Everyone seems to love Neverwhere. It seems to occupy a space of underground reverence (no, that’s not a pun). All of my friends on Goodreads have given it five stars, and nobody will dare utter a bad word about it.

So I will. I’m sorry to say I thought Neverwhere was just okay.

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Writing Tips, Episode 2: Verbs

It’s been a while (ten months, in fact) since I wrote about writing. I never intended for the topic to be a regular feature, but that is too long, especially since this second tip is the integral other half of a sentence. Good thing you’re not paying for this.

Verbs are the key to powerful prose. My first tip is all about the subject of a sentence. That is, the thing that is performing an action. This tip is all about that action.

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Artemis by Andy Weir

I’ll probably keep this much shorter than most reviews. Andy Weir’s follow-up to his mandatory-reading sci-fi novel The Martian is just okay. And you know what? That’s okay. It would be unrealistic to expect any human being to replicate the utter brilliance of a novel like The Martian. Its shadow is long, and its influence is broad. Not even Barry Bonds hit a home run every time he came to the plate, and he was on drugs.

There are many arguments to make for Artemis, and if we didn’t already know what Weir was capable of with The Martian, Artemis would be a standout novel in its own right. The world-building is utterly fascinating. The science is authentic but never exhausting. And Artemis still contains Weir’s nerdy, amazingly fun wit, not to mention the atmospheric charm that we’re reading something written by a guy who legitimately loves the playground he’s playing on.

Where Artemis falters is, perhaps, in something Weir took for granted with The Martian. The premise of The Martian is so immediately gut-wrenching: Astronaut Mark Watney is caught in a storm during an emergency evacuation, and his team, thinking he is dead, leaves him behind. But Mark is not dead. He is alive, and he must survive until his rescue.

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America’s Identity Crisis and Its Need for Liberalism

I didn’t bother watching the state of the union address this week. I figured that, as long as Trump stuck to the speech he didn’t write, stumbled through nine out of ten words correctly, and didn’t wet himself at the dais, he’d be forgiven the falsehoods and misleading statements, and it appears I was more or less right about that.

I did watch Joe Kennedy’s rebuttal speech, and I found it eloquently expressed an idea that’s been weighing on liberal America these last 18 months or so since the GOP nominated a guy who was not only unqualified and unfit to lead its party, but also a desecration to it.

“Constitutional crisis” has been buzzing around recently because Congress made about as unanimous of a decision as it can (517-5) to impose sanctions on Russia for what our intelligence community is in consensus was an attack on American democracy, but of course, the Trump administration is refusing to enforce those sanctions because he’s a traitor (probably) and democracy is dying and the GOP doesn’t care as long as they win, because party over country, and …

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Ranking Marvel’s Netflix Series

I recently caught up on all of Marvel’s Netflix series, and I found myself compelled to compare them to each other. It makes sense. Following the formula set by the Avengers film sequence, each superhero has his or her dedicated series, and then in 2017, they came together to form The Defenders.

First a note: All but one of these series have only produced one season, so things could change. The creators could right the ship or sink it. I don’t expect my rankings will change too much, considering these first seasons will always exist, but crazier things have happened. Also, this is all spoiler-free, so if you haven’t seen all of them yet, never fear.

Here’s where I see them standing, worst to best.

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The Last Jedi Reaction

I saw The Last Jedi a couple weeks ago, and like most of you, I hrmph’d out of the movie theater, feeling an immediate need to reflect upon what I’d just seen. For those first 24 hours, I experienced strong emotional waffling as seemingly warring factions in my brain attempted to win out. I expected this tension would continue to evolve, but it didn’t really. I think both of my minds are right.

I’ve decided The Last Jedi is a really good Star Wars film in its own right, but in context of the series and its surrounding culture, it’s mediocre and even harmful.

This is less a review and more a reaction. That said, I spoil the hell out of the film because I found it really unsatisfying to discuss my points in general terms, which leads me to my first point [final spoiler warning].

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