‘Fairy Tale’ by Stephen King, A Review With a Long, Self-Serving Preamble

Stephen King was fundamental to my formative years in storytelling, and I know I’m far from alone in that. His writing has touched millions, and his reputation has preceded him for many more than that. You know all of this.

(If you really just want the review, scroll down to the subheading. You can’t miss it.)

When I was discovering fiction writing as a central part of my life, I found myself connecting with and inspired by his stories more than many other writers’. Like the literary elite, who might still puzzle over what it is about King’s work that people like so much, I’ve spent much of my studies thinking about why his work resonates with me. Is it the fascination with the dark and macabre? Is it some deep-seated psychological need for me to gaze into the unknown? Do I ironically find delight in terror? Wait, is there something wrong with me? I think if it were any of these things, any horror author would do, and that’s at least not how I work. 

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Re-Reading The Handmaid’s Tale, a Review

At the end of 2018, I re-read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. After 15 years (and this time picking it up because I wanted to, not because I needed to for a class), I found it extraordinarily powerful and prescient. I then wrote this review but never posted it. Oops. I figured I’d post it now with some edits because these thoughts weren’t doing anyone any good sitting on my hard drive.

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Ko-fi…Co-fee…cough-ee

I haven’t shared much publicly since I finished my MFA program, but for the time being, I’m full steam ahead on writing fiction. However, if you recall, authors are people, and people have bills to pay. Since you’re a person (presumably), I’m sure you agree that’s stupid, but here we are.

The goal is to get to the point where I can make a decent living on my fiction. If you’d like to help me get there and have already bought my books, please consider giving Ko-fi a shot.

Predator, Prey, Feminism, and You

Predator is one of my favorite films (and Arnie’s best, IMO). With Prey releasing this year, it’s getting roped in with the “woke-ism” (or whatever) conversation as forcing feminism. However, one of the reasons why Predator is exceptional is because it’s a feminist film.

Yup, Arnold Schwarzenegger, during the height of the American action film, made a feminist film.

Trust me.

(FYI, spoilers for both films below.)

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Achievement Unlocked: Mastery of the Craft

After three years, I am a master of the fine art of creative writing. According to George Mason University, anyway. Anyone can proclaim to be a writer, sure, but self-proclaimed masters are usually full of it. I proclaim nothing myself.

Anyway, as I take stock, reflect, and prepare for the transition into a new phase of my life, I thought I’d take a minute to update the blog a little. Three years ago, I essentially vanished to go find more time to write and otherwise grow as a writer. Today, I look back on those three years and realize I found a mixture of things I expected and things I didn’t. I went into the program with the goal of coming out with a finished novel. That didn’t happen. I have a decent start on one, but progress has been slow on that front. I also had the goal of coming out of the program with enough short stories for a collection. That didn’t happen either. I have several I’m extremely proud of, two of which were published last summer. However, the last three years of my writing life have been about quality over quantity.

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Two New Shorts Out This Summer

Bringing to an end this long drought of new stories in print and plentiful rejections, I have two new shorts out this summer. One is the previously mentioned “I Am Emergent,” a story about two computer scientists, their life’s work in artificial intelligence, and the lengths to which we’re willing to go to save someone we love. This one is out now in the anthology WHAT REMAINS from Inked In Gray Publishing, which you can find here.

The most recent one is a story I’m particularly fond of. “The Only Memorial You Can Ever Have” appears in vol. VIII of Deracine Magazine. It is one that I set out to challenge myself with in every conceivable way. From perspective to tense to narrative voice to narrative distance to character perception and beyond, virtually everything in this story is something I’ve never even attempted before. And after everything, I think it works, and it moves me powerfully. I hope you check it out and agree.

Of note, I think, is that I don’t think “The Only Memorial You Can Ever Have” would have come out of me if not for the MFA program I’m currently in. We often talk about the value of MFA programs, and I think, in those conversations, they’re viewed as whether they’re necessary or whether they produce writers of greater caliber. After two years in one, I think that’s the wrong way to look at MFA programs.

The value of my MFA program, to me, is in this story. It provided me the environment to experiment and take risks. It offered the support structure that held me up when I took those wobbling steps. If I hadn’t pursued an MFA, I’m confident this story wouldn’t exist, because I wouldn’t have pushed myself in ways I needed to push myself for this one to come out.

That isn’t to say I think MFA programs make better writers, that they’re always good, or that they’re even necessary. It’s just to say this is a story that came out of my MFA program that I’m proud of and demonstrates how my writing has grown, broadened, and evolved.

Thanks to both Inked in Gray and Deracine. I hope you check them out.

Story Coming in What Remains, an Anthology

It’s been a while since I’ve had anything in print, but very soon, I’m going to have a story in the upcoming anthology from Inked in Gray Press. Recently (yesterday), they unveiled the cover and opened the Kickstarter and preordering.

You should check this one out. It’s going to be a cool book, yes, but I like what Inked in Gray is doing. They understand the future of publishing is in community, and they work really hard to build that through the celebration of stories. There’s a purity in what they’re doing, I think, and I’m excited to be a part of it. Any of you fellow writers out there would do well to follow them on social media and submit some writing in the future.

Also, my story, “I Am Emergent,” is one that I’m very fond of. It’s about two scientists working on an artificial intelligence named Vic and the lengths we’ll go to prove to ourselves we’re the hero in our individual stories. This one is about the dark side of love, what we would sacrifice in its service.

I hope you contribute to the Kickstarter, preorder, or check it out when it’s available. I’ll let you know when it is.

Demagogues

I’ve been thinking and reading about demagogues a lot this summer. Demagogues are political leaders who appeal through pathos rather than logos. For the non-Greek, feelings rather than logic. Most commonly, demagogues manipulate our fear and anger, and they generally direct those emotions at an other or a “them.” Demagogues require opponents as scapegoats. They require division.

We’ve seen their kind many times throughout history, yet I’m optimistic about them. For every one that has risen to power, I like to think many failed to gain any traction. Recognizing them is simple, something I expect any American should be able to do instinctually, yet if you find yourself caught by their influence, it may all seem a bit vexing and complicated. That’s because some of what they’re saying, on some level, makes sense and is, on some level, true. They require reality distorted.

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On ‘Salute to America’ and Questionable-at-Best Leadership

Despite his country continuing to face a historic pandemic and unaddressed racial tensions, Trump is proceeding with his “Salute to America” celebration tomorrow, and that tracks, considering the kind of questionable leadership he has exhibited not only throughout these crises but also throughout his term.

While I’m seeing talk about how much the event is costing us and the wisdom of holding such an event right now, I’m wondering why more people aren’t more outraged about the principle that he’s once again co-opted our most sacrosanct holiday for personal and political gain. Independence Day used to be a day of unity for all of us to set aside our differences and come together to celebrate the best ideals of America, but Trump has turned it into a divisive campaign rally to highlight the worst of America at our expense. Regardless of politics, this should set off even the most adamantly self-proclaimed patriots among us.

It’s not right, and it’s just one more of the countless reasons you shouldn’t vote for him in November. Of course, it is far less compelling of a reason than the thousands of Americans who have died from Covid-19 due to his poor leadership; his woefully inadequate response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the far too many others, and the social movements clamoring for change; and the countless other indicators of his ineptitude and harm; but I digress.