This has been finished for a while, but A Means to an Ens had been finished even longer, so this one had to wait its turn.
Two people meet, fall in love, fall out, and fall apart, left wondering what to do with the pieces that remain. A collection of narrative poetry.
Build Yourself Better is a poetry collection, and the final in a trilogy called Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails, which consists of Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages, A Means to an Ens, and Build Yourself Better.
The whole trilogy can be purchased as a set inconspicuously titled Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails, which will also include a fourth collection, B-Sides and Rarities, consisting of poems cut from the first three.
All in all, each collection is a set of narrative poetry, meaning the poems tell an over-arching story. Together, the collections form a thematic, loosely-related trilogy.
Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails gathers four poetry collections:
Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages details a narrator’s struggle to find his place in the world as he drifts through parallel universes, replaces the people around him with fictional characters, scatters his poetry to the wind, and keeps the things he can’t bear to lose by writing them down.
A Means to an Ens follows the last man on earth. Years after waking up to find himself seemingly alone in the world, the narrator heads out on a journey to find any sign of life in a desolate place, but is instead confronted by the ghosts of his past.
Build Yourself Better chronicles two people who meet, fall in love, fall out, and then fall apart, and what they do in the aftermath with the pieces that remain.
B-Sides and Rarities features poems originally cut from the above collections.
Build Yourself Better and Pen and Paper, Wood and Nails will be available in eBook and print formats on February 29th, 2016. Because the chance to release a book on February 29th doesn’t come around very often.
Before then, you can look forward to previews of a few of the poems by keeping an eye here, especially on my Scenes page.
Thanks for everything.
Pre-order links (more will be added as they become available):
A Means to an Ens is a poetry collection, and a spiritual successor to Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages.A Means to an Ens follows a much more linear, fictional narrative, and tells the story of the last man on earth.
The collection is about half as long as Permanent Ink, so it felt wrong to slap it into a paperback and sell it for the same price. I wanted to do something a little more special with it. My first thought was to record it as a concept album, but I’m bad at that and would probably never finish it.
What I ended up doing was an extension of my Scenes project. Each of the poems in A Means to an Ens has been placed over an accompanying picture. These range in size and dimension, and the idea is for the reader to be able to zoom in and out, scale it, scroll it, maybe even rotate it if they so choose to get the fullest experience from reading the text.
Thus, this collection is presented as an image album. It goes in chronological order, and text should be read in columns, from left to right and top to bottom (so the farthest column to the left, read from the very top to its very bottom before moving on to the column to that one’s right).
For those willing to overlook the cost for the length of the work, a physical edition (minus the images) is available, but that’s entirely optional. I also won’t hide that I’m working on a much more substantial collection featuring all of the poems you’re about to read and more, so if you’d rather hold off on buying it, I won’t mind.
Enough of my babbling. Please enjoy A Means to an Ens by clicking on the link to the next page.
In the Year of Our Death, the sequel to After the Bite and In the Lone and Level Sands is now available in print and eBook formats at various retailers, and should go live at several more over the next few hours.
It’s been two years since the zombies first appeared and changed the world forever. Keely and her friends escaped the hell of Seattle and settled down near an abandoned radio station. Bailey finds herself caught up with a ravenous group of survivors. Georgie has set up a courier system to move mail across the remains of America. Will and his friends—all of them orphans now—are out of water and have to leave their quiet suburb for the first time in their lives. Nelson, the engineer charged with running Hoover Dam and powering the American Southwest, breaks his glasses and must wander the wasteland nearly blind looking for a replacement.
Adam, however, knows the truth about the zombies: They aren’t monsters, they’re angels, sent by God to cleanse the world of the survivors, and Adam and his Church of Lesser Humans were put here to help them do it. Armed only with faith, a bus, and the steadfast rule to never allow harm to come to the zombies, Adam knows Judgment Day is coming, and will stop at nothing to herald its arrival.
You can read a sample chapter here as well as download samples from the retailer of your choice.
Store Links (more will be added as they become available):
It’s hard to assign a star rating to this one. On one hand, “it was amazing” is an understatement. On the other, “I liked it” is accurate.
The Dispossessed features sprawling moments of brilliance, pure genius word after word, big ideas delivered one after another. The book doesn’t preach; the characters and even some of the ideas are wrong or don’t pan out at times, it’s as critical of itself as everything it else it criticizes, which is quite a lot. It’s easy to say some of my favorite quotes going forward will have been discovered here. My mind was blown again and again.
It’s not a philosophy book but a work of fiction, and Le Guin has, as always, done a good job keeping the story in front of its moral. As far as her Hain books go, however, this one isn’t all that physically exciting. The page-turning comes from a yearning to take in all of the ideas happening, while the actions of the characters are sometimes downright boring. There are (in my copy at least) an unfortunate amount of typos, and certain areas where the writing itself feels like a rough draft. Some things read more as a summary of events than actual events, there are a lot of lists given, and the chapters are too long for their own good. The decision to split each chapter between past and present is smart, but the chapters are so long it can be difficult to remember where the last time frame left off. Shorter chapters would’ve been easily accomplished without breaking the pattern. Too often things are explained as soon as or even right after they’re relevant to a conversation or action; Chekhov’s gun kept firing before it was hung on the wall or, sometimes, even assembled. More things are placed exactly as they should be than not, but the ones that weren’t are noticeable.
It’s a long read, and sometimes a hard one. There’s a lot to take in. Lots of philosophy, lots of symbolism (the last line blew me away). Less physical action yet more lore than any other Ekumen book, it’s possibly the most important in the series, as well as being an important work of American literature.
It’s amazing. I love the book, even if I only like the story.
The time has finally come. A journey of a few years, which began with me picking up a magazine lying around in the bathroom, has come to a close. Well, a rest stop, at least. I’ve finished reading The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.
(Those wondering what in the world I’m babbling about will find the answer here and here, but the short version is this book’s title caught me by surprise, roped me in, and forced me to sit down and read.)
As I do with most of my reviews, I want to get the bad out of the way before I focus on the good. What can I say? I like to end on a high note. To make a long story short, which is to do absolutely no justice to the complexity that comes from reading a novel, the book didn’t quite live up to the hype I created upon seeing its title. It reads almost like a first draft; lots of lists, lots of descriptions, things are a little sloppy. Characters will drop everything they’re doing and give their entire species’ life story, often times for no apparent reason. Other times, important things happening directly to our main character, September, are glossed over in a sentence or two. Everything is more or less there, but some things feel like they’re in the wrong order, or given the wrong priority. There were also a few typos, and things appearing out of nowhere that probably should’ve been mentioned sooner than they happen.
Another issue I had was in how convenient certain things were. It was like September was never in any sort of danger or peril—a magical person or item would always bail her out at the last second. The real danger of the story, and one that threatens all of Fairyland, isn’t made present until over halfway through the book. In the end it becomes clear why this was intentional, but I’m not convinced it was always justified.
This leads to the main issue I had with it: The first half to two-thirds of the story are a little boring. It reads like a history of Fairyland and Fairyland-Below, but not so much like a story about a girl who has just been spirited away to the underworld of a fantasy dreamscape.
When it does finally pick up, it’s relentless! I couldn’t put it down, I read the last third or so of the book in two sittings, stopping only to sleep. That last bit is as wonderful and magical and heartwrenching as the majority of the first book was.
This leads me to my last comment: It’s worth it, and not just for the third act. Even when giving off random lists or colorful descriptions of things that don’t really matter, there’s so much heart and spirit in the writing. Characters’ histories are interesting and wonderful, even if they’re not immediately important to the story. I wonder if this would have been better as a novella, and if it were accompanied by an actual history book regarding Fairyland, I would pick that up in a heartbeat. But again, to make a long story short: Even when it’s bad, it’s good.
I also found a lot of joy in reading the book’s two afterwords, and, if I might be so bold (and I might; this is my blog and I’ll do what I want!) I would say they are as important to aspiring writers as Stephen King’s On Writing and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. They’re not as much about the how of writing but do a fantastic job detailing the why, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re required reading for anyone who takes writing seriously.
On the whole, it’s a good book, even if it could’ve used a little more polish.
Following is my review of Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins. You can read more of my book reviews on my Goodreads page.
Line after line is clever, funny, tragic, or some insane mixture of the three. I had no idea where the story would lead me next, but I’ve seldom been so excited to find out. It’s interesting how relevant the book is over thirty years after it was first published, yet so ahead of its time in other ways.
Still Life With Woodpecker transcends the boundaries of its pages in a fashion similar to House of Leaves, where the physical appearance of the book is itself a reflection of the themes found within. This, however, is more of a comedy (though both books boast a good deal of philosophy).
I was reminded of Wes Anderson’s movies and of Arrested Development; things seem ridiculous at first glance but are actually carefully-placed, often sparks lit to ignite later fires. The ones in Still Life With Woodpecker just happen to have dynamite at their ends.
I have another nowPlaying post in the works, but I thought I’d break those up with an update on what else I’ve been up to as of late. Before I get to that, I should say the nowPlaying posts will probably be rare from now on. I’m excited to announce I’ve been taken on as a writer over at Cubed3, where I’ll occasionally post news and reviews relating to video games.
I’m about halfway through Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins. I’m enjoying it; its style reminds me a lot of Wes Anderson’s movies, as well as Arrested Development. Lots of humor, lots of irony.
I’m also reading Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O’Malley. I found it annoying at first (for reasons I’ll detail when I write a full review), but it’s quickly growing on me.
The Leftovers on HBO. I love Damon Lindelof, I loved Lost, but I have to admit that the show lost focus at some point and never quite got it back. I fell in love with the trailer for The Leftovers and knew I’d give it a chance, but it looked like the kind of show that could go anywhere.
There’s a lot of mystery, but it’s a lot more self-contained than Lost was. Unlike the magical island, there are limits to what can and can’t happen, but that doesn’t stop the show from constantly pushing those limits a little further each episode. It’s riveting, it has an attention to detail comparable to that of Breaking Bad (but not quite the character development, not yet anyway). It’s one of few shows that keeps me on the edge of my seat, constantly wanting to know what comes next.
What I’m Working On
Things have been exciting for me on the writing front. I’m maybe 85% finished with a project I’ve been working on for a long time now. It’s a horror novel, and I can’t say much else about it, other than that I will most likely self-publish it sometime next year.
I’m also still working to get things published traditionally. There are certain projects that are better suited for self-publishing, and certain projects I’d rather do the traditional way.
I have a few other things lined up, one of which I’ll talk more about pretty soon here.
This all leads me to a major project I’ve been working on. I was hesitant to get this one out in the open because I’ve never done something like this, so keep in mind there’s a slight chance the following might never come to fruition. I’d like to introduce my project, tentatively titled Let the Moonlight Give You Wings.
That’s quite a mouthful! So what exactly is it?
First and foremost, it’s a game I’m making in RPG Maker VX Ace. I love games, and I’ve always had ideas for my own, but nothing ever really took off. I’ve worked with engines like Unreal Development Kit and Unity, but I’m not good at making models or scripting, so I always reached the limit of what I could do pretty quickly.
RPG Maker, however, is a little more suited to people like me who are more reliant on GUIs, and it’s also easier to make a game without a team of people working on it. RPG Maker also has an amazing community of people behind it for those moments when a single person runs into some trouble during development.
My sister bought me a copy of RPG Maker VX Ace during Steam’s summer sale. I started playing around with it, and eventually a story began to develop. It’s very loosely based on a fantasy novel I’ve had on the backburner for a while, but it’s different enough that I’m willing to consider it its own story.
Because of this, I’m planning on writing a novel based on the game. The current plan is to release the game for free or under a pay-what-you-want model (with a portion of each donation being forwarded to a few people whose scripts my game wouldn’t work without), and completing the game will give you a coupon to get the book at a discount.
Keep in mind, everything from here out is subject to change.
Let the Moonlight Give You Wings is the story of Emery, the oldest child at an orphanage. It’s a hard life for Emery, as she helps take care of the other kids between chores and school. Emery often daydreams about a fantasy world full of magic and mythical beings, and one night, Emery goes to sleep only to wake up in a world not unlike that of her dreams.
All dreams must end, and when morning comes, Emery finds herself awake in her old life. Much to her surprise, however, when she goes to sleep that night, her dream picks up right where it left off.
Emery is caught between a world that desperately needs her and one that seems as though it doesn’t want her, and embarks on a journey to save them both from disaster.
The game itself will have a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek tone, for the most part. I want to pay homage to all the games I grew up with, but bring something new to the table as well. There’ll be quests, side quests, puzzles, and a lot of backstory told only to those players who seek it out. I like being rewarded for exploration, and my game should reflect that.
A large emphasis will be put on the game’s characters. I currently have a system in place that randomizes most of the game’s conversations. Put simply, pressing the action button on certain objects, characters, signposts, etc. brings up dialogue and comments from the game’s characters, but it’s randomized. You might get a different conversation every time you play it. Having certain characters in the party will make different dungeons and puzzles easier or elicit different responses from NPCs.
There’s also an affinity system in place. Leveling up certain characters will unlock special conversations with them, and eventually allow them to tap into their full potential.
This is a lot of work. Writing out a single event can take all night, but so far, it’s been worth it. My main priority with this game is to tell a story that can only be fully realized in video game form, though I’m still going to try my hardest with the novelization as well.
I wish I could give a timeframe for release, but it’s way too early to tell. Certain things I think will take a while to finish end up taking a few hours, other things I think will take a few minutes end up taking days. There are a lot of variables involved (pun intended) and there’s just no way to say when this’ll be finished, and even then, I have to have people playtest it, look for bugs, etc. I do, however, think it’ll be a few months at the most (knock on wood!) before the bulk of the game is finished.
I’ll hopefully talk more about the game as it progresses. Certain things aren’t set in stone yet, but for the most part, the core of the game is. I’m hoping to eventually devote full posts to some of the game’s cooler features.
And that rounds out some of what I’ve been up to lately. It might not seem like it, but this is mostly backburner stuff. My current major project is coming along nicely, but I’m saving it for its own post, coming up pretty soon.
I first mentioned this book in a post I wrote about good titles. To summarize the relevance: In the back of some magazine or another, I found a review for a book called The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. It’s not unusual for me to be captured by a good story, but just by the title? That was new to me. I learned this book was a sequel to a book with an equally captivating title: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. The story could be about anything, it could take me anywhere. I had to pick it up.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, and I suppose the same should be said for its title, no matter how magical, captivating, awe-inspiring. Fortunately, from the first page, the story is as captivating as its title. Nearly every line is full of magic and wit, nearly every scene is crafted as a vehicle to propel the story forward. This is one of the most well-written books I’ve ever read.
It isn’t without its flaws. September, our twelve-year-old heroine, doesn’t sound like a twelve-year-old girl from World War II-era Nebraska. She sounds like a young woman from England, to be honest. Well-read or not, she seems much older than she actually is, except for her naivety. This is a small caveat, and one that is easily overlooked.
I was slightly disappointed by the near irrelevance of the title I fell head-over-heels for. After several chapters of pure magic and heart, it’s a little disappointing to find that the titular ship of her own making takes all of a paragraph to make, and isn’t really a ship at all. The circumnavigating also takes only a few pages, and compared to the events before and after it, comes across a little threadbare. However, this is also easily overlooked, as it almost seems like a joke played by the author; the same kind of trickery the inhabitants of Fairyland often pull on September.
I found the cast wonderful. September is likable without being overtly good, almost inhumanly flawless, as some heroes and heroines are. A-Through-L is a fantastic companion, and even meek Saturday, who is barely present, plays a large enough role to stand out. Some characters are also found where you wouldn’t expect them. Sometimes they’re inanimate objects, and not even magical ones. A certain green sweater plays a prominent role in the book, despite September’s inability to interact with it in any traditional way.
Perhaps my favorite character, though, is The Marquess. She’s this book’s Queen of Narnia, or Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts. The Marquess is, however, far more interesting. She’s frightening but oddly charming, and where Catherynne M. Valente could’ve given us a carbon-copy “pure evil” villain, she instead crafts a character who is human, tragic, and more deserving of this story.
At its heart, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a children’s story, and the kind we need more of. It’s important for children to grow up seeing the world not in black and white, but shades of gray; not as good and evil, but as different viewpoints. This isn’t to say that nobody is ever right or wrong, just that right and wrong sometimes take an adventure to come to. Valente treads a path set before her by the likes of Ursula Le Guin, Neil Gaiman, and Hayao Miyazaki, but still carves out her own place, her own reason for being in it. (While I’m here, I’ll mention that this book would make a fantastic Studio Ghibli film.)
I had so much fun reading this. Books like this are what made me want to write in the first place: A wonderful, magical story from the first page to the last, and beyond the back cover.
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t want my blog to focus mainly on reviews, yet I have one ready to post at any time, and another one in progress. As it turns out, I greatly enjoy talking about the things I enjoy.
Before I get around to posting those, I thought I’d give an update on the other things this site was intended to focus on.
My main focus right now is on a coming-of-age / magic realism novella. I’m a little over 15,000 words in. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it once I finish it (and in this case, “finish” means finish writing, shelve it for a few months, then edit it and decide if it’s worth existing anywhere but my own hard drive). For now, I’m going to focus on writing it. Its tentative (and likely final) title is “The Afterglow”.
I have a few other projects on the backburner, one of which I’d like to talk a lot more about, but probably shouldn’t, since it won’t be finished anytime soon, let alone releasable. The reason I mention it is that I’m pretty sure I’ll break that silence in the coming weeks, depending on how well it comes along.
Search around the internet, and you’ll find a very unfortunate battle raging over traditional- vs. self-publishing. I think (and hope) the squabble is coming to an end, with both methods coming out of it as valid routes to the same goal, and both methods existing as alternatives balancing each other out. With that said, I don’t prefer or dislike either method. I’m still eager to have certain works traditionally published, but I have turned to self-publishing before. One reason for it is that I enjoy doing it. My first love will always be writing, but putting the finished product together as one package is a lot of fun. It’s hard work, sometimes it’s frustrating (no one can ever know how long I’ve languished over where to place the title on the cover, what size to print a book in, what font to use, etc.), but in the end I enjoy doing it.
It’s always exciting to see new options pop up on the publishing side of things. In my case, these options aren’t necessarily new, but old ones I’ve seen in a new light.
There isn’t a lot to say about either route, at the moment. On the traditional side, I’m submitting short stories and novelettes to publishers for their consideration. There’s a lot of waiting involved, which I understand and don’t mind, but it doesn’t make for an exciting blog post.
On the self-publishing side, I’m putting together hardcover editions of After the Bite and In the Lone and Level Sands. My co-author Seth and I have had a few people ask us about hardcovers, and it’s always a bummer to have to tell them it’s not in the cards. However, I’ve found a happy enough medium to work with. If I get these finished and approve of the quality, hardcovers will be available through Lulu’s store only. (I can’t bring myself to use their expanded distribution options; I would have to charge in the realm of $40-$60 for the books, and part of my self-publishing philosophy is that my books need to be affordable. I paid $40 for the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series, I can’t see myself charging the same for one short story collection by some random not-George R. R. Martin.)
Finally, and this one falls somewhere between “writing” and “publishing,” I’m considering a book of poetry. I had a random burst of creativity a few weeks ago, and the result was over a dozen strongly related poems. I’ve considered submitting them for publishing elsewhere, but these follow a theme and almost form a story, and I think they belong together. I could submit the entire book for publishing, but I’m not sure anyone would want to represent or publish a poetry book by someone who hasn’t published poetry before, so for now I’m leaning toward self-publishing it.
I’ve finally made decent progress with Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. I started reading it a long time ago, but I found the beginning to be slow, even boring. It’s finally picking up, and it was worth getting through; I’m enjoying the story.
I also recently began The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. The writing is delightful; I find myself smiling almost nonstop through it. The story is magical, although the parallels to previous works like Alice in Wonderland and other writers like Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula K. Le Guin are very strong, and I’m not sure the book will end up accomplishing anything those others haven’t already. But I’m not very far in yet, and anyway, a book doesn’t have to change the world or even change literature to be great. In any case, I’m surprised Studio Ghibli hasn’t made a film out of this one. It would fit right in.
I’ve been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff around here. For example, the “Published Works” link at the top is now a drop-down menu that contains a page for every work listed in there (which it should have from the start, but I hadn’t thought to do it yet). Clicking “published works” will still go to the old page, where everything is on one page.
I’ve also been using the tumblr version of my blog a lot more than I thought I would. It’s great for posting pictures, and I’ve recently begun a project I’m calling “Scenes”, where I put excerpts of my writing over pictures I’ve taken over the years. I do plan to get that project going on here as well, but it’s a little more involved on WordPress, and I’m not sure yet how I want the page to appear. In the meantime, you’ll find the pictures on my facebook, the page for my zombie series, and my tumblr.
So that’s what I’ve been up to, more or less. Now I’ll get back to finishing those review posts, and hopefully, by the time those are up, I’ll have something a little more substantial to share on the writing side of this blog.
Writing a book can be frightening. There are times I wonder if I’m capable of doing the story justice; there are places and characters and plots in my head, but what if I can’t translate those onto the page? What if I end up sharing a bastardized version of them with the world?
Then there’s the fear of losing someone. I think a lot of people who read can relate; even though a story or character is fictional, you’re devoting part of your life to spend time with them, and sometimes losing them hurts. I think it’s just as hard on the writer, especially if we didn’t see it coming, but we have to do what’s right for the story.
For me, possibly the most frightening part is releasing the book into the world, and not knowing how people will react. It’s like I’ve raised a bird since it was an egg, and now it’s time to set it free to fly, and I really hope someone doesn’t shoot it out of the sky as soon as it leaves my hands.
Obviously, not everyone is going to like my writing, and every writer gets negative reviews. That’s part of the process. People have different tastes, and you can’t expect a book to sit well with everyone. There’s so much I love about writing, I’d keep doing it if nobody liked my work. Still, that anxiety that accompanies releasing a book exists. I’m pretty sure by now it’s inescapable. I could release 99 books that each get a hundred five-star reviews, and I’ll still feel it just before I release book 100.
I’m not trying to complain. That anxiety is also accompanied by a sense of excitement, especially if I’m proud of the book I’ve written. It’s a double-sided coin, and I think if I wasn’t anxious, I might not be excited, either.
So far my books are being well-received. I’m thrilled to see the reviews come in, most of them very positive, and I can’t thank you enough. I have a few one- and two-star ratings, and I can’t complain. Theoretically, every rating is followed by a reading. Someone took time out of their life to read something I wrote. That is its own reward; someone twice my age, someone half my age, someone sitting in a country I’ll probably never see with my own eyes has read something I’ve created.
If you’re that someone, thank you. There are millions of books out there, billions of characters you could’ve spent your time with, and you chose mine. That’s an incredible honor. We’re on this earth for a limited time, and to have anyone spend theirs on me is a humbling experience.
I hope you enjoyed it. I’m sorry if you didn’t. Either way, I’m thankful you gave it a chance.