Writing Journal

I recently started a writing group with some ladies from my church.¬† I ended up, including myself, with six writers who are interested in attending on a regular basis.¬† Four out of those six writers are developing characters in fantasy setting, be it swords and sorcery or urban.¬† The other two are doing memoir type writing – one, the very real story of her husband’s stroke, the other a fictional “life” story pulling from her own adventures.¬† At our next meeting I hope to have a poet present.

The question is, can these unique and different writers share stories we can all relate to?  Can we talk about voice, setting, description, movement, and dialogue without losing the poet or the life story writer?

I think we can.¬† In fact, I’m pretty determined to keep our miss-matched group together, and so are the other writers.¬† Why?¬† Why don’t I just have one meeting with the fantasy writers, since that’s what I write, and let the others go do their own thing with their own group?¬† Cause we are going to be better writers when we are fed by other genres.

A steady diet of sugar and coffee, while yummy, isn’t good for me.¬† In the same vein, a steady diet of fantasy will make me ingrown and under-developed.¬† I can write much better fantasy if I let my influences be non-fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction and classic literature.¬† My writing is fuller and more flushed out when I watch movies, visit friends, tell stories and explore my town.¬† My writing is better when I people watch be it literally or….literally.:-)

I hope with my writing group I can find a way to talk about “voice” without leaving behind any of my fellow writers.¬† More than that, I hope I can encourage the fantasy writers to be more real, less campy, and the real writers to be more fantastical.¬† I hope I can have the right word to say when a fellow writer is feeling down and encouraged.¬† I hope that when I’m feeling down and encouraged, my fellow writers can lift me up.

The Ultimate Campy Movie!
The Ultimate Campy Movie!

Since I have several young writers, a couple of middle-aged writers, and one long time writer, I think it is very important to expose ourselves to other worlds and other minds.¬† Does this mean that at times those of us who write fantasy have to make sure we don’t dominate the conversation with how much we love our fictional characters?¬† Yes.¬† Does it mean that sometime the non-fiction writers have to step into the function of reader instead of writer? Yes.¬† But therein lies the beauty.¬† We all have to sacrifice for each other.¬† We have to step outside of our comfort zone for the sake of the woman on the other side of the table.¬† Serving those around us is a much better act than focusing on what I want to focus on.

I don’t often read other fantasy writers.¬† I even more rarely read other urban fantasy writers.¬† I find that it doesn’t challenge me as a writer.¬† I’m not encouraged to stretch.¬† I’m often encouraged to settle or even be lazy.¬† It often doesn’t even challenge me as a reader.¬† I learn nothing, gain nothing, and usually walk away disappointed.¬† There are exceptions to this.¬† I love a good Larry Corriea story, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King.¬† All are excellent spinners of a good yarn.¬†¬†¬† But when I read outside my own writing zone, when I read Band of Brothers, With the Old Breed, Brave Men, Gentle Heroes, The Thirteenth Tale and Manhunter, my own heroes take on a depth and richness comparable to a rich stout or a smooth cigar.¬† Their pain becomes more intense, and thus their joy and salvation more real.¬† My warriors have a ring of truth to them cause I have studied warriors.¬† My police officers step away from the cardboard cutouts endemic to the non-combatant and take on the crisp outline of real men who uphold the law.¬† My women are less nagging, and stronger, braver and supportive.¬† Reading other genres holds me accountable.¬† Reading other genres keeps me sharp and fresh.

Diversity is important.¬† When we all try to be the same, live the same, have the same stuff, life gets pretty darn boring.¬† I don’t think we all need to be equal cause if we are, there is nowhere for us to grow.¬† If we aren’t different there is no way to change.¬† I hope the six to seven women sitting at my table once a month can reflect this.

Musical Muse: Mumford and Sons.¬† You know, it’s funny, I’m pretty strongly a heavy metal girl, but I can’t seem to get enough Mumford and Sons.¬† I get in my car to run errands, visit friends, or help my parents or siblings with every intention of jamming to some Metallica or Five Finger Death Punch.¬† The first few strains of Mumford plays before I can switch albums and I’m screwed.¬† All I want to do is listen to Mumford.¬† I love the sad struggle in their music.¬† I love the reality of their music, but most of all I love the salvation in it.

11/22/63 and Black Hawk Down


Some books just shouldn’t be read in succession.¬† It diminishes¬†the effect of one of the books.¬† I found this out the hard way the week before last on a mini-vacation.¬† You may have noticed I didn’t have a Monday Movie/Book review or a Wednesday Writing Journal last week.¬† This was because I was on a mini-vacation/house sitting for my parents with my husband and was unable to write said blog posts.¬† I was able to fit in some nice reading time while my husband grinded¬†his way through Dark Souls.¬† (Great game, btw)

The beautiful view from the front porch of my Parent's House.
The beautiful view from the front porch of my Parent’s House.

I first read 11/22/63, Stephen King’s latest novel and one which has been at the top of my list for almost 6 months.¬† I’m just gonna tell you straight up, I was a little disappointed.¬† First off, his liberal mindset comes out loud and proud in this book.¬† I have no problem with that even though I do disagree with him on a lot of things as a conservative person.¬† Generally, I can overlook these views and enjoy a rip-roaring¬†story.¬† This time it came on fast and thick.¬† The now overly done idea of the 50s being darker than we like to admit and the 60s being not as bad as we thought filled the story.¬† Generally, if anyone could redo this story idea in a new and fresh way, King would be my pick.¬† He failed.¬† He also went on to make Texas look like the most bigoted¬†place in the world you could possibly live.¬† Now….I’m from Fort Worth.¬† I don’t like Dallas.¬† No one in Fort Worth does.¬† Do you like your big sister?¬† No.¬† BUT, when someone picks on Dallas, I’m coming to the defense.¬† Same as you would for your big sister.¬† You may not like her, but you’re never going to let someone else pick on her.¬† That’s how I felt reading this book.¬† Again, I believe in Free Speech. I have no problem with King having and holding to these ideas, but a writer¬†should always be aware that¬†they will ostracize one group of readers or another if¬†they start spouting off too many opinions instead of telling the story.¬† A story should engage the reader not preach at them.

On top of all that stuff, there was a huge error at the beginning of the book where a character literally gets her head caved in with a sledge-hammer, and then is talking two or three paragraphs later.  I reread the scene about five times.  Nope.  Her head really did get smashed.  Yes.  She is up and talking later.  There is no way she survived what happened to her the way King vividly describes it.  Someone missed it.  That really threw me for a loop.

The other things which made this book a hard read was¬†the idea of time echoes – which was pretty cool – but that meant you had to keep up with a lot of characters so you could see the echoes.¬† Several times the main character, Jake, would notice an echo and I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out who he was talking about.¬† There are a lot of characters to keep up with in this book.¬† I think for me, the book didn’t get interesting until the last few chapters when Jake finds out what happens when you mess with time in a big way.¬† But, by¬†then I was kinda bored and ready to go on with my life.¬† I really had a hard time getting into this book.¬† Compared to Under the Dome, which had me glued to my Kindle for a week, this book failed to live up to the normal King horror standard.Black_hawk_down_bookcover

As soon as I finished 11/22/63, I picked up Black Hawk Down.¬† This amazing story about an¬†epic battle fought by our boys made King’s book even less enjoyable.¬† It didn’t even have a good aftertaste.¬† Now,¬† I probably shouldn’t follow-up¬†fiction that is supposed to be gripping with nonfictional books on battles.¬† It is very hard to view the other book as valuable when you’re reading a book about boys fighting for their lives.¬† So….lesson learned: be careful what you read and what order you read them in.

Black Hawk Down completely overshadowed 11/22/63.

If you’re interested in Military History, War, our Soldiers, or just want to get a feel for what our boys do, read Black Hawk Down!¬† I’m not real good at reading nonfiction, but this story was very well written.¬† Mark Bowden did his research.¬† He talked with the soldiers, hunted down files, talked to family members, and watched videos.¬† He went to Mogadishu and talked with the militia fighters who also participated in the battle.¬† When and where he could, he got three or four witnesses to collaborate stories.¬† What I think I learned the most from this story is that even though we lost about 19 men that day and had many men wounded in the battle, they completed their objective.¬† It is very easy to sit in my pretty little house, look at the loss life, and think of this engagement as a failure.¬† But to the men who fought and bled down on those dirty desert streets, they won.¬† They did what they were supposed to do and they brought their dead and wounded home.¬† Our boys rock!¬† The other thing it did was give me a real respect for our Delta¬†forces and our Rangers.¬† Our military is amazing.¬† They value life, they try to fight as clean a war as they can, and they care deeply about one another.¬† They’re smart, courageous in the middle of great fear, and willing to sacrifice everything.

Reading 11/22/63 paled in comparison with real men bleeding and dying.¬† It pales in comparison to two Delta boys who willingly and knowingly gave their lives for the pilot of a¬†downed chopper.¬† It pales in comparison to watching men fight and fight and fail and fight some more.¬† How many of us would willingly go back into that hell after we just escaped it?¬† The Rangers couldn’t get back in fast enough.¬† Even the cooks joined the fight to get their brothers out.

So….It may not be that 11/22/63 was really that bad, it may be that I just followed it up with something so much more amazing, I didn’t leave it a leg to stand on.¬† I’m not sure which, you read them and tell me what you think!

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

“I have heard it,” Hacklett¬†said. “Furthermore, I have heard he is a murderer, scoundrel, whoremonger, and a pirate.”
At the word “pirate” Hunter’s arm flicked out across the table with extraordinary speed. It fastened in Hacklett’s hair and plunged his face into his half-eaten mutton. Hunter held it there for a long moment.
“Dear me,” Almont¬†said. “I warned him about that earlier. You see, Mr. Hacklett, privateering is an honorable occupation. Pirates, on the other hand, are outlaws. Do you seriously suggest that Captain Hunter is an outlaw?”
Sometimes I just can’t get into a book.¬† I have been reading a lot lately but not loving what I’m reading.¬† Some of the books have been educational, interesting and well written, but not fun.¬† Some have been boring, poorly written, or just not what I’m in the mood for.¬† When I hit a dry spell on books, there are a few authors I fall back on.¬† Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Vince Flynn and Michael Crichton are my four main fall backs.¬† I almost always like their writing, their style, their characters and most of all their stories.¬† They are creative, intense, violent, but often filled with love and hope – Steven King being the obvious exception.
At the library the other day I found a Crichton novel I not only had never read, but never heard of.¬† Shocking!¬† Exciting!¬† Pirate Latitudes is the perfect High Seas tale.¬† It goes right into the action, pulls¬†you into the world and then beats you about¬†– a lot.¬† It’s like Captain and Commander meets Pirates of the Caribbean!¬† Witty, engaging,¬†educational, realistic¬†and it even has a Kraken! Yes!¬† A Kraken!! (That is the only spoiler I will give you – go read the book.)¬†I read the book in an afternoon and felt my trust in story telling restored.¬† All the non fun and not good books went by the wayside in this one really great read.
The neat part about¬†all this¬†– it was¬†published a year after Crichton died.¬† They found the complete manuscript in his office and published it!¬† So glad someone took the steps to share this great write’s last tales with us.¬† Crichton was a brilliant story-teller and researcher.¬† I have read Jurassic Park three times at least.¬† He is amazing at making the science count and horrify!¬† His historical novels are¬†just as well researched and written!¬† We lost a great story-teller when Crichton passed away.
So if you love historical fiction, clipper ships and just a bit of an outlaw, read Pirate Latitudes!

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

“The most identifying trait of humanity is our ability to be inhumane to one another.”


Dean Koontz.¬† How I love this teller of tales.¬† He’s not the greatest in many ways, but I love his books.¬† I love the words he chooses, his perspectives on life.¬† They resonate with me.¬† There are descriptions from his novels I remember to this day and I read a lot of books.¬† His wordsmithing is unbelievable.¬† I also appreciate his endings.¬† No matter how dark the subject, how intense the tale, the ending is always good.¬† He never leaves you with the eviscerated feeling Steven King does.¬† For some of you, this makes you love King more.¬† I understand.¬† King has a way of ripping you open and leaving you bare to the world.¬† He leaves you feeling sick, dark, and grim, which is all well and good, but easy to overdose on.¬† I can only read so many King books before I have to go find rainbows and silver lining.

With Koontz, I get both my gore, grim evil, and scary villains along with my love story, happy ending, good winning over evil in a way which lets me face my day without wanting to hide under the blankets.

Now, Odd Thomas.¬† Odd Thomas is more about Odd than anything else.¬† I honestly found the main villains a little too contrived and easy.¬† I found them to be a little too predictable.¬† I never once felt my gut clench or shivered over the vile destruction they waged.¬† In fact, the¬†villains felt like cardboard cutouts, while Odd’s parents presented a far more frightful visage of¬†the damage one human can bring upon another.¬† They are the true villains in Odd’s life.

I did like Odd Thomas.¬† For him, I continued to read the book and enjoy it.¬† Koontz’s dialogue is fun, clever and sarcastic.¬† His heroes are weighed down with the difficulties their powers bring in their lives, but not broken.¬†¬† Odd’s friends keep him going, his love makes him strong, and his powers are used to help others.

The magic of this story came when Koontz made you forget Odd’s unique power just when you needed to remember it the most.¬† Pure magic!

I plan on finding time to read the other Odd Thomas books along with anything else Koontz writes.  I would describe him as one of my biggest literary influences in my own writing. (Though my brother tells me he likes my serial killers better.:-) )

Just a few thoughts…how did you like the book?