Article 5, The Never Prayer, and Me Holding a Baby

Holy guacamole, I am about as tired as you can get, but I’m going to fight this sleep a little more as I really want to stick to this new plan of blogging on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

So I’ve finally gotten to a new book after plowing through Kristen SimmonsArticle 5 a few days ago. If you haven’t checked that book out then you probably should stop whatever you’re doing and get it. The book follows the story of a girl living in this post-WWIII America where a Christian theocracy has come into power. Are you freaked yet?

In this Santorumesque world, the government has suspended the Bill of Rights, opting for a simpler–albeit wicked brutal–set of rules called the Moral Statutes. These new statutes totally screw over everybody who A.) isn’t Christian, and/or B.) doesn’t have a penis. The opening scene totally dragged me in, kicking off with the protagonist getting ripped away from her mom because of the institution of the latest statute–Article 5. This new rule literally makes it a crime to have been born out of wedlock. How bad would that suck, right? Seeing as I don’t like being a book spoiler, I’m going to leave the plot outline there and hope you’re hooked enough to check this thing out.

While I was reading this book I kept thinking it was like a YA version of The Handmaid’s Tale, except with more forbidden teen romance in place of the subjugation of women and the Orwellian destruction of language. Not to say Simmons’ worldbuilding lacked anything, but Atwood’s vision of a Judeo-Christian theocracy in the United States is more brutal than Norwegian black metal. That thing makes all these YA dystopian settings look like a five-year old’s vision of Candyland rather than a post-apocalyptic autocratic state.

Still though, I think Article 5 totally shoots and scores on what I think it was aiming to do: be a romantic YA novel that touches on current issues involving religion and its place in the political conversation if it is left to run rampant. And if thats what Simmons was aiming for then I think she totally kicked ass at it. Well done, Kristen!

So yeah, I need to do some talking about this new book I’ve been getting into from Aaron M. Ritchey called The Never Prayer. Let me be straight with you becuase when I saw that this book had angels in it I was a bit hesitant to pick the thing up. Not that I don’t like paranormal stuff–Lord knows I love me some paranormality–but when it comes to angels my brain goes straight to romance. And not the super dramatic let’s-kill-ourselves-and-be-together-forever kind of romance (that stuff can be cool) but rather the sparkly vampire kind, know what I mean?

I’m stoked to say that so far I’ve been wrong. This book doesn’t have any sparkles at all so far, which is a total plus for me. I’m only a couple of chapters in–my stupid Kindle kept updating–but so far I get the idea that there’s some risqué stuff going on with the girl we’re following. I’m talking risqué as in she could have had a song written about her by The Police, asking her not to “turn on the red light.” You picking up what I’m putting down? I hope so.

Yep, that's me holding a baby.

So yeah, that’s about it. I want to apologize right now if any parts of this post are screwy as I am about to fall asleep on my keyboard. Also, check out this picture of me holding a baby. Every time someone let’s me hold their baby I always start to think, “Man, I need one of these.”

Have a good night!

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Space: The Silent Killer (Even if You’re Screaming)

All the hype around Beth Revis’s new book A Million Suns has got me thinking about more than just romantic space travels. See, I was reading Reddit the other day (don’t judge me, please!) and one Redditor posted a question about whether or not people would be willing to volunteer for a generational space flight to colonize a new planet. (For you n00bs who don’t know what a generational ship is all about, click here.)

My first response to the question would be, “NO EFFING WAY.” See, I’m not too keen on the idea of living out my days on a airtight tomb even if I would be remembered for all time as the awesome guy who volunteered to die in a box. Maybe that makes me a l4m3-o, but the thought of my descendants getting the sweet payoff for all my hard work really burns my cakes. I’m down for colonizing other planets, but not only if it means I get to be the one who sees Earth 2.

Are we there yet?

If you’ve read my blog before then you know that space terrifies me. It’s big, cold, and unable to convey the sounds waves produced by a shrieking human voice. However, I do like the idea of space travel. If someone could hook up a space ship with warp drives and replicators then I might be down for an interstellar excursion. I’d prefer there be force fields as well à la Star Trek just in case of a hull breach–you know, to keep the drafty vacuum of space from sucking my blood through my pores–but their absence wouldn’t be a total deal-breaker. Oh, and a holodeck for those moments when you get sick of contemplating your insignificance compared to the vast nothing of space. If you read Revis’s first book then you know that sort of thinking ends up in suicide by airlock.

So what would you do? Would you be the one raising your hand to go? Or would you be like me and try to dodge the get-shot-into-space bullet? Don’t be ashamed if you’re a chicken.

Actually, be a little ashamed.

[image from here]

A Groundhog’s Day Worth of Fiction Writing

On a scale from ten to one on the suck-o-meter–ten being where I write like a best-seller and one being the inability to write complete sentences–I think today was about a three and a half.

See, I woke up this morning with a sweet-ass-sweet plan to get a whole bunch of writing done. I had it all laid out: pack my laptop along with me to work and then head to this little coffee shop nearby. I swaggered in, snagged a mug of hair bending french press–french press has got to be the perfect go-juice when it comes to writing–and then plopped my cheeks down at a table.

“I’m ready,” I told the room. “Let the brilliant ideas flow forth!”

And that’s when the suck commenced.

I spent the first hour writing and rewriting the same paragraph. I’d tap out something that felt decent, then reread the paragraph and hate it. Then I’d do it again, hate it again, do it again, ad nauseum.

My face while writing. The groundhog's, I mean. Not Bill's.

It sort of felt like that movie Groundhog’s Day, except much less funny because Bill Murray wasn’t there.

At some point I got sick of writing the same thing over and over so I just settled on the version that seemed the least sucky and moved on. I decided to start rolling from the beginning of the chapter and laying in some light revisions. I reworked a few sentences, swapped a couple of words, and pretty soon I felt like taking on that paragraph again.

Good thing I did. I went back and pwned that thing.

So it all had a happy ending. Isn’t that great? I got a couple revisions done, finished that super painful paragraph, and capped off chapter two. And all it took was four fricken hours.

So now, my question to all you writers: have you ever had problems like this? If so, what do you do about them? When you hit a block do you power through it or are you more the type to snap your laptop shut and give your brain a rest? Fill me in. I really want to know.

[I got that flick of Bill here]

Two Full Cups of Awesome

What’s the good word, foolios?

Before I get started on today’s bloggity blog entry, I’d like to say thank you to all the folks who pushed that old follow button at the top of my page. Take a minute to check out the blogs of Malou, Aubrey, and Elisa. Each one of them is packing two full cups of awesome.

Now, down to business.

I sat down today and hammered out another 1,000 words of chapter two. The plot seems to be trucking along fairly well, but there are some real issues I keep running up against.

A little background for all you folks who are just catching up:

My approach with this draft is to start into each chapter with as few solid details as possible. This approach is totally based on the craptastic experience I had with my first draft. See, on my first go-round I had lots of great ideas all sketched out on note cards, but those note cards ended up being more of a hindrance than a help. For me, the process of writing always generates lots of on-the-spot ideas that I know will make the story super sweet. The thing is, when I try to cram my note card ideas with the spontaneous ideas popping out of my brain I end up telling two totally different stories in the same fricken book. What’s more is that when I go back to revise this two-in-one monstrosity I’ve got chapters that top out at 3,500 words at a minimum. Way too long for the YA novel I’ve got my sights on.

My problem now is that I get stuck on these little rabbit trails in the plot. I start flowing along with the writing, tapping out all sorts of fun-loving stuff when I discover that I’m writing Grade A crap that does nothing to advance the plot. But don’t despair, friend. There’s a serious sunny side to this problem. Because I’m not married to the plot in the same way that I was with the note cards I can just hit the old backspace button and start fresh from where the plot was still feeling good. Before I know it I’m cooking along and the story is wicked fun to write again.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at. Writing this book has been ridiculously tough but it’s also one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done.

On an unrelated note, you ought to check out the new Walking Dead episode. The tension between Shane and Rick is going to explode into a wild and crazy drama bomb. I can’t wait!

Getting Over the I-Suck-At-Life Blues

You know those times where you feel like you can’t write worth a crap? Yeah you do. I can see it in your beady writer eyes.

I don’t know if those periods of feeling crappy are just a matter of perception or if I’m really just striking out when it comes to putting words on the page, but I do know that it doesn’t matter. Nope. Not one little bit. Whether it’s reality, or just perceived reality, the result is still the same: I feel like I suck and that’s no bueno for producing anything worthwhile.

While I’ve found that those periods of feeling crappy are always going to happen, I try to take time to balance them out whenever they start to crop up. My most recent means of feeling better is reading through the “How I Got Published” section of James Dashner’s blog. In this little section he talks about how he busted his heiney to go from a schmuck with a scrap of writing talent to author with a whole boat-load of publishing credits including the NTY best-selling Maze Runner trilogy. How awesome is that?

So check out Señor Dashner’s blog right here. Once you get to his page scroll down a whole bunch and look on the right. The link is kind of hard to spot but I know it’s there (I just checked!).

That’s it for today. Happy writing, ya filthy animal.