Books that inspire me

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Books. A seemingly simplistic word, that so many in our generations have come to overlook as archaic. Even my best friend, a man I consider a brother to me in soul, admits that he will probably never touch a book in recreation.

“Why read a book, when I can watch the movie if it is good enough to be made into one?”

He has said this to me on more than one occasion. And unfortunately this has creepingly become the accepted norm for books. But to me, this tiny little word means so much more. When I was younger books served as portals to other worlds that took me away from the bullying and teasing of other children as well as from the abuse of my own step-father. At the time, I saw them as a means of escape. Now, in retrospect, I can see them as so much more. They were an escape, to be sure, but now I see them as the entrances to something much grander. They inspired my mind and heart. They taught me that even the little guy like I used to be, could have more, could be more. They showed that there wasn’t always desperation and anguish, and they showed that even those tales could have happy endings.

I watched as children with nothing worth fighting for could become men and women that proved to the world that greatness comes in many forms. I watched as the mightiest heroes fell to evil only to become the greatest champions of the very causes they had so adamantly fought against. I’ve read and observed more tales and souls than I can recount.

But I remember my favorites. I remember the ones that inspired me the greatest. These are the tales that have inspired me to embrace my love for books and have given me the courage to forge my own tales, in life and on paper. Now I would like to share with you the list of books that paved the way for my love for writing. Enjoy.

Jamberry by Bruce Degen

This is the first book I ever remember reading. I remember sitting on my bed, as my mom held me and read this book to me, sometimes over and over. Then I grew up, and the book became lost to me along with the memory. Then, five years ago, I was working at Borders (resquiesce en pace) and I was putting a new batch of children’s books away, when I came across a board book edition of it. As soon as it slid out of the box I was unloading, into my hands, and I found myself staring at the cover into the jubilant faces of the young boy and his bear companion, I found a part of myself that I had lost. I found the young boy that I had been, hidden under a layer of years and a thicker layer of tortured memories from my time as a teen. That book now sits on my own son’s bookshelf and the spirit of that boy lives on in his eyes and forever in my heart.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

This is undeniably the beginning of my love for fantasy of all shapes and sorts. The tale that Le Guin wrote evoked so many emotions in me. It was the first book I remember reading where the protagonist leaves his family behind in order to seek his path in life. I’ve read that book no less than ten times now, but I remember every step and mistake that young Sparrowhawk made along the way, and I remember the fear he felt as he faced his mistakes and sought out his destiny. Given the rather diminuitive size of the book, Le Guin taught me that not all great stories need to be big, and that the value and depth of words is infinitely more important than the amount of them.

The Shannara Series by Terry Brooks

I’ve read this entire series up through the Heritage of Shannara Trilogy. Twice. Brooks taught me how rich and deep fantasy could be, without overloading you with clichés of wizards, heroes and villains. He wrote a series that, at its core was always about the magic of one world, but he showed this magic in powerful ways without having to show you over and over again. Each of his characters had their own depth and dynamic that allowed you to remember and differentiate each of them. Each had their own voice and personality. He also taught me the value of making a series that linked together, book by book. To this day, I remember each of the characters and the way each of them fought through their struggles in order to protect the varied lands and races of his series.

I could continue on about the hundreds of other books I’ve read, and about what each of them taught me, but the ones in this list, those are mine. Those are the keys to the soul of my writing, and why I must continue to write, even when I get frustrated with it and want to just give up. Those books, and the inspiration of their memories, are why I write. They inspire me to write something as half as good, all with the hope that I write something that makes at least one person feel the same way these books made and make me feel.

So. What about you? If you love writing as much as I, if you love books as much me, I implore you to tell me what books make you tick. I have many years left on this planet, and I can think of no better companions than books and lovers of books, so recommend me your favorite tales.

Cheers!

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Writing Rebellion

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I’m back!!!  I know I’ve been gone for some time, I know you’ve all met me so drastically and I know, despite the fact that I’m blogging for the first time in a long time, I may disappear for a while again, but such is the way of my life these days.  I want to dedicate myself to one thing at a time but I’m nothing if not the perfect Gemini, bouncing around from project to project, book to book, game to game and wife to wife.  Just kidding about the wife! 😉

My hiatus has not been chocked full of procrastination like usual, but I haven’t had much time for much of anything.  I’ve got a new career, that is going swimmingly, but it is salary pay and therefore I work way more than I ever used to.  Then my time off is spent with my family and trying to find an hour of relaxation.

But always at the back of my mind was my muse, coaxing me, “Justin… Justin… let’s play…”.

But I have so many things that I want to do in my free time.  And all involve creativity and imagination.  Whether it involved playing a game, or working on an interesting character idea for the Skyrim Blog, or just reading the hundreds of books that I am currently in the middle of.  However, through all of that not once has writing been an outlet for my creativity.  I have been thinking of several different story themes and plot, still trying to find one that just clicked in my head and said, you need to write this, but writing has lost its original purpose for me.

For too long, writing has been changing from it’s original purpose of allowing me to create and express myself, and it has slowly evolved into something much more base.  It has become little more than a means for me to save my family from the mundane paycheck to paycheck that our lives have become.  For too long, I have pissed and moaned about not being able to give my family the life I never had, that it has allowed my mind and imagination to grow stagnant from resent.  My ideas lack their own sense of purpose.  For too long, my writing has been living and not-living for me.

It is time for a rebellion.

It is time that I start living for my writing.  I remember the first stories I ever started writing, and how I wrote them simply to tell tales.  I will get back to that.  I will write to write.  I will write to let my stories live, and I will work for them.

If any of you find yourself in the same place, then join me.  Join my rebellion.  Tell me how you rebel against the oppression that is life and the inhibitions it chains you with.  Or if you have broken through this stagnation before, give me your tips, challenge me to write something new.  I’m always up for writing a new short story, so challenge me.  Or just leave a comment or a like in support of my rebellion.  Let me know that my war does not go without notice!

Obsessed much?

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Anybody that has been following me on Twitter lately, has seen my obsession with Scott Pilgrim flare up like a soiled pair of underwear in a bonfire.  The level that I gush on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series is one of many parts.  But before we get into the why’s of my obsession, allow me to take you back to where it all began.

Love this pic of Scott, but I’m pretty sure it’s not Bryan’s!

First, let me start by saying that comic books/graphic novels are indeed literature, despite certain parent’s popular opinion.  I remember one time when I worked at Border’s (RIP), and I overheard a mother tell her son, “No comic books.  You’re going to read a real book!”  While I understand the need to encourage our children to further increase their reading skills, blocking them from reading something that they truly love, only diminishes their willingness to do so.  Alas, I am now veering too far off course from the real topic, though I may come back to this at a later date.

So, the book the kid wanted was none other than Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life.  Granted that I had only ever read Manga before this point, I looked at the book with a sense of, Yeah like this would be any good anyways.  Never the less, I had seen the books on the shelf for months and finally decided to give them a shot.  Oh boy was I screwed.

I took the first book home that night, and bam one hour later the book lay finished on my coffee table and my hands and mind shook in longing of obtaining the next volume.  Needless to say, the remaining five volumes found themselves in my possession the very next day.

At this point you may be asking yourself, “What the hell is wrong with this guy?”  That’s where the why comes in.  Anybody that has read the books or watched the movie can tell you that the brilliance of the music that Scott and his fellow band member’s make, whether you are reading the songs in the book or listening to them on the movie or it’s counterpart soundtrack (I own all of them!) coupled with the fantastic story line including fantastic video game action and Scott’s ability to earn experience and money from the enemies he defeats makes this story an instant hit.

But my love for this series goes even deeper than just the context on the face of the story.  Most people know the series only as a cool tale about a guy trying to defeat the enemies who seek to prevent his love for his girlfriend, Ramona Flowers, Brian makes the story go even deeper!  The story ends up really being about the relationships that Scott develops and and struggles to understand with his friends, girlfriend, ex-girlfriends and most importantly himself.

If you’ve only ever watched the movie, do yourself a favor and read the books.  The emotional struggles that each character has to overcome clenches my heart and refuses to let go.  When I still worked at Border’s I read the series twice in a row.  This makes my third read through of the series and I still can’t help but laugh along with every ridiculous joke and vainly fight to not tear up as Scott fights for his love.

My emotional response to a fictional story is ridiculous to say the least, but I’m proud of it.  I’ve recently considered trying to shift projects to a new one that is inspired by Bryan’s brilliance, but every idea I come up with is lackluster in comparison.  Who knows, if I can come up with some good ideas, maybe I’ll do some short story fan fiction for Scott sometime.

I feel the need to also say that while Scott’s tale inspires me, Bryan’s tale also inspires me.  To see a man bring a creation to such a level of existence that he can ensnare a person in the way he has me, only further inspires me to write the best that I can.

During my initial Scott Pilgrim obsession stages, I found myself so overcome by Bryan’s excellent storytelling that I also took the time to read his other graphic novel, Lost at Sea.  It lacks Scott Pilgrim’s humor, action and video game visuals, but it’s story is no less emotionally inspiring.  I definitely suggest you take the time to read it!

Lastly, if you guys have any doubts to my claims of obsession check out my Twitter account where my avi is Scott himself and where I have a Twitter list dedicated to stalking Bryan’s account @radiomaru!

Cheers!

P.S. Bryan if you read this I’m not really creepy!!!

Another submission or publish?

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Question time!

So, I told you all about my recent events with trying to get a short story published.  Well I’ve since submitted said short story to another online publication, who promptly got back to me with another, WAIT FOR IT…. No.

Once again, my hopes have been no less diminished than the first time a publisher said no.  However, I was thinking about the idea of not publishing it anywhere and not getting paid for it.  Rather, I was thinking about self publishing it somewhere, and then putting it on here as a free to download ebook!

It’s not that I don’t want to keep trying to get it published by somewhere, I just get bored with repetition, and I think that if I just do my own thing right off the bat, I will spare myself.

So, what do you guys think?  Ring in your answers!  Am I being too rash in my decision  or do you guys think it’s a good idea?  I’m trying to use this as a small step towards my ultimate goal, and as a possible means to getting feedback about the story.  Let me know!

Cheers!

Prisoner of Death Part 5- The Kill

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Brynn waited impatiently in his private quarters for Kerris’s return.  The woman, his own bastard daughter, was a loose end that he refused to leave unattended to.  He could try to twist and mold her into a woman he could use, despite everything her mother had already done to stop him from doing just that though.  He had no desire to put forth the effort, however, and so had decided that she would make an excellent test subject for the pen.  Brynn could have done it himself, but he needed to ensure the pen still worked even though he had fulfilled his contact’s list of targets.  He was told he could keep the pen as a form of payment for finishing the job, but he was always wary of the generosity of others.

He was anxious for answers, and so he waited, tapping his fingers against the arm of his throne, before sensing something at the open doorway.  It wasn’t something he had seen or heard, but something he felt, like a gentle breeze moving through the room.  A goblet of wine that had been sitting on a table nearby splashed to the ground with a loud clang.

“Who’s there?” he asked as he rose ungracefully from his throne.  He turned and glared at the goblet, as if the thing itself was the cause of all of this, then turned his glare back to the door.  He started to walk towards it, before it slammed shut as if by its own volition.  Brynn gasped in fear and shrank back.

“Come out, whoever you are!”

He took a step back and stumbled over the edge of a rug on the floor.  Landing on his bottom, he began to cry in fear.  Only able to roll to his hands and knees he began to crawl across the floor to the back of the room, before he heard the whisper, “Brynn.”  He paused, trying to find where the whisper had come from.  He cocked his head up and looked around as the wire and hands swung over his head and around his throat.

* * *

The assassin felt the wire slam against Brynn’s throat, and he pulled back until the fat man’s body was pressed up against his. Crossing pommel over handle of the sword, he turned the wire into a snare around Brynn’s fleshy throat.  Brynn thrashed and clawed over his head searching for some hold on the assassin that would enable his release.

“I have a contract that needs to be completed, Brynn, but I want you to know one thing before death takes you.  Your fate is carried on the wings of all the lives you had me take these last seven years.  For seven years, I have relived each of their deaths, over and over.  The time to pay has come, Brynn.  It is neither the contract nor my malice that brings your end, but those dead souls’ desire for revenge.”

With those final words, the assassin closed tear-filled eyes and gritted his teeth with a mix of determination and rage.  He relived each of the deaths of each of the targets.  Every kick and thrash from the fat man’s body brought a new wave of faces rushing to the surface, eager to lend the strength of its memory to the assassin’s grip.  He let out a primal anguished scream as he felt the last of Brynn’s will give.  The man slumped back against the assassin and only then would Grehem release the vile man’s body.

* * *

Kerris sat upon a stool holding the woman, who had fainted upon seeing the dead guards after he had removed her blindfold.  He had used his robes to wipe away her sweat and tears, to reveal a gentle and beautiful face.  He surveyed the bloody scene laid out before him and shuddered.  To think that one man could cause such destruction.  Yet, something told Kerris that releasing Grehem was the right thing to do.  A noise outside the stable stirred him.

He gently lay the woman down in the straw and walked to the doors.  There standing on the balcony that lead to Brynn’s private quarters, stood Grehem.  His face was turned up to bask in the light of the sun, and his robes and ebon hair swayed around him as a gentle wind whisked through the grounds.  There stood a free man.  Then Kerris remembered the pen.  He pulled it out and studied the black quill and the silver tip.

No he thought.  Not completely free, but free enough for at least today.

Books, books, books!

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My wee scamp exploring the worldbuilding power of books!

So, I won’t lie (not to your faces anyways ;D), but I have been playing a lot of Diablo 3 these last two weeks, and this weeks post was absolutely going to be a giant rant about all of the ridiculous and negative feedback that Blizzard Entertainment is getting about Diablo 3.  I, however, decided to make this post about books, even though I could go on about how insane people sound when they are complaining about a game that the company didn’t need to take the time to make.  Or the fact that those same people are complaining that Blizzard made the hardest difficulty setting for the game, something that fans said they wanted, too hard.  I mean COME ON!  What?  Did you want them to make the hardest difficulty have absolutely no challenge at all?  What are you guys?  IDIOTS?!  Ahem… Sorry about that…

Anyways!  Books are this week’s topic!  I love em, obviously, and can’t believe that I haven’t really talked about them more.  I am currently reading “The Way of Kings” by the talented Brandon Sanderson.  I never took the time to read any of his books before now, merely because I was too wrapped up in other series too get caught in another.  However, I just recently stopped by the my local public library and couldn’t resist the urge to grab this book, and I’ve got to say that I am in no way disappointed!  Lack of time aside, the first fifty pages I’ve read already have me hooked, and I can already see multiple overdue fines in my future…

I must admit that I also started reading, at the many suggestions of the lovely Katy Hulme over at the storytelling nomad, “The Assassin’s Apprentice” by Robin Hobb.  Again another great book that has instantly snared me, thank you Katy, but since I own this series I feel inclined to finish TWoK first.  I have to say that Hobbs has done a great job at writing a first person narrative that drew me in and attached me to her main character quickly, and I can’t wait to continue reading this series!

And finally, I must admit that I went back and reread, for the tenth time I might add, “A Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula K. LeGuin.  This book, since I discovered back in my younger years, has always enthralled me.  It is a tiny little thing and takes little to no time to read it, but within it’s compact frame lies a tale that amazes me and gives me the goosebumps every time I read it.  I am ashamed that I have never fully read any of LeGuin’s other books, but that is merely because every time I think of her name, I grab my copy of AWoE and dive right in!

I could keep going about the books I’m in the middle of reading, but being the dutiful father and husband I am, and due to the fact that I hear video games calling to me from the near future, I’d like to pass the torch on to you guys.  Drop me a comment and tell me about the wonderful books you guys are currently reading, or make me some suggestions for future reading!

Oh!  And don’t forget to drop by Raving Wild!  I have an all new Scribbles and Scales up.  And I wrote a poem to go along with this weeks wonderful image!  Stop by and check it out!

Cheers!

Sunshine Award!

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  1. WriteNow
  2. Pany
  3. Versatile Blogger Award (#4!) and Randomness « Maggie Madly Writing
  4. The Joy of Sunshine | Laura Stanfill
  5. valerie r lawson
  6. A. E. Welch
  7. T.L. Bodine: The Sunshine Award!
  8. My Writing Journey
  9. T.L. Bodine
  10. Life In A Notebook

See that list?  That is what one simple thing called “The Sunshine Award” started for me.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with what the award is, I’ll get into the details in a minute.  Suffice it to say, the big premise is it’s kind of like pay it forward.  But right now, I’m kind of flustered at what happened.

It actually started with the wonderful Whitney Carter giving me the award.  Thanks, Whitney!  I was one of five people that she passed it on to.  Then I realized that she was at least one of five people as well.  So, like Alice and the rabbit hole, I followed the trail down the line, following each of the blogs that I came across until I finally ended at Write Now, where I failed to find a post suggesting that they were given the award by another, or if they were the “patient zero”.  Regardless, this one simple award opened up a wonderful new set of blogs for me to follow!  And I might add that within a few minutes of my adventure, Write Now followed me!  Thanks!

And that is the story of my journey.  I’ve got to say that I just find it amazing that an act as simple as one writer saying that they appreciate another is really quite extraordinary!  So, to each of you that preceded me, I would just like to say thank you for taking part in the Sunshine Award!

So, back to the award itself.  The way it goes is that when someone passes the award onto you, you must link back to them with a big shout out, answer ten questions about yourself, and then pass it on to five more people.  So, let’s get this ball rolling, and I hope you enjoy the conversation I’m about to have with myself!

 Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

It was in the seventh grade.  I had always focused on art above all else, given my love to draw.  However, in English class, we were given the first creative writing project I can remember.  My teacher told us to go crazy and write about whatever we wanted, so long as it was a fictional piece and accounted for a certain set of words.  The story that I came up with was ridiculous to say the least, like watching a really low budget movie in your head.  But from that day, writing became a bigger part of my life, and though I continued to focus on art, I allowed that part of my imagination to really help me bring my art to life.

 What is the biggest influence on your writing?

Honestly, music.  Nothing gets my creative juices going more than a song that is ripe with passion.  Whether that passion stems from the singer’s determination or despair matters little, so long as they mean it, and I can truly feel it.

 Who are some authors that have had the biggest influence on your writing?

This could go on for a very long time if I gave you the whole list.  Truthfully, I find myself influenced by any author that writes anything that truly makes me, as a reader, feel.   I suppose, however, that the most basic list would certainly credit R.A. Salvatore, J.R.R. Tolkien, Margaret Weiss, Tracy Hickman, Terry Brooks, Patrick Rothfuss, Gene Wolfe and Brian Lee O’Malley.  See, even the short list is a baby monster!

What is the hardest part of writing?

Not making it too easy for my heroes.  I all too often find myself find myself answering questions and solving puzzles for them.  I feel, however, that the best way to really bring your characters to life, is to let them figure things out for themselves.  Forget your own knowledge, forget that you know what you want to  happen in the story, and just think as your own character.  This gives you the (Dungeons and Dragons nerd moment!) dungeon master versus hero scenario, which adds so much more excitement to whatever you are writing.

 What book are you reading now?

I am currently in the last few chapters of Gene Wolfe’s “Shadow and Claw.  I have been reading it on and off for sometime now.  It is a fantastic book, but I liken it to the richest brownie you can ever imagine.  Each page is like a bit that you have to give time to dissolve to truly appreciate.  The way he writes the story in the first person, leaves little to no doubt that you are within the very mind, if not the very soul, of the main character, Severian.

You’re really long-winded aren’t you?

Yes, but only about things that I really love.  Plus, I must say I love the sound of my own voice inside my head.  The way it’s cheeky, but not offensive.  I mean I could seriously listen to it all-

 What about hobbies?  What do  you love to do?

Disregarding the fact that you asked two questions, I’d say my two biggest hobbies would be video games and reading.  However, my favorite things to do would also encompass playing with my kids and spending time with my wife.

 You mentioned music before, as being a big influence on your writing, what are some of your favorite bands?

Top three bands would have to include Incubus, Linkin Park and the Cure.  But I’m also really big into bands like Attack Attack!, Panic at the Disco, She and Him, Emery, Portugal the Man, Leann Rimes and Deftones.  Again, it’s all about the passion.  If someone makes music with love, I’m all for it.

 Do you have time for two more questions?

Well, that’s one question, so I suppose, sure.

Let’s not count that one.

Too late, already did!

Okay, last question!  When you blog about your writing you haven’t talked about your heroes much.  What do you feel makes a person a hero.

This answer is simple.  In fact, I may just use this in one of my stories. 😉 But, anybody can give something when they have plenty to give.  It takes a hero, a true hero, to keep giving when he has nothing left to give.

 Wow, deep stuff.  Well, thank you for your time!

Okay, stop talking to yourself, it’s just getting creepy now…

Alright!  There are my ten questions!  Now, like a mighty king of yore, I bestow the Sunshine Award upon these blogs!

poetry, pics, prose and philosophy

Kellie See

Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Thrillers – Lawrence Pearce

AuTOMonous

A Speaking Human

Rise! Ye bloggers of awesomeness!