Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Storyteller Reports: 7 Things J.K. Rowling Should Write About

Unless you’ve been hiding under a pile of Old English poetry, you’ve probably heard that J.K. Rowling plans to write an “grown-up” novel.

This is an interesting move and I wish her the best of luck. In fact, I wish her so much goodwill that I have compiled a list of ideas for her as she goes about in this new world of fiction. She seems to have already written her first book, as it’s meant for publication this year, but if she decides to stick around in this field for a while, she is welcome to peruse these suggestions. I have exactly 7, in honor of the numbers of books in her beloved series.

1) Don’t write anything about magic. If you’re going to turn over a new leaf, turn it over completely. Erase Harry Potter from our minds, along with anything that might make us think of Hogwarts. We want to see what else you can do.

2) In fact, move as far away from Harry as possible. Write something with a hard-boiled, chain-smoking detective who has a scar above his right eye that he got when a poker game went wrong in Guatemala.

3) Write a book entirely about a friendship. This was your greatest strength in Harry Potter, quite frankly. I love watching Harry, Ron and Hermione growing up together. That Voldemort guy never seemed as interesting. You can take this element of Harry Potter and not violate suggestion #1, by the way. Good relationship writing is not exclusive to Harry Potter.

4) More redheads. Okay, this one might really violate suggestion #1, but I don’t care. Gingers are awesome. They light up a crowd. They could bring world peace if there were more of them. There’s certainly not enough of them in fiction. Fix that, ma’am!

5) Avoid paranormal romance like the plague. They took Robert Pattinson; don’t let them take you too.*

6) Write something in first-person. After seven novels in the third, I wager a change of perspective would be a welcome challenge.

7) Ignore everything I’ve just said if it isn’t what you want to do. You trusted your creative vision with Harry, didn’t you? Look at where that got you. Trust your gut. Write whatever you want. Blow us away! I’m excited to see what you come up with.

Oh… I can’t help myself. The Deathly Hallows film came out in two parts. Here’s one more.

7.5) Buy The Quest (Part One of The Kingdom Trilogy) and tell all of your most influential friends about it.

Does my shameless marketing know no bounds? Of course it doesn’t. 🙂 Have a magnificent day.

* = I concede that the sort of adult novel Rowling seems to have her eye on does not tend to include paranormal romance. I further apologize for any fans of the genre. But it’s still funny.

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Monday Meditations: Stay Strong

Everybody needs a hand sometimes. Especially on Monday mornings. If you’re feeling tired, cranky, sad, sore, or downright miserable, allow me to offer a few words of encouragement. You haven’t seen the last of life. Run while you still can. The dawn is coming.

SONG OF THE WEEK

“Won’t Turn Back” by NEEDTOBREATHE

When  have my own times of trouble, I have found myself turning to this song. There’s something about the melody that is full of strength. I don’t mean heroic strength, necessarily; not the kind that lights your eyes on fire and inspires you to take on the world. When I hear this song play, I feel a quiet strength. A happy strength. The kind of strength that lets you bear any injustice against you with a happy smile.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Tell why I should run for cover

At the sound of the coming thunder

All I hear is the cry of my lover

So take your shot

I won’t turn back…”

NEEDTOBREATHE

Notes Of A Storyteller: The New Death

Some weeks ago, I met a fellow named James Hutchings. He wrote a collage of poetry and short fiction that he called The New Death And Others. He was gracious enough to extend to me a copy for review, which I gladly took. I think I’m ready to tell you what I made of it all.

Aren't you dying to know more?

I think you will be entertained. I can guarantee nothing, but I think you will be entertained. This will depend on what you’re looking for. Do you want an exciting adventure story, or a heart-warming romance? You won’t find either here. What you will find instead is an oddball variety show about vengeful gods, sentient cats, and even a few honest questions about God.

I enjoyed the variety. There is actually one romance (set in Hell), but it is far more rib-tickling than it is heart-warming. “Everlasting Fire” is what John Milton might have come up with if he grew up in the 20/21st century and wrote a rom-com. It’s devilishly funny. Other highlights include “Under the Pyramids”, a compelling poem about one man’s world-changing encounter; “The End”, about a camping trip that turns wacky and supernatural in a hurry; “Legend: The Story of Kevin Marley”, a tongue-in-cheek satire of alternative music; and “The Lamb’s Speech”, a darkly comic poem that slaps William Blake in the face.

This is some of the most witty and original material I’ve seen in indie books.

This collection would have been better if Mr. Hutchings had included less material. These little gems that I mention above get lost among several other works which simply do not compare. He has a wearying habit of writing three-paragraph stories and throwing them into the mix. I skipped past a few of these after a while; they didn’t grab me. Mr. Hutchings’ best work would show better in a tighter volume.

There are times when Mr. Hutchings tries to be too clever. In “The Construction Workers of Telele” I read the following…

We have to do something about these guy’s!!!!!” said the writers of signs with unnecessary apostrophe’s (in a strong Comic Sans accent).

I cringed. Humor is better delivered one point at a time; the parentheses is unnecessary and sucks away the humor.

His philosophical musings are intriguing. They come out most memorably in “Under the Pyramids”, although I am not entirely sure what he means when he says, “All health was sickness. / Life was death. / The greatest was the least. / My human soul gave up control / and I became a beast.”

These musings stumble sometimes. “The Auto-Pope” is only seven sentences long, and directly attacks the Catholic Church on grounds of hypocrisy. This is a fine goal for a man who seeks the truth, but the Catholic Church he attacks in the story is not the Catholic Church that actually exists. Happily, moments like these do not pervade the collection.

Overall, “The New Death” is difficult to judge. It is an ambitious, feisty collection. It wants to be witty and soul-searching, and to some extent it accomplishes both. It is a diamond in the rough. I look forward to what James Hutchings releases in the future. You should, too.

Get The New Death at the Kindle Store or Smashwords. If you’re strapped for cash, check out this fun little game he made called Age of Fable. It’s a text-based, choose-your-own-adventure game. It’s a delight. At the very least, say hi to him at his blog.

No matter what you do, have a wonderful weekend, and beware demons with obscure names.

Notes Of A Storyteller: Abraham Freaking Lincoln

I should have known it was going to happen at some point. In the end, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. Ladies and gentlemen, if you haven’t seen it, let me introduce you to the trailer for (I will try not to choke on these words) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.


I was starting to write up an angry rant about Hollywood dishonoring one of America’s famous presidents, but I put myself on a leash.

“Calm down, Sean,” I said to myself calmly. “They’re just having fun. Nobody’s going to take this seriously.”

And no one will. In fact, as I soothe my murderous rage, I wonder if this will foster more interest for Lincoln in the first place. Might somebody go read some books about what actually happened in Lincoln’s presidency? Might a group of students force their A.P. U.S. History teacher to go watch it them, and wind up prompting a 3-hour discussion about the Civil War? This might actually be a good thing.

At any rate, any tribute to Lincoln will be refreshing. The fact that a president is being celebrated (in whatever odd fashion) instead of being torn down is deeply refreshing. If only we could salute Barack Obama like that.

I’m still worried, though. This is an action-adventure, after all. I doubt too many people will be interested in finding out more after watching. If a biopic of Lincoln came out instead of this, I don’t think it would be nearly as successful. It’s trailer certainly wouldn’t get as much interest. Something about that is wrong.

Am I saying everyone needs to put on a pair of glasses and trade their social life for books? No, and may I never demand such a horrible thing. But I do want more people to be aware of their heritage. One day, I hope, America will have more events on this scale to celebrate American presidents, and more people excited about them. I hope those tributes are better than a nonsensical action caper.

UPDATE

More than one friend has tactfully reminded me that there is indeed a Lincoln biopic coming soon. Steven Spielberg is directing and Daniel Day-Lewis is starring. I bow my head in shame. Still, I wonder how many people will be interested in the biopic, and how many will be interested in the action movie.


Monday Meditations: Epoch Of War

From Gilgamesh to Batman, the world of fiction has adored someone who’s willing to fight for something worth fighting for. Write your own story about good vs. evil today. Listen to this song while you do it.

SONG OF THE WEEK

“Epoch of War” by Becoming the Archetype

Come on. Admit it. If you have ever dreamed of writing a swords-and-sandals epic, you have imagined your hero (or heroine) charging into battle to the tune of an awesome guitar riff like this one.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“You are soldiers of Gondor! No matter what comes through that gate, you will stand your ground!”

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Notes Of A Storyteller: Why Do I Write This Stupid Blog?

My nose is running, and I have midterms to study for. What in the name of all things bright and beautiful am I doing writing a blog post?

My books are about twenty feet away. Right now, I could be transcribing my notes on Ancient Egypt, or building my Old English vocabulary. I could be writing my latest short story, or reading for Contemporary Literature.

I’m a fool to leave all that to the side, even for a little bit. This post is going to take five times as long as I think it will to get written and uploaded. I’ll probably find a grammar error, and click of the ‘Edit’ button and wait for the editing page to re-open. Then decide what tags to put on it. The  I’ll put it on social media. If I’m really lucky, somebody will chat me on Facebook while I’m posting this link.

I tell myself this every time and it never dissuades me. I simply cannot stay away from blogs.

Have you ever blogged before? You don’t get a true appreciation for the power of the Internet until you have uploaded a quality blog post. Power rushes through my fingertips every time I do it. It’s an addiction. I have complete autonomy over what goes on this page. I can tweak every word, phrase and idea until it matches my worldview precisely. It’s every syndicated columnist’s dream.

I can share the same things with you that writers have been trying to do for mellenia. But I can do it with more freedom than ever before in history. Other writers (and readers) can explore my world, and leave comments. I can do the same to them. We mold each other. Ultimately, if we’re thoughtful and courteous, we’ll bring each other to a better point of view.

The Internet is a network, is it not? Could we even call it a community? I met a Catholic nun the other day who thought of things that way. I think she’s right on the money. Every time you upload a photo, or comment on a post like this, you are adding life to one of the most vast and diverse communities of human beings that our species has ever known.

When I think about things that way, I wouldn’t give up this blog for the world.

An Update

FastPencil still hasn’t happened. Hang in there, folks! It’s on its way! I’ll see what I can do this weekend. What is for sure is that I have another short story on the way that I am extremely excited about. Details TBA.

Notes Of A Storyteller will be on a Saturday again because my life is crazy.

If you feel apathetic, lifeless and lazy right now, don’t worry. So do I. Let’s take on this Friday together! Have a great weekend!