With only about 93 (at the time of this writing) days left in the year, I fear I’m going to fail another one of my New Year Resolutions I had made just 272 days ago. I’d failed just about every other resolution too, but this one was the one that I thought I’d be able to finish. It was the goal of reading 50 books in 2019. So far, I’ve finished 23 books this year. I keep track in my Goodreads app. If you’ve never tried GoodReads, I highly suggest it. If a group of librarians decided to get together and create a social media app, then that’s Goodreads.
There’s a quote from Stephen King I always like to pull out and dust off when people ask me what’s the big deal about reading. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
As writers, we must keep our skills sharpened. One way of doing that is reading books of different genres. By doing this, writers glean nuggets of wisdom from within the pages of those books. Examples of what to do, and what not to do. That means reading books that aren’t great.
One of the problems about reading is that it seems like I never have the time to actually sit down and enjoy it.
I remember when Stephen King released The Dark Tower. It was the very last book in his Dark Tower series. It came out Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2004. I graduated from high school in 2004 and had recently started college at IUSB. At that time, I was also working at the gas station in North Liberty. Back then it was still Citgo, right before they changed ownership to LuckyMart. Getting back on track, that weekend after the book was released, I had the weekend off. I’m not too sure how I was that lucky, maybe it was Ka (only fans of the book would get that). I read the entire book, all 845 pages, in that single weekend. I remember where I spent most of that weekend. It was on the couch of our living room (at the time I was still living at home). I remember crying at both sad and happy moments of the book. I also remember feeling that sense of shock at reading the ending of King’s magnum opus.
Having a weekend off is a rarity now a days.
King once said that books are “uniquely portable magic.” It’s important that we don’t forget that. As adults, we need to remember that and take time out of our day to read. It’s tough trying to find the time to read. As we get older, our lives get more complicated and we have more commitments and sometimes we just don’t have the time.
Here’s a few suggestions:
Listen to audiobooks while to and from work. I work about 30 minutes away from where I live. That’s about an hour of book consumption each day. Typically, books can last from four to seven hours. It depends on the length of the book. Think about this. There’s no commercials and no songs you don’t like. Whenever I look at what to listen to, I normally go for series. This spring I burned through the entirety of The Lunar Chronicles written by Marissa Meyer. When you get a talented voice actor that can enchant you mixed with superb storytelling, you’ll never want to press the pause button. Currently, I’m in book three of The Chronicles of Narnia (The Horse and His Boy).
Read an ebook on your phone. Waiting in line. Arriving at a movie theater a few minutes before the film starts. Sitting in the lobby of a busy BMV because you were too lazy to make an appointment. Eating dinner at a restaurant by yourself because that blind-date stood you up. All of these situations can be made better by reading an ebook. The great thing about an ebook is that you don’t need to have the Kindle app. There’s a variety of apps that’ll allow you to read books. And if you have a library card, then there’s Hoopla and Overdrive. Read my earlier post about the benefits of a library card here.
Sitting on the toilet. Let’s be completely honest we each other. There’s nothing to do except your “business” when you’re in the bathroom. Why not bring a paperback? Instead of playing Candy Crush on your phone (don’t deny it), just open up your Kindle app and read a few pages. Please be a little courteous, don’t take a borrowed book into the bathroom. That’s a bit icky. And, it’s probably not the first time that borrowed paperback has seen the bathroom. You didn’t think those were chocolate pudding stains, did you?
That’s it for this week. I know, it’s a shorter rant then what you’re usually used to, but I was too busy reading. See what I did there? Now go read something!
Everyone has moments that you can’t forget. Some of them are good memories, some of them are bad. But they stick with you. One of my good memories is the first time I traveled to a library. I was just a little kid in North Liberty Elementary School and we all walked as a class from the school to the library located downtown. For those that know North Liberty, this wasn’t the newer library that was built a while back. This was the little one over on SR 4 next to Gene’s Towing and Repair.
Here’s a side note. You know you’re getting old when you have to explain where a place used to be, because they moved.
The reason library cards are on my mind this week is that I wrote an article about September being Library Card Sign-Up Month.
In an age where every organization has their own subscription service, it’s surprising to see that libraries haven’t adopted that position. Hulu, Disney+, HBO, Netflix, Nintendo Switch Online, The James Patterson Experience. Everyone has them.
Okay, in all honesty, that last one was completely false. Plus, I’d never pay for a service revolving around James Patterson. I’m not sure what’s worse: paying for that or living in Michigan. Tough call.
Did you know that you can go to your local library and browse literally thousands of books, comic books, magazines, audiobooks, and more for free? You can even rent DVDs and (in some locations) video games for a small fee. All you need is a library card.
Have you ever wanted to learn more about where you come from? Most libraries have genealogical classes. Looking for a place for your children to spend a few hours after school? Most libraries have programs for children of all ages.
Here’s another side note. When I say “most libraries” I say that in case you’re reading this, and your local library is in that 1% that doesn’t (because of funding). Don’t go contacting me with your “but Jim, my library doesn’t do that.” If you do, I’ll just respond “sorry about that.”
Now, if you’re like me, you might not really feel like going to an actual physical library. I’m an introvert by nature and a hermit by trade, what can I say. Now, if you have a library card, you don’t actually have to enter a library to rent books/music/movies/audiobooks. There are a series of apps that you can use to do exactly that. Hoopla, OverDrive, and Libby (by OverDrive) all allow you to rent those items and download them to your phone. For free, if you have that small rectangular library card.
Libraries are magical, but sometimes unappreciated, places.
Which saddens me when I hear about the St. Joseph County Council, in Indiana, thinking about cutting funding to the St. Joseph County Public Library. If they had approved that, it would have meant nearly $500,000 cut from the library system. That’s basically cutting a branch. Now, if you’re not from around St. Joseph County, then you don’t know that there are 11 branches. Those branches span the length of the county. From as far south as North Liberty and Lakeville, all the way north to German Township in South Bend.
It was the backlash from the community that swayed the council from deciding on the funding cuts. It’s great to see that people are willing to stand up and defend the library system.
And, if you’re like me, you don’t like to spend money. I’m cheap. I get it. Audiobooks are expensive. New hardback books are expensive. Comic books are really expensive. However, at your local library, you can rent those for free. Don’t want to spend $20 on a DVD when you’re not sure you’ll like it? Rent it from the library for a nominal fee.
“Books are a uniquely portable magic,” states prolific author Stephen King.
If that’s true, then a library is an academy for wizards. Go study some magic.
Guilty pleasures. We all have them, even if we don’t want to admit it. I mean, that’s sort of the point of guilty pleasures. One of mine is watching movies with really sad endings. Like, if you don’t tear up during the film then don’t bother making me watch it. Then, as part of the guilty pleasure, I make other people watch them with me. Spoiler warning for some films I discuss today. Here are a few of my “go-to” guilty pleasure films:
Before writing this, I started thinking about why I take pleasure in this odd activity. One reason is that I have no soul and can’t gauge emotions, so I want to watch other people when they’re sad in order to copy their emotions. Another reason I came up with is that I’m so depressed that I like to watch fictional characters in pain, this way I take solace that my life isn’t as messed up as theirs.
Maybe I just like realistic storytelling in my films and novels.
That’s right. Sometimes we don’t all live happily ever after. Sometimes the guy doesn’t get the girl in the end. Maybe the father dies at the end in order to save his boy’s eternal soul. Maybe everybody dies at the end of a zombie movie. Maybe the coach mercy kills the paralyzed athlete. Maybe, the bad guy wins and destroys 50 percent of all life in the universe.
Did I just spoil a bunch of films for you? Well too bad! Sometimes we have movie endings spoiled for us. Maybe you should have gone and watched them. Maybe… just maybe… we overuse the word “maybe.”
Now, know what you’re all saying. “But Jimmy, why would I want to go to the theater and watch a film with a sad ending?”
I completely understand. Look at the current “Infinity Saga” that Marvel just pumped out. Starting with Iron Man (2008) until Avengers: Endgame (2019), the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has produced 22 films. How many of those ended with a happy ending? Every. Single. One. Of. Them.
Again, I know what you’re saying. “But Jimmy, in Avengers: Infinity War half of all life was dusted. How is that a happy ending?” To answer that, I’d argue that Thanos the Mad Titan was the protagonist and the Avengers were the “bad guys” of the film. With Thanos completing his task, he achieved his happy ending.
Every MCU film is predictable. You know going into the film that the hero will win, the bad guys will lose, and that everything will be alright. It’s boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love each and every one of those films, but that’s why I have my guilty pleasures. For once, I’d like to see a hero fail at the end of an origin film. That would give the hero an excellent redemption arc in the second and third film. Why don’t they do it? Two words: Box Office. If the film doesn’t do well, then there might not be a second film. You have to perform well in the first film. Meaning a happy ending where the hero wins the day.
You know, the more I think about it, the first film is like a presidential term. If the first one doesn’t do well, there won’t be a second one.
Films that end happily are also a lie. Do you want to know the biggest lie in cinema? Here it is: “And they all lived happily ever after.” It trains children, and depressed adult male writers, that if they try hard and do all they can to overcome their obstacles then they’ll triumph in the end and live “happily ever after.”
Horror movies aren’t even exempt. In the film Dawn of the Dead (1978), the main characters are evacuating from the mall as it’s being overran by zombies. Two of the characters die and turn into the undead while the very pregnant woman gets into a helicopter. Because in the 70’s aircraft births were the thing. The last guy was locked in his room with a gun to his head. He was waiting until the zombies burst in before killing himself, because that makes a difference. At this point, I’m waiting for the film to end darkly. Then, for some reason, the guy has a change of heart. A song that’s reminiscent of the theme to The A-Team plays and the guy fights his way through the horde of the undead to board the helicopter. Together, they take off riding into the sunlight. Happily Ever After.
Again, I know what you’re going to say: “But Jimmy, these are fictional scenarios that’ll never happen. And you’re saying they need to be realistic?”
Here’s my conclusion (tip to all essay writers: never write that as your last paragraph. It’s tacky). Every story needs to have some realism to it. I’m not saying that every ending to every story has to be sad, depressing, or soul crushing. It’s my belief that even in defeat, lessons can be learned. Movies should have more endings where the hero ultimately loses but learns something valuable from the defeat.
Now, as to my mental health, I’m sure you’re all concerned. Because, if I’m being honest with you last week’s rant and this one was depressing. Don’t worry about me.
For my first Book vs Film, I wanted to write something epic. Really kick off my entry into this series with something big and bold. With this in mind, I was sorting through my book collection and my eyes settled on George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones.” At first, I thought it was too big, too epic. The books aren’t even finished despite the television show having just ended. How could I compare the books to the television show? Do I go through season by season? Since the source material runs out around the fifth season, BvF: GoT would only have about five parts to it.
That’s not epic at all. If I compare each individual episode to the books, now that’s something epic.
Plus, it’s something that will definitely kill time until the last two books are released (knock on wood). Now, for your enjoyment, I present to you BvF: GoT: Season 1, Episode 1.
By the way, if you’ve never read the books or watched the show: Spoiler Warning! Plus, why are you reading this if you have an interest in reading or watching it?
The first difference I’ve noticed happens less than five minutes into the episode. The three men of the Night’s Watch are sent to track the wildlings. In the book, Will is sent to scout ahead for the wildling camp. He finds the camp and all the wildlings are dead. He reports this back to the leader, a highborn guy by the name of Royce. Royce asks for proof or a reason why they’re dead to which Will couldn’t really give so they decide to go investigate. In the show, Will finds them all brutally massacred and positioned in some macabre design.
Another small detail, in the book only Will and Royce went to the wildling camp. In the episode all three went. Just a small change, nothing to blow your skirt up about.
Another detail that I’m sure the show cut for time limits. In the book, Royce defends Will and tries to attack the White Walkers. Will climbs a tree and Gared’s fate is unknown. In the show, we see no fight with the walkers and we see Gared get beheaded. RIP Gared.
If I had to say which I’d prefer, so far, I’d say I liked the show. The initial scene is short, to the point, and sets up the obvious threat that will loom over the rest of the show. With the brutal nature of the bodies and the beheading, it shows two things:
–The White Walkers don’t mess around when killing humans.
–The White Walkers are warrior artists. They kill and then decorate the battlefield. When they don’t enlist dead people, they use them as artwork.
I will never skip past this beautiful credit scene simply because of the GoT theme song. Sorry book lovers, point goes to the show for this one!
Stark Intro and Execution Scenes
Another big difference from the books. In the books, each chapter follows a different character. In the show, it blends together a lot of those storylines to conserve time. In this scene we are introduced to the entire family of the Starks in just one minute and twenty seconds of screen time. In that time we are told:
–Robb is the older and more serious brother from his stance.
–Jon is a more nurturing and teaching brother, giving Bran some archery tips. We also know he’s a bastard when he says “so’s your mother” indicating that Catelyn Stark is not his mother.
–Sansa is the more beautiful sister that’s better at needlework.
–Arya is the exact opposite of Sansa and is better at puncturing men with arrows than puncturing needles into fabric.
–We see Catelyn and Eddard (Ned) Stark watching over the boys as they train. This indicates that they are interested and involved in their children.
–Rickon. Almost forgot about that brat. Well, everyone else did so I won’t say more to that.
In the book we don’t see any of this yet. We go to the execution of the deserter. In the books it’s Gared. In the show, it’s Will. Both talk about White Walkers and everyone believes he’s looney.
The major difference is the way Ned Stark is portrayed. In the show, you first see Ned as a family man. You see him giving Bran encouragement and nurturing alongside his wife. In the book, he’s first shown as the Lord of Winterfell having to do his duty and execute the deserter. As Martin writes in the books, “He had taken off Father’s face, Bran thought, and donned the face of Lord Stark of Winterfell.”
That simple sentence does what most of the show does. It shows that Bran’s father isn’t always the stern, duty bound Lord Stark of Winterfell. He’s also a loving father.
Another minor difference is that Theon Greyjoy laughs at the most morbid things in the book. During the execution scene, Theon laughs at the decapitated head and “put his boot on the head, and kicked it away.” In the show, he did none of those things.
Direwolf Pup Scene
Very little is different. Bits of dialogue are changed and a few characters less in the show, but other than that much hasn’t been altered. In the show, Jon Snow doesn’t claim his direwolf for his own, however. That honor rests on Theon calling it “the runt of the litter.”
Great Hall Feast
The book portrayed the feast in the great hall of Winterfell following Jon and his quest to find the bottom of an ale mug. This is where the show’s narrative style is more advantageous. Game of Thrones shines when it comes to character interaction and the show has more characters interacting with each other than the book in this particular scene. Point goes to the show.
Different approaches to the narrative
The first big branch from the book comes 18 minutes into the episode. After the direwolfs are adopted by the Starks, it cuts away to a beautiful scene of King’s Landing. In the books, we don’t travel to King’s Landing that quickly. First there’s an interaction with Cat and Ned in Winterfell’s godswood. The chapter follows Cat as her character is fleshed out a bit more. We’re told that she is a Tully from Riverrun and that they don’t worship the old gods like the Starks still do. This sets up the lore. It also sets up the lore behind Brandon the Builder, the First Men, and the woods having faces carved into them. Cat and Ned share some dialogue about the children and their newly adopted pets. They also talk about the growing number of deserters. Cat delivers the news about Jon Arryn dying and that the King and his entourage are traveling for Winterfell. This scene is shown in the show only after the King’s Landing scene.
In the show, Ned and Cat don’t share that much dialogue. They don’t discuss the children. Cat skips right to showing Ned the message they’d received from the King.
The book takes an interesting turn. It changes narrative and goes to Daenerys (Dany) and her story. Dany and her brother Viserys are exiled Targaryens. Their family used to rule the Seven Kingdoms and all that jazz. Viserys wants to retake the Iron Throne and is going to wed off his sister in order to acquire an army of Dothraki in order to do it.
Going back to the show, this scene in King’s Landing is not shown in the book. It starts with the bells of the Sept ringing and the funeral of Jon Arryn, Hand of the King taking place. This is also the first time you see the Iron Throne. This is also the first time we’re introduced to twins Jaime and Cersei. Soon enough, we find out through dialogue that Arryn knew something about Jaime and Cersei.
So, before I say anything else, I know that the show is made by HBO. I also know that sex and violence sell. But, there’s a scene with Theon, Jon, and Robb and their all shirtless. Theon and Robb talk about getting shaved for the queen. They also talk about the prince, as said by Theon, getting to “stab” southern girls with his “royal prick.” That’s the whole point of the scene. Point to the book for not including this because it adds absolutely nothing to the plot.
The first time we see Tyrion, Jaime and Cersei’s brother, in the show is when he’s with a prostitute. Such a great character and the first we see is him drinking and receiving a sexual act. In the book, we see Tyrion entering the Winterfell great hall and we’re given a description. The first actual interaction with Tyrion is with Jon Snow. Tyrion gives Jon some good advice. In the books, he’s not the whoring, drunk that the television show portrays him as. It’s truly a shame, but like I said, it’s HBO. Now, in all fairness to the show this portrayal sets Tyrion on a moral low note in order to build him up in later episodes. But still, I don’t like the show’s version.
There is a lot of nudity in this episode. Ninety percent of it is not needed, but there is one scene that warrants it. That scene is with Dany and Viserys. He’s inspecting her body and you see her breasts. In the book we see Viserys and his cruel nature as he twists one of his sister’s nipples. We don’t see that in the show.
Interesting thing to note when it comes to nudity. In the book, Cat and Ned are naked when Maester Luwin comes with news from Cat’s sister. Ned dons a robe, but Cat doesn’t mind that she is naked in the Maester’s presence stating “Maester Luwin has delivered all my children” and “this is no time for false modesty.” I find it funny that the show will show young women naked, but not an older lady when the book allows it.
One last bit about the sexual content in this episode. It deals with the difference in the consummation of Dany and Drogo’s marriage. In the book, it appears to be consensual. Dany objects, but then consents after a bit of foreplay. In the show though, it’s anything but consensual. In the book, it’s written romantically, and you can tell that it’s the start of an honest romance. In the show, Drogo is forcing himself on a crying Dany.
As far as narrative, much has stayed the same. Plot points in both book and show are still there. However, the television show takes a more linear style. Instead of bouncing around to different characters in different parts of the world like the book, the show sticks with locations more than people. The exclusions to this are when Robert mentions in the crypts that there are still Targaryens left in the world. The narrative then shifts over to Pentos with Dany and Viserys as detailed above.
Unfortunately, this is Book vs Film. There has to be a winner. The show and book are parallel in almost every way. The book has an advantage because there is more lore and detail in every section that the show cannot possibly portray. The show also has too much sexual content that detracts from the overall story and plot. The thing that sticks out over the book are the character interactions. Jaime and Ned talking to each other during the feast. King Robert berating Queen Cersei when they first arrive in Winterfell. Many others that I don’t have time to detail. The actors do an impeccable job which makes the decision clear. The narrative style is also easier to digest in the show than it is in the book simply because it’s linear opposed to moving from character to character in different locations.
That being said, Episode One is better than the book.
Am I right? Am I wrong? Let me know in the comments below. Make sure to follow my website to find out what I thought about the other episodes!
In last week’s MtC (that’s the working abbreviation for Mastering the Craft, just trying it out), I talked about the interwoven relationship between story and plot and how you can’t have one without the other. Sorta like that theme song to Married with Children. It isn’t absolutely required that you read last week’s MtC, but if you wanted to boost my self-esteem then go right ahead. Don’t worry I’ll wait for everyone to catch up… you good? Great, onto part two.
So now that you know that story is everything the reader needs to know and the plot is the portion of the story that the writer presents to the reader, let’s talk about what exactly goes into the two narrative elements.
Let’s say I get arrested by the police. Let’s say it was for attempted murder. And, just for the sake of fun, let’s call the victim Mr. Language. His first name’s English. They put me in the interrogation room and a detective says, “tell me where you were on the night of the murder of English Language.”
The initial response would be to tell the detectives everything I’d done that day from beginning to end. That would be my story of what happened. Which is exactly what “story” is, it’s what happens from beginning to end.
Janet Burroway, in her book Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft, states that “a story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order.” It makes sense, right? In the case of the story I told the detective, I stated the events from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed, beginning to end.
Any fiction movie, television show, book has a story. Remember from last week that Burroway defined story as “everything the reader needs to know to make coherent sense of the plot.” Note the phrase “coherent sense.” What exactly does that mean? In the case of my story to the detective, they wouldn’t want to know that I brushed my teeth with a baking soda toothpaste or that I ordered my pizza without onions because I hated the texture of the vegetables. Those are details that the detectives don’t need to know in order to make “coherent sense” of my story. The same goes when you’re writing a book.
“Random incidents neither move nor illuminate; we want to know why one thing leads to another and to feel the inevitability of cause and effect,” states Burroway.
How does that affect the plot then, you may ask? That’s right! I have another quote from Burroway (this is starting to sound like a thesis paper) that states “a plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance.” Have you ever wondered why a chapter ends with a cliffhanger? What about when Darth Vader reveals that he is Luke’s father, but then nothing is resolved until the next movie? Those are examples of the writers arranging things to deliver a more emotional and dramatic impact on their audience.
Look at the filmReservoir Dogs (1992), written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. If you’ve never seen it, the story is about a group of thieves that attempt a jewelry store heist but things go really wrong due to an undercover cop in their midst. The “story” starts with the undercover cop learning to become a thief in order to infiltrate the group, interacting with the group before the heist, the heist going poorly, the escape, the regrouping of the thieves, then the end. The “plot” is totally different. Tarantino starts the film with the regrouping scene after everything goes wrong. Flashbacks are used intermittently to show the audience more information about who could possibly be the undercover cop. You don’t know into much later in the film. It is clever and if you’ve never seen it before it’s a watch if you’re looking to properly utilize how to create an emotional and dramatic buildup.
It looks like it’s my time to leave you all for another week. Next week, I’ll be discussing more elements within “Story and Plot” so be prepared for more Burroway quotes and maybe I’ll let you know whether or not I was officially charged with the murder of English Language. See? I’m using plot to create a cliffhanger.
Spoiler: English Language deserved it. He allowed the Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey books to exist. Someone had to act.
Right now, I’m laying in a hotel bed typing this column on my iPhone. That’s one of the magical things about writing. Writers are sort of like time travelers. I’m communicating with the future. Originally, I had a column about April being National Poetry Month and why I don’t like writing poetry. I know what you’re going to ask, “But Jim, haiku you say that?”
Well, you’ll never read that column because someone stole my laptop. That’s right, you read that correctly. I don’t like reading or writing poetry. Seriously though, someone stole my laptop. I am literally out of words. Somehow, somewhere, Alanis Morissette is laughing.
The sad thing was that it wasn’t just my things that were taken. I was with my sister’s family in Fort Wayne attending the Christian concert Winter Jam. We got out to our vehicle and that’s when we found that someone had broken in and stole all the ibuprofen and electronics. They even took my sisters broken prescription glasses. I’m not sure if the thieves were being funny by taking the ibuprofen or if they were doing it strictly for drugs. By stealing the laptop and my nieces and nephews tablets, they caused a real headache.
Some of you might be wondering why I’m making jokes at a time like this. Mainly, it’s a defense mechanism of mine that some can find annoying. I understand, but at times like these my humor is all I have. That, and my intense hatred for Michigan.
As a writer, this theft left me staggering and speechless. They stole my livelihood. Everything I had written was on that laptop. That brand new, 15.6 inch Lenovo laptop that I’d worked to save up to buy. It may have only been about $400, but to a writer that’s a lot. A little known fact about writers: we’re not that rich. Worse than that though, they stole my hard work. I’d been editing a book for my publisher, Burning Willow Press, LLC. It was my second book I’ve edited for them. To say that I worked extremely hard to edit this thing would be an understatement. I had promised the Vice President of the company that I’d have that book back, edits completed, by the end of March. I wrote him an email tonight explaining what happened and that I was going to have to break my promise. There would be no way for me to complete the edits have them back by then. Even though I didn’t purposely break my promise, I’m still ashamed to have to tell him that I failed to live up to my word.
But, even worse than that. They stole my ideas. Snatched right from my head. Everything I’ve written is on that laptop. Sure, most of that is backed up on an external hard drive so it’s not gone forever. That doesn’t change the fact that all of my ideas, all of my personal thoughts and creative content is in the hands of another person, a thief. I feel downright violated.
And there isn’t anything I can do about it.
I want to spring into action with a “particular set of skills” and track down the bandits and show them why they should have stayed in Michigan where they belong. I want to quell the sadness I and the rest of my family felt. Also, that insecure feeling of knowing a stranger had rifled through your things. That feeling that your safe, comfortable, secure bubble had just been popped by the sharp prick of a thief’s needle. I can do none of those things, however.
It was my younger nephew that spoke up and said that it was actually a blessing and a test from God. He went on further explaining that we didn’t really need the things that were stolen. The things we really needed were left behind.
Now, let me tell you something. Hearing someone, doesn’t matter the age, tell you that you never really needed that laptop isn’t an easy thing to accept. How can that person know this? They don’t understand that it isn’t just games and files on that laptop. I couldn’t tell you how many evenings I’ve spent hunched over that thing typing out words or editing that book. I wanted to tell my younger nephew that he was wrong, that to me, that laptop was practically my life.
It was at that thought, that laptop was practically my life, that I knew I was wrong and he was right. It was such a selfish thought. Sure, I’ve suffered a setback. Sure, I’ve broken a promise. Sure, I live about an hour south of Michigan. But at least our vehicle wasn’t damaged beyond repair. At least they didn’t take my prescription blood thinners. At least they didn’t steal our clothes.
Here’s the best at least of them all: At least we left the parking lot together and unharmed.
There are worse things than having your laptop stolen. Living in Michigan for example.
On Saturday, Feb. 2, my third book is being released by Burning Willow Press, LLC (BWP). They are a phenomenal company that cares about the quality of the books they publish. It can be purchased at a variety of places, but if you search “The Book of Ashley, James Master” on Amazon.com you’ll find it easily. Enough of the shameless promotion though.
I watched a video of Steve Harvey while hiding inside my home during the polar vortex on Wednesday. He talked about how you should follow your gift and not your passion.
“All of you have this gift, identify it. It’s the thing that you do the absolute best with the least amount of effort. That’s what you should be doing. You’re wasting your time pursuing your passion,” Harvey said.
If I’d watch this video a few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have understood this message. Up until a few years ago, my passion was playing video games. I’d spend hours playing them, didn’t matter what game it was. Admittedly, I was pretty terrible at esports or other competitive video games. That ruled out playing video games on a professional level. I was terrible at computer programming, ruling out creating video games.
I spent so much time and money trying to follow my passion instead of following my gift. Making the choice to follow my gift, my life has been changed. I have a better paying job, several published works, and an interesting side job with a really great publishing company.
Some of you may be thinking, “but Jim, don’t you work for BWP? Doesn’t that make you biased?” The answer is… sure, maybe a little. For full disclosure, I will state for the record that I am a contracted author for seven books with BWP as well as an editor for them. I also work in the submissions department which typically entails reading submissions and giving my opinion on whether they would be a good fit underneath the BWP umbrella.
Having said all of that, I don’t believe that it would change my view on the publishing company. If anything, this relationship has strengthened my view on BWP. If you ever get a chance to talk with Edd Sowder, VP of the company, you’ll come to the same conclusion I’ve reached. This man loves four things: his wife Kindra (author and BWP President), his company, his coffee, and his authors. You can typically find Edd on the Writer Imperfect Twitch stream that airs Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If you don’t watch Twitch or don’t know what that is, then go to YouTube and search Writer Imperfect with Joshua Robertson.
Enough about Burning Willow Press, LLC though. Let’s talk about my newest release. For those that might be interested, The Book of Ashley is the third book in my series, The Soul Eater Chronicles. The whole series is based around demons, monsters, and the holy crusader that stands against the darkness. When people ask me what kind of genre the series falls in, I typically call it “Religious Horror.” Basically, if you like monsters, demons, and books about good fighting against evil then these books might be for you.
This will be the third book I’ve had published. I’ve also had three short stories that I’ve had published in anthologies. All of them with BWP. Every time I publish something, there’s this triumphant feeling of accomplishment. It’s a feeling I’ve never experienced while playing video games.
I know that last week’s rant might have seemed like I didn’t exactly like my profession. Which is totally the opposite. I do not regret one word that I’ve written in the last five years of being a news writer/author. I am so grateful to be doing what I’m doing for a living. There’s nothing else I could possibly see myself doing. Well, maybe I’d be doing something in the dining service/gas station arena. I sure wouldn’t like it, whatever it would be.
“A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, or because everything she does is golden. A writer is a writer because, even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway,” said Junot Diaz, professor of writing and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008.
Even if I was still working in a gas station or as a supervisor of a café at a college, I’d still be a writer. Even if I received rejection after rejection, I’d still be a writer. Even if I had absolutely zero training in the craft, I’d still be a writer. Even if I lived in Michigan, I’d still be a writer (because if I lived there, I’d need something to take my mind off the fact that I lived in Michigan).
Identify your gift and follow it. It doesn’t mean that you must abandon your passion. I still play video games, but I’m not focusing my time on it.