Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Hunger Games – Eventually

As a voracious reader, I read all kinds of novels. Basically I look for anything with an intriguing premise written by an author who has a strong voice and the ability to tell a story that absolutely sucks you in. I’ll admit that many times I avoid the titles that are extremely popular, just because I’m stubborn enough that I want to make my own decision about what to read and not follow the herd – or the mob mentality.  I guess that’s one of the reasons that I really hadn’t read anything categorized as ‘Young Adult’.  Simply because it’s so darn popular.

But recently I’ve been told that I definitely need to expand my horizons and read through some of that Young Adult fiction.  Because it’s so popular, that also means that the market is booming.  Since that genre (though it’s really more than one genre put together under that same overall umbrella) is what everyone from grade schools through nursing homes are reading these days, it can only benefit me to dive in a bit and see what the hype is all about.

So that’s why I finally became the last person on Earth to check out The Hunger Games.

While feeling just a little guilty about diving in to Young Adult fiction, I know that the stories are not necessarily simply for teens.  While the sentences are usually short and punchy, and the stories are based primarily on action, an interesting story is an interesting story.  And, after a quick read through it, I have to admit that I liked it. Enough so that I’d give The Hunger Games an 8 out of 10, based on a story that grabbed my attention and continued to keep me interested in finding out what happens next.

What surprises me about Young Adult fiction is the level of violence that is a part of so many of the books – and obviously in this one where teenagers are killing each other to live.  I’m not saying that this might not be integral to the story idea, or that it’s not interesting based on the overall premise, just that if the main character was 32 rather than 16, it would be considered another category of novel all together.  And, it’s interesting how things change over the years.  For example, Stephen King (a.k.a. Richard Bachman’s) novel The Long Walk was an adult horror story.  But if it was written today, it would be categorized as Young Adult because  of the ages of the main characters involved in the challenge of survival at the expense of others.  And, if it had been written 30 years later,  it probably would have been turned into a blockbuster movie.  Timing is everything, right?

I don’t know what Young Adult story might be within me (waiting in line behind the numerous other stories that have yet to be finished) but it’s something to think about.  It won’t be published in time for Jennifer Lawrence or Shailene Woodley to be the teen lead, but I think I’ll be okay with whoever they pick for the multi-million dollar movie series they base off of it.  I’m not too picky…

 

 

Writing as an actual gig…

I’ve been writing professionally since I was five… Seriously.  Granted, there wasn’t much money in it, but my needs were few, my tastes cheap, and it worked out to be a pretty good overall gig.

To encourage creativity, my mother – a grade school teacher before she brought me and my sisters into the world – offered us a deal for some extra money. She would pay us for stories that we would write.  And, ever in need of spare change for such important items as candy bars and Star Wars figures, I continued to take her up on this over the years.  I even provided the artwork for some of the early classics, such as “Quentin and Blentin” and “Fido Finds a Home” (the latter being a shameless and utterly unsuccessful play for getting a dog of my own).

When I completed a new story, I would submit the pages to my mom for her review.  She’d take it to the kitchen table and read it through carefully while I stood nearby, nervously watching her face for any expression that would clue me into what she thought about my creation.  And, once she finished reading through it, she would take out a pen and read it again.

Spelling errors were the first to be circled, followed quickly by the grammatical ones.  She’d scribble a note if she caught an error using quotations or didn’t use paragraph breaks correctly.  And, if the story line was reminiscent of a book I’d recently checked out from the library or a recent television show, then the sale price was immediately impacted.  But, as honest as she was in her editing, she was always encouraging and positive, making it clear that you’d done something creative  and appreciated.

On the last page, she  would total it all up.  Something like:

Original Story – $2.50 (starting price completely dependent on her mood)

Spelling – 3 errors.  -.30  (My college-lined notebook didn’t have spell-check)

Total –  $2.20  Great Job!!

She started me out young and always seemed to have just the right amount of change in her purse for payment.  And my passion was lit.

But…did I sell my rights too cheap?  Well… At least it was enough to keep me in Snickers and Stormtroopers.  So who could complain with a childhood like that?

 

 

 

That Work Intrusion

Work is work.

I’m not going to bash it because it pays the bills. And I work with some pretty good people too, so what is there to really complain about, right?  The only problem is that it’s just not the same as waking up inspired with all kinds of ideas and having the time to type them into the Great American Novel.  Thinking of which… What would currently be considered to be the great American novel?  Moby Dick?  Definitely incredibly overrated. The Great Gatsby?  I wouldn’t argue with that choice. The Grapes of Wrath?  Wow…I’ve got a story from 10th grade about that one that still makes me shudder when I think about Steinbeck. How about anything by Mark Twain?  You can’t go wrong there, can you?  What do you think?  Any thoughts?  I’ve got to work on getting my novels on that list, but work just seems to have a way of getting in the way…

I actually changed jobs recently.  And that’s a definite positive since my last boss had the same managerial style as the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island – expect someone else to do all the work, smack ’em over the head every day and hope it knocks something loose and keeps them down, all so that they don’t realize that she doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing. I mean, do you really think it was Gilligan’s idea to take that little ship out on the ocean when there was a hurricane on the radar?

But writing is far better than the cubicle life. Creating characters is more rewarding than sitting through meetings.  Developing character conflict in fiction is a fun, positive experience, while keeping co-workers from bickering, back-stabbing and generally acting like a bunch of 3-year-olds is emotionally draining.  And, when you’re at work and find out about a deadline that no one had told you about and a regular day turns into a 12-hour mess, time to be creative is taken away.  So, as a result, it’s easy to get a bit detached from the story that you’ve been working on.  After all, I love the characters in my current novel, but I just don’t feel like I’ve gotten the chance to sit down and talk to them in a while.  Who knows how bored they’re getting as they just hang around waiting for something to do.  And, on top of that, I’m sure there are other interesting characters just waiting to be met.  But where does the time go?

Yet here I am, eating lunch at my desk, getting away from reports and spreadsheets, doing some blogging and taking some time to think about those characters and their half-finished stories.  So I guess there really is time for everything if we just work to fit it in.

But that’s for later.  Right now it’s time to go back to work…

Fayette County, Part I

Day 672 (give or take…):     Still no Bigfoot sighting. I saw four deer in the yard last night (Graham was a wee bit ticked that I accidently scared them off before he’d had a chance to stare at them for as long as he wanted), and there was a family of wild turkeys passing through the field on my way out this morning. Occasionally there are tracks in the yard from raccoons, opossum, and feral cats as well. But I’ve yet to see any huge, intimidating footprints or large hairy creatures in the woods staying just outside of camera focus. Of course I can’t say that I’ve actually been looking though. But the carrot from our melted snowman is still laying in the front yard. And I’m sure a tasty treat like that would attract one if it was out there, right?

Just to be clear…

It’s not my goal to simply bash Fayette County. It truly is a unique place – kind of like living in the middle of a super-sized Wal-Mart sometimes – but it has its good points as well. The mountains are absolutely beautiful, all four seasons are well represented throughout the year, Frank Lloyd Wright’s house Fallingwater is a short drive away, and there are some very good people living and working in the area. It just doesn’t feel like home to me at this point. Because I just don’t get it yet.

Multiple times I’ve seen couples on dates where both parties were wearing at least one article of cammo. And I don’t own a single one myself. And casual Fridays involve seem to consist of every version of Steelers/Pirates/Penguins black and gold. And they’re not even my teams.

Then of course it throws you off a bit when you see an ad for a house nailed into the side of a telephone pole asking for “$5000 or best offer – cash only”. But there are another 135,000 people living here within the county and they’re probably a bit confused by that guy as well. There’s weirdness everywhere after all.

Shortly before I moved here I read the novel American Rust by Philipp Meyer. Taking place in a “beautiful but economically devastated Pennsylvania steel town” it’s a story about the lost American Dream and desperation. And it takes place within Fayette County, as the characters go through their depressing lives in actual towns from the area. Suffice to say, it doesn’t paint the most positive picture of the people who live there. But it’s just fiction – just a novel – and one that I would only give 6 out of 10 stars anyway. So it didn’t completely scare me away – though it did brace me for the worst.

But there are nice, friendly people here. For example…the other day at the grocery store, the college-aged girl checking me out at the register called me “honey”. Maybe she was flirting with me, maybe it was just a way of interacting with customers that she picked up from the older women she worked with and didn’t even realize it. Or maybe it was simply someone being friendly and using an expression that just seems comfortable to use around here. Kind of like the odd expression of calling people “Yins”. That one I’m absolutely positive I’ll never understand.

But, as crazy as my new home may seem most days, it is home. So it’s all about focusing on the positives of the area, and the people that got here before me. And I’ll do my best to be a decent visitor until I’ve reached the point where I’m one of them. And, as I adjust and get used to all of it, I’ll do my best to be brave.

Especially if I run into Bigfoot.

Hi Everyone!

And welcome. I’m looking forward to having the chance to chat and get to know you as the site grows and develops and we start having a community that can discuss things and ideas together. And…in case you didn’t know up front, the title isn’t meant to be taken seriously…

Books – I’m an aspiring writer trapped in a non-writing job at the moment but am passionate about books, writing and the creative process.  So I guess that’s the part that’s somewhat serious

Bigfoot – Well…I live in an area of the country that’s supposedly home of the elusive creature if you believe low budget cable reality TV shows.  Actually, just last year a film crew came to town and held a meeting in the local Theatre to talk about sightings in the area and to announce the incredibly extensive two-day search they were planning to conduct.  They actually advertised the meeting in the local paper but really…who reads those things any more?  So…I didn’t know about it until it was far too late and I had to settle for watching the production on some cable channel I’d never heard of when it aired last month.  Let’s just say that I learned a lot about my neighbors and my newly adopted home county…

Beer – Okay, so who doesn’t appreciate a little alliteration…?

So a bit about me…

I’m Drew, an avid reader, and semi-productive writer.  Without a doubt I have to read before turning out the light at night, enjoy a good book on a rainy Saturday, or, if Graham (the amazing cat who thinks like a dog because I took him in when he was just a few weeks old and I knew nothing about cats) wants to cuddle on the couch in the office, it’s usually with one arm around him and the other holding a book.  What can I say…?  I’m not the napper he is.

I’ve written one novel but haven’t tried to have it published yet because I have kind of a crazy idea about it…  Based on the subject material (that honestly surprised me a bit as I was writing it) I’d love to have it published someday with all of the proceeds going to a specific type of charity.  So now I’m working on the second novel with the hopes of getting it published to open the door that would lead to the charity success someday.  I have other ideas lined up to follow that trend if it would work out…  One novel published for me and my family, one for a charity, one for me and the fam, then one for a different charity.  And continue.  So we’ll see how that plan works out.

So that’s a start to let you know where I’m coming from… Hopefully you’ll be amused at my future babblings, books reviews, tales of Fayette County living, and anything and everything else that comes out.

Thanks for reading!