Audible Book Review of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” — Derek Barton

Am Gods #2

American Gods

by Neil Gaiman — a Contemporary Fantasy Novel

Released on June 19, 2001 — 674 pages

Narrated by Ron McLarty and a full ensemble cast

I have been for over a year now getting Audible books so I decided I would review and share my opinion on some of them with you. Enjoy!

 

American Gods is now a STARZ Original Series produced by FremantleMedia North America starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, and Pablo Schreiber.

 

Am Gods #1

From watching the first episode of the television series, I was hooked on this story.  American Gods has become a classic tale and this novel highlights just how much Neil Gaiman is an innovative author and a dynamic storyteller.

One of his biggest strengths is his use of visual depictions.  He paints the scene so vividly in your mind, you can’t help but feel like you are standing in his story world.  This appeals a lot to me as this is the type of writer I aspire to be and have worked hard at refining my skills at imagery and visual writing.

 

The Synopsis:

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.

But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies . . . and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing — an epic war for the very soul of America — and that he is standing squarely in its path.

 

The Review:

As I stated above, I loved the writing style and his way with words to produce a play within your mind’s eye.

The story itself…well, I liked it, sort of… It is very unusual and at times wanders way left, then zigzags suddenly back to the right.  It keeps you engaged, but sometimes frustratingly confused for long periods.

While I was disappointed somewhat in the meandering plot, I did find that I loved the characters so much I had to continue forward to the end.  They were obviously very well thought through, fleshed out with tons of back story, and rich with flaws, strengths, and desires. He could challenge even Stephen King’s skills in making such memorable and deeply-moving characters.

I would definitely encourage every avid reader to give this story a welcome chance and experience the rollercoaster ride that American Gods is for themselves.  He didn’t leave a huge amount of loose ends at its conclusion and thus, has never written a sequel in the eighteen years since its original publication.  However, the television series could possibly prompt him to with the resurgence of interest in this storyline.

 

McLarty

The Narration:

Narrated by Ron McLarty and several other cast members.

A native of East Providence, RI–Ron McLarty is a veteran actor, accomplished playwright, prolific audiobook narrator, and acclaimed novelist.

McLarty is also noted for his body of work as one of the country’s leading audiobook narrators having done over 100 titles including the narration of books authored by Stephen King, David Baldacci, Anne Rice, Richard Russo, Elmore Leonard, Ed McBain, and Scott Turow, among many others. He is the recipient of numerous Audie Awards.

This is the first audiobook I have heard using more than two voice actors.  It was very well produced and the voices were not melodramatic or over-the-top as one might expect with such a fantasy tale about the gods that roam America.

 

The Rating:

In summary, I was not totally thrilled with the development of the story but definitely blown away by his characters and the writing of this novel.  I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND (but I did warn you of the “exotic” plot!).  I will definitely be checking out more of his work in the future!

 

By DEREK BARTON — Author of the ELUDE series (Parts I, II & III — a Horror/crime thriller),  & IN FOUR DAYS: a Horror-Suspense Novella (available on Audible.com!).  Also the Dark Fantasy novel series CONSEQUENCES WITHIN CHAOS and THE BLEEDING CROWN (both available on Audible.com!).

 

 

2018 Bio Blog — Derek Barton

Pics 8-31-18 224

Thought it was due time to give you a little more insight into me as a writer and me as the average Joe.

  1. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?  Be consistent and persistent.  You have to keep pushing and pushing.  I’m seeing slow progress (a steady incline!), but it is definitely not an overnight-success kind of thing.  It takes a lot of work and faith in yourself.  Right now is a fantastic time to be a writer as there are tons of advice columns, writer blogs and mentoring sites out there to get any of your questions answered.

  2. What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?  I work on my writing every night — usually between 10 through 2 AM.   It’s become my passion and my stress release, so when I don’t get to it or have no energy to do it, I feel even worse actually.  I have three kids and I do have a full-time day job as a sales supervisor for a medicare healthcare company which occupies the majority of my life.  So those few hours of the day that I can spend on my writing is crucial.  I don’t waste them or take them for granted.  My writing is a lengthy process so if I want to share more stories, then that is what it takes.

  3. How do you begin a novel?  My novels are first outlined and broken down into scenes.  Some people are plotters and some can do it by the “seat of their pants” (called pantsers).  I tried for many years to be a pantser, but it finally became apparent to me that I NEED AN OUTLINE in order to stay on track and not lose my place in the storyline.  Plus I tend to weave subplots within the main story and that can be a very delicate surgery sometimes!

  4. Do you go through a lot of drafts?  I tend to do a very involved outline now (what I call my Bullet Outline) and then I write the first draft.  Then I make another two rounds of personal editing if possible.  My editing skills are nowhere near what I thought they were — you will find real quick what your level of editing skills are when you send it to a professional!  YIKES!  I am trying to get better and now that I see the trends, I try to avoid those mistakes in my initial writing or I will go back through and weed them out.

  5. Where is your favorite place to write and why?  I am not a picky person when it comes to where.  Some writers have to have everything precise and always uniform (same place, same time, same paper or same coffee mug, etc).  I am flexible, but that’s also because I had to learn to be.  I don’t have an office — I write in the living room!  The only thing I really need is isolation — I immerse myself into the writing and focus on the picture forming inside my head to find all the needed details and imagery I can put upon the page.  Other than that, I am good to go.

  6. What is the first book you remember reading?  I read Watership Down by Richard Adams in sixth grade.  It sucked me in even though it was a novel all about the desperate lives of wild rabbits.  From there I read The Hobbit and became addicted to fantasy stories.  Later in my teens (go figure!), I couldn’t pass up any horror novels I found.  Thus, I have an attraction to writing in both genres.  And often times, there are elements of both in my stories.

  7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?  I am definitely working to have a body of work that has some common connections.  My fantasy stories are all in the same world and same characters for now… But my horror novellas are also linked.  A minor character, a Detective Chad Ellis in the novella In Four Days becomes a key figure and character in my Elude series.  Finding those little threads which bind a story with another always entertained me as a reader so I wanted to give that back to my fans as well.

  8. What was your hardest scene to write?  In Consequences Within Chaos, I found the hardest scene to write for me was the first major battle my heroes faced with the Viestrahl (a beast race intent on destroying the humans colonizing their lands).  I had never had experience writing one and unless you know exactly all the details, you really can’t just write the scene out.  Even though I had an outline and I knew the generalities of what I wanted as an outcome, I didn’t have the specifics.  In other words, who goes where, who comes in later, who gets injured, how do they get injured, who dies, etc.  It is a lot to take in and it daunted me horribly.  I put the book aside for several months before I took the plunge and bulldozed through it.  Once I got into it and learned the process, I was able to take up other battle scenes quicker and with better organization.

Okay… now for a little less serious insight into me!

 

  1. DO YOU PLAY BOARD GAMES? WHICH ONES? Yes.  My wife’s and I’s favorite is a game called Lords of Waterdeep.  We also like games that have links to the Call of Cthulhu stories by H.P. Lovecraft.

  2. WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO? When I am in the car, it’s heavy metal.  When working out, it’s techno or dubstep.  When I am writing I love epic classical going in the background.

  3. DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME YOU WERE BORN? Sometime after 6 AM (probably the only time in my life I chose to wake early!)

  4. WHAT DO YOU WANT MORE THAN ANYTHING RIGHT NOW? Make enough book sales to write professionally, but I would also love to have a much bigger fan base.

  5. WHAT’S YOUR MIDDLE NAME? Don’t have one.  My parents hated theirs so they decided I didn’t need to be stuck with one.

  6. THE BEST TV SHOW EVER CREATED? Game of Thrones and close behind it Dexter (hmmm there is that fantasy and horror combo again!)

  7. DO YOU GET SCARED IN THE DARK? No.  But I do like to come up with ideas for horror stories while sitting or walking in the dark.

  8. WOULD YOU RATHER BE SMART OR FUNNY? Can I go for both and be a smartass?

  9. COFFEE OR ENERGY DRINKS? With my late hours, I  am a double Rockstar morning person.  I know it’s not the best for me, but I don’t drink or smoke so this isn’t such a horrible vice.

  10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PIZZA TOPPING? Hawaiian Pizza baby!!

  11. IF YOU CAN EAT ANYTHING RIGHT NOW, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Snow Crab Legs or Prime Rib.

  12. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CAR? Red Chevy Nova

  13. WHAT IS YOUR FANTASY CAREER? Screenplay writer

  14. ARE YOU A LEFTY OR A RIGHTY? Righty.

  15. DO YOU LIKE SPICY FOOD? Nope.  I have been accused of saying vanilla ice cream is spicy!

  16. WHAT ANNOYS YOU MOST?  Tone of voice.  So easy for people to say stuff “jokingly” but their tone says what they are really feeling.

  17. HAVE YOU BEEN OUT OF YOUR COUNTRY? WHERE DID YOU GO? Yes. Canada and Mexico a couple times.  That’s it.  Someday I would love to see Austrailia and Scotland.

  18. FAVORITE FOOD? Chinese

  19. FIRST JOB? Busboy at a buffet.  HATED IT!  Only restaurant job I ever worked.

  20. HAVE YOU EVER RIDDEN A MOTORCYCLE? Yes, my father and I would go on rides when I was younger.

  21. WHAT TV SHOWS DO YOU WATCH CURRENTLY? Game of Thrones, Criminal Minds, Mr. Mercedes, Face-off

  22. CAN YOU PLAY AN INSTRUMENT? I used to play Alto & Baritone Saxophone in middle school but doubt I would do very well with it now.  I can’t read music anymore that’s for sure!

  23. FAVORITE VACATION SPOT? Sedona, AZ or there’s a cabin rental property in Strawberry, AZ.   

  24. HOW MANY (MORE) KIDS DO YOU WANT? No more thank you… We are a complete family.

  25. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Ugh… I don’t really want to answer this… Fine…  I was named after Derek & The Dominos.  *Shaking my head.

  26. DO YOU KNOW HOW TO SWIM? I can.  Grew up around lakes my whole life.  And now that I live in the desert, I swim in pools on occasion.

  27. DO YOU GET SEASICK? Horribly!  I cannot even play first-person shooter video games due to motion-sickness.  And don’t get me started about the night I went to see Blair Witch in the movies!

  28. ARE YOU MARRIED? Yes, for five years and counting!

  29. WHERE WERE YOU BORN?  Warsaw, Indiana — it’s near Fort Wayne, Indiana.

  30. WHAT WERE YOUR FAVORITE TOYS AS A CHILD? Stretch Armstrong, Army Men and Hot Wheels

  31. DO YOU HAVE ANY TATTOOS OR PIERCINGS? I have one large Tribal tattoo on my shoulder that has three dragon heads circling a Celtic knot.  It represents my Past, my Present and my Future.

I think that’s enough for this year.  🙂

Hope you got a smile at least out of this silliness.

Audible Book Review of Robert Jordan’s “The Eye of the World” — Derek Barton

Eye #1

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan — an Epic Medieval Fantasy Novel

Released in January 1990 — 702 pages — Michael Kramer & Kate Reading

I have been for over a year now getting Audible books so I decided I would review and share my opinion on some of them with you. Enjoy!

This is the introduction novel into a vast and complex story told over fourteen novels (Yes, Fourteen!).  The central theme of the books revolves around three young boys who are destined to battle the devil-like, Shai’tan, in the oncoming Tarmon Gai’don, the “end of the world”.

The Synopsis:

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs—a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts— five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

 

The Review:

Jordan’s world is extremely well-defined and this book is considered “High Fantasy” — defined as fantasy set in an alternative, fictional (“secondary”) world, rather than “the real”, or “primary” world.  Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is considered one of the op High Fantasy works in literature.

The story starts out simple as it revolves around three farm boys:  Rand al’Thor,  Matrim Cauthon and Perrin Aybara.  In a single night, their lives are torn apart and turned upside down by an attack on their village.  The boys are forced to leave with an Aes Sedai, a female mage known as Moiraine and her warrior-protector, Lan.

I found the tale very intriguing and exciting.   It kept me completely immersed in its world of dangers and unknowns.  The characters are extremely well-defined with complex motives and background.  At the end of the first book, The Eyes of the World, I bought the second novel because I was hooked and couldn’t wait to read more.  I am on Book Six now and, unfortunately, my interests have waned.

My complaint would be that there are too many characters, too much information and too often the names that are unpronounceable which makes them even harder to remember.  I don’t think I have the patience in me to get to Book Fourteen!

Now, I have fallen into the same trap in my own writing and have learned that readers simply do not want to work that hard to remember that much detail.  I found that I had the same issue with George R.R. Martin’s Songs of Ice series which I had to make an Excel Spreadsheet just to remember who was where and doing what!

Great storyline, great characters and a fantastic tale that is soon to be made into a television series —

“Sony will produce along with Red Eagle Entertainment and Radar Pictures. Rafe Judkins is attached to write and executive produce. Judkins previously worked on shows such as ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD,” the Netflix series “Hemlock Grove,” and the NBC series “Chuck.” Red Eagle partners Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon will executive produce along with Radar’s Ted Field and Mike Weber. Darren Lemke will also executive produce, with Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal serving as consulting producer.” —Variety

 

The Narration:

Eye #2

Michael Kramer and Kate Reading do an incredible job at narrating this tale with all of its intricate dialogs, multiple characters (both human and humanoid) and alternate narrative voices depending on the gender of the Point-of-View of the chapter.  Kramer has received much praise for his narrations.  Even the Library Journal stating that Kramer reads “clearly and intensely”.

Kramer lives in Washington, D.C. area with his wife, Jennifer Mendenhall (aka Kate Reading), and their two children.   Kramer also works as an actor in the local theater.

The Rating:

Four Stars as the story is exceptional and embracing.  You care what happens next to each of the characters.  It has plenty of high-action scenes balanced with in-depth character development.  RECOMMENDED!

 

By Derek Barton — Author of Dark Fantasy novels: Consequences Within Chaos and The Bleeding Crown.  Also the author or In Four Days: a Horror-Suspense Novella and Elude: Part One (horror/crime thriller) will be on sale by the end of 2018!

 

2017 Bio Blog — Derek Barton

JJ 2016 #2

 

Recently I noticed a trend on Youtube.com where writers were making vlogs and answering questions about themselves as well as writing rituals and practices.  So, I thought I would do this as well and even throw in some random personal questions.  You can learn a few things I do as well as learn something new about me at the same time!

I will start with the writing ritual questions first and then get down to some random and fun facts about me.

  • When do you write?  I am a night owl which is perfect for my writing as I need the quiet time to be free of distractions.  These elements help me to immerse into my writing zone.  With my day job I am fortunate that it starts later in the day and I can sleep in!  Usually, I write from 11 or 11:30 pm to 1:30 to 2am.
  • How do you review what you wrote the previous day?  There is a lot of sound advice out there on how to produce more material on a daily basis.  The best tip so far that I picked up suggests to work non-stop and do not edit until you have completed your manuscript.  I cannot say that it was easy to resist the edit bug, but Consequences Within Chaos‘s first rough draft took me three years to write (I wasn’t as serious about writing and producing as I am now).  The Bleeding Crown, my sequel’s rough draft has only taken five months… I would say that this is proof enough that it helped me crank it out much faster.
  • What song is your “go to” when you are feeling uninspired?  I prefer to listen to classical music when I write.  Nothing but instrumentals.  At first, I used Pandora, but now I like to find large blocks of “epic music” on Youtube.  I let them play in the background as I work.  Depending on the type of story or my mood this can vary, but I do not have a “go to” song necessarily.  Soundtracks from Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings or Braveheart also have been able to motivate me.
  • What do you always do when you are struggling with writers’ block?  To avoid writers’ block and staring at a blank screen, I work up detailed outlines.  There are many benefits to outlines and developing character backgrounds.  Prepping is the key to getting into that writer zone — that moment your writing flows from your fingertips and there is no struggle to find the right word or dialog.  I have already seen the scene in my head and now I can concentrate on relaying it in the best descriptive details I can.
  • What tools do you use when you are drafting?  I used Microsoft Word like everyone else at first, but now I prefer the writers’ program called Scrivener.  It seems that there is no middle ground in opinions on it.  You either LOVE IT OR HATE IT.  I love it!  It has a great setup to store the work, organize the notes, templates for character write-ups, outlines, everything all in one file and place.  With Word, I had a million files.  Scrivener also lets you have split screening which comes in handy often.
  • What are the things you cannot live without when you are writing?  Pretty much what I have already discussed:  Scrivener has become an integral part of my work.  And Outlining a must.  Before I realized that I work best with a map of my story, I failed to complete most stories and/or lost interests or energy in the storyline.
  • How do you fuel yourself during writing sessions?  Diet Rockstars and Popsecret Homestyle Microwave popcorn.
  • How do you know when you are done writing?  For a typical writing session, I am done when my eyes are blurring and I cannot easily put a sentence together.  I strive for a certain word count (or if I am feeling energetic, I try to do a particular scene in one shot).  My goal is 750 to 1,000 words in a session but it depends on the night, the scene I am writing and my energy level.
  • How do you persevere on projects to finish them?  Again, outlines have become the “light at the end of the tunnel” for me.  However, they can be a detriment as well if you let it completely control your writing.  In some cases, writers have complained that they are too confined by the outline or they get thrown off if they have an idea that flows outside the outline.  Or if you do like I did at the end of my first book — I kept seeing how close I was and I literally blazed through the last part to just get to that “The End” statement.  It didn’t lend itself well to the story and took a lot of rewriting.  Now that I am more experienced I have a little better control of myself.  Whatever is the case, one important factor to remember is that outlines are constructs for your use, not words set in stone.  If something strikes you suddenly and it isn’t in your outline, then simply add it. See where the idea takes you in the outline.  It is much easier to amend, add or subtract from an outline than if you change your whole story, rewrote a massive amount of text to only find out it doesn’t work after all.   As you can see, I approach writing now much more on an organized, structured viewpoint (I have poured myself into reading a lot of advice books and writing craft material).  With my word counts per day and scheduling, I know roughly when I am going to be done. I would have to say that of the various stages in writing, outlining has become my favorite.  Building that foundation produces that momentum and drive I need to finish.  I know how the idea is going to end and now I just have to write it out so that I can share that fantastic story and ending with you!
  • How do you keep consistency in your novels?  Scrivener has become a large help with keeping notes and such, but I also utilize Excel charting, Pinterest for story sources and Word files for isolated notes (you can import these into Scrivener as well).  Also, I read once that if you go back through your manuscript after you write it and plot out all the events on a timeline as they occur in the prose, you will see any possible plot holes or events that happen out of order.
  • How do you handle when you are stuck in your plot?  OYYY That is so hard to get through.  I have encountered that when a question occurs to me that I haven’t determined the answer for yet or it has happened when I haven’t really fleshed out the outline enough for that part of the story.  Take a short break, move on to the next part or go back to your outline to further think of ways to move through the block.  Give yourself some distance from it so as to give yourself another vantage point to see the issue.  Also, sometimes you can hit up other writers to bounce ideas off or you can hit the internet for possible answers or options.
  • How do you come up with ideas to fill out your outline?  Pretty much the same answer as the above question.  Maybe think of a new subplot that would add to the story that you could weave into the outline?  Be careful though.  Don’t add filler or fluff just to make word counts.  Readers will see right through that.  Make the quality just as important as the quantity as well.  Filling up the outline takes a lot of thought and this is where I have had “writers’ block” and frustration, but ideas eventually come.  Some writers let their subconscious mull it over as they sleep or during the day while on their day jobs.
  • How long did it take to write your first draft and how many edits?  I already said that the first draft was three years, but it took another two years of editing, refining, reworking and adding to the story.  Then I had to determine which path I was going to take:  Traditional or Self-publishing.  I am truly happy with the self-publishing route and the entire process has been very fulfilling.  I have learned a massive amount about my writing, myself and the writing industry over the last year.  It has also enhanced my work and my techniques.  I am passing a lot of what I learned in blogs like this so you can also jumpstart your own paths.
  • How long do you wait to revise your first draft?  This time I waited over 5 weeks (it was not easy) but was way worth the “time off” to recharge, work on other projects and was a bit of an award for working so hard.  Now I am in the heart of my first edit.  Industry experts suggest 6 weeks.  It just so happened the first of the month came up during the fifth week so it felt right to start then.  The first time I didn’t take any time off after writing to wait to edit.
  • Is there a genre that is outside your comfort zone that you think would be fun to write?   Currently, I am a horror/medieval fantasy writer and I love both.  I like to write horror just a tad more but I love to read fantasy so much that I write fantasy stories for me.  I used to read an Ed McBain’s detective novels (87th Precinct) and Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes series has also inspired me to write in the “hard-boiled grim detective” genre.  I will be writing my Elude Novels during the NaNoWriMo Challenge this November.  I have been excited about it and so far I have gotten some really positive reactions from the samples posted online.

Now for some more personal stuff and random questions 🙂

  • Where were you born?  I am originally from a small town called Warsaw, Indiana.  I moved out to Phoenix, Arizona in 1996 and have loved it for over twenty-one years!  Summer year round is amazing.
  • What is your favorite pizza toppings?  I am a huge Hawaiian Pizza fan but it doesn’t take much to please me with pizza — just throw a couple types of meat and some cheese on it and I am there!
  • If you could eat anything right now, what would it be?  I love Snow Crab Legs!  Thanks go to my wife for showing me the great wonders of crab.
  • Where have you traveled outside the country?  I haven’t done much traveling, but I have been to Rocky Point, Mexico and various parts of Canada.  I would love to see Australia and Scotland in my lifetime though.
  • Who has been the biggest influence in your life?  Why?  The two authors that really influenced me are from two opposing genres — Stephen King, of course, made me dream of being a writer — many writers and would-be writers growing up in the 80s would agree with that.  I devoured every novel or short story I could get my hands on.  In my late twenties, I started reading fantasy and that became my new obsession.  I read and collected everything by R.A. Salvatore.  These two authors definitely shaped my writing voice.
  • What do you think is the best television show created?  I am really invested in the Game of Thrones series which should not shock anyone.  My favorite before that was Dexter (you see a theme here?  Fantasy/Horror.  I cannot seem to escape this trend!).  I have also really liked Penny Dreadful, Star Trek, Breaking Bad and the Walking Dead.
  • What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies and interests?  I am a huge fan of racquetball, pickleball and tennis.  I also love hiking and occasionally I like to lift weights — which I need to make more routine!  Movies and video games are also a great source of inspiration and entertainment.  Absolutely love my family and spending time on the weekends with them especially.
  • Proudest moment in life?  Can’t help but say the moment when I first held Jessiena, my two-year-old daughter!  Every element of my life has led up to this wonderful little life in my hands and I wouldn’t have changed a thing!!
  • Do you have any tattoos and/or piercings?  I have a large shoulder tattoo that I am very happy with.  I designed it — it has a black Celtic knot in the center of a ring of three black, tribal dragon heads.  The knot represents the many convoluted ways you can take in life and the dragon heads represent the three aspects of my Past, my Present and the Future me.
  • Favorite holiday or time of year?  October and especially Halloween is the best for me.  It really brings out the creative side of me and I like to work up new costumes each year.  They tend to be nearly all undead but with twists or unique differences.  So much fun!  My wife is also going to dress this year (she hasn’t in a long time).  She will be doing the Day of the Dead look maybe.  Jessiena will be a tiny scarecrow.  She’s going to be so adorable!

Okay, I think that will do.  Hope this was useful and you got some helpful writing tips.  Or at least a little fun for your day!

Happy Halloween, Everyone!

Halloween 2015

Immerse or Die! — Derek Barton

 Capture C
Yes, I am stealing this title directly from a great writing website, Creativity Hacker  created by the author Jefferson Smith.
Or… rather I am paying homage to it.
Why?  Because one, that title is sure to catch your attention and it has a literal punch to it.  And I want your attention with this blog.  Two, this is one of the most important things you have to know as a writer in my opinion.  If you are not pulling that reader in and capturing their complete attention, then you are not fulfilling your obligation to take them away from their lives and take them by the hand into your world, your story.
A break in immersion occurs at the point when a reader has to stop and analyze any sentence for any reason. If they are thinking about your words, they are not thinking about your characters.
The concept behind Jefferson Smith’s Immerse or Die is that he takes new submitted books and reviews them while doing a 40 minute walk on his treadmill.  If his “immersion” is broken three times, he puts the book aside.  Later he writes up his reviews and then posts the results. He highlights the stories that live through the test period so they get full glory and recognition.
I spent a lot of time there and learned a lot from his ideas and rules to keep readers immersed in the story.
Look at the following chart that shows you the outcome of his reviews in 2015:
Capture B
Here is the Blog Link to his blog review.
Here are some of the most common errors to keep in mind especially when you are editing!
 
Clarity!  Be careful when you are writing your prose. Keeping it simple and at the same time “poetic” is a very fine line that you have to tightrope walk.
The Hemingway App Editor is a great, free resource that will help your writing. It will identify and highlight sentences that are not in an easy to read format or structure.  It will also detail what grade level the work is.  The lower the grade the more relatable it will be to the readers.
Another way to keep the reader immersed is avoiding Echo Words, Echo Headers and Repeat Passages.  This one was a huge problem for me and I was not even aware of it until I applied the rule during my own editing phase.  I had repeat words and overused phrases everywhere!
An example of an Echo Word or Echo Header is when the writer uses the same word for several sentences in a row or within the same paragraph in the prose.
Example:   The robot failed to stop the invaders.  Henry saw the aliens slip past the machine. The robot raced behind the attackers as they bolted up the stairs.  At the top, the aliens pounded upon the metal doors. The robot then sounded the alarm to alert the compound.
Yes, this is an obvious example, but it does happen often. Other examples include when you use the character’s name over and over on the same page.  I try hard to limit it to three or four times.  Also over using the pronouns instead of the name can be very distracting or repetitive to the reader.  Repetition equates to lack of unique description or lack of originality in the work. Come up with synonyms like the man, the boy, the warrior or the teacher, etc.
Another problem I still wrestle with revolves around names.  If you have too many names that sound similar or use the same starting letter (i.e. too many M or T names), readers may get confused on who is doing what.  If you have too many complex names (which is my dilemma), then the readers are always pulled out of immersion as they are trying to pronounce the name.  I felt at the time since I was establishing a fantasy world then they wouldn’t have the usual Bob or Mary names.  Yet, my “style” overrode my “message” and I got a lot of feedback on reviews about the complexity of the names. It was obvious that it stuck with my readers and thus, they weren’t always immersed in the tale.
Plot or Story Continuity is also critical in immersion.  If the characters are doing something in one scene based on knowledge of an event that has not happened, that will cause any reader to stop, shake their head and try to piece the puzzle together.
Or if the characters act out of character or do something for no reason, this also frustrates the reader.  Be sure on a final read-through to take the time to write out your plot events on a timeline as they happened.  You should do this even if you are a writer called a “pantser” (write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style writer) and do not use outlines.  You have to be sure that during your editing you didn’t move a crucial point or event out of its correct time.  The timeline will keep you on track. And it is easier to spot any potential plot holes or inconsistencies.
Keeping immersion also means that the reader can feel, breathe, smell, hear or even taste the elements of the scene.  They are living through the story and not being told a tale. One way to dull your prose or separate your reader from the character is using Filter Words.   Filter Words are just that – words that appear when the reader’s experience has been filtered through a character’s point of view.
Filter examples (and any tense of the words):  To Hear, To Know, To Decide, To See, To Notice, To Feel, To Think, To Assume, To Believe and To Note.  There are a lot more out there, but this gives you an idea of what to look for.
Here are two paragraphs as an example:
Danny thought about tomorrow’s car race and he wondered how he would perform against all the other, more experienced drivers. He heard a car horn blare at him from the traffic waiting behind him.  It was then that he decided that he had to put aside his worries and do the best he could.
Without filters…
A vision of roaring race cars flashed across Danny’s mind.  The day of the race had almost arrived.  How would he do against the other more experienced drivers?  A car horn blared behind him from an impatient driver and interrupted his thoughts.  He shook his head to clear away the doubts.  “I have got this!” he said aloud to himself.
Not all uses of the words above are considered filtering. But, it is a tough trap to avoid and like I said before, one must walk a fine line. Restrict your Filter Words to when they are critical to the meaning of the sentence.
The last Immersion Alert I want to hit upon is Exposition — The “writer’s diarrhea of the mouth”.  Do not fill your pages with tons of historical facts (real or imaginary) or with complex, scientific exposition.  If you do not bore the reader, you will certainly confuse them.  Yes, you can relay some, but everything has to be in moderation.
Also in step with this, don’t fill your pages with huge paragraphs or have exhaustive chapters.  The reason for breaks in writing is just that:  a mental and physical break for the reader.
The current readers today are conditioned to fast action or events happening at the same time or in rapid order Producers have designed video games, television shows and movies to cater to short attention spans.
Fine-tuning your writing so that the reader lives through the character is a tall task, yet it is a very rewarding endeavor.  Don’t water down your message or limit your story’s potential by ignoring the rules to immersion.  After all, the very reason we spend hours pouring over our writing is to bring the reader inside, right?
In terms of jumping into a character’s skin, I try to immerse myself in the role as much as possible to bring me closer to them. All I do is what’s required to achieve what I want to achieve. – Dougray Scott