Tell Me What’s Worth Fighting For?


Tell me what’s worth fighting for?

Inky blackness, wet with regret?

We stand alone in a crowd

We stand huddled in the masses

 

Being herded towards a cosmic cliff

Diving to the rainbow rocks below

Shades of brown becoming shades of red

My endurance meant nothing at the end

 

I’m not allowed to say certain things

I live listless nights portraying

a confidant, a friend, a mentor

All for nothing, all for nothing

All for nothing, all for nothing

 

Dew droplets rush past

Such a waste is the past

We reflect in torment the lives we changed

But we cry the most for our own

 

Drenched in sweat…we survive the fall

Born from the ashes of ourselves and battle

I converse in solace to two souls willing to prattle

We hit the bottom.

 

I jolt— Awake, confused and lost

I am among the land of the dead.

I shuffle with my brethren to the bread lines

Remembering my falling dream…my fallen dreams.

My crayon colored canyons filled with blood

New Year’s Resolutions– Meh. New Year’s Goals– Better.


New Year's GoalsI have a woeful habit of never making New Year’s resolutions.  I despise them more than Sauron wants the ring, and the Shire to burn.  No one ever keeps them.  By the time the big game rolls around the treadmill lies covered in dust in the corner of the family room stacked with Mountain Dew and Budweiser, which by all means is fine and American, but makes me feel  sad inside like an episode of Star Trek without a Tribble.

Resolutions are difficult– Not because they are unobtainable, but rather because people set out to accomplish tasks that are lifelong endeavors instead of focused, specific goals.  Eating healthier, exercising, quitting smoking, and getting that next big promotion are all worthy to work towards, but they are lifelong and can very rarely be accomplished in a single year.  If you quit smoking, it will be a lifelong struggle against addiction and temptation.  First steps are fantastic and I encourage anyone to go for them, but I think paring down to a single year undercuts the premise and inevitably leads people to fail which then perpetuates a cycle.

With this in mind,  I set out to resolve my hatred of New Year’s resolutions by twisting it up a bit and altering the premise into something a bit more manageable.  I set out to make a list of ten goals (in place of the traditional resolution) that could be accomplished in a single year.  Tasks that have definitive start and end dates with a concrete product in mind.  I picked one larger goal for the year and nine smaller goals which were generally pop culture, career, and/or related to my family and friends.

Obviously a person’s list will vary (akin to a list of New Year’s resolutions), so mine may seem odd or out of place but as far as my personal preferences and goals are concerned they fit it perfectly.  So, for 2014, here is my list of ten goals to accomplish by December 31st, 2014.

2014 New Year’s Goals

1.  Run a successful KickStarter project.

2.  Read all of Jonathan Ames’ work

3.  Finally beat Final Fantasy VIII and XII

4.  Refurbish Celeste’s [(my wife)] dresser and sewing desk as well as out wine rack

5.  Save and purchase a PS Vita (keyword being “save”)

6.  Make a wicked, awesome Halloween costume (Booker DeWitt)

7.  Collect Claremont-Miller four-part miniseries, “The Wolverine.”

8.  Read and then watch “Dune.”

9.  Finally read “Game of Thrones.”

10.  Finish writing “At the Top” and both “Dorian” tales.

Comment below to include some of your New Year’s goals and or resolutions.  I would love to see and help anyone accomplish a personal goal, as I will be sharing mine as I complete them throughout the year.  I keep my handwritten list tucked away in an envelope on my nightstand, so that I can keep in mind.

My Open Love Letter to Music


Feeling the quick-paced displacement of your heart, as it flutters to the beat of a specific drum, is nothing shy of facing mortality.  Music gives you the momentum to strive for inner greatness.  Immortals lack creativity, because that one moment that gives life meaning…never comes.  It hangs stagnant in the air, being ignored by those that don’t care; however for us mere mortals we thrive off of the thought of death.  We design our society around it– For death not only accentuates life…it gives it meaning.  Music is an extension of this elongated metaphor.  It makes my heart beat rapidly, just as it does when I think of Celeste, or put pen to paper.  It is an eternal muse, that I will always try to please, because it has given me so much.  Thank you musicians of the world.  Thank you.

Reblog: “To Read or Not To Read…Reviews” by Jeremy Robinson


I am huge fan of the author Jeremy Robinson.  I try to follow his posts and updates through Goodreads, and for the most part I am successful.  This post particularly caught my eye, because the act of critiquing and being critiqued is a hard pill to swallow for anyone especially a writer.  I think that Jeremy Robinson sums it up best in his latest blog entry.

Check out his post, and visit the original at Goodreads.com and his website by clicking the aforementioned links.

To Read or Not To Read…Reviews by Jeremy Robinson

ben-661x1024I’ve seen a good number of blog posts recently from fellow authors focusing on the issue of reviews, which can be, and often are, posted by folks with rude dispositions, grudges, agendas, etc. For a new author, even an honest negative review can be soul crushing. To the experienced author, with thicker skin, negative reviews can be a distraction. So the advice being given is generally this: don’t read reviews for your books. Sounds good on the surface. By not exposing yourself to these negative opinions, you are protecting yourself from the pain delivered by Internet trolls with nothing better to do than harass an author. The troll might be angry after reading the first line of a book sample, or might disagree with the pricing, or might be annoyed that Harriet Klausner gave your book 4 stars, or any number of silly reasons for an anonymous rant. And YES, these people should be ignored. They’ve likely taken to the Internet for attention, because the people in their real lives have begun ignoring their sour mood.

BUT, by ignoring ALL reviews you are also missing out on some well thought-out critique. Many readers, including some die-hard fans who know your books better than you do, take time to offer honest opinions, often based on a lifetime of reading. To discount this suggests a few things that I don’t think are good for any writer, new or experienced:

1) That your writing is flawless, or at least so far advanced that Joe-reader can’t find a flaw.

2) That you can’t learn from your fans, or even from your detractors.

3) That readers are, in a way, the enemy, if they don’t like your book.

4) That you are detached from your fans.

Now, before anyone hates on me for implying authors who ignore reviews are fan-hating ego-maniacs, that’s not what I’m saying. The point is that they’re missing out. On connecting with readers. On improving as authors. On increasing sales (in the long run). As someone who has received his fair share of angry, spiteful and even hateful reviews, I understand the temptation to turn away from reading reviews entirely. A bad review, especially a scathing one that is…accurate…can ruin your day. But they can also make future days brighter, if you pay attention to what is being said.

I didn’t begin my creative career as a writer. I went to art school. And every day, we would draw or paint, carve or shape, pouring ourselves into the creation of an image in the same way that an author does a novel. And at the end of every day, we would line them all up and spend a half hour critiquing. And not always gently. And this is universal to art schools. There is something about visual arts culture that recognizes the best way to improve is through frequent honest critique and listening to that critique. This process became part of my creative experience and still is today. I love critique, because whenever someone takes the time to work out the flaws in my art, or writing (and there will always be flaws), I get better.

A few years ago, after the release of THRESHOLD and before I started writing SECONDWORLD, I went to my editor and said, I’ve done three hardcovers for you now. I want to take things to the next level. Tear me apart. Tell me what I can do better. And he did, but not before saying, with a trace of amazement, “You are the first author to ever ask me to do this,” which surprised me at the time, but I’ve since learned that authors really don’t enjoy being told what’s wrong with their writing, or stories, and maybe their blog posts on the subject. :)  But the result of this critique, and my applying it to SECONDWORLD, was that sales doubled, the book got a lot of press and my audience grew.

As a writer, I began as a self-publisher. Without any connections in the writing world, I had only two sources of honest critique: my wife and my readers. I released five novels on my own (what I now call the Origins Editions), and the improvement from book to book is pretty obvious. Without honest readers, I’d never have improved, and I’d never have signed a deal with Thomas Dunne Books and 47 North, or become a bestselling self-published author.

But why am I still reading reviews? I have an editor. Hell, I have FOUR editors. And an agent. And lots of author pals. Why still read the reviews?

Because I am not writing for my editors, or my agent, or my author pals. I am writing for YOU, the reader, and for ME. While I pick the content most of the time, I listen to my fans. I’ve written and am writing sequels, because of requests from fans. I’m currently writing I AM COWBOY because of how many people expressed their love of the Czech Cowboy from SECONDWORLD. And I’m still reading reviews because I want my future books to be better than they are now. And that’s only going to happen if 1) honest people speak their mind, and 2) I listen.

Last October, I released RAGNAROK, the fourth Jack Sigler book, co-authored with Kane Gilmour. Kane did an amazing job at matching my style, and we worked closely throughout the process, but I knew it would be different than the previous three. That it would feel different. That there would be flaws introduced simply because it was a collaboration and because I’m not perfect, and neither is Kane (and he would agree). So I was very pleased when a few reviewers spotted these flaws that I couldn’t see and pointed them out in reviews. And after reading them, I agreed with many of them and discussed them with Kane. We’re working hard to apply them to OMEGA, which will be an even better book than RAGNAROK, which I should point out was my first Amazon.com bestseller and has a 4.5 star rating after 110 reviews.

So, if you’re an author, buck the trend that says you don’t need to read reviews. Yes, ignore the nut-jobs. Skim the 5 stars if time is short. But pay attention to those 2 – 4 star reviews. Critiques shouldn’t be feared, ignored or undervalued. They’re good for you. Sure, there are tons of people reviewing books, and not all of them are right, but those nuggets of insight from dedicated fans and readers are invaluable. If you really believe that a reader can’t possibly improve a writer, you’re mistaken. My readers, who are awesome, dedicated, intelligent and invested, are the very BEST people to critique my books.

And if you are one of my readers, know that I am listening, that your opinion matters and that I am doing my best to make sure each and every book is better than the last.

– Jeremy Robinson

 

Untitled


Preface:  I wrote this piece a while back, and really had no direction or purpose to lead the overall narrative.  I merely wrote what was comfortable for the moment.  Sadly though, this piece is a little rough around the edges, but consider the grammatical errors as author’s will and judge the content, rather than the mechanics.  However, I really did enjoy this one, and the ending seemed tacked on so I omitted it–I think it reads better for it.  I also was unable to come up with a suitable title, so for the moment it’ll simply be labeled as “Untitled.”  But, if you have any suggestions, or something jumps out at you while reading it, please feel free to suggest something.  I might eventually rework this and write an adequate ending, but till then just enjoy the ride!  Hopefully you like the atmosphere and imagery, and as always feel free to critique.


He walked briskly in the night, gandering as he gaggled across the sturdily built bridge.  The moon hung high, and the stars shimmered in unison like a child whimsically toying with a flashlight beneath a sheet.  Elliot was not fearful, or in a hurry, but his feet and his heart wanted him at his destination.  He had several blocks to go, but he observed and absorbed his surroundings with taught fervor.

There was an old man partially lit in the lamp that lay sunken in the shadows.  His mast was a long wooden pipe that could only be distinguished by the slow inhales and synchronic puffs, as smoke wafted above the stoop.  The man grinned a crooked grin as Elliot weaved onwards in an equally crooked fashion.

Beyond the old man’s resting place nestled a cat on the nearby roof.  He lay between the gutter and the top rail, and his eyes were aglow and his tail twitched irritatedly as if to say, “Leave before I scrap and howl.”  Elliot smirked at the sudden revelation that the roof was tin.  His own humor goaded him further, and before long he was at his destination—he was at the place where everyone knew his name.

The loudness of people cheering and clinking glass could be heard out front, and just as the wind began to carry the hundred year old sign into a sway Elliot stepped through the massive door frame.

As his eyes adjusted to the new lights and the clinks stopped as all the stools of the house pivoted toward him he bellowed in response, “It is I!” and the whole establishment went up in a cheer!  Before he could even find a stool at the bar a vodka on the rocks was served.

“You can smell the freedom with every wisp,” he whispered to the nearest patron.

“Ah, what you smell is your next novel my friend,” replied the man, “after all you do your best when your drunk!”

And, at that remark the bar went up in a roar even larger than the first!

“Bah, you don’t know me too well ye old snark.”

“I know you better than most and pray tell would you call your best friend a snark?  That’s just unkind!”

Another round of laughs erupted from the fiendish bartends.

“Thomas is that you?”

“It looks like you put on the goggles early tonight Elliot!  Hopefully you didn’t mount a stray without recollection?  Remember the last one—I thought you had stumbled into a zoo!  I had to pry her off of you.”

There was no laughter this time.  Elliot’s face suddenly became very taciturn.  He looked at Thomas–eye to eye, like a man killing his first beast.  At that moment, he let his now empty glass adrift and just about the time a full one reached his hand he burst out laughing along with everyone else.

“God, I can’t even remember the tits on her!” and that elicited a much hardier laugh than all the others combined.

The hours waned, and even though the bar was closed many men and women still laughed and cried as their old war stories unfolded into the sunrise.  In the wee hours of the morrow Thomas and Elliot stumbled arm and arm into the cobblestone incoherently mumbling to one another about the tits on that one!  There was always a laugh to be found in a drunken tale of lust and crime.

They staggered and yammered past the cat on the roof and a stoop that now stood empty.  As the blocks faded into memory, like the first drink had many hours ago, they found their bearings and plodded back to Elliot’s home.  Thomas hiccupped like an old cartoon character as he bid his friend farewell.  He staggered back down the street towards the tavern that he owned.

Elliot ambled across the gangplank into his floating home and promptly plopped face-down into the double that was coated in pages of his manuscript.  His snores matched the soft laps of the water against the old boat and just as quickly as the sun had risen above the hills in the distance it sunk into the waters on the other side.

“Hesher”


Hesher” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Devin Brochu, Rainn Wilson, Piper Laurie, and Natalie Portman

Directed by Spencer Susser

“Hesher” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in early 2010, but it did not hit theaters Stateside till mid-2011.  Unfortunately, because of the slip in release dates, I nearly missed a superb film!  Had I not caught a trailer for it on another indie, it would have most likely ended up in the void.  Luckily for me, Amazon.com carries the title for a scant $1.99 to rent.

“Hesher” is an oddball film to say the least, and it will not be for everyone.  But, if you are naturally geared towards low-key, unique movies that everyone else seems to miss, then this is the flick for you.

“Hesher” follows T.J. (Devin Brochu) as the world proverbially crumbles around him.  After losing his mother in a terrible car accident, T.J. and his father naturally fall into a deep depression, whilst they try to grapple with a world without their mother/wife.  The talented Rainn Wilson plays T.J.’s father, and I have to say it is absolutely fantastic to see a more comedic actor flex his acting chops in a more serious role.  Paul tries to be there for T.J. when he can, but because of his state of mind he does not possesses the will to properly take care of his grieving son.  To pick up the slack T.J.’s slightly scatterbrained grandmother, Madeleine (Piper Laurie) tries to step and take care of both her mournful boys.

And, even though Madeleine is a tad absent-minded, she is trying her hardest to be the grounding rod for T.J. and Paul.  She understands the heartbreak that they are experiencing, and she desperately tries make them realize all that they have around them—which includes her.  Unfortunately, the two are in such a deep state of despair that neither one realizes the importance of their extended family until it is too late.

Hesher enters here.

The name of the film, “Hesher,” is in reference to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s eponymously named character, Hesher.  In lame man’s terms, Hesher acts as a sort of insane, rocker fairy tale character whose sole purpose is show T.J. and his father the importance of living.  Seemingly out of nowhere, Hesher comes crashing into their lives, sending T.J. and his family on a whirlwind course for better, and sometimes for worse.  He is rash and seemingly crazy, but through a series of misfortunes Hesher teaches both T.J. and Paul an important life lesson.

Here is a brief recount of the craziness that ensues in Hesher’s presence:

He torches a sports car, hits T.J. with his van, tells several inappropriate stories as anecdotes about life, throws a barbecue and numerous other garden objects into a stranger’s swimming pool, and lights a springboard on fire while diving into pool loudly asking, “R2 to shut down all the trash compactors.”

All in all, this is just a small part of the madness that Hesher brings to the table, but in the end Gordon-Levitt’s brash character has a point about life. And, at times Hesher doesn’t even realize that he does—he’s just living day-to-day.

In a sort of side tale that stems out of the relationship between T.J. and a reoccurring bully of his Natalie Portman is introduced as the ingénue, Nicole.  Nicole is the wayward, do-gooder who just feels like life is constantly kicking her down, but as her life becomes increasingly intermingled with T.J. and Hesher’s an odd friendship develops between the three that inevitably helps all of them.

Overall, the tone is fairly dark throughout the film, and can be easily described as a ‘black comedy.’  The movie deals heavily with loss, depression, and addiction, but as the film ebbs and flows with Hesher at the forefront of progress it begins to unfold more as modern fairy tale and not the typical Greek or Shakespearean tragedy.

This film will not be for everyone.  It can be brash and inappropriate, but in good conscience I can’t not recommend this film.  It is truly creative and fresh.  Personally, I would have loved to write a character like Hesher—it must have been a blast to write.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays him excellently and is the star of the show.  He really steals the spotlight in this one.

Click here for more movie reviews found in the ‘Flick It’ section of this blog!

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Liquid Laughter


A San Francisco socialite caught in the rain dubiously grinned and threw her crimson coat to the left leaning winds. She laughed and held her palms to the sky, and the little dust centered droplets struck her golden locks as innumerable acts of eternal defiance.  She kicked up her spirits and dug her heels into a nearby bar to partake in even more spirits.  With friends around, she laughed and cried so hard that her muscles ached for days.  A whiskey and pepper is also she asked for and the handsome bartender was always more than happy to oblige.  It was a night to remember.

The bay glistened in with the reflection of the moon and the rain hardened and ebbed like the lunar tides—always contracting and blissfully reacting to its carnal urges.  The red-heeled woman followed suit and fell backwards into a waiting pool only conceived by a deity awaiting her fall.  She collapsed into the still sea.  Flashes of red emanated from her.  She glowed.  The onlookers watched a moment nestled within another moment—all in slow motion.  The VCR hit play as she bobbed back and everyone cheered at her laughter, held a beer in salute, and dived into the infinity with her.  It was evening destined to be heavenly and on a level only imagined by prophetic poets.  They scribble away trying to capture a scene that could only be captured by the human experience.  No amount of skill or technology could replicate the night that began in rain and ended in liquid laughter.

The Deepness in Jenga


Life is a jumble.  Sometimes everything stacks up nice and neat, but all it takes is one slight maneuver and the Jenga Tower just comes tumbling on down.  The part of the puzzle that is different for all of us is the quickness in which we build the tower, how high we build it, and how we rebuild it after it has collapsed.  I could probably expound on the aforementioned metaphor and say that each color represents a facet of our personality and that the flaws that cause the collapse of the tower are the ones that makes us stronger in the rebuilding of our beacon; however that level of detail is in a mindset and post of its own, so I’ll segue from ideological digression to something more grounded.

The last several weeks have been filled with craziness.  My girlfriend’s parents recently moved out of state leaving her feeling slightly uneasy.  All of her family now either resides in Idaho, or on the Westside of Washington State.  In their move, we helped whenever we had a chance to, and at the end of the day we ended up adopting one of their dogs to ease their move.  His name is Cody (aka Kodiak) and he is an incredibly well behaved and cute Chihuahua.  The sad part to the whole affair is that when he was a pup someone decided that negligence and abuse was the way to proceed, so unfortunately his back legs are horribly skewed because both of them were broken after being caught in a mesh kennel and then left to mend improperly.  The same individuals who left his legs shattered and misshapen, also felt it was necessary to solely feed him human food, which subsequently rotted out all of his front teeth leaving him with only his more sturdy back ones to do the munching.  When he pants he looks like a little old man, but even throughout all of the torment he is a well-adjusted, sweet, and handsome son-of-a-gun.  As I’m writing this, he is tightly wound into a little ball softly snoring away.  I’ve already become incredibly partial to him and hopefully with some diet and exercise his little chub will slowly dissipate and his legs can begin to heal.

Along with the adoption of the Chihuahua, I have been fervently writing as Celeste and I gear up for the Spokane Comic-Con.   I was fortunate enough to be able to cover the Vertigo relaunch and restructure last month, which led to quite a swell in viewership.  The Avengers vs. X-Men, which is the big Marvel summer event, just released last week and looks to be a promising 12-part arc that will pit the mightiest of the Marvel Universe in an epic slugfest.  And, at the moment, I am working on a review of Scott Snyder’s “Gates of Gotham” miniseries that premiered last year, before the DC’s new 52, as a kind of prologue to a series of articles that I will be composing about Snyder’s new Bat Family crossover story arc dubbed “The Court of Owls.”  Snyder is a superb writer and continues to push the boundaries of storytelling in both of his critically acclaimed Batman and Swamp Thing runs, so if you get a chance grab a Snyder graphic novel or comic—you won’t be disappointed.

As for the novel, “Jack and the Lilac Butcher,” I’ve kept up by fleshing out scenes here and there, and I am hopeful that the first act of the novel will be wrapped up in a couple of weeks.  It’s been a blast to write and it seems as if inspiration abounds, but I suppose once you are in love with something, whether it be a person, an idea, or a character, it is difficult not to be inspired.  In all likelihood I will post several chapters of the novel back-to-back here on WordPress, at the Writer’s Café, and at Wattpad.  I have been meaning to become more involved in Wattpad.  It seems like a great community of writers and readers that definitely deserves more of my time.

Just the other evening I finally wrapped up Clive Cussler’s “The Race” after slowly slogging through its whimsical pages.  My haste was deeply lessened with work and various sidetracks, but I was eventually able to finish the novel.  I greatly enjoyed it.  It was a fantastic period piece set in the early part of the twentieth century, specifically focusing on the early days of aviation, and the fictional Van Dorn Detective Agency’s various Pinkerton-like exploits.  I have now moved on to finally finishing King’s “Wizard in the Glass,” so that I can dive into his newest Dark Tower novel, “The Wind in the Keyhole,” which releases later this month.  Even though I have not finished the Dark Tower saga I am greatly intrigued by the fact that King has returned to his masterpiece after all this time with a fill-in novel.  Hopefully, this will give me the necessary push to finish the series that I have so longed to read, but never ‘found’ the time to enjoy.  With a stack of books at my bedside I have found that Goodreads has been an excellent site to virtually house all of my reads and want-to-reads, while simultaneously engaging in literary discussions.  If anyone is interested, or already as an account, send me a follow and I’ll make sure to follow back.  I always love to see what others are reading.  There is always a hidden gem in someone’s library.

Well, I am off to dive into the endless sea of pop culture that I ‘oh-so’ love.  A latte, a cozy Chihuahua, some Queen on vinyl, and a bought of writing are in order for this blogger.  A hat off to everyone, and hopefully the sun is shining wherever you are.

Cheers,

Anthony Schultz

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