“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Science Fiction
Print length: 369
My rating: 3.5
Mark Watney is a brilliant botanist and mechanical engineer selected by NASA to be among six astronauts who go on the Ares mission to Mars. During the mission, the team endures a severe storm on the planet’s surface and the team is forced to abort the mission and return to earth. There’s just one small problem—only five astronauts make it back into space. Read More »
Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Genre: YA Fantasy
Print length: 388
My rating: 4.5
Mare Borrow lives in a world divided solely by the color of blood. The impoverished Reds live a life of survival while the wealthy Silvers with their god-like powers live in excess.
Mare is among the former, a red-blooded commoner. She has no hope of the world around her changing, until one day she finds herself in the king’s palace among the Silvers. It is here she discovers that despite her common blood, she has a god-like power of her own—she can control electricity. When the royal family discovers her secret, she becomes a threat to the entire political system.
Standing in the balance between two different worlds, Mare must choose to either embrace her power and help save her fellow people, or live peacefully among the Silvers and ensure the safety of her family. But, this is not the only fateful decision Mare must make—she must also choose who she loves. Should she allow herself to fall for the intelligent, rebellious prince Maven whom she is betrothed to marry, or his older brother and future king Cal who saved Mare and her family from poverty?
As rebel Red forces gather against the Silver elite, Mare is forced to fight against the many powers dueling for control. But as Mare is coming to find, betrayal is not uncommon.
A book is usually good when you sacrifice sleep, read in bed under a dim light so you don’t wake your husband, and don’t even care that your dead tired the next day at work. This book was good—in fact, it was fantastic. Amidst a pool of young adult, dystopian stories this novel really stands out. It has all the engaging elements of a realistic world, dynamic characters, and fast-paced plot.
I especially loved the way Aveyard developed the two princes and their relationship with each other and with Mare. As the story unfolds, you see the way they think, their motivations, and the way they will defy everything for one thing—Mare. Aveyard found the perfect balance between developing a world that feels real, full of history and secrets, with one girl’s story of love and survival. This novel would suit both romantics and non-romantics alike, as the world created goes far beyond the realities of any one character.
I am a lover of science-fiction as well as fantasy, and though I wouldn’t say this novel falls under the sci-fi genre, I will say it very uniquely blends together elements from both a futuristic world and a historically primitive world into an irresistible “Game of Thrones” meets “Hunger Games” literary medley.
Although elements of “Red Queen” can be likened to other best selling books, this novel stands apart in its originality and twisting plot. You will find you can’t help but love even the most deceptive characters.
There are places we go that forever go with us. Alaska was that place for me. A world I stepped into, and a world I will never leave, or rather it will never leave me.
I hope this post will inspire you to write or travel or imagine. . .
Two years ago, my best friend and I went to Alaska on our honeymoon. Drew, my newly betrothed, planned the entire experience out. From budgets and expenses to flights and rentals, he had everything set. I didn’t have to think about a single thing.
He swept me off my feet and we went on an adventure we will never forget.
While we were in Alaska, we passed my phone back and forth and wrote about some of our experiences in my notes app. It was a beautiful way to capture exactly how we felt in those moments. Rather than trying to repaint a picture of what it was like, I’m going to give you a little snippet I wrote while we were there.
An excerpt from our honeymoon journal:
“Night three in Alaska and we sit out on our cabin’s balcony overlooking the snow-kissed mountains planted firmly against the clean blue sky. Drew smokes his tobacco pipe in his long johns as I drink wine and enjoy a fresh clove cigarette. Nothing can beat the serenity of the fixed water. From this distance it seems so still, though I know the water is licking at the black, stone beach a mile below.
Earlier today we journeyed down the mountainside along the winding horse trail which breeches the thicket of pines and spills out onto a pebbled beach leading down to the hazy blue water. Pockets of fog lifted off the water and disappeared over the bluffs overhead. It smelled like old corals and seaweed. The water is the gulf of Alaska, mixed with the cool water of the Pacific Ocean to the south. There is hardly a breeze in the air, just a few pieces of cotton pulled taunt across the pale sky overhead and the surprisingly warm water that moves beneath.
Lewis and Clark (that’s us) found a fully intact lower jawbone of a moose on the beach. Its teeth sit in two sharp rows that join at the base of the bone. It stinks like animals past and the distinct smell of salt and slimy barnacles off the ocean. The beach is littered with white shells, some covered in dried, twisted barnacles. We take those with us along with the jawbone.
The journey back was steep and long, but we leaned on our walking sticks for aid and trusted our boots would soon land again on the charted ground back up in our remote Mountain.
As I sit reflecting back on our hike, I watch the smoke that rises off Drew’s pipe. It mixes with the warm, fresh air lingering in the bright sky. It will be light like this until after midnight when the sun finally sets. Its a different world having twenty hours of sunlight.
The feeling I have goes beyond happiness. I’m in a world filled with wonder, smoke, wine, my new husband, and a calm that sweeps me off into a wonderland where legends and magic just may exist in the snowy mountains past the rings of cloven smoke, across the misty bay. Anything feels possible.
But I am humbled. No epic fantasy I could escape into could capture the majesty of the One who is responsible for such a wonder as sits before me. I am so small, and so proud to be alive as a witness. I praise God for His artistry.
It is only a few minutes until a new day and the lights on the distant peer will appear to light the few hours of darkness. When they do, I will slip from this serenity into the calm of my husband’s arms.”
Alaska was truly a wonderful adventure. I can’t believe it has been two years since we were there. When I read our journal I can still smell it, taste it. The amazing thing about time is that it tends to dull the senses, and while this is true about our voyage to Alaska, it is not true about my love for Drew. I find I fall more and more in love with him as time passes. He always brings me around in this world the way no else ever has, or ever will. He is himself, one adventure both happening and waiting to happen. One thing has been true for the six years we’ve been together, I’ve never been bored.
And lastly, I have to include this little excerpt that he wrote.
My bride. From her gentle, timid sheep in the pen purr, to her lion loud laugh, she is everything and more than I thought could exist within a body so small. She gives and takes like the hot sun and the beautiful breeze on a summer day.
I want to tell you all our exciting stories of horseback riding, whale watching, and our crazy moose encounters, but I’ll save that for another time. For now, I’m going to include some of the amazing places we visited that way you won’t miss out if you ever visit Alaska.
The Glacier Brewhouse– To this day, Drew and I can’t think of a restaurant we’ve enjoyed more. I had the grilled Alaskan sockeye salmon and Drew had the herb crusted Alaskan halibut. Locally sourced—yum! Its brewery is connected right to the restaurant and you can watch them making all the beer through clear glass walls.
The Anchorage Zoo– This zoo had a lot of animals local to the north. The day we went it was 70 degrees which is really hot for those guys. Most of them were panting and fighting for shade. Poor dears.
Kenai Fjords Tours– We got to see Kenai Fjords National Park from a cruise ship on the Gulf of Alaska. We saw bears, whales, and falling glaciers. The sound of ice breaking and falling from glaciers is incredible.
This is where we spent most of our time, and the little town we fell in love with.
The Homer Bookstore– Of course I had to visit the local bookstore.
Trails End Horse Adventure– This was my absolute FAVORITE part of our time in Alaska. Led by a local cowboy named Mark, this guided tour through Alaskan forrest, beach, and trails was the most breathtaking experience of my life.
The Homer Spit– The spit is Homer’s greatest attraction. It’s filled with little artisan shops and restaurants that line a little piece of land extending into the Kachemak Bay. You must visit the Salty Dawg Saloon!
Cafe Cups– This adorable seafood restaurant is a must add to your ever growing Alaska bucket list. It made me feel like I was truly in Wonderland.
Oakport Publishing just published an essay I wrote on my journey with writing. It’s about my battle between perspectives of hope and discouragement as a writer. I hope you guys enjoy it, and please share your thoughts!
Title: The Island of Dr. Moreau My rating: 4.5
Author: H. G. Wells Amazon.com: 4.1
Genre: Science fiction Goodreads: 3.7
Print length: 104
The story is told by a man named Edward Prendick who is the only remaining survivor of the Lady Vain boat crash. Prendick is picked up by the Ipecacuanha, a trader ship which happens to have a medical passenger on board named Montgomery.
Montgomery is a mysterious man with a cargo of strange animals. He takes it upon himself to nurse Prendick back to health with his own equipment and medicine. He has an attendant with him named Mling, an even stranger man than Montgomery, and Pendrick notes that Mling has a repugnance and odd familiarity to him. In a few days time, the Ipecacuanha arrives near an island which Montgomery explains is his destination. The captain insists Montgomery takes his recovered castaway with him. Montgomery refuses, and is received by a small boat from the island. Since neither want to keep Prendick, the captain orders him into a dingy and abandons him miles from the island.
Taking pity, Montgomery orders the small boat who received the cargo from the Ipecacuanha to turn around and rescue Prendick. Prendick accompanies the strange cargo, Montgomery, and a group of strange islanders to the shore of the nearby island.
Another man of medicine inhabits the island. His name is Moreau. He takes a kind of fancy to Prendick, knowing he has studied medicine as well, but keeps him locked out of certain huts on the island. Prendick learns that all of Moreau and Montgomery’s attendants live in a village on the other side of the island, and save for Mling, they do not bother the compound of huts where Moreau and Montgomery work.
The strangeness of the islanders and the secrecy surrounding Moreau’s work intoxicates Prendick with curiosity. One day when Moreau leaves a door to one of the huts unlocked. Prendick walks in and witnesses a puma undergoing vivisection by Moreau’s hand. There is blood everywhere and Prendick realizes the poor mutilated puma is the source of the cries of pain he has heard since he arrived at the island. It does not take Prendick long before he connects the strange proportions, odd sauntering, and hairy faces of the islanders with Moreau’s laboratory. In fear of becoming part of Moreau’s next creation, Prendick takes flight to the other side of the island.
Prendick is pursued by Montgomery and Moreau who carry whips and guns. Prendick comes upon many of Moreau’s Beast People. They invite Prendick into their village of dens and marvel in broken sentences that he is a five-fingered man. They believe he is a creature such as themselves made by Moreau. They invite him to live among them but tell him he must learn and recite the Law:
“Not to go on all-Fours; that is the Law. Are we not men?
Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law. Are we not men?
Not to eat Flesh or Fish; that is the Law. Are we not men?
Not to claw Bark of Trees; that is the Law. Are we not Men?
Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not Men?
His is the House of Pain.
His is the Hand that makes.
His is the Hand that wounds.
His is the hand that heals.”
Prendick learns quickly from the sayings of the Law that Moreau taught each man-beast this recitation which would subjugate and control them. It is while he is among the Beast People that Moreau appears and orders they restrain Prendick. Again, Prendick runs for his life. Finally when he is on the brink of exhaustion, he wades out into the water and threatens to drown himself. It is only when Moreau and Montgomery lay their guns on the edge of the water and retreat back into the brush that Prendick is coaxed from the water.
He follows the two unarmed men back to their huts. Here Moreau explains his medical ambitions. He reveals that he does not do vivisection on any human beings, rather his attempts are to transform animals into human forms with more sophisticated minds. The Law is in place to keep the animals from reverting to their animal instincts of hunting and savagery. It is soon clear how unhappy Moreau is with his progress and finds himself mocked by the mere existence of his creations. Prendick realizes that Moreau is driven only by his thirst for discovery and creation, and Montgomery, having been on the island for ten years, does not question Moreau, but in fact finds a strange comfort among some of the Beast People.
Things begin happening that suggest the Beast People are not abiding by the Law. Things that pose a danger to the three human men. The story comes to a climax when Moreau’s current experiment gets loose. He chases the beast out into the island’s thickets, and Montgomery and Prendick are forced to follow. The men are subject to the island at night, when the Beast People revert most to their animal instincts. With Moreau’s creations slipping out from his control, and the declining presence of humanity, Prendick finds himself facing the ethical and moral implications of Moreau’s wretched works, and the catastrophes that ensues will forever maim Prendick’s ability to distinguish between the sophisticated intelligence of humanity and the depravity of animal instinct.
The thing I found the most fascinating with this story is the element of the Law and the divine regard in which Moreau is held. Though the Beast People have their own society, it is wholly dictated by human guidelines. The animals were constantly battling their own desires and instincts to uphold the Law. As Moreau was their creator and judge they revered him as a god figure. When the Law was broken they went “back to the house of pain.” Their intelligence, or lack thereof, was constantly used for whatever profited Moreau. He harnessed their humanity to guilt and shame them into following the Law, but then used their animal ignorance to corral them together to do his bidding. Upon Moreau’s demise, even Montgomery finds it difficult to accept that Moreau could ever lose what he had worked so hard to build.
Moreau and Montgomery have both been wildly affected by the darkness of their scientific exploration and the dreadful island where they live. Prendick, the outsider with a fresh perspective, struggles to define the line between pity and hatred for the Beast People, seeing them as both victims and monsters. My favorite quote from the book depicts his feelings towards them.
“Now they stumbled in the shackles of humanity, lived in a fear that never died, fretted by a law they could not understand; their mock-human existence began in an agony, was one long internal struggle, one long dread of Moreau—and for what? It was the wantonness that stirred me.”
Well’s novel confronts many of the same fears that our modern post-apocalyptic genres do now. Written nearly 120 years ago, “The Island of Dr. Moreau” raises many questions about the science of biomechanical engineering, a practice Wells predicted over a century prior to its commonplace practice today.
I have given this 4.5 stars because of Well’s ability to capture so many timeless truths about humanity while bringing up important ethical questions regarding divine creation, culture, and the reaches of science.
Writing is not easy. Its a lot of bumpy roads, windy paths, and in my case, rickety plummets. My first novel was among the latter of these voyages. As a young writer, I had a lot to learn, and fortunately, I had the opportunity to do just that. But no matter how much we may learn from our mistakes, failures still feel like failures. However, I’ve recently been encouraged by the stories of others who failed many times before they ever succeeded.
Walt Disney, undoubtedly one of the most inspiring and imaginative entrepreneurs America has ever seen, was once fired from a newspaper who believed he lacked imagination. Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr.Suess), who is one of the best selling children’s author in history, was rejected twenty-seven times before his first novel was published by Vanguard Press. Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s most well-remembered presidents, lost over a half dozen elections before he was nominated president of the United States in 1860. And let’s not forget Thomas Edison who, when asked about his failed attempts at inventing the electric light bulb, said this:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
I conceived the idea for my first novel while I was a sophomore in high school. It was inspired by a short story I read in one of my English classes, written by Stephen Vincent Benét called “By the Waters of Babylon.” It is a futuristic story chronicling a group of people living after the fall of a powerful civilization. I had never read a post-apocalyptic story before and I was immediately engrossed by the idea.
Its no new idea. For decades people have been anticipating the adverse implications advanced technology will have on our society. But, as a sixteen year old back in 2007— before the main stream post-apocalyptic craze was ushered in by young adult series like “The Maze Runner,” “The Hunger Games,” and “Divergent” series—the idea of an entire culture being entirely ignorant to its predecessors and their mistakes was wildly fascinating.
It wasn’t long after I read that short story by Benét that Tahynain came into being. It was a primitive, yet beautiful land tucked between mountains, hills, and river, thriving as a self-sustaining, secluded society. The story follows a group of multi-generational Rolmanons, people inhabiting the city of Rolmanon who believe they are the only society in all of Tahynain. One child, consumed by curiosity, journeys outside the city’s boundaries on multiple occasions where he finds desolate patches of land, black and copper snakes (power lines), a circular glass trinket with silvery wings (a watch), and heavy sheets of strange material (fallen plane debris). The older generation is forced to tell them the truth and reveals the dark world that came before Rolmanon.
Not long after, scouts find evidence of another city nearby. The leaders of Rolmanon journey to see the new city, Dovynthyre, which they discover carries on the old values from the Dark Ages before the wide-spread wars. Rolmanon leaders decide to go to war with Dovynthyre to preserve and ensure peace and innocence for their younger generation. After a gruesome battle, the Rolmanons overtake Dovythyre, but their victory is short-lived as something much more sinister, something beyond the Rolmanon’s wildest dreams, threatens their entire way of life.
What I left out of the above description, besides the riveting ending, are a number of elements that compromised my story’s potential. For starters, the elder generation once had superpowers, like comic book superpowers, which you see in a five chapter flashback. Flashbacks? Yikes. And once the lions are introduced in present time, to help defend and warn the Rolmanon’s (because yes, the lions talk) against the Corpsetters (zombie-like creatures), the younger generation start getting super powers as well. I forgot to mention in the flashback there’s also a flash-sideways. And no, I had never seen Lost at this point. I couldn’t decide on the narrative type, so my story implements two of them. And if talking animals, super-powers, and time jumps don’t do it for you, perhaps the cyborgs and radioactive canines will.
It would suffice to say I didn’t have much of a direction with my story. I bit off a lot, and I practically choked on it. But I still stand firm on a few things. I had a conviction, that small voice in a writer’s head that tells them there just may be something worth writing about. Warnings against our society’s imminent doom must have been mine. Looking back on it, I’ve actually grown fairly fond of some of the characters, creatures, and plot progressions. Unfortunately, no matter how enthralling the plot, or how believable the character, it’s nearly impossible to write a book that people will want to read without a clear understanding of two things: target audience and genre.
When I started writing this novel, I was moved by a big idea in an exciting world. I never stopped to ask questions. The language I used could be fitting for a young adult novel, but some of the content was not. Philosophical questions about the meaning of life, sinful nature, and the existence of God are probably not the most welcomed components in a young adult fantasy novel. While the post-apocalyptic genre would have been right on for young adults (which I take some mild pride on being among authors who were onto that genre before it went mainstream, however unaware I was of it at the time), I also incorporated some elements of science fiction and high fantasy. So, it got pretty messy.
Thankfully, I had some help. My creative writing professor helped me work through my novel. He read the entirety of my 350 page manuscript, bless his heart, and responded by applauding me for my discipline in finishing it. It was all over the place and we both knew it. He helped me to better understanding readership. He helped me see there are genres for a reason. It helps people determine whether or not they want to be a part of something. But most importantly, it helps you gain your readers’ trust and keep it. Determining who you want to reach and how is just as important as determining what you want to say. It took me a novel to figure this out, but I’m grateful to have learned from my mistakes. If you want more tips and advice on taking better care of your readers, check out this piece on genre by Kristen Lamb.
Writing within the confines of an audience and genre can actually be very liberating. This time around, I have chosen to focus on writing a young adult, high fantasy novel. I’m finding my journey of writing and exploration to be much richer. Boundaries can be a very healthy thing. So, I guess you could say I never really failed at writing a novel, I just found a few ways that didn’t work. Thanks Mr. Edison, you’re quite the inspiration.
Have any of you taken risks and failed at something? What has it taught you, and where did you allow it to take you? Please comment and share any thoughts or encouragement through your stories of growth.
Rage might be a strong word, but today it was how I felt after I was duped. I moved to Nashville with high hopes, hopes that are still intact. But earlier today, well hope wasn’t among my sensibilities.
Two nights ago I applied to a few jobs online. I wasn’t exceptionally excited about any of them. The only one that did stand out was at a marketing firm as a marketing coordinator, but I figured I wouldn’t be considered because I have little experience in marketing. The day after I applied I got a call. They wanted to interview me! I was elated. I spent that night and following morning researching the company still a little unclear about what the job would actually entail. I reviewed the job add online, perused their website and online resources, and decided I really wanted to work for the company. Everything online made it appear to be an incredibly challenging and colorful way to use my writing and personal skills.
This morning I arrived at the interview more ready than I’d ever been for an interview. I knew exactly how I was going to answer those difficult personal questions about my skills and how they’d be useful to the firm and their clients. I knew a decent amount about the company—or so I thought—and I even knew a little bit about the president who was going to be interviewing me.
So what went wrong?
The interview went perfectly. The president liked me so much I got an immediate second interview. It wasn’t until an hour later at the very end of my second interview that I realized what the marketing company was actually about. It wasn’t going to be a job where I sat down and shared my amazing ideas on how to apply the strategy and tactics campaign I had come up with. It wasn’t going to be the type of office where the staff got together and sat down in the conference room to brainstorm on a whiteboard.
It wasn’t until the very last three minutes of my second interview that I learned that it was a position centered around sales. Instead of coming up with marketing ideas and strategies for the clients, I would be responsible for selling their products as part of an outsourced, fast-paced business model with promotions based on performance. The very last thing I remember hearing was something about owning my own business in less than a year. The last red flag went whipping into the air, and I found myself forcing a smile. This wasn’t a firm I wanted to invest in, it was a company which trained individuals to sell products for clients.
Why did it take until the end of the second interview for them to explain the business structure? Why not just advertise it as a sales position? During my second interview, I had watched a girl do a presentation, one I would be expected to repeat a dozen times a day in a high populated store. There was very little marketing involved, just pitching a product. Why hadn’t I realized it before? Am I really that dense? I had just been explaining to them how one of my greatest strengths is observation… guess I better rethink that one before I use it again.
Needless to say, after the second interview I felt completely deflated, like Edward Scissorhands had just ridden by me on a bike and popped my hopeful bubble with his sharp extremities. Resolved to leave the smoke and mirrors behind me, I got in my car and blared metal the entire way home. Oh Sleeper is always an amazing companion in times like these.
What to Avoid
I must be honest, this isn’t the first time I’ve gone to an interview with this outcome. I guess it’s time I learn a lesson from it. If a job listing or the person calling to interview you won’t explain the job description in a direct manner, they’re probably withholding giving the whole scoop for a reason. Employers know that revealing this information all at once might turn their potential job candidates away. Also, if the job listing doesn’t include how much they’ll pay, and especially if they don’t list whether its hourly or salary, that can sometimes be a red flag. In this case, when I asked the girl over the phone what the pay was, she wouldn’t directly answer the question—the answer I later found to be minimum wage or commission, whichever was better—but instead threw out the potential of a large salary figure in the near future.
And lastly, if they call you within 24 hours of getting your resume it might be luck, or it might be one of these kind of jobs. And truly, I have nothing against these kinds of jobs, I just prefer to know what kind of job I’m actually being interviewed for. Many desirable jobs will sell themselves by a simple listing which includes everything you need to know: job duties, job requirements, pay, and potential benefits.
I’m sure I’m not completely alone in this boat. The one that’s swaying and thrashing along a merciless, twisting river straining not to capsize and be forgotten at the bottom of the water. So far my boat hasn’t taken me to any desirable destination, but I’m hoping there are others out there navigating the same river who can relate with me on this endeavor.
It’s day six of Nashville living, and I am still unemployed. It’s no surprise since I spent two years looking for employment in the abstract field of writing—a major I literally created since my college didn’t offer it. But, perhaps that’s why its so difficult. Having a degree in writing doesn’t exactly prepare me for a job in journalism or teaching. It’s one of those theoretical, hypothetical, abstract educations that may or may not land me somewhere relevant.
My best friend from Ohio has a degree in early childhood education and has been teaching at a private school since our graduation. She just told me this morning that she got her dream job, a position as a creative arts program assistant, and is moving to Pittsburgh where she’ll be living near her boyfriend. I am sincerely thrilled for her…I think? Yet, I find a part of me is not so pleased. And which part is that, you ask? The selfish part that envies her for finding a job after a brief, one month hunt!
Today I was supposed to hit the ground running looking for jobs. Unfortunately, that news wasn’t really the most encouraging start to my day. But, determined to be happy for my friend and helpful to myself, I put on my best business-casual outfit and headed out the door to visit some local bookstores. After three hours of drop-ins and putting myself out there, I found myself no closer to having a job. The stores either weren’t hiring or they will be “reviewing” my resume, and by they they mean their paper shredder.
Who knows, maybe working at a bookstore isn’t what I’d really want anyways. After all, with such an abstract degree with seemingly endless possibilities, I still have no clue what my dream job would even look like. Maybe being among the livestock isn’t so bad. Maybe I shouldn’t have individualized and made up my own major. Maybe being herded along into a specific pen would have made my life a whole lot easier. I can’t find it in me to regret my decision though. I still have an unwavering, insatiable proclivity towards words, literature, and make-believe. You can’t quite find that in nursing school, now can you?