Tag Archives: Stephen King

TURNING OUR NOSE UP AT THE INDULGENT

By Kevin Paul Tracy

The other day I stumbled across, of all random things things, the old Punk Rock hit, "Turning Japanese." ("I think I'm turning Japanese. I think I'm turning Japanese. I really think so!") Before I knew it I was laughing and doing a silly dance there at my desk. It had been ages since I'd heard the thoroughly ridiculous, utterly indulgent song, and I'd forgotten what a catchy beat, toe-tickling melody, and nonsense lyrics it brought to the ear. I found myself completely delighted, my spirits lifted for no other reason than this empty-headed little song. And, as most things do, it got me thinking.

There is a certain snobbery in certain industries, most notably the arts, that summarily dismisses and in almost all cases delights in tearing down and lambasting the simple, the silly, the indulgent. "Turning Japanese" was roundly dismissed as inconsequential and in some cases even detrimental to the library of American music, and yet someone listened to it, enough people to make it, if not a number one hit, then at least a top 40 gem. There was something about it, silly and inconsequential as it might be, that pleased people. They enjoyed listening to it.

I stopped watching the HBO TV series "Game of Thrones" after the so-called "Red Wedding" episode, but only partially because I was disappointed as a viewer. While doing research online I came across several credible quotes by the author of the show who freely admitted he killed off his heroes in ignoble ways to shock and alarm readers/viewers. He didn't want them to rely on the heroes to save the day, didn't want fans to relax in the idea that the hero would eventually prevail, that good would eventually defeat evil. Perhaps that is fine for him and for the thousands who still read his books and watch his television program. But it seems to me a cynical focal point around which to pivot a plot. I write because I have a story to tell. I write the story that wants telling. I don't indulge some disgruntled agenda to manipulate an audience or to make a rhetorical point.

There is an on-gong debate I've been following online in British literary circles where the underlying operating assumption is that any book with a happy ending is immediately dismissed as unimportant, puerile, indulgent and of no consequence. Never mind the quality writing that may fill the pages leading up to it, if it ends with the good guys winning then it is summarily dismissed. Forgive me, but such a sweeping displacement strikes me as every bit as shallow as the books themselves supposedly are. Am I wrong? To me, I love reading well written prose. How the story ends is almost immaterial to me, if the intervening story and the skill with which it was written was a joy to experience. Almost, because an arbitrary or manipulative ending can spoil a good tale.

We are all entitled to write what we wish, and if you find an audience, well good God of course more power to you. But I think it wrong to try to shame others for indulging in certain literary palate cleansers such as Louie L'Amour's westerns, Ian Fleming's James Bond series, or even Charles Dickens entirely operatic but delightful fiction. There is a reason television shows like Little House on The Prairie, The Gilmore Girls, and today's Castle run for so many years. No one mistakes them for real life. But there is something simple, silly and pleasing about them to a great many audiences.

While I, myself, prefer a happy ending, I don't dismiss a book that doesn't have one. In point of fact I think Stephen King is an American treasure, probably one of the best writers I've ever read, and I don't recall a single one of his books that ended on a totally positive note. So while I prefer one, I can appreciate all. I would never dismiss the hard work of any writer on so slight and arbitrary a criteria as that. I take in the entire work as a whole and take it as it is offered by the storyteller, and judge it on that basis alone.

Something many of you have heard me say many times, and I think it is entirely true: Whether your story has a happy ending or not depends entirely upon where you choose to end your story.


Don't miss Kevin’s latest releases: the startling and engrossing series of gothic thrillers featuring vampire private detective Kathryn Desmarias, including Bloodflow, and Bloodtrail, the bestselling sequel to Bloodflow; also the wonderfully entertaining espionage thriller, Rogue Agenda.

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The Bloody, Gory, Awful Choices We Make To Write Books

By Aaron Ritchey

“Don't demand that your art supports your life. Instead, make a promise that your life will always support your art.
--Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, from her interview with Luc Berthelett

“Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around.”
--Stephen King from On Writing

Okay, so which is it. Come on, Elizabeth and Stephen, you both have gobs of money and success and you both can’t be right. You need to decide. I demand it.

I have to admit, I never really understood the Stephen King quote. What is a support system anyway? And for what? Huh? Come again? The expanded version of King’s quote talks about not going into your cave and forgetting about your family and friends and the outside world. That writing is fine, but don’t sacrifice everything to do it. Basically, what I get from good ol’ Mr. King is that write, write a lot, but don’t be an ass about it.

Easy for him to say. He’s Stephen frickin’ King.

In the end, though, I think the Elizabeth Gilbert interview is saying something similar. Basically it says “Don’t quit your day job. But find work that still allows you to write.”

The reality is, the writing life is one of crushing dedication and it takes time, mountains of time, oceans of minutes, a Mount Everest of seconds, years of slavery. Or maybe not. It sure seems like it does for most of us.

So do we write to live, or live to write, and what is the difference?

Again, I don’t understand the question. Do I choose to write? Or did writing choose me? How much freedom do I have?

I think it comes down to how I want to use my minutes. We’ll be dead soon. I mean, soonish, probably, but you never know. I could be eaten by rabid mutant Chihuahuas from outer space in the next ten minutes.

How do I want to use my minutes before I feel their teeth?

I love stories. I have always loved stories, and I like crafting them, and I like the pain of editing, the sorrow of marketing, and the whips of the reviewers. Call me sick and twisted, but I do. Or have I learned to love it?

The Muslim poetess Rabia wrote that she was born when she learned to love what she most feared.

At the end of the day, the dream I have of being the world-famous writer remains. But more and more, I’m seeing success is a big, huge open word and I have the power to choose if I’m successful or not. At every stage of the game. No matter what other people think.

So, to pursue this dream, how much should I sacrifice to write?

I think a better question is, what should I sacrifice to write? Friends? Family? My health? No. Mindless TV, video games, and pictures of kittens on the internet? Yes.

In the end, I need to choose what to sacrifice, and I have sacrificed to write the books I’ve written. I’ve had the same job for seventeen years. I’m still in the same house. Same wife and kids. I’ve chosen a stable life, dreary and dull, that gives me the time to write, because, again, it all comes down to minutes and how I want to use them.

Though I do love those internet kittens. Lord, I do.

Five Reasons Why Stephen King Must DIE!

By Aaron Ritchey

Whenever I meet anyone who doesn't like Stephen King, I immediately mistrust and I hate them.  I’m a HUGE Stephen King fan, and I just finished reading 11/22/63, which is just one of his many masterpieces.

Yes, I am a Stephen King fan, but I also am full of envy and hate.  He’s too good.  I revel in his genius and then despise him for his craft.  At times, he’s so good I want to kill him dead and then eat his heart and absorb his storytelling spirit.  Wasn't that like a story in Night Shift?

Anyway, here’s why Stephen King must die because he is just too good:

  • THE DEVIL: Many of my friends think Stephen King doesn't need an editor, more like a chainsaw, to cut his books in half or more. I whole-heartedly disagree. The brilliance of Stephen King is that he sets up his world with such details that you are immersed in the experience.  He uses the senses, he uses ad slogans, he uses the minutia of the day-to-day to create a world so tangible, so real, that when in introduces the big, bad wolf, we readers are unnerved.  Stephen King has mastered the idea that the devil is in the details, and yeah, he writes horror, so at times, it’s actually a physical devil.  If there is one area I need to improve, it’s on adding details to setting, to characters, to really create the world of my story in the reader’s mind.  In On Writing, King argues that reading a novel is actually telepathy—his thoughts are transferred into our minds and we see what he sees and feel what he feels.  How does he do that?  Through details.
  • HIGH NOON: Stephen King writes page-turners. Why?  Because he knows all about    Sometimes he does it subtly, sometimes blatantly.  It’s why reading his books is so addictive.  He will write something like, “And that was the last time Ed saw his wife alive.”  Right away, we want to know what is going to happen to Ed’s wife!  Yeah, blatant foreshadowing, but it works.  Also, what I love about King is that he will set up the big High Noon gunfight, to give us something to worry about, to look forward to, and every page brings us closer and closer to that inevitable crescendo of violence.  In The Wolves of the Calla, most of the book is in anticipation of the big gun fight, and it kept me turning pages.
  • QUICK KISSES: So we have the big high noon gunfight in the distance. In 11/22/63, it was trying to stop the Kennedy assassination.  However, he gives us pay-offs along the way.  While the High Noon climax is the macro-foreshadowing (as is the mystery of Ed’s wife), he also uses micro-foreshadowing, but he doesn’t keep us dangling in an anticipation for long.  These are like quick kisses of satisfaction.  He introduces story questions, sets it up so we are curious, and then answers them in the same chapter.  Again, this keeps us reading because we want to know!  He doesn’t just give us the answers right away, but keeps us on edge.  Which is another reason why his books are so long.  They have to be, to enjoy the experience.
  • MOTHER’S MILK: So we are plunged into a very real world with lots of details.  We have the High Noon gunfight in the distance.  We have quick kisses of satisfying story answers along the way, but in the mix are layers of conflict that keep us breathless.  Or at least with a niggling bit of anxiety about what might happen.  King milks conflict.  I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read where the conflict is a single layer that is wrapped up quickly.    Please, keep me on edge.  For example, 11/22/63, we have the homeless guy outside of the time portal.  He’s not right. He’s crazy, and we know, he holds the answers, but King keeps him silent because he adds another dimension to the conflict. As does the romance with the high school librarian.  As does the evil bookies who realize our hero knows way too much about the past to be lucky.  Throw in a psychotic gunman trying to kill the president, and the conflicts add up.
  • THE DAREDEVIL: King writes fast, writes his heart, shoots from the hip. His novels aren’t perfect, but perfection is overrated.  The Walking Dead is a popular show not because it’s perfect, but because it gets certain things right, the important things. So too, Stephen King gets the basics just right.  Not perfect, but right.

So yes, King is a master, and, really, I don’t want him dead. He’s good, but he’s spent a lifetime working on his craft and taking chances. I will read his books until the Grim Reaper drags either him or me into that cold grave.

 

 

 

The Perfect Writerly Advice

By Julie Kazimer

For the last week I’ve racked my brain to come up with a blog post for the ages, one which will be sheared into the mind of every reader. In the end I think I tore something vital, and finally came up with a post worthy of RMFW writers—The Perfect Writerly Advice.

Stop rolling your eyes.

They might stick that way.

Good advice from dear old mom? Or was she full of it? Has anyone’s eyes ever stuck that way?

Yes, it’s true. Your mom lied. Probably more than once. Which I’m sure is what has warped you into becoming a writer in the first place. But in mom’s defense, she was only passing along the advice she’d received from her own mother, and her mother’s mother, and so on.

This madness ends now.

Okay, this madness ends in a hundred or so words. You can wait that long, right?

See I did something stupid, I asked my Facebook friends, most of which are writers, to give me their very best writerly advice. Trust me on this. It was a bad, bad idea. But I’ll share the top highlights (You can read them in their entirety here):

The top writerly advice was:

1)      Quit. Don’t even think of writing as a career choice.

2)      Don’t follow any advice you read on a blog.

3)      First drafts suck and they should suck. Embrace it.

4)      Read. A lot. Then read some more.

5)      Never give up on your dream.

As you can plainly see, my Facebook friends are a smart, albeit twisted and jaded lot. But they do prove a point. All the great writerly advice in the world (and here is some of the best) will not make you into a bestselling author, any more than it will get you a three book deal or even finish your current WIP.

But I do have the perfect piece of writerly advice for those looking for the perfect piece of writerly advice:

Write.

Simple. Easy.

Yes, and you’re right, completely worthless as advice.

I wish writing was as simple as taking the advice of others. The advice, write every day, works for Stephen King, so how could I, a mere hack in comparison, not live and breathe this advice? How could I not listen when Elmore Leonard says, avoid prologues? Sadly I don’t write daily or even weekly and I often have prologues in my books. Does that make me wrong? Does it mean I won’t be successful or write unforgettable characters or books? Probably, but not because I didn’t follow Mr. King or Mr. Leonard’s advice. Other factors are at work, conspiring against me (Oh, I know all about the evil plot to make me write zombie M & M erotica).

As humans, it is our responsibility to dole out advice to everyone we meet, in line at Starbucks (always advise extra whip), to our kids (don’t put a fork in the light socket), and to our writerly pals (only write while wearing tights). Now as writers, it is our responsibility to ignore all that helpful advice, and let our eyes stick once in a while.

Any advice you’ve found helpful in your writerly career? Any advice you love to ignore?

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J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE  as well as the forthcoming romance from Coffeetown Press, The Assassin’s Heart, and the upcoming mystery series, Deadly Ever After from Kensington Books. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator.

Learn more at www.jakazimer.com or on her writerly talk blog More Than a Little F***ed Up. She can also be found (way too much of the time) on Twitter as @jakazimer and on Facebook as Julie Kazimer.