Thursday, August 15, 2019

My Brief But Amazing Top 8 Dragons From Literature List


I had to do it eventually.

Any warm-blooded… check that… any cold-blooded…er— any diehard dragon wonk has a shortlist of their favorite firedrakes. Since it is Sci-fi/Fantasy Week on Goodreads, I decided to write a blogpost about dragons. Maybe you’d be more inclined to seeing a ranking of dwarves, elves, or centaurs. Hang onto your Hogwarts! Maybe I’ll get around to one of those lists the next time out.

Today I’m sticking with dragons. The focus of this blogpost is strictly limited to the confines of literature so unfortunately Puff the Magic Dragon and Godzilla didn’t make the final cut, although both were early inspirations for me. For the record, even if Godzilla was from a book and not film, his original incarnation was a bizarre hybrid, something of a cross between a gorilla and a whale.

Caveat emptor. My list is strictly personal preferences. It is by no means exhaustive and I am sure that many wonderful dragons have been left off. Your favorites perhaps. Mea culpa. That’s the way the cookie bounces sometimes. Having said that, please don’t hesitate to drop me the names, books, and authors of your favorite fire-lizards in the comments section. I’m always looking to beef up and add to my TBR list. And who knows, I might just expand this list in the future.


My Brief But Amazing Top 8 Dragons From Literature List


1)
Smaug— Who would be foolish enough to exclude this magnificent specimen? The inimical brainchild of J.R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is the king of Lonely Mountain’s treasure trove. A dragon’s dragon, and by many accounts, one of the richest fictional beasts, raking in between 54 and 61 Billion according to Forbes (2012 and 2013)

2)
Sapira— One of my absolute favorites. I’m a huge fan of Christopher Paolini. If you’ve never read any of his works, I highly recommend you start with Eragon his first book of his The Inheritance Cycle. The title character, Eragon, rears Sapira from hatchling to full-fledged dragon. The bond between them is phenomenal and she helps the hero become a dragonrider. Some really great repartee. Sapira’s passion and emotional intelligence can rival just about any warm-blooded being in literature.

3)
Orm Irian— The stunning red-gold dragon that morphs into her human form at the Dragon Council Meeting to broker peace among the humans and dragons in The Other Wind, Book 6 of The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin. Orm Irian is the sister of Tehanu and the eldest daughter of Kalessin. When she transforms, she stuns the Council with her eloquent speech. Her eyes reveal her true self “a vast shimmer of smoky gold that dwarfed the King and throne” (Le Guin).

4)
Errol— the lovable swamp dragon from Sir Terry Pratchett’s 8th book from the Discworld Series, Guards! Guards! Errol is a spunky underdog type, what I would call the Rudy Ruettiger of dragons who ends up winning your heart.

5)
Ruth – from The Dragonriders of Pern Series by Anne McCaffrey. If Ruth doesn’t prove that good things come in little packages then I don’t know what does. Smart and agile, a leader of men and dragons and oftentimes mistakenly classified as the white or albino dragon. There are many shades glimmering in Ruth’s marvelous armor.

6)
Norberta— the Norwegian Ridgeback from the Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling. So I felt compelled to spice up the contents of my fire-lizard list. She is an absolute handful and a true challenge to house-train. Norberta did plenty of damage Hagrid’s home, but was definitely worth all the fuss.

7)
Falkor— from The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. As luck would have it, Falkor made the cut. That’s a little pun since Falkor is classified as a luckdragon. As pal and sidekick of Fantastica’s wunderkind, Atreyu, I felt compelled to include Ende’s whimsical creature.

8)
Rhaegal— Last, but certainly not least there’s the mighty green-bronze dragon from George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones Series. Who can ever forget the Battle of Winerfell?

Thanks for checking this out. Don’t forget to include your comments down below and share your personal favorite dragons. See ya around the cloud.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

You’ve Published A Book: So What Next?


Keep Writing.

It’s that simple and that complicated. After you’ve poured your heart and soul into your book, you might be inclined to take a breather or go on vacation. You’ve earned it. Right? Indeed you have, but you cannot lose momentum.

Personally, I prefer to keep it going. Whether the ideas are still flowing or if they’ve temporarily dried up. Staring at a blank page can be daunting. There are a few tricks you can use to get going. Start with a scene. It doesn’t have to be the opening to the book. In fact, you may not have that part established. But hopefully you know the main characters.

If the book is the second of a series then you already know the background of the characters. Start from there. If you are writing a completely new book then you may want to consider who your characters are. Get to know them. When I start a completely new project and need to figure out who my characters are, I like to create bios for my main characters. I’m not likely to include it in the actual story, but it helps me clarify who they are and what motivates them. You need to know what motivates your characters in order to write engaging stories. This is especially useful in dialogue as characters who have specific goals will speak passionately about what they want and can drive your scenes.

Some writers prefer plotting before they jump into their scenes. This is a good technique too. It lets you establish a blueprint and gives direction. I use a hybrid. I like to do some free writing combined with plotting so that I don’t feel completely confined, but I always come back to my plot because I want stay on track. Now it is perfectly okay to make adjustments to the plot as well if you feel that it enhances your story arc.

Make sure that you establish a writing routine. It seems really simple, but it makes a huge difference 1) if you have one and 2) you actually stick with it. Since I am a morning person, I like to get up early and write. If that works great! Others are night owls and prefer to write when the kids are asleep. Either way is fine. I know some writers who like writing on the bus or on the subway. What works for you is fine. I believe the key is consistency. Pick a time that you can sit for a while and write.

Give yourself a word count. I know that sounds a little forced, but it gives you a goal to shoot for. Writers need goals and deadlines. Repeat that. I know that there are some writers out there who have an inner editor chirping in their ear. That’s tricky if you are trying to get out a slew of new material. The main thing is to find a word count that is challenging, but doable. Don’t make it too large that you will get frustrated. Word counts are less important when you get to your later drafts.

Now, if you are the other type of writer, the prolific one, then keep plugging away. If the ideas keep coming you might as well get them down and worry about the editing part later on. After all, most of the real work comes during the editing process when you re-envision your work. Think of it this way. You can always toss the parts you don’t like, but if you have no raw material to work with you are stuck with all the heavy-lifting.

Write on.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Why I Chose To Write My Fantasy Adventure Series



Somebody recently asked me why I decided to write a Fantasy Adventure novel. My first response was a bit glib and shortsighted on my part. Why not? I said that I had always wanted to write one, but I wasn’t sure I could do it and I wanted to prove it to myself. The more I considered it though, I knew that my motivation went much deeper than that. Now while it may partly have been true that I wasn’t sure I could pull it off, my real reason for saying that was because I was passionate about proving two things.

One: that I wanted to fully immerse myself into a new realm. One that pushed the boundaries of my imagination. Two: I also wanted to make sure my story had the good flesh and bones of a legit fantasy novel. For good or bad, the Fantasy genre has always suffered from the unfortunate stereotype of being a guilty pleasure read. Not for the hardcore mind you, but in terms of the greater literary world it’s not often compared to the classics. In school everybody reads To Kill A Mockingbird, The Sun Also Rises, Pride and Prejudice, The Joy Luck Club, Great Expectations. But you would be hard-pressed to find any institution adding to its required reading lists the works: The Hobbit, The Wizard of Earthsea, or Dune.

Now you might say what about Frankenstein? Mary Shelley’s magnum opus is probably one of the greatest science fiction books. Ditto for George Orwell’s 1984. Okay, so maybe those works have crossed the genre barrier and will get added to a school’s required reading list, and probably Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I think the point that I am making is that there are those books that fall under required reading umbrella and then there are those books that will not, cannot, but will be devoured by the true fans of fantasy. I think detective and romance novels have plenty of dedicated readers too, but I am focusing this blog on fantasy.

Getting back to what actually motivated me to write The Acolyte & The Amulet was that I had been writing a number of bizarre, fantastical stories for a while. The more I kept at it, magic became the essential element. Not boundless snap your fingers magic where anything is possible, but a magic that had different grades of conjurers and spellweavers and consequences for all. Then my magical world of Nebilon was born and in it there was a precocious young girl named Luma who though was quite gifted in the ancient art had no real clue as how to control her incredible gift. From early childhood, she was a Seer and had the impeccable ability to scry and search into the future— kind of her own internal crystal ball. I kept writing stories about her and I couldn’t seem to let go. In fact, one day as I was earnestly trying to develop new standalone stories with new characters and new scenarios, I had what seemed like a déjà vu. Then as I was trying to reconcile what I was writing from what I was imagining, it became clear to me that it was my character, Luma nosing her way into my scene.

I was writing a new story about a troubled weatherworker named Glanzing and it became quite apparent to me that he desperately required Luma’s help. The two did not hit it off right away, but there was something of a symbiotic or complimentary relationship between them that was necessary in order for them to accomplish their respective quests. Turned out, they were indeed, on the same quest.

The Acolyte & The Amulet found a new path and slowly the quest was becoming clearer to me. After subsequent drafts, and many torturous tweaks and twists, I was able to finish the novel, but roughly three quarters of the way through it, I had a bittersweet moment. I had become so invested in my characters that I was beginning to get a bit melancholy because I knew the inevitable wasn’t far off. I would eventually have to put my characters to rest. The sad but true fact that every author faces. Authors who do not write series or sequels.

It dawned on me then, that I didn’t have to let the adventure end where it did. Having read J.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Ursula K. Le Guin, Terry Pratchett, Christopher Paolini, and Anne McCaffrey, I knew that if wanted to see the growth of my characters carry on, I would have to write a sequel. At least. If not a full-fledged series.

Since that was new for me, I had to take stock and see if I truly wanted to go in that direction. I actually started rereading the Earthsea Series and then the Discworld Series. I did that mainly as a stalling tactic so I wouldn’t have to make the tough decision. I needed to get away from myself, but it seemed that I got even deeper into those respective realms. And then, curiously enough, I found myself plunging deeper into the realms of my own Nebilon and beyond. More scenarios and characters emerged not all of which fit neatly into the first novel, which was perfectly fine. That gave me the impetuous to write the follow-up novel and so I did.

I have often believed that there is a connection between reading and writing. One feeds off of the other. It’s not bite for bite or measure for measure. Sometimes you read a chapter and then you end up writing a paragraph or vice versa. Sometimes you only end up with a bunch of notes. I wouldn’t even call it direct inspiration, but I feel that going back to writers that one admirers can offer much more than a friendly escape. Returning to the works and the writers that one admirers stimulates creativity.

As I am busy writing Book Two of the Nebilon Series, I am still mulling over possibilities for its title. That’ll come later. Hopefully. Most important is getting the thoughts down and scribbling away. Although, I will say this. It is kind of nice knowing that I have most of my characters lined up and ready to move ahead. Where they will go and what they do is still the big mystery?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Think Like A Stamp Collector To Produce More Topics And Juicier Blog Posts


Stamp collecting rocks! There, I said it. Stamp Collectors live long and productive lives and our hobby helps perpetuate sustainability. Think intellectual recycling. We also build legacies for our families and sometimes come across rare gems that can help reduce our mortgages. But we’re not in it for the money. Ahem. It’s about the joy of finding beautiful pictures on wove, pelure, laid, or even granite or silk paper (to name a few of the materials).

Many collectors love to fill their acid-free pages with topicals. There are societies dedicated to this endeavor, the ATA American Topical Association being the largest and one of the most venerable orgs. Maybe you caught them at the World Stamp Show 2016 at the Javits Center. Trains, Ships, Butterflies, and Cats are some of the most popular topicals. I myself enjoy locomotives from foreign countries. Also Coat of Arms, Chess, and Great Apes.

Recently, I’ve begun to put my topical acumen from stamp collecting into my blog building. My list keeps blooming like those sea monkey packets from way back when. Remember those? Sometimes you only get seedlings. Most of the time though I get a slew of ideas from a few concrete images. Here’s a few of been working on:

1— Cats (You didn’t think I’d let them astray?)


Such a broad topic but ripe with possibility. I’ve been working on literary essays where cats play a strong part in stories. So far I’m exploring some Murakami short fiction, Ursula Leguin’s The Other Wind, Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone. Emily Ruskovich’s “Owl” (a 2015 O. Henry Prize Story) is absolutely brilliant and will knot my main thread.

2— Chess



“All The King’s Horses” by Kurt Vonnegut is, bar none, my nes plus ultra favorite chess story. There’s Brad Leithauser’s novel Hence, which is pretty interesting, a man-versus-machine take on the game. For a breezy read, there’s Anthony Glyn’s The Dragon Variation kind of behind-the-scenes peek into the world competitive chess circa the 1960s. Of course, I’d be replete if I didn’t throw my own Shades of Luz into the mix. You recall those street chess hustlers don’t you?

3— Fishing and Fisherman (and not Bobby Fischer)



Anton Chekhov has to top the bill for this category, but I find the novels of Craig Lesley to be some of the best fishing fiction ever. Check out his The Sky Fisherman which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1996. You also can’t go wrong with Rick Bass. I’ll be culling through some of his collections right now.

4— Baseball

The Natural by Bernie Malamud tops my list, but one of my favorite shorter stories is T.C. Boyles’ “The Hector Quesadilla Story”. How could I not include Stuart Dybeck’s “Death of a Right Fielder.” Michael Chabon’s “Smoke” is also not too shabby. One of my writing friend’s, Jon Sindell, has an excellent, politically-charged baseball novel called The Mighty Roman.

These are some broad brushstrokes. Certainly, you can tinker with your topicals. In terms of stamp collecting, stuff like stamps on stamps, coins on stamps and famous stamp personalities (Sir Rowland Hill) on stamps have always been great categories. That mimetic juice has a lot of pulp.

5—Books about Writers on Writing


Of course I’m a card-carrying Malamudian so I have to top another list with my maven. The Tenants is an amazing, later work of the great writers’ writer. It’s about the Sisyphean struggle to write and also about race and humanity. A truly brilliant work. Add it to your TBR. I mean like right now. Philip Roth seems to have this as an ongoing thread is much of his work. Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon is worth a read.

So friends, I’ve hit my word count for the day. I’ll leave you with this golden nugget. Keep writing. Try stamp collecting. It’s not a hobby. It’s way of life. It’s thoroughly engrossing, and, it’ll give you plenty of topicals to consider. It’ll load up your basement too.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

January Junkets


(photo by John Gorman)

Happy New You!

Is there anything better than the fresh start of a new year? The tabula rasa quality to it. Maybe it’s because I’m a Capricorn that I’m so fond of January, and snowflakes (in small doses). Maybe it’s something else. I’ve had the good fortune of traveling over many Januarys, and in that time, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to bask in many new experiences. Today I’d like to share a few memories from my favorite January Junkets.

1 – Machu Picchu

The coup de grâce. I still proudly sport my Hiram Bingham t-shirt (the archaeologist who stumbled upon M.P. back in 1911). There is nothing like scaling the sacred citadel. The fog looms as you climb up. It’s otherworldly. Majestic. It’s a heck of a trip just to get there from Cuzco. The clunky van that scoops you up and takes you on a bumpy ride. The train that snakes along Urubamba, then the second, clunkier van, and then the hike in your own weathered boots. Then the real trek begins, one of body, one of spirit. Your sinewy calves and burning hamstrings open into a new realm. When you reach the top, and peer out, you are on top of the world without a boundless view.

2 – Florence

What an amazing city for a loper! Florence is that city you can practically walk through in a day, and then you can go back and spend a lifetime trying to relish it. Relive and re-envision it. Enjoy a respite in the Boboli Gardens, chuckle at the tourists paying kingly sums for king-sized gelato cones across from the Duomo. Sit on the steps of San Lorenzo and read from a weathered paperback about the inexorable strife between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines. Plot out your next panini break. Become an artist. Fall in love.

3 – Mar Del Plata, Argentina

Spent a good chunk of my mornings whacking tennis balls on the red clay courts of various clubs, afternoons swimming at the beaches, dancing at night. I really did tango. Not well, but I gave it whirl. My carnivorous self gorged on bife de lomo and alwsy seemed to be hankering for more. My newfangled morning pick-me-up, mate sipped from a straw.

4 – Seaside, Oregon

The mellifluous sound of the Pacific splashing onto the shore and the burbling bubbles in the cold morning sand. I remember a seatless swing set on the beach during my morning strolls. Just the metal bars in the distance, my landmark, and a jetty way off. Gulls cackling to each other, enumerating their grievances, telling jokes. I was there, mainly to study. To earn my MFA in Creative Writing. It was a great time.

5 – Disneyland (As an adult)

I know your first thought might be “What a flouncy place for an adult?” but really there’s so magic there. Magic rediscovered. I’m not talking about visiting as a kid or even with your kid. I’m talking about a crisp and carefree time when I visited as a 19-year-old with my girlfriend and her family. Maybe I’ve always just been a big kid myself. I still have my stuffed Goofy.

6 – Toronto

I’ve often said that I could totally see myself here. I think I have an innate Canadian sensibility. I love Tim Horton donuts much more than Dunkin Donuts. I always keep an Alice Munro tucked under a pillow and by my coffee table. I think I spent 3 Januaries there so my memory, or more precisely, my memories are a pleasant conflation. Of course I was a good little tourist and skated at the rink by Nathan Phillips Square by City Hall (on my first trip). Something akin to skating at Bryant Park. Coffee in Yorkville then a yummy falafel. Spent time admiring old Victorian homes in Cabbagetown, walking around like I belonged.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Not Too Shabby List for 2017 Instead of The Usual Crummy New Year’s Resolutions



Yup, it’s that time of year again. Time to make the list. Time to make the donuts. Throw down the gauntlet and take on your biggest challenge. Wait, not that big.

There’s a bunch of ways to slice it, but I’m going to take another path. The painless path. You say easy. I say different.

Humor me. For fun, I’ve made a list of 7 New Paths to take for 2017. Lucky 7. The pursuit of excellence. The pursuit of ergonomically untested waters. Maybe just the pursuit of take the edginess off things. Comprende? Only 3 of the ones listed below are ones I’d genuinely consider. I’ll let you figure that out for yourself.

I think this is a healthy exercise and I’d urge you to do the same.

List on.

1— Become a Unicyclist

Why not? You get plenty of exercise. It’s an eco-friendly way to travel and now with all the bike lanes around it’s an efficient way to get from point A to point B. And with all the Citi Bikes hogging up all the limelight, this would be a great way to steal some of their thunder. Get it. A way to stand out. From what I gather, it’s also a natural segue to make it into the Big Apple Circus and a helluva lot less dangerous than sticking your head into a lion’s mouth or teetering on the trapeze artist’s wire line.

2— Backgammon Champ

It’s the frustrated Chess Player’s best shot at making it into the big time. No Giuoco pianoing required. You can throw your textbook theory out the window (out of a moving vehicle). Combining Fancy Checkers luck and skill you can either be hustler of obscure playing parlors or take your gaming on the pro tour. Truth be told, I’ve always like been really smitten with their carry cases.

3— Goatherd

I’m going to get metaphorical on you. These guys constantly get lumped in with shepherds. They’re not the same at all. First off, I prefer goats and their milk and their cheese. Who doesn’t like goat cheese? I think some of their stubbornness could rub off on me (in a good way). think of all that fresh air and the dewy smell of grass.

4— Fantasy Ball Player (Batter Up)

This is totally doable. I could really sink my teeth (or cyber cleats) into this. I’ve always said immersing yourself in all the infinite possibilities is the best way to enjoy the ol’ American pastime. There’s something very Borgesian or is it Borgeseque about it too. The infinite possibilities that is.

5— Tat Artist

Yeah kid. This is the ticket. No doubt. They make some pretty good coin too. No reason to fiddle with finger paints and Crayolas forever. New Year means New Horizons. New Outlook. Newness. Ink it!

6 – Lightsaber Inspector

You wanted me to wield the laser sword? Admit it, didn’t you? Puh. I’m not taking those kind of chances. I’ll still play a great part, a bit part to be sure, but a safe part. Thank you very much. I want to keep all my limbs and eyeballs in 2017. The Balance of the Force will be in my Nivea-enriched hands. Come on, don’t try to play it off. You know that you’d kill to be that special somebody who ironed out all the chinks of the most awesome weapon in 17 and half galaxies and made it possible for the newfangled Jedi Knight Master to the N-teenth power to take care of business until infinity and day. Yeah.

7—Wizard

This shouldn’t come as a total shock to my closest peeps. You know who you are. Let me make it absolutely clear just what I mean by being a wizard. Of course I’d love to have a trusty wand and make potions spew from the unsuspecting mouths of baby sparrows and spill out of Tupperware containers stuffed with tofu. It would like be super often to have that capability, but nay, I’ve got a different hankering for 2017. I’m going Bard up. Bard in the true wizardly sense— you know, engage in the musicality of the cosmos and whatnot. Find the right muse and pull the stuffing out and spread the love.

Thanks for playing! Happy New Year!
JG

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Announcing the Release of My Short Story Collection: Something Like Bliss

Fire up your Kindles Fiction Lovers!

I’d like to take a moment to announce the upcoming release of my story collection “Something Like Bliss.” The Kindle release is pretty much slated for January 29th 2017, roughly a fortnight from the Tropic of Capricorn. I’m practicing a Capricorn, as you might already know. While I had originally planned on putting out my book this past June, a number of obstacles prevented this from happening. I find I keep tripping over life or it keeps tripping over me. Anyway I’m excited to see this project finally coming into fruition. All of the stories, save one, have been published in literary journals. Below you will find a roster of the lucky lit mags. Three of my stories first appeared in my MFA Thesis at Pacific University. They’re tickled pink to be freed from their buckram binding.

Many of the stories in this collection cross genre boundaries as well as myriad emotional landscapes. “El Mariachi” is set in Mexico and centers on the unrequited love a young man has for his aunt. “A Private Language” is an updated, reconfigured Stand By Me, following the lives of 4 latchkey boys, culminating in a gruesome moment that will forever change them. Some of the stories have a fabulist element. “Rejects from the Pretzel Factory” is a comical take on the exploitation of a sweet old lady, a former Rockette, who has been roped into a greedy corporation’s ad campaign. Also, included is “The Itch of Runaway Souls,” which was published this past April in the new insert of the Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row.

I’m not going to pretend I don’t have a favorite, but I’m also not going to share that with you either. Gonna play possum. Seriously though, I waited a long while to share this collection with the public because I wanted it to be just so. I’m most passionate about shorter works. I’ve always been a devoted reader of pithier prose: Flannery O’Connor, Kafka, Borges, Chekhov, Bernie Malamud. And of those writers who go long, I favor their short stories: Haruki Murakami, Thomas Coraghessan Boyle, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Hannah Tinti, Pete Fromm, Phillip K. Dick.

Maybe the time we live in is indicative of my predilection for concise works. I believe it’s Francine Prose who says something
to the effect that in short stories “each word must go on the trial of its life” in order to make it into the final cut. Something like that, and when it works, it’s something like bliss.
Thanks for all of your support and I look forward seeing you at the upcoming readings and such.

Publication List

APT
Breakwater Review
Chicago Tribune’s Printer’s Row
Digging Through The Fat
Euphony
Gravel
Merida
New Pop Lit
Newtown Literary
Snapping Twig
Storychord
The Main Street Rag
The Summerset Review
The Vehicle
Tulane Reivew
Twisted Vine
Vector Magazine
Writer’s Digest
Yellow Chair Review