Tag Archives: Stephen King

Enter If You Dare.

3 Nov

JoylandJoyland by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On the one hand it is a bit crime novel with just enough supernatural elements to sign King’s name to it. Primarily, it is what S.K. has always done best in my estimation. It is nostalgia. It is a shot of youth with a chaser of regret. The bitter taste of regret doesn’t ruin the sweet of looking back on that one big summer when we put away childish things. It is bittersweet but mostly sweet. If ‘The Body’ was King’s remembrance of adolescence then ‘Joyland‘ was his sweet coming of age for the next chapter and the transition from adolescence to being a young adult.

My two favorite quotes from the book are these:

“When you’re twenty-one, life is a roadmap. It’s only when you get to be twenty-five or so that you begin to suspect that you’ve been looking at the map upside down, and not until you’re forty are you entirely sure. By the time you’re sixty, take it from me, you’re fucking lost.”

As a man approaching forty, I still feel most days like the boys in ‘The Body’ and sometimes on good days like Dev in ‘Joyland’ having his last summer. Now, I am entering into Autumn…or it feels like it when I am slathering on the Ben Gay and getting my park buttoned down for winter. I may have another twenty years before I realize how lost I really am but I am pretty sure that I was holding the map upside down the whole damn time.

” When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.”

Wistful remembrances and nostalgia are the thing that I think King does even better than horror and cheap scares. He knows we are all rubes on the ride of life. We may learn ‘the talk’ one summer when we are young and we forget most of it…but still as we move on, there is a part of us that is always ‘carny’ and we carry that part with us to the grave and beyond maybe if there is such a thing…and I am really NOT so sure. There are no second acts but it is best not to think too much about that while we are in the midst of our first.

One last quote and comment,

“The last good time always comes, and when you see the darkness creeping toward you, you hold on to what was bright and good. You hold on for dear life.”

King isn’t as young as he once was and neither is this reader. ‘Joyland’ has the cover of a pulpy crime novel but the wise man said not to judge a book thus. It isn’t a spook book either. There is never any doubt that the protagonist survived his summer at ‘Joyland’ and lived on with a few scars to show. Maybe it is just me (I know it isn’t…) but as the date creeps on and the calendar pages fly by and we are left wondering how long until our last good times come, we hold to what is bright and good. To me sometimes that is a yellowed paperback tucked in your pocket as you watch the leaves rustle in October and think back on the summer that just passed (and all of those summers) and…remember.

And smile.

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Build a Better Brand Platform: 30 Day Challenge (Day 1)

1 Sep
Cell (novel)

Cell (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is based on Robert Brewer’s April Platform Challenge. He ran this challenge originally in April of 2012 and I did not discover it until the middle point of August when I was researching a post I wanted to do on building a brand/platform for an author. I read his challenge and thought. “I could do this!” and then my competitive spirit kicked in and I thought, “I could do this better!!!

I am going to follow along with Mr. Brewer’s Challenge and add in my own tips, tricks and twists as we go. I will also always link back to his challenge so you can compare and follow along with both challenges simultaneously.

I decided to create my own 30 day challenge to be taken by my readers in September (if you are playing along this month) or at anytime that you discover it. Before we get to the specifics of the challenge let’s unpack a few concepts that will help us understand what our goal is this month.

What is an author’s brand? 

“Brand” is such a packed word. It is a marketing word. It is an ad executive or public relations specialist word. It’s a salesman’s word. A brand is literally any “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers” as defined by American Marketing Association‘s Dictionary. What does it have to do with writers?

Writer’s have a brand. Would you agree? Let me toss a few names out there: Louis L’Amour, Danielle Steele,  and Stephen King. I am sure that you  knew these authors’ names, what genres the authors’ usually write in, maybe a book cover popped into your head, and I can never see the names written without thinking of the fonts usually used on the covers of their books to print their names. A brand is everything we just mentioned. It is all of the things that you know about an author and their books just from their name alone that helps sell them to readers.

So do writers’ have brands? Successful ones do.

Daddy (novel)

Daddy (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is an author’s platform?

This post by Jane Friedman  is one of the best definitions of this difficult concept that I have found. A platform is everything you do online and offline to build visibility and authority. I like to think of it as who is listening to you and the things you do to make sure that you are someone worth listening to.  We build our platform in a lot of ways; social media like Facebook and Twitter, blogs, e-mail newsletters and every way we touch and interact with our reading audience.

Building a platform is not something we do in just 30 days (or 60 or 90 days even). Platforms are built over a career with focus and effort at making and connecting with a wide network and building a loyal following and readership. It is not something that can be done for a month and then never thought about again.

However, you can start with a month. We are going to build our platforms together. We are going to start off in the right direction and put up some signposts for those readers who take up these challenges later. The comments need to be full this month with tips and testimonies. Tell what worked for you and what didn’t work yet. Ask questions. Give answers. Let’s build our platforms as a community and share this experience as we all take on this challenge together.

DAY ONE CHALLENGE: 

Our day one is a commitment to the challenge. How do we commit? We commit by thinking about and defining ourselves. How can we broadcast who we are to the world if we are not sure who we are ourselves. This is the same first day challenge that Robert Brewer presented and it is the right place to start.  Who are you?

WHO AM I?

Name (as used in byline): Sean O. Murphy

Position(s): Entertainment Writer- Moore Monthly; Frequent Contributor- OKC.NET ; Freelance Writer; Blogger

Skill(s): Creative writing, film criticism,music journalism, hyper-local news, community news, blogging, social media and SEO basics

Social media platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress.

Accomplishments: Member of the Oklahoma Film Critic’s Circle, Judge of the Moore Reel Film Festival,Certified English/ESL Tutor by the College Reading and Learning Association, Member Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society

Interests: Writing. Reading. Watching movies. Listening to live music. Science Fiction and Fantasy Fandom, Walking for pleasure and exercise. Being a father to my children

In one sentence, who am I? Sean O. Murphy is the father of two incredible children who enjoys reading and writing,watching movies, and listening to music for both work and play.

This is our starting point for defining our brand and thinking of ways we need to build our platform. Feel free to share your  “Who Am I?” in the comments. I am interested in knowing who you are. Taking this first step is your act of confirmation that you are ready to devote a month to the challenge of beginning to think of your own brand and platform.

Ready? Let’s go!

Get Lit

26 Aug
Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson (Photo credit: billypalooza)

The best part of writing is the drinking. There is no writer’s block too heavy for a shot of whiskey to lift. It frees the fingers and they never seemed to hit the page faster. Ideas flow out of your mind and onto the screen without the slightest effort. Having a hard time finding the perfect word? Maybe it is at the bottom of a bottle of bourbon. If it’s not there look in another.

Obviously, I’m kidding. There has never been a famous writer who wrote drunk on a routine basis. Has there?

I mean…sure…there’s…

Ernest Hemingway. Edgar Allan Poe. Dylan Thomas. Hunter S. Thompson. Dorothy Parker. Kerouac.  William Faulkner. Jack London. Truman Capote. Raymond Chandler. Tennessee Williams. Charles Bukowski. James Joyce.

They were all drunks. Every single one.

Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even Stephen King had his dance with the demon alcohol. He is in recovery.

Obviously, I am not suggesting you become an alcoholic. Overall, this is probably a bad move not only for your career as a writer but for your life in general. If you have a moment, read up on all of these “drunk writers” (as I have decided to call them here) because none of their lives were particularly charmed and most of them ended tragically.

Yet…there has to be some correlation.  Drinking makes us loose. It releases inhibition. We are creative thinkers and  we should think of another  creative way to do this without the lives of intense and constant insobriety. I mean, we should be able to do that,right?

Maybe…

Write Yourself Silly

I’m thinking King and Kerouac here (but this will probably work for them all), these “drunk writers” wrote. I mean they really produced. They wrote pages and pages. There is a chance that some of what they wrote was garbage. They allowed themselves to write freely. They did not stop to edit at the page.  So if we were to take a tip without taking a sip, I think we would allow ourselves to write freely.

“Write drunk; edit sober.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Use freewriting or just writing more freely. I would rather write ten pages of trash to edit down to one page of treasure than to spend an evening staring at a blank screen or backtracking all night to get every sentence just right.

Don’t edit yourself out of writing. Don’t blame writer’s block. Do you get blocked eating donuts, playing with your dog,or dancing naked in your living room? Of course not, because those are things of joy. If you fail, who cares? Let writing become a thing of joy. Be a “happy drunk” on writing. Fall over. Stumble. Wait until the morning to look at the crazy things you did and try to set them straight.

Loosen up. Play. Smile.

Don’t obsess over every element of your writing. Just write.

Maybe…

Develop a Sense of Humor

Writing is serious business. Sensitive souls releasing themselves on to the page. Getting sick at the slightest criticism.

Be “Fun Bobby” when he was fun and stop being “ridiculously dull Bobby” (this is a Friends reference because retro 90’s  humor is cool…is too!)

Lighten up. Make a joke. I take that back make ten. Learn to laugh at yourself.

When people ask me what I do for a living and I answer, “I am a freelance writer”, I am certain to get confused looks as if I had just made the most inscrutable suggestion known to man.  You know the faces with the wrinkled noses and scrunched up eyes?

So I say, “I’m a soldier in the war against the blank page” or “I’m a historian preserving the legacy of the long forgotten art of writing.  It might not clear things up but it makes people laugh.

Who would you rather work with,a guy who is always dour and serious or someone of equal ability and ethics who can make you laugh? Who would you rather hang out with, the guy with the gray cloud above his head or someone who knows how to cut up?

I know my answer.

So take the time in your writing to look at things sideways or to turn them upside down. You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian but bringing a lighthearted look to an otherwise mundane subject is likely to keep a reader’s attention longer than a completely factual and dry take on the topic.

Leave the Hangover for tomorrow.

Writer’s block is an excuse. It is an excuse for the frightened and insecure to not try. Don’t wait for inspiration to find you. Inspiration is in the third page. You have to go to it. Write two and see if I am right.

Don’t be a “drunk writer”. I mean look again at Bukowski:

That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”
― Charles Bukowski, Women

He was a genius writer but by most reports he was an a**hole.

Don’t be an a**hole.

Take the good and leave the bad. If you want to take a shot now and again before you write then do it but don’t let your writing or your life depend on drink. Live a looser life all the time and you won’t need the sauce. Be high on life. Be drunk on your own creativity.

Live life a little different. Write a lot freer. Allow yourself to be a writer. The drunk part will be unnecessary.

Be different.

As different as Zach Galifinakis and Will Oldham lip-syncing  a Kanye West song while backed-up by clog dancers and walking through the woods in silk pajamas.

Enjoy. Read Responsibly.  Friends don’t let friends blog drunk.

Freewriting Friday

24 Aug
Freewriting

Freewriting (Photo credit: Eemah)

Writing is Communication. Effective Writing is Effective Communication.

One thing said to me often is that writing is hard. That is a lie. Writing is not hard. Writing is very easy. Most of us learned to write in grade school. Writing is communication. Effective writing is effective communication. Effective communication takes practice. Infants don’t begin learning to speak by orating like Winston Churchill. They make nonsense that sounds like the “coo” of pigeons. It takes practice to speak like a Churchill (or an Obama). So why would anyone expect to sit down and write like Hemingway (or Stephen King) the first time they place fingers to a keyboard? Writing isn’t hard. Writing takes practice. In the beginning, just like with an infant you might make nonsense but with time, you will find your voice.

Writing takes Practice.

As with any skill that you want to learn, you must be willing to practice. You must practice to improve your ability. You will not start out writing perfectly. You will start out making many mistakes. Making mistakes is the best part of learning. Every mistake is a teacher. There are times when we don’t even care about the mistakes. Mistakes make us better. Mistakes can make us more creative.

Neil Gaiman said this about mistakes in a keynote address at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia:

I hope you’ll make mistakes. If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be useful. I once misspelled Caroline, in a letter, transposing the A and the O, and I thought, “Coraline looks like a real name…”

Neil Gaiman turned that mistake into a character, Coraline and wrote her into adventures worthy of a Hugo , Nebula, and Bram Stoker’s  awards. Our mistakes can make us better. Give yourself permission to make plenty of mistakes.

One time to explore the mistakes we will make is in freewriting. Freewriting is a form of brainstorming. I am a real fan of brainstorming and have suggested techniques before for brainstorming. I really encourage brainstorming. In fact, I equate brainstorming to creative thinking. I want you to become a “brain stormtrooper”.

Brainstorming = Creative Thinking

Freewriting is one of my favorite forms of brainstorming. Freewriting  can be done at any time of the day. Many writers make this a part of their morning routine. Julia Cameron suggests this with her idea of “Morning Pages”.

Click the link that says “Morning Pages”. If you follow no other link in this post, follow this one. Go ahead. I’ll wait here. Watch the video too. No,really…it’s okay. I’ll be right here.

See wasn’t that worth it?  I laugh when I watch her but she explains the importance of freewriting in a really easy way to relate to yourself.  I have not yet read The Artist’s Way. I do find the idea of “Morning Pages” to be a sound practice. I do freewriting any time that I am stuck in my writing but it has become a part of my morning routine. Freewriting can be a useful part of any writer’s routine and is really good for clearing out some of our mental clutter.

Not a single care was given this day

Freewriting Baby

What is Freewriting?

Freewriting is a pre-writing technique in which you write freely without a care for spelling,grammar or topic. Freewriting as a term was coined by Peter Elbow. Freewriting allows the writer to forget the rules and write without regard to how the writing looks on the page.  Freewriting is used to conquer blocks and to release negative energies. Does that sound to “New Age”? Do you expect me to follow it up with talk about cosmic vibrations. I won’t. I won’t go all Natalie Goldberg on you but think of writing as a meditation. Consider how releasing it will be to your writer’s blocks of apathy or fear of critique to allow yourself to just write. Write whatever comes to mind.

Joel Friedlander has an excellent post on freewriting called “Unleashing Your Creativity”.  That is another link that I give you full permission to follow now or later.  He talks about the idea of prompts. Let’s explore that.

Using a prompt.

A prompt is a suggestion to get your mind started. It is like priming  an engine with oil. It helps a cold engine get started. A prompt could be anything. Example prompts:

Write about:

  • the room you are in.
  • shoes..
  • a bird’s nest.
  • why they say cat’s have nine lives
  • that smell coming from the other room

Need more? 

Whether you use a prompt is totally up to you and you don’t have to. Remember freewriting is supposed to be freeing and if the prompts jam you up then dump them. You don’t need them.

Three handwritten pages is about 750 word. 750 Words is also the name of a great site for freewriting that I use daily. I encourage any writer of any level to try it if they are not currently freewriting in another way. I know that I am more comfortable freewriting at my keyboard than I am at writing three long scribbled pages in a notebook (although I do that when I am not near my computer).

Bloggers know we are all one click from being abandoned. However, I encourage you to follow the links I suggested especially on “Morning Pages”, “Unleashing Your Creativity”, and 750 Words.

So What is “Freewriting Friday”?

If you are not making freewriting part of your daily routine whether in the morning or any time that you get blocked up, then at least commit to yourself (and me) that you will join me here every Friday for “Freewriting Friday”. I will suggest a prompt and you will take it and blog it on your own blog. You do blog? Everybody blogs.

I will also share my freewriting from the week before. It will not be edited. It will likely contain many mistakes. It will be an example of what freewriting is like for anyone who is interested in taking this tool into their toolbox.

This week’s prompt for next week is write about:

“Writer’s Block as if it was something material and part of the physical world.”

If you are willing to take the freewriting challenge then follow this prompt and link in the comments. If you are going to take freewriting and make it part of your morning routine then just comment “I’m in!”

I dare you to take this challenge and make it a part of your daily (or weekly) routines as a writer.

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