Excerpt: Sureshot the King

Some of the new words I’ve put down for Sureshot the King…coming soon.

Meanwhile, Vorfar and Makler began making a plan to get into the city once more. This time it would be more difficult as there had just done so. The decided they would travel to the northern end of the city and attempt to gain entry posing as woodsmen helping to bring lumber and supplies into the city. It was the least trafficked area of the wall because there were no well traveled roads there, only a few trappers, loggers and miners entered that area. Besides, it was on the opposite side from their position and so less likely that any search parties would be looking for them there.

When they were satisfied with their plan, they wondered where the prince had gone.

“He is struggling,” Makler suggested.

“Aye, he is,” Vorfar agreed. “It isn’t an easy thing. He’s torn between his loyalty to his father and his friend. In those situations, one’s heart aches because it wants to hold both but you cannot hold both fire and ice in the same hand. He must drop one of them and he does not want to.”

“But I don’t believe Durbar killed his father,” Makler added.

“Perhaps not, but it does not matter. Either Durbar did so because Duke Orthan had to be killed, or someone else killed the Duke and is letting Durbar take the blame. Either way, the young prince is mourning. Not only for his father but for his friend. It is a lot of weight on him. Try to be patient. He does not necessarily mean what he says right now. It is the pain speaking through him.”

”But if Durbar didn’t kill the duke then who did?”

“I surely don’t know. But I do know that his family is cursed with treachery. Never were they fond of loyalty.”

“Are you saying it is possible that Warren killed his father?”

”Many things are possible. In the case of Orthan and his sons, suffice it to say that there is a history of such things. Betrayal runs in their blood.”

Makler looked towards the woods into which Rothan retreated, but he, like the truth, was hidden.

Advertisements

Review: Bird Box

Ok, Ok, so I don’t normally do this because reviewing things is not really my deal, but maybe it should be. It can be hilarious (I’m trying to translate my humor into writing) and useful for developing as a story teller. Besides, it’s also fun to see people react over someone else’s opinion. I’m not looking to be a professional troll or anything, just trying out something new.

So, Bird Box. Sandra Bullock was amazing. She always is so that isn’t a surprise. She was almost the only good thing about the movie. Yes some of the cinematography was good. Some of the other acting was good (I could watch John Malkovich all day). The main initiating conflict was very compelling. But after that, the story does not hold up and really just didn’t work. My biggest problems with the movie were that the character development was almost non existent except for Bullock’s character, the climax created more questions than provided answers and besides that they did not explain a lot of things along the way.

Before I spew hatred of the movie no doubt swelling from some deep wound I carry, let me say that the whole not naming the kids thing was kinda clever and her issue over whether to have a kid or not was interesting. I liked the juxtaposition of her considering giving up her own baby to now carrying for two children. Ok, now to being petty.

My first issue was the clear lack of character development. They literally introduced characters that just disappeared and no one said anything about it. We never knew who they were or what they were about and then they were gone. Even Bullock’s character could have been deeper. But her man? Who was he and what was his motivation besides sleeping with Bullock during an apocalyptic event. If you’re character is going to hit on a pregnant woman surrounded by chaos and death, you need to explain why. It was strange. Multiple characters just vanished. In a thriller it is probably more difficult than in other genres but it is still important. I literally recall watching From Dusk till Dawn and in the middle of an apocalyptic event we got background on characters who remained. The screen writers may have written those scenes in and perhaps they were cut but regardless of the excuse, there was a huge hole when it came to characters.

Another problem was the number of unanswered questions along the way. We never really got a sense of what the hell they saw except that there was some sort of hallucination or something that caused people to harm themselves. Who were “they?” You could get away with leaving that a mystery as sometimes the unknown is more frightening but why were there people who weren’t affected exactly? They were crazy? But why would that matter? And why would they serve “them?” And where were the other blind people the whole time? Blind people don’t all live in one remote location away from everyone else. They could have been super helpful the entire time. Where was Daredevil when you need him!?!?

The climax. I’m not sure if the end of Bird Box is anything like faking an orgasm just to end the event but it sure felt unsatisfying. They are safe? But how? It appeared that “they” were still there but somehow the blind people helped the non blind people not get tricked into looking? And how are they sustaining the entire compound? And everyone knows that in an apocalyptic event it will get very violent and the search for supplies will become life and death, but a community of mostly blind people are guarding all their supplies from predatory survivors? It’s a stretch. And why the hell would someone build a blind school in the middle of no-where accessible only by traversing rapids? Did the blind people row down the rapids to get there? It just didn’t add up and I was personally left with a ton of questions (obviously).

So the movie was a bit weak. I’m curious why it is crushing it so hard on Netflix. Maybe it is the Furby effect or something and the hype is generating the popularity in the first place because I was personally disappointed and based on memes and other posts I’ve seen I wasn’t the only one.

Again, Sandra Bullock was great but she was basically carrying the movie alone. That said, I’m really glad they made this movie because the meme’s have been fantastic and since that basically all we (myself included) value in 2019, it was basically a masterpiece for that reason alone.

Other things about the movie that bothered me:

Bullocks hair looked great in the apocalypse.

Her man was still in fantastic shape five years after the collapse of the world.

How did you keep infants from looking? Did you keep a bag over their heads the whole time from ages 0-5?

Why didn’t John Malcovich manage to break out of the room he was locked in?

The other pregnant chick was super annoying.

Machine Gun Kelly was in it but said basically the same line over and over, smashed then disappeared.

How did she row a boat for 2 days? It’s exhausting.

How were those crazy fools surviving? They didn’t seem to do anything except chase non crazy people, even in the middle of a river.

Never mind…I have to stop, I’m getting mad all over again. I’m going to watch Bio Dome, a real cinematic work of art and go to bed. Goodnight.

Older, Wiser, Writing

When I was in my 20s I was really set on being a writing after completing my first novel length manuscript. It was quite an accomplishment and I felt wonderful about it. I was convinced that writing was absolutely for me and that I was going to be successful at it. That was quite a while ago now.

I gave up on the dream for a long time after the first contract and publisher didn’t materialize into anything substantial. I figured that some combination of me not being good enough, not having enough time to focus on writing and the market being difficult to break into was responsible and besides, I had kids and a teaching career by then to focus on.

I always knew I was a good storyteller though. I figured that even if I never made it as a commercial writer that I could still write and tell stories because I love it. So I kept writing. A little here and a little there I kept going. A few poems, a few short stories and even occasionally writing something longer kept my toes in the water. Slowly I was getting a little better at the craft. A friend of mine gave me a couple books about writing and I continued to wonder if I should spend more time putting stories together. Then I did.

I rediscovered the passion I had for writing and storytelling and I have been putting in legitimate effort into it since. That was about a year ago now and I know that I will not likely stop. I am telling better stories than ever and writing better than ever. And I love every minute of it.

It had me wondering. Is there a reason I’m a better storyteller now? Absolutely! Besides the obvious answer with regards to time and practice to get better, I believe that I know more now or have more wisdom if you like than I did when I was young. This may seem self evident of course but when I was young I had no idea. I was grappling with issues and life in a way that was unrefined and I failed to understand a great number of things that I now do with more age and experience. I’m sure this is true of most writers and honestly, many were not successful until they were much older.

I’m inching my way towards 40 and I am confident that as I continue to grow wiser and better at the craft, my writing will become even better. Maybe I will even be commercially successful at some point. Even if I do not, I will always love writing and will continue to do it for the sake of doing so.

Cloaks

When I was editing Sureshot the Assassin for the final time before hitting the publish button, I had a friend of mine read through and do some editing. He’s a prolific reader of fantasy so I value his opinion greatly. He helped polish up the draft greatly but there was one thing we laughed about but ultimately had me really thinking about my writing.

It turns out, my friend can’t stand it when characters in books or movies wear a cloak to blend in. He pointed out that the point of blending in is to look like everyone else. A cloak makes you stand out more than blend in because it is so different than what everyone else would be wearing. If the goal is blending in, a cloak pulled over someone’s head is super suspicious.

We laughed about it as I realized he’s totally right! It is super suspicious to cover your head and face if no one else is. I indeed had been writing in cloaks and never even thought about it. Then I really tried to figure out why I was writing like that.

I realized that I got it from reading the genre and playing games that perpetuate the idea that you can throw a hood over your head and no one will notice you. I have no idea where that started or why, but it is absolutely dumb. It would make sense to cover your head in the rain or other bad weather but inside and around other people? I imagine it was always rude to cover your face in situations like that.

So, lesson learned. No more needless cloaks or hoods.

So Much to Write

So much to write so little time! As summer trudges on and the inferno of Fresno heat burns my flesh and scorches my feet, I continue to forge my “writer” self into a truly respectable being. It is rewarding and painful all at once and yet I am elated to be on this path.

One of the things I didn’t anticipate but now find myself agonizing over is which projects to focus on. Obviously my pilot series is The Sureshot and I absolutely love it and it has as of yet been received well and I look forward to continuing but I have so many other ideas and even partial stories written that I could chose to focus on that it becomes a little daunting at times.

On top of that, I really embraced building a brand. It appears that branding is a huge thing in our world and successful people and companies do it very well. Say Starbucks and everyone knows exactly what you mean. Mention J K Rowling and you immediately think Harry Potter. Stephen King and you associate his work with horror. Branding.

So what do I want Brunnengraeber to mean? As a quick aside, I am actually thrilled to be named Brunnengraeber as it is not a name very many people carry and so I can work to create a brand around it without influence from anything or anyone else.

To answer my own questions; I’m not one hundred percent sure yet. I’ve decided that indeed epic fantasy is the genre for me but I have not yet created enough content to sustain much of a brand. That means that every word I write at this point could either help build a brand or erode whatever I have already built. I feel a lot of pressure as a result. But such is life and I’m embracing the challenge with enthusiasm and joy.

For now The Sureshot is my focus, but I will branch out from that soon and in ways that will likely have a significant effect on my career as a writer for whatever that is worth. The journey itself is enjoyable so I have no complaints.

Sunday Reflections on Voice

Just taking a moment to reflect on voice. Voice is a super important aspect of writing and what makes an author unique. I definitely have favorite authors and their voices are part of why I love them. Meanwhile, there are others I don’t enjoy as much and sometimes it is their voice I don’t care for. But what is voice?

While the term “voice” seems easy enough to understand, the more I think about it the more complex it is. It is the sum of all the choices a writer makes. It is the specific words that are chosen, the punctuation used, the balance between narrative and dialogue and dozens of other, sometimes subtle, characteristics of their writing. This has me really reflecting on first, the voice of the writers I really like, second, what my voice is beginning to sounds like and third, whether it is the voice I want or if I should try to shape it into something else.

I thought about George Orwell, for sure one of my top three writers. His writing was very witty. His analogy in Animal Farm and the short story “Shooting an Elephant” was masterful. 1984 was not only prophetic but also brilliant. He uses certain words regularly like “countenance.” His real brilliance though is in his portrayal of suffering, internal conflict and in creating tragedy. He is a realist and his stories are very relatable. His endings are never happy, but then, in my experience happy endings are few and far between.

Another of my favorites is John Steinbeck. He too is a realist and his stories are about people and our struggles. Steinbeck was fantastic at illustrating human pain and conflict and his work is immortal. There are no happy endings in Steinbeck’s work either. There is mostly pain and the acceptance of suffering as part of the human condition but he brilliantly wrote about how people endure and even overcome the pain of our world.

Lastly, I love Mark Twain. He is very different from my previous two and is much more of an optimist. Twain was absolutely hilarious. His wit and humor are to be admired and emulated. Most are familiar with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn but A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is my favorite Twain book. So sarcastic and clever. Twain also had a tendency toward run on sentences. Comma after comma after comma and before you know it, an entire paragraph was only one sentence. It was all part of his voice and I love it.

So where am I? Well, I for sure sense that my voice has solidified a little. The Sureshot Rises was mostly written years ago while I was very young and completely unaware of voice and had basically no idea what I was doing. In rewrites, including the most recent this year as I published it, it contained more of my voice and reflected my story telling style better but still, I would say my voice is naive and weak in that work. In Sureshot the Assassin the voice is stronger but still forming. It better reflects my affinity towards realism and tragedy that the authors I adore were masters of. Since then I’ve done a ton of writing. Especially in the last year. As a result I’ve become mindful of my voice as it solidifies and strengthens and I’m not disappointed.

So far my story telling is characterized by a decent ability to describe scenes and people using analogy and simile. I actually intentionally compare people to an animal and then use those characteristics to help form the character. I spend a bit of time trying to connect the reader to the senses through my writing as a way to elicit emotions. I lean towards the dark tragedy of humanity as a theme in my writing. I would love to get to the point where my writing reflects the realism of the authors I value so highly. I also tend to write deep and flawed characters trying to not only show the external conflicts they have to deal with but also the internal ones we all wrestle with. It’s real. That’s what I’m going for.

I’m going to be mindful moving forward and really monitor my voice try to find ways to improve but then also be true to it. My goal at the moment is to try to meld the tragedy with the humor and wit that Twain had. I’m a funny dude and I want that to be reflected in my work. No matter what, It’ll be fun and I’m enjoying the journey. Cheers.

Indie Writing Thoughts

Really my venture into indie writing began this year when I published The Sureshot Rises. So far I have no regrets. I am enjoying the adventure and trying to develop as a writer. This summer I have an opportunity to do some serious writing and with some focus I can have book three written and some other pieces in the works. Here’s some thoughts so far.

1) I love the control I have over the whole situation. I’ve been using Amazon Direct Publishing exclusively and I’m very pleased with it over all. I love that I can make changes easily and update things as I please. I have my copies of each story and both the print and digital formats saved and easily accessible any time I want to make a change. It’s pretty awesome

2) The speed with which you can get a book published is unreal. Literally the moment I decide I’m ready to publish, it seems I can have a kindle version available in 24 hours. It’s pretty awesome. The print copy is a little more work formatting to make sure everything is lined up the way I prefer but even that is only a matter of 2 to 3 days before print copies are available. I love it.

3) Editing is still a pain. It’s super important mind you, but it is also super difficult. I have embraced editing as a necessary part of writing and I even came to enjoy it as I finished editing Sureshot the Assassin but the problem is that no matter how much editing I do, there is always another error. Until I have the money to hire someone to do some copy editing, it appears that I will continue to struggle with this. I try to produce a clean copy but there is always something I overlooked.

Well, the adventure continues and I’m having a ton of fun along the way. Cheers.