Book Review: The Gunslinger

Have you ever read a book that you knew was good and yet you had no idea what it was about? That’s kind of what reading the The Gunslinger (Book 1 of the Dark Tower series) was like for me.

Photo credit: Goodreads.com
Photo credit: Goodreads.com

I don’t like it when my authors “abandon” their genres. It’s the reason I won’t read anything by J.K. Rowling that doesn’t have to do with magic. I’m weird like that. So, when I saw that horror-writing legend Stephen King was writing fantasy, I figured this book was not for me. I’m surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.

The book follows the mysterious  Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, and his pursuit of the even more mysterious man in black. The man in black has answers about the (I’m gonna use this word again) mysterious Dark Tower that holds…something. I think the Dark Tower links the worlds together, but that’s just my theory at this point. I’m not sure what Roland is looking for exactly, answers, power, love, revenge?

Anyway, he chases the man in black through a world that’s kind of like the Wild West. There are a lot of real-world religious references, specifically Christianity.  He even meets a young boy who died in a world that’s pretty much exactly like ours (he watched TV and got hit by a car), Except at the same time, there’s magic, specifically when it comes to the man in black. And there are these weird mutant things that are kind of like aliens. There’s a lot going on.

Roland is a classic cowboy character. He’s gruff, determined, and death follows him everywhere, but he had a soft spot for certain characters that he meets. He also has a sort of knightly air around him, mainly because his home world Gilead is pretty medieval, except they use guns instead of swords.

Basically, this book combines a bunch of different genres, which makes it like no other book I’ve ever read. It’s not a very long book, so I finished it in less than two days. It’s really intriguing, but as I said before, it’s also really confusing.

I think the mark of a good writer is that you can write a book where you don’t explain everything and still keep people interested. I think the Dark Tower series is going to be one of those where the more books you read, the more things start making sense.

Roland is a compelling enough character, and the (sorry to use this word again) mystery surrounding the Dark Tower is enough to keep me reading.

Also, if you want to explain the book to me…I’d appreciate it…

2015 Goals

Photo courtesy of: http://www.happynew-year.com/
Photo courtesy of: http://www.happynew-year.com/

Yes I’m doing the whole resolution thing. I don’t think it’s as cliche as everyone thinks. I know for a fact that I will not be able to complete all of my resolutions, but I think it’s nice to have something to strive for. Of course, I have more goals for the new year besides writing and reading, but I won’t bother listing them here. Here are five things I would like to accomplish this year:

  1. Submit my book to a literary agent. (Yes, I still haven’t done this yet.)
  2. Get a short story published in a literary magazine.
  3. Improve my freelancing career. (It’s looking promising already!)
  4. Read at least one book a month. (It doesn’t sound like a lot, but I have a pretty demanding schedule.)
  5. Gain new blog followers. (This will probably happen when I start blogging more regularly.)

There are probably other things I could put down, but those actually seem feasible. The first two will take the most work, but looking back on 2014, I know that a lot can happen in a year. Who knows? Maybe this time next year, this will be the blog of a published author! 🙂

Good luck on your goals for the next year! Don’t be afraid to dream big. As the great philosopher Drake would say, “YOLO.”

The Black League-Creative Writing

So I decided to share a bit of random creative writing that I’ve been fooling around with for a while. I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with it, but it’s fun to write so far. Let me know what you think!

The Black League

It was so dark that Reese could not see anything in front of him. His other senses did their best to compensate for his lack of sight. He could tell from the constant jarring contact that someone was directly in front of him and that someone was behind him, stepping constantly on his heels. He could hear whimpering and sniffling from the other children with him, and he could smell that someone had wet his or her pants in fear.

But the predominant smell that attacked his nostrils was the stench of old blood and rotting meat. It turned his stomach, and he tried not to vomit on whomever was in front of him. He heard someone retch behind him, and he knew that if that person threw up, he was sure to follow suit. His kidnappers had not given any orders when they stole him from his bed, but he had a feeling that they did not want him expelling the meager contents of his stomach all over the floor.

More than anything, he wanted to know where Lucas was. His twin brother had been sleeping in the bed next to him, but Reese could not remember for the life of him if he had been dragged out of bed as well. Was he still sleeping soundly? Had one of the kidnappers slit his throat? Or was he somewhere in this line of filthy orphans?

Reese wanted to call his name, but he had a feeling that that kind of behavior would not be tolerated. He hoped he could wake up. All he wanted to do was wake up in bed and realize that this was all a dream. He was with his brother, and his parents were still alive. If only that was the reality.

What’s wrong with Ebooks?

So can somebody please tell me why we are debating about whether ebooks or real books are better? My “hipster” friends on social media sites have decided to put down ebooks, and I have no idea why.

Why the Kindle hate? (Photo courtesy of buzzfeed.com)
Why the Kindle hate?
(Photo courtesy of buzzfeed.com)

For one thing, the whole “real book” label is problematic in itself. If I read my paperback copy of To Kill A Mockingbird and then switch to reading it on my Kindle, did the words change? What makes my ebook copy less “real” than my physical copy?

Plus, aren’t ebooks more fitting with the times anyway? The younger generations love gadgets (as part of a young generation, I should know). More importantly than that, we love immediacy. Why should I wait to get a physical copy of a book when I can immediately download it on my Kindle?

To be fair, if I really love a book, I will get a physical copy. I do agree with the picture floating around that a physical library is more impressive than an elibrary, a least in terms of looks. Plus, it’s harder to lend a really great book to someone if I only have the ebook.

But that’s not the point. Why is one form of reading better than another? Shouldn’t we be rejoicing that people are actually reading, that despite all of the other gadgets and distractions, people are choosing to also get books electronically? Isn’t it a great thing that while my physical library is pretty small, my elibrary is bursting with books?

The fact is, people aren’t reading as much as they used to. There are so many other things to occupy our time now, and if ebooks are the way to get people reading again, then who am I to stand in their way?

Racism in America

Race is huge focus in the media right now. I’ve been wondering how I should respond to it all. Then I remembered a very short story that I wrote when I was in Intermediate Nonfiction in college. It’s a little creepy how I sort of predicted that race problems would persist. Feel free to comment!

“The End of Racism”

Barack Obama was elected as the first African American president on November 4, 2008. His election was considered to be “the end of a long journey” and “an event that shattered 200 years of history.” The United States of America had finally “put an end to racism.”

The neighborhoods in Collierville, Tennessee were filled with McCain/Palin signs. They were in the yards, on cars and on t-shirts, and the frequency of these sightings increased as long as John McCain remained ahead in the polls. The McCain supporters didn’t mind the occasional Obama/Biden sign or bumper sticker. Their man was in the lead. When Obama took the lead for the first time, someone or maybe a group of people went around and tore all of the Obama/Biden signs out of yards and off of cars, including the yard and cars of the house at 579 Hermitage Trail Drive.

Collierville High School held a mock election a few weeks before Election Day. John McCain won by a landslide. It made sense. CHS had a Republican Club that boasted more than 300 members. There was no Democrat Club. The vast majority of students had wealthy parents who had wealthy parents who had wealthy parents. And there were race fights almost every week. A white student would call a black student a nigger, and then the black student would get in trouble for trying to hit him. Needless to say the idea of a black, Democrat president did not sit well with most people.

I begged my dad not to make me go to school on November 5, 2008. He refused, telling me that I needed to hold my head high. All I wanted to do was disappear. The school was unusually quiet that day, but you could almost hear the unspoken tension. The majority of the white students walked in with their heads down and their faces sullen. The majority of the black students were wearing shirts with Martin Luther King Jr. on them. Many of them were sent to the office because the shirts violated the dress code. One white student wore sign pinned to his shirt that said, “Free at last, free at last. Good God almighty, we’re free at last.” The sarcasm got laughs and approval from his white peers. He didn’t get in trouble.

“The nation’s bird is now fried chicken.”

“Do we call it the Black House now?”

“God! Those black kids are so obnoxious today.”

“I hope Obama gets shot.”

I came home from school that day to find my dad watching the election news coverage. He had stayed home from work to drink and cry with happiness. By the time, I got home, his lap was filled with used tissues and his eyes were red from crying.

“It’s actually happening, Andrea,” he told me. “After years of oppression, we’ve finally done it. The race war is over!”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him how wrong he was. He would eventually find out on his own. We all would.

Writing Prompt: Climbing

From Poets & Writers: Climbing is an exercise that’s both exhilarating and exhausting. This week think of the highest you’ve ever climbed. It could have been a ladder to your childhood tree house or Mount Kilimanjaro. Were you climbing for fun, or out of necessity? How did it feel once you reached the top? If you feel you’ve never climbed to any significant height, would you ever want to?
“Climbing”
I never considered myself to be afraid of heights. When it comes to roller coasters, there is no such thing as too tall. I’ve been to the top of the Empire State Building, and once in Florida, my family stayed in the twentieth floor of a hotel. I spent most of my time on the balcony.
But it’s one thing to be securely in a seat on a ride or restricted by railings. The Alpine Tower at the University of Missouri did not provide any of that security. All I got was a rope.
Yeah. I climbed that.
Yeah. I climbed that.

Of course it was a very secure rope, but ropes break! At least that is what I foolishly told myself as I made my attempts to climb.

I would always get to the same spot, the spot when I knew that if I fell and that rope did break, I could break my neck. My friend was yelling encouragement from the ground, but I clung to my log like a squirrel for a few minutes. I could feel my legs trembling with effort and with fear.

And then as with most things in life, it took a leap of faith. I had to push off of a rock and trust that I could catch the next log or trust that if I missed, the rope would catch me. The first time I failed miserably. The second time I scraped my knee and had to start over. The third time I made it.

After that, climbing wasn’t nearly as hard. It was as if I had to get past that point of no return to realize that I could keep going.

Success!
Success!

Of course once I got to the very top of the tower, I realized that the only way off was to jump and pray that the rope caught me. It did.

After two leaps of faith in within the span of an hour, I was ready to be back on solid ground.

 

From the Page to the Screen

Two days ago, Warner Bros. posted the second trailer to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. As a Tolkien fanatic and a Peter Jackson fan, I have been hooked on every single one of the movies, starting with The Fellowship of the Ring. 

But this new trailer for The Hobbit irritates me:

I’ve always wrestled with book-to-movie adaptations because I’m what I would call a book loyalist. I basically want the movie to be exactly like the book, no extras, no new characters, no new dialogue.

Of course, I am aware that this is impossible. Movies/TV are a completely different genre requiring different storytelling methods. Sometimes that means the plot needs to deviate away from the original manuscript. Movies like The Hunger Games series or TV shows like Game of Thrones and Outlander have for the most part stayed true to the books, and most changes to the original plot were either necessary or an improvement.

I’ll say that I expected big changes because the book is not that long and frankly not nearly as exciting as The Lord of the Rings series. The first movie followed the book pretty closely, which is why it’s my favorite…it’s also why a lot of people said it was really boring. The second movie started to bug me with an added dwarf-elf romance and the reappearance of Legolas for reasons that are beyond my comprehension.

This movie just seems like the second coming of The Return of the King. Yes, there was a battle. Yes, it was pretty big. Yes, Sauron is back. However, I feel like this movie has lost the essence of the book. It’s no longer about a quirky little hobbit who gets dragged along on a big adventure. Frankly, I’m not sure what it’s about anymore.

From a writer’s perspective, I would love to see a novel I’ve written turn into a TV show or a movie someday. However, I just don’t see how I could accept major changes to the plot that I had slaved over. I think that’s why I have a harder time accepting major plot changes in other books that I love. I wonder what Tolkien would think of these movies. I’m not sure he would be pleased.