Recently Read: Isobel Blackthorn’s A Matter of Latitude

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Recently Read: Isobel Blackthorn’s A Matter of Latitude

This review was requested by Isobel Blackthorne. She actually requested that I post a review on Amazon, but when I tried to do exactly that, Amazon told me I couldn’t review anything unless I spent 50$ on their site. Unfortunate.

Still, I promised Isobel Blackthorne that I would review her book, so here it is.

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My first impression: professional writing and editing.

I saw no major typos, punctuation errors, or grammatical faux pas. The flow of words was smooth. Isobel’s writing style is pleasant, mannerly, inoffensive, and conveys thoughts clearly. Each sentence, taken on its own merits, does not require heavy interpretation. That said, there are times within the book, usually at a chapter transition, when point-of-view changes occur, that a reader—this reader—could get confused. Especially awkward is the first person point of view. Isobel handles this point of view well, but probably the book would have benefited if a third person center of consciousness point of view was employed. Then characters could be named directly and the confusion over who was narrator wouldn’t be delayed through quite as many sentences. Another effect of the first person point of view is the diminished intensity of the action and thriller scenes. Since A Matter of Latitude is realistic, there’s no magic or Greek gods to save the character in peril (this is a good thing). The characters have to get out of peril on their own. Despite these style moments, the overall plot was believable, location seemed well-defined, and characters were complete with great dialog. I was super impressed with the dialog. I could recommend the book A Matter of Latitude to anyone ready for a realist drama with hints of tension.

And for discernment‘s sake:

Drawing power 1

Interest factor 0

Offensive factor 1

Range of emotion 1

Character factor 1/2

Style 1

Length 1

Total: 5 1/2 out of 7

 

Writing Exercises

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One of the methods I like to use to boost creativity in writing is the writing exercise.

There are many exercises including the writing prompt, which is a word or a phrase that spikes your juices. Creative juices.

Another one is the photo prompt. Take a photo, like the one above with all the typewriters on old desks, then you write a story about what you see.

Still another is people-watching. You watch humans in their native elements and you write about what you observe.

The one I want to promote here is what I call The Empathy Exercise. It’s similar to people-watching, because you need a little experience with real humans to make any of it work or to make any of it sound accurate.

To do The Empathy Exercise, I’ll take a subject that’s universal, like fear, and I’ll try to imagine as many different types of people and how they feel, sense, or deal with that universal subject. Sometimes I’ll take only one person (a character, for instance) and imagine all the emotions possible and how they react to them. Today, I thought I’d do nightmares. It’s fear, but more specific. What are people’s worst nightmares? How many nightmares, funny or realistic, can I imagine? How many nightmares can you imagine? To let you use this method yourself, I’ll list the categories first, then I’ll list my finished imaginings. If you want to come up with your own imagined nightmares for these categories, don’t read to the end. If you need a little more of a push to get your creative juices flowing, scroll down to see what you might do. If you want to come up with your own categories, no problem, stop here, don’t read any more, and I’ll list one more “if” statement so you don’t accidentally peek and feel like you’ve cheated. IF you want to write some creative categorical nightmares and leave them in the comments, I’d be happy to share them, as long as they’re not too ethically questionable. Here then, is the list:

Rastafarian nightmare:

Catholic nightmare:

Mechanic’s nightmare:

Chemist’s nightmare:

Horror screenplay writer’s nightmare:

Woman’s nightmare:

Man’s nightmare:

Spider’s nightmare:

Spiderman’s nightmare:

Count Dracula’s nightmare:

Metrosexual’s nightmare:

Vegan’s nightmare:

Meat-eater’s nightmare:

CEO’s nightmare:

Democrat’s nightmare:

Republican’s nightmare:

Atheist’s nightmare:

Radio DJ’s nightmare:

 

And these are those I thought up:

Rastafarian nightmare: all the marijuana plants died.

Catholic nightmare: the Pope’s hat really is hiding an elongated, alien skull.

Mechanic’s nightmare: all the sockets are 19/32 and only 19/32.

Chemist’s nightmare: HCl no longer balances pH.

Horror screenplay writer’s nightmare: no one cares what the monster looks like.

Woman’s nightmare: hair became snakes overnight.

Man’s nightmare: size really does matter.

Spider’s nightmare: one hundred other spiders came to live in the same web.

Spiderman’s nightmare: the two spots on his forehead he thought were acne turn out to be growths of hairy mandibles.

Count Dracula’s nightmare: his victims were all lepers.

Metrosexual’s nightmare: unshaved chests are in fashion again.

Vegan’s nightmare: carrots feel pain when they get uprooted.

Meat-eater’s nightmare: cows grow hands, learn to shoot guns, and crave human flesh.

CEO’s nightmare: getting paid (and valued) less than the janitor.

Democrat’s nightmare: to find out you’re as crazy as they say.

Republican’s nightmare: to find out you can see things from someone else’s point of view.

Atheist’s nightmare: the voices weren’t insanity but guardian angels’ survival hints.

Radio DJ’s nightmare: there isn’t anyone out there listening.

Recently Read: Apologetic Poems by David Lir

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Apologetic Poems: Poems Written Under Duress.

To begin, David Lir’s got himself a crazy sense of humor, the likes of which could cure cancer or bring world peace if only more people were aware of it. The masses run around like blind mice in mazes, missing the key turns that would bring them to freedom.

David Lir’s poetic style is a key turn.

I should be clear that not all the poetry is humorous. Every emotion imaginable can be found within Lir’s poetry. He isn’t limited at all in his scope.

Because there are nearly 2,000 pages* in Apologetic Poems: Poems Written Under Duress it may at first seem enormous, or thick, or immense, or dense, but don’t let that hold you back. To purchase a copy of David Lir’s book of poetry is not so overwhelming as you might think. I got caught up in that very feeling when I first started on Apologetic Poems: Poems Written Under Duress even though I was excited to read it. In fact, I quickly read 500 pages of the 2,000 before I realized I was reading wrong. Binging on poetry is like crossing your legs, immediately uncrossing them, and pretending you’ve meditated. I didn’t want to pretend I read the poems. I wanted to really read them, slowly, deliberately, even ponderously. I wanted to think about them, ruminate on them, even savor them.

So I did.

I started over, reading only about one a day, and the difference was incredible. The imagery was intense. The feelings within the poetry are sometimes focused and contagious, other times profound. On the poems in which I felt the meaning obscure, I had fun trying to mull over the possible meanings. That is what poetry is truly about, isn’t it? I may find one meaning in a poem, while another person could get their own meaning out of it. Poetry, like music, can affect different people in different ways. Each one of us in the audience can glean a meaning for ourselves. At times (and I have yet to do this, though I’m sure it’ll happen), we can get a new meaning from a re-read, like a re-listen.

You read a piece of work from a poetic artist, you get a sense of what it’s about. You read the same work again at another time and get a completely different feeling.

My favorites among David Lir’s work are many, however I have to mention some that I found amazing: Sorrows, Herself, Quietude, Words Were Tumbling, and Cough Off. Each of these led me to sense some particular emotion, a specific nuance. I’ll have to read them again to test the original meaning I thought each of them contained.

You can read it yourself by following the link here: Apologetic Poems: POEMS WRITTEN UNDER DURESS

*Note: The digital version has 2,000. The paperback has 300 pages.

Under

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It didn’t matter how many times we’d been to the beach. We could look out at that ocean, play in it, skip stones across it, collect shells from it, get sunburned next to it, and still never know exactly what was down there underneath the waves. There were different life forms, much more different than the ones breathing the same air as us, or sharing the land with us. There were unnamable creatures; unnamable because no human had ever seen them. We have to be more comfortable, more familiar, with things before we can give them a name. To see the deeper things though could be a terrible awakening. Possibly they were so deep, so far out of reach, because we were never meant to see them. The act of witnessing would doom us to a life of mistrust. Our every word thereafter would be incredible. No one would believe us, unless they too had witnessed. Then we wouldn’t be alone in our madness, but we wouldn’t have the trust of the masses.

No one wants to believe the fathom-filled tales of beings unseen.

The average person isn’t ready. The average person isn’t prepared. A mind has to be led gradually into the maddening depths, otherwise it can be lost. Others like us can sense when their frail mental limits are being threatened. They don’t want to see the under. They don’t want to know about the oddities and anomalies. They want to find peace and complacence. A sense of the unknown is sometimes the greatest fright a mind can manage. Beyond that…too far under…the mind is affected in an irreversible way.

It still doesn’t matter. However many times we go to the beach, we don’t consider the number of living things beneath the surface. We don’t, because we shouldn’t, think about what is living off of the life of other things, eating, consuming, never satiated, always hungry enough to devour more life forms, and only leaving us because it hasn’t noticed us yet.

 

Rocket Bike

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I swear it was only one rocket.

The bike could handle it, I knew, because it was my brother’s. I’d seen him taking it off some epic jumps, brutal jumps, super-mega jumps. The bike was still alive, and so was my brother. I knew it could take the punishment of a single rocket.

It was attached with spare shoelaces. The kind that are too long for some shoes, and the other kind that are too short for boots. No one was using them anyway.

There was just enough room under the seat. Everything worked out perfectly. The runway was clear. Fuel was lit. The ride began with expectations—

—and took a century to end. I couldn’t believe the warp on it. It was only one rocket. How did the bike slip out of space-time? There’s no accounting for science. It gets distorted like sound and gravity and plastic in the hot sun.

From here to Mars, then Saturn, and even farther out. The bike and I raced past ice comets and Swiss cheese asteroids. There were seven kinds of aurora. One came too close and was disrupted by the streaking rocket bike.

From eternity to yesterday, the rocket bike cruised past lava flow and rivers full of crocodiles. The haunted house was nothing but a ghostly blur. Ghosts can’t fly as fast as a rocket. They don’t have enough energy.

Broken hearts of the ones who were left behind sounded in the beyond. They were insistent and couldn’t be ignored. A detour was made. A time tunnel, or a wormhole, or both. The bike rocketed through those as well. It was a cosmic U-turn. The runway where it all began came in view and we landed, the bike and I, in my backyard…and crashed through the wooden fence.

My mom came running out, picked me up, and shouted, “Are you alright?!”

I said, “Ma, I’m here now, you don’t need to shout.”

She hugged me tight and said, “Never do that again.”

“Sorry about the fence.”

“What are you talking about? I don’t care about the fence.”

“Sorry about Jared’s bike.”

“You’ll have to tell him.” She looked toward the house.

“Next time I’ll…I’ll only use one rocket.”