Humanity Fell – Store Closed

On the fifth day with the message still in the sky, I felt pretty apprehensive which wasn’t very new. I lived life by “Expect the worse and maybe hope that nothing will catch fire today” mentality. And since I worked at the Everything Store, going into work could mean literally anything since management refused to turn away anyone who needed anything. But on that particular day, I couldn’t help but want to bail. There was something bad that was going to happen. I could feel it in my bones.

            It was the sort of day that you knew that someone was going to vomit on you, or threaten you with a knife, of most likely we were going to get robbed again.

            I hated it when we got robbed. The police came, we were stuck for hours, and management made our lives hell by constantly stating that we were lazy while we were giving witness statements. I thought about going calling in, saying I was sick or something but I knew that it wouldn’t work out. The last time I tried to call in sick, Mr. Payne threatened to fire me. This was also how nearly everyone in my department got sick with the flu. Deciding that I didn’t want to spend my days in the unemployment line, I drove to the Everything Store for my shift. It was there that I saw something that I had never seen before.

The doors were locked.

The open sign was off.

Oh, yeah, and there was this weird green and purple spaceship floating above the store too but, I mean the doors were locked! We were actually closed for once!  

Humanity Fell – The Message

The day the message from space came, a lot of people, myself included, wrote it off as a prank. You know how it is, right? Something starts trending on Twitter, it looks SUPER fake, then the YouTubers are out commenting on it, then the conspiracy theorists show up….a lot of false information got out. I mean, come on, a message from space that isn’t weird noises or clicks, but a voice screaming “X the Undaunted is coming! Prepare or be enslaved”? It’s like something out of a science fiction novel. Who would believe that aliens, if they were real, would come to warn us? Usually it’s always “kill all humans” or “we come in peace”. No one believed the message. Not the global powers, not the conspiracy theorists, and certainly not me.

And then the message was everywhere.

It was on the television, on the radio, on our phones, and then a week after the initial message came, the skies darkened. In bright red letters, translated into every language that resided on earth, the message came again.

X THE UNDAUNTED IS COMING. PREPARE OR BE ENSLAVED

This went beyond anything any government, conspiracy, or single person could do. This message was here to stay and whoever sent it, was not going to be ignored. But that didn’t stop humanity from ignoring it anyways. There were those who continued to claim that it was an attempt to do…actually, now that I think about it I don’t know what they were trying to prove. It involved something involving their rights and their thoughts. I don’t really know, but what I did know was that warning of impending doom and enslavement was not enough to convince my boss, Mr. Payne, to close the store for even half a day.

“CLOSE THE STORE?” he bellowed at the hapless associate (aka me) who dared to inquire about a possible store closure. “WE DIDN’T CLOSE DURING 9/11, WE DIDN’T CLOSE DURING KATRINA, AND WE SURE AS HELL AREN’T GOING TO CLOSE NOW.”

I retreated from his office reeking of cigar smoke. As much as I hated to admit it, Mr. Payne was right. Those who worked at the Everything Store, literally never closed. We’d been flooded, threatened, robbed, had a few murders, and once we had a guy building a bomb in the men’s bathroom. And why would we? The Everything Store prided itself on having everything for everyone whether it was a work day, weekend, holiday, or whatever. As our name implied, we sold literally everything.

You want a car?

We’ve got an entire section for you.

Need a coffin?

Would you like it to be lined with silk or with cashmere?

Are you looking for a brand new rocket launcher?

Aisle 71, right next to the pharmacy.

Working at the Everything Store was not a glamorous job. It sucked, but it also paid decent enough money. I had student loans…crippling student loans. College had yet to pay itself off and since I was in desperate need of money and the Everything Store was always hiring, I was stuck working here.  But while the work was grueling and the customers were fucking awful, I did learn three important things while I slaved away here.

  1. Always wear running shoes – You never know who or what you’ll need to run away from. I finally learned this lesson after we were robbed for the sixth time.
  2. The cleaning staff is worth their weight in gold – I once saw Jim the Janitor clean up three aisles covered in puke with half a roll of paper towels and a cup of bleach. I still don’t know how he did it.
  3. Always expect the unexpected – Enough said

I had no idea how those little three lesson would save my life when X the Undaunted came.

Humanity Fell – Prologue

In the year 20XX, humanity received a message from space that the greatest evil in the universe was coming. It was a warning of X the Undaunted, a ruthless warlord from beyond the stars. The Conqueror of galaxies, the Destroyer of suns, and to those who whom he subjugated, he was the Supreme Ruler of all. To defeat him, it would take an unprecedented united global effort.

This effort did not happen.

Between global grudges and political punches, the initiative to save earth was doomed from the start. X the Undaunted came and in less than ten days, humanity fell to his power. Hundreds of thousands of people died. They fought with nukes, with missiles, and in the case of the desperate, with kitchen knives. None of it worked against X. Those who survived the minimalist assault were thrust into a new world of power struggles, a shifting criminal justice system, and existential crises.

It was a whirlwind affair to try and move on with our lives under X the Undaunted. People suffered, some died, and others like me, ended up on the unemployment line. But I wouldn’t be stuck like this forever, because this is the story of how I became the right hand man of the greatest villain in the universe.

Warnings in Literature

While scrolling through my Twitter feed, I saw a fellow author pose a question on whether or not books should come with a warning (e.g. this books includes elements of rape, violence against woman, child abuse, etc.).

As someone who got her start writing fanfiction, I don’t see why books don’t come with warning label. That is to say, I’m not against having books with violent content, hell, I encourage it. Writing is one of the safest ways to explore the taboo, the unknown, and everything else that scares us. In the world of fanfiction, each author is encouraged to engage in proper tagging. You’ll put down exactly what goes on in your story. Character Death, Violence, Rape, Child Abuse, Torture, everything gets put in. That way the reader has a clear idea of what exactly they’re getting into and whether or not it’s something that they want to read. In books, there’s no such thing unless you’ve got a blog handy that tells you what happens.

But in literary world, there’s no such thing. It’s every reader for himself. In the Twitter replies, there was discord. Some writers agreed, others hated the thought of putting tags on their books. The opinions held by the opposition were that tagging one’s book would essentially ruin it. Everyone would know what would happen and then what would be the point of reading the book?

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at that reply. There are fanfics out there with everything on display. Every single bit of character death, anguish, and pain along with romance, magic, and love is there for every potential reader to see and it doesn’t stop them from reading it.

Tagging your fic or book doesn’t prevent it from being good, it’s poor writing that prevents it from being good.

With Her Fists – A hard hitting book in all the wrong places

I love writing and reading but sometimes, it is a hard job. I was contacted almost two weeks ago by the author to review this book. I’ll be quite honest, I was impressed and eager to read a book by a self-published author, epsically with such an interesting premise.

A champion fighter.

Danger at every turn.

And a book who’s writing, pacing, and dialogue drove me half mad and half asleep.

Everything about this book was awful to read. The action scenes felt like I was reading a script of some bloody fight happening while the dialogue and bits of Spanish peppered throughout the text made me roll my eyes due to their awkward placement. It was a painful stereotype that punched me repeatedly in the face.

Overall, the plot was boring and I couldn’t see why I should care about the characters at all. They were nothing more but flimsy cardboard cutouts of characters that if handled correctly could be interesting. The way they spoke and thought ecohed every ham-fisted attempted by bad writers everywhere to be edgy.

Newsflash! The audience doesn’t want edgy. We want authentic and there is nothing authentic about this book or it’s characters. “With Her Fists” promised to be a thrilling knock-out, but all I wanted it to do was put me out of my misery.

New Year, More Writing

This past Christmas, in the haze of gift-wrap, bitter cold, and general exhaustion of the holidays, my dear boyfriend, a fellow writer, gifted me a book. In general, giving me a book is extremely thoughtful and loving. In his case, he went above and beyond because he gave me Jane Friedman’s “The Business of Being a Writer”.

I love Jane Friedman’s work and I hate the business aspect of writing though not for the reasons you might think. I don’t know shit about making a business in general and the idea of turning my writing into a business is intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be and it shouldn’t.

Publishing is a business and agents pay attention to what sells and what doesn’t. You writing, whether we want to admit it or not, is part of that business. New trends will dictate what sells, which turns agents’ attention for which books to look at, which determines the chances of your superb book making it big. Myself, like every other writer, knows this to be a fact. What I personally struggle with is developing a business plan or a brand that defines myself as an author and makes my writing stand out in the crowd.

Naturally, I suspect that many balk when the words “branding” and “business” come up with writing, but the more I thought about it, the more I found myself agreeing with Friedman’s views. Your writing is your brand. True, that your writing and therefore your brand will change over time as you develop as a writer, you will still retain your instinct and style and that is what people will recognize when they read your work.

As I laid in my bed, highlighting every sentence that was pure gold, I started to wonder what my brand was exactly and what people responded with. I looked back at old praise and reviews, both from my big projects and smaller ones, and what I discovered that a lot of people liked my work when I was torturing my characters and giving unexpected twists and turns. That’s great, but it’s not a lot to go on. Anyone can torture and give twists.

To grow as a writer, and to reach the level of writing that I want to be at, I need to write more. I need to read more. I need to experiment and explore elements that I love, hate, and am wholly indifferent to. By the end of January, I will have a business plan set up and ready to go. I may not have my brand yet, but I will have a plan.

NaNoWriMo – Hart & Scull – Day Two

It’s my second day tackling the NaNoWriMo challenge. So far, I’m keeping up with my words. I don’t feel stressed or in a hurry to finish up. However, I have noticed issues within my own writing.

It’s pretty bad.

The words “Oh”, “Just”, “Really”, “Even” keep slipping into my character’s speech.

Character motivations, speech patterns, and general attitudes are inconsistent. Diane, our main lead, goes from being moody and snarky to weepy and despondent at the drop of a hat

The feel of the genre, Adult with Paranormal Fantasy, doesn’t feel adult or very paranormal, despite the adult themes such as murder, depression, loss of identity, and suicidal thoughts and ghostly activity like hauntings, dead children. The whole novel feels like sad attempt to make an edgy paranormal novel. Whatever your take on it, Hart & Scull lacks the heart of a great book.

NaNoWriMo – An Author’s Journey

It’s November which means it’s that wonderful time of the year again. I don’t mean the start of the mad Christmas season rush, but of the most important month for a writer of any talent. I’m talking about National Novel Writing Month.

Founded on July 1st, 1999, the National Novel Writing Month, known better as NaNoWriMo, is an annual web-based writing fest that challenges writers to do what many dream of but few can accomplish, starting and finishing a 50k novel in a month. It is a challenge that is as difficult as it is inspiring. Thankfully, writers don’t have to go through it alone. Writers can sign up for it on the official NaNoWriMo site and find other writers in the same area as they are, writing the same genre, along with receiving pep-talks from established writers in the field.

On the surface, it feels like your standard community event, but it goes deeper than that. There’s more than the counter telling you how well you’re doing or a tired and cliched inspirational quote to get you through the day, there is a thriving community there. By the thousands, there are writers of every genre ready to give support, tips and tricks to help push you along.

Authors will start off the event on roughly the same page, although most have the intention of going from start to finish on a 50K novel by the end of the month and yours truly is no different. In honor of NaNoWriMo’s 20th anniversary and my own 2 year anniversary since I became a published author, I’ve decided to join. I will be providing updates, community support, and my own thoughts and feelings on what is the biggest and most talked about online writing event.

In Defense of the Predictable

Like many first time writers, the moment I picked up my pen and annouced that I was going to write, I recieved a plethora of advice both good and bad. The single bit that stood out, after all these years, was given to me by a friend of a friend who said, in all seriousness, “Don’t be cliched. Keep your audience guessing”.

On the surface, it sounded like sound advice. What audience wanted a complete cliche of a story? We pan movies and television shows that follow that way, why should books be any different? So, following that advice, I added more twists to more stories than M. Night Shyamalan. Suffice to say, adding secret families, hidden powers, and surprise endings without much text evidence leading up to it doesn’t actually enhance your story…at all.

In any media, when we create a story, we leave clues to show where the story will go. The main couple will spend time and be romantic together, latent powers will be hinted at during the hero’s journey, and the big bad of the story will be introduced and his motives explained instead of having a last minute tragic backstory that magically excuses all of his awful acts and crimes. The story has a logical progression. It doesn’t make sense for a simple “Will they, won’t they?” romance story to suddenly change into a sci-fi where the fate of the universe hangs in the balance without warning. A YA novel with a apocalypse setting will be more focused on the heroes saving their crumbled society than winning some fashion show or learning the moral that popularity isn’t everything.

There is an unsettling trend that your story having a reasonable and predicted ending (good triumphing over evil, the love interests ending up together, the hero dying) is somehow bad. Fans are clever and dedicated. They can guess where a story is going to go by the clues that you laid out for them. Yet, laying out those clues has suddenly changed from having a predicted ending to be a cliched one. And there is scorn to be had for that.

For example, in the titan franchise that is the MCU, many fans predicted that Tony Stark or Steve Rogers were going to die. Endgame was the big movie. The culmination of thousands of hours of work, dedication, and careful research into the Marvel comics came in the form of Endgame. Fans were guessing who was going to die, who was going to live, and how it all was going to be pulled off. There were hits and misses but their predictions were dead on. The big three: Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man were put out to pasture and gave way to new heroes to lead the franchise: Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel. A lot of us saw this coming and when it did, it was still a good movie.

If people can guess the direction that your story is heading then congrats! You’ve set everything up perfectly. If you pull the rug out from under them, thrown in new elements that aren’t in your story in the first place, then you’ve succumbed to every writer’s mistake; thinking that a predicted ending is a bad one.

When I added my twists and turns that I never hinted at, my writing suffered. They screwed up the flow of the story, added unnecessary questions to a piece that had enough to begin with. The endings were unsatisfying and ruinous. I had to learn the hard way to stick with what I plotted out. A good story doesn’t need twists to keep it’s audience on it’s toes, all it needs is a good plot and a good writer.