Read what I have! (So far.)

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For Those Who Don’t Learn From History was actually conceived when I was not even close to being done with my first novel, Dreaming Wide Awake, so around late 2009. It was weird to become so heavily invested in a story when I was already writing one, and considering the fact my Junior year of high school was ending, I sort of knew that I would not have time to finish one novel, start another one, and finish that one before I graduated. However, it didn’t stop me from taking notes for -literally- about three years. (Maybe less.) Within those three years, character names changed, story settings changed, location changed, amount of characters changed, and well, you get the point. What I had even one year ago is not what I have now.

And I have mentioned it before, but I am in love with what I have now. It’s unreal. Falling in love with something that I, myself, have written hadn’t happened once before starting this wonderfully depressing tale. In some ways, I like to believe that I am fully using everything I’m capable of (in terms of writing) for this, and the result is heavily satisfying.

So much so, that I want others to read it, too.

For the past year, I’ve given the (now-ditched) first chapter (or first two) to my friends, but like I mentioned before, everything is different. Their feedback is incredible, and I’ve changed some of the concerns they noted, as well as inconsistencies, etc. But yet, I carry loads of self-doubt, to the point where I can sit and listen to someone telling me what they loved about what I had given them, but deep down, think they’re just being nice. (It’s a crummy thing, I know. But I can’t help it.)

Here’s what I am offering: seventy-pages, four chapters. These four chapters are what I like to consider the sort-of epilogue, as my protagonist, Isaiah, is completely alone for the entirety of the beginning of the novel. Seeing as this is a post-apocalyptic novel, I felt tasked to bring a new challenge to myself, and I managed to create something I feel is appealing and substantial, all with one character and scarce dialogue.

If you are interested in reading this, I would highly appreciate it. This isn’t so much about letting people read about what I have (because trust me, I’m weary), but about making sure I managed to get the point across that I had intended, from an outside opinion. After all, this is the most important part of the story itself, and making sure it works is a fantastic feeling.

Send me a message on Facebook, send me a tweet, text me, whatever. I refuse to post my work publicly where anything is up for someone to steal. Because of this, I’d feel much less paranoid when sending these four chapters as an attachment via email, Facebook, etc.

Again, I would really, sincerely appreciate all the help I can get.

Joel

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Sixty.

What a year it has been for For Those Who Don’t Learn From History. After using one draft four about ten pages in late-2012, ditching that, starting another draft, ditching that one too, and starting up another draft before, you guessed, ditching that one too, I more or less took a break with the novel. Not in the sense that I stopped note taking or thinking about it, but I severely struggled with how to start it.

Shit, was that hard to do.

It was first-person, then third-person, then back to first-person for a while, then back to third-person. (Spoiler: third-person won.)

Next I ran into the dilemma of starting it pre-apocalypse or post-apocalypse. Obviously, this is a post-apocalyptic novel, so why wouldn’t I start it post-apocalypse? But, I fought with the idea that, maybe, I could give more detail to character of Isaiah and less ‘in your face’ with his personality that develops over time, and should do so naturally. It was tough. It was really, really though. One of drafts I had completely tossed out was the pre-apocalypse, first-person sort of epilogue that serves purpose for the ‘true’ beginning of the story.

Nothing has been as hard, though, as trying to successfully finish my two chapters. I mean, it was hard to maintain something so, well, slow, yet to keep it interesting, relevant and something the reader will be able to connect to without putting the book down. Thank God I had written out the summary of the beginning of the book so long ago, because I quickly realized how lost I would have been.

Generally speaking, I don’t have troubles with my beginnings or my ends, but the middle. And for a while, I thought that was true. But this beginning proved to be the toughest opening of any story I have written. It isn’t because it’s necessarily busy or complex, but rather so simple that it became sort of this weird test on my writing skills. (One of which now I am so, so thankful for.)

The best thing to come out of this whole thing is I am now sixty pages in.

Sixty.

How? I mean, really? Sixty pages is a lot of pages. And I am so, so proud of each page. It’s truly something I am genuinely proud of, and I have never written a thing before this where I didn’t feel at least at little disappointed in my material. Fortunately, I managed to break that for this novel, and I cannot wait for you to read it. (Probably ages from now, but you get my point.)

I really just fucking love this book.

Spotify, Round II

Literally the best.

(This is more-or-less of an update to my original blog post in July.)

While I guarantee that, out of the maybe five six readers I have, maybe two or three of you will pay attention — or maybe! — even listen to the Spotify playlist.

Of course, since my original Spotify post, the playlist has grown far beyond what I originally had, so instead of typing out each and every song and artist (with my thoughts about each), I’ll just be linking to the playlist which I literally just published before publishing this. (Yes, literally.)

Called Evernote Nightsit consists of a mix of instrumentals, covers, acoustic, quite techno-esque music and a few 40’s-50’s era music. Obviously, tastes differ with each person, so I don’t expect you to enjoy each and every track, but there truly are some beautiful tracks in the mix.

Whether you’re listening to it for homework, writing, parties (because who doesn’t want to hear Bon Iver while getting drunk?), writing parties, sleepy-time, sexy-time or all of the above, feel free to subscribe and listen.*

* Be warned, however, some of the tracks I’ve included, such as 4 Minute Warning by Radiohead are not available on Spotify, meaning you will have to have those files already on your computer to listen to them with this playlist.

(This took entirely too long to upload, ShareMyPlaylists.)

Short stories and such.

I’ve yet to find out my official word count for Dreaming Wide Awake, for a couple of reasons. The first, being it’s still sitting untyped in the original notebooks. I should probably do that sometime. Or maybe hire someone. The latter reason, being I am guesstimating. (I’d assume it’s between 70,000 to 80,000. We’ll see later!)

I’m curious as to what For Those Who Don’t Learn From Historywill turn out to be, word-count-wise, seeing as Dreaming Wide Awake was 286 pages in my notebooks. Luckily, my handwriting is smaller than it used to be, so one notebook page is the equivalent to two-to-three pages on a Word document.

But, now that my new ‘era’ of writing is running full-speed, I have to focus on what’s now. Unfortunately, my mind doesn’t want me to only stay with my post-apocalyptic tale. Don’t think I’m going to quickly abandoned this novel, because that is definitely not the case. I just happen to plan things out far, far ahead, and always on accident.

But, I suppose that’s nice. It gives a personal sense of relief; keeps me from worrying.

Initially, I intended to have Fifties On-Demand release after my second novel was done-and-over. I can’t lie in saying that, initially, after spending a week or two thinking about what it could be about, my interest was lost, and I just had it sitting as a near-empty note on my Evernote account. 

I like the basic premise. I do. However, I’ve come to terms that, despite my ability to write it out and turn it into a full novel, I worry that I won’t have enough material to actually finish it and be happy with the final product.

I didn’t have that fear with Dreaming Wide Awake and I don’t have that fear with For Those Who Don’t Learn From History*. At a glance, this doesn’t seem like much. I’ve dealt this hand before, however, and it certainly did not end pretty.

Due to this fear, I am going to change the tone for Fifties On-Demand from here on out. The story is hereby going to be either a short story or a novella. With a simplistic plot such as the one I (currently) have, I feel that condensing the tale of a man and his cancer would be better suited for the reader and myself.

I can’t wait to do another short story! Last time I’ve written one was before I was even done with Dreaming Wide Awake. The title was really weird, as was the story, but I loved it. More than anything, the short story (which was about ten pages) proved to be a challenge (and an awesome one at that).

Ironically, that short story was combined with a story idea I had at the time, and in some really oddball fashion, ended up being For Those Who Don’t Learn From History. I think it was just meant to happen.

As always, I’ll keep you updated with anything relating to this short story, Dreaming Wide Awake or For Those Who Don’t Learn From History.

— Joel

* Title subject to change.

A rework of my work.

I love how it’s been nearly five months since my last update. My apologies.

After  a lovely, encouraging and inspiring post to Reddit’s writing subreddit, /r/writing, earlier this Fall, subscribers tore apart the cover for For Those Who Don’t Learn From History — for the good and the bad. I love that, however. It breaks me out of my invisible wall I’ve been blockaded, and gives me a shot to see the, what I like to call, true feedback which you won’t typically get from loved ones and friends.

In other words, it’s a refresher. A sort of new start.

“This is literally the worst title I have ever read for a book.”

“As a published author, I can completely guarantee you that this book will not sell.”

Fair enough. I don’t know the ins-and-outs of self-publishing a book. I’m essentially in the Learner’s Program of the publishing world, so of course, there are times to be the student and times to be the teacher.

(And, to be honest, I don’t know if anyone can ever truly master their own art. Knowledge keeps expanding, and it will continue to expand, with each passing day.)

Aside from all this, two thing were almost unanimous with the comments about For Those Who Don’t Learn From History:

1) The cover is too dark.

I always knew that. But, since I didn’t actually create the cover (as a friend of mine helped make it!), and my photoshop skills are about as baren as the world I’m writing, there wasn’t much I could do. Luckily(!), a kind gent was willing to fix it up for me, and ended up with this as a final result.

FTWDLFH

2. I absolutely hate your title.

I’d venture to say at least 90% of the comments were about my title. Some said it was too long, others found it to sound like a non-fictional book. While I really wanted to disagree with them — I knew they were right. While I absolutely adore the quote the title is inspired by, I find myself scoffing at it; hiding away.

It is too long. It is a pretty sucky title. I didn’t know it, but this was just a placeholder title for my sophomore attempt at writing a novel.

A novella in disguise.

And that my friends is where I currently stand. Now that I have begun working on the book (and not just taking notes!), I feel like my understanding for what I want is growing with each sentence I finish. Because of this, I am in search for a title that illustrates the book in just a few words. The Road and On The Beach did it just fine.

And that gives me hope.

East Hastings + In The House, In A Heartbeat

A bit of advice to anyone wanting to base a post-apocalyptic around a couple of songs, similar to what Danny Boyle did with East Hastings (by Godspeed You Black Emperor!) for 28 Days Later in 2002:

Listen to both East Hastings and In The House, In A Heartbeat. Both are incredible instrumentals with mass amounts of raw energy and emotion to simply put the listener in a specific state of mind. Both come from the movie, and both are definitely worth the entire listen-through.

Joel

For Those Who Don’t Learn From History: A Tale

I feel like I’ll be repeating myself here in a few paragraphs, but I don’t think I’ve formally talked about my second novel, For Those Who Don’t Learn From History. It’s been in production, if you will, since 2010, but I’ve really spent more time writing it out, than I have anything else. So, consider this a rather formal introduction to the book. (You can read the history of the book here.)

I am head over heels for this piece of fiction, and I am only in the very beginning stages. I could blame my love for post-apocalyptic fiction (and my desire to have my piece of work categorized under that genre) for my attachment to it. but honestly, I don’t know if that can even begin to cover the reasoning.

But, instead of boring you with my love for the genre, I’ll do you one better: I’ll actually tell you what my plans are and what you can expect.

For Those Who Don’t Learn From History is not simply another novel for me to write. No, my desire for this is to not only get published and signed, but to get recognized. While Dreaming Wide Awake was a decent shot at a first novel, all my creative juices are swarming to this post-apocalyptic book.

A work in progress.

Gritty, menacing and eerie is what I aim for. For some reason, too many pieces of fiction in this genre attempt at this, but fail. Not miserably, however. In fact, some authors would much rather go the survivalist route and focus solely on someone or a group of people as they fight for their lives from an ominous threat. Yet, that is the beauty of writing and fiction — especially with this genre. Anything you can come up with, you can put on paper. (Or, you know, your computer. Or phone.)

In a sense, this book is about surviving. When society has nothing left to show for, what does society do? When humanity crumbles down to its last resort, how will the world change in its final days? Opposite of what  28 Days Later accomplished, I want the look and feel of my own world to wear a facade of utter destruction and wear. I want my world to be both a safe haven, and also a living hell. I want my characters to live through the worst possible situations, only to arise with incredible results. (If such a phrase would exist in that type of world.)

Atmospheric connection is another thing most authors miss, which is a shame. To really ‘get’ a book, per say, the reader needs to not only connect with the characters, but understand the atmosphere and gratitude of the situation at hand. Especially with this genre, one of the greatest things I will be able to accomplish will be just that: creating such an atmosphere that is relatable, dark, unpleasant and gritty. An atmosphere where, just when all hope is lost with a character, your heart breaks and your world falls apart with him.

Overall — and it’s 6 AM now — my primary goal for this novel is to catch your attention in the greatest way possible. I cannot make myself sit back and write a so-so novel, while I could end up writing what gets me signed with a publishing agency. But most of all, I cannot sit back and let the project slip away. For two years now, I have been wanting to start this, an the opportunity is finally arising.

I’ll keep you updated much more often than I have in the past, and: thank you.

Joel