Channeling you inner Trump and Pelosi

For those of you who were intrigued enough to click on this because you figured you would read a political rant from yours truly, Bryan the Writer, I apologize. I am not about to extol the virtues of either the Republican or the Democratic Party. Quite to the contrary, I want to take you to a part of your own personality you desperately would like to avoid. Somewhere that deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties you’d rather not discuss. 🙂

I was thinking about writing and how authors very often have to write characters that we generally don’t like. In many ways, writers are essentially above the fray as far as political discourse is concerned. Ours is not to participate in politics, but more to the point is that we are there to interpret what we are seeing.

For those of you who read my book, Riapoke, you will remember that one of the characters specifically references the presidential election. He doesn’t really voice support for one side or the other. He mainly points to the absurdity of both candidates. He’s essentially telling everyone that he has a responsibility to protect the people that he loves, even when the rest of the world appears to be going to hell in a hand basket.

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Me, chillin’ with my darker self (Plague Doctor)

I was thinking it might be fun to have a bunch of authors in a room who identify with a political party and ask them to write a sympathetic story about the politician they hate the most. Essentially forces them to examine the people and the ideals that they are steadfastly against. Those of you who have known me for any length of time know I’m a conservative, so for me that would be like writing a sympathetic piece about Nancy Pelosi. I have close friends who span the liberal spectrum from center-left to socialists. I would want them to write about President Trump.

I know you find this hard to believe, but I don’t especially like serial killers. But this doesn’t stop me from doing research on them and trying to delve into the darker parts of myself that inform me on what their motivations might be. I truly believe that no one ever wakes up and is magically crazy. Hollywood has popularize the myth that someone can just wake up one day and be criminally insane. Psychologists have proven this is essentially impossible. People’s personalities just don’t shift that quickly. So by studying serial killers, I can better understand the motivation behind them. When I couple what I learn with the darker places in my own personality, I can come up with a composite of what a serial killer might look like given a set of drivers in a storyline.

For example, Rigby, in The Dramatic Dead, goes crazy because he loses someone he loves. It’s not enough that he just loves this person, but he loves her to the point where she makes up a whole other side of his identity. When he loses that part of himself, it drives him insane. As a matter of fact, it drives him so insane that his subconscious mind looks for a way to reconcile the situation. And that is where the marionettes come in.

By the way, I chose marionettes on purpose. I don’t care who you are, the idea of puppets coming to life is terrifying. It’s the same concept that comes into sharp focus in the movie, Poltergeist. Almost everybody remembers the scene where the little boy is laying in his bed and the clown doll comes to life. While watching the movie with my son recently, I was reminded of how terrifying that scene truly is.

I’m not saying you necessarily have to go into great detail as an author into those people you hate. However, if you’re going to write them, and make them believable, you do have to dig into a place in your mind where you at least understand them. I’m not suggesting you sympathize with them, only empathize with them. Understand their point of view and maybe where they’re coming from. It will make your character stronger, and your story appear more genuine to the reader.

No, going into the dark parts of your own personality is not fun, but it’s necessary if you want to truly understand the characters you are writing about. After all, there is a reason you’re writing about them in the first place. Those characters come from you … a deep, dark part of your own psyche.

Yes, we all have dark places in our soul. The trick is to better understand those parts and then to better understand ourselves.

-Yours Truly,

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Review: An Airship Named Desire

An Airship Named Desire (Take to the Skies, #1)An Airship Named Desire by Katherine McIntyre

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is something about pirates that captures our imagination. Perhaps it is a sense of freedom coming from living life on your own terms. The crew of the airship Desire has a problem. A problem pirate crews normally wish for, a priceless piece of cargo to unload. It is so valuable, in fact, that everyone wants to get their hands on it.

Captain Morris leads the crew of the Desire, assisted by the beautiful and cunning first officer Beatrice. Beatrice loves a good fight. She thrives best in times of pure adrenaline where she only has to worry about herself and maybe a couple of others. She loves her captain and the ship she calls home. Like most of us, Beatrice hates change and would be content to go on with life exactly as it is. Until the day she finds her best friend standing over the body of Captain Morris.

“An Airship Named Desire” is a fun ride. I really enjoyed the book and Katherine McIntyre’s story telling style. Not overly gory, it hearkens back to the golden age of piracy and has the element of adventure that makes a gritty nautical story.

If there were any technical issues with the writing, I didn’t notice them and it is well edited. A few parts I thought suffered from too much description, but overall not often enough to make me put the book down.

I can highly recommend “An Airship Named Desire”, by Katherine McIntyre.

-Bryan the Writer

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Season’s Greetings!

There had to be a point in history when people started to look at the holidays as a super stressful time where people lose their minds. I can’t be sure, but it seems like that would be about the time television commercials during Saturday morning cartoons started selling everything and anything to children.

Now that I am a little older I have gone from kids who want everything to having teenagers who just shrug their shoulders and say, “I dunno.” I have heard my older friends say they miss that child who stared at the store window in wonder. I don’t miss it at all. The truth is that our one biological child, Thomas, never really wanted anything in particular. He kind of always said, “I dunno.” Our adopted kids tended to want everything and anything. Until we moved to Germany and spent our Christmas holiday away, exploring exotic locations. Then it became about experiences.

If you ever meet my kids, be sure to ask them about the gas station dinner we had one Christmas while watching the laptop in Naples, Italy. It was pretty funny and the stuff of family memories. Christmas has become for us, really about memories. Memories made and memories planned.

This year we didn’t even exchange gifts. We planned a family cruise. Really, this is going to be the last time we get to do this as a family. In a few years, it will be college, dates, and marriages. It is closer than I care to admit. One of our sons has a girlfriend and a job. And yes, that is scaring me a lot.

Right now I am just taking a little breather from the year and concentrating on some other things. As I said, in January of 2017, I wanted to make this the year of learning to be better at getting the word out there. I needed to learn more of the business end of writing. I am happy to say I’ve done that. My newsletter has almost 1,000 subscribers. Not a subscriber yet? Click Here!

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Naples: Nothing is open on Christmas Day!

I am not too sure what my goals will be for this year, but I will set them soon. At a minimum, I plan on getting out two novels this year. I am done with the first draft of book one and plan to have it out by mid-summer. I already have a good portion of the second one planned out, but I am not going to seriously return to that effort until I can devote the time to it.

So, how about you, gentle reader? What are your goals for 2018? What is it you hope to accomplish, big or small? Drop me a line and tell me at bryanthewriter@bryannowak.com.

Until then, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Bryan the Writer to you and yours!

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My Favorite Sources of Inspiration

Truth is, I could never write every idea that came into my head. My subconscious is literally a roiling sea of ideas, thoughts, characters, and story lines that I’ve never really been able to control.

Telling an author, “Oh, you should really write the story of …” or “Oh, you should write a story with a beagle with super crime-solving skills” is counterproductive (thanks Jim for that suggestion). It is like telling an auto mechanic that since they can turn a wrench they should just go out and start working on Boeing 747s. Those are both mechanics, but different animals entirely. A story has to be your own if you are going to write it successfully. At least this is true for me.

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Inspiration surrounds!

Ideas for new story lines generally don’t come from people, at least not their mouths. I do find inspiration from people’s actions. Every time I see a news flash with the words ‘gruesome murder’ or ‘scene of horror’ in the news, I stop and read the story. Just like everyone, I draw from real life and use those examples to inform what I am working on at the moment.

Ideas have to have three things to make them viable in my mind.

  1. I have to have a story that is real enough to be at least believable at some level. I am not saying it can’t be outlandish, but it has to come with the element of ‘being possible’. I can write a story about a man who trains his pet elephant to kill people and they plot out the deaths in his apartment in Manhattan. However, I can write story about a serial killer who preys on elephant handlers at the zoo. The first idea would never work because you’d never find an apartment in New York large enough to accommodate a pet elephant.
  2. I need to feel for the characters in my proposed story. A serial killer has to have a compelling enough backstory that I can work with. The characters he hunts need to illicit some sort of emotion from you. It can be any emotion, but it has to be there and it has to be genuine. In The Dramatic Dead, the main character actually has a backstory (it is in the epilogue). He is the way he is because of a tragedy in his life. I don’t want you to sympathize with him, just understand what drove him to the point of his madness.
  3. It needs to have an ending. I have a friend, who is a famous author and he loves to leave you hanging on a thread as to what happens to the characters, dangling in the literary abyss. I hate that. Love his work, but hate how he leaves me on that ledge. If I’m going to write a novel, I need an ending. Sometimes I want to make sure you know everything is all right. Other times I will leave you with other emotions, but all matters are settled to one degree of satisfaction or another.

I have tons more stories than I can use. They are all floating around in my head at any given time with wild abandon. I don’t write them all down, although sometimes I do. I do have an idea notebook I bring with me to scribble down notes.

What about you, oh dear friends? Do you have any ideas? How about this, if we were going to write the perfect story line, what would it be? E-mail me your ideas at bryanthewriter@bryannowak.com

-Your Humble Servant,

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Review: The Night Parade

The Night ParadeThe Night Parade by Ronald Malfi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To be fair, Ronald Malfi is an award-winning author, and I would expect anything he wrote to be excellent. I recently read the book, The Night Parade. And I have to say, it didn’t disappoint. However, I really feel that Ronald Malfi owes me a drink. Why? Simple, there I was 34,000 feet above the ground bawling my eyes out on an airplane. It’s embarrassing, but it’s also a mark of excellence which makes Ronald Malfi a truly excellent author.

The Night Parade, is about a father and a daughter (David and Ellie) thrust into an unusual set of circumstances. The father, being a loving father, chooses to run from what he views is a dangerous government element to save his daughter from the people he is convinced killed his wife. There is something special about mom and daughter that make them desirable to the people in power.
It’s safe to say that this book is definitely not truly post apocalyptic, or dystopian in nature. It is something else completely and that is what makes it special. It is a functional world undergoing a crisis of biblical proportions which seems to have no real solution. Certainly the world has changed, and not necessarily for the better. David works hard to keep Ellie safe. Ellie, as it turns out, is really the one keeping them all safe in the end.

Now, turning why I think Ronald Malfi owes me a drink. The Night Parade masterfully pulls at your heartstrings when everything is all said and done. I find myself generally captivated, concern for, and aching for the characters in this book. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, that is the mark of a truly great author. I cared about David and Ellie as if they were friends. This is exactly why I balled my eyes out at 34,000 feet.

I highly recommend The Night Parade, and have no problems recommending it to anyone looking for a truly great read.

-Your Humble Servant,

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A little about Bryan the Writer: Service is critical to … someone.

I know someone who legitimately would not lift a finger to help anyone, or so he says. In reality, I think he does many things to help people, but if you ask him, he will tell you he doesn’t do anything. I believe in service. Those of you who have talked with me know I am a proud veteran and spent seventeen years in the military. I really enjoyed it and sometimes I miss it. I am way too old, and fat, to do that kind of thing today.

What you probably don’t know is that I actually served on the Fire Department in our little town of Excelsior, Minnesota for three years. I was a fire fighter and basic life support provider. Lots of calls answered and I had a great time. Service is important to me.

I am a Christian and serve with my church in a couple of different capacities and I want to share one particular story with you that really had an impact on me recently.

One of the things I do is take communion to our shut-in members. It doesn’t take much time. We take a small communion kit (already prepped for us) to the nursing/retirement home where the shut-in is and give them communion. I am a Lutheran and we treat communion as one of the sacraments so it is really an important thing to us. But, that is not the point of this blog. It is what happened afterward.

Getting old is hard and I really feel sad when I see some of these retirement homes. People are essentially confined to a small world. Granted, they are surrounded by people their own age, but they really lose the freedom that comes with being able to take their cars out to the surrounding world or even move the way they want. So, getting a visit from someone is really a treat.

I always do the same thing, I sit with them and talk a little before getting down to communion. I let them talk about whatever they want. They tell me about their kids, their husbands or wives, and one lady proudly told me about their dogs. I tell them a little about me and why I am there.

After providing communion to one woman and finishing up with prayers, I put my kit together to leave and she said something that stopped me in my tracks.

“Thank you so much, I needed this.”

It was such a shocking thing to hear that I had to take time to process what she said. She ‘needed this’. I am not sure if she specifically meant communion, the visit, the prayers or all of it but to her it was something she ‘needed’.

We equate ‘needing’ to the idea of food and water, but not normally to other things. She wasn’t using the phrase the same way someone talks about needing to charge their cell phone or needing to take a shower. In her eyes, it was clear that she gave our visit the same valuation as the things you need to sustain human life. To her, that interaction was as necessary as breathing.

Upon leaving the little apartment she shared with another woman, she looked different to me. Less stressed, happier than when we came in. Who are we to say what is and what isn’t truly life sustaining? Again, I make no claim as to what it was that she needed, but she found something in us that day. There was something in our visit that provided exactly the thing she was in greatest need of. As if the visit itself breathed sustaining life into her.

Service can be anything from helping a neighbor to collecting food for the food pantry. The simplest of acts can lead to the biggest of rewards. Who was the recipient of the reward? I’ll let you judge for yourself.

-Your Humble Servant,

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Review: Death is Long Overdue

Death is Long Overdue (Phee Jefferson #1)Death is Long Overdue by Amy E. Lilly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are times when you want what I call an Airplane Book. This is the kind of read that is not emotionally so entangling you stress over reading it and you have to put it down on occasion because it weighs you down like a brick. I call them Airplane Books because they are the kind of book you want on a prolonged airline flight. Death is Long Overdue, by Amy E Lilly is definitely an Airplane Book.

Ophelia, Phee to her friends, is the quintessential librarian. She loves her books and the building built to house them. She loves reading, old movies, and her cat. Mostly, she likes her predictable life. A predictable life, which turns upside-down when she decides to break into the home of a patron who refuses to return his overdue library books. She discovers him dead.

Phee is joined by a host of likable characters, two of whom are potential suitors, in a quest to uncover who has undertaken a murder spree in her little town.

I found the writing to be good, the characters to be relatable, and the story line moved along at a good pace. I actually read the entire book in one day.

It is definitely a cozy mystery in every sense of the word. Low on violence and gore, there are a couple of adult references, but they were mild. The character does have sex, but wasn’t overly graphic and it is well done. I would have no problem handing this to a young adult to read.

I was entertained and that is one of the best compliments I can pay any author.

If there is one criticism (and it is minor), I felt like Amy was rolling out characters in too quick a succession for my mind to really grasp their relevance. But that’s it … literally the only thing I saw that could have been improved.

I can highly recommend Death is Long Overdue by Amy E. Lilly.

-Your Humble Servant,

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