“What happened to the cook!?”: Or, An Exploration of Loose Ends and Plot Holes in Fiction

Believe it or not, I am a keen browser of my own book’s reviews. This should come as no surprise to most of you, but my mentor, Andre Dubus, had a strict “reviews are for buyers” policy. I have broken his policy thoroughly and consistently. One of the most common complaints I’ve seen about the book is that events tend to occur somewhat nonsensically, and that story arcs are never completed in regards to telos (that is, the idea of something maturing to a natural conclusion as based on its life purpose, such as an acorn becoming a tree, or a tasty avocado becoming my dinner).

Let’s address that.

Now, from the onset, I should be clear in noting that I’m not writing this post to change anybody’s view of the book. Whatever you interpret or feel as a result of its words are your own business, and while I hope you take away something positive, I’m not naive enough to think that the majority of the audience will be left in a state of ecstasy. I’m writing this primarily to explain why the book (and to some degree, its sequels) contain deliberate sabotages of expectations.

One of my biggest pet peeves in fantasy (no, let’s say literature in general) is that there’s surprisingly little reality within the genre. Yes, we have the odd exception that pulls back the wool from our eyes, but by and large, we’re confronted with a genre that acts as a reality escape more than an honest depiction of living beings (and their suffering).

So I decided to write something that defied those limitations.

When I watch the news, my heart breaks for those who are shelled in Ukraine. For those who are gassed and shot in Syria. For those who are taken from their families and enslaved in the heart of Africa. I was fortunate enough to grow up without violence as part of my life, but many others weren’t.

And now, having seen reviews that ask “why didn’t X get revenge on Y?”, I feel compelled to answer.

Reality seldom bends to one’s wishes. Even the most noble intentions of redemption are often led astray, but this is a fact easily forgotten in an age where media forms our earliest perceptions of the world. Narrative arcs have become our reality. The truth is that revenge is rarely granted to us mortals. People disappear in the wilderness without so much as a scrap of fabric to identify their presence. Cars crash and people suffer heart attacks and tsunamis overrun entire nations, all without consequences. This is the world we live in.

Yet when we engage with a novel, which I view as a window into somebody else’s reality more than mere entertainment, we expect to find neat and tidy resolutions to every problem ever faced by mankind. We expect people to get what they deserve. We expect wars to be wrapped up in a ribbon and sent home without paying the postage.

But for me, these stories reflect universal truths.

Children who see their parents murdered before their eyes will rarely, if ever, get a chance to take the life of their tormentor. Those who lose their family to genocide must live with that pain.

For me, a revenge tale (or any form of neatly concluded adventure) is an attempt to sidestep the earnest and pervasive pain in life. I don’t consider myself a pessimist (quite the opposite, in fact), but I acknowledge that suffering is present in the majority of our daily life. I wanted my writing to reflect that, and to reflect the countless masses who live without crisp resolution every day of their lives.

So here’s to honesty, to truth, and to a better world.

Love, peace, and joy, my friends.


Hinduism, Buddhism, and Shamanism, Oh My!: Or, a Dissection of Spirituality in Fantasy

One of the most common (yet ironically controversial) axioms regarding “polite conversation” goes as follows: Stay away from politics and religion. Do not touch them with a hundred-foot vaulting pole. By extension, it seems that the vast majority of books (which are, let us be clear, intended to be sold to a curious yet faceless audience) would do well to veer away from these hot-button issues. Those who read my work will find a head-on confrontation with political issues, albeit in a fantasy-based context that takes heavy liberties with analogues and allegories. Spirituality, however, is where most of the veils are stripped away. Even the least attentive readers of my work will find themselves meandering through characters’ experiences of meditation, ego death, and so forth.

This is not a new trend, nor is it confined to the realm of eastern philosophy. CS Lewis and Tolkien constructed many of their stories within a Christian moral framework, and in recent years, we’ve seen stunning releases (The Golem and the Jinni immediately springs to mind) that draw from Judaism, Islam, pagan cultures, and every other religious system under the sun. There is, of course, a distinction to be made here. The authors of stories with spiritual elements do not always adhere to the religions they write about, and that’s A-okay. The world of literature has seldom been a battleground for asserting universal truths or dogmas.

In my own case, I was compelled to write a series that reflects many of my own beliefs and practices in “normal” life. No, that isn’t to say that I keep satyr-like creatures locked in my basement. Frank Herbert’s Dune was a tremendous influence on me, as it guided me toward meditation and a process of deep insight into the nature of fear, time, etc. When I initially started working on Scribes, I was rather lax in my meditative practice, and the book itself reflects this mild relationship with spirituality. Now that I’m neck-deep in writing the series’ third book, Scions, it’s fascinating to look back and examine how the protagonist’s journey has mirrored my own. I spend about as much time meditating as I do writing, and the two activities have become interwoven in countless ways.

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Readers who are well-versed in Hindu or Buddhist traditions (particularly Dzogchen and Vajrayana Buddhism) will find ample material that coincides with their own teachings or experiences, and I hope that these books can bridge the gap between spirituality and fantasy in a meaningful way, perhaps providing a dose of motivation that sidesteps the usual lectures or non-fiction texts.

Additionally, the primary motivation for involving spirituality in the series was to foster the same curiosity in others that Frank Herbert instilled in me. Sure, a fantasy or science-fiction book is a surface-level introduction to the innumerable philosophies and doctrines that exist throughout our world, but it’s something. My deepest hope is that at least one person will read through the book (hopefully series, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves) and find themselves wondering if the book’s descriptions of bliss, cessation, etc., are truly possible for everyday people. I’ve been largely mum about my own beliefs until now, but as the eve of the first book’s release draws near, it seems impossible to avoid speaking about such a weighty and important topic.

This is not to say, of course, that I promote (or even enjoy) literature that reads more like a religious text than a genuine story. There’s a fine line between proselytizing and entertaining, and I hope that I’ve stayed well within my boundaries as a storyteller. People of all faiths should be able to take something important away from your story, even if it’s the intention to perform a single act of kindness in their community.

Tl;dr: Peace, love, and kindness, everybody.

P.S. If you still haven’t checked out Scribes, you can pre-order your copy (on Audible, e-reader, or in print) by clicking this thing!

Your Book is Published Now! (And People Hate It); Or, On Bad Reviews

Greetings, lovely people. It has been a fair while since I’ve posted anything here, largely because of working full time as a teacher (aka soaking up Winter Break in all its glory), but also because of general holiday food comas. At this hour I am composing my posts at a rate of four words per minute; the doctors assure me I will eventually move out of my Cheesecake Inebriation Phase (CIP).

That business aside, I wanted to touch on a topic that many writers may not consider when they’re knee-deep in the mud and guts of the writing trenches, expending both their time and energy on a project that may never see the light of (published) day. That topic is, on a philosophical level, something that speaks to the very nature of happiness, of fulfillment, of seeking and craving in all its forms. But that’s heavy territory, and while we may wander there someday, I’d prefer to boil it down to a microcosm for this blog:

People are going to HATE your book.

I don’t just mean that they’ll shrug and put it down, perhaps shelving it as DNF on Goodreads if they’re feeling ferocious. I mean they will hate itdespise itwish misery upon it and its kin. Media reviews often bring out the most vicious elements in a person’s arsenal of linguistic devastation, and those who frequent Amazon, Goodreads, and IMDB will find a cornucopia of examples to demonstrate this point.

As many of you know, my debut fantasy novel, SCRIBES, is set to drop a month from today. It will be the culmination of nearly three years of writing, rewriting, editing, missing sleep, querying, doubting, loathing, calling, e-mailing, wishing, begging. I got a wonderful agent (Lindsay Mealing!), a hell of a lot of experience, and a keen sense of patience out of it. That being said, the entire process has been a reminder that joy and excitement are temporary states, and that we as writers need to remember to slug on through the peaks and valleys of the journey, never becoming too attached to the elevation.

But more pertinent to today’s topic is the fact that the readers of your book will not know anything about the process of creating this work. They will not judge your book based upon the effort or love that you invested in it; after all, there are plenty of McWriters who churn out 5-10 new novels every year (often with the help of ghost writers), largely using recycled plot lines and cliches to truck their way into the Best Seller list. This isn’t to knock those writers—this is simply to state that the background work of composing and preparing your book is not relevant to the reader.

And because of that, your book will get shredded.

Yes, many people will praise your book and offer it full stars and tell their friends about it, but many, many others will take their time to eviscerate your book simply because they can. It’s their right, after all. Everybody has reasons and preferences when judging a book, and I have no authority to sway them, nor do I want it.

The reviews you remember, of course, are not the praising sort. They’re the soul-ripping, face-melting, one-star disembowelings.

As of the time of this post, my book has received a motley assortment of reviews on Goodreads. I must admit that SCRIBES is not a book for everybody. It’s a bit of a genre orphan, in some ways. I never wrote the book with an audience in mind, and I don’t regret that. But here’s the cliffnotes story of its birth, for you, the wonderful readers:

SCRIBES was conceived as a capstone project in my university, largely written in the apprenticeship (for lack of a better term) of Andre Dubus III, who you may know as the author of The House of Sand and Fog. It was written in equal parts during months of pure, ecstatic happiness, months of dealing with my first break-up, and months of moving to new countries and reshaping my entire life. It was a time when ideas and guiding principles were in flux, perhaps free-fall, and the book served as something of an anchor for rebuilding my path in life. Acquiring my agent was a wild process that deserves its own post, but rest assured, it was yet another explosion of emotions.

With that in mind, the book is a reflection of myself, of all the things that are important and worth sharing in my mind:

Occasional moments of depressing nuance straight from literary fiction; graphic, unsettling violence; elements of spirituality; the power and tenacity of the human spirit.

Whatever reviews the book receives are more than fine by me. If the ultimate goal of any art is to communicate something, to make somebody feel something when they engage with your work, then I’d say getting them to leave a review, any review at all, is a triumph. As long as the book reached inside and sparked something, what’s there to complain about?

To make it short and sweet, you (and every other writer) have a worldview and a philosophy worth sharing with the world. I urge everybody to look beyond the fear or disappointment of critical reviews, and to devote all of your energy into conveying your message as skillfully, earnestly, and deeply as possible.

Love and peace, my friends.

SCRIBES review copies now available!

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Greetings, friends and passing readers. I currently have five review codes available for SCRIBES, which is set to drop on February 20th. If you have any interest in reviewing the book (even to say that it murdered your family and deserves to be executed at dawn), just post a comment below and I’ll reach out to you! The review code will allow you to read on Kindle, Nook, or whatever else your heart desires.

Hope everyone’s enjoying the arctic conditions (except Australia and their damnable summer, of course).

Love and best wishes.

SCRIBES is out—Audible codes ready!

Greetings, everybody! A few days overdue on announcing this here, but as many of you know, SCRIBES has finally been released!


Thanks to everybody who has supported me in the long road to release, and even further thanks to those who have purchased a copy (which can be found here, for anybody who’s curious!).

In addition, I have several Audible codes that can be redeemed at checkout. If you’re interested, leave a comment and I’ll get in touch!

Love, peace, and best wishes.

SCRIBES Goodreads Giveaway!


Hey, treasured readers and hallowed friends.

Today I’ve got some neat news.

Kensington, the publisher of The Scribe Cycle, has arranged for a Goodreads Giveaway spanning from December 7th until December 22nd. What does that mean for you, the good bloggers and word-hounds of the ‘net?

Free stuff.

In case you’ve missed my hoard of SCRIBES-related posts, here’s a brief teaser for the first book:

“Born into the ruins of Rzolka’s brutal civil unrest, Anna has never known peace. Here, in her remote village—a wasteland smoldering in the shadows of outlying foreign armies—being imbued with the magic of the scribes has made her future all the more uncertain.

Through intricate carvings of the flesh, scribes can grant temporary invulnerability against enemies to those seeking protection. In an embattled world where child scribes are sold and traded to corrupt leaders, Anna is invaluable. Her scars never fade. The immunity she grants lasts forever.

Taken to a desert metropolis, Anna is promised a life of reverence, wealth, and fame—in exchange for her gifts. She believes she is helping to restore her homeland, creating gods and kings for an immortal army—until she witnesses the hordes slaughtering without reproach, sacking cities, and threatening everything she holds dear. Now, with the help of an enigmatic assassin, Anna must reclaim the power of her scars—before she becomes the unwitting architect of an apocalyptic war.”

Sound interesting? Hate it and want to leave a scathing review? Well, I’ve got both flavors covered.

Click on this long, hyperlinked thingy to have a shot at reading SCRIBES!

Best wishes and ample advent calendar chocolates to all.

Children of Soil: Part One

So, a brief caveat. Typically I don’t post fiction online in full segments unless it’s for a short story or flash fiction, but this is a project that I started work on and had a lot of interest in, yet never really had the time to continue. If anything, it reflects a lot of the themes and style that I work with in my writing, and I’d like to share it with some of the truly talented wordsmiths out there. With no further ado, here’s a brief opening to Children of Soil.

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Kesh wandered through darkness with the newborn that did not belong to him, pointing up at stars that were not stars and whispering truths he didn’t really know.

It was Jacha’s child, lifted free of blood-smeared thighs and wrapped in coarse wool swaddling, still without a name. Before Jacha had grown still, a wombwoman — Kesh’s wife, Sarnai, in fact — had squeezed her hand and suggested Teman and she’d nodded at that, mumbling it’s a beautiful name, a strong name, but everything was agreeable to the dying. Its father was surely somewhere near the barrier, loading rifles and staring at the rusted steel slab and dreading the world above, but nobody knew his name, either. Twenty-three men sharing the same caves since birth, and not one had come forward to claim Jacha’s swollen belly.

You never knew your comrades until you heard their silence, Kesh supposed. He couldn’t help but feel wounded by it. Betrayed, perhaps.

After all, they’d grown strong in each others’ arms. They’d been raised on tales of the memory-eaters above, slept with jagged little legs racing over their skin and bones in their bedding. They’d comforted dying fathers, forgotten the faces of their mothers, taken stillborn siblings to the deeper recesses of the tunnels and settled them in crevices. They’d huddled in black caverns and cried when food was scarce, not from despair but from the pain of wasting away. They’d crawled and prayed and bled in preparation for their fate beyond the barrier. Not a single one had broken under the strain, and they were proud of that.

Twenty-three men, some too cowardly to raise their own seed.

But their shame would be forgotten in a matter of hours, Kesh considered as they passed under veins of cobalt, luminous tufts of redshard. “Sky.” He tucked the word into the child’s blankets like a secret and realized, with strange discomfort, that all of these lessons would be unlearned once the child left the darkness. Once he saw the great veil that Kesh’s father had described so long ago, ascending eternally, never striking stone or moss, burning from black to orange to blue, mirroring the cycle in days that Kesh found arbitrary, if not enslaving. Even so, Kesh stopped and stared up at clusters of crystal, at freckles of neon, at the black pockmarks he envisioned as infinite. “Stars.”

The child squirmed against Kesh’s chest and he glanced down, made sure its mouth and nose hadn’t been covered somehow. In the crystals’ glow, its flesh was splotchy and pallid and wet, far too tender for the tunnels Kesh knew. It seemed miraculous that anything could be born here, grown like weeds in the damp and darkness, and it was easy to forget he’d once been just as helpless, swaddled and given his first words under the starlight that wasn’t starlight.

But unlike Kesh, the child would know a new world. A dangerously new one. Nobody could tell it which paths were safe and which were prone to floods. In spite of the hardships beneath stone, there had always been some semblance of belonging and certainty to it all.

When certainty fell away, it could change people. It could make cowards out of comrades.

Kesh examined the child’s pinched eyes and the dark line of its mouth, the vapor wisps trailing out into the cavern’s chill. No matter how tough his own skin had grown, they weren’t so different in the proper light.

He carried the child to the edge of the cavern and knelt down by the pool. Water snaked through cracks in the walls, glimmered in sheets down limestone and mottled pillars, stirred the surface with white wrinkles. Somewhere beyond the pool it drained into another narrow throat, running deeper and deeper to places Kesh couldn’t fathom. He hardly heard the newborn’s sniffling. There was only water, murmuring and gurgling and dripping. “Water.”

Again he tried to envision himself as a child, the way his father had unwrapped the wool and set him on bare rock and doused him with hands full of skin-warm water. It was the way his father’s people had always done it, cleansing them and laying them bare before Suyuk, the Ursine Watcher. Even after the interlopers killed Suyuk. Death had been an easy thing to understand in the tunnels, but his father wouldn’t hear it. He’s alive so long as he sleeps in your heart, he’d explained, and so Kesh had nourished Suyuk’s dead love whenever he could, sleeping with carved idols of the bear and learning his verses in the glowrooms. The child sobbed, and Kesh ladled water over its face and smoothed away the grime, making him pure and beautiful in Suyuk’s eyes.

Making him worthy of a Watcher who no longer stood watch.

Writing Cosmic Horror and Why it’s a Tricky Affair

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Let it be known, from the onset, that I absolutely adore cosmic horror. I adore it almost as much as I resent the viral infection I’m currently powering through. Cosmic horror, like any good genre, runs the gamut of settings, characters, time periods, but always carries one distinct characteristic: everything is f****d.

NB: If I weren’t a fifth-grade teacher, I would write that word in its full, unadulterated glory. But you know how it is.

Cosmic horror, as some of you may know, traces its roots back to one of America’s most prolific and influential horror writers: Ya boi H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft was a weird, weird guy, and I encourage you to read up on his correspondence and unpublished ideas, as they reveal faint traces of exactly how out there he truly was. What he left behind in the public sphere, however, is an extensive mythos (aptly titled the Lovecraft, or Cthulhu, Mythos) dealing with larger-than-life cosmic entities, themes of unknowing and tainted knowledge, and a whole lot of non-Euclidian geometry.

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If any of you have decided to venture out from beneath your rock homes, here’s a brief and telling example of what I’m talking about. Lovecraft wrote several short stories that dealt, typically indirectly, with an ancient, primordial being known as Cthulhu. Cthulhu was part of an entire pantheon of weird, seemingly immortal creatures, and any humans that merely glimpsed him would be driven insane by the experience. Don’t worry, though: Cthulhu is sleeping (and dreaming) in the sunken city of R’lyeh. You can Google any of these terms and find heaps of nightmare fuel, of course.

Cosmic horror places a great deal of emphasis on the ultimate nihilism of human existence, our significant place in the universe, and the absolutely unknowable forces that could extinguish our entire conception of “life” in an instant. If that doesn’t get you up at the crack of dawn and grinning from ear to ear, I don’t know what to tell you!

You can see Lovecraft’s influence on everything from 2016’s The Void to the video game Bloodborne, and these titles have brought a newer generation into the folds of cosmic horror fandom. Modern writers, however, seem to struggle with many of the implications that cosmic horror presents.

If humans don’t mean anything, who’s there to save the day?

If these gods can’t be understood or reckoned with, why write about them?

Where is that saccharine happy ending, for the love of all that’s good and holy!?

These are the hard questions posed (and often unanswered, or entirely nullified) by cosmic horror. There are several tabletop roleplaying games that use cosmic horror (Lovecraftian or otherwise) as their basis, and these largely succeed because the player has an investment in their personal character (and, naturally, keeping them alive and sane). Many of Lovecraft’s own tales were told in flashbacks, as there’s no way to logically describe these entities in real-time, due to their overwhelming aura of madness and despair.

Much like describing your trip to the DMV during a phone call.

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Most games, literary works, and other derivatives of Lovecraft focus on human opponents that can actually be laid to rest. Cultists are the number one target, since they’re quite fleshy and act as the human intermediaries between the gods and their pesky insects (you know, you and I). Since humans pose no threat to these deities, the cultists provide a handy target for revolver rounds, lead pipes, and ninja stars.

But what if we wanted to go deeper?

This post is largely me thinking out loud, as I’ve been toying with writing cosmic horror-fantasy for some time. Grim Dawn is a neat example of employing forbidden knowledge in a game setting, but even that eventually conceded to the formula of “hit things until they die and level up.” Hopeful endings and a sense of progress are not common in cosmic horror, for reasons you might understand from the above paragraphs. This has led me to begin thinking of more abstract applications of the genre’s hallmarks.

In fantasy, there’s tremendous room for freedom with cosmic elements because of magic. Yes, we love magic. It fixes everything, from broken faucets to plot holes. In a cosmic horror setting, even one mired in a vaguely medieval landscape, there are countless opportunities to explore the merging of eldritch forces and mortal minds. Secret orders, dungeon cabals, calligraphists with too perfect script. Furthermore, fantasy worlds often don’t place a high expectation on science and logic to explain the unknown. Spiritual explanations of the world were commonplace for thousands of years, and with good reason: They appeal to the Jungian, mystical side of our psyche.

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So with that in mind, the task in cosmic horror fiction is not to create bigger, meaner monsters to kill, but to provide some meaningful reflections on what it means to live in the shadow of complete annihilation. Many of us believe that life is damned beyond repair (myself not included), and others believe in extracting profound revelations from everyday occurrences. That being said, I’d like to reframe some of the questions posed about cosmic horror.

How much would you suffer to know the unknown?

Can something as insubstantial as humanity still find fulfillment in the cosmic void?

If you knew of the dark and haunting presences in our world, would you seek them?

One final note: If you choose to emulate Lovecraft’s style to the letter, be sure to leave out the flagrant racism.

Love, peace, and joy, my friends.

PS, if you enjoyed this post and anything remotely related to cosmic horror, consider checking out my new book (click me!), which has TONS of weird stuff going down.

Writing a Female Protagonist (as a Male)

Strap on your helmets and grab your flux capacitors, kiddos, because we’re taking this baby back to 1985 2013. You see, I was in the spring semester of my sophomore year at the University of Massachusetts, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Being a bit of a real-life cave troll, resigned to an endless diet of Mountain Dew and Slim Jims, I had such a cavalier attitude toward my future “career” that I decided to enroll in a motley assortment of classes that just barely fit my degree’s requirements. One of these classes, as fate would have it, was Writing About Women.

I enrolled in the class with my university best friend, almost certain that we were in for several months of reading anatomical textbooks that described the limbs, hair, and nails of female specimens. Me being me, I had obviously neglected to read the course description.

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What I found upon attending the first workshop was an intriguing, and in fact, entirely novel, look at the interior lives of women throughout history. It soon struck me, perhaps for the first time, that the majority of my favorite authors (and media producers at large) were men. I’m not going to tell you how to feel about that, but it was objectively reflective of my consumption habits as a modern-day reader.

So I dove head-first into the course.

I read everything from politically charged feminist manifestos to A Room of One’s Own, putting aside the biases that I’d unconsciously collected over a lifetime of reading, watching, and engaging with, male-centric media. And it left quite an impact on me.

You see, I rarely write with male protagonists anymore, and I can’t say that this is an entirely conscious choice. SCRIBES features Anna, a young girl, as its primary focus, and many of the surrounding cast members are female. There was never a political message behind the scrawling mess I called my first chapter, but the more the story developed, the more themes of feminine identity and vulnerability began to emerge. It led to an outright curiosity about the lives that women lead, the threats they face, the day-to-day issues that remain unsolved or ignored by the men in their lives. And so I began asking questions, like any good and curious writer.

I asked things I’d never imagined to my cousins, my girlfriend, my professors, my mother, my aunts—I was encouraged by their support of my need for some degree of authenticity.

This post is not intended to give you a “how to” guide on writing about women, as I am not qualified to do that by any means. I’m a man who exists with a man’s brain, a man’s view of society, a man’s view of women. No matter what I write, it will never take the place of reading accounts from actual women, nor should it.

This post, then, is an attempt to explain the various pitfalls and suggestions that I can offer up to my male brethren. I’ve seen a fair amount of stories in which female characters resemble something closer to text-based hentai props, complete with descriptions of bouncing cleavage, supple loins, and anything else under the sun that you would rather die than show your mother.

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When I first started writing about Anna, I had a definite desire to just imagine her as a man, and then flip the genders like some botched magic trick. From various forum crawling, I’ve found this to be a common idea and piece of advice. This has a better intention than most of the above descriptors, but it still fails to capture something essential about engaging with female protagonists—they are not men. To equate the two sexes is to, in essence, demean whatever specific challenges women actually face. You can’t write an authentic, female-driven tale that ignores the reality of things like the threat of rape or birth-centric social pressures. These are as pressing and essential to the character’s experience as ideas of masculinity are to male characters.

There is a controversial (yet brief) section of SCRIBES that dealt with menstruation. For a girl living in a pseudo-medieval/bronze age/pre-modern society, the transition to womanhood meant a vast array of changes, and I felt that there was some importance to including this scene, if only for the sake of symbolism. You may feel uncomfortable facing these aspects, and that’s alright—not all writing is pain-free, and it shouldn’t be!

Be sure to ask for advice whenever you’re in doubt. Accept, with some humility, that you are not an omnipotent wizard that can peer into the minds of women ala Mel Gibson (creepy film, wasn’t it?). The women in your life can give insights that you never would’ve envisioned about the character and their world, so take some truth from the source.

And although it should go without saying, especially after the above examples, do your best to consider how you look out at the world. Are you constantly aware of your huge, shapely gonads lovingly caressing your inner thighs? If not, try to apply the same level of perspective and mental centering to female POV characters.

It’s a tough, meandering road, but it can teach you as much about yourself as it does about your fictional world.

Love, peace, and joy, my friends.


The Brutal Stages of Grief (When Preparing your Novel for Publishing)

In my experience, writing tends to be 1% carefree and effortless, and 99% slogging through a sea of self-doubt, prose-loathing, and utter heartbreak. Not just the process of writing, mind you, but the entire shebang, leading from plot formation to writing to editing to submitting to publishing.

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I feel you, Parker. I feel you.

Those who love to write, of course, hold onto that 1% with such fervency that nothing can really break them down. You could stick them in a featureless one-square-meter cage and they’d find a way to use their own blood to plaster the walls. They’d probably just be getting to the good part when the unfortunate roadblock of “death” gets in the way.

Hyperbole aside, writing has a lot of moments that are downright painful.

The saddest part of this sadomasochistic ordeal happens not during the writing itself, but long after, when you’ve dragged yourself back to the writing table for a dose of editing. Depending on how many bottles of Jagermeister you downed during the creative process, you may need to rinse and repeat this “editing” thing several times. But the physical drudgery of combing through pages again and again and again, searching for misspelled words or inconsistent details, is only a fraction of the torture.

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In order to prepare your novel for its birth in the world, there will be an extensive process of denial and suffering. Rebirth was never comfortable, right? And at many points in your novel-prepping journey, you’ll probably find solace in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Jokes aside, I find that Ross and Kessler’s depiction of grief as a five stage process is fairly apt for editing.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

Stage 1: Denial
This early stage of editing grief occurs when you receive your editor’s (or agent’s) first email about your story. As you read their opening lines, marveling at how they admire your “daring” prose and pacing, you may resemble this:

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Yet as you continue onward, coming across the death knells of phrases such as “However, there is a lot to do here,” you will become certain that your editor simply overlooked your creative genius. Of course Jeanette needs to travel to the countryside for half the book—I mean, did you even read her dramatic return in Chapter 37? Oh, and now they’re calling out your Tolkien-esque word count. Which leads to. . .


Stage 2: Anger
The stage of anger is sparked by a sense of complete injustice within the world of publishing. If only I’d submitted my book at the cutting edge of this new vampire-mermaid-centaur-hybrid romance trend. . . it would all be so different. Sad to say, my friend, but once you begin blaming the publishing industry (or your editor) for their feedback, you’ve entered dangerous territory. You may look like this at this stage:

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I mean, come on. Who in the flying fulcrum does this person think he is!? Cut out Billy Loompa’s descent in the Mirror Kingdom? Are you insane, Mr. Editor!? He has no idea how much worldbuilding you did for that place. Or how many times you cried to the imaginary scenarios you’ve woven into that prose. He hasn’t even seen your seven-book sequel plans for the Mushroom Queen and her cohorts. What an absolute troglodyte.

Once you take enough Valium drink enough tea to regain your composure, you move into. . .


Stage 3: Bargaining
At this point, things are looking rough. You’re staring at your email, fingers exhausted from typing and deleting constant strings of lexical savagery, and you resign yourself to taking the editor’s advice a bit more seriously. Okay, you can trim the third chapter visit to Burger King and Molly’s pregnancy arc. You can even do away with the description of a character licking their postage stamp, saliva rivulets and all.

But you absolutely cannot let go of the scene where Grand Vizier Sha’turnakh buys a puppy for his daughter in the cosmic bazaar. That needs to stay. It must stay.

But the editor pings you back immediately, saying little more than no. Now you look something like this:

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Realizing that you’re about to embark on a quest of extreme revision and character slicing, you move into. . .


Stage 4: Depression
The Jagermeister comes back out. You call your buddies up to watch some mindless Transformer sequels and swipe around on Tinder for a few hours, hoping to forget the cruel mistress that is publishing. You can hardly bring yourself out of a funk long enough to shower, let alone sit in front of the keyboard and look for mentally constructed friends to obliterate. If you’re fortunate, this stage will be shortened by advice from your agent, friend, therapist, deity of choice, or some other force.

Once you’ve embraced the inevitable (and perhaps put aside a grain of your own ego), you find the bliss of. . .


Stage 5: Acceptance
That’s right. This story has a relatively happy ending to it. Once you’ve come to terms with the fact that you may not, in fact, have every answer in the book about creating a perfect story that readers will enjoy, you open yourself up to a vast world of constructive criticism and guidance. Most of this wisdom will transform your work into something more rad and readable than you ever dreamed possible. In my own case, it meant trimming down a painfully slow scene of wandering through markets and looking at spiders in small jars. Yes, really.

It also meant figuring out how to become less lazy when I write future novels. If I can avoid letting myself fall into the trap of “just writing” to watch the word count go up (temporarily inflating my sense of pride in the process), then I can make my prose far more efficient and hard-hitting. I truly can’t thank my editor and agent enough for knowing when to slap me upside the head and say “Wake up, James! You’re a writer, not an enlightened being.”

At this stage, you’ll generally have this disposition:

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With every revision and step away from the work as being “your baby,” you become more ruthless, more practiced, more able to view the novel as an objective production that doesn’t require quite so much proverbial member-waving to make your voice heard. I pray that you all find acceptance, with or without the Jager.

Love, peace, and happiness, my friends.