The Antihero

I’ve already mentioned my obsession with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency here. A recent episode, the fourth in the second season, had the primary villain saying something quite interesting to a character he was trying to persuade to join him.The woman he hopes to convince says that she never meant to get mixed up in all the crazy stuff that’s been happening. That she’s a “nice person.” The villain’s response?

“NO YOU’RE NOT! No. You’re. Not. The wand wasn’t drawn to you because you’re nice. You’re far better than nice; you’re interesting.”

I can’t get that sentence out of my head. You’re far better than nice; you’re interesting. If you’ve written a compelling story, these words likely describe your protagonist. Gone are the days when all heroes are weirdly god-like beings who can do no wrong. This is the heyday of the antihero.

An antihero is defined as the protagonist or hero of a tale who may possess some, but not all of the qualities typically associated with the heroes of old. Courage, physical strength, empathy, mercy, and even sometimes a random, unknown something that makes them The Chosen One. There are more, but you get what I mean. The hero is an all-around “good” person whose every quality except maybe one are traits that the general populace would consider desirable.

The antihero might have one or two of those traits, but their actions aren’t driven by a need to “do the right thing.” They do what they do because they want to. They might have a personal vendetta against someone who wronged them in the past. They might want money, power, fame, a fresh start, or simply to be left alone by society. Heck, they might do whatever they do just because it feels good to them, including murder. This puts the antihero perilously close to crossing the line into villain territory, which is exactly what makes them so interesting. Their motivations are not always clear. The means used to reach their goals are not always above board. They are muddled. They are complicated.

Like us.

While the hero reflects what we aspire to, the antihero reflects what we are (with maybe an upgrade or two). Which makes them easier to identify with and root for than your run of the mill hero. What’s there to care about when you’re following the adventures of someone who always wins? It’s true that, if written well, even stories starring classically heroic protagonists will put you in suspense. But there’s something terrifying and exciting when you know the character you’re reading about could fail miserably, or that them reaching their goal could spell absolute doom for every other character.

The antihero factors more into their decision than whether or not something is “right.” In fact, they may not care enough or at all about the consequences of their actions… unless those actions further complicate their own lives. They might accomplish great things, things they’ve always wanted, only to be haunted by those same accomplishments. One of my favorite antiheroes is Victor Frankenstein, a scientific genius who succeeds in creating life from death, but must immediately face the many anxieties associated with creation, foremost of these the responsibility of the creator for their creation (and in this case, the creation’s horrific actions) despite existing apart from it.

Who are your favorite antiheroes?


Writing Wednesday: When Language Imitates Life.

Heyyyyyy, everybody!

Today’s topic is…well…y’all can read.

What I mean by language that imitates life is words put together in such a way that you immediately recognize the emotional experience they’re meant to portray. One of my favorite things about reading is recognizing a character’s emotional experience as my own. When I can point at the page and say “I know exactly what that’s like!” That’s a golden moment, one that I try to produce in my stories as often as possible. That, to me, is what makes a story immersive. People connect with what they know, and it’s the writer’s job (however fantastic the tale) to give the reader an entry point to the story, a foothold.

For my critical bit, I am (re)reading a bunch of Stephen King. I’ve begun with The Shining, a book I’ve actually never read before. In Chapter Four, Jack Torrance’s son, Danny (who is waiting outside for his dad to get home), has his first vision of the awful events to come at the Overlook Hotel. As the vision fades, Jack’s VW pulls into view, and Danny is still utterly shaken by what he saw in his mind.

He went to his daddy and buried his face in Daddy’s sheepskin-lined jacket and hugged him tight tight tight.

Not only does the lack of punctuation in the sentence add to the sense of urgency Danny feels — the words staggering one after another toward some invisible exit — but the repetition in the end — “tight tight tight” — drives home the reality of Danny’s desperate relief at seeing the man he loves most and views as his protector right there in front of him in the aftermath of a hideous vision. This is a thing that Stephen King is REALLY good at. He infuses his stories with bits of emotion that seem pulled directly from the fabric of reality. And the moment is so small, but it’s something any person who is coming down from indescribable fear in the arms of a loved one can relate to. Especially as a child (that “tight tight tight” immediately says “under-the-age-of-ten” to me).

Here’s another one from the end of one of my favorite novels, Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves :

     Fern stood heavily and came to me. She placed her own large hand opposite mine, fingers curling slightly, scratching, as if she could reach through and take the poker chip. I signed my name again with my free hand, and she signed it back with hers, though I couldn’t tell if she’d remembered me or was simply being polite.
     Then she rested her forehead on the glass. I did the same and we stood that way for a very long time, face-to-face. From that vantage point, I could see her only in teary, floating pieces —
     her eyes
     the flaring of her nostrils
     the sparse hairs on her chin and rimming her ears
     the tiny rise and fall of her rounded shoulders
     the way her breath painted and unpainted the glass

This is one of the only moments in a novel that has ever made me cry. Everything about this evokes movements and emotions one would recognize, especially considering the characters involved (one of whom, Fern, is *spoiler* a chimpanzee). Fern “standing heavily”, her fingers “curling slightly” are recognizable to anyone who has seen a chimpanzee move. What follows is an emotionally familiar moment: the narrator making herself known — baring herself in a way — and, after receiving a response, being hopeful and unsure about what that response means. Then — THEN — the “teary, floating pieces.” UGH! THIS is something that anyone who has ever cried (aka most humans) and tried to see through their tears, will recall. You catch a detail here, another one there… And the fact that each detail is begun in lower case & without punctuation which, similarly to the Stephen King excerpt, implies a lack of a clear beginning or end to the details given, conjures up what the world is like through the blur of tears. Through that lens, every detail you catch is equal. And then Fern’s breath “painting and unpainting” the glass…


I mean, c’mon, people.

What are your favorite recognizable moments in fiction?

Writing Wednesday: The Return?

Hey hey hey, y’all!


I know I haven’t been here for quite a while but I got some requests for Writing Wednesday to be brought back (OK…I got one, but that still counts!) and after some consideration, I thought why not see how it feels to dip my toe back into the blogging world? I enjoyed connecting with people here. In fact, I really missed it. 🙂 So how has everybody been?

As far as writing news, I’ve got some…(wait for it…): I FINISHED MY BOOK!


I actually finished it on August 30th around 7:30 pm BST. I thought for sure I’d be rolling around on the floor in tears as soon as I typed the last punctuation mark, but I actually didn’t know how to feel to be honest. I’ve given so much time to writing, developing, and thinking about those characters, their voices, and that world that when it was over, I felt spent and a little sad. The sadness was actually due in large part to the story not ending the way I thought it would. After I wrote what turned out to be the final words, I started to write more, towards the ending I’d had in mind for so long. But it felt wrong. I hit delete until I was back at what became the true ending, and I said (out loud) “This is how it ends?”


Just like many milestones reached by normal folk, there’s no fanfare. No party-hat-wearing weirdo jumps out of a closet to shower you in confetti and hand you a golden statuette to commemorate your achievement. It’s a day like any other. Except it’s not. You exist in a liminal space between triumph and disbelief because you’ve accomplished your goal but…how can it possibly be over? (And of course this process is nowhere near over. There’s still edits and revisions to make, agents to query, and lots more waiting to be done even after a publisher agrees to take on your project. But finishing the book is the most important step in the process. Without a finished product, none of that other stuff can happen. So this first step is momentous.)

Certain passages keep popping into my mind, sections I know I’ll choose to read if the novel is picked up and I’m invited to share it with others. In the meantime, though, I’ve put the novel away in order to focus on the critical part of my thesis (for any newbies, I’m currently in a Creative Writing PhD program, which my novel will be submitted as part of). I’ve been reading and rereading literary criticism having to do with the horror genre (which is where my novel fits). I’ll return to the novel in December to make my second pass, and in January I’ll (hopefully) be ready to start querying agents. This is all tentative, by the way. I also work in retail and we’re getting closer and closer to the worst time of the year so it’s only gonna get harder to stay on schedule, and I’ve missed all my self-imposed deadlines up to this point so I’m not exactly optimistic… But I’m gonna try!

In other not-news, I’m pumped for season 2 of Stranger Things and I’ve gotten waaaayyy into Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency in the last week (just in time for its season 2 premiere last weekend!). It’s so. Good. Please watch it if you’re into crazy sci-fi stories starring weirdos who have no idea what they’re doing. It’s the best ever. Really.


I hope you’re well! See you back here next week!

Some Stuff I’ve Learned…

Hi there.

I haven’t been here for a while. I’ve been working (retail — *screams*), writing, and living life.


I recently read some good writing advice in the Guardian. If you didn’t know, they have a weekly series on the highs, lows, & challenges different writers experience called “My Writing Day.” The latest installment was written by Maggie O’Farrell and includes some real gems, for instance:

“…you will need scaffolding to build your writing inside but must remember to take it down at the end.

It’s a solace, when you are cutting great swaths through your paragraphs, to think of them as a necessary but disposable part of construction. The tricky bit is working out what is scaffolding and what is brickwork.”

I’ve been working on finishing this book and every word has felt essential to me. But it’s absolutely true that some of it will be discarded, either by my say-so or by my editor’s/publisher’s. I’ve tried my best to make every word count, but in the end, not every word will be necessary. I’ve written what I believe a reader will need to know in order to understand this world I’ve created, but once I’ve finished the story and take a step back from it, some things will undoubtedly stand out as being superfluous.

The same is apparently true of people. Some you think are necessary, but in the end they’re only there for a season. They’re there to show you something you weren’t aware of. This all sounds pretty mysterious, doesn’t it? I’m just speaking in platitudes — don’t mind me.

I’ve been listening to great music (shout-out to Solange Knowles, Anderson.Paak, and Ry X … hooray for music that hits you in the heart with brass knuckles), and rediscovering great films (I went home for Thanksgiving and watched the LOTR trilogy on the plane for the first time in years. I bawled my friggin eyes out — SO good), and reading my buns off. If you haven’t, please check out Saga, Sweet Tooth, The Wicked + The Divine (if I could have a soulmate that wasn’t an actual tangible thing, it would be this story), and Black Hole — all of which are graphic novels. I’ve also been taking more risks lately; I’m trying to resurrect an older version of myself. Wish me luck.

Anyway, I may or may not make a triumphant return to this space. If I can come up with some stuff worth telling y’all, then I’ll be here sharing it. I hope you are well and living wonderful lives.

Happy Monday ❤

A Quick Catch-Up!

Hey y’all (or anybody still keeping an eye on this blog)!

Things have been a little cray, lately. I work in retail, and now that it’s fall/autumn (YAY!!!!) we’re finally closing in on the holiday season (O.O) and I can feel it in the air. Everyone who comes into the shop has that weird, electric, holiday energy radiating from them. If you’re just out and about, living life, this feeling is exciting. If you work in retail… get ready.


Anyhoo, in the midst of the coming onslaught, I’ve come up with a few things to write about here, after which I was immediately distracted by nightmarish thoughts about this coming Christmas. So I’m going to cram all those Writing Wednesday topics into one post, but condensed (lucky you!).

Eimear McBride & The Lesser Bohemians


I recently attended the launch event for Eimear McBride’s second novel The Lesser Bohemians at Foyles. She read, answered questions, and signed books for people. She read her work beautifully, and made a lot of great points that made me think. My favorite was when she talked about how female authors always get the “How has motherhood affected your writing?” question, and how the expectation for women is that they write something somehow based on true events, as though women have a lesser capacity for imagination than men. This was even more interesting considering The Lesser Bohemians is about a young Irish girl who moves to London to attend drama school… like McBride once did. Her point still stands though, and it made me realize that the premises of a few books I’ve read by female authors lately were based on/connected to their personal or family histories. Then again, those were all considered literary, which is typically “more realistic.” I wonder if female authors of sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and crime have different gendered expectations foisted upon them. Hmm….

After the event, I went up to get my book signed. This was the exchange:

E: *signs my book… looks at what she just wrote… looks at me*
Me: *blink*
E: “Are you Gianni?”
Me: *nods*
E: “That’s unusual.”
Me: *blinks more… grins nervously*
E: “I like it.”
Me: “I’ve grown to like it, too, over the years.”

Then we both laughed. I hadn’t thought about being a woman with a man’s name in a while. Growing up, I didn’t like that my mom had essentially gotten my name off a shoe box (she named me for one of her favorite designers as a nod to her past and b/c she thought the name was pretty and unique. I hated it.) In America, people had just thought it was an interesting name. Now that Italy is fairly close by, I get more eyebrow raises than I used to, but I love my name. 🙂

The Responsibility of Ethnic Creators

I was listening to the Linoleum Knife podcast from September 12th where they review the film When the Bough Breaks. The guys who do this podcast (Dave White & Alonso Duralde) are two of my favorite film critics. They are also white. This is relevant to what I’m about to say. Now, When the Bough Breaks is one of those Lifetime-esque psychological thrillers. It’s about a relatively well-to-do couple (wife is a chef, husband is a lawyer) who wants to have children but can’t so they find a surrogate. At first she seems like a nice, normal girl (with an abusive boyfriend). Of course, the girl actually turns out to be violent and dangerous, and becomes obsessed with the husband and tries to seduce him into leaving his wife.

The entire main cast of this film is black, but the film isn’t about race. Dave and Alonso reacted to this aspect of the film by saying it was not representative of anybody’s reality in 2016. Because the only thing minorities in America experience is racially-motivated violence and devastation. And of course there are NO black people with good jobs or who live in nice neighborhoods, or who have any. other. problems in life. I’m sure what the guys were getting at was that the lack of inclusion of any aspect of what we now see on the news on a regular basis made the film that much more unrealistic. But here’s the thing: when I or other black people I know hear that there’s a film with a black cast that is not about slavery or being black, there’s generally celebration. Because the slave and the ghetto person on the rise seem to be the only narratives we fit into on a regular basis. But we’re people, people who like to be entertained just like everybody else. Sure, you want what you’re watching or reading to resonate with you, but you also want to be able to forget about the real difficulties plaguing you, even if it’s just for a few hours. I am not entertained by the news that yet another black person was murdered by police (which apparently just happened in Charlotte, NC where my family is). I want to have the option to enter a fantasy world populated by people who look like me. And if in that world there’s no mistreatment of black people, so much the better. It makes me feel normal for a little while.

So my verdict is this: I don’t believe that creators of color (or from any marginalized group) are duty-bound to include the trials and tribulations they have experienced because of their minority status in the art they make. Yes, the world needs to know these things, but the world also needs to know that race (and sexuality and gender) is only ONE part of a person’s identity.

What I’ve Been Reading/Will Read

So the book I’m writing (yes, still) is mostly horror with some sci-fi, gothic (which is slightly different from horror) and other biz mixed in. So I’ve changed tack on the critical part of my dissertation/thesis and will likely end up rewriting the whole thing (just the critical part — HELL no, I’m not throwing out the novel and starting over… I’m almost done with it!) with a focus on horror fiction specifically.


SO, I’ve been reading more horror-focused stuff and have made a list of authors whose work I still need to read asap:

— Clive Barker
— Arthur Machen
— Peter Straub
— Dean Koontz
— Kathe Koja
— Ray Bradbury
— Ursula Le Guin
— Octavia Butler

*The last three are sci-fi/fantasy, not horror

I also want to read the rest of the books shortlisted for the Man Booker this year. I’ve read Eileen. Not a fan. I think my expectations for it were too high (and different according to how the book is described. It is NOT a thriller). But I’m interested in checking out the other five!

I’m currently still reading Lesser Bohemians. I only read it at work before our meetings for some reason. On my next day off, I’m gonna try to buckle down and finish it. I really like the book! I just don’t pick it up when I’m at home. No idea why.

So, there you are; all caught up.

Happy Writing Wednesday, everybody!


Weird Phrases That Work

Heyooooo! It’s Writing Wednesday!

I’ve just finished reading a book on the history of the horror genre (in literature) which made me want to read some more horror fiction right away, so I’ve started on the Penguin Classics edition of two of Thomas Ligotti’s short story collections combined: Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe.


Awesome cover, right?

There’s one story called “Alice’s Last Adventure” about an elderly, ex-children’s author named Alice who starts experiencing “curiouser and curiouser” things. She has a tradition of reading to the local children from one of her famous books at the town library every year. Just before recounting the events of her latest reading, she says “Children have made me nervous ever since I stopped being one of them. Perhaps this is why I never had any of my own — adopted any, that is — for the doctors told me long ago that I’m about as fertile as the seas of the moon.” I had to go back and read it again. The phrase “as fertile as the seas of the moon” caught me completely off guard and I cracked up. It got me thinking about other odd turns of phrase that have stunned me while reading due to being gorgeous, profound, hilarious, eerie, or a combination of those things. Whenever I come across one of these gems, I turn my brain inside out trying to come up with something equally weird-but-perfect. Then I fail. THEN, I mess my brain up again trying to figure out how these writers even came up with something like that in the first place.


One phrase that I constantly go back to is “trampled calmly” from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This phrase is used to describe what Richard Enfield (kin to our reader-proxy, Mr. Utterson) sees on his way home one morning at 3AM. Enfield witnesses a man (whom we come to learn is Mr. Hyde) encounter a young girl in the street. Enfield says the man “trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground.” For me, the word “trample” evokes images of animal stampedes and crazed people at Walmart on Black Friday. It’s a word I never associate with calm. The first time I read those words, I thought, “you can’t be calm and trample someone… can you?” But what we’re meant to take from the word trample isn’t the frantic aspect often associated with the word, but the brutality of the action. That, combined with the fact that it was done “calmly” — in other words, deliberately and without remorse — is meant to illustrate how evil this dude is.

Another beauty that blew me away when I first read it can be found in the story “The Outing” by James Baldwin in his magnificent collection Going to Meet the Man. (If you haven’t read this collection, do it IMMEDIATELY. Especially the title story.) The outing is a religious one on a boat full of church members. It’s part recreational, part spiritual, as they hold a service on the boat. The moment of beauty comes during the service.

And the Holy Ghost touched him and he cried again, bending nearly double, while his feet beat ageless, dreadful signals on the floor, while his arms moved in the air like wings and his face, distorted, no longer his own face nor the face of a young man, but timeless, anguished, grim with ecstasy, turned blindly towards heaven. Yes, Lord, they cried, yes!

Did you spot the golden phrase? If you answered “grim with ecstasy,” congratulations! You’ve won nothing, but thanks for playing.

“Grim” and “ecstasy” are another pair of words you probably wouldn’t put next to one another if given the choice. But in this context, it totally works! The phrase is almost Gothic, especially within the larger framework of the scene. The service taking place in the story is, I believe, a Pentecostal service. There tends to be a lot of energy and emotions flowing openly at these services. People holler, they cry, sometimes they writhe and their bodies contort because they’ve apparently become a vessel for the Holy Spirit. James Baldwin was the step-son of a Pentecostal preacher and therefore grew up attending such services (and even leading them during his brief period of conversion to the faith). Thus, he was able to recreate it, infusing it with that unique mixture of awe and peculiarity which familiarity and distance provide.

Why do “grim” and “ecstasy” work so well together here? The members of the church in this story are fervent believers. In the above passage, the Holy Ghost, the spirit of God Himself, touches one of them. This is a moment where I imagine emotions run so high, they become almost unbearable. In this case, we’re shown a euphoria so extreme, it’s almost painful. The word preceding  “grim with ecstasy” is “anguished”. Can you imagine that? Baldwin may have based that combination of words on memories of past church members, or he may simply have used them because of how striking they are together. Either way, I love it.

What’s the most surprising set of words you’ve ever read?


Happy Wednesday!

Pantsers & Plotters

Hey hey hey — it’s Writing Wednesday!


Apparently there are two big categories of writers: “pantsers” and “plotters” (or “planners”). Until this year, I’d never heard those terms before, so I’ve been living in one category my whole life without realizing it. I… am a “pantser.”


“Pantsers” are writers who “fly by the seat of their pants” or write without using an outline. I’ve never outlined something before writing it. If a teacher assigned me an essay and an outline, I’d write the essay, then tailor the outline to fit what I wrote.


I begin with characters. Once I’ve gotten to know them, I think about what situation I’d most like to see them react to. Then I sit down and watch it unfold. This isn’t to say that I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen over the course of the story. Wherever there are categories, there are people who don’t fit into them without gray-area caveats. I tend to have big scenes planned out in my head, and sometimes an ending that I’m working toward. But I like to be surprised by how we get from one scene to the next. When you and the characters both have your hands on the steering wheel, there’s room for them to react in ways you didn’t expect. If what happens in the story catches you off guard organically, there’s a good chance your readers will be surprised, too.

But just because every single piece isn’t planned out doesn’t mean you aren’t in control of the story. I nudge the flow of the narrative in the direction I ultimately want it to go, but I don’t force anything. Generally, you can tell when an author’s stuck their hand in and shoved characters into place inside a shoehorned event because what’s happening doesn’t make sense when you think about what you’ve come to know about each character. However, you also run the risk as a “pantser” of losing control of the story, which means you might end up with a totally different story than the one you intended to tell. In a bad way. (Stories that veer off and become completely different stories is actually one of the reading pet peeves I mentioned in an earlier post.) How do you avoid losing control? By staying connected to what you’re writing. There are several ways to do this: making notes, listening to music that puts you in mind of your story’s mood, thinking about how characters would react to things that are happening to you, etc. I stay connected by working through the next bit of the story in my head — specifically, how to begin the next section, which usually sets me on course right away.

Outlining makes me feel constrained. While I know logically that I can always change an outline, I’d probably end up changing it so many times that it wouldn’t even make sense to have one. I think a bit of pantsing and a bit of planning over the course of either type of writer’s process can be helpful but, in the end, you have to work in the way that’s best for you.


Are you a “pantser” or a “planner”?


How to be more responsible with money, even though you kind of suck at it.

Hi, y’all.

So… summer is drawing to a close.


Um, I mean…


Anyway, summer is typically a season when people go on holiday, do all the things, and spend more money because sustained sunlight (especially in a place where the sun is like an estranged relative)


makes people so happy that they begin to feel like the glass is half-full ALL the time. “Money is for spending! Let’s do all the things, ALL THE THINGGGSSS!!!”


There are also those people who aren’t super into summer (because hayfever, and bugs, and it’s too hot out, and bleeaarrrghhh), but who spend too much sometimes anyway because they are emotional shoppers, and spending money makes them feel better in the moment.


If the intro wasn’t a big enough hint, I fall into the latter category. When I’m bummed, I buy books (yes, with an “s”), fancy food, and expensive tickets to luxury cinemas (b/c once you’ve been in a comfy armchair with an ottoman, eating good food, drinking booze, and covered with a cashmere blanket in a cinema, it’s just disappointing experiencing a movie any other way) among other things. However, there is hope even if you are like me. There are small ways a-plenty that you can save money every day!



You don’t have to eat out all the time. You don’t even have to eat out half the time. I usually do, because my stove is basically a set of 4 hot plates. And I can never be precise when heating ANYTHING b/c all the numbers were rubbed off long before I got here. That aside, groceries are generally cheaper and better for you than restaurant food. Save a few bucks by cooking something simple and delicious at home. That is… if you can.


Home theatre!


Invite some friends over, snuggle up with your fuzzy roommates, or just have some “Me” time in front of your laptop with a movie. If you’ve been to the cinema in the last five years, you’ve noticed how spensive it’s gotten. It costs me more than the price of two paperback books to see a film at my favorite cinema. Isn’t that crazy?! Do y’all remember dollar theatres? Or the regular theatres that didn’t ask for the deed to your house as payment to see a movie you already knew you were gonna wish you’d never seen anyway?


Well you can relive those glory days by using Netflix or Hulu, renting from iTunes, or for next level money-saving, just watch a movie you already own. Keep that £18 tucked safely away. When the day comes that you don’t have quite enough to cover your phone bill, you can whip out that money from the secret money hole behind that painting on your wall and pat yourself on the back for thinking ahead.

Study up!


Wait! Before you submit all fifty of those credit card applications, look at them closely, side by side, and figure out which one is actually right for you. Maybe there are a few contenders that look good, but only two out of five will accept your application either because you’re a student with next to no credit history, or because your credit is horrendous.


Whatever the case, there are places you can go. Internet places. Like Credit Card Insider, which has credit card reviews, and a page full of information on everything from what makes up your credit score alllllllll the way back to how credit cards even work. There are also old favorites like Credit Karma, which offers free credit scores. What I’m getting at here is that there are resources available to help you stay on top of things. Give ’em a try.

Make a budget!


I know, I know — you like to live on the edge.


But it really doesn’t hurt to be prepared. In fact, it can only help to know how much you’re spending every month on certain things. Rent, utilities, and holiday transportation are all examples of things you know the cost of before you spend the money. Food, clothing, and fun activities can be tricky, since you never know when you’re going to happen upon that can’t-miss sale or be invited out to a new restaurant by a friend. But for those unknowns, you can designate monthly allowances for “incidentals” and “entertainment,” etc. The more you’re able to plan ahead, the slimmer the chance you’ll have to sell everything you own to make rent next month.


Some things just…shouldn’t be sold.

Hope this was helpful to at least one other rain-maker out there, and that you’re eventually able to swim in all the money you save.


There’ll be a new Writing Wednesday post up this week. Until then, happy Monday, y’all!


Darkness, Villainy, and Zeitgeist

Hey there, y’all. It’s — you guessed it — Writing Wednesday!


Today’s WW is actually inspired by my recent trip to the cinema to see Suicide Squad, but this isn’t a movie review (if you’d like to read one here, let me know). I just wanted to bring up one aspect of the film that made me think. **Though this isn’t a review, there may be some things in here that you’d consider spoilery, so feel free to split if you’d rather avoid that.** The trailers leading up to the release of Suicide Squad painted the picture of a dark, violent, irreverent film full of bad people who love doing bad things, or who’ve never even considered the concept of bad vs good as it applies to them (as is generally the case with the most impactful villains). These villains are not like that. Maybe the only one of the gang who gets close is Harley Quinn, but even she succumbs to the cheesiness eventually.


In the trailer, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) says she wants to create a task force using the “most dangerous people on the planet,” the “worst of the worst”– “bad people” who “could do some good.” The thing is, these so-called “worst of the worst”… aren’t. The Suicide Squad is made up of 2nd and 3rd tier villains. In fact, Amanda Waller turns out to be worse than any of them and she’s considered a “good” guy (at least in the political sense). Villains that might actually fall under the “worst of the worst” heading — like, say, the Joker — 1) don’t allow themselves to be caught by government entities, and 2) are far too selfish and volatile to be part of a task force or group of any kind. The worst of the worst have absolutely nothing to lose, therefore the threat of death means nothing to them. People with nothing to lose can’t be controlled.


You need someone you can lord something over. And these people, most of them, have things — people — they care about, which causes them to stay in line (for the most part). Harley has the Joker; Deadshot has his daughter; El Diablo, arguably the most powerful member of the group, had someones, but doesn’t anymore, which is why he has to be forced into action as a member of the Squad. They all want their freedom, which hasn’t exactly been promised by Waller, but their cooperation ensures that they get to live. There’s also the possibility of having time shaved off their prison sentences.


By the film’s climax, the squad has formed a bond (one you might argue wasn’t exactly earned, but eh…) and actually act in the best interests of one another, with one character calling the rest their friends before striking the finishing blow against the movie’s ultra-villain. Which leads me to my point. These villains act more like heroes than any villains I’ve ever seen, and I wondered if the movie I thought I was going to see based on the trailer became the movie I ended up seeing because of the current social/political climate. Terror groups are a major concern; weird politicians who talk out of their asses and promote division within the nations they represent are enjoying a heyday (not exactly new, but the degree of extremity is nonetheless frightening); the people meant to protect citizens are allowing their unfounded fears to overtake logic again and again, leading to unnecessary violence and death; anger, discrimination, and confusion have all come to a head — this is the world we live in.

So when we go to the movies to escape our daily lives, watching a group of baddies terrorize a city and enjoy every minute of it regardless of the destruction they cause and the lives they destroy might take viewers to a place they aren’t prepared to go mentally or emotionally. Maybe the filmmakers humanized the Suicide Squad to the point of barftastic cheesiness as a way to provide relief. Like, “Look! You don’t really have to be scared of these people!”


Superman’s comic book tenure began during wartime, a light in the darkness for the American people meant to inspire hope and optimism. Marvel movies are coming out back to back, with Captain America in particular enjoying a resurgence in popularity. And the movies that we used to see about Batman (and even the Superman movie that came out before Batman v. Superman) were more insular in their concerns. Batman fought against his own enemies, enemies who threatened Gotham, not the world. Superman caused insane amounts of destruction in Metropolis without batting an eyelash because his main deal was stopping Zod no matter the cost. But now, in Batman v. Superman and Captain America: Civil War, we’re seeing concern from heroes about how their actions affect the citizens of the world. I believe this, just like Suicide Squad‘s lack of real darkness in its villains, has at least a little to do with what’s happening now.


Zeitgeist plays a role in novels, too, and novels are like museums — their length and (typically) distance from the time period they’re reacting to give us the space to examine those periods in history and explore how we feel about them. I’ve been trying to think of a novel I’ve read that was a direct response to what was happening at the time it was written, but I can’t come up with many off the top of my head.

Can you?

Happy Wednesday!

Writing Wednesday: First Novels

Hi there, ho there! Welcome back to Writing Wednesday.


Yes, that’s how books make me feel.

I’ve been thinking about first novels and how rare it is that an author’s first is the novel people remember or hold up as their best, or even one of their best. Rummaging through my book collection and brain, I made a mental list of the authors of my favorite books and then tried to remember what their first novels were, and…


Yeah…kinda hard. I just finished reading Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman’s first (solo) novel. Putting that story beside his most recent work is almost like looking at the work of two different authors. Of course Neverwhere has certain elements that you can’t not recognize as Gaimanisms — like his penchant for dry humor, magic, and strangeness — but on the whole it’s quite different from, say, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, or the stories in his collection Trigger Warning in that his confidence and comfort in his role as a teller of stories is powerfully evident now (which makes a lotta sense). In his later works, everything flows. He’s not working as hard anymore to draw you in because it’s unnecessary; you fall in gladly. At least, I do. It’s like slipping into a warm bath. Neverwhere is still a noted work, but not the novel I usually hear referenced when people talk about Gaiman. American Gods, his third novel, is the one I’ve heard people cite most often as their favorite. After that, it’s either Stardust or Coraline. But never Neverwhere.

This is pretty common. An author’s debut intrigues readers enough to make them want more. As their career progresses, their writing gets stronger, they come into their own and start churning out their best work. (Just as an aside, this is one of my favorite things about writing as a career: unlike being a professional athlete or a neurosurgeon, age typically makes you a better writer.)


However, there are a few anomalous authors whose first novels are frequently brought up as favorites or one of their best. Two examples I (eventually) thought of are Donna Tartt, whose first novel was The Secret History, and Stephen King, whose first novel was Carrie. What’s great about these two in my opinion is that each author exists at the opposite end of the writing spectrum. The first has an established pattern of publishing a novel approximately once a decade (she’s published short stories and non-fiction stuff in between), while the latter is regularly counted among the most prolific authors writing today. The Secret History and Carrie are both beloved by fans of these authors. The film adaptation of Carrie probably had a hand in maintaining people’s love for that story, but it’s far from a forgotten debut left to gather dust on bookshelves.

Some debuts are brilliant, but completely eclipsed by the success of later novels, like Brett Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero (which I wrote a bit about here). This is a novel I would never read again — it was that intense for me — but I would recommend that everyone (who can handle it) read it. Of course American Psycho is what you immediately think of when you hear the name Brett Easton Ellis — the friends I mentioned Less Than Zero to after I read it hadn’t even heard of it — in fact, all of his other books mostly fell through the cracks for me until I made a point of looking them all up and reading a few. Makes me wonder just how many amazing novels I’ve overlooked. Then again, there’s so much out there to read that we can probably all forgive ourselves for missing the memo on some of them.


What are some of your favorite first novels? What’s the worst you’ve ever read?

Happy Wednesday!