Theo’s State of the Union Address

GUNSLINGER is finished. Sort of.

You don’t even know what GUNSLINGER is. It’s my baby. My first born. My first novel.

“Writing a novel is hard,” is something I would have said before I wrote my first novel. Now that I have, I’d probably change it up to “Writing a novel is really fuckin’ terrible, man.” That’s not to say I didn’t love it (and also hate it), but that it is a ubiquitously unique experience that I think only those who have successfully finished a novel have ever had the (mis)fortune of feeling. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t career ending (LOL @ my career), because I’m already working on a similarly sized anthology that I plan to self-publish beside GUNSLINGER and some ideas kicking around for my second novel.

So, let’s talk GUNSLINGER. It’s finished, but so unfinished. I’ve completed the actual writing, but it requires the natural abundance of editing. I’ve decided however to simply let the manuscript sit in the proverbial digital drawer for thirty or so days until I come back to it. Let my mind work on other things, so to speak. However, I have thus dedicated this post to shedding some light on what exactly GUNSLINGER is about a brief synopsis of the plot for those who might be interested.

GUNSLINGER is a futuristic science fiction thriller that follows Casimir Morales, a member of the IBC, Interplanetary Bounty Commission. As humanity has already terraformed and colonized nearly every square inch of the solar system, tracking criminals and fugitives has become something much larger and more delicate a matter than normal planetary law enforcement can afford to handle. The IBC acts as a sort of interplanetary police force, capable of transcending different planetary laws in order to capture deadly and wanted criminals. Casimir has been doing this for a long, and he’s damn good at it.

On the eve of retirement, Casimir decides to take on one final bounty with his long time partner Sasha. However, when things go awry, Cas sees everything taken from him in the blink of an eye. He loses everything and realizes that in order to find himself, his life, and his way again, he must go after the most wanted man in the entire solar system. A man wanted for so long that hunters have simply stopped pursuing him, as every hunter that does ends up in their own coffin. Cas will need the help of someone who has nothing to lose in order to track this man down and claim the bounty.

After many revisions, miniature edits and many long nights and headaches, she stands finished, though not completed. I will be seeking beta readers, which means I want you to read it and criticize it as thoroughly (and hopefully constructively) as you wish! That’s all for now, folks.

Bonne journée mes amis.

Wendig Poked Me, So I Poked Back

“Needs a lot of work,” he says, shuffling the papers about. At this point I’m starting to suspect he’s intentionally mishandling them just to give me some extra work to do.

He’s a friend of mine, and he’s agreed to read the finished manuscript of my first novel. A brisk reading over, nothing too serious. No, it’s not Chuck Wendig, just a friend who has a love of all things written.

He’s handling my baby, my firstborn, my prodigal son. And he just told me it wasn’t good enough. Six months ago I would’ve been pissed. I would’ve told him he didn’t know what good writing was, or maybe I would’ve kept my mouth shut and not asked him to read anything else in the future.

That was before I found out about Adam Christopher. Chuck Wendig. Kameron Hurley. Sam Sykes. All of these people that are just as human as me. People that wake up, make coffee and find the time to jot out two thousand words. This post is named Wendig Poked Me because not only does Wendig manage to craft some excellent novels, but he also writes about writing, lending very Wendig-esque ‘get the fuck up and write something down’ kind of advice that I can appreciate. Since I’ve discovered this, and all these people, I’ve changed my tune.

I used to think that these writers — and they weren’t people to me, they were writers, mythical creatures pumped full of caffeine and imagination until they tested positive for a bestseller — never had bad days, badly written paragraphs, poorly written characters. Following these (on social media, not in real life) people showed me I was wrong.

I used to sit at my computer and write 50 words then delete them. “Nah, that opening isn’t going to wow them!” I’d finish a chapter and say “I don’t even know where this story is going!” I’d always stop before I even got started.

Then I realized it was just about writing. You have to put the pen to the paper, the fingers to the keyboard, the imagination to the.. whatever you put your imagination to. You can go back, you can fix it, you can change things up. That isn’t to say I’m trying to fill up the page. My ideas are coherent, my characters are thought out, but they’re flawed and that’s okay.

No longer are my plot ideas constrained to the back of a napkin. My writing folder isn’t filled with a half dozen beginning sentences. They’re filled with a finished novels, finished (and published) short stories, finished (and published) literary articles. And some of them are bad. Some of them suck. But I finished them. I learned from them, and I didn’t dwell.

Because I realized that a poorly written chapter is easier to edit than no chapter at all. A book with a plot hole is easier to fix that no book at all. And so now when I visit my friend, and he shuffles those papers about and says “needs more work, Theo.”

I just smile, because I’m glad I have something that can be improved.

Why Atlanta Burns Should Be in Every English Classroom

Week 6: ATLANTA BURNS by Chuck Wendig

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I think 1984 and Lord of the Flies are excellent, timeless classics. I think the themes they promote when looked at in the abstract are so powerful that they should be required reading for students in the final semesters of high school. But allow me to present a question to you that might give you pause on the current status quo of required high school reading. Are those books that every high school student wants to read, or can sympathize and relate to? I don’t think so. I think most students — and unfortunately, most means those who do not enjoy regularly reading — can’t really empathize with the idea of Big Brother, or how people would act when the restraints of society and law are peeled away.

I think the book that gets people engaged, learning and even reading more are books that they can relate to. Characters they can believe. Themes they themselves have experienced. I think that book is Atlanta Burns.

Maybe Chuck Wendig gets that blue check mark next to his name on Twitter and maybe he calls it quits tomorrow. To me, it doesn’t matter now. Atlanta Burns changed the game. The Wendig game. This is a book that I not only think high school kids need to read, I think it is a book that high school kids would want to read, and that in itself is a victory that can never be taken away.

People want to read about human characters. Characters that aren’t so glossy and pristine and make the last shot before the buzzer goes off. People want to read about characters that make them feel less shitty about being them under the predication that it’s not whether or not we make mistakes (because we are going to make mistakes), but rather what we’re going to do about them. That’s what Atlanta Burns was to me.

Atlanta Burns doesn’t exist in a setting that every single person has lived, but that’s unimportant. What’s important is Wendig writes believable characters with believable problems. I love a great story about the knight slaying the dragon, rescuing the princess and making off into the sunset, but I can’t personally relate and empathize with that. I can relate to bullying. I can relate to drug use. I can read a chapter of Atlanta Burns and all of a sudden be whisked back to a time in life that’s very similar, frighteningly similar even.

I’ll be honest, I read this book three weeks ago to the day that you’re currently reading these words because I wasn’t sure how I felt about this book. Allow me a chance to explain.

Grammatically, the book is a Chuck Wendig piece. Shorter than average sentences with impeccably powerful metaphors and wording that even the less whimsical can wrap their head around and empathize with. Wendig’s style is so ubiquitously unique that — and I’m literally stealing from his The Kick-Ass Writer here — if you gave me a Chuck Wendig book without a name attached to it, three pages in I’m going to know it’s a Chuck Wendig book. There’s no higher compliment I know how to give to a writer than that.

I think his writing style works wonderfully in today’s market, where long winded paragraphs and an over abundance of detail are just not the norm. We live in a world of ten second snapchats and 140 character tweets. I don’t know whether Chuck connected the dots on that or not, but I would even suggest that Chuck’s style is anticipatory for writers to come in the future.

Atlanta Burns is a character that you want to root for, but then she goes off and does something that makes you step back, pause and realize that the black and white went out with the invention of the color television and we all live in a life of grey. Every character in this book is a shade of grey. The bad guys are dicks, (of course they are) but Chuck keeps pumping them full of character and verve until they test positive for some sort of likeability.

The novel is exceptionally written and well paced and my lone disappointment is that I have but one copy to give away, when I know so many others that would benefit having read such a story.