Ty Johnston: life on the written page

Home to fantasy, horror and literary fiction author Ty Johnston

Friday, September 19, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 44 -- Sidnye (Queen of the Universe)

by Scott Fitzgerald Gray

Started: Sept. 16
Finished: Sept. 19

Notes: A fellow member of the Monumental Works Group, Scott has never let me down as a writer. Since it's been a while since I've read anything of his, I thought it was time to get back on the saddle.

Mini review: Scott does this amazing thing with his writing that makes me jealous. He creates a mixture of characterization with story events and even background that melds together so well it's difficult to tell where one ends and the others begin. Even flashbacks don't feel like flashbacks. I've seen a handful of authors who can pull this off, such as Stephen King (when in top form), Mario Puzo (though he didn't always use such a strategy in his writing), Joe Hill (sometimes), Anne Rice (on occasion), and Chuck Palahniuk (though in his own unique, quirky way ... as he does everything). I really, really, really, really, really, really like this book. But. Isn't there always a "but?" Well, maybe not always, but often enough there is, and there's a "but" here for me. After all of this amazing story, I felt the payoff fell short. It's not a bad ending, and it's not messy, but ... there's that "but" ... for me, I felt like there was too much left unsaid. There were certain details I felt were necessary to end this novel, and they're not there. A young lady living as an orphan in a school has odd things going on around the edges of her life (think sci-fi, not supernatural ... I think), and while much is eventually shown, I felt the explanation was not there, which left me feeling a little cheated as a reader. It's kind of like watching an episode of the TV show "Lost." You're left wanting more, which is a good thing, but you also feel as if a little more should have been given in that particular episode. Bah. I'm whining. This is a damn good book, but be prepared to feel the need to read more to find out the whys and the whats. This is a minimum 4.5 stars book, and in my opinion would have been a full 5 stars if only a paragraph or two had been included to offer a little explanation of a few things. Perfect plotting, fantastic characters. If only every novel was written this well, including my own.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Believe it or not, yes, I'm writing

I've not written much about the work I've been doing of late, and I won't go into a lot of detail here, but I did want to let others know that I am indeed writing. I've finished the first draft of one novel, half of a second novel, and I've done quite a bit of work for my pen name.

Of the novels, I'm hoping to complete and have edited three of them by mid-December, to be released all at once as a trilogy. Why all at once? Why not? It's an experiment. If I can't manage to finish all three, the first one almost definitely should be ready, and perhaps the second, but I might yet hold them off until the third is complete.

As for a hint of the work I'm doing, at the right you will see the cover for the first novel. That cover is not set in stone, but it's the one I like the best of all I've done so far. It might yet change.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 43 -- A Grief Observed

by C.S. Lewis

Started: Sept. 15
Finished: Sept. 15

Notes: As I've already read this author's The Problem of Pain, it is time for A Grief Observed, a more personal look at suffering after Lewis lost his wife.

Mini review: Each individual's grief is different. I cannot with clear conscious say even to another widower, "I know what you're going through," because it's not true. I know what I've gone through, what I continue to go through, but I can't say the same of someone else. Even here. From what I know of this book and other information I've gathered about Lewis, his wife's death and their lives together were similar in a lot of ways to mine with my wife, though we never had children. But my grief experiences have been quite a bit different than those Lewis experienced. Or, at least, mine have been so far, and with my wife having passed away a little more than four months ago, it seems Lewis was writing during about the same period with his own grief. Lewis suffered something of existential turmoil, while for the most part I have not; if anything, I generally feel stronger spiritually instead of questioning the futility of everything. Maybe it was because I was and am generally a more skeptical and cynical person than Lewis happened to be, that I had already faced the darker elements of life while he had not. But that is mere speculation. In all his writings, Lewis seems fairly forthright, so I don't want to speak for him. As I said, each person's grief is different. On the flip side of this, he did eventually come out of his "funk" and came to something of a spiritual awakening, not completely unlike my own, though also not exactly the same. In this book I saw a lot that was familiar, other things not so familiar but which I could relate, and a few smatterings of things which were quite alien to me. That's to be expected with grief. All that being said, I would not necessarily suggest this book for everyone who is going through a grief process, especially those who have lost a spouse or child. I would, however, suggest this book for those who are Christian or have Judeo-Christian inclinations; others might not find comfort here, but actually might find details which could frustrate or even anger them. To each their own, as I'm not here to judge anyone's beliefs or lack of, but I do wish success to anyone dealing with grief and I believe this book could be helpful to some and of interest to even others.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 42 -- The Problem of Pain

by C.S. Lewis

Started: Sept. 11
Finished: Sept. 14

Notes: Continuing my readings on grief and Christian apologetics, this book is a natural, combining both to some extent. Lewis famously (at least within certain literary and Christian circles) wrote two books on this subject matter, the first one being this one, The Problem of Pain, in which he discusses why God would allowing suffering in the universe. The second book, titled A Grief Observed, Lewis wrote after the passing of his wife (which I can relate to), and personalizes his look into suffering. I'm starting here with the first of these books, but I'll get to the second soon enough.

Mini review: There is much here to reflect upon, and not all of it is easy material. I tend to think of Lewis as one of the better theological and philosophical writers when it comes to explaining his points, but even here there were a few places where my eyes glazed over and he kind of lost me; not that I had lost interest, but that his explanations were sometimes a little overly complicated for my preference. But that was not often the case. Most of the time Lewis is fairly straight forward, and in some ways and on some topics he is more succinct here than he is elsewhere, such as in Mere Christianity. The chapters here are broken up into reflections upon human pain, Hell, animal pain and notions of Heaven. I won't go into detail as I feel such material is worthy of the reader experiencing firsthand, but I will say Lewis does not shy away from a number of tough and touchy topics. For the most part I can go along with his thinking, but I found myself shying away from a few of his notions, specifically in his writings about animals and pain (not that I necessarily disagree with his viewpoints, or not all of them, but some I found overly speculative ... and to be honest, he might agree with me about that). For those who have an interest in religion and philosophy, and especially for those who call themselves Christian or those who wish to study Christianity, I can recommend this one.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 41 -- Healing Meditations for Surviving Grief and Loss

by Sibel Hodge

Started: Sept. 11
Finished: Sept. 11

Notes: Since the loss of my wife and my father a few months ago, I've been dealing with my own grief in my own manners. I'm still grieving, and probably always will to some extent, and I've spent plenty of time studying my own grieving process. Now I feel there's been enough time for me to have a bit more of an objective viewpoint, and I've been wanting to study grief from the viewpoint of others, which is one of the reasons I picked up this e-book. Who knows? It might even do me some good myself.

Mini review: Roughly the first third of this e-book is made up of letters from people who have or are suffering from one level of grief or other, sometimes concerning the loss of a loved one, a pet, or a miscarriage. The rest of the e-book are sort of sayings or affirmations for meditation. A little new-agey for my taste, but there was definitely plenty here to think about, even forms of grief which had not occurred to me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 40 -- Eight Hour Fiction #3

by Travis Hill

Started: Sept. 10
Finished: Sept. 10

Notes: About a year ago, J.A. Konrath threw out a challenge to indie writers to write, edit and publish a story in digital form all within 8 hours. The author also has to come up with the cover. Fortunately, Amazon's (or wherever's) loading time isn't included in that 8 hours. Since then, a number of indies have kept up the practice over at the kboards, and there is even a monthly challenge though there's not really a prize or anything. Obviously the stories won't be very long, probably somewhere between 2,000 and 12,000 words, depending upon the writer's speed, but it can be done. I've tackled it myself a few times under a pen name, and honestly, I've like the results; though not great art by any means, it's still fun and has made me a little money while bringing a few good reviews. So, it seems there are at least some readers who are also interested in this challenge, or at least this type of rushed, short fiction. Studying it more myself, I was intrigued by Travis Hill's third publication for this challenge, in part because it includes two stories, not just one, but also the stories sounded appealing.

Mini review: The first tale is a sad, almost depressing look at one couple's way of dealing with what is basically a zombie apocalypse. The second is more of a fun tale about a quirky inventor who creates technology that allows him to experiences his cat's dreams. Yes, you read that correctly, his cat's dreams. Of the two stories, I think I liked the second better as it worked well as flash fiction. There was nothing really wrong with the first story, but I wanted more, to know more about the couple about their world, etc.

Books read in 2014: No. 39 -- The Awakened

edited by Hal Greenberg and Neil Levin

Started: Sept. 5
Finished: Sept. 10

Notes: This is a shared-world epic fantasy anthology. Based in the world of Grimaton, these tales surround one of the quirks of this world, that a small percentage of the population upon turning 19 years of age suddenly gain magical powers. These powers manifest themselves differently in each individual, and at least in appearance have less to do with traditional wizards and spellcasting but are more akin to something out of a comic book. Sort of an X-men meets Thieves' World in scope. My short story "Assassins of Opportunity" appears here, and I am anxious to read this one because I have yet to peruse all the other tales.

Mini review: For those who love a good sword-swinging tale, there's plenty to be found here. There were so many good ones, it's a difficult matter to choose a favorite. One nice detail about this collection is that it's different from many fantasy worlds in that the magic isn't your traditional spellcasting wizards, so there are a multitude of effects and types of magic, not just your typical fireballs and lightning bolts, though there is a bit of that, too. If I had one complaint about this book, it would be that I felt too many of the tales focused upon one element of the world's dynamics, basically that of King Stewart's constant attempts to kidnap Awakened characters from their own lands, but this wasn't really a bother for me, just an observation, and it didn't hurt the storytelling itself. I can recommend this one for lover's of action-oriented fantasy, and within its pages you will find stories by:

Ed Greenwood
Colin McComb
Erik Scott de Bie
Rosemary Jones
Hal Greenberg
Rai Smith
Jaleigh Johnson
Richard Redman
Doug Herring
Kevin Kulp
Darrin Drader
Torah Cottrill
Steven Creech
Darren W. Pearce
Clinton Boomer
and myself (of course)