Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mister Master Exacerbation by Danger Geist


So, in college, I used to spar in religious talks with this guy I met at an extracurricular roundtable-type discussion. He’s a great dude, though he’s politically and religiously the opposite of me. Also, he’s written two great books, and I’m about to talk about his second.

He might hate to hear this, but his second book is even better than his first (and his first was good).

It’s called, Mister Master Exacerbation: My obsessive quest to uncover the final compulsion, and how my porn use got me fired from work, kicked out of school, banned from my field, separated from my wife, and warped me into an animal-abuser, a fugitive, and an all-around villain. I intend to write this review with minimal spoilers because I believe you should go out and buy this book.

It’s a true story about a terrible, terrible year with creative and fictionalized enhancements (all the changes from the truth he lists in the back, so it’s very transparent). In it, he gives a first person telling of himself as a total villain. He does some awful stuff, and he owns up to it. Most of it is because he has a mental disorder (OCD), and while that might not make him without sin, it does make you sympathize with why he acts so irrationally.

This book is really brave. For one thing, his OCD, who turns out to be a major character in the story, really doesn’t want him to talk about his OCD. So, writing it must have been a battle to begin with. For another, who wants to confess publicly the worst things you’ve ever done? Not me!

However, from a religious standpoint, it’s a brave work because depicts a Christian voice that is real. An imperfect person, a sinner. Not a preacher. His OCD is a type that specializes in religion. It obsesses on faith, so to speak. He makes the sign of the cross over and over to satiate his OCD. He can’t read the Bible without immense struggle. His OCD tells him that if he doesn’t walk through doors over and over that he will send his family, even his dog, to hell. Some readers might ask: If not for his OCD, would he even be religious? Isn’t this book evidence that religion stems and is nurtured by mental disorders? Wouldn’t he be happier without religion? Doesn’t he show that the voice of God he occasionally hears might actually be just another face of the troll?

I’m not answering those questions, but it’s interesting to think about in terms of his character in the narrative. Danger is brave for sharing these truths that he went through, and he doesn’t beat around the bush with them. He confronts them, truly, without having a definitive answer and accepts that. That’s very respectable, especially in a world filled with Christian (human) voices that attempt to sound all-knowing and overly confident. Danger is a Christian voice for anyone, even from other philosophies/ideas. There can be nothing more inviting and productive to bridging dialog between groups than acknowledging your own weaknesses.

Most of my criticisms took care of themselves throughout the reading process. The cover of the book, which features a big naked treasure-troll, for one, is cleverly explained in the end. (no spoilers) Love it! I don’t remember him talking about his OCD in his first novel (maybe he did? Donno!), and that irked me until I realized that his troll likely didn’t even allow him to talk about it and also that covering up and shying away from showing other people the symptoms is a major theme near the end. When the POV flops to another person, the writing style/voice doesn’t change much, but it’s not that long and concludes fine.

Really, the big criticism I have is how he talks down to his wife and makes her feel bad for having had sex before their marriage. He says things like he forgives her for it, which made me cringe a bit. However, credit where credit is due, his wife chose him for who he is, and also Danger acknowledges that he’s the one with the issue, not her.

And although he does some bad stuff, readers will likely pick up that he’s actually a good person in his heart. He beats his dogs, because of a disorder. He cusses out his wife, because of a disorder. The main event that plunges the story into motion is his porn use, not having to do with his OCD, and what’s interesting is how un-noteworthy it is. Most men use porn. So, to see something so small blow up can is unnerving.
She’s the hero of the story, if Danger paints himself a villain.

But yeah, this book is great, and what makes it great is that it’s a brave step knee-deep into the mud. It’s confession and redemption. It’s a Christian voice that doesn’t paint himself as above anyone else, but as a sinner seeking a return to God’s plan.

Also, read it, but read the “prequel” to it first. Great work, Danger!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

New Look, Inspiration, and a Tribute

As I hope you're able to tell, this website has undergone a few aesthetic changes. Also, the mobile version now more aligns with the browser. I'm trying some new stuff, still playing around with ideas. Yeah, and I added my crows. Blogger made some changes to how their templates work, and so my old look needed revamping pretty badly. I'm probably going to be going through the entire site and cleaning up dusty pages while I'm at it. It's 2017, right? Time for change?
Inspiration is the next thing I want to talk about now, since it's a fresh new year and all. Someone I work with told me I should be doing more, and she's right. I sometimes get down that my ambition to write and publish novels isn't immediately rewarding me. I work at a school for autistic kids, and it's rough on me. I'm constantly bruised up, hurt. I'm dead tired at the end of the day, constantly sick. I believe that I have the creative power to make money writing stories. It's just that editing a novel, for a new writer, is a lot of work. I'm not G.R.R. Martin, but what I've crafted is fairly complex. Anyway, what I'm saying is that I do believe in myself, but it's nice to have someone else say that they too believe in me. I've had that luxury a few times lately, out of nowhere. Another random friend I haven't seen in years messaged me saying that they always thought I'd do something amazing. I need to live up to that expectation. I need to make that my own.




Another thing that happened recently is the death of one of my high school English teachers. I wanted to post what I wrote on Facebook here so that I will remember her when I write. She was very important to my aspirations, you see.

Ms. Bielong inspired me to become a reader. I definitely wouldn't have gotten an English degree if it hadn't been for her. 


I hated English, as a subject. I thought reading was boring. 

Somehow, I ended up in a lit class with Ms. Bielong, and she kept putting astoundingly good book after astoundingly good book in front of me. Logan's Run, Ender's Game, The Giver, Alas Babylon, 1984, and The Good Earth are still some of my all-time favorites, ever, and I was given them all in one Appreciation Of Literature class. I tore through those books. I know I read a few of them in a night. 

I remember that she handed out copies of Pride And Prejudice for homework. I could barely stand to read it. The next day, she collected up all the copies saying something along the lines of, "I couldn't make it to page 5, so I don't expect you to." Then she handed us 1984 instead... which I destroyed. I remember reading in class, having the books she gave me at my feet during choir practice. Man, I might never have read Harry Potter if not for her sparking my interest in reading. I certainly would have never begun writing novels for myself, which is now my biggest passion. I think about her from time to time, when I'm remembering how I got to be where I am. 

So, I'm not just saying this because she passed. She really did have a profound effect on my life. She made me a reader. All that said, I should also mention that I did theatre, and she was a major part of that. I was in the audience for her last play at Belleville West. I've been reading what other classmates have said, and many others feel the same about how much of an influence she was to her students. 

Thank you, Ms. Bielong. I hope you rest well.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sketching with Harrison: Round 2

  So, I like to sketch. As you might have already seen, I like to take an art pen and doodle. Most people pluck out theirs phones and check their notifications when they have a moment of free time; I draw. I don't usually know what I'm drawing until it's out on the page, so that's what was happening here. (I'm not a professional artist, or even a wannabe, I just enjoy it)

So, here are a few of those sketches. (Round 1)


this is a creature from my novel, The Unraveler. It is called a Kudanite.











Friday, November 25, 2016

24/hour New Play Festival – The Transmigration Show


I directed a play the first weekend of November for a 24/hour new play festival, and it was awesome!

If you’ve never heard of a 24/h NPF, here’s a quick explanation: 6 directors, 6 writers, 6 teams (of 2-4) actors come together at a meeting at 8pm on Friday night. They are randomly divided up and assigned to each other. The writers stay up all night and write a 10-minute play. Then, the director and actors meet up early in the morning and begin to memorize and rehearse the plays. At 8pm Saturday, 6 ten-minute plays are performed together. 


So, it’s new plays written, rehearsed, and performed within 24 hours. 
 

I’m sort of a vet of these. I did them once or twice a year with a (now gone) group called Immediacy Theatre Project (ITP). When that company died out, I moved to Seattle for a few years, and many of them moved in different directions on the map as well. Others wanted to pursue other interests.

 
my play (mega-talented actresses! Fantastic!)
After a few years without ITP, a few of the old members began feeling the urge to get back into the game, and so a new theatre company, called PRIME, was born.

Their first show was the one I’m writing about, called The Transmigration Show. Transmigration basically means reincarnation, and our theme of the show was various karmic cycles.

I was a director, which means I was in charge of quite a few things: keeping us on schedule, making lists of needed props, firing up the actors when they get stressed, being the one to say “one more time” when we’d all rather not, knowing when to back off and let the actors clear their heads, interpreting the script and helping the actors understand their characters, run lines as needed, ready any technical needs, block out where the actors move on stage, enforce breaks as actual “breaks” rather than more script-reading or stress building, and being chief contact between stage management and actors during the day.

I’ve done acting and writing for these plays before, but I’ve found directing to be the most fun. I’m not the best memorizer of lines and I’m not a late-night person, so there’s that. Beyond that, I love getting to add artistic input from the director’s POV. 


Directing is like being the one in charge of molding the diorama. You can challenge the actors to think differently about the characters. You can block [move characters] out how actions in the play occur. You’re in charge of nonverbals. Basically, the writer, the script, dictates what the actors say, but the director molds the intensity of the words, the movement of the bodies, the props and set pieces the actors interact with, and all the things the words don’t show.




If a line is said a certain way, it can change everything.

There was a moment during my play where one character says, “Hold my hand.”



During our first read, she said the line childishly, as if she’s just a little girl wanting love. But, as a director, I molded the play into a battle between two characters for the compliance of the third, and so “Hold my hand” became “Hold my hand,” the my being said competitively, jealously, as a command, in spite of the rival hand holder.

I loved working with my team of writers, actors, show runners, and crew. They were sooooooo talented and wonderful. I had such a great time. We also had artists paint/photo/etc. and display their pieces. I think, as an aspiring author, nothing beats being surrounded by talented and passionate artists, all collaboratively creating great art.



Reminds me of this awesome quote:

"Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. 

Make good art. I'm serious. 

Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art. 

Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn't matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art."

- Neil Gaiman

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Archon 2016 – Best and Worst of YA Lit Panel


October has been busy for me. Every weekend has been filled with conventions and festivals of some sort. But, this blog is about writing, and so I’d thought I’d post some of my notes I jotted down when I was sitting in panels/roundtables. The panel I’m going to write about in this post is from an awesome science fiction convention called Archon


YA trends

I went to a panel about the best and worst of YA literature. The panel included Cole Gibson, Sarah Jude, Rich Horton, Deborah Millitello, and Rachel Neumeier. Really cool, insightful people to listen to.

me and an awesome friend at Archon!
I learned that there’s a term for the “Fault in the Stars”-style of cancer-fighting-romance called “sicklit.” I sort of hate that term, because it makes light of very serious illness. The panel members were talking about trends in YA that they’d like to see end. Other bad-trends they decided were dystopian lit, vampires, chosen one archetypes, and stories where the main character has a special power.

Exciting upcoming trends (although they said that trends are almost always unpredictable) include gritty/grounded lit, non-western culture, paranormal, cult books, and a hopeful venture into space operas.

They ended that segment by saying that if you try to write to follow a current trend, you will likely be 2-4 years late by the time your work is published. 


random etc

1. Just some other random tidbits from the panel. Someone said that diversity is code for race when it comes to publishers.

2. They brought up some literary drama between authors. They said that this author, Tommy Wallach, is known for writing flat/boring non-white characters. They mentioned an article by VE Schwab that tries to pinpoint some of the issues of how a man can think he’s above other people.

3. “I used to have a baby sister” is a great story opener one of them had read before.

4. Novels they suggested we should read include The Accident Season, Ms. Peregrin’s series, Archivist Wasp, and one called something like “Bow Gap” which I don’t think I wrote down correctly. 


sum up

Overall it was an excellent panel and really recharged me as a writer-wannabe. I will be writing more about other panels I went to in the future. Thanks for reading!

You can follow me @oxyborb on twitter!



Sunday, September 25, 2016

Coffee-spiced Pumpkin


The Oatmeal posted the above on Twitter, and so I drew in the rest of the panels for funsies. What do you think?





My Pixar Rankings


Toy Story is still the best Pixar movie ever made, and not just because I grew up with it. It’s every kid’s fantasy. The toys are really alive and have personalities. Wall-E is just a beautiful movie, and the message of protecting our planet is important. Finding Nemo is beautiful and has wondrous music. Monsters U is legit funny, and the perfect way that they could go back to having monsters be scary. TS3 is sad and fun. Inside Out has Bingbong.

1. Toy Story
2. WALL-E
3. Finding Nemo
4. The Incredibles
5. Monsters University
6. Toy Story 3
7. Inside Out
8. Monsters Inc
9. Toy Story 2
10. Ratatouille
11. A Bug’s Life
12. Up
13. The Good Dinosaur
14. Cars
15. Brave

I haven’t seen any of the other Pixar movies yet, but that’s my list. 


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Writing/editing update for August

Writing/editing this novel has been the biggest challenge ever for me. I feel like I'm learning so much, though. How to use words other than "was," how to make a plot central and focused, etc.

I've written books before this one, but they were practice and I don't plan on releasing them, but The Unraveler is the first I want to actually turn a profit on. The history of this book is long. I remember telling my friends about the idea of it while camping, many years ago. I didn’t have the skill to write it, then. What it turned into is crazy weird and fun. It’s basically if the Halloween season got blended into a novel. BTW, the attached picture is a creature from my novel (which I drew).

Each full edit feels like I've turned it into a whole new book. Just this last edit has had me cut 10,000 words and adding a new chapter. I plan on having a new draft done by my birthday, and I hope to be completely finished editing it by Christmas. So many people have helped me with feedback. Friends, one complete stranger I met online (she writes fantastic novels, btw). I’m so thankful. It’s weird to think about, but the first person to ever read my novel died a year ago.

I'm also working on other writing projects. I’m working on other novels, mostly in planning/experimental stages. A book about an anonymous Internet threat, a book about a famous punk rock band with supernatural elements (titled: Pixelic), and then the sequels to The Unraveler. I’ll likely be focused on sequels until the series is done, but my plans for other novels need the time to simmer, anyway.

I’ve done some short story writing, too. I had been thinking about Batman’s waterfall that he drives into to park the Batmobile. In modern times, there’d be no way for Batman to escape surveillance. So, I’m working on a story about how fly-over imaging tech would catch superheroes. I also wrote this Harry Potter fan fic. I felt a little lame writing fan fiction, but the idea screamed at me to write it. I thought about the idea for months and months, and I couldn’t ignore it. It’s set before the Prisoner of Azkaban, and I’m pretty proud of how it turned out! It’s got a ton of views from Reddit. I also recently posted a poem that I wrote a few years back. It’s about the feeling of being so emotionally dumbfounded that you can barely stand up. I should also mention that I’ve been writing monthly posts on four different blogs. Oxyborb.com is about nerd culture, Harrisonaye.com is about writing.

Art is life, man.