I promoted something of my own earlier in the week, and now I’d like to promote somebody else’s something.  A good friend of mine and fellow writer has started providing ebook and print formatting services.  Madeline Claire Franklin is not only an exceptional writer (seriously, check out her books), but she has been self-publishing since 2010 and knows the ins and outs of making a book look polished and professional.


Let me tell you, this is not a service to take lightly.  I hate formatting my books (mostly because I’m using an antiquated version of Word XP) and it takes up time that you should be doing other things, like writing.  For a reasonable price, Madeline will do the work for you, and she offers a few extras for a only a little bit more money.  Believe me, I  know how to do all this stuff, but even I’m considering taking her up on this the next time I need to format a book for print (which I absolutely hate doing).

So, whether you’re a newbie to the world of self-publishing or a veteran who doesn’t mind paying for someone else to do the dirty work, take a look at what Madeline has to offer.  We writers have to have each others’ backs.  As the Canadian television character Red Green used to say, “I’m pulling for ya.  We’re all in this together.”


I’ve been very quiet on the writing blog front because I’ve been focusing all of my energy in a different, yet not altogether unrelated, project.  I recently launched an IndieGoGo campaign a preorder for the second print collection of my webcomic Bardsworth.  The campaign will also help fund the printing costs of the book.  Take a look at my intro video for details:

If you didn’t watch the video, basically you contribute any amount of money and you’ll get some kind of perk for doing so, but if you want the book you’ll have to contribute at the $30 level.  Please take a look at the IndieGoGo page for full details, though.  And if it’s not something you’re interested, please spread the word in case someone you know might be.



Work on Blood of the Father continues to move along, if a little slower than I would wish it, but that’s par for the course.  And for the most part, I’m pretty happy with how it’s turning out.  However, I still do have those momentary doubts that nip at me and distract me with their sharp, pointy teeth.

One of the doubts I keep having is that I’m using far too much exposition.  And, really, it’s less of a doubt and more knowledge; I know that I’m adding too much exposition.  And I keep telling myself that it’s still the first draft, that I’ll be going back and trimming the fat when all is said and done.  Still, though, thinking about all that word vomit makes me think that the real action doesn’t start until too late in the book.  And then, if I remove that exposition, the book will be too short.  Then I’ll have to add stuff.  Then… then… then…

Do you see the unending line of thought here?  This is what goes on in my head, and I’m sure it – or a version of it – happens to many writers.  The best thing I can do is to keep writing, even if it is exposition.  The story is in there, in that giant block of stone.  I just have to carve it out and put the fine details on it.

Although sometimes it seems to me that carving a statue from a stone would be far easier than writing.

Video Games and Writing

Lately I’ve been watching a bunch of videos on YouTube dealing with video games, whether it be top ten lists, historical looks at the industry, or rare collections. In the midst of watching many of the videos, I find myself sort of wishing that I was more of a gamer. I’m a retro gamer; I love my old Nintendo consoles and the older games will always be more of a draw for me. But some of the more modern games look amazing to me, not as necessarily just as a gamer, but as a writer.

There was a time when video games were simple, yet still had crazy stories attached to them. I mean, Yars Revenge for Atari – which is one of my favorite Atari games – is repetitive and really doesn’t make any sense, but it actually has a story! Obviously, as technology advanced and allowed games more room to grow, the stories actually fit in with what was happening on the screen. Then, at some point, the majority of games became the story.

ff6For me, my all time favorite video game story is Final Fantasy VI (which was released as Final Fantasy III on the SNES when I was younger and first played it). This was my first real interaction with a game that was mostly story, and a great one at that. It had a fantastic setting that meshed magic and technology (a premise that I stole for my first serious story), it had characters that were fleshed out and believable, and it grew in scale as the story progressed and became absolutely epic. Yet, at the same time, it was still fun and lighthearted in many aspects, echoing some of my favorite fantasy authors like David Eddings.  I may be biased and it may be because I’m so far removed from the game at this point (haven’t played it in way too long), but I don’t recall having any problems with the writing in that game. The same could not be said for the next few installments in the franchise, however.

Nowadays, the stories combined with the exceptional graphics capabilities available make games more or less interactive movies. I know I’m behind the times in writing about this now, but my life and circumstances haven’t allowed me to shell out for new consoles or powerful gaming PCs in order to play the newest of the new games.  I typically don’t get to play games until long after they’ve been released.  In any case, it does amaze me to think that at some point, jumping into the video game industry as a writer would have been a very lucrative career move as well as a satisfying creative life.

Perhaps someday when I have a little more time to do so, I can actually start playing some of these games and immerse myself into the stories. By then, though, who knows how far video games will have advanced? Perhaps we’ll have reached the peak of the visual works and then people will be forced to up the ante on the writing, making even more amazing video games to play.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to kill a half-hour here and there by playing The Simpsons: Hit & Run.

I wasn’t planning on writing about any EPs in doing my album reviews, but I made an exception for this particular one. Firstly, The Four Postmen is a band that is pretty special to me (more on that in a moment). Secondly, it’s a really fun EP. Thirdly, it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want.

4postmenMy discovery of the band is kind of a fun story. When Katie and I were living in California, she was listening to a Moxy Fruvous album while in the costume shop at school (she was getting her Masters in costume design). The shop manager said that if she liked that band, he knew a guy in a similar type of band, and not too long after that he asked us if we wanted to go to one of their shows with him. We said yes, of course, because it had been a while since we had gone to any shows. We got to the venue rather early, so we decided to walk to a local restaraunt and grab some dinner. Lo and behold, the entire band showed up at the same restaurant, and we ended up eating with them! They were all really nice and super funny guys, and it was fantastic intro to them.

We became sort-of groupies after that first show. It was hard not to. Their shows are goofy and energetic, with a lot of banter and joking around in between songs. Not to mention that most of their songs are silly or at least humorously creative. Not being able to see them anymore was one of the hardest things about leaving California (I’m not even joking about that).

The Four Postmen are pretty much straight up rock-and-roll. Their earlier albums are much more acoustic, almost early Barenaked Ladies sounding. Subsequent albums have had much more energy and traditional rock elements (i.e. electric guitar) in them. Most of their songs incorporate harmonies between the members, and it’s hard not to sing along.

5-Pack Volume 1 has (surprise) five songs, and they were all songs that we heard played at numerous shows. It begins with “The Karaoke King” (written for an independent movie of the same name) and ends with “Parachute”, the two most energetic songs on the EP. “Bed a’Nails” and “Drivin’ Me” are a little more subdued, and are similar in their sarcastic and cynical (but still fun) lyrics. “Coffee Girl” is Katie’s all-time favorite Postmen song, and it’s a ballad of a man in love with a coffee barrista, and it’s chock full of coffee puns (and inappropriateness).

The Four Postmen are a band to listen to when you’re in a good mood and feeling a little goofy. Once you learn the lyrics, it’s impossible not to join in on the singing. And after a while you really learn to appreciate the wordplay and overall writing of the songs. They are truly underrated geniuses, and I’m glad I got to see them as much as I did when I had the chance.

It’s been a while since I talked about the writing of a television show, and since I just finished up the two seasons of BoJack Horseman available on Netflix, I figured now was as good a time as any.

When BoJack Horseman first came out, I kept seeing people posting about it on Facebook, always in a positive light. But I didn’t get around to watching it until recently, long after the posts had stopped. I needed something to watch while doing other things (I often throw a show on while I’m doing dishes, because it typically takes me the 20-30 minutes of a short episode), and I figured it was time.

BoJack_HorsemanIf you’re unfamiliar with BoJack Horseman, it’s an animated series that takes place in a world where humans and anthropomorphic animals live side-by-side like it ain’t no thang. The show centers around BoJack, a washed-up sitcom star, as he navigates life post-career and deals with a massive amount of baggage from his childhood. The people he surrounds himself with – either willingly or otherwise – include Diane, a young woman who is ghost writing his autobiography; Mr. Peanutbutter, an overeager and sometimes oblivious golden lab who had a sitcom that rode the fame of BoJack’s; Todd, BoJack’s roommate who often finds himself in the middle of or the cause of wild tomfoolery (or as he likes to say, “Toddfoolery”); and Princess Caroline, a pink cat and BoJack’s agent (also occasional girlfriend/booty call).

While the show was amusing and interesting enough to keep my attention through both seasons, I felt like it had so much more potential than it actually reached in twenty-four episodes. The animal/human society paved the way for a handful of pretty funny jokes and gags (penguins running Penguin Publishing, BoJack’s sitcom being called “Horsin’ Around”, etc.), but they all but disappeared in the wake of drama. Drama-laden drama heaped on top of more drama. Oh my God, so much drama.

Now, I’m not adverse to drama or any kind of seriousness in an animated series. My favorite animated series of all time is Mission Hill, which perfectly mixed serious and funny. But BoJack just got too darn serious at times, and it was cliche sitcom tropes. There was the “he-loves-her-but-she-loves-the-other-guy” thing in the first season, followed by the “does-she-really-love-the-other-guy?” thing, followed by the “the-first-guy-kissed-her-and-made-things-weird” thing. Oh, and I should mention that the whole “he-loves-her” thing was telegraphed loudly from the very beginning. Opposite sex character who is frustrated by the other character? Yup, there’s gonna be romantic tension there… sigh.

And the second season was just… well, it felt like it was all over the place. There were several through-lines of story in the season, but none of them were particularly interesting. Even the “resurrection” of J.D. Salinger as a show runner for a ridiculous game show only gave a short moment’s worth of amusement before disappearing in the wake of – surprise – more drama.  Drama is only interesting when a character learns from the trials and tribulations he goes through.  If BoJack learned anything in two seasons, it doesn’t feel that way.

The show definitely has its strong moments, though. When the writers hit a good joke, they really hit a good joke. Case in point, when Mr. Peanutbutter is explaining how in love he is with Diane, he makes a comment about how he spends his day – curled up on the couch, often after digging a little nest for himself, and then getting excited when he hears the car. Get it? He’s a dog. It was really clever and didn’t call attention to itself blatantly. That’s the kind of writing I would love to see in all of the show.

I think the best episode was the fifth episode of the second season. This was one of those episodes where the B story out-shined the A story, and then both came together in the end. The A story was a rather uninteresting one of BoJack trying to bond with the director of the movie he’s working on, and the B story is Todd trying to rescue an escaped anthropomorphic chicken, who he starts to bond with, from having to go back to the chicken farm where she’ll be slaughtered and eaten. It’s just the right amount of ridiculousness with a bit of emotion thrown in, and it had me laughing and hooked through the whole thing. I can’t say that about most episodes.

However, despite all my negativity about the more serious aspects of the show, there is enough good writing to keep me invested in the characters. Even though the drama and bad decisions that BoJack make get tired and annoying after a while, you still want to root for him to get his shit together. Even though the relationship between Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane seems rocky in an overdone way, you still want them to be happy. And Princess Caroline has the right amount of life problems, mostly stemming from her internal struggle over having a stable life or pushing her career ever forward, and the right amount of humor and sass to balance each other out and make her probably one of the most complex and interesting characters on the show.

The short summary is that BoJack Horseman needs to stop taking itself so seriously. The writing needs to scale back on the drama and integrate a lot more of the wacky humor that keeps me interested in the show. And it needs to lose the common sitcom tropes! It’s kind of sad when a show with a neat premise like animals and humans living together ends up not doing anything original with that premise (what I call Third Rock From the Sun syndrome).

I do look forward to season three just to see if the writers learned anything from the first two seasons. If not… well, Netflix has a lot of other things to watch.

Ah, Green Day. What musically-minded person who grew up in the 90s wouldn’t have at least a fleeting appreciation for Green Day? Green Day was one of the bands that pushed me into world of music beyond the classic rock that my parents would listen to (which I also appreciate). And while that album was actually Dookie, today we’re here to talk about 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours.

While most casual older fans of Green Day probably started with Dookie, I don’t know many who have 1,039 in their collections. I actually got my copy by trading for it with my younger brother – who had it for God knows what reason, since he was never really into music – for the Spin Doctors album Pocket Full of Kryptonite (which I had received from someone else for free). I know… trading albums? Nowadays you can just download both for free if you know where to look. I’m old, I get it.


Green_Day_-_1,039-Smoothed_Out_Slappy_Hours_cover1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours isn’t technically Green Day’s first album; it’s a compilation album that includes their first album (39/Smooth) and two of their EPs (Slappy and 1,000 Hours), all of which are out of print. So, really, 1,039 is just referred to as their first album for the sake of argument.

The sound of the album is much more raw than Dookie and everything beyond it. But in that rawness is an energy that started to fade a little once their albums started being produced differently. You can definitely tell they were young punks putting their hearts into their music.

That all being said, 1,039 isn’t really my favorite album of theirs. It’s a fun album, and I’ll throw it on once in a great while for nostalgic purposes, but if I want a Green Day fix I’ll typically reach for Kerplunk or Insomniac (and, yes, Dookie of course). Still, there are some gems on there. It opens with “At the Library”, a catchy teenage anthem about being infatuated with a girl from afar, which is great to listen to as an angsty teenager. And speaking of angsty songs, “Disappearing Boy” is a great one about feeling invisible, something I greatly understood in my youth. “Paper Lanterns” is definitely a musical prototype to some of their later songs on Dookie, and is yet another angsty song about a girl (seeing a pattern here?). And then there’s my personal favorite, “Only of You”, a sort of love letter to a girl. Funnily enough, I used the lyrics of this song to write an actual love letter to someone I liked in high school. It didn’t work. Still, the song is a nice one because it’s not angsty and has a nice energy to it.

I’m not entirely sure if modern Green Day fans – those who are more into American Idiot and beyond – have an appreciation for 1,039. I can’t see that many would, really, as Green Day’s sound (and image) has changed massively over the years. But I would hope there are a good number who can enjoy it for it what is is – a glimpse into the roots of a band that helped bring punk into the mainstream during the 90s.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 78 other followers