Poem of the Week: A Writer’s Work

A Writer’s Work
August 14, 2018

A writer’s work is never done,
Whether it’d be a chore or fun,
And it starts when you begin your first book,
So have a moment and take a look
For something that stimulates your mind.
Then, from there, it’s to the grind
To work on something hopefully fresh
That puts your talents to the test,
Telling a new tale that with which
Has turned on your brain like a light switch
Flipped by a soul entering a dark room.
Question, though, is will your mind bloom
With twists and turns for your tale to take,
Or will your brain suddenly hit the breaks
Once your idea first hits the page,
Then fume and boil with flustered rage
As it tries to think of what comes next,
Only to end up hopelessly vexed?
After all, it pays not to force
A story that simply won’t take course,
And it only makes sense instead to try
Another route by which your brain won’t fry,
Taking notes along the way
To see just how your story will sway
And taking control when things get rough
‘Til your tale’s at last solid enough
To submit to an agent, who
Won’t turn up her nose and go “poo-poo”
All over it like it’s a load of crap
Like a free-to-play, pay-to-win phone app,
But show it to a publisher, who will
Give it the attention it needs to fill
Your dream of giving the next generation
Something to inspire their station.
Then, should your book become a hit,
Who knows which step you may see fit?
A sequel, perchance, to book one
With more to come ‘til the series is done?
Another work that’s entirely new
To give readers’ brains something to do?
Perhaps a new genre entirely
To show what kind of writer you can be?
Also, what of the meet-and-greets
That take you out of the writer’s seat
So you can show gratitude towards your fans
For making you famous ‘cross the land?
What of the interviews and conventions
Where you talk about your written inventions
Old and new and try to showcase
Your best side and thus make a good case
For your right to be written in history’s
Annals as one whose work’s worthy to see?
What ‘bout a new agent, should the one
Working for you announces he or she is done?
Who’ll help you spread your name far and wide
As the greatest writer on the countryside?
Do you look for a new one and carry on
Living out your dream until you’re gone,
Or do you retire to live off of
The cash you’ve made from your labor of love?
Whatever the case, one thing’s for sure
In this land so riddled with the impure:
A writer’s work is never done
Once it begins ‘neath Heaven’s sun
’Til he or she him- or herself calls it quits,
And that’s only when he or she sees fit.
Don’t you give up, then, literary stars,
For you could someday reach past Mars
And give the masses a reason to care
‘Bout what you’ve to say to all anywhere,
And your legacy shall live on for days,
Weeks, months, years—eons, in some ways.
All you need to do is take that first step,
And you just might be successful yet.

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
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Twitter: @DustinMWeber18

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In Relation to My Work: How I’d Like 21st-Century Storytelling Media to Evolve, Regardless of Platform

Before I can begin this article, I’d like to apologize for being tardy in posting it. Truth be told, I’d been hoping to post this editorial much sooner. However, between work, family matters, and my current writing schedule, doing so has proven to be a lot more difficult than I’ve expected. All the same, from what I’ve seen in the media in recent months—particularly this past month, what with so many new programs coming out on television during the fall season—the content included in the editorial below is still pretty relevant to what’s been going on in the world of television and motion pictures. That being said, thank you all for your patience, and again…I’m sorry in taking my dear sweet time in uploading this, as I do plan on posting future articles here on this blog in a more timely fashion in the future.

Thank you all for your time, but for now, enough kvetching. On with the editorial!

*****

Hello, readers.

On January 23, 2016, I’d written an article on this blog about the kind of books I’d have liked to see come out in whatever at the time was left of this decade. Truth be told, I still have the same attitude regarding my suggestions as I did back then, but now my opinions have expanded towards other forms of media. After all, even though I myself can admit that the “good old days” of the 1980s and 1990s weren’t flawless by any stretch of the imagination, the fact still remains that no matter the crap that was going on in each of these two decades, there was still plenty of entertainment media out there for audiences to sink their teeth into and as such help them look beyond it all, even if only temporarily. That’s not to say that today’s entertainment scene is complete and utter trash, of course, for there’s still some good stuff out there for the masses to enjoy as well a good number of avenues through which they can check out said stuff. It always seems, however, as though such movies, television shows, and the like end up taking a back seat to whatever garbage seems to be flooding the market, which in turn leads to said garbage attracting more attention from folks by and large. Don’t get me wrong, either, for I’m quite tempted myself to vent about some of the flotsam and jetsam that’s been bob, bob, bobbing along the mainstream like buoyant fecal matter for years. Then again, what would that accomplish, even in the very unlikely instance that some major entertainment exec was to come across this humble little blog and read this specific entry? For all I know, nothing more or less than the person in question rolling his or her eyes, clicking off this page, and muttering to himself or herself, “Oh, great…another miserable malcontent from the vocal minority…”

That being said, I present to you all a small list of the kind of things that would encourage me to invest myself in a given form of entertainment. As was true before, the following represents my own preferences. If there’s any kind of idea that you think would make for a movie, television show, or similar form of media that I’ve neglected to mention, please leave it in the comments section below. Otherwise, enjoy!

Ease up with the remakes.

Just a VERY small sample of all the movies that have been remade over the years…mostly with much negative reception

One of the biggest complaints that’s been circling the Internet since the beginning of this decade has to be about Hollywood’s apparent lack of original ideas and the necessity to remake, reboot, readapt, and simply flat-out re-everything they lay their hands on. Now, granted, not every movie that happens to be a remake or reboot of a previously existing film is necessarily an unholy abomination that has no business to exist. I’ve already mentioned Dredd from 2012 on December 2, 2016, for example, and its superiority to the original Judge Dredd movie from 1995. The same can be said for John Carpenter’s The Thing from 1982, Scarface from 1983, The Fly from 1986, The Blob from 1988, Cape Fear from 1991, Gone in 60 Seconds from 2000, Ocean’s Eleven from 2001, Chicago from 2002, The Italian Job from 2003, and The Hills Have Eyes from 2006, just to name a handful. Sadly, critically and monetarily successful remakes like these have recently become few and far between, as movie studios are more content to simply take something that either was or still is popular and remake it into a whole “new” film for little to no reason outside of making a quick buck from something with an already established audience. The result: Movie remakes have gone up in quantity, but down in quality. Whether such films as these are lazy, uninspired, shot-by-shot rehashes of their previously established counterparts (i.e., Gus Van Zant’s Psycho from 1998 and Samuel Bayer’s Nightmare on Elm Street from 2010) or nearly to fully complete overhauls that completely miss the point of their source material (i.e., 1999’s The Haunting or 2014’s Robocop), the fact remains that they usually only succeed at two things: alienating fans of the original works and making the originals prove all the more that they can stand on their own just fine without having to be remade. Very rare these days are remakes that respect the idea of the original property while adding something new to the formula to give audiences a movie-going experience that is both fresh and pleasant. Honestly, I can only begin to tell you the kind of backlash that the following movies, amongst others, have received for one reason or another from both audiences and professional critics alike, regardless of their financial successes.

Annie from 2014
Bad News Bears from 2005
Black Christmas from 2006
Carrie from 2013
Clash of the Titans from 2010
Conan the Barbarian from 2011
Friday the 13th from 2009
Ghostbusters: Answer the Call from 2016
It’s Alive from 2009
Mr. Deeds from 2002
Planet of the Apes from 2001
Poltergeist from 2015
Power Rangers from 2017
Pulse from 2006
Rob Zombie’s Halloween from 2007
Rollerball from 2002
Shutter from 2008
Straw Dogs from 2011
Michael Bay’s two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies
The Karate Kid from 2010
The Eye from 2008
The Omen from 2006
The Stepford Wives from 2004
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 2003 and its 2006 prequel, TTCM: The Beginning
The Wicker Man from 2006
Total Recall from 2012
Walking Tall from 2004

To think, too, that there are plenty of potentially eye-opening ideas out there that would more likely than not translate into excellent movies, if handled right, and possibly even be successful at the box office, should said movie receive the right kind of marketing. Alas, it’s proven to be much less of a financial risk for some studios to remake an already established product than to create a brand new one, regardless of whether doing the former or the latter is the wiser or more popular thing to do. It’s a shame, really, for if Hollywood doesn’t soon establish a keener production balance between new projects and the remakes it’s been churning out, who knows just how severe its already established creative drought will further blight the whole motion picture scene in the long run? Not only that, but if movie producers would learn to look at films from an artistic standpoint as well as a financial one, then if nothing else, they would at least come to the realization the real reason to remake a film: to do something new with its narrative that would help to improve it, such as telling it from another perspective or focusing on an element upon which the original had neglected to focus.

David Sandberg’s Kung Fury: One of the most highly regarded original films of 2015 and a definitive example of the power and effectiveness of originality

I could go on with this topic by talking about how many belated sequels to previously established films suffer from problems similar to those of film remakes as well as how this whole remaking trend has affected the television and video game industries as well as the world of cinema. The truth is, however, that I’d just be repeating a lot of the same points I’ve already made concerning the movie industry. Plus, let’s not forget that even though these studios are the ones responsible for putting out all these remakes the masses have taken issue with in recent years, we consumers are just as much to blame for buying tickets to see these flicks in the theaters. Even spending our hard-earned money on the home edition of these films puts cash into the producers’ pockets, which only further proves the profitability of their kind in this day and age, regardless of how many people take to the Internet to complain about them. Taking that into consideration, it seems as though the only way for us to put an end to this whole trend—or, at the very least, slow it down—is for us as a collective whole to stop paying to see these movies. Then, when the studios start to receive less and less cash flowing into their bank accounts on account of these remakes that we’ve all been taking issue with, they’ll learn to rethink this whole remakes fad and how we’ve grown sick and tired of seeing so many time-honored films receiving one subpar reincarnation after another. Granted, that’s not to automatically say that whatever original films they’ll be giving us from that point forward will automatically be instant classics. If anything, we’ll still be receiving a mixed bag as far as originals movies are concerned, just as we always have. We can still at least hope that the brunt of them will be good, however, although in that case, it’d be a matter of whether or not movie studios will have the wisdom to regard the hits of the past artistically, find out which elements made each of them work, and apply those same elements to their newer flicks.

Bloody Roar reboot: Make it happen, Konami. You’ve made a Bomberman game for the Switch, after all, so why not?

One final note about remakes, cinematic or otherwise: If there’s ever been a time I refused to see a remake of anything that I’d seen or neglected to see back when it first came out, it was never out of fear of the remake “ruining my childhood.” If anything, as I’ve said before, even a terrible remake only confirms the original’s worth to some degree. Rather, I’m more of the opinion that the entertainment industry give today’s young people a childhood of their own of which they can be proud rather than be fed that which the people of my own generation had already been fed when we were young. Quite frankly, the sole exception to this rule is the only product out there that I personally want to see receive a remake in the near future, and that would be Bloody Roar. Simply put, BR was an IP that never reached its full potential back in the day and deserves a chance to redeem itself after the much-maligned latest entry in its franchise, 2003’s Bloody Roar 4. I mean, hey, if Killer Instinct can be brought back to life after seventeen years of inactivity with a game that retells the original story with greater clarity than the first two games combined did, then why can’t BR receive similar treatment? Aside from BR, however, I’m more apt to look forward to more original products rising up from this moment forth so that new creators can have the opportunity to change the entertainment scene for the better.

Knock it off with the snark and other forms of lazy, lowbrow humor.

A small example of the cleverness that actually makes me chuckle

As it’s been said before time and again, humor is subjective, and that which makes one person laugh could very well annoy or even offend another. That being said, I’ve grown so sick and tired of most of what passes for humor in the media today that it isn’t even funny…if you’ll forgive the unintentional yet admittedly predictable pun. Trust me, too, when I say that I can go on for quite a while about how ironic it is for most modern-day humor to be as consistently raunchy, tone-deaf, mean-spirited, and simply lowbrow as it’s been for the past decade-plus in an age where PC culture has been playing as proactive a part as it has been. Truth be told, I can see why to some extent, but just because I can doesn’t mean I’m at all among the masses who’ve jumped on board such a bandwagon. To be fair, too, I haven’t seen every single sitcom, sketch comedy show, or standup comedy act of this era. Most of what I have seen, though, has given me a bad taste in my mouth. Toilet humor, sex jokes with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the back of one’s head, graceless slapstick, blatant and ceaseless profanity—I’ve seen and heard all of the above and then some in recent years through various outlets, and none of it has ever made me laugh. If anything, such material simply makes me roll my eyes, shake my head, and wonder about the kind of mentality one has to be in to appreciate anything so lazy, thoughtless, and cheap.

Paul Schneider and Olivia Munn’s characters Tommy and Audrey Macklin from 2012’s The Babymakers upon finding out about the negative reception their failed movie had received upon its limited cinematic release on account of its crass, immature humor (1 out of 4 stars from the late Roger Ebert, 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes out of 49 reviews with a 3.5/10 average rating)

I know I’ve already touched upon this topic back in my original article from last year, but honestly, I feel as though I can’t stress it enough. After all, you don’t have to be “edgy” or offensive to be funny. Just look at the success of such comedians as Gabriel Iglesias, Ellen Degeneres, Jim Gaffigan, Anjelah Johnson, and especially Brian Regan—all of whom have garnered many a laugh from audiences over the span of their careers with jokes that didn’t need to rely on foul language, “shocking” ideology or imagery, shameless pratfalls, or any other form of below-the-belt humor. Granted, there have been instances in which a couple of these comedians have strayed from their usual path, such as with Gabriel’s “racist gift basket” routine and even Ellen dropping a couple of S-bombs during her famous Taste This comedy album from 1996, but even then, these comics relied more on their wit than on straight crassness to tickle their audiences’ fancy and make them think as well as laugh. Such is the key to timeless comedy, as has been proven time and again not only by the aforementioned comics and other, similarly successful comedians, but also by many a well-remembered sitcom or sketch comedy. Even The Cosby Show’s Claire Huxtable herself, Tony Award winning actress Phylicia Rashad, can attest to this based on the following piece of information she once shared in an interview with the Huffington Post:

Phylicia Rashad, Tony Award-winning actress and mother Claire Huxtable from The Cosby Show as interviewed April 6, 2014 by Huff Post Live

“Drama appeals to the emotions. Comedy appeals to the intellect.”

Such were the words that the late Dr. Frank M. Snowden, Jr. of Howard University in Washington, D.C., said to Ms. Rashad after she’d answered a question he’d posed to her and the rest of her classmates concerning whether they preferred drama or comedy, and considering my own personal comedic tastes, this comparison makes a lot of sense to me. After all, as Ms. Rashad goes on to say in the same interview, most of the sitcoms from “back in the day” that the masses know and love today had writers working behind the scenes who all worked with each other in the same room day after day as they fleshed out each episode of the show they were putting together. Such would explain why the plot and character development of these programs flowed in a smoother, more logical fashion than it would on a more recent show such as, say, the not-too-distantly-cancelled Mike & Molly. Honestly, the two titular characters first cross paths with each other at an Overeaters Anonymous conference, yet subsequently stop attending meetings that the support group hosts after they marry each other, and Mike subsequently reverts back to his rapacious couch potato ways every now and then with only the occasional reminder of his original objective to lose weight. Add to that Mike inadvertently no longer sleeping with the help of a respirator around the same time, the couple moving out of Molly’s old bedroom and into the Flynn family basement only to eventually move back into Molly’s bedroom, and so forth, and it can be pretty easy to see where viewers can be disenfranchised with such a show, regardless of M&M having lasted six seasons on CBS from 2010 to 2016. On a similar note is how M&M and a good number of other 21st century sitcoms tend to repeat the same tired jokes over and over again with little to no payoff, usually within the same episode and—worse yet—within the same scene. You know…in case the audience hadn’t gotten them the first time. Then again, even that practice isn’t as annoying and insulting as when the writers of a given sitcom decide to change certain characters that either don’t make sense within the show’s narrative or go against their established personalities altogether. I can certainly say that I could have done without the writers of Everybody Loves Raymond turning the once-sensible Debra into a bitter, self-pitying shrew who takes every opportunity she gets to throw a tantrum at Ray and the rest of the Barones or start weeping and sobbing as though someone had just run over the family dog. Come to think of it, the whole show, in my opinion, went downhill when everyone within the Barone family started yelling and screaming at one another on a regular basis. It wasn’t pleasant, clever, or fun in the slightest…only dull, grating, and utterly obnoxious. It didn’t challenge my mind at all, only my sanity, which is exactly why most of the sitcoms I’ve seen these days have turned me away from them. Stereotypical characters, predictable situations, exhausted jokes, and a bitter tone that practically everyone has seen in so many other shows of its kind—all of the above are elements that have dumbed down many a recent sitcom that I’ve regrettably watched and made me pine for the days when Night Court, Golden Girls, Cheers, Frasier, and the like ruled the airwaves with their keen wit, palatable charm, and the kind of punchy sophistication that has time and again managed to put a smile not only on my own face, but also on countless other people’s faces from one generation to the next.

If this wasn’t a warning sign of the kind of regular situations viewers would see in Everybody Loves Raymond’s later season, then I don’t know what is.

Of course, as irritated as I’ve become with the banality and vulgarity that I’ve discussed earlier, there’s one more trait in today’s comedic scene that I’ve grown to abhor: snark. Now, sure, I get that the world can be a very unforgivingly (and unforgivably) unkind and frustrating place within which to live, and sometimes, one needs to just let off a sarcastic remark here or there to cope with it all. Likewise, there have been plenty of people popping up all over the Internet who’ve made snarky remarks about this, that, and the other since blogging first became a thing and editorials were no longer limited to opinionated journalists. All the same, as with everything else that has made comedy so nasty these days in comparison to what it used to be, snark has reared its ugly head so much and so often that I wonder as to whether or not I’m the only one who’s noticed it, much less has grown fed up with it. Don’t get me wrong, either, for once upon a time, I used to like characters like Dr. Peter Venkman from the classic Ghostbusters films and Chandler Bing from the earlier seasons of Friends for their wry charm, world-weary wit, and occasional sliminess. However, these two specific characters and all others like them back in the day actually had charm on account of having writers behind them who knew how to pace these characters’ sarcasm effectively and only had them pop off with a remark at moments that called for them to say something flippant so as to keep them from being completely rude, disrespectful, malicious scumbags. Additionally, no matter how despicable and depraved characters like Peter and Chandler might have come across as being at times, their writers wisely made sure to give them characteristics that would have made them at least somewhat likable to their intended audiences. For instance, Peter’s shrewdness, streetwise sociability, and secretly sweet disposition easily balanced out with his course, flippant, womanizing charlatan ways, especially when he uses his diplomacy to help free himself and his fellow Ghostbusters, Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler, from prison. Similarly, Chandler’s refusal to quit a job that he otherwise hates (i.e., an IT procurements manager) and dedication to his girlfriend-turned-wife Monica, best friend Ross, and everyone else in their social circle temper his otherwise bitter, cynical nature. Sadly, I don’t get that same feeling from more modern comedy characters such as Charlie Harper from Two and a Half Men or Dr. Leonard Hoffstadter from The Big Bang Theory. I know that’s probably going to earn me the wrath of Chuck Lorre production fans everywhere, but honestly, the way each of these two leads is written—which I could also say for the rest of the show to which each man belongs—is so thoroughly grating that it’s easy for me to forget about whatever good there might be in either of them. In fact, the further I stay away from Charlie with his hedonistic, misogynistic, scoffing self-absorption and Leonard with his needy, spineless, self-pitying, and at times ironically condescending pessimism, the more at ease I ultimately feel. Sadly, Charlie and Leonard are only two of many characters who define sarcasm according to 21st century humor, and unless there’s a more recent example of a character out there who can be sarcastic with the same grace and deftness as Peter Venkman, Chandler Bing, and the like used to, then by all means, let me know. Otherwise, I’ll remain convinced that snark is here to stay, much to my chagrin. It just isn’t appealing to me in the slightest, as it isn’t at all endearing, witty, or clever. Rather, it’s simply bitter, jaded, spiteful, and outright repulsive.

Dr. Peter Venkman from 1986’s Ghostbusters: One of the most beloved spewers of sarcasm in cinematic history and a prime example of snark RIGHT

Worse yet, snark not only makes characters within fictitious works come off as unlikable assholes, but also real-life people who try to be all cute, funny, and “personable” when the situation doesn’t call for such behavior. Just read AgentQuery.com’s guide on how to write a query letter, and you’ll see the kind of annoyance I mean. Seriously, though, AgentQuery staff, grow up and knock it off with your smart-ass remarks about people’s imperfect manuscripts, query letters, and so on, and the whole idea of the “Generation Y” having a collectively short attention span on account of only a select portion of “Gen-Yers” living up to that idiotic stereotype. People come to your website to discover information that would help them procure someone who can help them get their books published. There’s no need for any of your members to act like a bunch of flippant, pompous brats in the process. It isn’t the least bit funny, as I’ve mentioned before…only tiresome, predictable, pathetic, oblivious, and obnoxious. Knock it off and act your ages, please.

Brian Regan, one of the funniest “clean comics” known to modern stand-up AND one of the most deserving of a sitcom of his own

Bottom line, I really hope comedy evolves soon, if it hasn’t been evolving already. After all, I read humorous books, tune in to comedy shows, and watch comedic movies in hopes of finishing something to make me laugh and forget about my cares for at least a little while. Alas, very little of what we call comedy these days is intelligent or thoughtful enough to do just that and instead merely backfires and makes me feel even grouchier than I otherwise would have been, had I not come across it in the first place. It’s not even so much that all of which I’m taking issue with here is necessarily offensive, either, as I’ve said. If anything, it’s all just so irritating, tactless, immature, and straight up nauseating…almost as if the people making these jokes are going out of their way to alienate those who see it for whatever reason. Again, I know one person’s trash is another’s treasure as far as this topic is concerned, but since when did it become comically mandatory to deliberately set forth to annoy or offend people? What happened to simply aiming to make people laugh or, at the very lest, smile? Whatever happened to using one’s intellect to stimulate people’s minds and ultimately put them in a good mood as opposed to stooping to the lowest common denominator? Are the days of merry banter, quick-witted quips, sharp wordplay, and the like forever dead? I sure hope not, for with all the crap that’s still going on in this mess of a world within which we live, we all more than ever need material that brings joy to our lives, not more pain and anguish. Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen from these past couple of decades, there hasn’t been enough of that substance going around, and quite frankly, it’s enough to make me sick.

Smarten up your writing…PERIOD.

The quote speaks for itself.

I’m pretty sure you’ve all noticed this by now, but there have been times in the past where people have proven to be pretty stupid—not merely uninformed or unobservant, either, but simply and utterly witless. I know that sounds disparaging and rude, but let’s face it, folks: We’ve all more likely than not seen, heard, discovered, and probably even known people in our lives who’ve habitually said and done things that make us question whether or not they even know how to think at all. Heck, even now, such people continue to thrive and contribute to what one can very readily call the continued downfall of society as we know it, and even the most intelligent amongst us have forgotten how to use our heads, even if only for a brief moment, and succumbed to saying or doing something that has made others question our own sensibilities. That in mind, is it any wonder as to why certain forms of entertainment that a sizable portion of the audience considers to be pointless, tasteless, or otherwise idiotic still exist these days? Is it likewise any wonder why so many people tune in to such garbage, even when they know it’s bad for their brain and doesn’t warrant their attention? Thankfully, there do exist certain forms of entertainment, comedic and dramatic alike, that appeal to folks who despise having their intelligence insulted. Sadly, even they don’t last forever. In fact, too many of them never catch on well enough to last longer than a handful of years at best and are cancelled before they can truly make much of a mark upon American pop culture as we know it. So severe is the problem, too, that one could write up an entire essay on it if one wished to tackle the issue in depth. Who knows? I myself might do just that on this blog, should it remain standing long enough for me to do so…and should I get the gumption to follow through with such an idea. For the sake of simplicity, though, there are some key traits that indicate why a given piece of fictional media might not be as well written as it otherwise could or should be:

Raj Koothrappali: Often an afterthought compared to the rest of the characters from the other characters The Big Bang Theory and as such a prime candidate for one of the show’s most poorly written characters

Poor character portrayal and development. Have you ever watched a TV show or movie that featured a character that the writer had meant for audience members to perceive one way, only to come across as being completely different? That’s basically poor characterization in a nutshell, and to be quite frank, I’ve seen it happen in one form of storytelling too many. It’s never worked for me, either, regardless of the excuse that the writer or writers of a given work may offer to excuse the character in question acting in a way that doesn’t make sense for him or her. Maybe the writer(s) didn’t know what to do with said character beyond a certain point and felt the need to pull something out of thin air just to keep him or her relevant…even if that very something more or less made no sense in regards to who or what he or she already was or had already experienced according to the story’s overall plot. Maybe the writer(s) had meant to have him or her progress beyond a given point, yet had failed to do so out of negligence and thus either gave up on him or her altogether or forced him or her into a situation that would have him or her grow in the direction that he/she/they had initially intended for him or her. Whatever the case, failing to allow a given character to evolve naturally during the course of any given production is a great way to ruin any kind of story—even one that was already unimpressive to begin with.

Unlocking Blaze Fielding’s “bad” ending in the original Streets of Rage: An interesting choice to make in the game itself…but how effective would it be if SoR were a novel, movie, or TV show instead?

Poor plot progression. This next trait tends to ruin just as many stories as poor character development and portrayal do and, more times than not, works hand-in-hand with the former to create some of the most negatively received forms of fictitious media that humanity has come to know. Far too often do these particular stories feature character actions and other events that simply don’t make any sense, usually on account of the writer either compulsorily or carelessly stringing events together in an attempt to show and/or tell the story at hand. Sometimes a character will react to an event in a fashion that portrays him or her as having more knowledge than he or she should, such as a young girl automatically deciphering the coded glyphs that adorn a bizarre ancient compass that she has just received. Sometimes an event will occur in a way that betrays the rules of reality, such as an alleged murderess in a mansion turning off all the mansion’s lights when she is located in the mansion’s basement while the power source to the lights is on the ground floor. This later occurrence can even happen in science fiction, fantasy, and even some horror stories, which are notably more lax in their rules of reality. Say, for example, you were watching a fantasy film in which it has already been established that trolls can regenerate wounds caused by anything but fire, and it just so happens that the heroes are caught in a violent confrontation with a troll. Would it make more sense for the heroes to dispatch of the hostile creature with flaming arrows and a bow…or a simple silver stake through the heart? Even choices that a given character makes can mess up a story’s plot, such as the protagonist and her friends finally coming across the crime lord they’ve been gunning after throughout the course of the tale, only for the protagonist to agree to become the crime lord’s right-hand woman without any prior foreshadowing of or motivation for her betraying her allies. Such is the kind of stuff that would make any audience member scratch his or her head and wonder just what the writer(s) were thinking—if, of course, he/she/they were even thinking at all.

How I usually envision those who laugh at jokes about rape, suicide, tragic historical events, and the like as well as blatant sexual humor and similarly low-hanging “comedic” fruit

Deliberate shock value. Call me a prude all you want, but many has there been a movie, television show, comic book, novel, or video game that just had to go that extra mile into “adult territory,” only to turn out to be a tacky, hollow, shallow, pandering, lowbrow, soulless mess on account of such a misguided decision. Granted, there have been instances in which extreme violence, foul language, sexually explicit content, and the like have been used in fiction to great effect and paint a rather bleak mental picture for audiences to perceive the story’s overall themes and message. At other times, however, such content has been thrown into such works haphazardly “just for the hell of it” for the sake of drawing in viewers, readers, listeners, and/or players. The result: an egregiously incognizant product that may draw in the morbidly curious for a while by promoting its “shocking” content, only to send such an audience off either offended once said content rears its ugly head or disappointed once its effects upon them wear off. It is in such works that extreme violence becomes less about dramatic, heart-pounding action and more about wanton gore. Similarly, characters spew forth so much profanity to the point where they come off as petulant and immature more than they do tough, sex scenes become more nauseating and lust-based than genuine and even alluring, and all other adult-themed content similarly loses its necessity throughout the course of the story. Granted, some people may end up enjoying these products ironically, but in the end, what more are they to these people than guilty pleasures? Worse yet is how the brunt of these pieces have shown to have very little to no substance lying beneath their “gritty” and “edgy” style and end up coming across as the blatant smut that they truly are, and even those pieces that do happen to have substance aren’t always guaranteed to tell a better story than their tamer counterparts unless their storytelling is spot-on from start to finish. As a result, such productions are either doomed to live on in pop culture infamy for their schlock value or die off almost as quickly as they’d come. Either case is usually for good reason, too, especially within the presence of so many other works just like them out on the market waiting for curious eyes to fall upon them and said eyes’ owners caving in to temptation and giving them a watch, read, listen, or play…only to discover the cold, harsh reality in the end.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2: 5% on Rotten Tomatoes out of 57 reviews with a 2.5/10 average rating, 13 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 16 critics, and nominated for six different Golden Raspberry Awards on account of its “tacky, numbingly inane” humor

Pandering to the lowest common denominator. This final flaw, in my opinion, has got to be the most fatal of them all when it comes to providing audiences with decent fiction. After all, even the most intelligent viewer, listener, reader, or gamer may want to shut his or her brain off every once in a while, but that isn’t reason enough for the producer of a given work of fiction to offer them something that treats them and the rest of the audience as though their brains don’t work at all. Even so, many is the moment in which the audience’s intelligence is either flat-out or accidentally insulted, such as when a joke or other occurrence is explained in-work for those who might not have “gotten it” or when random scenes successively take place with little to no context between them. I could say the same for events that occur with little to no buildup (particularly major ones, such as the reveal of a narrative’s chief antagonist) or when seemingly important information comes up during the plot’s unfolding, only to go on ignored later on either by the writers reducing its overall irrelevance or even outright refuting said information altogether. Don’t even get me started, either, on when a writer offers his or her audience a scene that defies conventional wisdom or logic simply to steer the plot in a given direction. Trust me, folks, for I, too, have felt as though I’d been talked down to when situations like this have played out in the fiction that I’d come across, and it’s not a very flattering feeling in the slightest. I’m sorry, but if a writer feels the need to explain to me the context of what had just happened, expects me to simply go along with a seemingly nonsensical chain of events taking place without any common ground between them, or demonstrates anything that is similarly jarring in his or her story, then I can’t help but question his or her mindset. Personally, I would like to think that the writers who commit such errors do so on account of just not paying close enough attention to their work. Otherwise, they would catch these mistakes in their screenplays, manuscripts, and demos before their ultimate production. I’m certainly no different, as I myself have fallen prey to my own anxiousness and have let a mistake or two slip through my fingers upon publishing my work. I’ve been making efforts to avoid repeating that process, however, and hope that other writers—regardless of the form their fiction takes—do the same. Alas, not every writer has proven to take note of his or her botches and done anything to correct his or her creative approach in the future. In fact, I’m sure there are plenty of writers out there who are unconvinced of how weak their grasp on storytelling actually is, and my gut instinct tells me that we all will be seeing more intellect-insulting narration down the line. Hopefully, though, it won’t be as bad as it’s been in recent memory.

All this in mind, let it be known that in order for intelligence to at long last claim a hold upon the realm of fiction, it’s up to the masses to recognize the poorly written stuff for what it is and do everything in their power to not support it. Sorry, folks, but it just isn’t worth it. Schlock is schlock, no matter what form it comes in, and even morbid curiosity—especially in the vain hope of liking something ironically—should never be considered reason enough for people to spend their time or money on it. Doing so, after all, only rewards the creators of such filth for making it, and if people are as adamant about the television, motion picture, video game, and literary industries smartening up and consequently creating more intelligent products, then they need to actively demand better. That doesn’t mean simply voicing one’s opinion about certain forms of media whenever and wherever one can, either. Sure, speaking out against the world’s dreck is a good start, but as the old saying goes, actions do speak louder than words. On that note, then, always regard that which you see and hear with caution when it comes to certain products, and if what you perceive doesn’t sell you completely on the product being advertised, then follow your gut instincts and keep your money and your time to yourself. Remember…first impressions might not be everything, but they still carry quite a bit of weight when it comes to determining the value of a given piece of media.

Somewhere out there, there’s a book out there with a sense of charm that can rival that of even the best Harry Potter novel that deserves every bit of attention that J.K. Rowling’s time-honored franchise has received over the years. If only one had the courage to seek publication for it…

In short, despite what progress we may have made recently in improving the quality of fictional media, we’ve still got a long way to go in achieving the level of storytelling excellence that I at least expect from this day and age. I’m sure that there are plenty of other obstacles that I haven’t even mentioned that creators need to overcome in order to tell the kind of stories that they think would captivate today’s jaded, demanding audiences. The apparent death of originality in modern-day media and the pressure of certain interest groups to create films, TV shows, and the like that appeal to their own specific tastes are certainly two that come to mind that are definitely worth tackling. However, without thoughtful, creative, intelligent writing serving as a foundation, no story can hope to win audiences over. After all, no matter how many people within the entertainment business will tell you that talent is “overrated,” we need talented and attentive writers more than ever nowadays to create the very works we need to immerse ourselves in from time to time and give us a break from this cold, harsh, and unforgiving reality we’ve all come to know. I sure know that as a writer myself, I have been improving my craft since the day I first created this blog, and hopefully the day will come when I can leave a positive grand-scale affect upon the literary market. Until then, though, I encourage the creators of today’s fictional media to step up their game and give us masses something we can support on a regular basis with sincere pride and satisfaction. Not only that, but I also hope that the undiscovered talent of today at long last get their time to shine and have their stories published, filmed, and presented for the masses to enjoy, thus proving to the world that artistic vision has more value than the detractors may realize. After all, considering the kind of crap we’ve had to endure over the years up to this point, I believe the time has come for us all to change things for the better in one way or another.

*****

All rambling aside, thanks again for stopping by, and as always, be sure to visit my author pages at Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk to see what I have available, and please stay tuned for more content in the near future. Until then, happy reading!

Regards,
Dustin M. Weber

*****

PS: All credit for the pics used in the above article goes to as follows:

CarPedalRecall.com
PatandJason.com
Lampray and Laser Unicorns
PixBit.com
PicSauce.com
IndieWire.com
Phylicia Rashad’s April 6, 2014 Interview with Huff Post Live
Giphy.com
GoodMenProject.com
Imgur.com
NotableQuotes.com
FansShare.com
MegaGrey’s Streets of Rage (Genesis) Blaze’s Bad Ending
FunnyJunk.com
RottenTomatoes.com
Infinite-Loops.Wikia.com

The opinions discussed within, however, are the author’s own.

Bonus Poem of the Week: A Message for All Aspiring Novelists

A Message to All Aspiring Novelists
April 18, 2017

No one likes being rejected and tossed into the muck,
Having noses turn up at him or her and wished “Best of luck.”
No one likes being cast out from where he or she wants to be
Or denied that which he or she’s been fighting for. Believe me.
No one likes to struggle, especially when it comes to
Simply getting through the day. This I can assure you.
Even when there’s a pot of gold at the rainbow’s end,
Crossing said rainbow can be a chore. On that you can depend.
So much of a chore it is, too, that time and time again,
Too many people throw up their arms and walk away in the end,
Never to realize their dream, whether they deserve
To live that dream or not, all because of how their nerves
Have become shot over the course of months or years at a time,
And in the case of the worthy folks, it really is a crime,
For who’ll ever know the stories they could’ve shared with the world?
Certainly not the commonplace man, woman, boy, or girl
Or anyone who’d benefit from the messages within,
Even if said benefit is merely escaping the sin
And vice that’s been gripping the world for far too many years now.
Trust me…we all could use some escapism these days…and how!
We all deserve new stories with each year that passes by.
We all need something new to feed our hungry ears and eyes.
Otherwise, the old tales, good and bad, will grow stale,
And as they do, so will our minds, lest new storytellers prevail
To provide us with new substance with which to enrich our souls
And awaken within us the will to carry on into the fold
And accept each day as it comes, no matter what’ll be in store
When it happens to arrive, so long as it isn’t an utter bore.
After all, life’s one big adventure that we all undertake,
And it’s up to us to make the most of it with what we make
In terms of goals and other decisions and the choices that lead
Us down one path or another, and what better way to heed
This message than gleam inspiration from the stories we learn
To spark our thoughts and ambitions and help our hearts’ fires burn
With the passion that keeps us going every hour of the day.
That being said, why let rejection keep getting in the way?
The dream is still worth having, even though it may not seem so,
So keep your chins up and your noses to the grindstone and tally ho!
Keep your wits about you, too, and learn what makes a sale,
And may courage, creativity, and wisdom help you prevail
In the seemingly never-ending saga of chasing a dream
That might actually be more attainable than it might now seem,
For stories are more important than even you may ever know,
And only a sharp mind and a strong heart will help you see just so.

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
                         Amazon.com
                         Amazon.co.uk

Poem of the Week: Stupid Media, Stupid People

Stupid Media, Stupid People
March 10, 2017

Stupid media
Stupid people
People without standards
People with dead morals
Morals gone down the toilet
Morals and values
Values we all should have
Values we’ve all given up on
On TV
On movie screens
Screens filled with bleakness
Screens filled with gratuitous crap
Crap like brazen sex
Crap like excessive violence
Violence already rampant
Violence without levity
Levity from toxic stimuli
Levity that we all need
Need and want
Need but don’t have
Have we no spine
Have we no mind
Mind to reject this filth
Mind to demand better
Better for tomorrow’s generation
Better from media creators
Creators with more cash than credibility
Creators with more praise than talent
Talent elsewhere being ignored
Talent elsewhere being rejected
Rejected for little to no reason
Rejected at the gate
Gate locked tightly
Gate locked shut
Shut on new ideas
Shut on fresh ideas
Ideas that could reinvigorate
Ideas that could revitalize
Revitalize a scene so stale
Revitalize a scene so deprived
Deprived of vitality
Deprived of human interest
Interest from a new generation
Interest in something different
Different times
Different measures
Measures to be taken seriously
Measures to be taken now
Seriously!
Now!

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
                         Amazon.com
                         Amazon.co.uk

Poem of the Week: What Awaits on Your Wings?

What Awaits on Your Wings?
May 21, 2016

Good grief! Listen to what you’re saying!
Why are these the games you’re playing,
The movies you’re watching—and TV, too—
When they all make you scream “Screw you!”
At someone who doesn’t even exist?
I don’t understand it. What’s the gist
Of flipping your feces over obvious fiction
When there’s plenty of stuff causing friction
In the real world like disease and war,
Economic crises, street crime galore,
Bigotry, bullying, promiscuity—
Just to name a few things threatening you and me?
Alas, you don’t care, for you too involved
With some fake person to even try and solve
Any of the dilemmas rocking the world
And making things rough for all boys and girls.
No, let’s whine about Character X
And how the pain in the neck leaves you vexed
With how she makes things worse for the girls,
Boys, women, and men in his or her own world—
A world you can never go to and be,
By the way—and makes regular folks say, “Gee,
What a lazy, obnoxious, condescending brat!
I’m glad he or she’s nowhere that I’m at.
Just get a load of all the heinous trash
He or she gets away with. That pain in the ass!”
Then, normal people would walk away
To carry on with the rest of their day,
Not stew in their hatred for someone they
Cannot control nor will meet in any way,
And when they move on, their minds are free
To do with they can to support family
Or otherwise contribute to society
And keep it afloat for the likes of you and me.
They don’t throw tantrums or write death threats
Or biased fanfiction or, more shameless yet,
Write journal entries or make videos
Flashing their fangs over minor woes
Pounding their desks like horny apes
Whose carnal appetites they’ve yet to slake
And screaming like banshees atop their lungs
All ‘cause they felt the need to be high-strung
At one single character from media,
In which he or she can just say “See ya!”
And never play, watch, or even listen to
Again. Now, tell me: Is that really you?
Are you really a whiny, oversensitive brat
Who doesn’t know where your sanity’s at
When it comes to someone who doesn’t exist,
Or is there a fact about you I missed
That shows me you are sane after all
With brain cells aplenty to get through it all
And can function like everyone else
Once you tuck that media upon a shelf?
The question’s yours to answer honestly
When you wish, but really, enlighten me:
Is this habit of yours what you want it to be?
Do you really enjoy being this way,
Or do you want to see a brighter day
When you can walk away from fiction clean
And not act so outlandish and obscene
Over something so petty in the grand scheme of things.
Come now, my friend. What awaits on your wings?

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
                         Amazon.com
                         Amazon.co.uk

In Relation to My Work: Stuff I’d Like to Read about in (What’s Left of) the 2010s

How’s it going, readers?

For the longest time, I’ve been trying to find the perfect topic to discuss on this blog in between poems, and after giving it much thought, I finally…finally…decided to discuss the kind of themes and other traits that I myself would like to discover in whatever books become published in whatever’s left of 2016—and, quite frankly, this entire decade. I’m sorry, but I simply can’t buy into the whole idea of originality being “dead,” even now. Rather, I believe that there are some ideas out there that can translate well into good novels, should the right author come around and craft his or her next book with at least one of them in mind. As a matter of fact, I’ve been able to come up with eight such ideas that would make for a novel that I myself would like to read—not even as an author myself, either, but as a fan of good literature. Who knows? Maybe by the chance you folks read this blog post, at least one of these ideas will have been made into such a publication.

Keep in mind, of course, that the following list simply reflects my own preferences. If there’s any kind of idea you have in mind that would also make for a good book, feel free to share it in the comments section below. Also keep in mind that each of these ideas need not be limited to material for novels, either, but also materials for other works of fiction like movies, television shows, video games, comic books…whatever medium might suit the premise at hand. After all, with the way various forms of entertainment often receive adaptations into other forms of media (e.g., books receiving movie adaptations) and the way people have become disenchanted with entertainment as a whole these days, trying these ideas out might be worth a shot to revitalize things somewhat. That considered, then, I hope you enjoy my list.

When the traditional werewolf story just isn't enough to whet your appetite...

When the traditional werewolf story just isn’t enough to whet your appetite…

1. A story involving the scientific explanation of popular supernatural creatures.

In an age where one can argue that vampires, zombies, werewolves, and other such monsters have been done to death, it can be pretty hard for readers to find a unique, compelling story involving these creatures. However, even seemingly tired characters can be revitalized with the proper twist, and in this case, rather than stage the usual supernatural romance, interspecies war, or monster apocalypse, why can’t someone create a story with a premise that mirrors that of X-Men or Bloody Roar? In this example, monsters like the ones I’ve just described live amongst baseline humanity and use their inherent abilities either for the good of all humankind or for their own selfish and oftentimes destructive desires. However, scientific breakthroughs within the reality in which this setting takes place have revealed that the abilities of such individuals aren’t strictly supernatural per se, but actually the result of previously undiscovered advances in human genetics. According to this model, humans are either born with regular DNA or with a strain of genetic material that grants them one of a number of unique supernatural conditions such as vampirism, lycanthropy, and the like. These conditions grant their possessors the abilities and even relevant weaknesses of the monsters with which we are familiar.

Porphyria and rabies: Two diseases that scientists have, in not-too-distant times, associated with vampirism

Porphyria and rabies: Two diseases that scientists have, in not-too-distant times, associated with vampirism

For example, humans with vampirism are generally nimbler than baseline human; have keen nocturnal vision; are more resistant to toxins, pathogens, aging effects, and physical damage; and can (and must) subsist upon the blood of their prey—or, at the very least, artificial blood plasma. On the other hand, they likewise must subsist on foods with a low sulfur content to survive, hence their aversion to garlic, and are incredibly allergic to solar radiation and running water, among other classic weaknesses. What further makes this model interesting is just how real life science ties into the myths revolving around creatures of this nature, particularly specific ailments from the real world that sparked the myths behind such monsters. Porphyrias, for instance, are rare inherited or acquired disorders of particular enzymes that normally help to produce heme (a component of hemoglobin, a.k.a. the red pigment of blood cells, and various other hemo-proteins) that are also cited as a collective explanation for the origin stories behind vampires based upon given similarities between the ailments and vampire fiction of the 20th and 21st centuries. Some forms of this condition, according to The Brain Bank at ScienceBlog.com, lead to the deposition of toxins in the flesh that activate via exposure to sunlight and eat away at the skin, most notably the lips and gums. Such a condition would account for the dislike of sunlight that we associate these days with vampires, and the lattermost part in particular would explain vampires’ fanged, corpse-like appearance. Rabies have also been linked with vampire folklore, according to the research of Spanish neurologist Dr. Juan Gómez-Alonso. Usually transmitted through the bite of an animalspecifically that of a bat or a wolf, both of which recorded history has associated with vampiresthe rabies virus affects the brain of such animals (as well as the brains of dogs and humans) through the peripheral nervous system and has been known to produce traits in its sufferers that are similar to the traits we’ve long associated with vampires. One symptom of rabies, for example, is hypersensitivity, which could very well be the cause of vampire’s susceptibility to light (including sunlight), water, strong odors such as that of garlic, and similar stimuli that cause spasms in the facial and vocal muscles that can in turn result in the baring of teeth, the utterance of hoarse sounds, and especially the bloody fluid frothing at the mouth for which people have most frequently associated with rabies. The disease also attacks the brain’s limbic system, which regulates emotions and behavior, and as such results in disturbances in regular sleeping patterns (thus explaining vampires’ nocturnal nature), hypersexuality, and the tendency to bite people. There’s even the legend of how a person who was not rabid could look upon his or her reflection, which harkens back to rabies sufferers’ aversion to stimuliin this case, mirrors and other reflective surfacesas well as to the myth that vampires have no reflection. On that note, both porphyria and rabies could very well be precursors to vampirism in the reality of this setting, and sufferers of either of these two diseases could either be mistaken for vampires or possibly even become vampires themselves at some time during their illness. Such is how other genetic mutations would work in this story as well, which could very well keep the baseline human characters (and even some of the genetically enhanced characters) of the setting on their toes and wondering who’s who, what’s what, and how to prepare for the worst case scenario.

Another aspect about this storytelling model would be the idea that the protagonists need not be genetically gifted. Unlike X-Men and Bloody Roar, which follows a specific handful of characters who happen to be of the “alternative breed” of their reality (i.e., the X-Men themselves being “Homo superior” and the heroes of BR being zoanthropes), one can still have the heroes of this franchise be baseline humans and be able to tell a compelling story. In fact, said story might be better off having regular humans as the leads so as to better illustrate the masses’ fear of the unknown and thus give the setting a feel that is more akin to the standard horror genre. For a better idea of how this setup would work, one needn’t look much further than the likes of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments book series; television shows like Supernatural, Grimm, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; or Aegis Studios’ table top RPG Contagion. In each of these franchises, the heroes are, for the most part, ordinary human beings who find out that the world around them isn’t exactly as mundane as they think, but rather filled with many a creature that most other people would expect to find in myths and fairy tales. Then again, rather than take the approach that these franchises take in investigating the bizarre and macabre, this particular setting would handle the existence of these beings in a manner more reminiscent of The X-Files and examine these creatures’ existences, capabilities, weaknesses, and such from a scientific point of view. This approach would also help to nullify the obligation of having the chief protagonist possess a legacy of some sort that he or she must fulfill throughout the course of the story (i.e., Buffy’s calling as a Slayer and Nicholas Burkhardt’s legacy as a Grimm) as well as a set of metaphysical powers with which he battles the forces of evil. Sure, such a hero can still exist, but even in said character’s absence, the writer can get away with having his or her focal characters simply be commonplace folks with, at most, exceptional skills in monster hunting. This model also leaves open the possibility for genetically gifted characters to become members of the party without any pressing necessity, allowing such protagonists to exist as they learn about their strange conditions and those with whom they share their extraordinary nature while accompanying their fellow heroes to achieve a greater good for the ever-evolving society around them. As a whole, then, this model would provide a wide berth for whatever direction the author wishes to take his or her story.

Speaking of supernaturally endowed humans, however…

An example of a ríastrad as shown in the British comic book Sláine

An example of a ríastrad as shown in the British comic book Sláine

2. Any story that focuses on (or at least involves) ríastrads

In Celtic folklore, a ríastrad is a state of body-distorting battle frenzy in which the subject’s muscles twitch violently and undergo a warp spasm that transforms him or her into a mighty and terrifyingly grotesque monster that fights with reckless abandon. Such a condition is known to be the supernatural gift of both Cú Chulainn of the Ulster Cycle of Irish folklore and Sláine, the titular hero of his own Celtic-themed barbarian fantasy adventure series as created in 1983 by the “godfather of British comics” himself, Pat Mills. To my knowledge, however, these are the only two documented characters to possess such a talent, although Marvel Comics’ very own Dr. Bruce Banner’s ability to transform into the legendary Incredible Hulk can be compared to it, regardless of its origin (i.e., gamma radiation vs. supernatural endowment). This thereby makes ríastrads quite unique in comparison to episodes of similar blessings/curses such as lycanthropy, and it’s because of this that I’d love to one day read any story in which they play a part. Imagine, if you will, a protagonist who happens to be a distant descendant of Cú Chulainn and, as such, an inheritor of the hero’s gift who must learn to cope with her birthright and keep it under wraps as she tries to live an ordinary life among the rest of humanity. Unfortunately, her secret leaks out, and she soon finds herself on the run from both those who come to fear and hate the monster that lies beneath her skin and those who want to exploit her inheritance for their own selfish goals. Then again, perhaps one could also write a story in which it isn’t the protagonist who undergoes warp spasms, but the antagonist, who could either be a straight-up villain who revels in his strange power or—if one would rather—a sympathetic character like Dr. Henry Jekyll doing everything he can to suppress the evil Mr. Edward Hyde within him. The possibilities are practically countless, especially with a broad array of subgenres of fantasy, horror, and even science fiction from which to choose. No matter what, though, one cannot deny that ríastrads make for a rather underused plot device as far as monster stories are concerned these days and would certainly help to breathe new life into the whole supernatural scene with which today’s audiences have become at times a little too familiar.

Words of wisdom from Michael Hyatt on one aspect on how to leave a positive mark on the entertainment industry

Words of wisdom from Michael Hyatt on one aspect on how to leave a positive mark on the entertainment industry

3. A literary work that investigates the morals and values of the entertainment industry and how things can change for the better.

Many people these days have complained left, right, and center that movies, music, television, video games, and books aren’t what they used to be, and for good reason. Sure, one might chalk things up to such people simply being “bitter old fogeys” longing for the “good old days” and resistant to the changes that the world has undergone since then. I can’t say I blame anyone for saying such a thing, either, considering that not everything from the 21st century has been trash, nor has everything from yesteryear been as golden as I myself would like to think it’s been. Trust me, though, folks: Simple, attentive, straightforward observation is often enough to show anyone that things can indeed be—and, in some regards, have been—better than what they’ve presently become. In one regard, one could equate matters to how overtly cautious society has become in recent years and how certain people’s oversensitivity has actually held certain forms of entertainment back from being as gutsy and, in turn, as wide-reaching and appealing as they once were. Comedy is one particular genre that a good number of individuals have claimed has suffered over the years, which I myself can’t help but agree with, and for reasons that I’ll explain later on in this article. In contrast, there are those people who have become convinced that the masses have settled for mediocrity, period, regardless of how politically correct or incorrect such material may be in the long run. Again, I agree, as I myself have seen one form after another of unfiltered smut and vulgarity smeared across the American landscape, promoted to be the next best thing in its particular neck of American (and sometimes world) culture, and go on to make millions upon millions of dollars for its creator(s). Meanwhile, countless individuals have created other forms of media with all the tender loving care in the world and have ensured that such creations possessed at least some substance to them, and yet, such creations have by and large been ignored and rejected in one way or another, never to be elevated by the masses as the genuine forms of entertainment that they truly are. It’s a sad thing, in my opinion, and I’m sure that there is at least one person out there who has made note of this fact and even written an essay on the matter that, if read, would surely drive the matter home into all but the hardest, greediest hearts in the entertainment industry. To read about this phenomenon in novel form, however, would really hit home with countless readers by presenting the issue in a way that would make them feel as well as think and as such get them talking about the state of modern entertainment to want to change it for the better. It might not immediately change the way people are entertained, but at least it will get the idea out there and encourage people to think outside the box to where they can identify genuine, quality entertainment and distinguish it from the crap with which we’ve been bombarded for so long.

The cast of The Carol Burnett Show, Jonathan Winters, Victor Borge, and Foster Brooks: All classic examples of timeless, beloved comedy that today's comedians can (and, in some cases, SHOULD) learn from today

The cast of The Carol Burnett Show, Jonathan Winters, Victor Borge, and Foster Brooks:
All classic examples of timeless, beloved comedy that today’s comedians can (and, in some cases, SHOULD) learn from today

4. Any story that involves good old-fashioned humor that will actually encourage people to laugh.

It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine, and from what I’ve seen, too much of what has passed for comedy in the 21st century thus far has left the masses in a rather sickened state of affairs. On one hand, we have humor that plays it so safe that it’s practically flat, sterile, and devoid of personality and therefore can hardly be called humor at all. On the other hand, sadly enough, is the most mean-spirited and obnoxious sleaze that anyone with an ounce of self-respect could ever stand to sit through—the kind of “comedy” that takes the laziest, cheapest, most thoughtless route possible to appeal to its intended audience’s funny bone. You know what I’m talking about, right? The kind of drivel that patronizes its intended audience by flagrantly clobbering it over its collective head with as much excessive profanity, sexual content, toilet bowl humor, flippant and unabashed bigotry, exploitation of real-life tragedies, and other tacky and insulting subject matter it can to get a cheap laugh. Thankfully, we still have our fair share of talented comedians on the scene today who don’t have to resort to such cheap tactics—or, for that matter, steal other comics’ material—to get a laugh from an audience. All these people have to do, really, is tell a funny story or a series of amusing jokes, one right after another, to put people in a good mood and subsequently earn their respect.

Such is the comedy I want in a book these days: simple, honest, and good-natured without being too timid to be a little “out there” at times or going out of its way to shock and disturb people. Granted, it’s the kind of comedy I expect from the entertainment world in general, but believe me when I say that if books that had this kind of humor were promoted more, then maybe—just maybe—the literary industry would benefit in the long run, and we would be able to see more books that are simply fun become best sellers. Then, if that were to happen, it could even be that the television and movie industries would follow in suit. Wouldn’t that be a treat?

The Justice League, the Avengers, the Power Rangers, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: All popular action heroes, even today...but why should they (and others of their era) be the only ones going strong today?

The Justice League, the Avengers, the Power Rangers, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
All popular action heroes, even today…but why should they (and others of their era) be the only ones going strong today?

5. A brand new action adventure.

Nostalgia has become quite the thing in the 21st century, which even I can understand. I mean, come on! Who doesn’t want to go back in time and relive the days when tough-as-nails heroes battled evil masterminds who wanted to either take over or destroy the world in one way or another? Sure, the formula can be pretty cut-and-dry at times, but the very basic nature of this premise was what made it work back in the day. Not only that, but there still are several—if not, in fact, hundreds of—different ways in which authors can tweak the formula to suit whatever story they may want to tell. However, I specifically would like to see some new superheroes and other action heroes come forth in American media following 2016, even if only for the reason that today’s youth deserves such icons of their own. Don’t get me wrong, however, for I’ve got nothing against any of the superheroes from the Marvel or DC Comics universes, nor do I resent motion pictures, TV shows, and the like reintroducing today’s kids to G.I. Joe, the Transformers, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the ThunderCats, or any other franchise from the 1980s and ‘90s that has experienced a revival in the past couple decades or so. Nonetheless, I’m sure there are some aspiring artists out there who’ve drawn inspiration from these figures to create heroes of their own who could help carry the torch for the next generation to enjoy. After all, we can only go to the well of yesteryear so many times before things dry up and we either have to move on to the next big thing or risk rendering the beloved brands from our childhood stale. Furthermore, despite this particular genre arguably being more suited for comic books, motion pictures, and television shows than it would novels, I’m convinced that taking a more literary approach to this genre just might offer something fresh and fetching for fans of this particular subgenre. Never mind the notion that the hero or heroes in question would stand out from the competition on account of their literary beginning, either. Rather, the story itself would stand out against other middle grade and young adult novels and offer readers and alternative from the usual supernatural, sword and sorcery, and post-apocalyptic adventure that’s been on the market for so many years by this point. Additionally, I myself wouldn’t object to seeing the usual action tropes translated in novel form. If nothing else, I’ve seen them presented many a time in such novels as First Blood by David Morrell and the Failstate series by John W. Otte, so there’s no reason why they wouldn’t work well again for whatever new action heroes could be in store for readers in the future. If nothing else, it’s worth a shot.

Moving Forward Motivational Poster Kid (MoveMeQuotes.com)6. Any story revolving around the theme of moving forward.

I will freely admit that even here on my blog, I am guilty as sin for showcasing a lot of negativity in the poems that I post, no matter how much of a spin I try to put on them otherwise. Even so, I myself know that when it comes to reality, there is only one direction in which time flows: forward. Sadly, in this day and age when the economy’s still not in all that great of shape and news stories of violence and political turmoil seem to come one right after another, we all must remind ourselves that this era isn’t going to last forever and that each of us must do everything he or she can to not only keep our spirits up, but also to ensure that the years to come are a relief from all that we’re having to endure now. Many is the story, too, that has taken this concept and crafted it into a narrative that has touched the heart of many an audience member and stuck with him and her throughout time to remind him or her that no matter how great a loss one has suffered or how imposing another kind of obstacle one might face in life, all one needs to do to succeed in the end is take a deep breath, screw one’s heels in, take action, and never give up until one finally conquers said obstacle. However, no matter how many writers have created stories with this theme in mind, I doubt that there could ever be enough, and quite frankly, I’d love to see one such novel top the best sellers list this year based on general principle alone. After all, it’s a lesson that—even if only in my own opinion—we all must remember as we carry on through life.

The Shēngxiào according to the 2005 cartoon Legend of the Dragon

The Shēngxiào according to the 2005 cartoon Legend of the Dragon

7. Any story based on folklore.

If there’s one thing I always enjoy, it’s learning about another culture’s mythology—heroes, deities, monsters, artifacts…you name it. I’m quite thankful to know, too, that such a series as Rick Riordin’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians has garnered as much success as it has since its inception, and I wish for Mr. Riordin nothing less than the same amount of success with Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard. That being said, I look every bit as forward to the next literary adventure involving one kind of folklore or the other simply because of how fun it is for me to learn about the tales of old that influence a given people’s history. Even when writers only give their readers bits and pieces of mythology in the stories they write, it’s enough to encourage said readers to delve deeper into the mythos they’re learning about and find out more about it. On that note, why can’t writers and publishers encourage these people to explore these tales even further by writing more novels involving the folklore of civilizations past and present and allowing such tales to be published for the masses to enjoy? One doesn’t even have to retell the legends themselves, even though that in and of itself would still be very compelling—especially for lesser-explored tales like the Lament for Ur (a.k.a. the Lamentation over the City of Ur) from Sumerian legend or the Raven Tales of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Instead, simply including elements of these myths can help a writer tell a story that would appeal to readers who want to escape modern reality for a good hour or two. I’ve already mentioned Percy Jackson and Magnus Chase as two solid examples of stories that use bits of mythology to help direct the plot, but television’s own Hercules: The Legendary Journeys based itself on ancient Greek lore—even if only superficially—to illustrate the fictitious adventures of the legendary Greek hero and his loyal friend Iolaus. Granted, the show has been known to confuse its timeline from time to time, according to Wikipedia, as well as mix in elements of Far Eastern, Egyptian, and Medieval culture as well as the occasional 1990s reference for an occasional gag here or there, but even then, the show was popular enough to run for five seasons from the January of 1995 to the November of 1999. Heck, I could even throw the 2005 BKN International cartoon Legend of the Dragon onto this list on account of how its premise revolved around many elements from Chinese mythology, particularly the twelve animals of the Shēngxiào (Chinese zodiac) and the principles of Yin and Yang, and managed to gain a loyal fanbase in spite of lasting a mere two seasons. Such just goes to show that franchises with this specific theme do have their place in today’s society and can be adaptable enough to tell whatever story the writer has in mind. The only real limit to consider is one’s own imagination.

Will any book series of the 21st century garner a legacy for itself the way Harry Potter has since 1997?

Will any book series of the 21st century garner a legacy for itself the way Harry Potter has since 1997?

8. The “Next Big Thing” in middle grade and/or young adult fantasy.

Many has been the franchise that has captivated younger readers and shown them that reading can be every bit as exciting as watching a TV show or a movie. Then again, when it comes to more recent times, no other literary endeavor has proven this to be true to the extent that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has. Dating as far back as its UK release on June 26, 1997, the saga of this orphaned boy wizard has enjoyed a decade-plus-long lifecycle on bookstore shelves in original releases alone with the seventh and final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, hitting the market initially on July 21, 2007 and having an estimated worldwide sales record of forty-four million copies. Not since have the masses received a new Harry Potter book, and yet, the titular hero’s legacy continues to touch readers, even with so many franchises—including Percy Jackson, Mortal Instruments, the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games series, Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, James Dashner’s Maze Runner quintet, and even Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series—coming to light since its inception. Many of these literary franchises are quite beloved, too, but only a handful of them have even come close to garnering the same level of celebration that Harry Potter has gotten since day one.

All this achievement in mind, that’s still no reason for authors to not try to produce something of equal prestige to Ms. Rowling’s signature series, especially with Writer’s Digest’s Writer’s Handbook 2016 reporting the rise in popularity of juvenile (picture book, middle grade, and young adult) literature (p. 8). According to their reports, Nielsen data shows that juvenile e-book sales since 2004 have grown from twenty-three percent to thirty-seven percent of the total book market with 2014 having the highest reported sales since records began. Juvenile fiction overall, furthermore, grew eight percent since 2009, which further indicates a growing trend towards the popularity of books aimed towards a younger demographic. Hopefully, then, that should make enough room for the next breakout series to emerge in the not-too-distant future, and perhaps that very series from book one onward will garner every bit as much good fortune as Harry Potter did in terms of movies, merchandising, and all-out fan support and become as iconic for our times as Harry has for his.

*****

Well, that should do it for this entry. Sorry it’s been a while since my last article and that I’m particularly late in writing up this one, considering how far into the “new” year we’ve already gotten. I still hope you’ve enjoyed this article nonetheless, and believe me when I say that I do look forward to some new, talented authors coming to the forefront of the literary industry so that they can offer today’s readers some excellent stories that can hold their own with the timeless classics that the masses have come to love and help cleanse our memories of the garbage that has tainted the literary scene. Chances are, too, that by now—as I’ve said before—there’s already at least one story that has used one of the eight ideas I’ve presented here as its basis, and if there is, I’d definitely check it out. If there isn’t…well, then, maybe it’ll be up to me to provide such a work for someone to read. Stranger things have happened, after all.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling for now. I’d like to thank you all for reading this, and as always, be sure to visit my author pages at Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk to see what I have available, and please stay tuned for more content in the near future. Until then, happy reading!

Regards,
Dustin M. Weber

*****

PS: All credit for the pics used in the above article goes to as follows:

After Sunset: Werewolves
https://Rare-Diseases-Conditions.Knoji.com
Imgur.com
IrishComics.Wikia.com
MichaelHyatt.com
CrazyAboutTV.com
PasteMagazine.com
IMDB.com
RetroVideo.com
ComicsBlend.com
Marvel-Movies.Wikia.com
TheComicBookCast.com
BeAGameCharacter.com
ClipArtBest.com
MoveMeQuotes.com
LegendoftheDragon.Wikia.com
Infinite-Loops.Wikia.com

Additionally, cited fact in Section 8 belong to the following source:

Friedman, Jane. “Juvenile Remains Strong Growth Area.” Writer’s Digest Writer’s Yearbook 2016: 8. Print.

The opinions discussed within, however, are the author’s own.

What I’ve Been Working On: Dream Weavers

Happy Thanksgiving, America!

Well, it’s finally done. My manuscript for Dream Weavers is officially complete. Presently, I am searching for the right literary agent to represent it to publishers, but in the meantime, as a special Thanksgiving treat, I’ve reposted the introductory chapter to my novel below for your reading pleasure. Hope you like it!

*****

Well…this was it…the first day of school…

As Tyler eyeballed the single story brick building in front of him and gulped hard, he tried to force himself into thinking that the day would be just like any other first day of school: He’d meet his new teacher, make friends among his new classmates, dive right into whatever lessons were awaiting him, and so forth. Sadly, no matter how much of an effort he made to convince himself that everything would turn out fine, he couldn’t bring himself to accept the fact that this wasn’t the same school he’d come to know since kindergarten. Miles upon miles away was he, in fact, from all the friends he’d made over the past four years, and now he doubted that he’d ever see them again. Worse yet, as he observed the kids who were entering the building, he noticed that they were all white. Well, okay, that wasn’t entirely accurate; there were a few Hispanic students, from what he could tell, as well as the occasional Asian kid here or there. For the most part, however, all the other students were Caucasian, which left Tyler—at least from what he could tell so far—the only child of African descent in the entire school. Great! Just what he needed: one more reason to stick out from everybody else aside from simply being the new kid.

For a while, Tyler could do little else than shake his head sadly and wish that things hadn’t come down to this. If only he could’ve stayed in his old hometown and surrounded himself with the people he’d come to know just for a couple more years until junior high. By that time, he’d have been ready to move on to bigger and better things without any problem. Not now, though—not when he only had two more years of elementary school to finish first. Sadly, it was too late to ask for such things, which left him no choice but to take a deep breath and screw his heels in before heading on into the building, doing everything he could to blend into the crowd of kids who were also entering. Soon enough, he was inside…so far, so good. Now all he had to do was find his homeroom. He was on his way, too, before he heard a voice calling out to him.

“Hey, wait up!”

Tyler turned around to see a small boy around his age with a pale complexion and sandy brown hair hustling toward him. As he watched this new face approach him, he took note of how the kid leaned forward with his massive backpack on his back, making him look like a hunchback of sorts as it seemed to pull him forward via its own free will. Soon enough, though, the boy put on his brakes and stopped short right in front of Tyler, then took a moment to catch his breath before speaking again.

“You’re in Milton’s class, too, right?”

Tyler nodded and asked, “Why? You having a hard time finding her classroom?”

The boy laughed nervously and replied, “No, I’m okay. I’m just trying to make sure I’m going the right way, is all. By the way, the name’s Brad…Brad Posey.”

“Oh! Cool. I’m Tyler.”

Tyler then raised his arm to give Brad a high five, which the smaller boy openly accepted, and the two of them immediately started walking together towards their new classroom—that is to say, of course, Tyler was the one who was actually walking while Brad resumed letting the mass of his backpack propel him forward. Hey, whatever…it was all cool by Tyler’s standards. If nothing else, at least he had someone to talk to on his way to the classroom, and thankfully, Brad was more than willing to chat with him.

“So, Tyler, are you new here?”

Tyler chortled. “How could you tell?” he asked wryly.

“Eh…couldn’t, really. Just trying to start up some small talk, is all. Anyway, I’ve actually been looking forward to school this year, and I can sum it up in two words: science fair.”

Tyler looked over at Brad curiously. “Really?”

“Yep. Every winter, fourth and fifth grades participate in an annual science fair in this district. I know because my dad’s been a science teacher at the local community college for several years now and has been invited to be a judge for many of those years. I’ve got to tell you, too, that I’ve had a great idea for a project that’ll surely rock the judges’ socks off. Even my dad will be impressed.”

“Oh yeah? What is it?”

Brad then stopped in his tracks and swiveled around to face Tyler, nearly smacking a pair of fellow students who were just passing by. Luckily, they were quick enough to step out of the way just as his pack swung around in their direction, and when they spun around and saw Brad standing there and staring back at them with a blank expression on his face, they turned back around and walked off in a huff to wherever they were headed. It was only when they had left that Brad turned back to Tyler and resumed the conversation.

“Dream studies.”

Tyler raised his eyebrows dubiously. “Seriously?” he responded. “I don’t know. Sounds more like a psychology project to me.”

“Hey, psychology’s a science, too, you know,” Brad protested. “Just because it doesn’t involve beakers and test tubes and microscopes and all that doesn’t mean it’s not a science. The human mind is quite a fascinating frontier, after all, and I honestly believe that the more we try to understand it, the more likely we’ll be able to fix much of the garbage that’s going on in society today.”

Sheesh! Talk about getting worked up over something. Then again, Tyler really couldn’t blame the kid for having an interest that he was passionate about, so he decided to tread lightly on the matter from thereon out.
“Sorry,” he apologized. “I didn’t mean—”

“Nah, it’s alright,” Brad interrupted with a sigh. “Most people I know don’t associate psychology with all the other sciences, either—not even the adults. I try not to let it get to me, but…well, it always does to some extent.”

And with that, Brad went back to lurching forward and heading off in the same direction he and Tyler had been going before. As they did, Brad went on about his fascination with psychology, explaining how his mother had helped him become so interested in the subject, how many books he had read and websites he had visited discussing the study of the human mind, and what exactly he had learned from these sources—no doubt a mere fraction of what he’d learned, of course, considering the amount of information he was regurgitating at the moment and the speed at which he was doing so. Tyler honestly tried listening to him, even if only for the sake of being polite, but with so much information coming out of the kid’s mouth at once, it was quite a tough task to do—especially considering the fact that he was also trying hard to pay attention to the room numbers above each doorway that the two of them passed in hopes of locating their new classroom. Eventually, though, he finally came across the number he had been looking for and was just about to head on in when he noticed that Brad was still trucking on down the hallway chatting away with essentially nobody. Before he utterly vanished from site, Tyler called out to him.

“Brad!”

Brad spun around again as he heard his name.

“Our classroom’s right here.”

Brad chuckled once more in embarrassment and came straight back and joined Tyler as the two of them headed on into the classroom together. As they walked in, they met their teacher right off the bat—a tall, willowy, young-looking woman with raven-black hair and a warm smile who welcomed them immediately as they stepped inside the room.

“Well, hello there!” she greeted sweetly. “Welcome to your new classroom. What are your names?”

Tyler gave a quick nod and introduced the two of them. “Hey. I’m Tyler. This is Brad.”

“Oh, that’s right! You’re the new student Principal Brewster had told me about the other day. It’s nice to meet you.”

Tyler couldn’t help but blush at Miss Milton doting on him the way she was at the moment. Hopefully, she wouldn’t be able to tell that he was, however, although Brad was quick to make sure of that once he cleared his throat and caught her attention.

“Not to be rude or anything,” he said, “but what exactly am I, this guy’s trusty sidekick?”

Tyler reared his head back in shock at his new classmate’s apparent need to be so forward, especially towards their teacher and on the first day of school to boot. It didn’t help Brad’s case much, either, that Miss Milton herself was showing just how taken aback she was with the expression on her face and the tone of her voice as she tried to speak again.

“Oh! Um…sorry for ignoring you, Brad,” she said uneasily. “Tell you what, though: Why don’t the two of you have a seat at the last pair of desks at the back of the room?”

The two boys peered on over to where Miss Milton was gesturing and could see for themselves that all the other seats in the classroom had indeed been taken, save for the two desks that were smack dab in the middle of the final row in the very back of the room. Well, Tyler told himself, he and Brad may not have been left with much of a choice, but at least what they were given was better than nothing at all. It was with that in mind, too, that he headed on over to that pair of desks and chose for himself which of the two he would prefer to sit at. As he made his way to the back, he took a gander around him at his classmates, most of whom were too busy reading, writing, chatting away with one another, or double-checking their school supplies to be bothered by his presence. There were a few, on the other hand, who raised their eyes to look upon him as he walked on past, and while he did his best to not worry too much about them, he still couldn’t help but wonder what was going through their minds. Still, he kept his head held high, even as he finally sat down at one of the desks and took a good look at his surroundings…or at least until Brad clumsily smacked him with his backpack as he sat down right next to him.

“Hey! Easy does it!” he cried out.

Brad took a gander over at Tyler. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly.

Tyler then heard some snickering coming from the side of him and, out of little more than instinct, swiveled around in his seat to find out precisely who was laughing at him. As he did, he could see for himself that in the corner of the room sat two boys, one of whom had beady eyes and the bushiest, most unkempt brown hair he’d ever seen in his life. The other boy wasn’t quite as remarkable as the first one, but hey, if nothing else, at least he was somewhat easier on the eyes. Either way, Tyler could feel his gut tell him that these two were bound to be trouble.

“Don’t pay any attention to those two. They make fun of so many other people that even they don’t know why they do it.”

Tyler turned his head in the direction of where the words were coming from and found himself staring directly into the plump-cheeked, Asiatic face of the boy sitting on the other side of him. As he regarded this other classmate of his closely, Tyler readily took note of his smile, which actually seemed rather sincere—not mocking or condescending or anything else of the sort, but quite genuine and amiable. On that note, then, Tyler felt at ease enough to smile back and exchange greetings with him.

“Oh, hey there!” he said as he stuck out his hand. “I’m Tyler.”

“I’m Tommy,” the other boy returned. “Nice to meet you, Tyler.”

Tommy then reached out and shook hands with Tyler, and as he did, Tyler thought, Gee…only my first day here, and already I’ve made two new friends. So far, so good. Speaking of friends, he could feel Brad nudge him across the aisle between their desks and, when he turned to look at him, see him gesture to himself as if to insist for an introduction. At first, Tyler was reluctant to do just that, seeing as how he was so forward with Miss Milton only moments earlier. Then again, he knew that refusing Brad’s request would be downright rude—a blemish upon his school year that he couldn’t afford to bring upon himself in the slightest, especially not at this stage of the game. Therefore, without further ado…

“Tommy,” he said as he turned back around, “I don’t know if you know him, but say hi to Brad here.”

Brad then gave Tommy a short wave and—just as the other boy began to wave back—instantly leaned forward and began to strike up a conversation with him.

“So,” Brad began, “are you a big fan of psychology?”

Tommy chortled with uncertainty. “Um…I guess so. Why?”

Oh, boy…now it’s his turn, Tyler told himself. No sooner had he thought that, too, than Brad started on up with more or less the same spiel about all the things he’d told Tyler about only a minute earlier in the hallway. Great…just what he needed to hear…more discussion about the human mind and Brad’s captivation with how it worked. Not only that, but the fact that he was sitting between the two of them meant that Brad was buzzing in his ear again, only more directly as far as volume went. Tommy, meanwhile, just sat there smiling and nodding for the sake of being polite. Safe as it was to say, then, Tyler could find little else better to do to bide his time other than to let his eyes wander for the time being and take a closer look at each of his classmates, hoping to at least learn each of their faces and pick out more potential friends before class was officially underway. As he did, he just so happened to catch out of the corner of his eye something that he was surprised he hadn’t seen before, for in the very front of the classroom sat a girl who appeared to be of the same background as he was. On top of that, as he noticed her conversing with the lanky blonde girl she was sitting next to, he could tell that she was quite pretty, what with the way she smiled with her pearly white teeth and how her eyes seemed to sparkle as she and the other girl chatted away with one another. Wow! Apparently, Tyler wasn’t the only black student in the entire school as he’d feared after all. Granted, the question still remained as to whether or not this other girl was as friendly as she looked, but hopefully, he’d discover the answer to that question soon enough. Indeed, her presence was enough to make him forget about the two boys who’d been laughing at him before, even if only for the time being. He would have loved to dwell on that little fact for a bit longer, too, except that the first bell of the day at long last rang, and once it did, Miss Milton stood up at the front of the room as if on cue and called for the attention of the entire class.

“Okay, everyone! Settle down and give me your attention, please.”

All the students in the room promptly quieted down and looked forward towards the front of the room as per Miss Milton’s instructions—everyone, that is, except for the two boys from earlier, who remained blissfully ignorant of what was going on and kept joking with one another as they clearly had been before. Miss Milton was quick to take note of them, however, and tried once more to quiet them down.

“Hey, fellas,” she said, “time for talking’s over. I need your attention up here, please.”

The two boys stopped talking at last and reluctantly turned their attention up front along with everyone else, but not without showing their disgust. Once they did, Miss Milton made sure to thank them before continuing with her introduction.

“Thank you,” she said simply before clapping her hands and addressing her class as a whole. “Well, then, how is everyone this fine first day of school?”

The students responded in unison in a mishmash of answers—some enthusiastic, others calmer and more reserved. Regardless of how each particular student felt, however, it seemed as though Miss Milton was impressed with the response she was getting, so she felt no need to stop right then and there with her speech.

“Alright! Glad to hear it. I’m looking forward to this year as well, but before we get into that, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Miss Milton, and I’ve been teaching at this school for a solid five years now, so…”

A number of the students actually began applauding their teacher once she said this as if it were that grand an accomplishment, which took Tyler aback somewhat. All the same, he didn’t want to stick out from the crowd any more than he already did, so he decided to join in with them. Miss Milton seemed grateful to receive such applause, too, judging from how she was smiling and nodding in reaction to it even as it died down.

“Thank you!” she repeated. “I really appreciate that. To tell you all the truth, though, I’m actually interested in finding out more about each and every one of you, so I’ll tell you how we’re going to go about doing just that.”
She then briskly walked on over to her desk and picked up her clipboard and a black pen and began reading from the attendance sheet before her.

“Okay, now,” she instructed, “as soon as you hear your name, please stand up from your desk and tell us a little something about yourself, starting with…Joyce Anderson.”

The lanky blonde girl who’d been sitting in the very front of the room bolted up from her seat almost as if she’d just sat on a tack and immediately began telling the class all about herself.

“Hey, everyone!” she greeted enthusiastically. “My name is Joyce Anderson. My family and I’d just gotten back from our summer vacation up in Nova Scotia, which I can’t wait to talk about because of how a-maze-ing it was! Aside from that, I’m big into basketball and dancing, I’m currently involved in the park district’s cheerleading program, I love—love—all kinds of animals, and I’m definitely looking forward to this year of school because…well…I just have a good feeling about it. Simple as that.”

Joyce then sat back down with a broad smile on her face and the rest of the classroom—Tyler included—staring back at her blankly as they tried to absorb her exuberance. Miss Milton wasn’t quite as perplexed, however, and readily smiled back at her after hearing her response.

“Thank you, Joyce!” she replied. “I’m definitely looking forward to having you in my class this year as well—especially considering just how much energy you have.”

Joyce shrugged. “It’s a gift,” she said simply.

Some gift, Tyler said in his head, trying his best not to be too judgmental of this new classmate of his. She didn’t seem like too bad a girl, really, but truth be told, he wasn’t too sure if he could ever warm up to someone so…well…bubbly, for lack of a better word. At any rate, Miss Milton kept reading down her attendance list and called out the name of the next student.

“Roberta Andrews.”

Ah…Andrews, huh? Well, if nothing else, that was one more name beginning with “A,” which gave Tyler time enough to wrack his brain in hopes of figuring out just what he was going to say. Then again, it didn’t exactly hurt that he had the luxury to sit back and listen to at least a couple more classmates tell the rest of the class who they were and what they were about. For the time being, then, he could take it easy for a moment and begin to feel at ease with his peers until Miss Milton inevitably called his name after the third or fourth student had given his quick little self-narrative.

“Tyler Booth.”

Tyler paused for a second and took a deep breath. Just be yourself, Tyler, he told himself. That’s all anyone can ask of you. Brimming with gumption, he stood up from his desk, cleared his throat, and prepared to let everyone know just who he was.

“Hey, everyone,” he began. “I’m Tyler. My dad and I just moved into town not too long ago so that he could be closer to the place where he works. As for me personally, I’m pretty big into writing and reading, and I’m also pretty good at playing sports of all kinds.”

Miss Milton nodded pleasantly. “Interesting,” she remarked. “Is there anything in particular that you like to write about or any particular sport you prefer playing?”

Tyler shrugged. “Anything that comes to mind, more or less,” he answered plainly yet honestly. “A poem here, a short story there. Nothing too fancy. Same thing with sports. I don’t really have a favorite. I just like going outside and getting some exercise.”

“I see. I also understand that your father has quite an interesting job. Would you like to tell the class what your dad does for a living?”

Tyler was quiet for a moment or two, then answered, “He’s a toy designer for Blue Rex Toys.”

The class murmured upon hearing this, and as he regarded his classmates, Tyler could see for himself that some of them were genuinely impressed with what he had just shared with them. This included Joyce and, more importantly, the girl who’d been sitting next to her, both of whom shifted their attention between each other and him as if to silently muse with one another over the fact that they were attending the same school as the son of a toy designer who was working for one of the nation’s biggest toy manufacturers. Indeed, it was hard for him to deny how great it felt to see the other girl beam at him with her pearly white smile, and maybe it was just his imagination, but did he perchance see a sparkle in her eyes as she looked at him? Well, whatever the case, it was nice to see that he had caught her attention in a good way. Unfortunately, not everyone in the classroom was so impressed to know Tyler’s father’s profession, judging from the extra-loud snicker he heard from the opposite front corner of the room. Against his better judgment, he turned his attention in that direction and saw that the two boys from earlier were cracking up, much to his chagrin. He could feel the blood rush to his cheeks, too, as he heard them snorting like a couple of pigs mocking him for little more than honestly answering a question that he’d been asked. Rude as they were, though, he decided instead to simply keep his disgust to himself and carry talking to the rest of the class…assuming, of course, that there was any chance of the duo doing him a favor of simply shutting up and blending in with the others, which sadly didn’t seem to be the case.

“Blue Rex, huh?” the bushy-haired one repeated. “You’ve got to be joking. That company hasn’t put out a top toy line in years.”

Tyler scoffed. “What are you talking about?” he refuted. “Blue Rex has made plenty of top-selling toys: Super Duper Squirters, Karaoke Kids, Lullaby Critters…”

Pbth!” the second kid interjected. “Whoopee stinking do! All little kid stuff. You’d think that with a name like ‘Blue Rex,’ that stupid toy company would come up with at least one decent action figure lineup.”

“Action figures? You mean like the Justice Juniors?”

Again, the duo laughed him off, making Tyler feel all the more ill at ease with himself with every second that passed. Luckily, none of the other students felt like joining in on their little two-man bash fest against him, but that still wasn’t enough to keep him from wanting to hide his face in shame. He knew he had to stay strong, however, and as such kept his chin up to show everyone that their insults didn’t hurt him as much as they actually did, even if only out of fear of offering them more ammunition with which to snipe him.

“Man, please!” the bushy-haired kid cracked. “The Justice Juniors are for little kids, too—just a bunch of kiddified Sentai Saviors who fight monsters who aren’t even scary enough for Sesame Street. Honestly, if your old man’s company ever wants to be taken seriously, they’ve got to stop selling out to the twerps and start making stuff for the rest of us.”

“Alright, that’s enough,” Miss Milton scolded as she finally decided to step in. “I don’t know what your name is, young man, but—”

“It’s Randy, Miss Milton. Randy Voight,” the boy interrupted. He then gestured to the other boy and added, “This here is my buddy Scott Salnave, in case you’re wondering.”

Miss Milton sighed with exasperation. “Very well, then, Randy. What I expect of both you and Scott right now is to quiet down and show a little respect towards Tyler. It’s his turn to speak, after all. You’ll have your turn soon enough.”

“Hey, we’re not saying anything bad about him, Miss Milton,” Scott chimed in to say. “We’re just talking about the company his dad works for.”

“Even so, Scott, you and Randy both need to keep your opinions to yourselves. You don’t like Blue Rex toys? Fine. That’s your preference. Nobody else needs to hear about it, though—at least not in the tone of voice you are both using. I hope, then, that you two will show a little bit of respect while the rest of us find out more about Tyler. Is that understood?”

Neither boy bothered to answer Miss Milton and instead chose to look away with sullen dejection—not exactly the reaction that the teacher was surely hoping to receive, Tyler presumed, but if it meant that they would be quiet all the same, then so be it. At any rate, as Tyler started gaining back a little confidence in himself, Joyce raised her hand.

“Yes, Joyce?” Miss Milton responded.

Joyce lowered her hand and asked, “So, Tyler, how often does your dad give you the opportunity to test the final product for any of the toys he’s designed?”

“Oh, pretty often,” Tyler answered. “Mostly, he gives me a good look at the final designs of the action figures and some of the more creative toys he comes up with. Same with some of the outdoor toys, too. Basically, he runs the idea of most of his stuff by me, and if I like the design and think there’s a cool idea behind what he’s making, I give it an a-okay.”

“Oh, yeah?” Scott piped back up to say. “What about the dolls? Does your old man let you playtest those as well?”

He and Randy then started laughing all over again, leaving Tyler standing there blushing—and breathing—harder than before. At first, he felt as though he was about to vomit, and for a moment, so did Tommy and Brad, who both stood up to hold him by his shoulders and console him right then and there. Thankfully, Miss Milton stepped in again to take control of the situation.

“Alright you two, that is it!” she snapped. “One more insult out of either of you, and it’ll be a trip to the principal’s office. Now, don’t say another word.”

The boys hushed up immediately once more, not bothering to peer around them at the slew of irritated faces that were glaring at them or offer an apology for their disruptive behavior. An unsettling silence then took over the room for quite some time as all eyes fell upon Randy and Scott until Miss Milton spoke up again to take control of the situation.

“Thank you, Tyler. You may be seated.”

Tyler immediately thanked Miss Milton with a nod and sat back down, and though Brad and Tommy both tried to comfort him, he still couldn’t get over how embarrassed he was to have already been on the receiving end of two of his classmates’ bad attitudes. He did what he could to remind himself that Randy and Scott were only two out an entire classroom of twenty to thirty students, himself included, and that not every last one of his classmates were as rude and as rotten as they were. Brad and Tommy were certainly easy enough to get along with, that was for sure, but even they weren’t enough to help him take his mind off the other two boys. In fact, even as he sat as his desk, he allowed his eyes to wander on over to those two and stared at them distrustfully, wondering to himself just exactly what they got out of making fun of him. After a while, though, he eventually shook his head and gave up on the matter. Really, though, what was the point? The fact stood either way that Randy and Scott were trouble, period, and the less time he had to spend dealing with them, the better. After all, he had other things to concern himself with this year, and so long as those two kept their distance well enough, Tyler knew he could put his best foot forward and make the most out of his current situation. All he really needed was a chance to prove to himself and everyone else that he had just as much a place at this new school of his as anyone else.

*****

Well, there you have it, folks—the first chapter to my latest novel. Any feedback you folks may have for what you’ve read here is welcome, and in the meantime, wish me luck for the right agent to come along and be willing to represent it to the right publisher. otherwise, thanks again for stopping by, and as always, happy reading!

Regards,
Dustin M. Weber

Author Pages: Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk