Posted in Book Reviews (updating), writing

Jezzie “Badass” Flanagan is Useless: Along Came A Spider Flops Hardcore

We’re back with another installment of “I read Along Came A Spider so You Never Have to” because we’ve hit a major character arc: Jezzie Flanagan is useless.

What’s Going On Now?

It hasn’t been too long since page 161 (I’m on page 198) but in the world of James Patterson, things move quickly, and that might be why he sells so many books: people have short attention spans and like things that move beyond the speed of ‘story.’

Like what I did there? “Beyond the speed of story.” Yes, I also enjoy my genius.

So how has the plot moved forward? Well, we get a cringeworthy scene that goes like this: “To top it off, the temperature was about three degrees with the windchill. It was sleeting. The streets and sidewalks were covered with icy slush. A couple of times we joined the street people warming themselves over their garbage can fires. ‘You motherfuckin’ cops always cold, even in the summer,’ one of the young fucks said to us. Both Sampson and I laughed.”

Dear God. My skin shriveled.

While the cops were scouring the town for any information people would have on Gary, they stopped to warm themselves at a garbage can with some homeless people? And one of them just said some weird, rude shit? And then they laughed? It’s not believable. What is believable is that Patterson wrote it as a filler buster.

We get more information about Sampson. Now on page 162, we learn that Alex Cross thinks “it’s weird how well I know his every move. He’s (Sampson) been dusting his glasses like that since he was twelve. Through rain or sleet or snow.”

Who cares?

Patterson is full of these little irrelevant details that are meant to be characterizations of his protagonists but instead they just come off as some sloppy bullshit he threw in last minute as an attempt to bring them to life. It leaves them dead.

Anyway, Sampson and Cross run into an old woman who gives them a tip on old Gary, and they follow Gary to Wilmington, Delaware, where Gary is busy throwing a birthday party for his daughter Roni, with his wife Missy. Gary was absolutely miserable but played it off well and then “…had a reoccurring fantasy–he murdered everyone attending a child’s birthday party. A birthday party–or maybe a children’s Easter egg hunt. That made him feel a little better.”

That’s the end of chapter 36. It’s like Patterson is attempting to create an edgy, dark character and instead created some emo kid from 2001. Which, I suppose, would be ahead of its time, because this book was written in 1993.

Gary evades the police because he overheard a little boy at the party say they saw a routine policeman drive by. While Gary enjoyed the thrill of the chase, the police spoke with Missy who informed them that ‘Gary could easily have his Ph.D in math’ because that’s the only way to prove you’re smart.

Once they leave, return the hotel, we get this riveting paragraph about “the team”: “We were tired and frustrated after the near-miss with Gary Sonja/Murphy. We drank a lot of hard liquor in a short time. Actually, we got along well. ‘The team.’ We got loud, played liars poker, raised some hell in the tony Delaware Room that night. Sampson talked to Jezzie Flanagan for a while. He thought she was a good cop too.”

We get no indication of why Jezzie Flanagan is a good cop.

And then, the big reveal: Jezzie and Alex Cross kiss in the hallway.

Why?

WHO KNOWS.

Who knows what makes Jezzie so attractive to Alex. It would be nice if we, the readers, could get some semblance of an explanation for why these two would end up together, but this is literally only the second time Jezzie has had a block of quotes or even a decent scene. We know nothing about her, only that she’s also a cop with a unique spelling of her name so that must mean she’s someone important. What is Jezzie to Along Came A Spider? A love interest. And there’s nothing I hate more than a woman in a story just to be someone’s piece of ass.

Women characters can be huge assets. They can push along a plot with their compassion or their toughness. They can be very strong characters who deal with the world on their shoulders. They can get away with being masculine and feminine and work well as a surprise accomplice. Women characters are vital. They don’t have to be there just as a sex toy for the male characters. I feel bad for Jezzie Flanagan. She’s got a bad part to play.

Gary goes crazy in a McDonalds, shoots some guy in the head, shoots a cop, and Alex Cross dives in front of a sniper to save Gary’s life so they could learn more about Maggie Rose Dunn.

I summed up ten pages in one sentence so you don’t have to.

I’m reading this book for you all. Not for enjoyment at this point. Please, I implore you, hit the like button. I’m basically torturing myself for you guys.

Until next time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on instagram @alilivesagain

Posted in advocacy, Freedom, science, writing

Why We Need To Stop Cancelling Artists

Consider this a longread.

I’m not one to talk political at people, and this will not be a political piece. However, there is something that deeply perturbs me about silencing artists. We’ll talk about two today who have received heaping amounts of backlash for commentary they’ve made on a very touchy subject: LGBTQ+ rights.

Let me start off by making my views clear. I absolutely love LGBTQ+ people. I absolutely believe they deserve all the same rights we have as cis gendered people. I believe in gay marriage, I support Trans-rights, and particularly am in love with unisex bathrooms (because we all do the same thing, why are we so separated anyway?). What I don’t understand (and please, feel free to clarify for me in the comments) is why there is an argument over biological sex. Sex is indeed something we’re born into, but as you learn in undergraduate biological psychology, often times the brain can develop more feminine in a male-oriented body or develop more male in a female-oriented body. There are indeed hormones that are more specific to each sex.

This does not make things black and white, however. This means there is indeed a spectrum of gender identity. What this does not mean is that if you “feel kind of boyish” one day and you “feel kind of girlish” the other day, that you are gender non-binary. We all feel kind of feminine and/or masculine depending on who we are around, where we live, and what day it is in our hormonal cycle (because yes, men have them too).

What does any of this have to do with artists?

Well, let’s look at an example.

Dave Chappelle

Source: Daily Hawker

I was talking with a friend some weeks ago and when I mentioned the comedian, she said “oh, didn’t he say something transphobic or whatever?” and I said “I doubt it.” So I watched The Closer. And low and behold, I was absolutely right. Let me tell you what he DID say.

The beginning of his expression about trans rights and activism, he said specifically that he was for trans rights. Now, this doesn’t make someone ABSOLUTELY for trans rights, hell, anyone can say it. But I listened more closely. One of his first points in The Closer was that the LGBTQ+ movement has moved much faster than the civil rights movement. Things are gettin’ done. Fast.

Yes, trans people are still attacked. Yes, gay people are still attacked. Yes, there is still a humungous stigma against those who experience gender dysphoria. Yes, it shouldn’t be like that.

But things are moving forward. Commercials about LGBTQ+ rights are there. People are celebrating life and celebrating those in their life who are apart of that group. It’s a beautiful thing, it really is. But Chappelle made a striking, obvious, and brutal point: “gay people are minorities until they need to be white again.”

Now, that’s not attacking gay people. What that’s saying is that people who are gay (or any of the LGBTQ+) and who are white, still have a privilege and advantage over those of us who are heavily pigmented. Hell, even I have privilege, because I am mixed race and lighter than my father, who is a very dark black. I can admit that. Why can’t some people of the LGBTQ+ community?

One of his more controversial sayings, which I felt uncomfortable about too until I thought about what he said was: “DaBaby shot and killed a [man] in Walmart in North Carolina. Nothing bad happened to his career. Do you see where I’m going with this? In our country, you can shoot and kill a [man] but you better not hurt a gay person’s feelings.”

This one is hard. But what he’s saying is clear. Careers, particularly artists like him who are in the eye of the public, are being slandered for saying things like biological sex exists. And it does. You can be born and man, you can be born a woman. No one is telling you that you have to stay as a man or as a woman gender-wise. It’s simply saying when you are born, you either have a penis, a vagina, or a combination therein. Nothing can change that as a fact.

Where Chappelle made a mistake is saying “gender is a fact.” Gender is more fluid, it’s on that spectrum, chemically and mentally, as we all learn now in undergraduate study (if you didn’t learn that, you’re learning it now). Sex is biological, and tied to your hormones, which, whether you like it or not, are still divided: men will have more testosterone than women, and women will have more estrogen than men. Nothing will change that as a fact either. If this wasn’t the case, trans people wouldn’t need hormones to grow into who they really are.

What I really liked, though, was what he said at the end: “Go back, go back tonight, after the show . . . I said, ‘how much do I have to participate in your self-image?’ I said, ‘you shouldn’t discuss this in front of black people,’ I know n**as in Brooklyn who wear high heels just to feel safe.’ I asked you why is it easier for Bruce Jenner to change his gender than it is for Cassius Clay to change his name?”

It’s the last line that seals it for me.

This has never been a tirade against trans people or trans rights or LGBTQ+ rights, it’s been about who gets the most privilege. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. It’s a very well known fact that the experiences of a black trans woman will be much different from a white trans woman. Chappelle points out the imbalance in justice in The Closer. It has absolutely nothing to do with trans rights.

You know who does have to do with trans rights, though?

J.K Rowling

Source: Hawtcelebs

Infamous Harry Potter author.

She liked some tweets by someone who supposedly said something transphobic. If that supposed transphobic thing was “biological sex exists” I’m going to blow my lid.

I’ll admit that I don’t know what tweets Rowling liked because I’m rarely on Twitter and this happened a few years ago. I do know that Rowling having a cross dressing murderer in her book Troubled Blood (which I have) does not mean she is saying trans people are dangerous. Cross-dressing doesn’t even mean someone is trans. Hell, I love wearing dude sweats with a wife beater tank. I cross-dress. I’m not trans.

Now that we got that out of the way.

Rowling wrote an article on all of the allegations against her, and a few quotes stuck out to me, one of which I do indeed have a minor problem with.

One thing she points out is: “The argument of many current trans activists is that if you don’t let a gender dysphoric teenager transition, they will kill themselves. In an article explaining why he resigned from the Tavistock (an NHS gender clinic in England), psychiatrist Marcus Evans stated that ‘claims that children will kill themselves if not permitted to transition do not align substantially with any robust data or studies in this tea. Nor do they align with the cases I have encountered over decades as a psychotherapist.’ “

In fact, one big topic in the trans community that isn’t talked about enough, and which J.K Rowling mentions in this article, is that people DO de-transition. They are silenced, they are rarely lifted up by the trans community, and that to me is disrespectful and hurtful. There are people who transitioned too early and saw it as a mistake. There are people who were confused on what it actually meant to have gender dysphoria, and thought that because they liked boy toys and played with boys as a kid, that they were actually a man. This sometimes does irreversible harm to the body: some women never get their voice back and testosterone permanently alters their physical form. Now, I am not a conservative and I rarely agree with everything YouTuber Blaire White says, but in this video she invites a de-transitioner on her channel and hearing that story made me research this topic on my own. Take a listen.

What Rowling seems to be afraid of is people taking advantage of the system. She says at one point that “the current explosion of trans activism is urging a removal of almost all the robust systems through which candidates for sex reassignment were once required to pass. A man who intends to have no surgery and take no hormones may not secure himself a Gender Recognition Certificate and be a woman in the sight of the law.”

What I think people THINK she is saying is that people who don’t take hormones or surgery aren’t real trans men or women. She is not saying that. She is saying you can walk up into court, put on a dress as a man, say “I’m a woman” and have a lawful certificate prove it. What Rowling worries about, as a survivor of sexual assault, is sick men praying on vulnerable women.

Now, as someone who has worked for 5+ years as a peer counselor, I will tell you worldview is the first thing we look at and what I hear is a woman who is terrified of something that may never happen because of what has happened to her. I hear a woman who still remembers what it felt like to have a man overpower her, and I hear and understand her worries for other women and children. However, I also believe there are many good men in this world, and most won’t enter a bathroom with the legal guise of a woman to molest or assault a child/woman. Rowling’s comments aren’t coming from a place of hatred, they’re coming from a skewed worldview.

She says: “I believe the majority of trans-identified people not only pose zero threat to others, but are vulnerable for all the reasons I’ve outlined. Trans people need and deserve protection. Like women, they’re most likely to be killed by sexual partners. Trans women who work in the sex industry, particularly trans women of color, are at particular risk. Like every other domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor I know, I feel nothing but empathy and solidarity with trans women who’ve been abused by men.”

This is the quote I had an issue with. For one she said “like women”, as if trans women aren’t women. They are indeed, neurologically, women. Their brans have developed with more feminine hormones and structure, so they are women. Let’s just get that out of the way.

But also, most of her article is so focused on the abuse by men, the overpowering by men, the this by men, the that by men, that it almost comes off like she despises or maybe fears them still. This has absolutely nothing to do with trans women or men. It has to do with Rowling and her own inner demons.

If you’re curious of her full article, click here.

Conclusion

And so we see that when someone is called out for being “transphobic”, we really need to dive into what’s being said and what it means. Saying that biological sex exists is not transphobic. Choosing not to date someone who is transgender is not transphobic. It’s hurtful and discriminatory, but it’s not transphobic. I could choose not to date someone because they’re short. It’s discriminatory but it’s not because I hate short people, it’s because I’m not comfortable with it. And that’s my personal preference and people are allowed to have that when choosing their mates (for the record, my boyfriend is shorter than I am and we get along just fine.) Comparing the injustice against people of color to the quick moving, and quite successful LGBTQ+ movement isn’t transphobic. Being afraid of sexual assault, even when it is based on personal past trauma, has nothing to do with trans rights and therefore is not transphobic.

Saying “I hate trans people” is transphobic.

Hurting someone because they are trans is transphobic.

Refusing service because someone is trans is transphobic.

And last but not least:

Artists are the voice of our generations. They point out things to us that maybe we don’t always see. They speak words that are controversial. They bring in their perspective and yes, sometimes that perspective is based on anger or jealousy or past trauma. They are human.

The day you can’t handle someone else’s opinion is the day you need to get off the internet.

I wish I was famous enough to get cancelled for this article.

Until next time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain.

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

I’m Reading Along Came A Spider So You Never Have To (With Bad Drawings)

Much like we did with Hollow Kingdom, I’ve decided that since I’m only a quarter of the way through James Patternson’s Along Came A Spider, I would share my reading journey with you all. It seemed to work well last time, and I enjoy everyone following along and reading the book with me, essentially. If you haven’t read some of my Hollow Kingdom reviews, please go ahead and give them a look here and here. Warning: there ARE spoilers!

Before we get into this, let’s remember who James Patternson is. I’m sure you’ve seen commercials with this jolly dudes face on it:

Courtesy of Business Insider

He sells more books, according to that linked business insider article, than J.K Rowling or Stephan King. I don’t know how true that holds today, and I’m not going to waste my time reading that article, but if any of you are interested, please come back and let me know what his secret is.

Because his writing infuriates me.

Let’s get started.

Characters

In Along Came A Spider, we’re introduced to Sampson and Alex Cross, the latter being the deputy chief of detectives and also the narrating protagonist. The book opens with them on a case in “the hood.”

Do you see where this is going.

Now, being an African American woman, I have no issue with a white man writing a black character. I have issue with that character having stereotypical actions as part of their repertoire, or around them (like Alex’s daughter calling him “Big Daddy”) or using mannerisms that you wouldn’t normally see in the black community. The real problem with Alex is that he has absolutely no personality. He’s a flat character. There’s no depth. There’s no dimension. He’s just narrating the story. He’s telling what happened. And this is how this book is written.

We get shoddy descriptions of him like “Sampson and I are both physical. We work out at the gym attached to St. Anthony’s–St A’s. Together, we weigh about five hundred pounds. We can intimidate, if we want to. Sometimes it’s necessary in our line of work.”

Flat.

“I couldn’t help grieving as I looked down at the little boy, his sad, lifeless eyes staring up at me. Everything was very noisy inside my head.”

My head and the noise

Flatter.

Considering this book is written with Alex Cross in first person, you’d think we get a little more of a glimpse of what “noisy” means for him. What does “grieving” mean for him? We get a better description of the dead boy than we do of Alex’s reaction; at least we know his eyes are sad and lifeless.

Then we get this weird description of Sampson: “We walked along, goofing on the situation and on each other. Sampson rapped lyrics from pop songs, something he does a lot.”

Really? Really Patternson? Does he do it a lot? Because we’re 161 pages in at that line and we haven’t heard Sampson rap one fucking line. So does he do it a lot or just when you have nothing better to say?

Then, we’re introduced to Jezzie Flanagan and we just know she’s a bad ass because her name is spelled uniquely and she rides a motorcycle or something.

We don’t get much of personality for her either. She’s kind of just there. She gets great descriptive sentences like “it was a neat little scene to watch.”

Maggie Rose Dunne and Michael Goldberg are two uppity children of political officials and famous persons and go to a fancy private school in some part of Washington D.C. What I like about the children characters is that they fit Patternson’s writing style much better. They don’t need tons of descriptors or beautiful prose or fancy words–because they’re children and most likely don’t know them. He writes through their eyes and that works for the most part.

Then we meet Mr Gary. Mr. Gary is at first a teacher at the private school Maggie and Michael attend, and then he’s their kidnapper and murderer. He comes off sort of childish too, in the way he explains his obsession with the Lindberg kidnapping and his own dirty deeds. Perhaps that’s Patternson’s point: this is a shattered, sick little man who doesn’t have the development of a stable adult. But we’ll never know.

So, what we’ve got are a couple of children, a flat detective, a badass who hasn’t yet gotten to show how badass she is, and a murderer obsessed with fame.

Plot

Sampson and Cross are pulled from their initial murder case (the little black boy with the sad, lifeless eyes) and put on the case of the kidnapped rich, white children, which is brought up as an issue in the book, as it should be. The setting is placed in Washington D.C. in 1992, so although not a heavily racist era, still an era where race played a major role and people weren’t as “woke” as they are now. People didn’t have cell phones to record racist cops or racist shooters and there certainly wasn’t social media around to narrate racist experiences to the world. So, the little black boy with the sad little eyes had to go without so the little white children could be saved.

Spoiler Alert: they don’t save the white children either.

Mr. Gary kidnaps Maggie Rose and Michael Goldberg with the intention of becoming one of the most famous criminals. He’s killed multiple people, assumed multiple identities, and Patternson totally stole this idea from me (insert laugh here) and I’m outraged. Gary drugs the children and brings them to a shack where he tosses them in the shed. Michael dies because he has a heart condition and too much of the medicine was administered, but Maggie wakes up and starts screaming. I haven’t yet learned how she died.

Then we get a nice little scene around page 141, Chapter 29, of Gary home with his wife Missy and daughter Roni. Apparently he has both of those things. He is constantly fantasizing about killing them all, including his wife’s brother, in front of each other. We get a nice description of “he imagined beating Marty to death with his snow shovel, actually murdering Kasajian [Marty] in front of Missy and Roni. Show them who the man of the house really was.”

Marty’s Unique Death, P.G Version

What we learn about Gary through the transposition of the plot is that he’s quite the cliche murderer. He wants to kill everyone in sight, never get caught until he wants to get caught, and be one of the most famous bastards in history. Because that’ll show them who the man of the world really is.

It’s boring. We get tons of murderers like that in every crime novel. Can’t we come up with something more creative than the need for fame and the lust over murder?

Mr. Gary also wanted a ransom for the children. The families agreed to a hand off, and Alex Cross was taken handcuffed on a plane with a suitcase full of money by some contact of Gary’s. The contact got away and Alex was left handcuffed to the seat of the private jet. I don’t know man, it sounds like it should be exciting, but it really wasn’t. I glazed over it.

Now that the children are both dead, the media and families are blaming Alex Cross for having ruined the pick up and letting the killer get away. Alex and Sampson get put back on the case of the little black boy with the sad eyes only to discover one of Maggie Rose’s shoes at the crime scene of another murder in the hood.

The connection there, of course, is that Gary is killing everybody. That’s what he does. He’s showin’ them who’s boss, ain’t he?

Conclusion

162 pages in and I’m having trouble getting through the other 273. That’s my conclusion. I have nothing else to say.

Do you like James Patternson? How does he compare to Stephen King, another author who can vomit three or four books in a month? Have you read a book by Patternson that you think I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) rip apart?

I can say I would prefer to re-read Hollow Kingdom than read Along Came A Spider. At least in Hollow Kingdom I was entertained.

Until next time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain.

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), writing

Hello New Followers

I haven’t been active on this account for a couple months because life got in the way. University has started up and I absolutely abhor my major. I’m working to fix this. I have went back to work as well, almost full time, after taking a year off. Things are moving forward, but not quite in the direction I want.

Luckily, all of this terrible, no good, very bad depression has lent for a great opportunity to read. What better way to combat your depression than by escaping into another world?

I have started reading books by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, a wonderful Spanish author who has sadly passed away from cancer. He’s left behind his brilliant magical realistic pieces for book lovers everywhere. I’ll be reviewing The Angels’ Game, The Shadow of the Wind, Labyrinth of the Spirits, and Prisoner of Heaven when I finish the latter two.

I also decided to pick up a book by James Patternson because I read Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner and was obsessed with its hilarity. It wasn’t written well (in terms of falling prey to”cliche characteritis”), but compared to Along Came a Spider by James Patternson, it might as well be considered a masterpiece. More on this later.

I wanted to come on here and update everyone considering I’ve upped in followers in the last few months.

Is there any book you all suggest I read? Either to rip it apart (critically and analytically and sometimes hilariously) or to praise it? Pop your suggestions in the comments below.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), writing

Hollow Kingdom: Final Review

It’s been a long journey from Dennis and S.T.’s house with Big Jim, to Kraai the crow, Migisi the eagle, The One Who Conquers, The Weavers, and The One Who Keeps. The world Kira Jane Buxton creates, at first glance of the back cover, feels magical, grotesque, intriguing. The characters introduced in the first few chapters: Genghis Cat, Winnie the Poodle, and those throughout, like the Humpback whales and a pack of wolves, are filled with personality and never really heard from again. There are so many unsatisfying things about this book, I’m not sure I can fit them in this one post. But I’ll try.

I’ve said before the plot is ingenious: a crow tells the story of how humankind fell. We learn about Aura, the way creatures of the Earth communicate with one another, and we learn how each of them sees humans, from S.T’s fantastical obsession with the resourcefulness of humans (or MoFo’s) to the murder of crow’s less than tasteful view of humans (or Hollows). It’s obvious that Buxton appreciates, loves, and admires animals. It’s a shame she can’t write.

But first, let’s talk about the GOOD things about Hollow Kingdom.

The Good

There are moments Buxton can actually write. The way she describes action–the crows attacking or getting away from danger–is quite realistic. She has a knack for metaphors. Each chapter is riddled with them (we’ll talk about that later), things like “Looking for signs of twisted limbs, hungry vermillion eyes, and neck bones with no rules,” or “Then it flattened its ears to its head and expelled a roar, a roar that tore through the bones of the building . . .” They are great for creating feeling and some are powerful imagery. 

She’s also created a character. I wouldn’t consider S.T likable, but I wouldn’t consider him generic either. He has his own personality, and that personality just happens to harbor extremely cheesy catch phrases and a disturbing sense of loyalty to humanity. He is quite dedicated to first curing humanity and then to keeping Dennis alive and then to carrying out his life as a crow. His big character arc is finally realizing that he is indeed a crow with MoFo mannerisms, not a Mofo in a crow body. What should be a big turning point for S.T. is kind of washed away behind the reason humanity fell. 

Unlike some commenters on Goodreads, I actually enjoyed the toast to nature. The trees, the animals, everything connected and communicating on their own wavelengths (Aura) sounds divine and certainly out of the range of abilities for humans; we’re quite incapable of communicating well, if 2020 has shown us anything. I think where Buxton falls short is the presentation of Aura. 

Which brings us to:

The Bad

Let’s start with how overwritten this book is. The metaphors. They’re great every once in a while, but when every page is riddled with at least ten or fifteen “pendulous trucks” and elephants that “smelled like churned soil and freedom” and an “ancient song of sorrow that the evergreens shook from their leaves” and “calling on the ocean with our breath,” it gets a little tedious. While those are all great descriptions, don’t get me wrong, imagine 304 pages of that, consistently, partnered with lines like “crumble-cheese turd burger” or “yard demolishing fuck trolls” or “pubic badger” or “you could have heard a dust mite queef in there” or “fuck off, you douche flute” or “butt-splosion of information” or “cheese cups, ass clubs” or “scrotum-sanitizing mouth” or any of the other cheesy lines that permeate this book. It reminds me of first-time writer workshop attendees who know that adjectives and metaphors and similes can often carry semi-good writing, so their pieces becomes soggy with figurative language. 

Let’s talk about nictitating membranes, too. I’m fully aware that they are the part of birds that kind of slick across the eyeball in a blinking fashion. I’m also fully aware that Buxton personified a crow who doesn’t really see himself as a crow, so why would he regard his blinking as nictitating membranes licking his eyes or “make [his] nictitating membranes shut out the world momentarily?” Why can’t he just blink? 

We’re also introduced to side characters like Genghis cat, Winnie the Poodle, A fairy Pitta, a polar bear, a spruce tree, an armadillo, a highland cow, a camel, an elephant, a humpback whale and a pack of wolves. We get a conclusion, sort of, on Genghis cat and Winnie the Poodle and the polar bear who is the last bear on the ice. In the beginning of the book it was whimsical, and I looked forward to hearing the view of the world through just a few side characters continuously, but that never happened and they sort of came out of nowhere throughout the book, breaking up the flow of the story. We get short bursts of personalities, but it doesn’t really add much to the plot, other than Genghis cat joining up with the Orangutan(aka The One Who Opens Doors). Winnie the Poodle dying only symbolizes there’s no humans left to help the domestic animals, and we already knew that. 

What happened to the humans, after all? Well, we get some insight on that from Ghubari. He says, and prepare yourself, “it was a virus.” Not like AIDS or Ebola, but “mans creation” from “the internet.” He continues with, “. . . it started with the addiction. Technology was an intangible seductress, a siren calling for ships to meet her jagged rocks. It was a virus that spread through the systems, through the network, chips, watches, phones, tablets. Through eyes, skin, and synapses.” 

So something within the technology seeped into the skin and changed everyone into Cassowaries and giant spiders. 

I’m not kidding. 

Buxton doesn’t refer to The Hideous Ones as Cassowaries, but they’re described as humans who now scream in “the language of a raptor.” They have “hideous skin and jet black holes where there must have been eyes” with “colossal legs propelling them to great heights, and they snapped and shrieked with breaks the color of death.” The weavers have mandibles and eight legs and some weird stuff is going on with them, they silk up other humans and animals and suck them dry, so I’m not sure what kind of computer virus can turn you into a spider, but that’s what we get, folks. The Weavers and The Hideous Ones are the result, according to Ghubari, of humans evolving, their “last-ditch effort at survival.”

To sum it up, S.T says, “addiction to an electronic world caused the downfall of the Mofos. They’d forgotten to connect with each other, to connect with the creatures who missed them and to Nature as She called for them to come home.” 

Preachy, but we get it. 

The Ugly

There’s nothing really ugly about this book, but because I started with “The Good” and “The Bad” it felt wrong not to put “The Ugly.”

Conclusion

I don’t believe any of the reviews on the front of this book. It wasn’t “hilarious” or “exuberant” or “movingly written.” It was “eh.” 

I’ll be reading the sequel simply to bring you guys more Kira Jane Buxton. At the end of Hollow Kingdom, S.T is lead to a human baby in a house, abandoned obviously, and untouched by the technology-spider-cassowary virus. We obviously have to find out together whether there are other babies around the world, whether the human race survives, or whether the animals reclaim the world. I don’t really care which it is, I just have to know one or the other. 

My next full review will be on The Morality Play. I’m almost finished with it. 

What are you all reading this month?

Until Next Time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or on twitter @thephilopsychotic. 

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

Murderous Writing

I don’t know what kind of writer you are, but I am a writer who enjoys mystery, crime, drama, and just a touch of magic. I like stories that are literary in nature, contain weaving motifs and conflicted characters. I want to search for the meaning and if there is no meaning intended I want the creative ability to create a meaning that is meaningful to me. That’s all I ask.

I’m about 3/4 of the way through a book of short stories called Santa Cruz Noir, noir meaning stories full of crime and moral ambiguity. I’m all for it.

Considering I live in Santa Cruz and it was at one point considered the murder capital of the world, I dove right in.

And still the stories shocked me.

The very first story, entitled Buck Low is about a seemingly comfortable and developed serial killer (I inferred that) who has killed a woman, killed her friend looking for her, and took off up into the Bay. He gave me serial killer vibes because of his nonchalance and easy of killing and travel, as if he’s done that before. It felt like the author intentionally created that vibe.

There are odd stories too, like Mischa and the Seal, about a woman marine biologist graduate student. Seals are her muse, they speak to her (quite literally) and she enjoys staying in hotels, particularly a hotel which overlooks the beach. She meets a fellow ocean lover, James, and while they date, a particular seal she communicates with warns her there’s something strange about James and she needs to “dig into it.”

Longer short story short, James is a seal and otter serial killer.

Mischa kills James with his own arrow contraction that he kills the animals with.

She takes a shower, I think, and then seemingly kills herself by also disappearing into the ocean.

I say these stories shocked me because it’s not often I get to read good published crime stories or novels. A lot of them feel contrived to me, although there’s one story I’m hoping is good that I’d like to read about a serial killer who broke out of prison and is searching for his daughter. Unfortunately, I forgot the name. I used to work at a library and saw tons of books I wanted to read. If anyone knows the book I’m talking about, please put it in the comments below.

If you have any crime book recommendations that aren’t detective mysteries, please put those in the comments below too.

I feel like there’s a community of crime writers that are often rejected from the mainstream publishing scene considering murder and darkness scares people. I personally love writing and reading stories that push the boundaries of what we think is acceptable.

I just wrote a story entitled To Jane. My protagonist murdered another woman because she accused my protagonist of stealing some cheap costume jewelry. I sent it off to a couple small magazines, but I’m anticipating rejection; good writers always anticipate rejection. It makes getting published more surprising and fun.

It’s also a grave mistake to pair mental illness and crime together. The two are not synonymous, in fact they’re very opposite of each other. I aim give evidence to that point with my book.

My main work in progress is centered on crime as well; besides the stalking, there is murder, and I’ve learned that murder is acceptable as long as the actual murder isn’t described; people just need the idea of it to conjure their own sick visions. People also like a little mystery.

What is your favorite genre? What do you write? What do you read? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button, and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or Twitter @thephilopsychotic.

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

Grocery Shopping Syndrome [in writing] and A Bad Drawing

You never, ever, ever, ever, ever want the meat of your story to take the form of background music. That’s what’s happening in Hollow Kingdom. Reading through a chapter is like taking a stroll through a grocery store for nothing in particular. You browse items on the shelf, you see cashiers ringing up food, but none of it is really appealing to you; maybe you just don’t feel like Lindt Lindor chocolates today and the line is backed up to hell. You spend a few more minutes waiting for something to capture your fancy and when it doesn’t, you walk out.

Kira Jane Buxton has done something quite extraordinary. She’s built a world with immense creative foundation and no structure. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the ideas are beautiful; the execution is mediocre.

S.T and Dennis are still trekking along and why I likened these last few pages to strolling through a grocery store, uninterested, is that I find my focus waning from each sentence. I’ll realize my thoughts have drifted to something even less important than the book: what am I going to eat for dinner tonight? I wonder where the cat is. I have to get up soon.

For reference, it’s 6:44am.

The book just can’t keep my focus, and normally I’m very invested in plot and character development.

It’s something we have to keep in mind while writing our own novels. Not only is brevity a skill to hone, it’s also for the sake of your reader. You can describe brilliant scenes in just a few sentences if you know how. When things stretch beyond their capacity, it just gets weird.

I wouldn’t say Hollow Kingdom is boring, it’s just not captivating. The idea jumps off the bookshelf, but the book itself lands flat on the carpet.

I’m done with the figurative language, I promise.

When I notice parts of my novel that drag, it’s a drag for me too, because that means I have to tweak something that maybe I didn’t want to tweak. To me, it’s fascinating to delve deep into character minds, but to others who don’t know the character in the same way I do, it just becomes overarching and tedious. I also want to also keep in mind that writing a book can bring you very close to fictional people. You squeeze a bit of yourself out into them, and there’s a large possibility that Buxton is quite fond of S.T and his mannerisms and thinks he’s hilarious. I think that’s important to acknowledge, because this book is pretty much her baby. So, I’m not ripping into Buxton to burst her spirit (as if she’s ever going to read THIS) nor am I doing it to burst budding writers’ spirits, I’m doing it because this is the internet and we’re allowed opinions.

It’s truly nothing personal.

I also think reading these types of books are a great way for amateur writers to see what they like, what they don’t like, what to do, and what not to do. Clearly, depending on the publisher, you can get away with extraneous description and rackety rumor, but do you really WANT to?

There are people on Goodreads who find Hollow Kingdom HILARIOUS. And that’s great. I’m not one of those people.

When you or I publish our work, eventually someone is going tell us: “hey. Your book SUCKS.”

And how’s that going to feel?

I imagine it’s going to feel like that time in high school when I read Catcher in the Rye and I thought it was the most entertaining, relatable thing in the world and my friend gave me one of her wild looks and said, “I hate that book, it’s just about a whiny teenager. It’s dumb and boring.”

One day someone will critique our work in similar fashion and we’ll smile about it because we’re published anyway. Then we’ll go home for a couple whiskeys and wonder about our life choices and maybe sing a little Lana Del Rey and drunk-call our agent to ask “am I REALLY a writer, though?”

Were Kira Jane Buxton to beta read for my novel, I’d let her. She can write, after all. There are semblances of her talent brushed throughout Hollow Kingdom. And you know what? She’d probably rip me to shreds in her blog afterward because that’s how things work in 2021. In the wise words of Waka Flocka Flame: “You talkin’ shit like a blogger.”

I mean, is that all we really do, Waka?

Really?

Until next time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or twitter @thephilopsychotic

Posted in Uncategorized, writing

Two Books and a Bad Drawing

Keeping to my promise from days ago, I read some more of both Hollow Kingdom and Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments. Here’s where I stand:

Dear God, someone burn Hollow Kingdom.

Dear God, someone give me more of 77 Arguments.

Let me explain.

Hollow Kingdom

I’ve started editing this book as I read, crossing out extraneous sentences and verbose explanation, things the readers can infer while we read the book. That is the area which most infuriates me about reading this. Because, the thing is, were that taken care of by the editor, this book would have been close to groundbreaking. There aren’t really any books advertised that describe the apocalypse from the animal’s point of view, and I haven’t read any, so this could have been a very new, very intriguing topic.

For example, instead of saying “he blinks” or “his blinking” or “he blinked”, she says “his nictitating membrane licking his eye.”

Now, I understand the need for varied vocabulary, but not when it takes away from readability and believability. Some advice: just because the ‘dictionary word of the day’ is relevant to your writing, doesn’t mean you should use it.

S.T also calls the crows he doesn’t like “ass trumpets” and I’m just over these silly little names. I would have laughed at ass trumpet when I was 14. I won’t at 25. This isn’t advertised as a kids’ novel or a YA novel either.

I did get a tickle our of the bear cubs being called fuzzy potatoes. If she’s stopped there for that whole chapter and not said ass trumpets or any other silly names, I would have been okay. Fuzzy potatoes passes.

So far I’m only on chapter 8. S.T and Dennis the Dog are embarking on their own travels to seek the wise Onida and find the reason why the MoFo’s (humans, remember?) are acting so strangely. S.T wants to find the cure for his beloved Big Jim. Dennis went after a bear that came out of the library and got side-swiped by a huge claw. Other crows and birds came to their rescue, and S.T has a bit of an attitude with them; we learn that S.T’s wings are clipped and he’s been more of a human pet than a wild crow. The other birds refer to humans a The Hollow Ones, and S.T doesn’t like that either. There’s a whole conversation about S.T going to find Onida and then he rides off on Dennis’ back like fucking Clint Eastwood or something.

I don’t know what Chapter 8 will bring, but if it’s any more silly names, I’m flipping a table.

Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments

I read two essays, but the one that sucked me in was How Should We Respond to “Evil” by Steven Paulikas. The line ” . . . the notion that evil can be ‘destroyed’ is an ethical version of a fool’s errand.” is what caught my attention.

The subject of this essay, although written in 2016, is the Sept. 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. This goes for both sides when I repeat, “how can we be sure something is evil and not simply opposed to our interests?” For example, the tragic 3,000 death in the 11th attacks were countered with 460,000 deaths in Iraq, and that includes more American soldier deaths than civilian deaths at the WTC. We are tying to “make order out of chaos”, as Paulikas puts it. What did we solve in meeting murder with murder? What did we prove? Paulikas asks, “can evil ever fully be destroyed . . .?”

He describes Paul Ricoeur, another philosopher who suggests the solution isn’t to identify evil, but to “respond to it appropriately”, that the real pain of evil isn’t the act, but “the experience of the victim.”

I would agree.

And so to bust down the doors on evil’s house, to ransack his place, to steal his jewelry and kill his dog isn’t honoring the experience of the victim, it’s creating more victims; It is, in itself, evil, to respond violently to evil.

We consider these types of responses as justified. When someone murders three people and we put them to death, we consider that justice for the victims when in reality we’ve only created more; the family of the murderer who may not have known that side of him/her, mourn their loss as well. We’ve circulated loss. Congratulations.

That’s not to say punishment isn’t needed. But that’s exactly Ricoeur’s point: we need to respond appropriately. We must focus on the victims. Help them, support them, lift them up, and let the one who perpetrated the evil live within his perpetrated evil. If that means life in prison or banishment or whatever, then fine, but let’s not put the focus on the evil committed. Let’s put the focus on the victims who suffer. And if the punishment is indeed death as in many places, let’s put the focus then on the victims we’ve created, the family, and know that we can mourn loss with them without feeling sorry for the murderer.

I think this is a touchy, uncomfortable subject for some people because we’re raised behind the mythological versions of good and evil: angels vs demons, good gods vs destructive gods, and we think these things are black and white even when, time and time again, the world shows us the blurred lines. And so friends, I implore you, look beyond what you’ve been taught. People are not simply good or evil, they are an amalgamation of sinful, prideful, grateful, decent, destructive, beautiful–and much more.

I also implore you to read this book. Some of the essays are a little wack, but most of them are quite enlightening.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or twitter @ThePhilopsychotic. I appreciate you.

Posted in Late Night Thoughts, Uncategorized, writing

Can’t Sleep? Read This.

You guessed it. It’s another 5 a.m shit-post.

I decided to stop by before I started working on my manuscript. The best time to write, I think, is when the world is dark. It really gives your thoughts nothing else to work with and that’s exactly what you need when focus is your priority.

It’s fascinating watching word count increase, and simultaneously terrifying. We know there are long novels like The World According to Garp or War and Peace or these monumental novels like East of Eden. We also know people have computers and cell phones and the 2021 attention span of half a goldfish.

Half.

The dead half.

And so publishers follow suit. Short, simple, to the point is the way novels are these days, and while that forces writers and editors to learn new skills, it also takes away from what stories used to be. They used to be journeys. The used to be full of depth and motifs and while books these days still have that potential, not many live up to it. Long novels are now “boring” and you’re limited really in what you’re allowed to do unless you get published by a small publisher with a lax editor, or you self-publish.

I’m not against self-publishing, I’m just a horrible self-marketer with a small social media following and while even one or two people reading my novel would be enough for me to buy a $500 dollar bottle of champagne and drink it with my pinkie up, it wouldn’t be enough to break even for all the time I put into my work or pay my car off.

What’s more important to me than money, champagne, and pinkies though, is readers. I didn’t write the book for it to sit on my shelf in hoards. I already have hoards of books. I wrote it for people to read. I wrote it to spark discussion and curiosity and disgust and fear and smiles and laughs and many conflicting emotions. If I just cared about the title of an author, I’d have self published three short-story anthologies and two novels by now.

I’m not bashing those who self-publish. I’m just saying my goals aren’t conducive with self-publishing.

I’m also very interested in what an editor would rearrange if given the chance.

I submitted my short story to two separate, small magazines. I’m still looking for beta readers though (can you tell I’m anticipating rejection?), and if anyone is interested, just leave a comment below! I see some are jumping on that bandwagon and I’m more than appreciative.

There’s nothing wrong with anticipating rejection, by the way, because if you’re familiar with submitting pieces to magazines, you’re probably also familiar with disappointment.

Thank you readers. You all have made my week with all the views and likes. I’m surprised my banter hasn’t scared a few of you away. Next post we’ll get back into Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments.

Don’t forget to follow The Philosophical Psychotic and join me over on Instagram @alilivesagain or on Twitter @ThePhiloPsychotic. I’m a lonely female bastard in need of internet friends. Feed me.

Posted in Community, Late Night Thoughts, Uncategorized, writing

Late Night Show: Let’s talk about cliche characters.

Hey everyone, welcome to another rendition of “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing up so late.”

I do know, actually. I got three hours of sleep the previous night because of a bad dream, went through the day normally, worked out, came home, and fell asleep at 5pm. I awoke at 2am, refreshed, to find the dark world at my disposal, and I must say I’m not disappointed. There’s a quietness in night and early morning that swells my soul sometimes, in the same way one swells when the smell of good food passes by.

What do you enjoy most about working on your manuscript or short stories or poems or whatever it is you pour your heart into? Sometimes for me the editing is tedious, and then I read little snippets of my work that make me say “damn, I wrote that?” and the process feels worthwhile.

I’m trying to figure out how to sum up my work-in-progress without sounding cliche. I’ve purposefully chose to write with a typical character base in mind for irony. Eventually I want some beta readers, so I’ve finally decided to come out of the writer’s closet and tell people I’m writing a novel. The first question out of everyone’s mouth, with their stupid, curious little eyes twinkling, is always “what is it about?”

I don’t know, stuff happens, people exist, what more do you want me to say?

That’s going to be the description on the back. I’m obviously brilliant.

If you’ve written a book, or are writing one, how do you give people a synopsis without giving away too much or sounding too typical? We all want our work to be unique I guess, and maybe the fact of the matter is there’s no such thing as a unique idea anymore. We’re all just building off of each other, and that’s kind of the running theme in my work, hence the necessity of cliche base characters. But you tell people that and they lose interest.

This is why when people ask me what I write, I say “nothing much, like some short stories or whatever” because I don’t want to get into everything else I work on. I suppose I mirror my protagonist a bit, or he mirrors me; I’m not quite sure which one of us came first.

I didn’t really base it off of my life, but I pulled from some experiences because they were necessary to a few characters, basic traits like shyness or arrogance or unwavering personalities. Some characteristics of our characters have to be relatable, under stable, and predictable, or else the believability falls short and, again, people lose interest. That’s the struggle with writing a protagonist who you anticipate people won’t be fond of: you need to show that their despicable characteristics are flaws any of us could have, but do it in a way where they aren’t do despicable that they’re irredeemable. That doesn’t mean the character needs to be redeemed at the end, that’s actually more cliche than anything, but it does mean there needs to be some understanding for why the behavior or thoughts of your character are as they are.

There are very few people on Earth who would be considered horrible and nothing else. Even child predators and murderers have come from backgrounds that make you say “well, I get it but that’s no excuse for their behavior.”

Because there quite literally is no excuse for their behavior and you quite literally do get it.

There were two particular subjects I hated reading about because they always followed the same steps: murder and mental illness. The murderers haven’t always been mentally ill, I mean those categories to be separate from each other.

With murderers, the cliche is always a detective trying to find them, or a murderer narrating their sick desires.

With mental illness, the whole focus of the story is always on the mental illness.

I got tired of that.

If a character has a mental disorder, I’d prefer it’s not even mentioned. Just show it through characteristics and wrap the story around a different plot line. If you don’t have the disorder yourself, you’re going to be hard pressed trying to describe it, no matter how many lived-experience interviews you do. Sorry. And, for the love of God, don’t interview a psychologist for that. They’ll be incorrect 99% of the time.

If a character is a murderer, I’d prefer they not be driven by something like “I hate the world” or “mommy was mean to me” or “look at me being a vigilante and all.” It gets boring. There are so many other motivations besides drugs, lifestyle, trauma, abuse. Those things can be included, but they don’t have to be the reason. They could just be part of the puzzle.

I guess my book is intent on using cliches to get rid of cliches. I feel like that’s been done before, and I’m okay with that because again, we’re all building off of each other. My protagonist gets mixed up with a person who’s been following him for a reason I can’t share, and upon learning more about this stalker, he learns he will never not be stalked. No, he doesn’t die at the end. Jesus.

I guess that’s a good, quick summary.

What’s your WIP about lately? Anything juicy? Let me know.

Also, I’ve always wanted to read “John dies at the end” or whatever that book is called. Does he really die? Hollywoo stars and celebrities: What do they know? Do they know things? Let’s find out!

If you don’t know what show that’s from, we can still be friends, but like, you need to step it up.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain. I don’t have friends IRL so I need internet buddies to help my depleted self-esteem. K, thanx.