Josh Davis, Writer

Kingsley: A Review

So, I’ll be the first to tell you that I have really dropped the ball lately, not making a single post on this blog in about two months. In fact, I’ve done terribly, and I feel no small amount of guilt about it. I can assure you that I definitely have a list of very good excuses, and they are all true (a serious plus!), but I won’t bore you with those details right now. Instead, I will just say “I’m sorry,” and get on with the review.

Two weeks ago, R.F. Dunham and I reviewed the book Kingsley by another Virginia author,

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Carolyn O’Neal authored the subject of today’s review, Kingsley

Ms. Carolyn O’Neal of Charlottesville. Overall, it was a fantastic read, and you can get R.F.’s take on it HERE, and you can listen to our review on episode 6 of The Wrambling Writers Podcast. Now to my take…

 

(Final Grade is mean average of each category)

Storyline: Let’s just say that when I read the back cover of the book, I was intrigued. When I dove in, I was hooked. The story starts off just a tad bit slow with the protagonist (who the book is named after), Kingsley Smith, helping his crush, Amanda, and her father to examine wildlife specimens in the tidewater region of Virginia. For a plot driven by environmental science, this is the place where the science “hits you over the head” the most. To be perfectly honest, I was deeply worried by the end of the first chapter that I had gotten myself into a sermon in which the virtues of being “environmentally conscious” would be preached from atop a soapbox.

Boy, was I wrong, and pleased to be so.

Once I got through the first chapter, the plot moves forward at a steady clip, and Ms. O’Neal’s pacing throughout was flawless. Some things happen, caused by the pollution of the environment, and a disease progresses from reptiles and amphibians to mammals. Eventually, the entire male sex is threatened, including Kingsley, and it becomes a race against time (and technology) to save the fourteen-year-old boy’s life.

Needless to say, the storyline was fantastic. Overall, I’d have to give it five stars for the storyline.



Characters:
Again, Ms. O’Neal’s talent shines through. There are multiple characters who were fantastically developed, and each one feel’s real. From Kingsley’s whining to Amanda saying “My name is Amanda Santos Sutherland, so my initials are A.S.S., and don’t you forget it!,” every character seems to be jumping off the page to sit right beside me.

Admittedly, I found Kingsley to be a bit childish for a fourteen-year-old, which I consider a bit of a draw-back. However, this is a rare thing and may have been caused by “the Collapse,” the disease that killed men at a fantastical rate.

I’m tempted to give the characters a 3, simply because Kingsley’s childishness turned me off that badly, but the entire supporting cast was so phenomenal (Joyce, Amanda, and Charlotte specifically) that it pulls it back up to 4 stars.


untitledSetting: If you are familiar with my review style, I am sure that you have noted that I am picky about settings and am notoriously difficult to please. That being said, it’s been a while since I read a book that is set in my home state, and the previous one (Wish You Well by David Baldacci) sets a pretty high standard for Ms. O’Neal to live up to. That being said, I feel that she delivered very well.

I never lost track of where the story was taking place and the way she described the world in which Kingsley lives was definitely sufficient. That being said, I did not see the things that I look for in “5-star” settings. The setting did not “come alive” in the way that I strive for because the characters were interacting more with one another than their surroundings. The one time that stands out, in my mind, is when Kingsley and Charlotte are fleeing from the antagonist late in the book. They enter the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge Tunnel. The bridge was in disrepair, but I don’t recall there being a moment where this really affects their flight, which illustrates perfectly what I’m trying to say. Sure, I knew that the tunnel was dilapidated, but this did not negatively impede their travel in any way.

Finally, there are a few instances where Ms. O’Neal doesn’t quite hit the mark with her descriptions of the surroundings. Sure, I know that the house is a mansion, but I have no clue what it looks like.

In short, I was pleased with the setting overall, but the things I have mentioned here bring the grade down to about a 4 for me.


Plot: This is the one section where you will find my most serious critique for this novel: I didn’t care for the way the plot unfolded. Admittedly, it kept my attention when I picked the book back up (I put it down in the middle, because of a flashback scene…I despise flashbacks, personally), but the way the plot was structured just seemed off to me. Now, that being said, what Carolyn did was not wrong, it’s just that my taste as a reader did not match what Ms. O’Neal did.

Basically, I’m not a fan of introducing major characters halfway through a book. I was slightly confused when Charlotte came into the picture, to be honest. Plus, when you have a character as well developed as her, I would personally want her to shine through throughout the story. Now, R.F. and I kicked this idea back and forth on the podcast, so I won’t talk too much about it now.

However, the plot functioned as a cohesive whole (minus the flashback, which I saw as unnecessary), so criticism aside, I can’t give it any less than 2.5 stars.


Resolution: The resolution was quite possibly the best part of the book. Everything that happens from the climax to the final word functions well. It tied up the loose ends of the main conflict and gave me a sense of motion moving forward. To be perfectly honest, Carolyn could make this a stand-alone book and never write a sequel, and it would be perfectly okay with me. However, she did leave herself a window to further pursue this world, if she so chooses. That being said, it did feel just the tiniest bit rushed, the only place in the entire novel that I feel the pacing was off. I give the resolution 4.5 stars.


Final Grade:  With scores of 5, 4, 4, 2.5, and 4.5, Kingsley by Carolyn O’Neal earned 20 points for a final grade of:

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My take: Solid book. You should click this LINK and buy it now.

F4AF: Liberty Speidel

Today is Friday, so you know what that means…it’s time for me to feature another writer and their story with Free For All Friday! Make sure to share this post with the hashtag, #F4AF, and to give our guest some love!

Today, I’m hosting Mrs. Liberty Speidel, author of the Darby Shaw Chronicles


I think we can all agree that superheroes are “hot” right now.

Everywhere you turn, you have Batman. Superman. Captain America. Thor. Deadpool. Star Lord.

And before much longer, our culture will become familiar with less common superheroes: Captain Marvel. Suicide Squad. Doctor Strange. Just to name a few.

No Capes Required Logo 1 - grace editsLet’s face it: if you’re a geek, we’re no longer the armpit of society. It’s cool to be a geek.

When I began writing my Darby Shaw Chronicles in 2009, the boom of the superheroes was in its infancy. Iron Man had only come out within the last year, and no one understood truly what Marvel was trying to do in their cinematic universe. I knew it was cool, and I was seeing the threads between iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, but I had no idea by 2016, it’d be as huge as it is now.

To watch this explode as I’ve been working on my own superhero universe has been fascinating to watch. And it’s also made me hyper-aware that I don’t want to be like the heroes in the Dark Horse, DC, or Marvel movies and graphic novels. Being like something is good—as long as you’ve got a twist.

Still, as someone famously said, there’s nothing new under the sun. It’s hard to be totally new, especially in a genre that has seen it all and done it all.

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Emergence, the first book in the Darby Shaw Chronicles

I came up with the idea for my series sometime in 2009. I’d been thinking about a new
story for a while, and where I live, we were having a very bad year with murders. (I used to write straight murder mysteries, so hang in with me). For a while, I’d been thinking it would be fun to do something different, and I’d already done that by writing a futuristic thriller bordering on space opera. But something more grounded in today’s world, yet different.

 

One day, as I was watching another story on the news about a senseless killing, the idea came to me that wouldn’t it be cool if we could bring those victims back, and that the killer really did have to pay for what they did—more than just getting stuck in jail, or, God-forbid, getting off for their crimes.

A glimmer of an idea?

It stewed a little longer. I was thinking about NaNoWriMo and thought I had a good idea for a story. But who was my main character? What was their story? I knew I wanted a female lead, and there’d be a romance.

As I was driving one day, she introduced herself to me. I’m Darby Shaw and I’m your protagonist. It was a beautiful moment, one I still remember very clearly—like my wedding day and the births of my children.

Things progressed. The first draft was completed in less than 30 days during NaNo. Then, it sat. I had a baby, he had problems, and my focus shifted. During a trial with his health, I had a lot of time to think, and I told myself when this period was over, I was going full-bore at this story world, and began working on what would become my first novella, Emergence.

With the help of my editor, Grace Bridges from Splashdown Books, I published Emergence in 2014.

Darby Shaw is a different sort of superhero. Everyone knows who she is. And she doesn’t wear a cape. In fact, it’s pretty much forbidden in that world for superhumans to hide their identity. When they find out about their abilities, they’re forced to register with the government. Darby’s just a little different since she learns about her abilities at the tender age of twenty-six.

Writing about Darby and expanding her universe to include more supers has caused me to be hyper-aware of how I can make my world different. I’m a big fan of the MCU, but one of my early readers pointed out that one of my bad guys resembled Wolverine. Oops. But kinda no way around it for what I needed to do. Even though I’ve never been a comic reader, I’ve started picking up graphic novels at the library—mostly to immerse myself more in that genre to figure out how I can be different.

Compilation Cover Template v 1

The Darby Shaw Chronicles now includes three books and a short story.

My stories have a firm grasp on our reality. There’s a lot of similarities to our present world—and that’s on purpose-but there’re twists. Things like hover cars, privatized police forces, video phones with holographic technology. I don’t necessarily want my stories to feel like they’re better suited for a comic book than a 350-page novel. I’m looking for a reader who wants something different, yet still familiar. Which is probably why I chose to have my overall feel to be that more of a police procedural than a high-stakes adventure story.

 

Even if my main detective can raise the dead. Err, murdered. Under certain circumstances. Pretty sure Darby would smack me if I didn’t correct myself there.

As I continue to write in Darby’s world, I will continue to keep an eye on the superhero movies coming out—and read graphic novels as I’m able. Keeping an eye on what could be regarded as the competition is not a bad thing! It’s good to see what’s different, but also what’s the same.

Overall, I’d say the lesson learned here is to find ways to be different. Don’t try to follow a certain formula to be just like Nora Roberts. Or Janet Evanovich. Or Sandra Brown. They’re their own writer. You be your own writer. Do something different. Try to do something no one has seen before.

The literary world will be better for it.


Liberty has been telling stories for nearly as long as she can remember–longer even than she’s been a reader! She started writing in her early teens when she decided the publisher of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys just weren’t publishing the books fast enough. While she started out telling straight mysteries, her storytelling has shifted in the last several years to include a science fiction bent. She is the author of The Darby Shaw Chronicles, a series featuring Detective Darby Shaw, a superhuman with the unusual ability to revive the murdered, which comes in pretty handy when you’re a cop. She’s also the producer and co-host for the Lasers, Dragons, and Keyboards podcast.speidel-063 resize

Liberty lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, children, and a spoiled rotten chocolate Labrador. When she’s not writing or podcasting, she enjoys a menagerie of activities ranging from baking to hiking to traveling to the mountains. Her next book in the Darby Shaw Chronicles, Omission, is set to release sometime in the fall of 2016.

She can be found haunting the interwebs at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Episode 2 – yWriter vs Scrivener

I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation today, and I hope that you will too!

Wrambling Writers

Today we had a debate about the merits of Scrivener vs yWriter, reviewed Liberty Speidel’s The Darby Shaw Chronicles: Emergence, and addressed the chaos of current events.

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The Butcher

For this weeks Tuesday Tale, I turn the reins over to Sherrie Marshall of Sherrie’s Always Write. This work is not my own, and may or may not represent my own personal “writing rules.” I hope you enjoy, and remember to check her site out!


“You’re as curious as a cornflake,” mama said.

Her fingers picked at the rick-rack of her calico apron pocket. She leaned on the door frame to my bedroom and swatted at a fly buzzing around her ear. It must like the smell of fried bacon. Mama cooked up a good batch every morning for me and papa. By bedtime, she smelled like Palmolive dish soap and stale cigarette smoke. She was always trying to quit, but said it was too hard, ‘What with everyone on the TV set smoking and all.’

“Mama, I don’t even know what that means. You mad at me?”

“Daniel, you have to snoop out the workings of everything?”

The innards of an old 1950’s Telchron alarm clock were scattered across my bruised wooden desk. The neighbors were selling it in the driveway at their back-to-school garage sale. It was sitting on one of those tables like they store in the basement dining hall at church. I saw that clock and knew as sure as the sun comes up every morning that I had to have it – had to know what made those tiny silver arms tick around the numbers. I bought it with money I’d earned from mowing thirty-four lawns over the summer. I looked down at my mess.

“I’ll get it cleaned up.  Can I do it after dinner?”

“You best get all those little metal pieces cleared before papa gets home with Duke. That dog would eat his own tail if he could reach it. Besides that, you got the first day of school tomorrow, and there’s a bath waiting to be took very near in your future young man.” As she began to walk down the stairs, she hollered over her shoulder, “Get on downstairs and set the table for dinner after you’ve cleaned up that mess.”

We had macaroni and cheese with little pieces of meat in it for dinner. I’m not sure if it’s really considered meat when it comes out of a can, but I had two helpings. After I ate, fed Duke, and took my bath, I sat on the porch with papa and watched him blow smoke rings through the humid August air. They hung there like little smoky Hot Wheels race tracks in the moonlight.

“Papa, can we pick Manny up for school in the morning? He’s staying at his grandma’s until his dad comes back from Mexico. He’s going to bring us a salamander.”

“Sure. We’ll swing by his grandma’s. Tell that boy to be ready. You two have to walk home this year though. You’ll be in the fifth grade, and I don’t think you need to be mollycoddled anymore. You’re almost a man now.” Another smoke ring floated through the dark. I ran upstairs, climbed into bed and thinking all the while about being a man this year.

Papa dropped us off at the basketball court behind the school. Manny and I agreed that we’d meet back here and take a shortcut home across the creek. We’d spent a lot of time in the creek that summer, even though my dad would thrash me for going where I wasn’t supposed to. The thistles and weeds were overgrown, but it was perfect to dig crawdads out of their mud holes in the bank.

After school was out, we traipsed through a bunch of backyards and came to Mr. Parker’s place. He worked at the local meat market as the town’s butcher. Papa said he was as big as a refrigerator and cranky as a hungry gator. I didn’t want to get caught in his yard, but we jumped the chain-link fence anyway. Manny found a coke bottle half buried in the butcher’s flower bed. All that was left of his flowers were sticks. Manny and I kicked at the glass until the ground around it crumbled into dirt clods and released the bottle.

Manny stopped kicking the clods around and grabbed me by the shoulders. His eyes bored right into mine. “The Butcher killed his wife. She’s been missing since Christmas. Everyone says he cut her up into T-bone steaks and sold her at the store. Your parents buy meat at the butcher shop?” Manny asked.

“We don’t eat T-bone. That’s stupid. Why would he chop up his wife?”

“Because he was hungry, doofus. Why else?”

We neared the front gate, but had to pass by the side door into the butcher’s garage. I cupped both hands to shield my eyes from the sun and looked into the garage. What I saw on the other side of that door was going to stick in my head forever, and I’d never be able to un-see it. Suddenly, I knew I wasn’t a man yet.

I jumped backwards and crashed into Manny. The fence rattled and clanged all the way down the side of the house as we tumbled into it. Manny shoved me off his legs.

“Hey, goofball. What are you doing?” Manny screamed.

My head swiveled around toward the garage door to see if the Butcher was coming after us.

“I-you-I mean…it’s a leg–”

“Danny boy, I think the sun is shrinking your head.  I can’t even understand you. When did you start stuttering?”

Manny stood and brushed red dirt off his new school jeans. He squared his jaw and clenched his teeth at me. I knew his grandma was going to kill him for getting his new school jeans dirty.

“Manny, I mean there’s a leg in a vice on his workbench. Do you think he cut someone’s leg off and put it in his garage?”

“Move. Let me see.” Manny pushed me to the side. He squinted his eyes and peered through the door window. “I don’t see a – holy shit.”

“Told you so. Where do you think it came from?” I asked. Manny stood still staring through the glass. He didn’t seem as disturbed about a leg clamped to a vice as I did. He just kept gawking at that leg until I grabbed his arm and spun him around. His eyes were the size of the rubber super ball I got in my Christmas stocking last year.

I started running for the gate and fumbled with the latch. Manny was on my heels as I swung the gate open. We ran all the way to my wooden porch. We bent over and heaved gulps of air deep into our lungs. Manny dropped onto the porch like a dead weight. Chips of gray porch paint stuck to the side of his jeans. We spit-promised that we’d look in the garage again tomorrow.

The next day creeped by at school. My teacher scolded me for falling asleep after lunch during geography. It was so hot in the school without air conditioning. I couldn’t help it. The only thing that kept me awake until gym was thinking about that leg. It was squeezed tight up on the butcher’s workbench. I dreamed last night that my shirt got stuck in the vice and that Duke licked blood off my face. After I woke up from the nightmare, I didn’t sleep another wink. I kept looking at the window checking if I could see a reflection of light. Maybe the butcher was chopping up his next victim in the middle of the night.

Manny and I met at the basketball court again. On our way home, we hustled with a purpose this time. There was no swinging on low-lying tree branches, no kicking a can, and no crawdad hunting. We went straight to the butcher’s garage door. At the same time, Manny and I peeked through the window.

The leg was gone, but a rusted metal file stood secured in the jaws of the vice. We both craned our necks to scour the garage. Old men’s and women’s clothes hung on a metal rack like the one at J.C. Penney downtown. We saw a small can of paint and epoxy putty like my dad used to fix the baseboards on the back patio of our house.

A shadow crossed in front of us, and we dropped to the cement pad below the garage door. I held my breath and started praying the rosary in my head. Manny rose to his knees and peered over the bottom of the window. I decided that my desire to see what was going on in that garage was stronger than my fear of getting caught.

I crouched next to Manny and we watched with dreaded horror as the butcher removed the file from its resting spot and replaced it with an arm. The hand was turned in an unnatural position. My stomach rolled over and the fish sticks from today’s school lunch threatened to rip loose from my throat. The butcher began to file the raw side of the arm where a shoulder socket should be. He turned his back to us, but we could see him file back and forth over and over.

I tugged on Manny’s shirt and motioned to the gate. We crept over and raised the metal latch with the stealth of a cat. Once we cleared the end of the driveway, we bolted like track stars.  I imagined the butcher was chasing me and swinging his metal file at my head. I wasn’t the best runner in gym, but I swear I beat Manny back to my front porch by two minutes.

We made plans for tomorrow at the butcher’s. We decided that we had to see if he had a body in there. Maybe it was his missing wife. Then we’d tackle the butcher, hold him down, and call the police. I had already decided I would wear my Sunday suit to the police station when they gave us medals for catching a creepy killer. Manny left my house, and I dreamed of swinging sides of beef that night. The huge animals hung in the butcher’s garage.

When I woke up the next morning, I prayed there would be no carcasses in my near future. Mom came in and told me breakfast was ready. I could smell the bacon. She turned to leave my room, but stopped.

“Oh, by the way, Manny’s grandma called and he’s sick. He won’t be going to school today. Maybe’s got the flu. She said he threw up most of the night.”

I laid in my bed and stared at the ceiling. “Damn Manny,” I thought. “I’m a man now; papa said. I’ll do this and get the medal for bravery by myself.”

When the bell rang at the end of the day, I shot out the school doors like a first grader headed to recess. I ran all the way to the butcher’s house. When I got to the door and caught my breath, I finally looked through the window. No body parts were displayed on the workbench today. I took off my backpack and rubbed my hands together.  Sweat mixed with the dirt and ended up as a dirty kind of paste on my palms. I rubbed them on my jeans and turned the handle as quiet as I knew how. I looked around the corner and didn’t see the butcher. He must be gone today. At least I’d be able to look around for myself and could tell the coppers what I saw.

It was ice cold in the musty, dark room. There was an air conditioner in the wall coming from the house. On the floor, there was a handle attached to a trap door, and it had fresh cement poured around the opening. Maybe his wife was down there just waiting to be rescued. I crept down the wall adjacent to the door. There were wigs of every color for every kind of person, redhead, blonde, and short hair for men and women. It was the creepiest thing I had seen in all of my ten years. Next to each wig was a photo. Some of them were still in a frame, others were stuck on the wall with a tack. All of them were old people like Manny’s grandma. Just then, the door from the house opened.

I screamed and tried to run, but my legs wobbled long enough for the butcher to block my escape. I was stuck and couldn’t imagine what stupidity made Manny and me think we would be able to take down the butcher. He was a tank.

“What are you doing in here?” His voice was loud and bellowed in the garage.

I couldn’t speak. Hell, I couldn’t breathe. The butcher was going to kill me and stick me inside that trap door, probably with his chopped up wife.

“You’re the boy that crosses through my backyard every day after school, aren’t you?” I shook my head yes. Tears stung my eyes and hung on the rims ready to spill down my face like a baby.

“How come you’re in my garage?” He lifted a mason jar to his full mouth and drank what looked like ice tea.

“How come you have someone’s arm and leg in here?” I looked over at the trap door, and a chill clawed its way down my spine. Body parts are probably stacked chest high down there.

His eyes followed my gaze to the trap door in the floor. He walked over and opened the heavy door. I flinched thinking he might swat me like a fat juicy June bug. He walked down the steps into the dark underground room. This was my chance to run for the door and make my escape. I didn’t want to be like that boy on the news that got stolen last year. No one ever found him. He’s probably down there with the butcher’s wife too.  But before I could flee, the butcher was already coming out of the hole with a body. I saw the blonde wig first and then the blue dress. Once out of the trap door, he turned toward me and set the woman on the floor. I gaped at her and a creepy dryness like cotton filled my mouth.

“It’s a doll!” I said.

“It’s actually called a mannequin. That’s why you saw arms and legs.  I collect the extra body pieces out of the clothing store dumpsters from downtown. I bring them home to file and sandpaper them back into smooth ends. Then I glue them back together,” he said.

“But, why?”

“My wife has Alzheimer’s, and I made her one that looks like me. I dressed it in my clothes and took it to her nursing home room in Lattimer City. She talks to it when she has clearer moments. I think it makes her feel less lonely. I go see her every day, but can’t be there at night. They kick me out after dinnertime.”

I craned my neck over the trap door opening. “Why do you have so many of them?”

The butcher walked over to the wig wall and took down a photo. He turned back and faced me. He used his shirt to wipe dust off the photo and handed it to me. “This woman is the mother of a grown boy and girl. Her husband died last year.  After the kids saw the mannequin I took to my wife, they asked me to make one for their mother.  Now, I make them for anyone who asks.”

I sat down and talked to the butcher for another thirty minutes about his wife. He teared up twice and said he missed her all the time.  He even laughed about the dead flowers.  He said he planted them in the Spring and tried to care for them. But without his wife, he said they just died. He hasn’t cleaned out the beds yet, but will before Fall comes. I got to see the other three mannequins he was working on, but I’m not stupid. I asked him to bring them up into the garage. Not on any planet was I going into a dark hole with a bunch of dolls.

When I was leaving, he invited me to help deliver the refurbished people to their new owners at the nursing home. I promised to ask my mama if it would be okay. Over that semester of school and before the butcher finished cleaning out the flower beds, we had delivered eight mannequins to three different nursing homes.  The butcher even let me sand a couple of torsos down and let Manny file two legs. Just like papa said, that was the year I became “almost a man.”


Sherrie Marshall has spent decades in the legal industry and thereby is a self-appointed expert in twisted humor. As a child, she also spent countless evenings in front of the television watching Rod Sterling’s The Twilight Zone and Art Gallery, giving her an appreciation for suspense existing in a parallel universe. Today, Sherrie enjoys penning her humorous blog www.SherriesAlwaysWrite.com as well as a legal thriller featuring Sloan Camps, a hard-driving Assistant District Attorney deeply involved in solving murders and prosecuting heinous killers. In her free time, Sherrie can be found drinking scads of coffee, watching crime TV, and carving out time to tweet votes to The Voice each season.


Contact Sherrie to appear on her Blog’s “Freelance Friday” feature!

Mash-Up Monday: 7/18/16

So, it’s been a little bit crazy the last couple weeks between the first episode of the new podcast that I’m hosting with my good friend R.F. Dunham and vacation and my regular, ongoing work as a ghostwriter. However, it’s time to get back to business with my blogging schedule, which means that today is Mash-Up Monday, or the day when I share important links from the previous week…or, in this case, two weeks.

looking into the sunUp first is my review of “Looking Into the Sun” by debut author Todd Tavolazzi. There was quite a bit that I had to say about this book, but I walked away feeling that the overall story was very mediocre. To read the full review, you can check it out HERE. Additionally, we discussed the book on the Wrambling Writer’s podcast, but more on that in a bit.

Up next, you can read about how I channeled my inner Katniss Everdeen in “Stung.” For a while, we were afraid that the hornets might send me to the hospital, but (by the grace of God), I avoided that expense.

Then, on the first day of the month, I featured guest blogger Angel Ramon, who shared his story of publishing his first book with us HERE. Also, I am very excited to say that Angel has agreed to publish his sophomore book with my company, Davis Publishing Co.
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Last up, I mentioned above that I am now hosting a podcast with my good friend R.F. Dunham. You can listen to our first episode and subscribe to our show on our website, the Wrambling Writers.

The Wrambling Writerslogo2

Before I let you go, however, I do want to let you know that my buddy R.F. now has a mailing list, and he will be sending serialized stories straight to your email inbox, completely free!

You can learn more and sign up at his website, www.dunhamwriter.com

F4AF: Angel Ramon

Hello!

My name is Angel Ramon, and I am the author of “The Thousand Years War.” It is my first novel, and I’m so proud of it because writing a novel has always been a dream of mine. However this idea had been in developmental hell for over 10 years—not because I don’t like to write—because of life itself. I finished school, got a job and got involved in my first serious relationship, which is now at a complicated stage due to distance.

In the 8th grade, I had this novel in my head including the plot from beginning to end. When I wasn’t thinking of my novel, I would write short stories for either school assignments or for fun. However, even on school assignments, I would ace those papers because I was so much into writing. It was that I wanted to write about something that interested me. So you can say that I have been a writer for a very long time, although I have never published anything until now. It’s been a bit of a hidden talent of mine for all those lost years.

So I entered High School, saying to myself, “OK, Angel…write this book!”

I started my outline, but that is as far as I got for a very long time. That’s because I enjoyed the fruits of being in the popular/cool group and the girls were crazy for me (laughing). Although I had “relationships” with some of these girls, nothing ever got serious simply because I wasn’t ready for a serious relationship. I wanted to make sure I finished High School first.

Angel spaceship

I imagined this spaceship for over ten years if you can believe it

 

Long story short, my focus shifted from writing my novel to keeping my grades up and remaining in the “Top 20” when it came to popularity. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my High School years—I even loved them—but I say I could have (and should have) fit some time to write my novel. My book idea would get locked away for another 4 years.

When I ended up being in my first serious relationship after High School, I (once again) would get distracted from writing my novel. In fact, I didn’t even write short stories anymore. I started to write poetry, as my girlfriend is a poet and she taught me how. To be honest, I always found it to be boring. Yet with her, she made it so much fun and I even began to notice that my writing skills were improving as well. Still, though, all I had was the outline of my story.

 

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With my girlfriend, who taught me to express myself with poetry

As the years went by, I started to make changes to my book because I was starting to experience more of what life had to offer me. At the age of twenty-four, I decided I would start to write my book with the encouragement of my girlfriend. I took a trip to Puerto Rico, though, and once again my mind was distracted away from my book. At least I had the first chapter written. Then, last year, I made the move to live in Puerto Rico. At first, it was hard, but when I was finally settled in, I decided that it’s nice and peaceful. I finally buckled down and wrote my novel, and in three months my book was complete and published. I gave myself the biggest pat on the back in the world. An idea that was locked away for more than 10 years finally came out on ink and paper and out for the world to see it.

 

For me, I have always seen writing as a way to get away from reality and just free myself by escaping to my own little world that I’ve created. Writing has been a way for me to express what I really think without movement or having people think that I’m crazy. Writing is not just a job or a career—It is an art. It is an art that I’m still trying to perfect even today. I always say, “A good story can be even better when you are able to experience life for what it is.” In other words, my book probably would not have come out the same way as it did if I were to write it in middle school. I firmly believe that things happen for a reason.

 

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With a print copy of my book, ten years in the making

I have many people to thank. First off are my friends since High School which we are still
strong (even today) for encouraging me. Second is Luis, a former co-worker of mine when I worked as a low-voltage technician. He instilled in my mind that I should never give up, and to chase whatever dreams I have, while keeping a positive mind set. Third are my parents, who have always cheered me on and have always respected my decisions. Finally my so-so girlfriend back in New York because of her knowledge of poetry and the fact she would write me poems every day and for teaching me to reciprocate, as it really improved my figurative language skills.

 

So the moral of the story is this: if you have an idea that has been locked away for a long time, take the time to reexamine it. You never know if it may be the next big idea. Also, I feel like my book is much better than it would had been had I written it back in the 8th grade like I wanted to, because the characters are a much better reflection of my life as a whole. I made many new friends along the way who inspired me to write this book. For an idea that was locked away for more than 10 years, it sure came out the way I wanted it to come out. That, my friend, is what writing is all about: the love of writing and creating!

Hope you enjoyed this post, and I want you to know that it’s never too late to try an old idea—and it doesn’t have to be writing. Trying won’t kill you!

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my journey!


Angel Ramon lives in Salinas, Puerto Rico. Besides being an author, he also runs a home based business where he gives computer classes, repairs computers, creates business cards and even websites. You can stay connected with him on his Facebook page, The Thousand Years Book, or on his Goodreads blog.

You can purchase “The Thousand Years War” on Amazon HERE.

Stung

“So this is how Katniss felt,” I thought to myself as I ran screaming from the porch. Needles were being jammed into my flesh all over my body, and there was nothing I could do to fight it, so I fled. “This is how she felt when she ran away from those Tracker Jackers.”

If you have read the best-selling novels by Suzanne Collins (or seen the movies based on the books), then you will surely already know what Tracker Jackers are (or, at least have an idea). For those of you that don’t I give you this, from the Hunger Games Wiki:

Tracker jackers are genetically engineered wasps, conceived and created in the Capitol. They are genetically coded to attack anyone or anything that disturbs their nest.

tracker jackersThat definition leaves something to be desired: Tracker Jackers don’t just attack, they
swarm, and they chase…until their target is dead. Which, of course, is why I felt like I understood Katniss just a little better on Sunday.

I had angered the wrong hornet’s nest.

You see, I’ve been going to my mom’s house a lot lately, to help her get the pool cleaned and ready for everyone to come over and swim at her house. Sunday was no different, as Mom had purchased a new grill (her old one doesn’t work anymore) and needed me to put it together and to work on the swimming pool some more.

So, my wife, Patricia, and I got the children into the truck and drove to Mom’s house. Patricia left a short while later to take the children to a Vacation Bible School at a local church and to get ready to go to the gym. When she got back, she dropped our youngest daughter off to me and caught a ride with her best friend, who was going to work out with her.

Christine (our youngest daughter) played with my mom’s smallest dog, Sadie, while I put the grill together. Once it was together, we moved the grill to the back porch and Christine and I prepared to leave.

However, as fate would have it, I wanted to double check something on the pool filter system before I left, so I went down onto the ground, and took care of what I needed too. As I circled back around to pool to get Chris and put her in the truck, Mom said: “Hey Josh, could you get this blanket off the ground for me? I think Rosie threw her blanket off the porch.”

Rosie is mom’s 10-year-old Bassett hound.

Not thinking anything of it, I mounted the pool porch (mom has two back porches) and walked to look at what mom’s outstretched hand pointed to. I leaned over the railing, and just as I leaned over to grab the blanket, I heard mom say, “are those hornets?”

“What?” I thought, straightening up. As I turned to look behind me, I saw the first shiny black body go through my field of vision. I kept turning, toward the gate that leads to the ground.

“I don’t know, Mom,” I said. “But I’m not staying here–AARGH!” I screamed out as the first firey lance pierced the flesh on the back of my left arm. Breaking into a sprint, I felt the jabs of hornet stingers all over my body, as I sprinted away from the porch.

“So this is how it feels to run from the tracker jackers” was the only coherent thought I had that I can actually remember.

Sometimes, my brain has an odd sense of humor and/or timing.

By the time it was all said and done, I had been stung a total of fourteen times, and I could hardly move. Immediately taking stock of my body, I checked to make sure I was still able to breathe and see.

I could breathe with little difficulty, but my vision was another story–my eyes wouldn’t focus properly, and the world around me was nothing but one giant blur.

Mom called Patricia, who immediately came to pick me up. Mom clearly felt horrible, but in every storm cloud, there is a silver lining.

It didn’t have to be me that got stung. My joints wouldn’t be so sore right now if I hadn’t.

But they didn’t kill me. My mom was the only other adult there, and she had my two-year-old by the hand, and immediately took Christine inside when she saw the attack begin. If Chris had been on that porch with me, I shudder to think what might have

hornet

A hornet, much like the ones in the swarm that attacked me on Sunday

happened. We don’t know if she’s allergic, but she’s a young girl. If fourteen hornet stings have made me feel the way I do right now (sore muscles, a pounding headache, and stiff joints), they probably would have killed my daughter.

 

Then, of course, there’s Mom. She had been out, cutting the grass that day. Hornets are notorious for going after noises and vibrations, but they didn’t this time. Thankfully, they attacked me before Mom could get stung, even one time, which is a real blessing.

You see, my mom is deathly allergic to bee-stings. If those hornets would have swarmed on her while she cut the grass on Sunday, she likely would have been dead long before anyone knew it. Sure, she has an Epi-Pen auto-injector, but it was inside, not with her on the lawn-mower. Besides, I severely doubt that her dosage is strong enough to handle fourteen stings from hornets, anyway.

So, sure, I could be incredibly bummed out that I was stung, and that my body now feels like a stiff pile of male bovine excrement, but I can’t. My mom was there to keep my daughter safe, and neither of them were hurt.

My wife came and picked us up and drove us home (wouldn’t have been smart of me to drive with double vision), and I’ve slept for most of the last two days, but I’m fine. My kids are safe, and I’ll live, even after having been attacked by a swarm of hornets. I’m back at my desk and working once more, so that’s a great thing too.

Now, somebody pass the Benedryl.

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