Teaching at Upcoming Writing Workshop

In a couple of weeks, I will be teaching two sessions for a Nonfiction Writing Workshop in Colorado Springs. I’ll be speaking on developing characters and writing life. The workshop will be Saturday, February 18th, 10am-1pm at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry. You can find more details about cost and registration via the attached document. Hope to see you there!writing-class-first-anncmt_page_1writing-class-first-anncmt_page_2

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Wait, Podcasts Can Help My Writing?

When it comes down to it, I’m a relatively new podcast listener. Though aware of them for quite some time, I had a greater interest in listening to music and never bothered giving podcasts a shot.

As I began to take my writing career more seriously, I sought a way to get advice and hear about the industry on regular basis. Unfortunately, I can’t realistically go to workshops, author events, conferences, what have you, daily. Podcasts became a perfect solution.

The podcasts I tend to listen to focus primarily on writing – whether that be craft or genre focused ones. What drew me to each of these is they focus on writing in some shape or form and have been valuable in either giving me tricks to improve my craft or enhance my knowledge of the industry. It is amazing what listening to hours of interviews, authors sharing their experiences along with craft tips, and publishing professionals explaining their role in the industry will do for your writing career. These podcasts haven’t only helped hone my craft but also equipped me with tools to be a successful working author — when that time comes.

Below is a list of podcasts that are in my regular rotation:

Writing Excuses
This was the first podcast I listened to and the one that got me addicted to writing podcasts. Perfect length of time, packed with great content to help writers. Featuring acclaimed authors — Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Taylor. Highly recommend.

Functional Nerds
This podcast appeals to me in so many ways. They have a big emphasis on science fiction and fantasy media — as well as other topics. It is a lot of fun to listen to Patrick Hester and John Anealio’s interviews each week. Their Picks of the Week always provide entertaining new media to check out.

Sword & Laser
Great way to stay on top of the current news in the SF/F market. Tom Merritt and Veronica Belmont’s conversations are engaging and the show features plenty of great author interviews. If you’re in need of something to read check out their Picks on the website.

Beyond The Trope
The show has a strong emphasis on writing but covers all facets of nerd culture too. Entertaining and informative.

Scott Sigler (Primarily the Friday Fix)
I primarily like this feature for the occasional author interviews, which are always fun and enlightening. Other episodes vary in topic and usually have to do with something current out in the media world. Lots of other great content over at Scott’s website.

Shipping & Handling
Hosted by two literary agents, this podcast offers a great opportunity to see the publishing industry through their eyes. The show features great conversations about books and writing. They also answer questions sent in by listeners, which is very helpful and a great resource.

Ditch Diggers
Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace focus on the business side of writing with this podcast. This show isn’t aimed at beginners and pulls no punches by painting a realistic picture of the writing life — discussing the good and the bad. Genuine conversations between Mur and Matt, along with the occasional guests, the advice provided is invaluable. If you’re looking for something geared more towards the beginner writer, check out Mur’s I Should be Writing.

88 Cups of Tea
I came across this podcast thanks to Mindee Arnett posting on Twitter the week she was a guest on 88 Cups of Tea.
By the way, if you haven’t checked out Mindee’s books, you should. Ever since listening to that episode I was hooked. Yin Chang is an outstanding host and has authentic conversations with her guests that leave you inspired. The guest authors in particular share a lot of awesome writing advice. This podcast is great for novelists, screenwriters, filmmakers, or other creatives.

Wired: Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy
This show primarily focuses on everything Science Fiction and Fantasy, in all mediums, with a great assortment of guests. The episodes are pretty lengthy but because of that are in-depth on a variety of genre related topics. With an extensive archive of past episodes, I’m sure you’ll find an episode that’d interest you.

So that’s a list of some of my favorite writing podcasts, though I have a handful of others. Any I missed that you enjoy?

20 Book Related Questions

Saw this survey of sorts on a few different blogs and decided to give it a whirl.

1. Favorite childhood book?

Since a lack of range was given, I’m going to make an executive decision for the sake of this question. Childhood = youngling to teen.
When I was a young lad I loved the Magic Treehouse Series. Harry Potter is an obvious one but is worth listing. Artemis Fowl (loved the 1st three, I still need to read the last two) Eragon, The Chronicles of Prydain

Teenage years I read a lot of Ted Dekker.
2. What are you reading right now?

Tin Men by Christopher Golden
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, Fury by Steven James, Stone Rider by David Hofmeyr,
Armada by Ernest Cline, The New Order by Chris Weitz, Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

4. Bad book habit?

Checking out books at the library when I have a stack at home. Buying books when I have a stack at home.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?

Tin Men by Christopher Golden, Partials by Dan Wells, The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima, We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee, Plague by Michael Grant, How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card, Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

6. Do you have an e-reader?

Yes – generally only use it for travel. Still prefer print books.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

Usually only one. Sometimes I’ll do a fiction and non-fiction, but then I never finish the non-fiction. So yeah, best to just read one.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

No

9. Least favorite book you read this year?

*insert cricket chirps*

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?

Golden Son by Pierce Brown and The Martian by Andy Weir were both spectacular.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton and Finder’s Keepers by Stephen King were some other favorites.

11. How often do you read outside of your comfort zone?

Occasionally. These are usually books that have been recommended to me or I’m reading as inspiration for my writing.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

Young Adult and Young Adult. Fantasy/Science Fiction. Contemporary. Thrillers.

13. Can you read on the bus?

I can read where I very well please

14. Favorite place to read?

Home

15. What is your policy on book lending?

Go to the library. They have more books to lend out than I do.

16. Do you dog-ear your books?

No

17. Do you write notes on the margins of your books?

Not at present. I think I’d be too distracted doing that in a novel.

18. Do you break/crack the spines?

Who do I look like Bane? No spine cracking.

19. What is your favorite language to read?

English

20. What makes you love a book?

Well Written Words. Unique Plots. Gripping Stories. Escape. Inspiration. Cool Covers (Graphic Designer loves his covers. It’s a beautiful thing when both cover and story are awesome.)

End of Year Goals & New Project

We’ve finished the 6th month of the year. Since we’re around the halfway point of said year I thought I’d mention a few goals I have from now to December.
At the beginning of the year I gave myself the challenge of reading 100 novels this year. To this point I’m right on track with that goal. I’ve read 51 of 100 books.

Writing wise I am quite proud of what I’ve accomplished thus far. I started a brand new manuscript towards the end of January and finished a 1st draft in the concluding week of May. I wish to get this guy edited and ready to query out to agents in the coming months. The revising stage is my least favorite part of the writing process. But so far my excitement for this particular project has given me the drive to work on it and I’m making good progress.

In addition to this project, I am in the developing stages of another Young Adult novel. I’ve gotten a couple thousand words written. Funny how inspiration works. My intent was to edit the last novel I did before starting another, but I was bombarded by a handful of scenarios that I couldn’t resist starting. A flash fiction writing exercise for my writing group spurred the original thought for this novel.

While this might push the limits of my available time, I’d also like to see myself wrap up this novel by the end of the year. In its own right, this is rather ambitious of me. I’ve proved to myself I can knock out a first draft in this allotted time — I haven’t written in this genre per say. I’m fully immersed in the realm of YA, but my past works have revolved around the speculative side of things. At present, my intent is to make this into a YA contemporary, which might stretch me in some ways. It is a big change from other stories I’ve written where elements of the fantastical can be used as plot points and further the story, to them being irrelevant in a story like this. We’ll see what happens though, fan/sci-fi elements keep working their way into my mind as a direction to take the plot. This so called YA contemporary plan might get thrown out the window.

With my current schedule, I will be impressed with myself if I’ll manage to finish two first drafts in a year. The revising of my last book comes first though (though I would rather keep making new stories, can’t even put in words the trill that comes from that ) I need to finish that which I have started.

If you want to know more about my writing exploits between this post and the next, follow me on Twitter. I share a few nuggets here and there about my writing.

Until next time – Josh

Music Spotlight: Lifehouse – Out of the Wasteland

May 26th marked the release of Lifehouse’s seventh album Out of the Wasteland. I’ve been a Lifehouse fan for quite sometime now, so to say I was looking forward to this release would be an understatement. I was happy to hear they were going back to their roots on this one. While Almeria wasn’t bad, it was underwhelming. There were some good songs, but as a whole, it sounded like a band who didn’t really know what direction they wanted to take. It seemed like a mix of their classic sound and some experimental stylistic choices to branch out in another direction. I admired the creativity but a lot of it didn’t gel too well as coherent album. The album just didn’t feel like Lifehouse.

Out of the Wasteland changes that. Thanks to Pandora Premieres, I listened to the album numerous times before release week and kept spinning it when I picked up my own copy. I absolutely love it. The band said that this album felt like the recording of the 1st one; you see this in both stylistic sound and the lyrics. This is heavily noticeable in Hurricane, Flight, and Wish. All of these, to me, felt like they could seamlessly flow into the track listing of No Name Face.

Flight was one of the highlights for me on this album. Such a beautifully written song. Starts off slow and then builds up to a soaring finish. Right away this track fell into the tier of Everything, Broken, Storm, which to me are some of their most powerful tracks. These songs go that extra mile, connecting with the soul, exuding that transformative quality.

Lifehouse wouldn’t be Lifehouse without some standout ballads and this album doesn’t disappoint. Wish, Yesterday’s Son and Hourglass get the job done. Yesterday’s Son takes the cake in this area, arguably my favorite track on the album, Flight being the other contender. A fairly simple song, but it makes a statement nonetheless. As much as I like Hourglass, I kinda would have liked to see Yesterday’s Son wrap the album up. To me it was stronger than Hourglass and would have ended the album on a higher note. That’s me being picky though, both are a great finish to the album.

A few minor complaints. The 2nd track, One for the Pain, is the one song I had a hard time getting into. The beat wasn’t bad but I had a difficult time connecting with the lyrics. I find myself skipping this one the majority of the time.

While I like the style of the music on the album, I was a little disappointed that there aren’t any other upbeat tracks akin to Hurricane. Stardust gets close and is a highlight in its own regard – Bryce absolutely kills it taking over vocal duties and I’d  love to hear some additional tracks from him in the future – but didn’t capture that particular sound I was looking for. There weren’t enough songs in the vein of Spin, Disarray, First Time, All In, Hanging By A Moment, etc. that Hurricane encapsulated. I have always found these particular tracks such strong offerings from the band, that I’d have liked a few more on the album.

Hurt This Way is another one that picks up the pace a bit from the rest of the tracks. I think the verses and melody are spot on but the repetitive chorus kinda hurts my overall appreciation for this song, taking it from good to just okay.

Besides my two small issues with One for the Pain and Hurt This Way, I think Lifehouse put together a great batch of songs. The songwriting, emotion, passion, it’s all there. I continue to admire Lifehouse for their relateable and inspiring songs, creating music that makes a difference in people’s lives.

I think this was a solid release for Lifehouse. This album shows where the band has come from and where they are headed. Making the title Out of the Wasteland so fitting. Lifehouse shows they know who they are, how to best capitalize on their strengths and in turn make a great album. Time will tell where it falls when stacked up to their other albums. Who We Are and No Name Face are my two personal favorites and at the moment, I’d put Out of the Wasteland in 3rd. If you’re a fan of Lifehouse there is no reason you shouldn’t pick up this album, plenty to enjoy.

Top Tracks: Flight, Yesterday’s Son, Hurricane, Stardust

May Update & On Deck Reads

Sorry for the large gap of time between posts. I’m in the middle of writing the 1st draft of my 3rd manuscript, which as of this post crossed the 55,000 word mark. If time allows me to sit down and write, currently I see it more valuable for those words to go towards my novel rather than a blog post. But I don’t want to neglect this to the point of it being pushed to some far off corner of the interweb, gathering up mounds of dust. So consider this the dust rag wiping away that filth.

On Deck Reads (If you’re wondering what the heck this is, essentially another name for my TBR)

#1: Mistborn Well of Accession by Brandon Sanderson: I read Mistborn The Final Empire back in March. Fascinating book. Great premise, well executed plot, complex characters, fun magic system, superb world building. Some parts you had to work through for the immersion into Sanderson’s world, but I can’t say I was bored, definitely a story you get pulled into. I’ve had book 2 of this series on my radar since I finished the 1st and have every intent of reading it this month. If you love fantasy and haven’t given Sanderson a shot, you’re missing out.

#2: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: This is probably the book I’m most excited to read at the moment. I currently have this on hold at the library and am patiently waiting  or trying to trick myself to be patient for this. I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this one on Amazon,  booktubers I watch, and Goodreads. The blurb got me hooked, it sounds like a great fantasy read and I’m excited to get started. With all the buzz and what the blurb alluded to, I’m hoping for a satisfying read.

#3: Stephen King Book: I just got into King in the last few years. My disadvantage is I have a huge catalog of books to get through since the guy had a huge head start on me. I love King’s writing style, if nothing else, as a writer, his book’s are worth reading for the sole fact of learning from his style. Pair that with he writes great stories too and I’m one happy guy. Book 3 of The Dark Tower Series- The Waste Lands is the next one I’m planning to pick up. Which will make another small dent of me getting through King’s works.

#4: A Re-Read of some Sort: I have so many new books I want to read that re-reading seems like a foolish notion. But I think there is a lot of value in re-reading a favorite book and that it can serve as a great learning tool for a writer to revisit  past reads. Possibilities in this category: Artemis Fowl, Chronicles of Prydain, Harry Potter(these never get old), The Hobbit (Neither does this), John Green and the list goes on…

So these are some books I plan to get through this month. We’ll see what happens, I read a lot of books off a whim. There isn’t much of a sense of order when it comes to my reading habits. I’m always interested to see what I end up reading each month.

Would love to hear some books you’re excited to read. Who know’s, maybe I’ll add it to my already large TBR pile.

-Josh

Update and Entertainment Rundown

Two blog posts in and I find myself already struggling between the balance of blogging and writing/editing my novels. I’m trying to be intentional about keeping this going, even if these posts are a little sporadic.

Bit of a Writing Update:
I’ve been working on a new novel for the past month. I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made so far and intrigued with where the story is going.

I’m simultaneously editing a manuscript that I completed a little while back. I finally gave enough breathing room between writing and picking it up to edit; I can now critically analyze it. Needless to say large chunks of it need an overhaul, but it is exciting to see it grow and take on an identity. It’s a long fight and arduous battle to take its misshapen form and shape my story into something publish worthy. The battle resumes.

I thought I’d share a brief entertainment rundown, in this case, a book series and new music I’ve enjoyed recently:

Pierce Brown author of the Red Rising Trilogy:

This author has become like a dream come true of mine. Being a big fantasy and sci-fi fan, I have fallen head over heels for his books that are a fantastic fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian mashup. I can’t get enough of Darrow’s gritty, action packed adventure.

The world building in the Red Rising Trilogy is some of the best I’ve read for quite sometime. A lot of build up in Book 1 meant a lot of details but Brown makes up for it with a believable world and delivering an action heavy sequel. Seriously, if you haven’t read Brown’s work check it out. I’m reminded of Star Wars meets Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones. A sci-fi Game of Thrones always comes to my mind, it definitely has the dark, brutal atmosphere of Martin’s work. But these are simply comparisons. Brown has created something that is very much his own and given readers an infectious story to sink into.

This guy is an incredible new author and favorite of mine. Not many complaints from me when I like the writing style, the material he’s tackling, and  creation of one heck of a story. Can’t wait for the conclusion of the trilogy.

Pierce Brown’s Website: http://www.redrisingbook.com/

RED of Beauty and Rage:

Veteran rockers RED released their newest album February 24th. Those who have followed RED since their debut will find plenty to love in this new album. I feel like the band has really hit their stride with this outing.
The strings, now cemented as a staple of the band’s sound, are back in full force after a departure in Release the Panic. The pairing of the haunting orchestral work and brooding guitar riffs work spectacularly. Plenty of Mike Barnes’ classic screams and a vocal performance as good as any off their past albums.

I have always admired the thematic material they theme their albums off of and an emphasis on a complete story, this time taking the idea of a concept album as far as they ever have. This time around, they truly have a complete arc from track 1 to 15, tackling the darkness in our lives and not shying back on confronting such a force. The beautiful thing is, you aren’t forced to stay and rot in that agony, as the album’s message is ultimately one of hope. The light conquering the dark.

In a day and age were more and more bands/artists are focusing on those few tracks to hook in the listener, it is refreshing to have a band give their full attention to the entire piece. While there are plenty of single songs to enjoy on this album I feel you miss out on everything the band set out to do if you only check those out.

With a weaving both musically and thematically, this album makes for an exciting hour long listen. An ambitious undertaking  pulled off by RED, taking us along for a ride of pain and depravity all the way to highest peaks of redemption. If you are looking for competent and enjoyable rock, all the pieces are right here.

Personal Favorites: Imposter, Darkest Part, Falling Skies, Gravity Lies

Purchase of Beauty and Rage: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/of-beauty-and-rage/id961259509