Saturday in the Stacks

Quote Exploration – The Great Gatsby

Saturday is the perfect time to wander through the stacks (that’s librarian-speak for “bookshelves”) and talk about books and the people who write them. Pull up a comfy chair and settle in, because today I want to do a deep dive into a quote from one of my all-time favorite books, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

“He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Reading this passage for the first time as a seventeen-year-old aspiring author was lifechanging. So much so that I, to this day, feel the same warmth bloom in my chest reading these words that I did those many years ago. Fitzgerald has a rare gift when it comes to characterization. He paints people beautifully, with words that go way beyond skin-deep.

At the face of it, the passage above is all about a physical feature of Jay Gatsby: his smile. But we learn so much more about the man than just that he has a winning grin — we learn about how he views people, how people view him, how he affects others, and moves through the universe. We learn, in one eloquently worded moment, that Gatsby is an eternal optimist, a man of almost irresistible charm, and that to be the object of his smile is intoxicating, perhaps even addicting. It sets the stage for our protagonist in sublime fashion.

When I read the quote above, I knew I wanted to write characters like that. I wanted to hold up one aspect of them to the light and in doing so send refractions and reflections of their innermost selves bouncing around the page and the readers’ imaginations. In fact, in my very first book, .exe: A Cadence Turing Mystery, I created a homage to this moment from The Great Gatsby with my main character, Cadence Turing, and her smile.

Is there a particular quote from The Great Gatsby that has always stood out to you? Throw it down in the comments below!

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Werewolf Wednesday

Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Happy Werewolf Wednesday, everyone! This week I’m going to talk about one of the werewolf characters that significantly influenced me as I constructed my own world of wolfy wonder: Oz from the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Daniel ‘Oz’ Osbourne is introduced in the beginning of the second season of Buffy. I think the Buffyverse Wiki does a good job of summing up his character: “[Oz] was a member of the Scooby Gang, a werewolf, the guitarist of Dingoes Ate My Baby, and a student at Sunnydale High School, then UC Sunnydale. He also was the boyfriend of Willow Rosenberg until he left [for] Tibet.”

I think what I love the most about Oz as a character is how is lycanthropy does not define him, or even significantly change his personality. He is the same laidback, sardonic, placid teen after he is bitten that he was before he is bitten. All too often in werewolf fiction, someone is turned and it’s not just they’re body that goes through a transformation – it’s their very sense of self that is transmuted and changed. They become moody, possessive, or even aggressive. But Oz was the first time I saw someone turned into a werewolf and just…roll with it.

I also find the portrayal of Oz to be especially compelling because he is a male werewolf that completely avoids the whole “Alpha/Beta” coding. He certainly does not act like your typical “alpha male” (which is fantastic in my opinion), but he isn’t a doormat either. He’s a fully realized, round person, or werewolf in this case. He’s not merely a collection of tropes. We need less of those in fiction!

What are some other stand-out werewolves from television, movies, or books that you think helped broaden or define what a werewolf can be? I’d love to see who some of your favorites are in the comments!

Behind the Scenes Sunday

Why Adopt a Daily Writing Practice

Let’s take a peek at the cogs inside the machine and talk about why I write and how I write on Behind the Scenes Sunday! Today I’d like to talk about something that’s been a big part of my life for over three years now: a daily writing practice.

Just the mention of a daily writing practice is enough to send some writers into conniption fits, and I don’t blame them! In fact, I used to be one of them! I hated hearing about how “Stephen King writes X number of words every day and you should too!” or how if you didn’t write every day you were a lazy writer, or not truly serious about your craft.

Almost out of sheer spite and stubbornness, I resisted committing to a daily writing practice for years. I was never going to be able to write a thousand words a day every day, so what was the point? I would just end up disappointing myself and feeling defeated in the end. That’s not why I write.

But then I came across a more nuanced version of this piece of well-travelled writing advice. I can’t remember now where I heard it or who I heard it from, but it went something like this: It doesn’t matter how much you write every day. It doesn’t matter what you write every day. What matters is that you WROTE that day.

Photo of blocks of letters by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash

Now that resonated with me. Within those parameters, I felt like I couldn’t fail. So I gave it a try. I set a goal for myself that wasn’t based on word count, but on time committed: 10 minutes. I would take 10 minutes every day to write. And I would write…whatever came into my head. Stream of consciousness. What was I thinking, what I was feeling, basically a diary, as snapshot of myself and my impressions within those 10 minutes.

I’ve been at it for three years now and I have to tell you, the benefits have been astonishing. There are five main reasons why I’ve stuck with it all this time:

  1. It helps my mental health! Writing helps keep me sane and writing about what I’m feeling helps twice as much.
  2. Practice makes perfect — or at least better! By writing every day I am honing my craft and improving my skills as a writer.
  3. Progress is made by inches, not miles! Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It was built brick by brick. And that’s how books and short stories and poems get built as well. Brick by brick. Even just 10 minutes a day can get you closer to writing what you want to write.
  4. You never know when inspiration will strike! You have to show up if you want the muse to show up.
  5. Achievable goals are repeatable goals! It’s 10 minutes. Making a cup of tea can take me longer than that! And if I don’t have time for a cup of tea all day? Well, that’s just wrong.

What about you? Do you believe that writing every day is important? What is your daily writing practice? How have you been able to stick with it? Let’s chat about it in the comments!

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Saturday in the Stacks

TBR Pile – Such Sharp Teeth

Saturday is the perfect time to wander through the stacks (that’s librarian-speak for “bookshelves”) and talk about books and the people who write them. Pull up a comfy chair and settle in, because today I want to chat about the book that has recently risen to the top of my to-be-read pile, Rachel Harrison’s Such Sharp Teeth.

Right there on the cover, this book proudly proclaims itself to be “A Werewolf Novel” so it was pretty much an instant buy for me. When I did a little more digging into the author after I got the book safely home, I became even more excited to dig into it. Rachel Harrison is the author of Cackle and The Return, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. This says to me, this an author who knows their horror stuff.

Reading the ‘back of the book’ blurb, I was struck by how this book seemed poised to explore themes that I myself was eager to delve into when it came to werewolf tropes. The novel presents us with Rory, a reluctant heroine, and turns her into a werewolf. The question then becomes what to do with her newfound wildness – embrace it or run away from it? Is being true to who she now is putting others in danger? Or is the real danger in denying the fullness of what she has become?

Add to all of that a little bit of romance and a whole lot of comedy, and it almost feels like Rachel Harrison wrote this book just for me. It is definitely my next read and I can’t wait to rip into it.

What about you all? What’s at the top of your TBR piles? Anything you’ve been dying to get to for a while? Share in the comments!

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Werewolf Wednesday

An American Werewolf in London

Happy Werewolf Wednesday, everyone! This week I’m going to talk about what I think is one of the most iconic werewolf movies of all time: An American Werewolf in London.

Released in 1981, this self-proclaimed comedy-horror film from legendary director John Landis was not just a commercial and critical success at the time of its release but has gained cult film status as the years have gone on. For those of you unfamiliar with this eighties gem, the basic premise is as follows: two American backpackers travelling through England are attacked by a werewolf. Only one of them survives the attack — but having been bitten, he is fated to suffer the curse of the werewolf until he dies.

This film was a big inspiration to me as I wrote Hungry is the Night. I think the transformation scene in American Werewolf is the most terrifying, visceral things ever put on film and I was determined to recreate something like it in my work. I didn’t want the shift from human to werewolf to be a simple, easy, or pleasant thing for my characters — I wanted it to hurt. I wanted to give some balance to their power. Yes, werewolves in the world of The Night series can transform into eight foot tall, practically invincible, incredibly strong and agile creatures, but it doesn’t happen at the drop of a hat, and it doesn’t happen without a price being paid.

For me, there is only one werewolf film more iconic than An American Werewolf in London: the original The Wolf Man film from 1941. Maybe I’ll talk about how that film inspired certain aspects of The Night series next Werewolf Wednesday! For now, I’d love to hear from you: are you a fan of this eighties flick? Is there a werewolf movie you love more? Tell me about it!

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