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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Hello, again, to anyone reading this blog. I’ve not been very prolific on here, this being only my third post, but there’s a good reason for that: I have been steadily chipping away at my fiction. I still haven’t been producing as much as I feel like I could be, but I know I’ll get there. I’m happy to report that last night I finished the first draft of “Seeing Things” and I already have the beginnings of the next story in the life of David Calchas. More on him, and the story, in just a bit.

First I would like to just float some of my recent ponderings your way.

Confidence is a strange, fickle beast. I often struggle with my own belief in the quality of my writing, and more times than not it’s that same lack of confidence that grounds my progress to a halt. I can get into a funk so deep that I’m convinced everything I write is trash.  Somehow the knowledge that many others before me have gone through similar struggles, and gotten past them, does little to make the situation palatable for me. I can even look back at some of my own previous battles with the ten-ton pen, but in the moment those experiences don’t seem to be worth very much. Usually I find that something in me is responsible, and until that issue is resolved I have a tough time making any progress. And again, even though I’m able to think about the problem logically, that’s not much help.

On the other hand, there are times when I feel like I could keep writing until my fingers go numb. I get into the zone, I feel good about my writing and my entire process. I wish I could get into that rhythm whenever I wanted. If that was possible, well I’d probably spend every free second I had writing.

Last night I powered through the final pages of a short story, and I can’t remember the last time I wanted so badly for the story to just keep going. I reached the ending I’d set for myself, and that was great. I’m glad that I can move on from that one, at least until I go back to polish it for the next draft. What kills me is that I could have kept on going, or started another story right then. Alas, the hour was late and I had to get up for work today.

I’m just trying to look for ways to capture that good feeling and keep it going for as long as possible.

And now, as promised, a little introduction to my upcoming story and its protagonist.

Who is David Calchas?

Dave just wants to live his life in peace, go to work in the morning, and come home to eat a nice meal before he falls into bed. He’s cynical and sarcastic most of the time, and it’s gotten him into trouble more than once, though he’s not a bad guy if you get to know him. It’s just that the world seems to have very little regard for him, and the promise of a happy future is now seemingly out of reach. With his thirtieth birthday come and gone, a nasty divorce that’s just been finalized, and no children, Dave is sort of drifting through his days.

But that’s about to change in a big way. Dave looks in the mirror one day and sees two of himself looking back—one is his reflection, familiar and just what you’d expect to see, but the other is something else. The other Dave looks just like him, except he’s not staring back blankly. He’s grinning at Dave, waving at him and laughing hysterically as Dave tries again and again to wake up. There is no waking up, because the man staring back at him isn’t just a dream or the product of an over-active imagination.

That’s just where it begins for Dave, as he starts seeing more and more of these doppelgangers. The mirror isn’t the only place he’s seeing them: they’re watching him when he looks into puddles, sneaking up behind him when he talks to someone wearing sunglasses, or making faces at him from the shiny surface of a freshly washed window. Some of them are horribly disfigured or look like the victim of a serious accident, whether they’re missing limbs or losing their intestines through a big hole in their midsection.

He tries to just ignore it, but eventually he decides to tell someone about his visitors. That’s where “Seeing Things” picks up the narrative, with Dave sitting in a psychiatrist’s office and trying to explain this new, disturbing wrinkle in his day to day. He doesn’t really think he’s going crazy, but he’s too afraid to tell any of his friends or family about what he’s seeing. The way he looks at it, he’s paying for someone to listen to him for an hour and, you never know, maybe he is just going insane.

This story is an entryway into Dave’s world, a good place for the reader to get to know Dave and follow along as he tries to make some sense of all the absurd events that propel him into his new life. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot here, but like I said before this is an origin story. Dave will never be the same after the events of “Seeing Things” and his life becomes anything but dull. He’s put on a path from which there is no return, but as it turns out…he doesn’t care if he ever comes back.

And, yeah, I still need to put up some kind of bio for this blog. I’ll get to it, someday.

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Fans of Stephen King are well versed in his abilities as an author, particularly his ability to write many kinds of stories. While he holds a well-earned reputation as a master of horror, King proves once again with Joyland that he doesn’t always need to scare to impress.

If you’re looking for a bloody tale of murder or a story filled with supernatural evil, Joyland is not going to satisfy you. Much of the central mystery has to do with a ghost, and there are a few other bits that are certainly akin to what you’d find in other King novels, but at its core this is a coming of age story. There’s a lot to love about this book, because what it lacks in scares it makes up for in loveable characters and fascinating plot.

The novel is narrated by the protagonist, Devin Jones, as he recalls the events of one very important year in his life. He ends up getting a job at Joyland, a carnival in North Carolina, after his girlfriend, Wendy, tells him they need some time apart. Devin is a virgin at twenty-one, still waiting for the day he’ll finally do ‘it.’ It’s no surprise to the reader when Wendy breaks it off with him, leaving him adrift at his new summer job and feeling more than a little lost. After hearing about an unsolved murder that happened at the park and the story of how Linda Gray’s ghost still haunts the ride she was killed in, Devin becomes fascinated with the case. Along with his friends, he climbs onto the ride in the hopes of seeing the spirit. His friend Tom sees her, and is forever changed by the experience.

He learns to enjoy the busy days at work, selling fun to the crowds of visitors that pour in throughout the summer, and eventually he decides to take off the fall semester to continue working there. Something about working at Joyland just seems right to him and he tells us that, “I felt that Joyland had something more to give me. I didn’t know what, just…s’more.” Plus, he desperately wants to catch a glimpse of the ghost. He’s troubled by the murder of Linda Gray, and he enlists the help of a friend to start gathering information that he hopes will lead him to discovering the identity of the killer.

Later, Devin meets Mike and Annie Ross. Annie is the daughter of a famous radio preacher known for his fire-and-brimstone sermons and his supposed miracle working. Having fallen out of favor with her father over her well-publicized exploits as a wild child, Annie lives a quiet life and takes care of her son. Mike is a young boy with muscular dystrophy and an innate ability to see into the minds of others. He knows things he shouldn’t know, and understands far more than most kids his age. Devin quickly grows to admire and care for him due to his defiant courage in the face of his illness. Mike is an extremely memorable character that the reader is not going to forget any time soon. I’ve read quite a few Stephen King novels, and I’ve grown attached to many of his characters. Mike Ross was my favorite part of Joyland, even though he’s not introduced until a little less than half way through the book.

Working at the carnival, Devin learns to talk ‘the Talk’ and becomes very adapt at dressing up as the park’s mascot, Howie the hound, a job they call ‘wearing the fur.’ On his first day, Devin is forced to be a last-minute replacement for a co-worker who was chosen to wear the fur. He rushes to get into costume and shows up at the Wiggle-Waggle (the daycare center at Joyland where parents can drop off their younger kids for a few hours) with no idea of what to do next. He starts dancing once he realizes the Hokey Pokey is playing in the background, and before long he’s being swarmed by a mass of laughing kids. Devin’s initial trepidation, and his discomfort at having to wear the big furry suit, disappears almost instantly:

“As they watched, I began to do the Hokey Pokey…Sorrow and terror over lost              parents were forgotten, at least for the time being. They laughed, some with tears still gleaming on their cheeks…I forgot about being hot and uncomfortable. I didn’t think about how my undershorts were sticking in the crack of my ass. Later I would have a bitch of a heat-headache, but just then I felt okay—really good, in fact.”

Devin finds that he’s not only very good at dressing up as Howie, since he eventually becomes the go-to guy for that particular task, but that he actually enjoys it a great deal. The reader shares in these experiences with him and sees the start of Devin’s slow climb out of his depression. These scattered instances, filled with so much joy and light-hearted fun, also work as perfect contrasts to Joyland’s frequently deep and dark reflections on the nature of love, loss, life, and death. What’s most impressive about this is how King manages to create memorable scenes in the novel that are not reliant on their importance to the plot or filled with overly sappy language. The depth of this book’s emotional appeal comes from believable interactions between life-like characters, all of which feel very natural and plausible.

As always, King sets the stage for his story by filling it with characters that are walking, talking examples of local color—in addition to being fully fleshed out, they legitimize the setting and make it feel authentic. Devin meets all different types of people, but the most noteworthy are those he meets at his new job. There’s Rosalind Gold, known to visitors as Madame Fortuna, whose glittery showmanship and fake psychic act are full of irony, as the reader learns that she does possess some latent talent for portending future events. She tells Devin that she sees two people in his future, a little girl with a red hat and little boy with a dog. Or Lane Hardy, a veteran of carnival work who’s always quick to make a joke and becomes good friends with Devin, always spotted wearing his trademark derby hat.

These characters give the reader an entry into the world of carnival workers, and they’re every bit as important as King’s descriptions of the buildings, rides, and games that make up Joyland. They speak in their own familiar dialect and throw around all sorts of ludicrous sounding phrases. In a short author’s note after the text, King goes out of his way to point out that some of the phrases that the Joyland employees use are strictly a product of his imagination. Whether these odd little sayings are real or fiction, they add a distinct sense of flavor to the story. By the time you’re done reading the book, you’ll know what it means to ‘flash a shy.’

Joyland is a very subtly crafted frame story, where the reader is being told the story of a young man from an old man’s perspective. King seamlessly jumps between threads as Devin mixes in anecdotes from later in life and ruminates on the choices he made as a young man. Much of the satisfaction I got from reading this book was a result of its sheer emotional impact. As a narrator, Devin Jones sometimes looks back at his young self with mixed feelings. His honest reflections—about his decisions, his relationships, and his habits—add so much to the story that I couldn’t imagine it being told any other way. As you continue reading and learn more about that fateful year in Devin’s life, you’re also getting to know the man he will become.

Some of the most profound moments of the novel are where Devin stops and reflects. Devin’s mother is a victim of breast cancer, dead at the age of 47, and his father has not always had the easiest time adjusting to life without her. Before leaving to start his new job, Devin sits down for a meal with his dad. Devin acknowledges that his father was not very fond of Wendy, and King writes: “At the time, I thought it was because he was a bit jealous of Wendy’s place in my life. Now I think he saw her more clearly than I could. I can’t say for sure; we never talked about it. I’m not sure men know how to talk about women in any meaningful way.” These few short sentences provide a significant insight into Devin’s family life, showing his struggles to connect with his father and the dichotomy of how a young man perceives jealousy in his father, while an older man sees the concern his dad had for him all along.

The conclusion of the novel is satisfying and offers a fitting end to the story. Some of the questions that have haunted Devin are finally answered. His journey from a heartsick college kid to a mature adult is not over, but he’s well on his way to moving beyond the trappings of his early life. Despite the relatively slow start, the last thirty or so pages fly by at lightning speed and the tension that’s been slowly building finally reaches its climax. Without spoiling anything that happens, all I can say is that King does a remarkable job of tying up the loose ends before it’s all over. The final image that King provides the reader is likely to have an impact—I know it certainly affected me, and I’ve found my thoughts returning to it more than once since I put the book down.

Joyland may not be one of King’s best (that’s asking for a lot), but it is still a great book and well worth your time.

My name is Damian Roache.

I’ve been trying to think of something interesting or profound to write for this first post, but I already deleted my first few tries. I’m going to be honest and concise instead.

This blog should have existed long before now. I can only say that now is better than never, and I’ll just have to try to make up for lost time.

Writing is a very important part of my life. I consider myself a writer, though I admit I’m not a published author. I’m working on changing that second part.

I tend to view the world through the filter of storytelling, whether it’s my own personal life experiences or the people, places, and things I see. Some of what I write here will be a look into the strange musings of my daily life, whether I’m thinking about words—how we use them, what they mean, or even just how they sound when said aloud—or writing and the writing process. I spend plenty of time considering what I want to write, how I should write it, what I want to accomplish by telling a story, and more. You can expect me to offer my opinion on these subjects regularly, along with updates on my own writing. I’m still tossing around some ideas about how to incorporate my writing into this blog, but we’ll see how it goes. If nothing else, you can expect me to talk about what I’ve been writing lately and how it’s all shaping up.

At present, I am writing several short stories and a new novel that I hope will be the start of a series. I’ll be telling everyone more about these in the near future, but here’s a little sneak peek: one of the short stories is about David Calchas, a man that begins to see strange things in mirrors and decides to go see a psychiatrist; the novel follows Brendan Marks, a young man whose father is imprisoned for being the head of a powerful crime organization. David Calchas is a relatively normal guy when he’s first introduced to the reader, but by the end of the story it’s clear that his life will never be the same. I like to think of that particular story as an origin story, since its purpose is largely to introduce Dave (and a few of his friends) and provide background for some of his future adventures. The latter story is much more involved than the brief teaser above might suggest, and it’s a bit of a genre-bender. Both of these characters exist in the same universe, and it’s not unlikely that their paths may cross eventually, but that’s a topic for another time.

Aside from posts about my writing and my opinions on writing itself, I’ll be writing reviews for books as well as discussing a wide range of topics from the news and culture. My next post on here will be a review of Stephen King’s novel Joyland, which I just finished reading yesterday.

I should offer a warning to anyone that considers reading my blog. I usually don’t try to offend or insult people, but I do prefer to speak (and write!) in a frank manner. Anyway, I just want to say, if I offend you—that’s a shame, but remember that no one forced you to read! I do enjoy conversation, and I’m not opposed to someone whose opinion is different than mine. I invite anyone to speak freely, if you don’t like something I’ve written or disagree with my views you go right ahead and tell me. I won’t be offended by intelligent debate, but I won’t feel compelled to apologize for my words.

There’s lots of work to be done, in terms of setting up the rest of the blog as well as pushing on with my writing. For now, I’ll be content with the fact that I have it set up and I’m finally feeling like I have the right idea moving forward. I have some definite goals now, but I need to continue to work harder than I have in the past. Struggling is one thing, but sitting around and moaning about how I’m struggling has never helped me.

Assuming nothing crazy happens in the next couple of days, I should have that book review up soon. Maybe I’ll get around to posting a biography of sorts, too.

To anyone that stumbled upon this blog accidentally: Thank you for reading.

To my friends and family: Thank you for your endless support.