Farewell for Now

Right now, WordPress is not where I am supposed to be.

*where are you supposed to be, J.J.?!*

That’s the part I’m working on, disembodied voice.

When I first started this blog, I would spend my days drafting posts and exploring WordPress for cool blogs and bloggers and tracking stats and reading up on how I could bolster my content. I was invested day-to-day. That’s not where I am. The heart of this blog is my writing, and my writing is suffering. Why? I’m not too sure, but I aim to work on the writing. Otherwise, this blog is just talk, and that’s not what I want it to be. I want it to be a chronicle of action. Right now, the action is stagnant. I want to fix that, but I need to get other things in order first.

Thank you for your support. If I return, whenever that may be, I don’t expect any of you to tune in again. After all, you can only dip out so many times before your friends (even internet friends!) have had enough. Even still, if some of you do catch me again, I would hope that you say hello. It’s been a wonderful ride and I am well aware that I’m bumming some people out, but I can assure you that however bummed some may be, they’re not as bummed as I am about this situation.

I have a book to write.

Best regards,

J.J. Azar

200 Followers + Q/A Announcement!

Lovely ladies! Classy gents! Something RIDICULOUS has happened!

200 people across the globe tripped and hit their heads upon their keyboards, resulting in 200 subscribes to this blog. If you have sustained this injury and are receiving this post in your inbox or WordPress reader, I wish you a speedy recovery. Put some ice on it.

To all who have subscribed to this blog, thank you. Thank you for supporting me through everything. Thank you for your kind words, your advice, your comments. Thank you for sharing your love for writing and creativity with me. I don’t take a single one of you 200 for granted. I didn’t expect to reach this point, but it’s a cool place to be, and I cherish it immensely.

When I hit 100 followers, I did something special to commemorate it. Many of you may remember that I held a Q and A session in which I answered a bunch of your questions about me, my blog, my writing, and other nonsense in video form! I had a blast making the video, and, if the comments on that post are anything to go by, most everybody enjoyed watching it! I’d love to do another!

So, if you have any questions for me regarding myself, my blog, my writing, my likes, my dislikes, my thoughts, my attractive personality, etc., please leave them in the comments below. Serious or not, it doesn’t matter! I’ll answer em all! On camera! I may even don a suit!

My top 5 favorite posts since my last 100 follows are as follows. If you happened to miss any of them, I’d recommend checking them out, because I think they suck the least out of all of my posts!

Violence and Gore in Writing: Is There a Limit? – This post prompted me to look to literature in an effort to answer the grand question posed. The post generated a wealth of discussion in the comments section, which is why I consider the post to be such a success.

A Missed Deadline, a Hard Look – This was a difficult post to write, as I wrote it in light of the fact that I failed to reach my self-imposed deadline for the first draft of my novel in the works. In the post, I propose a game plan to help tackle the draft.

Writers, Trust Your Readers – This is a good ol’ writing post. I dig discussing writing and storytelling (that’s what my blog’s about!), so this one was a blast. +10 for Lost gifs.

Writing the Five Senses: Sight – I enjoyed writing all of the five senses posts, but this one stands out to me because I wrote it with such confidence. I really felt that I touched upon significant points.

Novel Excerpt #2, Campfires at Midnight – I’m proud of this short passage from my novel in the works. It seems to have been well-received thus far, which is cool to see!

Once again, thank you for being a part of this exciting journey.

Here’s to the next 100!

As always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

Novel Excerpt #2: Campfires at Midnight

Hello, lovely ladies and classy gents!

Earlier this week, I presented two options as to which excerpt from my novel-in-the-works you would be interested in taking a gander at. The competition was close, as it was last time, but the majority of you fine individuals selected Choice #1, pulled from a chapter titled, “Campfires at Midnight.” Thanks to all who voted! The excerpt’s summary is as follows:

Clarence and Kairi settle down by firelight to unwind after a long day’s travel. But the night is prolonged when Kairi pulls out a bottle of uju…

I sincerely hope you enjoy it. Any thoughts on the passage would be greatly appreciated.

Without further ado, here it is!

(Word count: 1190)

____

The flame ignited with a spectral moan.

Kairi’s pretty face appeared in the darkness and she lifted her eyes to look at Clarence. Her features glowed in the yellow firelight, blue eyes sultry as ever despite the faint circles that underlined them. The chill in the air was already melting away. The sight, the warmth, even the sound of the quiet crackling fire was a comfort to Clarence. And yet, he couldn’t help but pay mind to the tightness blooming in his chest like a thorny rose. He could be around fire with a sane mind; of that he was sure. He had spent countless nights beside campfires and countless days beside inn hearths since the accident without incident. Even still, the episode he suffered two nights ago instilled upon him new fear. A vision stroke, Bechamel had called it. Clarence hadn’t a reason to suspect that sitting beside a calm fire would trigger an inadvertent attack, but a caution lingered.

Kairi must have noticed, because she gasped a feminine gasp. Women had a habit of reading faces. “I forgot! Let me put it out.”

“I’m alright, I promise,” Clarence insisted with a raised hand. The heat felt nice pulsing against his skin.

Kairi tightened her brows at him. “Are you certain?” she asked, voice steady. “I do have the means of keeping you warm if we put it out.”

Clarence couldn’t help a wolfish grin from sprouting across his face. He raised a considering finger to his lips. “Do you?”

Kairi nodded, her rich blonde hair reflecting glints of gold radiating from the fire. Her grin was just as mischievous as his. Maybe moreso. The girl broke her crouch and settled her knees on the cavern floor so she could reach her bag which lay a couple of paces away. She grasped the sack and pulled it towards her, a feat that would have proven significantly more difficult had the bag been filled to its capacity as it was when the trio had departed two nights ago. Food went quicker than the wind, it seemed, but Kairi assured Clarence that there was plenty left. He had yet to lay eyes on the contents of the sack himself, of course. He didn’t believe that touching a woman’s bag was proper, really. That was just one of those rules about being a man.

The Gish stuck her hand into the leather bag and removed it after a short bout of clattering. Emerging in Kairi’s grasp was a green bottle large enough to sate a table’s thirst at dinner. Even through the green glass and the glare splayed upon the bottle by the steady fire, Clarence could determine with certainty that the liquid inside wasn’t soka. Soka sparkled like fireworks, and a proper Gish wouldn’t lift a bottle of soka for casual consumption. Not even a fiery spirit like Kairi. “What is it?” Clarence asked.

Kairi traced her finger around the bottle’s corked tip and, through a simmering smile, said, “Uju. Alcohol always makes me feel warm when I drink it.”

Clarence tsked. He pulled a knee to his chest, allowing his other leg to rest extended across the rocky ground. He smiled into Kairi’s face.

“Alcohol doesn’t do anything for me,” Clarence confessed.

“You mean you do not like it?” Kairi asked. The flesh around her eyes contracted ever so slightly. She still wore that melting smile, though. Was she challenging him?

“No,” Clarence replied. “I like it. I like Scotch, sometimes. I just…don’t believe in it.”

Kairi cocked her head sideways. Clarence cocked his head in turn. When had she moved so close to him? The warmth emanating from her skin was hotter than the heat fanning from the crackling fire. “You do not believe it is moral to drink alcohol?” she asked, digging into his eyes with her own.

Clarence hesitated. How could he explain this? Best to come right out and say it. It was midnight, after all. The moon softened hearts. Perhaps Kairi would be open to what he had to say. Fighting to keep his voice stoic, Clarence pronounced, “I don’t believe a man can get drunk the way everyone thinks.” Kairi only stared, her blue eyes locked onto his. Her smile filled her face to her forehead. “You are teasing me,” she determined.

“No!” Clarence resolved. “Think about it. How does a man seem when he drinks?”

“Stupid,” Kairi responded without pausing to find the thought.

“Exactly, he seems stupid. If you give a man an excuse to act stupid, he’ll seize the opportunity. That’s all alcohol is: an excuse. Does it touch the mind in a physical way? I don’t think so.”

Kairi studied him, searching his face for a tell. “You do not believe that.”

Clarence shook his head, expression stony. “I believe it.”

“Then you have never kissed a bottle.”

“I have,” Clarence assured her. “To no effect.”

“Are you drunk?” Kairi asked, black brows drawn down in a tight furrow. “This is how men talk when they are drunk. They speak boldly of things they know nothing about.”

He would show her bold. The green-eyed man released the knee he held to his chest and shifted himself so he was on his hands and knees, a wolf prowling. He leapt atop of Kairi, turning her from her side to her back. She laughed as he slipped his hands into hers. He held her pinned as she had held him, once. Looking down on the girl was a sight. The Gish’s golden hair lay splayed on the cave floor like a wave around her head. Her chest stirred up and down with her breath. Her blue eyes were fixed on his greens. Her smile touched her ears. Clarence leaned in so his nose was a touch away from hers and said, “Men speaking boldly of things they know nothing about? Kairi, you just described a sober man. You see? Alcohol doesn’t change a thing in your head.”

Kairi shrugged her mouth, good spirits pouring through the expression. “I have seen women drink themselves to where their minds tell them to climb atop men they have seldom spoken to. Is that not the work of alcohol?”

The girl’s breath smelled sweet. Like honey. Clarence cocked his head and scanned Kairi’s eyes without any apprehension about his exploration. Her smile told that she was open to being explored, and she seemed to be taking a good look at his eyes as well. Perhaps in a manner more brazen than bold, Clarence dared to say, “If I’m not mistaken, I think I remember a particular girl climbing on top of me with a perfectly sober mind.”

Kairi dropped her jaw. “I was subduing you, Clarence Cash! And it was you who played words with me. I did not make advances.”

Clarence allowed his green eyes to fill with gloating. He had the girl on the defensive, now.

Copyright 2017 J.J. Azar

Thank you for reading!

As always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

Holy Cannoli! I Received the Liebster Award!

Ladies and gents, today is a jolly good day! During my absence from WordPress, I was nominated for an award by the kind Aussie behind Mistakes and Adventures! It’s about time that I accept it! I’ve been reading James’ blog for quite some time, and he’s been following mine for a while too. In addition to posting about his exciting travels, James also writes short stories and poetry, which is how I found him!

LiebsterAwardAccording to James, the purpose of the Liebster Award is to promote small blogs. After I answer the questions James asked me, I have to come up with my own 11 for the fine bloggers I nominate! Without further ado, let’s do this! Let us Lieb!

  1. If you had to recommend one country you’ve visited to a brand new traveler where would that be? Bonus points for also recommending somewhere within that country to visit.

It seems I must begin with a confession…I have never traveled to another country.

*gasp* “But J.J., how could you possibly be so uncultured?!”

I have no excuse for you this time, disembodied voice. I have never left the United States. I do plan on travelling in the future, though! I want to visit Bruges (literally only because the movie) and Paris to start.

Would I recommend the U.S. to those who haven’t been here? Visit New York City is all I can say. Otherwise, join me on my travels outside the US!

2. What is the main purpose of your blog?

First and foremost, the purpose of my blog is to document my journey on the road to attaining published authorship. Secondly, I aim to entertain.tenor (1).gif

3. What is the most exotic/culturally different thing that you’ve ever done to date?

Does eating this sweet bale of hay count?aBNj0jI.jpg

4. What are your plans for the future? (Travel, written word, general survival etc)

The future? I can hardly tell you what I’m having for dinner. Even still, I do have some goals! I’ll hit on those you asked about.

Travel: As I mentioned before, I want to travel to Paris. Bruges too, I guess, partly as a joke. But definitely Paris! If I don’t find myself in a well or kidnapped by the end of either trip, I’ll probably travel some more!

Written word: I want to finish writing this first novel of mine. After that…well, let me finish the darned thing first!

General survival: I want to consume meat. And water. That’s all I need.

5. Where would you like to go if you had infinite cash for two months?

Chic-fil-A.

6. Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging to supplement my novel-writing! Writing is a solitary thing. I’d like to have some good company around when I pursue this published authorship goal.

7. Have you ever experienced culture shock and if so where was it?

California. 2012. My father asked the man at the deli for a Taylor ham, egg, and cheese sandwich. The deli man’s face was seized by blank confusion. Little did I know that such a sandwich was foreign outside of Jersey. I did not enjoy my breakfast that morning.

8. What was the most naive thing you ever did on the road?

I presumed that the deli man knew what a Taylor ham, egg, and cheese sandwich was. That was naive.

9. What writing advice would you have for aspiring bloggers who might read this?

Before writing your blog, have a Taylor ham, egg, and cheese sandwich.

10. Classic deserted island question: Can only take 3 things with you, what are they?

Taylor ham, egg, and cheese.

11. Do you have a favourite book and if so what is it? (Feel free to list a top 3 if that’s too narrow)

Taylor h—kidding (kind of).

My favorite (I corrected James’ odd Australian spelling) book is Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan, the sixth book of the Wheel of Time series.

At this point in the post, I’ve switched to using my phone. Why? Because I’m currently in a whirlpool jacuzzi with good friends. The thing is, I feel compelled to finish this post and send it out! J.J. isn’t going disappear again! As it stands, I still have to leave 11 questions for those who I am nominating for the Liebster Award! Those would be A.S. AkkalonM.L.S. Weech, and Eva Blaskovic. Given that I’m soaking in a hot tub right now with fine people, I thought it would be appropriate to involve them in the question-creation process. Thus, I present to you the questions the four of us came up with. Nominees, here are your questions!

  1. During which moment of your life do you wish your enemies could see you?
  2. If you could have dinner with one person who has died, from history or otherwise, who would it be?
  3. Tell us about a time you ratted on somebody/something.
  4. Can you speak another language?
  5. Do you have any superstitions?
  6. Renaissance or Baroque? (we wanted to be snobs)
  7. Clear mornings or thunderstorms?
  8. Hamburger or hotdog?
  9. War. What is it good for?
  10. What common food grosses you out/does not appeal to you?
  11. What’s something you learned from your grandparents?

Good luck with those. Thanks again to James for this nomination! These questions warmed me up for my upcoming Q and A.

As always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

You Choose: Which Story Excerpt Should I Share? (#2)

Hello, lovely ladies and classy gents!

Long ago, I posted a poll presenting you fine people with a choice as to which passage of my story-in-the-works you would like to read a sample of. The competition was heated, but the result prompted me to share this excerpt. To my surprise, it was overwhelming well received. You guys humbled me, and I still appreciate that you dedicated a few minutes to read the brief extract. Given that the last time I shared a chunk of my story was in December, I figure it’s time to give it a go once again. After all, this is the place where I share every aspect of my writing journey. This time around, both excerpts are about 1400 words long. So, if you would be so kind, please take a gander at the options below and vote as to which you would be most interested in reading. Or don’t! Low voter turnout never hurt anybody!

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Choice #1, pulled from a chapter titled, “Campfires at Midnight”

Clarence and Kairi settle down by firelight to unwind after a long day’s travel. But the night is prolonged when Kairi pulls out a bottle of uju...

Choice #2, pulled from a chapter titled, “For Cash, For Coin”

After months of labor, Kal is finally prepared to unveil the weapons he painstakingly crafted for Clarence. But what Clarence gets is not what he expected…

Here is the poll!

If you’d like some assistance in making a choice, I can help you out in the comments!

Thanks for voting!

As always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

Writing the Five Senses: Touch

Hello, lovely ladies and classy gents!

I’m excited to share the fourth part of my newest post series in which I explore how writers can use the five senses to engage the reader. The first three installments of the series addressed sighthearing, and smell. A lot of readers found them to be valuable, so you’re welcome to check them out!

Today, we’ll be focusing on touch. I’ve selected excerpts from the works of fellow bloggers (with their permission) to show examples of each sense used effectively, as well as excerpts from my novel-in-the-works (with my permission) to show examples of my attempts to use each sense effectively. Buckle up for some sensory stimulation, grab a cold glass of orange Crush, and enjoy!

Touch

In the conventional sense, a touch is a transference. It is the taking of one’s palm and placing it upon another thing as to affect it. Not deviating far from the conventional conception of touch, a writer’s “touch” can prompt a reader to feel, to cry, to laugh, to delight, or to think, if only for a short while. But what does touch entail? Well, the heart of it lies with feeling. Describing touch is not restricted to detailing what one’s fingers feel while grasping something. Remember, the sense of touch encompasses sensation. Considering that a writer’s goal is to “touch” the reader, or impart sensation unto the reader, I think exploring how the sense can be stimulated can greatly benefit one’s storytelling.

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Tapping into the reader’s sense of pain

It is challenging to make a reader feel anything for the fiction you write. Prompting a reader to feel a character’s grief, for example, is a grand task. Seeds must be sewn, nuance must be heeded, and space must be made for the reader’s imagination. There is significant value in channeling emotion from page to person, yet there exists a more immediate way to engage with a reader’s feelings through the sense of touch. How? Bring the pain.

A few months back, I shared an excerpt from my novel-in-the-works. The passage included a description of pain following a character’s reception of a knock to the jewels. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming reaction to the description. Many who left kind comments on the post mentioned that element of the passage.

I already love Clarence! You have to admire a guy who can laugh after such pain! – By Hook or By Book

Loved their interaction- had just the right amount of humour and, well, pain. – The Orangutan Librarian

Excellent excerpt! I felt the pain a little too much throughout your writing. The focus on it was well done. – Transhaan

I certainly aimed to illustrate Clarence’s pain, but for it to have garnered so much attention by its own accord signified that some sort of connection was made between the readers and the writing. That’s a powerful thing, and it ought to be explored. I suppose the reaction makes sense. Every human knows physical pain, so expressing it in a graspable manner is likely to arouse something within the reader.

Fellow blogger Aimee Davis had me cringing at a particular segment of her short story, Chameleon (as a courtesy, I will mention that Aimee has included a trigger warning at the beginning of the piece, and understandably so. It is grim and mature).

It doesn’t take much for him to push her down. She is small and drunk. She falls against a sharp edge of his metal bedframe left exposed. It cuts into her back, but she ignores the pain and tries to stand, fists balled. She trips over her trembling knees and falls again, cracking her head against the corner of his bedside table.

Darkness. 

– Aimee Davis, Chameleon

Ouch. The phrases, “falls against a sharp edge of his metal bedframe,” “cuts into her back,” “fists balled,” and “cracking her head against the corner” amalgamate to communicate raw pain. In seeking to touch the reader by means of pain, it is important to remember that one ought not to treat descriptive pain as a cheap trick. Davis’ piece is awash with residual hurt, and so I found the excerpt of pain featured above to be entirely fitting and appropriate. Jarring the reader just to spur a reaction is in poor taste.

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Imparting Hot and Cold

Just like pain, sensations such as hot and cold are universal to the human experience. Experiences like bare feet on cold morning tile and the head-pounding heat of summer sun are points of commonality between people near and far. Because stories are reflections of the human experience, a writer can’t go wrong evoking such feelings to add a vivid layer to one’s writing. Check out the following excerpt from my novel-in-the-works.

The Gish gasped at the sight of a swirl of fire breaking away from the burning logs with unanticipated violence. The lash of flame roared as it charged at Clarence faster than he could consider falling away from it. He watched wide-eyed as a stroke of treacherous fire whipped at his face. The blistering heat of it threatened to scald his skin if it reached any further. The darting rope of fire yanked the sweat from his pores and he fell to the ground limp.

Clarence blinked. Sweat weighed heavy on his eyelids. He blinked and the world stung. He couldn’t do anything about the sweat creeping between his lashes, burning his eyeballs. He saw a red blur that he was sure was the sky. He saw brown circles. His head throbbed like a swollen geyser making to burst. He couldn’t breathe. His fingers went numb. Sound fell into itself. His head rolled to one side and Clarence smelled the mocking tartness of spilt berry stew. Then he felt nothing.

Did you feel the heat? Hopefully. Nudging your reader to feel the sensation a character feels can only enhance the richness of their reading experience.

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Using Tactile Detail to Convey Information

Sometimes, the sense of touch is simply the sense of touch. Fastening details to a physical touch can convey a whole lot of information. Take a handshake, for example.

One can communicate emotions, intentions, and character traits through a simple handshake. Some details one can address when writing a handshake include…

  • how the characters’ hands are oriented. Are their hands level with one another, or is one character holding his palm upward and the other downward Planet of the Apes style? Hand orientation can convey the status of the characters who are shaking hands.
  • how firm the characters’ grips are. Are they squeezing hard, or is their embrace loose? Grip can convey underlying emotions harbored by those characters who are shaking hands.
  • what the characters are doing with their free hands. Is one character placing his free hand on the other’s arm? Atop the other’s hand? On the other’s shoulder? Secondary hand placement can convey the proximity of the relationship shared by those characters who are shaking hands.
  • how long the characters’ handshake lasts. Is the embrace brief, or does it last for a long while? Duration can convey the amiability shared by the two characters who are shaking hands.
  • how the hands feel. Is one hand soft? Wet? Warm? Clammy? Callous? Hand quality can convey the lifestyles or emotions possessed by either character engaged in the handshake.

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The list is not exhaustive, but it is a start. More importantly, it’s illustrative of the key point. While a touch can propel the plot, it can also reveal things about the thing or person being touched. Don’t neglect to articulate how things physically feel!

Final Point: One can stimulate the reader’s sense of touch by tapping into the reader’s sense of pain, conveying sensations such as hot and cold, and detailing touches to communicate information. Exploring these techniques can yield exciting results. Hopefully this post prompted you to think about a few fine techniques!

What do you think? Did any of these methods/examples strike you as effective? Fellow writers, how do you go about stimulating a reader’s sense of touch? I love hearing from you!

As always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

Writing the Five Senses: Smell

Hello, lovely ladies and classy gents!

Today, we’ll be focusing on smell. I’ve selected excerpts from the works of fellow bloggers (with their permission) to show examples of each sense used effectively, as well as excerpts from my novel-in-the-works (with my permission) to show examples of my attempts to use each sense effectively. Buckle up for some sensory stimulation, grab a cold glass of Cherry Coke, and enjoy!

Smell:

Mr. Krabs was wise when he said, “Do you smell it? That smell. A kind of smelly smell. The smelly smell that smells… smelly.” Indeed, a smell has the potential to make an impression, whether that impression be positive or negative. Given that storytelling is a reflection of life, smell has weight in writing, too. Drumming up a particular scent in the reader’s mind can add richness to the reading experience. Let’s take a look at a few ways in which writers can weave smells into their writing.

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Using nuanced smell to convey information:

To start, let’s take a look at this striking passage written by fellow blogger M.L.S. Weech from the first chapter of his book, Caught.

“You’re a wasted birth!” she said in her sharp, nasally voice. “A child I should have known better than to bring into this world.”

Her hand raised to his head, and a small whine escaped Caden’s lips as she used bony fingers to yank him toward her by his mop of red hair. He fought for a moment, but at that time, his mother was much stronger than he was. Fighting only caused him to fall screaming. She simply dragged him by his hair through his door and then down the hall. He slid from the smooth, pine-scented floor onto the white carpet of the hallway. His pajama bottoms rolled down, allowing the carpet to burn into him as he slid along its rough surface. Streaks of blood stained the white fibrous floor.

Did you catch the brilliance conveyed by a single description of scent? Here we have a horrid scene in which Caden’s mother is dragging him across the floor, drawing blood and screams. The woman clearly has no love for her son, and yet…“he slid from the smooth, pine-scented floor onto the white carpet of the hallway.” The floor is clean! The floor is freshly cleaned, as Weech indicates by the detail of “pine-scented floor.” From this detail, the reader can infer that the mother cares for her home more than she cares for her son, enhancing the horror of Caden’s predicament. Perhaps this isn’t the case, but the implication embedded within the detail is provocative.

Weech uses a nuanced detail to both stimulate the reader’s senses and to reveal significant information. Note how Weech bolsters the detail about smell with other sensory descriptions. Details are best when one weaves them into the fabric of the passage as opposed to stitching them atop an already-cohesive section.

Using smell to set the scene:

Sometimes a single smell can frame a setting. If Spongebob Squarepants was novelized, the chapter where Spongebob and Patrick dumpster dive could begin with a description of the dumpster’s sour smell. Such a description would convey the foul nature of the ordeal and bring the reader closer to the protagonists. I’ve pulled an example of setting the scene using smell from my novel-in-the-works.

It was a wonder the press house wasn’t on fire. Every man had a pipe in his mouth, and matches were struck as often as machines whined. A thick haze of smoke clung to the air and buried the place in a sooty smell. The sharp odor of burning tobacco was not foreign to Clarence—he smoked on occasion—but the dense cloud festering in the press house was overwhelming even for him. Baking heat summoned sweat from his pores and slicked his skin enough that his clothes stuck to his body. Clarence was suffocating on ashen air, but he couldn’t leave. He had only just arrived.

When interlaced with visual, auditory, and sensory descriptions, the olfactory details of “sooty smelland the “sharp odor of burning tobacco” help to develop the scene at hand. From this point forward, the reader understands that this press house smells like smoke. A reader might imply a smoky smell by the description of lit pipes alone, but specificity can embellish the scene further. It’s important to note that it’s often far too glaring to write, “The room smelled like x.” This is why I built a bridge between the “sharp odor of burning tobacco” and Clarence, the one who is doing the smelling. His connection to the smell manifests through the detail of his smoking habit. This way, the olfactory description doesn’t stick out like a poor note emitted through Squidward’s clarinet.

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Using smell to appeal to the stomach:

This one is just plain fun. I love food. Intimately. For me, food in writing ought to be regarded as holy. Neglecting to thoroughly describe what a character is eating is sacrilegious as far as I’m concerned (This is yet another reason as to why I love reading Robert Jordan). The act of eating food is one that involves every sense, but smell is among the most important. After all, you can’t taste if you can’t smell. Check out this bit from my novel-in-the-works.

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Because the kitchen door never halted its pendulate motion, smells of cooking flooded the common area enough that the acerbic spice of perfume faded to nothing. Joshua practically swooned when the airy aroma of baked bread touched his nostrils. Along the tendrils of golden scent wafting from the kitchen came the intoxicating smell of cooking meat. Joshua looked to Shoushan, none at all surprised at the sight of his eyes widening in a way he found impressive for a Chinaman.

That was a blast to write, and I hope that it’s a blast to read, too! Don’t neglect food. Instead, seize the opportunity and assert its place on the page! Smell is a key component of food, so do be mindful of that. Writing food is a holy task, remember?!

Final Point: One can enhance the reader’s sensory experience by tapping into the sense of smell through the use of nuanced olfactory details, by setting the scene with descriptions of smell, and by embellishing food through describing its smell.

What do you think? Did any of these methods/examples strike you as effective? Fellow writers, how do you go about stimulating a reader’s sense of smell? I love hearing from you!

As always, stay classy.

~J.J Azar

When Writing Matters: Writing a Eulogy

I write fiction. I write about cowboys and Indians, sheriffs and highwaymen. I write about a fantastical version of the Wild West with rickety historical accuracy and plenty of anachronisms. That’s what I write. I love my manuscript, it means a whole lot to me, but it’s fiction. Does fiction matter? We’ll ponder that point later.

In these last days, my cousin Jordan and I were tasked with writing something that undoubtedly carries meaning. We were tasked with writing and delivering a eulogy for my grandfather, who passed away this week.

Writing a eulogy is a daunting task for anybody, but knowing the kind of man my grandfather was made the burden all the more heavy. George Issa Azar was a man who could say more than most men by saying nothing at all. When he did speak, his words were wise and witty. His faithful, family-oriented mindset has left a lasting impact upon his 5 children and his 14 grandchildren. The values he instilled upon his kids, including my father, have shaped who I am and what I cherish.

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George with my mother, my father, and my aunt.

George was a great man who was well-respected by all who knew him. He was the patriarch of a large, close family. How could anybody’s words do him justice? Jordan and I had a grand task, one which we both took very seriously. Before anything, we focused on George. What kind of man was he? What was he like? Who was he? We listed his dominant qualities so we could refer back to them and reference them in the eulogy.

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(from left to right) George’s daughter, George, George’s wife, George’s daughter, and George’s son (my dad).

Once we had the foundation for the eulogy, we determined its structure. We would begin by thanking the family, going through the formalities characteristic of an introduction. Then we would remember the man and his story. We would talk about how he came to the United States with 5 kids and 500 dollars in his pocket, and how he was already working on the second day. We would connect his story to his hardworking nature and his love for his family.

Then we would share a couple of personal anecdotes, referencing his quick wit and glowing personality. All of this would culminate in the message which Jordan and I, among our other cousins, wanted to emphasize: his integral role in the creation and sustaining of the family. We wanted to emphasize his legacy.

George was a father to 5 kids, but he was, above all, a father to his family. He and his wife fostered a strong, loving family. Jordan and I put our heads together for a couple of hours, tackling the eulogy line by line. It would never be perfect, but it would have to be the best we could make it.

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George with young me and my grandmother.

Then came the funeral. We delivered the speech. Addressing the grieving family and friends who were in attendance was not easy, but I am proud of Jordan for sharing the burden with me. It was an emotional eulogy, but we got through it.

I suppose the point of this post is to highlight something I discovered while writing this speech with Jordan: whether you’re writing something as important as a eulogy or fanciful as fiction, love carries its own meaning. Write with love so that the reader might glean something from the experience. Empty words have no place in this life.

Rest in peace, Sedo.

~J.J. Azar

P.S. To all followers new and old, I’m back. Posts coming at you every Tuesday and Friday on a weekly basis, just as before the break. (Note, this post is being posted in lieu of this Friday’s post). Thank you for dropping by! I hope you stay tuned.

The Circumstances

The eleventh chapter of my novel-in-the-works is titled, “The Circumstances.” In the chapter, Clarence Cash awakes after a brush with death to find himself scatterbrained and days behind in his pursuit of a smuggler. Before he mounts his horse to continue his hunt, he evaluates his situation. He evaluates his circumstances. Much the same, I’m assessing my own.

I have not been a present blogger. Worse, I have not been a productive writer. About two months ago, I was both. I was highly interactive with all of you. I was up to date with my Reader. I was cranking out substantial posts two times a week. On the writing side, I was writing every day. I was moving with forward momentum nearly every day.

But the circumstances are different today. My course load this semester has proven far more intense than that of the first. Where I didn’t work a job during my first semester in the interest of advancing my writing (and I did!), I’ve since returned to work. Thus, my time for writing and blogging has been reduced. Not reduced to nothing, but reduced enough to make this post.

Many take breaks from WordPress because they’ve become tired or overworked or uninspired. The case is the opposite for me. I am bursting with energy and posts. I want to rock 120%. The trouble is, academics take precedent, and it’s crucial that I stay diligent for another month and a half.

I’m not putting a hold on blogging. Rather, I’m putting a hold on the promise of a post a week. I won’t have a posting schedule for two months, maximum. I hate to do things this way, but this is how I can best balance college with blogging/writing at this time. I will be around to catch some of your posts, but I can’t say I’m going to check my Reader every day, because I won’t. I hope y’all understand. It’s worth noting that there are a host of bloggers who have stopped by with blogs I want to read and follow and explore, and I intend to do so as soon as possible! After this period, I can assure you that I’ll devise a system so I can be more consistent when life moves faster. I’ll leave you with the final line from Chapter 11: The Circumstances.

“I hope you’re ready for an adventure, because I see adventure on the horizon.”

~J.J. Azar