My First Tag: The Character Dating Profile featuring Kal

This is a special day.

“Why is it a special day, JJ?”

Well, disembodied voice, this blog has been tagged by the fantastic Orangutan Librarian to participate in the “Character Dating Profile Tag.” For those who aren’t savvy with the workings of the WordPress community, being “tagged” is essentially equivalent to having your name drawn in the Hunger Games. The difference is, nobody can take your place. Oh, and the other difference is this is a joyous occasion.

Indeed, today, I am bound to the rules of a “tag.” My task, if I choose to accept it (I do choose to accept it, didn’t you hear!?), is to answer the provided dating profile questions (think eHarmony)  as a character I have written.

That’s right, lovely ladies and classy gents. Today, I’m giving you a special glimpse into my western-adventure novel-in-the-works via the dating profile of a supporting character, Kal. If it isn’t obvious by the answer to the second question, these are not my answers, these are Kal’s answers. (Let it be known, however, that any dating inquiries intended for me can be sent via email). Here goes…

______

Name

Kal. Just Kal. I haven’t the time to provide a surname. Don’t you know that time and money are one in the same?

Age

Late forties, and I feel it every day.

Interested in

Innovation, creation, and invention. Oh, you mean relationship-wise? I’m interested in women, I suppose, though I haven’t the time to commit to any soul but my own. I hardly have time for myself!

(Why did you make an eHarmony profile, then?) <–(#anachronism. This is 1861.) 

I only did this after suffering endless prodding from my friend, Clarence. He has a habit of irritating me, to put it mildly.

Looks

*cue heightened self-awareness*

I have buggy brown eyes. I also have what you might call a novel posture. I stand with my head cocked forward and neck bent stiff. I bob about when I speak, and I often bend and sway and shuffle. Do I care that people throw odd looks my way? No, I most certainly do not.

I do make a point of dressing nicely, however. I dress much like a professional, electing to tuck a long-sleeved white shirt into black trousers which allow ample room for the pockets. A fat wallet must always be accommodated.

Religious views

That’s a question for the philosophers.

Greatest ambition 

I long to reach the level of greatness I had so deliciously achieved ten years ago by way of the Boland Deal, the arrangement which put enough coin in my pocket to build a shack and then some. Unfortunately, I have yet to strike another deal of the Boland caliber, but I am hopeful in the mornings. The nights tell a different story…

Favourite Hobby

I like building things. As previously mentioned, I have a shack, of sorts. There, I go about my tinkering. Using raw material, mathematics, and money, I craft devices you won’t see anywhere else. I’m currently developing canned shaving lotion, a mechanized drawer to aid countermounts, and an aphrodisiac. All three have given me more than my fair share of grief, though the aphrodisiac has proven especially problematic…

Three BEST Skills

Innovation, creation,  and invention. In that order.

Ideal Partner

A partner will only get in the way of my light. Oh, you mean relationship-wise? I don’t think I’m quite ready for something like that. I was seeing a lass in New York, many years ago, but I mucked that up when I left for Nevada to build. She didn’t want to come with me, which I understand. She has a lovely family, a fine life, and plenty more suitors who are taller and more charming than I. Ever since I left her, I haven’t bothered with relationships and the like, if I’m being quite honest. On occasion a strumpet will find her way between my bed sheets, but that’s another story.

Perfect Date

I presume you’re referring to a date on a calendar, in which case my perfect date is one that never ends, because, as I said, time and money are one in the same!

___

Whew. That was really something. Kal’s a charmer, isn’t he?

Ladies, tell me: Would you extend Kal the opportunity for a first date, or would you pass?

Sorry guys, you can take to the sidelines for the day. Or maybe you can tell me how I did for my first tag post! I hope I did everything properly. If I didn’t, please call me out so I can get it right next time.

Thank you for reading, and as always, stay classy!

~J.J. Azar

Advertisements

Explosion of Soul with a Title

Happy Friday, lovely ladies and classy gents! I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving. I personally broke my pants, so my holiday was a success (I go hard). If you didn’t catch the post on my Facebook page, know that I am incredibly thankful for you. Whether you’re a follower, a frequent reader, or somebody just stopping by, I am grateful for your support. Y’all are the best!

I wrote something up that I suppose could be considered poetry. I don’t know, really. I typically deal in prose. Whatever it may be, here it is. If you have any thoughts about the piece, please share them! I do the macarena every time I get a comment.

____

Quill in hand.

Paper on desk.

Empty room.

All quiet save for a ticking clock.

I turn the nib of the quill to my chest.

I eye the thing, the sword, knowing where it must go.

I plunge the thing into my sternum.

The incision is but an avenue. Now for the surgical slice.

I drag the nib from left to write, tearing at tendons, opening my chest enough

That I may reach inside and retrieve my heart.

I seize the throbbing organ and hold it over the page on the desk before me.

I squeeze

That its tales and fancies may gush onto the page.

I squeeze

Until the blank sheet is stained red with blood and soaked wet with tears indicative of joys and sorrows.

Now quill is in hand, nib is on paper.

With an emboldened hand I trace words into the human substance drenching the page before me

And spilling out over my desk.

There is no trick, here.

There is only explosion of soul, here.

An explosion of soul with a title.

____

Today, millions will be assaulting the malls and department stores in droves like walkers from the Walking Dead. I’ll leave you with some food for thought: Isn’t it interesting how Black Friday comes directly after the day when we celebrate what we have?

~J.J. Azar

J.J.’s Jesting Parables #2: Parable of the Mob

Hello, lovely ladies and classy gents! I present to you the second jesting parable in my series, “J.J’s Jesting Parables.” There is an 82% chance you will roll your eyes or grunt by the parable’s end. I hope you will glean something from it (forewarning: you will glean nothing).

Parable of the Mob

Antonio the mob boss and his underling Giuseppe were conducting a rendezvous in a dark alley. There was money to be exchanged in this meeting.

In breathy whisper, the boss, Antonio, asked, “Where’s my cut?”

The underling, Giuseppe, plunged his hands into his pockets and sifted around. His hands emerged from his pockets empty. He looked surprised. “I don’t know, boss.”

“You don’t know?” Antonio demanded, face reddening like a Jersey tomato. He stepped into the underling, furious. “What did you come here for if you had nuthin? What are you, breakin my balls?”

Giuseppe rammed his knee into Antonio’s groin and turned on his heel. As he ran away from the crumpling mob boss, he shouted, “Thanks for the idea!”

Giuseppe boarded the first train out of Jersey, hoping he’d never see Antonio or smell the state ever again.

*cue Godfather theme*

J.J. Azar

Mom, Thanks for Teaching Me How to Read

When I was a wee lad, I enjoyed writing stories as much as I enjoyed letting Elmer’s glue dry on my hands just so I could pick it off. In other words, I enjoyed writing stories quite a bit. Perhaps it was my mother who spurred my interest in writing. After all, it was she who taught me how to read and write. That’s right, folks: I never went to preschool, which probably explains why I am illiterate in colors.

The primary colors? Psh, I could name the 50 states and probably the provinces of Canada by sheer guess before I could ever provide you the names of the three primary colors. Did you know that scientists and artists have different primary colors?! How can I possibly keep up with that nonsense?!

Is it navy, or is it blue? You might as well ask me the difference between a hawk and an eagle.

What color do you get when you mix yellow and green? I don’t even know if that’ll make another color!

*end tragic rant*

Yes, it was very likely my mother’s diligent instruction which oriented for writing. She opted to keep me out of preschool because she wanted to spend time with me and teach me one-on-one. My mother singlehandedly taught me how to read by using Disney’s Golden Books and Disney’s infamous-in-my-household Elegant Book of Manners. My dad probably read to me once or twice but my mom deserves the credit. Sorry, Dad, this post isn’t about you. I can credit you for teaching me how to swim, though!

mom2
Thanks to my dad, I was comfortable in the pool before I turned 2 years old! Apparently I was a wickedly talented child *read as John Travolta.*

Starting with letters and escalating to sentences, my mother conditioned me to be a reading machine. I mean she literally conditioned me. Every day after Blue’s Clues, we would read and write. If that isn’t conditioning, I don’t know what is.

I am glad my mother took it upon herself to instill upon me the imperative skill of literacy, but the thought of her taking on that mighty task terrifies me when I reflect upon it. In fact, I often stir in the night and wake up in cold sweats, wondering…What if she messed up? What if she accidentally shuffled a couple of letter-flashcards when she drilled me on the alphabet? What if she didn’t properly correct my misprinted ‘k’s? Gosh, if that were the case, I’d be writing like an oaf!

But at this point, unless my mom paid off all of my teachers from 1st grade on in the interest of allowing my writing mistakes to go unmarked, I think I have a solid grasp of the English language. My grammars is very good, thankfully.

The point is this: I am grateful for my mother. Even though English isn’t her first language, she still managed to teach me how to read and write. Simply put, that’s badass (she hates when I use the word so here I am, using the word).

Thanks, Mom. You’re the best preschool teacher I ever had (but I still don’t understand colors).

mom1

To those reading, I’d like to know: for what do you owe thanks to your mother? Share the love in a comment.

As always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

Readers, What Ruins Your Reading Experience?

Happy Friday, folks!

I would like to begin by extending a sincere thank you to new subscribers. Your support never goes unnoticed. I danced a jig this morning in celebration!

giphy-1
My dancing is closer to this than you might imagine.

I love reading good stuff. So do you. After all, good stuff is…well…good!

But readers are intuitive creatures. Sometimes we pick up a book, read a couple of pages, and instantly determine that it isn’t for us. The range of reasons as for why we are sometimes quick to abandon a book is broad. Did we detect something off about the author’s writing style? Was the beginning of the story too confusing to grasp? Did the blatant vulgarity rub us the wrong way? Allow me to share what turns me off when it comes to books. Then, I’d love to hear what ruins your reading experience.

Poor Dialogue

For me, poor dialogue is a deal-breaker. Take a gander at some of my favorite movies…

  • In Bruges
  • Django Unchained
  • The Road to El Dorado (yes, the animated movie. I say that proudly).
  • The Boondock Saints
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Casino Royale
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Whiplash

Throw in House M.D. and Freaks and Geeks on the TV side of things and you can probably guess that I love when characters talk. But more importantly, I love when characters talk well. I appreciate wit. I appreciate chemistry in conversation. I appreciate natural speech.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have no issue with dialogue that isn’t flashy. Neither Man of Steel nor Avatar, two films I have watched many times over, boast dialogue that is particularly profound or clever.

*cue transition to books*

But I cannot stomach dialogue that is wrong. If I read something and think, people don’t talk like that, I won’t bother reading on. Sorry. Flow in dialogue is essential for me. Directly addressing somebody by name in every line is a no-no. Shoehorning exposition into conversations where exposition does not belong is a no-no. Forced banter is a no-no. If I read a passage of dialogue aloud and it does not sound human, I can’t go on.

Fellow writers: Let’s be mindful of the words we put in our characters’ mouths. We owe it to the readers.

Ridiculous Character Names in Fantasy and Sci-Fi

After I publish my novel, somebody somewhere is going to find this post and call me out for being a hypocrite. Ladies and gents, you could hardly imagine what names I have given to some of my characters. And you could hardly imagine what names I have on a list waiting to be given to characters. I would give you a glimpse, but you would scoff. Scoff! *read as Josh Peck.*

If somebody were to find this post and call me out for attributing preposterous names to my characters, I would point them to the header, which reads “Ridiculous Character Names in Fantasy and Sci-Fi.

“J.J., how could you discriminate against my genre?!”

Fear not, troubled voice. Fantasy is magnificent and sci-fi provides for great storytelling. But this particular qualm lies exclusively with these two types of story. Often times the names of the characters in these invented worlds are absurd, octo-syllabic derivatives of Latin inspired by Yiddish and rooted in Tolkien’s Elvish. I can’t bear it. My ability to connect with the world is diminished immediately. How could I possibly get on board with a story if every character has a name that hardly sounds human? If an antagonist’s name is riddled with ‘x’s and ‘q’s, I won’t be able to take the guy seriously.

Fantasy and sci-fi genres give a whole lot of mobility to the author. World-building is often involved. However, if the author goes overboard and abuses the mobility of crafting a world via absurd character names, there’s a good chance I won’t get into the story. If I can’t pronounce most names in a novel, the book has lost its shot with me.

A drill sergeant assigning stereotypical or otherwise demeaning nicknames to new recruits? That’s to be expected. A school bully deeming a nerd, “Booger Face?” No surprise there. The head of an elite shadowy rogue spec-ops team referring to his squad-members by cutthroat names such as “Grouch,” “Blitz,” and “Frosty?” It comes with the territory. But fantasy names that seem to come straight from the blender are just too cheesy for me to stomach.

Granted, my own western-novel-in-the-works contains a handful of monikers that will make you think twice. A man named Parsley? That is strange, no doubt about it. But it’s better than Paerzsleiyy, I think.

dungeons-freaks-and-geeks.gif

A Confusing Introduction

Discombobulating a reader is okay. I recall frantically flipping from page to page at a certain point during Robert Jordan’s Great Hunt when I caught myself reading a passage I had just read. I was so confused. I thought the repetition was a misprint! But then I read the thing through and, alas…it turns out that Rand was suffering from a recurring vision (Surprise!). Jordan literally copy-pasted an entire passage a couple times over. By the end of the sequence, I was highly intrigued.

Beginning a story with a stunt like that, however, would be unacceptable. I don’t mind if the first pages I read are laced with mystery or full of unanswered questions. I don’t think the beginning of a story should necessarily “be” any type of way. But I know that the start of a novel should not confuse me to the point where I can’t grasp anything.

I recall Incarceron by Catherine Fisher having a scrambled introduction. I put the book down for a year because I was lost from the start. Eventually, because the book was gifted to me, I returned to it, powered through the beginning, and found favor with the thing. Still, had that introduction been clearer, I wouldn’t have waited a year to pick it up again.

Confusion and intrigue are two very different things. Intrigue me first, confuse me later, if you fancy.

tumblr_myiratVxQV1sps5sko1_500.gif

Those are just a handful of personal deal-breakers when it comes to reading. I’d like to hear your take. Do any of the offenses above pain you? What are some things that ruin your reading experience? Sound off in the comments below. I am genuinely interested in hearing what you brilliant people have to say.

As always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

For Writers: 5 Reasons Why Consuming While Creating is Dangerous

Hello, lovely ladies and classy gents! I hope everyone is having a fine November. To commemorate the month, I donned Ugg boots, strapped a pack of caribou to my sled, and navigated them to my local coffee shop for a pumpkin spice latte. I’m only kidding, of course. I live in Jersey, and snow has yet to fall where I am. Also, I find pumpkin spice lattes to be overrated and tolerable at best. I’m not joking about the Ugg boots though. I rock those things on the beach.

(Here is where I would have inserted a picture of me wearing Ugg boots and swimtrunks, which I actually did attempt to take for the sake of this post. The image did not come out properly. Think ‘newborn deer with hairy legs stumbling around with what looks like two broken feet.’ My sister’s Ugg boots are now five sizes too large. Sorry about that, Tal).

giphy.gif

Regardless, I’d like to talk to fellow writers for a moment about a dynamic that has been on my mind of late: Creation vs. Consumption.

Back in 6th grade English class (*cringe*), I used to write stories in a composition book. While my teacher was going on about what a pronoun was, I tuned her out so I could write. Why? Because I enjoyed reading stories, so I wanted to write one.

Over the course of my high school years, I directed two films, one a short and one a full-length production. Why? Because I enjoyed watching movies, so I wanted to make one.

I made a sandwich once. Why? Because my mother makes incredible sandwiches, so I wanted to make one. And I tried to, and it was a pathetic excuse for a sandwich (I apparently have a biological inability to spread peanut butter, cream cheese, or any other conventional spread using a knife).

And so, while I have learned in the classroom, watched movies, and eaten sandwiches (consumed), I have also written stories, made movies, and prepared sandwiches (created).

All while I’ve consumed things, I’ve used the calories I’ve taken from consumption and run miles with the energy provided to me. Because I simply can’t sit on all of the magnificent things I’ve watched and read. I’m inspired. I need to create. And I know that that is a feeling common amongst writers and artists alike.

Now, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with indulging. Consuming is learning. Consuming is inspiration. There is nothing wrong with watching Netflix or reading books or spending copious hours on YouTube watching car crashes captured by Russian dashcams. Let me reiterate. There is nothing wrong with consumption.

1242925128_houseomnomnom.gif

But consuming while creating is, in my view, dangerous.

As my followers know, I am working to complete the first draft of my novel by January 1st, 2017. Right now, I’m in creation mode. As a result, I’ve decided to restrict my consumption. Not entirely, of course. I’ll be seeing a movie this weekend. I fire up Call of Duty World at War Zombies on occasion (shoutout to JTrain, my go-to Zombie partner). Needless to say, enjoyment is reasonable and healthy.

But I’ve abstained from Netflix excepting the rare Anthony Bourdain episode when I’m eating a meal, and I’ve mostly halted my extensive movies-to-watch and books-to-read lists. Why? Because there is true danger in consuming while creating. Here’s why.

5. Simply put, time spent binge-watching Netflix could be time spent writing.

I fired up the first episode of Sons of Anarchy the other day. I got through precisely one minute of it before I shut it off. I’ve been wanting to watch the show for months, now, but I felt obligated to put it on hold. I know myself. I know that if I take a liking to the show, it will leech my time. And time is valuable, especially when I am working toward a fast-approaching deadline.

When free time bestows its beautiful self upon me, I am faced with a choice. Should I write, or should I do something other than write? The correct answer should be the former. Sons of Anarchy and its friends cannot be an option right now.

Now, I understand that leisurely consumption is crucial for clearing headspace, and clear headspace is essential for writing. For me, however, a quality television show provokes thought rather than dispels it. Perhaps if I want to unwind I’ll watch the Eric Andre show or something completely mindless. Otherwise, forty minutes of television isn’t going to provide for a mind cleansing.

Sorry, Sons. You’ll have to wait.

tumblr_n0k6ktpwpx1rt8przo1_500
This show makes me cry with laughter. Quite literally.

4. What we watch and read often colors our writing.

Reading is the key to writing, but doing the two simultaneously doesn’t work for me personally. I understand that this view is unconventional, and, for some, completely contrary to their lifestyle, but hear me out.

What we read influences what we write. It’s kind of cool how it works, actually. The authors we read will leave a ghostly mark on our works, whether we like it or not. But when I’m working on something of my own, the freshest works I am reading tend to leave a bit more than a ghostly mark. I do not want to accidentally rip off a style or, even worse, content, because I just had to read the next book in the series and something there pressed an inspirational button. That is a risk that isn’t worth taking. I am obligated to write my story my way. There is no room for external meddling.

3. Consuming a complete work in all of its glory can be discouraging when put up against our measly drafts.

Masterfully-told stories are inspiring. They are fuel. Braveheart and Breaking Bad and the Great Gatsby have displayed the power of the story to an expert degree. Stories such as those are the reasons why writers work up the nerve to try our hands at creating something equally as compelling.

But when I’ve been struggling for days to get a proper word written and I stumble upon the film canon of Quentin Tarantino or the beautiful row of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series on the bookshelf not far from my desk, it’s hard to feel anything but defeated. “Tarantino and Jordan have created grand works that are beloved everywhere. And here I am unable to write a word.”

That kind of attitude, however uncommon it may be, is a threat to productivity. Self-defeating attitude is not helpful to writers. Avoid it. Focus on you and your work. Remember: Comparing a rock to a diamond before you polish the rock isn’t fair. Forget about the diamonds.

2. Indulging can lead to guilt.

For some, having a slice of pie is sinful. Why? Because some have established expectations for themselves. In reality, though, a slice of pie is alright. A slice of pie won’t send someone to the E.R. But nonetheless, when that person who is intent on dieting eats the pie to its last crumb, he or she feels guilty.

Much the same, I can absolutely allow myself some slack in the consumption department…except I won’t allow myself to. Otherwise I feel guilty. For real. ‘I should be writing. I want to write. Why aren’t I writing?’ Those are the thoughts I have when I spend my free time doing something less productive than working on my novel. Feeling guilty is no good. So I’m just going to keep writing.

1. Potential motivation is stifled by consuming that which we can restrict until our goals are met.

The joy of having a finished product is reason enough for celebration and treating ourselves, but might we work a little harder if we knew our favorite book series was waiting for us at the finish line? If the end of the tunnel was filled with the next season of that show or the sequel of that movie?

Assuming a mentality of “writing mode” in which consumption is essentially barred by prohibition and “not-writing mode” in which consumption is given the green-light would help to differentiate between what needs to be done and what is waiting for us after the storm. The rapture to be gleaned by switching from writing mode to leisure mode would be liberating. That liberation could serve as motivation itself.

tumblr_n3xbdjRKZI1r5jv7ho1_500.gif

I realize that these ideas are cutthroat. The one-through-five list reads almost pessimistically. But I have always placed value in hard work. While writing itself may not be such a “serious” thing (we do it in our pajamas), the craft hinges upon discipline. And discipline is certainly a serious matter. I’ve never fallen into things lightly. Writing is no exception. If the thing isn’t kicking my ass, there isn’t a point in doing it.

To read somebody else’s take on abstaining from hobbies in the interest of writing, check out this excellent post from Roderick Wills, one of WordPress’ finest bloggers.

I’m interested in hearing what you have to say. Feel free to drop a comment!

And as always, stay classy.

~J.J Azar