November Writing Progress Update

In my October Writing Progress Update, I wrote,

November should bear a lighter load in terms of schoolwork, if my professors are honest…

Well, they weren’t honest.



I did some of that, if not as much of it as I had hoped. Last month, I also said,

I aim to finish Act II by the end of November.

That wasn’t a hard-set deadline, mind you, but rather a checkpoint. Regardless of what one might consider it, I didn’t hit the mark. I’m certainly closer to conquering Act II, an incredibly exciting segment of story, but I’m just not there yet. There hasn’t been enough time in the day. Events have occurred “In Real Time,” as Jack Bauer would say, and I am unable to stay up for 24 hours at a time. I truly wish I could, but I can’t. No amount of coffee can make that happen.

However, I’m not here to express woes applicable to every writer. I’m here to tell you about what I did get done.

I tested my writing chops when I attacked a chapter I’ve titled ‘On Cliff’s Edge.’ The chapter is told through the lens of the main character, who unexpectedly wakes up to the sound of his companion’s screams. Much to his horror, he is unable to see anything but flashes of color. Something is wrong with his vision. I tend to describe things with extensive, vivid detail, so attempting to write a cohesive scene without his sense of sight functioning properly was a true challenge. But, alas, I succeeded in writing the chapter. There’s a chaos and an urgency to it that comes together quite cohesively. It’s going to need some polishing (as will every chapter, given that this is a first draft!) but I am pleased with it nonetheless.

While the intensity is high in that portion of the story, I slowed things down a bit in a chapter I’ve wordily titled ‘Four Oranges, Three Boys , Two Axes, One Mistake.’ I’ve never taken issue with characters sitting down and simply talking over a meal, and that is exactly the scenario I’ve placed three of my characters in. I’ve always found such scenes, when handled properly, to be fascinating and insightful. So I sat down three lads for breakfast and allowed them space to interact. The bond between them is developing, and it’s cool to witness it happening.

Scenarios stemming from those two main events are what have occupied my writing this month.

As you may know, the hard deadline I have set for myself to finish the first draft of this novel is January 1st, 2017. Here we are, less than a month away from that fateful day. I am behind schedule. Still, I am committed, determined, and prepared to see it through. Last week, my uncle Elvis gave me a breakdown of how many days I would actually have to get this thing done. On the spot, just like that, he took into account my Finals schedule and my pending trip to California for Christmas and the New Year and synthesized how many days I realistically have to finish this thing. And it’s not 29.

Ladies and gents, when I started this blog in October, I made it very clear that I was working to the deadline of January 1st. I simply will not miss it. Remember, I didn’t start working on this book a couple of months ago, I began working on this book far earlier than I started this blog. I cannot be floating around in limbo for months and months, pushing deadlines back another month, another month, another month…

This is my deadline for Draft #1. It is incredibly important that I meet it.

I feel compelled to add that I am sincerely grateful for you lovely ladies and classy gents in the WordPress community. There has been a ton of interaction this month between myself and other bloggers, both on my site and on others, and I am enjoying taking part in it. I put my finger on the pulse of the WordPress community when I first created this blog, but now I feel that I am a part of it. I’m still learning, no doubt, but I do feel a part of something bigger.

Thanks are owed to friends and family as well. They have caught me off guard at the most unlikely of times, asking me how the writing is going and telling me that they read and enjoy the blog. Now more than ever, I am going to take that positivity and channel it into Draft #1.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some writing to do.

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As always, stay classy.

And remember.

Events occur in real time.

Events always occur in real time.

~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!

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.


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.


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).


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.


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.

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.


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

October Writing Progress Update

Happy Friday, folks! As you know, I’m writing a novel. I intend to finish its first draft by January 1st, 2017. Here in Jersey, the leaves are falling and the temperature is dropping, reminding me that the month of October is coming to a close. The pressure is on! So how have I fared this month? Let’s talk about it.

College keeps me busy. More busy than I would like. But when the moon and the stars align, I have time to write. The best moments spring up when I seize the flow crucial to the creative process and channel it until I exhaust it. When I do that, I’m like…


When I look at the blinking cursor and have no clue what direction I’m heading in, I’m more like…


I am currently a little more than halfway through Act II, 220 pages into the story. I understand that word count is the standard unit in the writing world, but page number is a measure that helps me to gauge my own progress. It’s also something that those who aren’t privy to writing vernacular can grasp. So I’m sticking with it.

This month, I haven’t written a single brisk chapter. In fact, with the plot thickening, the chapters I’ve been writing have been among the longest and richest I’ve penned thus far.

But the best thing I’ve written this month, by far, is a chapter I’ve titled, ‘A Leg of Lamb.’

Pulled straight from a status I posted on my Facebook author’s page (which you should totally ‘Like’):

“Sneak peek: 3 youngsters walk into an inn so rowdy it may as well be a tavern. Liquor, gambling, and shouting is aplenty. The boys only want a decent meal after being on the ocean for weeks, but things don’t go as to plan. Because there is no plan.”

Sounds wild, right? It is.


Okay, certainly not as wild as Gatsby, but the chapter does have the workings of what I can work up to be a chaotic vibe.

Like any author, I cherish my characters. But after reading this chapter again, I think I’ve found one who most readers will fall in love with immediately (I can’t say “fans” because I don’t have any fans yet. I have to earn those. Although I think my mom is a fan of mine. Probably).

I’ve also introduced a character in a fashion I found to be particularly nifty.


“Hold on just a moment.”

At the sound of that voice, a voice harsh as whiskey’s burn, a voice cold as winter’s frost, a voice powerful as hammer’s charge, every man and woman pulled their attention from the circle of six and put it to the man standing behind Joshua. Joshua moved with the crowd, turning with apprehension and curiosity to witness the man looming over him.

The speaker was tall. Excessively so. Joshua’s head climbed and climbed before it met a pair of copper eyes that rejected the purple light trying to penetrate them. Eyes stained red. The man’s nose was long and strong, his mouth set in a frown that managed to look more angry than sad. Beady stubble peppered his face. He was dressed in a fine black tweed coat and matching black pants befitting of Sunday morning church service. And he had a gun. A gun in his hand, pointed at Rocco. The gun was small, nothing so bulky as those toted by the toughs, but if the copper-eyed man had aim fierce as his voice, Joshua was certain the arm’s size was inconsequential.

Copyright 2016 J.J. Azar


Nothing at this stage is final, of course, but there’s something commanding there. And I like it.

I aim to finish Act II by the end of November. November should bear a lighter load in terms of schoolwork, if my professors are honest, so I am confident I can hit my aim. Wish me luck. Likewise, I wish luck to all of you fine people who are pursuing writing, particularly those who are hopping aboard the “NaNoWriMo” writing challenge I’ve been hearing a lot about here in the WordPress community.

Thanks for reading! And as always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

J.J.’s Jesting Parables #1: Parable of the Rabbit

Hello, lovely ladies and classy gents! Here is the first piece in a series of jesting parables penned by yours truly.

These are intended to be the bouncing pectoral muscles of the Herculean body that is this blog. In other words, they’re all in good fun. I guarantee that the parables will yank out an eye-roll, a chuckle, or a grunt. At least one of those. So enjoy! And if you have a thought you’d like to share, drop a comment below! I promise to say hello right back.

Hops: Parable of the Rabbit

The rabbit hopped from the field to the street, where the men lived.

A man on the street noticed the rabbit hopping along and said, “You got hops, little man!”

The rabbit looked to the man and muttered, “Thanks.”

Then he hopped back to his field, ears drooping.

The next day, the rabbit returned to the man and asked, “You got hops, boss?”

The rabbit drank until he puked.

credit: Tom Smith

J.J. Azar

5 Books and the Lessons They Taught Me About Writing

Hello, friends! I would like to extend a grand THANK YOU for helping me to reach a significant milestone: Though this blog has only been around for less than a month, it has already racked up 50 FOLLOWERS! (Shoutout to Gravy for being my 50th follower)! That is insane. A huge thank you is in order for those who read, like, comment, and follow the stuff I post. If you’re interested in following me on my Road to Authorship and joining the 50 of my incredibly classy posse, have no fear! The ‘subscribe’ option is located at the top of the sidebar. For mobile users, it may be located at the bottom of the page. My phone is a rock so I’m not entirely sure.

I’m feeling as accomplished as I did that time I golfed with the knights. And won. Gallantly.

I’ve really enjoyed interacting with fellow bloggers as well. There are a host of fascinating people out there, many of whom who are also braving the Road of Authorship! For me, the blogging experience has been more about consuming than creating, and I am content with that dynamic, as I find great joy in reading what other bloggers write.

I look forward to reaching 100 followers and beyond. But until then, I have something else to share! I’d like to present 5 lessons about writing I have learned from 5 of my favorite books.

5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee…

pvcategoryimage280220140516421605.jpgtaught me how powerful a character can be.

Strong characters are often taken to be of the “gritty fighter” breed. Jack Bauer and James Bond are strong, resonant characters because they kick ass at the expense of their well-being. Daryl Dixon of the Walking Dead is beloved for the same reason: All three characters are wounded tough guys who fight for the greater good with their fists (or crossbows).

Atticus Finch, however, showed me that there was a whole different way for a character to be badass: by embracing virtue. Whether Atticus is offering Scout wisdom or delivering his legendary appeals in the courtroom, his morality is palpable through his calm, honest countenance. In my mind, Atticus Finch should be considered among Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln as being a moral figure who exudes strength. That’s how real he is. And now I know that evoking a visceral reaction through a character by way of the pen is possible.

4. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain…

Kitchen-Confidential 2.jpeg…taught me how integral it is to hold onto voice (I wrote a post on this exact topic last week. You can check it out here).

You know who Anthony Bourdain is. Chances are, you’ve seen him on Travel Channel or CNN running around countries, drinking alcohol, and making edgy jokes.

That’s the Anthony Bourdain I knew before I picked up Kitchen Confidential, the book that propelled him to fame. I am pleased to say that the Anthony on TV is no different from the Anthony on the page. I literally read the book in his voice. Not in the literary sense, in the literal sense.

The book features Anthony’s opinions, insights, and style without any filter. Every crass joke, every filthy story, every brutally honest observation is true to his style, his persona, and his worldview. If the book was filtered, it simply wouldn’t be Anthony’s book. And then I wouldn’t consider it to be one of my all-time favorites. I am committed to holding onto my voice as a writer, and that is largely thanks to Bourdain’s stellar book.

3. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini…


…taught me that, even today, “new classics” can be ushered into the world.

“There is nothing new under the sun.” I agree with that bit of wisdom. Every story that surfaces owes dues to stories penned by Shakespeare and Homer and the unnamed authors of ancient Mesopotamia.

It is no secret that the Lion King was heavily influenced by the story of Hamlet, and the story of Hamlet was undoubtedly influenced by stories that came before it. Even Inception, a sci-fi thriller whose concept appears to be the most original seen on screen in decades, is a nostos tale comparable to the Odyssey. But those comparisons don’t negate the profound impact of the Lion King or Inception on the audiences who have experienced them.

In much the same way, the story of the Kite Runner, to me, reads like a “new classic.” The tale tells Amir’s personal story, yet its concepts and its scope could be applied to any time in history all the same. Hosseini showed me that writing a new classic was possible. And that thought is inspiring to me as a writer who is seeking to tell a story that resonates.

2. The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran by Kahlil Gibran…

My personal copy

…taught me that language is best used honestly.

Often times, writers feel compelled to sophisticate their writing by adding pounds of abstract detail and convoluted ideas into their work. The practice is tempting, after all. Elevating one’s work to a higher degree is certainly a goal worth striving for. But the way Kahlil Gibran achieves this “higher degree” is by approaching language in such a way that can best be described as honest.

Gibran pulls from nature and emotion to convey ideas clearly and without pretension, a style which suits his subject matter. His clarity has more impact on me than any flowery piece I’ve read. His messages and the imagery with which he delivers them are incredible.

The way Gibran uses language is how I would like to use language in my writing: Properly, clearly, and honestly.

Without a doubt, this 900 pound behemoth is worthy of your read.

1. Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan…

LOCCover.jpgtaught me that stories can transcend the page.

The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan is my favorite book series of all time. And that is putting it lightly. In the future, I will write up some WoT-centric posts, so if there are any Robert Jordan fans reading, say hello in the comments so we can bask in the glory of the Pattern together.

Lord of Chaos is the 6th book of the 14-book fantasy series. This installment is not only my favorite of the series thus far (I am currently reading book 9) but my favorite book of all time. (cue Kanye). Now, don’t get me wrong. The Wheel of Time universe became real to me from the very beginning. Books 1-5 had plenty of exciting, engaging moments. But Lord of Chaos cranked up the profound nature of the series from a 10/10 to a 25/10.

Above the host of story-changing moments throughout the narrative, various significant character moments, and a refreshing look at the antagonists’ perspective, there is another thing which sets Lord of Chaos above anything I have ever read. Two words: Dumai’s Wells.

The effects that this event at Dumai’s Wells had on me, on the characters, and on the story amalgamated into one big, “Oh my God.” In the same way that one is shocked by national tragedies and the deaths of beloved celebrities, Dumai’s Wells was, for me, very, very real. I was nearly ill at the details. For writing on a page to force me to articulate this one event so strongly is evidence enough that, if crafted with passion and read with excitement, fictional word can become a part of somebody’s life. And that is powerful.

~J.J. Azar

Writers, Don’t Reject Your Voice!

During my freshman year of high school, my friend Eruheran and I decided to try our hands at writing a piece for an essay contest. What the essay topic was escapes me, so let’s just say we were both tasked with writing about narwhals.

narwhal: a horned sea creature notorious for skewering our dearest sea friends.

So once Eruheran and I had completed our narwhal essays, we passed them along to our English teacher at the time, requesting that she read them and provide some feedback to help us out. But our teacher changed the entire dynamic of the situation when she asked, “Whose essay would you like me to read first?”

And there it was. A spark of challenge. Eruheran and I looked at each other with grave expressions. Were we doomed to squabble over the privilege of receiving the first read like Roman gladiators? Were we destined to clash like Maximus Decimus Meridius and Emperor Commodus? Were we bound to fight like Mufasa and Scar? Were we fated to feud like M. Night Shyamalan and all respectable movie-going audiences? No. Eruheran and I decided to unite.

Instead of playing ball, we seized our trusted Sharpies, crossed out our names classified-CIA style, and handed them to the teacher. “It’s your call,” we determined.

And so, days later, our teacher returned our essays to us, and without fail, she put my paper on my desk and Eruheran’s paper on his desk. She knew who wrote which essay because of that little thing called voice. Even though we both wrote about narwhals, my teacher was able to confidently identify the fingerprint pressed upon each paper. My teacher knew her students’ writing well enough to differentiate my essay from my friend’s.

The moment my paper was returned to my desk, I understood the power of voice. Simply put, voice is a writer’s style. Some writers certainly bear similarities to others, but ultimately, one cannot feign a style. If I try to sing like Sinatra, I might sound like him when I hit a certain note (silence), but in the end, I’m just going to sound like me. It’ll still going to be my voice.

And so, fellow writers, I urge you this: Hold on to your voice.

Often times we expose ourselves to so many tips and opinions and insights as to how we should write this or write that. I’ve read people vehemently stress that a writer should use “said” to preface a line of dialogue sparingly. They assert that in most cases, a writer should replace “said” with a more animated verb like “bark” or “growl.”

Upon seeing the narwhal charging with its menacing horn , J.J. barked, “Run!”

I’ve also read people who reject that notion entirely, arguing that one cannot “bark” a line of dialogue, and thus “said” and its more conventional variants should be used in most cases.

Upon seeing the narwhal charging with its menacing horn, J.J. shouted, “Run!”

And then I’ve read opinions from others who insist that prefacing dialogue with anything at all is futile, as the tone of the dialogue should be made clear by the prior action or expression delineated immediately before it.

J.J. saw the charging narwhal and turned on his heel. “Run!”

I’ve learned that those rules of “never” and “always” are utterly useless. If I want to animate a character’s speech by having him bark it, I will. If I want to frame a back-and-the-forth argument using “said,” I will. If I don’t want to preface my dialogue with any word at all, I will.

Of course, a line of dialogue can be presented poorly, and so best judgement is implied in my suggestion of taking liberties, but my point stands. Writers budding and veteran, new and experienced, rusty and polished, do what you’ve been taught to do since kindergarten: Be yourself. Because if you go on trying to write like somebody else for the sake of “doing it right,” readers will be left with nothing new, nothing fresh, nothing original. In an era of Hollywood remakes and rehashes, cookie-cutter novels, and formulaic channel 1-through-ten television shows, that is the last thing the good people of the world need.

Additionally, dismissing your voice is a dishonor to yourself.

If Tarantino cut down his dialogue, we would have never seen Jules Winnfield spend an entire scene delivering gem after gem of dialogue revolving around a burger. Tarantino had that scene in him, and it is all the better that he put it out into the world. And the world loves that he did.


If Robert Jordan didn’t describe the texture and color and material of every floor and wall he ever wrote…well, I suppose I would be done with the Wheel of Time series already. But his attention to detail is one of the key aspects as to what makes Robert Jordan’s writing Robert Jordan’s writing. In order to invest himself in his own world, he had to paint it so vividly.

I don’t want to read or watch anything conventional. Do you?

Now, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t seek out wisdom from your elders, because you should! Fill your head! Listen to what other authors have to say. Read about writing. Read about reading. Read. Write. Seek feedback. Always try to better yourself. But with thatyou must remain true to your essence.

Make the odd decision. Have faith in your reader’s intelligence. Have faith in your ability, in your story. Write boldly. Write as you want to.

If you like what you see here, drop a comment to let me know what you think, and if you really like what you see here, you are welcome to subscribe if you haven’t already!

Thank you for your continued support, and as always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

J.J. Azar: Who I Am and What I Write



Hello, lovely ladies and classy gents! Welcome to my blog!

My name is J.J. Azar, and I’m writing a book. If you’d like to learn more about me and what I’m working on, look no further. You’re in the right place. Please take this mug of warm milk, sit back, and enjoy.

When I emerged into the world a fat child, my dear dad and loving mother named me “Johnathan Johnny Azar.” Why Johnathan? Probably because they wanted to overcompensate for my potential dim-wittedness by attaching a sophisticated name to my cheeky face. Why Johnny? Because that’s my father’s name, and that’s how we take our middle names in Middle Eastern culture (Shortly after my birth, my parents purchased a home with a three-car garage expressly so they could keep our camel sheltered from the cold). Why Azar? Because that’s my dad’s dad’s dad’s last name, and I presume that it was my dad’s dad’s dad’s dad’s last name too.

But nobody, not even my parents, know me as “JOHNATHAN…JOHNNY…AZAR.” Most just call me Johnathan. Some of my friends call me John even after I make it clear that “I prefer Johnathan” (Honestly, I might as well stop trying and throw myself into the Fires of Mordor!)

A handful of acquaintances prefer to call me “Azar!” The guy who fills my gas down the street from my house calls me “Boss” (and he cleans my windshield for free, too!)

Some call me “Juck,” a name whose origin has been heatedly debated amongst aunts and cousins who have strong feelings and apparently superhuman memories regarding who actually spawned the title during the antiquity of my youth. I used the moniker when I commandeered a review blog and slayed zombies on the Xbox, but it has since evolved into a sort of semi-rare delicacy, much like caviar and chivalry. Only an elite few call me that today, and God bless them!

How, then, did “J.J. Azar” come about? What fanciful, resonant origin story can I attribute to that slick-sounding name? Here’s what happened:

I was sitting at the dessert table shoveling cake into my mouth when my uncle Elvis, who was sitting beside me, paid me a glance. His eyes caught mine. At that moment, I knew I’d been caught devouring Tiramisu like a fiend. I had to act fast. I thanked God I wasn’t eating a banana, then said, “I’m writing a book.”

“Really?” he asked with a shrug of the mouth. “Are you going to have a penname?”

“Nope,” I resolutely responded. I hadn’t even entertained assuming a penname. Why would I?

“Like J.J. Azar,” he suggested, not quite as a question, not quite as a statement. He kind of just said it.

And there it was. Without even putting me to sleep Inception-style, my uncle Elvis planted a seed in my mind that grew into a tall, strong, handsome, slightly-pale tree. And here I am! So what am I doing here? Better yet, what are you doing here?

Well folks, just like that 5-year-old kid you babysit, just like your nostalgic grandma Fran, just like your uncle Rico and your parole officer Dave, I want to become a published author. I want to become a published author so I can share my writing with you lovely ladies and classy gents!

As I type this, I am halfway through completing the first draft of a western-adventure novel. I intend to type “The End” on the piece’s first draft by January 1st, 2017, kind of like a reverse New Years’ Resolution! And the clock is ticking!

“What do you write?” you ask.

Well, I write swashbuckling with words.


I am a firm believer in the power of words. I have learned that words have the potential to cut sharper than swords when woven in particular ways. As I see it, that’s what writing is all about: evoking a reaction through the presentation of language. And so, when people ask me what I write, the best answer I could possibly provide is, “Swashbuckling with words.” Whether the swashbuckling within the novel manifests through high-stakes negotiation between enemies, sharp banter between friends, internal conflict, a hard day’s journey, or literal sword-fighting, the vessel through which each and every breath of a written story is conveyed is languageWords.

For a synopsis of my novel-in-progress and some more about me, be sure to check out the About Me page above!

As I brave the Road of Authorship, stumbling over every rock on the way, I invite you to walk alongside me so you can point and laugh and cheer as I fall on my ass and get back up again.

By subscribing via WordPress or email, you can keep up with my posts, which will include updates on my writing progress, original stories, excerpts from my work(s)-in-progress, musings about writing, and other things. (like me on Facebook, too!)

I hope you decide to stick around, as there is plenty more to come. Expect a post once a week on Friday or Saturday. And please feel free to leave a comment! Even a simply hello will suffice!

As always, keep it real. People-like people are often the best kind.

~J.J. Azar