Adventures in Landscaping: Reevaluating the Yard

It has officially been over a year since my first Adventures in Landscaping. I promise it has not been a full year since I’ve landscaped my yard (although we got pretty lazy over winter).

With another year gone and a baby in the house, our priorities and our available time to landscape have shifted. Last year, I wanted to install a rock garden in front of our fence. That did not happen, but check out what did!

Our front yard and porch, with a fancy new railing and a designated gravel path for our trash cans and man-door in the fence.
Continue reading “Adventures in Landscaping: Reevaluating the Yard”

Quick Rip: Of Monster’s and Men’s New Sound?

“Alligator” is the first single from Of Monsters and Men’s third album. Fever Dream Comes out July 26, and the first single already has me wondering is we will yet again hear an evolved sound from the fascinating Icelandic group.

This performance on Fallon features the five main members–they usually have 3-5 touring members–playing a layered chorus of distorted guitars that more closely resembles post-rock than the band’s previous alternative folk rock sound.

Maybe “Alligator” will be anomalous on the new album, but a move in this direction actually makes sense to me. 2011’s My Head is an Animal had an airy feel with lots of vocal choruses. 2015’s Beneath the Skin still used a lot of acoustic sounds and vocal harmonies, but its tone was darker and hinted at the more ambient, emotive power of their music.

Whatever direction the band has chosen, I’ll be happy. Of Monsters and Men has (clearly) become known for long droughts between albums, but each one feels fresh and unique. I can’t wait to  hear what Fever Dream sounds like.

Steve D

Exploring Úr’Dan: The Firelands and the Northern Uplands

With all of the narrative shifts, outlining, and pondering I’ve done about The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy and related stories recently, I wanted to revive my world-building series.

And boy was I shocked to find that I haven’t written an Exploring Úr’Dan post in over a year! Here’s a refresher for all of us (myself included) of the fantastical ground we’ve covered previously:

Continue reading “Exploring Úr’Dan: The Firelands and the Northern Uplands”

June Write-Day: Summer is Looking Up!

May turned out to be an interesting month, although the first half is a blur to me. Honestly, most of the good parts happened in the last two weeks.

We had a nice weekend at the family lakehouse, where our son was baptized by his great-uncle the pastor. The baptism itself was a nice at-home affair, and was more about the family gathering than anything else. It also served as a great excuse to go boating and lounge in the sun, two of Teddy’s favorite activities (see above). Continue reading “June Write-Day: Summer is Looking Up!”

“Black Crow, White Snow” – Book Review

I picked up Black Crow, White Snow by Michael Livingston from Audible’s free Originals program. It was part of May’s slate of free shorts. To be honest, I had mostly ignored Audible’s Originals to this point; I just didn’t see much value in it.

But after listening to Livingston’s short story in just two days (it’s only 2.5 hours long), I’ll have to pay closer attention to the free books Audible offers. Continue reading ““Black Crow, White Snow” – Book Review”

Sometimes It’s Okay to Consolidate Your Narrative

Apologies for the late post today. I was helping a friend move some very heavy, very unwieldy couches across town. Although, I’m sure it will be Saturday by the time anyone reads this anyway.

I had a bit of a revelation recently regarding my first draft of The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy, and it’s really helped me focus my writing and plotting efforts, hopefully for the foreseeable future. Continue reading “Sometimes It’s Okay to Consolidate Your Narrative”

Poorly Written Headlines #2

This has been a bit of a slow week, so I thought I’d do another edition of Poorly Written headlines. It’s been a while since I did the first of these, so here’s a refresher on strategies to writing good press release headlines and sub-headlines.

What this headline does right:
  • Tells us the author’s name and book title (both redacted)
  • Tells us the genre: action thriller
  • It’s at least 63 characters long (depending on the real author and title length), but the phrase parallel universe would likely be cut off in listing pages, so all we’re really left with is the Who  and the What
What this headline does wrong:
  • Describes the book as taking place in a parallel universe

This headline is more of a statement than a news announcement. It reads as if it was pulled from a descriptive paragraph and slapped into the headline.

Why does it matter that this book takes place in a parallel universe? The vast majority of speculative fiction takes place in some form of alternate reality, whether it’s our universe with some weird shit happening, or a completely unique fantasy world.

Try searching for “parallel universe” on Google and you’ll get 500 million results. Add “books” to that search, and the top bar will show works by authors ranging from Pratchett, to Asimov, to Pullman. The book named in this headline is not competing with those names.

What could be done differently:

Basically, the back half of this headline is fluff; it has no real meaning, and it’s not doing the press release or the book it’s promoting any favors by being so generic.

Instead, the author could hint at why this parallel universe is interesting, or maybe provide a news announcement, such as the release date. Here’s an example without completely butchering the format:

[Author’s] exciting action thriller, [Book’s Title], will be Released this Summer!

It’s not perfect, but it provides some valuable information to the reader–they should check out this book and add it to their summer reading list.

What do you think? How would you make this headline pop more?

Steve D