The World I Like Best

I have always considered reading as a healthy way to escape for a while. One glance at the news gives ample reason to seek a temporary way to stop the real world and enter an imaginary one. Like a pressure valve, it enables me to face the sometimes harsh reality of life by being able to remove myself from it, even if only for a short time.

It was only recently I understood that writing the story serves a similar purpose for me. One of the perks of being an author is the opportunity to let my mind and imagination LIVE within the story I am creating. Even more, I get to influence each event and character to my liking. It satisfies a bone-deep desire to have mastery over something – anything – since real life gives only a fleeting illusion of any sort of control. It also compels me to keep going, since I miss the characters and the lives I’ve designed for them.

Writers, then, are doubly blessed – or cursed, depending on how you look at it. There is something deeply fulfilling about creating an imaginary world which is uniquely mine. The setting, characters, action, and outcome are all mine to fashion, and I relish in crafting a story in which I get the final say. Nothing in real life allows such complete creativity, enabling me to enjoy not only the worlds created by others, but the ones I craft myself. A double blessing indeed.

The Odious Apostrophe

The Odious Apostrophe

 

Apostrophe, Apostrophe,

or should I say catastrophe?

You make me nervous, angry, mean,

You’re Satan’s punctuation scheme.

I put you in and take you out,

Confusion reigns, along with doubt.

Unlike the period or comma,

You thrive on messiness and drama.

English would be much less rotten,

If you could only be forgotten.

 

Alexander Elliott

 

Personal ethics in a Fiction story

I have written previously regarding my book, Second Chance Earth, but let me summarize quickly.

A ruined Earth is taken over by an alien presence who desires to cleanse and repopulate the planet. The people involved have no control over what the entity has already done or intends to do, yet try to make the best of the new life they have been given.

A recent 1-star reviewer has very insistently stated:

“…this is a horrifying tale of humanity giving up its freedom to become happy puppets for vastly superior aliens” and one which “tells of the utter brainwashing and destruction of the human spirit”.

The reviewer goes on to say “I am not sure if the author of this novel understands what he actually wrote” and that I “do not have a grasp of the ethical and psychological meaning of my novel”.

As discerning readers know, most post-apocalyptic literature is dark and disturbing by its very nature, so there should be no surprise when reading a book of this genre. I would also point out that this book is:

1. A NOVEL – “A long written story about imaginary people and events.”  Merriam-Webster

2. A work of FICTION – “Literature created from the imagination and not presented as fact.”  Britannica.com

3. A form of ENTERTAINMENT – “Something which holds the attention and interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight.” Wikipedia

There isn’t a work of fiction anywhere which remains untainted by the author’s own value system, interests, beliefs or imagination, but no reasonable reader would expect everything presented on the page to be an actual statement of the author’s personal beliefs. If this were true, many writers of horror or murder mysteries, for instance, would need to be locked away to protect society!

I love my book, and believe it is a creative and interesting tale in which the survivors are controlled, but given the means to live pleasant and  productive lives. I doubt there are very many post-apocalyptic stories out there with the happy ending mine provides! Based on written reviews so far, the vast majority of my readers also love the book and do not believe the author is ethically or psychologically deficient.

Now – would I want to live in the world I described, under the control of such a powerful alien being – NO, I would not. In this, I agree with my ardent critic that the story could be seen as a “horrifying tale”. On the other hand, if aliens really were to take over the world, it is extremely unlikely they would have the slightest concern for our freedom or well-being. In such an encounter, we would be fortunate to survive at all, let alone do so in a pleasant manner.

At the end of the day, my book provides a bit of short-lived entertainment, not a treatise on morals or ethics, and certainly not a statement of my personal views. I am grateful most of my readers understand this and will continue to enjoy novels which appeal to their own imaginations. Long live fiction!

 

 

Where it All Started

My desire to write dates back to a 7th grade challenge given by my English teacher. A speech contest was coming up and we were all encouraged to enter. I cannot remember my personal motivation at the time, but it was probably a desire to boost my fragile self-esteem by finding something I was good at. It would never be sports or academics, and I had a terrible time making friends. I was a lonely, rudderless kid searching for a place in the world.

There were various themes from which the contestants could choose, and I selected to speak on Big Brothers/Big Sisters. I did my research, interviewed someone at the organization, and set about to write and memorize my speech. I recall how nervous I was that night, standing on the stage in front of a hundred strangers. The speech went off without a hitch, and I was flabbergasted to be awarded first prize! I don’t have that trophy any longer, but I kept it for years as validation.

From there I was emboldened to continue writing other things – mostly short stories, songs and poems. (I still have some of these, and might be persuaded to share them with you sometime if you ask nicely!) My new-found confidence spilled over into drama and music, as I finally found something  I could DO, something which reflected the real me. I never got over the nerves of performing in public, but I didn’t let it hold me back. Public speaking became a regular part of my life for many years, though my writing took a back seat until very recently.

In some ways, publishing my books is just as nerve-wracking as public speaking. It is difficult to leave my creations out there for all to see (and criticize). Reviews are both a blessing and a curse, since most authors tend to take negative criticism very personally – even though we are warned not to. I am learning to appreciate the feedback from my readers; even the ones who are unnecessarily vicious in their comments. I have learned much already, and my readers are helping me to be a better writer, editor, and businessman.

The learning curve has been steep, but I hope that a year from now, or ten, my books will be better in every way. Who knows? Perhaps I still have a chance to win a trophy or two.

 

When Readers Get it Right

I’m sure you have heard the tired old proverb “The customer is always right.” Having worked in a retail environment for many years, I can unequivocally say – THAT IS NOT TRUE! Everyone has an opinion, but many opinions are lacking a factual basis, common sense, or even common decency. It’s not wise to argue with a customer, of course, as the employee usually ends up in trouble no matter how the encounter ends.

Book reviews are similar in many ways. Writers often find themselves on the receiving end of mean-spirited, unjustified, or ignorant opinions – left out in the public eye for all to see. Authors have to develop thick skins to protect their fragile ego’s and stave off discouragement.

Fortunately, there is some good along with the bad. Many readers share their heartfelt admiration, with encouraging words which affirm and delight. Even better, there are a select few who understand your story so well, you can honestly say “They get it!” Finally, there are those rare gems who go beyond “getting it” to seeing things the author may have never even considered.

It will continue to amaze and humble me when my readers teach me things about my own books! Would it shock my readers if I should admit they found something in my work I hadn’t even noticed before? No, no, that would never do. One has to maintain a certain all-knowing mystique after all…

 

Where do story ideas come from?

I have been asked where the ideas come from for my books, but the question does not have a simple answer. For the most part, the source is my own imagination which is fed by life experiences, news reports, casual conversations, dreams, movies, and other books I have read. It may be said there is a story to be told in almost anything – the trick is to make it interesting for the reader.

I cannot speak for any other writers out there, but I live in my head most of the time. Ideas come and go constantly, and some get more attention than others. The good ones tend to stick around and bug me, while the others are dismissed unless they come up again. When that happens, I tend to stop and rethink the possibilities. Some ideas would be great for a short story but impossible for a novel length piece. Other ideas are ones I wish I could write about, but lack the skill or experience to tell them properly.

With a brain like grand central station, I am forced to write things down when inspiration strikes, or I tend to lose them quickly. I have a number of file folders, divided by genre, filled with scraps of paper with hastily scribbled notes. That may seems like a quaint and inefficient way of doing things, but it works for me and gives me the peace of mind to let the idea go for now, knowing it is safely recorded for use when I need it. Each day is filled with potential story prompts, and as long as I have a pen and paper handy, I will have plenty of fodder for creative and interesting future books.

If you have read my books and have suggestions for future stories, drop me a line at aelliottbooks@gmail.com

I never know where a great idea may come from – it could be you!