Desert island books

During undergrad, my film professor said that were she trapped on a desert island, the two films she would want to have with her were Sunset Boulevard (1950) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). The woman had impeccable tastes and inspired in me a deep love for horror and the macabre. While I am not sure about films, I have often thought about the books I would want with me on a desert island. The following, in no particular order, are some of my essential desert island books.

Hyperion (1989) Hyperion by Dan Simmons (1989)

I discovered Hyperion late in high school when I had just started to really read book with depth, and what depth this book has! Simmons weaves the structure of The Canterbury Tales and the poetry of John Keats into a masterful scifi epic. A book one can read over and over, each new visit to Hyperion reveals nuances and references previously missed. It is a scifi epic that has something for everyone: a father worried deeply for his daughter’s health, a military man battleworn and weary, a forlorn poet in search of his muse, a detective searching for the answer to a complicated mystery.

Even though each traveler’s tale is different than the last—sometimes moving into what seems to be an entirely different genre—the shifts never feel awkward or disjointed. Simmons’ skill in storytelling shines here as each character spins a separate tale which gradually interweave and coalesce into a complete, interconnected whole.

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First contact: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Last year saw the release of Edge of Tomorrow, directed by Doug Liman, and subsequently rebranded as Live. Die. Repeat. It is an adaption of the Japenese light novel All You Need is Kill by Sakurazaka Hiroshi.1

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)Edge of Tomorrow follows William Cage (Tom Cruise) as he is forced to fight on the front lines against the alien Mimics. In a disastrous battle, Cage is cornered by a Mimic and he detonates an explosive, killing them both. This would be the end for our brave protagonist in most other films, but instead Cage wakes from death at the beginning of the previous day only to return to the same battle to fight and die again as the film’s tagline suggests. Cage quickly discovers he is trapped in a time loop, the most recognizable example of which is most likely Groundhog Day (1993).

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On writing: Essential editing techniques

One of the challenges of writing is not the writing itself, but editing what is written. Good editing is as important to the final work as the writing itself, if not more so. Editing is where the text takes shape, where the proverbial wheat is separated from the chaff. I’ve heard it said that a good writer writes 10% or more than will ultimately be included in the final draft. The writing we like, even love, may sometimes be cut from the final draft. (A few of my favorite lines from The Joining were left on the cutting room floor.) When editing, one must step back from the work, cast an eye over it, and be able to critically assess what is needed, what is missing, and what is extraneous.

So how does one get that distance? Well, here are some editing techniques that work for me.

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Two releases for your reading pleasure

The end of February is here and it has been busy! As a result, I have two new releases for your reading pleasure: Two in the Bush and “Dead Meat Running.”

This last week I have been writing and editing up a storm with the result being a novelette, Two in the Bush, of 10,400 words. This piece was written for a contest on /r/WritingPromptsTwo in the Bush focuses on a down on his luck scavenger who tries to pawn off some items and gets a bit more than he bargained for in the end. Two in the Bush is written in first person perspective, a bit of a departure from my usual style, but it was a fun exercise to do something different for a change.

You can find Two in the Bush here.

If you’re looking for something even shorter than a novelette, last night I released my first short story, “Dead Meat Running.” From the description:

"Dead Meat Running" by J. H. Dierking“Dead Meat Running” is a dark speculative fiction short story of 6000 words.

In an apocalyptic future where man is hunted by monstrous beings and some will do anything to survive, is there any humanity left?

“Dead Meat Running” is available as a Kindle e-Book from Amazon.

Once again, the cover art was done by the terrific Trevor W. Shields. You can visit his website here.

What does March have in store? Stick around and find out.

– J