Fantasy is Bulls**t

Yeah...it is -- -- --

But isn't that the point?

As an author, I have a particular audience. Every author pinpoints their market. Mine, I believe, are adults who refuse to leave their childhood dreams and ambitions behind...and for good reason. This is a good thing. In fact, I am one of these people. These are the people that refuse to sacrifice the beauty, creativity, and general awe of a whacked out storyline for the sake of living a "normal and realistic" life. Too many times have I heard the word "nerd" be used in a heavily stigmatic way, so much so that it suppresses the natural creativity and fun that comes along with reading, watching, and writing things that are, quite frankly, way out of our current reality.

So when someone asks what I've been doing with my life, I say I've been spending the last 2 years writing an EPIC FANTASY series. 

"You mean like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings?" they ask.

"Yes, that's exactly what I'm doing," I respond.

"Oh, cool..."

And then, this happens. A lot of the time, when I say I'll be spending 10 more years of my life doing the same thing, I get this as a response:

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Not because people are generally "too good" for something as out-of-the-box as FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION, but mostly because these genres have been so stigmatized by the general public that it has developed into a dumping ground for writers who can't write. Yes, there are many authors who independently publish who can't write. They literally spend as little time as possible drafting, even less editing, and publish it for free to try and make a quick buck, but you know what? There are also authors who are traditionally published who can't write either, but those still sell because of reputation.

Why must FANTASY and SCI-FI be blamed for something that falls on all of our shoulders?

I will always be an advocate for the advancement of literature. Reading is a dying art and, that alone, can change the course of history. We must teach future generations to love reading like they love their cell phones, television, and computers. If we don't, we're just as bad as the stigma itself.

HOWEVER -

I believe we are past the time in our trendy popular culture where the moniker "nerd" holds any sort of shame, which is why I write FANTASY, SCIENCE FICTION, and all other sorts of genres in the first place. In the publishing world, it's not easy to publish SCI-FI or FANTASY traditionally. It's a growing market, but there are thousands upon thousands of new writers who all have the same aspirations, but unfortunately, there is no room for all of us. Most manuscripts end up gathering dust on a shelf somewhere or digitally rubbished in a mysterious agent's e-mail trash folder 500 miles away. 

Anyone who picks up an R.T. Donlon novel can expect to be challenged, pushed imaginatively to the brink, and forced to envision a new world with extensive vocabulary and imagery. I pride myself on that. I know authors before me have done the same. 

It takes a strong person to read FANTASY novels. It takes a person willing to accept that what they are reading is abstract - that it is not entirely rooted in the "real" world. Don't miss the point. We don't read FANTASY novels to make us feel something about our world. We read FANTASY because we expect better of ourselves. If characters can brave hideous beasts, fire-breathing dragons, magic-wielding wizards, and/or merciless gods, why can't we brave a world of corporate competition, the stresses of the bourgeoise, and senseless violence? 

I hate to say it, but we are already doing just that. FANTASY just transfers the stress, fear, and intimidation of this world into something a bit more grand and far-fetched. It's for the people who can't help but go big or go home. 

 

So tell me -

Are you too good for a good story?

Or are you ready to give FANTASY another shot?

 

Read on, my dear readers. Read on. 

BIG IDEAS: Lit Talk

Another installment of your BEHIND THE SCENES look at The City of Shadow & Dust:

Here's a question I get all the time.

- - - - Do you know the content of every book in the series before you started writing?

Yes. If there's something I've learned while writing these last 4 novels, it's that outlining and preparation are just as important, if not more, than the actual writing. Revision is a whole different story. That's where the magic happens, but in terms of pure narrative construction, outlining is king. 

In other words, I've already planned out all 12 novels in the series. Images from every novel are stuck in my mind until I release them. Only I can enjoy and cherish them for now...you know, until I release them upon the world. 

So What's Literary About The City of Shadow & Dust? Don't you just write stories? 

You're right. I practice what I preach, which is focus on the narrative. Nothing else. So "writing a good story" is my main goal, but that's during outlining and drafting. During the revision process, I take liberties. I add things. I let the teacher in me go wild. That's where I get my literary fun. 

If you know me, you know I like literary things. You may not see them all the time, but if you look deep inside the novels and my writing style, you'll see allusions, purposeful formatting quirks, themes, and techniques that I've magically inserted for your enjoyment. Consider them something like Easter Eggs for literary nerds.

As most fantasy authors do, I get a lot of my inspiration from past authors like Tolkien. I mean, how can you not? Dude is a legend. 

As most fantasy authors do, I get a lot of my inspiration from past authors like Tolkien. I mean, how can you not? Dude is a legend. 

There is a Chaucerian feel to the first 5 novels in the series, as each novel sets up another one of the Ruganon's All-Star cast - 1) The Prophet, 2) The Shadow Warrior, 3) The Prescient, 4) The Key Maker, and 5) The Musician. All play a critical role in the latter novels of the series, but each character and each of their conflicts bring forth their own narrative, their own choices, and their own worries. 

Book 6 will be the first novel where the group works together for the common goal of unleashing the monster. Yes, it's kind of like my own extended AVENGERS movie-book. 

But until then, you will be introduced to every one of these characters slowly. You will be introduced to what makes them tick, why they do what they do, their reasoning for joining the group, etc. They all have their own unique views and their own independent talents that will prove critical to taking down the Shadow King. 

Alongside the all-encompassing map of The Great Range, you'll also be getting in-depth microcosmic maps that detail the regions where our protagonists originate, specific to whatever book you are reading at that time. Each map has its own cultural significance and is filled with details previously unknown. Each map also plays a bigger role in the finality of the big story...you know, stuff I can't reveal just yet. 

There's a lot to look forward to, both from my perspective and yours. It's a big project, but so much fun. I'm nearly bursting at the seams with good ideas. Just you wait...

More about the Shadow Warrior soon. Darkness Beneath the Dying Light is right around the corner. 

More about the Shadow Warrior soon. Darkness Beneath the Dying Light is right around the corner. 

Big Ideas: The Series

Thought about reading The City of Shadow & Dust, but worried about starting a gargantuan 12-novel series now? Well, don't let me get in the way. Below is the gist of the story you'll be getting yourself into. I'm partial, but damn, do I love it. I'll let you decide. Read on -- -- --

I'm constantly rolling through so many images in my head. It's like film constantly playing back there and it's my job to take it and describe it to anyone who picks up my novels. I found this picture recently and, oddly enough, it reminds me of a place in my series called the Glowing Mountain. Read below for more. 

I'm constantly rolling through so many images in my head. It's like film constantly playing back there and it's my job to take it and describe it to anyone who picks up my novels. I found this picture recently and, oddly enough, it reminds me of a place in my series called the Glowing Mountain. Read below for more. 

These novels - this series in particular - did not just come from anywhere. 

It has been an ongoing process. 

I first imagined the series during my first year of teaching nearly six years ago, as I was writing Walls. It hit me like a freight train and immediately I wanted to get writing, but like most authors do, I shelved the idea until I had time for a new project. The idea sat stagnant in the back of my brain for years - two, to be exact. 

After I completed The Reaper Trials, I knew I had to unleash the beast. It was time. I simply could not fathom keeping it hidden any longer, so I wrote the scene that will start Book 12 of the series (the final novel) and time-capsuled it for 12 years into the future. 

I began outlining. I outlined every story, every novel. It ran to be about 85 pages. Perhaps later, if the series takes off, I will make that into some sort of companion text - a behind-the-scenes, if you will. 

So here's the general gist. If you've read Book 1, you know a little, but there is so much more to be unearthed:

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The Big Narrative:

The Great Range has been in a state of war for millennia. The Shadows have always wanted to make the land their own, but the People of the Light have won these wars time and time again, despite the Shadows' constant attempts. Brax the Finisher - given that name by his people - is the most powerful of all beings the universe has ever seen, except for the mysterious monster called the Ruganon, waiting dormant somewhere only the Prophet knows.

In fact, no living person has ever seen it. No living person wants to. 

Over two thousand years before, the Ruganon defeated Brax in a battle that decimated the Great Range, killing millions of people. The Ruganon imprisoned Brax in a place called the Chasm - 800 miles deep into the ground, locked in a Shadow-Cursed cage, and forced to endure the pain of molten rock flowing just under him - never ending, never ceasing. 

But now, as the story takes hold in Book 1, Brax has somehow escaped his prison and is climbing the Chasm to seek vengeance for his imprisonment. The cycle of the Ruganon has begun for a second time and all of the people in the Range fear that this means the end of their world forever. 

If you're looking for some visuals, The Edge of a New Beginning (Book 1) starts in a place called the Ix'a Compound on the Western side of the world. It looks something like this:

It's quaint. It's quiet. But there is danger lurking. Grave danger.

It's quaint. It's quiet. But there is danger lurking. Grave danger.

Darkness Beneath the Dying Light (Book 2), which will be out around Christmas of this year, takes place in the jungles of the Portizu Territories in the Western-Central part of the Range. That will look something like this:

You know, just with a lot more trees in the distance, beyond the fog...

You know, just with a lot more trees in the distance, beyond the fog...

As authors like Tolkien, Rothfuss, Le Guin, and countless others have inspired me in their fantasy writings, I want to inspire others with that same joy. I hope you can see how much passion I have for this series and, as always, I promise I will put my heart and soul into it, so that you may get lost in the worlds and characters that I have built.

 

Check back in a couple days for more. 

12 Books, 12+ Years

"I could barely write a 3 page essay in high school!"

"I don't know how you do that..."

"When do you find the time?"

Those are just a few things I hear when I talk about my writing, especially during the summer months. It's a blessing and a curse, this writing thing. Most of the time it makes me feel small, like I can't get my head out of my own ass, but every so often, I'll come across a moment of clarity - one that supercharges the images in my brain into words wrapping across a computer screen. Those are the moments I live for and, honestly, I wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't worth it. 

So...where to next?

If you've kept up with me recently, you know I've spent most of my time talking about The Edge of a New Beginning (Book 1) and preparing Darkness Beneath the Dying Light (Book 2) for publication. It's been a crazy year editing the crap out of that thing, considering it has ballooned into something extraordinary. I can't wait to share it with you. 

So in celebration of Book 1's continuing growth and Book 2's impending arrival, I would like to offer you a bit of where we are headed.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be offering you behind-the-scenes glimpses into how I've worked through this series so far - things like where the Series is heading, how I structure 12 years of writing, and why the genre of FANTASY is bullshit. 

I have also synced my blog with my GOODREADS page, so if you find GOODREADS to be a bit more user-friendly, head over there and read away!

I hope you enjoy.

Here are a couple nuggets of knowledge to hold you over until the next installment:

The Edge of a New Beginning finished around 78,000 words. It was a short novel, but I think it needed to be. Lider and Tae are arguably the most influential and important characters in the series. You will get plenty more from them as their narratives intertwine with the others' throughout every novel. They are the continuing pieces of an otherwise independent set of novels for book 2, 3, 4, and 5. 

Darkness Beneath the Dying Light is unlike anything I have ever written. Editors and advanced readers have the novel in their hands as we speak and, if all goes well, the novel should be available for pre-order on or around Black Friday. This one, in the editing phase, has hit the 106,000 word mark. It's long. It's packed. And it breaks the mold of the other R.T. Donlon novels you've read. 

And for good reason. 

 

Talk soon, readers. 

I Hate Fan Fiction

Every writer has a weak spot. It's some style of writing that we openly hate, but secretly like a little. Of course, we'll never really confess to this, but come on, we all know...

Whether it's romance writing or informational studies, weird things always seem to wet writers' whistles...

Oh! Mine, you ask? Well...

It's fan fiction. 

I openly despise fan fiction. In my eyes, it's a complete rip-off of others' wonderful creativity. Why steal someone else's characters when you can feel entirely satisfied with creating your own? It just seems a little too close to plagiarism for me to handle.

But, in the half-minute I call relaxation time, I sometimes wonder: could I write for Marvel? Could I make a script for a DC movie? Do I have what it takes to pull something out of my rear and make it must-watch film?

And sometimes I try it out. Every once in a great while, I write and an idea blossoms into something great. This blog post, my friends, happens to be one of those "fan fiction" great ideas. Let me tell you why:

I've always loved superheroes. If you pay attention to my Facebook page, Instagram, or Twitter account, you may be aware of my obsession with Marvel and DC Comics. I hope to one day be the owner of my own production agency and have an extensive list of superheroes like the pillars Marvel and DC stand on today. I've even started writing a superhero trilogy that won't hit the shelves for awhile, but it's in the works. It's all part of a greater scheme for the R.T. Donlon universe in the near future. 

But while I have time to kill before all of my dreams come true, I write using characters already made up. You know, just for fun. This one is called Darker Days and uses Spiderman (a.k.a. Peter Parker) as the protagonist. We all know Parker's origination story: a high school boy gets bit by a spider that gives him super sensory powers that essentially allows him to rid New York City of the criminals that litter the streets. Blah, blah, blah.

But what about a Spidey well into the future (ten years to be exact) that has overcome a number of serious villains, faced his own demons, and come out on top? What happens then? Well, of course, if you're a superhero fan, you know that a superhero's job is never finished. Cut off the head of one villain and two more take its place (Hail...errrr...). So, naturally, there's a new villain in town. Darker Days explores Spidey's new problems entering his late twenties/early thirties.  

As always, I must say the following as a brief disclaimer. This is purely for fun. It's my amateur hour. In no way am I attempting to make a profit nor gain any credibility with this story. It is purely for amusement. Thank you, Marvel Comics, for your inspiration in the character of Peter Parker.

I wanted to share this with all of you - a special treat for staying patiently waiting for the next blog post. I promise the regular schedule is returning! 

So sit back, eat your blog-post popcorn, and enjoy!

 

Darker Days

Fan Fiction written by R.T. Donlon

There’s a silent way the house creaks at night.

When I close my eyes, I can feel it. It’s almost like it breathes differently in the waning hours of darkness. I feel it close to the beating of my heart. It’s an evolving feeling—one that chills my bones to the core. Its cold embrace holds me there, swaddled like a baby under the blankets. And it’s then when I can feel it the most.

Sometimes, when I can’t find sleep, I stare at her—the girl on the other side of the bed—with wide, weary eyes. She never stares back, of course. She’s fast asleep, but there is a resolve in her unconsciousness that I have never seen before in daylight. I love that about her. Even in her sleep, she finds a way to connect to me, as though our very souls have somehow refused to let go of each other.

***

“What are you thinking?” she asks.

The daylight hours dwindle amidst a canvas of fast-approaching stars and space. She angles her head, letting it bob against the summer breeze. Her hair dances around her.

 “Have you ever thought,” she says, “about where we’ll be in ten years?”

I think to the bruises splattered down my ribs in contrasting splotches of yellows, blues, and purples. The butts of a dozen pistols plus fist after fist of angry thugs came raining down on me like a giant surge of unadulterated power the night before. I didn’t have the heart to tell her where I’d been.

The truth is, I think, it’s either the bruises, the scrapes, the gashes…or a grave.

I can’t tell her that, though. She deserves better.

“Peter,” she continues. “Did you hear me?”

Now it’s my turn to angle my head, but my movement is oddly sad, a recourse for more than just late nights and aching muscles.

“Yeah,” I reply. “I heard you.” I clear my throat, raising a hand awkwardly to my mouth. “You really want to know? Somewhere far from here—a house, a dog, two kids…”

A cynical chuckle rises from the point of her lips.

“Cut the shit, Peter,” she says. “We both know that’s a lie. You don’t really want that.” She leans in closer, using her arm for leverage. I could feel her warm breath pulsing against my ear.

Again, I clear my throat, not entirely knowing why.

“Tell me what you really want,” she says.

I don’t want to tell her this, but she already knows what I do during those late nights away. I understand that I cannot hide another secret from this girl—the girl that I will marry someday.

“MJ,” I whisper. “I do want it…someday, but right now, I’m the one who can protect the people that need someone like me. What happens if I leave? There will always be more—”

“Stop there,” she interrupts. “I know. I’m not asking you to stop. I don’t think I have the right to do that, but one of these days, something’s going to happen and, when it does, you’ll have to choose between the future you see with me and the future you see as Spiderman.”

A long, dark pause fills the space between us. My heart is racing, but I can sense hers beating wildly against her chest.

“I’ve been doing this a long time now,” I say.

“Ten years.”

The faintest of grins spills across the landscape of her mouth. It was meant to be pretty, but it expressed more than that—guilt, awareness, distress. This would be a moment of clarity for us in the future. I am certain of it. She doesn’t know what I know.

She doesn’t know what’s coming.

“MJ,” I whisper again. “Dark days are coming. There is someone—something—that I have to stop. I have to end it. And when that day comes, I promise that I will rise from it. Why? Because I have to. Because without me, this city would be on its hands and knees, praying for the pain to stop. I’ve done it for this long. Trust me to do it one more time.”

MJ turns to the faintest glimmer of sunlight clinging to the horizon in the distance. In a moment that should have been a glimmer of hope, that should have felt connected, felt real, all I felt was fear.

For the first time in over ten years—since I became Spiderman—the fear of being over my head dropped like a weight onto my lap.

“Who’s coming?” MJ asks, but it’s too late.

In the distance, there are sirens. The glare in my eyes must be maddening. I can tell by the sudden panic in hers.

“Get out of the city. I will find you. Go.”

I kiss her—one last time—then watch her run through the street, clicking her way into the darkness.

“Goodbye,” I whisper to myself.

Because I do not know if I will ever see her again.

Ever again.

Because of him.

The Humility of Disrespect

A funny thing happens when we are forced to work with other people for more than three-quarters of a year (yes, for me, that's working with temperamental high school students) - either we thrive together or we dissolve. 

But why?

It's hard to imagine that we can allow something so basic to overcome our 'civilized' lives, but almost like clockwork, it seems to seep its way like a poison into our veins. It continues until we are lost in the effects of its aftermath. 

But there's a lesson to be learned in these types of breaking down - lessons that allow us to mend relational wounds or work harder to make sure it doesn't happen again. They are lessons that I have had to deal with both this year and in years prior...you know, being a teacher and a basketball coach. It's something I always hate, but kids - most of all - need to learn that being an adult means, not only fixing the mistakes you make as you go, but making sure that you can do better the next time a similar situation arises.

This is what I do for a living - help students who think they're adults actually become adults. 

So here's the point...

Disrespect always hurts. There's no way around it. When someone can't see the reasons why you are doing what you are doing, it's hard to understand why your relationship with them should move forward. 90% of the time, it should. That other 10%? Well, there are always extraneous circumstances that can't be controlled.

But there are some moments that hurt more than others - a snicker, a roll of the eyes, a sly comment behind your back - but how do we overcome that feeling of offense and keep our eyes on the end goal? Some would say you can't. Give it up. Others would say give them a chance, then if they show their true colors, let them go. And yet, others would say hold on tight until you can't anymore.

I believe there's humility in disrespect. Not for the disrespect-er, but for the one being disrespected. Everyone has moments that they wish they could take back. We have lapses. It's a part of being human. I let it eat me alive sometimes when I shouldn't. I have to remember that it's not me. When you come in contact with someone, we only have one piece of the story. Whatever is happening in our lives at any given moment plays a giant part in how we feel, how we treat others, and why we do the things we do. Once we accept that little nugget of information, everyone's discrepancies seem to fall by the wayside.

See, if you think through the problems you are dealing with at any given time, you'll realize there's a reason for why everything happens. Take a step back, accept that there are limitations to our lives and the lives of the people we are responsible for, and clarity will somehow make its way into your perspective. 

In those moments, there is humility. In humility, there is understanding.   

Of Writers and Magicians

I've been doing this writing thing for some time now. 

I've learned tricks of the trade, how to write a pretty damn good story, and how to grow my writing business from the ground up. 

But I come back to one thing all the time. It's one thing that simply can't be learned:

There are writers and then there are writers

There are people that work hard at what they do. They fight for recognition. They understand the value of their work and they understand it will take tremendous sacrifice to get there. I like to think that I'm part of this group.

But then there are the magicians of our generation. These are the writers that have the craft engrained in them...like breathing. 

I want to punch these people square in the face. 

Why? Well, because I'm jealous. There, I said it.

I often ask myself what it would take to make "the big time". It's quite a simple response, too. It takes talent, marketing, and a little luck. As much as we want to believe that our hard work is the only thing we need to make a statement in our chosen crafts, that's not the case. The truth is, skill and talent are both needed, but more importantly, you have to have a bit of luck, too. Meet the right people. Join the right organization. Take a risk or two. 

This might seem unfair because, well, it is. Not everyone has the ability. Not everyone can take their writing to the next level. Heck, I don't even know if I can yet, but I'm certainly willing to try and find out. 

Writing has been labeled many things in the 21st Century. Whether it's "nerdy" or "snobby" all the way to "a dying art", the craft of writing has never been hard-pressed for critique. For most writers, this doesn't even phase them. We don't usually write for fame. We write just to write - to feel the pen slide across paper, the snap of the keyboard against our fingers, the feeling of making something from nothing but the ideas published only in our own minds - but let me ask you one question:

Who are you kidding? 

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There may be an element of therapy involved with how you work, but - especially with a such a global thing as writing - expanding audience is only a natural thing to desire. The more people that read your writing, the better it makes you feel. It validates the feelings that drown our creativity and liberates even the most powerful of sinking feelings. Humans want to feel acceptance because we are communal beings. For writers, eBook downloads and paperback purchases is just that.

And it's not a bad thing. It's definitely never a bad thing. Because where would humans be without a little competition? 

On the surface, competition seems like a negative thing. It feels like a way to segregate the "good" from "bad", the "talented" from the "unskilled", but I will tell you that, like most things in this world, perspective can do more than just change perception. It can change mentality, as well. Without competition, everyone would be given a participation trophy, told "good job" just because they did whatever was asked of them. 

Hooray... For me, that's a terrifying concept. It leads to a really bad case of entitlement - something that so many millennials already suffer from. Competition allows the people of this world to shine. 

The likes of Patrick Rothfuss (author of The Name of the Wind), William Gibson (author of Neuromancer), and Frank Herbert (author of Dune) would never acquire the recognition they have without competition...without the talent and skill of writing a damn good story...without a bit of luck, of knowing the right people, taking a few risks along the way. 

I'd still like to punch those amazing writing-crazed magicians in the face. Quite frankly, they're just too good.

A Shopper's Guide to the Friday Apocalypse

"Excuse me..."

I ignore the comment. 

"Ummmm....excuse me..."

Still ignoring.

Tap on the shoulder, so naturally, I must turn. 

"You cut me in line."

(There may be some sort of eye roll involved on my end.)

"I think you're mistaken," I say. "I was here first."

I turn away, but there's yet another tap on my shoulder. Oh. My. God.

"Listen," I begin, holding back the most unholy of frustrations. "I don't know what you think happened, but you're literally one place in line behind me. It's not a big deal."

I never want to punch someone in the face more than I do on Black Friday. 

It's the most wonderful time of the year (play the tune in your head if you want). Our bellies are newly stuffed with ample servings of turkey, homemade stuffing, mashed potato goodness, and a host of veggies...not to mention the pies and other assortments of tasty delicacies. We're also fresh off binge-watching football, food comas, and waking up in the middle of the night with awkwardly strong stomach cramps. We don't need to go into detail, but you see where I'm going with this. 

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The fact is, everyone is maniacally joyful and obsessively frustrated on Black Friday. It's a mixed bag of holiday cheer and misery. And yet, every year we mosey our ways to department stores, malls, and outlets across the country to hold back the rage that is the first weekend of true holiday shopping. It's insanity, but we're Americans...and apparently that's what we do.

So, in light of Black Friday approaching next week, I've compiled a list of do's and don'ts for our 2015 day of horror.

Rule #1 - Use your blinker when you park. 

Give yourself the advantage. Use your blinker. Don't be the guy (or girl) that creeps oh so slowly through the aisle in hopes that a car will suddenly put itself into reverse. The creeper never wins. Instead, be civil. Wait your turn. We'll all be in the same holiday mess and, this way, you won't get your car keyed while you shop for kitchen accessories in HomeGoods.

Rule #2 - Just smile, even if you don't want to.

A little grin can go a long way, even the s#^*-eating kind. If a particular store employee is busy and you need help, plaster a toothy smile on your face and I guarantee you, someone will make their way over. A word of caution, though: there are bad types of smiles...ones that make you look like a villain. Just ask the Joker.

Rule #3 - Go ahead, you can take the last of something.

Yes, there will be resistance. Yes, you might have to evade a few flailing fists. But you know what? You have a right to the last Elmo. Take it because, in capitalist America, you snooze you lose. Just make sure you run to the car and screech away before anyone can catch you. Thievery may ensue. 

Rule #4 - Don't be that guy. Don't be that girl. Please.

I get it. It's natural to get involved in the chaos. As much as we don't want to believe it, we are part of the crowd. We may act like individuals sometimes, but in the larger scope of things, we are just part of the crowd. What does this mean? Well, when other people act a certain way, we have a tendency to follow along. When those acts are positive, it's great. When those acts are negative, well...let's just say, don't be that guy. It's not worth it. If a crowd of people were jumping off the Tobin Bridge, would you? Didn't think so. 

Rule #5 - Don't expect to eat any form of dinner while you're out. 

You'll be better off disregarding sustenance altogether during your adventurous excursion. That is, unless you want to wait 4 days for a table. Of course, if you're savvy, you could probably find a place to sit down and enjoy yourself, but I've always found that heading home after a day of shopping to Turkey Day leftovers is your best bet. Hands down.

Rule #6 - It's all about timing. 

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How badly do you want that new video game console? How about that Carrie Underwood CD (Are there even CD's anymore)? Well, if you sleep in, chances are you'll miss your shot. Just remember: No matter how crazy you are, there is always someone crazier. You don't have to be the first one there, but you certainly can't be the last. 

Rule #7 - Don't flip the bird, no matter how badly you want to.

...because everyone is probably doing it. And it just makes people feel bad. It happens more than you think.

In the meantime, enjoy the beginning of your holiday season and keep your head on a swivel out there. It's a crazy world!


Until next time,

R.T. 

Look What You Did, You Little Jerk

Oh, how times have changed.

We all know the iconic scene: The look on Kevin McCallister's face while Buzz barfs up his pizza. Quite frankly, that moment says it all. So when Kevin bullrushes his brother and spills milk all over the family's passports, it's only natural for everyone to gang up on poor, little Kev. The entirety of his extended family looks on in disdain while Uncle Frank spews that fateful line we have all come to know and love: "Look what you did, you little jerk."

Of course, we're talking about the 1990 holiday keepsake Home Alone. If you grew up anytime around the debut of this film, you know its importance to our generation around the holidays.

It's the silver tuna.

With the holidays upon us, I thought we'd take a look at the revel and cheer that is this wondrous tale of hope, grandeur, and values. 

At its core, the story is essentially about a boy who figures out the meaning of family during the holidays, but let's be honest, there's much more here than just a simple lesson to be learned. It's a story that shows the polarizing differences of life in the 90's and, now, life in the 2010's. What do I mean? Well think of this:

It seems to me, at the beginning of the film, most of Kevin's family are genuinely annoyed with him. So much so that we are told repeatedly how much of a little slime ball Kevin really is. Sure, I know it's a plot device used by the directors, but, unlike other plot devices in movies, this one seems absurdly believable. Hell, even the freakin' cops don't care that a kid is home alone...even with a pair of common criminals on the loose in a wealthy Chicago suburb. 

And even after Kevin took out the Wet Bandits at the end of the movie? The cops decide that it's okay if he spends yet another night by himself in his strangely huge house. This is an 8 year old kid we're talking about, right? Still, the 90's state of mind seems to think: "Hey, I guess I can live with that." The 2015 mind just thinks: "Aw hell no!"

Then again, the kid would probably have a cell phone and just call his way out of the problem.

Game. Set. Match. 

Still, if this post simply wasn't enough for you, here's something else to think about:

This is Macaulay Culkin in 1990.

This is Macaulay Culkin in 1990.

Wait for it...

And this is him now.

And this is him now.

Sorry for shattering your hopes and dreams, America. Your holiday sweetheart went downhill a bit. 

Luckily, baby Macaulay Culkin will forever be preserved in VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray systems across the world.

And that's just how we like it.

Stay tuned for more lovely writing gems like this and some hefty news & info about The City of Shadow & Dust. More to come soon!

 

 

 

Surviving the Odds

It seems to me that the universe we know is so much bigger than we could have ever expected. It's easy to say it's massive...or even magnanimous...but these are just words. Is there even a word in our English language that can do the expanse of our universe justice?

The answer, I think, is no. 

And it will always be no.

Why? Because the human brain is not meant to fathom the exactness of unobservable things. We are meant to dream about them. To wonder. We hypothesize about beginnings, the Big Bang theory, Apocalypse times, but the exactness of all of that? Posh. We may as well be looking into the bottom of a cereal box for the answer to the meaning of life. 

Let's take a light year, for example. Let's talk about how incomprehensible something as rudimentary as a light year actually is. The speed of light travels at 299,792,458 meters per second. Not miles per hour...but meters per second

So if I said Mars is well under 1 light year away, you'd probably say, "Hmm...okay. That doesn't seem too far way. I can work with that." Other things like the Cygnus X-1 (the nearest black hole) is roughly 6,000 light years away.

Woof. Thank God for that.

This is a BIG black hole.

This is a BIG black hole.

But the truth is, even at its closest orbital rotation, Mars still resides 34,647,420 miles from Earth. So even if we could travel at the standard speed of a commercial Boeing 747 (~600 miles per hour) with unlimited fuel, it would take roughly 57,745.7 hours of space travel time...or 2,406 days...or 6.7 years. Let me remind you that the closest orbital rotation only occurs every 60,000 years or so. 

Now before you start thinking that 6.7 years isn't that far away, consider how much food, water, fuel, and general human necessities it would take just to get there. For example, the average human being needs roughly 2 quarts of water per day. That's 730 quarts of water per year...for one person. 6.7 years on a spaceship for a water-drinking human means 4,891 quarts. And that's just drinking water. What about showers? Other hygiene? I'm guessing that it wouldn't just be 1 person leading a charge to Mars, either. If it's like the movie The Martian, you'd have 6 overall shipmates.

That means a grand total of 29.346 quarts of water...for those of you who like gallons...that's 7,336.5 gallons. That's only for the trip there. And that's just water. What about food? Fuel?

My brain hurts.

But The Martian does a great job bypassing these menial problems and focusing on the conflict of a time in the future when humanity has already fixed them. It focuses on a time when traveling to Mars is no longer a limitation, but an expectation. That's what I like about it. 

And that is what makes fantastic science fiction. 

Allow me to put a disclaimer on the following film review. I have not read the novel just yet. I've wanted to, but life is a beautiful, but horribly busy thing that sometimes catches up with me. So, although I plan on doing just that, I haven't yet. No comparisons to the novel will leak in here, unfortunately. On the other hand, it offers a nonjudgemental point of view about the film's entertainment value. I had no idea what to expect going into the theatre and, because of that, I came out with a fresh and interesting perspective on the storyline.

There seems to be a beauty in that, as well.

the-martian_1443718448.jpg

1) There Is Optimism In The Characters

Too often we are bogged down by the pessimism of the science fiction genre. This is including myself, as an author of these types of novels. The wilderness of space, other planets, and the annihilation of the human race are all way too potent to ignore, but sometimes we focus too heavily on them and underestimate the willingness of humanity to survive.

Matt Damon's character (Dr. Mark Watney) is clearly affected by his improbable situation when abandoned on Mars. The audience knows it, too, but he plays the confident card most of the time because he understands hope is the most essential aspect of survival. The facial expressions, the moments of anger and overwhelming frustration, the pain...it's there. It just doesn't consume the storyline and allows the true nature of the characters to shine through.

The other characters are very similar. They are constantly working through the "death" of their friend and fellow scientist, but trying to move on in the process of traveling home from Mars. In the story, updated technology allows a one-way trip of 4 months to reach Mars. News of Watney's survival throws the group for a loop, for certain, and changes the story arc drastically. Yet, through all of the blindsided discoveries, the group still remains hopeful. And, that, is what makes The Martian different than most science fiction films out there right now. 

2) Science Is A Medium, Not A Focal Point

What's one of the worst things a sci-fi creator can do? Infiltrate the story's arc with too much science. A lot of the time, creators feel the need to explain the science behind every decision the characters make because they are fearful that the audience might not understand it.

Great authors and filmmakers don't feel the need to reassure their audiences. Why? Because great science fiction enters a new realm of subtlety.

The science is in the story. It makes the audience wonder, a) where it came from, and b) how is it used -or- how it can be used. But, it is assumed it's a natural part of the story's progression.

Example, you ask? Sure! 

Dr. Mark Watney (Damon's character) discovers an unmanned probe at one point in the movie. In order to get it working, he dismantles an electronic panel of some sort, depressurizes the space lab, and uses those wires to fire up the probe. It's a simple process, but Ridley Scott (the director of The Martian) does not even attempt to explain this scene's significance. Why should he? After all, isn't the fact that Watney understood how to do this with relative ease enough? It would be super boring if Ridley Scott decided to explain it all, don't you think?

3) It Reaches Everyone In Some Way

I'm a nerd. For a long time, I tried to suppress this part of me. That was a bad idea. So one day, I decided...never again. If people perceive me as a nerd, then so be it. The fact is, I love crazy shit. I love thinking about "what if" hypotheses and what humans might do if they're caught up in super intense conflict. Part of why I'm an author is because I get to make up my own scenarios and live as many lives as I can muster. 

The best stories are the ones that start with a specific audience - women in love, sci-fi geeks, jocks - and then somehow transcend that stereotype and offer something to everyone. It's not easy to do...kind of like getting a kid to eat vegetables when he's been eating ice cream all day.

So, sure. It's easy to hook a guy like me with a space odyssey tale. But what about the others who aren't necessarily the biggest sci-fi fans? 

1) It's a love story...not in the main arc, but it's there in the stories of the ancillary characters, 2) There's investment in Watney's character. You want him to survive, although you have no idea if he actually will, and 3) People love "the underdog" story - a person overcoming all odds.

Put these reasons together and, there you go, a story that hits the heartstrings of men and women across the globe. It's like we can't help ourselves when it comes to stories.

Take Hoosiers for example - a basketball story about a coach faced with the impossible feat of winning a championship. How about Rocky IV - a story about a boxer up against an international cold war Soviet stud filled with anabolic steroids...and wins. Or The Karate Kid - an underwhelming teenager from Jersey learns karate and beats the school bully and his evil dojo. 

So there you have it, I believe The Martian falls in the same category as the underdog tales of our past. It will last into the future like that of Hoosiers, Rocky IV, and The Karate Kid because it follows the same trajectory. Matt Damon has really outdone himself in this one. And I like it. 

I like it a lot.


Until next time,

R.T.



A Tale of Two Futures

I think about the future more than any human being should. 

The idea that, in less than a decade, we have gone from T9 texting on textile phone pads to 4G touch screens built into six inch pocket computers seems like something out of a science fiction novel. The fact that our brains haven't exploded with awesome juices just yet is beyond me. 

We live in a world where corporations are always battling to release the next best thing. Competition is fierce. Why? Well, because there's always something new and brilliant to install. And, let's be honest, the one that gets it right - the one that makes the perfect handheld gadget - will be the company that skyrockets. They will be the one that will essentially rule the world, whether we like it or not.

But where is technology leading us? Should we be worried? Excited? Scared? The answers to these questions are unclear, but we can be certain that the future does hold one thing for us: we are stuck with technology for the long haul. It's not going away. 

Science Fiction authors across the globe usually depict the rise of technology in one of two ways. Allow me to elaborate:

1) The Rise of the Techno Empire Coinciding With The Fall of Humans

It starts as an innocent ploy for convenience. "Robots will make our lives easier!" they say. "You won't have to clean your house or take out the trash or even mow your lawn ever again!" People love them because of exactly that - it takes away the menial tasks of everyday life that we dread...until artificial intelligence takes over. Ask Issac Asimov. He knew what he was talking about. (He's the author of I, Robot, if you don't know).

More and more pop culture media have artificial intelligence on display these days. Age of Ultron, Ex Machina, and Terminator just to name a few. Take a look at that friendly thing in the photo above. That's Terminator. And let me just say, if given the opportunity, Skynet will destroy you and everyone you love. Why? Because it can.

The idea that artificial intelligence will rise up one day into a self-sustaining, mega race of conscious beings is not that bizarre. Think about it. If a decade of technological research can produce billions of smartphones that can do more than the human brain can comprehend already, how are we supposed to compete with an artificial intelligence that will have the one thing that separated humans from machine - awareness?

The answer is we can't. Inevitably, our future will look something like this: 

In other words, a barren landscape of shattered dreams and lost souls - a place that no longer needs oxygen, sunlight, warmth, or food to keep civilization going. It will be a place of darkness and despair meant only for machines and electricity. 

Sounds fun, right? But how about option #2? 

2) We Transcend Humanity, Intermingle With It, and Become Something Entirely Different

In all honesty, this option might be the more plausible of the two, despite popular opinion, BUT it could be more dangerous. Sure, dystopian robot takeovers may make for better films and stories, but look at where we're heading. The road is littered with clues that the separation between technology and human existence is shrinking dramatically. There are already pieces of tech that break the mold of standard machines and work alongside the biology of the human experience. It's conveniently called biotechnology. 

Just think. Microchips inserted into brain tissue. Nanotechnology able to enter the bloodstream through the human airways, like the mouth and nose. Three dimensional visuals projected right in front of your eyes. Guess what? These things already exist! It's amazing to me that we are on the cusp of their mass production. If that happens, I guarantee you our world will change for the better...or for the worst. 

This is Prey by Michael Crichton. It's all about nanotechnology and it's averse effects on humans. Yes, it's fiction, but it's more than that. Crichton is a master of incorporating real science into fictional stories. In Crichton's worlds, science feels real and very well could be a threat in the near future. Read it if you're interested in this stuff. Science fiction usually predicts what will happen in future years. And, a lot of the time, we're right. 

Right now, we have a choice to partake in these tech life-hacks. If you want to take the risks of changing your humanity, there are absolutely ways for you to do that. But what happens when microchips become so durable that they can be ingested and controlled without the knowledge of its host? When certain technology installation is required by the government? Will there be uproar? Revolution?

And what happens after that? Well that's a story for a different blog post in the near future. For now, I think I've crammed your brain enough with explosive information. Digest it. Savor it. Let it work its way through. Then, when you're ready, I'll come back with more. 

The R.T. Donlon Wishlist for Light Reading:

If there's a leader in the philosophies of "Superintelligence", it seems that Nick Bostrom is it. This is a wish list, so I actually haven't read it, but I sure will. If the likes of Joe Rogan and leading scientists are mentioning Bostrom's name, I'm ready to give his work a shot. It seems purely philosophical, so it's probably dense as all hell, but if you're like me and into this kind of stuff, you probably won't have any trouble getting through it. 

Until next time,

R.T. 

 

The Quiet & The Restless

"But I'm anti-social. I'd rather be by myself."

"I'm not a talker. I learn better by listening."

"I'm an introvert. I was born this way."

Anti-social, not a talker, introvert...All of these things are just not true. 

Now, either you're nodding your head in agreement or scrunching up your eyebrows/forehead like you just got hit with a wild fist.

The truth is, we can't always change the circumstances of our daily lives. It's impossible to think we have control over our world, the people in it, and situations we live through. But what we can absolutely change is how we react to those unfavorable or uncomfortable situations. A lot, not all, use words like introvert as something of a strategy - an avoidance of conflict or confrontation. After all, it's easier just to slink away than take initiative. No, this is not a generalization. Humans have an insatiable need to feel comfortable and, when that comfort level drops, we rely on our instincts. 

For some, instincts tell us to work harder, to persevere...because you can only take what you put in. For others, it's a waiting game. Hold out for a time when things aren't so bad. Both of these are normal. So normal, in fact, that we've provided labels for ourselves to...you guessed it...feel better about ourselves.

Some people are introverted because they are comfortable with their identity - that is, who they are and who they want to be. If this is you, I commend you. I'm nearly twenty-seven years old and I still find myself thinking: "Who the hell do I want to be? Where is my life leading me?" These questions are not bad. They're just there. I accept them because they will make me a stronger individual and, for that, I am grateful. 

Some people are introverted and straight up comfortable with it. If that's the case, do not let me change your thought process. Who am I to tell you what to do? Seriously. 

But don't tell me that anti-social and introversion are things that we are intended to live with. There are no 'Type A' or 'Type B' personalities. There are only humans, intended to be social and committed to communal living. We all do it in our own ways - some more than others - but we do it, nonetheless.

So then, why do we construct these types of terms for ourselves? Why do we limit ourselves to concepts that are essentially fallacies? Well, like most of our daily actions, we choose to live by these imaginative terms because we don't want to live the way we were intended to. It's easier, for convenience's sake, to throw up our hands and say screw it, someone else will do it. Convenience can be such an innovative, amazing thing, but it can also be our worst nightmare.

Still think I'm wrong? Still think that we're born a certain way only to live through labels for the rest of our lives? Well, not only do I consider myself an introvert, I also speak publicly every day of my life. A teacher must talk...and be good at it. Part of being an author is talking about your work, discussing it with others, smiling at the praise, and absorbing the critiques. Would I stay quiet and huddle into my own shell if I could get away with it? Probably. 

But I don't. I endure it. Because I know that it's important to push the envelope. It's important to venture out of my self-set comfort zone and try new things. It makes me a better person. 

Listen.

No one wants to be an engaging, smiling, bubbly, already-have-it-all-together type of person every day. That's not what I'm saying. Just don't ignore the primal side of you - the human side of you - that says that you were made to communicate, to solve problems collaboratively, to enjoy living in populous, to meet new people and be comfortable in doing so. At our core, we are all exactly the same. That shouldn't go unrecognized. 

Beauty lies in the idea that we all struggle through human issues. Every last one of us.

So I challenge you - do not go through life hiding in the shadows. Do not be afraid to speak your mind. You have a voice. It will be a tragic shame if you don't use it. Those words that are so conveniently there for the taking? Those labels we have made for ourselves? Refuse to accept them.

Because there are no classifications for who we are. We are all people with extraordinary talents, skills, and passions just waiting to be unleashed. Find yours and roll with it. You'll be glad you did. 

 

Until next time,

R.T.

 

 

The Unwritten Chapter

Patience. 

It's what we all want, but very few can stand to wait for. 

It's why America has, in some ways, become what it has become: a society built on instant feedback. From a fast food chain on every corner to "Next Day Shipping" on Amazon Prime, we are told we can get what we want in a very little time.

And then, just as we get comfortable with that formula, life throws us a curveball.

Teachers start telling you it's a process. Be patient. Your time will come. Bosses tell you to start at the bottom and work your way up the ladder, just like everyone else has before you. You want that brand new Apple Watch, but it costs too much quiche. "Save up for it," they say. "Be patient." And pretty soon, you're feeling pretty bogged down with this newfound patience talk. The idea of instant gratification is no longer something that can fill the void you seek in adult life, but instead, only offers a temporary relief...and one that you will most likely regret down the road if left unattended for too long.

So the most difficult part of growing up is in this culture shift of growing up. It comes down to one simple lesson: You must shed away the idea of instant gratification and think long-term.

Yes, as in goal setting. 

I'm not a perfect human being when it comes to goal setting. Anyone who knows me well knows that this is true. I can be the laziest person you've ever seen. BUT, I am constantly working to build my goals. I write a daily goal every morning at the start of the day. I write two weekly goals to hold myself accountable, whether I reach them or not. I even write down annual goals in the form of 5 and 10-year plans. My success rate? At the daily level, almost 100%. Weekly? Same. But my 5 and 10-year goals have yet to come to fruition. 

And I'm not even close to succeeding in those just yet. 

It's difficult. Let me tell you why.

Shameless Plug: Walls by R.T. Donlon is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in electronic and paperback versions!

Shameless Plug: Walls by R.T. Donlon is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in electronic and paperback versions!

Here's a story about a college kid who felt an urge. And it wasn't any ordinary urge. It was a feeling inside of him that just wouldn't go away - more of an annoyance than anything. He put pen to paper and wrote. Every word felt right, powerful, as if some Muse within him was directing his fingers, telling him what to say. He wrote and wrote until he physically could not write anymore. 

And then I put the story away for years. I haven't looked at the manuscript since. 

I know what you're thinking. No, that story was not Walls. It was another story that I have yet to publish. It wasn't that I didn't like it. In fact, the story itself was near perfection (in my humble opinion, of course). But in hindsight, there was something missing in my venture, something incredibly important. 

So I abandoned it. And in my locked vault of stories it shall stay until I muster the bravery to pull it out once again. 

But in that crisis came an awakening within me. I thought to myself: Hey! You just wasted years of your life writing a novel that you have no intention of publishing...at least not yet. What are you doing?! The whole idea is to get published, right? Then why aren't you doing that?!

The voice in my head was speaking truth. And out of those thoughts, I, indeed, set myself a goal:

I, R.T. Donlon, will complete a novel into publication in no more than five years from this moment.

Yes, you read that correctly. Five years. Think about how much time that is. Think about how much you've done over the course of 1,825 days. I told myself that I would not drop the novel idea that I chose next. I would work on it, edit it, slave over it, and put my blood, sweat, and tears into it.

And I would finish it. 

Thus begins the story of Walls

The book took me 4 years, not 5, but let me tell you, the hardest thing for an author to do is to set aside those 'ah-hah!' moments of a new book idea because you are already working on one. I remember writing down dozens of ideas as they came to me (in as descriptive of a way as possible), then hesitantly setting them aside for a rainy day in the distant future. 

And when that day came when Walls was published, I took a giant sigh filled with relief and pride. I remember it like it was yesterday. The sky cleared, the clouds parted, and the intense feeling of euphoric accomplishment washed over me like a tidal wave.

No instant gratification with this one - just pure hard work, an impeccable work ethic, and the idea that some day, I would relish in my success.

It was a tremendous feeling to know that I had accomplished what I had set out to do. There were so many times I felt that I should've just given up, surrendered to the writing gods and threw away my pen and paper. But I didn't. I stuck with it. And you know what? I created a damn good story...and a monster within me...apparently.

When you accomplish something, what happens next? Well, let me tell you:

Shameless Plug #2: The Reaper Trials by R.T. Donlon (a book I am so excited to share with everyone and anyone) is available in the R.T. Donlon Store - www.rtdonlon.com/store - for only $9.99! Get it now while it's so cheap!

Shameless Plug #2: The Reaper Trials by R.T. Donlon (a book I am so excited to share with everyone and anyone) is available in the R.T. Donlon Store - www.rtdonlon.com/store - for only $9.99! Get it now while it's so cheap!

The next rung in the ladder of goals happens. For me, that was The Reaper Trials. I had spent so much time writing and editing Walls that I had almost forgotten what true inspiration was. And then, as if by coincidence, an "ah-hah!" moment rang true somewhere in the depths of my brain.

I was walking down a quiet road, listening to some Green River Ordinance, thinking to myself: It's about time I start writing again. Remember those big ideas I set aside from before? Well, none of them truly called to me in these waning moments. I was in a writing rut. Then, a billow of smoke rose from a hill in the distant landscape. Yes, something as simple as that caught my eyes, and I thought: Looks like War. I don't know why. I don't even know how. But the word war sent me into a cataclysm of world-scapes, twisted characters, and a crazy storyline filled with curves, illusions, and suspense. 

And just like that, The Reaper Trials was born. 

I remember it vividly. It was then that I realized, from this point forward, my life would forever consist of three things: 1) My wife, family, and friends, 2) Authorship, and 3) Teaching. I would never surrender to a life without these things, even if I look like this half the time:

I vowed to work as hard as I needed to. I vowed to get the job done. I vowed to make my wife happy, to see her smile often, and to make sure I do everything I can to make our lives comfortable and safe. I vowed to write the novels I wanted to write, to always put myself in the tone and style of these strings of words we call stories, to never lose myself in the corporate ways of publishing and editing, even when it's tempting. I vowed to be the best educator I can be, to instill my practices into what I preach so the kids will know exactly who I am and why these things are so important to their future. 

And with those vows, I began to realize the importance of true goal-setting. If you write them down, you're holding yourself accountable to get shit done. The most successful people in this world set themselves achievable, but challenging goals, then strive to reach them. Why wouldn't I do the same?

So, as I sit here writing this, I would like to share with you the most current chapter of the R.T. Donlon life. If you've read this far, you deserve a little sneak peak into its makings. So here it is:

Book 1 of The City of Shadow & Dust series (The Edge of a New Beginning) still has some hard work ahead of it, but it will be available sometime in the late Spring/early Summer of 2016. 

Book 1 of The City of Shadow & Dust series (The Edge of a New Beginning) still has some hard work ahead of it, but it will be available sometime in the late Spring/early Summer of 2016. 

You may have seen the posters for The Edge of a New Beginning, Book 1 of The City of Shadow & Dust Series, but it's only one piece of this massive project.

First, set yourself a reasonable writing goal:

Finish The Edge of a New Beginning in July 2015, using Camp NaNoWriMo as your gauge.

CHECK. 78,000 words later. 

Next, set yourself editing and marketing goals:

Editing/Marketing Goals:

Hire a team. Make sure they know what they're doing. Slowly, let the world know of your ideas. Not too quickly as to spoil the suspense. Not too slowly as to keep people waiting. Make sure it's the perfect timing. Pick a tentative release date to keep you on track. SO FAR? CHECK. 

Lastly, know where you're heading. 

Long-Term Goals:

Where are you headed? What do you expect from this series? How long will it be? What will it cost? How long will it take to complete? Answer all of the necessary questions.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, The City of Shadow & Dust is long. It has to be because of its dense characters and complicated storylines. It's an ambitious project for me because it is purely fantasy. I've never attempted to world-build as much as I have with this one and, for that reason alone, I am both incredibly nervous and excited to share it with you. 

But I will take my time. I will make sure that it crawls as close to perfection as it can get before releasing it like a baby bird to the winds of the world of reading eyes. The good news for all of you is that it will be dangerously cheap. Electronically, you can purchase it for $0.99. Paperback will be something like $4. Not bad, right? 

I'm not in the business of making money just yet. That will come. I just need enough to reinvest, so I can keep writing. Right now, all I'm focused on is pushing my message...because it's an important one. I love my craft. I love what I do and, because of that, it's not fair to myself to tie my dreams to finances. Yes, it's a necessary part of life, but it doesn't have to chain my writing to a prison cell. And it won't. 

So, after all that, let me ask you one question:

Tell me:

Do you see any instant gratification in my goals? Didn't think so. You see, life is so much more than that. It's about working for something that seemed, to you, previously unattainable. If you have the will power and the commitment to finish something - good. Do it. But if you have to work at it like the rest of us - even better. 

Get frustrated. Pull your hair out. Strain your eyes. Learn. Adapt.

Then do.

And when you're done, I guarantee you, you'll relish in the warmth of success.

And you will enjoy it. Because you deserve it.

 

Until next time,

R.T.

 

 

 

Survival Instinct

Ah, so here it is: the end of summer. 

Or should I say, the end of an era.

It's been great, but it's time to embark on a new journey filled with The Odyssey and Romeo & Juliet, all with a bunch of teenagers who will think the biggest enlightenment in Shakespearian research is the fact that historians believe that Shakespeare had, indeed, smoked weed way back in the day. 

I don't know whether to be weirdly nervous or excited.

I like to picture myself as Ron Swanson sometimes. Just like this. I should grow a mustache. 

I like to picture myself as Ron Swanson sometimes. Just like this. I should grow a mustache. 

But with the onslaught of "First Day of School" nightmares, I also know this means that my incredible amounts of writing and editing will take a significant, steep derailment into the land of "I Don't Know Where I Will Find The Time For This".

So this brings up an even bigger topic:

Change is inevitable. As long as we are human, we will be forced to adapt to situations that may not be in our best favor. So how can we adapt, so that we aren't ripping our hair out when the time comes? 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I shall call this blog post: Survival Instinct.

                                                                Adapt! Adapt NOW! 

                                                                Adapt! Adapt NOW! 

Most people in New England enjoy summer because we have so little of it. If we're lucky, summer starts at the beginning of June and runs through the end of August. In fact, this is exactly why most people end up leaving New England in the first place. We wish that the summer could just extend endlessly into the time-sphere of our existence.

But it's more than just changes in temperature. Sure, that's a big part of it, but it's also about what it signifies. Autumn means football season, Spirit Week, hoodies, and bonfires. Winter means basketball season, the holidays, and hot chocolate. Spring brings about the start of warm weather, a reawakening, tee shirts and shorts. You see? It's not that I'm scared of change. It's actually that I embrace it. 

Change keeps the human mind from dying in a pool of its own thoughts. I mean, there's a reason why "all good things come to an end". It's because we are built for a system that comes and goes, making way for new generations to experience the influx just as we had during our time. It ensures that we live our time to the fullest, experiencing the good, the bad, and the ugly along the way. So if the system ensures that we are able to partake in such things, then why are we so against it? 

It all comes back to mindset. If you can convince yourself that there is good in every situation...and I mean every situation...then you have the ability to predict your future. How? Well, if there is no negativity in your perception of the world, then your future will always look bright. Guaranteed. 

Oh come on! Don't give me that look. Is it harder than it looks? Yes. Am I an expert at changing my perception of reality? Absolutely not. 

But there's one thing that separates me from a whole bunch of others in this weird world of ours.

At least I try. 

It may not always work. After all, it's not a fool-proof plan. 

But at least I try. 

If you have the ability to change your view of reality, find the good in situations that are clearly bad, and rewire your brain so that you embrace change rather than avoid it, then you can pretty much do anything you want to. 

In the words of Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spiderman 2:

"What makes life valuable is that it doesn't last forever. What makes it precious is that it ends. We know that now more than ever. And I say it, today of all days, to remind us that time is luck. So don't waste it living someone else's life. Make yours count for something. Fight for what matters to you. No matter what. Because even if we fall short, what better way is there to live?"

Couldn't have said it better myself, but what she says next really struck me, even if the critics of this movie said it was a flop (losers). 

"There will be dark days ahead of us, too. There will be days where you feel all alone. And that's when hope is needed most. No matter how buried it gets or how lost you feel, you must promise me that you will hold onto hope. Keep it alive. We have to be greater than what we suffer. My wish for you is to become hope. People need that. And even if we fail, what better way is there to live?"

I know, baby. It was a damn good speech.

I know, baby. It was a damn good speech.

So just remember, Gwen Stacy is right. Let me tell you that something needs to change in 2015. There will always be evil, cruel, and despicable things to shake our heads at and speak out against, but can we stop and admire the good things, too? When we stop avoiding change's frequent inevitability, the world becomes a better place - a place worth fighting for. 

Until then, I work on changing my perception. I will work on finding the better me. 

 

Until next time,

R.T.

 

Fantastic? Really? That's the Word You Want to Use?

**Cue the music!

Welcome to something never before seen on your computer screen! This is your completely, totally awesome, wonderful, gonna-wreck-your-world, undisputed, phenomenal, heck of a compendium of entertainment knowledge! Get psyched because only here will you get a glimpse of the expansive, R.T. Donlon views of Ant-ManSouthpaw, and Fantastic 4. The summer of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Jake Gyllenhaal!

So here's the real question: Where do we start?

This looks like a great place to start!

This looks like a great place to start!

If you're not an epic superhero nerd like me, then this might look like Marvel has lost its marbles. It's one thing to promote Iron Man or Captain America - everybody knows those guys - but a guy who can shrink to the size of ants and control them? Yeah right. But the truth is, there is some epic interplay going on behind the scenes with the characters here and, once you see the film, you'll understand why.

In Marvel comics, there are four characters who take on the identity of Ant Man. The first, Hank Pym, is the original scientist who developed the "Pym Particle", which is the genus of Ant Man's abilities. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a thief recruited by Pym years after his own dealings with the suit in order to carry on the superhero's legacy. This is where the story takes place.

When the story of Avengers: Age of Ultron was released, Joss Whedon took a lot of heat because Hank Pym was not supposed to make an appearance in the film. A lot of superhero fanatics criticized Whedon's loyalty to the comics because Pym is the actual creator of Ultron, not Tony Stark, who we now know is the creator in the film. I'm never opposed to directors taking liberties when attempting to make a film better, but this caught me a little off-guard at first. 

So we've had two scientists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for some time now - Tony Stark and Bruce Banner - but with Hank Pym now in the fold and (spoiler!!!) Bruce Banner out of the equation, Hank Pym has the opportunity to come in and steal the show as Tony Stark's equal intellectually. As much as Bruce quietly matches the billionaire, playboy philanthropist, he really didn't. But Hank's a different story. Even in the opening scene of Ant Man, when Hank busts into, what seems to be, a private S.H.I.E.L.D. meeting, Howard Stark confirms that Hank is an equal or, perhaps even smarter than him, with this quote: "I've known Hank Pym a long time. He's no security risk...unless we make him one."

At first, I was super nervous that this would be the start of Marvel's decline. Once you've hit the top of the mountain...you know, played all your cards...there comes a time when moving on becomes a viable option. The Avengers, especially Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, seemed like a culmination. Now we know AOU was obviously a bridge movie, but with aging characters and actor/actress contracts ready to expire, it only seems logical to start thinking about the future. Apparently the future for the MCU is to flood the cinematic gates with as many superheroes as possible in Phase III - hence Captain America : Civil War

And guess what side I'm guessing Ant Man leans toward? Judging by the appearance of Falcon during the film, Captain America's post-credit scene plopped nicely at the end, and Hank Pym's undeniable ability to rival Tony Stark, I think Scott Lang will join forces with the First Avenger himself and take on Iron Man's crew. 

Overall Rating: B+ = A great movie all-in-all. The quirky humor we expect from Marvel plays into the plot of this undersized superhero and Paul Rudd does a fantastic job with the part of Scott Lang. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly shine, as well. I could have done without the likes of T.I., though. Star Power does not always equate to ticket sales. This is definitely a must see!

I cannot tell you how excited I was to see this movie and - Good Lord! - Jake Gyllenhaal did NOT disappoint! If you haven't read my commentary on Gyllenhaal's part in Nightcrawler, go do it before moving forward because I guarantee you it'll blow your mind. Gyllenhaal is a monster actor of our generation, potentially even one of the greatest unsung actors of all time. His role in this movie just proves that his legacy in the film business will continue for years to come.

Think of Southpaw as a Rocky film with some clear differences. As the Rocky series attempts to show Rocky as a fighter above all else, Southpaw does the exact opposite. It shows a fighter who is swimming through an identity he never really knew he had. The fighting becomes a caveat for who he really is and, that alone, is something that should really make the writers of this story proud. Sprinkle in a little Rachel McAdams and you've got a pairing for the ages, folks. Guaranteed you'll shed some tears somewhere in this movie. I came very, very close a few times and I'm not one to wear my heart on my sleeve in a movie theater. 

Southpaw is one of those movies that exhausts its audience. I'm not sure if I'd watch it over and over again like I would a superhero movie or a comedy, but the drama here is exceptional and definitely worth a watch or two in the theater and at home. 

Overall Rating: B+ = A strong casting here, no doubt, but there were some slow, developmental scenes that just didn't catch me. The producers should have cut a few of those scenes out. A father-daughter story that has me near tears is worth the watch. Absolutely!

Well, where do I start with this one? Not every movie can be a blockbuster hit. Marvel dive-bombed here with a very weak showing, especially because they usually hit the bullseye again and again with their other movies in the MCU. Josh Trank, Fantastic 4's director, spoke out recently that he had better plans and hopes for the movie, but the production company hacked it up. He was right about one thing - whoever meddled with the storyline really forced it to unravel midway through. You're right, Trank, it was bad. But whether it was Trank or someone else in the production company, I don't care. What I do care about is the value of the film itself - its qualities - but obviously, this one was lacking all of it.

Doom is one of my favorite villains of all time and, yet, he is never portrayed as the true villain he becomes. There's always this "woe is me" mentality when it comes to Victor, but that was never the way it was supposed to come across. The alien energy consumes him, blinds him from his humanity, and forces him to do terrible things. He's a character that relishes in the raw feelings of danger and fear. After you've watched the film, come back and tell me if my description matches that of Trank's Doom. Don't think so... This reboot, however, is the closest of the two productions, but when you have roughly 10 minutes of a climactic "battle" scene with Doom hovering on a floating piece of rock, you're simply not doing him justice. The whole "I'm going to destroy the world using a black hole" just isn't great. It's just not. 

And then there's Ben Grimm. He's transformed into the Thing, abandoned by Reid Richards, used by the U.S. government for an entire year, and conveniently decides that bygones are bygones at the movie's end. Really? You couldn't find a way to tie these loose ends together like every other piece of media on the face of the planet? Seriously, I've always liked the conflict of Ben Grimm's character in the comics. He's always on the edge of blowing shit up and finding justice, so when I saw this version of Grimm, I was sorely disappointed - not because of the actor himself - but because of the character's lack of depth.

Overall Rating: C- = The only saving grace of Fantastic Four are the great special effects, the cinematography and visual appeal of Doom's unraveling in the next dimension, and Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch. Everything else is pretty much trash. Focus on the story, not trying to one-up the other MCU movies with visuals. AND WHY AREN'T THERE ANY POST-CREDIT SCENES? Pshh. Not enough.

 

Until next time!

R.T.

 

 

My Faith In Humanity: As Told In Blog Form

Where I live has come a long way. Don't get me wrong.

But, as I type out this post, I can't help but burn a little hotter these days. Why? Because of where I live. Yes, that's right. This post is about the fantastic city where I have spent my entire life and, if you know me personally, you know that it will forever be a love/hate relationship. 

I mean, just look at this. It's as picturesque as it gets. As an outsider, I can completely see how this view could be pristine. It's not quite Podunk, but definitely not urban. It's sort of suburban, but not altogether that, either. You might look at this picture with a bit of jealousy. Summer in New England might be one of the best times of the year, yet there is an underbelly to these stretches of little cities that no one sees, that is unless you are close enough to dig into it with your fingernails. But be careful, though. You might not like what you scrape up.

Like lobster guts and crab shells spewed across your front yard. 

Picture these except a lot more and broken into three million pieces. 

Picture these except a lot more and broken into three million pieces. 

I live on a street that is pretty well traversed. I am constantly scanning the road's edge and picking up random snags of litter here and there. It's a daily thing and I've accepted it, knowing that I'm ultimately responsible for my yard. I do take pride in my house's image, even if I let the lawn grow out a little before I cut it.

But this...this sucked. I spent a solid thirty minutes (at 7:15am, no less) hunched over with gloves, swiping at pungent, decomposing meat that someone had casually chucked out their window because they felt it was better for me to deal with their problems rather than take care of it themselves. 

I felt disrespected. I was angry. I was ready to punch someone in the face.

So what does this have to do with my faith in the human race? You can probably tell, but:

Hold your horses, will ya? I'm getting there.

Hehehe, funny, isn't it?

Hehehe, funny, isn't it?

To be honest, this isn't just about my beloved city and its great people and not-so-great people. This is ultimately about how people treat others. This is about respect.

Rewind.

I've grown up with the help of some diligent parents that kept me in line growing up, even when I wanted to rebel against them with every fiber in my body. One of the methods they used to help me understand was dialogue. They treated me like a human being who can make the right decisions for myself. One thing my dad always taught me was this:

"You are not measured by what you do while people are watching, but what you do when they aren't."

That nugget of knowledge really stuck with me. In fact, it's carried me through my years of high school punkery, college shenanigans, and now, as a husband, author, and homeowner. So why has the world fallen so far away from this mindset? How has our collective conscience strayed so far from the path that 'empathy' is no longer a word in our universal vocabulary? 

Well, it starts with this:

Parenting. 

Now before you all go nuts with the 'you're not a parent!' counter arguments, let me tell you what I do know. 

I know full well that I am young and that, no, I do not have children, but I do know that parents are the first teachers a child will have. I know that the concept of 'nurture' is far greater in our world than 'nature'. I know that kids are greatly influenced by how their parents act, what their parents say, and the people they interact with. Kids, especially the littlest ones, are walking environmental sponges, absorbing everything and anything they can take in with their senses. The concept of parenting will never change because it's engrained into our DNA. It has a stronghold on who we are as a people and who we are as a species in this universe. Whether we choose, as parents or future parents, to adhere to these rules, is where the wagon might fall off the wheels too early.

It's hard to imagine a world where these things no longer matter. Sure, it would make a great science fiction novel (noted), but I'm 110% positive that anything other than what is described above would be counterintuitive to what good parenting should be. 

And then, after years of shaping a human being, a guy like me gets a crack at it here:

A good teacher has the ability to change lives. That's what I love best about my job. I love that it's not 9am-5pm. I love that it's an ongoing struggle. I love that I'm constantly working to make kids better, more responsible human beings. I don't like how I'm losing my hair so quickly, though. I'll admit to that. Bald spots are NOT okay. 

All jokes aside, even if I took my job as literally as I possibly could, at its core I would still be teaching my classroom kiddos how to empathizeIn case you don't know what this word means, check it out:

Living vicariously through someone else, you say? I know you've heard that phrase before!

Living vicariously through someone else, you say? I know you've heard that phrase before!

If we all just try to see where other people are coming from, we may have a better understanding of why people do what they do in the first place. It may not stop all burglaries, thefts, littering, or vandalism, but I truly believe that the lessening of such things in our cities and towns can only happen if we shift our attitudes to one of empathy rather than jealousy, anger, or bitterness.

Put yourself in the shoes of the person who hurt you. Yes, you might still feel some (or a lot of) resentment, especially if whatever happened directly affected your state of being or your sense of security, but there must have been a reason...and if that reason is big enough, then you have your answer.

It starts with a mindset change in one person that spreads to others until it catches like wildfire and changes the perception of the world. Right now, especially where I call home, this perception is simply not present.

It will only change when the people change and, as our world slowly descends into a very weird and very real cyberpunk novel, I hope that people can find it within themselves to do the right thing. To be moral enough to, not only do the right thing while people are watching, but still uphold a sense of morality when they aren't.

 

Until next time, 

R.T.

 

And Yes! I Believe It!

I sat down against the backdrop of a dimly lit room and made a list of things I wanted to write about in this installment of the blog. It was a slightly creepier environment than where I usually find myself while writing my blog posts, so do me a solid, and bear with my low-voice, conflict-character, badass personality I've got goin' on right now.

1) True Detective, 2) Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, 3) Ant-Man, 4) Camp NaNoWriMo, and the list goes on...

But I settled on one and I'm pleased with my decision. Allow me to elaborate -

Nightcrawler

This movie shattered any preconceived expectations I had going into it and that's something that rarely ever happens in my movie-junkie of a world, which is why I knew I needed to share it with you. So let's do it. Any questions? Didn't think so. Let's get started.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays a character named Louis Bloom - a thief making just enough money to keep his head afloat. He is a genuinely smart guy, but one who doesn't necessarily see trouble as trouble. He views the world almost as a means to an end.

But it's not Gyllenhaal's character that makes the story great. It's the world he lives in. Bill Paxton, yet another underrated actor who deserves way more credit than he is usually given, plays a freelance videographer, filming crashes and crimes across the city. They listen to the police radio, wait for an incoming alert, then jump on it for footage. Usually the first one to the crime scene is the one who gets the money from news channels in the end. Here's a picture of Paxton if you don't know who this handsome gentlemen is:

And just like that, Bloom becomes an overnight freelance hit with one particular news organization and begins to make a name for himself in the industry. Without going into the detail of the story, his business sense allows him to overcome the fact that he is constantly being underestimated and shows the true personality of his character. 

So why is this such a mind-blowing extravaganza, you ask?

Because of the idea behind the story. And that, my friends, is called sensationalism.

If you're like me, you can recognize that this face (above) is not the face of a gentle, kind-hearted human being. The dude has an eye for the criminal, the ugly, and the outright unfortunate. The freelance filming business is just like everything else - a business. And in order to be good at it, you must keep up with the times. 

Watch 10 minutes of your local news and count how many stories have a negative or intense spin to them. What emotions do these stories invoke in you? Fear? Anger? Sympathy? Frustration? Guaranteed that if you're feeling it, it was discussed in a conference room somewhere behind the set of those two anchors, trying to find the best way of garnering some sort of catharsis in its viewers. 

These emotions are what boost ratings. They make the news company money. And, whether you like it or not, money makes the world go round and round and round. 

So back to Bloom:

What a face, am I right?

What a face, am I right?

It's one thing to start at the bottom and show talent. It's another thing to one-up yourself over and over again, which is what Bloom does over the course of the story. Filming a bloody man at a car crash is different than entering a triple homicide to get footage before the cops even show up. He has the ambition it takes to rise in the freelance film field and none of the guilt/conscience to feel bad about the people involved. Sociopathic, I would say, and one of the scariest kinds. 

This is not a feel good movie, ladies and gents, not in the least bit, but it's a freakin' real one. It plays on an idea that we know is part of our media-rich world, but most of the time, we choose to ignore it. We absorb information about what is happening in the towns and cities around us, but think "thank God that's not me". We see an overstimulated production and fear-building story because the news knows that that will generate a response we can believe. 

Sensationalism is most definitely real and, in my opinion, this fictional account of the freelance film world is as real a Hollywood representation can get to the real thing. You might be saying, "Come on, Donlon. You really think things are that bad in the journalism world that sensationalism dictates people's actions for money and an upward ascension in their career?" The answer is (it is Hollywood, but) "Yes! Yes! Yes! I believe it!" 

Jake Gyllenhaal gets my vote for the best actor I've seen in a long time and I can't wait to see what Southpaw has in store July 24. You bet that I'll be doing some sort of review of that film once I've seen it.

If you haven't seen it, go get yourself a copy of Nightcrawler and watch your brains out. It's on Netflix, too, which is super convenient. I promise you won't be disappointed. 

Rating: 9.5/10 - very close to perfection, but a few slow scenes dropped it down a sheer .5 points.


As of right now, I've written 38,459 words in Book 1 of the City of Shadow & Dust Series: The Edge of a New Beginning and I'm loving where the story is going! Keep a look out as we get closer to autumn for more R.T. Donlon endeavors!

Click here to sign up for the R.T. Donlon newsletter out August 1! You'll get R.T. Donlon blog posts sent right to your inbox like a boss!

Both Walls and The Reaper Trials are available on Amazon, so go check them out if you haven't already!

The next blog post will be in two weeks - Friday, July 31! Until then, R.T. fans, peace out!

Food For Thought 101: Burgers

An American staple. Hell, it's probably the American staple. It's the burger with a side of fries. Yes ladies and gentlemen, today we dive deep into the culinary concoction that is the American meat patty lathered in sauce, condiments, and all other sorts of delicious components that make it what it is. 

I've had my fair share of cheeseburgers in my day and, no lie, each and every one is unique. Sure, they all seem the same, but let's be honest, they are absolutely, without a doubt, not the same. Just like a fine wine, there are hints and undertones that make the delicacy what it is. It's a matter of what the consumer wants. And even then, it's a matter of desire. Here are a few things to look for next time you undertake a culinary experience in the art of burger consumption:

Please note this is 100% not a post about healthy eating. Please enjoy responsibly. This is a self-indulgent look into the shadows of R.T. Donlon lore.

1. The Flavor of the Meat

A good cheeseburger has a very distinct taste. It lets you know it's ready for action, but plays it cool, like a guy at a nightclub looking for a girl's phone number. It shouldn't come on right away, but leaves a hint after you take that first, luscious bite. You see, the key here is to come on soft. Don't scare away any of the new house guests just yet with your "world famous burger" and especially do not play the "I only use the best beef in the world" slogan. Just make sure it's cooked to the satisfaction of the consumer and that it tastes like the cow you know and love.

Not entirely into beef? That's okay! There should be flavor to every type of meat you put in your mouth. If there's no flavor, you bought a crappy product that most likely came from a crappy place. In that case, I'm sorry for your trouble. There are several healthier options such as ground turkey or, my personal favorite, bison, which tends to be a bit leaner than beef in a lot of ways. Regardless, if it doesn't have that right-off-the-grill char to it, you haven't done yourself justice.

2. The Bun In All Of Its Glory

You know a restaurant is serious about its burger hardware when the bun is toasted. The crusted texture offers a sort of succulence that a fried dish can, but pleases like a grilled hors d'oeuvre. It only makes sense to up the ante on the bun because it's the one aspect of a burger that does not already bring some sort of flavor punch to the table. If a restaurant changes the type of bread used (although be cautious with this. Many chow houses have tried crazy pair-ups with nontraditional breads and have failed miserably, in my opinion), it may serve as a foundation for the meat - a house for its greasy-enough pleasure. Seasoned buns also could play a role in a burger's world domination. Just slap a few dashes of soy sauce or curry after buttering that mother up and you have an unexpected fury of flavor taking hold in your mouth.

3. Load Up Those Condiments!

"What would you like on your burger, sir?" the waitress asks.

Ah! The age old question! It gets me every time. Personally, I'll do without tomatoes or red onions. They are just two flavors of the burger hunt I have no intention of finding. Red onions have a sting to them. The ideal R.T. Donlon burger has a 70% smoky sweetness and 30% extravagance. The burger offers a lot of that smokiness I crave, but the sweetness can come from any other condiment such as ketchup, BBQ sauce, relish, a splash of mustard, aioli, etc. The trick is to make sure that the condiments do not outweigh the flavor of the meat. If that starts to happen, you have a common psychological condition that may or may not be treated with more consumption of red meat. 

Here's a picture of a cow to get you back in the game:

Sorry it's not a steak, but you know what I'm getting at.

Sorry it's not a steak, but you know what I'm getting at.

#4. Let's Get Serious: The Art of Pairing

 This is something you've probably never even considered, but do all the time. The #1 pairing of a burger? You guessed it: french fries. And not just any fries, I might add. We're talking about the just-out-of-the-fryer, crispy, salty, napkin-inducing, beautifully-cut kind of fry. Put those on a plate next to a genuinely delectable burger and you've got yourself a meal of the gods. 

There are many pairings that go well with beef and condiments. Depending on your kind of cheese, you may change the particular condiments you use. An ale from the draught may bring out the hidden undertones of bitterness. Hops and red meat balance each other out really well on the dinner plate. I've seen potato salad with light mayo, baked beans with bacon in a smoky bourbon syrup, or even just a simple summer salad with a creamy dressing (like a parmesan peppercorn, for instance).

The beauty is that every palette is different and craves what it wants. Try some different recipes out. Experiment. The burger world is yours for the taking!

#5. How You Feel After Your Meal

Most burger consumers completely disregard this idea, mainly because, once you have finished a food item and have satisfied your hunger in a multitude of ways, the last thing you want is to reflect on it. We usually just want to move on.

But listen, one of the most honest ways of understanding a meal is understanding how it makes you feel. If you feel like a bag of lard wallowing down a hill for 7 hours post-meal, the ingredients were probably not the best...or you simply gorged yourself silly. But if you walk away feeling satisfied, refreshed, and impressed enough to return, the burger has served its purpose. A meal consisting of a burger shouldn't just be an overlooked, quick-eating experience. It should be a calling. You should hear the beef, the ketchup, relish, toasted bun, melty cheese, and fries whispering to you in your sleep. You should feel it like a Dave Matthews' Band song playing on repeat somewhere in the near distance. 

If you haven't experienced this, try it. I guarantee it'll be worthwhile. The burger is an American staple for a reason, right?

Until next time,

R.T.

A Method To The Madness: Re-Reaper

I often wonder how I've even made it this far. Seriously. We're nearing the 1 year mark of my first publication and, as I look back nostalgically and such, I simply can't figure out how I've been so damn lucky. I've done this with 0% help from marketers, editors, consultants, publishers (Ok, well if you consider Lulu a publisher, then yes, they've been such a GIANT help), etc. And 100% support from my closest supporters (friends & family) and the many R.T. fans out there. But not every decision I make as a start-up author is pretty. Sometimes they are met with the gritting of teeth and exposing of claws. One of these decisions is the editing process:

I did my research (long, boisterous hours of research) and came to this conclusion. As a self-published author, I had a choice of these 2 options:

1) Hire an editor. Spend long hours and incredible amounts of money to make sure my manuscript is complete and polished. Be in debt right from the beginning.

2) Do it yourself. Spend ten times the amount of time working through your manuscript, but sacrifice when you realize you can't fix everything with one set of eyes. THERE WILL BE MISTAKES...and sometimes FREQUENTLY.

This is pretty much what I looked like when I tried to make this decision.

Do I suffer now or later? What kind of decision is that?

So I made an executive decision: this is my story and I will edit myself.

I wanted to involve my readers in a way that is different than simply sitting down and reading a novel on a Sunday afternoon. Let's be honest, you can get that anywhere. And sure, a 100% polished story is what people look for these days when searching for a "great" book.

But why shouldn't I take advantage of the fact that most of my readers are local and know me well or, at least, by acquaintance. Sure, my readership will expand. In fact, I expect it to soon, but it must build first from the very bottom--the foundation at the local level.

So that sweaty man from above turned into this dude:

Sample questions running through my mind at this point in my decision making: Will I lose credibility with my audience if there are mistakes in the book? Will word get out that I'm a horrible writer? Will my writing career be over? 

Answers? 1) Maybe a little bit, 2) Probably not, and 3) NO.

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If you bought a 1st edition of Walls or The Reaper Trials or plan on doing so, this will explain why you have found grammar mistakes as you read.

A first edition of early R.T. Donlon novels are essentially 90,000-99,000 word finished manuscripts that I have read over sixteen times. Yes, that is no joke. I read my stories sixteen times in order to prevent as many grammatical mistakes as possible. And yet, even after I have read the story for so long, there are mistakes that are hidden that my eyes skip over because I'm so used to the story.

This is where my readers come in.

Yes, you.

People have asked to read the novel and act as a makeshift editor for free, and although this sounds great, different people have differing opinions about content and grammar, which can play a weird perspective game with the story. I'm looking for something more community-based here. Something that won't change perspective, ideas, or even the way a particular sentence reads. I want as many people involved in this crazy editing process as possible. The more people who are involved, the more I know are truly invested in the story itself.

You all are so good at finding these mistakes, letting me know where they are so I can revise and send out as a 2nd edition. This worked so well with Walls and, so far, it's worked really well with The Reaper Trials. Because these are my first novels AND I have complete confidence in the fact that my writing career will take off (especially when I DO hire an editor and marketer in the future), my 1st edition purchases will serve as a piece of R.T. Donlon history in the future. You can say that you were a part of the very beginning, even after the market grows.

This might sound cheesy or over confident from my perspective, but ladies and gentlemen, I do not intend to stop writing. Words are my life. I see stories as the bridge from me to you and I intend to keep that bridge open until the day I take my last breath. I just can't stop. If there is construction along the way, we fix it and move forward. Kind of like this:

Now, with that said, Walls and The Reaper Trials will be the last novels I use this process for. Although it does serve its purpose, I do believe that a story without flaws is the best formatted story, but for now, I think this quirky editing process helps bring my readership together in a weird, etherial way. Does it hurt my credibility? I don't think so, but I'm sure there are some critics out there that aren't too impressed.

I think we'll look back at these two start-up R.T. Donlon novels in years to come and smile, knowing that we were part of something fun and exciting, especially when bigger things start flowing down the pipeline.

And yes, R.T. Donlon fans, those things are coming. Very. Very. Soon.

1st Edition Copies of The Reaper Trials are still available for a LIMITED TIME only. Once they're gone, they're gone! If you would like one, contact R.T. directly or purchase a copy through Lulu Marketplace, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. 

2nd Editions will be available in the upcoming months.

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2nd Editions of Walls are available through online retailers for your purchasing pleasure.

Until next time,

R.T.

 

Future > Present > Past

Future > Present > Past I'll let the title speak for itself.

A simple mathematical formula, right? Well, not really. It's probably one of the most difficult formulas humans attempt to follow. Yet, it has the potential to be the single most important philosophy for living a beautiful existence.

Let's break it down, shall we?

Past:

Yes, a past does shape the present and the future, but don't we have the ability to change our thinking, our philosophies, our ideals and, therefore, change our future and how we view those perceptions? I mean, if you want to stagnate for the rest of your life, work a dead-end job, and live for paying the rent on time, then by all means, who's stopping you?

OR:

You could be a dreamer. You could envision what you want out of life--your passions, your goals, your accomplishments--then do it. Nothing is really impossible. It might take some long-term commitment, but be honest with yourself. If you want it bad enough, will you put yourself out there in order to get it?

Present:

This might feel like the most important of the three, but...it's not. Don't get me wrong. It's important, but not as important as the future (which we will talk about in a few moments). It just feels this way because you're living it now. Sensory experience dominates our reality and, because of this, we disregard what has already happened and what will happen and usually live by one darn catchy catch-phrase:

YOLO = You Only Live Once

I get it. I get that you should enjoy what you have because we just don't know what the universe is throwing our way, but just like the past, the present can still dictate the future and how you perceive your reality moving forward.

Example: You find $10 while fishing through your dirty pants. You're now free to do whatever you please with it. In the moment, you're hungry, so all you can think about is this delicious beauty:

And guess what: It costs exactly $10! You're in luck, so you order it. Because you're hungry. And it will taste so wonderfully good on the taste buds. Each succulent bite is like a small piece of heaven rattling its way down your esophagus. You THOROUGHLY enjoy it.

But halfway through, your friend calls. There's a special at the movie theatre! If you buy an $8 ticket, you automatically receive a large popcorn and a large soda for $2. It's a $35 value for $10!

...but you have no money. You already spent it on that wonderful patty of meat. How do you feel about your decision now that you're full? Still think you made the right decision?

There are two options here:

1) Yes, no regrets! I made a decision and I'll stick with it. I was hungry. Like this guy:

I guess I'll just have to stay home and watch whatever's on TV.

OR:

2) I regret my decision. Was that burger really that important? Could I have eaten something at home and saved that $10 bill for something special? Now I'm stuck at home, feeling all burger-ed out because I couldn't control my appetite.

Yes, of course this is completely hypothetical (not that I haven't been caught with my hand in the cheeseburger jar one too many times before), but it makes sense. Although something might seem mediocre now, you might want to save that pent up energy for something incredible that's lurking just around the corner.

Future:

And that leads us to the grand finale of the R.T. Donlon mathematical equation of the day - the future!

What is more awe-inspiring, so blissfully fearful, so tantalizingly fragile than what the universe has in store for us? It's nerve-racking to think our lives could take so many different paths, which, in turn, could lead to endless, varying outcomes. Humans want security. We want to know that we will be safe from harm with the means to live a happy, fulfilling life. That's all.

Think of the future as the branches of a tree. Say for instance, this one:

Notice how the branches splay out in a million different directions? Some reach high into the sky. Some sprout vegetation and mini-branches. Others hang low to the ground, kind of routed by gravity to grow horizontally rather than vertically.

Are any of these branches bad? No! Sure, there might be some disadvantages to low-hanging branches (vulnerability, etc.), but that just makes them stronger, clasping to the trunk like some sort of behemoth. We are all from different, unique walks of life and we must acknowledge that life is naturally unfair, but I guarantee you, that if you will yourself to accomplish your goals, even when it seems that failure never surrenders, your branch will break away from the ground and reach toward the sky like so many others have before us. This life is all what you make of it and, fortunately or unfortunately, always will be.

Keep on keeping on, ladies and gentlemen! The Reaper Trials is out THIS Saturday, May 2nd, on the Lulu Marketplace (10% off), Amazon (Print) and Kindle, Barnes & Noble (Print) and Nook, iBooks, and other online distributors.

 

R.T.