turns from one mood to the next,
Orbiting distant worlds to bring their stories to you.
turns from one mood to the next,
Secret Son portrays the life of a young man in a Casablanca slum trying to find his way. Caught between the stories of orphanhood and struggle his mother raised him on and the discovery of his real family, Youssef tries to understand who he is versus the various roles that society asks him to play.
As a fatherless boy from a poor area, Youssef’s prospects are limited until he finds a glimmer of hope in the discovery of his unknown wealthy father. Youssef is suddenly thrust into the elite circles of Casablanca life. As he tries to fit into this new world, he must navigate college, friendships, life as a working man, and the opposing wishes of his parents — the mother who raised him, and the father he always wanted.
Ultimately, Youssef’s uncertainty leads him astray, and he must find a way out. Like many disillusioned adults, he turns to the only people who seem to understand his struggle, a local political organization who promise to help the people of Morocco.
For the first part of this story, Youssef is the only point-of-view character. However, this changes when the meeting between he and his father is told first from his father’s perspective, and then again from Youssef’s. In this and other mirrored scenes, the reader is able to understand the interior thoughts of each participant — how they react to and often misunderstand each other. I found myself relating to each of the characters in different ways, whether Youssef’s desperation for a path forward, his mother’s attempts to set him on that path, and his father’s hope for a brighter future with his newfound son. Other characters, as well, helped to fill in the gaps between these three, to give the reader a full picture of the history of this family.
The abrupt ending and non-finality of any characters’ stories were surprising but fitting. The notions of Family, Identity, and Home don’t have beginnings, middles, and ends. They are relationships an individual evolves over time that shape one’s decisions and outlook, but rarely settle in one place.
Lalami captured the turmoil of family, of adolescence, and of despair amidst social stagnation in ways that many will be able to relate to. Great story.
Snowy icy slide,
steering sleds with booted feet,
childlike joyful cheers.
January was cool. I feel like it somehow took me three weeks to get over the holiday craziness and get back to a normal routine.
Work has slowed down for me, and for a day or two last week I even felt a little bored.
But, the next thing is always coming.
I’ve managed to do a lot of reading and TV/movie watching this month, which has been a nice change of pace. I just need to balance that a bit with revisions for The Herb Witch Tales duology, starting with Uprooted.
Yes, I have started. I’ve gotten about a third of the way through the first story, and I definitely could have done more if I had focused a bit better. I’m just reading through my draft on my laptop, focusing on overall flow and consistency more than anything else. I’ve started leaving comments in the margins whenever a significant theme or an important detail crops up, to ensure that I can refer back to it later.
I intend to read through both stories in this way, looking for overall flow and consistency, before reading again to look for deeper thematic resonance, and then ultimately style and wording. So, I think I’m in for three phases of revisions before sending these to other readers.
I’m not sure how I’m going to approach that yet. I’d like to send them to my editor, for sure. I think I’d also like to use beta readers, but I’m not certain how I will find/work with beta readers yet.
In any case, a vague timeline for these stories is starting to coalesce in my mind, but it’s still to early for me to verbalize that yet. I’m making progress, and that’s good.
Yes, and I’ve already made it almost halfway through another in the final days of the month. On top of that, I made some little progress on A Memory of Light. I’m into the middle third of that novel now, and I’d like to pick up the pace a bit. I just need to give myself more time to read at night.
Not quite. I had a predictable post-holiday slump, for whatever reason. I’ve picked it back up in the last week though, with more of a focus on yoga. My flexibility has suffered without doing any yoga consistently for a while, so I’d like to change that.
A random imgur gif I saw the other night reminded me of a balance and leg strength exercise I used to on one of those balance board balls. I need to get back to something like that.
Now, however, I’m debating whether I should start buying equipment, or just find a gym again. I haven’t had a gym membership since the 2020 lockdown, and it’s hard to imagine finding time to go to the gym regularly. So I might have to make do for a bit.
Counting down the day,
waiting for evening to come,
to start over.
I’ve started a full revision of The Herb Witch Tales this month. I’m currently revising the third draft of Uprooted, and will move straight into revising the second draft of New Earth.
These novellas form a duology, so it’s important to me that the characters, plots, and narrative themes align between them. I had written the first part in full, started the second part, and then decided to rewrite part one. Now that I’ve finished a subsequent rewrite of part two, I’m taking the time to revise both parts together.
Thus, my focus for this revision phase is first on consistency of those big pieces, knowing I’ll likely have to come back again to revise for smaller details.
That got me thinking about which elements are important to focus on during a given revision phase.
I’ll start by looking at what to focus on when revising an early draft.
I’m using the term “early draft” here, because every writer drafts at a different pace. Some take three drafts to get a polished story; others take ten, or fifty. An early draft could be a discovery draft, where you’re just getting words onto paper, or it could be a draft that has already gone through a couple of revisions, but still feels raw.
In any case, you have a completed draft that you know needs some work. Where to begin? I’d like to highlight three places to start.
This might seem obvious, but an early draft likely has a lot of plot holes to fill. Read through your draft with a questioning mind. From scene to scene, are there any questions left unanswered about how your characters are behaving, jumps in time, or events that are not presented to the reader directly?
It’s okay to leave some of these things for the reader to interpret, but that should be an intentional decision. If you’ve skipped a ton of scene development for the purpose of getting that draft finished, then many parts of the story may feel unfinished when you’re revising.
With every scene you revise, ask yourself:
Pay attention to the way your main characters may change – or not change – over the course of the story.
Similarly, do your side characters have a purpose in your story? These are the folks who may only appear in a few scenes, or in the background of whatever the main characters are doing, but they should be there for a reason. A character who just reacts to what’s going on around them – a child who only complains to their parents, or a sidekick who only cheers on their leader – will fall flat. If you’re taking the time to create a character and place them in a scene, then give them something to contribute.
This follows on element number one above, but forces you to take a step back and view your story not just for each individual scene, but for how the entire piece comes together.
None of these things are bad to have in a story, but they should be intentional. Revising an early draft should give you the opportunity to understand, and improve on, the tone, pacing, and style of your story.
And don’t fret the details of Editing or Proofreading just yet. That will come in later revision phases.
Nickname for bigots:
I just finished reading 1984 by George Orwell for the first time. Somehow, this book was not part of my high school reading curriculum. I feel like my high school English class had a huge reading list, and each class read only a selection — friends of mine read 1984, and my class read Brave New World, which I loved.
This book is a must-read for anyone who feels compelled to understand the psyche of fascism and totalitarianism.
If a reader comes to this book looking for character development, reasonable plot pacing, or much scene work beyond didactic dialogue, they will not find it. They will also be missing the point. From a story perspective, I really enjoyed the section focusing on Winston and Julia’s relationship, even if their time together ended rather abruptly.
Orwell’s story is a mechanism to explain the idea that totalitarianism seeks control as an end itself. The ideology doesn’t matter. Control over every aspect of life – even over thought, if it can be achieved – is the entire aim of the totalitarian system. To gain power over people and keep it is the only goal.
This book is a product of its time and timeless, as applicable a warning against fascism now as it was seventy years ago. As a lover of history, I was interested in the alternative rendering of the post-WW2 order, but I know there are likely other stories where this is the focal point, rather than the exposition dump Orwell uses. This section was particularly frightening to me as the end of the book drew near, as it provided a view into a world where Truth does not matter – even upon learning the truth about your reality, a totalitarian system’s entire existence is predicated on controlling you in spite of it.
infinite versions of truth,
to devolve knowledge.
I wrote a TBR / TBW last year, and then never followed up on it. Turns out, I didn’t end up getting to about half of the things on my list in 2022. That’s not really a negative — I just ended up focusing my reading and TV/movie energies elsewhere. So, why not provide an update?
I’m going to take a mulligan on the first… four entries on this list, since these were all on my 2022 list.
I’ve been slowly but steadily making my way through the final book in this series. I’ve mentioned it a few times before, but I’m not really in a rush to finish this series. First of all, the final trilogy of the series has been intense and incredibly satisfying. The final book, A Memory of Light, has been exponentially more intense, in a good way, than any of the thirteen books that precede it. But it means that I’ll read a couple sections, then stop to process a bit. I’m basically savoring this read, and not regretting it in the slightest.
I’ve read the first seven books in this series now, and while the last couple installments haven’t been as exciting to me, I still intend to continue the series. These books are great ways for me to pad the Read list on GoodReads, since I tend to get through them pretty quickly. So, I always look for the next one when I need an easy, action-packed read.
…which my wife got me for Christmas two years ago and keeps tempting me from the shelf. After the joy of watching Rings of Power last autumn, I’ve been burning to get into this deep-dive of Tolkien lore.
Dave Grohl’s memoir, which my wife got me for Christmas last year. I’m generally not a memoir type of reader, but I love Dave Grohl, and I don’t want this book to sit unloved on my shelf for years at a time. I need to check this one off my list.
I legitimately don’t know where I will turn next for epic high fantasy series after I finish Wheel of Time, and the opportunity is honestly exciting. There are several candidates on my Want to Read list on GoodReads, such as Rachel Caine’s The Great Library series, Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, Patrick Rothfuss, or a Brandon Sanderson series. I am open to recommendations, so leave a comment!
I will, of course, continue to read some history, politics, anthropology, or linguistics books as I go, just to mix it up, but those are usually decisions of the moment.
Honestly, this one is a little more difficult this year. In early 2022, I was excited about all of the shows and films in the MCU, Star Wars, and other IP universes. A lot of those properties were mediocre, at best, and I will definitely be more skeptical of them going forward. I think I need to pay closer attention to more “prestige” TV shows this year.
I’m already halfway through this eight-episode show on Hulu, but I’m really enjoying it. I like Jeremy Allen White, and the restaurant setting pulls at a few of my memories from my years in the service industry. This one has me focused for now, but I know it will go quickly.
This is on the list exclusively because a friend of mine asked if I wanted to watch it with him. This is the same friend with whom I’ve watched The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Ballers, and House of the Dragon, so this show will be our next shared viewing experience. I never played the video game this series is based on, and I don’t know much about it other than zombies. Big fan of Pedro Pascal, though, so I don’t need any more convincing.
I’d like to go to the movies more this year, but I’m not sure how I’ll swing that, just based on my schedule. I feel like I only went to the movies once or twice all of last year, though, so I can probably do better than that.
I really just want to watch more movies that I’ve never seen before. There are likely tons of movies I could list out that many would consider classics, or must-see, which I have not seen. Listening to The Big Picture podcast on The Ringer is entertaining in its own right, but also a constant reminder of how little I’ve scratched the surface of movie lore from the last few decades.
I have no idea where I’m going to start. I just want to make it a point to watch more movies. Maybe one per week? That seems ambitious, but I will try.
Is there any book, movie, TV show, or documentary that I am blatantly missing from this list? Anything you feel like you’ve been screaming at people to get on board with? Please tell me about it! I love sharing reading and watching experiences with people.