MacGyver, Star Wars, and the Power of Nostalgia

MacGyver, Star Wars, and the Power of Nostalgia

I appreciate when other storytellers do something right and just entertain me. After all, that’s what stories are supposed to do. In fact, author Don Pendleton once said: “The chief duty of the writer is to entertain. It is our paramount consideration.” I’ve found that to be sound advice throughout my experiences as a writer.

Recently I began to sense a rising frustration with Hollywood and television, and even with books that publish the “new adventures of Sherlock Holmes” or repackage classic lit, etc. You can say what you will about these things, but recently I got hooked on the new #MacGyver television show.

And who can forget, at least those of my fellow Gen-X’ers, the long lines and near hysterics as Disney tantalized us on a year-long campaign with the return of the next film in the Star Wars saga – EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS! Indeed, most vendor servers crashed when it was announced tickets had gone on sale. Like Sigourney Weaver observed in Galaxy Quest: “They’re going to start eating each other out there in a minute.”

What all of this comes down to is really a new culture revolution in the United States: using nostalgia to entice people in the storytelling process. Makes sense if you really think about it. Nostalgia is a powerful thing. We can turn to the dictionary for a pretty good definition of the word in its form as a noun:

nostalgia: a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.

But the question that eluded me of late in considering this was… why? It’s not really all that odd a consideration, frankly. It wasn’t until this past Christmas holiday when I had some time to think about it that I was able to propose an answer to the question, and I felt it prudent to share my discovery with any writers or readers whom it may interest.

Like any good story that entertains us, nostalgia works on our emotions in a very personal way. Nostalgia is the place where we hold our deepest, richest collection of traditions and values. Quite often, nostalgia is born from situations that have tickled our fancy, fondly infused our memories. Maybe it’s an old romance we cherished, or even a place we felt safe and comfortable when the winds of . Perhaps it’s a series of events into which we found escape or some lifetime adventures that stimulated our imaginations. It’s all of these things, and likely more I could not identify with brevity.

To be sure, though, nostalgia is a powerful tool in the storyteller’s arsenal. Wield it with care and precision, weave it into your plots and characters, and you may well succeed in enticing your readers.

Shifting Genres

Shifting Genres

Dear Constant Readers,

You may have noticed my recent tweets about a new SF novel I’m serializing at Wattpad. First, I don’t want anyone to sit around and scratch their heads, befuddled by this odd switch. The better volume of my work is crime, suspense, and paramilitary action-adventure and I’ve not moved away from that. I’m working on a new book right now,  in fact: first in a hard-boiled, 1950s, PI series in the style of Hammett or Chandler or Spillane!

You see, a long time ago I made a promise to yours truly that I’d write whatever I was inspired to write, and the Dreadfall world is something I’ve been itching to tackle for many years. I’d launched it initially but after doctors diagnosed my wife with stage 4 cancer pretty much everything save for my day job took a back seat. In fact, I wasn’t sure I’d ever write again, especially after twenty years and forty some books I’d flirted with “retirement” as a professional novelist.

Fast forward to November of 2016 and the urge bubbled from nowhere after seeing National Novel Writing Month announced. Before I knew it, I was happily pecking at the keys and knocking out Dreadfall—albeit not at the furious pace of 1667 words per day. That’s when it occurred to me that, like most true storytellers, I will never escape this desire to write.

Why Changing Genres isn’t Career Suicide

A few of my friends, also writers, pointed out changing genres can be on the level of committing literary suicide. I suppose if you’re famous or this is a career by which you make a full-time living there could be cases where that’s true. But I trust my readers. In the end, they’re the ones who will decide if they want to risk money out of their pockets to read my latest book. This is a decision usually based on whether they enjoyed my last book, or if I’ve written something in a genre that even interests them. Then there are those who read every one of my books when it’s published. And if that’s you, bless you!

Now, this isn’t a move I’d recommend just any writer do because some of the aforementioned points made by my colleagues have merit. Especially if you’re making the move for market purposes, such as you want to write paranormal romances because they’re so hot at that time. Don’t do this! You’ll regret it! Try to keep in mind if you have a large following in a particular genre (as mentioned, most of my readers like my action-adventure and crime fiction), and you’ve worked hard to build that following, you definitely risk alienating the majority of your readers. Readers are a finicky lot and they will go somewhere else to get their “fix.”

Especially if you’re making the move for market purposes, such as you want to write paranormal romances because they’re so hot at that time. Don’t do this! You’ll regret it!

On the other hand, if you’re doing it because there’s a story in you that must come out, and you’ve settled in your mind that genre will best serve the needs of the story you want to tell, then I say go for it and throw caution to the wind!

I’m writing Dreadfall because it’s a story I want to tell, no… I need to tell. It’s important, and I’m having fun, and I want the reader to have fun, too. But since it is different from what I’ve written the past twenty-odd years or so, and I always envisioned it as a serialized fictional piece, I decided to put it up at wattpad.com for everyone at no charge.

You should also check out some of the other writers on Wattpad. I’m telling you, there’s some pretty good writers up there and I’m impressed with the caliber of the work. There’s even an app for you readers-on-the-go.

If there’s enough interest I might publish later entries as full-length novels through retailers. After all, I have a day job that pays well and I don’t need to do this for the money. At least… not yet!

So don’t be afraid to follow me there and sample the first entry, Episode I – Stranded. I hope you like it. And if you’re just interested in my other work, keep your eyes open. As soon as I find a publisher (or agent) for this new series, you’ll be the first to know!

New Reviews on SFRevu

New Reviews on SFRevu

My two latest reviews have just been published at SFRevu.com. They are book 1 and 2 of the Star Trek: Prey trilogy by John Jackson Miller (also a well-known author in Star Wars franchise). Book one is called Hell’s Heart and book two is The Jackal’s Trick.

If the titles ring any bells, constant reader, it’s probably because they follow in the traditions of Star Trek references to prose by the authors of the classic literature of our time: in this case, Melville and Kipling respectively. Links to the reviews are below.

My review of the final book, The Hall of Heroes, will appear in the January 2017 edition of SFRevu.com.

Our Beloved Amy: In Memorium

Our Beloved Amy: In Memorium

In memory of our beloved girl, Amy Belinda “Bananas” Guenther (b. 2005), who lost her fight to IMHA crisis on Saturday, June 25, 2016. We will love and miss her for everything that she was, and all she meant to us: a service animal, an angel, and our best friend.

Amy, my precious baby dog, you will always be Daddy’s Girl.

If It Should Be

If it should be that I grow weak,
And pain should keep me from my sleep.
Then you must do what must be done,
For this last battle cannot be won.

You will be sad, I understand,
Don’t let your grief then stay your hand,
For this day more than all the rest,
Your love for me must stand the test.

We’ve had so many happy years,
What is to come can hold no fears,
You’d not want me to suffer so,
The time has come, please let me go.

Take me where my need they’ll tend,
And please stay with me until the end,
I know in time that you will see,
The kindness that you did for me,
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I’ve been saved.

Please do not grieve, it must be you
Who has this painful thing to do,
We’ve been so close, we two, these years,
Don’t let your heart hold back its tears.

~Anonymous