Words to Live By – Inspiration, Legacy, and Beatles Music

Words to Live By

The first Wednesday of the month, writer Jeff Bowles muses on life, creativity, and our collective destinies as makers of cool stuff. You’re a writer, but have you ever thought about how or why? Here are some words to live by.

Paperback Writer

Over the holidays, I watched the new Beatles documentary released on Disney+, The Beatles: Get Back. I’m a huge fan of the group and always have been. I realize there are non-Beatles fans out there, but I have to admit, I’ve always been mystified by their lack of enthusiasm. To me and millions of other Beatlemanics, the band is a historical landmark, having written and recorded music that changed pop culture for generations to come.

This blog entry is about inspiration and legacy. I liked to write stories as a kid, but really, I wanted to be a rock star. This would’ve been in the mid-90s. At the time, many potential role models existed for me and every other outcast kid who picked up a guitar. I wasn’t into Nirvana or Linkin Park at that age, didn’t appreciate Red Hot Chili Peppers or Green Day. I loved The Beatles, plus lots of other groups from the 60s and 70s. Never mind that my older brother and mom began spoon-feeding me this stuff at a very early age, or the fact that I looked up to my brother and enjoyed liking the things he thought were cool. The Beatles were special, supernatural even. I believed that then and I believe it now.

But the truth is, I haven’t been feeling particularly inspired lately. Not even Christmas cheered me up. In fact, it only made me feel worse. This Get Back documentary, it’s exhaustive (and a little exhausting). Only a mega Beatles nerd could’ve pieced it together. Peter Jackson (director and co-writer of The Lord of the Rings trilogy) happens to have been that nerd. The film is almost eight hours in length, split over three episodes, focusing on just one month or so in the lives of the famous foursome.

The great thing about it is that we really get to see The Beatles’ creative process up close. Lots of labor and missteps, mistakes and dead ends. Critics have said this proves they weren’t as legendary as fans have always claimed. To me, it makes them more human, which is a comfort, because it proves anyone anywhere can muster enough talent and drive to produce work of honest significance.

Inspiration is great, but it’s not nearly as effective as perspiration. When I was learning to play and sing and write songs, John Lennon was my idol. I wanted to be him, and man did all the other kids in school think I was strange. I remember looking up at the stars one night when I was ten years old and whispering to the heavens,

“I want to be the greatest rock star ever.”

Or something to that effect. As it turned out, I lived a small (very small) portion of that dream. Played music with people all the way through my teens and early twenties. Lots of tiny coffee house gigs, open mic nights, bars, private celebrations. When I was twenty-one, I met the woman I would one day marry, and eventually I found I wanted different things out of life. Writing short stories and novels, the pursuit of some kind of career in this field, it replaced my desire to make music almost entirely. I grew dedicated to the craft and learned a hell of a lot. For the most part, writing has made me happy. I’m glad I took the years necessary to get good at it.

But I wouldn’t have found that dedication, that fire in my heart, if I weren’t already intimately familiar with it. There is an electric feeling that occurs inside the body and mind of a musician caught in the flow of her or his own creativity. The Beatles clearly knew that feeling well. It’s potent and wonderful, thrilling and powerful.

I came to learn that writing is a slower burn. Tons of work up front, and then maybe (maybe) a bit of adulation months or years later. But it still holds moments of intense creative gratification. No matter who you are, how popular or famous or legendary, this process, this mental birthing experience, it can be difficult and frustrating. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were all wonderful musicians. They had nothing to prove to anyone, yet they still worked themselves to the bone to make stuff that simply had no equal.

So here’s my question for all of you: how dedicated are you to what you love? What thrills you and gets you excited for writing or anything else in life? Maybe it’s a bit unfashionable to admit that music recorded some sixty years ago makes me feel ready to take on the world, but it does. Especially when I get to see it up close, visceral, all the creative battles, coming to the logical and favorable conclusion of work that stands the test of time.

Next time you’re feeling down in the dumps and not at all creative, head back to the source—your personal wellspring of inspiration—and see if it won’t refill your cup a little. Pick up a guitar, or a pencil or paintbrush or a media powerhouse of a computer, or maybe just watch a good film about one of your favorite things on earth. All hail the makers of cool stuff. Be they Beatles or bestsellers or nobodies in particular.

Peace and love to you this new year. May it bring you everything you need, and maybe a few of the things you want, too. Until next time.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Want to be sure not to miss any of “Words To Live By” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it useful or entertaining, please share.


Words to Live By – Professional Jealousy

The first Wednesday of the month, writer Jeff Bowles muses on life, creativity, and our collective destinies as makers of cool stuff. You’re a writer, but have you ever thought about how or why? Here are some words to live by.

Green with Envy?

How jealous can you get? It’s an important question, one which may very well help define your ultimate level of happiness. I don’t mean the kind of jealousy that can emerge between romantic partners, or even jealousy that exists in people who constantly feel the need to keep up with the Joneses, though that in part has something to do with it.

I’m talking about professional jealousy, specifically as it occurs in the publishing world (or in any other creative field, really). It’s that sting you feel when a rival snags a big book contract, seemingly leaving you in the dust. It’s also the feeling you get when a good friend becomes successful, and you can’t seem to get anywhere close. This is not a rare experience, nor is it down to animosity or contention alone. It’s everywhere. Don’t try to deny what the world already knows. Human beings get jealous, maddeningly so, and there’s not much any of us can do about it, right?

Wrong. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that some who stumble across this post will have no idea what I’m talking about. Jealousy isn’t much of an issue for them, at least not in this sense. They may be beginners, or in some cases, they might be individuals who are much smarter than the average bear. You see, it takes a certain amount of practiced intelligence to avoid the crushing impact of full-on, green-to-the-gills jealousy.

When I was starting out with short stories, I noticed my own capacity for envy when it came to other writers in my sphere. Some of them were better than me. Much, much better. Some were bypassing shorts altogether and were producing novel-length manuscripts, which made me even more irascible. At that time, I wasn’t too terribly smart about these things. I didn’t realize what this life would come to represent to me, a brilliant and complex tapestry in which no single thread is out of place. We can’t all be huge successes. I’m sure you know that by now. Jealousy is a wholly destructive emotion. A person can use it to jumpstart their inner drive, but mostly it’s just corrosive.

Those who earn the spotlight deserve the spotlight. End of story. And it doesn’t mean you aren’t deserving too. It’s just that either by randomness or divine intervention, you’re in your own little universe with your own feathers for your own cap, and really, that rival or that friend has very little to do with any of it. Don’t let it become a mile marker for all your anxieties and worries. Their successes doesn’t make you inadequate or unskilled. It’s just that you haven’t gotten there yet, may never get there, may decide someday you didn’t really want it as bad as you thought you did.

The only real losers in this game, and I’ve long believed this about creative folks, are the ones who don’t even try, who settle for less than full creative disclosure, who don’t take at least one or two risks in their limited time here on this planet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s everyone’s solemn duty to reach for the stars and try to become something they aren’t likely to become, but look, if you’ve got the drive and ambition, it’d be a real shame to leave all your talents undeveloped and hidden from the rest of the world. Share these things, put them out there, even if you fail. Especially if you fail. Because I guarantee you’ll rarely meet (or perhaps, meet less often) that other beast of an emotion, regret.

And I would suggest you do so for reasons that live up to your lofty station as a maker of cool stuff. Don’t go after your dreams if you think they’ll add something to you that isn’t already there. Similarly, don’t do it if your goal is to crush and outperform all other applicants. Create because you love to create, publish because you’ve got something to say, stories to tell. Do these things for joyous reasons, not simply because you want to teach that vindictive high school English teacher a lesson or prove once and for all to everyone you know that you are worth a damn. Trust me, you are. Don’t even question that. Take it as a given.

Remaining anonymous is not failure. I had to learn this the hard way. Our culture can be shockingly backwards and out of sync with the realities of, well, reality. You have your own path to walk; your work and your passion is a matter of personal pride. Nobody can do things the way you can. Nobody. We are simultaneously small in the grand scheme of things and as massive as the universe itself. You are and always have been precisely all you are and always have been. I do believe that. You’re perfect enough already. Keep that notion close by at all times.

Do your work, create what can create. Do it like no one’s watching, regardless of whether or not anyone is. It’s a wide and generous world if you know what to look out for, and allowing poison into your heart won’t  solve anything for anyone. Do I still get jealous of other writers? You bet I do, but if I can, where I’m able, I decline to attach to that particular emotion and just let the old familiar sting pass on by.

Until next time.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Want to be sure not to miss any of “Words To Live By” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it useful or entertaining, please share.


Words To Live By – Boredom, Star Wars, and the Unavoidable Lull

The first Wednesday of the month, writer Jeff Bowles muses on life, creativity, and our collective destinies as makers of cool stuff. You’re a writer, but have you ever thought about how or why? Here are some words to live by.

Boredom, Star Wars, and the Unavoidable Lull

So I’ve been away from my writing duties here at WtbR for a few months. Heck, I’ve been away from most of my creative obligations, not just blogging, which might be the reason I’ve been so bored sitting at home, knocking my tin cup against prison bars of digital entertainment, paperback novels, and maybe a household chore or two. Read that book you’ve read a half dozen times before? Watch the same old movie series you’ve been watching since you were a kid? Do I even have to ask?

Okay, what are we up to today? Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars or Star Trek? Maybe Indiana Jones? Hmm…

The reality is that some lucky beings on planet Earth are built like machines, incredibly industrious, real honest to god workhorses. Boy do I envy the workhorses among us. I’m just not one of them. I can admit that to myself now.

Unfortunately, and it took me far too many years to discover this about myself, I’m more of a work-in-exhausting-spurts-and-then-crash kind of guy. I’ve always been like this, even when I was in school. Sooner or later, mental and emotional exhaustion would get the better of me, and it’d be hell just to turn in assignments on time, keep a steady workflow going.

I’ve previously written about my experiences with schizoaffective disorder, at last diagnosed five years ago, so I won’t bore you with the details again. Suffice it to say, there are reasons—real and concrete medical and psychological reasons—that I can’t compete with so many avid worker bees out there. My mind and personality just don’t keep up; the flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak.

My family lost someone dear to us back in March, my wife’s mom, who was a wonderful person and a key figure in our lives. At that time I’d been running pretty hot as far as creative output went, having kept up with a reasonable workload, more or less, for a year or so on end. But her passing stopped me in my tracks, and I’ve sort of been floundering all summer long.

Didn’t write anything new. Didn’t even edit anything old, and I’ve got a whole unpublished novel sitting on my computer’s hard drive, an odd and hopefully entertaining piece of work I finished up at the tail end of last winter, the COVID winter, the one when we were all locked indoors anyway.

All this incompletion frazzles me. Our society tells us we’re not complete if we’re not working, and at that notion I’ve always thumbed my nose. Not because I’m a rebel or even a lazy slug (I mean, arguments could be made), but because for me, constant work has never been desirable or even possible. It hurts me that I need so much downtime. I’d like to be as dependable as a racehorse, constant as the northern star (God bless Will Shakespeare, had a phrase for everything). It’s just not how I’m built, I’m afraid. I need recuperation time, rest and relaxation that lasts however long it needs to last. There’s no way around it, at least not any I’ve found.

So does that make me an ineffective person? Worse yet, does it make me a failure in the professional sense? I feel like some people might say yes, but honestly, I’ve tried to take the bull by the horns, and well, the bull almost always has its way with me.

Schizoaffective Disorder is no joke, man. Very often I can’t trust my own conscious experience, and that’s lame, because consciousness is all human beings have. It’s the only thing given to us by default, our birthright, our entire universe. Never mind school assignments or projects that never get off the ground. What about the amazing feeling you get when you’ve completed something grand? I love that feeling. Don’t take that feeling away! I’m not done with it yet!

I’m glad to be back at Writing to be Read, but the truth is I don’t feel 100% yet. Yes, I’ve been playing video games and watching old movies and generally feeling bored out of my mind. But that’s what recuperation looks like for me. Read ‘em and weep. Or don’t.

I like to write about my everyday experience. It helps me parse through things that need careful consideration. You can’t fight your own mind. I mean, you can try, but it’s sure to cause literal raging headaches. I’m interested in learning about other long-term work habits people employ out there. Leave a note in the comments section below if you’re so inclined. How do you get your work done? Is it a struggle in the long term, or is it the easiest thing in the world for you?

Look for another Words To Live By next month. Count on it. Just don’t expect me to show up for dinner. I’ve got some more recuperation to get through. Star Wars or Star Trek again? Star Wars or Star Trek? Maybe Battlestar Galactica? Hmm…

Boredom never looked so … unavoidable. Until next time, folks.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of “Words To Live By” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it useful or entertaining, please share.


Jeff’s Game Reviews – Resident Evil Village

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Reviewed on Xbox Series X – Also available on Xbox One, Xbox Series S, PS4, PS5, and PC

The Resident Evil game series has been around now for twenty-five years. Most people associate it with shambling zombies, but in fact, developer Capcom more or less nixed the walking dead way back in 2005 with the release of Resident Evil 4. Ever since then, each new main-entry game has had some pretty interesting baddies to offer. That’s still the case with Resident Evil Village, which is a good thing, because without them, there might not be much there, there.

This newest RE game is actually Resident Evil 8, but you’d be forgiven for missing that fact based on the awkward way Capcom jammed roman numerals into the promotional artwork. After the genuinely frightening events of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, new series protagonist Ethan Winters is forced back into the fray when his wife and daughter are kidnapped right from under his nose. Traveling to a decrepit Romanian village (which, by the way, has a MASSIVE gothic castle sitting on its northern side), Ethan must battle everything from werewolves to amorphic super-monsters in order to save his family.

See the source image

The story goes to some pretty gonzo places after that, but no point spoiling it for you. The great news is that in true Resident Evil fashion, all the main boss characters steal the show in a big way. The lynchpin is a frightening matriarchal figure by the name of Mother Miranda, but she’s just the tip of the iceberg. Psychotic machine maker Heisenberg, the freakish and pitiful Moreau, Donna Beneviento and her murderous living doll.

The new fan favorite, Lady Dimitrescu, is a ten-foot tall vampire lady dressed as elegantly as any starlet from the golden age of cinema. The internet has already modded and discussed her to the nth degree, and that’s the best sort of praise a game character can receive. She lumbers through the castle, screaming your name, your only recourse to evade her at all costs. Some gamers have commented on a certain strange sex appeal when it comes to the Lady. Her burning cigarette, elegant nature, and bountiful… you know… stature. I just wanted to get the hell away from her whenever she appeared. Enough time to gawk? I don’t think so. To each their own, I suppose. Phew.

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The gameplay of Resident Evil Village is more or less identical to what Capcom created from scratch for RE 7. First person perspective, lots of shooting and evasion, slowly picking your way through this or that lush location, finding rare items, solving puzzles. Actually, Village borrows a few things from the past, most notably from RE 4. Fans of that game may be happy to learn this newest entry is much more action heavy. This series has been around so long, it’s got a multitude of different flavors, and Capcom certainly knows when and how to tug at our nostalgic heart strings.

Ultimately, Village’s story is short and just a tad confusing, but that doesn’t stop it from being fun. An average gamer should expect the campaign to last eight to ten hours, which is anemic compared to most other AAA video games release these days. A multiplayer portion has been included, but it’s not all that enjoyable. Nope, for better or worse, Village is the star of the show.

Played on one of the new game consoles released late last year (Xbox Series X, Series S, or PS5), the game is a wonder to behold. Almost photorealistic at times, pretty snazzy. It still looks good on older platforms, so don’t sweat it if you can’t run out and buy the latest and greatest. Where would you run to anyway? Online retailers have been in and out of stock since November.

Regardless, this game is surprising, beautiful, and very often thrilling. It’s clear horror is still alive in 2021, and Capcom once again proves they are king of the hill. Resident Evil Village is focused on giving players a pulse-pounding experience unlike any other. That it misses the mark every now and then is no big sin.

Jeff’s Game Reviews gives Resident Evil Village an EIGHT out of TEN


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of “Jeff’s Game Reviews” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it useful or entertaining, please share.


Craft and Practice with Jeff Bowles – Narrators of a Different Color

Craft and Practice

Each month, writer Jeff Bowles offers practical tips for improving, sharpening, and selling your writing. Welcome to your monthly discussion on Craft and Practice.

There’s an entire school of thought behind the use of standard third-person perspective in narrative fiction. Often enough, beginning writers are encouraged to see it as their go-to, which isn’t horrible advice. Let’s do a quick POV lesson, in case your memory is hazy.

First-person: I walked to the lake.

Second-person: You walked to the lake.

Third-Person: He walked to the lake.

Conventional wisdom says most readers stomach lucky number three best. I think that might be a load of hogwash, but let’s assume it’s 100% correct. What would be the benefit of writing fiction—or creative nonfiction, for that matter—from a quote, unquote “nontraditional” perspective? Your own edification, right? And maybe something else.

Third-person is the norm because it provides helpful breathing room between us and our readers. It’s easy to tell a story this way, natural. We’re used to it, having read it a million times before. By the same token, I have noticed it’s become increasingly more common for storytellers to dabble in other modes. First or second-person, past or present tense, limited omniscience or full-blown mind-of-God territory. First-person present tense, by the way, is notoriously apt to cause chaos.

“I write on the blog post for a bit, and then I check my email. It occurs to me I’ve never met a sultan of Saudi Arabia, so it’s possible these diet pills are phony. Oh well. I chuck them in the trash and head outside to clear my mind. It smells like a forest fire out here. Hey, what gives?”

This is stream of consciousness stuff, easy to write but difficult and unwieldy to beat into proper shape. All the verbiage points to me, me, me, now, now, now. It can get same-same after a while, difficult to chew through. Not always, but often enough.

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your new forest fire/phony diet pill story is perfectly well written, thank you very much. You did the job, tale told effectively, end of discussion. In that case, one crucial question comes to mind. Is your narrator any fun to read?

What do you mean, what do I mean? What’s a fun narrator supposed to sound like? Well, I guess they can be any of the following: idiosyncratic, faulty, confident, psychotic, mentally sound, likable, unlikable, funny, unfunny, jaded, naïve, a super focal lens, an individual with something to say, a personality worth delving into.

Maybe you’ve never considered it this way, but in my humble estimation, narration of this kind is a blank check. Most things worth achieving sound unlikely at first. Think of it like speed dating. You known instantly upon sitting across from someone whether or not you’d enjoy their company. Is your speed-dater worth engaging in conversation? Are they fun to listen to?

Gut check time. How well do you write dialogue? I only ask because I’ve realized throughout the years not everyone is as keen on it as I am. Sharp and amusing with zero fat left to trim, that’s my favorite kind. But what’s yours? Informative but not dull? Wacky and a bit irredeemable? More importantly, do you think you could extend a few lines of it to encompass an entire story? I’m willing to bet you can.

The simple truth is most writers create bland characters by default. Not you, of course. Perish the thought. Mentors and teachers might encourage us to pre-fill character sheets or go to public places and write down snatches of conversation we hear. I’m not saying that’s bad advice, but I can confidently tell you it’s more efficient and effective to let characters tell us who they are rather than to impose our sizable wills upon them. Don’t bloat yourself up with too much preparation. On the fly, hit the page and let your creations speak to you. A little honest individuality is enough to distinguish your work from the work of others, and that’s a good thing.

Rule makers have tried to enter this arena, but I don’t think they’ve done a great job setting any concrete prescriptive measures. Is addressing your reader directly breaking the fourth wall? No, not really. If you think about it, first-person narration divorced from context is unnatural anyway. It was much more common in centuries past for authors to speak to their readers through narration. As we discussed earlier, stability is easy to achieve by providing a little breathing room. This is a blank check, remember? Anything and everything is achievable, provided you’ve got the skills to stick the landing. That’s the thing about experts. If they tell you something can be done, they’re most certainly right. If they tell you it can’t, they’re most certainly wrong.

Style remains essential in this domain. My final advice is this: If you’re currently working on something you’ve written in first-person, try playing with your style a little, write it like you’d write some nice extended dialogue, just as far as you’re comfortable, nothing too crazy—unless you like crazy. You might just surprise yourself. Scratch that. Your narrator might surprise you.

Don’t be stiff or formal. Get into the nitty gritty and pour a serious helping of personality gravy on those otherwise boring and bland mashed ‘taters.

On that note…

See you next time, everyone. Have an awesome May, will you?


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Want to be sure not to miss any of Craft and Practice with Jeff Bowles segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress


Jeff’s Movie Reviews – Mortal Kombat (2021)

Finish him!

by Jeff Bowles

Movies based on popular video games aren’t typically known for their excellence. Among gamers and industry vets, they aren’t even known to please longtime fans in any serious way. Just check out some of the more financially successful ventures into this difficult field, films like Warcraft, Detective Pikachu (which actually wasn’t all that bad), the Tomb Raider series, Prince of Persia, Monster Hunter, all six entries in the Resident Evil franchise, Sonic the Hedgehog….

The problem usually lies in a misunderstanding of what makes video games tick, the basic fact they’re more fun to play than watch. Also a certain greedy approach to cash cows that otherwise net billions annually. Interactive, choice-driven, challenging, often containing stories that work precisely because players feel totally immersed.

Games can and do look and smell like movies, but they aren’t the same thing. An enterprising filmmaker would be loath to adapt a video game beat-for-beat. What would be the point? The most common approach is to try and split the difference, to take a few popular franchise characters, perhaps mix them in with some new no-name placeholders, invent a plot that is similar but not identical to the original, and then race the whole thing through production, packaging, and release.

The new Mortal Kombat film is no different. It thinks it understands what longtime fans want, but in reality it’s just a hodgepodge of half-baked ideas and mishandled IP. Honestly, I don’t know if you’ve ever played a MK game in your life, but the series isn’t about story, not really. It’s about gore and hyperviolence, the kind of bloody entertainment that rewards complex finisher moves so brutal they have but one appropriate name: fatalities.

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This latest stab at the franchise wants to include all the blood and death, not sugar coat things like the famously inadequate Mortal Kombat movies made in the mid-90s. Lots of people grew up with those films, and Warner Bros. is convinced an updated, adult-friendly retread will hit the spot. For the most part, it does not. The story is messy, the action is simultaneously choppy and too slow (not sure how they managed that one), and let’s not mince words, so many different characters get thrown at you, it’s entirely possible you’ll need a PH.D. in Kombat-ology to keep up.

I’m old enough to remember a time many moms and dads would refuse to let their kids play Mortal Kombat. Video games have only gotten increasingly more realistic since then. A gaming series that pushes the violence and willfully misspells the word ‘Kombat‘ is never going to yield an Academy Award winner. Kome on, all you Klassic Mortal Kombat Kompetitors! Why no Kostly retread of Street Fighter, or Kan we finally Konsider the genre Kompromised?

Skip this movie if you can. Go play the newest Mortal Kombat video game, lucky number eleven, which at least understands what fans show up to see. Blood, blood, and even more blood, gameplay that is tight and fierce, competitive tournaments that let you test yourself against other players, and a story that is serviceable at best.

Because the vast majority of MK players don’t care about story. That just goes without saying. Remove all the things that make the games immersive fun, and you’re left with a whole heap of meh.

Kill the Koncept, Warner Bros.. Kan’t tell you how Kreatively Konstipated this Kategory has beKome.

Jeff’s Movie Reviews gives the new Mortal Kombat movie a Five out of Ten.


Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of “Jeff’s Movie Reviews” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it useful or entertaining, please share.


Jeff’s Game Reviews – PS5 vs. Xbox Series X – Which Should You Buy?

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PS5 vs. Xbox Series X

2020 will likely go down as one of the most challenging years in modern history, not in the least for commerce, business, and technology. Small mom and pop stores and large corporations alike felt the crunch, and one industry in particular suffered unexpected misfires even the incoming Biden administration felt compelled to investigate.

I’m speaking, of course, of the video game business, specifically digital entertainment powerhouses Microsoft and Sony and their brand-new home consoles, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. Both companies came to the market in November 2020, and both probably regret they did. Don’t get me wrong, having used each system extensively, I can attest to the quality of both. Neither has been without launch jitters and bugs, but Microsoft and Sony have, in their own time, gone a long way toward patching and improving problems as they’ve come up.

The real trouble with the Xbox Series X (and its kid brother, the Series S) and the PS5 is that they were both released without a steady supply of fresh product in the pipeline. A lot of excitement built up in the gaming community over the course of 2020, and by the time the launch window finally arrived in November, you would’ve needed to be exceptionally lucky or downright Google-gifted to snag a preorder. Add to that a huge issue with reseller bots buying consoles at unprecedented rates and creating a kind of gaming black market on eBay, and you’ve got a recipe for mass frustration.

But let’s back up a bit. Assuming you can in fact get your hands on a system, which should you choose? The truth is subtler than you might expect. Though graced with different architecture, the PS5 and Series X run third-party titles in a virtually identical manner. Games look great, sharp, clear, detailed. You’ll need a decent 4K television to see this stuff in full next-gen glory, but assuming you don’t mind upgrading, I can guarantee an excellent experience either way. That being said, services, content, and a few hardware points do enough to properly differentiate Series X from PS5. In the end, it all comes down to individual preference, so let’s look at each in turn.

Xbox Series X

Microsoft released two consoles last autumn, but the Series S is meant to be a less powerful and cheaper option designed for gamers who don’t care too much about 4K or enhanced performance or owning the biggest and baddest on the block. It’s a full $200 USD cheaper than Series X, and therefore makes for an appealing option. The Series X is the real star here, however, so let’s zoom in on it.

Consider this article for a full rundown of the Series X’s technical specifications. Needless to say, there’s a lot of power under the hood. The Xbox brand has one major trump card called Gamepass. For a monthly fee, players can gain access to a huge library of old classics and modern stunners. In fact, if you were so inclined, you might not even need to buy games at full retail value again. The Series X is also bolstered by its impressive zeal for backward compatibility. Almost every single title available on the previous generation’s Xbox One, including older Xbox 360 and original Xbox games, is playable here. Most if not all older titles benefit from lighting-fast load times and post-processed HDR (High Dynamic Range color and lighting). In addition, the system has quick resume functionality, which allows players to jump back into their games precisely where they left off, even if the system has been in sleep mode for weeks or even months.

It all goes for $500 USD, the same price as PS5. Happens to be the smaller of the two systems, too, which is admittedly a non sequitur. PS5 is massive, just massive, but Series X is fairly large as well. It is currently a bit easier to find at online retailers,. PlayStation sales are through the roof, but if you want a system right now, you could do worse than Series X.

See my video review of the Xbox Series X

PlayStation 5

Ask any diehard Sony fan why they keep coming back to PS and you’re likely to hear one answer above all others: the exclusives. See this article for a full list of tech specs for PS5.

Truthfully, Sony has the better history producing first-party games. The list from the last few years alone is impressive, the PS4 having been the exclusive home of some truly great titles like Spider-Man, Final Fantasy VII Remake, God of War, Ghost of Tsushima, Grant Turismo Sport, and many others. Fewer old PlayStation games are backwards compatible, but the ones that are sure pack a punch.

Another great feature is the PS5’s controller, dubbed the Duel Sense. It has impressive haptic feedback sensitivity, including articulate rumbles at multiple contact points and adaptive triggers that adjust tension on the fly. It feels great in your hands, but time will tell how many new games take full advantage. Sony is keenly aware of Microsoft’s desperation to pull into pole position with its myriad services and freebies, so expect the PS landscape to include sudden unannounced benefits as the months and years mount up.

The PlayStation 5 is arguably the buggiest of the two consoles even half a year after release, so take that into account when making your purchase. I fully expect Sony to hunt these known issues down and patch them appropriately, but Microsoft has had a bit more pep in their step on this point.

Check out my video review of the PS5

Conclusion

Not everyone is interested in new gaming consoles right now, and that stands to reason. Those who are have driven the gaming marketplace to dizzying new heights. The PS5 is the fastest selling game system in US history, which is pretty amazing considering the fact it’s almost impossible to find. Big box retailers don’t carry them at physical locations, which means the internet remains your only method of procurement. I can guarantee you’ll have an excellent time playing on either of these two behemoths, but look, if you don’t mind waiting, then go ahead and wait. You won’t have to tear your hair out running the online circuit from Amazon to Best Buy to Target to Walmart … see what I mean? Both companies have produced great pieces of hardware, and that’s the honest truth. Excellent exclusives or tempting membership benefits and services, you decide.

I’ll be back with another Jeff’s Game Reviews here on Writing to be Read. Until then, keep your trigger fingers at the ready, folks. Never know when you’ll have to do a little console hunting. Take care.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of “Jeff’s Game Reviews” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it useful or entertaining, please share.


Words to Live By – For Dora

For Dora

It’s been tough around the house this month. My mother-in-law passed away after a long battle with liver disease. She’d been having severe problems for months, but as my wife said a few nights ago, we always thought we had more time with her.

I haven’t felt like writing. Even typing up a blog post like this is draining. Writing is a bit of a safe haven for me. Easily tumbling down the rabbit hole, so to speak, laying aside my heartaches and disappointments, entering worlds of my own design, inhabiting people who don’t really exist.

Dora was a writer herself, and a voracious reader, too. I stayed with my wife and her family a lot in the days I was first starting to tinker with short stories. Because Dora was enthusiastic and willing, I often asked her to read my fist drafts. Her comments were always complimentary, because it wasn’t in her nature to poke holes in something her kids had poured their hearts and souls into.

Her kid, that’s what I was. The family has two daughters, and both were married within a year of each other. Dora never differentiated between the four of us, or at least, she tried her best not to. If everyone was gathering in the same place, it was about the kids and whether or not we’d eaten, her kids and how we were getting along in life, the importance of the kids’ enjoyment of holidays, birthdays, work promotions, collegiate successes.

I have no bad memories of her. Truly, anything contentious between us didn’t live long enough to become an issue. She was always patient and friendly with me. I loved reading her yearly Christmas poems, which she sent to the entire extended family. Never missed a year or an opportunity to fret over one or two words. I liked that about her, a certain willingness to own what she’d created. She never tried to publish anything professionally, but the rest of the family agrees she should have.

Marriage, as it turns out, can be one hell of a rollercoaster ride. My wife and I will be celebrating our twelfth anniversary in September. Most of our friends have been married a far shorter time, which means we can dispense wisdom without pretense. Our marriage has been anything but perfect. Thwarted expectations, mental health issues, a lost house, lost job, grad school, which was pretty tough for me, because I do tend to have a sensitive mindset, things can set me off easily.

I have guilt over whether Dora knew how much I appreciated her, because I doubt I ever communicated it properly. I know my wife and father-in-law are suffering, but the truth is they’re both stronger than I am. There’s been so much in the last year to cause us all grief and misery. No shame shaking your fist at the bumpy ride behind and ahead of us. There’s nowhere else for me to be, nothing else I’d rather be doing. Dora was a presence in this house, this family. She was a pillar, holding things up in that matronly way that looks easy but can’t possibly be effortless. Life will be different now. Better or worse, I don’t know, but different for sure.

I can help my wife by making calls, figuring out logistics, being a shoulder to cry on. I’m not perfect, but then neither was Dora. Sometimes I expect her still to be here, watching movies or making dinner, reading, chatting, clipping digital coupons. One of the last things she did for me was to read the first novel I self-published. She loved it, told my wife I was talented and that I was never to give up.

She would’ve said that regardless of whether she enjoyed reading it or not, but I believed her wholeheartedly anyway. That’s what she meant to me. I was proud to be one of her kids. I’m still proud.

I’ll see you next month in Words to Live By. In the meantime, give someone important a hug. If they’re not a hugger, hug them even harder. Tell them you have my permission.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Craft and Practice with Jeff Bowles – Characters in Need of Color

Each month, writer Jeff Bowles offers practical tips for improving, sharpening, and selling your writing. Welcome to your monthly discussion on Craft and Practice.

I’m a big fan of color. Maybe it’s the art lover in me, but I can’t stand boring compositions. A little passionate red, cool and withdrawn blue, yellow to energize, purple to pacify. My stories are always full of color. I design them that way so I don’t get bored in the telling. Attention span of a cocker spaniel, I assure you. I figure if I’m getting bored, my readers don’t stand a chance.

In this edition of Craft and Practice, we’ll look at colorful characters. Where do they come from? How can we more easily create them? Let’s assume you find them preferable to stock characters that are functional but not especially inspired. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need much in terms of preparation. Outlines, character sheets, written histories, throw them all out for the time being. The trick here is to open yourself up, to trust your instincts and your ability to create something sort of magical and unique to your abilities, to your point of view. It’s not so much that preparation can hamper our ideas or dampen our expression of them. This is true some of the time, but not always. It’s more that the tighter we constrict our creativity―that’s constrict rather than channel; one is suppressive by nature and the other is purposefully expressive―the more likely we are to produce wooden and inflexible components.

Your characters don’t want to be inflexible. Trust me on this. They long to be unpredictable, passionate, full of life. Some writers like to work with a net. Perfectly understandable. It’s cleaner and in some sense easier. But I’d like you to consider the possibility that extra work at the conclusion of a writing project is worth more in the long run than an equivalent amount of preparation. The final product is bound to be less like everyone else’s stories and more like your own, and that’s a win in my book.

Let’s run a brief exercise to illustrate the point. Character A asks Character B for something to drink. Character A doesn’t visit other people’s homes very often, so the request doesn’t seem rude or presumptuous. Character B is a friendly sort, charitable in all the ways it matters, and if it’s possible to provide hospitality and comfort to Character A, then that’s precisely what Character B will do. Outcome: Character A gets to drink. Huzzah!

Notice that in just a few brief character descriptions, I’ve told you everything you need to know in order to enjoy the scene. Do you care what Character A’s first car was? Not unless it has direct bearing on the scene at hand. Do you care if your protagonist prefers Pizza Hut to Domino’s? Not as such, because they’re not eating right now. They’re, you know, drinking. What if childhood trauma involving fruit punch makes them thirstier than the average beverage enthusiast? I mean, that may be pertinent information. Put it in and see how it reads. In this way, story serves character, not the other way around. These imaginary folks living rent-free in your head, they might change their spots entirely by the time you’ve written THE END. In fact, we sort of need them to. It’d be damn boring if they didn’t. I’m saying the desired effect is best achieved organically. Think about your standard rising action chart

Notice the trajectory, one smooth line shot straight toward a conclusion. Don’t design your plot or your characters in this manner. Just don’t do it. Trust me, that line reads a whole lot better when it’s perforated, imbalanced, full of ups and downs, at last arriving at that ultimate destination. In real life, human beings do not proceed along a straight trajectory. Great actors know this. They understand innately to respond to moments as they come. One foot in front of the other, not all the feet all over the world all at once.

Imagine going onstage with a dozen pages of notes stapled to your forehead. This scene should be easier to perform because you have at your disposal so much background information. Right? Wrong? Yes? No? How’s your performance? Natural or constricted? I mean really, is that stuff helpful, or is it dead weight? A given scene tells me I should be afraid of snakes. The next one tells me I’m falling in love with someone who owns a lot of snakes. The core of my character remains, but the dictates of motivation, action, and reaction are all over the map. Am I in love with snakes and afraid of love? No, of course not. My name is Character A, and I’ve just been bitten by a rattler. See? No preplanning required.

Here’s another classic scenario for you to consider. You can night drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas without ever seeing further ahead than the thirty feet of illumination provided by your headlights. The road is there, it promises to deposit you at your destination, but even it has no idea what will happen along the way. Maybe you don’t end up in Vegas at all. Maybe your characters have decided they’d rather go to Reno. Are you going to tell them no? They’ve already hit the ATM and booked serviceable lodging!

Thinking of your work in terms of performance is a good habit to cultivate. Just try it. Write a simple scene for which you’ve planned nothing. It’s not important where these characters have been, how much money they have, what their likes and dislikes are. All that matters is the spontaneous influencing the spontaneous. That’s the meaty part, the gold in the gold mine.

Fluff is a chore to read. If you don’t believe me, dig out one of your first serious pieces of writing and tell me how much of it is pertinent and how much ought to be nixed. I know, painful, right? Reminds me of the first piece of honest criticism I ever received, “I only have three problems with this story. The beginning, the middle, and the end.”

The good news about this craft is that there are a million and one ways to skin a cat. I’ll be back with more Craft and Practice next month. No cat-skinning required. See ya!


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Want to be sure not to miss any of Craft and Practice with Jeff Bowles segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress


Jeff’s Movie Reviews – Coming 2 America

The Once and Future King?

by Jeff Bowles

So let’s say you’re a movie star who’s been part of the popular imagination for forty years. You’re given the opportunity to reprise a role that helped establish your legacy, and let’s be honest, the big parts aren’t exactly pouring in these days. Should you A). Disregard said opportunity, knowing full well it’s very difficult to capture lightning in a bottle, or B). Throw caution to the wind and have a great time making a follow-up to a movie successive generations know and love?

Eddie Murphy appears to have found himself in just such a situation, because when it came time to make a sequel to Coming to America, he didn’t hesitate. Without a doubt, he and the filmmakers would’ve preferred to debut this new movie in theaters, but that’s not an option during a global pandemic. Coming to America 2 (or is that Coming 2 America?) is available exclusively on the Amazon Prime Video streaming service. The original is widely considered one of the best comedies of the ‘80s. It’s sharp, aggressive, honest, romantic, and best of all, silly in all the right ways. A lot of time has passed since its release, yet it still holds up remarkably well. So why not give it a sequel? Why not take all these fan-favorite characters for another spin around the block?

Here’s why. Nostalgia is only as good as the material propping it up. If a film is going to devote most of its comedic resources to nailing the exact same jokes and situations as its predecessor, it’s got to work twice as hard to prove itself worthy of our time. Unfortunately, Coming 2 America proves nothing except the obvious: you can never go home again. Look, you walk into the barbershop and all the characters are played by Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall. Same joke as last time. Still funny, but not as funny as it used to be. Or maybe you go out to listen to a band with a terrible lead singer (also played by Eddie Murphy) and their ridiculous name, Sexual Chocolate, makes you smile. Same joke as last time. Still funny, but…

See the source image

This pattern appears consistently throughout Coming 2 America’s runtime. Even the basic premise amounts to a variation on a well-established theme. This time around Prince Akeem (or rather, King Akeem) must travel to the US in order to meet his illegitimate son. Hijinks ensue, but um, why does it feel so exhausting? It’s like going to see your favorite band and hearing nothing but cover songs. Wesley Snipes, for instance, plays a pretty clear-eyed comedic version of a murderous warlord turned politician, but his presence does nothing to disrupt the flow of same-old, same-old. No sequel has ever ruined a great predecessor. People may say so, but rarely does the supposition hold water. This sequel, in fact, only makes you want to watch the original more. ‘Cause it was killer fun. You know, yay for that original!

A couple other potential pitfalls for audiences looking to recapture thirty-three-year-old magic: there’s no swearing. I mean none. No nudity either. Is that a problem in general? Nope, but the first movie had some serious edge to it, and this thing does not. In essence, it feels like a sequel to a totally different film. There’s also a serious lack of material shot on location. For a film that takes place in Africa and New York City, movie sets are uncommonly common. Incidentally, just a few days after its release, Coming 2 America quickly became the most streamed movie on any platform during the COVID-19 era. Go ahead and look it up, Amazon has a hit on their hands.

Realistically, though, they should’ve had to work just a bit harder to earn it. Watch this movie and see how quickly you forget about it. For my wife and me, the shelf life was two days, two whole days, and then it vanished like an errant spray of Soul Glo hair product in the wind.

Oh no, a callback to the original movie. See? They’ve even got me doing it now!

None of this is to suggest Coming 2 America is little more than a jaded corporate cash grab. Sincerely, the movie appears to have been made with the best of artistic intentions. Word on the street is Eddie Murphy now wants to make another entry in his Beverly Hills Cop franchise. Everything old is new again. Or is it the other way around? Let’s try Casablanca 2, or maybe Citizen Kane: Rosebud’s Revenge. Apocalypse Now, Now. Star Wars Episode … nope, never mind. They did that one already.

Jeff’s Movie Reviews gives Coming 2 America a Six out of Ten.


Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of “Jeff’s Movie Reviews” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it useful or entertaining, please share.