October 12, 2014

10 Books

[Posted by Ted H]

As I continue to stall until November...

So there was this thing on facebook where you list the 10 most influential books from your life. Eventually I got around to doing it, and now to help fill the gap before NaNoWriMo 2014, I'll post my 10 here as well...
Top 10 books that influenced you one way or the other through your life.
[in no particular order]

 Tales of Mystery and Imagination [Edgar Allan Poe]
-When I was a kid, most people my age would read a Goosebumps book for their thrills. I however was reading Poe tales before middle and high schools were making my peers get around to it. It's an old book, I'm honestly shocked it hasn't fallen apart yet. And not all the Poe tales are contained within, nor are any of his poems, but it was still a solid read throughout my life. I think I've read TellTale Heart to the point where I could recite most of it at one point.
In college one of my classes were tasked to read the Rue Morgue. The next day I lugged this book to class just to show off I was no amateur. Hell, I only took the class (called "Murder, Mystery and Fiction) because the description said we'd study the stories of Poe and Sherlock Holmes....we spent maybe a week on each before the professor decided to spend the rest of the semester talking about her favorite feminist authors. "Let down" was the most generous way I'd describe that class.
Like I said though, old book. 1935 makes it older than my parents and every time I open it, I'm afraid that this will be the day the front cover tears off or something equally tragic will happen. Other than being old, it's in fantastic condition and despite being something I've had all my life, every page is there and perfectly legible. Even the artwork is fine. Arthur Rackham's illustrations, by the way, are a perfect fit and tone for a collection of Poe stories.
But yeah, I practically learned to read with this book, in case you're wondering what kind of foundation I have to the fucked up shit I write about.

Green Eggs and Ham [Dr Seuss]
Speaking of books I sort of always had with me in life...I've read a few Dr Seuss books in my time. They were all disposable to me except this one, which has stood the test of time to the point that "Sam I Am" is the name I was confirmed under by my church (I'm not making a TOTAL mockery of my religion, am I?). The back and forth conversational rhyming drew me in and the fact that a coherent story was made out of it without ever deviating was the shit to me.
I've since done my own homage to the tale. The whole "Weed From a Can" thing I did was a straight up nod to the story. "Fat Lady Rolling Down a Steep Hill", arguably the greatest poem I've ever done, has Seuss to thank for its existence. While not directly based off of any Dr Seuss tale, every other poem I had been exposed to in life was either English-class approved bull shit or too short to be a tale. FLRDaSH was me telling a rhyming tale without it having to be a song.

Birth of a Dynasty [Joel Sherman]
So...I'm a Yankees fan. No shock there if you've ever met me. The book chronicles the 1996 Yankees, from the last game of their 1995 season all the way to their 1996 championship. It details how they constructed the team and the million and one ways the team could have been altered, all detailing just how impossibly hard it is to field a team that can not only win, but win for years. The 96 Yankees kick started a dynasty that lasted into the next decade and the book highlights all the people and events that did all the right things at exactly the right times to make it a reality.
History buffs eat up shit like this for their genre, and I always go back to this book.

The Lord of the Rings [J.R.R. Tolkien]
Maybe you've heard of it? I totally count The Hobbit as part of this by the way. What I love here is that it proves you can create your own sprawling universe and saga and have it span multiple novels. Plus, The Hobbit is an example of "Oh shit, lemme retcon some details from my previous story cuz I got this great idea for a new story!"

John Dies at the End [David Wong]
So after I let people read the initial version of That One Night, someone sent me a link to read a story written by an writer at Cracked.com. Like mine, it had a supernatural situation where fucked up shit was happening. Also though, it read like an escaped mental patient was given a book deal. Still though, I made it a point to read it to the end and even to buy the damn thing when it came out in book form, then read it again. There's some shit that was changed for...reasons, though that I now get to be a hipster about and say "They sang "Sweet Child of Mine" instead of "Camel Holocaust" when I read it, loser." John lives by the way.
...Never saw the movie though...

Resident Evil: City of the Dead [S.D. Perry]
In terms of writing style, Perry is defiantly an influence for me. Writing first person perspectives for a character all alone would be a crazy daunting task if not for how Perry sets it up. Now all I wanna do most times is write a single character who is reflecting on their thoughts as they endure a hellish situation.
Also it's a book about one of my favorite games ever, Resident Evil 2.

American Gods [Neil Gaiman]
Pitched to me by a friend because of a scene featuring a man-eating vagina (seriously). Turns out the rest of the book was pretty good too. I've got one or two projects that I've shelved because I failed to pull off a setup that Gaiman pulled off in this book. Every time I pick this up I feel inspired to try again.

The Catcher in the Rye [J.D. Salinger]
For years, literature that was considered "classic" to me always translated to "boring shit with boring people written by boring writers that schools make you read for boring reasons." Then I read this and changed my opinion a little. Most of the stuff schools make you read is still boring, but sometimes a story where the protagonist haggles with a prostitute slips by.

The Bishop Grimes Incident [me]
Yes...I am cocky enough to make a book written by me as one of my most influential books ever. I'll even do it again for the final entry on this list.
BGI was my first ever stab at writing a long form story. It was birthed by boredom, written while I should have been taking notes during classes in high school, read like it was out of a Resident Evil game, and encouraged by the handfuls of people who wanted to be in it.
Being an unoriginal hack at the time, I used real life classmates as characters, and myself as the main character. When word spread that I was doing this (which I still have no idea how that happened cuz I sure as hell wasn't talking) I was worried about how people might react. The reaction was nuts; people not only wanted in this story, but they all wanted better deaths in it than everyone else. I ended up rewriting the story a year later with better writing skills and a better plot in mind. Reading the original and the remake always makes me cringe cuz back then my skills as a writer were terrible and my thought was "People actually enjoyed this?"
Every so often I'll look the story up and read through it, just to remind myself of how far I've come as a writer. Because of this story, I am what I am today, and what I'll be in the future.
But seriously though, what the hell was I thinking?

That One Night [me]
Yes, the ego stroking continues.
Original cast, coherent plot, supernatural mystery that is ambiguous and ultimately (kinda) explained, zombies.....if BGI was my foray into writing, than T1N was my thesis on everything I can do. Proof that I could write something big that total strangers (not just friends) would find enjoyable. It's a self contained story, but for me it also introduced a universe of new concepts and characters to play with in writing.
BGI proved I could write. T1N proved I could go big.

Honorable mentions: Journal of the Dead [Jason Kersten], The Natural [Bernard Malamud], The Alphabet of Manliness [Maddox], The Zen of Zim [Don Zimmer / Bill Madden], I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell [Tucker Max]

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