Preparing for National Novel Writing Month

Is it that time of year again? It all seems to have gone by so fast. One year ago, I was speaking with my friends at school about writing, and they kept talking about something called National Novel Writing Month. I had learned from them that this event took place every November, and that it was a great way to write, because 50,000 words were needed to be considered a winner.

I thought that it was a great idea, but who would ever have the time for that? So, I put the thoughts of NaNoWriMo onto the back burner and continued about my business, focusing on JagWire, Halloween, and getting through the second month of my junior year. Before I knew it, it was November, and I had made up my mind.

On November 3rd, 2013, I decided to try NaNoWriMo. Now, joining at that stage is a bit challenging. For starters, I had to create an account and set up my novel on the THIRD day of writing. This immediately put me 5000 words behind.

To sum up that entire month, here is my total word count by day last year:

  • 1: 0
  • 2: 0
  • 3: 1453
  • 4: 2426
  • 5: 4245
  • 6: 5203
  • 7: 5343
  • 8: 7407
  • 9: 10531
  • 10: 14031
  • 11: 18076
  • 12: 19233
  • 13: 19828
  • 14: 21387
  • 15: 21708
  • 16: 23050
  • 17: 27150
  • 18: 27363
  • 19: 28435
  • 20: 28435
  • 21: 28435
  • 22: 30876
  • 23: 34014
  • 24: 38030
  • 25: 38030
  • 26: 41031
  • 27: 43103
  • 28: 46107
  • 29: 50016
  • 30: 50016

Now, I am busy preparing myself for my second NaNo adventure, and this time I will be ready to start on time. November 1st is on a Saturday, meaning that I can start off strong before having to balance my time with school and the newspaper.

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I have my charts ready, my plans thought out, and my novel already created on the NaNo site. Now all there is, is the big wait.

Are any of you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? How are you preparing?

Busy In the Newsroom

I have been really busy with the newspaper lately, which shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s our first real issue of the year, and it’s going to be a good one.

By good I don’t mean it’s like all of the other ones. I mean it will be really good. First of all, this issue, which will be released November 7, is going to be the first Special Edition we have had in many years. Second, our main theme is a topic that is rarely touched upon by high school journalists.

It is proving difficult to create, having the smallest staff in the publication’s 15-year history, with only 14 members, but it will have to do. Everyone is super stressed out, but I know it will be worth it. I’ll update you on this production cycle as things get moving along.

This is Different (reflection)

I recently printed out the first 28 pages of my 165-paged (so far) novel to begin editing what I have. I decided to do this because I am writing the second half of the novel for National Novel Writing Month 2014. (If you don’t know what this is, please check out the website here: nanowrimo.org) I think that if I edit the hell out of my first half, my inner editor won’t mind my sloppy NaNo draft because it was able to get a good workout and it will need a nice month-long break.

So, I printed it out at school on the newspaper room printers because its really the only printer at school I know how to use efficiently. But I should have known that printing it off at school would get me into a new situation. People would naturally want to read it.

Now, for the past few years I have kept my writing largely to myself. Sure, I publish stuff here on my blog and in the school newspaper, but I usually write those short stories or articles for that purpose. My novels are like children who need protecting at every given moment.

But, I decided to let my friends read my first two chapters. What does it hurt after all? Who knows, maybe they will even suggest some things or find my dreadful mistakes and NaNoisms.

I Am Alone (flash fiction)

Why I wrote this: A few weeks ago my Senior English teacher passed out a sheet of paper with six photographs on it. Each one had a hand doing a different action. We were to write about one of the photographs for about seven minutes, describing what might be going on. I wrote mine about the picture of a hand reaching out to a barbed wire fence, with nothing in the surrounding. 


Sometimes when I fall asleep, I can relive my life. The life before. Everything feels so real: the conversations, the faces of my family smiling at me, and the gentle touch of my wife and son. When I wake up, the happiness never existed.

I am alone. I am hopeless.

I get up from my stained bed sheets each and every morning and head out into the yard, where my eyes are blinded. It is just as well perhaps. All there is, is barren wasteland.

And that fence.

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The wall of chains and sharp barbed wire, of cliffs and deep moats. I touch the rust each and every day, hoping that it is the day I will be saved. Each disappoints.

Forgotten, alone, and regretful. The day the bombs came down from the sky like meteors was the day I lost my life.

An excerpt from an old project: Sometimes Saints

About: I started writing a novel called Sometimes Saints in April. The novel was going to focus on a man whose family was notorious for being the founders of an outlaw motorcycle club in the northwestern port city of Tacoma, Washington, pictured below. I worked on it for eight days before abandoning the project.

While cleaning up the files on my computer, I decided to post a little bit of it for you all to read, enjoy, critique, etc.

Tacoma, Washington: the location of my April attempt at a new novel, had I not abandoned it.
Tacoma, Washington: the location of my April attempt at a new novel, had I not abandoned it.

Harmond-Ellysen Automotive and Detailing was a large lot pushed behind a few run-down storefronts. Faith pulled through the chain-link gate and into the paved parking lot. A large garage faced toward the front of the lot and a large two-floor building stood adjacent to it. A few small portable buildings were scattered here and there with much of the light blue paint chipping off and fading. A large neon sign was visible on the roof, advertising the name of the business and its offers. A few dozen cars were parked in the lot, not including the many motorcycles that lined a small grove of trees near the back of the lot.

Faith parked right in front of the management office and turned the engine off. She exited the air-conditioned car and entered into the warm outside air. She couldn’t remember the last time it had been that warm, although she could guess that it would have been last fall. She passed beneath the shade of the small deciduous trees that were placed around the parking lot- something Faith had personally planted for the shop. A few puffy white clouds skimmed the blue sky above, the sun reflecting off of the various cars and metal pieces lying around. She waved to the mechanics around her and headed for the door to the office.

The office was a small room cluttered with papers and garbage. A large white desk was plastered with forms and files of customers and sales records. A cork board with keys and photographs was nailed to the wall beside the desk and filing cabinets were wide open, their contents overflowing. She caught sight of Kenneth Delroy, her assistant, standing in the corner smoking a cigarette.

“I see that you have been busy,” she scolded him. “I take a few days off and the office turns into a hellhole. What did you do, bring your pet tornado to work?”

Kenneth’s face turned red. “I’m sorry Mrs. Harmond. It won’t happen again.”

“No,” she agreed. “It won’t. I am reassigning you to another position starting tomorrow. Good-day, M-i-s-t-e-r Delroy.”

She shooed him out with the wave of her hand and shut the door. It was no wonder the shop had been losing business for the past few years. The ones who ran the place were incompetent buffoons in Faith’s eyes. The place needed an overhaul, and perhaps Ryder could help with that.

She began to scoop up the loose papers and file them into the correct places, revealing a few lost sets of keys and payment plans from unsatisfied customers. An office plant was inside a filing cabinet and garbage was scattered on the floor.

“This place is shit,” Faith muttered, grabbing a broom and sweeping the garbage into a nice pile.

“Glad you see it that way,” Marshall replied, stepping into the office from the backdoor. He had a greasy rag in his hand, which he then proceeded to use upon his sweaty forehead. The grease smeared up his face like war paint.

“Oh dear, you just got grease all over your face,” Faith pointed out, grabbing a paper towel from the desk and wiping it off.

“Thank you baby,” he said, smiling from ear to ear. “What would I do without you?”

Faith put the paper towel in the trash can and smirked. “You would probably be in the Washington State Penitentiary.”

“Yes, those good old execution chambers and Walla Walla Onions.”

She kissed him gently on the check and then moved back to the desk. She started picking up papers again, the office already much cleaner than it had been earlier.

“I’ll be in a meeting with the Saints,” Marshall said as left the room, closing the door behind him.

Sometimes Saints. The motorcycle club was the one thing that held the family together. And the one thing that keeps it apart

The Curse of Springcreek, Washington (Part One)

It was one of those nights that scared the hell out of Gage Turner. He walked alone down the leaf-coated pathway under the dim light of the lamps. Fog rolled out of the valley below the hill, seeping between the trees and tombstones like a snake with a thousand heads. The moon was rising above the fog on the horizon, appearing orange and menacing. It was picturesque in a way, how the moon revealed the jagged peaks of the mountains in the distance, but not for Gage. Oh no, not for him.

He loved his job, in a strange way that only he could understand, but not during autumn. When the bright and warm summer starts its transformation into the cold, lifeless winter, he dreads coming to work each and every day. He supposed it had to do with all of those blockbuster horror movies, the ones about the rise of the undead. He never understood the enjoyment in watching people rise from the grave, or watching children’s’ heads spin around and around like a demented beast. He hated Halloween, and everything associated with it.

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Gage Turner was just a simple groundskeeper for the local cemetery. He didn’t deal with the bodies, he wouldn’t be able to look the dead in the face, he dealt with the beautification and upkeep. Mowing the lawns, washing the headstones, trimming the bushes, sweeping the pathways, and getting rid of the opossums: it was the same every single lonely day and night. He preferred it that way, being alone. He just couldn’t stand people.

He asked himself why he didn’t find a new grounds keeping job long ago, but couldn’t give himself an answer as he walked under the moonlight. The storage shed was in view now, right along the cliff edge. All he had to do was make sure it was locked up tight, and then he could go home. He fumbled with the padlock, pulling on it to make sure that it was secure. It was.

He wheeled around and began to walk back down the pathway towards the front of the cemetery, where his truck would be parked. The fog was growing thicker and thicker, blocking out much of the light. As he came upon the first few rows of headstones, he found that he could only see five stones down in either direction. All he could think about was getting home. The headlights in his truck had gone out, and he would need them to navigate this fog.

He reached his old 1986 Chevy Silverado in no time, pulling the door open and inserting the key into the ignition. The truck roared to life, the smell of dirty exhaust filling his nostrils. He would have to get the smog filter fixed soon, along with the headlights. He drove down the driveway, winding down the hill towards the main road. The fog wasn’t as dense on this side of the hill, giving him more visibility. He was nearly to the iron gate when something large scattered across the road. He slammed on his brakes.

“Shit!” He exclaimed, putting the car in park. He swore that it had been a person running across the road on all fours.

It was typical of that time of year really. The cemetery was closed every Halloween to stop those filthy teenagers and college students from stealing bodies or headstones. To see a person on the grounds at night in October was not a rare occurrence. Gage grabbed his shotgun and exited the truck, walking slowly in front of it.

“I know you’re out here,” he said. “The cemetery is closed for the evening. Come out and I will forget this ever happened. Stay hidden and I will call the police.”

No one replied, so Gage continued walking. He looked around to see where the kid could be hiding, gazing down the columns of headstones and trees. There, in the row directly to the right of him, was a massive hole. Dirt and grass was piled up beside it, a shovel staked directly into the center of it. He quickly retrieved a flashlight from the passenger side of his blue Chevy, and peered down into the hole.

A coffin lay mangled and broken.

“Goddamn grave robbers,” he spat. He pulled out his cell phone to dial the local police station, but found that the device would not power on. “Just my luck.”

Turning back to his truck, he turned off the flashlight and decided it would be best to wait until morning to figure the situation out. He turned the key, and heard the familiar sound that a car makes when it refuses to start. “You got to be fucking kidding me!”

The fog was growing dense now, shrouding away all visibility of the cemetery around him. He popped the hood and went to investigate, but he felt the strangest chill in the air, telling him to stay put. Goosebumps appeared all over his arms, and he noticed it was suddenly so cold he could see his breath. He looked back out the windshield, and saw a figure cloaked in black standing in the road. It glided closer to him in a fluid movement, so gracefully and soothing that it was terrifying.

Then it was suddenly at his driver’s side window, which was wide open. Gage couldn’t see the figure’s face in the dark, but he knew that it was the person who had stolen the body from the grave.

“W-what do you want?” He asked, grabbing his shotgun.

The figure reached a hand through the window, twisting its pale and wrinkled fingers at him. It seemed to enjoy the terrified response from Gage, as he backed away.

“Don’t get any closer!”

That was the last thing Gage would say, as the figure’s fingers suddenly became that of knives, driving into his throat, and reaching deep down inside his frightened body. As his vision went black and he choked on his own blood, he saw that it was the face of a twisted, black-haired woman, smiling with her yellow teeth. “Sweet dreams, my dear groundskeeper,” she hissed, digging in to her supper.

Is rock on its way back?

The best rock and metal songs of 2014 so far may prove this to be true, at least in a musical sense.

If you are anything like me, you still listen to vinyl records from the 1970s and 1980s, and have a huge selection of music from those eras on your iTunes library. Rock music dominated the industry during those decades, creating the greatest music scene the world has ever seen, and may ever seen again.

As a teenager, or young adult as I would prefer to be called, I hate that I am growing up in a time where music has hit a stalemate. Pop music is too commercialized and produced, rap music has become overdone and less structured musically than it was in the ’90s, country music has been getting worse as time goes on, and rock has been drifting in a land of every-song-sounds-the-same alternative rock and death metal.

What happened to the good music of the old days? The answer is that its still out there, but not mainstream like before. Many of today’s greatest new musical artists are underground bands who are struggling to get their name out there, despite having the same level of talent as those great musicians of the past.

So, I have compiled a list of the best songs of 2014 so far to showcase that rock may be on its way back to the top, at least musically if not commercially.

The Motherfucker – Buckcherry

“The Motherfucker” is Buckcherry’s best sounding song in years. Their 2012 single “Gluttony” was equally great, the two songs being a powerful duo that bests anything since the album 15 in 2005. “The Motherfucker” is on their newest album, Fuck E.P., which celebrates the band creating their own record label, F-Bomb Records. If this song shows what is to come from the band, Buckcherry may revive their success from the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Sweet Tea – California Breed

“Sweet Tea” by California Breed is a powerful song that mixes the best of the Grunge scene of the ’90s, with the atmosphere of the ’70s. Glenn Hughes, who was in Deep Purple, and Jason Bonham, the son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, really bring out a side of rock that hasn’t been heard of in a few years.

Chemical Rain – California Breed

“Chemical Rain” is just a fun song that showcases the vocal abilities of 60-something year old Glenn Hughes and the abilities of the rest of the band. It is a shame that California Breed never did chart or get airplay.

Hey, Mama – Fuel

Fuel’s first album since 2007 and the first with original vocalist Brett Scallions since 2003 brought back the  sound Fuel was known for in the early 2000s. They were considered a one-hit wonder, but their abilities to make good music have continued over the years.

“Hey Mama” sounds like it could have been recorded by the Black Crowes, with that bluesy rock sound, but with a tinge of Fuel.

Time for Me to Stop – Fuel

This song sounds like it could have been on Fuel’s multi-platinum selling album, Something Like Human, in 2000. Fuels fans everywhere, those who know that this album was released anyway, will rejoice the return of the band.

Peacemaker – Iced Earth

Iced Earth has been around for nearly three decades, going through multiple vocalists over the years. This song brings back a bit of a thrash metal and heavy metal sound that hasn’t really been heard since the mid-’90s.

Halls of Valhalla – Judas Priest

Metal gods Judas Priest are back with their new album, Redeemer of Souls, and a massive headlining arena tour with special guests Steel Panther. They are even coming to the Tacoma Dome near where I live, which I have tickets for. Rock bands never come to the Dome anymore because they can’t sell it out, but apparently Priest still can. (Aerosmith played there in 2012, AC/DC does each time they tour, and Bon Jovi still plays there sometimes.)

“Halls of Valhalla” sounds like ’70s Judas Priest, before they were famous or commercially successful.

Sword of Damocles – Judas Priest

This song sounds amazing. It’s Judas Priest as we haven’t heard them in over three decades.

Crossfire – Judas Priest

This song is fun and showcases the ’70s Priest sound much like the rest of the album.

Beginning of the End – Judas Priest

Judas Priest doesn’t do very many ballads, but when they do, they rock the hell out of them. This might be the best rock ballad in many years. It’s slow, haunting, and magnificently written.

Gotta Get it Right – Sixx A.M.

Sixx A.M. is back with their third album, Modern Vintage. If you want to see my full review of the album that I wrote for my school newspaper (which was chosen for the Best of SNO I might add), go here: http://erhsjagwire.com/1121/showcase/sixx-a-m-s-third-album-brings-back-rock-n-roll/

“Gotta Get it Right” was a top 40 rock hit, but it is seldom played in my area. The song is fun and attempts to bridge pop and rock music together, with a tinge of the 1970s.

Let’s Go – Sixx A.M.

“Let’s Go” is the best song from Modern Vintage. It’s the most Sixx A.M. sounding song on the album.

Give Me a Love – Sixx A.M.

This song is a hard-rocking song that challenges all of the modern rock bands to change their ways.

Hyperventilate – Sixx A.M.

This song is very pop-oriented, but very unique and unusual.

Pussywhipped – Steel Panther

Steel Panther is known for their ’80s glam metal looks and sound, over-the-top stage presence, and inappropriate and vulgar lyrics. The band’s third album, All You Can Eat, is not as good as their previous one, but still perhaps the best album to be released this year. The band is touring in support of Judas Priest this year.

Party Like Tomorrow is the End of the World – Steel Panther

Steel Panther’s first single from their third album was “Party Like Tomorrow is the End of the World,” not that any radio station would dare play it. They would have to censor much of the song, as with all Steel Panther songs. The song is fun however, besting even the best of the hair bands of the late ’80s. The video below is the “clean” version, because you would have to sign in to YouTube to view the actual version.

Gloryhole – Steel Panther

This song screams ’80s glam metal through and through.

Cross My Heart – Tesla

This is probably the best song ’80s hair band Tesla has released since the 1990s. The music sounds much like their ’90s work, although the vocals are a bit weaker.

Life is a River – Tesla

A great ballad by Tesla, which should have received some recognition.

Play Ball – AC/DC

AC/DC’s long awaited new album, Rock or Bust, will be released December 2nd of this year. It is already charting on the iTunes rock albums chart with massive amounts of pre-orders.

The legendary rock band released the first single from the album, “Play Ball,” this week, which will rock your socks off. It is perhaps the best Brian Johnson has sounded since 1995’s Ballbreaker album. The song is short, but it doesn’t need to be any longer. With over 1,000,000 views on YouTube already, AC/DC’s new album will prove to be a commercial success worldwide was always. Their last album, Black Ice, in 2008 went #1 in over 20 countries, and it may happen again.

Hanging with celebrities: my best weekend ever

We returned about an hour later and got pictures taken with Peter Criss. During this time, he asked us questions about ourselves. He called my younger brother Mr. Smiles and asked if we were in a band. We said no, and told him that we were brothers. He didn’t believe it, then said that we have “the look.” And by the look, he meant the look of the next great rock n roll band. He spoke with us for so long that his manager had to break up the conversation and get the line moving.

What happens when you hang out with famous people all day, and your high school gets on the local news? Well, it just so happens that a ton of cool things occur. Allow me to start with Friday.

Friday- Investigative journalism and King of the Hill

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. so that I could be at the school by 5:45 to start taking photographs for the school newspaper’s website of our special King 5 News pep rally. My school would be featured on the morning news live as we kicked off the start of Homecoming weekend. After taking 400 photos with the old Nikon D90, I got to have some down time before school started.

So, I spoke with King 5’s sports reporter, Chris Egan, who was there and dressed up as our school mascot for a few moments and got his picture. Then, I took a selfie (or whatever you call it when two people are in it) with King 5 reporter Natasha Ryan. Being a journalist, this made me super stoked for the rest of the day.

“Then I took a selfie with King 5 reporter Natasha Ryan. Being a journalist, this made me super stoked for the rest of the day.”

So, after 2nd period and our big Homecoming assembly, some kids from our cross-town rivals who we were facing in that night’s notorious King of the Hill game decided to write in car paint on a bunch of cars in the parking lot. They were caught, but not before they tagged 30 or so cars. Three of my fellow journalists and I went out to get pictures of the tagged cars and to do some investigative journalism, although there wasn’t much information available at that time.

Later Friday night, I went to the King of the Hill/Homecoming game with my best friend. We cheered and joined in the festivities, and watched the magnificent game unfold. We ended up winning our first King of the Hill game in many years with a score of 42-14, ending our cross-town rival’s reign of seven or so years.

Saturday: Hanging out with celebrities

Saturday was the Mad Monster: Shadow over Seattle convention in Bellevue, Washington: an upscale midsize city right across Lake Washington from Seattle, which is known for being being snooty and too-good for everyone else. It was an odd choice for a convention of rock stars and horror scene icons and their fans, who don’t quite dress up-to-par according to Bellevue standards.

I went to the convention with my brothers and my sister-in-law. We knew that we would have an opportunity to meet Peter Criss, the original drummer of the rock band KISS, and Wednesday 13 from the Murderdolls and his solo career, but none of us knew exactly how great the day would unfold to be.

Upon arriving in Bellevue we parked in the parking garage at the Bellevue Square Mall because it was the only free parking in the area. We walked about three blocks to the hotel that the convention was being held at, which was a huge multi-building structure. It turned out that the convention wasn’t a huge hit compared to the other cities Mad Monster had visited.

We met Peter Criss first, paying the $50 each to get him to sign something, since we all brought a record with us. I had him sign an original copy of KISS’s 1976 album, Rock and Roll Over, which was completely worth it. We spoke with Criss for a few minutes. He told us that he had first eaten mac and cheese with lobster on his first visit to Seattle, and that we didn’t want to have been alive during the ’70s. He also talked about this battle with breast cancer, stressing that men can get it worse than women. We left Criss and headed to the main room to meet Wednesday 13.

An original 1976 copy of KISS's "Rock and Roll over" that I had Peter Criss sign Oct. 4.
An original 1976 copy of KISS’s “Rock and Roll over” that I had Peter Criss sign Oct. 4.

No one was at his booth, so we were able to walk right up and say “hi.” 30 minutes later, we had talked about his upcoming album, his last Seattle show (where only 20 people showed up), his previous tours opening for Alice Cooper, meeting a drunk Ace Frehley, his cat Scream, looking at his iPhone, taking pictures, and buying merchandise from him. It also turned out that he didn’t have enough change for my brother’s signed poster he had bought, so Wednesday 13 owed us $10 for about three hours. Having a celebrity owe us money was pretty cool.

A small poster I bought from Wednesday 13. He ended up giving it to me for free because he couldn't break a $20.
A small poster I bought from Wednesday 13. He ended up giving it to me for free because he couldn’t break a $20.

We left the convention to take a break and get some food, so we sat in the hotel lobby for a few minutes. Peter Criss’s wife walked in, and remember us, spoke with us for a few minutes. She pinched my older brother on the cheek because he called her “dude” and teased us for a bit.

We returned about an hour later and got pictures taken with Peter Criss. During this time, he asked us questions about ourselves. He called my younger brother Mr. Smiles and asked if we were in a band. We said no, and told him that we were brothers. He didn’t believe it, then said that we have “the look.” And by the look, he meant the look of the next great rock n roll band. He spoke with us for so long that his manager had to break up the conversation and get the line moving.

Afterwards, we attended a monster Q&A panel with Wednesday 13, Doyle from the Misfits, and Ogre from Skinny Puppy. We waited in the lobby afterwards, when WWF star Roddy Piper walked in. An older Asian woman was standing next to him and when she looked up at all of us she exclaimed “Oh look, hippies!” It was hilarious, and we all started laughing, including Piper.

Wednesday 13 and I in Bellevue Oct. 4 during the Mad Monster convention.
Wednesday 13 and I in Bellevue Oct. 4 during the Mad Monster convention.

We did end up getting the $10 back from Wednesday 13 before leaving the hotel for the last time. He insisted that he had been looking for us, although I don’t really buy it. So, we headed back towards Bellevue Square Mall for dinner at P.F. Chang’s, where we got a ton of dirty looks. While eating, Roddy Piper showed up again and was seated at the table behind me. I did manage to get a picture with him in the background

Me eating at P.F. Chang's in Bellevue. That's WWF star Roddy Piper in the background at the table behind me.
Me eating at P.F. Chang’s in Bellevue. That’s WWF star Roddy Piper in the background at the table behind me.

It was a fun day, getting to meet all of these stars and spend large amounts of time with them. It was kind of unreal, almost like a dream. I missed my senior Homecoming for this event, but it was definitely worth it.