The Benefits of Daily Reading

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

– Stephen King

Hey, King said it best.

Recently, I was asked by Carmen Jacob of UpJourney for my opinions on the benefits of daily reading, as someone who reads quite a bit. It’s a cool article, with thoughts from 26 daily readers from various walks of life, including authors, speakers, lawyers, and entrepreneurs. My answer is the third one down, but yes—the whole piece is worth adding to today’s daily read. Check it out:

The Benefits of Reading (According to 26 People Who Read Every Day)

Horror Selfies

In celebration of October–everyone’s favorite monthlong horror celebration–the Horror Writer’s Association has called upon all authors, readers, actors, directors and other creators of dark fiction to promote the importance of reading by contributing to their Horror Selfies campaign.  Contributors have included such big names as Stephen King, Peter Straub and Jonathan Maberry.  To quote the official site:

In 2014, the Horror Writers Association (HWA) created the Horror Selfies campaign in an effort to highlight the exceptional work, both literary and cinematic, produced by the horror genre. Inspired by the popular “Say it with a Sign” meme—used by everyone from Ellen DeGeneres and Jon Bon Jovi, to David Beckham and Princes William and Harry—the HWA is utilizing the vast reach of social media to provide a platform through which people can tell the world why they love horror.

The HWA put out the call to authors and readers, actors and directors, fans and followers, to submit a selfie in which they hold a sign encouraging others to read horror/dark fantasy, to watch horror movies, or to write horror. Additionally, the HWA is also encouraging people to promote literacy/reading among children and young adults, or supporting a local library in their Horror Selfies.

I’ll admit, I’m not usually one to take “selfies.” However, I do believe very strongly in the importance of reading, so I decided that I might as well send a photo in.   So, here I am–with my coffee, Hawaiian shirt and the requisite sign.

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Nicholas Conley (with his all-important cup of coffee)

My official Horror Selfie page can be found here, and for anyone interested, selfies can still be submitted to the site until November 1st.  Cheers!

KIN, by Kealan Patrick Burke: The Story After the Story

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With some degree of variation, almost every slasher movie ends with the same scene.  It’s a scene that we’re all too familiar with.  A climactic moment that has been permanently etched upon our collective subconscious.  It’s a a common trope, a sequence that has become so familiar that even those who’ve never watched a horror movie know this scene by heart:

Once the carnage is done and all of her friends have been killed, the lone survivor – always a girl, usually a virgin, usually covered in blood and either sobbing or desensitized – stumbles away from the defeated killers, and she finally escapes from the horrific place she’s been trapped in.

That’s how all slasher stories end. It’s how they always end.  The basic formula has varied little since Tobe Hooper’s classic ending to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and one of the more recent movies in that franchise – the 2006 prequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning – pulled out a surprise ending by deliberately subverting the audience’s familiarity with this famous sequence.  Still, for the most part, slasher movies tend to follow a pretty steady formula.  Sure, sequels happen, but these sequels will usually repeat the same formula with little connection to the prior entry, and usually with a brand new cast of teenagers for the killer/s to slaughter.  Lather with blood, rinse, repeat.

There’s a lot to recommend about Kealan Patrick Burke’s excellent 2012 novel, Kin.  It’s terrifying, moving and uniquely put together, with masterfully-worded prose and a storyline that absorbs the reader’s full attention like a sponge.  But the immediate thing that sets Kin apart, from the very beginning of its opening paragraph, is its take on the famous bloody girl running away sequence.

Unlike most slasher films, which end on this sequence, Kin makes the intriguing choice of setting that sequence at the very beginning. 

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Burke’s novel opens up with Claire Lambert, the only survivor of her friends, who after being tortured by the Merrills – a psychopath family with cannibalistic tendencies, ala Texas Chainsaw‘s Sawyers – escapes from their clutches half-dead, naked and bloody. She stumbles into the road, where she is picked up by a boy and his father – a father all too aware of the potentially dangerous consequences of his actions, but unable not to help. Now, tensions are ramped up. The Merrills know they have to get out of town fast, but first they have to quickly kill anyone who could testify against them.

As all of this goes on, Kin also introduces two parallel storylines that eventually tie into the main narrative. In one, a waitress with a dark past is brought back to her old life by an unexpected visitor. At the same time, a soldier—fresh out of Iraq and plagued by PTSD—finds out this brother was one of the victims of the massacre that Claire escaped from, and he readies himself to engage in a vengeful war against the Merrill family.

Kealan Patrick Burke, author of Kin.

Kealan Patrick Burke, author of Kin.

Kin begins where other stories end—after the slaughter, after the war, after the pain has already been inflicted—and it tackles the questions that any such violent incident would undoubtedly raise.

Seriously, what happens after the girl gets away from the psychopaths? What happens to the homicidal, cannibalistic family that accidentally let her escape, now that she’s surely going to tell the cops? What happens to the girl, who would have to be pretty damn traumatized by this point? What happens to her family, who now has to take care of her? And what happens to the innocent people who picked her up and saved her? If the family wants to get rid of all the evidence, are the father and son also at risk?

By asking these questions and placing this post-slasher scenario inside what is essentially a Southern Gothic novel, Kin brings new depth to a tired genre. It shakes up the format, explores characters that could’ve been stereotypes, and brings a full scope of emotions to the proceedings; yes, this novel is scary and yes, it’s violent, but it’s also a novel that isn’t afraid to create characters that the reader deeply cares about. It’s a book that can both grab your heartstrings and then rip them out in the next moment.

At its core, Burke’s Kin is a novel about the pain, stress, anxiety and devastating grief that follows a traumatic event. It shows what happens after the scars are inflicted, and how the pain of trauma has a residual effect that trickles down through one’s life and impacts one’s loved ones. Every violent action has consequences, and Kin pulls back the curtain on the aftermath.

Top 10 Blog Posts

So, in celebration of this blog finally reaching 50 (50!) posts, I figure that now is a good opportunity to look back on the posts that have, over time, proved to be my favorites.  Since Writings, Readings and Coffee Addictions began, I’ve blogged about a pretty big variety of topics, so narrowing it down was difficult…but it’s always fun to look back and reminisce.

So, starting from #10 (and with pictures!) here are my top 10:

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10. MBTI Typology – a recent post, but a lot of fun.  What I really enjoyed about this post was less the post itself, and more so the comments, interactions and replies from you guys.  Learning about other people’s types generally makes for a good time.

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9. Why David Lynch’s “Dumbland” is Smarter than it Looks – David Lynch is one of the most interesting, bizarre filmmakers around, and so writing about his work is always a unique experience, to say the least.

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8. Transhumanism in Deathlok: The Demolisher – Since this review was posted, Deathlok has jumped into the spotlight, thanks to his role on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series.  Still, I think that Marvel’s original cyborg is one of the most underrated characters in comicdom, and the 2010 limited series, Deathlok: The Demolisher is one of the best takes on the character yet.

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7. The True “Hero” of Breaking Bad – When the Breaking Bad finale came out, it was pretty much the only thing anyone could talk about – and with good reason.  This was my take on the series’ climax.

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6. Page 133 – One of my first posts, and still one of my favorites.  A short look at the writing process, writer’s block and how to push through it.

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5. Spider-Man 2: Because We Found the Rubber Band – Though the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man 2 looks excellent, I don’t think there will ever be another Spidey film with the depth, quirkiness and heart of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, still one of the most unique comic book films ever made.    

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4. Chapter One, Page One – And here it is…my first post!  I remember struggling to figure out how to start, and once I was hit by the idea of just writing about the two voices debating back and forth in my head, well…all the pieces fell into place quickly afterward.

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3. Confronting the Self-Cannibalistic Creative Monster – As creative individuals, we all know this voice and have dealt with it in our own ways.  I just gave mine a name.

Art by Bernie Wrightson.

Art by Bernie Wrightson.

2. The Writer’s Role in Society – Easily one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written, this is an in-depth look at what motivates the writer to create, where the writer’s crazy, crazy passion comes from, what drives us and finally, what our role in the world really is.

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1. Why I wrote The Cage Legacy – Definitely the most personal post I’ve ever written on this blog, “Why I wrote The Cage Legacy” is the story of how The Cage Legacy was created, where the idea came from and the struggles I went through in its years of development.  Out of every blog post I’ve ever written, this one was by far the hardest to write – and also the most worth it.

And so, there we are – the top 10.  As usual, if you guys have any thoughts/opinions/replies/concerns about my mental well-being/et cetera, always feel free to comment!

The Flores Factor interviews Nicholas Conley

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I recently was interviewed by Richard Flores IV for an author feature on his website, The Flores Factor.  We discussed a variety of subjects – including writing, The Cage Legacy, embarrassing author mistakes, and even a little bit about Iceland.  To read the full interview, click on the following link!

Author interview: NICHOLAS CONLEY

Enjoy the read, guys!

EDIT:  On a side note, WordPress has just informed me that this blog entry is officially the 50th post on Writings, Readings and Coffee Addictions.  A big thanks goes out to all of you reading this, following, liking, commenting and so on.   Here’s to the many more posts yet to come!

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Mark Rothko’s Black on Maroon, over at the Tate Modern in London.

Hey, what’ve I been up to?

So, other than currently levitating somewhere between Mars and Earth while my astral projection explores Pluto, where have I been?  What have I been up to?  Quite a bit, actually.  I’ve spent a lot of time down in the Earth’s core, recently; in addition, I recently was bitten by a radioactive spider, struck by gamma rays and spent a weekend at some weird place called Crystal Lake, where hockey masks are apparently not too popular.

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The writing life is always a busy one.  As a writer, so much of one’s life is spent engaged in the most introspective activity imaginable – sitting alone in a room, reconstructing one’s most private thoughts – and somehow, while all of one’s writing projects are going on, the writer must also find time to experience life to the fullest – because that’s where writing inspiration comes from, of course! – and so one must regularly go out into the world, have new experiences, meet people, understand the fabric of society, the backbone of society, the guts of society, and all that other good stuff.  In addition, the writer must also go out and promote their work, although doing so is a challenge, since it requires a skill in extroversion that might initially be foreign to the introverted writer.  After a few runs, though, you slowly get the hang of it.  It’s actually pretty fun, and interacting with your readers is really one of the more amazing  experiences a writer can have.

So now, my friends, let me give you guys the update of what exactly I’m working on.

Since The Cage Legacy was finished, I’ve been privately slaving away here at the keyboard, actively developing multiple new novels.  I’m crazily enthusiastic to share these stories with you guys – when the right time comes.  I’m the sort of person who gets my work done way ahead of schedule.  I like getting a lot of work completed and packaged before I fully reveal my hand…so when it comes to writing, one might say I’m a bit of a workaholic.  This work ethic can get exhausting at times, but I do absolutely love writing, so it’s a very satisfying form of exhaustion.  Much better than other forms of exhaustion, anyway.

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So, without spilling too much, these are currently the three main projects that I’m actively developing:

Novel #2: Working on getting this one published. It’s insanely tempting to tell you guys all about this one – it’s an extremely exciting project, for me – but I’ll hold back, for now.

Novel #3: I’m currently editing this one, right now.  I can’t wait to share this one, as well.  It’s a pretty offbeat story, for sure.

Novel #4: First draft complete!  Looking forward to editing this one, sometime soon.

Since The Cage Legacy was released, I’ve often been asked – whether by emails from my readers, real life acquaintances and/or online contacts –  what I’m working on now, or if I have any other books coming out.  Ideally, this blog will explain things in a way that both answers the question, and more importantly, simplifies my often confusing and complicated answers.  From this point forward, I’ll try to use the above three “working titles” whenever I refer to one of my upcoming novels-in-progress.

Cheers!

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