The Writing of Martin Brennan


Now: June 2019

I can’t believe it’s been three months since I last did one of these. Where does the time go? Where I last left you I had some work published and I sent in some more submissions and was rejected. But! I did have my first published work in the TL;DR press Kindred anthology! In the last few months I have been reading a lot and steadily working on The Thaw. In this post I’m going to do a couple of mini-essays on the books I’ve read because I’ve enjoyed them all quite a lot. Let’s do it!

Manuscripts

I finally got off the island in The Thaw! I’m at 28,600 words typed up with about 15-20 pages written in longhand, so probably at around 30,000 words now. I feel much better now that the story has moved along past the starting area, and I’ve had a chapter in a small town not far from the colony and one back on the island where it has now started snowing. I’ve started to think more about the character’s long game, and developing their arcs further toward the middle and the end of the story. I think at this point my protagonist needs a little more development, as the antagonist and some of the side characters are a little more fleshed out. I had a similar problem in Bottom Feeders, so I will do some exercises and research to figure this out!

Speaking of my other novel, I’ve done no editing work on it since last time. I find myself always lacking when it comes to finding motivation to edit my work. I know that motivation shouldn’t really come into it, that I need to just get it done. It is much more satisfying to just write new work! I will take a break from The Thaw soon to work on editing Bottom Feeders and try and make some real progress on it.

Submissions

I’ve made one submission since last time. I sent in a short story to this year’s literary taxidermy competition, https://literarytaxidermy.com, in which you must use the first and last line of a novel and create a short story from that. This year it was Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, and I used it to write a sci-fi short story. I had a lot of fun doing it, and I should hear about it in September this year. Last year I submitted I was not accepted, you can read my story UNREPENTANT here. The first and last words of Farenheit 451 are:

START: It was a pleasure to burn.
END: When we reach the city.

My epistolary horror submission was rejected. I will post it on here soon for all to see! I don’t really have anything else in my sights to submit to at the moment, though I will keep an eye out, and likely submit to the next TL;DR press call for submissions whatever that may be.

What I’m Reading

I’ve read a lot over the past few months. I had started The Grapes of Wrath the last time I wrote a post, and I since have finished it, along with 11/22/63, Holes, Good Omens, and about half of Christine. I couldn’t finish Christine, because as much as I love King, he dropped the ball on this one. I just found it boring and it took way too long to get to the point. I don’t often stop reading books but I had to with this one. The other books I read, however, were fantastic!

The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

While not quite as wonderful as East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath has beautiful writing from Steinbeck in spades. The book focuses on the Joad family in the great depression. Tom Joad comes back from prison to find that his family has been forced to sell their farm by the bank, and they intend to drive west to California to find work. Their poverty stricken journey across America is heartbreaking and desperate, and they reach California only to find that there is no work and their kind is despised as “Okies”.

Well, Okie use’ ta mean you was from Oklahoma. Now it means you’re a dirty son-of-a-bitch. Okie means you’re scum.

It wasn’t until the ending of the book that I realised the Joad family’s situation was a downward spiral into poverty that they could not escape, their family torn apart by the journey. Each time things would go well for a while for the family, after a time their situation would inevitably worsen and they would be forced to move on. The novel was bleak and depressing though not without its moments of hope, and the ending was surreal and beautiful in a strange way.

I enjoyed the character of the (ex-)Reverend Jim Casey and his speeches, and Ma who was the rock of the family after Pa lost the farm. Tom Joad was great as well, and his direct manner of speaking to other characters. The way his life turned out seemed a shame, as he seemed quite smart, and under a different time and circumstances he would have been better off.

The novel was full of beautiful but depressing prose, and sure did make me want biscuits and gravy!

11/22/63 - Stephen King

This is now tied with The Stand as my number one King book. I absolutely adore this book and it turned out to be so much more than I thought it would be. The core plot of the novel is that Jake Epping, an English teacher in Maine, is shown a portal back in time to 1958 by the proprietor of a local diner he frequents, named Al. He accepts a mission from Al to go back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination in 1963. Al had attempted the same thing himself, but was forced to come back to the present when he developed cancer. Jake grows to love the past more than the present, and grows to despise his target, Lee Harvey Oswald.

This book hooked me from the very beginning and would not let go. It is just over 700 pages, and I read the whole thing within a few days of starting it. I read over 150 pages a day, the fastest I have ever read any book. I just couldn’t put it down. There were times when I was having trouble sleeping when I read it, and Jake’s singular obsession with Oswald bled into my own dreams.

Then, just as you are being entertained by Jake’s time travel escapades in the 1950s, King turns the tables on you and presents the greatest love story he has ever written. Jake meets Sadie when he is teaching at a school in Texas on the outskirts of Dallas and his life changes forever, so much so that he decides to stay in the 50s with her and his beloved school students and teachers. Their love is full of dizzying highs and deep tragedy, as well as the dark secret that Jake must hide from her. I read a quote somewhere, that King successfully tricks nerds expecting the usual sci-fi story from him into loving a romance subplot. And I agree. He does it so perfectly and completely that I would consider Jake and Sadie ad the most realistic couple of fiction I have ever read.

Dancing is life

11/22/63 is King at his absolute peak, and it actually has a fantastic, bittersweet ending, which are not usually the author’s strong point. I will forever recommend this book to everyone with even a passing interest in fiction.

Holes - Louis Sachar

This was an absolutely out of left field hit for me. My partner recommended it to me, and as usual her recommendation turned out perfect. Holes is a coming of age story, where Stanley Yelnats, an unlucky teenage boy, is found guilty of a crime he did not commit and sent to Camp Green Lake, a youth detention centre in the middle of the desert in Texas. At the camp Stanley and the other boys are all forced to dig a 5 foot by 5 foot hole each and every day, ostensibly to build character. Over time it is revealed that they are really looking for something for the warden of Camp Green Lake.

This isn’t a Girl Scout Camp

This was a delightful book to read and quite short. It has several interlinking stories running from over a hundred years before the book up to the present day, dealing with Stanleys’ ancestor Elya, the people he knew in the old country and their descendants, and a schoolteacher turned outlaw called Kissin’ Kate Barlow and her interaction with the warden’s ancestors. I am an absolute sucker for multiple timeline / interwoven fate type stories so Holes was right up my alley. The novel was surprisingly deep for a children’s book and had some great allegories and quite heavy themes involved at times.

It’s really quite a small book and could be read in a day or so if you had the time, I would really reccomend anyone try it, as I was pleasantly surprised.

Good Omens - Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

I bought this book to have something to read on our trip to Japan, as I had always heard good things about it. It is the first book I’ve read from either Gaiman or Pratchett. I knew I was in for something quite British in nature, but even I was surprised by how silly and funny this book was.

The book begins with Crowley, a demon who was the snake in the garden of Eden, talking to Aziraphale, the angel on the east gate, about the original sin. Crowley and Aziraphale are representatives of Hell and Heaven on earth, respectively, and they live there for thousands of years. When it is time for the Antichrist, a young boy who grows up in a normal English family, to start the apocalypse, Crowly and Aziraphale decide that they quite like earth and it would be a shame to break the whole thing up. With the four horsemen of the apocalypse, witchfinders, witches, a healthy dose of prophecy, and plenty of sarcasm and dry English humour, Good Omens is a fun novel about the end of the world. It also had biblical references galore, which I always enjoy.

DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH

I will definitely be reading some more Pratchett and Gaiman in future after Good Omens.

At the moment, I have started reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels. I’ll likely read one, then some other books, then move onto the next one. That’s it for this month. In my next update I should have some more progress to share about Bottom Feeders and The Thaw. Until next time!

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Martin Brennan, the Author

I’m Martin Brennan. I'm a software developer by day, and I like to think I know how to write. Like how a hobo thinks he knows the recipe to Coca-Cola.

You can read about my major projects on my works page.

The authors that inspire me are Cormac McCarthy (my God), Stephen King (my Prophet), J. R. R. Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, Hunter S. Thompson, George Orwell, John Steinbeck, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Find me on twitter @mjrbrennan or email me.