7 Reasons You Should Be Reading Comics

In my previous post about where to find motivation as a fiction author, I mentioned the beauty and inspiration that can be found in comic books. I didn’t start reading comics until I was 30 years old. Like many people who don’t read them, I figured comics were all about Batman, Superman and other heroes that had become very mainstream and commercialized. I was so glad to be proven wrong.

It was my partner who got me into comics. He has been a fan for years. The first time he took me into a comic book store, I was overwhelmed by the variety of characters and genres. In many cases, I couldn’t see the works being made into novels because the artwork was so vivid and grand.

As a minimalist, comics were a struggle for me at first because I needed the physical copies. Each volume was like a story and an art book in one. Sorry avid e-reader fans but it’s very difficult to read them on Kindles and Nooks. I do suggest purchasing the physical copies. These gems are so worth it!

Clicking on any of the pictures below will lead you to the Amazon page for that volume, providing you with detailed descriptions of plot as well as reviews. These are currently my top seven reading recommendations and also the seven reasons you should be reading comics. Enjoy!

1. Low

This was the first comic series that I picked out for myself. I was looking for something based underwater to help inspire me on a piece I was working on titled The World Beneath (still a WIP). I did a little research and Low by Rick Remender was the only thing I could find and behold- it had outstanding reviews so I purchased volume 1.

Remender has been quoted as saying that he normally writes such dark characters and how odd it was for him to write one of the main characters in Low because she is so optimistic it’s almost annoying at times. But it pays off. Low takes you into a violent and imaginative world filled with the light of hope and the darkness of despair. Not recommended for children. Expect sex, nudity and violence. The links to each volume are in the pictures below.

2. Descender

I cannot tell you what first inspired me to pick up this story but it quickly became one of my favorites! Written by Jeff Lemire, Descender is the tale of a boy robot looking for his long-lost childhood companion and that childhood companion, now grown into a man, looking for his childhood robot – amidst a war where humans and robots don’t exactly see eye to eye… A strange twist of Romeo and Juliet? Perhaps.

While there is some violence and adult themes, this series is far more child friendly than the one previously mentioned. As with Low, I believe there is only one or two more volumes left in the series so join in on the fun! As before, the pictures below will send you to their Amazon page where you can view plot details and reviews.

3. Animosity

Animosity took me a while to find. It wasn’t readily available in our local comic shops at the time and shipped from overseas when I ordered from Amazon. Now that it’s more popular, it’s easier to to get your hands on. Personally, I’ve only gotten through the first volume but I absolutely loved it. I mean there is a talking hound named Sandor after the Game of Thrones character! Who doesn’t love that?

As with many of these more “adult” comics, there is violence to be expected but no nudity.

4. Heathen

I hope that this one volume isn’t the end of the series. I want this one to continue but haven’t laid eyes on a volume two. Dealing with Vikings and gods, this all female cast portrays some very strong female characters and talks about some of society’s more pressing issues today. If the authors or reading this – I beg of you – CONTINUE!

5. Saga

It took me a while to get into this one which was shocking because it’s extremely popular in comic circles and is considered one of the top best sellers. My partner is a big fan of the series so I borrowed his volumes and started reading.

As with many modern comics, there are strong female characters but Brian K. Vaughn has created a vast ensemble of diverse male and female characters (and robots and ghosts and a cat that can tell when you’re lying…) Part of the reason it took me so long to become attached to this story was because I hate the two main characters. I don’t care for them or their love story. But like with many other popular pieces of fiction (Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings) it’s not the main characters that everyone falls in love with. Instead, it’s the vast number of supporting characters who end up with just as big of a role as the series marches on.

Contains sex and violence but not as gory as Harrow County (mentioned below). Saga is extremely creative and like Heathen, touches on a lot of society’s hot button topics on a grander scale.

6. Reborn

I picked this one up on a whim because the back cover got me hook, line and sinker! As far as I can tell this is a stand-alone and won’t have future volumes – which is fine. The story is perfect the way it is and doesn’t leave room for much elaboration.

There were a lot of things in this single volume that I did not see coming. I love it for being so unpredictable as I can usually predict endings beforehand. Any author who can fool me deserves my thanks. The picture below will take you to the Amazon page with full plot descriptions and reviews.

7. Harrow County

I don’t know why I didn’t expect to like this story. After all, I love a good horror. Horror comics usually have their own section in the store but they are still not as great in number as Fantasy and Science Fiction. That doesn’t mean they aren’t as enjoyable!

Sometimes violent yet always imaginative, there is a sense of urgency throughout the series that I love. I find each volume hard to put down once I pick it up. Props to Cullen for writing such an engaging plot and lovable main character. Check out the links below for story details!

Keep an eye out for more recommended reading posts.

Happy Reading!
-R

Blog Art created with Canva

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

3 Ways to Find Motivation as a Fiction Writer

The joy of writing had disappeared. The sense of wonder, awe and accomplishment was no longer there. Suddenly, writing became a grueling task, a chore. It became draining. All motivation was gone. Sound familiar? Has this happened to you? Because it’s definitely happened to me. That’s when I knew I had problem with motivation.

What was my solution?

I had to step away for a bit and get back into writing for fun. I had to regroup and find the joy again. If you’re struggling, I suggest you do the same. Instead of trying to force yourself into some strict routine, take a step back. Take a break. The problem for me was, I didn’t know what to step back to. If it came down to it, I was willing to go back to reading both poorly and well written fan-fiction to get my motivation back. The first thing I did was the hardest…

1. I allowed myself to slack off.

It’s one of the hardest things to do. Beforehand, I felt guilty when I didn’t write. The guilt wouldn’t put me in a writing mood and it went into this downward spiral of guilt and not writing, falling even more behind. I knew that I was doing myself a great disservice because this was my dream- this is my dream and there is no magic hand that’s going to write your book for you- trust me, I’ve looked.

I am not ashamed to admit that I tried my hand at services like Upwork where you can both be a ghostwriter, and hire ghostwriters. (Note: A ghostwriter is someone who writes but doesn’t take creit for their own work. Many times celebrity biographies are written by ghostwriters). To make a long story short, I handed a ghostwriter an outline to have them write short stories for me. In the end, no matter how talented the writer was, it wasn’t my voice- wasn’t my heart and soul. My own ideas felt foreign, strange and robotic. They lacked meaning and feeling. I refused to put my name on it and regarded the entire experience as a waste of time and money – two of my most precious resources. Looking at it as a learning experience makes it appear as less of a waste.

You can tell five different people to draw a tree and get five different distinct drawings of a tree. The bottom line is, only you can make this happen and the point of any goal is to ultimately be happy, right? Life isn’t supposed to be some grueling chore. It’s supposed to be fun. We’re supposed to live life.

2. I went back to reading fan fiction (both good and bad), novels, and I started reading comic books.

I’m not talking about your typical Batman/Avengers/Superman comic books that we all think of. If you haven’t been into a comic shop, I invite you to check out your closest one. Within comic book stores are hidden worlds from secret imaginations. My partner is actually the one who got me into them. He, too, thought of comics as many of us who haven’t read them do. Overwhelmed and not sure where to start? Here are 7 unique and imaginative comics to get you started.

Secondly, have you ever heard the phrase “evil begets evil?” Well it’s the same way with art- art begets art. Introverted? Don’t worry – most people are nowadays. Venturing out to an art gallery or museum won’t kill you. On a budget? Washington D.C. has free museums. We’ve been there several times and never see the same thing twice. I’ll be sure to write a post about our D.C. adventures and link it here.

3. I traveled more.

Piggy-tailing off of the last paragraph, we started traveling and going on more trips, trying new restaurants and experiencing new things. Instead of burying myself in our home and trying to lock myself in a room until the words came out, I got out of the room. I got out of my comfort zone and familiar surroundings. I tried new things.

You don’t have to go far. I’m not asking you to leave the country or even leave the state/providence. Try something new. Live your life and you’ll find that your writing will start to flourish.

Sometimes we often take for granted our own backyards. And by that I mean that we don’t take the time to explore our hometown or the town next door. Eat at a new restaurant, experience new flavors. While routine and habit can be nice, going to the same restaurants, ordering the same foods, seeing films in the same theater, taking the same route to work and even buying groceries in the same store can stall creativity. Your brain needs new experiences, new triggers.

Have you ever noticed that many people who retire and have no goals or ambitions, often deteriorate in health and die soon afterwards? Don’t be that person! Experience life. Set goals up and get out. Your writing will thank you for it!

Happy writing.

Blog art created with Canva

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

Top 3 Ways to Establish Routine

Dear readers, I’m back. It’s been several months since my last real post and for that, I do apologize. You see, many will tell you that one of the keys of being a successful writer (or being successful at anything) is routine. I confess, I struggle with routine. Big time. This is probably evident will my lack of consistent blog posts.

First and foremost, I envy you. Yes. It’s true. Said it and meant it.

I envy those of you who are students living at home with your parents and those of you who are stay-at-home parents and spouses. I envy the unemployed. Why? Because your schedule is more free and flexible than mine. You can sleep in or take naps in the middle of the day to recover from a bad night’s sleep. You don’t have to deal with people pissing you off at work or during your commute. In a way, I despise what little routine I have.

I have a problem writing at the same time everyday. Truth be told, even though I have a regular Monday-Friday 7-330 job, sometimes (depending on the work load, which is entirely reactive and unpredictable) it becomes a 6am-4pm job or a 5:30 am to 530 pm job. My hours fluctuate but are at least 7-330 and that doesn’t include the traffic (which is horrendous when you have 40,000 employees trying to leave the southern tip of a peninsula at the same time.)

Some authors say that in order to be prolific or successful you need to cram writing in every second you can-like the commute to work. Well, even if I wasn’t driving, I’m one of those types that gets motion sickness if I try to read in a car. I get headaches and nausea. So even taking an Uber would be out of the question (and a waste of money since I have a car in good working condition, as does my man.)

Do I sound like I’m just making excuses not to write yet? Writers can be good at that.

I also lack discipline. It takes a surprising amount of willpower to make yourself sit in front of a screen. As much as our society looks at screens everyday, you’d think that would be easy and it is when you’re playing a game or watching a good movie but it isn’t always great when you’re playing god. And it isn’t always great when you’ve already spent your entire workday staring at a screen, ripping your hair out dealing with HTML code or filling in MS Excel spreadsheets. After eight hours of that, your eyes need a break whether you’ve got “computer glasses” or not.

Forming a routine is not easy for everyone. I’ve heard that once you begin a habit, it will be hard to break. I suppose my current habit is making excuses not to work on my novels, the stories and ideas that I love so much. It’s true. I love those stories and ideas but I’m certainly not treating them like I do. By neglecting them like a bad lover, my creativity and inspiration had gone silent. I admit that I haven’t figured out all of the answers just yet, but I’m committed to finding them which is a huge step in the right direction.

That being said, there is all sorts of advice out there about breaking habits but little about making them.

Things I’m doing to promote routine.

1. Logging progress. There is something to be said about being able to look back and see where you started. Simply setting up a handwritten chart or tracking progress in an electronic spreadsheet can do this. I noticed that during the month of November I was far more determined to succeed at writing. It wasn’t the community and camaraderie of National Novel Writing Month participants (even though they can be great.) Instead it was seeing my goals and progress. I had a clear, defined target which was easily reachable but also enough of a challenge. That’s part of the greatness of the program is that it helps you establish routine. However, you don’t need the program to keep going every day, every month, every year.

No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

Programs like Scrivener track total project progress and writing session progress. Or you can manually track it through MS Word, MS Excel or any other word processor.

2. Forceful Repetition. Visual and audible queues that remind you to take the action. Set alarms and leave notes for yourself in places that you’ll look.

I keep visual reminders all around my desk. I have a dry-erase board, a calendar, post-its on the wall, organized folders and a filing cabinet to keep everything in order. But hey, what works for me might not work for you and that’s ok. Find out what does and go with it!

3. Having a plan. There is a movie that came out in the 80’s with John Cusack and Demi Moore called One Crazy Summer. One of the characters comes from a military family and often says something along the lines of, “Without a plan there is no attack. Without attack there is no victory.” That being said, you won’t get very far without something to drive towards. I’m not saying you have to outline your novel. I’m saying you need to have goals. Perhaps that goal is 2 hours of writing a day. Perhaps that goal is 2,000 words of writing a day. Or maybe a chapter? Or a scene? Either way it’s important to have goals. It’s difficult to establish routine when every time you sit down you have no idea what you’re supposed to accomplish.

That being said, staying organized can’t hurt. It’s one thing to formulate a plan in your head, it’s another to write it down but that is another post entirely!

I hope this post has helped guide you in some way towards your own path of success. I’ll be sure to let you all know how my organization pans out over the course of my writing career – what worked and what didn’t. Until then…

Happy writing!

-R

Photo Credit: ID 78999514 © Feng Yu | Dreamstime.com

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

Minimalism and the Death of a Loved One

I debated about telling the sad story behind my grandparents’ death in the summer and fall of 2016. As an introduction to what is looking to be a rather long post that is in essence about minimalism, I figured I’d go ahead and spill the beans. After all, whenever a death occurs in the family, the living are left to decide on what to do with all of the stuff that is left behind. This was the first time that I had to deal with it since I started down the path of minimalism.

To begin at the beginning…

My mother’s parents have never been in good health. At least not since I can remember. My grandfather had diabetes. He was legally blind. He had open heart surgery twice, and was pretty much deaf, not to mention grumpy. General grumpiness seems to be very common among old men. My Nana survived breast cancer, colon cancer, open heart surgery, and a stroke that left her left side fairly unusable. They had both survived a lot.

Born a few months apart, he was born in July of 1930 and she was born that November, they ended up passing away a few months apart. He passed two weeks shy of his 86th birthday and she passed two months shy of hers.

Even though they had been in poor health for decades, things suddenly went downhill fast. My grandfather went to the hospital because gangrene had set in on one of his toes. From what I understand of diabetes, the feet usually go first because of poor blood circulation.

Once admitted into the hospital for the gangrene, the doctors removed one of his toes. He swore that he must have cut his foot on something and didn’t feel it. The infection set in rapidly. Unfortunately, removing the single toe wasn’t enough as the infection spread. It spread to a second toe which they also amputated only to realize that they still didn’t get it all and the infection continued to spread throughout his foot.

It became more apparent that the entire foot was going to have to be amputated in order to stop the spread of the infection. My grandfather didn’t want to do it and I can understand why. He hated that he had to rely on other people. He knew that he was getting older and I think it greatly upset him that he was getting to a point where he wouldn’t be able to do things by himself. Being legally blind hadn’t stopped him but being unable to walk would.

Meanwhile, while he’s in the hospital my grandparents have agreed to have work done on their home. They have recently discovered a termite infestation. You see my grandfather was so distrusting of people – under the impression that everyone was out to scam him –  and as a believer in “your thoughts create your reality,” I can see why he constantly attracted those types of people into his life because he always thought the worst of people.

Years ago he stopped inspecting the house for termites. And guess what? The termites came. When the inspector came to the house, they found extensive damage. The inspector explained that termite tunnels are normally as big around as a spaghetti noodle but the ones he had found were as large as his forearm.

Just before repairs are to begin on my grandparents’ home, my Nana was alone one night and fell. She fractured her wrist, broke her pelvis and part of her spine. She was hospitalized. Shortly after that, my grandfather was informed that gangrene had been found in the heel of the opposite foot. They would amputate again.

Once out of the hospital, they arrived at the same Rehab Center across the hall from one another. He called for her often and she hobbled across the hallway with her cane, disregarding any pain she may have felt, to go take care of a man who she’s known for 70 years. One night she heard a commotion in the hallway and stood up only to see him wheeled past her. The nurses told her, “It’s after midnight. Go back to bed.” My grandfather died that night.

When I went to visit her afterwards, she cried and said, “I wasn’t there with him.” I told her that wasn’t true. I said, “had you not fallen and injured yourself, you would have been at home, asleep, miles away when he passed. Because you’re here, you were right across the hall and you were with him everyday until the end.”

She seemed to feel a little better after that explanation. After her release from rehab, she stayed with my parents while the work started on her home. The construction company said it would only take a week or two. They ended up taking over a month. During that month my grandmother was doing very well until one night she took a turn for the worse. She threw up bile all night and the next day my mother called an ambulance. She spent the next two weeks in the hospital. For 7-8 of those days she didn’t eat anything and she dropped down to 87 pounds. Is was very hard seeing her that way and it’s not how I choose to remember her. Just like my grandfather without feet is not how I choose to remember him.

She never came back home after that visit in the hospital. She died there and in October we had a joint service for both of them at St. Joan of Arc Church.

The Aftermath, a Minimalism Nightmare

I had been through the loss of both of my dad’s parents but my mom’s parents lived two doors down the whole time I was growing up there. There were often visits after school for milk and cookies. And it was especially difficult that we lost them both so close together. So next became the difficult task of cleaning out their house. And this is where the minimalism kicks in.

Because they had a reverse mortgage on their home, they did not own the home and therefore we could not sell it. The home went back to the bank and the bank gave us one month to clear it out. For two people who never had friends over, they certainly had a lot of stuff. Perhaps it was because they grew up with the mentality of the Depression era where you held on to everything you had. They owned sets of China which hadn’t been used in years. Five different sets of silverware, closets filled with bed sheets and rarely worn clothes. They kept everything. Antique furniture became a point of contention as no one had room for it but no one wanted it to leave the family.

The money that my grandparents had saved for their children was spent on hospital bills and house repairs. We inherited stuff that had accumulated over decades. It was a grueling process to go through everything and know all of the memories attached to each item. However, I think it helped my mother realize what a burden her house would be on her children when my parents pass away.

Seeing the brighter side of minimalism

Like my grandparents’ house, my parents’ house is filled with decades of memories. Items such as old batons and dancing costumes set abandoned in a back room. The attic is overflowing with toys that my older brothers had as toddlers. A filing cabinet in my parents’ closet holds drawings from our elementary school years. Why do we hold onto these things? Happiness never lies in the past. To keep a favorite drawing is one thing but to keep all of them? We certainly didn’t want them.

I once cleaned out my parents’ closet. It was overflowing with clothing that was sometimes in my mother’s case, not age appropriate. Many of the items she hadn’t worn in years or had never worn at all by the evidence of the price tag still hanging from them.

Things to take away…

The point of this story is that holding onto things isn’t the answer. You’ll find that with most material objects, once they are gone, you won’t miss them. Holding on to stuff creates more grief for your loved ones once you pass from this world. I will admit, I took some small furniture and items from my grandparents’ house. Now, two years have passed and I’ve since turned around and re-donated all of those items except 6. What did I keep?

  1. My grandfather’s rocking chair/recliner. We got rid of our loveseat and replaced it with this recliner.
  2. A small glass which I often drank milk out of as a child when I would venture up after school for cookies and milk.
  3. An old, standing rotary phone. It still looks pretty damn cool and works if you have a land line. Will I keep it forever? It’s doubtful.
  4. An incense burner that used to sit on top of their piano. My two oldest brothers would often get to light a cone of incense as a treat if they were good when they visited as boys. I will keep this above all the other items. I cleaned it with vinegar.
  5. A mirror.
  6. A washer and dryer. I suppose that’s two items but they go hand in hand. Previously, we didn’t have one and were using quarters at the apartments local facility down the street.

Try not to get too caught up in the memory of objects. Even if you’ve been a minimalist for a while, it can be tempting. Don’t let your brother guilt you into taking several sets of glassware because “they look cool” or “should stay in the family.”

In hindsight, I ended up re-cluttering my home only to re-donate. Holding on to their things can hinder people from letting go of the grieving process. It’s easier to move on when you don’t have the past holding you down. It doesn’t matter if the memories are good or bad either. Now is the time to make new memories by living your life to the fullest today.

Let go.

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.