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“Dot Matrix” by Jack Binding

“Dot Matrix” by Jack Binding

I stumbled across this short story on Amazon and I’m really glad I did. As mentioned by another reviewer, it reminds me more of an episode of “The Twilight Zone” structurally. Fast paced page turner with strong, consistent voice from the author and well-painted characters. Best of all, the story isn’t told to you. You’ll be inside the protagonist’s head, and experience the story, not just read it. Perhaps you too will want to “euthanize” Ross Baker. Who could blame you?

FWIW, I’m typically more of a thriller/suspense reader. Seeing the cover and “horror” listed as on of the categories might have caused me to slide right on by to the next book. I’m not sure what the proper category would/should be, but the strength of “Dot Matrix” is the structure of the story, the highs and lows we get to experience along with Lawrence, and the cleverness of it all. Maybe it’s my preconceived bias that “horror” often has gratuitous and excess violence/gore—I’ve read a few—but there’s none of that here. As such, I think “Dot Matrix” will appeal to a very wide audience.

I’ve always been fascinated by stories where, in a moment of weakness, the main character (think Michael Douglas in “Fatal Attraction” telling Glenn Close, “OK” at lunch, essentially tipping off the first domino). In “Dot Matrix,” the lead character pushes over a domino, causing an inevitable and unstoppable sequence of events. I think you’ll like finding where they lead.

DISCLOSURE: I do not personally know the author nor do I have a connection with or interest in the book in any way.


Read A Lot, Write A Lot

Read A Lot, Write A Lot

Tim Kreider, in an interview with Jon Winokur from www.advicetowriters.com, expanded on King’s famous advice, saying, “I’m afraid the only real advice I have to give is so obvious as to be hardly worth reciting. Write a lot, thousands of pages: stories, essays, long letters, reviews, really good liner notes for mix CDs or playlists. And read a lot — I mean a lot a lot.” I would only add, “Do both at the same time.”

Over the years, I have found that I lose weight fastest when I focus on diet and exercise at the same time. And I’m talking about more than just obvious calorie math. Exercising makes me want to eat better. Eating better makes me want to exercise more. Doing both puts me in the mood to get in shape, or stay in shape. Mentally, there is an important balance between the two.

I think reading and writing have a balance that works the same way. The more I read, the more I want to write. Even better, the more I read, the better I write. There’s obviously a benefit to seeing how other authors do things. But like the balance between diet and exercise, combining reading and writing changes my state of mind. It puts me in a creative place that makes it all work so much better.

I think King and Kreider would agree with me. (OP 1/17/2014)

Creativity, Mistakes, and Being Good Enough

Creativity, Mistakes, and Being Good Enough

I recently ran across a TED Channel YouTube by Sir Ken Robinson from early 2007 called, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” His talk was both funny and insightful, and certainly worth a listen. But his comments about the relationship between mistakes and creativity caught my attention, and go beyond a simple discussion about education.  In particular, he said:

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. By the time most kids become adults, the’ve lost that capacity. We stigmatize mistakes (to the point where) mistakes are the worst thing you can make.  The result?  We’re educating kids out of their creative capacity.”

Beyond just the education system, we do stigmatize mistakes to the point where making one is the worst thing you can do.  Consider your favorite sports team after losing the big game. You won’t have to look far to find someone saying something like, “With the game on the line, you have to make that play. You can’t miss it.” From an early age, and from every angle, it’s drilled into our heads that you have to be right, never wrong, and you simply cannot make mistakes.

I also I think you can expand Robinson’s comments about being ‘wrong” or “making mistakes” to include the idea of “not being good enough.” The thinking would go something like this:  “If I can’t sing like an American Idol winner, I’m not going to sing at all.”  Or, “If I can’t dance like John Travolta (for “experienced” blog readers) or Moose/Adam Sevani (for the younger crowd), I’ll just sit on the sidelines.” It’s the fear of being wrong, making mistakes, or not being good enough.  It’s the fear of failing.

As people discover that I’ve begun to write professionally, a surprising number of people have told me that they too would like to write and publish a book. The vast majority also tell me either that they’ve started but then stopped, often repeatedly, because they didn’t think what they’d written was good enough, or that they never started in the first place because they just don’t think they could ever pull it off. Their fear of writing poorly (of being “wrong”) has overtaken their fear of not fulfilling their dream.

I suppose I struggle with the same thing. I’ve decided to publish a collection of short stories, and have a number of them in various states of completion. But somehow, I keep coming up with new ideas that might be a little bit better than what I have so far. And more reading to do, just so my perspective is just that much sharper before I put my work out there. Or maybe, like the other aspiring writers I mentioned above, somewhere just beneath the surface I know I’m protected as long as I can keep coming up with reasons to postpone publishing.

Math is concrete. Two plus two. One answer. As long as you know how to solve the equation, you can come up with the one right answer. Art offers no such certainty. And despite efforts to categorize and grade from every direction, art is ultimately subjective. There is no single “right” answer. Given a culture that wants to give everything a Pass/Fail grade, knowingly putting something out to the masses for subjective review is understandably unnerving. Then again, that brings us full circle to Robinson’s initial comment, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong (or judged, or not good enough), you’ll never come up with anything original.”  (OP 4/1/2014)