Book Review – Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona, a graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson, is a cozy read. It takes place in a world where the bad guys are often more admirable than the good guys. The hero and the villain have a backstory that adds depth to what could have been a fairly shallow story in less caring hands. 

Note: You can also read this review on Goodreads.

In fact, you could say that about every aspect of Nimona. It could’ve easily fallen into cliche, but never does. It’s familiar enough to be comfortable but different enough to be unique, and the ending will give you the feels without pummeling you over the head EMOTIONS.

Nimona, a graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson

I think Noelle Stevenson was very smart about how she added complexity to Nimona. Every major character has a secret, a defining flaw that shapes how they view the world. It’s an excellent device that creates compelling character arcs for all without belaboring the storytelling.

Beyond this, there’s an underlying sweetness to the characters that took me by surprise. This is where the coziness comes from. Things have happened to them that forces them to be at odds with each other, but there are stronger forces that keep them coming back to each other even in the worst of times.

But even though it’s sweet doesn’t mean it’s bland or without a touch of darkness. Every character has a hidden depth, but I don’t want to give any of it away as it’s integral to the story being told. Suffice to say, what you see on the surface of any character is a result of something else that will be revealed in time. It’s a balance that works really well.

Five Panels from Nimona, a graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson

The artwork is simple yet charming. The characters have just enough complexity to keep you engaged the whole way through. And the plot has one or two twists and turns which aren’t earth-shattering, but they are solid and fun. If you want an easy read that promises to be a good time with a perfect ending for the story it’s trying to tell, then I highly recommend Nimona.

I drew a balloon

I drew a balloon. I’m experimenting with drawing a series of things of a similar shape. No significance to anything really, except for there are a ton of balloons in the house from my kids 6th birthday. He’s so big now! Anyway, hope you like it. Trying to get back into drawing consistently again.

Your memories are rewritten every time you remember them

Memories – A Story of A Story of A Story

How much of your memory actually happened? Are you sure your perception of reality is correct? If you can’t remember the details of a movie you saw last month, how can you be sure the memories of your life—those imaginary images that define who you are in relation to the world—are memories at all?

You make up your memories anew every time you remember them based on all the information at hand. That means based on your current condition, or even the current social climate, the things you are remembering have actually been altered by your own brain. It happens to all of us. And the more you remember, the more the memory changes as it’s rebuilt over and over again.

I’ve been thinking about this lately since I started reading the book You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney which dives into the many tricks your brain pulls on you that alter the way you perceive the world and yourself. Get this. How can you know who you really are if your brain is constantly shifting the things that define you?

There’s no way in nature, that’s for sure. Only human invention gives us a way of peering back to see a version of ourselves that used to exist but has since been transformed by endless rewriting. Things like pictures, video, audio recordings, and even writing are can give us that glimpse. But even that is filtered through your current mind.

So when you watch a video of your younger self, you can imagine the feelings you might have felt. But the more you watch it, the more your memory of those feelings are rewritten, gradually transforming into a numbness. The more you remember, the more numb you become.

Maybe searching our past in an effort to define who we are is a bad thing. I don’t think this is a fresh idea. You’ve heard the phrase, “live in the now.” Lately I’m thinking that’s more relevant than I ever gave it credit for.

To be honest, I don’t remember a lot about my childhood. There a little images here and there. I remember stories that I’ve told about growing up, stories I’ve told myself, but I don’t really remember the experiences. I wonder if I’m alone in this, or if others remember only the stories the way I do. 

Leave a comment letting me know how your memory works. Do you actually remember events? When you think back, does it feel like you’re reliving a scene from a movie, or is it far removed from that? Are you like me, and everything’s a story of a story of a story?

And if you’re memory is altered with every remembering, how can you be certain of who you really are?

This blog post was inspired by You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney.

Why Scivener is the Best Novel Writing Software » Behind the Novel Ep. 1

I’ve been talking about making this series for about two months now, and I finally got around to making the first episode. Welcoming to Behind The Novel, the series where I’ll share my novel writing process every step of the way.

Originally I was going to just jump into showing you the writing process, but after a little consideration, I thought it best to start with the most prominent tool I use: Scrivener.

So this first episode is a brief introduction to Scrivener. You’ll learn why I like it, what benefits it provides, as well as be reminded that masterpieces are written using everything from Microsoft Word to typewriters to pen and paper.

So if you can’t afford Scrivener, never fear. In this case you’ll be in good company. I don’t think Dante used Scrivener either when he wrote The Devine Comedy.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video. There are more on the way.

S.C. Barrus Progress Report

The state of S.C. Barrus – Updates on Discovering Aberration, The Gin Thief, Grim Curio & more

I’m juggling a lot of projects right now which is keeping me really busy. But from the perspective of an outsider, it may seem like I’ve been twiddling my thumbs.

Despite the void that is my recent releases, I’ve actually been progressing nicely on a number of projects. In the last year, I wrote a novel, edited another, began work an a novella, rebooted my newsletter, began a YouTube channel, and I even took some time to plan a surprise for you guys 🤫

In light of all this, today I’m taking a moment to share the status of nearly every single project I’m working on. So let’s get started.

Release Order

Before diving into the specifics, let’s take a look at the current order of releases any dates attached—because I don’t do that anymore 🧐.

  1. Super secret short story 😮
  2. Discovering Aberration: Revised Edition
  3. The Gin Thief: Ep 2
  4. The rest of The Gin Thief episodes.
  5. Grim Curio (perhaps released in the middle of Gin Thief episodes)
  6. Half-price Hitman (we’re talking at least two years out)

My goal here is to hit a cadence of at least one major release every year from here on out. The one caveat is The Gin Thief episodes. I consider 2-3 episodes to equal one major release.

When you want to move a freight train, it takes a while to build up steam, but the momentum carries it forward. So I guess my books are a freight train or something.

via GIPHY

Don’t be surprised if a short story or two get thrown into the mix. I’ve been contemplating starting a pattern of releasing a short story between each novel with a collection released every few years. Why not?

Ok, now on to the specifics.

Discovering Aberration: Revised Edtion

A few months ago I revealed I was fixing some issues that Discovering Aberration was facing. Technical errors and irregular pacing made it into the release, so I took it upon myself to clean it up and rerelease it before I strike out on this second stage of my publishing career.

I finished editing the book several weeks ago then passed it along to my editor. A few days later I heard back from her. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “But it lost a lot of the charm in the rewrite.” 😱

On the upside, she hardly found any errors. Sooooooo……. I guess that’s a win.

I overdid it, plain and simple. Now I need to go back through it with a lighter touch, so a second round of edits is in order. sigh.

via GIPHY

Together, we’ve come up with a strategy to address this nightmare. I’ll go into what we’re doing in another post, but we think we can keep the improvements and not lose any of the charm along the way.

It’s going to take some work. I suspect this pushes back the release a couple months. But I think we’ll still hit a 2018 release date. I mean, please let me hit this dateoccasionally one. Please? Fingers crossed.

The Gin Thief: Episodes

The delay of DA: RE is sadly going to affect the release of The Gin Thief: Ep. 2. 

I know….

Delays have this cascading effect that isn’t much fun. I really don’t know if Episode 2 is going to squeeze in 2018 anymore (didn’t I once promise it out by February 2018? See why I gave up on release dates), though I remain pessimistically hopeful.

I’m trying hard to make 2018 happen, but it may turn out to be an early 2019 release. Sorry. For real, sorry. But it’s coming.

After Episode 2 is released, I’m going to soldier on and draft all of the remaining episodes in one go. Then I’ll set them aside much like I did for Grim Curio, focus on finishing Grim Curio, then return to the episodes for a final round of edits.

Grim Curio

Grim Curio is currently in a state of hibernation. The draft is done, beta reads are done, editing round 1 is done. Now I have some rewrites to do before it goes through the editing process again, but I won’t start rewrites until after the release of The Gin Thief Episodes are all drafted.

I think this strategy will lead to a stronger novel while also keeping me on track to push out those episodes. It’s not easy to write this way, but I think it’ll be worth it in the long run.

Get it? Green Day? I’m taking the long view. Like the Green Day song. Wow that’s a stretch.

via GIPHY

Half-price Hitman

And at last, we come to Half-price Hitman. This one is just a small side project which isn’t actively being written. I’m using it as a way to demonstrate my writing process to patrons.

So occasionally I’ll document myself in one stage of the writing process or another using this as an example. It’ll eventually turn into a full-fledged project, but it has no release date in sight. If you become a patron you can see it evolve as I share everything behind the scenes.

As for the super secret short story…

Delay’s aren’t fun, and I need to get something new out there.

I thought I’d have Discovering Aberration: Revised Edition out within a couple of weeks, but since that’s no longer the case, I wracked my brain for a way to deliver something to you without a substantial time commitment on my part. It had to be something I’d already written, something good enough to see the light of day, something I could put out there and be proud of in less than 2 weeks.

Tall order. But I found it!!! Get this, it’s still super secret. I’ll tell you this, it’s a short story that has an indirect relation to both Discovering Aberration and Grim Curio but isn’t directly set in either universe. And it’ll be free to newsletter subscribers and patrons.

That’s all from me today. Hopefully there’s something in this list that you’re excited about. And if so, why not subscribe to my newsletter. There are some cool benefits nobody even knows about yet (plus you get a free copy of Discovering Aberration).

Stoner by John Williams - Book Review by S.C. Barrus

Book Review – Stoner by John Williams

Stoner by John Williams is an absolutely beautiful novel. Perhaps the best novel I’ve read this year. I’ve tried to share it with several people, but I think the appeal is lost in description. It’s a quiet, understated, sad novel, but it will make you feel deeply.

[You can also read this review on Goodreads. Follow me there for frequent updates on the books I read.]

Your heart will split for William Stoner as he quietly goes about his day, taking life’s blows like a reed bends to the wind. He’s not a strong-willed guy, not heroic or wise. He just tries to do what he loves and makes little effort to change the world.

As his life slowly becomes more difficult due to his family relationships, he approaches his work as a literature professor with more vigor and love. This passion brings him a brief time of fame within his university but results in a confrontation with a student that sends his professional life into a downward spiral as well.

He does rally from time to time both in his personal and professional life. The moments of accomplishment and happiness feel all the more powerful for the quiet sadness that envelopes most of the pages.

And the ending… This was the first book in some time that made me shed literal tears. I cried for the final two chapters. They are beautiful and devastating.

You should definitely read this book. As I stated in the opening, Stoner is a difficult book to sell because a lot of its value is the depth of emotion you’ll feel for this simple man. But give it a chance and you’ll absolutely fall in love with perhaps the best book I’ve read about the life of a simple man.

Recommended Reads after Stoner by John Williams

If you read and enjoy Stoner by John Williams, then I recommend reading Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger which was recently featured in a recent blog post on nine books that changed my lifeJohn Williams has also written a western called Butcher’s Crossing which I intend to read in the near future.

Join the S.C. Barrus newsletter to receive a free copy of Discovering Aberration and exclusive monthly updates.

Stoner was an excellent read which I consider among the best of the best. I’m adding it to the Books That Changed My Life list on Kit. Check out the other books that made the list right here.

Nine Novels that Changed My Life

I also filmed a video version of this blog post. Watch it on YouTube.

Most readers can put together a list of life changing books. I have my own. A list of novels that shaped me in some way. Some of they expanded my perspective of the world, others inspired they way I write my own works. So today I’m sharing a list of nine life changing novels.

This is an abbreviated list. If I were to list every novel that affected me, we’d be here for days. So I set up a kit, an ever-growing list of books that changed my life. If you want more life-changing books, check it out too.

Treasure Island by Robert Luis Stevenson

Treasure Island was one of those early books that encouraged my love of reading and writing. While I started reading illustrated abridged versions of young readers, as I grew older I revisited it several times. Unlike other novels (and movies for that matter) of my younger years, this one held up because of it’s fun and fast-moving plot, engaging characters, and standout villain.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

Shakespeare is an inspiration (buy his complete works). I continue to draw from his works again and again, but never live up to anything he’s accomplished. I love King Lear and Titus for the passion in their protagonists. There’s something so compelling in watching a person at their height brought low. The Tempest is surreal, and Othello is captivating. If you haven’t seen a live Shakespeare performance, you owe it to yourself to do so.

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

Generally speaking, people tend to talk about Catcher in the Rye as J.D. Salinger’s masterpiece, but I personally think it pales in comparison to Franny and Zooey. The novel is mostly dialog, so we Perdidoget to know these characters. If you’re looking for a study in dialog to improve your own writing, you can’t do much better than this.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Doesn’t it have a fantastic title? The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time follows a young autistic boy as he investigates the murder of a dog in his Perdido yard. But it goes much deeper than that as we follow him day by day and see everything through his perspective. It does a great job of immersing you in a characters head that may be very much unlike you, which is why it affected me so much.

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days heavily influenced the writing style in my first two books, Discovering Aberration and The Gin ThiefI love the way he strings a sentence together, so when I set to writing a steampunk novel, I thought a voice similar to his would make a great fit. Not only that, but his novels are pure fun. Sure there are a few boring sections here and there where he get’s overly specific on how technology works or how an economy functions, but if that bores you, simply skip a paragraph or two and you’re back into the adventure.

Steppenwolf by Hermann Hess

In my college years, Hermann Hess affected me more than any other writer. I felt a real connection with him that I haven’t felt with a writer since. While everyone reads Siddhartha, a book that’s fine, most don’t move on to his real masterpieces like Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, or The Glass Bead Game. All of these novels shaped the way I think permanently, gave me perspective on life, sex, religion, and art. If you’re looking for the standout author who really changed the way I view the world, it would be Hermann Hess.

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

The grand achievement of this book is the fact that as soon as I finished reading it, I started again from the beginning. I don’t think I’ve done that before or since. It’s world is so utterly engrossing, and so wildly different from our own. If you’re searching for a fantasy that throws out all of the genre norms, builds a world fresh from the ground up, and tells an engaging and dark narrative, look no further than the masterpiece that is Perdido Street Station.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

It is the first book of a now famously unfinished trilogy. The fact that it’s unfinished doesn’t bother me a bit, and it shouldn’t bother you either. Let genius work. Time has always been a major ingredient in the writing of these books. Anyway, The Name of the Wind is an outstanding novel that drops you into a characters head as he goes about life, grows up, learns magic, and seeks revenge in this fantasy world. It all sounds fairly typical of a fantasy novel, but in its execution, it really stands out. I’ve read it several times and will read it several more.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

This is a novel with perfect prose. I’ve never read a more perfectly written novel. It’s astounding. Blood Meridian is an extremely dark tale that will stick with you well after you put it down. There are scenes that get etched in your mind. I’ve loved some of Cormac McCarthy’s other books, such as The Road and No Country for Old Men, but even those fantastic novels don’t hold a candle to Blood Meridian.

PNWA Novel Contest Results

Before we dive into the results of my PNWA novel contest entry, I’ve got a bit of an announcement. I’m making video content now! That’s one more way for you to get to know me. I may not be great at it yet, but I’m learning as I go. More videos to come.

So, the contest. 

About five or six months ago I submitted my manuscript for Grim Curio to the Pacific Northwest Writers Association novel contest. Recently I received the results of my entry, and unfortunately I didn’t win.

But I feel really great about it anyway. Why?

As part of the contest, I received two detailed critiques from literary agents who were judging the competition. These were rave critiques. In fact, they lead me to believe that I didn’t advance in the competition due to a technical error on my part. I was supposed to submit a synopsis of my novel, but I submitting something closer to a query letter.

In the video above I share a bit more about the process, some of the feedback I received, and talk about why this rejection has actually boosted my confidence. There’s always next year.

Interview with Patrick H Willems

Patrick H Willems is a YouTube creator who produces a wide variety of content, but is best known for his videos that discuss movies in interesting and insightful ways, praise films you should give a second chance, or critique the current state of Hollywood. 

Trust me, these are more than your typical video essays. Check out his channel here.

Patrick H Willems

What I love most about his content is the creative lense he puts on everything he does, making each video it’s own story, often displaying the techniques he’s discussing—like shooting a chase sequence before talking about what makes a great chase scene—or framing his arguments with often hilarious bookends.

Here’s his latest video to give you an idea of the kind of content he’s known for.

However, Patrick Willems isn’t just a creavie video essayist. He writes and directs his own short films, has written a horror screenplay, and hosts the We Heart Hartnett podcast.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the interview where Patrick discusses all of these things, and even gives us a little peek into what makes him tick.

Hey Patrick, I’m a long-time fan of yours. It’s been exciting to watch your channel (Patrick (H) Willems) grow from a basic a film essay format to something much more creative and unique. You’ve evolved to incorporate creative devices like the ones featured in the Patrick Explains series and the bookends to the Ethan Hunt and Jurassic Park videos, among many others.

Could you explain to me the process of evolving the channel in this way?

Patrick: The evolution actually goes back way further. From 2011-2016 every video on the channel was a narrative short of some kind. The nonfiction videos and video essays didn’t start until November 2016, but since then they’ve become what I’m best known for (something I have mixed feelings about).

When I made the first video essay, “Why Do Marvel Movies Look Kind of Ugly,” I thought it’d just be a one-off experiment that no one would watch, so I used the classic video essay format, just voiceover over movie clips. Then that video was a big success and people demanded more video essays, so I started making more and just stuck with the same style.

What inspired the change?

Patrick: But after a year of doing them that way, I got really bored with the process. There were a million people using the same style. The videos felt so impersonal. Like, not to shit on the video essays I made last year, but I have zero emotional attachment to any of them.

I consider myself a filmmaker first, and a video essayist second, so I realized what I had to do was blend the essays with the narrative shorts we had been making for years. And since making that shift at the beginning of the year, I’ve enjoyed making the videos so much more.

Is it difficult to keep it fresh?

Patrick: Yeah, they’re more complicated and time-consuming to create, but more fulfilling. That said, I want to create more of a balance between the nonfiction videos and the regular narrative filmmaking. There haven’t been nearly enough shorts this year, and that bugs me.

One thing I really enjoy about this generation of creators is a willingness to bootstrap it until they fulfil their dreams. There are plenty of examples of people who “made it” because they forged their own way. The cast of Always Sunny in Philadelphia wrote and filmed their pilot because no one was giving them jobs. Seth Rogan wrote Superbad because Judd Apatow told him the best way to make it was to create his own material.

Correct me if any of this is wrong, but from what I gather you started your channel with the same kind of intentions. Could you tell me about your state of mind before you launched your channel? Did you launch it with the goal of eventually “making it” as a Hollywood director? Or was the channel a goal in itself?

Patrick: Yeah, this goes way back to when I graduated from college in 2010. I knew I wanted to make movies, but I had no idea how to go about making it into an actual career.

I’d been making movies with my friends from high school and college for years, and already had a big network of collaborators, so I decided to start making weekly short films, put them on YouTube, and hopefully reach enough people that eventually it might lead to other filmmaking work.

This was way more appealing to me than the more traditional route of moving to LA and working PA jobs for years, since at least this way I got to keep making stuff and would be creatively fulfilled.

Now that you’re coming up on 200,000 YouTube subscribers, have your views of your channel or its purpose changed?

Patrick: Definitely. For years I was convinced the channel would never become profitable and was basically just a way to get the attention of places that might hire me for other work. Now it’s my full time job. I still hope to make bigger projects not on YouTube, but in the meantime, I definitely view the channel as a viable career and not just an online portfolio.

You’ve been stepping up production values lately. You seem to have a growing staff too. Has this been completely enabled by your Patreon campaign, or are the sweet YouTube bucks starting to finance your efforts?

Patrick: I wouldn’t really say the staff is growing. We have an unpaid summer intern, and the rest of the cast and crew is the same group of people who have been working on the channel for years. They’re all good friends of mine who lend me so much of their time, most of whom I’ve been working with since high school.

Are you guys working full time on the channel these days?

Patrick: Right now the income from Patreon, YouTube, etc is just enough for me to get by, but my main goal is to get to the point where I can be paying the team and they can devote more of their time to this.

How’s the script coming?  What are the biggest hurdles you see in terms of getting it made?

Patrick: I should clarify some things about the screenplay Jake and I have been writing. We’re not actually planning on producing it. This would require a budget of several million dollars. And since I don’t have any non-YouTube directing credits to my name, it’s highly unlikely a studio would trust me to direct it. Our goal is just to sell it once it’s done.

Could you give me the elevator pitch for the movie you’re making?

Patrick: I don’t want to say much about the story, so I’ll just say it’s a teen-centric horror movie.

Sooooooo…… Josh Hartnett? What a weird choice for an actor to explore the career of, but I dig it. When I told my wife about your podcast (We Heart Hartnett), she was like, “Is Josh Hartnett even in movies anymore?” I’m working my way through the episodes and having a fun time with it.

Here are a few rapid-fire We Heart Hartnett questions. Note: links point to We Heart Hartnett episodes.

What is Josh Hartnett’s best movie you’ve seen to date?

Patrick: Probably either Black Hawk Down or The Virgin Suicides.

Best performance?

Patrick:Virgin Suicides.

Biggest missed opportunity?

Patrick: There are a lot, but I’ve gotta go with The Black Dahlia.

Funniest episode of the podcast?

Patrick: Probably either Lucky Number Slevin or Here on Earth.

Any indication that he’s going to make it onto the podcast?

Patrick: None yet. He’s a hard man to reach.

How did you like Bunraku (next episode I think)?

Patrick:It’s pretty nuts. It doesn’t totally work, but I like what it’s going for, and there’s some great stuff in there.

Why no Dredd video? It’s a totally fantastic movie that failed at the box office. It knows what it is and sticks too it well, taking inspiration form The Raid (also fantastic) with the “fight their way up a multi-level building to the boss” trope which is weirdly compelling for a straight up action flick. Plus apparently there’s a TV show in production, and I’d love to hear what they should and shouldn’t do. Come on Patrick! As a comic book guy, you should be all over this!

Pa trick:I saw Dredd once back when it was in theaters, liked it, didn’t love it, and honestly haven’t thought about it much since then. But people bring it up to me a lot so I should probably revisit it.

Lightning round! Answer as quick as you can, no cheating even though I can’t see you.

Top three directors?

Patrick: Spielberg, Edgar Wright, Soderbergh.

Biggest source of inspiration outside of film?

Patrick: Comic books.

Dream actor you’d like to cast as the lead in your film?

Patrick:The one we’re writing right now? That’s tough, since the character is a teenage girl. I haven’t really thought about it.

Anime, yes or no?

Patrick:Yes, mostly just for Ghibli.

Favorite Comic Book?

Patrick: Scott Pilgrim

Best YouTube channel other than your own?

Patrick: It isn’t really active anymore, but Waverly Films. For years they made these brilliant, inventive hilarious short films every week. I became obsessed with their videos in college and they’ve been one of my biggest inspirations since then. And those guys have gone on to do huge things, like writing and directing Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Any fan encounters yet?

Patrick: Lots, and everyone has been super nice and cool.

Can I cameo in your movie?

Patrick: I won’t be directing, so it’s not up to me!


So there you have it. It was great having a chance to talk Patrick Willems. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel and podcast. For the many hollywood producers who read this blog, give this man a directing job.

If you enjoyed this interview and want to support my work, it’s super easy! Just buy one of my books, or support my efforts on Patreon. Until next time.