Bringing Presence into Your Writing and Art

When asked to speak about the writing process, or the craft of writing, it's common to hear writers talk about how there really isn't much to talk about.  The act of creation, of creating art--be it writing or really any other form/medium of art--is in some ways elusive, veiled, difficult to grasp or articulate.  I find this both intriguing and amusingly ironic, how a writer can produce entire novels, but may be stumped at the idea of talking about their own writing process.  In the same way, though I am not a painter or much of an artist beyond a storyteller, I imagine it would be difficult for a painter to describe their process: how they create something from a blank page; what vision drives them; what ideas or visuals or themes influence the brushstrokes toward the image they want to be the final product.  It's something I find incredibly interesting.

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The Upcoming Sequel to Fairlane Road

As a writer who is still new to being published, it is continually surreal to receive feedback on my books.  This is especially true of my second novel, Fairlane Road.  Released in August of 2017, I have received a wide array of positive reviews and feedback on it.  Recently, I was honored to have the website Authors Reading review Fairlane Road, saying such things as this:

"Author Cody Lakin follows up his first novel, Other Endings, with a spellbinding story of good vs. evil. This thought-provoking tale, Fairlane Road, captures the reader's attention as the search for a murderer plays out on the pages. As you read through the story you will find yourself pausing throughout to contemplate the conversations and insights of the characters as you learn more about them.
As the story unfolds, you’ll be transported to another realm; another world. With each new discovery, a new appreciation for the complexity of Lakin’s style of writing is revealed. Each layer that is peeled away brings a better understanding of the core of the story
."  (You can read the full review here.  And please leave comments:

This review reflects a consistent theme in some of the things I've heard from readers: that it is as much a page-turner as it is something worth frequently pausing and rereading to reflect on and contemplate.  Never did I imagine I'd be receiving this kind of feedback on my second published novel--and in many ways, it's unreal to me to receive such positive feedback on my work at all, considering that simply being a published author is unreal to me).  And I am perpetually, overwhelmingly grateful to those who have read the book, who have told me and discussed with me what they thought of it, how it affected them, whether in reviews, in reaching out, or even in person.

When I first finished writing Fairlane Road a few years ago now, it was with a deep breath of relief.  It's a short novel, but it took me roughly as long as any other book I've ever written, which is roughly a year.  I don't plot out my books, never have, so for me it is a process of discovery, of following the story's rhythms while creating at the same time.  And Fairlane Road took so many unexpected turns of character, many of a philosophical nature, that it was difficult to write.  I found myself gaping at the weight of the story, how it was turning into a philosophical grappling both in a metaphorical sense and within the diegesis of the story.  One reader--an author named Edan Epstein, whose book The Anteater I recently read and highly, highly recommend--said he came away from Fairlane Road feeling the story was about our personal and broad quests for knowledge and understanding, even if the routes we take are often misguided.

I finished writing the book and set it aside, completely unsure of how I felt about it despite how much effort had gone into finishing it.  At one point I even took a break from writing it, and took some time to write short stories, through which I discovered, "Oh yeah, writing is fun," and was then able to feel refreshed and return and finish Fairlane Road.  As the next few years went by, as I grew as a writer and storyteller, as my first book Other Endings was published, I began to revisit Fairlane Road and see it from a new perspective.  Rereading it, I found it to be strange and original and unique.  Something very much my own, though certainly not without its influences, and something worth polishing and trying to put out there.  Which is how it became my second published novel.

The end of the Authors Reading review says this: "As the loose ends all come together with finality, you are left longing for more. “Fairlane Road,” is one of those novels that leaves you satisfied while hoping for its sequel in the near future."

I'm happy to announce that the sequel officially has a due date: January 17th, 2019.

Not long after I finished Fairlane Road a few years ago, I remember how the characters lingered with me for a long time.  It had been such a hard story to finish, yet after finishing it I kind of wanted to return to that world and those characters.  I couldn't forget how great it had been writing the character of Charlie Knox, the dark prophet whose depths went beyond what I ever could have predicted.  I couldn't forget cynical but increasingly open-minded Andrew Jean.  I especially couldn't forget Jezebel.  I knew there was more of her story to tell.  I even tried to write the sequel, but ended up realizing that I didn't know what I wanted to do with it, where I wanted it to go.  So I abandoned it, promising myself I'd return to it one day.

Years later--two published books later--and the sequel to Fairlane Road, titled The Girl with a Fairy's Heart, is on its way to being my third published novel.  It is another strange work, one that clashes and blends genres in wild ways, and delves far deeper into the philosophical grapplings and questions that the first one scratched the surface of.  Plus, it has what I think is the best antagonist I've yet written--certainly my personal favorite, anyway.  But as always, with my writing, the line between good and bad, right and wrong, is far from being easily definable.  And there is so much more to Jezebel's story than I had ever previously imagined.

I can't wait for you all to read it.  I'll go into this further as the release date continues to approach and I go through my final edits, but I will say that for newcomers to my work, The Girl with a Fairy's Heart is a sequel, but it is also a book that can easily be read as a standalone work, I believe.

For now, cheers!  Happy reading and happy writing!

Literary Fiction vs. Genre Fiction

To some, the line between literary fiction and genre fiction is not only distinct, it is a considerable divide.  I work in a bookstore and witness this all too often, where the shelves differentiating genres into respective areas in the store are more than just physical in their separation.  Many people refuse to read a certain genre for any number of reasons, occasionally for no reason other than some kind of snobbery.  Even I'm guilty of this, to a small degree.  Which is to say, there is almost always reasoning behind the distinctions between genres and types of books--whether it's the simple distinction between mystery fiction and science fiction, or broader, such as teen fiction and adult fiction--but there is a strong point to be made, one I agree with, that most of these distinctions shouldn't shape our view of a book, especially not in a broader context.

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Dispelling the Cliché of the Tortured Artist

We've all heard it before in some form or another.  Whether it's the crazed writer in a movie, or the insane and tortured artist, it is a strange (and sometimes pervading) idea and cliché that to be a great artist, you have to be insane, or crazy, or tortured.  And as much as I'd like to think that these kinds of ideas are viewed as antiquated in 2018, they are very much alive…

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Films that Made Me a Better Writer/Storyteller: Through a Glass Darkly, directed by Ingmar Bergman (1961)

When writers discuss their biggest influences, most likely they will talk about other writers who have impacted or shaped them.  And while I have a huge number of influences from literature, I am also deeply influenced by cinema…

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Love in the City, a short story

This is a short story I wrote years ago for an online creative writing class in community college.  Of the pieces I wrote for that class, this was always my favorite, so much to the point that I have kept it and since edited it.  The assignment was to choose from a selection of photographs and write a short story inspired by one of them.  The photograph I chose was of a young man and young woman seated near a mirror; the woman was putting makeup on, and the man had no shirt.

This being the first time I've ever kept a blog, one I intend to continue anyway, I figured the best way to begin would be with a sample of my writing.  Hope you like it!  And do feel free to comment and tell me your thoughts.  It's a short one.

Love in the City

A short story by Cody Lakin

Annie dabbed on the last bit of rose-red lipstick, bit her mouth inward a few times, and stared into the mirror without smiling.  She had always loved the serious look that makeup gave her.  It brought out a refined maturity in her eyes that she wished were always there, lent a sensuous fullness to her lips, and when applied correctly it brought out the stark black of her hair in contrast to the rest of her features.

    “There,” she said.  “All done.  You can stop complaining now.”

    “I wasn’t complaining,” Alex said in the chair beside her.  They made eye-contact through the mirror and he grinned.  “I’ve just been sitting here, you know, not complaining, as usual.”

    Annie smirked and shook her head at him.  “You know you love me.”

    “Sure.  Just enough to sit here for an hour watching you criticizing yourself in the mirror.”

    “An hour.  Please.”  She got up and opened the sliding-glass door.  The sounds of the city below assailed the room: honking horns, people shouting, sirens somewhere in the distance.  Slowly she walked out onto the hotel room’s pathetic balcony.  There was hardly enough space for two people on the balcony, so Alex stayed sitting in his chair, his shirt off, hair typically swept upward at the front but also mildly unkempt at the back from having been on his back on the bed.

    He watched her with longing and something like concern on his face.  He was a jokester, typically, and as funny as she thought he was, his serious side—a reflection of hers—was the part of him she loved best.

    “You okay?” he said.

    She nodded wordlessly and looked out at the city.  She had always hated it.  She sighed through her nose, shut her eyes for a moment.  “I think I’d like to live in the mountains.”

    “The mountains?  What, like Montana?”

    “I don’t know.  Somewhere other than here.  It gets tiring, you know?”  She turned so she was facing him, leaning her back against the metal railing, and forced a smile.  He watched her over his shoulder, returned her smile, shrugged his shoulders.

    “I don’t know,” he said.

    Again she nodded, and then looked down at her bare feet on the cold concrete.  She felt suddenly tired.  The motivation to be happy, to put on her usual playful act with him, had drained away.  She was glad it had gone so well earlier.  He had a way of making her feel better—and making love with him sometimes felt too good to be true—but now she wanted nothing more than to be asleep, or to be resting somewhere away from the constant noise of the city and the watchful eyes of others.  Most of all she didn’t want to go to the party..

    A gentle breeze began to blow, causing strands of hair to slash across her face.

    “You look beautiful, by the way,” he said, turning halfway around in his chair to look at her.  Again she feigned a smile for him but didn’t say anything.  Then he said something that she didn’t expect.  “Do you think they have any idea?”


    “Mom and Dad.”

    In a way, that was exactly what had been on her mind.  It had been on her mind since they had first started going places together, staying nights at hotels, attending parties as if they were a dating couple.  “Shut up.”  She turned away from him, faced the lights of the city once more.  The skyline was silhouetted against the twilight.  She would have called it beautiful, but right now she hated it more than she ever had.  You were never alone in the city, and you were always alone in the city.

    “Isn’t that what’s worrying you?” he asked.  She heard him get up, probably meaning to come over and hug her, make her feel better again.

    “Shut the fuck up, Alex.  I don’t wanna talk about it.”

    “I’m just worried about you.”

    She sighed and bowed her head.  “I know.”  She wanted to tell him that she was grateful for how he was always dealing with her, always making her feel less empty, less lonely, less depressed all of the time, but she had never been emotionally open, not even with him.  That wasn’t the type of thing she would have shared with him, anyway.

    “We don’t have to go to the party if you don’t want.”

    Then she turned around and actually did smile at him.  “Thanks.”

    He smiled back.  “Hey, no problem.  Whatever you want, Annie.”

    “You can still go if you want to.”

    “Nah.”  He shrugged.  “I don’t really care either way.”

    “All right.  Well, looks like we’ve got the rest of the evening to do whatever we want.” She walked past him and sat down on the bed, smiling.  She patted the space beside her, and he grinned in response.  “Hey,” she said. “What about you?  You think Mom and Dad have any idea?  Any… I don’t know… suspicions?”

    He chuckled.  “I don’t know.  I doubt it.”

    “Yeah,” she said, her smile fading a little bit, at least in her eyes.  “I guess it doesn’t really matter.”  She reached her arms out toward him.  “Anyway, come here.”

    He moved toward her, and no more words needed to be said.