Book Review: Jordan Locke’s ‘The Only Boy’

Book Review: Jordan Locke’s ‘The Only Boy’

untitled (17)In spite of the waning dystopian genre, Jordan Locke’s ‘The Only Boy’ breathes new life into it. I found this book on Twitter through this cover alone. Jordan Locke actually created this cover, and I must say, Locke did a fantastic job.

The main crux of this book is there are no more men in the world, as they have been wiped out by a plague called the Cleansing. Thus, it is only women that remain–or so Mary thinks.

Mary has never seen a boy in her life. She lives in Section One, which is a crumbling hospital with plenty of other women. Pictures of men have been removed from all books.

Then there is Taylor, whose dangerous secret is, of course, that he is a boy. In order to remain in Section One, he must pretend to be a girl; however, this is not an easy feat. The threat of death looms above him should he be found out.

Taylor wants to leave Section One because of the Matriarch. Her idea of safety is to keep Section One under totalitarian control. Even so, Taylor doesn’t want to leave Mary behind. But what will happen when Mary finds out just who and what Taylor is?

Upon seeing the cover and reading the description, I knew I had to snatch this book up right away. I love the dystopian genre, but the dystopian books in my bookstore are beginning to sound the same. They’re not even drawing from The Hunger Games. The most recent ones are being drawn from Divergent, because they all involve some sort of test, and it’s getting very tiring. In fact, Locke had to self-publish this novel because it couldn’t find a home due to the “waning dystopian genre.”

But this book manages to be its own dystopian.

There aren’t too many YA books with a male perspective. What’s even more interesting than a book with a male perspective is that Taylor, as for as he knows, is the only male alive and must live among nothing but women. I love how Locke doesn’t fall into the trap of believing that girls and boys are completely different from one another. This book shows they are not, and even Taylor himself learns that they are not.

So what is it like being the only boy among women? For one, he has to hide a razor blade in order to keep his face shaved. For another, he has to wear baggy clothes in order to hide his obviously-male figure. And last, he knows that if he were found out, he’d be killed because the plague killed men more quickly than women, and if there are/were any remaining men, they’d likely be carrying it. However, Locke instills an interesting secret within Taylor’s genetic code itself, and you’ll just have to read to find out what that is.

I love Taylor’s development. I love how he looks at the oppressive structure of the compound and realizes that women can be just as cold and violent as men. There is no touching allowed at this compound. Or affection. Or comfort. They avoid touching one another due to the plague, and affection and comfort are the same way. In fact, if a child is crying, the women leave that crying child alone. Thus, Locke presents a different side to women, one that isn’t so nurturing. In our culture, it’s a common-held belief that only women are capable of being nurturing. But this book shows that one’s environment determines one’s true behavior. In an environment based on pure survival, women will do what they need to do to survive.

I can’t forget about Mary, either. Her perspective is interesting because she has lived in Section One all her life under the oppressive rule of The Matriarch. She is a curious girl and wants to know what life was like before the Cleansing, but the Matriarch will allow no such knowledge. In fact, The Matriarch has made it so that men are unneeded. The women in Section One don’t need men to reproduce, not when all babies are basically genetically modified. So…GMO babies!

And so Mary is constantly getting into trouble, being put in the pit, sometimes with another, sometimes by herself. One can be in the pit for days or weeks at a time. Oftentimes those in the pits survive on water alone. This conveys just how dictatorial The Matriarch can be.

Even more interesting are The Earthers, people who are looked down upon by those who live in The Compound. In fact, Mary is convinced The Earthers killed her mother…with a gun. However, The Earthers have no such technology, so draw your own conclusions from there.

The Earthers live off the land alone, but I can’t give away too much about these people. All I can say is that the world building is fantastic because Locke delves well into Mary and Taylor’s perspectives. Doing so allows Locke to delve into the many layers of the characters’ worlds, and the characters themselves. Locke also does a fantastic job of making readers sympathize with secondary characters, such as The Matriarch’s daughter, who happens to be the bully of the compound. When I learned that The Matriarch showed no affection to her daughter, even as an infant, I really began to empathize.

Overall, I give this book a perfect 5.

Buy the book.

Visit Jordan Locke’s website.

The Madness of Writer’s Block

The Madness of Writer’s Block

Did someone call me for a case of writer's block?
Did someone call me for a case of writer’s block?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’ve never had writer’s block. I’ve never suffered from this malady because when a story idea clicks in my mind, I don’t run to my Surface and immediately start tapping it out. I let it stew in my brain and let the idea actually take me on an adventure where the plot points are endless. If it stays in my mind for a few days to a week and I can’t let it go, then I know it is a story that I want to write.

Everyone is different and needs to beat writer’s block his/her own way. I’m not going to tell you to step away from the computer and do yoga or deep-breathing exercises, because anyone who thinks he/she has the cure is going to tell you that. I’m only relaying how I have been able to prevent writer’s block: This is what this post is about, preventative measures. Like good healthcare should be doing, I’m going to give you the tools to prevent it.

In any case, if you’re prone to writer’s block, these tips may be able to help you.

After I have let the idea stew, I go right into creating an outline because all the points will be on paper and I have no excuse for not knowing what to write about it. If you relax and let the character take you on a journey, you shouldn’t find yourself too stuck on the outline. But if you are, remember an outline is an outline, and you can always take another day to let the idea stew. I took a week to create the outline.

I do not want to hear that outlines will limit your scope and you’ll find yourself bored. No you won’t. This is the argument a lot of writers use for rough drafts, and I especially love this, “But character development will be shoddy!” An outline is not set in stone. For Stolentime, I just go rid of three chapters out of my outline because they are unnecessary. I also find my MC is adding things to make the chapters more exciting that were not in the outline. If you feel like an outline is going to kill your character development, then you yourself still need to develop as a writer because then you’re using the outline as a crutch, not a tool.

I don’t take crap.

Once you have that outline written, sit your butt down and refer to that outline to remind you of what direction you’d like to take your story. It is merely a reference tool that will help you finish that rough draft without much fuss. If you feel yourself becoming bored because of the outline, remember that your MC is in charge of where the story goes, and that if you let the outline lead you, you aren’t properly utilizing the outline as it is supposed to be used. When I start writing a chapter, I glance at the outline to remind me what I want this chapter to be about–assuming that it makes sense with the previous chapter. If not, I’m allowed to make adjustments. People really need to stop treating the outline like evidence that needn’t be tampered with.

If you’re the type who has to write chapters out of order, use the outline out of order. I simply think the outline is the best tool for preventing writer’s block because your story is all there and you have no excuse for saying you can’t think of what to write. At the rough draft stage, you shouldn’t be worrying about how you’d like your sentences to sound. You should be writing.

The Planning Behind My First Novel, When Stars Die

The Planning Behind My First Novel, When Stars Die

Not finalized cover.
Not finalized cover.

I started When Stars Die when I was fifteen–now 22. I had finished its sequel (a whopping 180,000 word monster) and decided my sequel needed a prequel. The book was once titled Croix Infernal, Hellish Cross. It had the same characters and similar plot thread, but the writing was juvenile as was the storytelling itself. So I put that on the back burner for a few years to pound away at its sequel, Witch Tourniquet. I eventually parsed that novel down to about 90,000 words many years later, but after Georgia McBride told me the plot had de-railed, I knew it was not going to work as a first book and that I needed to resurrect the prequel.

I called it Lady Tourniquet to match the Tourniquet theme. How did I plan to go about fixing this book?

For one thing, all the details that were lumped together in half the book of Witch Tourniquet needed to be sprinkled throughout the entire book of what is now When Stars Die. I took Georgia’s de-railed comment as a sign that an outline was a must for the revision of When Stars Die.

I went through and carefully outlined each chapter, making certain to note important themes, plot threads, twists, and even character development. I noted every tiny detail to prevent plot holes. I also took a lot of Georgia’s advice from Witch Tourniquet and used that advice for the revision. The most important piece of advice I ever received from her: Make sure SOMETHING happens in every chapter, whether that be character or plot development. So each chapter I revised needed to either develop character or plot in some way. Thus, I made certain to note what would develop each chapter, whether it be one or both. Once I had the outline, I sat my butt down and began pounding out the revisions, trying to keep with my goal of a chapter a day.

Once I pounded out the revision, I took everything I learned from Georgia to self-edit the manuscript. I chipped away at everything you can imagine: plot holes, needless sentences, poor sentence structure, awkward character interactions, ect. I constantly referred to Georgia’s advice because I had learned massive amounts about how to edit my own work. The outline, more than anything, was my most vital tool for self-editing.

Will work for beta reader.

But the book had to be cooked again, so I stuck it back in the oven for a beta reader, Mariah Wilson, to read. I knew she would finish it because she loved the new version of its sequel (and she only read half). I’m a bit bitter about beta readers. I find them, offer to read their stuff, and they start my book, but they never finish or have to drop out due to life. I also never learned as much from them as I thought I did. Especially having Georgia critique my writing made me lose faith in a beta reader’s ability to truly help, until I realized they’re beta readers, not editors. I needed to take care of the iffy stuff first before using a beta reader to take care of the excess dirt.

But apparently I’m a decent self-editor. Mariah never found anything wrong, and Raymond Vogel of AEC Stellar even told me I have a gift for self-editing. But it was all because of Georgia McBride. Without her, When Stars Die would probably be flailing around somewhere.


That was the basic planning for When Stars Die. I can’t even tell you how inspiration struck. All I know is I always wanted to write about the 19th century with nuns and a convent and have witches thrown in there somewhere.

What Being in Psychiatric Wards Has Taught Me About People

What Being in Psychiatric Wards Has Taught Me About People


I was hospitalized twice within the span of a month. The first time was due to suicidal ideation, self-harm, and misdiagnosed major depressive disorder. The second time was due to being in a manic episode with undiagnosed rapid cycling Type I.

I was terrified the first time I was hospitalized. I was literally thrown in the thick of things, and because I hadn’t been grouped yet, I was stuck with the acute group for half a day, people who are not self-aware enough to know when they are hallucinating or people who simply cannot care for themselves because their illnesses affect them that much. Or people who simply cannot participate in group therapies at the moment because they haven’t been stabilized on meds enough to care.

I never thought of psych wards as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. No, psych wards nowadays are more like Ned Vizzini’s “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” I was still terrified of the type of people I’d meet though. I got there on my first day, was exposed to people having active auditory and visual hallucinations and thought, ‘I don’t belong here. I’m just depressed, but I’m not gone. My brain is all here. I’m self-aware enough to know I’m in trouble, so just give me a pill and put me out.’ These hallucinating people had no idea they were hallucinating. People with my condition can get so manic or depressed they hallucinate, but most are often aware they are hallucinating and try to take active measures to suppress the hallucinations.

In any case, I was eventually put with the Intermediate Group, basically functioning people with mood disorders. I always assumed people who ended up in psych wards had been exposed to some severe trauma in their lives (rape, abuse, ect…), but learned that mental illness does not discriminate. At the end of the day, the reason for your mood disorder being triggered doesn’t matter because now you are left having to deal with a possible life-long illness that can be traumatizing in itself. Suicidal feelings are traumatic. Self-harm is traumatic. Depression is traumatic. Pain is traumatic, physical and mental. Fibromyalgia and lack of sleep triggered my bipolar.

It was through the intermediate group though that I learned more about those in the acute ward. Those people in the acute ward weren’t crazy or insane or gone. They just needed help. They were just in a rough patch. Their lives are just as valuable as anyone else’s–they just need more help, a more restrictive environment to keep them safe. You can talk to these people and they will respond. No one with a mood disorder, regardless of the severity is crazy or insane or psycho or lost or unable to be helped.

I met all types of people, through all walks of life. I met someone who was on probation for burglary, and I didn’t judge him for that because he had a good heart. He learned from what he did, paid the price, and was now struggling to get his life back together. But even he found purpose to live. I also met another who was so desperate to die his arm was covered in a cast because he sliced it open so much. But he was thankful to be alive, and I was thankful he was as well because it showed that no matter who you are, your life is worth living and you just have to find a reason–and that reason can sometimes be hidden.

In my second hospitalization, I met more people. I met a bipolar alcoholic, who, despite her rage tendencies, loved her son so dearly that she wanted help. She was also a very sweet person, and I loved speaking with her. I also met a young man who had violent tendencies, but he was a good kid who just needs to learn how to manage anger when someone provokes him. There was also a survivor with serious brain trauma who sometimes mistook me for his mom, but I’d listen to him anyway because that’s all he ever wanted was just for someone to listen to him.

So what is my point by writing this post? As writers, we create characters who are oftentimes different from us, sometime with values and morals that conflict with our own. If we truly want to create stunning characters, we need to get out there and meet all different types of people and get to know them, with no judgment. We’re often so stuck with one type of people, “our clique” I suppose, that we forget others exist out there. It happens in college, happens in the workplace, as we want to feel a sense of belonging by being in a group. But we can belong everywhere if we give every human being a chance. I know before I never would have associated myself with a person with violent tendencies because I harshly judged those people as cruel human beings who had serious problems. Now I’ve learned there is no point in judging others because we do not know their stories. Oh certainly I still judge, but it is those who have caused irreparable harm to others, not those who find themselves in a bad place with a blatant mistrust and/or dislike for people for whatever reason.

So get out there and meet people you normally wouldn’t associate with. You’d be surprise as a writer what this can do for your character development. It helps you create antagonists you can be sensitive toward, antagonists you as the author aren’t judging but are leaving that judgment up to your protagonist. Knowing different types of people helps you create more complex plots as well, with decisions that are not so black and white.