These past few months have been difficult, to say the least. It's hard to move on, to think about the future, the road ahead, when the daily struggles of life feel so burdensome. I tell myself that I have to homeschool the children, I have to edit the third book, I have to clean the house, balance the checkbook, decorate for Christmas, fix the snowblower, etc... while another part of me says, "Who cares about it all? Does any of this matter?"
While my head says, "No," my bones, my heart, and my God say, "Yes!"
When you find yourself standing at the foot of cliff, staring up at the mountain before you, reaching the summit seems impossible. How do you overcome such an obstacle? How were we going to make all these trips to Philadelphia? How would we navigate a huge city in which we've never been? How would we navigate such a life-changing event?
Fear tells me that I may lose my grip and fall. Fear tells me that every horrible situation is lurking around the corner. It all seems too much to bear. Many times, I had wished I could find a place to run to escape these problems, but no place exists. You just have to stand up and face them.
The reality is perseverance is difficult. Giving up is easy. That much is obvious. But it is in the midst of darkness where the smallest light becomes most noticeable.
When I hadn't been consumed with stress and worry about Liz's condition, I had been trying to live a "normal" life. I edited my third and final book of the Scar of the Downers Series as I homeschooled my children. It was difficult moving on with the "mundane" in such a emotionally turbulent time. Again, I would ask myself, "Who cares about tomorrow? Who cares about it all?"
Then I would think of Liz and the faces of my four daughters. I would painfully and reluctantly tell myself that I can't give up. Not yet.
It was during this time when I prayed and pleaded to God for good news. This whole situation had spiraled out of control and I felt so lost and helpless. A firewall was needed. A bottom was desired. Just one word of hopeful and encouraging news is what I wanted.
This past weekend we made yet another trip to Philadelphia to attend a couple more doctor appointments. One was with Liz's dermatological surgeon and the other was with her oncologist. We did receive hopeful news from both doctors. The dermatologist said that her face was healing perfectly, while the oncologist said that her lymph node biopsy came back negative. While this doesn't change her future care, it does provide encouragement for the moment. It was a pinprick of light in a very dark tunnel.
That is one thing I've been made aware of throughout this whole process.
How powerful a small word of encouragement can be!
It was at this time that I didn't care about a book deal! I didn't care about a high-paying, impressive job. I didn't care about a great house or any other temporal thing. What I wanted was good news, that's it. I didn't care about birthday presents, birthday cake, or anything like that. I cared for one thing - the health of my family, more specifically, my wife.
She is one of the meanings behind my writing. I've realized that my love for writing is bound together in my love for Liz. It is one of the reasons why I do it, and why I can't let this become a roadblock for tomorrow.
It is easy for me to obsess over the dark thoughts that something like this conjures. My mind can become like a black hole that sucks me in away from my wife and family. While the pull is the strongest during these times, it is also during these times that I must resist.
I don't know what the road ahead looks like, or where it will take me or my family. She faces months of healing, perhaps years. Will these feelings resurface? Sure! But I know that I must not give up walking this path, no matter how bleak the hills and dark the road becomes. With the answers to prayers, God has given me enough light to see the step before me, and it is in that light where I will work and dwell.
Thank you for the prayers! I will keep you updated on my wife and my writing, which, by the way, is coming along well enough. I am editing yet another book called The Cry of Kilhaven (this is a completely different series.)
Perhaps that will be my next blog post!
I have not written on this blog in over half a year. Now that's not to say I haven't been doing anything because I have. I wrote, acted in, directed, and produced a short independent film with my wife and local church. I'll embed the teaser and trailer. I've also been editing the third and final book in my Scar of the Downer Series. I've taught college and homeschooled my children. Yes, this summer and fall have been quite busy.
I was planning on writing a new blog post a few months ago when something unexpected happened that stole my focus. My wife had developed skin cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer didn't look like textbook cancer and so it went undiagnosed for some time. This allowed the cancer to "break off" with satellite spots. Has it reached her lymph nodes? We don't know yet. We are still waiting on the results of the biopsy.
What has been difficult about this more than just the typical cancer fears and worries is that she had to have major facial surgery to remove the cancer. This has come with months of bandages on her face and quite drastic facial reconstruction that has been stressful and painful for her. Even her smiles have been affected. (They're more like smirks now.) We have also made many trips to Philadelphia so that she can have the best care this country has to offer.
All this to say, this gigantic hurdle has made many of the things I once cared about seem pointless and inconsequential. While autumn is typically my favorite season, I'll be honest and say that it has been difficult to find the motivation to complete the mundane. It has been almost impossible to care about the things that had made me love this time of year. I've allowed cancer to rob me of finding happiness in the small things such as hanging up Christmas decorations or writing a blog post, or even reading a book. I've allowed the fears of this disease to steal small moments of my life, moments I cannot get back.
But it has also made me realize with even more certainty why I'm doing what I'm doing, and why I can't give up or give in. This battle has made me understand how world-changing a game of Monopoly with my wife and children can be; how a simple dinner with my daughters can turn into a lifelong memory; how the quiet moments with my wife can be a reminder to her just how much I love her.
It will change you whether you want it to or not. In fact, Liz asked me if I think things will ever be the same again, and the simple yet difficult answer is no. Our lives have been forever altered - emotionally, spiritually, and physically (she has the scars to prove it). That, however, doesn't mean that it has to be all bad. Things like this can return one's focus to what matters in life. It can renew and test the bounds of faith in God. It can open a closed heart and make an ungrateful one thankful.
I'll admit that I've always struggled for happiness, for smiles. In a sense, it has been like my white whale - something that has eluded me. I've understood that about myself. It has been a thorn in my flesh that I've struggled against all my life. Smiles have always been rare to me. Many people have commented on it in my life. That is yet another thing that I've realized. Just how powerful a smile can be, especially to my four daughters in a time like this. But what my family has fought in these recent weeks has made the battle for a smile all the more difficult, and yet, all the more necessary.
I am now in the first round of edits. My editor has gone through my book and raised a lot of good questions and had very insightful comments. I’ve also been doing a lot of revising, and I’m starting to become a little happier with my writing. Getting this book finished was really difficult for a few reasons, and so I’m glad I’m at this point in the process now.
But not everything is a grind… On Saturday, May 12th, I will be at the mall to participate in “Ready Set Fun,” hosted by the local PBS station. It is a great event that encourages kids of all ages to read. You can check out their website here.
So, if you have teens or little ones, come to the mall on May 12th. They’ll have lots of interactive booths and authors to meet. Last year, I also participated and we took all of the girls and they really had a good time. The PBS characters walk around and you can take pictures of them, and they have a lot of freebies from different companies and groups.
Finally, as I move forward with getting this third book out, I have, with tremendous help from my wife, refocused on my website and included some new sections that may be of some interest to you.
The first section is my “Press & News” section (look in the tabs at the top). There, you can find articles, blog posts, reviews, and interviews about me or my books.
I also have another section titled, “Events,” which you can see all the events I’ve participated in or will participate in. This is still ongoing and not yet completely updated (I’m getting older, so it is more difficult to remember everything I’ve done.)
Forgive me if it seems a little vain. That is not my intent. This website is a lot like a resume, honestly. When I apply for jobs or try to land some marketing events, those folks will naturally go to my website to see what I’m about. So, I’m trying to make it as comprehensive as I can.
Spring is finally here where I live, and it’s a time for new beginnings and fresh starts. Just like the pruning that’s happening out in our yard, any editing or shaping of the book and the site will hopefully be an improvement and make things better in the long run.
What makes a good book a good movie? What makes a good book a bad movie? These are two questions that many people (especially those in the movie making industry) would probably like a clear and concise answer. Unfortunately, everyone knows that there is no clear, concise answer. In some ways, it’s a guess, a spin of the roulette, if you will. A gamble.
While this blog post doesn’t answer this question (how could it?), I will give my opinion on the subject, since everyone else does. Besides, I need to write about something. It might as well be this.
The movie, “A Wrinkle in Time,” which is a book I’ve read more than once, was recently released.
Now, I’m not going to delve into the reasons why this movie didn’t do well. Others have done it better than I could. I have also yet to watch the movie, so I can’t truly comment on it. This, however, brought up the question: why do some books make good movies and why do other books-as-movies fail?
I have a few ideas about why this happens. First, I’m going to look at a book that has done well as a movie (or three).
The Lord of the Rings – Peter Jackson and his team turned this book series into a rather successful series of movies. Though he couldn’t put every character and plot that was in the book into the movie (Tom Bombadil, where were you?), he did keep the spirit of the movie and characters. Not to mention, there were dramatic moments in the book that transferred well to cinema.
Now, to be honest, not everyone thought it was going to be successful. I remember reading one critic that said it was going to be the most expensive made-for-television movie ever made. Obviously, they were wrong.
But what made it successful?
I believe one of the most important things to do is to keep the spirit and theme of the book. When a director turns a beloved book into a movie, it is not for them to make it as they wish. Yes, they may have the right, but that is not what I’m talking about. Many directors have taken a book and put their own spin on the themes contained within. This was one of the most pointed arguments against “A Wrinkle in Time.” The themes and spirit of that book were abandoned. (Again, I can’t really form my own opinion as I have yet to watch the movie.)
This seems like commonsense. People who are fans of the book are more than likely going to watch the movie. You may or may not attract others. If you change the movie (not just the plot), you are going to make a lot of that fan base angry. If you can’t rely on fans of the book, then who can you rely on?
There is another book series that turned into a successful movie series.
The Harry Potter Movies – Again, when you read the books, the movies capture the same tone, spirit and themes of the original story. The Harry Potter in the book was the same Harry Potter in the movies, even if other elements were altered. So, when people went to see the movie, they were familiar with the characters.
In my opinion, it is rather disrespectful to change certain elements when creating a movie from a book. Now why do some directors do this? I have a few reasons. One, I think they are trying to capture an audience already in place. They are using the name of the book, but that’s about it. They don’t truly care about the source material. If they did, they wouldn’t make such drastic changes. Another reason may be less nefarious and more self-serving. They change the themes simply because they can. It is an arrogance. Another reason may be just to “put their stamp on it.” Now, I understand that some elements in a book don’t transfer well to cinema. Unfortunately, that is not why things typically change. It is also not the type of change I’m speaking about.
More than once, I’ve seen a movie diverge from the book and asked my wife, “Why did they change that?” If the reason isn’t obvious, then perhaps it should’ve been left in. That’s just my opinion. I’m sure directors have reasons, though not all reasons are legitimate.
Another reason (and the last one for this blog) why I think some books fail as movies is the lack of the visual, lack of the dramatic. This is true especially for the types of movies such as the ones mentioned above. Directors sometimes try to build those scenes into the adaptations of the book, but if they aren’t there in the original reading, it’s going to fall flat.
I think those types of stories, fantasies, need the climactic-worthy scene. Something that will evoke the emotion in the viewer. Some books don’t have that in their stories, and that’s fine. It doesn’t take away from the book. However, maybe it is not a movie-type of book, which is fine as well. In the end, some books lend themselves to be movies, while others aren’t. That doesn’t say anything about the quality of the book at all.
To quote a “popular” saying, “It is what it is.”
Scott Keen is the author of two young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers and Rise of the Branded. His third and final book of the Scar of the Downer Series should be released sometime next year.