Sunday, August 13, 2017

What I Learned from a Month off Facebook

So, I spent a month off facebook. Here’s what I learned.

1. I didn’t much miss it on an emotional level. Quite a few times in the first few days I automatically reached for FB to post some comment or update. That went away pretty quickly.

2. I generally felt more relaxed and didn’t miss the drama that is often present on FB. A big plus.

3. I got more writing and reading done, and watched more TV. However, the increase in writing and reading wasn’t anything astronomical. It was substantive, though, and was the best part of being off FB.

4. Sales of my self published items took a nose dive. I sold exactly one thing during the time I was off FB. Generally, I sell more than that. I have no idea about how it might have affected sales of my Wildside and other publisher released books. A big negative.

5. Although I could have called family members and friends, I didn’t make a substantial increase in this. I did some and that was pleasant, and it’s something I hope to continue. However, I still end up wasting plenty of time, just in other ways.

6. I missed talking about books and writing on FB. This was actually most of what I did when I was on it, and I enjoyed it. A negative.

7. I missed some regular interactions with folks that I was used to seeing on FB. A negative.

8. I found that many, many publishers and contests and other writing related projects make FB their main platform and this was a big negative for me. I couldn’t access guidelines and quite a few other sources of writing information that might have been important for me. Most of this is marketing and that in itself can cause problems for production. But still, not having ready access to this material cost me potential markets. One call for submissions that I missed was definitely something I would have submitted to, and a place where I’ve sold stuff before. This was the biggest issue for me.

9. I got back into blogging and did more of that and found that a positive. I did not necessarily have to give up FB to do this, though. I could have simply shifted the time spent on these various activities around.

For these reason, with the negatives outweighing the positives, I’m going to renew my facebook profile. I’ll see if I’ve lost a step there, and let you know. However, I want to spend less time there and try to avoid leaping on and off it a dozen times a day. If I can do that, I can maintain some of the good things of being away from FB while keeping access to other things that I like.

So, see you on facebook within the next few days.



Monday, August 07, 2017

Dark Hours, by Sidney Williams.

Dark Hours, by Sidney Williams. Crossroad Press. Hard copy Print. 183 Pages.


Dark Hours is a relatively short novel but packs a lot of tension and atmosphere into its space—and adds a good amount of action. I would classify it as a horror/thriller. It does a good job of combining the best attributes of both these genres.

Allison Rose is a student journalist at Pine College, a small school that has seen better days. An escaped killer is suspected of hiding out on the campus, where the woman he murdered once went to school. Allison is contacted by someone who claims to be the killer, and he wants to give her an exclusive interview of his side of the story.

But is it really the killer, or someone else playing a sick joke? Along the way to answering that question, we find out that everyone seems to have secrets in this game, and in a savage bout of cat and mouse played through the basement level of the college library, all those secrets get spilled while Allison struggles to survive against a dangerous and cunning foe.

I read Dark Hours in print form, as a hardback from CrossroadPress. It's a very nice physical package as well, with a dynamite cover. The author, Sidney Williams, has written numerous novels, most of which I’ve read, and many short stories as well. I’ve never read any of his work that I didn’t enjoy, and I highly recommend Dark Hours.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Expanse: TV Show

Been watching "The Expanse" on DVD lately. This is an SF TV show from SYFY channel, based on a series of books by James S. A. Corey, which is a pen name for a pair of authors named Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. The novels are well respected and have gotten some Hugo nominations. I haven't read them but quite likely will give the first one a try, "Leviathan Wakes."

I have no idea how close the show stays to the novels. We've only watched the first five episodes, but based on that I'll definitely be continuing with it. There are two 13 episode seasons filmed so far, with a third planned for 2018.

The concept is a three way political struggle between Earth, a strong and independent Mars colony, and "The Belt," which are the independent settlers and miners of the Asteroid belt, particularly "Ceres," the largest asteroid in the belt. Based on the first five episodes, there appears to be a fourth player who is not clear at the moment.

I've always disliked politics and am not much of a reader of political fiction. But Games of Thrones showed that when you match politics with genuine human interest and human characters, and throw in plenty of action, you can have compelling TV. The Expanse TV series is following that kind of pattern and so far it's hooked me.

I didn't realize, too, until the past few years, how much of a difference good acting makes. Game of Thrones certainly illustrated this for me. The Expanse also showcases some good actors doing good work, including Thomas Jane as a hardboiled sort of detective, and a number of actors previously unknown to me. Another bonus is that the cast is very cosmopolitan, with meaty roles for women and non-white characters. I was pleased to see Chad Coleman get a good role here. I enjoyed his work in The Walking Dead.

I'm liking it!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Krieg

In the last couple of years I've come up with what is so far my favorite sword and sorcery character. I call him Krieg, which is the German word for war. I've created quite a few other S & S characters over the years--Thal Kyrin, Jaal Harkest. Jedess of Seth-Loeril, Jys Martel. Most of them can be found in Bitter Steel, which collects the majority of my older S & S stories. But Krieg has become my favorite. If I had to compare him with any other heroic fantasy character out there, I'd say he was closest to Karl Edward Wagner's Kane. But Krieg is not Kane. He's the product of many years of reading heroic fantasy and striving to write it. He's his own man, so to speak.

I hope to write many adventures for Krieg. So far I've completed three. Only one has been published, A Whisper in Ashes, at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. The other two, "Where All the Souls are Hollow," and "The Rotted Land," have not yet been submitted. I'm looking for the right place to send them. One of the things that I've done to characterize Krieg in these tales is begin each one with a short poem that describes the character from the point of view of an outsider. Below are the three openers that I've got so far. What do you think?

A WHISPER IN ASHES

Down from the death-lands of snow
came a warrior with eyes
like scars.
No one knew his origins.
None could foresee his end.
He had no name.
The barbarians called him Krieg.

WHERE ALL THE SOULS ARE HOLLOW
Out of choking dust and black smoke
came a warrior with eyes
like broken blades.
Wherever he journeyed,
war followed.
None could say why.
The survivors called him Krieg.

THE ROTTED LAND 
He arrived on a fetid wind,
with eyes black as fractured onyx.
Blood flowed the paths where he walked.
Some thought him angel.
Others claimed him demon.
Only the whisperers named him   
Krieg.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson

As a biological psychologist, I certainly consider myself a scientist. As a teacher, I strive in my classes to make science interesting and attractive to my students while not glossing over the hard work that it entails. I want humanity to have a positive future and believe that science can provide us with the ways to get there. In my own small way, I try to be a proselytizer for science. I want people to love it the way that I do.

In my generation, Carl Sagan was the primary spokesperson for science. I remember being captivated by his Cosmos, and it led me directly into a fascination with astrophysics. I read a lot of other books in the field, including more of Sagan’s own work as well as the work of Stephen Hawking and many others. I don’t profess to understand it all but, if there are ‘big’ questions then astrophysics is the place where they most frequently get asked, and sometimes answered.

I would say that, for the current generation, Neil DeGrasse Tyson has taken up where Sagan left off, and I know he fully credits Sagan for his own involvement in science. I recently finished Tyson’s book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. It’s definitely not a “title” for people in a hurry but the book does exactly what it claims to. I finished it over a weekend and it was very straightforward, with clear explanations of tough concepts. It was well written with quite a few touches of humor. I came away with a good capsule history of our universe. I also learned a few things that I didn’t know, but I’ll let you discover those yourself when you read the book. I highly recommend it.








Sunday, July 23, 2017

Odd Bob's

We happened to be in Foley, Alabama today (Sunday), and stopped by a place called Foley's Indoor Flea Market. While Lana wandered around through much of the place, I went straight to Odd Bob's, who is a book guy among other things. (He also sells toys and a lot of vinyl records but I don't care anything about those.)

What I cared about was a simply huge selection of all kinds of books, SF, Mystery, History, Westerns, and much more, including a lot of comics. I only had an hour or so to spend there so I barely scratched the surface of what he had available, but I did find a few books that I'll share with you here.

"Drifter," by William C. Dietz is the first in a series. I've been looking for it for a good while and already have the other two. The Ray Bradbury collection of plays is not something I've seen anywhere else. I didn't know it existed. I've been intending to write a play myself. I also picked up a Babylon 5 tie-in novel by Peter David.

I also found several series books that were new to me. I got #1 in Donovan's Devils, #2 in the Man from U.N.C.L.E. series (which I had at least heard of), and copies of series books for The Guardians and UFO-1 that I'd never heard of. I was familiar with James Axler from his Death Lands series, although this "Earth Blood" is not from that series.

I picked up a collection of fables from Richard Adams, who I've found myself interested in again of late, and this rather odd book on the right called "The Alphabet of Manliness." It looks to be pretty funny. Never heard of it before. 



Finally, we also got the poster shown below, which is Star Trek related. For those of you who love Trek, no explanation is necessary. For those of you who don't, no explanation is sufficient.

If you happen to be in Foley, do yourself a favor and stop by Odd Bob's. He had a lot of Burroughs, a lot of L'Amour, and much, much more. You can find out more at his website, including his location. I linked it in line 2 of this post.

Friday, July 21, 2017

SPILLANE/HAMMER

I read my first Mickey Spillane book in 2008. It was “One Lonely Night,” the 4th book in the Mike Hammer series. I gave it one star. Here’s what I said: “I was really looking forward to enjoying my first Mickey Spillane book. I'm still waiting. This one was awful. Personally, I found it nearly illiterate. He's got only the tiniest fragment of the style of Chandler and Hammett but without even a sliver of their talent. I won't be reading another Spillane for a long, long time.”

Cue 2017, a long time in reading years. I’ve started my second Spillane/Hammer book. “Vengeance is Mine,” book 3 in the series, and I’m liking it a lot better. Not loving it, mind you, but at least it’s not a chore to read. As I started thinking of this post about Spillane’s work, I did some background reading on him. Turns out his first few books tended to focus on Hammer coming up against gangsters. Then he switched to “Commies.” My accidental selections of his books has apparently bracketed these periods. “One Lonely Night” was from his commie phase while “Vengeance” involved gangsters. Maybe that’s the difference. The “Commie” threat is certainly a lot more dated than the gangster threat.

This time with Spillane, though, I can at least begin to see the attraction many readers have for him. There is a rawness and an underlying power that creates a momentum for the story. The dialogue is dramatic, if not very realistic sounding. I can see why the Hammer tales are of interest to TV and film makers. My interest may be higher this time, as well, because I’ve been fiddling with a hardboiled story myself.

The books are also just chock full of items that grind my teeth, however. Of course, every beautiful woman (dame) in the tale is a knockout and every one of them has the hots for Mike Hammer, to the point they can’t resist him and beg him to take them. Most of them also enjoy a good slapping and accept being pushed around as their due. The cliché is sort of that they’re good girls in bad roles and they recognize the ultimate bad boy in Hammer. I’d never be one to say that you just can’t create this kind of female character. There are all kinds of people in the world. But over and over and over to the point of caricature and formula? I wince every time one of them is on scene in the story.

I still have a number of Spillane titles on my shelves. See the picture below. I picked these all up together at a library book sale. It was 9 years between my first and second attempt at Spillane. It probably won’t be so long for the third. I guess we’ll see.






Sunday, July 16, 2017

Another Dream and a Review at Angie's Desk

Two posts in two days! It's like old blog-time again around here. I definitely wanted to mention a review for Write With Fire over at Angie's Desk. I hope you'll check it out. Thanks Angie! Angie has been a staple of the blogging community for a long time and her lists of open anthology calls are must sees for anyone trying to sell short fiction today. Check out her own work too.

I also had another monster dream last night. Two of those in two days too. In this case I was camping out in a forest known to be inhabited by bigfoot. The whole dream had a kind of Boggy Creek vibe until I actually saw the creature. It was the horned monster with the striped shirt from the book Where the Wild Things Are. That was my son's favorite book as a kid. If I were to try and interpret this one, I'd say it meant that I needed to stop being so afraid of things, that maybe issues that I'm facing are not the monsters they seem to be on the surface.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Dream of Tigers

I’m not big on dream interpretation. Most of my dreams relate in a direct fashion to things I’ve recently read, watched or experienced. But last night’s dream begs for interpretation, and I have one.

It was on the farm where I grew up. My sister, Dolores, and two of my brothers, Paul David and Raymond,  were with me in the big field below our house. We were separated from each other but had our guns because something had been bothering the cattle. I was walking the fence line when I heard two deer bounding away in the narrow band of trees behind me. As I looked for what had startled the deer, I saw a tiger stalking through the field on the other side of the fence. It hadn’t seen me yet. 


Suddenly afraid, I  ran toward my brothers and sister, yelling a warning. The tiger came into the field where we were. It was strangely elongated. It must have been thirty feet long, with weird “S” curves in its body. I realized the tiger had focused on my sister. I opened fire with my rifle to prevent it reaching her but the bullets had no effect. Dolores was near the pond and when the tiger reached her it broke into a number of smaller tigers and attacked.

Dolores disappeared and then the tiger turned and looked at me. It was just one again. I ran toward our house, hoping for a hiding place. I managed to reach the house and get the door shut, but the tiger burst through that flimsy barrier. I slammed another door in its face and it burst through that one too. I ran, slamming doors that it smashed away. I’d lost my gun but was searching for another in a panic as I woke up.
  

So, what is the interpretation? Well, Dolores died of colon cancer. I’m convinced the tiger represented that cancer. That elongated, curved tiger could even be said to resemble one’s intestines. But why should I have this dream? Now? Well, yesterday I had a colonoscopy. I’d been worried about it, afraid the tiger was going to come after me. Fortunately, they found only a couple of small polyps that don’t indicate any problems. Only after the relief of that news could my fears finally surface in a dream. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Problem of Facebooking

So, here’s a thing I’ve discovered. Facebook is too easy. You can jump online, post something, get near immediate feedback from some of your thousand plus friends, and it feels good. You can easily stay in contact with family and close friends and see what they’re up to, although most of the time it isn’t anything exciting. You can share your joys at what you’re reading or watching, or lament your failures with people who have similar interests. But, the ease of Facebook communication is misleading. It would be better for me to call my family members than to just like some picture they post. It would be better to make plans to get together with a friend and have lunch.

As a writer, I’ve also used Facebook as a way to promote my work, but it’s become clear to me that FB is not designed to help you do that unless you pay. A personal post I make gets seen by everyone while any kind of promotion for my work disappears into a black hole. And even though it doesn’t help much with promotion, it has become—for me—a huge time sink. I’m writing less and reading less because of it.  Inevitably in writing a story there comes a pause while you think of what needs to happen next. Too often of late I’ve filled that pause by hopping on Facebook, and then finding half an hour or more gone just like that. A better promotion of my work would be to do more of it rather than talk about it.

For these reasons, I’ve decided to take a big step back from Facebook. I’ll monitor the sales of my books and stories to see if there is any discernable effect, so in that way it’ll be an experiment.  Meanwhile, I hope to see my output of both reading and writing increase, as well as finding time and motivation to do a bit more blogging.


Thursday, July 06, 2017

Bestseller Metrics, By Elaine Ash


Bestseller Metrics is focused on helping writers figure out how their manuscript matches up in characters and structure with published bestsellers such as Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and others. It forces the writer to confront what is actually in their manuscript rather than what they might *imagine* is in it. The writing is clear and concise, with touches of humor throughout. There are numerous "tests" for writers to run on their manuscripts, and each one is clearly described, with worksheets provided. When necessary, screen shots are given to explain the procedures on a step by step basis.

The creator of Bestseller Metrics is Elaine Ash, an award winning author in her own right, and one with many years of experience in editing. Although Ms. Ash did not specifically set out to create a writing "tip" sort of book, Bestseller Metrics does offer a lot of insight into the writing process and I personally found a lot of wisdom in it.

I've also not seen any other writing book out there that takes this kind of approach. I found it very valuable. It's something I'll keep referring back to with each new book I work on.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Poetry from Yours Truly

I'm very honored to be July's Selected Poet over at The Horror Zine. I hope you will click on the link and head over for a look. Thanks to Jeani Rector and all the good folks over there. I much appreciate their efforts. 

There are three poems, "River of Love's Dreaming," "Recipe for Disaster," and "Serpent Rain." I always construct notes about the evolution of stories I write, and sometimes I do this for poems, although in less detail. For what it's worth, here are the notes for these three poems below. 

A River of Love’s Dreaming: Started in 2016. I was very happy with my poem R.O.A.D, River of Angels Dreaming, and so I decided to try something else in a similar vein. I don't think it's as good but I was pleased with it overall. 

Recipe for Disaster: After reading some great poetry by Bruce Boston, I tried to create a similar kind of poem and this very short piece came out. I wrote an alternate version too and showed both to my writing group in 2016. They liked this the best. Bruce actually read this and gave me a suggestion for it, but it was already submitted at that point and so I wasn't able to incorporate his suggestion. If there's ever a collection that small change will be made. 

Serpent Rain: Written in 2010 but I don’t remember much about it. That was a very stressful year. A lot of losses. I suppose it felt a bit like I was being punished and was hoping for forgiveness. 

Thanks to everyone for visiting. 



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Raymond Chandler: Killer in the Rain

Just finished reading Killer in the Rain by Raymond Chandler. This is a short story but it was given a kind of standalone novella treatment by Modern Classics. You can see the cover below.

As I was reading this one I tried to pay close attention to Chandler's style, to see if could pick up on what makes him such an original and so often imitated. First let me say I really enjoyed the story. It captivated me as I read along. But what were the elements that lead to that captivation?

First, Chandler's writing is very simple and straightforward. There is very little poetry in his prose, unless one considers a certain starkness to be poetical. Second, the work reads like it was written quickly and was not revised very much, although I have no idea if that is actually true. I say that because I found various places where Chandler reused the same word in the same sentence or paragraph. I often do that in first drafts but usually try to change it as I revise. Third, there is almost no description of the natural world other than an occasional visual given of the sky or of rain. There is, however, a fair amount of description of man made objects within the story, such as the drapes or automobiles.

I found these three points interesting because, normally, I would say that I didn't like the way Chandler does them. I love poetical writing. I like polished prose. I love descriptions of nature and dislike descriptions of man-made materials. Chandler worked against all three of my preferences here, but I still enjoyed the read.

One might say, well, "Story is King." But the story here is not that compelling either. Basically, a mobster's girl is stepping out on him and he hires our "shamus" to take care of it. There's a couple of murders and a blackmail scheme, a couple of dames and a lot of whiskey. There's an hysterical woman who has to be slapped out of it. None of these are particularly compelling plot lines, although they certainly would have been much less predictable when this work was originally published.

The upshot of my analysis here is anticlimactic. I don't know why this booklet worked so well for me. Maybe other's have thoughts.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A Bookshelf of Inspiration

Reading has been a major inspiration for me throughout my life. Not only an inspiration for my own writing, but for life in general, for whatever philosophy I claim, for my career in academia, for the way I try to treat others. It would require many blog posts to list all the books and stories that have influenced me, but I can show you pictures of those works that have stuck with me the longest and which I continue to this day to pick up periodically and peruse.

First up are three books that reflect both my love of nature and of beautiful writing. All of these are nonfiction. The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen is my favorite work of all time.  I have multiple copies, and keep one at home and one at school. Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez is hallucinogenically beautiful. And Walden, by Thoreau! Nuff said.

Next, I didn’t discover Fitzgerald’s translation of Homer until college but when I did, I fell in love and memorized long sections of it. Some of those I still recall.  I didn’t discover The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers until grad school, but when I started writing Chambers’ work was right there with me, particularly a section of flash pieces called “The Prophet’s Paradise,” sections of which I also memorized.

Inspiration comes for me from every kind of work and every type of writer. The opening to Jitterbug Perfume is just about the most perfect piece of writing I’ve ever seen. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday beings with another of those hallucinatory passages that fires my imagination. And Teot’s War by Heather Gladney is a gorgeously written fantasy novel.

Ernest Hemingway is the only writer with two books on my inspiration shelf. The Short Stories contains some absolute jewels of Hemingway’s work, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” “The Short Happy Life of Francis MaComber,” among them. But the piece simply headed by “Chapter V” on page 127 is a thing of beauty.  A Moveable Feast is not on my shelf because of particularly beautiful writing, but because it contains the best advice on writing and on being a writer that I’ve ever read.

Finally, we have two very different types of works. Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of the Species” is one of the best written scientific arguments ever produced, and it certainly helped inspire in me an interest in science and reason. The other book here, which you can’t see the title on, is a near polar opposite to Darwin. It is the Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas. I thought I disliked poetry until I read this book late in college. This made me realize that I wanted a sense of poetry to be at the heart of everything I did.


So tell me, what books have inspired you?


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Summer Book Project

Every summer when I'm off teaching I tend to take on a project related to my books. In the past, this might just mean a good cleaning. Sometimes it means rearranging my shelves. Sometimes I get all my boxed books out and go through them for gems before reboxing them. This year I'm doing something different, and probably more time consuming. I'm going to take photographs of my entire collection, at least of the ones I've read.

I see people posting pictures constantly on facebook of their books and I never had any to post. I"d have to download a pic from the net if I wanted a cover image for this blog. But now that's going to change. I'll have a complete photo record of all my books available to me to post. Since I do various articles on books as well, this will also be helpful there.

Although this has already proven to be time consuming, I'm really having fun doing it. My books still bring me pleasure in so many ways, even if I'm not reading them at any given moment. Here are some pics I've taken so far. I'm sharing a lot more on Facebook.

1: I am the only person I know who collects Ken Bulmer, a British paperback writer who penned 100s of works under many different names. Here are some books under a few of his pseudonyms:


And here is my favorite anthology of all time. Maybe more than any other, this one made me want to write interplanetary adventure fiction!



Friday, May 19, 2017

The Bane of Kanthos




I'd originally planned to put this up officially for Forgotten Books Friday but I got busy and have been thinking about my son's wedding, which is coming up tomorrow. Anyway, I recently heard about this book on facebook and ordered a copy. I was pleasantly surprised. There is a newer kindle edition of this work but I read the original 1969 edition, which was part of an Ace Double with Kalin by E. C. Tubb. I'd already read Kalin in another format.

The Bane of Kanthos is a sword and planet novel, in the tradition of ERB's Barsoom series. An earthman is transported to what appears to be an alternate world via passage through a black gate. He discovers that the world is at risk from a great, reawakened evil, and that he is the only one who can save it. There are staunch allies, nasty villains, and a beautiful warrior-princess. All these tropes are familiar, but I enjoy them. What raised this book a little above the standard level for me was the fine writing. I thought the author's word usage and prose choices were excellent ones.

On Goodreads, there is an indication that the author, Alex Dain, has planned to write more stories about this world. The kindle edition is listed as: Book 1 in the Chronicles of the Gates. However, the kindle edition was published in 2013 and nothing new has appeared from Dain since. That would seem to make it unlikely that he is going to continue the series, although I'd certainly be interested in a sequel.


Even if nothing else appears in the series, I still think this one is worth a read for fantasy fans, particularly fans of sword and planet fiction.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Writing: Organic versus Manufactured

I had a discussion with a friend about writing the other day that I thought might make a worthwhile blog topic. It has to do with the differences between a piece of writing that grows organically and one that is constructed instead. Here’s my thoughts.

For me, poetry and flash fiction (750 words or less) usually grow organically. What I mean is that I have a seed of an idea, start writing, and let my unconscious guide me through. I don’t plan it, although oftentimes in revision I’ll make conscious changes to improve the piece. This is not, however,  the way, I write short stories, anything over 1500 words. Short stories are “constructed.” They are manufactured.  Although, if I do my job well the seams and welds in the story are invisible to the reader.

Now, my short stories often start out organically. They begin with a germ of an idea and the first 500 to 1000 words are often written straight out of that germ. But short stories have to have plot, and the unconscious typically only generates simple, straightforward plots. Those stories have already been told too many times. By the time I’m a 1000 words into a story I’m already engaged in the conscious work of building the piece to meet specific goals.

An analogy is this. A poem or flash fiction piece—at least for me—is like a wild fruit tree springing up seemingly out of nowhere. A short story is a carefully pruned and constrained fruit tree that has had many new limbs grafted onto it for specific reasons. Even the first 1000 words get this treatment. And I don’t just go through pruning and grafting once, but many times. The original seed is usually so hidden by the additions that it is scarcely noticeable


“Conscious” writing is immensely harder than just letting it all flow, but it does have its own rewards. One is that you have, in fact, built something with your own two hands.  And the final product is no longer all about  the writer.  It’s at least as much about the reader, if not more.  I believe this is one reason why it’s both difficult and dangerous to draw conclusions about writers themselves from the stories they construct. Just because a writer explores a negative theme does not mean that he or she is drawn to that theme. A writer’s characters and plot twists do not necessarily reflect the writer’s personal feelings and fixations.  Speaking for myself, although some part of me is in every story I write, I am not those stories.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Picking up on the Blog Again

Since my summer has begun, I'm hoping to pick up a bit on this blog, which I've neglected for quite a while. As per my usual, it'll mostly have to do with writing and reading, with occasional asides into whatever strikes my fancy.

On the writing front, I have a western novella about 3/4s done called "The Scarred One." Had to put it on hold during the school year, but now I'll try to get untracked on it. I've got quite a few completed stories that I need to submit, including two about the sword & sorcery character of Krieg. And I'm still considering self publishing a set of horror stories based on my dreams. I have about a dozen of those finished.

I'm working on a vampire story right now that I'm enjoying, and have opening scenes on several other tales that I don't know what to do with. Lately I've been working on a lot of poetry, partially because it takes less time and I can squeeze out a few moments from work here and there to commit poem-icide. Several of my poems appear in the latest issue of The Horror Zine. Thanks to Jeani Rector.



So, it is with good intentions that I post this blog. Let's see if that holds up through the next few weeks!


Friday, April 21, 2017

Killing Trail: Print Edition

Well, finally something worth reporting here on the blog. For almost a year I've been planning on publishing a print version of my western short story collection, Killing Trail. I published this on Kindle and Nook several years ago but finally used Create Space to produce a print version. You'll probably recognize the cover image. Lana took this picture of me at the local Flatwoods nature preserve. Not a great cover image but it fit and I thought, "what the heck."

I dispensed with the "Charles Gramlich, Writing as Tyler Boone," subtitle and just put the pseudonym here, but everything is explained inside. I plan on more westerns under this name. Here is the back cover blurb (with the link):

RIDE INTO DANGER! Killing Trail is a collection of western short stories written in the action & adventure tradition of such authors as Louis L’Amour, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Robert E. Howard. It contains:

Killing Trail: When they dumped Angela Cody on Lane Holland’s ranch she was scant moments from death. She managed to speak only a few words but those were enough to make Lane strap on his guns and ride out on a deadly hunt.

Showdown at Wild Briar: Accused of a murder he didn’t commit, Josh Allen Boone rode a long way from his Wild Briar Ranch. Now he’s coming home, and the real killers are waiting for him with a rope.

Powder Burn: They said Davy Bonner’s luck had run out and they ambushed him along a dark road. But luck or no, Davy wasn’t going down without a fight.

Once Upon a Time with the Dead: For the gray raiders, death was an old friend.

The work also includes two nonfiction essays, one about Louis L’Amour and another about the real Wild West.


The price listed on this is $6.99, but if anyone wants a signed copy you can let me know and I'll order some myself for that purpose. It should be a buck or so cheaper. Not completely sure how much cheaper.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Rise of the Rain Forest: A Book Review

Visions of the Mutant Rain Forest: By Robert Frazier and Bruce Boston: Crystal Lake Publishing, 2017, 245 pages.


In an undefined future, the rain forest has taken on a grotesquely beautiful life. It and everything in it mutates wildly, incessantly. The only laws governing the changes appear to be chaos and rage. Some humans survive at the jungle’s ever hungry and expanding frontier; their existence is precarious. The people who live within the forest itself are no longer human.  Perhaps they are more, perhaps less. The cities fight back with flame and chemical warfare. The forest attacks with spores and vines and strange beasts. In the end, everything succumbs.

In this thick and meaty work, the reader will find poems, flash fiction, and even a few longer stories. Many of these have appeared in other publications but there are also a number of new pieces. Boston and Frazier appear to have been writing of the mutant rain forest for quite a few years, and I’m glad to see this material collected together in one place by Crystal Lake Publishing. It certainly heightens and reinforces the impact of the individual pieces.

I’m very familiar with Bruce Boston’s work, less so with that of Robert Frazier. However, I thought the vision of these two writers meshed wonderfully throughout the collection.  As I started reading, I was paying attention to which particular author did what. I soon stopped concerning myself with that as I got further immersed in the world. It didn’t matter any longer.

The greatest strengths here are word play, imagery, and resonance. Maybe word ‘play’ isn’t quite the right term, for the language is serious. Word “work” might be better. Others have remarked on the imagery as apocalyptic and hallucinatory. I concur. But there’s a bit more. The imagery is itself insidious—not in a negative sense but in the sense of entrapping and beguiling. It’s almost as if the spores of the mutant rain forest wash over you with every page you turn. You wonder if they might take root on your skin. What might be born from such a symbiosis? And there you have the resonance.







Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hateful Thing

HATEFUL THING

When life struck its first blow,
he retreated before it.
But blows never stop at one.
So he kept retreating
until his back found the wall.
Within himself he found
hammer and anvil,
turned the ore of pain
into plate metal and shield.

Gilded and girded,
he strode forth upon the field.
And the wounds he took showed
only as dents in his armor.
On the outside.
On the outside.

A hero holds his own in the face of many.
He does not wish battle but does not shirk it.
He “stands tall.” He “fights the good fight.”
His face may be bloodied, his body bruised.
But it’s only on the outside
because his spirit is burnished within.
Burnished within.

Only, in this world
there are so few face-to-face fights.
He seldom sees an enemy coming.
He can’t watch every shadow where a dagger
might lurk.
And not only enemies wield the blade.
Friends and loved ones always know
where the chinks lie in the armor
that has started to rust.

When does the hero become the villain?
Is it when he begins to return every blow
with the force of ten?
Or when he returns blows not yet given?
But expected.
Expected.

In time he came to enlightened rage.
When an insult was thrown at him,
he sharpened it with words,
poisoned it with his own blood
and hurled it back.
By then he was going armed
to every gathering.
Prepared for defense.
Or offense.
Or offense.

Finally the day came
when he looked in the mirror
and saw,
he had become his own enemy.
A hateful thing.
And for such a blow
there is no armor,
no retreat.
For such a blow must be the last
ever struck.


Wednesday, March 08, 2017

A Sleep Paralysis Experience

Wow, I haven't posted her since February 10. My blog seems to be dying almost in spite of myself. Well maybe that's because not a lot of interest has happened to me. However, I did have a dream experience last night that might be worth sharing.

Many who visit here know that I have very vivid dreams and have written a lot of stories from those. However, I also occasionally experience sleep paralysis. For those who don't know, sleep paralysis involves waking up from sleep but remaining paralyzed from the neck down. The paralysis is temporary but can be disturbing. Sometimes, sleep paralysis is accompanied by vivid dream-like experiences that indicate a state that mixes waking and dreaming. I've had both types, the paralysis only, and the mixed state. Last night's experience was rather interesting, and scary.

I woke up, or thought I did, with a leg pushed up against my back. I knew Lana was in the other room and tried to call out but couldn't. I reached behind me to touch the leg and realized it was too small to be Lana's. It was a child sized leg. And it seemed to be growing out of me at the base of my spine.

I got a chill over my whole body and squeezed the leg hard. As soon as I did so, a child's arm popped out of my shoulder. But it was like a ghost arm. I could see through it. I realized at this point that it was sleep paralysis. Normally when I realize that I try to relax, which is the best way to make it dissipate. However, I was still freaked out enough to struggle. I tried to sit up and managed to do so, then woke up completely to find myself still lying on my side. I went and told Lana about the experience, then fell back to sleep pretty easily.


About all I can imagine from this experience is that it was my "inner child" trying to get out. Maybe he just didn't want to go to work today.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Ed Bryant

I was very sorry to hear that Edward Bryant died on Friday, February 10. Ed was a very fine writer of both SF and horror. He was often associated with the New Wave of SF. I did not know Ed well; I only met him a few times at various conventions in Louisiana. However, I will always remember my first meeting with him at a New Orleans SF convention back in the 1990s. It was my very first convention as a guest. Ed was by far the biggest name at the con and I remember how friendly and accepting of me he was.

I talked to Ed a few more times at other conventions and he always seemed to remember me. Over time I got him to sign quite a few books for me and I still have and value those. From all I hear, he was at all times a nice and considerate fellow and that was certainly my experience of him. He'll be missed.



Saturday, January 28, 2017

Perry Rhodan: The Planet of the Dying Sun.

Despite my best intentions, time gets away from me. We’ve got two job searches going on in Psychology this semester and I’m on both sub committees. Reviewing applicants, meeting about them, doing phone interviews, etc, has filled up every spare moment I might have had to blog, or write. But, finally, here is a blog post.

I mentioned previously that I was going to make this year, at least in part, of reading series books. In this regard, I just finished “The Planet of the Dying Sun, #11 in the Perry Rhodan space opera series. This is a German series, which started in 1961 in Germany’s equivalent of a pulp magazine. There is something like 3000 books in this series, and more in a Spinoff series called “Atlan.”  In the USA, Ace books published the first 126 books, between 1969- and 1978, as well as a few Atlans. They’ve been phenomenally popular in Germany. Wikipedia indicates they reached 1 billion in sales by 1986.

I've only read half a dozen of the series. Most I’ve enjoyed, but I found “The Planet of the Dying Sun” to be extremely weak. It didn't engage me at all. After looking through my records I see that the ones I've liked were written by K. H. Scheer. My favorite so far has been Fortress of the Six Moons, not coincidentally, the first in the series that I read.

“The Planet of the Dying Sun" was written by Kurt Mahr, although from what I understand an original draft of the work might have been done by Scheer. Mahr was the pen name for Klaus Otto Mahn. Mahr/Mahn apparently wrote a bunch of the Rhodan titles and I have a couple more of his around here. However, at the moment, I’m thinking that I'll probably give those a miss and stick with the Scheer ones.

The most memorable thing about this book was the opening "letter" from Forry Rhodan. Forry was Forrest J. Ackerman, who contributed imaginary “fan letters/editorials” to some of the early books in the series. I'll quote a brief passage that made me arch an eyebrow and laugh. In speaking of Perry Rhodan, the letter reads: "He is a true super-Homo Sapiens, the representative of the Man of the Future, to show our present day Hippies, long haired defeatists, and their friends that the future of Earth is in the stars, not in drugs or in plain sex and pleasure!"


As a long-haired scientist myself, I thought this was laying it on a little thick. I guess Forry wasn’t a fan of the hippie movement.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Fantasy Book Sale

To celebrate the new year, there's a sale/promotion going on today in Heroic Fantasy that I wanted to mention. One of my own pieces is included in the promotion. If you click on this link, it'll take you to the page, which features mostly works for under a dollar.

I plan to pick up a couple of these today, too. I haven't read all of them myself. However, I have read stories by Peter Fugazzotto and Scott Oden and feel very comfortable recommending them both. 

Fugazzotto's work, it seems to me, shows some influence from two fantasy authors I particularly like, Robert E. Howard and Glen Cook. 

Oden's work featured here is properly called Historical fantasy since it is based on an actual historical world, although it features fictional characters. It's good solid writing that puts you in the period very well.

The rest of this also looks quite good. There's a variety of stories available, from the deadly serious to the more humorous. Hope you get a chance to check out the page.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Early Music that Influenced Me

I saw this “ten albums that have stayed with me or influenced me as a young person” thing going around facebook. It’s interesting . My situation growing up seems a little different from most. The only music in our house was some country & western and the music on Lawrence Welk. My father did not approve of rock and roll. He called it “Duck Quacking” music. The first time I ever heard a rock song was on the radio in the truck while my brother was driving.  It was Crimson and Clover by Tommy James and the Shondells. It was a revelation.

We also didn’t own a record player while I was growing up so the idea of personally owning music was completely foreign to me. I didn’t have a turntable until I went to college. My brother-in-law had one and I did hear him play “Light my Fire” by the Doors once.  I liked it a lot. The first music I actually bought was as a Junior or Senior in high school when I had an 8-track tape player in my car.  It was Deep Purple, “Shades of Deep Purple.” I loved “Hush.” I played the tape 4 or 5 times before the machine ate it.

This means that most of the albums that really affected me didn’t come into my hands until college. But here they are, generally in the order of influence. And by influence I mean those that have remained with me over the years and have influenced my writing and all future musical interests.

1. We Sold Our Souls for Rock and Roll, Black Sabbath, double album.
2. Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin
3. Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd.
4. Tres Hombres, Z. Z. Top
5. Rocks, Aerosmith
6. Boston, Boston
7. Leftoverture, Kansas
8. Welcome to My Nightmare, Alice Cooper
9. Straight Shooter, Bad Company
10. Stormbringer, Deep Purple


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

School and Writing

Well school is back in session. Classes started Monday. That means, for the past few days, my writing has been nearly at a standstill. When I was in my 30s and even 40s I still had the energy after long days of work to go into my office and write. That energy is no more. I've had to revert back to a strategy that I've used throughout the years during the heaviest work periods:

That is, "Write at least one good paragraph every day." No matter how tired I am, I try to get that one good paragraph done each and every day. On good days, rested days, I can get a lot more than that. But even on the worst days I make a little bit of progress. Progress is the key. Writing is accumulative!

Friday, January 06, 2017

The Year of the Series

For each reading year, I tend to set a kind of general goal, knowing that I don’t intend to make it a hard and fast rule. In the past, for example, I’ve had the goal of reading more poetry, or big books, or missed classics, or graphic novels. I keep this in mind as I go through the year, and try to make sure I have plenty of books from the selected category available.

This year I’ve decided to put a focus on reading and finishing book series. I love a good book series. I read a lot of them. However, I’ve often read relatively haphazardly through a series, reading one here and one there, and often stopping part way through to go on to something else. Sometimes I’ve never gotten back to a series, even though I might have greatly enjoyed it when I first jumped into it.

The first series I ever read through completely, back to back, was the Lord of the Rings trilogy, way back in college. The second series I read like this came much, much later. It was the Harry Potter series. I’ve also got a dozen or more “series” books around the house that I’ve not yet read. So, for this year, I’ve decided to keep a little focus on completing series. I’m on the last book now of David Gemmell’s Rigante series, which is four books. I’ve got like 2 of the survivalist series books left, maybe 2 of the Cap Kennedy series left, a bunch of Edge and Dumarest of Terra books, something like 5 of the Dray Prescot series, a couple of the Destroyerman series, and numerous others. I’ve also got entire series of books in my TBR pile.

My “reading year” starts on my birthday each year so I’m well into my program for this current period. I’m having fun with it. What about you? Do you ever set general goals like this for yourself?




Monday, January 02, 2017

Opening Post of 2017

Wish I had something profound to say for my first blog post of 2017. 2016 was not a very good year for me, but it was definitely better than any in the period 2012 to 2015. That’s not saying a lot considering those were among the toughest personal years of my life. I read more in 2016 than in the year before but wrote less. I basically wrote about 50,000 words of what I consider to be commercial fiction and non-fiction, as in stuff I’d like to sell and believe that I will. A fair amount of that has been sold. Other stuff has been lingering around without being submitted just because I’ve been procrastinating on that front.

Another change in my life, which started last year, involved streak watching of TV shows. I don’t binge watch in that I seldom watch more than two episodes at a time, but for the past two years Lana and I have been watching seasons of various TV shows back to back over a period of a few weeks. I’ve found that there’s quite a bit more decent TV out there than I had assumed. This has probably impacted my writing to some extent since I used to go to my computer pretty quickly after supper. Now I tend to spend at least an hour watching a TV show before hitting the pages.

Of the shows we’ve streaked so far, here are my favorites, in order.
Game of Thrones
Breaking Bad.
Babylon Five
Justified
New Battlestar Galactica

I’m also still watching The Walking Dead and a newer show called Lucifer, but only an episode a week, like with old fashioned TV.

In short, and as usual, I’m hoping 2017 will be a good one both personally and professionally. I want to finish a few writing projects that I’ve left hang around too long. In reading, I’ve made a tentative decision to make this the “year of the series,” either starting and finishing whole series of books, or finishing a few of the series that I’ve had lingering around for a while. I’ve started with the Rigante series by David Gemmell and am about to finish book 3 of a 4 book series.

I hope all of you have a grand 2017. My best wishes go with you.