Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saddam hangs

I firmly believe Saddam Hussein was an evil man. I am for use of the death penalty (not in all cases, but generally when the person to be executed remains a danger to others). I think the world is better off without Saddam. I think the U.S. is better off without Saddam. Iraq too.

But ... I don't feel any safer. And something bugs me about his execution. I'm not sure what it is ... perhaps the way it was handled, all of a sudden in the middle of the night (though early morning in Baghdad).

It didn't quite seem fair to me. It didn't seem just. A quicky appeals trial, then slam bam and he's hanging from a noose.

I often think U.S. appeals courts take way too much time when dealing with murder cases, but the speed of Saddam's execution has shocked me, I suppose..

I just don't know. Something about Saddam's death didn't feel right.

Can anyone explain this to me? Then I'll go back to writing about writing.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Busy, busy, busy

Just wanted to let folks know that if I'm not posting much here for a while it's because I'm busy. I'm still working my old job, looking for a new job and moving two hours away in a town where I've bought a house but still don't have a job. All the while I'm still trying to edit the third book of my trilogy.

Call me Stupid.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!

As I'm going to be on the road for the holidays, and away from a computer, I wanted to wish everyone who checks this blog a happy holidays and Merry Christmas!

May all your writing dreams become realities in the new year of 2007!

Friday, December 22, 2006

So, I'm royalty

Figure I had to get in on this one too.

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Earl Ty the Appropriate of Deepest Throcking
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

And for Kron Darkbow ...

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Viscount Kron the Bovine of Snotting on Wold
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Monday, December 18, 2006

Writing methods

There are various ways for a writer to work. I'll mention a few below, and my opinions of them, but keep in mind I'm only talking about the actual writing process. Editing and other work can be for another post.

Longhand method: Some writers write their stories out by hand, usually in a notebook or pad of sorts. Then, when finished, they proceed to type the work into a computer or on a typewriter, or they have someone else type it for them. I've tried this method a few times, but my hand tires too much, and I can't write fast enough to keep up with my brain. One of the great things about this method of writing is the cost: A pad and a few pencils cost only a few dollars, though finding a typewriter or typist might run you some more bucks.

Recording: Some authors actually carry around a recording device of some kind, and they record their own voice as they "speak" the story. Then, later, they type the story up or have someone else type it. I've tried this method only once or twice, and I found it laborious. I'll skip it, thanks.

Typewriter: This is a more traditional method, where one types their story straight onto a page with a typewriter. There are some drawbacks to this, mainly having to deal with mistakes while typing. This method is nearly forgotten nowadays, as the typewriter has been replaced by computers.

Word processing: This is probably the most common manner for writers to write today. They type their stories directly into word processing software on their computer. This method allows for easy editing and revision, and saves your story in a file without taking up the space a bulky manuscript would. The main drawback to this method of writing is the cost; computers, paper and ink cartridges can be expensive. Still, this is the method of writing I normally use.

There probably are a few other writing methods I've forgotten, or I'm not as familiar with (stone tablets and a chisel come to mind), but feel free to let me know of something different than I've mentioned.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The typewriter

Ever miss the days of the typewriter? Every so often I do.

Yes, the benefits from writing with word processing software on a computer are enormous, but typewriters had a few benefits. For one, once you had typed out the work, it was already there for you; no sitting around for hours while waiting for a proof of your 300+ page novel to print out for editing or mailing (which is what I'm doing while writing this).

But more than that, I kind of miss the mechanics of writing with a typewriter. My first typewriter was some foreign brand, a portable manual that was quite dodgy mechanically, but I loved it. My mom got my second typewriter for me in high school; it was a fancy electric Smith Corona that even had an erase key on it that would allow me to go back and automatically white-out a bad keystroke. Boy, I thought that was big time!

Then, at the age of 18 I entered college, and that's when I discovered Macintoshes. These newfangled computers were far and away better than the Vic 20 and Commodore 64 computers I was familiar with from high school. Since then, I've never looked back and I've never owned another typewriter. My (now old) Smith Corona sits unused in my mom's house five hundred miles a day.

Ah, nostaliga.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

This is not a review

Okay, I'm reading "The Da Vinci Code." I'm a little more than halfway through it. Yes, I've seen the movie. So why read the book?

Simple, to see how and why Dan Brown's novel has become so popular.

The plot is fairly generic, though has a fast pace to keep interest up. The main character is different, thus interesting, but most of the other characters aren't anything special. The writing is okay, not great but not awful, reminding me a little of Michael Crichton's work in the last 20 or so years. It almost reads like a screenplay, with a little exposition thrown in from time to time to explain the more complicated elements of the story.

True, I'm not finished with the book, but since I've seen the movie I know how the story works out. As far as I can tell, the novel is so popular because of its background material, most of which is quite explosive from a religio-political point of view.

However, none of that background information is anything new, nothing I hadn't read years ago. Apparantly, though, it was new to the public at large.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, I spent years and years reading occult material, fiction and non-fiction that touched upon or was fully engulfed by "secret history," "lost books" and unique individuals and the like. I wanted to be a horror writer then, so it made sense to study all that stuff. I spent lots of time reading about the history of vampirism, cults, witchcraft, Le Comte de St. Germain, the Rosicrucians and thousands of other subjects that are truly useless to know about ... unless one is writing about occult matters.

So, "The Da Vinci Code" held no surprises for me.

It's just a halfway decent book that likely would never have been a best seller if its opponents had kept their mouths shut.

Wow. Eureka. Sorry, I've got to go. I think my next novel is going to be about a conspiracy by a U.S. president to start a war for no other reason than to make his buddies rich. THAT should be controversial enough to get me published.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ideas from music

A question writers often hear is "Where do you get your ideas?" This is such a common question that many authors moan about hearing it. The simple answer is: Our ideas come from our imagination. We allow our minds to wander, to ask questions, to put together things that normally wouldn't be put together.

Another simple answer, for me, is music, specifically pop or rock music.

I have next to no musical talent. I can't read music very well (though I can kind of figure it out on a guitar or keyboard). I can only play about two strings on a guitar. And I can find the center of a piano keyboard and thump my fingers around a little. I've also been known to smack some sticks on a drum a little.

But really, I have no musical talent. Lucky for me, I also have no musical ambition.

However, I do have big interests in music, emotionally and nostalgically. I also often get story ideas while riding down the road listening to a tune. The music itself often puts me into one mood or another, many of those moods being good emotionally for my writing, but I also love great lyrics. Often, the lyrics combined with the right sounds will give me ideas for a short story or two that rumble around in my head.

I'll offer a couple of vague examples (vague because I don't want to give away any story ideas):

"Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel. I'm guessing I'm the only writer to listen to Simon and Garfunkel and get an idea for a horror story. The first words to the song are "Hello, darkness ..." That alone is enough to get my mind working.

"The River" by Bruce Springsteen. "The River" is basically a story in itself, a sad tale of one man and his lost dreams, though you're never really sure what those dreams exactly were. For some reason, this song always puts me in mind of some hard-boiled action, possibly a protagonist with lost dreams and he's found a rough-and-tumble way to find those dreams again. Usually, a gun is involved.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Being well read

Even if you are focusing your writing career on only one genre, you need to be well read in other areas. For example, most of my fiction writing experience is in fantasy and horror (with a once-in-a-blue-moon lapse into sci-fi or mainstream literary), but I try to be well read in other areas. Why? Not only because it helps me to be a more well-rounded writer, but it can help me find story ideas. Here are some thoughts:

1.) Best sellers: Yes, I've read "Bridges of Madison County. I'm currently reading "The Da Vinci Code." I often shy away from books that seemingly come out of nowhere to suddenly be huge hits, but I feel I have to read some of them just to remain aware of what's selling. It's good marketing sense. I discovered Harry Potter for this reason (and because my friend Becky wanted me to read the Potter books so she would have someone with whom to talk about the books), and I've enjoyed the Potter books. I also discovered Tom Clancy and Anne Rice for the same reasons, but this was back in the 1980s. Stephen King too. Even if a big seller isn't quite your cup of tea, you can learn a lot from one of them.

2.) Classical literature: Many classics of the written word are simply that, classics, great literature that will make you a better person just by reading them and thinking about their story, message, plot, themes, etc. Classics might not help you much with current marketing, but they can show you what's already been done, so you won't repeat it (and look foolish to your editor, publisher and readers). Also, by studying good literature, it can help you become a better writer.

3.) Ancient literature: Much the same as classic literature, but going back hundreds and thousands of years. The ancient Greeks had tons of stories that would make great novels today, with some updating, of course. The same could be said for the Icelandic sagas, or ancient Roman writings, even the Bible and Koran.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Zombie attack!

I had to post this one.

Will you survive the zombies?
Your Result: Coward

You hid long enough for the zombies to moan a little while (actually a long while) and for the army to march in and wipe em out. Now you can get together with the other survivors, probably not as many due to the fact that you didnt save any, and discuss the future for your little destroyed city.

The Survivor
Zombie food
Will you survive the zombies?
Make Your Own Quiz

I also know 80s rock music

Ultimate '80's Rock quiz
Your Result: YOU ROCK!!

you definately know your '80's rock!
Eddie Van Halen would be proud. Go out, buy your first real six-string and play it 'till your fingers bleed. if that's not your thing then go put on a good rock tune and play air guitar until someone makes fun of you, at that point tell them to go screw themselves and get ready for the guitar solo!!!

Ultimate '80's Rock quiz
Create Your Own Quiz

If you don't like my little quizzes, go away. It's my blog and I'll do what I want to.

Holy crap! I'm a druid!

I can't believe out of all the D&D classes that I'm a crappy druid. This sucks.

What D&D Class are you
Your Result: Druid

You spend most of your time in solitude in the woods. You don't really care about those around you only yourself. If it doesn't affect you then it's not your concern. But once it affects you, now that is a different story. You will purge your enemies if they dare mess with you.

What D&D Class are you
Create MySpace Quizzes

What kind of reader are you?

Here's how I scored.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Literate Good Citizen

You read to inform or entertain yourself, but you're not nerdy about it. You've read most major classics (in school) and you have a favorite genre or two.

Dedicated Reader
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

How about you?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Know your basics

A good number of writers, or wannabe writers, seem to think they can get by without knowing things like ... oh, like grammar, or spelling, or formatting. Some seem to think editors will take care of all this for them.

It's not true. You have to know these things. You don't have to be Shakespeare, but you need to be a decent speller and to at least learn the basics of grammar. You also need to pay attention to formatting your stories.

First, why do you need to know this stuff. Simple: Because if you don't, then you will never be published. Editors receive hundreds or thousands of stories or books a month; often they are looking for reasons to NOT publish your story. Don't give them any solid reasons. Keep your work professional, and they will treat you as a professional. And you will eventually be published.

Second, how do you learn grammar and spelling and formatting. I'm guessing if you are interested in being a writer, you likely already know the basics from school. But even if you don't, you can still learn. Go to your local library or book store, then head to the reference section. There should be some books on grammar and spelling. I know there will be a number of books on how to get published, and most of them will have a section on formatting.

Here's some tips from me:
1.) Always keep a dictionary and thesaurus next to your writing space. A little book on basic grammar and punctuation couldn't hurt either. Whenever you are unsure about something, turn to these books.
2.) Don't trust spellcheck in your writing software. Use it, but don't trust it. There's a lot spellcheck won't catch.
3.) Edit, edit and edit. Then edit some more. Read over your own material until you're bored to tears with it. Find mistakes, fix them, then keep looking for more.
4.) Have others read your work. This is important. A while back I was making pdf files of my first novel and to do so I had to switch between a couple of different softwares also while switching my files from Mac to PC formats; for some reason, some of my punctuation went missing. Friends of mine caught this. Thank goodness.

I'm sure there are other things I could add, but I'll keep it short.

Also, I know I'm not perfect, so I don't mean to come off as a know-it-all. I make mistakes with my grammar and spelling too. I just keep working at it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Boring myself

Found out something new recently ... After spending almost two years of working on a project, and after writing and editing and re-reading my first novel at least six times ... I am bored to tears with the first book.

I will be so glad when I'm finished with this final edit and I can get back to working on the second or third back. Yes, I'm boring myself.

But I still like zombies. Everybody should have one.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Zombies and more

VonDarkmoor asked about zombies and my appreciation of the social messages from zombie movies, so I thought I'd expound here a little. A warning: there will be some minor SPOILERS below for some zombie movies.

But first, I want to mention something ... earlier I wrote I didn't like the "Saw" movies because there isn't a plot, or at least not much of one. Then it dawned on me that many people might say the same about the "Friday the 13th" movies I was raised on. I thought, "Oh, how hypocritical of me." Then I realized I had never really cared much for the "Friday the 13th" movies anyway. So I'm not a hypocrite. The only teen slasher movie I really like is John Carpenter's Halloween (unless you count "Psycho," and I don't because it's not a teen slasher flick IMO).

Now, on to zombies. Someone (I don't know who) has recently labeled "zombies the new vampire." And I agree with that. What is always most interesting about vampires, and more recently zombies, is not how different they are from humans, but how SIMILAR they are to humans.

Zombie movies are admittedly cheap, gory feasts on film. I don't care for the gore, which is one reason I tend to prefer zombie fiction over zombie movies (hey, at least I don't have to SEE the intestines being eaten). But zombie movies also have a message, sometimes more than one message, about humanity. The most simple of messages is this: WE are zombies, eating ourselves, destroying ourselves and killing ourselves. It doesn't get much more simple than that. It's pretty dark, but it's also a fairly basic way to look at life (one I at least partly agree with -- humans just love to kill humans, physically and socially and economically, etc. etc.).

To go a little more indepth, consider quite possibly the most famous zombie movie of all time, "Night of the Living Dead." There were a few other zombie movies before this 1968 classic film from George Romero, but this is the one that really began the franchise. Most notably, the hero of this movie is a black male. No big deal today, but in 1968 it was a huge deal. To go further, the black hero (played by Duane Jones) survives battle after battle with the living dead, then is mistaken for a zombie himself and shot dead by a group of white men at the end of the film. If there's not message about race in this story, I think anyone would have to admit at the least there are race-related overtones. (P.S. Don't bother with the lousy 1990 remake of the movie -- it's no good).

Zombie movie are also notorious for attacking capitalism and consumerism. Don't believe me? Come on. Both versions of "Dawn of the Dead" take place in malls. You can't get much more anti-consumerism than undead baddies shuffling through the Gap while ripping apart the latest line from Tommy Hilfiger.

Then there's "Day of the Dead," my least favorite of Romero's zombie flicks, but still with its worthwhile aspects. The movie takes on the hubris of science and the military, while also taking a look at gun violence.

So far I've only talked about George Romero's classic three movies, but there are plenty more zombie movies, and some of them by Romero himself. I don't want to take up a ton more space here, so I won't talk about those other movies other than to say some are good, some are great and some are complete and utter dreck.

Now, on to literature. There's not a ton of zombie fiction, though the list is growing. I want to mention my two favorites.

1.) "Book of the Dead" is a 1989 anthology of short stories edited by John Skipp and Craig Specter. Stephen King has a short story here, as does Steve Boyett, a forgotten fantasy writer who I've always liked. This is my all-time favorite anthology. The stories are fantastic. If you can find this used paperback, and you don't mind blood in your fiction, pick this one up.

2.) "World War Z," by Max Brooks. This is a new piece of fiction. I hesitate to call it a novel, because while fiction, it isn't a traditional novel. It's a collection of interviews with people ten years after World War Z, the war against the zombies. While partly written tongue-in-cheek, this book is eeiry in its realism. It reads real. It sounds real. In some ways I find that scarier than gore. On the downside, the book tends to drag a bit after you've read interview after interview, but it's all interesting.

Enough on zombies for now. I'm even boring myself.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Offensive material

Over at mystery author JA Konrath's blog, he received an e-mail from a woman complaining about the violence in his writing. Various comments then followed on his blog.

First, I've never read any of Konrath's novels. I have a couple of them, but haven't got around to reading them yet. But since I've not read any of his books, I really have no basis upon which to form an opinion about whether the violence in his books is too much, just right or possibly even pretty weak. But his main character is a HOMICIDE detective, so how the heck could he write a series of mystery novels with such a character and not have some violence?

I also wonder if I'm relatively immune to violence in literature. The only author who has ever made me squeamish was Clive Barker, though Neil Gaiman has come close a couple of times. Stephen King? Nah. I think King's pretty tame when it comes to violence.

But then when I think about movies, I don't really like overt gore in them. I can't stand the "Saw" movies, and not just because they're horrific and gory, but because there doesn't seem to be any REASON for the gore; there's very little plot line, just a bunch of people trapped and being tortured. Also, the one movie that made me almost puke was "8MM," starring Nicolas Cage, which was about snuff films. I do, however, love zombie movies, but not so much the gore in them (I like zombie movies for their social message — and yes, there is one).

Then I think about my own writing. I don't usually (I repeat, usually) set out to intentionally disgust or offend anyone, but I'm sure some of material is likely offensive to someone. After all, stories with swords in them without anyone ever actually swinging a sword are pretty boring.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Back to harping

Okay, so enough about taking a break. Get back at it. Get to writing. Get to rewriting. Get to editing.

Even if you only write a couple of hundred words a day. Even if you just edit one chapter a day. Even if you only rewrite a minor scene of a hundred words.

Why? Because it's all motion. It's all moving ahead.

Today you might have had a bad day. Maybe you're sick. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe someone important to you is in dire straits. Maybe the news from Iraq depresses. But still ... if you punch out a few words, you've accomplished something.

And you'll feel all the better on those days when you feel great and type out 5,000 words in an hour.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Other genres

I write mostly about fantasy on this blog, mostly because that's what I've been working for a couple of years, but I have pretty strong interests in horror also. Here's my break-down on interests in other genres.

Horror: I love good horror. Bad horror is ... well, bad. I don't like the basic slice-n-dice stories filled with nothing but gore. But I love horror that focuses on the human element and upon mystery; the monster behind the closed door is always more frightening to me than when the monster is revealed. That focus on humanity is one of the reasons I like Stephen King so much; many of his horror stories are relatively mundane, but they have a strong human element that only King can provide. Actually, horror is probably my favorite genre to read, even more so than fantasy.

Science fiction: To tell the truth, I don't care a lot for most science fiction. When I do, I prefer "soft" science fiction. "Hard" science fiction just bores me; if I want to read a technical journal, I'll go buy one.

Mystery/Thriller: I've read a fair amount of mystery stories, and I tend to prefer hard-boiled tales. A lot of mystery novels don't seem to do much for me, because I feel there's no chance you (the reader) can figure out what's going on.

Westerns: I love western movies, but not so much the fiction. The one big exception being Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove."

Romance: I have next to no interest in romance, but to be fair to the genre, I've never actually set down to read a romance novel. Unless Anne Rice counts.

Mainstream/Literary: In my experience, most so-called "mainstream" works are really just genre novels, with a lot more words than usual.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Break time

Despite my steady ranting that one should write every single day if one wishes to be a professional writer, I have to admit there can be times to take a day off. Many writers won't admit this, but I will.

I generally allow myself one day a month off from writing (or editing and rewriting and everything else that goes along with being a writer). But there are a few days where I don't write much, maybe just a few hundred words, or I only edit a few pages.

The brain needs time to rebuild your mental energy sometimes, and there are days where you're just too exhausted from running around and doing other things. The real world intervenes. Sometimes, every once in a while, you need to let the real world win for a day or two. Otherwise, you'll wear yourself out physically and you'll freak yourself out mentally, and it will be so much harder to get back to writing.

So, my suggestion is to write every day, but allow yourself a day off every once in a while, and allow yourself a few days where you still work at your writing but maybe not as much as normal.

Keep yourself sane ... especially during the holidays.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

My library

To tell you the truth, I have no idea how many book I own, nor how many books I have read over my lifetime. If I had to take a wild guess, I would say I've read about 5,000 books, and I've probably owned about 4,000 books total at one time or another.

But why don't I know? I'm glad you asked. There are two reasons.

Reason One: I have moved four times in the last five years. Where I live now, I do not have any bookshelves except for a small rack in my writing office, and it holds the thirty or so books that are my "to-be-read" pile. Almost every book I currently own is stuffed into boxes in my attic, or in boxes in the bunny room (where my three house rabbits live). So, books are scattered everywhere, and I'm sometimes surprised when I stumble upon something I read thirty years ago because I didn't know I still had it.

Reason Two: I have a habit of giving away books to libraries. I do this about every ten years. I pick out books I know I will likely never read again, or want to read, then I take them to the local library of wherever I'm living at the time. I've done this three times in my life, and I'll probably do it again within the next year.

When I was a teen-ager I had a compulsive need to keep everything I read. No longer. I've even given away a few books I really liked, simply because I knew they were easily replaced. And I don't collect books for any financial value. First editions and signed copies mean little to me, though I have a few, and I read them. When I go to an author's signing, it's not to get something from him or her I can sell on eBay; I want to meet this person for professional reasons.

Well, I gotta run. I do most of my posting at work, and have to get back at it.

Friday, November 24, 2006

To write is to live

I'm sitting in my car at a red light the other day, thinking about my trilogy, when it dawns on me there has not been a time since I was in fourth grade that I have not wanted to be a fiction novelist. Then it dawns on me that most other people don't have my dream.

I can't imagine not wanting to be a writer. Truly, I can't. If I woke up tomorrow, and suddenly I did not want to write any more, I don't think I would have any reason to live. I'm not suggesting I would kill myself, but I believe I would go through the rest of my life like a zombie, as if I had no soul, plodding along from one useless task to the next.

And I often wonder why other people aren't the same. I realize other people have their own dreams, but very many people seem to NOT have any dreams. They just go to work, go home, eat, watch TV, go to bed, then start the whole thing over the next day. I don't understand this. And I don't mean to be making a value judgment about those type of people, I'm just saying I don't understand.

If I didn't write, I couldn't breath.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

My influences, Part II

In the earlier post, I listed novelists who I feel have had a big influence on my dream of wanting to be an author (though not necessarily on my style of writing). Here I am listing other people, not generally novelists, who have had a big influence on my writing.

1.) Neil Gaiman. Neil has become a novelist in the last decade or so, but in the early 1980s and 1990s he was best known as the writer for DC Vertigo's line of Sandman comic books, which have become a series of graphic novels. The first 6 or 7 issues of Sandman are almost a work in progress, but by issue 7 or 8 Gaiman really finds his niche and sticks with it through the rest of the run of the comic, about 75 issues if memory serves. I don't write like Neil, but his Sandman stories have had a huge impact on how I think about fantasy writing. If you have not read any of the Sandman graphic novels, I implore you to go out and buy one. "Dream Country" is the shortest and cheapest of the Sandman graphic novels, collecting four issues that were each separate short stories. No other author I'm familiar with can blend classical mythology, Christian mythology and his own, created mythology like Gaiman.

2.) Frank Miller. Another comic book writer. I don't care much for Miller's more recent works, but his "Return of the Dark Knight" to this day is my all-time favorite comic book story line. If you like hard-boiled fiction, this story is as hard-boiled as can be.

3.) Sergio Leone. Leone was a movie director best known for his work with Clint Eastwood in the Dollars trilogy of movies, Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Yes, they're cheap and easy shoot-em-ups. But no, they're not. The movie are more than that, much more. Leone had a fantastic eye for picking out character actors, people with faces so unique they almost don't seem real, more like characterizations from artist Mervyn Peake (yeah, the same Peake who wrote the Gormenghast books). Leone also had a great eye for the camera, switching back and forth between exteme closeups and super wide shots, showing fantastic backgrounds. As for story telling, no one can build suspense like Leone. Don't believe me? Watch the last half hour of Good, Bad and Ugly; the violence is over extremely quickly, but the build-up to that violence is breathtaking.

4.) Adam Duritz. My favorite living lyricist (John Lennon and Kurt Cobain being tied for not-living lyricists, in my opinion). I wish I could write novels like Adam writes lyrics for Counting Crows. Of course, then I'd probably be a romance writer, but it would still be fantastic.

5.) George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. No child of the 70s or 80s can be involved in the entertainment industry and not have been influenced by these two. I list them together because so much of their early work was together, from Jaws to Star Wars to Indiana Jones.

6.) Mel Gibson. Despite Mel's recent idiocy, I have always appreciated his movie work, specifically his works as an actor portraying a vengeful character. Mel really does a great job at this, from the Road Warrior to Ransom to Patriot, Braveheart and Payback. While Mel sort of fills a niche as this vengeful character, he fills it like no other I've seen. Kron Darkbow's sense of righteousness owes a lot to Mel.

Monday, November 20, 2006

My influences

Below is a list of authors who have had the biggest influence on my wanting to be a writer:

1.) Stephen King. I like anything he has written, even the not-so-good stuff and his short stories. He might not be the best writer to ever live, but in my opinion he is the best story teller of the last 30 years (at least). More than any other writer, when I read a King book, it makes me WANT to be a novelist.

2.) J.R.R. Tolkien. The Hobbit was the first fantasy novel I ever read, so I have to say ole J.R.R. has had a big influence on me, even though he's not necessarily my favorite fantasy author. I like The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring best.

3.) Andrew J. Offutt. I've probably only read a dozen or so short stories by this author, but his Hanse Shadowspawn shorts from the Thieves' World series are some of my all-time favorite sword and sorcery stories. My own Kron Darkbow is a very distant relation to Hanse, though I'm sure they would hate one another if they ever met.

4.) Don Pendleton and Mike Newton. I put these two authors together because they worked on a series of men's action/adventure novels called "The Executioner," about a Vietnam vet named Mack Bolan who returns from the war to spread vengeance upon the mafia for killing his family. Marvel Comic's Punisher character is based upon these short novels. While The Executioner books are basically modern, cheap pulp action stories with lots of guns and some gore, they are great tools for learning how to write action. Don and Mike were the earliest writers in the series, and a score or more of writers have taken on the series since.

5.) Alexandre Dumas. Specifically, "The Three Musketeers," though I love everything I've read by Dumas. He is my favorite classical author. "The Three Musketeers" is sort of like Forrest Gump for me; it seems to contain a wide swath of the human condition, and human emotion. While Musketeers is often portrayed as a simple adventure story in the movies, it is so much more. A single movie could not begin to encompass all the Dumas brought to his story of the Muskeeters. Yes, the novel has its share of action and adventure, but it has much, much more ... love, hate, sadness, revenge, defeat, victory ... on and on. Dumas' Athos is one of my all-time favorite characters, and Athos would not be the same man without Aramis, Porthos and d'Artagnan.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fantasy sub-genres

I write fantasy. It's not all I'm interested in writing, but of late that's what I've been focusing on. I also have strong interests in horror, but I've other, even mainstream, ideas too. I'll get around to writing that stuff eventually, if I live long enough. But for now, at least the next six months until completely finishing rewriting and editing on my trilogy, I'm focusing on fantasy.

But even within fantasy there are multiple genres. There's dark fantasy, romantic fantasy, sword and sorcery, and a score or more of other sub-genres.

I recently was asked which sub-genre of fantasy I write. My answer was "I don't know." That might sound lame, but it's the truth. I guess my trilogy is sort of a mixture of heroic fantasy and sword and sorcery, but I never really think of it that way while writing or editing. I don't think my work is true heroic fantasy, because some of my protagonists are more anti-heroes than heroes. I also don't think I write true sword and sorcery, because a number of my characters are interested in saving or helping the world around them, not just their own goals. I guess I have a mixture of characters, some more heroic and others more sword and sorcery.

As for the future, I have a few fantasy-related ideas that are not so action/adventure oriented. But I also have plenty of more tales to tell about Kron Darkbow and some of the folks surrounding him. Now if I can just land a publisher, I could start a series of Kron books, and sometimes other works.

To the future!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Duality of writing and editing

Looking back over, and editing, my first novel (written a little more than a year ago) ... it's daunting in some ways. I haven't looked over this material in a while, and it's odd. I read one chapter, and I'm like "Wow, that rocked!", then I read the next chapter and I'm like "Yikes! That was total dreck!"

So, you keep on editing, and hope you can turn out the best story you can. Sometimes it's a hit, sometimes it's a miss, but nothing beats that feeling of writing a hit. Unless it's maybe seeing that hit published.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I am evil, at least partly

Find out just how evil you are. Don't lie. I was surprised at how many things on the list I had done. I guess I'm a bad person. Oh well, back to writing about big guys with swords slaughtering innocent people.

You Are 58% Evil

You are evil, but you haven't yet mastered the dark side.
Fear not though - you are on your way to world domination.

Welcome to Hollywood

Now I'm being asked what my trilogy is about. I haven't yet summed up 270,000 words into the 20-word soundbite that's needed, but (with some help from Howard vonDarkmoor over at sfreader's forums), I can give you the Hollywood version of the trilogy as follows:

Book 1: Batman meets the Sopranos ... in Thieves' World.
Book 2: Batman goes on a road trip.
Book 3: Batman and Jesus take on Sauron.

Now, I'm not being literal. I'm writing a fantasy story with characters of my own, not any of the characters listed above. I'm just using those names as a frame of reference for any readers here (there are a few, right?).

Saturday, November 11, 2006

At last!

I finished the first draft of the third book in my trilogy, thus ending the first draft work for the entire trilogy.

It only took 20 months and about 270,000 words.

Now, back to editing and rewriting.

After I have a beer to celebrate.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Only one more to go

I only have one more chapter to write. Then ... a long sigh of relief ... and back to editing.

As always, I'm not happy with much of what I've written. But that's what rewriting is for, to clean up and correct.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Excitement, excitement!

Finished the first draft of the climax to my trilogy last night! Yahoo!!!

Now on to the anti-climax, and sorting out loose ends.

Three chapters more max, maybe two if I'm lucky.

Ahhhhhhh! The light at the end of the tunnel is near!

Though I still have plenty of rewriting and editing to do.

I'm so excited, I'm already getting ideas for my next novel or two.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Usually I don't find writing exhausting, but last night I wrote 1,700 words in the climactic chapter in the third novel of my trilogy. I'm still not finished with that climax, but I had to stop. Not because I didn't know what came next, and not because I was blocked or scared to write more. I had to stop writing because I was drained, mostly mentally but also physically.

Writing is a lot of work, and writing that 1,700 words was tough. It's not the greatest of prose, but it's also just the first draft. I'm still drained from it, but I'm looking forward to getting back at it tonight. Just hope I can finish it. I'm predicting I'll need at least another 1,500 words.

After that, I should only be 2 or 3 chapters from ending the whole trilogy.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Politics? No thanks!

Somebody online recently asked me why I don't write on my blog about politics, daily events or other things that have the potential to drive more traffic to my site. To be frank, the reason is because I don't want to.

My blog is meant to be about fiction writing, specifically about the road I'm traveling trying to be a career novelist. That doesn't mean I won't sometimes throw in a little something else, but I have enough stress in my life without turning my blog into a soapbox. I also have to deal with politics enough in my day job, so I don't want to deal with it elsewhere.

Yes, I have my own opinions about various things. I share them sometimes on other Web sites or others' blogs, but I find it generally to be useless. I'm not going to change somebody else's mind, and usually they're not going to change mine. So why waste the time bickering?

Besides, I'll let my fiction writing speak for me.

Fuzzy mind

I recently read Terry Brooks' "Lessons from a Writing Life: Sometimes the Magic Works."

It's basically Brooks' "How to be a Writer" book, which it seems every top-selling author is doing nowadays. First, let me say, Brooks is not a favorite author of mine. I've read four or five of his novels, but that's been twenty years ago; his writing was okay, but his plots and worlds were too cliche for my taste. He has talent; he's had to, to survive in the publishing world for 30 years.

Anyway, in the recent book on writing, Brooks' first chapter is titled "I Am Not All Here." He goes on, in the chapter and throughout the book, to talk about how there is a joke in his family about how he is always kind of mentally "gone." He's never fully there, mentally, for his family. He's kind of spaced out, or has what I call fuzzy mind. Apparently this is something he has had nearly all his adult life since he has been a professional writer.

No, he's not a victim of some dreaded disease, or ADD, or anything. He's just a writer. And he often lives in worlds beyond our own.

I got to thinking ... that's me. Ever since I began my trilogy in March 2005, I've felt ... it's odd to describe ... but almost as if I'm floating along in this world, our real world. No matter what I'm doing, no matter how important, a piece of my mind is focused on my trilogy.

Filing my taxes? Thinking about the trilogy.
Laying out pages at work? Thinking about my trilogy.
Sending out a resume for a new job? Thinking about my trilogy.
Having surgery? Thinking about my trilogy.

Thank God I don't have kids, because I would not want to distance myself from them mentally. It's bad enough I never see any friends any more, I hardly think about work and my significant other sometimes informs me I'm clumsy and scatterbrained.

No, I'm not. I'm just not all there.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Nearing the end

I'm within 20,000, maybe 30,000, words of finishing the first draft of my trilogy. That's probably another two weeks' worth of writing for me, maybe a month if I'm busy with other things. And I'm only about 2,000 words from the beginning of the climax to my tale.

That scares me. I didn't think it would, and I've read where other writers have mentioned this, but I'm scared of completing my trilogy.

Part of me is thrilled .. but I've spent almost two years living in this world, and I realize I still have plenty of editing and rewriting to do on the second and third books.

But still, it's kind of sad. I feel like I'm saying goodbye to some old friends.

I guess that's what sequels and prequels are for, not only for the reader, but for the writer too.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Book buying habits

Mystery writer JA Konrath has plenty of great information for budding novelists over at his blog,

One thing Konrath writes of fairly often is that a writer should remember that he is a book buyer too, and should pay attention to one's own book buying habits. For instance, he raises the question, how often do you buy a new writer's first novel? For most of us, the answer is probably, "Not very often, if ever."

So, this got me to thinking. What are MY book buying habits? I've mentioned some of my reading habits elsewhere on my blog.

When I was a kid, in the late 70s and early 80s, my options were quite limited. I lived in Lexington, Ky., and there weren't a lot of bookstores, mainly a Waldenbooks at one mall and another at a shopping center. About all that was available to buy were Tolkien, Terry Brooks, the Thieves' World books, and later the Dragonlance novels.

To fill my need for fantasy and sci-fi, I joined a writer's book club in which you order four books for a buck and then in the next year you have to buy four more books at regular price. Here I discovered Asimov and McCaffrey, as well as Stephen King.

In 1986, a miracle happened. Josph Beth Booksellers opened their first store, and it happened to be in Lexington. Since then JoBeth has opened stores in 5 or 6 other cities, and they have became a small chain somewhat similar to Barnes & Noble, but much more intimate and in touch with their community.

Anyway, Joseph Beth opened, and revealed to me whole new worlds and writers. JoBeth gave me Poe, Heinlein, Bradbury, Lovecraft and more. I spent most of the late 8os devouring everything horror, from King to Koontz to Saul to Straub to McCammon.

Then in 1990 I decided to get serious about my writing. I wrote 75,000 words to a horror novel titled "The Storm," and to this day I've yet to finish it (though I still have plans for it at some point). I also got serious about my reading, and decided to read all the classics because I felt a "serious writer" should know the classics. I spent the next couple of years discovering plenty of classical writers, and I fell in love with the works of Twain, Dumas, Melville and Jules Verne.

Most of the rest of the 1990s I stayed away from speculative fiction, other than an occassional horror novel. Fantasy and sci-fi seemed "all done" to me. There are some exceptions, however. During the 90s, I re-discovered comic books, or, at least, graphic novels. Alan Moore and Frank Miller and Neil Gaiman and Dave Sim more than filled my need for spec lit.

Then I suffered from writer's block for five years. I've covered that elsewhere. The last few years, I've been catching up on my fantasy reading again. Unfortunately, most of the modern fantasy I read I tend to find subpar; it's not all awful, but it's not great. Though I have discovered the Wagner's Kane stories and Cook's "Black Company" tales. I've read a good bit of R.A. Salvatore, Paolini's first book and some Terry Goodkind. I've a Brian Jordan book I plan to get to sometime, and I've read Peake's Gormenghast trilogy.

Though I spoke mostly about "reading" above, I mainly was talking about what I had been buying during those periods. Does it prove anything? No, other than I've got plenty of reading to still catch up on.

Happy reading to you.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The dream

Most writers have a dream. Some just want to finish their story. Others just want to be published. A good number want to be the next Stephen King or Anne Rice or Tom Clancy or J.K. Rowling, etc.

My dream is to have fiction writing as a career. I don't expect to get rich, though I'd like to make enough money to quit my day job. From there, I'd like to write a couple of novels a year, with a few short stories thrown into the mix every once in a while. Maybe I'd try my hand at screenwriting again, or get into writing for video game companies.

Some might call that selfish. Others would just say "it's nice to have a dream." Some would say it's never going to happen.

And it might not. But you know what, it sure as heck won't happen if I don't give it a try.

What has brought this post on is my annoyance at reading online advice to writers that says "just do it for the love of writing, not for the money." I'm sure this advice is warranted, as there are a lot of people out there who are trying to be writers and a good number of them are not realistic about their goals or their expectations or their level of skill or talent.

Me? I love writing, and I think I have some talent, though I don't claim to be the next Hemingway. But ya know what? I still want my paycheck. Even if my dream of becoming a career writer is never fulfilled, I will continue to write. I love writing. I really, really do.

But I often think writers do themselves a disservice by only "doing it for the love of writing." I'm not saying I'm ready to join a writer's union, but I think it's time writers stood up for themselves more.

And I don't mean you should pester some editor or publisher for money. I think writers just need to be aware that if they are serious about being published, then they need to be aware they are in a business, not a hobby.

If you want to make money, then your publisher has got to make money. It's that simple. So, write the best you can, submit it, and keep your dreams alive.

Just don't quit the day job.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The bad guy cometh


I've been fighting something for a long time.
I have this villain. He's my favorite character. But because he's a villain, I've been avoiding having him attempt something that's actually beneficial to the good guys, even though it's something that is in his nature to do.
So, last night, I decided not to fight it any more.

Yes, I've got a villain who is sort of turning into a good guy.

The funny thing is, he would chop me up with a big axe if I called him a "good guy."


Useless numbers to keep me awake ...

I'm not going to keep track here my daily word count for my current novel, but I'll post the last four days:

Tuesday -- 900 words
Monday -- 600 words
Sunday -- 1,800 words
Saturday -- 800 words

Beyond that I can't remember, but lately I've been averaging about 1,000 words a day, which is less than what I was averaging a few months ago. Then I was averaging about 1,500 words a day.

Also, I've kept track of various word counts for each of my three novels. In the first two novels of my trilogy, the average word count per chapter was about 3,500. Odd though, my average word count per chapter for the third book has only been about 2,500. The first book had 32 chapters. The second book had 21. The third book should have about 30.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Title and concerns

So I'm working on a fantasy trilogy. The first book is mostly finished, other than one final read for minor errors and the like. The second book has some editing yet and rewriting, and I'm waiting to hear from a few folks who are reading it. The third book is in the middle of being written, and I'm at about 55,000 words.

All in all, the trilogy should be roughly about 200,000 words when I'm finished with it. If I went by the first drafts of each book, the series would be closer to 300,000 words, but I have a tendency to chop out lots during rewrite.

Now, I'm going by ACTUAL word counts, not by multiplying the average number of words per line by the number number of lines per page, then multiplying that by the number of total pages. By that count, I'm back up closer to 300,000 words. So, which number do I use to tell publishers? I've been using the actual count. Guess I'll stick with that.

And considering the size of many modern fantasy books, I've thought of just trying to sell the trilogy as one large book. If that were the case, the title I'm considering is "The First Magic." The reasons why I like that title come to light in the third book.

Which raises a concern for me.

There are some religious elements to my trilogy. There is a religious history important to the story, and much of it has to do with religious beliefs in the world I've created, from both political and spiritual aspects. However, for better or worse, none of this comes to light until late in the overall story. In fact, it doesn't really come to light until halfway or a little more through the third book of the trilogy.

My concern: Is this cheating the reader?

The first two books are basically action/adventure, sort of sword and sorcery. There is little to hint at the religious aspect which rears its head late in the third book. I'm wondering if all that's too much of a shift in gears for the reader.

Should I go back to the first two books and throw in some hints?

I guess you can't know unless you've read my works, but thought I'd seek some advice.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Longest fight of my life

WARNING: There will be spoilers below to the third book in my trilogy. But I'm not giving away any major plot points or an ending.

That being said, I've spent the last three days writing the longest fight scene of my life, and I'm STILL not finished with it. It's about 2,000 words right now, but that's after being cut back from almost 5,000 words. Also, I've still a little more to add.

Basically, Kron fights a demon. In the middle of the air. While hanging from a rope. And a dozen soldiers in heavy armor are below shooting crossbow bolts at our hero. And Kron is out of grenados and arrows.

Sound like fun? Kron thinks so, and so far he's only suffered three broken ribs, various bruises and minor cuts, and a few major cuts. And he just fell into a bunch of hard wood chairs on a stone floor. And he's yet to take out the demon. Or any of the soldiers. Oh yeah, and he's barely conscious.

Is THAT enough trouble to put my hero into?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Latest update

I've not written here much lately because I've been busy with a few things. Work has been hectic, I'm in the middle of a job hunt and have had some interviews, and I've been busy writing.

The update: Work sucks. The job hunt has its ups and downs, but it's been quite frustrating (mostly because I'm running into barriers by trying to switch careers, not merely jobs -- I'm running into lots of companies that are "interested," but not quite willing to make the jump).

As for the writing, I'm at about 50,000 words into the third book of my trilogy. I've also done a first draft on a rewrite of the final chapter of the first book, and I'm giving that some breathing space before I get back to it to clean it up.

Still waiting to hear about several shorts stories. Also waiting to hear from one book publisher and an agent, but I've about given up on the agent after contacting him twice and giving him TONS of time to respond. Guess he's just not interested.

Back to the keyboard ...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Beowulf and Grendel

Watched the movie last night on DVD.
It's a retelling of the Beowulf saga ... with a non-violence theme.



Sunday, September 24, 2006

This guy sucks, that guy sucks

I spend a fair amount of time on various speculative fiction writers' forums, reading comments and leaving a few of my own. From time to time you read complaining posts about how such-and-such a writer sucks, or this writing is ripping off an earlier writer (usually Tolkein) and the like.

I'm not perfect, and I will sometimes say something "sucks" if asked my opinion, but I don't think that's fair to the writer or writers being discussed. Sure, maybe they got lucky and they made it big. Sure, maybe their plots are weak and their prose is awful. And yeah, maybe they knew somebody who knew somebody. But still, they've made it. And maybe they put in years of work honing their craft. Maybe they've put in hours and hours of promotional time.

I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I figure it's a big enough world, and there are readers enough for me to not have to feel jealous of any other writer when it comes to competing for readers. (As a side note, I do sometimes get jealous of other writers because they've written something I loved and wished I'd written -- cough cough CALTHUS cough cough --).

Also, I figure any fantasy writer who makes it big is only helping my career along by making fantasy more acceptable to a mainstream artist.

So ... I'm tired of hearing "Paolini sucks" or "Salvatore sucks" or "Brooks ripped off Tolkein" or whatever. I read plenty of fantasy, some I don't care much for and some I enjoy. I read some fantasy only because I'm studying a particular writer, or trying to figure out why he or she has such a large following. I read some fantasy writers for sheer enjoyment. Every fantasy writer I've ever read, no matter how much I liked or disliked their work, has taught me something.

Sometimes when I'm talking to other writers, it feels like we're all in high school again and we're in garage bands, screaming at each other "Your band sucks!" "No, YOUR band sucks!"

Hey, the truth is, there's enough room in this world for both Counting Crows and Guns N Roses. So put on your earphones and listen to the music of your choice.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Horsing around

Fiction writers need to read more than fiction. They need to read nonfiction, history books, newspapers, magazines, whatever. Why? For one, it will help them come up with story ideas. For another thing, it can help to inform them about things they are writing in their stories.

For example, I write fantasy. The main mode of transportation in most of my stories is by horse. Now, despite growing up in Kentucky, I know next to nothing about horse riding and I haven't ridden one since I was in camp in second grade. I know a good bit about horse racing and horse auctions, because I spent plenty of time in my teens at such events and I knew people who worked in the industry, but I don't know the ins and outs of actually riding a horse.

So, when my hero jumps on his faithful steed and charges off after the bad guys, my experience with such is limited. However, now I'm reading "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Horseback Riding." I've learned a lot, and it will help me in the future with description in my stories.

Also, I love the "Idiot's" books. They provide a lot of basic information in a manner that's not boring and makes a quick read.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

My mom never "got" me

My mother and I have next to nothing in common. I read all the time; she reads Redbook or Southern Living, maybe once a year. We don't have the same tastes, the same interests, the same sense of humor ... really, nothing in common.

She's never really understood my interest in writing, especially not my interests in fantasy. She thinks I'm goofy to have pet rabbits. She thinks it's weird that I dress in period clothing for Renaissance festivals. She still tends to think role playing games are "of the devil."

Don't get me wrong. We've had our differences, but I love my mother. And as much as she doesn't "get" me, there was one instance ...

I was fourteen years old. I had read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings a couple of times, but I had always checked them out of a library. I had never owned copies of those books.

Usually my mom would ask me what I wanted for my birthday, because she never forgot my birthday. But that one year, the summer of 1984, she didn't ask me. I was a bit befuddled by this, but thought it would be interesting to wait it out and see what she would do.

So, I came home from school (which ran into mid June because of snow days the winter before). I walked into my room, and there on my desk was a brand new paperback collection of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings from Ballantine.

I was more than shocked. To this day I don't think my mom knows how much that meant to me. She's supposed to be on the Internet soon, so maybe she will see this.

I had those paperbacks until just a few years ago, and then they were worn out from readings and travel. I might still have that copy of The Hobbit around somewhere, but I've gotten a newer edition of the Lord of the Rings.

Mom, if you read this ... thanks. If you don't read this, I'll try and remember to thank you in person.

Monday, September 18, 2006

My "Conan" moment

So, I'm home from work for my dinner break, munching away on a turkey sandwich. Earlier in the day, my other half had rented a Renee Zellwegger movie; she had said it was the only movie of Renee's she had not seen, and she's a Renee fan.

So, I'm chewing on my sandwich while this movie is playing on the TV. I'm not paying much attention to it, but I pick up from the clothes the story is taking place in the 1920s or 1930s in Texas. I barely notice onscreen a young man taking care of a sick older woman.

I'm more interested in my sandwich than the movie, at this point. However, the young man calls the woman "mother," and she says something to him like "You received a letter from that Mr. Lovecraft fellow you've been writing to."

I nearly crack my neck to glare at the TV.

Texas. 1920s. Young man taking care of his ill mom. Lovecraft.

I turn to stare at my other half. "Is that Robert E. Howard?" I yell, pointing at the TV.

"Yeah, so," she says.

I look at the TV again, then I look back at her. "Don't you know who Robert E. Howard is?" I ask.

"Uh, no. Should I?" she says. "He's some writer."

"He's the father of sword and sorcery writing!" I yell.

She's still not impressed. "Oh, okay," she says. "Well, he's sort of dating Renee Zellwegger in this movie."

From then on, I've lost interest in my sandwich. I'm even late getting back to work. All because of a movie about the last days of Robert E. Howard and the almost love affair he has with Novalyne Price.

I swear I had never heard of this movie before then. If you're interested, the name of the flick is "The Whole Wide World."

Title change

Look up. It's not a bird. It's not a plane. It's a name change. At least for now, this is no longer "Darkbow's Domain." This place is "Logical Misanthropy."

Why? Because it sounds like something. It sounds like a title.

And I only hate humanity sometimes. Especially when I'm driving.

Hey, if it doesn't work, I'll get rid of it.

Why speculative fiction?

I don't know. I can't tell you why my writing and reading preferences run to speculative fiction. Fantasy, especially sword and sorcery, is currently my favorite genre. But ten years ago it was probably horror. I've read plenty of science fiction, but honestly, it's one of my least favorite genres.

I've read plenty of mainstream fiction over the years, and I've read plenty of classics. Anything by Alexandre Dumas, I love. And Moby Dick is one of my favorite books of all time, despite the fact it bores most people to sleep.

I've enjoyed Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and plenty of "serious" writers. But I always come back to speculative fiction, and I have little interest in writing "serious" fiction (though I have a mainstream story idea or two kicking around in my head from time to time).

Looking back on my youth, I remember loving the old Star Trek show on television when I was about five or six. Then, when I was seven, along came Star Wars, and that just opened the floodgate fore years to come. But still, science fiction wasn't my thing.

I first discoverd "The Hobbit" about 1977, when I was seven. Soon after, I read the Lord of the Rings. Almost all of it was over my head, but I loved it. Since then I've read those books at least three or four times each.

In junior high, about the age of 12, I discovered role-playing games, specifically Dungeons and Dragons. That urged me on.

But I've read comic books my whole life. I can remember being in second and third grade and creating my own comic books, using color markers and pens to draw adventures of comic book heroes in little white tablets. I still wish I had those today. I created a super team made up of the Hulk, Spider-Man, Nova, Rom (remember him?) and my own creation, The Destroyer. I called the super group The Destroyers. How original.

I watched the original Super Friends as a kid. Maybe that's where it started.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Electric Company

I read a lot, though not as much as I used to. I still get through about a book a week. In my teens and early twenties, I used to go through three or four books a week.

I've always been a reader, and I've noticed not everyone is like that. I've often pondered what brought about my love of reading.

I can remember as a third grader, I read a lot of the Black Beauty and Black Stallion books. A little later, in fifth grade, I tore through the Three Detectives series of books. The first book I ever bought was in 1978 at a card shop in Richmond, Kentucky. That first book? "Splinter of the Mind's Eye," by Alan Dean Foster.

I always read comic books as a kid. But again, what made me a reader? What attracted me to reading?

I'm not sure it was one thing, but recently I've discovered another clue.

My other half rented several DVDS, part of a series, "The Greatest Hits of The Electric Company." Yeah, The Electric Company, with Morgan Freeman and Bill Cosby and others. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you're either too young or too old. The Electric Company show ran from about 1971 to 1977; it was educational television for kids a little older than the Sesame Street market.

I hadn't seen The Electric Company in almost thirty years, even though it ran in syndication on some PBS channels. I hadn't even thought about The Electric Company in years.

Then I watched those DVDS, and it all came flooding back. I remembered all the characters and the skits and the cartoons ... and everything.

And it dawned on me ... maybe this was what made me a reader. Morgan Freeman and his "Easy Reader" character.

I don't know. But it was a fun blast of childhood nostalgia. If you're the right age, and/or you have kids, I suggest looking into The Electric Company DVDs.

Now I'm going to go read something.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Money isn't everything

An editor e-mailed me recently to let me know his market is no longer a paying market, and he wanted to know if he could still consider my story for his publication.

My answer "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!"

I like money. I want money. I need money. But I do not let money control my life. I have a significant other for that.
However, I feel writers should generally be financially rewarded for their work. Then why would I allow this editor to consider my work, when I know I'm not going to get paid for it?

For the credit. I've not had anything published in about 10 years, and only in the last couple of years have I gotten back into the fantasy writing game. I've had no story acceptances as of yet, but I've hardly sent out any stories. I've been too busy working on novels.

So, I need the credit for my name. I need the public relations. I need to get my name known to readers, writers, editors and publishers.

That's why I agreed to let this non-paying editor continue to look at my work. That, and he seems like a nice guy. I hope he publishes my work, and I hope it helps to draw him more readers. Then maybe, someday, he will be able to afford to pay writers again

When you're "On," you're "On"

Funny thing. I've been struggling with my writing lately, only getting out about 500 words a day.

Then last night, all of a sudden I'm flying along, enjoying myself. I pumped out 1,000 words in about fifteen minutes, and then added another 200. The only reason I stopped myself is because it was late and I needed to get to bed, otherwise I think I could have written another couple of thousand words.

For comparison, on average, I'd say I write about 1,500 to 2,000 words a day, until recently. Once or twice I've been extremely lucky, and tapped out about 5,000 words in a day.

Part of the problem lately was that my plot was floundering a little, and I hadn't had much action in a while. Then, an action scene came on, and Kron was back swinging his sword. Now I'm excited, and looking forward to getting back at it tonight.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Other Kron-related stories

I've been working on my current trilogy for a little more than a year and a half now. I started in March of 2005. Sometimes it feels like I'll never get done, but then I remind myself of how far I've come. I'm guessing that it will take me at least one more year to get all three novels to what I consider "completely" finished. But then, I'm not totally finished with the first book, though I'm further along with it than the other two.

Now to the reason for this post: While working on the trilogy, I've come up with what seems like a hundred other ideas for novels and trilogies that would be based in the world of Kron Darkbow (the continent is called Ursia, but I imagine other continents not yet discovered or not related to my stories).
Without giving away too much of any plots, here are some of my ideas:
1.) A Belgad the Liar trilogy. This would be a prequel, relating much of Belgad's life story up until he meets Kron Darkbow. Belgad's life neatly breaks down into three main times, so a trilogy sounds more likely than a novel.
2.) A Kron follow-up trilogy. I'm picturing a street war of mostly criminals in the city of Bond. Lots of thieves. Lots of assassins. Lots of Kron getting to kill people. I've got so many ideas for Kron, it would take a trilogy to use most of them.
3.)A prequel about the last war, 60 years before the timeline I'm using for my current trilogy. For those who don't know: There was a major rebellion, and the nation of Ursia (yes, the same name as the continent) split into an East and West. Something like a cold war has been going on ever since. Lots of people got killed. Why was there a war? Because the church said magic was evil. A handful of really powerful mages had a problem with that.
4.) I've also got a few ideas for new characters and different places on the continent. Most of these would have next to nothing to do with Kron, and would likely have a more narrow scope than Kron's stories.
5.) Kron's teen years, when he was being raised by his uncle. I'm thinking this would be a novel, not a trilogy.


Trilogy update

After a few recent cuts in text, I'm at about 32,000 words on the first draft of the third book in my trilogy. Things are looking pretty grim for ole Kron Darkbow.

For some reason, I'm having the hardest time with this third novel. The first one was relatively easy, and the second one was a breeze (the plotline being rather narrow compared to the first and third books).

I wrote more than 40,000 words once on this third book, then scrapped almost all of that and started over. Now I'm 32,000 words in, and I like this storyline better, but I'm still not crazy about it. But then, I felt the same about the first book while writing it, and I've received some pretty favorable response from it.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A change of pace, part II

On the job front, I'm hoping to hear something in the next week or so. And it won't be another newspaper.
Which is scary. All of my professional career has been in newspapers. It's become almost like a safety blanket, a job and a paycheck I know I can keep. But now, without going into detail, I've been looking into some things outside newspapers.
It'll also mean another move, which I hate. I've moved about every two years for the last 7 or 8 years. I'd really like to settle somewhere, at least for 5 whole years!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Another day, another rejection

Okay, another story rejected, and this one was disappointing because it was at a publisher I am determined to break into. So far they've turned down two stories from me.

On the bright side, I've already sent the story out to another editor. Woo hoo!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Explain this one to me

Hell. Am I a Republican or a Democrat? You tell me.

Your Political Profile:
Overall: 45% Conservative, 55% Liberal
Social Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Ethics: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

I'm a dunce

I missed one of the questions below. Don't know which one, but I missed it.

You Passed 8th Grade Science

Congratulations, you got 7/8 correct!

Monday, August 28, 2006

The dragon is loose

Okay, I sent another short story out today. It's an old one, "A Dragon's Tale," I rewrote slightly. It's been sent to Gryphonwood. Hope they like it.

I have a dozen or so older short stories I'm reworking at the moment in hopes I can get them sold somewhere. I counted last night, and I've got about 60 old short stories in my files. I think the dozen I've chosen are still quite sellable, even though some of them go back ten years or more. The rest of the 60 are mostly junk, writing so bad I wouldn't sell it even if I could ... well, not unless there was a really big check involved.

A word of thanks

I've got to give a big shout-out of thanks here to my friends Steve and Gere Goble. Recently they finished reading my first novel, "City of Rogues," and mailed it back to me with editing marks and comments. I can't say enough how much I appreciate this.

I'm already reading through their comments, and most of them I have to agree with. So, I'm going to be rewriting the last 2 or 3 chapters of "City of Rogues," then I'll have to do some minor rewriting in the sequel, currently titled "Road to Wrath," to match up with the changes in book one.

The biggest change will likely be the climax of the first book. Right now, the climax comes a few chapters too soon (a scene in a cemetery), leaving too much to happen before the book actually ends. I'm planning to keep the cemetery scene, and in a way it will still be the climax to the overall story, but there's one major confrontation that must happen. Kron and Belgad have to duke it out. I put it off in book one for plotting purposes (and I thought it was sort of cool that these two foes don't actually fight it out, kind of like Kirk and Khan), but it only makes sense for it to happen.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Books a million

My friend Clark Goble posted the below questions, with his answers, at his blog, as did his brother Steve at Steve's blog. To follow through, I thought I'd post the questions here with my answers.

1. One Book That Changed Your Life
The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck
Peck was a psychiatrist and a secular humanist when he first wrote this book more than 25 years ago, but he eventually became a Christian. I've read all of his non-fiction, and it's been interesting to see his opinions and theories grow over the years. His Christianity is pretty far left, but that can be overlooked if you are not of that spectrum. Peck has much good to say about how we can work with others to build what he calls a sense of "community." His second book, "People of the Lie," takes a look at evil. I don't agree with all Peck has to say, but he's opened my mind to a sense of peace I never though existed before ten years ago. Too bad I can't always keep that mindframe.

2. One Book You've Read More than Once
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Actually, "Fellowship of the Ring" is my favorite Tolkien book, but "The Hobbit" is such a light, easy read that I've probably read it more than any other book, at least a half dozen times.

3. One Book You’d Want On A Desert Island
The Holy Bible, New American Standard edition
This book has everything in it I could want: action, adventure, love, hate, heroes, villains, philosophy, religion, history and more. And maybe even some truth. I don't consider myself a Christian, but I do consider the Bible a fine piece of literature and of philosophy.

4. One Book That Made You Laugh
MYTH Adventures, by Robert Aspirin
This is the first book of many in the MYTH series, but I found this to be the funniest.

5. One Book That Made You Cry
DarkTower IV: Wizard and Glass, by Stephen King
This is the only book that has ever made me cry. King's Roland Deschain is the ultimate tragic hero in my opinion.

6. One Book You Wish You Had Written
The Stand, by Stephen King
One of my favorite King books. And I'd like the money that went along with it too.

7. One Book You Wish Had Never Been Written
I can't list one. I can't think of one single book, no matter how awful it was (in any fashion), that would make me wish it had not been written. The written word provides knowledge, for good or ill ... or simply for entertainment. What mankind does with such knowledge ... well, let it be on man's head. Okay, okay. The Book of Mormon comes close.

8. One Book You Are Currently Reading
Midnight Sun, by Karl Howard Wagner
This is a complete collection of Wagner's Kane short stories. I'm lovin' this stuff. It's all dark fantasy, almost more horror than fantasy in some places.

9. One Book You’ve Been Meaning To Read
The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe, by Valerie I. J. Flint
This is just one of 30 or so books I have stacked in my office that is waiting to be read. I picked this one because I like the title.

10. Tag 5 Others
I'll skip this one, thank you. Those who want to do this listing on their own blog, can. Those who don't want to ... okay, that's cool too.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Adventures in screenwriting

Someone over at the forum asked me a while back about my writer's block. So, I thought I'd put some of what I wrote to them, and talk a little about it here.
I suffered through about five years, roughly 1998 to 2003, without writing hardly anything, maybe a few short stories that I didn't really like. Part of it was simply bad time management on my part, but the big matter was I'd lost all belief in my ability to write well. I could crank out about 500 words, and then I'd become disgusted with everything I'd written. I felt there was no way I could ever be Hemingway, Tolkein or even Stepehn King.
This frustrated me to no end. I felt the urge to write, but everything I wrote looked like garbage.
Then one day about five years ago, I was rummaging through my pile of books that had not been read (I've always got a stack of 20 to 30 books that are waiting to be read). I came upon a Syd Field's book about the basics of screenwriting. I'd never had any real interest in screenwriting, and couldn't even remember why I'd bought the book, or if someone had given it to me as a present. Well, I was in a mood to read some non-fiction, and I hunkered down with Syd's book. Truth to tell, I didn't care much for it. It was pretty boring, but it broke down the basic elements of storytelling into logical sequences that I could understand. Syd's book was about 20 years old at the time, so I rushed out and pick up "The Idiot's Guide to Screenwriting." This was a fun book, and it followed much of Syd's advice.
Soon I was reading other books on screenwriting. I've probably read a dozen or so since, some good and some not so good. What I found was that screenwriting simplified writing to basics that gave me a new way of looking at writing, making writing a logistical puzzle for me instead of the open, freeform monster I had often considered it. I'm not saying I'm a great screenwriter, and I don't mean to oversimplify the talent it takes someone like William Goldman to write Butch and Sundance or Princess Bride. It was just that ... I'm not sure how to explain it exactly ... but screenwriting gave me boundaries and rules, where prose writing had always felt too freeform to me, too chaotic.
I went to work writing, and I pumped out two screenplays. One a simple horror and action sci-fi story based on a short story I'd written years ago, "Dark Side of Io." The second was a spaghetti western, "Day of the Gun." I placed both screenplays on for review, and I got some good feedback. Spielberg and Eastwood weren't knocking at my door, but I felt a confidence in my writing I hadn't felt in years.
Soon after that I began to tap away on my Mac keyboard. What I was writing was a fantasy novel. It originally was planned to be about 100,000 words. By the time I reached 50,000 words, I knew I was in trouble. At that point I was only about halfway through the first third of my story. I didn't want a 300,000 word novel, so I thought I'd have two novels. Then, when I finally finished a first draft of that first third of my story, at about 120,000 words, I realized I had three novels, the dreaded trilogy.
Since then I've finished a first draft of the second book and a second draft of the first book. Now I'm writing away at the third book, and finally I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The plot? I'll give a basic one of the first book here: "City of Rogues" is a story of revenge, criminal politics and a budding friendship of opposites. When ranger Kron Darkbow returns to his home city to seek vengeance for the murders of his parents, he finds himself embroiled in a war with criminal underworld chieftain Belgad the Liar. In the eruption of chaos, Kron inadvertently reveals a local healer mage, Randall Tendbones, as the son of an evil king. Randall, on the run from his murderous father, seeks Kron's aid in finally facing his father. Meanwhile, Belgad is hot on the vengeance trail after the two.

And that leaves out a whole slew of characters.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A change of pace

I'm a newspaper editor. I've been at it professionally for 15 years. Enough is enough. Enough was enough ten years ago, I was just young and full of energy then. I'm not quitting my job, at least not right away, but I've been looking into other options.
One of them is management within Barnes & Noble. I don't know how much money can be made as a store manager or regional manager, and it's been a long time since I've worked retail, but I figure there's got to be less daily stress than there is working at a newspaper.
Another place I've been considering is the world of education. I've noticed several communications positions open at various universities, and I'm thinking that might have potential.
My perfect, best option would be for some publisher to decide to buy my current novel, give me a great big and fat check for it. Then I could write other novels. But that doesn't seem likely.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Another story out and about

Because I've been working on novels for the last couple of years, I don't have many short stories sent out to publishers and editors. In fact, I've only got two. And one of those I just sent out.

The first story is a slightly revised version of a tale I wrote ten years ago. It's called, simply, "Kron Darkbow." I think it will find a home. It was once accepted for publication, but the magazine folded (I've experienced a LOT of that).

The second story is one I wrote a couple of months ago, the first short story I've written in a very long time. It's called "Deep in the Land of the Ice and Snow." It's a tale from the younger days of a favorite character of mine, Belgad the Liar, who's known as Belgad Thunderclan in the story.

Gotta run! I've some writing to do and Kron has to kill some bad guys.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

That old fear

Writers can be a nervous, paranoid, worrying lot. There's fear of rejection. There's fear of copy editing errors in your stories. There's fear of screwing up a query letter, or a cover letter, or worse: Getting an editor or publisher or agent's name wrong in such a letter. Then there's anxiety over whether your story will be liked by anyone anywhere.

Today was my day to be paranoid. I sent off an e-mail query letter for my novel "City of Rogues" to agent Russ Galen, one of the top agents for fantasy authors. I read over the letter at least a dozen times, looking for mistakes and doing minor rewriting. But then, after sending the e-mail, I noticed I left out a word at the end of a sentence. Sigh.

And then I noticed I sent it from a personal e-mail address, not what I consider my "professional writing" e-mail address. Double sigh.

Well, you only get one chance at a first impression. Hopefully, Mr. Galen won't notice my mistake (though I bet he will), and I hope he will consider me as a potential client.

Okay, I'll go away now and cry like a little girl in a corner.

The bane of writers

I write every day. No matter what. I've been doing that for about 18 months now. Until three days ago. Since then I've only written 50 or so words and rewritten about 500 words. I'm slacking. So, to get myself motivated again, I'm turning to my blog. Below are some of the top traps writers can fall into that keep them from writing:

1.) Video games. The very bane of a writer's existence. Stay away from them. My personal vices are Grand Theft Auto games, and some of them take as long as 80 hours of play time to finish.

2.) Movies. Two hours of the same garbage you've probably seen a hundred times already. Scary Movie 4? You've already seen the first three! Go write!

3.) Work. It sucks. You have bills to pay. Your boss expects you to show up. And if you're stupid enough to be a mangager, like me, they don't have to pay you overtime. Which means they can work you to death if they want.

4.) Significant others. No, dear, I'm not online. I'm ... uh, I'm writing some sweet poetry just for you. Okay, that bought me five minutes. Drat! She didn't buy it. Gotta go!

5.) Role playing games. I love playing Dragonquest, and even third edition D&D, but I've found gaming for me requires too much of the same mindset as writing. All that plotting, or character playing. So, when I've gamed for several hours the last thing I feel like doing is writing.

6.) Internet. Damn wikipedia! Damn blogs!

7.) Reading. There's always something to read. I've a pile of about 30 books in my office. That pile never gets smaller, no matter how much I read. If I don't buy at least one book a week, I tend to start feeling jittery or something.

8.) This list. It could go on forever. I need to get some writing done. Later.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Web sites offer advice from novelists

Here's another column I wrote at work a few months ago.

Many novelists who make it into print feel a need to pass on their experiences and knowledge to those still trying to make it into the business. Below are some helpful Web pages from writers for writers.
Nicholas Sparks is probably best known for his debut novel, “The Notebook,” which has been made into a motion picture. His Web site offers plenty of information about his novels, but also includes a message board and a “Writer’s Corner” with plenty of advice for beginning novelists.
Fantasy writer Holly Lisle had many jobs before picking up the pen professionally. She has been a nurse, a singer, a McDonald’s employee and she sold advertising. Now she churns out fantasy novels such as “Midnight Rain,” “Vengeance of Dragons” and “Fire in the Mist.” Her Web site is one of the most informative I have discovered, especially for those who want to write fantasy or science fiction. Holly has plenty of free advice she offers writers, including a downloadable ebook “Create a Character Clinic.”
Romance novelist Jennifer Blake has been writing for more than thirty years. A few of her many novels are “Challenge to Honor,” “With A Southern Touch” and “Love’s Wild Desire.” If you are interested in writing romance novels, her site is worth checking out. Not only does the site offer advice, but the author has a blog she updates often allowing you to see into the daily life of a novelist.
Ursula K. Le Guin might be best known for her Earthsea fantasy novels and other science fiction works, but she has also written children’s books, non-fiction writings and more. Her Web site offers plenty of advice for would-be writers, including manuscript preparation and a brief overview of U.S. copyright law.
British writer Neil Gaiman hit the spotlight big in the late ’80s with the “Sandman” comic books which have been collected into a series of graphic novels by DC comics’ Vertigo title. Since then, Neil has spread his writing talents to novels, movies, theater and more. His Web site offers advice for writers, but also includes message boards, a daily journal from the writer, downloads and more.
What I’ve been reading: “My Life,” by Bill Clinton. Regardless of your politics, this autobiography gives you a look into the mind of a former president. The book itself is extremely long-winded, but takes you through nearly every political event during the 1990s. Former President Clinton must keep a journal detailing every moment of his day. If you’re writing a political thriller, or story set in the ’90s, you might want to check this book out.