Friday, August 31, 2007

Context 20 is coming

For those living in Ohio, or who might be in the region in September, Context 20 is Sept. 28-30 in Columbus. Context is a literary speculative fiction con, and they've got plenty to offer this year. The guest speaker will be Mike Resnick.

Looke here to find out more.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lessons from an extended writing project

Anybody who reads this blog from time to time knows I've been writing a fantasy trilogy for going on three years now. The first draft of everything is completed, and I'm down to rewriting the last few chapters of the third book.

Along the way I've learned a few things, and thought I'd pass them along.

1.) Plotting really does help. When I began this fantasy trilogy, it wasn't a trilogy. It was just supposed to be a novel. About 50,000 words into the story, I realized I had more than one book. At the least, I had two. Then it became three.

The first book is plotted pretty well, I think. And the second book isn't too bad, but the plot there is very simple. The third book, however, is where I've run into major snags. I had to start over from scratch after writing about 45,000 words. Then I also am right now having to rework the ending.

The lesson: Plotting really does help.

2.) Go with the flow. When you're writing, write. Don't do a lot of editing. Don't do a lot of time fumbling through the thesaurus for just the right word. Write. You can always go back later and rewrite and edit. If you're constantly breaking your flow while writing, your story could suffer, and your text could suffer.

3.) Editing doesn't have to be a chore. Most writers seem to think the actual writing part is the fun part, and editing is boring. That does not have to be the case. It helps if I set something I've written aside for a while, usually the longer the better, but after a few weeks or months I've found I enjoy getting back into a story to fix it.

4.) Trust your instincts. What this means is, if you think something you've written sucks, guess what? It probably does. That means you've got some writing or rewriting to do.

5.) Don't always trust your instincts. Yes, I'm backpeddling some. Keep in mind you are writing for other people, or at least you are if you want to be a published author. With that in mind, you've got to recognize your audience will have certain expectations. I'm not suggesting you write cookie cutter Hollywood stories, but I am saying that sometimes you have to give the readers what you think they'll want. I myself have a tendency to write big, wordy, dialogue-filled climaxes to my stories. But that won't work usually in action fantasy, such as my trilogy. The end of the story needs to have that big fight scene, or at least something action oriented.

6.) Realize that no one knows what they're talking about. Again, this is sort of another "trust your instincts" post. But I've read enough author's blogs to realize that no single editor, agent, writer nor anybody else has a clear idea of what's going to sell well. They might have an idea of what WON'T sell, but they can't truthfully tell you what the next big mega-hit bestselling novel is going to be. So, again, trust your instincts. Pay attention to what the professionals have to say, but take all they say with a grain of salt.

7.) Beware those who definitely don't know what they're talking about. You know these people. Or you SHOULD know these people. They're the ones with no writing credits, no editing credits, no nothing ... yet they're going to tell you the ins and outs of the publishing business. Run away from these people. Especially if they are trying to sell you something.

8.) Writing isn't about speed, its about endurance. It doesn't matter whether you write 10,000 words a day or 10 words a day. Just try to write every day.

9.) Writing is writing, not something else. Sipping a latte at Starbucks with your writer friends is fine. But it's not writing. Starting up your own magazine could be a lot of fun, and a worthy cause. But it's not writing. Taking out the trash might be a necessity, but it's not writing. Writing is writing. It's that simple. If you want to be a writer, write.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Showing the love

Writers of short stories need to not only write, but they also need to read, especially in whatever genre they might have decided to focus upon.

To this end, writers need to support ezines and smaller-circulation publications by purchasing copies and supscriptions. This helps to ensure the writer will have a place to submit stories. Just makes sense.

Even if you don't have a lot of money for subscriptions, much like myself, you can still pick up a copy at your local magazine racks and/or book stores. I myself sometimes pick up Black Gate, or Paradox and Apex Digest. Other magazines are also available from time to time and I try to snag one of those when I can afford it.

So, lend a hand to your fellow spec lit fans and editors. Buy some of their product. Besides, you're only helping yourself in the long run.

No. 34 - The Iron Lords

by Andrew Offutt

Started: August 28
Finished: August 31

Notes: Had this one for a little while, and since I'm sort of in the mood to read some sword and sorcery, this one is a natural.

Mini review: It took a long time for this one to get going, but the action picked up in the end. I believe Offutt's Cormac, Conan and Shadowspawn works are better. Though, to be fair, this is the first book in a series, so some of it was bogged down with the main character's origin story; once you got past that, which is at least the first two-thirds of this book, things get interesting.

Monday, August 27, 2007

No. 33 - Encyclopedia Horrifica

by Joshua Gee

Started: August 27
Finished: August 28

Notes: Another book to review for Apex Digest. Without reading it yet, this appears to be a children's book, explaining things like monsters and ghosts and other mysterious things. The artwork and design look fantastic.

Mini review: A fun little book. Great for kids, or those first learning about the occult, spooky things and other horrific stuff. For children ages nine and up.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Keeping at it

Another short story written, this one I wrote at my part-time job while waiting for sports reporters to get me their stories. Not a long story, just 1,500 words, but it was good to get this one out. I dreamed this story recently, and felt like I needed to write it.

Also, I've heard back from one editor, but he didn't bite on my story. So, gots to send that one back out soon. Still, I've got thirteen tales out there roaming around.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

No. 32 - Charles I

by Christopher Hibbert

Started: August 22
Finished: August 26

Notes: I literally found this book. It was on the floor of a restaurant near a trash can. Since I was the only customer in the place at the time, I snagged the book, asked the waiters if it was theirs, then when they said "no," I took it home. The book's in good shape, barely read, so it's not as if it's in bad condition. I've never read any Hibbert, but I've heard he's a fun historian to read, not some boring scholar. Also, for years I've been meaning to read more about Charles I and the English Civil War. And, I've read so much fiction this year, I'm starting to feel I need to get back to some non-fiction. Here goes.

Mini review: Charles I is a sad, tragic figure, perhaps one of the most tragic real figures of history. This book starts great, full of stories of intrigue that would make Dumas jealous. Towards the end, though, it gets pretty heavy, bogged down with a lot of political history, a ton of names and the like. Still, a good read. One of the better history books I've read in a long while. The Scotch-Irish in me makes me want to shout, "Down with Oliver Cromwell!"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The ideas won't stop coming

After several weeks of griping about not being able to write short stories because I've been in novel-writing mode for so long, now I can't STOP getting ideas for short stories.

I recently finished the first draft of a dark modern fantasy piece I'm planning to submit to a certain Swords anthology I was supposed to submit to a year ago. Doh! I'm not sure the piece is something they'll want, but at least it's sort of reminiscent of Karl Edward Wagner's later Kane stories set in modern day.

And then I've got an idea for a sword and sorcery story for the same anthology. Plus I've two modern ideas for stories, these two also dark modern fantasies.

I even dreamed a short story the other night, and that's only happened to me once before, about 15 years ago.

Okay, enough blogging. Back to work.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Artifical life is looming

... and I'm not talking about AI. Scientists are saying they are only a few years, maybe a decade, away from being able to create lifeforms.

That ought to get the juices flowing for those of you with a sci-fi bent.

Read the story here.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

You can be a rockstar too

Delirium: "His madness ... His madness keeps him sane."
Dream: "And do you think he is the only one, my sister?"
The Sandman, Issue 31, written by Neil Gaiman

I live in a delusion. I've come to accept that. I've had to accept that, for my own sanity.

I want to be a professional novelist. That is ALL I want to do. I don't want to work for the man any more. I don't want to live off other people. I just want to write.

Yes, it's a dream. But maybe, just maybe, it is a possibility. Maybe it will happen.

What I'm talking about is this: I've come to think of myself as a professional author. Yes, author, not just writer. I've come to live in a delusional little world where I'm only waiting for my next novel to be on the shelves of my local bookstores. I'm only waiting for the next short story to appear.

It sounds crazy. I know that. But it's how I'm making it through my day. It's how I push ahead in this crazy world.

The idea came to me from a reporter who worked for me a few years ago. He was a good guy, smoked two packs a day, wore lots of leather, had spikey blonde hair. But a good guy. Whenever I told him to do something he didn't want to do, he shot back at me with, "Hey! I don't have to do that! I'm a rockstar!" Being his boss, I usually suggested he do what I told him or he could be a rockstar out on the streets. So, he did what I told him. But I always found it funny.

He's a rockstar. Or, at least, he thinks of himself as rockstar in his own version of life.

I get that now. I've joined him. I don't think I'm a rockstar, but I know I'm an author.

Otherwise, I think I'd crack up and just become a street person or something.

You are all welcome to attend my next book signing. I'll let you know when it is.

"Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?"
The River
by Bruce Springsteen

Sometimes you need a break

For all my talk about you CAN find the time to be a writer, you have to use some common sense too. Sometimes you just need a rest. Your body needs a rest. Your mind needs a rest. Heck, maybe your family needs a rest from you and your crazy drive at being a writer.

It's okay every once in a while to set aside a project for a day. It's okay to go a few days without reading something. Sometimes your mind just needs to not think so much, to clear itself out a little, or you can really frig yourself up.

Even I sometimes take a day off. I try not to do it too often, maybe one or two days a month. But I know me. I'm lazy. And I get freaked out if I start thinking about the mechanics of a project too much; I'll get scared and find excuses for not sitting down at the keyboard.

Sometimes all you need is a change of pace. If you've been writing a lot for weeks on end, maybe switch it up and do some editing for a few days. Or if you've been working on a novel, take a break and write a couple of short stories. If you've been reading some really heavy, dense material, go check out something light, fluffy and quick to read. Try something new, maybe a genre you've never delved into. Or pick a random non-fiction book out at the library, maybe something you've had a slight interest in but never taken the time to study up on.

Doing some of these things can help to rejuvinate your brain, and your writing. And by broadening your reading horizons, you might find some new story ideas.

I'm not your news source

I don't post a lot on this blog about other writing blogs, speculative fiction news, other writers, editors, and the like. There's one big reason for that: There are already plenty of Web sites and other blogs that already do this.

It's not that I mind passing along a kudo, nor that I don't want to help others by throwing them a little marketing help, but this blog is more for me.

Sure, I appreciate, and even enjoy, the comments from my throng of fans (you know who you are, both of you). But I'm detailing my own journey as a writer, and as a reader. I'll pass along what I think is helpful advice from time to time, but this blog's for me.

But, in a sense of fairness, check out the list of links to the left of this blog. All of those links will take you to a place that will provide information to help with writing. And, maybe you'll see some of my own stories or book reviews there.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

No. 31 - Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey

by Chuck Palahniuk

Started: August 18
Finished: August 22

Notes: I picked this novel up a few months ago to get it signed by Chuck at a "Fight Club" showing downtown, but I couldn't make it. So, finally getting around to reading the book.

Mini review: Because it took so long for me to get into the story, I didn't find this one as gripping as his earlier works, though it still has a good share of the dark wit and modern insight this author is known for. There is a speculative fiction element to this tale, but you don't get into most of it until the last 60 or so pages of the book, which is really when the book gets good, just when you figure out what's been going on behind the scenes the whole time.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Sword of Bayne, is it dead?

Well, my other blog, The Sword of Bayne, has sit still for more than two months. Frankly, I've been busy with other writing projects, and I've been working a lot more at my part-time job.

But what to do? I don't want to kill the Bayne blog off, because there is information there I want to keep. Honestly, that blog helped with solidify some of my thinking about the trilogy I'm writing. It helped me work out some things about the history of my world even though the trilogy takes places almost two thousands years after the writings in the blog.

So, for now, Bayne is sleeping. Until I can think of a better use for it, I suppose it'll keep sleeping. I like the idea of writing a fiction blog, I still do, but I'm finding more gratification in working on the trilogy and some short stories.

Will the Bayne blog live again? I don't know. Maybe. I know the rest of the story.

But, whether it comes back or not, I found that blog useful. Bayne may live again, the blog and the character.

Submissions are funny

I've got 12 short story submissions out right now, which is a lot for me. I usually have 4 or 5, at most, floating around. But right now I've got 12, plus a novel.

This got me to thinking about my submissions. While I always try to make sure what I'm sending an editor is something he or she MIGHT be interested in, I can't always be sure they WILL be interested in it. I don't randomly send out stories. I write what I want, then I try to find a market for it. Sometimes my eyes are opened by another editor or reader, and they will give me a new way of looking at a story, other markets that might hold possibilities.

But overall, I got to thinking that I basically have three different types of submissions.

First, there is the "there's no way in hell they will buy this, but I could get lucky and win the lottery" submission. These are to the BIG boys. The New Yorker. Playboy. I'll even place Weird Tales in this category, along with a few others, Glimmer Train comes to mind. Just by the sheer volume of their slush pile, I realize I have next to no chance to make it into one of these publications at this point in my writing career. But every once in a while I'll send them off something anyway. This might seem stupid, but I do have an ulterior motive, one beyond hoping I'll just get lucky. This secret motive is name recognition. If I keep sending stuff to a particular editor at one of these magazines, it has been my experience that after a while they will send a personal response or two. This means my name has become at least somewhat recognizable to them. AND, it means I'm getting some feedback from someone I consider imporatant within the publishing industry. Ten or so years ago, George Scithers at Weird Tales always had nice notes for me; the gentleman never purchased one of my stories, but he always left remarks letting me know where I had gone wrong or what I had gotten right. I still have Mr. Scithers' letters, and in a way cherish them.

Second, there's the "this is right up their alley" submission. Again, I write first and consider markets later, but sometimes I find I've written something that feels to me as if it is a perfect fit for a publication. My "Hot Off the Press" short story felt that way when I sent it to Ray Gun Revival, and guess what? They bought the piece!

Finally, there's the "okay, this is sort of their kinda story, but I'm not a hundred percent sure" submission. Honestly, this is the majority of my submissions. Once I've finished a story, I have to start thinking about its genre, especially today when their are sub-genres and sub-sub-genres and sub-sub-sub genres. For example, it used to be magazines published fantasy, then fantasy got broken down into things like dark fantasy and sword & sorcery, but nowadays even those sub genres have sub genres ... modern dark fantasy, goofball fantasy, sword & sandals, sword & sails ... it goes on and on. So, with this type of submission I do a little market studying, find a publication I think comes close, then send off my story. A little prayer might help too.

It CAN be done

One of the grips you hear wannabe writers say most is, "I don't have enough time."

Pshah! Don't give me that crap!

Yes, writing takes time, and I always wish I had more time for my writing ... even just some free time to think about my writing. But it can be done. You can work at your writing nearly no matter how little time you have.

The last year or so of my life has been one of the busiest ever. I've moved, quit a full time job, started my own small business, gotten a part time job which is practically a full-time job of late ... all the while I keep working on my writing.

I haven't written a lot of short stories in this past year, but I've never stopped more than a day or two at a time working on my trilogy. I've taken to carrying a briefcase or backpack with me just about everywhere I go. Why? Because I carry around hard copies of the third book of the trilogy, along with a clipboard and red pen. If I'm waiting in line somewhere, have a free minute or two at the job, or even if I'm sitting at a looooong red light ... I get to work editing.

Of course at some point I actually have to sit down at my Mac to make corrections and do rewriting, but I've found I can get a good bit done in a short amount of time. Even if only edit and correct two pages in one night, I still feel like I'm moving ahead.

Most nights I get home late, about 1 a.m., take the beagle for a walk, spend a half hour with the other half, then I break out my marked pages and do a little work. I try to save major changes, big rewrites and additions that need to be written, for days I know I won't be working other projects as much. Here and there I squeeze in a few hundred words a night on a short story.

It might take a long time, then, to finish a project, but it gets done a little at a time. I love it when, as happened a couple of weeks back, I can sit down and in that one sitting pump out a short story, but that rarely happens. As someone else has said, writing (especially novels) is like running cross country, not sprinting. It's about pacing.

You can write. Just take five minutes a day, if that's all you've got. If you only write one word a day, at least it's one word closer to being done.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

No. 30 - Horrorween

by Al Sarrantonio

Started: August 16
Finished: August 18

Notes: This one I'm reviewing for Apex Digest. I picked it because I'm not familiar with the author, and it's always good to expand one's reading horizons. And yes, I'll admit, the title is kind of cheddar.

Mini review: A quick, fun read. Not overly dark for the most part, with one or two scene exceptions. Sort of Stephen Kingesque, with a small town and its various characters, but the writing seems a bit more streamlined than King's.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The decision

After at least three years of knowing the resolution to my fantasy trilogy ... I have decided to change it.

This has been a long, difficult, but ongoing dilemma for me. I've always known how things would end. There would be one last confrontation, but ... and this is a big but ... it would be almost entirely in dialogue with no action (ie. combat) whatsoever.

I've rethought that idea. It has been rather hard for me, but I've finally realized the change has to be made. I don't consider my trilogy Sword & Sorcery, but I'm still writing a form of action fantasy, maybe high fantasy or a mix with some S&S. So, I have to have an action ending.

I had much the same problem with the ending of the first book in the trilogy, but that was a rather easy fix with some minor rewriting and the addition of about 1,200 words.

This fix won't be so easy. Part of this is because of the two characters this confrontation was to happen between. One of them is non-violent, pretty much a non-combatant. He would not fight, at least not to the death, to save himself. To save other people ... well, let's just say he has other options than combat (hey, it's a fantasy, after all).

But I can't have all this sword fighting and spellslinging, then have a chat at the end of nearly three hundred thousand words. To me, that little chat makes logical sense, knowing the characters the way I do. But, I have to realize I am not right just for myself.

This trilogy might never have an audience. But then again, it might. At the very, very least, it might get perused by a few editors. And I don't want any of those editors, nor any other readers, to come away feeling cheated. I don't mind if they go away thinking "eh, it's alright, but not for me," or even "this guy sucks as a writer." I just don't want a reader to go away thinking I've let them down.

So, I'm going to have to rewrite the last three chapters of the trilogy ... pretty much from scratch. I might even have to add another chapter.

Back to the drawing boards.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Know your weapons

Speculative fiction writers use a lot of weapons in their short stories and novels. Fantasy writers are going to focus on swords, of course, but they'll also use various bows, spears, knives, pole arms, whatever. Horror writers are likely to have bladed weapons, too, with a firearm thrown in from time to time. Science fiction writers, especially those with a military bent, are going to have some interesting weaponry.

Which means one thing: You need to know your weapons.

I'm not suggesting you have to become an expert marksmen, or you have to become a registered stage combatant for a school of theater. I'm also not suggesting you need to run out and buy a bunch of guns or swords. But I am saying you need to know about weaponry.

Books, and the Internet, are a good place to start. You get to see pictures of various weapons, and perhaps you even gain some of the physical statistics about a weapon. You might even read some treatises, modern and ancient, on the use of particular weapons. If you're real lucky, you might even run across a video of someone knowledgable explaining about weapons, or even demonstrating the use of a weapon.

But that's second-hand knowledge. If you really want to know how a gun feels in your hands when its being fired, try it out. I'm not suggesting you purchase a firearm simply for educational purposes, because for too many people that is not an option, whether for personal or financial other reasons. But maybe you know someone who owns a firearms, or better yet, multiple firearms. Perhaps they can take you to a shooting range, or, with proper safety arrangements, out to a farm or someplace else open where there won't be other people (and it's legal) to knock over some cans or shoot some clays. If possible, it's probably best you gain some experience with various types of firearms, calibers, the actions of different weapons, etc. For example, there is a huge difference between a .22 caliber firearm and a .50 caliber. Another example, there are tons of differences between automatic, semi-automatic, lever action, pump and other forms of rifles. Weapons are also different in different timelines, so if you're writing a story set two hundred years ago, you want to make sure your woodsman is carrying a flintlock rifle, not an M-16.

For bladed weapons, you also need to know what you're talking about, especially since bladed weapons are not so common nowadays. You will likely be writing about them in a more historical perspective, even if you're writing fantasy. If you don't know the difference between a rapier and a katana and a broadsword, you need to find out. For one thing, there's that historical element; some types of weapons were common at certain times in history, but not in others. You also need to know the basic uses of a weapon; a rapier or katana wouldn't necessarily make great weapons for fighting on horseback (doesn't mean you couldn't do it, just that there are probably other weapons better suited for the job ... a late broadsword, maybe, for example). Also, you need to know if a weapon is generally used one handed or two, or somewhere in between. And you need to have an idea of how melee weapons and armor would match up against one another; a guy with a rapier would be a fool to go up against a knight in full, heavy armor. A guy with a rapier probably also wouldn't have much luck against someone with a heavy weapon, unless maybe that foe were really encumbered.

There's another reason you need to know about weapons: So you'll know when you can break the rules. For example, thrown knives are actually pretty lousy weapons. They rarely kill, usually just pissing off the person who's been hit with the dagger. If you're lucky, they've been wounded enough to be wary of you, but they're not likely out of the fight. Oh, and you've just thrown away one of your weapons. Now, that's the statistics. That's the logic. That's one example of how a particular weapon usually works. But if you know the rules, you can break them. You can have your weapon tosser be so skilled her daggers fly to the heart every time, maybe because of skill or maybe because of magic. Whatever the reason, if you know your weapons, you can break the "rules" as long as you do it in a way that is logical to the world you have created.

If you want to get a feel for some bladed weapons, check out the closest Renaissance Festival. There are usually plenty of vendors selling swords and pikes and other old-fashioned weaponry. Word of warning, though: Any sword that has a pricetage of less than $250 or so dollars is probably just a stage weapon; it might look like the real thing, but it's not. Check out a higher-priced weapon if you want the feel of the real deal. There might not be a lot of difference, but there probably will be in weight, if nothing else. Also, don't expect the blades to be sharpened. Any sharp blades sold at a Renn Fest are usually stage or cheap weapons. It's generally against the rules at most Renaissance Festivals (if not out-and-out illegal in your state) to carry around an unsheathed, sharpened period weapon.

There. That's the basics. Feel free to add to them. If you want to know about modern heavy weaponry, I suggest joining the military.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Some more quotes related to writing

"Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else." - Gloria Steinem 

"Write without pay until somebody offers to pay." - Mark Twain

"Planning to write is not writing. Outlining… researching… talking to people about what you're doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing." - E.L. Doctorow

"The first draft of anything is shit." - Ernest Hemingway

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” – Elmore Leonard

"Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man wanted to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." - L. Ron Hubbard

"Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent." - Neil Gaiman

"The first chapter sells the book. The last chapter sells the next book." - Mickey Spillane

"If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative." - Woody Allen

"I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have." - Leonardo da Vinci

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A few writing quotes from authors

"If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor." - Edgar Rice Burroughs

"Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it." - Truman Capote

"Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you - as if you haven't been told a million times already - that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching." - Harlan Ellison

"Prose is architecture, not interior decoration." - Ernest Hemingway

"There's no such thing as writer's block. That was invented by people in California who couldn't write." - Terry Pratchett

"I suspect that one of the reasons we create fiction is to make sex exciting." - Gore Vidal

Friday, August 10, 2007

Religion and fiction, part 2

My post about the basics of my own beliefs leads to this: religion and fiction.

I’ll sum up by own feelings on the subject by saying this: There’s not enough of it.

Now, don’t jump ahead, and let me expound in most boring fashion.

I do NOT want religion to overtake the shelves at the local bookstores and libraries. I feel there are already enough books about religion, including Christian fiction and the like, out there already.

I’m not advocating more fiction that is PRO religion, but I don’t necessarily mean fiction that is against religion.

I just mean that religion affects a lot of people, directly or indirectly, and I feel a lot of novelists and short story writers skirt the topic altogether, specifically speculative fiction writers.

Fantasy often verges on speaking of religion, but rarely does it do so unless it’s over the top, and hammering into your head that you need to drop to your knees and pray to Jesus or the great big, bad dark lord is going to get you.

Most often, fantasy writers just skip religion, even though there are miraculous events in their fiction.

Even in horror, religion is often overlooked. Sure, there might be demons and devils and the like, but rarely are there good beings of a spiritual nature. Rarely do victims or survivors of terrors turn to spiritual beliefs for any comfort.

To me this is unrealistic. If you have ever been in a situation where you think you’re about to buy the farm, you usually get real close to Jesus real fast. If not during the events, then afterwards. At the very least, you begin to think about your own mortality and your place in the universe.

It’s understandable why some writers would stay away from religion. First, writers are pigeonholed as “artistic types,” thus are to some extent expected to be more secular oriented, if not out-and-out anti-religious. Second, I could see where a writer might stay away from religious subject matter simply because he or she doesn’t want to deal with the headaches.

I suppose I generally look at religion from more of a scholarly point of view, so I just don’t understand why a large portion of humanity feels it necessary to make sure everyone else believes just what they believe. And I definitely don’t understand why anyone murders or starts wars over religion. It’s silly. Spiritual beliefs can’t be proven, one way or the other, thus are not worth fighting about.

Now, I’m not saying everyone needs to go out and starting adding religious or spiritual themes to their work. I guess, more than anything, I just wish more writers would keep these things in mind, especially spec fiction writers. Not every character should be a secularist, and not every character should have had bad experiences with religion. That’s just unrealistic.

But, on the other hand, I don’t want to see every protagonist out their waving a cross whenever the undead start marching, the aliens land or the orcs are charging up the hill.

Religion and fiction, part 1

As anyone who knows me in real life, and likely online, will realize, I am not the most religious of people, at least by modern standards of what a religious person should be. I don’t go to church. I don’t pray, or at least not very often.

But I do enjoy talking about religion. I love studying religion, from a historical standpoint and from a philosophical one. I love playing devil’s advocate, voicing the strengths or weaknesses of the opinions of any side.

I do believe in a supreme being, call him or her or it god or Allah or Johnny Depp. I don’t know that this supreme being needs to be worshipped, or even wants to be. I just flat out don’t know.

I do tend to believe there is some shred of truth in Christianity and Judaism, if for no other reason than certain portions of those religions make sense to me from a “reasoning” point of view. And there’s also the matter of Biblical prophecy. Sorry if I sound like a nut, but it seems to me much prophesized in Daniel, and to some extent Revelations, is coming true daily before our very eyes. But I’ll admit, it might all be coincidence.

I’ve studied Islam some, read the Koran, and don’t quite come away with the same impression. To me, the Koran does have a lot in it that makes sense, but so much of modern Islam as an organized religion is not based upon the Koran but upon traditions that have been passed down through the years… and many of those traditions to me don’t make sense logically. However, I freely admit much of the tradition of Christianity and Judaism also do not come from their holy literature, but the difference is that within those cultures I can tell the difference. I simply don’t know enough about Islamic culture to tell that difference, at least not easily. Buddhism has a lot that makes sense to me, but there are also parts of Buddhism that seem silly.

I find least appealing Hinduism, Mormonism, Scientology and the old guy on the street corner in Chillicothe, Ohio, who used to try and sell me pickles out of a jar. I don’t mean to offend anyone who adheres to any of these systems of belief, but for me they seem illogical. I’ve studied a little bit about all of them, but I’ve found little I felt was logical, or “reasonable.”

For the most part, I reject atheism completely. To me atheism is way to egoistic, and the idea of a creator seems more logical to me than that we exist by chance. Come on, the very gears of the universe are complicated beyond what humans can imagine; to my way of thinking, there almost has to be a creator or, at least, some sort of creation that wasn’t mere happenstance.

Oh, and let me add that I detest … DETEST … evangelical work of any kind. It’s advertising. It’s public relations. That’s all it is in this day and age. Everyone has heard about Jesus by now. We all know. If we still decide not to do anything about it, and we go to hell forever because of it, then you can point at me from your heavenly reward, shake your head and go “tsk, tsk, tsk!” At that point, it won’t matter to me. And if you’re out spreading the word about somebody else besides Jesus, I don’t need to know any of that stuff either … and I don’t need to buy a pencil.

So, call me agnostic, if you will. Maybe even call me a Deist, because I definitely tend most toward those beliefs. You can even call me a Christian, and I won’t be tooooo offended.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I will regret posting this

Just because I like it when people laugh and make fun of me …

I recently had a rather unique experience, one that either shows I’m getting old, I’m no longer a man, or that I’m into this writing thing waaaaay too much.

I went to a strip club. And had a lap dance. AND had a private dance in one of the back rooms. AND, yep, it’s not just the tops that come off.

Before you start thinking Ty has become some creepy old guy, let me explain a few things. First, this was only the second time I have ever been to a strip club; the first time was way back in 1990 when a friend of mine took me to such a club for my 21st birthday, and I was immediately turned off by the ugly music, the ugly beer and the ugly women.

Second, I didn’t actually WANT to go to a strip club this recent time. A friend of mine was getting married and he, his best man and other pals wanted to go to the club for his bachelor’s party. I didn’t really want to go. I had had no sleep the night before, was dead tired, and as I mentioned, had not had a good experience before at a strip club. But they needed a designated driver. So, a little arm twisting later, I trucked this group of guys (all of whom are much younger than myself) out for a night on the town.

When we get there, the drinks start flowing for everybody but myself (I had one beer, then switched to Diet Coke for the rest of the night, which was cool because our serving lady gave me the Diet Cokes for free), the lights are dim except for the flashing neon spotlights flashing in my face every three seconds and the dozen or so whirling, dizzying disco balls in the ceiling. Most of the music is heavy, but not real heavy, the kind of stuff you’d hear on hard rock radio, but not true metal (so, mostly, again, I hated the music). The walls are bright red slashed through with silver mirrors. The floor is fake leopard skin. The chair are basically leather couches you can sink into. The tables are small and wobbly and only there to hold your drinks or ashtrays.

Yes, I did watch a good number of the girls dance (and by the way, for anyone offended by my use of the term “girls” for grown women dancing fully naked on a stage … get over yourself … legally they’re women, yeah, but … come on, they’re dancing naked on a stage, they’re dancing “girls,” not dancing “women”). And I didn’t watch it for sexual purposes. I watched their talent. I watched their enthusiasm, or lack of. I watched the audience reaction (and for those of you who want to know, the majority of watchers were indeed male, but there was also a decent number of women and couples watching too). I asked questions of the dancers, some of whom were sweet and answered, but others immediately figured I was a cheapskate and fled. My lap dance and private dance were not my idea, but were forced upon me by a bunch of drunk guys.

And, for me, there was nothing carnal about any of this.


Because all the while I’m thinking, “this would be a great place for a story.”

That’s right. I sat there with naked women running all over the place, some even rubbing up against me, and all I could think about was how I could turn all of this into a story.

I get home, tell the other half this, and she laughs at me. Then says, “Yeah, I don’t have anything to worry about.”

Great. I’ve officially lost my manhood.

And now let the jokes begin.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Writing isn't always writing, but sometimes it is

I've been doing a lot of work on my writing lately, but I've not actually done a lot of writing.

Let me explain. I currently have six short stories in circulation, some of them old, a few of them relatively new. I keep working on the trilogy; I'm down to the last three chapters of the final book, basically the climax of the whole thing and the wrapping up.

I've also recently made a list of stories languishing away in computer files, stories I feel are up to publication. I came up with 10 stories. I have found 10 places to send them. Now, just finding the time to get the stories formatted properly, cover letters written, etc.

And ... ta da ... I actually wrote a new short story a few days ago. It was a great experience, the first original writing I've done in months. I'd had the idea in my head for a few days, then it came pouring out of me in one sitting. True, that first draft was only 1,600 words, but I hadn't planned for this being a long story. I've whittled it down to 1,500 words and think I could probably squeeze another 200 from it if I had to, but that would cut out some of the style of it, which I'm not willing to do at this time ... unless an editor asks me to do otherwise. AND, this short story is horror, the first horror I've written in at least three years. AND it's a zombie story, my first true zombie story (I've used undead plenty of times, but usually ghouls or vamps).

There you have it. What's up with my writing of late.

Oh, yeah, and then there's been the book reviewing, the critiquing for others, this blog, postings at various Web sites, etc. etc.

A writer's work is never done.

Unless the writer is dead.

And who knows? Maybe not even then.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Book reviews are up

My first two book reviews for Apex Digest are now up here.

I reviewed Stephen King's "Cell" and Alexandre Dumas' "One Thousand and One Ghosts".

So, go check them out. Let me know what you think.

Friday, August 03, 2007

When I get to hell ...

In Which Circle of Hell Would You Reside?
Your Result: Circle Three

The Gluttonous: Your appetites drove your will instead of goodness. Since you lived a life of filthy consumption you will spend your time consuming filth.

Circle Seven
Circle Nine
Circle Six
Circle Eight
Circle Four
Circle Five
Circle Two
In Which Circle of Hell Would You Reside?
Create a Quiz

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Belgad's new rules

This is Belgad Thunderclan, also known as Belgad the Liar to some of you fine people. I spent the day hanging out with Ty today, and he has asked me to comment. Instead of simply commenting, I have decided to propose several ordinances at the next meeting of the city council. Here they be:

1.) Explosives must be installed beneath the driver's seats of all vehicles. Any time a turn is made without use of the signal, the explosives ... explode!
2.) All stores, especially Wal-Marts, that have aisles too narrow for two individuals to walk down side by side, must be demolished immediately. And they will no longer, EVER, be allowed to build a new store. Anywhere in the city.
3.) Any groups of individuals who decide to block store aisles by chit-chatting with friends or family, on person or over a cell phone, are to be declared wanton criminals of the worst degree. All of their belongings shall be confiscated. Their family and friends shall be hung until dead. They themselves shall be drawn and quartered, after a few days of torture by pliers and blowtorch.
4.) Idiots who keep you waiting in line at stores while they fumble with their checkbook or yack with their friends or have to go on a trip to the moon to find their friggin' credit cards, shall be flayed alive with a leather whip wrapped in barbed wire. Then their children, favorite pet, favorite friend, whomever, shall be boiled in oil ... just because they're stupid enough to have stupid friends.
5.) People who keep you waiting in line while they are buying lottery tickets will be sent to a special kind of hell where they shall be disembowled and beheaded every day ... forever. With their family and friends ... again, just because if you're stupid enough to have such a stupid friend ... well, you know the rest.
6.) Newspaper editors who can't make up their minds story placement, and keep you making over your pages again and again and again and again ... shall be shot dead. No, we won't spend the time torturing them first. We won't give them the satisfaction.
7.) Newspaper reporters who give you a length on their stories must keep to such a length. Or we will burn down their house. While their family is still inside.
8.) Newspaper reporters must meet their deadlines. If they do not, see number 3 above.
9.) The Coke machine in my newspaper's prepress department will start accepting nickels. It has 24 hours. If, by then, it still does not accept nickels ... we will start drinking more Pepsi products. Or Ale 8 One.
10.) Anyone, and I mean anyone, who goes "Rah! Rah!" for the war in Iraq, will be immediately shipped to Iraq. Forever. The same goes for anyone who gives a cheerful smile whenever President Sidious ... er, I mean Bush ... appears on television. If they give a disdainful smile, we will instead allow them to go to Amsterdam. Or Vegas. Forever.

More possibly in the future ...