Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Books I want to read

Below is a list of books I'm wanting to read. This list is mainly for myself, but feel free to comment. I'll probably mark items off this list as I get to each book. This list is in no particular order, and I am not necessarily planning to start reading any and all of these books soon. I'll get to them when I get to them. And I'm sure there are other books that should go on this list, I just haven't thought of them yet.

The Cloud of Unknowing -- by Anonymous
The Unconscious God: Psychotherapy and Theology - by Viktor E. Frankl
Preparation for the Next Life -- by Atticus Lish
Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper's Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich -- by David Kenyon Webster
The Woodsman -- by Craig Hansen
Gone Girl -- by Gillian Flynn
Why I am an Atheist who believes in God -- by Frank Schaeffer
California -- by Edan Lepucki
The Magicians -- Lev Grossman
Heaven - by Randy Alcorn
Lexicon -- by Max Barry
The Croning -- Laird Barron
The Well of the Unicorn -- by Fletcher Pratt
The City & The City -- by China Mieville
North American Lake Monsters -- by Nathan Ballingrud
The Devils of Loudon -- by Aldous Huxley
The Storytelling Animal - by Jonathan Gottschall
The Family -- by Mario Puzo
On Becoming a Novelist -- by John Gardner
Absolute Magic -- by Derren Brown
By the Sword -- by Richard Cohen
Playing at the World -- by Jon Peterson
Legend of Hell House -- by Richard Matheson
Proof of Heaven -- by Eben Alexander III
Rennie's Way -- by Verna Mae Slone
Cloud Atlas -- by David Mitchell
The Land of Laughs - by Jonathan Carroll
Meeting Evil - by Thomas Berger
Whom the Gods Would Slay -- by Ivar Jorgensen
Charlotte Sometimes - by Penelope Farmer
Thieves' World Gazetteer - by Lynn Abbey, for D20
Shadowspawn's Guide to Sanctuary - for D20
Thieves' World Player's Manual - for D&D, for D20
The House Next Door - by Anne River Siddons
Ring (Ring Series, Book 1) - by Koji Suzuki, translated by Glynne Walley
The Wealth of Nations (complete version) - by Adam Smith
The Mysteries of Udolpho - by Ann Radcliffe
High Plains Drifter - by Ernest Tidyman
Who Goes There? - by John W. Campbell, Jr.
Primitive Christianity - by Alan Knight
Logan's Run - by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson
Don't You Forget About Me - anthology about Hughes movies
Black Prometheus: A Critical Study of Karl Edward Wagner - edited by Benjamin Szumskyj
A Boy and His Dog - by Harlan Ellison
The Snow Leopard - by Peter Matthiessen
The Living Dead - by George A. Romero
Joan of Arc - by Mark Twain
The Making of an Atheist - by James S. Spiegel
Valley of the Dead - by Kim Paffenroth
Technologized Desire - by D. Harlan Wilson
The Yiddish Policemen's Union - by Michael Chabon
Jesus, Interrupted - by Bart D. Ehrman
Bulfinch's Mythology - by Thomas Bulfinch
The Invention of Morel - by Adolfo Bioy Casares
Valis - by Philip K. Dick
The Shape of Things to Come - by H.G. Wells
Nine Stories - by J.D. Salinger
You Do Not Talk About Fight Club - by Mercer Schuchardt
Don Qixote - by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Les Miserables - by Victor Hugo
Anna Kerinina - by Leo Tolstoy
Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend - by Stephen Davis
The New Dead - edited by Christopher Golden
Abandon - by Blake Crouch
Run - by Blake Crouch
The End of the Trail: Western Stories - by Robert E. Howard
The El Borak Adventures - by Robert E. Howard
Day of the Stranger: Further Memories of Robert E. Howard - by Novalyne Price
Melmoth the Wanderer - by Charles Robert Maturin
The Red Badge of Courage - by Stephen Crane
Pride and Prejudice - by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibilities - by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
The Grapes of Wrath - by John Steinbeck
The Black Tulip - by Alexandre Dumas
The Last Cavalier - by Alexandre Dumas
The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion - by Sir James George Frazer
Collection of fairy tales - by the Brothers Grimm
Collection of fables - by Aesop
The Monk - by Matthew Gregory Lewis
One Thousand and One Nights collection
Dark Crusade - by Karl Edward Wagner
Ender's Game - by Orson Scott Card
Pawn of Prophecy - by David Eddings
Lord Foul's Bane - by Stephen R. Donaldson
The Guns of Avalon - by Roger Zelazny
The King's Daughter - by Nathalie Mallet
The Last Chronicle of Barset - by Anthony Trollope
Kushiel's Dart - by Jacqueline Carey
Elegy Beach - by Steven R. Boyett
No Country for Old Men - by Cormac McCarthy
Midwinter - by Matt Sturges
The Grand Guignol: Theatre of Fear and Terror - by Mel Gordon
Ramban - by Chayim J. Henoch
The Theology of Nahmanides Systematically Presented - by David Novak
In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash - by Jean Shepherd
Evidence of the Afterlife - by Dr. Jeffrey Long
The Servant of Two Masters - play by Carlo Goldoni

Monday, December 22, 2008

No.1 (for 2009), No. 43 (for 2008) - McTeague

by Frank Norris

Started: December 22, 2008
Finished: January 1, 2009

Notes: This is one of those forgotten novels of classic literature, written in 1899 if my memory serves correct. This novel was made into a 1924 silent movie called Greed, and I'm a fan of this movie (as I'm also a bit of a silent movie buff). This is a dark tale of a man who wins the lottery and the horrible fate that ensues, with one of the most bleak endings to a story I've ever seen on film (and I've read elsewhere the book has the same ending).

Mini review: Slow and pondering at first, though somewhat interesting, this tale really kicks in during the last 60 or so pages. Yep, the ending is as dark and bleak as I had expected. I won't say this novel blew me away, but it was definitely worth reading. Though it doesn't hit you over the head throughout, this is basically a morality tale about greed, but personal greed, not the anti-corporate greed stories that are so common nowadays.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In Middle Earth, I'd be a dwarf

Your result for The What Middle Earth race do you belong to Test...

Dwarf

You scored 0% Size & Strength, 59% Morality, 71% Aggression, and 53% Intelligence.


You're a Dwarf! You scored high on everything to get here, so congrats on that. Though maybe you should have that temper checked out, huh? That much aggression can't be good for you. Anyway, the Dwarves are one of the primary races of Middle Earth, along with Elves and Men. Known for their great mining and crafting skills along with having tremendous might in small packages, the Dwarves are highly suspicious of anyone that's not a Dwarf. And why shouldn't they be? They've been run out of all their ancestral homes through the years by Orcs, Dragons and Balrogs, making them Middle Earth's largest collection of dispossessed people. So hey, you'd be grouchy too. They also have an unfortunate tendency towards greed, and can become obsessed with obtaining precious materials. Despite all that, the courage of a Dwarf is never to be doubted.

FYI, your polar opposite is the Warg.


Take The What Middle Earth race do you belong to Test
at HelloQuizzy

Friday, December 19, 2008

Two firsts in one publication

I received in the mail today my October 2008 issue of Beyond Centauri, and boy did I have a couple of surprises!

First, my name and the title of my story, "A Dragon's Tale," actually made it on the cover. This is a first for me!

Second, my story was the first one, leading off the magazine. Another first for me as a writer!

If you'd like to order a copy, go here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No. 42 - Legend

by David Gemmell

Started: December 15
Finished: December 22

Notes: This is a pretty well-known modern author in the fantasy genre, and unfortunately I only discovered him once he had passed away last year. I have only read one book by him, but I was impressed enough to forge ahead into another. This book apparently was his first published novel, kicking off his career back in the 1980s.

Mini review: One of the best siege stories I've ever read. This was even better than the earlier Gemmell novel I read. The first 40 or so pages I found a bit slow, but it picked up fine and continued to speed along through the end. I'll be looking for more Gemmell novels.

Monday, December 15, 2008

30 things I like

Since I have a tendency to gripe and complain on my blog (hey, who doesn't? Isn't that what blogs are for), today I thought I'd do something a little different and list things I like. This will be a very general list, just stuff as it comes to my mind. In no particular order, here are things I like:

1.) Playing with bunny rabbits.

2.) Sleeping with a gently snoring beagle.

3.) Sipping really good beer.

4.) Hiking to the top of a mountain in a thunderstorm, then under the shade of branches, smoking a fine cigar.

5.) My other half's cheesecake.

6.) Cruising down the highway during the summer with the windows down and a really, really cool song comes on the radio.

7.) Anything written by Alexandre Dumas.

8.) Minor league baseball.

9.) Playing paintball with U.S. Marines.

10.) Having a person you love telling you they need you. I don't mean generally, in some vague kind of way. But in a specific fashion, like when you come home from after being gone for a long time, or something similar.

11.) Discovering a fantastic book for the very first time.

12.) Eating pretty much anything from Katzinger's deli in Columbus, Ohio.

13.) Greg. For all he's done for myself and others, and for all the great gaming and yacking sessions. Other than my father, probably the finest human being I've had the pleasure and honor to know. If you know him, you get what I'm talking about. Miss you, dude. I still owe you big.

14.) Movies that touch my soul. There are a good number, so I won't list them.

15.) Excited e-mails from "my" editor. He knows who he is.

16.) Talking religion with my dad.

17.) Anything my mom cooks or bakes. Literally, anything. She's the best chef in the world, and I'm not the only one who says that.

18.) My wife's laugh, especially during one of those goofy TV shows or movies we like to watch together.

19.) Neil Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels. In my opinion, quite likely the finest piece of English literature since Shakespeare.

20.) Lyrics by John Lennon, Adam Duritz or Kurt Cobain.

21.) Really good episodes of Saturday Night Live. I still miss Phil Hartman.

22.) Writing until four in the morning, then sleeping until afternoon.

23.) Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

24.) Firing a fine weapon at the shooting range. It's not a power thing. There's just something about shooting a truly fine piece of mechanical ingenuity. You can feel it in your hands, and see it on your targets. Beretta is my favorite maker so far.

25.) Walking long distances, but with a purpose, not just walking to be walking. Nice weather helps, too.

26.) Video games from the 1980s. I love these things, whether the at-home game systems or the arcade versions. Atara, Intellivision, Colecovision ... I love that stuff. It reminds me of Christmas when I was a kid.

27.) Samples at a cheese shop.

28.) Renaissance fairs.

29.) Beer samples during Oktoberfest.

30.) Reading.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

General rambling and complaining about the prices of books from major publishers

A couple of nights ago I wandered my way into one of my favorite bookstores. I hadn't been in there in some time, at least six months, and was surprised by the price of the books.

See, for the last couple of years at least I've been a cheap bastard when it comes to books. I read all the time. But I don't think I've actually paid cash for a book in longer than a year. I've received free books for doing reviews, free books at one or another of my newspaper jobs, I've been given books by friends and family, I won a contest and got a free shopping card to a bookstore and I've actually found ... yes, found ... tons of books. I found one book at work and no one claimed it. I found another book at a restaurant and no one claimed it. And I found a whole box full of books outside an apartment building with a little sign reading, "Free books to anyone who wants them."

And let me add that for the last couple of years I've spent most of my book-buying time in used bookstores. There are five or six used bookstores within a few blocks of my current residence.

So, I've not actually bought a new book in a good while.

The prices of the new books shocked me. Okay, I can understand $25 for a new hardback. But it sure as heck better be written by a big-name author with whom I'm familiar. No, wait, the big-name author's hardbacks are selling for $45. It's the nobodies who have hardbacks selling for $25.

And paperbacks? $7.99. Are ya freakin' kidding me?!?

Okay. So call me out of touch. Call me naive. Call me cheap.

But I'm not going to pay those prices. Especially in this economy.

I'm sorry, but there's no way in hell a paperback should cost more than the minimum wage. Even back in the '80s when I was making $3.35 an hour at my grocery store job in high school, I could still pick up a new paperback for $2.50 or less.

Call me a communist. I don't care. Book prices should not be that steep.

I'm not blaming the writers or the publishers or editors, at least not entirely. I realize paper is expensive. I'm in the newspaper business after all, we use the cheapest paper you can get, and it's still pretty expensive even in bulk. I understand people have to make a living. I understand it takes a lot of work and time to get a book from the writer's computer all the way to the shelves of my local bookstores.

But ... come on, folks. Somethings wrong here. Major publishers are always griping about how they never make any money, and now they're restructuring and laying people off and maybe even some of them folding. Major bookstore chains are always complaining that they actually lost money on the latest New York Times bestseller. The majority of writers and editors I know aren't making a lot of greenbacks, and neither are the small publishers.

My guess? It's distribution and printing that are the biggest costs.

But someone somewhere is making money. And not all of them are named Stephen King.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

No. 41 - Flashing Swords! #5: Demons and Daggers

edited by Lin Carter

Started: December 9
Finished: December 15

Notes: I wasn't blown away by Flashing Swords! #4, which I read a while back, but I didn't hate it enough not to give another book in the series a try. Here is a collection of tales by Roger Zelazny, C.J. Cherryh, Diane Duane, Craig Shaw Gardner and Tanith Lee. Lee and Cherryh I am familiar with, the others not so much.

Mini review: This book in the series was quite a bit better than the one I read earlier. My favorite tales were by Roger Zelazny and C.J. Cherryh. I was especially thrilled with Cherryh's tale because she was one of the original Thieves' World authors, and this tale definitely had that kind of ring to it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Don't argue with a woman who reads

Yes, my wife e-mailed this to me:

One morning a husband returns after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap. Although not familiar with the lake, the wife decides to take the boat out. She motors out a short distance, anchors, and reads her book.

Along comes a Game Warden in his boat. He pulls up alongside the woman and says, 'Good morning, Ma'am. What are you doing?'

'Reading a book,' she replies, (thinking, 'Isn't that obvious?')

'You're in a Restricted Fishing Area,' he informs her.

'I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading'

'Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up.'

'For reading a book,' she replies.

'You're in a Restricted Fishing Area,' he informs her again.

'I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading.'

'Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up.'

'If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault,' says the woman.

'But I haven't even touched you,' says the game warden.

'That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment.'

'Have a nice day ma'am,' and he left.

MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads.

Another short story coming soon

My fantasy short story "Ogre" is scheduled to appear in the Feb. 16, 2009, issue of The Absent Willow Review.

Thanks to editor Rick DeCost. Glad he liked the story.

Also, check out Rick's Tripping the Muse site for advice for writers.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Oh no, the sky is falling on book publishers!

In case you haven't already heard, several major book publishers are making drastic changes this week. You can find out the basics here.

But, in case you don't want to follow the above link, here's the gist of things:
  • Simon & Shuster has announced layoffs
  • Random House has announced layoffs and a major structure changes
  • Thomas Nelson Publishers has announced layoffs
  • It appears as if the Bantam Dell Publishing Group and Rubin's Doubleday Publishing Group will no longer exist as they are to become parts of other Random House divisions

And I'm sure there's more that I'm forgetting.

Sad times, indeed, and scary.

But there's a silver lining for us writers. What silver lining? Well, in a nutshell, less competition. That's right, less competition.

Yes, I'm sure with all the changes and cutbacks it will be harder than ever to get a book published, especially at one of the big publishing houses. But, that also means if you get published by a smaller publisher then your small publisher has less to compete with when it comes to the big guys. These tough economic times might not level the playing field, but they'll surely lean a little less toward one side.

Oh, you're worried book sales are down. Get over it. Book sales are always down. The larger publishers have been screaming all my life (about 40 years) that no one reads any more and books aren't selling. It might be true now, it might not. I don't know. And I'm not going to believe anyone's so-called facts or numbers. Why? Because those facts and numbers from publishers always spellout doom and gloom, even when major writers have been making millions for years.

And remember that these tough times mean that some wannabe writers will have to give it up because of money or time restraints. Bad luck for them, but good luck for those staying in the game. Sorry to be mercenary about it, but I'm calling it here as I see it.

You want to get published? You want a career as a writer? Then stick with it. Write the best you can and keep learning to write even better. And persevere. My belief is that perseverance is at least 75 percent of what it takes to become a professional novelist.

The other 25 percent? An editor.

And maybe a tad bit of luck thrown in.

(And let me add here, since I sounded flippant above, I am truly sorry for those who've lost their jobs. I've been there and know how tough it is).

Monday, December 01, 2008

No. 40 - The Ox-Bow Incident

by Walter Van Tilburg Clark

Started: December 1
Finished: December 9

Notes: This 1940 Western novel was made into a 1943 movie starring a young Henry Fonda. The movie is relatively well known for an older Western, and it's no shoot-em up. This is not an action story, though there is some violence involved. I'd seen this movie, liked it, then ran across the original book, which now I'll read.

Mini review: Boy, it took a long time for this one to get rolling, at least 140 pages, but it finally came to a fine ending. I wasn't impressed enough to want to search out more of this rare author, but he turned out a decent store with morals. The morality bits nearly slam you over the head sometimes, but for the most part it wasn't too bad.