Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Do not buy my new fantasy novel!

Why not? After all, my new e-book novel, Demon Chains, has just been released for the Kindle, right? And, I have a new blog tour starting in a few hours to promote the novel, right?

Yes, and yes.

However, as you are a reader of my blog, I will fill you in on a little secret.

Listen closely.

Okay. Ready?

Sometime in the next week, and I'm not saying when, Demon Chains will be available for free.

Yes, you read that correctly. So just wait and be patient.

And don't say I didn't tell you.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 9 - Tolstoy on Shakespeare

by Leo Tolstoy

Started: January 30
Finished: February 4

Notes: I've long read that Tolstoy had a strong detestation for Shakespeare and his works. In this little book Tolstoy laid out his reasoning, so I thought I'd check it out.

Mini review: Well, there's not doubt Tolstoy hated Shakespeare. In my opinion, I feel Tolstoy falls short on some of his basis for this dislike. For one, I think Tolstoy lacked a good sense of the absurd, which can be found quite often in Shakespeare. And while I understand and even agree with Tolstoy's vision of art, that true high art is a representation of man's search for or connection with spirituality (Tolstoy would have outright said "God"), I again fault Tolstoy for not finding any elements of this in Shakespeare's writing. I find it, but perhaps I'm blinded, as Tolstoy would most likely suggest I am, though I have no particular love or hate for Shakespeare's works as a whole. I quite enjoy some of Willy's works, but others don't do much for me. Also included in this little book are notes and letters from others concerning their dislike of Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw being the most known name of those, though still, Tolstoy's essay takes up about 75 percent of the writing overall in this book.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 8 - How to Read Literature Like a Professor

by Thomas C. Foster

Started: January 28
Finished: February 7

Notes: This book has haunted me, though not in a spooky manner. I first ran across it a couple of years ago in a used-book store, and while I found it interesting, I did not quite find it interesting enough to pick up. Then a few months later I came across it again at a Barnes & Noble. And then I saw it again a week later at a Borders (RIP). Then again, and again, and again. It seemed everywhere I went, my eyes fell upon this book. So, with some mild interest, I figured God or the Universe was telling me something. I bought the book. And since then I've never seen it again in a book store. There is a followup book, How to Read a Novel Like a Professor, and I might pick it up if I enjoy this one.

Mini review: I found the insights here quite interesting, but the number of examples created much tedium for me. I heard the author the first time, and didn't need example after example to detail for me his points. Could've been at least a hundred words shorter, in my opinion.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Author Greg Hamerton on Hope and the Kindle fire

Guest posting today is fantasy author Greg Hamerton, author of the epic fantasy series The Tale of the Lifesong.

In life, many of us expect to be lucky. We’re secretly optimistic about our chances. I suppose it’s why so many people buy lottery tickets, go to casinos, try paragliding ... and write books.

“You can’t win it if you don’t play it,” echoes in my mind as I write this. That lottery ticket I bought last week didn’t have a single winning number on it. And yet I’ll probably be suckered into buying another one, some time, with the simple thrill of anticipation you can engineer by taking a chance.

And I’ll probably be suckered into writing another book by that same childish notion of winning big. It helped get me through dark hours of writing: to keep on closing the door on sunny days. I was writing The Book. And although hoping for a best seller wasn’t the only motivation, it helped.

Many reasons conspire to get us behind our keyboards: to express our art, the joy of creation, the love of crafting, the challenge of mental gymnastics, the learning that comes from writing, the surprising insights, and the Story that must get out. But underneath this all is burning inspiration, and it is fuelled by book sales. When there is no hope of ever being published, bought and read, the fire can only burn for a while before it dies.

But Amazon has handed everyone a piece of kindling.

Used to be, 99.9% of writers had no realistic opportunity to even buy a ticket to the ‘best-selling book’ lottery. Now, within a day of loading your manuscript on Kindle Direct Publishing, you’re in a place where you can win. No gatekeepers, no delays, no middlemen. Unlike the other digital markets right now, Amazon’s sales figures are staggering. To be fair, for many authors, selling hundreds a day is as unlikely as bagging the Euro Millions, but you have a ticket. It is possible.

Suddenly there is no reason to let the fire of inspiration go out. Amazon has enabled your next creation, by offering you hope. I expect this will cause a raging fire of new authors and new books. It’s already happening.

How do I know my little flame will stand out in this literary inferno? I think I’ll be lucky. It’s in my nature. As it is in yours.

So write!

Greg Hamerton is a fantasy author, graphic designer and extreme sports publisher. He is best known for his epic fantasy series The Tale of the Lifesong, which begins with The Riddler’s Gift and continues with Second Sight.

"There is a song that drifts on the breeze through all the world. Its rhythms are echoed in our breath, the music is caught in our laughter, hidden in our language, woven through our life. Singers reach for the melody, but it is too delicate to hold and too elusive to remember. As the Ages pass, so the Lifesong retreats under the sounds of our time, its potent beauty and danger ever more a mystery."

Find out more on www.greghamerton.com

February 2012 blog tour

My next epic fantasy e-book novel Demon Chains will be released at Amazon on Feb. 1, so I thought it time I did another blog tour. This tour isn't just to promote my new story. I'm doing this more because I enjoyed the blog tour I did last November. I got to meet and chat with a lot of people I had not known before, and it was cool to talk with some new people. So, I thought I'd do another blog tour. For those of you who were around during my last tour, don't expect to visit a lot of the places you visited back then; I'm intentionally reaching out to new blogs for the most part, in an effort to expand not only my potential audience, but again, to meet new people.

Below is my schedule for my February 2012 blog tour. I'll be updating this list as details solidify. If you would like me to appear on your blog, please let me know. And, just to clarify, I don't mind guest posting on blogs I've appeared at before, I'm just trying to reach out a little more, so if I have appeared at your blog, please don't think that means I'm not interested in doing so again. Make sense?

Feb. 1 -- Indie Book Blogger
Feb. 2 -- Residential Aliens
Feb. 3 -- Colin McComb
Feb. 4 -- Journal of a New Guy
Feb. 5 -- Ben Dobson
Feb. 6 -- Scott Fitzgerald Gray
Feb. 8 -- Darrin Drader
Feb. 8 -- Weblog of Zoe Winters
Feb. 9 -- Carson Craig, nascent novelist
Feb. 10 -- Derek J. Canyon: Adventures in ePublishing
Feb. 10 -- Indie Writers Zone
Feb. 10 -- James Grenton's Blog
Feb. 12 -- Uri Kurlianchik: D&D Kids
Feb. 13 -- Greg Hamerton
Feb. 16 -- Writing Trip: David L. Shutter
Feb. 17 -- Chiron Training
Feb. 18 -- Keith West: Adventures Fantastic
Feb. 19 -- Jake Scholl: Goblins, Swords, Elves, Oh My!
Feb. 21 -- Scott Nicholson: Haunted Computer
Feb. 22 -- Aaron Pogue: Unstressed Syllables
Feb. 23 -- Publetariat
Feb. 28 -- William Meikle
Feb. 29 -- Ty Schwamberger

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 7 - The Castle of Otranto

by Horace Walpole

Started: January 26
Finished: January 28

Notes: I've been meaning to read this gothic classic for years, and now am finally getting around to it. I've only read the first 10 percent so far, and I must say I'm liking a lot of what I'm reading.

Mini review: I have to say, this was quite the fun read. While this 18th Century work was steeped in the gothic and the fantastic, I felt it was written in quite a readable voice, almost as if for a modern audience.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Writer’s Guide to Surviving the Internet

Though I don't know him overly well personally, I could tell you a lot of things about Scott Fitzgerald Gray, such as his work with Wizards of the Coast and other interesting details, but what is important to me is Scott is a damn good writer. Really. I'm not just saying that because he and I are members of the Monumental Works Group. I've only read a handful of Scott's fantasy writing, but honestly, it is some of the best new literature I've read in the last few years.

Recently Scott and I were passing messages back and forth online, and he showed interest in my blog series on 100 Sites for Fiction Writers, hinting that he would like to add a little to the series. What follows is just that, Scott's "A Writer's Guide to Surviving the Internet." Every writer, especially fiction writers, need to read this.

A Writer’s Guide to Surviving the Internet

I got my first high-speed internet access when I upgraded from dial-up (ask your parents) back in about 1994. And while I’d love to be able to say that I immediately noticed a huge upturn in my productivity as a result of instant access to resources, references, and current events, the reality is that I wasn’t keeping track of my productivity because I was spending every waking hour on Yahoo (ask your parents), deoxy.org, and the Internet Movie Database.

The World Wide Web is both a blessing and a curse for the working writer. It offers up a wealth of resources for research, inspiration, and communication — but at the same time, the critical mass of those resources constantly eclipses the number of free hours in which we can take advantage of them. In years gone by, you’d have to be a specifically serious type of academic wonk to do so much writing research that you never had time to actually do any writing. These days, you can accidentally click on a link to tvtropes.org or start checking out the comments at the Passive Voice blog, and the next thing you know, your family hasn’t seen you in so long that they’ve had you declared legally dead.

Presented here are a few tips that have served me well at the times when I’ve felt my internet habit getting the upper hand on my writing habit. Some are technical, sort of; some are philosophical. All reflect the fact that for better or worse, the internet has changed the way we function as writers, and that understanding the best and worst parts of those changes is the only way to make sure our writing doesn’t suffer as a result.

Steal This WiFI

I’m a big believer in the idea that changing up one’s work environment can be a huge boon to creativity and productivity. In a general sense, if you usually work on computer and find yourself getting jammed up on a particular piece of story, switch the computer off and try writing longhand for twenty minutes. If you normally write straight through in a methodical line of ideas and words, try jumping around to write the next bit of the story before you write the previous bit. There are lots of obvious examples of this kind of approach.

With regards to using the internet effectively, my first rule is not to be afraid to shut it off once in a while.

Putting up a clear line between your writing time and your internet time saves you from the time-sink of gear-shift multitasking, wherein switching from one mode to another, then back, ad infinitum destroys whatever momentum you manage to build up in either stream.

The Beneficence of Brackets

One of the most pernicious distractions that any writer can face while working is the sudden urge for research. No matter what you’re working on, no matter how well it’s going, there comes a point in the story or the article when whatever you’re writing suddenly locks all four wheels up and turns into a sudden, unassailable need to go and look something up. The correct synonym for that word you just typed that you’re suddenly not happy with. The capital of Ecuador. The latest reviews on the book you read last month that the bit you were just working suddenly reminded you of for some reason. Whatever happened to that writer you read in high school and loved but had totally forgotten about until right now?

Research in and of itself is a good thing. However, when the urge to look stuff up interrupts the writing, it does so to the writing’s peril and detriment. My solution is brackets — [ and ], dropped into the text to highlight and flag something you’re not going to worry about now because you know you can look it up later. No matter what it is, no matter how important it seems, don’t let the urge to check something sidetrack the writing. I occasionally put entire plot twists and whole monologues into brackets with epistolary exercises like “[At some point, check what kind of ammunition my Glaswegian fishmonger protagonist would be using as he pulls the gun on his podiatrist, then figure out the most appropriate native-language insult as he does.]” (I haven’t personally visited the website that would answer both those questions, but I’m sure it’s out there.)


Switching from a desktop machine to a laptop or tablet is another effective curb to casual web-surfing cutting into your creative time. The smaller the screen, the less chance you have to fill it with so much internet that you don’t know where to start reading first. My desktop setup features twin slabs of 21.5-inch LCD goodness, which are a glorious boon for writing and editing. However, their bright and shiny expanses of open window space can incite dangerous levels of distraction in my internet, as the number of Safari tabs opened and waiting with links-that-I’ll-get-to-just-as-soon-as-I’ve-looked-at-this-other-thing-first pushes toward triple digits.

Much of the time these days, my preferred mode for reading blogs and news is my iPad or my iPod Touch. Using the more limited OS forces me to focus on reading one thing at a time, like we all used to do with books (ask your parents). You can open multiple windows in most tablet and PDA/smartphone browsers. However, doing so is a pain in the ass, and writers are nothing if not extremely sensitive to negative reinforcement.

Get Connected

The explosion of writers’ personal websites and blogs over the last few years is a seismic event in the world of writing. Like all seismic events, it promises to forever change the very foundations of what it means to be a writer. This is because writing is, by its most essential nature, a solitary discipline. Whether you’re the serious artiste type staring forlornly out the window of your garret bedroom all hours of the day, or the writing-in-your-spare-moments type stealing creative time in small doses between the needs of kids, spouse, and the need to earn real income, our moments of writing are typically about shutting out the real world. Once upon a time, this process of self-imposed isolation meant that being able to talk to anyone else about writing required specialized equipment such as “writers’ conferences,” “book clubs,” or “seedy bars.” But these days, your ability to pull up a chair and listen to the discourse of any number of others like you is one Google search and a half-dozen clicks away.

Get Personal

As you engage in the virtual world of other writers and their lives as they share them online, don’t just be a passive observer of those lives and the insights they inspire. Being able to sit at your leisure at the virtual feet of other writers and partake of their experience and insight is a paradigm shift of the highest order. Being able to then respond to or comment on those other writers’ thoughts and philosophies is the paradigm shift folded in on itself, like some kind of Möbius-strip origami.

Commenting is all but ubiquitous on blogs, so take advantage of the opportunity to tell an established writer “Thanks for taking the time to share with me.” Tell a struggling writer “I know where you’re at right now because I’ve been there as well.” On blogs that invite it, feel free to debate and discuss positions counter to the opinions presented. However, be wary of letting any discussion get overly strained, tangential, or fueled by the despair so often inherent in our chosen profession (cf. “seedy bars,” above).

Listen To Yourself

Once you start getting comfortable becoming part of the larger professional and creative discourse that the world of writers’ sites and blogs represents, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of commenting just for the sake of commenting. In a conversation with actual people, we retain the resonance of what we say. However, the internet is a hundred different conversations all running at once, so work to maximize your retention of what’s being said at your end.

When you post comments to a blog or forum, keep a copy of those comments. Set up a kitchen-sink Word doc into which all your quick thoughts and responses, your reasoned treatises and deft analyses are cut-and-pasted as you write them, no matter how seemingly mundane. Don’t worry about where they were posted. Don’t copy the original information you’re responding to. Don’t even make notes about the context of what’s been said. Just keep a growing record of what you say so that every once in a while, you can read back through it.

Sometimes the most offhand comment can become fodder for a blog post of your own when you give it a quick once-over with fresh eyes. Sometimes you’ll see trends in a succession of posts that tell you things about where you are in your writing — things you’re worried about; things you’re hoping to achieve. Breaking the conversation out as our interaction with the blogosphere does, we sometimes need reminders of what we were thinking.

Get Both Sides of the Story

Tacked up on the wall of my office, I have a quote that speaks to me on many levels as a struggling creative type:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” — Goethe

I think that’s an amazing statement on the art and craft of writing, which so often gets tripped up by the fear of beginnings that we never let ourselves get around to the middles and endings. It’s a homily that I’ve taken to heart for almost a decade now, and which I’ve passed on regularly to people who I think might also be inspired by it.

Only one problem — it’s not by Goethe. In fact, it’s not really a quotation at all, insofar as it appears to have originated as a second-hand misquotation that became a quotation that left both its originators behind (details here if you’re interested: http://german.about.com/library/blgermyth12.htm). But for many years, I thought it was Goethe and I quoted it back because the internet told me it was so. I tripped across that quote on the web circa 2001. I have no idea where it was found or why I was there, but a quick Google search tonight shows it out there on the web a total of 248,000 times, all of them wrong.

The moral? On the internet, never take anybody’s word for anything.

If you’re a self-publishing indie writer, you absolutely should be reading the blogs of new-world-of-publishing proponents like Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith, Joe Konrath, and the like. However, you should also be reading the blogs of people like John Scalzi and Chuck Wendig, who see advantages and pitfalls for the writer’s life on both sides of the self-/traditional-publishing divide. You should be reading the blogs and forums of the traditional publishing companies active in your chosen genres. You should be checking out Publisher’s Weekly and other hardcore pro-industry, anti-indie sites. You should be reading the most hardcore, virulent, death-to-indie/publishers-and-agents-are-gods bloggers you can find, their ink-stained fingers posting to WordPress straight from an IBM Selectric in some mysterious way. Because as a self-publishing writer, you’re committed to staying abreast of and understanding what people are saying on all sides of the turbulent and fast-changing industry that all writers are a part of.

If a blogger you like says something inspiring, that’s great — but read the comments on that blog and actively seek out people whose opinions run a hundred and eighty degrees opposite. Read those opinions. Listen to them. Disagree with them in order to put your own beliefs into sharper focus. Because the problem with only reading people you agree with is that you lose the ability to think critically, to weigh measured points pro and con, and to argue effectively about what you believe in. As writers, none of us should be afraid of digging beneath the surface of easy belief.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 6 - The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

by United States Army Corps of Engineers, Manhattan District

Started: January 18
Finished: January 26

Notes: This is another historical Kindle freebie from Amazon. I've had this one a while and been meaning to get to it. This is the first official report from 1946 concerning various elements of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Studied are the number of deaths, the damage done, the effects upon the population, and numerous other details. Unlike official documents today, this one is quite readable. It might seem a little cold in the way it talks about the bombings, but it is trying to give a straight-forward accounting.

Mini review: Interesting. The most impressive section was the last fourth or so which included a first-hand account of a survivor of one of the atomic bombings.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Andrew Sullivan talks Book Publishing industry

I'm not the biggest Andrew Sullivan fan, but when I saw this over at Chris La Tray's blog, I knew I had to steal it. Thanks, Chris!

Oh, by the way, no, I don't hate Andrew Sullivan or anything. He's okay for the most part, though sometimes I find him a little ... hmm, condescending, maybe?

Books read in 2012: No. 5 - Antarktos Rising

by Jeremy Robinson

Started: January 17
Finished: January 25

Notes: This novel was actually a present from my family's minister while I was in the hospital a few weeks ago. It's a signed copy, so I'll make sure to give it back when finished, even though it was a gift. It's an interesting sounding plot, with the world in turmoil after continental shifting and Antarctica now a lush land ready for the taking by the world's governments.

Mini review: This author can write. His story moves along at a good pace, and I was never bored. His characters are pretty good, though a bit simplistic, in my opinion. All that being said, I had a couple of beefs with this novel. First, as a Christian thriller this novel fell into a trap I've run across in similar fiction; basically, when the big bad villains from the Bible show up, the characters all run around thrilled that the Bible has finally been proven true beyond a shadow of a doubt, yet they seem less worried about all the death and destruction going on around them. I'm exaggerating to some extent here, but not by much. I myself hold to basic Christian beliefs, but I also think God is much more subtle than we give him credit, and I also believe that being excited about the end being near and that all the sinners are about to get what's coming to them is a sin before God. Christians are supposed to be caring and loving, especially toward those they consider their enemies; for those who don't believe me, read the Bible, and not just the parts that back up some personal agenda. Secondly, I was quite disgusted with the ending. The story was going along well, then suddenly the main plot is all wrapped up in the last 20 pages while two major characters are stuck with chump deaths that don't even happen "on screen." However, despite my misgivings and my strong feelings about the religion topic, yes, I would read this author again. I wasn't turned off by his writing, and he did include an explanatory note at the beginning of the novel to point out the opinions of some of his characters were not his own. As a writer myself, I understood and didn't necessarily need his explanation, but I thought it was a nice touch and could help to open the eyes of some of his readers.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I am a grumpy old man ... or why today's rock music sucks

A recent conversation on Facebook got me to thinking about my age and the current state of rock music.

My initial post was something simple, "I miss ... rock music." Which has been followed up by a dozen or so suggestions from others, suggestions for modern bands I should listen to.

So I popped over to YouTube and spent a few hours listening to all this music. Most of it was actually pretty good. Most of it was stuff I could listen to on a regular basis ... but not when I'm in the mood for ROCK music.

As I made a point of telling others on Facebook, when I want to hear rock music, I want music that waves a middle finger at you, that says a big, bold F-U. No, that does not mean I only want to listen to heavy metal or '80s thrash bands or something like that. Despite the protestations of some, rock music when done well can scream "F-U" and still be artistic, with talent. Jim Morrison. Johnny Cash. Early Soundgarden. The Beatles on their edgier stuff. The Who. Even U2 on certain songs. Van Halen during its wackiest David Lee Roth days was still waving a finger at "The Man."

I find next to none of that in today's music. The only musicians who come close, in my opinion, are Jack White (and then only sometimes) and, of all people, Kid Rock, who I generally do not enjoy (though sometimes I do). And then there's comedian Jack Black, who has a joke band called Tenacious D which rocks harder than any of bands of today. It's a sad state of affairs when a joke band rocks harder than the supposed real thing.

And, keep in mind, those three guys I listed above aren't really modern. White has been around more than a decade now, Rock has been around more than a couple of decades now, and Black ain't exactly young, either.

When I listen to younger bands today, I do not hear rock music, at least not by the definitions of rock music I grew up with. Instead, I hear what used to be called easy listening music, or at best, soft rock.

And there's nothing wrong with that. I like that music myself when I'm in the mood for it.

But when I want to hear ROCK music, by god, I want to hear ROCK music.

So you think it's untalented? Guess what, F U. You think it's not artistic? Guess what, F U. You think it out and out sucks? Hey, you know where to go.

That's the point, often the whole point.

In a way, I realize it's just me getting old. But on the other hand, I look at younger people today and see the biggest bunch of mamby pamby grandpas and grandmas that have ever lived. Everything has to be so artistic. Everything has to talk about my feelings. By all that's holy, grow a pair, okay?

Yes, there's a time and place for touchy feely music. I'll listen to Counting Crows or David Gray or Aimee Mann or somebody and love the heck out of it.

But it is not ALL I listen to. And it's not strictly speaking rock music.

What often boggles my mind is that we live in one of the most angry ages of all history, definitely modern history, yet where is the music of anger to be found? It's not. Where is the music of frustration? Nowhere. I would have fully expected a renaissance of rock music during such turbulent times, but nope, nada, zilch. Instead, we get Bieber fever and Lady Gaga.

Oh, we've had pop music and touchy feely tunes for years, and I don't mean to disparage it. Honestly, I don't. Paul McCartney is one of the greatest pop musicians who ever lived, and Adam Duritz is one of the best lyricists I've had the pleasure to hear during my lifetime. Michael Jackson knew how to put together a great, catchy pop single.

So yeah, we had that music back in the day. But that was not ALL we had.

Hell, I've never been a big rap or hip hop fan, but today I'd settle for some NWA or Wu-Tang Clan. Instead, all we get is music that's Will Smith. No, that's an insult to Will Smith. What we've got today is Will Smith lite.

Two last points ...

1.) It's all nice that there are a million bands out there on YouTube, however, for the few screaming with angst, doing so from mom's basement or dad's garage kind of defeats the purpose. Yes, all musicians have to start somewhere, it's true, but they move beyond their beginnings. "The Man" isn't going to blink an eye because you're throwing a fit between the lawn mower and the charcoal grill. "The Man" is only going to pay attention when you stand up and shove your music down his throat.

Ask John Lennon, if you don't believe me.

2.) Arguing over which music or band is better is rather junior high schoolish. Oh, sorry, showing my age again. I meant, it's so middle schoolish. Rock used to be the music of youth (though it doesn't seem to be nowadays), but that doesn't mean we fans have to act like we're still back in school. Grow up and again, grow a pair.

Okay, I lied ... here's my last point ...

For those who might be offended by what I've written here ... do I even need to say it?

Okay, just this once for old time's sake ... F U.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Only in America ... will a stranger hand you a loaded gun

So I'm visiting my mom last week in Jesse Helms country. She lives out in the country, not much different from where I grew up in Kentucky. There's next to nothing out there except trailers and churches, with every few miles a small country store looking like it's about to fall down.

I dropped in one of these small stores, as I often do. I was just going in to pick up a candy bar or something. In the back of the place was a table around which sat four or five good-ole boys. If you have to have the term "good-old boys" explained to you, I'm probably not much help. Let's just say that with my beard, ball cap and gut, along with my Kentucky accent, I can pass easy enough for a good-ole boy and might even have a little good-ole boy in me.

Anyway, I get what I came for and walk past the table on my way to the counter. To my surprise there are several semi-automatic handguns on the table between all these fellows. As a former owner of firearms, I have some interest in the subject, so I started paying attention to the conversation at the table.

Most of the talk was about the various worth (in quality, not dollars) of the guns on display. One of the guns was a Taurus, and it was built upon a similar model to one of my favorite handguns, the Beretta 92FS. Both are nine millimeters, but in my opinion the Beretta is a far better handgun than the Taurus. I made a point of letting the group know my opinion.

I was surprised when none disagreed with me. It wasn't that they were a bad lookin' group of fellows or anything, but it's a rare thing for one gun enthusiast anywhere at any time to announce an opinion without a hundred other gun enthusiasts gettin' all up in arms (so to speak).

I knew none of these men. I'm not a local. Very few people know me in the region.

But suddenly one of the guys picks up the Taurus and hands it to me, saying something like, "Get a feel for this thing."

I do not hesitate. In a safe manner, the barrel facing the floor and my trigger finger outside of the guard, I take the weapon. It is heavy. Heavier than I expected.

Because there are bullets in it.

How did I determine this? Because I popped out the magazine and stared at the brass with my own eyes. Then I partially tugged back the slide and sure enough, there was another round in the chamber. At least the safety was on.

I slid the magazine back into the gun, hefted it a little, talked a little bull with the guys, then place the firearm back on the table.

After a little more chat, I paid for my donuts or whatever and made my way down the road.

This is not an exceptional story. I'm sure such things happen all the time.

But driving down the road, it dawned on me: Would such happen anywhere else in the world than America?

Yes, it probably would, but I'm guessing in few places and quite rarely.

Imagine, handing a loaded firearm to a complete stranger. You'd never do it, would you? Neither would I. Oh, I'm sure I could imagine some extreme circumstances in which I might be willing to do such, but they would be few and far between.

How did these guys know I wouldn't hold the place up? Or just go on some shooting spree? How would they know if I were some recently escaped psycho on the prowl for someone to kill?

I guess I looked enough of a good-ole boy that I passed the muster. Just glad we didn't start talking politics or religion, because I'm sure there would have been some disagreements at some point.

But I still say the Beretta is a better firearm.

Books read in 2012: No. 4 - Time in a Bottle

edited by Paul Wittine

Started: January 12
Finished: January 16

Notes: This one was a Christmas present from the editor himself, so thanks Paul! There are a number of names on the Table of Contents with whom I'm familiar, so I'm interested in getting into this collection of short stories about time. Also, the issue of time and potentially time travel are notions interesting to me at the moment because I am contemplating using them in a future novel.

Mini review: Some very interesting stories here. It's difficult to name a favorite because a number are quite good. There's a solid mix here of types of stories, as well, from more action-oriented fiction to philosophical, almost spiritual tales. Good stuff.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ghosts of the Asylum free today

As much as I've griped and complained about free e-books of late, my one fantasy novel I've used to experiment with KDP Select is Ghosts of the Asylum. Which just happens to be free today for the Kindle. So enjoy!

Monday, January 09, 2012

100 Web sites for fiction writers

Just to make things easier (and because I've been asked several times now), I thought I'd provide a complete list of my recent series about websites for fiction writers. Below are links to my posts about each site and some minor observations about the sites. If this is your first time here, links to the actual sites themselves can be found within my individual postings.
  1. Dean Wesley Smith: Learn about the craft and business of fiction writing from an experienced pro.
  2. Kindle Direct Publishing: Upload your e-books to start your career as a writer.
  3. Nathan Bransford, author: A former literary agent turned novelist offers regular news on the publishing world.
  4. Ralan.com: Looking to sell a story? Start your search for publishers here.
  5. Scrivener's Error: A great site for beginning your search into legal matters concerning writing.
  6. Lightning Source: Want your own books printed in a flash? If so, you might want to work with this company.
  7. Absolute Write: There's a little bit of everything here for every kind of writer.
  8. Publetariat: If you are considering becoming a self-published author, this is the site to get you started.
  9. A Newbies' Guide to Publishing: Author J.A. Konrath's blog pulls no punches as it examines his journey as an author and informs writers of what to expect along their own journey.
  10. Duotrope Digest: One of the best sites to look at when considering selling your stories, poetry or novels.
  11. Red Adept Reviews: Want your books or e-books reviews? Ask Red Adept.
  12. Kindle Nation Daily: Find out what's new and what's free in e-books for the Kindle. And writers can do a little advertising here to spread the word about their own e-books.
  13. Smashwords: Here's the place to upload your e-books and have them distributed to a wide range of retail sites.
  14. Publisher's Weekly: More than 100 years old, this magazine keeps readers and writers and everyone else in the book business informed of all the book news. Plus there are plenty of book reviews.
  15. Holly Lisle: This author's site is one of the most extensive on the Web concerning information beginning fiction writers need to know.
  16. Triond: Yes, it's a content farm, but it's one of the few content farms that allows fiction. Those just starting out writing fiction can start at a place like Triond to to build their confidence and possibly an audience.
  17. Tor.com: This is the official site for science fiction and fantasy publisher Tor Books. Mainly a site for readers, writers can also learn a lot here.
  18. The Passive Voice: If you are about to sign a book contract, you should probably check out this site first. Then hire an IP attorney.
  19. Writers FM: Yes, it's an online radio station for writers! Give it a listen.
  20. PubIt!: If you want to publish your own books for the Barnes & Noble Nook e-reading device, this is the place to go.
  21. IndieReader.com: Here's the site for finding out all about indie authors and indie books.
  22. Kristine Kathryn Rusch: If there is any one author's website you need to check out regularly, this is the one. Here you'll learn how to be a business-savvy writer, as well as picking up a few tips on improving your craft. There's even some excellent short fiction for free.
  23. Writer Beware: If you are a writer worried about getting screwed over, this is the group that will let you know about scams and such.
  24. KindleBoards: Mainly a forum for readers and those who love the Kindle, plenty of authors hang out here.
  25. National Novel Writing Month: Challenge yourself to writing a novel in a single month. What month is that? November.
  26. CreateSpace: If you want to see your books in print, one of the popular self-publishing sites is this one, working with the folks at Amazon.com.
  27. Apex Publications: Fans of dark science fiction can find plenty here to read, but there's also much for writers to learn on this site.
  28. Eugie Foster: This prolific writer offers other writers plenty of reasons to visit her website, including lists upon lists of markets.
  29. Anthologies Online: Interested in selling your short fiction to anthologies? If so, look no further than this website. Here you can find all kinds of information about upcoming anthologies and what kinds of fiction each is seeking.
  30. Rogue Blades Entertainment: Fans of heroic fiction, especially fantasy, can find plenty to enjoy at this site, but so can writers.
  31. Writer's Digest: Since 1920 this magazine has been providing writers with interviews, market listings and tons of other information.
  32. Kindle Author: Want to keep up with the new and hot indie digital authors and their e-books? If so, this is the website for you.
  33. XinXii: Proclaiming itself the "leading online marketplace for all kind of written works," this site is another venue for digital authors to sell their material, with a focus on the European market.
  34. Preditors & Editors: This is likely the No. 1 watchdog site on the Web for writers. But this site does much more than warn writers off of potential scams and such. It also provides so much information about writing that it could fill several books.
  35. AgentQuery: If you are looking for a literary agent or agency, this is the site to begin your search.
  36. Scribophile: Writers often depend upon critique groups to help flesh out their work, but sometimes a writer has a hard time finding such a group. Well, your troubles are over. Scribophile offers critique groups, forums and more.
  37. Publishing Perspectives: Keeping up with the international markets and publishers is the name of the game at this website.
  38. Trigger Street Labs: Feedback and possible exposure are the names of the games at this site, along with a chance to have your work seen by some real professionals.
  39. Scribd: Think of this site as another e-book upload site, but not exactly. Instead of e-books, Scribd uses its own technology to allow users to read documents online and one smart phones.
  40. Writers' Conferences & Centers: It's not always easy to find a writing conference in your region, but this site makes searching for such quite simple.
  41. How to Publish a Book: Sometimes beginning writers don't know how to go about getting a book published, and this site covers the basics.
  42. Book Marketing Buzz: Writers often have a difficult time promoting their works, but this site can provide advice and articles to get you going in the right direction.
  43. The Prompt Writer: Sometimes you just don't know about what to write. The Prompt Writer can give you tons of ideas, and it can help come up with ways to brainstorm.
  44. Query Shark: Sooner or later fiction writers all have to write query letters, which most dread. But the Query Shark site offers plenty of information about how to improve your query letters.
  45. David Gaughran: Let's Get Digital: This isn't just another writer's blog, but a serious blog that gets in depth about indie publishing/self publishing. Worth watching.
  46. Fiction After 50: A blog for older novelists looking to forge ahead.
  47. The Book Designer: Too often writers don't think about design, which is a mistake. Good design can help draw potential customers and readers.
  48. Fictionwise: Run by the folks at Barnes & Noble, this is one more site where indie authors can sell their digital works.
  49. United States Copyright Office: Any writer in the U.S. interested in learning about protecting their works needs to check out this site.
  50. OneLook Dictionary Search: This search engine for dictionaries pours through more than 1,000 online dictionaries in at least six different languages to find your word.
  51. Critique Circle: If you are having a difficult time finding readers to critique your own, you probably want to give this site a try.
  52. The Writer's Guide to E-Publishing: Looking for a one-stop shop to find answers to all your questions about e-publishing? This just might be the place.
  53. AuthorsDen: AuthorsDen is an online community where writers and readers can come together to communicate and share with one another.
  54. GoodReads: This is a social network, much like Twitter or Facebook, except its focus is upon reading and books. Here writers can promote their work and reach out to readers.
  55. Aaron Shepard's Publishing Page: Most authors don't have the time to provide their personal knowledge to other writers and readers, but Aaron Shepard has taken the time.
  56. Shelfari: Make your own virtual bookshelf, do a little promotional work, talk to readers and fans, all at Shelfari.
  57. Backspace: More than just a networking site, Backspace offers plenty of chances to pick the minds of professionals in the publishing business.
  58. Step-by-Step Self-Publishing: The list of book reviewers alone makes this site worth following.
  59. Kickstarter: A unique website that helps artists find investors, such artists including writers.
  60. Nookboards: Writers, don't ignore the Nook or its readers as a possible market. Keep up with all things Nook at this site.
  61. Authopublisher: This self-publishing blog stands out as a little different from most others, offering fresh ideas for writing and marketing.
  62. The Independent Author Network: Become a member and reach out to your peers, other writers, while also promoting your books and e-books.
  63. Writers Write: There is so much information for writers to be found at this site, it's difficult to know where to begin. Let's just say there's a bunch of information here worth your time.
  64. LibraryThingBooks, books and more books! Keep up with books. Read what others say about books. Create your own list of books. Write about your favorite books. Did I mention this site has a lot about books?
  65. The Savvy Book Marketer: Yes, there is material for sale here, but there's also tons upon tons of articles offering free advice about promoting books and e-books. Check it out!
  66. Textnovel: Ever think of writing a novel on a cell phone? And letting others read it on a cell phone? Textnovel can show you the way. And you might win $1,000.
  67. Guerrilla Wordfare: Author Lizzy Ford's site offers tons of tips for independent writers searching for ways to navigate the world of online promotions.
  68. The Writer Magazine: Published since 1887, this is the oldest magazine about writing still being published.
  69. Stormwolf.com: If you are a fiction writer, you want to learn from the pros, right? Then check out the website of New York Times Bestselling author Michael A. Stackpole.
  70. Publish Your Own Ebooks: This one site gathers together all kinds of important news and informational articles for self-publishing e-book authors.
  71. authonomy: This site from publisher HarperCollins is an online community for writers and readers. Writers can get feedback, and there's always the possibility of professional publication.
  72. Operation E-Book Drop: Give back to the troops by offering coupons for free versions of your e-books.
  73. Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America: Not just for those who pen fantasy and science fiction tales. This organization's website has all kinds of helpful information.
  74. Poets & Writers: This is more than just a magazine or a nonprofit organization. Poets & Writers is practically a way of life for those of us with a more literary bent.
  75. Kindlegraph: One of the more unique websites out there, this site actually allows authors to provide digital signatures on e-books for readers.
  76. Publishers Lunch: If you're looking for one stop online to find all your book industry publishing news, then this is the site for you.
  77. Evil Editor: Check your ego at the door and prepare for some hilarity. This blog can be brutal, but it can also be educational.
  78. Inkygirl: Learn all about writing for young people and illustrating from an experienced pro.
  79. Book-in-a-week: If you need an extra push to make you a more productive writer, then this might just be the website for you.
  80. Author Tech Tips: Don't be afraid of new technology. As a writer, you can learn the basics through this site.
  81. Self-Publishing Review: This one site contains all the tips, news and other information a self-publishing writer could want, including forums for meeting one's peers and making friends.
  82. DearEditor.com: Ever want to ask an editor a question? Here's your chance. Just check out the site and send your question.
  83. Scribblerati: It's an online social network just for fiction writers. All genres are accepted. Sign up for a membership.
  84. Bookfessions: Just a fun little site to read others' private confessions about books they've read. Sometimes funny, sometimes touching, you have to see it to believe it.
  85. Storybook: More software than a website, Storybook helps fiction writers outline their work, keeping track of scenes, characters, and more.
  86. Write 1 Sub 1: Think you have what it takes to write one story for each week of the year? You'll never know unless you join this site and try.
  87. Bad Agent Sydney T. Cat: Since anyone can be a literary agent, a cat decided to take the job. You read that correctly. And Sydney's site offers plenty of important information concerning literary agents.
  88. Fifteen Minutes of Fiction: Take part in some projects that could help you find time to write each day.
  89. YATopia: Eight Young Adult literature writers come together to share their knowledge and experiences.
  90. ePublish a Book: This is the site where beginning writers and self publishers need to start. Plenty of information and help is available here.
  91. Grammar Bytes!: Think you know the basics of English grammar? Test yourself and find out. You might discover you need to brush up on a few things.
  92. Writing Forward: This site offers a little bit of everything and covers a lot of ground. It's especially helpful for beginners who need help with the basics of creative writing and poetry.
  93. Writer Unboxed: I think of this site as sort of like Huffington Post for writers, but without all the politics.
  94. Writing.com: Where to begin? This site offers so much to writers, you'll just have to spend a few days (yes, days!) looking it over to find everything it can do for you.
  95. Funds for Writers: Yes, it is possible to make money as a writer, and this site can send you in the right direction. Or is that write direction?
  96. Novel Spaces: Discover writers and books with which you are possibly unfamiliar, and learn about other genres and styles of writing.
  97. Write It Forward: Want advice from an old pro at the writing game? Look no further than Write It Forward, the blog of NYT bestselling writer Bob Mayer.
  98. Online Etymology Dictionary: Need to know the history of a word? Look it up here. Especially helpful for historical fiction writers.
  99. Storyfix.com: Author Larry Brooks is known for teaching at writing workshops, and you might one to consider attending one for advice.
  100. Author Ty Johnston: Yes, my own blog. It has plenty of personal stuff, but also much for budding writers, like this list, for instance.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 3 - The Traveler in Black

by John Brunner

Started: January 9
Finished: January 12

Notes: I'm not sure when I first became aware of this collection of short stories revolving around a particular protagonist, probably a year or so back, but I've been wanting to get into it since. This is the original Ace version from 1971 (there's another version later on with an additional story added), and I've had a dickens of a time finding it in used book stores. Of course I could have found it online, but I was saved the trouble by editor Paul Wittine, who sent me this one for Christmas. Thanks, Paul! I'm really looking forward to some '70s old school fantasy.

Mini review: An intriguing look back at fantasy literature of the '60s and early '70s. I've long wondered why there was such an interest back then in the whole Chaos vs. Order theme (one I don't see as much today, at least not directly referring to Chaos and Order), but I suppose it was because of the changes going on in society at the time, the counter culture, etc. An excellent read, and I'll have to search out the later version of this book to read the additional story, "The Things That Are Gods."

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Living with an internal defibrillator: A Guest author post at Novel Spaces

The folks over at the Novel Spaces blog (thanks, Liane and crew!) have been gracious enough to allow me to guest post there today. I write about my experience a few weeks back when the internal defibrillator planted above my heart went off six times and I had to spend a week or so in the hospital.

And special thanks to Charles Gramelich for first making me aware of Novel Spaces.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Fantastic review of City of Rogues novel

Keith West has written perhaps the best review yet for my novel, City of Rogues. I was thrilled to read this. I love it when a reader "gets it," meaning they understood where I was going and what I was doing with a story and with my characters. Keith definitely "got it."

Thanks, Keith!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

E-book sales down?

I'm hearing a lot of complaints from fellow indie authors about how their e-book sales are flat, or even down. A number of them (us) have been expecting a big sales boost right after Christmas, which is what happened after Christmas 2010, but it has not happened, at least not yet.

I hear concerns, fears and gripping.

Well, upon reflection, as far as I'm concerned, indie authors have only themselves to blame. When you go around giving away every damn e-book you've got for free, what do you expect to happen? Readers pick up all those e-books, and then they don't need to spend money to actually purchase e-books.

Even whores know better than this.

And yes, before you go look, I do have some e-books available for free at the moment over at Amazon. I thought I'd try out the new KDP Select program, which allows authors to give away e-books for free for up to five days every three months. So far my opinion is the program stinks. Select has not helped my sales. If anything, my sales have gone down since I started using Select.

But I'm sure it's just me and I have a bad attitude. That's what someone will think. I could give a rat's ass.

Why am I ticked? Why am I in such a foul mood? Because I'm really getting tired of indie authors giving away everything for free! Want to be a professional, act like one.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

100 sites for fiction writers: #100 - Author Ty Johnston

This concludes an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.

Author Ty Johnston

Yes, I'm ending this series by recommending my own blog. Why would I do this? Is it not a bit shady to do so? I think not. After all, my site does have plenty to offer fiction writers.

If nothing else, you can always take another look at this series, 100 Sites for Fiction Writers. If you would to know about books that have influenced me as an author, you can check out my 100 Days of Fantasy series (here's a tip: not all the books are of the fantasy genre, but have influenced me as a fantasy writer).

I blog often, usually several times a week, at least, and sometimes every day. Almost everything I blog about has something to do with fiction writing, from the personal to the professional. Here and there I offer advice or tips, but sometimes I just voice my opinion. My site is not in depth about the craft or business of writing, so please don't expect tons of articles on how to better yourself as a writer, though I do touch on such here and there.

From time to time, other writers appear as Guest Bloggers, and I've been known to go on the occasional Blog Tour. This way my readers get a chance to discover other writers, and those new to me get to discover ... me!

I also do Interviews of others working in publishing, and from time to time I am interview myself.

Admittedly, my blog is a bit hit and miss. I don't have a long-term set agenda, but often will have a series or a short-term agenda. You can also find out about my past and current writing projects, my novels and short stories, and about my upcoming works.

I hope you enjoy! And I hope you've enjoyed this series about websites for fiction writers.

100 sites for fiction writers: #99 - Storyfix.com

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.


Sometimes one can feel totally lost as a fiction writer. Beginners often seem to have a million questions and concerns, and even old pros occasionally find themselves stumped with a plot, characterization, or just in the search for the right way to write something. During such stressful times, it can be a boon to find a professional willing to lend a hand.

Such a professional is author, speaker writing workshop leader Larry Brooks, the head honcho at Storyfix.com. If you don't mind shelling out a little money, you can pick up some of his Books about writing or you can attend one of the many writing workshops he heads up or attends, including the Oregon Writer's Colony.

But what if you're broke and can't afford any of that? I'm glad you asked, because writers are notoriously cheap (but that could be because most of us are also not-so-notoriously broke). If that should be the case, do not fret, because at Storyfix.com, there is still a good amount of free information.

It helps to follow the main page of Storyfix.com, because author Brooks treats it like a blog of sorts, with regular articles concerning writing as a business and as a craft. For example, you can check out his article "3 Edgy Little Tips to Make Your Story More Compelling," or his article "Five More Mistakes that Will Expose You as a Rookie."

Throughout this site there are plenty such articles, all helpful in their own way to improve your writing and to help you build a career as a writer.

I guest post over at Alchemy of Scrawl

I have a guest post over at the Alchemy of Scrawl blog by Coral Russell. I yak a bit for beginning fiction writers, making a few suggestions. This post was originally supposed to run as part of my November 2011 blog tour, but things slip past sometimes. Still, here it is, and I hope you enjoy.

100 sites for fiction writers: #98 - Online Etymology Dictionary

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.

Online Etymology Dictionary

If you are reading this, my guess is you are a fiction writer, someone who wants to write fiction, or someone at least with some interest in fiction writing. Let's just say, then, that somehow or other you have interests in writing. Which means you also have an interest in words since, after all, we all write using words, regardless of the language.

An interest in words can take many different forms. Some of us are interested in how words are used. Others have an interest in how words are shaped, how they are formed. Still others have interests in the particular history of words. Me, I'm kind of interested in all of the above, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Because of my interest in words, I've found the Online Etymology Dictionary quite interesting. As a writer, I've found this site quite useful on occasion.

If you don't know what "etymology" is, don't worry. It's a long word, and not necessarily a common one among everyday speakers of the English language. Basically, etymology is the study of the origin or words.

As this series of articles is about writing, you might be asking yourself, "Well, an etymology dictionary sounds interesting, but how can it help me as a writer?"

Let's say you're writing a historical piece, a short story or novel that takes place hundreds of years ago. You want to use a particular word, but it sounds kind of modern and you are not sure whether this particular word was even around during the time period of which you are writing. How do you find out? You turn to the Online Etymology Dictionary, of course.

This website can be a boon for historical writers, or for those who write in fantasy, a genre often based in historical or pseudo-historical worlds and times. Even thriller writers could stand a little study in etymology, especially if they are writing stories taking place during the gangsters' heyday of the 1930s, or any other time period.

The Online Etymology Dictionary is also easy to use. Go to the site and you'll see a search window right in the middle of the screen. Type in your word, hit "OK," and suddenly you've got an extensive list concerning the history and usage or your particular word. There are even listed historical records of when a word was first used.

If you're like me, you can spend hours upon hours at such a site. It can be fun and helpful, especially to writers.