Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bayne's Climb reviewed

Jake Scholl over at the "Goblins, Swords, Elves, Oh My!" blog has posted a kind review of my novel, Bayne's Climb: Part I of The Sword of Bayne.

Thanks, Jake! Glad you liked the book and my Bayne character.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2 new fantasy e-book covers

Though my blog has been a little quiet of late (for me, at least), I've still been working in the background. In the writing arena, I'm working on some short stories I owe to anthology editors. In the painting area, I've been doing a little dabbling here and there, and working on some new e-book covers.

First up is the new cover for my novelette, The Castle of Endless Woe. I detested the old cover, mainly because it was thrown together quick to get this short piece of fiction up online. I finally got around to doing a new cover. I like this cover, put together of a painting I did of a tower and some background work in Photoshop. I'm not suggesting it's the greatest cover ever, but it is much improved over my old cover. I can live with it for now. If my painting skills ever get to a much higher level, then I might paint another one. One thing unique about the tower painting here is that I did not paint it on canvas, but upon a hard acrylic board, which I kind of like; it gives the painting a different quality, allowing the textures of the paint to stand out better instead of just the texture of a canvass (I'll probably be experimenting more with this).

Next is the new cover for Road to Wrath: Book II of The Kobalos Trilogy. I added a new cover to the first book in this trilogy a while back, and I've been meaning ever since for a new cover for this second book. And yes, eventually there will be a new cover for the third book in the trilogy as well as a new cover for the prequel short story (and for some of my other Ursian Chronicles e-books). Again, this isn't the greatest cover ever, but I like it, also put together with a painting from me of my Kron character and a simple background made in Photoshop. Of all the people I've painted over the last few months, I believe this one is the best I've done in terms of the facial features. Hopefully my skills there will keep growing.

Now if I can only paint hands and clothing better.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Edward Lorn's 'What the Dark Brings' now available

I recently had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a preview copy of Edward Lorn's new collection of horror tales titled What the Dark Brings. I thoroughly enjoyed the stories, and I promised at the time I would let my blog readers know when the collection was available.

Guess what?

It's now available for the Kindle. So check out What the Dark Brings and I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as myself.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sometimes painting is not art, just practice

Anyone who has had a painting class at some point or another probably remembers hours upon hours spent painting still-life images, baskets of fruit, vases of flowers, etc. It can be quite boring. But these exercises are important in many different ways, the least of which is getting beginners familiar with their tools, the brushes and the actual paints and the canvasses. These exercises can also teach basic color theory, and can help the beginner become more familiar with shading, mixing paints, and a thousand other little details.

Though I don't bother with baskets and vases, from time to time I do work on a painting exercise, projects not meant to be seen by anyone but me. Sometimes those exercises are fun, and sometimes I like the outcome. Sometimes not, on both counts.

For example, the little piece at left, which I call "armor," is obviously not a complete painting, nor is it meant to be. I looked up some images online of various types of plate armor, and my goal was to focus on a shoulder piece, which is why this painting is rough around the edges, not complete. It's only meant to focus upon that shoulder.

Surprisingly, I found "armor" a fairly easy piece of work, and enjoyable. Also, I think it turned out pretty nifty.

I wish I could say the same for the little painting reproduced below, which I call "castle tower."

At first glance, "castle tower" might appear to be a completed painting, but it isn't. I might get around to finishing it some day, but my heart's not really in it. For one thing, I don't care for how it turned out.

And honestly, the goal behind "castle tower" was to experiment on a few different things. I was trying out some new brushes and some new paints, and I also wanted to experiment on a few different techniques, none of which really turned out well, in my opinion.

But one learns through trial and error, so I'll keep trying and erroring.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My thoughts on NaNoWriMo

Next month is November, which means it's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). NaNoWriMo has been going on for a decade or more now, and it's proved quite popular. The challenge is to get 50,000 words of a novel written in a month. It doesn't have to be a perfect 50,000 words, the main goal being to get people in a chair and before a keyboard to write, write, write.

I've never taken part, and I'm not likely to.

Why? Because I consider the whole thing kind of silly.

Now, before some NaNoWriMo fanboys get their panties in a bunch and start screaming at me, let me explain a few things. First off, I fully understand the benefits of NaNoWriMo. I get it. I really do. It's another tool, a big tool, in getting folks to write, to get off their tails and to do some work on that novel they've been talking about for years. Or it helps those who are already steady writers to up their daily word count a bit.

And I'm sure there are a dozen or more other benefits to taking part in NaNoWriMo, none that I'm going to go into at the moment because, frankly, I'm not in the mood.

Also, don't mistake my feelings on the matter as any kind of loathing for NaNoWriMo nor for those who take part. If NaNoWriMo is helpful to you, by all means, take part and push your limits.

Me? I don't feel the need.

Maybe it's because I write for a living nowadays. Most months I'm already writing at least 30,000 words, sometimes more, sometimes less. When I'm working on a novel, I probably average about 2,000 words a day. Sometimes I feel like I'd like to be writing more, but honestly, when I stop and think about it, 2,000 words a day is about right for me. For one thing, I do not write every single day, though it's common for me to write five or six days a week. Some days I might only type out 500 words, but other days I'll get out 5,000. It varies.

Then there are months when I hardly write at all. Does that mean I'm not working on my writing? No. Those months, I'm usually working on book covers and/or editing. Sometimes I'm working on formatting, or maybe I'm helping a friend work on their material. A hundred other tasks are possible, all of them somehow related to my writing as my career choice.

I guess I don't feel a need for NaNoWriMo because I already live my life consistently and nearly constantly working on my writing career. While I might only write for an hour on any given day, I'll be spending anywhere from three to twenty hours doing other tasks related to my writing career. Sometimes that means more writing, sometimes not.

For me, NaNoWriMo is silly because I don't have much of a problem getting work done.

That doesn't mean I believe NaNoWriMo is silly for you, or for anyone else. Just for myself. If it helps, it helps. Whatever works, I often say.

But me? No thank you. If I spent the entire month of November hammering out 50,000 words, I would likely not feel productive. If anything, I would likely feel counter-productive. It's likely I'll get out between 20,000 and 50,000 words that month, anyway. But if all I did was focus strictly upon the writing, I'd never get anything else done.

And frankly, there's a lot more to being a writer than just writing.

Sorry, but that's the truth, especially for independent projects. Even when I'm working with other writers and editors on a traditionally published project, there are deadlines, and I'm a stickler for deadlines (likely a holdover from my days as a newspaper editor). If for any reason I do not feel I can meet a deadline, I make sure the editor knows far, far in advance.

Again, focusing solely upon writing 50,000 words in one month would likely mean I would have to set aside some deadlines. Something I'm not likely to do, at least not without a really good reason.

So, those who want to scream at me, thinking I'm shooting down NaNoWriMo, please go right ahead. It seems that's the world we live in today, where screaming about others' opinions has become par for the course. But if one can get beyond any knee jerk reactions, the truth is, I have no problems with NaNoWriMo, I just don't find it helpful for myself.

Which is why, when recently asked, I do not take part in NaNoWriMo.

The short answer: I'll already be writing anyway. Taking part in NaNoWriMo would only give me more work to do, when I already have enough.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 85 -- The 120 Days of Sodom & Other Writings

by Marquis De Sade

compiled and translated by Austryn Wainhouse and Richard Seaver

Amazon link: The 120 Days of Sodom and Other Writings

Started: Oct. 9
Finished: Nov. 3

Notes: This is a collection of a longer novel, several plays, and even some articles concerning the Marquis. As might be expected from this author, within these pages are supposed to be some of the most vile, disgusting and disturbing fictions ever put to pen. So of course I've got to read it. That being said, there has been some argument over whether De Sade's work was satirical or ironic or not, of if he was simply a madman. I'll have to make up my own mind.

Mini review: It is difficult to discuss these works of Marquis de Sade. There is so much vileness here, but also more than a little genius, and perhaps a touch of madness. I know enough of de Sade's life to consider him no angel, yet I'm not quite sure he is the complete monster many seem to think he was. His fiction is steeped in the philosophical literature of his era, especially falling upon the works of Kant to some extent, and borders on that of the Gothic, though in many ways is ant-Gothic literature, focusing not upon supernatural elements but the evil found within the darkest of men. De Sade is also not a moralist, but most of the tales here do have a morality within them, though some might argue otherwise. Let me say this, de Sade could write. In fact, he might be my favorite 18th Century writer and one of my favorite from the 19th Century. His characters are living, his plots are excellent though a little contrived (which was common for the time he was writing), and his prose rings well to the modern ear. As this is a collection of works, below I will focus to some extent on these writings individually.

"Must We Burn Sade?" is a lengthy essay by Simone de Beauvoir, first published in the 1950s. This is, in my opinion, an overly scholarly look at de Sade's writing, but one that I feel is also important in preparing the reader for what's to come and to place de Sade above the mere criminal, which would be an easy way to consider de Sade.

"Nature as Destructive Principle" is another essay, this one by Pierre Klossowski. This essay gets more into the philosophy of de Sade, libertinage, and its relations to literature and other forms of philosophy. Interesting, but again, in my opinion, overly pedantic.

"Reflections on the Novel" is the first writing of de Sade's presented in this collection. It is an essay on writing a novel. I found this interesting and somewhat amusing, mainly because so much de Sade writes about here is still quite relevant to writers today. Novelists and budding writers would be doing themselves a service by reading this.

"Villeterque's Review of Les Crimes de l'Amour" is just that, a critic's review of one of de Sade's works. This reviewer takes de Sade and his writing at face value, for the most part, and finds nothing in it redeeming. Personally, I feel the critic was mistaken.

"The Author of Les Crimes de l'Amour to Villeterque, Hack Writer" is de Sade's written reply to the above review. Here, de Sade shows he is the much better writer than the critique, and does not so much argue for his own literature as compare it to others. This I also found amusing, reminding me somewhat of the back and forth dialogues that happen in today's online flame wars.

"Florville and Courval, or The Works of Fate" is a short story, the first fiction from de Sade in this collection. It is quite possibly my favorite piece in this collection, though it is not the most philosophical. Not quite a horror tale, and not Gothic, this is one of the most tragic tales I have read in my life. The multitude of tragedies visited upon the characters, specifically the female protagonist, is beyond the dreadful fate of even Oedipus. One of the things I truly enjoyed about this story was that I could see where it was going, and de Sade does indeed take the reader in the expected direction, but then he goes beyond it to an extent nearly unimaginable. Shocking? To some extent, but probably not to most modern readers. A very well plotted story for its period.

"The 120 Days of Sodom" is the novel that takes up the bulk of this collection. De Sade wrote it while imprisoned, and he believed the work lost during his lifetime once he was moved to another prison. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon one's view), the manuscript for this novel was found and released a century after de Sade's death. He considered it his masterpiece, and that seems to be the general impression of those who appreciate his work. To keep things simple, the plot involves four wealthy gentlemen (for lack of a better word) who kidnap dozens of children and teens, then take them along with a host of prostitutes and others to a remote fortress that is then blocked off from all who would enter or exit. These four villains then spend the next four months having four prostitutes recite to them some of the most godawful, terrible stories ever to be heard, 150 stories per month (approximately five per day) and each one more detestable than the last. During all of this, the four villains amuse themselves by raping and torturing their prisoners, eventually killing nearly all of them in some truly brutal fashions. The store is more complex than that, but that's the gist of it. There is no happy ending here. Do not expect one. And whatever horrors you can imagine, physical and sexual, they will be found here and worse. "The 120 Days of Sodom" is likely the work that has turned many against de Sade, at least during the 20th Century when it was available, but I believe that is a mistake, oversimplifying what de Sade is doing here. He not only shows these terrors, but takes the reader into them, makes the reader part of them. It is, at times, nearly enough to churn one's stomach. At the same time, for the most part this work is not overly detailed about the gore and sexual assaults, either merely suggesting that they happen or describing them in mostly common language. Also, there would seem to be no redeeming value to this tale at first glance, but I think if one does so, one is underestimating the author. De Sade was obviously a libertine, would likely even be considered a sexual predator by modern standards, but there is no evidence he was a serial killer or the like, and there is much evidence that he did appreciate his fellow men, especially the commoners in regards to dealing with aristocracy and the church. Also, de Sade is generally believed to have been an atheist (not hard to believe from his writings), but personally I feel his thoughts on spirituality must have been more complex, making him at least an agnostic and possibly a Deist, or perhaps something else. "The 120 Days of Sodom" forces man to look at himself in the very worst of lights, nearly into hell itself in the end, but I think in taking this view, in reaching these depths, de Sade is also making the reader ponder what is best about humanity. Also, much like director Sam Peckinpah tried to do with his Western film "The Wild Bunch" (though Peckinpah failed, by his own accounts), de Sade here turns one away from violence and butchery merely by the glut of it forced upon the reader.

To finish, De Sade is a writer who will give me much to think about for some while. I've only touched upon the myriad of thoughts in my head concerning his works here. If others come to mind, I might add them in the future. I can't quite say I'm a fan, though I do appreciate his skills as a writer and to a lesser extent his talents as a philosopher. Part of the question, though, is ... what is this philosophy? Libertinage? That would seem too easy. De Sade was obviously a libertine in his life and makes arguments for libertinage, but they are not very good arguments, in my opinion, and it seems as if he almost made those arguments badly on purpose, as if he intentionally wants someone to not only refute him, but to prove him wrong so strongly that he would be forced to change his ways. Perhaps I'm reading too much into all of this, but some of de Sade's work seemed to me to be a cry for help, a cry to be pulled out of a life or world of sin.

One last detail ... I was quite surprised that of all the writers I have read over the years, it was de Sade who provided one of the best arguments for Christianity being the one, true religion over any other spiritual beliefs. I'm not suggesting his argument is unassailable, nor do I myself mean to argue for Christianity, just that I was nearly confounded to find such in the writings of this author. Also, interestingly, despite the many awful blasphemies committed by de Sade's characters, there is quite a bit of Christian thought in some of his writings.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 84 -- What the Dark Brings

by Edward Lorn

Started: Oct. 5
Finished: Oct. 9

Amazon link: What the Dark Brings

Notes: One of the somewhat unexpected benefits to being a writer is that from time to time you get to read material that is not yet available to the general public. This is one of those instances for me. I've read some of Edward Lorn's work before, and enjoyed it immensely. For the most part, he seems to be a horror writer (I say "for the most part" because I don't know if Edward has plans to write in other genres or not, or if he already does so under a pen name). One night recently I was on Facebook and Edward had posted the cover for his next book, which you can see at the right. I "liked" the image and within a matter of seconds Edward sent me a message asking if I would like to read the book before it came out. Of course I would. I'd LOVE to read the book, especially since I enjoy Edward's writing and I love short horror stories. I'm not sure when this collection of horror tales will be available for readers, but when I find out, I'll make sure to post it here. Until then, (in singsong voice) I get to read it, and you don't! Nyah nyah!

Mini review: This review I'm doing a little different than most. I'm going to take each story as it comes to me and write a little about my impressions, but I'll try to do so without giving any of the plots away.

The first story, "Literary Sweets," I found an interesting choice to begin a collection of horror tales. It is horror, but only barely, dipping into fantasy or almost magical realism. It's a tale that could have been much more horrific, but instead turns toward a sense of wonder that does the story justice. Start with a glass of Ray Bradbury, toss in a shot of Stephen King, then add just a dollop of Charles Dickens, and you've got this story.

It would be easy to label the second story, "A Friendly Reminder," as a drug addiction story, but I believe that is an oversimplification. Oh, there's plenty of nightmarish drug resonance here, but at its deepest core I believe this is a tender story about friendship and, perhaps, what with the mention of a church and then an opening quote by C.S. Lewis, about spirituality. Only two stories in, and so far I have to admit to being surprised. These are somewhat literary stories and not overly dark for a horror collection, in my opinion, but I do not mean that as a criticism; if anything, having read only one earlier novel by this author, these stories show this writer has not only stories to tell, but stories with meaning.

The third story, "The Southbound Triple-Six," I find difficult to discuss without giving away anything, but I will say its basic theme is one I've found familiar among horror short story writers. It seems this type of story is a staple, one many writers tackle at least once in their career, kind of like stranded astronaut tales are common among some science fiction authors. Here, however, there are some nice changes from other such, similar stories, with a nod to Dante and an ending with some dark humor.

"The Monitor" is a touching story that creeps up on you, though it's not necessarily a creepy story in and of itself. This is a quick read, almost flash fiction, but that makes it work all the better, for to linger would be to derive this little tale of its magic.

"Nothing is Out There to Get You" is another story difficult to talk about without giving away too much. I'll simply say that this story leads the reader along a path with strong shades of Spielberg's Jaws, yet ends up in an unexpected place. This is not a twist ending here, but still one somewhat different than most horror tales, with an element of added humor.

During a review of one of this author's novels, I gave his work a label of being "Stephen King lite," and I meant that in a positive fashion. The plot and characters of that novel reminded me somewhat of King's work, yet Lorn's writing was more to the point and less wordy than that of King, all positives as far as I was concerned. Yet while reading this collection of short stories, I had seen different styles not so reminiscent of King. That is until now, the story "Up on the Rooftop." This tale is the first I think of as true horror in this collection, meaning it's dark and has some gore. The interesting thing about the gore I mentioned is that most of it is in the reader's mind. There's actually very little true gore in the story itself, but the imagery lets the reader know what is going on while also allowing the reader's mind to imagine the worst. This story is another that contains themes similar to what I've seen other horror writers tackle, but here there is definitely a difference, that being the imagery I mentioned. It's difficult to describe without spilling the beans (so to speak), but there's a level of genius here in the writing that puts images in the reader's head, but images that are not actually on the written page (or digital screen). So, bravo to the writer.

"A Purchase of Titanic Proportions" is another tale I think of as King-esque. As always, however, Lorn keeps his prose from rambling and rambling, which King is wont to do from time to time. Still, this is a short horror tale that gets to the point, something I quite enjoy instead of meandering about. The theme here, even the basic plot, should be one familiar to horror literature fans, but what Lorn does with this story is unlike anything I've seen before. He takes a basic idea and plays with it, builds upon it until the reader has something fresh and new.

Wow. Just ... wow. So far, I have to say "The Land of Her" is the strongest of these tales. It opens in a fantasy world besieged by evil, yet it ultimately travels ... elsewhere. To say more would be to ruin the story for others. All I'll add is that, and this might be a spoiler, but whether the author meant it or not, there are shades of the Pearl Jam song "Jeremy" within this tale.

As a writer myself, I sometimes feel like readers don't make enough use of their own imagination. They sometimes seem to want everything spelled out for them. While there's nothing wrong with such in and of itself, as a reader, I sometimes want to be challenged, to be given only enough information to allow my own imagination to run wild. In horror, such can be more horrifying than what any writer actually puts on a page. "What the Dark Brings" is a story that does this, allows the reader's imagination to work for itself. This story is quite short and to the point, with just enough to tease the reader with what is going on. Then along comes a dark, somewhat humorous ending. I like that.

"That Thing About a Picture and a Thousand Words" walks a fine balancing act between the spooky and the merely strange. This is another tale that gets right to the point, which I appreciate. That being said, this is probably my least favorite story in this collection so far. It's not that it's a bad story, because it is written well, but I felt almost from the first paragraph that I knew where this story was going.

Then along comes "Smitten." While by no means a laugh-out-loud kind of story, I did find it quite amusing, perhaps because of the use of a Southern dialect. Being a native Kentuckian, and having spent almost all my life in the South or Appalachia and/or in or near rural areas, and being a writer, I feel I've got a pretty good reader's ear for Southern dialects (there are thousands of them, by the way, for those who don't know ... that could be a blog post of its own). Here, Lorn pulls of the dialect pretty well, better than most. There were one or two verbal cliches that made me cringe a little, but that's because they are cliches, and because, despite being cliches ... yeah, I've actually heard people say those things at one time or another. For my money, "Smitten" is also the best plotted story in this collection so far, but I felt it ended far too abruptly, leaving me wanting more. Without going into details, this story takes a fairly standard (but mostly modern) horror trope and gives it the author's own spin, which was one I found so fascinating that I would love to see a whole novel in a similar vein.

A lot of these stories have been fairly straight forward, though a handful are somewhat thoughtful. "Machinations" stands out as being the most philosophical so far. At first it might seem to be fairly standard horror, but if one pays attention there is a lot more going on here, at least in my opinion. Look deep.

"He Who Laughs Last" isn't exactly a zombie story, but it sort of is. That being said, it's the most unique zombie-like story I've read in a long while, enough so to make me a little jealous as a writer.

Everybody has been to the county fair and been spooked at the sideshows, right? "The Attraction" takes you there and beyond, and while I wouldn't claim the conclusion is exactly a twist ending, it's definitely unexpected (at least it was by me) and I found somewhat humorous.

"He's Got Issues" has probably the most pithy of all the titles in this collection. Reading along, it took me a little while, but then I caught on to the double meaning. The story itself is fairly standard horror fare, but it's funny in its own way, or else I'm just a sick person who likes to giggle when really bad things happen to story characters. It would seem a certain '80s movie influenced this tale, but I won't go into what it is, for the very name of the movie would give much away here, though I think most will recognize it.

Short. Sweet. Brutal. That's "Sissy." The story raises a lot of questions without providing very many answers. Some readers might gripe about that. I'm not one of them. I loved it.

As for physical carnage, "Holes" is probably the most disturbing of these tales. It hits hard and fast, and gives a different kind of view into drug addiction.

"The Kissing Booth" is one of those stories that takes you in one direction before you realize you're not headed where you thought you were. Often enough I don't care for these kind of tales, feeling betrayed by the writer, but I have to say, it worked here. Why? Some faint foreshadowing early in the tale helps a lot, something too many writers seem to ignore. Not here.

Readers who hold strongly to their religious convictions probably shouldn't read "Come to Jesus Meeting." I wasn't personally offended, but the overtones of religious oppression and the backlash against it are impossible to ignore. In many ways I felt this was one of the strongest of these stories, at least concerning structure and character, probably because it is a longer than many of the tales here, leaving a little room for extra development.

Looking back over this collection, I have to say there is a lot to recommend it. There are some staple horror tropes as well as enough new and unusual ideas to keep the interest of most readers. Fans of writers such as Stephen King and Richard Laymon will feel right at home. However, fans of horror literature who like the overly gory or existential might not be as interested in this material, because these aren't blood-bath reads nor tales that leave one without a sense of hope.

One of my favorite elements of all these stories is that they are not overly long and they get to the point. The reader doesn't have to wade through some character's emotions for page after page, nor have to follow thousands upon thousands of words of back story or philosophical rambling. Little of that is here. None of these stories start slow, and they belt you in the gut soon.

If I had one point to be critical about, it would be that I felt a few of these tales ended a little too soon. It might seem I'm contradicting myself here, but I do not mean to suggest any of the writing here should have included more pages of material. A paragraph or two would have sufficed in most cases. In a few of the tales, I was reading along quite happily, ensconced in the world of the story, when bam! Everything comes to a screeching end. Sometimes this works, but other times I wanted more.

Over all, these are excellent horror tales, some amusing, some that might keep you up late at night afraid to go to bed, some that will make you think. The author has done himself proud.

Guest post from thriller author Ethan Jones

Author Ethan Jones has a new spy thriller novel out titled Tripoli's Target. Also, his novel Arctic Wargame, the first in the Justin Hall series, is free for the Kindle for the next few days. Yesterday I provided a preview of the new novel, and today I'm proud to have Ethan guest posting below.

Self-publishing and Expectations

As writers, we want everyone to not only read our books, but also love them. The reality is, of course, a bit less stellar and much more sobering. Not everyone will love your books. Not everyone will read your books. In fact, even your closest friends and relatives may not buy and read your books.

Arctic Wargame, my debut spy thriller, came out officially on May 22, although I uploaded it on Amazon.com a few days before that date, just to make sure everything worked fine. I promoted my work extensively on my Facebook personal page (which has almost 200 friends) and Facebook author page and my Twitter account. I e-mailed pretty much everyone on my e-mail contact lists. I put up posters at my workplace and announced it on the newsletter of the church I attend. The result: I can count the book sales from this blitzkrieg with the fingers of one hand.
What is happening here? Why aren’t these people who I consider friends and close acquaintances buying my book? They don’t love me? They don’t care? What, then?

You may have wondered about these things if your experience is similar to mine. The answer to these questions is complicated and lies as much in your expectations as in the reaction of your friends and relatives.

In terms of expectation, there is nothing wrong with aiming high and dreaming big. But self-published writers need to brace themselves for the most likely scenario of a slow start of their career. Gaining recognition and gathering a readership is generally a marathon, not a sprint. Even many traditionally published authors attest to many difficult starts. Allow yourself time and be prepared for a long journey. Nurse patience and develop a hard skin for negative criticism and rejection.

In terms of your friends and relatives, they are not really to blame. At least not en masse. They love you, of course, each in their own way. Some of them are forgetful, fully intending to check out your work, but then life got in their way. Others simply are non-confrontational and do not want to tell you they are simply not interested in the genre in which you write. After all, we have different tastes and what you spent a year or more writing, re-writing and revising may just not be their cup of tea. Then, you could even have the occasional acquaintance or “friend,” who considers your success as a threat or resents it for whatever reason and has has no intention of supporting your efforts.

The bottom line is that even if all your friends and acquaintances bought your book, that is still quite a limited number. The goal of each author is to sell to complete strangers, who pick up your book solely because they heard something good about it, and they want to enjoy a great story. Then, if they like it, they will want to tell their friends about your work.

During the first few days that Arctic Wargame and my two short stories were published I used to check my sales and ranking almost every hour. Now I check it once a month, just to make sure some activity is taking place. I promote my work vigorously and I advise you do the same. We can’t control who buys our books, but there is something we can all control: how much promotion and marketing efforts we put on our products. I know we are writers, but self-published authors have the additional task of becoming salespersons. We need to take our work to the public and hope and pray they will enjoy our stories.

And don’t forget to keep writing. Perhaps your second, third or twentieth book will become a best-seller. At least, that’s my hope.


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Ethan Jones is the author of Arctic Wargame—the first spy thriller in the Justin Hall series, released in May 2012, and Tripoli’s Target—the second book in this series, released on October 4, 2012. He has also published several short stories. Ethan is a lawyer by trade. He lives in Canada with his wife and son.

Links

Ethan's blog: http://ethanjonesbooks.wordpress.com is the place to learn about his future works, to enjoy exclusive book reviews and author interviews.

Follow Ethan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EthanJonesBooks


Ethan loves readers' feedback. They can get in touch with him via e-mail at this address: fictionwriter78@yahoo.com . He promises to write to each and every one of them.

His works works can be found here:





Monday, October 08, 2012

'Tripoli's Target' a new spy thriller from Ethan Jones

Author Ethan Jones has a new spy thriller novel out titled Tripoli's Target. Also, his novel Arctic Wargame, the first in the Justin Hall series, is free for the Kindle for the next few days.

Below is the blurb and an excerpt from the new novel. If you like fast-paced spy thriller novels, then Ethan Jones is the author for you. And tomorrow I will be hosting a guest blog post from Ethan.

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Justin Hall and Carrie O’Connor, Canadian Intelligence Service Agents, find themselves in lawless North Africa on the trail of an assassination plot. The target is the US President, and the hit is scheduled to take place during a G-20 summit in Libya’s capital, Tripoli. But the source of their information is the deceitful leader of one of the deadliest terrorist groups in the area. Ambushes and questionable loyalties turn an already difficult mission into a dark maze of betrayal and misdirection.

Forced to return to Tripoli, Justin and Carrie dig up new intelligence pointing to a powerful Saudi prince bankrolling the assassination plan. What’s worse, Justin and Carrie realize something crucial is very, very wrong with their plan. The summit is only forty-eight hours away and they still have to stop the Saudi prince, dismantle the assassination plot, and save the life of Tripoli’s target.

Tripoli’s Target promises to take the reader through a great story as it becomes the next international bestseller. Fans of David Baldacci, Vince Flynn, and Daniel Silva will love this high-octane spy thriller.

Excerpt




“An army of sheep led by a lion would defeat
an army of lions led by a sheep.”

“It is better to die in revenge than to live on in shame.”
Arab proverbs


Prologue

Tripoli, Libya
May 13, 6:15 p.m. local time

Satam, the driver of the fifth suicide truck bomb, turned onto Ar Rashid Street, merging with the warm evening traffic. He rubbed his sweaty palms against his short khaki pants, his gaze glued to the silver BMW Suburban in front of him. He heaved a wheezing sigh and tapped on the brake pedal. A red traffic light halted the five-vehicle convoy.

A stream of cars rushed through the intersection leading to the business district of downtown Tripoli. Tall skyscrapers rose over most of the city’s old colonial-style buildings. The green and gold banner of Jacobs Properties—one of the major British real estate developers in Libya—beamed from atop the glass-and-steel fa├žade of the newly finished Continental Hotel. The same logo had been painted hastily on the left side of the BMW packed with Semtex explosives. Walid, its driver and a Jacobs subcontractor, had exchanged his blue coveralls for a business suit and the promise of martyrdom.

A glance at the dashboard clock told Satam the synchronized explosion would take place in ten minutes. The thought of the coming carnage drained the last drop of courage from his heart. He rolled down the window, but the humid air—blended with the aroma of fried falafel, onions, and lamb donairs from a nearby street vendor—made him nauseated. He gasped for air, sticking his head out of the window. He coughed and struggled to catch his breath. The drivers in the other vehicles shot him curious glares. Behind the truck, the driver of an old Mercedes honked his horn twice. Satam swallowed hard and wiped the sweat off his narrow forehead. He waved at his audience to show them he was doing all right

“Satam, what’s the matter, brother?” the radio set on the dashboard crackled. He recognized Walid’s gruff voice.

Satam looked at the BMW. His watery eyes met the reflection of the driver’s face in the rear-view mirror of the Suburban. The driver’s usual wicked smirk stretched his lips, revealing his large buckteeth. Walid waved his hands wildly. Satam could not see behind Walid’s black aviator shades but assumed his eyes were ablaze with rage.

“Nothing’s wrong. Just needed some air,” Satam replied over the radio.

He rolled up the window before Walid could scold him with another howl.

“Great. Now that you’ve closed the window, open your eyes!” Walid barked. “You’re not a coward like the infidels, are you?”

Satam shook his head.

A third voice came on air before he could say anything.

“Cousin, I pledged my honor so you could be a part of this mission. Don’t you back down now!” Satam’s cousin said. He was driving the Toyota at the head of the convoy.

Satam sighed and paused for a couple of seconds. “I’m not backing down. You can trust me. I will not disappoint you or the brotherhood.”

“That’s my flesh and blood who is soon to be a martyr,” said the cousin in a relaxed tone. “Our families will be proud of us, and our reward will be glorious.”

“It’s easy for you to say, since tonight you’ll be welcomed to paradise,” Satam said.

He noticed the traffic lights changing and stepped cautiously on the gas pedal. The truck jerked forward a few inches before the ride turned smooth again.

“Won’t take long before you join us there,” Walid said.

“Yes, but not before being dragged through the secret police hellish cells…” Satam’s voice trailed off.

“Allah will give you strength, cousin, and soon he’ll take you home.”

“He will, brother, he will.” Walid revved the BMW’s twelve-cylinder engine. “For sure, I’m going to miss this ride.”

“There will be plenty of rides up there to keep you and everyone else busy,” the cousin said with a quiet laugh. “Now may Allah be with us all. Over and out.”

Walid nodded and turned left toward the Continental Hotel.

Satam’s destination, the Gold Market, was to the right. He steered in that direction. He zigzagged through a few crooked streets and slowed down when reaching the Old City. The blacktop disappeared, and the uneven gravel crackled under the tires. Old cars, horse carts, and pedestrians came into view, along with whitewashed stores selling gold and jewelry. The streets narrowed into barely a single lane.

Satam rolled down the window for sideways glances to avoid brushing against planters, chairs, and vendors selling all kinds of junk. A stomach-churning stench from days old fish, fried grease, and sweat overwhelmed him. Satam felt his head grow heavy, and he hit the brakes.

The street vendors lost no time peddling their wares. A crowd of young boys swarmed his truck. He yelled and shoved away a few of the bravest salesmen waving handfuls of souvenirs in his face. He kept brushing away the hagglers, when suddenly a pointed metal object was shoved against his forearm. Startled, Satam withdrew his arm inside the cabin. He glanced at one of the boys holding a string of scimitar replicas, the sword tribesmen in North Africa carried in ancient times. The curved blade was dull with a rounded point to prevent accidental stabs. Still, the swift jab at his forearm summoned awful visions of the future.

He saw himself hanging upside down in a dark, grim dungeon, tied to the ceiling beams, while three secret police agents “interrogated” him. They would use various methods to “jog” his memory and break his psyche. Sleep deprivation and intimidation by police dogs were just the welcome package. Other techniques included breaking fingers and simulated suffocation with plastic wraps and water boarding. I will tell them everything right away before they even touch me. He struggled to wipe the vivid images from his mind.

Satam slammed on the truck’s horn to clear a path through the crowd. The blaring horn startled him more than the boys and the occasional onlookers. He glanced at the dashboard, realizing he had less than two minutes to reach the busy marketplace square five blocks away. It will be impossible to make it on time.
He blasted the horn again and stepped on the gas. The truck moved slowly, and Satam wrestled to make a left turn. The alley grew wider. The truck sped up, its wheels dipping and climbing in and out of the potholes. He rushed straight ahead, inches away from oncoming taxis, their honks protesting his unsafe speed. A few sidewalk vendors dove out of the way, their overflowing baskets of bananas and grapes spilling all over the place. Tires screeched as he turned right, jumping the curb and narrowly missing a large bronze planter outside a soap store.
The Mediterranean Sea was now visible to his right, through palm trees, coffee shops, and fruit vendor stands. Satam stared ahead at the wide square, one of the busiest markets in El Mina, the ancient city. The bazaar rumbled with vendors squabbling over a few dinars with tight-fisted tourists. I made it. Yes, I made it. He turned his gaze to the left, toward Tripoli’s skyline, and slowed down before parking the truck in front of a small restaurant. He took a deep breath and dabbed at his forehead with the back of his hand, wiping off a sea of sweat.

The dashboard radio crackled and he picked up the receiver.

“Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!” The loud voice echoed over the radio. Satam recognized Walid’s shouts.

A second later, a loud explosion rocked the entire square. Satam’s gaze spun toward the business district, where a cloud of grayish smoke billowed around the Continental Hotel. Chaos erupted among the street vendors who scattered and forgot about their produce and the evening’s clients. The patrons of coffee shops rushed to the streets, staring in disbelief at the sight. Cries of hysteria overtook the growing crowd. Elderly women beat their heads and chests with clenched fists. Young men pointed and shouted, their bodies restless. The sharp siren of an ambulance sliced through the cacophony of terror.

With a quick movement of his wrist, Satam consulted his watch. Just as the digits registered 6:31, another explosion shocked the crowd. This time, the bomb hit closer, much closer, merely five blocks away. From inside his parked truck, Satam looked at the bright yellow glow of the blast. High flames leapt at a ten-story office building. A thick cloud of black smoke began to swallow up the tower. The crowd broke into smaller groups. People scurried in all directions. Some ran back to their shops and apartments. Others simply circled the area, perhaps unsure of the safe way out.

Satam knew his time had come. He revved the engine and stomped on the gas pedal. The truck arrowed toward the vendors’ tables. The market was mostly empty, and the truck crashed into crates of fish, baskets of grapes, and barrels of olive oil. Produce scattered everywhere as the truck rampaged through plastic tables and chairs.

A police truck zipped toward him. Satam steered around, not to escape, but to meet the approaching vehicle. The two policemen in the truck ignored Satam. They were going to drive past him, but Satam swerved hard. The right fender of his truck smashed into the left side of the police truck. The police truck jerked to the other side. He pulled over and stopped less than thirty feet away. The other policeman rolled down the window. Satam stared at the muzzle of an AK-47 assault rifle.

“Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot,” Satam shouted and opened his door.

A quick burst of bullets sent him ducking for cover in the front seat. A shower of glass shreds fell over his head.

They’re going to kill me before I even have a chance to open my mouth. Or one of the bullets will blow up the truck. I can’t let that happen.

He looked at the back of the truck. Thirty pounds of Semtex explosives wired into a homemade bomb were stored inside the seat compartments. He noticed the cellphone on the floor mat by his left hand. He reached for the phone. All it would take for him to set off the explosives—and pulverize himself and the policemen—was to tap three preset numbers. His fingers hovered over the phone, but he remembered his family’s honor and the reward waiting for him in paradise. He dropped the phone to the floor, buried his head in the seat, and locked his fingers behind his head.

A minute or so passed before the shooting stopped, but the screaming continued. At some point, he heard the distinct thuds of combat boots marching down the street. The police were approaching his truck. He looked up slowly as a policeman pulled open the driver’s door of his truck and aimed an AK-47 at his head

“Don’t move!” the policeman ordered.

Satam nodded.

Without a word, the policeman juggled the rifle in his hands and slammed its buttstock hard against Satam’s head.

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Ethan Jones is the author of Arctic Wargame—the first spy thriller in the Justin Hall series, released in May 2012, and Tripoli’s Target—the second book in this series, released on October 4, 2012. He has also published several short stories. Ethan is a lawyer by trade. He lives in Canada with his wife and son.

Links

Ethan's blog: http://ethanjonesbooks.wordpress.com is the place to learn about his future works, to enjoy exclusive book reviews and author interviews.

Follow Ethan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EthanJonesBooks


Ethan loves readers' feedback. They can get in touch with him via e-mail at this address: fictionwriter78@yahoo.com . He promises to write to each and every one of them.

His works works can be found here:








Saturday, October 06, 2012

Different types of fiction writers

Having jumped into reading quite a bit of poetry of late, something generally unknown to me because I'm not much of a lover of poetry, it has dawned on me there are two basic types of fiction writers.

There are poets, and then there are storytellers.

For poets, the words are key, are often the most important factor. For storytellers, words are merely tools used to channel and propel the story.

Now obviously one could argue there are other, different types of writers. I'm not going into all that. And one could also argue that most writers are not completely, 100 hundred percent poet or storyteller, but a mix of the two, and I think there's a lot of truth in that.

For instance, I am a storyteller. If I broke things down into percentages, I'd say I'm about 95 percent storyteller and maybe five percent poet. I do not spend hours upon hours focusing upon my word use. I get the story out and then go back for edits, and even when editing it's not likely I'll change out a simple word for something one would have to look up in the dictionary. That's how I write, and mostly what I prefer to read, at least for pleasure reading.

Looking at famous authors, I'd say Stephen King is mostly storyteller. Tolkien is about half and half, though I think he leans toward the poet side somewhat, and I'd say Neil Gaiman is about the same. James Joyce was heavy on the poet side of things. Hemingway, too, I think leaned toward the poet, though terse in his word usage.

Today I would think the storyteller is more common, or at least more popular in general reading circles, than is the poet. That was not necessarily the case a century or two ago.

For me, for my interests, story is key. Words are but a tool, a wheelbarrow to shuffle along the story.

I really first noticed this about myself about a dozen years ago when I was the game master for a D&D game I was running for a number of friends. While such a game has its mechanics and rules, I didn't always find it necessary to stick with the strict rules and game mechanics. Again, for me, the story was of import, the story I was telling with the players. For example, if a single roll of my dice would kill off a character at a given moment, I didn't necessarily tell the truth about my dice roll, allowing the character to live. It wasn't that I was feeling sorry for the players or the characters, but a matter of how such a death would affect the story. If it would have been a grand death, one worthy of a true hero, I would usually go ahead and let the character be slain, but if the death did not serve the story, then I saved the character to die another day. This is just one example. If I looked back through old notes, I could probably remember a dozen little instances in which I fudged a rule or deviated from a game mechanic in order to push the story onward. There are gamers whose brains would boil at such an idea, but like I've said, for me story is the important element. Even as a game master, I wanted to tell a good story, not just plunk down some dice and see what randomly happens.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Halloween e-book released

There is a new children's short story available for the Kindle, for those of you with such interests. The title is Hollybelle the Witch and the Broomstick Ball, by budding children's author Georgia Grey.

What is my connection to all this?

I'm the cover artist, editor and publisher.

I did not set out to be, but it has been an interesting project.

Georgia contacted me a while back after seeing on this blog that I had started painting again after years and years. She was interested in me painting a cover for her little e-book. At first I kind of balked, but then I thought, "Why not?" So I became a cover artist. I did a couple of earlier pieces which I did not care for, but then Georgia and I settled upon the painting you see at the right, with some highlights added with Photoshop.

Eventually Georgia would like to turn her story into a children's picture book, but we both wanted this little e-book to be available for Halloween, and I frankly don't have the time to paint a half dozen or more paintings between now and the end of the month. So, we settled on just the cover image and the story itself, which runs a tad over 2,000 words. So please, if you should be interested in this book, don't expect it to be full of artwork.

We might get around to adding more images later, and maybe a different cover, depending upon my work load. It's also possible that Georgia will have other stories she would like to publish, and it seems I'll likely be the person she will work with.

As for being Georgia's editor and publisher, that came about more as a matter of convenience on both our parts, one less person (or more) to have to go through and all.

For those who pick up the e-book, I hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 83 -- Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete

by Emily Dickinson

Started: Oct. 3
Finished: Oct. 9

Amazon link: Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete

Notes: I am not much fond of poetry. I find too much of it full of egoism and navel gazing to the point of absurdity. But not all. For example, I love the works of John Milton and even Homer. There are also a number of pop and rock musicians I consider solid poets. But my feelings about poetry are my own, and I realize that. There are plenty of people who love poetry, and as a writer I feel I need to study poetry more to better myself and my writing. Which is one reason I'm reading this book. Oh, I've read a few Dickinson poems over the years, mainly in school, but I admit to not being overly familiar with her work. I hope this reading will correct that situation to some extent.

Mini review: I can't say this improved my general appreciation (or lack thereof) for poetry, but there were a few poems I liked and a handful of interesting lines. Dickinson obviously had interests in nature, writing about bees and birds to quite an extent. She also seemed to have some lesser interests in death, and as can be expected from one like myself who appreciates horror literature, I was drawn to these passages.

Books read in 2012: No. 82 - Wool

by Hugh Howey

Started: Oct. 3
Finished: Oct. 3

Amazon link: Wool

Notes: This little sci-fi, post-apocalyptic e-book has caused quite the stir during the last year or so, bringing about four sequels (as of this writing) and apparently a movie deal. This is one of the stand-out successes of the indie book market. I thought it was time I read it to find out what it's all about.

Mini review: Very, very well written. One of the best indie books I've read. Has kind of a "Logan's Run" meets "Outland" kind of vibe, but that's not entirely accurate. The ending is ... I'm not sure how to describe it ... it's not exactly a twist ending, not even exactly a double twist ending, but ... you'd just have to read it. All that being said, no, I don't necessarily think this little e-book is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Written well, interesting plot, pretty likable characters, nothing stands out as bad. But ... hmm, I don't know ... I kind of felt like I'd read this one before, or seen it before, or something. Maybe from an old "Twilight Zone" episode or something? I don't mean to suggest this work is derivative, because it does mix together plenty of sci-fi and post apocalyptic tropes to create it's own almost-uniqueness. But that's part of my problem, this story is only "almost" unique. If you're the author reading this, or a big fan, please understand that I'm only being nitpicky. This was a very well written story, and I suggest it to anyone, even those who aren't sci-fi readers. I think part of my problem was I expected something a little more. Maybe I just read into the hype too much. But I will say this, the story almost ... almost ... lives up to the hype. I would have liked to have seen a slightly different ending, but I won't go into details on my thoughts concerning this issue for two reasons: 1.) I don't want to spoil anything for anyone who has not read this story, and 2.) I'm not sure anything I'd come up with would be any better than the ending that is provided.

Books read in 2012: No. 81 -- Crimzon & Clover I

by M.R. Mathias

Started: Oct. 3
Finished: Oct. 3

Amazon link: Crimzon & Clover I - Orphaned Dragon, Lucky Girl (Crimzon & Clover Short Story Series)

Notes: I'm getting in some short story reading between longer works, so I thought I'd take another look at some of this author's fantasy.

Mini review: Nice little fantasy short that opens up this series of stories. Reminds me a bit of young adult literature, obviously the Eragon stories, though I have to say the writing here is stronger than that of Paolini.

Books read in 2012: No. 80 -- The Wolf and the Fox

by Silvano Martina

Started: Oct. 3
Finished: Oct. 3

Amazon link: The wolf and the fox

Notes: For some while I've been interested in taking a look at the children's market for e-books, so to those ends I snagged this little e-book, a fable-like tale that includes a handful of images.

Mini review: A cute, simple little story with nice art that I felt was appropriate for younger children. The writer is from Italy, and this story does spark of having been written by someone with English as a second language, but in a cute way, not annoyingly so. Also, the writer is a teacher, so I'm sure has experience working with and writing for children. This was a nice change of pace for me. I wish the author well.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Why I like writing for anthologies

If anyone is paying attention, it seems of late (perhaps the last year or two, even), that all of my work has been self published. There is truth to this. But that does not mean I've given up on traditional publishing. I've just been so busy catching up with the indie publishing market.

I do send out a short story here and there to editors, though I've not sent out a novel in a good long while. As for literary agents, I don't feel the need for one.

All that being said, I've found more personal pleasure in working with anthology editors. For the most part, I no longer have to send out short stories "over the transom." I hear about an anthology, or often enough are contacted by the editor of an anthology, and am asked if I would like to submit a story. This is a nice feeling. My stories are not automatically accepted based upon my name, of course, but so far I've not had a story turned down.

Right now I have two stories scheduled to appear in anthologies sometime in the next six months or so, with the possibility of a third. I'd tell more, but the editors haven't gone public with their anthologies yet, so I'll keep the details to myself.

I have found that I quite enjoy writing short stories for the anthology market, more so than I ever did for the magazine market. I've thought about why this is, and I've come up with three reasons.

1.) There's the acceptance I mentioned above. No, not automatic acceptance of my stories, but acceptance of me as a writer. I don't have to go begging to an editor, hoping, hoping, hoping they will take time to look at my story. With anthology editors, especially those with whom I already have some kind of relationship, I know my story is going to be read. If it's going to be read, I feel fairly confident the story will be included in the anthology.

2.) I find anthologies something of a challenge, mainly because anthologies tend to be themed. And I mean this as a good thing. Such a challenge gets my mind working, gets me to thinking of possibilities, perhaps more so than when I'm working on my own material.

3.) One of the things I really like about anthologies, and a reason I think they are becoming more popular, is that they last forever (at least seemingly so). With the magazine market, your story gets read for a month and then is discarded, more or less. With anthologies, your story can be around for years, decades even. I like that. Not only is it nice for the writer's ego, but it's a semi-permanent way to market oneself.

Monday, October 01, 2012

"Mage Hunter: Part V of V" finally available

It's a week late (only!) but the conclusion to my Mage Hunter series is finally available for the Kindle. If you have been following the series, this one is Mage Hunter: Part V of V: Changeless Fate.

And don't go away thinking you've seen the last of my Guthrie Hackett character. There is likely to be a Mage Hunter 2 series that will take place some years later, and then Guthrie is to be a key character in some other novels once I get the chance to write them.