Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Beowulf and Grendel

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



Sunday, September 24, 2006

This guy sucks, that guy sucks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Horsing around

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

My mom never "got" me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 18, 2006

My "Conan" moment

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

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

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

I nearly crack my neck to glare at the TV.

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

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

"Yeah, so," she says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Title change

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

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

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

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

Why speculative fiction?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Electric Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now I'm going to go read something.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Money isn't everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 08, 2006

Other Kron-related stories

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

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


Trilogy update

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

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

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

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A change of pace, part II

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