Tuesday, February 27, 2007

No more news junkie

It's amazing to me, since I'm still working (though only part-time) at a newspaper, just how little I know about current news.

My old job, and most of my jobs before that, included doing a little bit of everything that an editor does at a newspaper. Through the job I was able to keep with local, national and international news even if I didn't particularly want to. I was always reading stories, writing headlines, laying out pages, etc. etc.

But my new job is not like that. I have a much more limited job as far as the tasks I am expected to perform. I'm a page designer. I no longer write headlines. I don't edit stories. Heck, I don't even have to READ the friggin' stories. I just have to get the stories and photos on a page and make sure the page looks good. I don't even have to decide where stories and images are placed on a page, let alone deciding for the whole newspaper.

So, my new job isn't about keeping up with the news.

Oh, if I wanted I could still scroll through the wire every day and keep up on events, but honestly ... I've found I don't care. I feel I'm constantly bombarded with news anyway, from TV to radio to the Internet to late-night talk shows. And most of that news isn't all that important.

So, after being a news junkie most of my life, I've kicked the habit. Maybe that's a bad thing to say, especially considering the state of the world, but in a lot of ways I feel liberated.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Forget the slobs

I recently found out a new co-worker of mine has been working on a drama/thriller novel for several years now. I was delighted to discover this and asked him to share some of his work with me.

He wouldn't.

Why? Because he was frightened.

Fear is a normal reaction for budding authors, but when I found out why this guy was afraid, I wanted to scream.

He has no support system. He tells me his friends think his writing is silly, his parents think it's a waste of time, and his wife say it's stupid.

I had to grit my teeth to stop sharp comments about his family. Instead, I suggested he take a few creative writing/short story courses at our local university. At least it would allow him to get some feedback.

Having seen none of his work, I can't judge for myself his level of talent, but he's been a newspaper editor for about 20 years and he says he has studied the elements of a novel and how to write fiction. I have to guess he at least has some skill, even if it's in early stages.

All said and done, I told him not to worry about his family, to push ahead with his dream, and to "forget about the slobs."

"What are 'the slobs?'" he asked.

My answer: "The slobs are the ones who waste their lives in front of a television while belittling the ambition of anyone wanting to do something besides wasting away in front of a television."

I won't go into a long diatribe about the evils of television, because I too enjoy it from time to time.

But the truth of the matter is this: Television kills writers. Worse, it kills readers.

Don't let it destroy you. And don't let others with no ambition get away with destroying your dreams. Even if you spend your whole life trying to be a novelist, and you NEVER get anything published, and least you TRIED. Which is more than can be said for millions of others who are glued to a TV or computer screen for long, boring years of their lives.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Neverending patience

One thing I've learned over the years about writing is that you have to be patient if you ever want to be published. Editors and publishers take weeks or months, sometimes even years, just to glance at your manuscript. And then there's a high percentage chance they are just going to slip your story into the trash and mail you a form rejection letter.

I don't blame editors and publishers for this. They receive hundreds, if not thousands, of short story or novel manuscripts each month. And they can't spend all their time dredging through the ole slush pile. They have other things to do.

But sometimes it becomes frustrating for the writer. And sometimes being patient can work for the author. Of late, for example, I have been way too busy to do any writing (and only a little editing of the third novel in my trilogy). So, in a lot of ways, I feel unproductive as a writer. But ... I have a novel at Baen; it's been there for months, and will probably be there for months. While this could seem frustrating, for me it is a bit of relief. Why? Because while I know I can't do a lot of writing work right now, at least my manuscript is still out there working it. Even if it's just sitting on a desk, or in a file on a server, each day means it's getting closer and closer to being considered.

Meanwhile, I'll keep doing the little bit of editing I can accomplish. When my life gets straightened out again, then I'll get back to writing more.

Until then, I can always dream.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Memory and books

As my other half is fond of pointing out, I don't have the best memory. I can remember general concepts and themes (for example, I know lots about ancient Roman government and how it worked), but I'm awful at remembering details (example, I couldn't tell you how or on what date Emperor Augustus died).

While unloading hundreds and hundreds of books from boxes during my recent (and STILL ongoing) move, it has dawned on me how little I remember from many of the books I've read. Again, I remember overall themes pretty well (ex., Bilbo goes on an adventure), but not the details (ex., how many dwarves were there in the Baggins party?).

And I've noticed that the novels about which I remember the most are novels that have been made into movies. I remember "The Three Musketeers" and "Man in the Iron Mask" quite well, but I can't for the life of me remember hardly anything about the book that comes between those two, "Twenty Years After." (Note for you Dumas purists before I get nasty e-mails: As most people aren't aware of it, I'm not mentioning the overall "Vicomte of Bragelonne" on purpose, just "Man in the Iron Mask" because most readers have at least heard of it.)

Now this movie-remembering thingie isn't always true. I remember many details of "Wizard and Glass," the fourth book (and my favorite) of Stephen King's Dark Tower series.

But often it is true. I remember "Starship Troopers" as if I read it yesterday, but I can't remember hardly anything of "Stranger in a Strange Land."

I'm not sure if any of this is good, or bad, or even worth pointing out. But I found it of interest.

What does irk me however, is when I remember that I liked a book, but I can't remember WHY!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Tor enters the modern age

For the longest time, Tor publishing has been one of my favorites. They've not only published many books I love, but they had good things to say about the novel I submitted to them (though they didn't accept it, unfortunately). I've always liked Tor, and they have always been THE publisher I've wanted to publish my books.

But despite all the good things I have to say about Tor, for years they have had a pretty lousy Web site, with just basic information and no interaction with readers.

But that is changing. Tor has unveiled their new Web site, over at www.tor-forge.com.
So go check them out. They're just starting out with the new Web site, but it looks as if they'll have some interesting things in the future.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Gender Genie

I found this online a while back ...


You go to the Web site, paste in 500 or so words of text from one of your stories, and it guesses whether the text was written by a male or female. So far it's about 50/50 with me. Maybe that says something about the lousiness of the software. Or maybe it says something about the lousiness of my masculinity. Or my writing. Who knows? Enjoy.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I love books

The title of this post says it all. I love books, in all forms and sizes and colors and genres and fictions and non-fiction. I feel comfortable with books, and they helped me through a lot as a kid and teen, and even as an adult. I can disappear into them for hours and hours (though mentally that's a little harder to do as an adult than it was as a kid or teen).

I especially like hardbacks, really old hardbacks, with real leather covers and that thin, onion paper. But any kind of book will do.

I love spending hours just wandering through bookstores, especially little mom'n'pop stores, but any will do. The latest big hit won't impress me as much as finding a forgotten treasure from an old, maybe forgotten master, but any book will do.

Sometimes I buy, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I just like to go from cover to cover, title to title, author to author. Sometimes I take something home and spend weeks devouring it with my eyes. Other times I don't purchase a darn thing. But I still enjoyed myself.

I don't buy books as a financial investment. I buy books as an emotional investment.

Sometimes, after a few years, I will get rid of some books. Maybe those particular books didn't mean much to me, or maybe they didn't mean as much to me as they once did, or maybe they didn't mean as much to me as I had hoped they would.

Still, I will keep reading, writing, buying and all that comes with the book biz.

I love books.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Book store

So, I've moved, and within a couple of miles of me are two bookstores. One's a Barnes & Noble, which isn't bad, but it's not one of the BIG, better B&Ns and B&Ns tend to only have newer stuff, or at least stuff that stays in print.

The other bookstore near me is a Half-Price Books. Yep, this is a chain store, but I've never lived near one until now. And I'm in LOVE!

Yes, Half-Price's books are used, but most of them are in pretty good condition, and a good number of books seem nearly new. And yes, the author won't directly make any money from my purchases, but I'm sorry ... tell publishers to stop chargin' thirty or more friggin' dollars for a hardback (and seven or eight dollars for a paperback) and I'll stop buying cheap, used books.

But what really made me fall in love with this store is the OLD books. They have much more on their shelves than just the latest top sellers, and even more than just the "popular" authors. I picked up a first-edition Ed McBain paperback for only one dollar! I also picked up a science fiction paperback from the early 70s that was written by Don Pendleton, who didn't write a lot of sci-fi and is better known for his men's adventure books, especially the Executioner (Mack Bolan) series. So, I got two great books by authors I love; it only cost me two dollars and tax, and the books look almost brand spankin' new! And the books are even slid into plastic sheets, as if they're collector's items (which I guess they are, in a way).

What's even better? They have TONS and TONS of these old paperbacks. Novels long forgotten, and authors long forgotten, are once again available to me without having to spend hours and hours searching on eBay or traveling from library to library. There are hundreds of old westerns, fantasy books, sci-fic books, adventure stories and more, even a few older romance novels. PLUS all the newer books.

And that's just the fiction stuff I'm talking about. Half-price also has plenty of non-fiction books, as well as video games, albums (yes, vinyl), CDs, DVDs, posters and other odds and ends.

Heck, the way I'm raving, you'd almost think I got a job with them.

Hmm ... there's an idea. Have to look into that.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Quick update

Finished my old job last week, started my new job this week, and I'm STILL not finished moving (grumble, grumble, dang holiday ornaments!, dang five thousand heavy boxes of books, grumble, grumble).

And I've still not written hardly anything in nearly a month, though I've managed a little editing on the ole trilogy.

AND, as if I don't have enough going on in my nutty life at the moment, the other half and I have decided to try and start our own business.

Sigh. Off to bed.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Lalo the Finder's stats

Lalo the Finder
1st level Rogue, 12th level Expert

STR 10
DEX 14
INT 18
WIS 17
CON 11
CHA 13

Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Age: 40

Lalo is a noncombatant, relying more upon his skills and knowledge to get him out of any tough scrapes. However, if forced to it, he could pick up a simple weapon and use it.

Lalo normally wears fine robes and cloaks, but nothing too fancy nor too plain. He will sometimes wear nice jewelry, but only a piece at a time and nothing gaudy.

Lalo has a reputation for being a bad person, but in truth he is not. He is simply loyal to his employer, whomever that employer might be at any given time. He knows "on which side his bread is buttered," so to speak, and will always side with his employer.

His worth to his employers is mainly his business and street knowledge, and his ability to get things done and to find out things. Basically, Lalo knows who to hire to get anything done or discovered.

Verkain's stats

My novel's world doesn't separate magic into arcane and divine, as does the D&D game, so technically there are no Clerics, Druids and other diving casting classes. However, I've included those classes in some of the stats for a few of my characters because those type spells (divine) fit the type of magics they cast or use.

18th level Wizard, 5th level Cleric, 1st level Fighter, 10th level Spellsword

STR 17
DEX 14
INT 19
WIS 17
CON 17
CHA 14

Alignment: Lawful Evil
Age: unknown, though rumored at more than 200 years

Verkain usually carries an iron mace as his favored weapon, but he can use anything that is available. His powerful magics are his most popular weapons.

When in combat, Verkain will often wear full plate armor. When not in combat he often wears rich, dark robes. But he is wealthy and can afford whatever he wants to wear.

Without a doubt, Verkain is the most powerful human in my trilogy (no, I don't have elves and dwarves and other humanoid races, but there are a few "monsters" and other creatures around ... demons, for instance).

Verkain has many secrets, and his reasons for being evil are mostly known only to himself. He is power hungry to extremes, willing to slay anyone in his way (including family) to further his own ends. He also has a slight reputation for being "not quite all right in the head;" he is not a raving lunatic, but his brutality can be so shocking that only an insane person would seriously contemplate such actions. He is evil through and through, showing no caring side of others. He only tolerates those who are his employees or slaves as long as they are useful.

Karitha Jarnac's stats

Karitha Jarnac
10th level Wizard

DEX 14
INT 18
WIS 14
CON 11
CHA 13

Alignment: Neutral Evil
Age: 24

Karitha does not use weaponry, letting her magic do her fighting for her. If she absolutely had to, she might grab a dagger or short sword or staff.

She is a beautiful woman, and usually dresses the part, wearing fine dresses or robes.

Despite her looks, Karitha's insides are quite black. She was not always a bad person, but events have driven her in that direction. She cares little for anyone else, only wanting to fulfill her desires, though she will work with others if it will help to fulfill her own goals.

Wyck's stats

1st level Rogue

DEX 15
INT 13
WIS 11
CON 12
CHA 16

Alignment: Chaotic Good
Age: 12

Wyck has raised himself on the streets, which has made him self reliant. His only weapon is a dagger, or maybe a rock he might pick up off the ground.

Wyck usually wears rags, but might splurge and buy himself some decent threads from time to time, but only if he thinks he will need them for something.

Though not a bad person, Wyck often is forced to see the worst life has to offer on the streets, and this can give him a darker edge to those not familiar with the lad.

Lerebus Shieldbreaker's stats

Yep, another posting.

Lerebus Shieldbreaker
8th level Ranger, 4th level Fighter, 1st level Druid

STR 18
DEX 14
INT 13
WIS 13
CON 18
CHA 10

Alignment: Neutral
Age: 30

Lerebus tends to carry a broad sword, a shield and a chain shirt when in combat. At other times he wears skins, furs or other simple garb, such as a tunic and cloak.

He presents himself as a warrior, but he has a few magical abilities, mostly having to do with tracking skills.

Lerebus is extremely stoic, caring only to keep his sword sharp and his stomach full. Though not evil, he rarely cares about for whom he works, and sometimes this can land him in difficult situations.

Trelvigor's stats

Yet another relatively minor character.

8th level Wizard, 2nd level Rogue

STR 12
DEX 15
INT 16
WIZ 12
CON 10
CHA 12

Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Age: 40

Trelvigor's only weapon is a dagger, and he uses this as much for spellcasting as he does as a weapon.

Trelvigor fancies himself as an important person, so he will often wear rich clothes, fancy robes and silky shirts and the like.

Trelvigor keeps it hidden in polite society, but he is at heart a psychopath. He has found ways to profit from his monstrosities within a civilized environment, but his thirst for blood is never too far below the service of his mind.

Spider's stats

Again, another minor character.

Fifth level Rogue, Third level Wizard

STR 12
DEX 16
INT 14
WIS 11
CON 11
CHA 10

Alignment: Neutral Evil
Age: 39

Spider isn't into weapons too much, but he can use a dagger or simple sword if he needs to.

He usually dresses in dark leathers, black or gray, especially at night.

Spider has a fairly simple persona. He does what his boss tells him, and has little other motivation than that. He figures anything he wants in life will eventually come to him through his boss's good graces ... or he can steal it.

Stilp's stats

I love Stilp. He's a relatively minor character, but lots of fun for me.

3rd level Rogue

STR 12
DEX 14
INT 11
WIS 10
CON 12
CHA 13

Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Age: 32

Stilp usually doesn't carry weapons, but when he does it will be just a dagger and maybe a short sword.

Stilp's clothing is usually fairly nondescript, though he will dress up a tad for formal situations.

Stilp is a scumbag, though he's not out-and-out evil. He's mostly just an opportunist seeking gold for the least amount of work. He can be haughty when on top of a situation, but he quickly turns into a coward when facing a superior opponent.

Gris's stats

Okay, I lied. Here's some more D&D stats for a character in my novel.

10th level Fighter, 1st level Ranger

STR 17
DEX 14
INT 13
WIS 11
CON 15
CHA 12

Alignment: Neutral Good
Age: 35

Gris is a fairly typical soldier type. He carries a long sword, wears whatever armor is appropriate to a situation and sometimes a shield. He is trained with a multitude of weapons, employing whatever is available at any given time.

Gris usually wears the uniform of whatever military outfit is working for at any given time. Outside of his day job, he usually wears leathers or something simple such as tunic and breeches.

Gris is a pretty good guy. But despite his goodness, he realizes the world has bad people and bad things often happen. He's no fool. He will often stand loyal to his friends, even when it might not benefit him.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Maslin Markwood's stats

The last one, I promise.

Maslin Markwood
21st level Wizard

STR 10
DEX 12
INT 20
WIS 17
CON 12
CHA 15

Alignment: Neutral Good
Age: 80

Maslin is sort of the typical, old wizard with the long beard and robes. He rarely uses a weapon, but if he should need one it would be something simple such as a staff or dagger, maybe a simple sword.

Maslin often wears dark robes, which befits his station as a teacher, but he will wear simple garb of wizard's robes at other times.

He is a good person all around, though sometimes overprotective of his students.

Belgad the Liar's stats

Yep, more stats. Can you tell I'm enjoying this?

Belgad the Liar
10th level Fighter, 2nd level Ranger, 6th level Monk

STR 19
DEX 17
INT 15
WIS 15
CON 18
CHA 14

Alignment: Lawful Evil
Age: 50

Much like Kron Darkbow, Belgad's favorite weapon is his fists. His second favorite weapon is a huge, two-handed sword, though he's not above using anything else as a weapon.

Belgad comes from a barbarian background, but had the foresigt and strength of will to rise above his more chaotic clansmen. He often wears simple clothing, a tunic with boots, but when called for he will put on something slightly more fancy, though nothing unmanly. He has a penchant for animal-skin robes and cloaks.

Belgad is a leader of men, and a gangster at heart. Though he can be quite brutal and ruthless, rarely showing true compassion, he is smart enough to know when a more deft touch can take care of a situation for him.

Randall Tendbones' stats

Yet again, more stats.

Randall Tendbones
10th level Healer, 3rd level Sorceror

STR 11
DEX 15
INT 16
WIS 18
CON 14
CHA 15

Alignment: Neutral Good
Age: 21

Randall normally does not carry or use a weapon, but when he does it will be something simple like a dagger or shortsword.

When working he wears the white robes of his station as a healer, but other times he wears simple garb, a tunic and breeches.

Despite a dark upbringing, Randall is a good person. Too good, some might say, even to the point of being naive.

Adara Corvus' stats

Here are stats for Adara Corvus when she is first introduced in "City of Rogues," the first novel of my trilogy.

Adara Corvus
8th level Swashbuckler, 2nd level Duelist

STR 13
DEX 19
INT 14
WIS 12
CON 14
CHA 14

Alignment: Neutral Good
Age: 23

Adara's weapon of choice is the rapier. However, she also often carries a dagger and sometimes a whip.

Though quite feminine looking, she often dresses as a foppish man, with flowery shirts and high boots and in a jacket with puffy sleeves.

Adara is basically a good person, but some tough spots in her life have given her a bleak outlook on life. She does not care much for men socially (but sexually, yes), though she is not above using one for her own ends.

Fortisquo's stats

Here are more D&D stats for another character from my novel. If this info seems pretty basic it's because I'm trying to not give away any plot from my novels or any of the back history of the characters.

8th level Swashbuckler, 6th level Rogue, 3rd level Duelist

STR 14
DEX 19
INT 15
WIS 13
CON 13
CHA 16

Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Age: 33

Fortisquo's main weapon is a rapier, but he has been trained in a variety of dueling styles and weaponry. He may sometimes use a dagger or main-gauche in his offhand.

He usually dresses as a bit of a dandy, with silky shirts and jackets with slit sleeves.

Fortisquo can be charming, but deep down he is only concerned with his own wants.

Kron Darkbow's stats

After mentioning D&D and gaming in another post, someone e-mailed me and asked me about the characters in my novels. First, she wanted to know if any of my characters were from role-playing sessions. Second, she wanted to know what their stats were.

The answer to the first question is ... yes, some of them are from role playing games, but none of them are from Dungeons and Dragons. Some friends of mine and I play an old game called Dragonquest, which has not been published in more than 20 years. Dragonquest is quite different from traditional D&D, but the modern 3.5 version of D&D has a few things more similar with Dragonquest.

To further this along, none of my stories come from role playing sessions. Many a role playing session would make a lousy story, and many editors and some writers seem to frown on using anything from roleplaying in a short story or novel. So, I try to keep my plots, and as much about my characters as possible, distinctly distant from role playing.

Now, to go along with her second question, after some careful thought (while moving boxes and boxes and boxes), I thought I'd provide some potential D&D stats from some of my characters. Today I'll start with Kron Darkbow. These basic stats represent about where he would be at the beginning of the first novel in my trilogy.

Kron Darkbow
2nd level Monk, 4th level Rogue, 4th level Ranger, 4th level Fighter
STR 16
DEX 18
INT 15
WIS 14
CON 15
CHA 13
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Age: 25

Kron's preferred melee weapon is his fists. In a big fight, he will break out a bastard sword (also known as a hand-and-a-half), which he prefers over other swords because he can use it in either one or two hands. His preferred distance weapon is a longbow. Kron also usually has a couple of daggers hidden away somewhere on himself. Besides those basic weapons, Kron also sometimes carries some specialty weapons, mainly small throwing darts and grenados (yes, grenados do just what you think they will but they're not easy to come by).

Kron dresses all in black, and I mean ALL in black. The metal bits of his clothes, buttons and buckles and the like, have even been painted or smoked a dull black. All parts of his weapons, including the blades, have been painted or smoked a dull black. No, Kron does not wear black because it's hip or cool. He wears black to make it more difficult to see him at night. And because during daylight all that black tends to unsettle other folks, though it can make him stand out.

As for Kron's mental processes, that's easy. Just think of Batman (especially Frank Miller's Batman) in a seedy world of magic similar to Thieves' World or maybe Lankhmar.

Friday, February 02, 2007

No. 8 - The Count of Monte Cristo

by Alexandre Dumas

Started: Feb. 2
Finished: April 4

Notes: Dumas is one of my favorite writers, and definitely my favorite classical writer. I haven't read through this one in years and years, so I picked up a new paperback copy a while back and thought I'd finally get around to reading it. I also picked this book because it is quite long (more than 1,000 pages), and I'm still busy with moving and all kinds of other stuff in my life right now and wanted something to stick with for a while, mostly so I can keep my mind focused in one direction without the added hastle of changing mindsets while changing books (if that made any sense to anyone). Still no writing of late, but I'm so swamped it would be a miracle if I could get anything coherent out. Still, I'll get back to it eventually. There's not quite yet light at the end of the tunnel, but at least the tracks keep going.

Mini review: My second favorite Dumas book (as of this writing), after "The Three Musketeers." This is a darker tale than "The Three Musketeers," but still entirely enjoyable. I love Dumas' quirky little dialogue, his bigger-than-life characters, all of it.