Sunday, October 28, 2007

Television is the enemy, but not always

Okay, I have to admit, I don't have a lot good to say about television. It is evil. It destroys more brain cells than beer and pot combined. Yes, it can be relaxing to sit down in front of the tube after a day at the office, but you're rotting your brain.

Now, to be a hypocrite, I do watch a handful of shows from time to time. I don't rush home, or even try to be at home, when these shows are on, but if I have nothing else to do or the other half is watching TV, below are a few of the shows I will tolerate.

On Showtime. The serial killer is the good guy. You can't go wrong with that.

This show is in re-runs now after finishing last year, and it had a slow season or two, but overall I loved it. Again, the bad guys as the goodguys.

The Office
Hilarity ensues at work. The writing for this show is sometimes sheer genius.

My Name is Earl
I liked this one a lot early on, but it's dropped in favor with me since about halfway through the last season. It still has its moments.

Real Time with Bill Maher
I like Bill. I disagree with at least 75 percent of what he has to say,but I find his show informative and entertaining. I like many of his guests, and I don't feel like I'm being given a line of bull. Even when I don't agree with Bill, I at least feel he is passionate about what he is saying, and not just another talking head trying to squeeze out thisw eek's paycheck. Most talkshow hosts, and/or political talk hosts, give off a creepy vibe to me ... part of it preachy, part of it swarmy ...and I don't feel that from Bill; at least when he's being an ass, or acting silly, he's upfront about it.

That's about it. I will sometimes watch "Two and A Half Men," but find the show very hit and miss. If I live to be five thousand years old, I never need to see another episode of "Friends."

Friday, October 26, 2007

The drama that is my life of late

As no one here knows, because I've not mentioned it in any detail, my life has been hell the last few weeks.

See, we decided to move again. Our last house was too big and, frankly, too expensive. So, we found a new place. Two days before we had to be out of our old house, we found out we couldn't move into our new house yet because of construction work going on around the house. The city was doing major road and gas line work in front of the house, and behind and around the house were other construction jobs for other houses and townhouses.

All of this means, we had to be out of our old place, but we couldn't yet get into our new place. Initially we stayed in a hotel, but that gets expensive very quickly. And we have no relatives living near.

Which means since the first of October the wife and I have been staying with friends. And they have an extremely small house with only one bedroom. The wife slept on a bed we set up in their dining. Me? I've been on a couch.

But today ... finally, today ... we got the keys to the new place and the city has finished their work, so we can get into our new place.

I don't get off work until a little after midnight tonight. But I don't care. I'm still going to empty that damn storage unit, even if it means I don't get any sleep for three days. At least when I do get sleep, it will be on a bed again.

Is short fiction dying?

This is related to my post below, so you might want to check it out first.

There's been a lot of Web talk recently about the potential death of short fiction, most specifically short speculative fiction. You can find plenty of informed comments from authors such as John Scalzi, Jeff Vandermeer and Jim VanPelt.

For the most part, I'm going to agree with Vandermeer, though he has his detractors on this issue.

Frankly, I don't think there is as much good short fiction out there as there used to be. Or, to be more correct, I think there is just as much as there used to be, but readers are bombarded with so much more crap today than we used to.

The Internet and desktop publishing have allowed a whole lot of people to think they can be writers and earn Stephen King's salary at the stroke of a computer key. It's just not so. I hate to squash anyone's dreams, but there are a lot of people out there who should not be writing. I don't mean to say they have no right to writing and submitting fiction, but that if they are going to, at the very least they should look at their work as objectively as possible and spend plenty of time working on their craft before submitting.

Writing does take talent, but it also takes experience. Just because you like to read it doesn't mean you can write it.

I do not mean to suggest anyone should give up their dream of being a writer. Not at all. Just do the work. Write your stories. Read. Write some more. Study editing and other forms of writing, screenplays or poetry and the like. Keep writing and writing. Sometimes it takes years to be a decent writer. Join a critique group, get some feedback. When you finally think you have a good story, then submit it to a publication.

I speak from experience. I'm sure I made George Scithers at Weird Tales cry more than once during the early 1990s.

So, I suppose the gist of what I'm saying (to get back to my original subject) is that if anything is killing short fiction ... it's bad writing. Or not-quite-so good writing.

And I'm not I'm the greatest writer in the world. If I was, I'd be earning that Stephen King salary.

Some scary numbers

Author Warren Ellis has listed some circulation numbers for some of the BIG speculative fiction magazines right here. We're talking Azimov's Science Fiction, Analog, Interzone and Fantasy & Science Fiction.

These numbers do not look good.

And worse, I can't offer any hope for short story writers and editors and publishers.

The fact is, short stories have not been a popular form of entertainment for a long time, since at least the 1960s. Yes, short stories did survive, and some good ones have been turned out, but the heydey for short stories has been over for decades. And things have only gotten worse in the last decade or two.

Why is this happening? I personally think it has much to do with technology. First you had television (and to some extent cinema), and nowadays you've got the Internet. Technology has created too many forms of entertainment, and distractions, for everyone to be able to watch or read everything. There used to be a form of bonding when you could turn to someone and say, "Hey, did you catch such-and-such show?" or "Hey, did you read such-and-such book?" A lot of that's gone. It's still there to some extent, but that entertaining, even intellectual, bonding, is harder to find (though it's probably easiest to find on the Internet, fulfilling a vicious cycle).

I am not shooting down television or the Internet. Both are fine mediums in their own ways. But print mediums have an extremely tough time competing with them.

I'm not sure print mediums can compete nowadays, though there is still life to be found in short stories, especially online. And the book publishing industry is churning out more novels all the time, though they seem to be playing the lottery, always hoping for that next big seller (though, even there, I'm always hearing about how the best sellers are actually losing money for everyone).

So what's to be done? First, I think writers and editors and publishers need to stop living in denial. They need to stop thinking, "Oh, things will be better next year or quarter or decade or whatever." They need to stop bitching about TV and the Web, and start doing something about it (though some are). They can't compete directly, so what to do? Only one thing. Join thy enemy.

Plenty of magazine have made the leap to the Internet, but I don't see them doing anything groundbreaking, just another Web site with a list of their upcoming stories, yaddy yaddy, bore me to tears. Most of the real innovative work seems to be coming from the smaller presses. They are trying new things, shaking it up a little. One of my favorite examples is Every Day Fiction (check them out if you haven't already).

As for writers, what we can keep doing is working on the best stories we can and seeking new markets. Those markets might not be in magazines. New markets might be in anthologies or for video game companies or podcasting or something else no person has even thought of yet.

I will tell you this: Short stories will survive. The heydey might be over, it might come again, it might not. Who knows? But there will always be some market out there somehow.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Big news for me: Story accepted

My short story, "Deep in the Land of the Ice and Snow," has been accepted into the Flashing Swords anthology, "The Return of the Sword: A New Age of Heroic Adventure."

I'm really excited about this publication, and about my story being in it. There are some pretty impressive names already slotted for the anthology, but I won't give it all away here, at least not until all the authors have been named.

You can find out more at the forums.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Songs for my funeral

The other half and I have this thing where we've told each other which songs we want played at our funerals. We each have two songs. Hers are Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides, Now" and Sting's "Until ..." Mine are below.

I love Trent Reznor's original, but I've got to go with Johnny Cash's version.

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become?
My sweetest friend.
Everyone I know
goes away
In the end.
And you could have it all,
My empire of dirt.
I will let you down
I will make you hurt.

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar's chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way.

Black Bird
Not necessarily my favorite Beatles song, but one I like, and it has personal meaning and memories for me.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird fly, Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Black bird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
all your life
you were only waiting for this moment to be free

Blackbird fly, Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise,oh
You were only waiting for this moment to arise, oh
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Every short story writer's worst nightmare

After spending some time looking over Duotrope and Ralan, I've come away a little disgusted. I've mentioned this before here. It seems to me there are way, way, waaaaayyyyy too many little niche markets and not enough general fiction markets for short stories.

I expect genres, but for the love of all that's holy, does every single friggin' little publication have to be so concise in what they are willing to publish.

Yes, I realize it's a free country, and they have a right to publish what they want. But, come on, are people thinking? How many copies of a fantasy anthology about three-legged cats that ride monkey gnomes does somebody really think are going to sell?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Overview of the current state of speculative fiction

Just me rambling tonight. Only my opinions here, based upon what I read and see in book stores, so no hard facts, just very general BS.

Fantasy fiction, especially novels, has been stuck on "Lord of The Rings" clones or gaming tie-in material for so long, it's almost hard to believe there is anything else available. While nothing is necessarily wrong with the above types of fantasy, most of them tend to be pretty bland.

There has been some movement in the last decade toward more literary, speculative-light fantasy. Most of these books are not usually labeled fantasy, but "speculative" or something similar. Gregory Maguire's novels come to mind.

Also, in just the last couple of years there has been a slight resurgence in the old Sword & Sorcery genre. This surge isn't huge yet, not quite making its way to major publishers, but it is building and growing. There seems to be an audience for this material, and hopefully it will continue to grow. There hasn't been a lot of S&S from the big publishers since the 1980s, but hopefully that will change.

Science Fiction
As far as I can tell, the only type of sci-fi novels selling nowadays are military related. I think this genre is lacking in creativity (for the most part). Not that there's anything wrong with military sci-fi, "Starship Troopers" being one of my favorite books, but they tend toward all action and little thought, not that that's all bad, but there need to be other options. Where are today's Heinleins? Bradburys? Heck, even Asimovs?

Horror has kind of fallen into two camps (maybe three, more later). First, you've got your sentimental, romantic horror with roots in gothic horror; Stephen King is the leader of the pack here, with follow-ups by guys like Dean Koontz. Second, you've got what used to be called Splatterpunk a couple of decades ago; this stuff is strongly dark, sometimes violent and gory, by folks like Joe R. Lansdale and Clive Barker. Nowadays, Splatterpunk (and its offshoots) have become more mainstream, though I might argue the genre isn't quite as strong or shocking as it once was.

I mentioned a third type of horror, and this is a sub-genre I see little of, but it's there. This is more of a literary horror, sometimes even mainstream. Max Brooks' "World War Z", about a zombie war, comes to mind here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A surprise in the newspaper

"Hamlet" is my favorite Shakespeare tragedy, so yesterday I was readinga story about a local production company bringing the play to the stage. With this story is a little sidebar/breakout box listing all the actors who have played the character of Hamlet in my region going back to the 1890s.

A name listed for 1921 caught my attention.

Fritz Leiber.

What a minute! I had to look at it again. Fritz? Would he have even been old enough in 1921?

So, a little research online and at the local newspaper reveals the truth. It wasn't Fritz the writer, but his father, Fritz Sr., who was an actor (I hadn't known that).

You learn something new every day.

No. 39 - Daily Life in Medieval Times

by Frances and Joseph Gies

Started: October 16
Finished: November 2

Notes: Picked this up a few years ago at a Barnes and Noble in North Carolina. It's one of those books I'm not real excited about reading,but feel like I need to. My medieval history knowledge is spotty, at best, and this should help some. This book is a compilation of three earlier books,"Life in a Medieval Castle," "Life in a Medieval City,"and "Life in a Medieval Village."

Mini review: Another one I'm glad I read, but I'm really glad to be finished with. Not the most tedious book I've read, but not very exciting reading. Because this is a collection of three books, sometimes the information is a bit repetitive. However, all that said, this is a good book, literally opening my eyes to much about the daily world of the Middles Ages, roughly 1106 A.D. to about 1250 A.D. The most eye-opening element for me was to discover that average person had much more freedom than is generally believed. Yes, they were somewhat tied to the land and their lord, but there was more opporunity for movement and change than I would have thought.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Johnny Cash lyrics

Folsom Prison Blues
"When I was just a baby,
my mama told me, son
Always be a good boy,
don't ever play with guns.
But I shot a man in Reno
just to watch him die.
When I hear that whistle blowing,
I hang my head and cry."

Man in Black
"Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white."

The Man Comes Around
"There's a man going around taking names
and he decides who to free and who to blame;
Every body won't be treated quite the same,
there will be a golden ladder reaching down
When the man comes around.

The hairs on your arm will stand up at the terror in each sip and each sup,
will you partake of that last offered cup?
Or disappear into the potter's ground?
When the man comes around."

Sometimes, it is who you know

Contacts are very important in any business, and they are just as important for writers as they are for bankers, realtors and any other professional.

To succeed as a writer you need a lot of things: Talent, skill, luck, ability, etc. But personal contacts can help.

Getting to know editors, and other writers, can help. First, these other people become your peers, and they can become a sort-of support group for you. Who else knows the goods and bads and ins and outs of the writing business than editors and other writers? They can also provide advice, and sometimes they're just swell people to hang out with or chat with online.

And, and this is a big and, they can help your career.


Simple. If an editor has one slot open for a story in his or her publication, and they have two great stories in front of them, they are more than likely going to pick the story from the writer whom they are most familiar.

Foul! Right? No, not right. It's fair. You might scream nepotism or favoritism or some other -tism, but the truth of the matter is that editors are human too, so most of the time they're going to go with the safe bet, someone they know and trust to provide them with good material. Also, editors, more so often than writers, realize publishing is a business ... that's right, a business, not artsy fartsy or playtime or any other garbage ... publishing is a business, so again, the editor is probably going to play it safe.

Now, that's not always the case. Again, editors are human, so maybe some of them will sometimes give the new guy or gal a try. Or maybe they just feel they've published a lot of work from one particular writer of late and they want some fresh meat in their publication.

But regardless, it never hurts to make contacts. And contacts at smaller publications could be just as important as knowing the big-city, hot-shot editor at a major book publisher. Someday that hotshot editor is going to retire or move on, then he or she is going to be replaced. And the truth of the matter is this, quite often the newest bigshot editor at the giant publishing house is someone who has worked their way up from smaller publications. It happens. Be prepared for it. A lot of known editors and publishers started off 10 or 20 or 30 years ago with a fanzine or just as fans.

So, the lesson of the day is, get to know some people.

Oh, yeah, and be nice to them. Nobody likes an asshole writer.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cover letters are no big deal

Every once in a while I run across a blog post on some writer or editor's site that has to do with writing cover letters. It seems a lot of writers, especially beginners, get caught up trying to write the perfect cover letter when submitting a story or novel for publication.

Here is my best advice: Keep it short.

Editors are busy people. They have a lot of stories to read. Most of them also have a day job and family and friends and a thousand other things that keep them busy. They don't have a lot of time to flounder through some lengthy cover letter.

My cover letters usually have two or three paragraphs.

The first paragraph tells the title and word length of the item I am sending the editor. I will usually also try to work in the genre, but sometimes I won't if the editor is only accepting one particular genre (why waste time telling them something they're going to expect me to know already?).

My second paragraph usually is an extremely brief bio of myself, but only stuff pertaining to writing. I let them know of my last published piece, maybe how long I've been writing, current writing projects, and I'll usually throw in the fact I've got nearly 20 years of experience as a newspaper editor. That last part isn't really all that important, and I don't always throw it in, but it at least lets the editor know I can spell and know my punctuation and grammar (but yes, I still make mistakes ... just look at the mess that is my blog, but in my defense I rarely go back to edit this blog).

The third and final paragraph, if there is one, is usually just to give a brief thanks. I might throw in a little more bio here if the submission guidelines requested more, or I might mention something that was particular to the guidelines, but that's it.

I sign off giving my thanks, then type in my name.

That's it. If it's more than 100 words, I would be surprised.

And you know what, I have never, ever, had an editor send me a note saying "Hey, that was a lousy cover letter," or "Hey, that was way too brief a cover letter."

For the most part, editor's are more interested in the story you are sending them than they are in your cover letter. Don't tell about your stories plot or characters in the letter (unless the guidelines said to). Don't ramble on about your life. Don't suck up, telling the editor how much you love his magazine or that you've read all of his books. All that does is take up space and wastes the editor's time.

To you budding writers, don't fret over your cover letter. Keep them short.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

For those about to review, we salute you

Since I started doing book reviews for Apex Digest,andsince I began listing all the books I'm reading this year, I've noticed on my Sitemeteraccount a good bit of traffic from authors and/or editors of the books I've reviewed. Obviously, I don't know for sure it's the author or editor, but it's funny when a good number of hits come from the same town or region listed as the author's town in the blurb in the back of their book or on their Web page.

I find this mildly ammusing, and have to admit I sometimes do the same thing.I think everyone, even non-writers, will Google themselves from time to time.But yeah, I'll look up my own name in connection with certain writing projects and/or publications.

And hey, if you happen to be one of those authors and/or editors ... feel free to drop me a note here.Let me know what you think of my reviews at Apex, and of my mini-reviews here on the blog.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

No. 38 - The Princes of The Golden Cage

by Nathalie Mallet

Started: October 9
Finished: October 15

Notes: This one is for one of my book reviews. I'm excited about this book because it's from Night Shade Books, a known great smaller publisher. I've read the first few pages already, and it starts really good, with a nice touch of mystery. I'm also interested in this one because the cover art shows it has an "Arabian Nights" feel to it.

Mini review: One of the most entertaining books I've read this year. The fantasy element is pretty light until the end, making this read almost more like a historical mystery tale, but there's nothing wrong with that. The mystery is included right at the beginning and keeps building throughout until the end, which provides some big surprises. I imagine good things for this debuting novelist.

I am a sexist pig, part 2

Okay, so my last post now has me thinking about my characters. I don't have a lot of female characters, though I do have some.

Adara Corvus is a major character in my trilogy, probably one of the most important characters, though she's not the protagonist. Keritha Jarnac is a somewhat minor villain, though she does have a few important roles to play. There are one or two other minor female characters, and that's about it for the trilogy.

As for my short stories, much the same can be said. I don't have a lot of female characters.

Is that sexist? Or is it just Ty writing what he knows?

Probably a little of both, though there's no intentional goal on my part to exclude women characters.

To me, it's a matter of realism, at least within the world of my trilogy. In the world of Kron Darkbow, the continent where the trilogy takes place has just entered a Renaissance-type era. There are no guns. Magic is around, but until very recently (the last 60 years) it has been extremely rare, and is still uncommon for the average person. Thus, swords and armor are still common, though on the way out in civilized urban regions. Magic is the main reason armor and heavy weapons are on the way out; heavy weaponry and armaments generally can't stand up against magic on the battlefield.

So, all of these means is there are not a lot equalizing options available when it comes to physical force. Which means, in my trilogy's world, women are still considered a weaker sex. In some countries of the continent of Ursia, women have a lot of rights, in some places even on equal standing with men. But, unfortunately, in most of the world that isn't the case. Women are still doing a lot of menial tasks while men make most of the political and monetary decisions. Again, to me that's just the reality of the world I've created. For that matter, bigotry and racism and even slavery are quite prevalent in my world, though those things don't come up in the trilogy (but they might in future stories or novels, obviously).

I don't mean for this to be sexist. I don't mean for it to be a throwback. If anything, I mean for it to be one more crisis my female characters have to deal with, especially Adara.

As with many things, all of this (if any) doesn't come up in the trilogy, at least not directly. But I know Adara's past, and I know her thinking. She's not a weak female at all; in fact, even her combat skills are quite superb, though she tends to use lighter weapons (not because of any real or perceived weaknesses due to her sex, but more because of her patrician background). She is not a Red Sonja type character at all. She is a fighter, a professional duelist, but I hope she does not come off as a stereotype.

Yackity, yackity, yack. I just keep digging deeper.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I am a sexist pig

I just found out an editor I've been dealing with off and on for some time is a woman. She has one of those gender neutral names, and without thinking, I assumed she was a he. I was doubly surprised because this editor publishes a goodly amount of what I consider male-oriented fiction.

And no, I won't go into any specifics about this editor or her publication here on this blog. I already sound enough like a pig.

But this has got me to thinking. I really don't consider myself a sexist, but I am male, so I'm sure I do jump the gun sometimes toward the masculine in some forms of my thinking and even writing. I think this is natural, not sexist. I would hazard a guess that females also have a female-oriented thinking process. Now, whether this is because of nature or nurture, I won't argue; personally I think it's a little of both. But again, I think all of this is natural. If you wanted to break people down in other fashions, by race or religion or nationality or whatever, I'm sure there would be some similarities in the way people in any given group or culture think and view the world. Yet again, I find that natural.

But there is something I need to work on, just maybe. While thinking about this gender issue, it has dawned on me that when I am shopping around a story or novel, I almost always bypass women editors, agents and publishers. Why? Because I take it for granted that most women are not going to be interested in most of the fiction I write.

Okay, you can start screaming sexist pig again.

I'm not going to make excuses. But I am going to give thought to giving women more consideration when I'm shopping around stories.

I think part of my feelings about the whole gender issue when it comes to editors has been the chick lit and paranormal romance genres that have been doing pretty well the last few years. Most guy writers probably won't admit this, but I will ... yeah, I feel threatened by it.

I grew up reading books by men, usually about men doing manly stuff. For the most part, that's the kind of stuff I want to keep reading. So when I see that every bookstore I go into seems to be taken over by chick lit or kids' fiction, yeah, I feel threatened by it.

I'm not saying there are not great female writers, and that they are not worthy of an audience. I in no way mean to demean women as writers, and I don't mean to slam their audience.

Call it jealousy. I just wish what I felt was my audience was getting as much attention. And I don't necessarily mean an all-male audience, just an audience that read the manly stuff I was talking about.

One could easily argue that a male-dominated audience had things pretty good for a long time, and now the market has entered another phase. Okay, I can buy that. The majority of book readers are usually females, at least according to every publishing survey I've ever seen.

I guess part of the problem is that males just aren't reading novels and short stories like they used to. Everything's the Internet and/or video games and DVDs nowadays.

Okay, I've rambled enough about a topic that will probably just get me in trouble.

Go ahead. Say it. I'm a sexist pig.

Friday, October 05, 2007

When is a story finished?

Answer: For me, when it's published.

I'm always pulling out old short stories, some I wrote as far back as 15 years ago. Sometimes I find the story just isn't that good, so I put it back in my collection file or close its really old file on my really old computer. But other times I find there is still something in the story, something I believe that makes it publishable.

In those instances, I go back to work on the story. It's extremely rare, maybe two out of some 30 or 40 stories,that I feel very little work needs to be done. Usually a pretty massive rewrite is involved. Sometimes it's just a matter of editing andcutting.

See, it's like this: I'm a better writer now than I was then. I'm also a better editor than I was then.

This doesn't mean I'm a great writer, nor that I don't have room to improve,but it does show my skill level has risen over the years.

Every once in a while I'll look back at a story I wrote nearly 20 years ago,in my late teens or early 20s. None of those stories are worth a rewrite, though I have found a few character names there. Still, it's fun to look back and see just how bad I was.

And how much I've improved.

Another book review up at Apex

Check out my latest book review for Apex Digest Online right here. It's for the anthology "Whispers in the Night: Dark Dreams III."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A writer to emulate

I try to use different styles of writing for different stories. Now, I'm sure I have a basic, subconscious style limited by my vocabulary, language and brain power. But, overall, I try to not sound the same from short story to short story, unless I'm maybe when I'm using a serial character.

However, for my trilogy of novels, I have a style I try to keep flowing throughout.

And now I think I've found a writer I somewhat emulate, though not necessarily intentionally.

I'm talking about David Gemmell. I'm not saying I'm as good a writer as Gemmell, because for one thing he had much more experience than myself. And, I've only read a third of a novel by him and nothing more. But so far, as I make my way through "Waylander," I see a writer after my own heart when it comes to style.

There's not a lot of exposition. There's basically action and dialogue, which is what I am trying to do with my trilogy.

I've never felt comfortable comparing myself to any professional novelist until now, but that's because I had not run across another writer who I felt wrote in the way I do, or at least in the way I try to write. I considered Salvatore and Glen Cook, but those didn't really fit (Cook was close), but now I've got Gemmell.

I think I'll be reading a lot more David Gemmell in the future. Too bad he's no longer with us.

I hate Charles Dickens and wish he would die

This is for the official record: I hate Charles Dickens.

Yes, I realize that is blasphemy. Here I am, a writer, and I have strong feelings of disgust for one who many feel is "the" American writer (even though he's English).

I will be fair, however. I have only read two of his books, "Great Expectations" and "A Christmas Carol," though I have also read a handful of his short stories.

To be even more fair, I will admit as a writer Dickens had his strong points. I think he was a great plotter. I find his characters iconic, though they bore me to tears.

For the most part, I can't stand his prose. I find Dickens' writing themost boring, infuriating text I have ever laid eyes upon. I would rather read a five-thousand-page technical manual on toasters than delve into another Dickens novel.

And it's not just that I don't like "old" writers. I love Alexandre Dumas. "Moby Dick" is one of my favorite novels (and I realize that one bores many readers).

I tried "David Copperfield," made it two pages and returned the book to the library. I tried "Oliver Twist" and didn't make it much farther. I have watched and enjoyed movies based upon this man's work.

Maybe it's because I had "Great Expectations" thrust down my throat in junior high school. I don't know. I just can't stand Dickens.

This is just my opinion. The rest of you are allowed to have bad taste.

Oh, and yes, I realize Dickens died June 9, 1870.

Submission luck

I'm griping about luck, or the lack thereof.

I have 14 short story submissions out right now. Five of those have already made it past the first levels of reading, and are on to higher levels or the next editor/reader. I'm also holding on to two short stories because I'm planning to send them to publications that don't have their reading periods for another few months.

Here's my gripe against luck: It seems that whenever I have a story ready to submit, there is not a publication to be found. Either I'm between everyone's reading periods, or my story is 500 words too long, or everyone has a themed issue coming up ... and, of course, my story doesn't fit the theme. BUT, then when I don't have anything to submit (I'm between writing project), suddenly there seems to be a whole slew of publications accepting stories.

The only solution? To write more. Keep writing until I always have something to submit.

Monday, October 01, 2007

No. 37 - Waylander

by David Gemmell

Started: September 30
Finished: October 9

Notes: I've heard a lot good about this author, and specifically this book, so thought it was time I got around to it. I've read the first couple of chapters as of now, and so far I'm liking what I've seen.

Mini review: Wow. This is definitely fully of great action writing. Not sure I'd quite call it Sword & Sorcery, but maybe a more modern version of the genre. Some great characters, and the action rarely lets up for more than a page or two. I only have two nitpicks with this book: 1.) The ending comes at you really quick, so quick there's no wrapping up. Just a final, two-page chapter that tells you everything that happens in years to come. 2.) There's not a lot of depth here, but maybe that's to be expected in action writing. There is a lot of macho bravado, some of it quite good (in a Clint Eastwood sort of way) but sometimes it didn't quite fit. Oh, yeah, and LOTS of people die. I'll definitely be picking up some more of Gemmell's work.