Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

As I'll probably be too busy to post later tonight, to all reading this ... Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Everything I know about writing I learned from baseball

Yes, one of my goofier posts.

Roy Campanella: "You gotta be a man to play baseball for a living, but you gotta have a lot of little boy in you, too."

Phil Linz: "Baseball is a fun game. It beats working for a living."

Art Hill: "With those who don't give a damn about baseball, I can only sympathize. I do not resent them. I am even willing to concede that many of them are physically clean, good to their mothers and in favor of world peace. But while the game is on, I can't think of anything to say to them."

Robert Frost: "Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things."

Bill Veeck: "This is a game to be savored, not gulped."

Tallulah Bankhead: "There have been only two geniuses in the world. Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare."

Philip Wrigley: "Baseball is too much of a sport to be called a business, and too much of a business to be called a sport."

Ty Cobb: "The crowd makes the ballgame."

Because he deserves his own slot ... Yogi Berra quotes

"All pitchers are liars or crybabies."

"Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical."

"How can a you hit and think at the same time?"

"In baseball, you don't know nothing."

"The game's isn't over until it's over."

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

"I never blame myself when I'm not hitting. I just blame the bat, and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn't my fault that I'm not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?"

From the movie "For Love of the Game"

Billy Chapel: "Clear the mechanism."

Billy Chapel: "The game doesn't stink, Mr. Wheeler. It's a great game."

Billy Chapel: "I ain't carryin' no books. Where's the pillows?"

Billy Chapel: "Don't help them make a joke out of you."

Billy Chapel: "God, I always said I would never bother you about baseball, lord knows you have bigger things to worry about. But if you could make this pain in my shoulder stop for ten minutes, I would really appreciate it."

Billy Chapel: "I used to believe, I still do, that if you give something your all it doesn't matter if you win or lose, as long as you've risked everything, put everything out there."

From the movie "Bull Durham"

Crash Davis: "Think classy, you'll be classy."

Crash Davis: "Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit."

Crash Davis: "Don't think; it can only hurt the ball club."

Crash Davis: "If you believe you're playing well because you're getting laid, or because you're not getting laid, or because you wear women's underwear, then you ARE!"

Crash Davis: "We gotta play it one day at a time."
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: "Got to play... it's pretty boring."
Crash Davis: "Course it's boring, that's the point. Write it down."

Skip: "You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry!"
Larry: "Lollygaggers!"

Anthology Builder -- the wave of the future?

I'm not going to go on and on how spiffy an idea I think Anthology Builder could be, because plenty of other people have already blogged about it. I will add, however, that you need to check out their blog too, and not just the main Web site. Why? Because not only does Anthology Builder sound like a decent idea as it is, but they've got big plans for the future.

Check it out!

Reading habits for 2007

Looking back on the year, for the most part I would say my reading habits have been scattered, though there have been some trends.

For example, I read quite a bit more pulp fiction this year than normal, this being due to the fact I moved to a town with good used book stores that offer the old books at cheap prices.

Also, I noticed I did not read a ton of horror this year, nor non-fiction.

I did, however, return to a few favorite authors, such as Dumas and Offutt. On the flip side, I also discovered plenty of authors new to me this year, most of this being because of my reviewing of books.

Unfortunately, while I read a lot of good books this year (and a handful of crappy ones), I didn't read any great books this year, though Ayn Rand came closest probably. And I'm not counting "I Am Legend" since I had read it before.

The never-ending struggle continues.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Seasonal greeting

Before I forget, and before I get busier with the holidays, I just wanted to say to everyone reading this, "Merry Christmas!" And may all your writing dreams come true in the new year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cover art for "The Return of the Sword"

Here's the cover art for the upcoming Flashing Swords anthology, "The Return of the Sword," which will include my Belgad short story "Deep in the Land of the Ice and Snow."

I love this cover. It's fantastic! Thanks to Howard VonDarkmoor for letting me know about this and artist Johnny Perkins for his fine work.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

You never know where a story will take you

I had been having a lot of problems with my John Dee short story, "Where the Baptized Drown." My main difficulty was the beginning. I had two problems. One, I couldn't figure out who should be the main character for the story. Two, I couldn't figure out the best place to start the story. I knew the plot and characters, but just couldn't get things right.

So, after many fits and starts with the story, I was pacing the floors one night trying to force myself into working out my difficulties with this tale.

And ... walah!

No, I didn't fix the problems with "Where the Baptized Drown."

Instead, I came up with a whole other John Dee story. And this one is practically writing itself.

It takes place in Milan, Italy, in 1892. John, again, is not known as John. And this story is told in the first person, from John's perspective (something I never considered before now).

What took me down this path wasn't some spark of a new idea, or any feeling of giving up on the original story. I'm keeping "Where the Baptized Drown" on the backburner for now, but I'm not giving up on it. What lead me to this new story was going through the thought process of what was wrong with the original story, and what needs to be implemented to make a John Dee story.

My Dee stories have certain "rules" to them, ones I'll keep to myself. Certain little things have to be pointed out about the character, mainly because they are hints to his past. I also have certain "rules" about the speculative elements in my Dee stories.

I don't have a title for the new tale yet, but the Dee titles also have certain "rules" or themes and I'm hoping to keep with that.

Who knows? Maybe I'll even get one of these things published someday.

Monday, December 17, 2007

No. 1 (for 2008), No. 49 (for 2007) - Njal's Saga

translated by Lee M. Hollander

Started: December 17, 2007
Finished: January 16, 2008

Notes: I've had this one a while and been meaning to get to it, so here goes. This is the first saga of Iceland I've gotten into, and one reason I'm interested in it is because one of my characters (Belgad) comes from a somewhat similar background. So, here's to learning new things.

Mini review: Boy, am I glad to be done with this one. Honestly, I think I skimmed through the last hundred pages as fast as I could. There's a lot of intersting information here, but the stories are soooooooo repetitive. There's only so many tales about feuding Icelanders I can read before they all start sounding the same. And there's not as much sword fighting as you might think. There's some, but a lot of times it was just plain old murder. And then there are lawsuits upon lawsuits. Basically, as far as I can tell, a man could kill another man as long as it was during the day and the victim sort of knew the attack was coming, and it would only be considered manslaughter at worst; then, the murdered guy's family could sue the killer, and once the money was paid, usually everything was fine and everyone went on with their lives. The few times this didn't work was when the long family feuds started. To be fair, though, I'm thinking Icelandic doesn't translate well into English, and I'm not sure this translation was very good because it seemed extremely modern in some places. I might give another saga a try, but I'd probably be tempted to go with a different translator for variety's sake if nothing else.

An accidental experiment

I've not blogged much lately, but that's because I've been busy and I've not been feeling well (I allow myself one soft drink a week, and boy did I pay for it this week).

Anyway, while I've not been blogging, the number of hits I get for this blog has skyrocketed! I usually average about 12 to 20 hits a day, only half of those people who stay any amount of time. But the last few days I've been in triple digits. I'm easily setting daily, weekly and monthly records for the number of hits I'm getting.

One might ask, "Why?"

For a very simple, and unexpected, reason.

All my posts about "I Am Legend."

Apparently, with the movie coming out, tons of folks are looking up quotes about the book and the movie. Can't blame them for that. And hey, I'll take the free publicity. Maybe I'll even get lucky and a few of these folks will hang around a little.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Where to begin?

Whether writing a short story or a novel, the beginning can be the toughest part. For me, the beginning is always the toughest part. With novels, once I get past the first couple of chapters, I have little problem going ahead with the rest of the book. With short stories, the beginning is also often the hardest part for me.

Sometimes it's simply a matter of figuring out how to tell the tale, from what perspective or what point of view. Sometimes it's a matter of "feeling," or what kind of aura or emotional quotient one is trying to purvey through the style of the writing for a particular piece. Sometimes it's a matter of knowing where to start the story.

I bring all this up because I'm having a tough time with the start of a short story I'm currently working on. I know how the story begins. I now who the protagonist is. I know how the story will end, and it's middle section too. But I'm having trouble with the style of the story.

I originally opted for sort of a straight action-oriented styled, but I'm findin that works okay for the beginning, but not so much for the ending. Now I'm toying with trying a darker beginning, which would tie in better with the rest of the story, but somehow that doesn't seem to fit quite right either.

For me, it's often just a matter of having time to think, time to figure out stuff like this. But lately I don't have any time for such niceties, so I'm having to plop down in front of the keyboard and just start typing.

Should I wait until I have that time to think? Or plow ahead?

I don't know. But I think I'm going to take at least a couple of days off from writing this piece, just to see if anything clicks in the old brain and maybe to give me a little distance and perspective on the story.

Darkbow out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No. 48 - A Princess of Mars

by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Started: December 11
Finished: December 16

Notes: It's about time I got around to reading this author and discovering just what all this "Sword & Planet" stuff is about. I'm very familiar with old school Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and even Star Wars, but my understanding is that that stuff is more "Space Opera."

Mini review: Not a bad read. Not as action-oriented as I expected, reading more like a 19th-centery adventure story (which it practically is). Not boring, but has a good bit of exposition about life on Mars. I'd read more by this author, and might when I get the chance.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

"I Am Legend" quotes

Just a couple of pieces I like from a book I like:

"There was no sound but that of his shoes and the now senseless singing of birds. Once I thought they sang because everything was right with the world, Robert Neville thought. I know now I was wrong. They sing because they’re feeble-minded.”

“In a world of monotonous horror there could be no salvation in wild dreaming.”

Saturday, December 08, 2007

No. 47 - I Am Legend

by Richard Matheson

Started: December 8
Finished: December 9

Notes: I stumbled across this book this morning while going through boxes from the latest move. I've been wanting to read this one again for a long time, especially with the movie coming out, and figured now was a good time even though I'm not finished with my other book yet.

Mini review: A fine piece of fiction. The climax is a bit jarring because the pace of the book changes so swiftly, but the emotional, even social, implications are stunning, in my opinion. Especially for a novel written more than half a century ago.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Working on a new short story

I started a new short story tonight, and it's got me excited, so I have to yack about it a little without giving anything away.

The title, so far, is "Where the Baptized Drown."

It takes place in Texas in 1881.

And, just so a certain editor knows, it's another John Dee story. Except he's not called John Dee in this yarn. Heck, he's not called John Dee a lot of the time, but that's the name I usually give him in my head.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"I Am Legend" movie trailer

I really, really, really want to see this movie. It looks as if they've done a decent job of sticking with the original story, and Will Smith can act when the directors is right.

Monday, December 03, 2007

No. 46 -- Red Prophet

by Orson Scott Card

Started: December 4
Finished: December 11

Notes: Because I am a glutton for punishment, and an idiot, I have agreed to read this book. Even though it's the sequel to the worst book I've read this year. A certain person promises me this book is much better. I didn't believe her, but then even the blurbs on the book say it's much better. I'll give it a shot. What's a week or two of my life?

Mini review: This book is a much better novel than the first one in this series, but I'm still glad to be done with it. I'm thinking Card isn't going to be one of my favorite authors. Still, Tecumseh shows up in this book and is a major character. If you don't know who Tecumseh is, find out here. Usually when Tecumseh shows up, lots of white people die. Which is always fun! Right, kids?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Book review for "99 Coffins"

My latest book review, for "99 Coffins" by David Wellington, is up at Apex Online. Enjoy!

Never Call Me At Work

Viking Prayer from "The 13th Warrior"

It's not well known, but I love this movie. Had to share a clip.

I thought I'd have to hang myself

I have this short story I wrote in the summer. I think it's the best short story I've written in a long time. Then I moved. Again. Second time this year.

Since moving into our new place, the last few weeks, I've been rummaging through boxes and bags and stuff looking for a series of CDs I had burnt. See, I write on a Mac, but do all my Internet business on a PC, so I often have to burn CDs and transfer stuff between.

So, this story, it's not on my PC. Nowhere. I searched online in my e-mail files and a few other places. No story.

Back to the burnt CDs. I haven't been able to find them. No matter where I've looked. They are not in any of the places they should be.

I e-mailed a copy to a certain editor a while back, and I've been considering contacting him to see if he still had a copy of this story somewhere. But honestly, I was kind of embarassed to do so.

Of course the story should still be on my writing Mac. But that Mac hasn't been started up in almost five months.

Tonight I took the plunge. I plugged in the Mac, turned it on ...

... and listened to it whine for a reaaaaalllly long time.

Then, just as hope was lost, it kicked on. But it kept whining. Eventually I figured out the whine was from a CD I had left in the thing.

And ... wallah! ... there was my story! Right on the ole hard drive.

I immediately burnt off three new DVDs and transferred a copy of the story to my PC. Now I'll have to e-mail myself a copy or two and place it in a file or three on a few other places online.


I think I did a good thing this week

There's an older gentleman, a copy editor near retirement age, I work with at my part-time newspaper job. He and I got to talking a while back, and he informed me he had written something like three novels and had had a handful of short stories published, including a few in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Of course I told of my own interests and hopes, and he asked if I would like to take a look at a couple of his short stories.

"Sure," I said.

So, the next day he brings me a couple of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazines from the early 1990s.

I read his stories.

One was okay. Not great, but it didn't suck, and it showed talent.

The other one ... that one I really liked, about 1930s gangsters in St. Louis.

I returned the magazines to him the next day and asked him what he was currently working on.

"Oh, nothing. I haven't written anything in 10 years."

I think my jaw dropped. I asked him why he had not written anything, and long story short, he just got fed up and disenheartened with the whole process. He had had an agent, but the agent had not been able to place any of his novels anywhere.

"How many publishers did the agent try?" I asked.

"Ten," was the answer.

"Ten! That's nothing!" I hollered in the newsroom.

So, I sat down with him and we had a little talk. This fellow is also a somewhat accomplished water color painter, so it's not as if he has no artistic outlet, but I sort of felt like it was my duty to get him back on the writing path. I hate to see anyone who's put that much work into something to give up.

I talked to him about how the Internet had made it much easier to submit to a lot of agents and publishers. I told him how there was a bit of a resurgence of hardboiled and mystery fiction, the genres he prefers. I also explained to him how, mostly through the Web, it is much easier for an author to deal with smaller publishers without having to bother with an agent.

And, most importantly (I believe), I explained that I thought he had some talent.

By the end of a half hour or so, I think I had him hooked again. Least, I hope I did.

I guess time will tell. Again, I hate to see anyone's dreams swallowed by life.

And, to tell the truth, I didn't want that to be me in another 20 or 30 years. He wrote three novels. I've written a trilogy, about the same. But even if my trilogy never sells, I will write another book. That might even be my goal for 2008, to write another book (preferably not a trilogy this time).

I think I did a good thing. I hope I did. And I hope he gets back in the biz and starts writing and submitting again.